9 Reasons Why Your Online Business Will Fail

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Online businesses and moneymaking ventures pop up left and right like wet gremlins, yet only a small fraction of them will have some semblance of success. A lot of people seem to equate the Internet with “easy money” because you’re able to set up a website and try your hand at making money while sitting in front of a laptop at home in your underwear. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot to create a successful business and not much at all for it to fail. Here are 9 reasons why your online business is slated to be as popular as a screening of Bruno in the Bible Belt.

  1. You bring nothing new to the table. If you think of an idea that’s the exact same as something that already exists and you can’t think of a way to make it better, faster, stronger, sleeker, shinier, lighter, etc., you’re probably going to fail. Nobody is going to use a Facebook clone if it’s the exact same as Facebook. People won’t use your tools if they’re worse than other tools out there and cost more. You have to either offer something completely new that no one has created before or you have to take an existing idea and vastly improve it.
  2. You’re not disciplined. There is no 9-5 when you’re starting your own business, and online businesses are especially time consuming because the Internet doesn’t have a closing time. If you’re not disciplined to hunker down and put in the massive amounts of hours it takes to get a business off the ground, you’re not going to get very far. Your business will reflect your output — if you phone in the effort, you’ll end up with a crap product or service.
  3. You have no focus. Obsessing about how good your site looks instead of improving your tools or products might win you a design award or get you into some CSS galleries, but it won’t bring you satisfied customers. You need to know what to focus on and what’s important — you can’t tackle it all at once, so it’s important to prioritize and determine which tasks have the biggest, most direct impact on your business’s ability to make money.
  4. You don’t trust your team. If you’ve hired a couple people or have a whole team of employees by your side, they’re here to help you, not hinder you (if you’ve made smart hiring decisions, anyway). You hired these people for a reason and they should want your business to succeed as much as you do, so if you don’t trust their work or their ability to make good decisions that will positively affect the business, you’re just creating extra work for yourself and for everyone else.
  5. You think you’re entitled to succeed. Ah, the ol’ entitlement complex. It doesn’t matter if you have a good idea — if you don’t see it to fruition and work hard to make that idea a reality, it’s not going to magically appear by itself. Nobody owes you anything, so suck up your pride and hunker down to get some work done. Respect is earned, sonny boy, and you’re not going to get any if all you do is sit around and expect success without getting off your ass and making it happen.
  6. Your street smarts suck. Who cares if you’re a book smart genius who got straight A’s in high school and college? Being a business owner requires common sense, and if you’re too dimwitted to have good instincts and street smarts, you’ll likely get eaten alive by the competition. People might try to screw you, cheat you, and lie to you. It’s a tough world out there, and if you can’t cut it and hang with the big boys, you don’t belong.
  7. You’re a cheap, corner-cutting bastard. It costs money to make money. Too cheap to hire extra help? Don’t think you need that more reliable server? Sure, you see potential dollar signs in your future but if you’re too cheap to spend what it takes to get your business off the ground, you won’t be making much money any time soon.
  8. You take your customers for granted. If you do have some customers and subject them to poor usability, shitty customer service and bad products, you won’t have customers for very long. Don’t take your users/readers/customers for granted. They’re a huge part of your success. If you don’t appreciate them, they’ll spend their time and money elsewhere.
  9. You’ve never experienced failure. This might be the most important reason of all. If you’ve never experienced failure and you fail for the first time at something, you’re put at a huge crossroads and your tenacity is really put to the test. Most successful business owners have failed numerous times in the past, and they’ve picked themselves up and gone back to the drawing board each and every time to fix what doesn’t work and get back on the right track. If you don’t know what it’s like to fail and you find yourself in a position of failure, you might just throw up your hands, say “Fuck it” and quit. Sometimes you need to experience failure in order to determine if you’re cut out to be an entrepreneur.

There you have it, 9 reasons your business will likely fail. I’d love to hear any other reasons if you’ve got any, or you can share how you’ve grown your own business and any issues you came across along the way.

About Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley is the Director of Marketing for This or That Media. She also runs Mediocre Athlete, a hobby blog about exercising and training, and My Korean Mom, a blog about her harsh but amusing Korean mother. In her spare time, Rebecca is a freelance blogger for hire, loves food and movies, and trains for marathons and triathlons.

152 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why Your Online Business Will Fail

  1. Juhani Tontti

    True facts.

    I would like to add one more: you don`t put yourself into fire, I mean personally. Jeremy is one example, who does it and we can see the results.

  2. aspkin

    Pretty true,

    I found bringing something new, complete to the table helps a lot. Solving people’s problem is a plus and give information out for free brings in new customers.

    Give something away for free then while you have the visitor there, make something just a little bit better, a complete picture then sell it to them.

    You build trust first, then you earn yourself a new customer.

    AKA Give me shoemoney tools for free maybe, something like 7 days for free like senuke has it, and then if I don’t cancel charge me.

    Check out senuke’s setup shoemoney, I think it will help you sell more shoemoney tools.

    I’m a customer of theirs.

    Cheers, and good luck everyone.

  3. Andrew - We Build Your Blog

    All extremely important and I’d like to add one:

    You try and do everything yourself!

    It is worth trying to outsource some of the admin work in your business. You may be surprised how inexpensive it can be…especially when you compare the costs with how much your time is worth.


    1. Neo

      Yeah agreed, I will bookmark this page just to remind me it’s not that simple doing business without any discipline

  4. Ricky Peterson

    Shoe after long time you have posted informative article, very professionally written and executed one. I guess you should keep writing such stuff on daily basis in order for people to understand more and more about online business success & failures. Being creative in today’s competitive blogging industry is must along with keeping your focus on target. These days TON of new guys are entering this industry and with no success they go back because they would like to make $10k in 2-3 months of starting the work. I remember very clearly that i started following you before 2.5 to 3 years & just now i have got little success this year and around started making $7k to $8k on monthly basis.

    Patience is the name of the Game as far as online Entrepreneurship is concerned..!!

  5. Spica Casts

    One more reason: because you are selling toilet paper online! Some products just do not sell online. Just because no one else selling it online does not make it an automatic winner. Product sourcing is really important for ecommerce websites.

      1. Canada Immigration

        Starting a business today can be very inexpensive. Thanks to the internet, you can own a store without having to leave your house. You don’t need to build or rent space. You don’t need to pay a lot of upfront fees to build up inventory so you have something to sell. You still need a great name, and of course you may need to spend some money building the online store and for advertising.

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  7. John C

    Great article Rebecca. I’m actually in the midst of starting up myself and I was WORRIED about reading this article, but y’know, less worried after reading and just generally helped that little bit more on focusing.

    I think the point about the hours you work is quite important. The amount of people who think it will be easier for them. It’s quite bizarre. I’ve literally doubled the time I spend working now (not forever, but first few months it is an absolute must of mine), but I can say quite easily, I LOVE doing the hours.

    Doing a 15hr day for myself is much better than when I did it ‘for the man’. (:

  8. Brad

    GREAT POST! – I’ve taken over a failing business before, tried to turn it around. Was able to increase sales over 500%. Once I treated customers like friends – they just bought more stuff. NEVER TAKE your customers for granted!

  9. Corey Freeman

    Awesome post! I’ve been guilty of not focusing (comes with the teenage territory, I guess) at times but I always try to get jobs done on deadlines.

    Customer service is the most important part of your business. If you’re not good to your clients, then they won’t want to work with you. It’s all about “non-price” competition. You can charge the amount that will keep you afloat if you do great work and provide great consultation.

    I see a lot of younger entrepreneurs (teenagers online) cutting corners because they find price better than quality. I try not to consider things in that way.

    1. Holly Mann

      Trust me Corey, it is not just lack of focus due to being a teen. Older people are unfocused too. It takes a dedicated, motivated person to stay focused, follow through and see success. :)

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  11. Online College

    Great information. Your best point i believe is about Street Smarts. People will eat you alive if your some sheltered kid from an Ivy league who doesn’t know about “real” people.

