Obstacles in operating a small online business

Image by Pabitra Kaity from Pixabay

By Katie Tejada

Starting a small online business is an exciting, challenging, and empowering move in anyone’s career, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. And if you’ve made it this far, you clearly aren’t! There are a lot of obstacles to starting a business. This article will go over some of the most basic issues and offer ideas for how to overcome them.

Failing to leverage creative thinking skills

Traditionally, people are often thought of as being “left-brained” or “right-brained.” The former are supposed to be more logical and analytical thinkers while the latter are more creative or lateral. The truth is, to succeed in business, you need to be analytical and creative, and it’s possible to cultivate a balance of both in yourself and on your team.

As equally important as the two are, creative thinking is much harder to define. Analytical thinking involves tackling problems like budgeting or shipping logistics. It requires knowing relevant facts and using them to craft concrete solutions.

Creative thinking, on the other hand, tends to deal with more abstract issues. It includes everything from coming up with the most persuasive marketing pitch to coming up with a ‘better’ way to do business. Lacking creativity can be a major obstacle to running a successful business. It puts you behind the competition and could be costing you money.

By its nature, creative thinking can be hard to induce. But there are some good suggestions to follow. Blocking out unstructured time is an effective way to make sure you’re allowing your creative juices to flow. Pausing for reflection after learning is another sound strategy. Finally, consider encouraging creativity among your staff and rewarding them when it pays off.

Operational costs & overhead

Ultimately, profit is a simple equation. If your revenue is greater than your expenses, you have profit rather than loss. If you want to increase your profit, you need to turn one of those two dials. Low revenue and high costs can be fatal to any small business.

Upping your revenue is straightforward. You can get more clients, sell more products, or increase your prices. But sometimes it can be easy to forget that you can also increase your profit by reducing your costs.

As a small business, you’ve got more expenses than you’d like to count. But, as an online business you can always save money by going digital. There are online-based fax services like HelloFax that allow you to cut out expensive equipment. Postage machines can give you a discount on mailing if you’re shipping at a high volume.

And even when your business is entirely online, sooner or later you’ll need to talk to someone over the phone. You can ditch the overpriced landline without having to give out your personal cell phone. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows you to have the perks of a landline at a fraction of the long-term cost. You can also take it with you, so you can do business anywhere. And you can scale up as your business grows.

Low cash flow

Incoming revenue is the other side of the profit equation. As stated above, there are multiple ways to increase your cash flow.

There will also be times when your business needs a more immediate influx of cash. When you first start your business, you’ll definitely need some seed money. You might also hit some rough patches, especially in the beginning when you need extra capital to cover your expenses.

There are several resources that can assist small businesses and nonprofits. The Small Business Administration works with institutions to give out bridge loans and provide working capital. Sometimes, private entities like Facebook hand out grants to small businesses. There are also sources of emergency funding for businesses affected by disaster.


The final, and perhaps greatest, obstacle to any endeavor is often ourselves. Running a small online business is no different. It’s natural for people to doubt themselves. We often wonder whether the path we have chosen is the best one for us.

To an extent, these thoughts can be useful. They keep us sharp. We refine our business plan. We hone in on our target market. To quell those doubts, we double and triple check to make sure we’ve thought everything through.

But there comes a point where doubt becomes an obstacle. Eventually, we have to trust our instincts and our preparation. We cannot allow self-doubt to overcome our diligence and desire to start a business. If you’ve adopted strategies to unleash your creativity, reduce your costs, and increase your cash flow, then you’ve put yourself on a great path for success.


Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She often covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, finance, and law, but also enjoys writing about travel, interiors and events.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover