Posted: Thu 22nd Mar 2018
When you take that first step of starting your own business there's a lot to learn. It's an exciting time, but often quite a scary one.
You can guarantee that you'll make mistakes, particularly in the early days, but as long as you learn from those mistakes and take action quickly to put things right, you'll be fine.
Here are three mistakes you might make, and some suggestions to help you avoid them.
Mistake one: Thinking you have to have everything sorted perfectly before you can start
As a new entrepreneur, you are likely to fall into one of two camps on this.
You may dive in with both feet, full of enthusiasm and with little or no preparation. This has the advantage that you get going quickly, and that you use the initial excitement of starting your business to give you momentum through the early learning stage.
However, there's also a risk that you hit significant problems early on, which may discourage you and ultimately cause you to give up.
Or, if you're in the other camp, you may spend ages planning, preparing, and tweaking before you feel ready to even consider launching.
Yes, you will be properly prepared, but for some people this is a delaying tactic (often an unconscious one), allowing them to keep putting off the moment when they take that big scary step into running their own business.
What's more, no matter how carefully you have done your research, there will be things you need to change almost immediately. So you'll need to stay flexible and not wedded to the plan you have spent so long developing.
Neither approach is ideal, but the bigger risk is to procrastinate for too long in pursuit of perfection. Far better to make a start, however small, and then adjust and hone your business offering as you progress.
Here are my top tips for getting started:
Get the basics in place before you start
Start small and build up
Keep testing, gathering feedback and adjusting your service or product (and how you market it) accordingly
Mistake two: Basing your business on your hobby, without checking there's a market for it
I firmly believe that it's essential to love what you do; ideally to be passionate about it. Most people spend long hours at work, and when it's your own business that time may even increase. So it's important that you care about what you do, that it is aligned with what's important to you in some way, because this will help you keep going when you hit a difficult patch. Believe me, you will!
However, some entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming they can make money out of their hobby, without thinking this through properly or testing it.
If you're planning to turn your hobby into a business, first identify what you yourself spend money on in relation to your hobby, how much you typically spend in a month, and how many people there are out there like you who might do the same.
Also make sure you won't be offering something that is already readily available at the same or lower cost. What is it that will make what you offer different from what's already out there?
Here are my top tips for choosing your business offering:
See what else is out there and who buys it
Find a niche or unique selling point (USP) to differentiate yourself
Try your idea out on family and friends, but be careful not to give anything away that could and should be patented first
Mistake three: Wanting to help or serve everyone
This is a really common mistake, not just for new entrepreneurs but also for many longstanding business owners who should know better. Many of us assume that the bigger our potential audience, the more business we'll get.
People are far more likely to buy from you if they feel you are speaking directly to their want or need.
Here is an example to show what I mean.
Imagine you are selling a non-alcoholic drink. In theory anybody could drink it, but who is it aimed at?
Is it a drink that will appeal to health or fitness fans? Is it a drink that will appeal to those trying to lose weight? Is it a drink that could make you feel pampered? Is it a drink for stressed people or those who can't sleep, to help them unwind and relax?
Once you know exactly who your product is best suited to, you can speak directly to them in all your marketing, e.g. on your website, in your networking conversations, in your adverts, on social media.
So you need to identify your ideal customer and focus in on them.
Here are my top tips for finding your ideal customer:
Recognise that focusing in on a smaller target brings you more business, not less
Focus on that niche or USP to identify who would most want what you can offer
Target your product or service at your ideal customer in terms of what you say, how you say it and where you do it
And finally, if you have already made one of these mistakes, you now know what to do to put it right!