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  • Writer's pictureThe Self-Made Entrepreneur

The #1 Skill You Need To Start an Online Business — And How To Master It

Online Shopping Cart With Online Navigating Icons Surrounding It

You are likely not surprised to hear that online businesses are on the rise. According to, 218.8 million US consumers will shop online and e-commerce sales are expected to account for 20.8% of retail sales worldwide. in 2023. So, if you are thinking of starting a business, there is a high chance that it'll end up being an online business.

So, let's cut to the chase. You’re bombarded with lists, books, courses, and YouTube videos telling you about the 101 skills you absolutely need to start an online business. But what if there's actually just one? One skill that's the foundation of everything else. A skill that makes the difference between a business that takes off and one that tanks.

The Skill You Can't Ignore = Customer Understanding

You read that right. Not coding. Not marketing. Not sales. Those are just tools, tactics. The skill—the one that really matters—is understanding your customer. Know them better than they know themselves.

WHY? Because you're not just selling a product or a service. You're solving a problem. And to solve a problem, you have to understand it inside and out, and you have to understand the people who have it.

Understanding your customer gives you a roadmap for everything else—product design, marketing, sales, you name it.


The graveyard of failed businesses is full of entrepreneurs who thought they had a genius idea. They poured money into building it, only to hear crickets when they launched. Why? Because they were solving a problem nobody had. Or solving it in a way nobody cared about. Because they didn't understand their customer.


So how do you get this superpower of customer understanding? Here’s your game plan:

Talk To Them: Don't guess, ask. Seriously, pick up the phone, send an email, shoot a DM. Go to an event in person or join an online group. Use whatever method you can to communicate directly with potential customers. Listen more than you talk, and ask open-ended questions. "What frustrates you about [the problem your business is solving]?"

Use Social Media: Not just to broadcast your message, but to listen. What are people complaining about? What are they wishing for? These are insights.

Do Competitive Research: See what your competitors are doing right—and wrong. Read their reviews, look at their social media engagement. The customers are already telling you what they like and what they don't.

A/B Testing: Once you have a product or a service, never stop testing. Change one variable at a time—price, landing page, ad copy—and see how customers respond. This is real-time feedback. Use it.

Build A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Before going all-in, create a basic version of your product or service with just the essential features. Get it out there and see how people react. Learn, tweak, iterate. This will save you from spending effort on building what you believe is the perfect product, only to find out that your customers have little to no interest in it.

Make It A Habit

Customer understanding isn't a one-time thing. It's ongoing. It's your compass. The market changes, people's preferences evolve. Even after you build up a client base, find ways to keep your finger on the pulse, and adapt.


So, here is the raw truth -- you started this business, but it's not your show anymore. It's your customer's. If you don't get that, you might as well burn your money. This isn't a vanity project; it's a business. And businesses run on revenue, not ego. The only way to get that revenue rolling in? Give the customers what they want, how they want it, when they want it. Put their desires, their problems, their needs front and center, and you won't just survive—you'll thrive.


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