Possible Setbacks of Starting an Online Business and How to Overcome Them


Making any decision in your life that has some amount of risk involved can definitely be scary. I bet you’re worrying about the things that may set you back, which is ironically probably holding you back from moving forward with your ideas.

I am going to go over some of the setbacks we’ve been through and how we overcame them. By reading what we’ve been through, you can get a good idea of what kind of things to expect so you’re not hit with too many surprises.

The Money (Or The Client) Goes M.I.A.

The number one thing almost all entrepreneurs worry about is money. Sometimes, you’re expecting to receive money for a project you did and it is missing in action. You send your client multiple emails and they clearly have just disappeared. This can put a hold on your cash flow and make it difficult to pay your bills.

We’ve gone through this experience more times than we can count, and the only thing I can blame it on is not setting boundaries or clear expectations for the people we work with.

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Use a contract and send invoices automatically - We use HelloBonsai to send all contracts and invoices to our clients. Since we started using this tool, we’ve seen a drastic improvement when it comes to getting paid on time.

Set clear boundaries for your clients - Even after using the contracts and software, we still had to add some extra steps to cover our ass. We now add late fees to invoices if clients don’t pay by a certain date. You can also make clients pay for the work upfront so you’re not waiting around for them. Give your clients a deadline to give feedback, sign contracts, accept proposals, or pay invoices. Otherwise, they will probably take their sweet time.

Remember that the money isn’t yours until the client has paid in full - If someone agrees to work with you and signs a contract, don’t count on the money coming in until they have actually paid their invoice. We made the mistake of thinking that a job was going to happen, but they ended up backing out last minute.

Mean Comments

If you share yourself on the internet, you’re bound to get mean comments. Some people suck. We get a lot of hateful and rude comments on our YouTube videos, and I’m not gonna lie… it hurts. Sometimes it gets to you and hurts your feelings. Sometimes you start to believe these people. Sometimes it can bring you down so much that you feel like giving up on everything you’ve created.

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Remember that it’s all them, not you - People will say mean stuff, but you have to remember they are probably being rude because they have issues with themselves. Confident people don’t bash others. They are insecure and most likely jealous, so they are nit picking something about you to make themselves feel better about who they are as a person.

You have to let it slide and forget about it - It’s really just a mindset. If you can forget about it and let it slide, then you’re on the right track. Even if it does hurt a little, just tell yourself how fucking rad you are. This is how I’ve gotten more comfortable on camera, by remembering that people are 95% thinking about themselves and will rarely remember that one thing about you or that one thing you said. Just forget it, and move on.

You can delete it and it’s pretty much like it never existed - You can always delete comments you don’t like and it’s just like it never even happened. If it bothers you, get rid of it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Failed Idea, Failed Product, Failed Service

If you’re aiming for success, you’re going to have to accept failure. You will create products that people don’t want, but in the process, you’ll learn what people do want, which will help you create the next idea! Maybe the blog post you spent hours on gets no views. Maybe the services you are offering get zero client inquiries.

Early in 2016, I launched an ebook about photography. I sold maybe 5 books and two of those sales were my parents (thanks mom and dad). I barely made any money and no one gave me any reviews. It was a failure. I put a ton of hard work and effort into it and it didn’t work out. The main reason that happened was because I didn’t understand our audience and who I was selling to. The people that came to our website were not coming to it for photography tips. So, no one felt that the information was valuable to them.

You’re going to have a lot of things that fail and it’s probably going to disappoint you, but you have to learn to get over it and move on.

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Think about how your failure is leading you to success - If I never made that shitty ebook, I would have never learned HOW to make an ebook or HOW to sell things. I would have never learned how NOT to do things either. I maybe even would have continued trying to create photography tips on our website. After this failure, I learned that photography tips were something that our audience wasn’t interested in and we needed to focus on something else. Anything you fail at will bring you one step closer to a success.

Focus on something else - If something completely fails, you either try and improve it, or you let go and focus on something else. Think about why it failed. Was it because you aren’t actually interested in it? Is it because it’s not unique? Is it because you tried to copy someone else's successful idea? Focus your attention on something else if you’ve discovered that it’s just not the right thing for you.

Build an audience and ask what they want - If you focus more on building your audience, over time you can ask what they want and make products or services based on their responses. Instead of making something and hoping the audience will come, build the audience, ask what they want, and make it for them. You’ll see much more success that way.

Being Overwhelmed With Your To-Do List

If you’re stacking up client work and you’ve got tons of projects of your own to keep track of, it can get very overwhelming. All you see is a long list of things to do, especially when you’ve got multiple projects to manage at once.

Sometimes it can get so overwhelming that you decide to do nothing at all. That’s not good for your business and won't help you get anywhere. So, tackle that overwhelm!

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Try to only think about one small task at a time - Like I’ve said before, multitasking is not good. Focus on the most important task and get that done first. Then work on the other tasks. If you focus on one thing at a time, it will feel a lot less overwhelming!

Don’t beat yourself up for not checking off all the boxes on your to-do list - If you don’t finish that one task you wanted to finish today, don’t beat yourself up over it. You can easily just start on it the next day. You have to be realistic about how much you can really accomplish in one day.

Use a project management system - By writing down all the smaller steps it's going to take to complete one big task, you can schedule each smaller step on your calendar. We use Asana to manage all of our projects and it’s really helpful!

Feeling Lost & Confused About What You’re Doing

I go through this a couple times a year. Over time, you’ll question if what you’re doing is actually worth it. You’ll probably feel lost and confused. It definitely is something that can set you back if you don’t know how to manage those thoughts!

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Get a business coach or talk to your support system - When I felt lost, I hired a business coach to help us realize what we love doing most in our business. Finding a support system for the times when you feel this way is really important because those people can help you understand that it’s just a phase and you’re doing great.

