According to this article, the average American worker makes 118 mistakes per year. If we screw up approximately every other day at a job we’ve been doing forever, can you imagine how many mistakes we make in our businesses?
Probably a lot more!
The good news is, we often have the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes so we don’t have to make them ourselves.
If we’re willing to listen, mistakes are an amazing source of wisdom. They teach us what works and what doesn’t, they expose problems we need to solve, they help us make better decisions, and they even prompt us to reflect about ourselves.
Among the business mistakes I’ve made as a solopreneur, ten of them particularly stand out to me. They’re all big things many people struggle with, and I wanted to share my own experience with you.
my top 10 business mistakes, and how to fix them
Here are the 10 biggest business mistakes I’ve made and what I learned from them. If you’re making some of these mistakes too, I hope my experience can guide you through them.
Always remember that we all make mistakes, some bigger than others, and we must have self-compassion in order to overcome them.
Pssst! Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small referral commission if you make a purchase or subscribe to a service. I only recommend products I use, love and trust. For more details, read my full disclaimer here.
mistake #1: not having a plan
Many of us started our business ventures without a clear plan in mind. If you’re the “figure-it-out-along-the-way” type, you’re in good company!
While starting a business without a clear plan is common, and even totally okay, there comes a time when you need to get organized.
Creating a plan for your business will give you direction, help you set and achieve goals, help you prioritize your tasks effectively and make sure you’re focusing on the right activities.
Don’t worry, you don’t need a formal business plan. You should, however, have some kind of system to keep yourself organized.
systems will transform your business
When I first started my business, I didn’t realize just how much it actually involved. After running around like a headless chicken for a while, I decided to give my computer, bookmarks and Post-It notes a makeover.
Let’s just say that being able to find exactly what I need when I need it has taken away a lot of stress!
Here are some systems you can implement in your business:
- A goal setting plan
- A to-do list
- An income and expense tracker
- A snapshot of your brand that includes all the important elements such as your colors, logos, mission statement, values and message
- A system to manage affiliate links
- A content creation system, including your blog, social media, email and digital products
- A promotional/marketing plan
- A system to keep track of ideas and inspiration
- A consistent file naming convention
I know it sounds like a lot, but implementing all of the above has definitely been a real sanity saver for me!
You don’t have to do it all at once. Commit to implementing one or two, then add more as you get comfortable. There are plenty of available tools that will allow you to easily create these systems and get organized.
Use your favorite tools to create business systems that work for you.
Here are some tool ideas:
- Printable tools such as planners
- Project management tools like Trello or Asana
- Online calendar tools such as Google Calendar
- Note-taking apps such as Evernote
- Read It Later apps such as Pocket
- Bookmark manager apps
- Scheduling apps for social media
Your system can be a combination of tools that works for you and your needs. There’s no rule that says you MUST use any of these specifically!
mistake #2: lack of focus
Lack of focus is one of the most common problems my audience struggles with. I think it’s because entrepreneurs are often creative people at heart.
Creativity works in weird ways – some people get their best ideas in the middle of chaos while others need an orderly environment to thrive. Ideas pop into our heads at the most inconvenient times (getting a massage? trying to sleep? HERE ARE 5 NEW IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR BRAIN OCCUPIED! You’re welcome.)
As a result of having so many ideas, many of us have difficulty focusing on one thing.
I get this a lot:
“I want to create a course but I don’t know where to start. I have too many ideas and get overwhelmed.”
“Can anyone help? There are too many things I want to do in my business and I can’t decide.”
“I get tons of exciting new ideas before I have a chance to finish anything! Help!”
Lack of focus can really affect your business, especially when you end up working on several projects without ever completing anything.
Make sure you’re not getting sidetracked by distractions or tasks that don’t support your business.
And then there’s Shiny Object Syndrome. The online space is overflowing with people trying to sell you their newest program, or system, or template. These new ideas can be very appealing and get you completely sidetracked.
You buy one thing after another, thinking it’s going to be the one thing you can stick with. Until the next thing comes along and fills you with all-new exciting dreams and ideas.
You end up with half-finished courses, incomplete e-books, unused domain names (I have 3…), a hard drive full of resources that you’ve never really looked at, Word documents full of unfinished thoughts, and it all feels so overwhelming.
If this sounds like you, I get it!
two ways to cure your shiny object syndrome
Honestly, I think one of the best ways to improve your focus is through accountability. If you have a biz bestie, commit to keeping each other accountable. Find an accountability partner on social media, tons of people are looking for one! Or, invest in an accountability coach.
However you decide to do it, having someone else to remind you that you should be working on your course instead of buying the new Pinterest design workshop can be the cure for your Shiny Object Syndrome.
