Top 17 Mistakes
Service Providers Make
in Their Online Business
Content Updated: June 2, 2019
I’ve been around the block a few times the past few years… seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Learned a lot. More than this blog post can hold really. But some of the best lessons I learned were from mistakes I made, or seen others make around me. So today, I’m going to share with you the top 17 mistakes I see online service providers make online and with their clients.
I’ll share with you the mistake online service providers make in their business first, then the success tip to flip the script TODAY! And I’m not going to beat around the bush with it either… we’re starting now.
#1 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Thinking you can/should do it all.
Now, when I started as a VA, I proudly touted myself as a Jill of almost all trades… for the first six months or so anyway. And let’s face it, when you first start out you need to gain some experience and figure out what you like and don’t like. But you will also burn out fast when you’re trying to do #allthethingsforallthepeople. There’s only so much hustle each human body can hold. And this mentality will make you crash and burn HARD if left to go on indefinitely.
After one year in business, I niched down. When I did, my income went from struggling to hit $1200/month, and killing myself to sometimes hit $2k/month, to making a minimum of $4k/month. Every. Single. Month! I’ve also hit $8k, $10k, and $12k per month several times. And now I’m scaling to $250k/year.
Success Tip: Pick Three Core Services.
I recommend that everyone pick three core services that work well together. This will help you accomplish multiple things in your business including setting yourself up as an authority, which will allow you to charge more, and you’ll get more leads with this strategy, too.
#2 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Marketing to everyone.
Again, when I first put out my digital shingle, I helped anyone that was willing to hire me. But after I niched down, I realized I’m naturally drawn to a few target markets, and those people are naturally attracted to me as well. One of those markets is people in the health and wellness industries. I struggle with Hashimoto’s and am a self professed foodie/expert cook. So anyone in the health and wellness niche works really well with me and I with them.
Another target market that is naturally drawn to me are online service providers. I have a natural ability to lead by example and teach what I know. It’s my passion to help others accomplish great things in their business. I understand digital marketing and strategy. And I can help create a stellar plan that will launch an online service provider’s business success into the stratosphere.
Success Tip: Take note of the niches for past clients, conversations, and projects you loved.
Think about your current and past client list, and the types of people and conversations you network with the most in social chat threads. Write down which target audiences they represent. Are there any repeats? Can you find 2-3 niches that are present more than any others. Think about your most favorite past client of all or your most favorite past project of all. What niche were either of those in? How much of a part do you think the niche played in those being your absolute favorites?
#3 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Failing to sell the benefits of working with you.
This is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. Are you listening?
Learn the difference between features and benefits!
What I mean is… features are all about you. They are skills you possess. Like I’m a ConvertKit Certified Expert. I can log into your email service provider and turn your email marketing world upside down, six ways to Sunday. If a project has anything to do with email marketing and using ConvertKit to grow your business, I’m a boss! That’s a feature of working with me.
But benefits, the benefits are all about your potential client. Benefits are the results they’ll get because of hiring you with your unique skillset. So in my example of working with me as your strategist… the benefit is that I’ll recognize other areas in your business that need improvement. And will willingly tell you things like…
- “You need to put this here because if you do, your conversions will increase.”
- “You need to put this pixel here because it will help us measure xx.”
- “If we use naming conventions and create multiple content funnels for each of your optins, we’ll be able to track which page is converting more readers to subscribers.”
Success Tip: Sell the benefits.
Learn how to sell the benefits of working with you. Don’t just talk about your features. Talk about the intangibles that can’t be measured but are so invaluable to potential clients.
#4 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Missing a Call to Action (CTA).
Every single page on your website, every social profile you create, every email you send to your list, every Facebook post you create… every single piece of content you produce should have ONE, CLEAR call to action. You have to make the decision process easy for readers. They need to be able to choose ‘yes’ and move closer to you, or choose ‘no’ and move away from you.
For example, your home page should show two things above the fold, CLEARLY. One, they should know what you do at a glance without having to scroll or click on an about page or take any other action. It needs to be BOOM in their face. And two, you need a clear and irresistible optin as the CTA.
Success Tip #1: Watch Bryan Harris’ homepage training and signup for Donald Miller’s marketing makeover.
I highly encourage you to check out two free trainings to learn more about your website homepage. One is from Donald Miller and the other is from Bryan Harris. When I watched both of these trainings and updated my homepage, my optins, calls booked, and signed clients increased drastically. Here’s just one stat… my optin rate went from less than 5%, to 18%, and now it’s at 27%… all from just implementing what I learned from those two free trainings.
Success Tip #2: Create a CTA bank using a Google doc.
Also, create a list of several different frequently used calls to action you can use in different places throughout your content. put them in a Google doc and keep them handy. Whenever you’re writing up some info, plop one of the CTA’s at the end of your blurb. No brainer!
