I am sharing my personal story of entrepreneurship through a partnership with Office Depot Business Solutions Center and sponsored campaign with Socialstars #GearLove.
“If I knew then what I know now”.
This is something most of us small business owners and entrepreneurs have said (or at least thought) many times since we first began our journey. Mistakes and learning from them are par for the course and are necessary to evolve and grow. And now that I have had the experience of making them, it’s only right that I pay it forward and share them with those of you who may be starting your own endeavors business wise. As a part of the Socialstars Office Depot Business Solutions Center sponsored campaign, I am sharing 5 mistakes I made when starting my business and how to avoid them, in hopes of helping you navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship.
Here’s my list:
1. Not doing my homework in terms of branding
When I first started my website and launched my business, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to branding. I knew what I liked personally, so I led with that. My first website was super cute, but was dark (it had a black background, a huge no-no) and was more of a personal website than a professional one. I didn’t have an identifiable logo, or even any professional photos of myself. Basically, I overlooked all of the branding details, which was a detriment to me and my business, since I was competing with other sites. It took me about two years to get my act together and solidify my brand. Coincidentally, that also was a time when I began making money with TheCubicleChick.com. When I began to really put forth the effort, then that is when I began reaping the rewards.
The lesson? Don’t cut corners and always put your best foot forward. Invest in a professionally created website and logo. Read books on branding and know your business inside out. This can help you avoid being overshadowed in your niche or industry while giving you identifiable appeal. The Office Depot Business Solutions Center has a wonderful article How to Crack the Code of Your Personal Brand that has a few tips that you can put to use right away.
Literally, I was sleeping on FB. Meaning, I was snoozing when I should’ve been using it to obtain readers and share my articles. Facebook had always been my achilles heel, as I was much more comfortable with Twitter and LinkedIn. It took about a year for me to really use Facebook and allow it to work for me. Over that time, it became my third largest referrer (after Google and Twitter), and as I utilized it more, it became a huge platform for my brand. Now I have more FB followers than I do on any other social network, and it’s helped me reach more people than any other platform.
The lesson? Don’t push the snooze button on Facebook. Learn it. Hire a social manager who can help you grow your reach and bring you more customers and readers. Attend FB classes if you can, or look at other social media stars and how they use it so you can also put it work for you.
3. Failing to Cultivate Connections
While in the blogging space, I’ve been looked upon as a “great connector”, someone who often introduces people to connect and build. But in doing so, I often overlooked my own connections. As a huge conference attender and networker, I knew how to work a room and get contacts, but I dropped the ball after that. I had to learn that in order to grow these relationships, I had to do the work.
The lesson? When networking, make sure to always follow up with people, whether it’s a friendly email or even a handwritten letter of thanks. Be personable and go out of your way to keep the connections going long after the event has ended. This can not only help you grow your business, but also make lifelong colleagues and friendships too that are a priceless asset. If you are looking for solid networking tips, check out this article.
4. Waiting to Establish My Business Entity
I didn’t incorporate (or LLC) my business until 2012, about three years into me blogging as a profession. Nothing major happened because I didn’t do it, but it was super easy, and something I wish I would’ve done sooner. When you are an actual business entity, it is easier to separate your money. You can have a business account which you can pay yourself and other vendors, which makes for easier tax preparation and bookkeeping. Plus, when you are an actual business on paper, you tend to act like a real boss. And that is when the magic begins to happen.
The lesson? Incorporate, DBA, or LLC as soon as you can. You can do so rather inexpensively through your state, or you can also hire an attorney that can help you. You will be glad that you did.
5. Listening to the Noise
In any profession, there are so many people sharing and talking and trading stories. In blogging, we are a close-knit community. But sometimes, this can become a detriment. Everyone is looking at what everyone else is doing. Our progression and our success is available for everyone to see. So when you continue to measure yourself against that, it can become difficult to chart your own course. I can say that early on, I was busy watching others instead of paying attention to my own brand and community. You may want to copy others because you see that they’ve had huge success with doing something one way. But whose to say that you will also have that same success? Applaud others, congratulate, always be encouraging. But don’t ever lose sight of your path and your progress and your own success as well.
The lesson? Listen to the noise, but don’t get caught up in it. Do what is authentic and true to you and allow yourself to shine with your gifts and talents.
Business mistakes will happen but hopefully you are able to avoid some of the ones I made early on. For more articles to help you with your small business or for small business tips, visit the Office Depot Business Solutions Center. They’ve got everything you need; you can read about leadership, marketing, creating strategies, and more.