If you have an online business that is at the crossroads then one of the most important skills you will need to master is deciding if you should continue with it, or on the other hand – how to know when to quit.
It can be an extremely tough decision, especially if you are a stubborn person and really determined to make it work. But the fact is that many people don’t have the vision to see that they are wasting their time, and continue struggling for years on the same path.
If you continually spending more money than you are earning or spending many long hours working on the business (or both), then you have to ask yourself it is seriously worth all the effort.
It can be made even more difficult if you have a partner or spouse constantly on your back and asking “have you made any money yet”? If your partner is not supportive of your online business then you may possibly have an even more difficult decision to make regarding the relationship.
The truth is that many people fail with all types of online business models, and it is nowhere near as easy as most people think. Unless you are providing value to a hungry market that knows, likes and trusts you it will most likely be an uphill battle.
When you have any type of business that is not performing you have three basic choices to make:
a) Continue running the business with the same strategy that you have been using
b) Continue running the business, but with a completely different strategy
c) Stop completely and quit, and look at other things to do
Now obviously the first choice above (continuing with the same plan) is not a very smart choice, as more than likely your misery is going to continue. So you have to choose between continuing with a different strategy or quitting the business.
In the end I don’t think there is any formula or system for determining if you should continue or quit what you are doing. I believe that you need to ask yourself some hard questions and make your decision based on your gut feeling after answering the following questions:
1. Are your statistical results improving over time?
You should be tracking all of your online metrics such as:
a) website hits
b) email and RSS subscribers
c) conversion percentages
d) net sales amounts
e) comments and general interaction on your blog
Daily or weekly statistics don’t count much towards the big picture, you should only be looking closely at monthly, quarterly and annual figures to get a decent idea of the trends of the above metrics.
If these numbers are not improving after at least six months, then at the very least you need to start thinking about what you can do to start seeing growth in all of these numbers.
If you have not been tracking your numbers, then you shout start doing it immediately if you are serious about your business.
2. Are you enjoying what you are doing?
This is probably the most important question that you should be asking yourself. If you don’t have a genuine passion for what you are doing then it is unlikely you will succeed, no matter how hard you try to fight it.
Many people start various online businesses purely to make money from them, but in actual fact have little (or no) passion for the business what so ever.
Loving what you do certainly doesn’t guarantee success on its own, but it does go a long way to making it a lot easier for the business owner to be successful. Are you currently going through the motions and struggling to stay motivated? If so, it is not a good sign for the future of the business.
One solution to this problem is to outsource most of the business (or all of it) to someone else to run for you. But of course this costs money, and if you are struggling then I am going to assume that you can’t afford it.
3. Is there a market for what you are doing?
Another crucial factor.
You may think that your product or company is the best thing since sliced bread, but this is irrelevant if the market place is not interested in what you are selling to them.
The smart online entrepreneur does his or her research before he or she creates or markets the product. The massive advantage that online business has is that you can study the search history and patterns of any keyword phrase that you like. If you know what you are doing you can easily decide if the proposed product has a demand or not.
Find out if your product has an existing market place before you create the product.
Demand is not the only factor that you have to study though. Supply is just as important.
It is vital that you study your competition for a particular niche to see what is working for them, and how you can plan to beat them. Some competition is healthy as you know that people are spending money on similar products, but at the same time you don’t want to be in a market place that has too much competition to compete against.
4. Do you know why you are doing what you are doing?
Have you every asked yourself why you are doing the business? If not then I highly recommend that you do.
Don’t be surprised if you struggle to answer this question as a lot of people can’t clearly define the purpose of their business. Now, I can hear a lot of you are saying that making money and profit are the reasons why you are in business. But trust me on this, money is only a by product of the business.
Without a clear mission that is directed towards your customers, you are kidding yourself to be a successful entrepreneur. Repeat – your mission must be directed towards your customers and not just lining your pockets.
If your customers get the slightest feeling that the mission of the business is to make the owner rich, then you can be sure that not many will buy off you.
5. Is the investment of time and money in your business a wise decision?
It is important to realise that if you spending a lot of time and money on a business that is not profitable over a long period, then it is likely that both your time and money could be better spent doing something else, or even just relaxing with your family.
The opportunity cost of spending years on a struggling business is huge, especially when there is so much choice for entrepreneurs online these days.
Time is the greatest asset for everybody, and you should be using your time wisely as you don’t last forever. And if your business expenses are continually dipping into your personal finances, then it is likely that it is not wise to continue with what you are doing.
6. Do you have confidence and belief in your own ability to pull it off
Belief and confidence in your ability are not something that you can fake or manufacture easily.
You either have it or you don’t.
Do you have it?
If you don’t have it, don’t worry too much because you can work on your own personal development to gradually build up your self belief. The best method that I have used personally for this is visualisation.
To do this you need to mediate and concentrate strongly on picturing yourself having achieved your goals in your minds eye. The key to this is to use all your senses while visualising, so that you can feel, smell, taste, touch as well as see yourself in your minds eye. But for it to work, you need to do it daily for a long period.
7. Are you focussed and committed to this project? I mean REALLY committed.
If you are honest you should know the answer to this question, without having to think too hard. By being committed, I mean that the owner is thinking about the business 24 hours a day, even dreaming about it. If you are not thinking about your business all the time, then it is fair to say that you are not committed to it.
A lack of commitment is usually due to either a lack of passion or a lack of time. We have already covered the topic of passion in point number 2 above.
A lack of time to spend on the business is usually due to one of the following:
a) the owner is working a full time day job as well as running the business
b) the owner is running more than one business at a time.
c) the owner is heavily involved in something else (football for example)
Now a lack of time is really an excuse, not a reason – because at the end of the day it all comes down to prioritising what is most important to you. So if the the full time job, the other business, or the football team is more important to you than the business you are running, then really you should quit the business. It is as simple as that.
For those of you that are running multiple businesses and struggling, then I suggest that you pick out the one that you consider the most important and focus on that only. No one should even consider running multiple online businesses until they have got one of them working first.
Diluting your focus is a bad idea as usually you end up doing a poor job on all of your projects across the board. But, if you concentrate 100% focus on the one business you will find it a lot easier to achieve the results that you are seeking. Whoever said that multi tasking is a good idea, was full of it in my opinion.
With these seven points above in mind, I think you need to make your decision based on your general gut feeling after answering all of them. And it is also important to consider the opportunity cost of continuing with something that you feel is never going to take off.
I advise you to take out a pen and start jotting down your answers, and to make an informed decision based on the positives and negatives of both continuing and also quitting.
Talk it over with friends and family if necessary, but remember none of them are as attached to what you are doing as you are yourself. Only YOU know what is the answer.