    The only thing I would add is to appreciate the people who are there to help you and don’t underestimate their contributions, at times the person would not even be there if it wasn’t for the little people!

  12. Nikki Thomas

    I totally agree with what you are saying. If you don’t have the commitment or dedication to your business you WILL fail. You have to stay focused.

    1. Canada Immigration

      Why do so many people fail when the same opportunities are available to anyone? The answer is a lack of commitment and dedication. Yes we have all heard these words before, and most people will agree that they are necessary for achieving any goals.

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  14. Adam

    You will fail if you spend all of your time writing articles telling people why they will fail.

    Jeremy I think this is too guest posts in two days and two posts I have been ” eh ” about. I hope I can get some original Shoe soon.

    1. Rebecca Kelley Post author

      Sorry about the scheduling. I author up posts and leave them as drafts and Shoe publishes them whenever. We’ll try to coordinate better in the future.

      1. Adam


        Thanks for the response, you don’t have to dignify my whining with an actual response though. I am going to like some stuff and not going to like other things. It is all good.


  15. Neo

    You’re a cheap, corner-cutting bastard. It costs money to make money. Too cheap to hire extra help?

    I like this statement bec, sometimes I got pm on my forum asking for help, at the time I suggested him to go for paid services, most of them said “are there any guarantee that your advice will help?” This is really sucks

        1. Holly Mann

          Hi NEO – interesting approach. I learned in the last 5 yrs of working online successfully – if you are willing to take a little of your own time to help a person out, answer a question or direct them to a resource – it pays off big time. And also regarding her comment on how people need to pay to make money online – absolutely NOT. The costs are minimal and not everyone who wants to make money online can afford to hire help – and in the beginning it is not necessary anyway. To make money online you do not need to pay for advertising – the main cost is domain name and website hosting.

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  19. Jacques Snyman | 3 Quotes

    You can effectively scratch out the “online” bit here, because these truths pretty much apply to any type of busines, whether it be the conventional retail store or the online endeavour. Certain factors affect performance, no matter what the scenario, and they are amply illustrated in this blog post.

  20. Gwendolyn Dunbar

    Outstanding! Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! I feel like you’ve stolen all my little secrets that only I knew. Well done!

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  23. Moni Go

    Interesting facts. Whenever you will talk about all these point with a failure, he will think you are a great astrologer :)

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  25. Old_Timer

    “…You can effectively scratch out the “online” bit here, because these truths pretty much apply to any type of busines, whether it be the conventional retail store or the online endeavour. Certain factors affect performance, no matter what the scenario, and they are amply illustrated in this blog post….”

    Your missing the point of this well written Post. The brick and mortar world has a HUGE barrier of entry compared to the Internet where any person can start a business and buy into all the phony pitches which abound. Stated another way…BECAUSE the Internet has a ZERO barrier of entry you will continue to see sites, affiliate programs, self proclaimed experts (NOT Shoe) drop like flies. Toss in a large measure of Wild Wild west lack of regulation on The Internet as compared to the brick world and you have a guaranteed failure rate that is signifcantly larger than the brick world.

    Outstanding post :)

  26. fas

    Cool stuff there. Well there are many more reasons but the most important ones have been covered by you.

  27. Lynette

    I agree with all the reasons, especially the fail one. When one thing might fail, try, try again! There is no one shot wonder I believe. Most who have succeeded have tried many things before their success. Only if someone finds a product that no one else offers and everyone wants can a site take of instantly. I would like to add one thing to the list of nine. Patience, patience, patience! It takes time and diligence to work up the rank and alot of work, just like a brick and morter business, it takes time and word of mouth. Reputation is a great reason for success or failure. Customers can make or break a business. So in essence, take care of your customers! They will take care of you in the long run.

    1. Canada Immigration

      Patience-it’s the first thing every one must realize when its comes to making money online. Nobody gets rich quickly in any form of marketing. In online business, everything takes time to work for you.

