Starting out your business can be a difficult task if you do not have experience both in your field and in building a business. It is easy to make mistakes, particularly if you are trying to do it all on your own. In this article, I want to talk about some common mistakes and how to avoid them. I will use a great article from Freelance Switch as a starting point.
In ‘How to Be a Freelance Failure in 7 Easy Steps‘, the author addresses seven ares that we commonly make mistakes in. These cover business topics, organization, work ethics, etc. To dive straight in:
1. Be Known for Something
It makes perfect sense that if you are not known as a solution to a problem, you will not be sought out to solve that problem. You have to be known in your circle of influence. But first, you must have a circle of influence. The best way to become known in your world of expertise is to join local or online networks, attend meetings, and help people solve their problems. For example, though I am primarily a web designer, I know computers in and out. I meet many people that may not need a website, but I will accept a job to clean up viruses on a computer, installing new software, rebuilding systems, etc. These get out my name, my card, and knowledge of my presence.
2. Organize Your Business
If you want to be able to gather new clients, meet deadlines, manage your finances, etc, you must be organized. Organization is not just something you are either good at or bad at, it is an acquired skill. You can train yourself to be organized with anything you want. Your areas of organization should include contracts, finances, client data, project information, etc. In addition, you will need to keep a clean office where you can work without the need for digging through piles of papers. Be organized and you will have success.
3. Work, Work, Work
I know, I know, now that you work from home, you can watch TV any time you want, and get to working on your time, not some boss’s time. That is folly and it will usually result getting no work done at all. To counter the potential of becoming a slacker, you should set yourself a regular work schedule, including breaks. Give yourself time to waste, time to work, time for reading and writing, and anything else you can think of that needs done throughout your day. You will find that getting work done is far more exciting than finding out who gets kicked off the island.
4. Make Yourself Available…Lots
Have you ever wanted to call a company about a problem with a product or service and have to leave a message, or go through a ton of menus, or only have the option to email? You do not want to give your clients and prospective clients that sort of experience. It is far better to make yourself more available than you would like to be, at least in your first few years of running the business. You might get phone calls earlier or later than you like, but the fact that your client got a human to talk to will go a long way toward customer loyalty. You do not need to do the work right then, but a phone call is typically not going to ruin your plan. (I will add, however, that you should also have times when your clients can not get ahold of you for things like family time, just make sure you are not always unreachable).
In summary, make sure that you are making it around in your community, you are organized, you actually work, and your clients can get a hold of you. Doing these steps will avoid many mistakes of starting your small business.