#5 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not capitalizing on the power of video marketing.
If you struggle with this one, I’m with you. When I first started out online, I wouldn’t even get on Zoom with friends and colleagues, much less potential clients. So how in the world did I find the balls to start creating videos for a YouTube channel and doing Facebook lives regularly?
I very literally created a secret Facebook group and invited my two best buds. I then practiced getting comfortable seeing myself on the screen doing a live recording. And I was stubborn the whole way… the first few I even turned my camera around so you couldn’t even see me. That’s how bad I used to be about being on camera! But with time, I got used to it. And after I got some positive feedback it was easy to jump on the bandwagon. If you need more convincing, read this article.
Success Tip: Practice makes perfect.
Get over yourself. Practice. Then rip the bandaid off and get out there! I promise you that NO ONE is thinking about the things you are when they’re watching you teach them something. If you need more help bolstering your confidence, read my blog post on how to become a confidence online service provider.
#6 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not creating a strategic plan for multiple income streams.
A failure to plan is a plan to fail.
Every single thing you do in your business should have a purpose behind it, even if it’s just because you like to do that one particular task that seems pointless. From creating your content calendar, to your next passive income stream, to your packages & pricing, and the core services you tout to be an expert in… you need a strategic plan for all of this to get the maximum return on your time and investment. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Success Tip: Make a strategic plan.
Figure out the end goal for everything you think you need to accomplish in your business. Then work backwards to create the plan you need to get there. If you think with the end goal in mind, it will help you make every decision you need to create a successful online business.
#7 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Listening to everyone you ‘meet’ online.
All those gurus offering business tips about how to be an overnight success that people keep mentioning thousands of times on social media… you know the ones… they’re all sitting beside a pool, with the most handsome partner you’ve ever seen, all fit and happy, looking carefree while they spout off six figure numbers that make you feel inferior… THOSE people. Yeah.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying it’s not possible. Or that you and I won’t get there. But all those ads and stories ALWAYS amplify the prize, not the path it takes to get there. They don’t talk about all the sleepless nights. The sacrifices. Or the amount of time it took realistically to build that dream life they are trying to hook you into emotionally buying into so you’ll purchase their product.
It’s so crucial to pay attention to the RIGHT people on your journey to create a successful business as an online service provider. So if someone is saying that their way is the only way, or that their way is lined with gumdrops and rainbows…. RUN!
Success Tip: Only pay attention to mentors and coaches who get RESULTS, and can show hard proof of them.
Find someone, a coach or mentor or a group of online pals, to have the balls to tell it to you like it is, with kindness, and preferably someone that has the results to back up their claims!
#8 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Using the wrong tools.
Never, ever, ever buy a tool because everyone else is or because you’re buying into some hype about living the dream and said tool is the only way that will get you to your goal, OVERNIGHT. There are 1,000,001 ways to build a sales funnel, an effective website, launch a course, build a list, generate leads on auto pilot, etc. without having to sacrifice lunch every day of every month for the rest of your life to pay for it.
Success Tip: Research the most resourceful tools to use via reviews and people with experience accomplishing what you’re trying to achieve.
Look to someone who’s been in the trenches and knows more than you do that you can trust to tell you resourceful ways to grow your business, not the most popular or expensive ways.
#9 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not clearly defining the project scope up front.
This is one of those things that has to be experienced to truly understand the weight and importance of the lesson. I could tell you how bad scope creep can be with difficult clients. But it really wouldn’t describe the truly horrific nightmare that can consume your entire life all because of a little oversight in outlining a contract.
One of my most memorable experiences with this mistake was gained from over 80 hours worked on one project in just under three weeks, while only getting paid for 10 hours of said project. In spite of my best efforts, and how much I learned, and even speaking to owners of platforms that were having documented tech glitches… it didn’t help the sinking ship.
Success Tip: Create clear and concise contract templates with no detail left forgotten, no matter how small it seems.
It doesn’t matter how fine of a detail you think something might be, clearly and concisely include even the smallest items in your contracts, BEFORE work starts, and have an iron tight refund clause. That is all. May the scope creep force be with you.
#10 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not belonging to a supportive community.
I’m going to show you a before and after picture, ok?
Now what you’re looking at here is a before and after picture of my productivity approximately one month apart. The before image is on the left side and the after image is on the right side.
What’s the difference, you ask? Co-working on Zoom calls with all my online pals. Belonging to a community online is essential. And one of the best benefits to getting involved in one of these communities is accountability via co-working… it’s literally the best thing since sliced bread for the online service provider. It helps keep you accountable, connected, and productive… even on those days when you feel like your caffeine will never friggin kick in!
And as Forest said, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
Success Tip: Join a supportive and engaging group of like minded online service providers who will hold your feet to the fire.