    2. Article Marketing

      Patience is the key to success to people who are starting their own business, or business owners themselves. It is true that time is your constant companion but never works at the paste at which you’d like. The people who are starting their own business often gets frustrated because they want things happen now as they had planned.

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  29. readers

    Sheesh, this is such a serious, structured post compared to what I’ve come to expect here (movie discussions, bacon dishes, etc)! :)

    Seriously though, solid tips, thanks.

  30. Simon Lynch

    Good post, but I do have an issue with,

    “You’re a cheap, corner-cutting bastard. It costs money to make money. Too cheap to hire extra help? Don’t think you need that more reliable server? Sure, you see potential dollar signs in your future but if you’re too cheap to spend what it takes to get your business off the ground, you won’t be making much money any time soon.”

    In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes that you can make is spending when a) the income line isn’t there and b) because you have to get things moving. It is essential to make sure spend affects the bottom line. So maybe this should be ‘always be a cheap corner-cutting bastard except when it makes sense to pay out for stuff you need and which makes economic sense’? A business quickly becomes poor if this is not the case ;)

    1. Nicholas James

      Simon…spending is essential for a business to grow, why do you think businesses go and receive venture capital invesment…for the fun of it? I understand where you are coming from but in order to expand the business you need to spend money and in terms of you saying “when the income line isn’t there” that statement is wrong on so many levels…every startup has started with some level of investment.

    2. Holly Mann

      I agree with you Simon. When starting to work online – investments are minimal. When you have your own product and are making a lot of money off of it – customers will be emailing daily and that type of work may need to be outsourced. Web designers or programmers may need to be hired – but all of that can come after your money is rolling in. To start out – I personally only spent money on a domain and hosting and that was 5 yrs ago – and I’ve been making a great income online for the past 5 yrs. I love it and I don’t believe people should or need to spend much at all in the beginning.

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  32. Needmoney.com

    Getting discouraged by failure is a big reason why many people don’t succeed in business. Just gotta try to learn from your mistakes and get back up on the horse.

    1. Canada Immigration

      “Failure is a key component of the process of success.”
      Most of the time we don’t think about success as a process at all, and we certainly don’t consider failure to be a part of the process. This is the number one reason why most people fail to become truly successful.
      The great basket ball player Michael Jordon once said: “I never lost a game, I simply ran out of time.”

    2. Holly Mann

      I agree. You can use it to motivate you and drive you forward with even more strength than before you fell. :) My aunt was told by her ex that he thought she would fail miserably with her business. She held the words in her mind for years and ended up thriving because of it – for herself first and also to show him that he was wrong! It worked – she was very successful and now retired with a lot of money. :)

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  34. Isaac Yassar

    Experience is the best teacher Indeed. But mistake is the best of the best teacher. You don’t make mistake, you don’t learn. Let’s make some more mistakes, shall we? =)

    1. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

      One time or two time mistake is ok but if you are keep repeating this one than I think your brain is displaying that this program will not run in his hard drive … lollzz

      Person who take the lessons from mistakes always proceed and reach towards his/her goal.

      1. Ricky Peterson

        From Mistakes one should learn in such a way that that is not being repeated in future any time. Learning Lessons from mistakes is something which every one should do all the time.

        There is a popular saying that one who do not make mistake is GOD …lol

  35. woody

    Creating online business is only half work done. Companies need to promote their business to right audience. Best is to offload this work by using innovative promotion tools like “commentino”, to promote business/products in right forums. “Commentino” writers post web comments keeping forum discussion in coherant. Forum participants will come to know about more choices on business/products. Companies need to pay only for comments that they are satisfied with. In this way companies can reach right audience. For commentino follow link

  36. Isaac Yassar

    Experience is the best teacher Indeed. But mistake is the best of the best teacher. You don’t make mistake, you don’t learn. Let’s make some more mistakes, shall we? =)
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  37. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    One thing which always necessary in every kind of business is concentrating on your goal and working towards that only.