Another tip that works for me:
Have a document or Trello board dedicated to your Shiny Objects. I split mine into two categories: my Wish List, and my Idea List.
The Wish List contains all the things I really, really want to buy. Before buying anything that isn’t directly aligned with my current project, I add it to the Wish List. This way, it doesn’t stick to my mind. Later, I revisit the Wish List and decide if I really need these things.
The Idea List contains everything I would like to do. I get a new idea for a course? Onto the Idea List. How about a set of printables for people who struggle with X problem? Idea List.
Again, the goal is to get it off my mind so it stops nagging me. Then, I either find a way to incorporate these ideas into my current project, or I save them for later. I think sometimes the urgency to start a new project comes from the fear that we’ll forget our genius idea.
Organizing your Shiny Objects puts your mind at ease – you’re not forgetting these ideas, you’re simply putting them aside for now while you finish your Big Project.
There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, but don’t let it sidetrack all your projects!
freebie for you!
If you’re interested, I created a pretty Trello Board to help you organize your Shiny Objects, and it’s completely free! I named it the Focus Board, and it has space for you to track your projects, ideas and more.
mistake #3: inconsistent branding
When I started blogging several years ago, I took it as an opportunity to express my creativity. I had incidentally just discovered Canva and was having a lot of fun creating different blog header images with pretty fonts and colors. (Have you been down that rabbit hole?)
Except, sometimes you have to know when it’s not time to be super creative! My brand was a hot mess – if you’d seen two of my posts side by side, chances are you wouldn’t know they were from the same blog.
When trying to establish yourself in the online business world, having a consistent brand is so very important.
A consistent brand looks professional. It builds instant recognition and trust. It conveys your messaging in a clear and reliable way.
For example, when you see a Starbucks sign, you know exactly what it is. You can be in a completely different city, state, or even country, and you’ll still instantly know what you’re looking at.
You’ll also likely start thinking about your drink of choice (chai tea latte, yum!) and not have to think twice before ordering. You know what Starbucks is. You know you like Starbucks, and you know what to expect when you receive your order.
This is because Starbucks and other successful companies have spent considerable time, money and effort to make sure their branding is consistent.
Similarly, having a recognizable online brand can be the difference between being completely invisible and building an audience of loyal fans who eagerly awaits your next product.
Inconsistent branding confuses your audience. Once you’ve established your branding, don’t get too creative with it! Use the same few colors and fonts, use similar layouts, and create templates to ensure consistency between your products and visual brand elements.
mistake #4: talking to the wrong audience
It doesn’t matter how great your product or branding is if you’re not reaching the right people.
Many entrepreneurs skip the important step of defining their target audience before they start creating products or marketing their services. This is such a common mistake!
Have you ever heard the phrase, “When you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one”?
Define your target audience, then create stuff just for them.
My audience is primarily made up of women solopreneurs, many of whom are in the beginning stages of their businesses.
This means it would make no sense at all to create products aimed at Fortune 500 companies, or CEOs of international corporations. It would also make no sense for me to create a brand that looks and feels masculine.
It’s important to decide who you’re talking to, and how you’re going to talk to them.
Chances are, my brand will not be of interest to many men. If I tried to target men with my Facebook ads, I’d be totally barking up the wrong tree. Similarly, I probably wouldn’t catch much attention if I tried to market my solopreneur-focused tools and programs to a company like Target.
When you’re not crystal clear on who your audience is, it’s hard to attract your ideal clients.
The best way to make sure you’re talking to the right audience is by defining exactly who your ideal customer is. Do some market research to find out what they need and want, and craft your offerings around it.
It’ll be much easier than trying to “find” an audience for something you created without a clear plan in mind!
If you’re looking for tips on how to define your target audience, I’ve got you covered!
mistake #5: lack of confidence
This one’s a biggie, so let’s get it out in the open.
Lack of confidence will single-handedly stop entrepreneurs from achieving their dreams.
Do you struggle with any of these?
- Second-guessing your decisions
- Doubting your abilities
- Feeling like a fraud or an impostor
- Feeling like you have nothing special to share
- Feeling like you’re not smart enough, or talented enough
- Feeling demotivated when someone makes a negative remark about you or your business
- Feeling like you’re not worthy of abundance and success
- Feeling like you don’t have what it takes to succeed
- Worrying about being rejected if you put yourself out into the world
First, let’s make it clear that mostly EVERYONE at some point suffers from lack of confidence.
The key to overcoming low self-confidence is actually learning how to be confident. Sounds crazy? Hear me out.
Confidence is a key ingredient of success.
