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The 3 biggest challenges to starting an online business (& how to overcome them today)

I know better than anyone how frustrating it is to start a business without any guidance.

Millions of new business ideas go by the wayside due to burning too much money and ‘midnight oil’ before once-hopeful entrepreneurs realize they needed help. 

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the top 3 challenges to starting an online business you’re going to face (through the eyes of students who’ve had those exact challenges themselves) and how to overcome them to build your online business. 

But first, a revelation: 

Curiously though, we’ve found the actual steps for starting a business aren’t the hard part.

I gave away the entire blueprint behind a $5 million week at IWT. Thousands of people read it. Every single one of them was at least somewhat interested in starting an online business.

Yet I can guarantee you most of them did nothing.


What we’ve learned is that information usually isn’t the barrier. What holds us back are our own beliefs about what’s possible. Until you get rid of these invisible scripts, the “information” goes in one ear and out the other.

Over the years, I’ve seen people make the same few excuses for why they can’t start an online business. Today I want to introduce you to three successful students who overcame these obstacles to start and grow successful online businesses with our help.

Seeing that others have already faced — and overcome — your exact challenges can be all the motivation you need to do the same.

Bonus: Want to start a business but don’t have an idea? We’ve created a massive list of 30 successful online business ideas that you could start this weekend. Get your copy now.

Challenge #1: “I don’t have time”

Student: Nagina Abdullah
Industry: Weight Loss Coach

Nagina lost 40 pounds while working a full-time job and raising 2 kids.

She wanted to help other women transform their bodies and feel more energetic and confident. Now she needed to create a website — and she didn’t have time to make mistakes along the way.

“I travel every week for several nights,” Nagina recalls. “And when I’m at home, I also have quite a bit of work that I need to do. Then I also have two kids, so every time I’m not working, I want to spend with my kids.”

To make room for creating a business, Nagina looked at her schedule and determined how she could better use her time.

As she told us:
“I was staying up late and not doing anything. Instead, I started waking up an hour earlier and I’d also spend 5 hours on the weekend on my business. Do that every week, and step by step, it keeps building.”

Nagina earned $31,000 in 2014, her first year. In 2015, she weeded out all of the time-wasters that weren’t making a difference in her business and doubled down on the activities that drove most of the results: like copywriting.

“The #1 thing I focused on was copy. I used to think I was a really bad writer. I was in remedial college English! That self-judgment held me back.

“Then I learned that writing isn’t what you learn in college — it’s what you learn when you talk to people and really get into their heads. Now I tell my stories and other people’s stories.”

An older blog post from Nagina’s site

A newer blog post from Nagina’s site

“Before, my writing was just ‘You can do it!’ and very unemotional. I’d say ‘Just eat X.’”

From her conversations with women, she learned what pains her audience had and knew how to get into their heads.

“Once I started appealing to people’s emotions, everything shifted. They did what I said and responded to the emails.”

After Nagina spent her limited time on the activities that moved the needle in her business, revenue exploded.

“When I hit three consistent $10,000+ months, I knew I had finally found what works and I felt a calming sense of relief. I felt like there is an absolute possibility that I’m going to own my own business, which was a dream of mine.”

RESULT: Nagina regularly surpasses $10,000 in monthly revenue

Challenge #2: “I don’t have any ideas / I have too many ideas”

Student: John Fawkes
Industry: Performance Coach

For years, John wanted to be an entrepreneur, but he didn’t have a plan or support network. He relied on free blogs and forums to figure it out as he went.

The result? John jumped from one idea to the next, never creating a sustainable business with significant, predictable revenue.

“I created things people would want to buy, but I had no idea where to find my audience. I didn’t understand my market on a deep level the way I’ve learned to in Zero to Launch.”

John had no idea what kind of business he wanted to start. But we helped him come up with several ideas he was interested in. His first idea, to help people land great jobs, turned out to be a dead end.

“It was difficult to find communities that I could reach out to directly. And I got surprisingly low traffic from my guest posts. I realized that it’s very hard to get loyal, consistent, long-term readers in the career niche.”