    I am sure there are many ways to reach at your goal but you will have to find out which one is less time taking and good one.

    Divide your goals in small goals and keep achieving the small ones and keep moving ahead to complete another small one.

    1. Ricky Peterson

      Zubin – I agree with your saying of setting up of goals and work only on them apart from doing 10 new things. Undivided focus on the task will get you right on TOP.

    2. Holly Mann

      I agree with the goals. For me personally I try to manage my small tasks one at a time but try to also complete one major project or accomplish one big thing per day. It helps to keep moving foward and stay productive.

    3. Article Marketing

      You must be 100% concentrate in your business, your work. Focus in your goals until you achieve it. This is a key that you will need if you desire for success. So always focus in your work.

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  39. La Digue

    The 9 reasons you’ve given here are absolutely correct. They are actually a guide for all those who want to open up an online business. When building a website, both the aesthetics and functionality have to be taken into consideration. Neglect one and you might fail. Thanks for sharing the information.

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  41. S.K Sharma

    This is a best article for those who fails or want to fail in business.
    But I am sure if I follow the entire list,I’ll never fail.

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  43. bladi420

    this is really awesome in fact I thing that everything that you put on this article is really true you dont skip nothing this is the most common 9 things that should put you out of business and I want to thanks you because this is really helping me a lot to increase my behavior in the work enviroment.

  44. Wesley Craig Green

    Great post, Rebecca. The points you covered can be applied to any kind of business- offline and online.

    The one point which stuck out for me was the first one regarding bringing something new to the table. There is a blog for just about every topic imaginable. If you find yourself wanting to start a blog on a popular topic or subject, first find a different angle on it and then see see if there’s a audience/market for it. No use doing a blog on, say, goat hair if you find only 4 people are interested in it.

    So find a popular sub-niche in the topic you’re interested in blogging about and you should be fine. :D

    Wesley Craig Green
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  45. What Antique Furniture

    success online is all about The art of giving before you try to get. Before you get something from someone, you need to first give them a reason for them to give it to you.
    if you know this kind of art sure you will not fail even you are alone , you don’t have enough money.

  46. Holly Mann

    Excellent Post!!! So true. I especially agree with the first point if you are a pro blogger for example – must bring something a little different to the scene to capture and keep readers captivated.

  47. ACLS Sacramento

    OMG! Preach it! I see so many people start with IM and then in a matter of weeks there talking about going back to school so that they can be higher paid employee….( no offense to my employees) However, I see a common denominator with these folks… L.A.Z.Y…..to lazy to do anything but talk about how nice it would be….There are natural laws that cannot be broken and they apply to all of us. The most simple law of business is that you will no doubt reap what you sow. You pay the price and it will show…you talk about it and, well….that also shows……

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  49. Michelle

    I think one should print these tips out and hang on the wall in the office so that they motivate oneself and the colleagues to succeed. I think I might do that actually!

  50. Steph Cakes

    I have started and failed in 6 busineses. Each time I kept getting a little closer. I have finally found success with my passion. It’s funny because I have been making cakes for years and never saw it. Do it for love, and the money will come! Thanks, Steph

  51. Promotional Products

    These are some incredible tips that every business owner should read. Business owners should always be looking for ways to improve, never take customers for granted, and always be searching and selling new customers. Very well said.

  52. Mathew day

    Sweet Post!…. I needed to read some of those pointers right about now. Helps me stay focused on what’s important and what I need to work on.

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  55. Juddah

    It needs hardwork and effort to have a successful online business. Learn to love your work and you will see great ideas comes to your mind. :)

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  57. Greg Johnson

    Those who succeed in business do so by determining the needs of the marketplace first, then provide products and services to fill those needs.

    Most people fail by thinking product first, then trying to find a market to sell to.

    The internet is a tremendous tool that can provide you with a wealth of information about under-served markets. Spend some time doing your homework first.

    Why would anyone invest even one nickel without knowing if there is even a market for what you are providing? I know I wouldn’t.

