How To Avoid 9 Common Mistakes New Business Owners Make
There’s always a certain sense of doom when you read a title like this one. “10 Mistakes that are killing your business” or “The number one evil mistake that’ll leave you without any Instagram followers, forever” :)
I made those up (obviously) but seriously, what’s with all the drama?
I don’t like to use scare tactics and I do my best to keep a positive vibe around here at all times. This is why, please let me begin by saying this:
It’s all OK. Take a deep breath. The mistakes I’m talking about, if you’re making them, are manageable and relatively easy to recover from. You’ll be fine.
That being said, why repeat the same blunders I did if you can avoid them. A mistake may be the best teacher but it doesn’t have to be your mistake to learn from it.
So with those positive thoughts in mind, let me tell you about my business beginnings and the mistakes I made along the way.
9 common mistakes new business owners make (and how to fix them)
I started my business a couple of years ago with less than zero knowledge about what I was doing. I learned most of what I know today the hard way.
It took time to recover from all my let’s call them“experiments” and I have plenty of wisdom to share with you today. I want to help you save time by being smarter than me.
Now that I work with women who are just starting their online businesses, I noticed that some of those confusing and unhelpful things I did back in the days are more common than I thought.
They will not kill your business or make your hair frizz more or anything that scary, but they will slow you down and make working on your business much less fun.
So here we go, 9 common mistakes new business owner make and how to avoid or fix them:
1. Learning and using marketing strategies when you don’t have a (good) product
That was my mistake numero uno. I notice it right away when talking to new business ladies who are pouring all their energy and time into marketing.
And I do get it — the rush of excitement in the beginning, the urge to put yourself out there and declare to the whole world what you do, what you stand for and how you can help everybody— it’s too tempting!
But Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are all marketing tools. You don’t need to use them for business if you don’t have anything to market. It doesn’t even have to be a product or service at first, but you do need to be working on your offerings while publishing and marketing helpful free content to prepare your audience for your launch.
That’s what content marketing is all about.
So before you ever look for a “posting schedule for Instagram” or “marketing strategy for Pinterest”, make sure you have your product ready or in production, your free content, such as blog posts, videos or podcast episodes, lined up and then go ahead and shout out from all the virtual rooftops you can climb about how you can help your audience an how awesome your brand is.
2. trying to learn from too many sources
Raise your hand if your inbox is full of email newsletters from women you don’t know. It usually goes like this:
You browse through Pinterest, sometimes looking for a way to design a graphic for your blog post, sometimes looking for inspiration for your next product and sometimes just salivating over recipes of vegan crème brûlée (nope, never done that!).
Then you see the words “free workbook” or “free planner” on an article cover you’re interested in, you subscribe to get it, download it, take a look through it and then forget all about it.
Now, if you’re truly interested in learning the thing this freebie is offering to teach you, buy all means, get that PDF, look through it, schedule time to actually do the steps in it (after all, it’s called a workbook, not a ‘take one glance to get results’ book). Also, read the about page of the creator of the PDF so you have an idea who your teacher is and where she comes from.
By getting to know your learning sources better you’ll start to find the ones you like and the ones that are not a good fit for you. Sometimes, one person’s greatest magic bullet is another person’s big no-no. Everybody comes from a different background and it’s perfectly normal to find different ways to do things.
Your job is to limit the people you learn from so you don’t go back and forth all the time. It’s a waste of your precious time and it’ll leave you confused and frustrated and that’s not how you want to spend your days when working on your business.
As the saying goes, you’re the 5 people you spend most of your time with, so pick 5 main people to learn from regularly.
This doesn’t mean you don’t read anything written by another person ever again. On the contrary, read as many articles as you can and want, listen to podcasts, watch videos - this is how you get to know people’s opinions, views on life and how you broaden your horizons. But when it comes to learning, don’t just follow anybody’s advice, turn to your core 5 sources first.
Are you curious who’s in my top 5?
The people I learn from change through time, as my business focus shifts, but for the last couple of months it’s been a top 4:
Marie Forleo - always and forever. Years ago, before I had a business MarieTV gave me the confidence to dare to dream of having one. It’s been a long journey since then, but I still watch almost every episode.
Nesha Woolery - her course Organize & Automate helped me do just that - organize and automate my business and her ebook Social Splash gave me the mainframe of my social media strategy.
Melyssa Griffin - her blog is a treasure chest of helpful articles on email marketing, all things Pinterest and blogging as a business.
Hillary Rushford - I follow her for her Instagram tips, mixed with daily motivation and loving styling advice.
These are just my business learning sources. I have 3 favorite yoga teachers, 2 people who share productivity tips, 5 favorite vegan YouTubers and so on.
3. listening to every expert but never to your intuition
Now that you have your main learning sources, it’s a good idea to stretch that intuition muscle. Not everything you read will work for your business and more often than not you’ll know it in your gut right away.
The tricky part is to teach yourself the difference between two very major feelings. The first one is harmless and normal — fear of the new and unknown, also known by an overused and abused phrase I really don’t like, but here it is: “getting out of your comfort zone”.
