One of my favourite liberating-but-sorta-painful truths in life is this: Everyone makes mistakes — especially when we’re brand new to something and learning as we go.
The most challenging part of that for me, however, is that I mostly don’t see those mistakes clearly until they’re in the rear-view mirror.
My own first year of business was a pretty crazy ride. I made so many mistakes (I’m still making plenty these days!) and lost money, clients, and cool opportunities as a result.
The good news? That seems to be a common theme!
A lot of my clients, as well as my entrepreneurial friends and colleagues, have shown me: I wasn’t alone in the mistakes I made, and there are common themes across the board.
Whether you’re about to start your business or in the thick of your first year or so of business, one truth remains: You’re going to make mistakes… and there’s not a lot you can do about that.
That said, learning from other people’s mistakes is my favourite way to skip some of the biggest, most common errors, and I’m sharing mine so hopefully, you can streamline your experience a little bit.
So, without further ado: here are 8 massive mistakes I made in the first 12 months of business that I see other newbie women entrepreneurs making over and over again ALL THE TIME — to help you know what to look out for so you can avoid them, and save yourself a ton of time, money, and (the most precious thing of all!) crazy making self-doubt.
Mistake #1: Investing heavily in web design
I promise you don’t need to spend $10,000+ on designers and developers when you’re setting up your very first website… No matter how certain you feel about your vision, your purpose, the offer that you’ll make, who your ideal client is, etc.
When I was first starting out, I heard a lot of people say over and over again, “Don’t spend a lot on web design” and I thought to myself, “That’s nice for them, but I really know what this is about for me, and I’m going to go for it.” So I spent a lot – way too much – on web design and development straight up.
I should stress here that I think design is incredibly important, and as a rule, I’m very happy to invest in design. However, I think spending a lot on designing and putting together your first website is unnecessary, no matter how confident you feel, because…. I’m very, very confident you’re going to change your mind.
Your business will evolve. That is the natural way of things. Ease up on investing heavily in your website until you’re a year or two in, at least!
Mistake #2: Staying in your pyjamas all day
I hear from a lot of women, creatives particularly, who used to work in corporate who’ve now decided to go freelance, or open up their own coaching or consulting business:
“I can’t wait to be my own boss so I can stay in pyjamas all day if that’s what I want to do.”
Let’s pause the tape here. I get that working from home is a thrill to begin, with a whole lot of awesome benefits, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be a slob just because you can.
You may disagree, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “I feel my best in my pyjamas.” I’ve also never heard anyone say, “I’m at my most creative, my most productive, my most I’m-going-to-take-on-the-world, in my pyjamas when I haven’t washed my hair for four days.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not encouraging you to dress in a pencil skirt and silk button up to sit at your dining table cum workspace. BUT I found that making your daily wardrobe something a bit more advanced than “PJ’s only” is a small tweak that can be really worthwhile.
These days I know that getting dressed for work can be a huge help mentally, as it marks the difference between work time and free time. It impacts my take-on-the-world confidence and productivity. So, when I get up in the morning, I have a shower, get dressed, put on some comfy smart casual clothes and a little makeup.
My personal dress code? “Coffee shop ready”.
Mistake #3: Isolating yourself
New to business? I strongly recommend that you focus on making friends in your field stat!
I’m happy with my own company and can be a bit of a lone wolf, so when I was starting out, I figured I could get by solo, and by riffing with Rod when he got home from work. And I could get by. BUT if you can relate, please understand:
People who aren’t in the same sphere as you will have a hard time understanding what you do – let alone the challenges you’re facing or why certain successes are important… and that can be really, terribly isolating. You might get by, but you probably won’t be having much fun. Working from home can be seriously isolating. Trying to figure out your marketing all alone, winning clients, and the highs and lows that come along with that, dealing with clients and the crappy sessions, all the awesome sessions that you want to celebrate, all of that kind of thing is really important and valuable — and if you don’t have peeps to share it with? Life is a little more grey.
Connecting with people in your industry can help things feel more manageable, more fun and bring things into perspective thanks to (gasp!) actual social interaction and real talk.
Making friends and connecting with people helps keep you sane, and helps keep entrepreneurial anxiety at bay. Listen, there is no need to wait to join a mastermind — there’s nothing you need to do to be ready to be part of a community of like-minded people right now — in fact, you should make it a priority.
Mistake #4: Undercharging as a marketing strategy
A race to the bottom is not a race that you want to be in.
You don’t need to offer premium pricing straight off the bat, or ever, if you don’t want to. But lowering your prices at the outset of your business below industry average does not guarantee clients. The key is to make sure that your pricing feels like an equal energetic exchange between the value you’re providing and the amount of money that’s landing in your account. (Hint: notice I’m using the word “value”.)