  58. Juhani Tontti

    This my second comment to this post, so it is good and irritates my mind.

    Some comments to the points:
    1. When everybody have more or less the same services, one strategy is to concentrate on HOW you present it.

    2. The focus is extremely important. I urge everybody be very narrow and special.

    9. Failure. That is part of this busines and nobody can avoid it. The question is, how quickly you can jump up again and continue your journey.

    I would add two points:
    1. extra point. Try to pick some offer, which is trendy at the moment, like environment. If the surroundings sees your offer in a positive light, that helps.

    2. extra point. The online marketing is all about contacts with the same-thinkers.

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  60. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    Wow you have used some words which really make us to understand this whole article … such as

    # You’re a cheap, corner-cutting bastard.

    # Your street smarts suck.

    But we like your writing style

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  63. Money making guide

    I really like your points. But The one thing which will matter the most is time. As time is money so if you invest more time in your online business more money you will earn. Most people think that they are working online so there are no boundation. But you must invest time according to time table.

    sumit chhikara
    webmaster, moneyvisitor.com

  64. Sasha Gilberg

    Insightful post Rebecca.

    I appreciate #9 (you’ve never experienced failure) and this is huge. Every failure is a learning lesson, and brings you 1 step closer to your goal.

    Knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what to, and I recently read a book called ‘Why People Fail’ by Siimon Reynolds (highly recommended) which elaborates on what mistakes to avoid – and HOW.

    Thought you may like it and get a few ideas for when you write “9 Reasons Why Your Online Business Will Fail… PART 2″


  65. Urban Klass

    This is brilliant information! I like the straight-forward points, none of this sugar-coated crap that a lot of ‘gurus’ dish out to make their customers feel good about themselves.

    I noticed a couple of people didnt like this post, I personally thought it was a great addition to the rest of them!

  66. Online Marketing NJ

    Ok….I had to read this last article….almost 3 am and I couldnt get enough. 3, 4 are so true! Its all good but I know that these two have made a difference in my business. When I was scatterbrained and never focused I seemed to just tread water. Once I had laser target focused my productivity sky rocketed.

    Trusting my team took for ever for me to do….but then one day I realized the purpose of hiring them was to relieve my workload and be more productive. Once I trusted things sky rocketed!

    I would love to ad a number 10. Dont take on a customer just for the paycheck….when I began to look at every customer that approached me and thoroughly evaluate if I can truly help them with their needs thats when things changed for me even more. Why take on a client if you know you will never make them happy. Taking on clients that you know you will satisfy will grow your business exponentially faster than you can realize.

    Take on clients just because its money in the bank will kill your business for sure!

    Thanks for this great post!


  67. joe mckean

    Great list and couldn’t agree more with #7 You’re a cheap, corner-cutting bastard. You can’t be successful online without doing the hard work or hiring someone else to do it for you and cutting corners doesn’t cut it…


    Good article, but I can’t totally agree. Number 1, we all think we have something special that we bring when we go into business.I started a successful business years ago and I watched what my competition was doing used their good points and avoided their weak points. The only thing that was noticeably differant was was willing to bust my butt for the customer. I worked extra hours and carried out product for the customers myself and so did my staff. We succeeded, but also involved was luck. Lot’s of luck. On the internet. I still have that will to bust my butt, but there is no way to show that. The other points were right on. I opened that business with one foot out the door. I had failed before and believed if we lost money one month, we would prepare to close down.Today, there is no way to make money out of the shoot in this business, and one has to be prepared to wait for that return. That is it.

  69. Joseph Allen Randall

    I’ve written 75 documents and have watched a dozen YouTube videos on the subject of affiliate marketing. With all this knowledge I’ve learned to see the ‘common threads’ between all the information received. This article is a healthy reminder of how to be successful in business by doing the opposite of failing. Excellent I say!

    – Joseph

  70. Stephen Malan

    Love your writing style, straight and to the point with no BS involved.

    On top of that the points in this post are spot on!

    Good post, thank you for sharing it.

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