Our survival throughout human evolution depended on staying close to a life that worked and not seeking adventures for adventure’s sake. That concept is totally out of fashion now we are somewhere in between looking for adrenaline rushes every chance we get or slumbering in a life situation that no longer works for us.
And so the feeling we get when we stare into the unknown is sometimes an exhilarating rush and sometimes a crippling fear. Your job is to recognize that feeling in all its shades and take action.
The second feeling is when you know in your gut that something's wrong. It doesn’t have to be about something big. For example when somebody recommends you change your website platform and migrate your whole blog from Wordpress to Squarespace (like I sometimes do) you need to make a pro an cons list and then ask yourself:
Do I resist this change because I fear the change itself, or is this just not the right move for me right now?
As a business owner you’ll need to take all the decisions - big and small, so the sooner you learn to evaluate the facts and check with your intuition, the better.
4. focusing on your peers and not on you peeps
When you’re new to the world of online business you’ll naturally look for inspiration and do a research of who’s doing the thing you want to do. This usually involves spending a lot of time on the websites of people who do the same thing as you. These are your peers. Some call it competitors, but I don’t like the word and I don’t see myself as competing with anybody, so I call all other designers my peers.
But here’s something important to remember. Unless your peers are your clients, they are not your people. Or your peeps. You need to shift your main focus onto the people you serve, work with and create your content and offerings for. These are the people who’ll become your clients and friends and who’ll make your business possible.
Your peers are great to talk to and exchange war stories with, but they are not who you need to impress, delight and help. Focus on your peeps not on your peers, OK?
5. trying to start more than one business at the same time
To be multipassionate does not mean you have more time in the day or the ability to give 100% to two things simultaneously . The math just doesn’t add up.
What you can do instead is to focus on a single idea for six months or a year, get it running, automate and delegate tasks and then add a second idea while the first runs in the background.
Here’s what I mean. I’ve been dreaming of starting a vegan blog for a year and I’m currently gathering recipes and ideas. However, I just re-focused my design business and it will be reckless of me to start a new venture, to overload my schedule with tasks, cripple my creativity by lack of time and burn out in the process.
Instead, I have a text document for each project I want to do, I prioritize and do them one by one.
As a multipassionate person you don’t want to do everything forever, you want to try different things and put your spin and creative genius on them. And what better way to do that than to focus on one thing at a time, achieve a specific result and move on to the next adventure.
6. copying popular product ideas instead of listening to your creative genius
When you decide what product or service to offer to your audience, make sure you consider three things:
What you’re good at and love doing.
What the people you want to work with want, ask for and feel the need to have.
What everybody else is doing.
Do not, I repeat, do not focus solely on the last one. Your creative genius and your audience’s needs and desires should be considered first. What everybody else is doing can tell you more about how to deliver your offerings and what formats are most common and readily consumed. For example, is it better to create a PDF ebook or a video course to help your clients learn to meditate?
Don’t copy products, listen to your audience and use your creative genius.
7. trying to keep your business and personal life completely separate
I’m an introvert and a private person and it doesn't come naturally to me to post selfies and share moments of my day. So for a long time I tried to have two separate accounts for everything.
Guess how well that worked? #epicfail
The thing is, as a one-woman business, you are the business and like it or not, you are your brand. And trying to keep things personal or strictly professional in the traditional sense of the office world just won’t work.
What you can and in fact, should do is curate the moments of your life you want to be related to your brand. Just because you don’t share ALL of you doesn’t mean that what you share isn’t 100% YOU.
8. you don’t repeat yourself often enough
This one was a big aha! moment for me and it needed some getting used to. Think about how many times Marie Forleo has repeated “everything is figureoutable”? Or how often you read an article or Instagram caption by one of your favorite bloggers and it’s “so her!”
It’s safe to say that no one person will read 100% of what you publish and this means two things for you:
First, you must repeat your core brand messages (basically talk about how you can help people and what you stand for) often enough so people know what you’re all about. Even if they catch up with you on your social media profiles only from time to time they should be able to recognize your voice and message right away.
And second, you can repeat your core brand messages and not come up with brand new content all the time.
Keep in mind that when I say repeat I don’t mean copy and paste, I mean talk about the 2-3 things your business stands for all the time in different ways.
9. doing something for a short period of time and expecting epic results
Building a brand and a business takes time. You will need to be consistent and repeat yourself often, you’ll need to have patience and do things if you don’t see major results in the beginning.
The worst thing you can do is to change your plans too often. I’m guilty of that one, too. I’ve neglected my blog, because “nobody was reading my articles” (that was totally untrue, by the way). I listen to too many people and tried too many marketing strategies too quickly. No wonder that nothing seemed to work.
So, when you find a course of action that feels right for your business, set a goal, a due date and weekly or monthly check up points and stick to the plan. If at the end you’re not happy and the results aren’t good, change it. But if it works, for the love of all things cherry-flavored, please keep doing it and only making minor adjustments if needed.
How about you?
Now it’s your turn — are you making any of those mistakes? What steps will you take to make things easier for yourself? Let me know in the comments below.