Low confidence often stems from unrealistic expectations, either our own or other people’s. It’s a pattern of negative self-talk that spirals into feelings of inadequacy.
We can learn to be confident by breaking these patterns. Focus on your strengths. Learn to identify negative self-talk and turn it into positive statements. Use positive affirmations. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Accept that failure is an inherent part of success.
Confidence is a major factor for entrepreneurial success. When you’re confident, you trust in yourself, in your abilities, in your decisions, and you don’t let other people’s negative opinions affect your self-worth.
In turn, confidence leads to a positive outlook, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone to follow your dreams, and most importantly, an unwavering belief that you will achieve success.
mistake #6: undervaluing your services
Many of us have been conditioned to think that being competitive is about having the lowest price. This is literally how retail giants such as Walmart have built their empire, with taglines such as “Save Money. Live Better.” or the older “Always Low Prices.”
We’re used to seeing gas stations compete in terms of pennies per gallon to attract those who are looking to fill up for less!
This culture has created a weird mindset around pricing, and we can see it being reflected in the number of entrepreneurs who chronically undervalue their products and services.
Here’s a loving truth bomb:
You do NOT need the lowest prices to be competitive. You need to find the right audience who will connect with you and be happy to pay you what you’re worth.
You work so hard, don’t sell yourself short!
In fact, undervaluing your services undermines you, your business and your unique skill set. If you’re competing on price, you’ll attract clients looking for a cheap deal. They’ll try to negotiate an even lower price. They’ll cancel or skip payments because they can’t afford it. They’ll ask for refunds.
Setting your prices too low also undermines your credibility. Your potential customers will inevitably think:
Why are her services so cheap compared to the rest? Does she really know what she’s talking about?
There’s plenty of people for whom price is not the main deciding factor. They want to invest in quality products, services and training. They want their coach to understand their specific struggles. They want to work with someone they can relate to.
there’s plenty to go around
There isn’t a finite number of customers looking for what you have to offer (unless you serve a weird micro-niche like golfers who want to dye their hair green to look like a walking golf course).
This type of thinking comes from a scarcity mindset – there are only so many customers to serve, and there’s only so much money to go around.
Instead, think about it this way: if you offer a $2,000 or even $10,000 coaching program, you’re likely to work with VIP clients on a one-on-one basis. How many clients can you realistically support at once? Five? Ten?
You certainly can’t serve the millions of people out there who need coaching, and you don’t need to! Just find those who want what you have to offer.
Don’t be afraid to charge your worth. Don’t create a digital course and sell it for $97 because someone else is selling theirs for $197. Figure out how you’re different, and use that to attract the right customers.
mistake #7: not taking care of your health
It’s too easy to put our health on the back burner as we deal with more important or urgent matters.
With business, life, kids, possibly a day job too, there’s suddenly no time left for exercise, home-cooked meals and relaxing baths.
I totally get it. I’ve been there. Maybe you have too. When I was in college to become a nurse, I literally burnt myself out juggling my classes, assignments and near full-time job. I was lucky to get 4 hours of sleep a night.
It’s only when I got really sick and started failing exams that I finally cut back on my classes and took an extra year to finish my program. It wasn’t ideal, and it certainly wasn’t what I wanted. But it’s what I needed to do.
Turn off the laptop and take a few minutes for yourself.
Not taking care of our health leads to a lack of focus and motivation, low energy, anxiety, depression and burnout. This is a really difficult hole to crawl out of once you fall in.
It’s important to make time to take care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This means taking breaks while we work. It means prioritizing sleep, healthy food and whatever we can do to stay active.
It means slowing down. It means taking time to meditate, journal, pray, or reflect. It means setting boundaries and dropping unnecessary things from our lives.
Sometimes, it will set us back in some way. In my case, a whole year. When I think of it now, over a decade later, I realize it really wasn’t that much in the grand scheme of things.
Many entrepreneurs get caught up in what I call the “overnight success mindset”. I’m sure you see it all over your social media:
“How to scale your business to 6 figures in 3 months.”
“Download your free Rapid Success Blueprint!”
“Tina has skyrocketed her sales from $0 to $500,000 in less than a year with my method!”
And I’m here to tell you, what’s the rush? No, the real rush?
Sure, you can do like Tina, but at what cost? Does Tina have a day job? Does she have children? Did she have more money to invest? Did her mom take care of her expenses while she grew her business?
You don’t know that.
Don’t be afraid to pull back a little if it means keeping yourself out of the burnout hole. Whether it takes you a year, two years, or five years, it’s all okay. We all want it now, but something’s gotta give. Don’t let it be your health.
mistake #8: trying to do all the things
Solopreneurs are notoriously strapped for time. Unless you can afford to invest in the services of a graphic designer, social media manager, virtual assistant or content writer, you likely have to fulfill all of these roles and more.
