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Self-Employment: 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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1. Targeting the Wrong Audience.

While it seems as though marketing to absolutely every person you possibly can would be beneficial for your business, you don’t need to push your business on everyone you meet, including friends and family. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time to try selling to people who simply don’t need what you’re offering.

It is also a waste of resources that could be better used elsewhere.

How can this be avoided?

Don’t try to sell to everyone. Make sure you know what market you’re trying to target and concentrate on that. That is where your loyal customers will come from.

Say no to customers that are more trouble than they’re worth. Let your competitors sell to them instead. You’ll save yourself many headaches, and you’ll free up more time to focus on serving the best customers.

Just because someone is interested in doing business with you doesn’t mean you should accept. If you think a meeting or proposal is pointless, it probably is. Spend your time on something more productive.

2. Investing Too Much Money.

Until you have a steady cash flow coming in, don’t spend your precious start-up cash unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your business should put cash into your pocket, so before you “invest” money into it, be clear on how you’re going to pull that cash back out again.

Obviously certain businesses require a lot of capital to get started, but by leveraging technology, you can very easily start a lucrative business for pocket change.

3. Investing Too Little Money.

It is also possible to not spend enough cash. If you cannot solve a problem, take advantage of those specialize in solving it.

If you half-ass certain aspects of your business, customers will notice and you will be worse off than if you hadn’t done anything.

If you don’t have enough money to complete one of you goals then be patient and wait until you do. If you finance your investment and it fails you’re going to have a much more difficult time of getting back on your feet.

4. Portraying Yourself as Something You’re Not.

If you’re operating a single person business don’t feel as though you need to portray yourself as a “we”. There’s nothing wrong with a one-person business, especially today.

Promoting yourself as an “I” may even be advantageous as people will know that you are the sole decision maker.

If you’re new to the industry, don’t pretend that you’re not. Trying to fool your clients will only backfire. Honesty is golden on the web these days as people respect and reward it.

If you can’t provide real value and charge fairly for it, then you shouldn’t be starting a business yet.

5. Relying on Signed Contracts.

A signed contract is just a piece of paper. What’s behind a signed contract is most important: the business relationship. If the relationship goes sour, the contract won’t save you. The purpose of a contract is to clearly define everyone’s roles and expectations. But it’s the relationship, not the paper, that ultimately decides whether a business deal is successful or not. By understanding this, once can focus more on relationships and worry less about what is written on paper. If you’re forced to fall back on the paper, the deal is already in jeopardy. Creative (and lucrative) business deals almost always stray from the paper contracts that represent them.

Written contracts are still necessary, especially when dealing with larger corporations where people come and go, but they’re secondary to relationships. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that the contract is the deal. The contract is only the deal’s outline. The real deal is the relationship. Keep your business relationships in good order, and you will rarely have to fall back on the contract to accomplish your goals.

6. Ignoring Your Intuition.

Intuition is just as important in business as it is in other aspects of our lives. You’d be amazed at how many final decisions on corporate deals are made because of some CEO’s gut feeling. While you might think that logic is the language of business, that’s not always true. Although logic plays a large role in making informed business decisions, if you ignore your intuition, more times than not you will regret it later on.

Intuition is an important step in the decision-making process. Since business deals depend on relationships, you need to get a read on the other people involved in any deal you consider. You can almost look at it like a poker game. If you get a bad read, walk away. If you get a good read, proceed with caution.

7. Being Too Formal.

As mentioned previously, relationships play a large part in business. In some settings certain degrees of formality are appropriate, but in many business situations, being too formal is unnecessary and can be a turn-off.

People like to feel comfortable when they are doing business. If someone feels too uncomfortable because you’re coming across as too formal, they may base their decision on their gut feeling instead of the logic behind the deal.

Formality is boring, tedious and unnecessary in today’s world.

8. Reluctance to Be Creative.

Don’t be afraid to be your self and use your creativity in your business. If we were all dull and the same, nothing new and innovative would ever be created. The subtle nuances and quarks of your business will be what separates you from the competition.

The people who are turned off by your originality wouldn’t be very loyal customers anyway so let them go and concentrate on the ones that enjoy your uniqueness and the uniqueness of your business.

9. Focusing on Money Instead of Value Creation.

The purpose of a business is obviously to make money. Many people brainstorm for business ideas with the idea that they need to find a product or service that will generate them the most money. Instead they should be concentrating on finding a product or service that will generate the most value. First of all, the most valuable product will generate the most money. Second of all, the most valuable product will also be most beneficial to your customer and to society as a whole.

If you concentrate on generating value, money will come and you will not have to worry about disgruntled patrons.

10. Failing to Upgrade, Improve and Optimize.

Creating value alone does not guarantee the success of a business. If two businesses create products equal in value but one business does it twice as fast and for half the cost, the other business will not be around long. Once you are creating value with your business it is important to constantly try and improve upon and optimize the process of value creation.

With technology improving as fast as it is, there is almost always a better way being introduced of performing a task. Stay current with the process and technologies in your industry and always be working to improve your own.

It takes a great deal of effort to successfully build your own business, but it’s also a tremendous growth experience and can be very rewarding. Many people quit their jobs to run their own businesses. Many of them didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, but I don’t know any that regretted taking the plunge. In the words of Steve Pavlina, “There’s simply no substitute for holding the reins of your own destiny.”

Anson Alexander

I am an author, digital educator and content marketer. I record, edit, and publish content for AnsonAlex.com, provide technical and business services to clients and am an avid self-learner. I have also authored several digital marketing and business courses for LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com).

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