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3 counterintuitive strategies I used to grow my first online business from zero to 6 figures in just 4 months

Submitted by Tech Insider on December 3, 2019 - 2:39pm

Luisa Zhou

  • Luisa Zhou is the creator of the Employee to Entrepreneur system, which teaches people how to leave their day job and start their own six-figure-plus business working for themselves. She's been featured in Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, Success magazine, and more. Get her free blueprint for building a profitable online business that frees you from the 9-5.
  • When she started her first business, she wasn't brimming with confidence or able to function on little sleep like other stereotypical entrepreneurs.
  • In fact she leveraged her "weaknesses" to grow her business to six figures.
  • She didn't immediately quit her job to launch her company, despite common advice telling her she should. And she did a lot less than expected.
  • She also didn't lean heavily on self-promotion to get by. Instead, she built authentic relationships and spread her expertise online, which lead to her first client, then her second, third, and fourth. She now has helped over 1,000 students go from employee to entrepreneur through building their own online businesses.
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When I started my first online business, I didn't fit the mold of a stereotypical entrepreneur.

I wasn't brimming with confidence in my abilities and ideas. I couldn't function on four hours of sleep. (I need at least eight.) I wasn't comfortable promoting myself and getting buy in for my ideas. And I definitely wasn't a massive risk-taker.

So how was I able to take my skills at the time, mainly from my job in digital advertising (which I had been in for three years), and grow an online advertising coaching business to six figures in sales within four months by the time I was 26?

Because I used these three strategies that turned my "weaknesses" into strengths.

1. I didn't go 'all in'

There's a lot of advice about going "all in" on your business if you're serious about it. (A common example of this is to leave your job so you can work on your business full time.)

Being very risk averse, I chose not to do that. (Even though I was frequently tempted to!)

Turns out, not going all in on my business and building it on the side while working a full-time job actually helped me make faster progress for a few reasons.

First, it freed me from worrying about the roof over my head. In other words, I didn't have to worry about making a certain amount in my business each month in order to be able to pay my bills. And because I didn't have to worry about that, I wasn't forced to do anything that sacrificed long-term growth for short-term profit. (For example, I didn't have to take on clients who weren't a good fit for me or my business.)

Second, it gave me the ability to take some of my salary and invest it in my business without having to dig into my savings. Those investments included hiring a site designer to make my website more professional and coaches to teach me sales and copywriting. I was also able to invest in advertising to scale my business faster.

Finally, it forced me to be more efficient and resourceful with my limited time and energy. Instead of seeing my limited time outside of work as a disadvantage, I embraced it and turned it into an advantage by asking myself, "How can I make the most of my time?" And then doing it. 

Which leads me to my next tip ...

2. I did less, not more

At the beginning of my business, I identified the key milestones I would have to hit. They were, in order:

  1. Get my first paying client
  2. Get three to five paying clients
  3. Create a process to systematize my sales process
  4. Test and optimize the process
  5. Scale the process to increase sales

During each phase of my business, I focused exclusively on the activities that would help me hit the next milestone in the fastest, most efficient way possible.

For example, to get my first paying client, I didn't waste time or energy setting up a fancy website (in fact, I didn't even have a website when I made my first sale), sophisticated marketing, or sales automation.

Instead, I focused on finding and connecting with potential clients online. That meant that for about two months, all I did for my business was go into Facebook groups (where my potential clients were spending their time online), share interesting and useful information about advertising, and answer advertising-related questions.

This not only ensured that I spent less than 30 minutes a day on my business, but also that those 30 minutes each day were put to the best use possible. 

And that's how I made my first $10,000 in sales. 

3. I didn't promote myself

Here's a piece of advice I saw a lot when I was starting out (and still see to this day): "Promote yourself" by sharing what you have to sell as often as possible, especially on social media.

The argument is that the more you promote yourself and get your name out there, the more people will know about you and the faster you'll succeed.

This is in part true. After all, if someone doesn't know about you, they definitely can't buy from you.

What I disagree with is the advice to lead with trying to sell something. To promote yourself and your offers first.

It felt uncomfortable and unnatural to me. And what's more, it didn't work. (Think about it: If you see a post from someone you've never heard of before saying, "Hey, here's why I'm awesome, here's why my offer is awesome, and you can buy it here ..." how likely are you to actually buy?)

So instead, I stopped worrying about making sales and focused on simply sharing what I knew. (Which helped me make more sales.) And as an introvert, that was much easier for me anyways. I was good at listening to people, talking to them one on one, and sharing advice. 

So that's what I did. I searched for the questions people were asking about advertising (using the Facebook group search bar) and answered them. Then, I created my own posts that answered the questions in even more detail.

And because I was creating content that people actually cared about (after all, it was inspired by their questions!), I started getting messages and comments responding to my posts. Whenever someone reached out, I didn't try to sell them anything. Instead, I helped them.

And that's how I got my first paying client! (And then my next four clients, too.) I saw a woman asking questions about her ads on Facebook. I reached out to her and said, "Hey, this is what I do in my job. I'd be happy to help you. For free. All I ask in return is a few minutes of your time so I can ask you some market research questions to see if this is something I could eventually build a business around." Then, we hopped on a call where I answered her questions and she answered mine.

After the call, she emailed me a few more questions which I was happy to answer. Again, I wasn't trying to sell anything. At that point, I was just grateful someone cared enough about getting my advice! Two weeks later, I opened my inbox and saw a message from her: "You've given me so much incredible value for free. I know I can get so much more if I work with you. How can I hire you?"

It's not complicated to build an online business. That doesn't mean it's easy. What it does mean is that even if you're an introvert, you don't have a lot of time, or you're not good at promoting yourself, that's OK. 

I'm not just speaking from my own experience. In my current business, having helped over 1,000 students go from employee to entrepreneur through building their own online businesses, I've seen repeatedly that if you have the determination and willingness to make it happen, you can turn all of those stereotypical disadvantages into strengths that make building your own business even more profitable and enjoyable.

SEE ALSO: I built a multimillion-dollar business in two years. Here are 3 templates I used to make my first $10,000 in 3 months.

READ MORE: I went from earning $65 an hour to building a multimillion dollar business on my own in two years. Here are the 4 most important steps I took.

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