Note that this is where most frazzled entrepreneurs would give up. They would say “The only tactic I know for getting traffic is guest posting, and guest posting isn’t working here, so it probably won’t work anywhere. Screw it. I knew I couldn’t have a business.”

At GrowthLab, we approach online business as a SYSTEM. Once John realized he needed to step back from marketing tactics and look at high-level strategy (like his choice of industry), everything changed.

He went back to the beginning and decided to try again in the fitness market. He was even more excited for this than his original idea.

“This is an area where I have a ton of knowledge and passion. I’ll never run out of things to write.”

Just a typical Tuesday in Thailand

RESULT: John has achieved his dream of automated income while living abroad in Thailand.

Challenge #3: “Why would anyone listen to me?”

Student: Bushra Azhar
Industry: Persuasion

Bushra had a great reputation in management consulting — but her online business had nothing to do with that established career.

“I had zero credentials when I started my online business. I’ve never worked in psychology or persuasion. I’ve never even taken a copywriting course. For a long time I wasn’t even sure if it was spelled ‘copywriting’ or ‘copyrighting’!”

She soon learned her lack of “credentials” didn’t matter. Using what she learned from us, she was able to connect with her audience so deeply that they immediately saw her as someone who could help them.

Her main strategy was — unlike most business owners — focusing her website 100% on the visitor. “I made sure the very first sentence [of my site] is something which is a red hot burning pain for THEM. So there is no way they could hit the back button. It is psychologically impossible to leave my website.”

When you speak directly to your reader’s burning needs, they stop wondering what your qualifications are and start asking how you can help.

Focusing on her customers has made all the difference in Bushra’s business:

RESULT: Bushra went from being a nobody in her market to earning $130,000 in October 2015.

What I wanted to prove to you today is that it IS possible to create a powerful, profitable, rewarding business. What business will you start?

Leave a comment below with your best idea.


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There Are 8 Comments


Great list and tips on how to overcome them, Ramit. Here’s another gigantic “challenge” in people’s minds:

“My business is too niche.”

Here are just a few examples of successful online course ideas with actual numbers I’ve tracked over the past few months:

“Non-religious animistic trance practices – how to have meaningful visions” (by a girl called Ren Zatopek) – she had 150 subsribers with 15 people enrolling in a $640 course (yes, read that again)

“Master the silks” (David Garland’s student) – an advanced course for “mastering the aerial skills for advanced aerials students” (omg, can you imagine something more niche?) – the course did $56,000 (yes 56 thousand US dollars) during a 1 week launch and 78 course enrollments.

“How to design and build your own tiny home or camper on a budget.” (from the lovely Mariah Coz) – a $97 course did MULTIPLE hundred thousand dollars over a 4 year period 🙂

It’s not about the niche, you can obviously make money in almost every niche imaginable, it’s about finding the right people, building a relationship with them and eventually selling them stuff.

I have been in a few network marketing business, but I haven’t been quite as successful as I want. I want to start an online business, but I don’t know how to do it and I need an idea. So I was wondering if you can help me cause I have a girlfriend for almost 3 years now and I want to get married but I don’t have the money to get married or to build a family. I would appreciate a lot your help. Thanks.

I would love to create my own business, but I don’t know how to go about it and what ideas to start. Is there any way you can help me?

I want nothing more than to start a business in the very crowded fitness market. Having 15 years experience in training /bodybuilding, I’m still struggling to find a way to get started. I feel I have a lot of valuable information and knowledge, just stumped on how to get it out there.

I am looking to get financially stable again. I have always wanted to start up my own business and never had the right ideas or money to invest to get started. I have plenty of time in the evenings but just some advice on how to get started. Can anyone help point me in the right direction

In today’s digital age, starting a business online is simply a matter of choosing to do so. The biggest challenge is the process of taking consistent steps and actions in the direction of your goals.

I have a fairly successful f2f Job & Business related coaching/language training gig going.
However my studebts come thorough others – businesses, and other Training institutions who are only motivated by Profit. And these people get the students sent by the govt agencies. So students are sitting ducks – once sign-up is done they are only a nuisance!!
I am very linited in what I can offer them too due to my contract. So I want to side-step this process and go direct and also offer continuation classes to former students.
I need to set this up ASAP!
Thanks for all the great material you share!

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