By the way, when I say “undercharging as a marketing strategy”, I’m not talking about sales or limited time promotions where you might have special discounts, extra bonuses, etc. Those are different, totally legitimate things. What I’m against is rock-bottom pricing as your full-time marketing strategy.
“I’ll win clients because I will be the cheapest” is actually not an easy strategy at all. So if that’s something you’re leaning on now to win clients, it might be time to revisit your tactics.
Mistake #5: Spending a lot of unproductive time on social media
I can’t stress enough how important it is to provide generous support and to connect with people that you think could be clients, or partners, or friends, or influencers. And of course, social media is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with your audience. It’s crucial to be aware, though, that if you’re not careful, Facebook and Instagram are ginormous black holes that suck everything into them, including your precious work time, your motivation, and your confidence.
Just because we know we’re seeing the “highlight reel” of other people in our field on social media doesn’t mean we’re immune to its effects. As well as skillfully curated feeds, social media bombards us with a whole lot of shitty advertising from potential competitors that you can compare yourself to. And it can be crippling.
Keep in mind: When you’re beginning to build an online business, your relationship with social media changes. It’s no longer for just keeping up with your buddies and photos and SnapChat filter fun. There becomes an element of using social media for marketing and community building.
So, when it comes to engaging on social media in work time, think of it as any other work task, and do your best to be really disciplined with yourself. Consider scheduling social media tasks in advance, batching your efforts, using scheduling tools such as MeetEdgar and/or Planoly and/or Zapier etc. Do what you need to do to protect your energy when it comes to social media — I promise you’ll feel so much better for it.
Mistake #6: Not setting targets or goals
When a new client comes to me, I always ask them what goals and targets they have. All too often the answer is… none.
I think that many people, women especially, feel they should wait until their business is a bit more established and then they’re going to set goals when they feel like they’ve got a bigger chance of being able to hit them.
I fell into that trap as well, but truthfully: I wish that I had gotten serious about setting targets and goals sooner in my business.
Setting targets and benchmarking your results will help you better predict your likely results in the future, and will put you well ahead of the game in so many ways. It’s also just fascinating to see your progression over time and keep track of the things that you have achieved.
If you don’t currently have clear goals in your business, I hope this motivates you to get started today. I like to have goals that feel realistic plus a 15% stretch on it (check out: 5 Juicy Tips Amplify Your Goal Achieving). Go for something that feels like it would be exciting to achieve and something that fills you with happiness.
Mistake #7: Becoming disheartened after 6 to 9 months
I see it time and time again (I’ve done it too!): Women feeling really disappointed because they tell themselves they should be further ahead by now. Maybe you’ve seen other people achieving dreams you have and you feel like you’re wading through mud, or you’ve compared yourself to the big names in your industry and wondered why you aren’t there yet.
No matter how many courses, or how much expertise you have, or how expensive your coach is, building your business is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. It takes time and consistent effort, and it’s not a race — especially if you’re building your business for sustainability over the long term. Realise you’re playing the long game here. Be patient with yourself.
No one other than you has expectations about where your business will be by a certain time. And there is no ultimate destination. All the successful women entrepreneurs I know – including those making solid 7 figures – don’t feel as though they’ve arrived and can now put their feet up. In fact, if anything, they feel like they’ve only just begun.
Most importantly: Please, please don’t become disheartened after 6 to 9 months worth of work. It can take a bloody long time to build up an audience on your blog. It can take a bloody long time to add 10,000 people to your email subscriber list. It can take a bloody long time to have a six-figure launch. All of those things require consistent attention, focus, and investment.
Mistake #8: Putting pressure on yourself to make forever decisions
Many early stage entrepreneurs are stuck in analysis paralysis, totally unable to make decisions because they have put pressure on themselves to make a decision about their business that will stick forever. I just think that is unrealistic, stressful and completely unnecessary.
For example, your business name may not be the business name you have forever. It’s very unlikely your ideal clients will remain the same. The way that your website looks, the packages that you offer, your branding, any other aspect of your business, none of these things are forever decisions.
I see a lot of women take much longer than necessary to progress their business because they put a whole lot of overwhelming weight on the decisions that they’re making.
In reality, your speed to market can be much more impactful than many of the decisions you’re probably struggling over that are holding you hostage from moving forward.
Free yourself from the burden of forever, and use the info you have to make the best decision for now.
I hope you found this post valuable! My biggest hope is that women at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey read this and learn from my mistakes. I’d love you to please share this post with anyone you know who’s just starting out in business! Thank you!