Highs & Lows of a Net Business
by Suzanne Falter-Barns
In our recent survey to readers of my ezine, The Joy Letter, I was asked to provide a timeline of the ups and downs in building my motivational website, (www.howmuchjoy.com). Ah … where to begin? There have been definite highs and lows in my small business’s 5-year history. Here are some of them, plus lessons learned along the way.
August, 1999. Launched site based on my newly published creativity book with trepidation, despite ‘gut feeling’ that it would succeed. Had no idea what I was doing. Hired fancy author’s web site creator/promoter at vast expense. But people came.
October-December, 1999. Went on 15-city book tour that I booked and paid for; met lots of people and signed ‘em up for ezine, one at a time. Joy Letter list at about 1000.
June, 2000. Republished creativity book with major publisher, and book becomes dual main selection of One Spirit Book Club. Lots of publicity, more speaking gigs. Joy Letter list up to about 2000-2500.
November, 2000. List disappears! Guy who broadcasts it goes on vacation in Bangkok where he gets sick and is stuck for three months. Never bothers to tell me. I get police involved. High drama. Guy and Joy Letter list eventually turn up again. List up to about 3750.
February, 2001. I sign on with major ezine broadcast service and shopping cart. Launch my first e-products, which do OK, not great. I learn that people don’t really want e-courses as much as they want live contact of teleclasses.
May, 2001. I discover joint ventures with other websites, and begin swapping blurbs, offering teleclasses and more with partners. Jennifer Louden and I team up on what is now an annual event, The Writer’s Spa. It’s clear that two are more powerful together than apart. I continue to develop products and free items for the site.
January, 2002. I sign on with an Opt In list building service, which provides Opt-in names by promoting your ezine. Joy Letter quickly becomes most popular ezine and I regularly add 3500 double opt in names per month. This is great!
May, 2002. I notice that lots of those new names are suddenly strange numerical addresses and IP’s. I start getting flame emails from unhappy people saying things like ‘What is this #@%$*# Joy Letter and where did it come from??!!” Even though I now have close to 15,000 new subscribers, I pull the plug on the formerly great, now highly suspicious Opt In service.
June, 2002. Joy Letter list hits 25,000 and I have to pay a much higher fee to broadcast/shopping cart company. I get requests for a shippable binder version of the How Much Joy Facilitator’s work, which I launch. It’s an immediate hit.
February, 2003. One year after I begin selling e-commerce products, I find I can almost make a modest living from my profits. I’ve racked up some debt running this company, but it all still feels ‘right in my gut’. Joy Letter list has naturally grown, but broadcast company institutes their new ‘List Hygiene’ program and gets rid of all the addresses that are no good. Suddenly Joy Letter list gets whittled to around 15,000.
February, 2004. CAN-SPAM laws, new SPAM filters, and other obstacles conspire to keep Joy Letter readers from opening their emails from me. I study how to follow the law and still deliver the ezine to those who opt in to receive it. I get less email than I used to in response to articles, and it’s a new world in email-land. Meanwhile, my e-commerce business continues to grow steadily and I now make a viable living from the website … oh yeah, and I’m still in debt, which I’m working hard to get out of.
June, 2004. I launch a new website, www.selfhelpsalon.com, which I spend the entire winter developing. At the last minute, my advisors make me get rid of the ‘zany New Age guru’ who was gracing the site’s pages, and stick to the topic at hand. We do an entire re-design in 10 grueling days, and I still launch on schedule. As usual, the advisors were right. (But believe me, the zany guru was really fun.)
October, 2004. Still in debt … sigh. Probably will be for a while, but boy have I learned A LOT about how to run a business. I’ve incorporated and become an LLC. Some months I get lots of sales, excited emails from customers, speaking invitations, and great windfalls of all kinds. Other months, I get … less. But isn’t that just like life?
Downsides are that I have ‘Internet Butt’ from being parked in a chair 8-10 hours per day. And I find myself getting up at 5AM to tackle the big pile up in the office. But still, even after the creeping waves of overwhelm, mild attacks of fear, and the frequent sense that I don’t know what I’m doing, I STILL feel like I’m on the right path.
I’ve learned to build meditation into my day as just about the only way I can truly stay grounded while this big, momentous website thing whirls around me. And I’ve learned that I REALLY need to keep the kids from answering my business phone. (Would you want to hear “Howmuchjoy.com, may I help you?” from a 10-year old if you were having a technical problem?) I’ve learned that things can change dramatically from one day to the next in every regard: site traffic, sales, possibilities, and yes … the CEO’s mood.
Most of all, I’ve learned that people actually do want to hear what I have to say. That they actually like what I create. And for that I am eternally grateful. It’s all just evidence of my work’s primary principle: if you’re called to do something, just trust it. The work really will guide you every step of the way.
To learn more about creating your dreams and living your joy, drop by Suzanne Falter-Barns’ website at howmuchjoy.com. This essay comes from her free ezine, The Joy Letter. Sign up and get our free report, ’25 Guaranteed Time Savers’ at http://www.howmuchjoy.com/joyletter.html
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