5 Common Mistakes First Time Entrepreneurs Make & How to Avoid Them
So, you want to be an entrepreneur, eh? Being an entrepreneur is by no way an easy feat. We’re talking working 24/7, hustling non-stop to get your brand in the hands of your customers plus long and stressful nights. Entrepreneurship is a new buzzword that people don’t really take the time to understand the work that goes into it and whether or not it’s actually their calling [We’ll have a separate blog-post about this].
If you go on social media, everyone has “entrepreneur” on their bio because it’s such a cool thing to show your friends that you’re capable of starting a business. However, being an entrepreneur is not just about starting a business. To be honest, starting is the easiest part - running it and growing it is the hardest. I personally don’t like calling myself an entrepreneur and never did until my friends and my boyfriend told me I was indeed an entrepreneur. How? I asked. They then proceeded to list out all the businesses I started and ran, though not all successful, but also the attributes attached to an entrepreneur was what they used to describe me. These include, but not limited to:
Passion driven: my passion always comes first. I never start a business to make money. My sole purpose for starting any business is the passion I have and wanting to see that passion through and turn it into a product or service that can be in the hands of my customer.
Risk-taker: I’ve never been someone to settle. Ever. I always take risks - even though they might not pan out.
Resilient: did I mention I never settle? Well, I am also very resilient in going after what I want. It’s easier to keep working hard until 3am at night when you’re working on your passion.
Willing to work 24/7: what is sleep when you have a business/empire to build? I always know what my priorities are and I am willing to cancel hangs with friends and family in order to get shit done.
Adaptable: one business fails? I pick myself up, take my learnings with me, and do it all over again. As Winston Churchill says, “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
So, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you need to develop these skills stat! Besides developing these skills, I’ve seen first-hand common mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make (I’ve done these too) and wanted to share it. This is for anyone who’s thinking about taking this journey of being an entrepreneur and is wondering whether or not they are cut out for it. I’m all for making mistakes and learning from them but I don’t believe in making the same mistakes others have made when you can simply learn from that.
PS: although this can be applied to any type of venture, this list is more tailored to entrepreneurs who sell a product or service online.
COMMON MISTAKE #1: NO ACTUAL PLAN
I can write a whole book about this. I’ve made this mistake before and trust me, that business crashed and failed faster than I could say “I’m an entrepreneur!” What do I mean by plan? 1. Customer research, 2. Business plan.
You can’t start selling a product if you don’t know your customer. You need to dig into their brain and understand their habits and their impulses. Imagine being an actor and taking on the role of someone else. You need to be able to act and breathe like your customer.
If you don’t know how to make money, how do you expect your business to be successful? Besides the revenue part, there are very important sections in a business plan to will tell you whether or not you’ve got a business. Writing a business plan first will save you time and energy if your business is actually not viable.
COMMON MISTAKE #2: ASSUMING YOU CAN “COPY AND PASTE”
So you see your #goals on instagram driving fancy cars and wearing designer clothing and you want to emulate that lifestyle. So, you see what product she’s selling and think “all I have to do is re-create this” and boom! I have a business. Ehh, wrong! You’re going down a path of no-return. Her business is not your business and you should never think you can just re-create it and you will achieve the same success. You need to do your research and find your tribe.
This also applies to pricing. Never, I repeat, never assume you can price your product a certain way because your competitor does the same. This is a rookie mistake and will really affect your bottom-line. Your pricing strategy should be based on understanding of your key market (competitors, customers and their demographic - develop a persona!), their willingness to spend, key offering (your product/service), your fixed and variable costs, and how much profit you want to make. If after all this, you notice that you will be losing money, then you either have the wrong product or the wrong market. It’s time to iterate and iterate until you find the sweet spot! A good pricing strategy will save you time and money in the long-run.
COMMON MISTAKE #3: WAITING FOR THE “RIGHT” TIME
Either jump in too soon or too late and miss opportunities.
I am also talking to myself in this situation. I am a known perfectionist and although I am trying hard to curb that, it is still sometimes hard for me to launch something until I think it’s “perfect”. However, what I’ve learnt is that your initial customers are pivotal to any business. It’s best to launch now and let your customers give you feedback and you iterate on that than to wait for a long time and have your customers move on to another brand. It is also important to not jump in too soon. Avoiding common mistake #1 and #2 will ensure you don’t jump in too soon.
COMMON MISTAKE #4: NOT GETTING HELP WHEN NEEDED
Trust me, I’m all for being a solopreneur. I’ve been a solopreneur for as long as I can remember. However, a time will come where you will realize that you need help. Now, don’t think because you need help you need to find a co-founder - help comes in many forms. Help can be in the form of getting a coach/mentor, getting your friends to volunteer their time on a specific area of the business that you’re lacking, getting an intern, or even hiring someone (if you have the capital for that). It’s so easy to think you can do it all by yourself however, there’s no successful person that didn’t get help. We can’t do life alone, and being an entrepreneur is definitely something you can’t do alone. It’s better to let your ego go and get help as soon as you realize you need it than to burn yourself out trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none.
Now, help can either make or break your business so also be picky with who you choose to help you. Be very selfish with who you choose because after all, the business is your vision and you will most likely always be more invested in it than someone else. Ensure you have someone or a group of people who believe in your vision and are willing to help propel the business to new heights. When I was running my last e-commerce business, I knew I had to get help immediately when I started on social media. Figuring out how to grow a following is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever tried to do and so I brought on an intern to help me push this part of the business I knew I wanted no parts in. This was help that was needed and it enabled me to focus on other parts of the business, like the product, the entire user experience (I’m big on this - actually, I’m going to add this to common mistake #5) and just overall running of the business.
COMMON MISTAKE #5: NOT BEING USER EXPERIENCE FOCUSED
I see a lot of first-time entrepreneurs making this mistake. You spend so much time tweaking your vision and working hard on your product - a product you know customers will love because you love it but then when you’re ready to market, you don’t make any sales. Let’s say you do make sales, but you don’t have return customers. Return customers are a lot cheaper to acquire than first-time customers because you’ve already done the legwork to win them the first time around. Keeping them should be your priority. For you to be able to develop a really good user experience, you need to enter the head of your customer essentially and envision the journey of your product. So from the time they click on your website, to when they click “add to cart” and input their credit card info, to the time it takes to wait for your product, to the service you provide in-between this wait (customers are impatient!), to shipping times, the shipping company you use, to when the package is delivered, to the unboxing of the package by the customer, to them using your product and returning to buy again and/or referring friends. The user experience needs to be a well-oiled machine and be your priority when building an online business. Remember, reviews are free but reviews could cost you money if it’s a negative one.
Now, I’m not saying if you avoid all these mistakes you will become a successful entrepreneur. You actually have to run the business and learn and tweak as you go. However, keeping these in mind should help you along the way so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Have you made any of these mistakes? Or, grateful to read this post? Comment below - I would love to hear from you!
Written by Victory Omotayo.