If you’re thinking, “Whoa, that’s a lot for one person”, you’re absolutely right!
To scale your business, start delegating routine tasks as soon as you can afford it.
Doing everything alone in your business is unsustainable. Sooner or later, you’ll have to prioritize things that are really worth your time, which means things that generate revenue.
When you’re just starting, it’s okay to do it all. You pretty much have to. Most of us start our business with only a few dollars, so there’s no chance of being able to afford a VA or designer.
Once you start making some profit, your priority should be to reinvest that money into something that will free you up for more important things. Hire a part-time virtual assistant. Get some templates that will allow you to create graphics faster. Invest in tools that will automate parts of your business.
Trying to do everything alone forever will stunt the growth of your business because, let’s face it, there are only so many hours in a day. Once you reach a certain point, there just isn’t enough time left to focus on activities that will actually make you money.
how delegating can trigger exponential growth
Imagine this scenario. Hiring a US-based virtual assistant for 5 hours a week will set you back about $80-$100 per week.
In 5 hours per week, she can schedule an entire month’s worth of social media posts. She can answer emails. She can keep track of your finances. She can help with market research.
Depending on her specialty, she can even help design images, create presentations or edit videos!
Meanwhile, you get an extra 20 hours a month, which can be enough to create a brand new mini-course that you’ll sell to hundreds of people for years to come!
mistake #9: not investing enough in training
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not investing enough time or money into their personal and business development.
Yes, we learn along the way, and yes, everything is available out there for free. That’s if you’re willing and able to dig for it.
There’s a difference between reading a blog post about something, and going through a mini-course with videos, a workbook and some cheat sheets to help you fully understand the concepts.
As we discussed above, time is your most valuable resource. As a solopreneur, it’s unlikely that you’re good at everything – no one is! Investing in training for specific areas that you need to strengthen will be more than worth it in the end.
business development action plan
Here’s an action plan for you, and this is one I’ve committed to as well:
Take some time to figure out which areas of your business you can target to improve your knowledge and skills.
It can be anything from copywriting, creating videos, writing a sales page, doing Facebook lives, structuring your online course, refining your brand message, getting organized – whatever your needs are.
Then, commit to taking one mini-course per quarter. This keeps things affordable for tiny budgets while creating a snowball effect as you keep building on previous knowledge and implementing as you go!
Make a commitment to your continuing education with laser-focused mini-courses!
Online courses aren’t the only way to go, either. I love listening to podcasts while I’m driving, and I strongly recommend you use all the amazing podcasts out there to your advantage. Try putting one on while you do the dishes, prepare dinner or fold the laundry. What’s not to love about passive learning?
mistake #10: being a perfectionist
I mean, how true is this?!
If you’re willing to be really honest with yourself, you can figure out the reason behind your perfectionism and start freeing yourself from its insidious grip.
I say start because I won’t lie, I’m still struggling with perfectionism. If you are too, that’s okay. I think it’s a normal part of the process. It’s a well-known fact that we’re our own worst critic, and as solopreneurs, we don’t exactly get a ton of “critics” to examine our work before we publish it.
Perfectionism is most likely the biggest time waster and productivity killer we face as entrepreneurs. If you’re anything like me, you’re never quite satisfied with what you put out there. Or you do feel satisfied, until you spot an imperfection.
“Oh my gosh. I have to re-do it. It’s not good enough.”
As if there were only perfect and not good enough.
Well my friend, I’m here to remind you that there is something in between: good enough. Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing attitude that keeps us from growing and achieving our dreams.
Dear me: you are amazing.
Think of something you’ve achieved, whether it’s learning an instrument, another language, writing fiction, cross-stitching or cooking. There’s no way your first attempt at baking a cake or playing the piano was perfect.
A few years ago I made a cake for my boyfriend’s birthday and put the whipped cream on it too early. When I took it out of the fridge, most of the cream had melted into a puddle of stickiness and I was horrified, but I thought, “Welp, it is what it is. Gotta roll with it.”
And guess what: the cake was still delicious! Not perfect, but good enough.
what do you think?
I put a lot of heart into this post – it took me an entire week to write! – because I really believe that supporting each other makes everyone stronger.
In the comments, I’d really love to know your thoughts on any of the 10 business mistakes above. I value your input and I’m interested in learning how you overcame these obstacles.
Also, if you’re struggling with anything in particular, or just need an ear to listen, please leave a comment or email me directly and I’ll be happy to help you out!