Find yourself a core group of 3-5 people who are committed to providing excellent client results and growing & scaling their own businesses. Meet daily, hold each other to the fire, and bust ass! You’ll conquer the world in to time.
#11 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Spreading yourself too thin.
Darlin’, Rome was not built in a day. And it sure as heck wasn’t built by one person. I’m not saying you aren’t awesome. I’m just saying we are all human and have mostly the same limitations. The biggest one being, there are only 24 hours in a day, and we are each only one person, no matter how well we think we can multi-task.
It’s my experience that multi-tasking delivers shite work, too. This is an observation I’ve made over time with myself, sub contractors on my team, with clients I’ve coached the last few years, and even with acquaintances on projects outside of the online world.
Success Tip: Focus on one project at a time. Tweak it until you figure it out and get the outcome you need. Then you can move onto the next project on your list.
Focus on one thing. Focusing on the task at hand truly delivers your best work, giving you a legacy of greatness. And leaving clients with a lasting positive experience. It also helps you get results with the strategies you try in your own business to help it grow and scale.
#12 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not learning how to repurpose or templatize everything about your services.
Systems and processes (S&Ps) can be the biggest bane of your existence. But when executed well, can be the biggest blessing your business can receive. When you get your S&Ps down to a science, you can make projects fly by because you’ve created all the assets you need to turn things out on a dime… because you’ve paid attention to the details, and worked smarter, not harder.
Think about it…
- If every single type of project you deliver had streamlined S&Ps, from the moment of onboarding to the last offboarding email is sent…
- If every team member was trained using the exact same materials to produce the same quality results no matter how different each individual is…
- If every single minute of your work day on every single calendar month of the work year was accounted for, planned, prioritized, and implemented as regular as clockwork…
What would that mean to you and your business? Your peace of mind? How would that effect your client experience for the better?
I’ll give you an example. When I used to design websites, I always used the Genesis platform. And these builds required the initial setup and same plugins, every single time. So I created a development domain and installed my favorite theme, along with all those necessary plugins. Then every single web project that came after, I duplicated that dev site into the client’s dev site and didn’t have to start from scratch.
I had onboarding workflows set up in 17hats to get all branding assets and copy assets from the client beforehand. Even workflows set up with 17hats and Zapier to create Google shared folders for files the client would need to send to me.
My project management software, Teamwork, had template projects created, too. So every time I signed a new client who needed a deliverable that was one of those projects, all I had to do was duplicate it and it was ready to roll without spending HOURS laying it all out in the PM software.
Every. Single. Project. I worked on was down to a science with my systems and processes.
Success Tip: Set up SOPs for everything.
Start implementing sooner rather than later. Plan as you mean to go on, even if it starts as simple as using Zoom to record training videos for the most redundant of tasks, or how to use every software program your business needs to function day in and day out. Don’t overthink it. Don’t make it more difficult than it has to be.
#13 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Fear of failing.
Most of us fear making mistakes, fear failure.
But it’s a fact that no matter how hard you work, what tools you use, whose advice you take… you will make a mistake. It’s inevitable.
Even at my level of business, I make mistakes. Every. Single. Day. And so will you.
#SorryNotSorry to tell you this, but mistakes are a very good thing! They help us learn and fail forward by giving us opportunities to grow and improve.
Success Tip: Learn how to reframe failure.
How about we reframe failure? Learn how to embrace failure? Accept it, plan for it, and make a pact that whenever we feel like we’ve failed, we’ll use the action steps below to overcome the negative downward spiral it can kickstart, and embrace the growth that will inevitably happen because of the experience.
- Be open and honest. Get it out & get over it. Don’t dwell on it.
- Success leaves a very clear path to follow. If you follow it, the missteps will be minimal and more like growing pains as you find your way instead of true colossal screw ups.
- Ask for help, get some perspective from someone you trust. Seriously, I don’t know why people think it’s a lack of skill or character if they have to reach out and lean on someone else. We rise and fall together. I have seen people get SO much further ahead if they have a great support system than those who keep things to themselves and struggle along.
#14 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not developing relationships.
That whole ‘it’s not personal, it’s business‘ mindset, yeah… I’m calling bullshit.
You know what I’m talking about… All those gurus and bigwigs who’ve become so far removed as they’ve advanced their business that they hide behind a lame ass, outdated expression like, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
Well, remember this great movie moment…
“For the first time in my life, I got people respecting me. Please, don’t ask me to give it up. Not personal?! That is my work, my sweat, my time away from my kids! If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is!”
Erin Brockovich was a badass babe. She rocked her corner of the world by taking her job very, very personal.
I take my job extremely personal, even down to tagging people in chat threads for potential job leads. Because my reputation, what I’ve worked so hard for all these years, hinges on every success that’s attached to my name.