Rework your business plan, review what’s not working vs. what is - When you feel lost and confused, review your current business plan. Is it still serving your purpose? Does it feel right to you? Business plans are great because you can look back on it when you are lost and see if you are still on the right track or if you need to make a change.

Try something new - Sometimes your original idea doesn’t pan out how you imagined. Instead of giving up, try something new. Trying new things can help you figure out what you need to do next and find some clarity.

Listen to podcasts, read books, and watch videos - Sometimes when I feel lost and confused, all I really need is a pep talk. There are TONS of books, vlogs, and podcasts you can check out that will help you when you’re confused. Here’s a list of my favorites:

Creative Pep Talk
Being Boss
The Wonder Jam
Melyssa Griffin
Money Making Maven

You Are A Badass
You Are A Badass At Making Money
Four Hour Workweek
Big Magic
Magic Of Thinking Big
Rich Dad Poor Dad

Peter Mckinnon
Casey Neistat
Mr. Ben Brown
Marie Forleo - Marie TV

Comparing Yourself To Your Competition

This is one of the BIGGEST setbacks that will happen. Because we are constantly consuming social media and looking at our competitors, of course we’ll wish we had a life like theirs. What we often fail to see, though, is all of the hard work and shit that person went through to get where they are today.

It can be extremely discouraging when you are comparing yourself to other people, especially your competition. Yes, it is important to know who your competition is and it’s a desire within us all to want and push for more. But it’s draining if you are sabotaging yourself by worrying about what everyone else is doing. You need to save that energy for your passion to move forward!

Keeping track of your competition will only make you lose your positive energy and in the long run, make them more successful because you’re not out there kicking ass.

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Take a social media break - If you find yourself spending more time scrolling than creating stuff of your own, it may be time to take a break. Maybe just delete all your apps off your phone for a day or two. Get out in nature where there is no service. Give yourself a much needed break to find new energy and stop letting the competition drain you.

Delete or unfollow people that you compare yourself to - We all follow people that are in the same industry as us, but sometimes it’s important to simply unfollow people, even if they are your friends. For example, Cody and I have TONS of van life friends. They all pretty much do the same thing as us, they post the same videos, and they write the same types of blog posts. Over time, I would sit there and compare what we were doing to their work. I would feel guilty for not posting as much as they did and that was making me feel awful.

So I unfollowed the people that I was comparing myself to. Not because I don’t like them; they are rad and they are my friends! I did it for my own sake, so I could save my energy to create my own content without being focused on what someone else is doing that’s similar to what we are doing.

Work on your self talk - It’s all about mindset, baby. If you don’t want to take a break and you don’t want to delete your friends, it’s time to work on your self talk. Why are you comparing yourself? It’s time to change your thoughts to more positive ones. Be grateful for everything you have accomplished so far. Think about the people that see what you're doing now and wish they had what you did. It’s all about being grateful and changing your thought patterns to a more positive outlook.

Not Being Authentically You

Copying other people is definitely a setback. There is a difference between blatantly copying someone and getting inspired by them. In all reality, no idea is ever original; they’re all probably influenced by tons of other things and it’s okay to use resources and inspiration to create your own version of it. You can also make something better… a better version of something that already exists.

What’s not cool is creating something just because it made someone else successful. You’re probably not going to find the same success they did if you do the same thing. It will also make you seem inauthentic and you don’t want that. People are going to trust you more if you are yourself!

Here’s a couple ways to overcome this situation:

Try to think of ways you can do it differently - Instead of copying someone else, spend some time thinking about how copying only holds you back from creating something truly amazing. If you just make an effort to brainstorm some ideas and focus on what you’re good at and what makes you unique, you’ll create something even better!

Gather inspiration from people in different industries than yours - If you’re a photographer looking at other photographer’s website designs, maybe try looking at restaurant website designs instead and gather inspiration from there. You’d be surprised at what you can do to make yourself stand out if you get inspired by different industries other than your direct competitors.

Giving Up And Negative Self Talk

Negativity will deter your success. It’s okay to feel shitty and be negative for a brief moment, but constant negativity when things don’t go your way will only attract more negativity into your life. Have you ever noticed that people who doubt things and don’t believe in themselves have a harder time going through life? That’s because negativity can only attract more negative experiences in your life.

When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or feelings, like wanting to give up or thinking that everything you make is stupid, remember that those are just thoughts, not actual facts. All you have to do here is change your mind.

Here’s a few ways to overcome this situation:

Figure out why you’re feeling this way - Is it because you’re on social media too much? Is it because your friends and family aren't supportive? Take some time to evaluate why you are feeling negative. Then once you’ve figured it out, try to eliminate those things that suck the life out of you. Think about what you can do differently to help yourself feel more positive next time.

Find a support group - Accountability groups are the perfect remedy for feeling negative. By sharing some of your struggles with others, you’ll find people that can relate to you. Just talking about your experience can improve your mood and make you feel more connected to a community of people going through the same issues.

That’s why I’ve created the Work From Wherever Crew - A private accountability group for nomadic entrepreneurs. You can come here to share your struggles, and because it’s a private group, the connections and feedback you receive will be much more meaningful. If you haven’t yet, join the group and introduce yourself! Share something great, something you need help with, and give back to the community by helping others.

Work on your own self confidence - Practice working on your own self confidence. This is the best way to overcome negative thought patterns. Self confidence doesn’t mean always being a happy go lucky person. Even confident people have doubts. Self confidence means trusting your abilities even when you don’t know what you’re doing. Self confidence is recognizing that you have something of value to give to the world, even if you aren’t quite an expert on it yet. Self confidence is feeling good about yourself, even when shit hits the fan.