During my last three months at that job, which was around the time when I decided that I was going to go out on my own, work wasn’t very important to me. If I took a long lunch break, it didn’t matter. If I wasn’t productive every hour I was at work, I didn’t care. No one was going to nominate me for employee of the year, which was fine…I didn’t deserve the title.
I can’t say the same about working for myself. As a business owner, every minute counts. If I make a mistake, whether large or small, it can potentially cost me time, money and aggravation.
All of us make mistakes. Without them, how would we learn anything. Save yourself from stress and anxiety by considering (and avoiding) these common business mistakes.
Mistake #1: Spending too much money on overhead
A suite of offices may make you feel that you’ve made it. It may also make your friends and family stop asking you when you’re going to get a “real” office. But if you run your business mostly by phone and e-mail, why waste money on rent? Instead— at least for your first year in business — run your business from home. You could take the money you save on rent, and spend it on office equipment or other supplies. If you reach a point where you need to meet with clients more often, or your family needs to use the spare room you’re now using for a home office, you can look at a co-working space or a shared office suite. Unless clients need to meet with you in your home office, renting outside space doesn’t make sense when you start your business. Even as your business grows, you can still work from home.
Mistake #2: Failing to research demand for your product or service
You may have an innovative product or service, yet if no one needs what you’re selling, you’re wasting your time and money. Set up online surveys and ask your clients, business associates and site visitors questions to find out how interested they are in your product or service. The time you spend researching your idea will save you time in the long run. SurveyMonkey and Polldaddy offer inexpensive ways to collect the information you need.
You may have to bribe people to answer your survey. After all, you’re asking someone to give up a few minutes of their time and they may wonder “What’s in it for me?” before they give up that time. Offer a discount on your services or product when someone finishes the questionnaire.
Mistake #3: Ignoring the competition
Don’t obsess over what your competition is doing, yet don’t discount new services or products they have to offer or even a new website they’ve created. Sure, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t copy your competition. Find your niche and develop a market around it. Eventually your competition will start taking a closer look at you.
Mistake #4: Not networking
When you go out on your own, e-mail and call everyone you know including clients, business associates, friends and anyone else who can help your business grow. Set up meetings at coffee shops, restaurants and even their offices. Whenever you meet someone, find out what they do and see if there’s a fit. While you can use social media to network, join trade associations and business groups and go to their weekly or monthly meetings.
Mistake #5: Not being clear about your business
Think about the old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there.” Make sure you have a clear vision of your business, especially how you’re going to make money and find new clients. When you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to get there.
Mistakes are part of being in business. The key is to turn mistakes into lessons. But then again, if you can learn a few things without making mistakes, that’s also a good plan.
What business mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?