I don’t care how well off I become, I will never run my business with anything less than my whole heart. And that takes a level of courage that most people choose to run from instead of embracing.
Because really, it takes a certain level of vulnerability to successfully run your business with great client service in mind. You have to suck it up sometimes and do…
- things you don’t want to do,
- things you don’t feel like you should have to do,
- things you don’t feel are your responsibility,
- and work with people who you’d rather ignore… indefinitely (after you get to know them)
… all while giving great service and providing that deliverable they’re expecting.
Success Tip: Never forget to under promise and over deliver.
You will never regret running your business in a way that people can come to expect and appreciate the long forgotten personal touch. It will always pay you back one hundred fold!
#15 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Not embracing what makes you different.
I’m going to get a little vulnerable here. I’ve always been a big girl. Literally, always… from the time I was born. A family member’s pet name for me was extra large. At school, I was always made fun of. And most of my adult life I’ve lived like a hermit because I didn’t want people to see me. Because I didn’t want to deal with them being my mirror. So I stayed to myself.
The fact of the matter is, I was in a very toxic environment my entire life. Small, but toxic. And I had no clue that there was a great big world out there who could/would appreciate me and love me for who I am, eventually.
A couple years ago I found out I have Hashimoto’s disease. And through treatment, I found out I was allergic to dairy and gluten. Now bear with me here, because I promise I’m making a point.
When I was a baby I had pneumonia 3 times before I was a year old. I could never breathe. My mom had to sleep sitting in a chair holding me upright. They had to put me in a sink of ice multiple times to get my fever down below 105 to 107. All my dark brown hair fell out and came back white… because of all the treatments for pneumonia and breathing issues… but no one ever tested my allergies.
I fully believe that even as a child I was allergic to dairy and gluten. And my son had to be on Lacto Free formula. All these details didn’t start adding up until after I first got the Hashimoto’s diagnosis. The pieces of the puzzle were finally clicking into place at 43.
Because I had tried my whole life to eat what everyone said to eat, do what everyone said to do, and nothing EVER worked for me. And it wasn’t supposed to because I wasn’t a textbook case.
And it was like this light came on inside me.
All the years of guilt thinking it was my fault I was so overweight, just lifted. I got treatment and immediately started losing weight and feeling better. Fast forward to make a long story longer…
The very thing that was my biggest weakness, turned out to be one of my greatest strengths. Because I use this story as a platform to help others through my personal blog, in real life, and yes, even in my business.
Success Tip #1: Use positive affirmations.
Write down 3-5 self affirmations that take traits from your personality or events from your life that y0u’ve always thought were weaknesses, and give them a positive spin. Repeat the positive spin to yourself every time your negative self talk rears itself in your mind.
You can also keep a file with all your client testimonials/reviews. A negative thought can’t possibly inhabit the same space in a brain that is continually exposing itself to this amount of positive affirmations.
Success Tip #2: Reframe the negatives.
I got called hard headed a lot by someone close in my family, in such a way that it was MEANT to be negative. I realized one day that life for me has been extremely tough. We are blessed beyond belief but it wasn’t easy for the majority of the time. (I’m a glass is half full kind of girl.) I embrace my hard headedness now. Because without it, I know many who would have crumbled under the weight of the amount of crap I’ve had to go through. Am I hard headed? HELL YEAH I am and I’m proud of it.
#16 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Indecision.
The ability to make decisions is necessary for a successful business as an online service provider. And every online service provider IS an entrepreneur. You chose this life. You consciously chose to take this path. So do the honor of respecting that path and your gut instinct by choosing to make decisions that advance your goals.
Now I’ll let some famous folks do the writing for me for a minute…
There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
Indecision is a virus that can run through an army and destroy its will to win or even to survive.
Sixteen times a year, all thirty-two NFL teams give us what we’re looking for: speed, skill, violence, fantasy league orgasms, and a final score. No confusion. No doubt. No indecision. A winner and a loser.
Success Tip: Learn just enough about a topic to be able to make a decision, go with your gut, and move on.
If you can’t make a decision, it’s most likely because you don’t know enough. So go learn a bit more, talk to someone you trust, and decide already. Just do it. Go with your gut and trust yourself. More times than not, you’ll be right!
#17 Mistake Online Service Providers Make in Their Business – Inaction.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
I think Mr. Carnegie says it best. You really can’t argue with that quote. Because inaction is probably the worst mistake of them all. Because along with inaction breeding doubt and fear, inaction also robs you of momentum, productivity, and prosperity. There are many roads to success. But inaction leads nowhere.
Success Tip: Taking action is the foundation to creating a successful online business.
Take a calculated risk. Not tomorrow. Not when you feel better. Today. YESTERDAY! Act now, because action is always wiser than inaction, you can course correct if/when needed.
The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake!
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