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Seven Common Mistakes Solopreneurs Make
  • 19 April 2016
  • Eric Michaels

Seven Common Mistakes Solopreneurs Make

What do Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs have in common (other than spectacular success)? All three failed at their first attempts to break into the business.

These days, it is common for successful entrepreneurs to wear past failures like badges of honor. And while these stories are instructive and inspirational, there is no reason you have to fail before succeeding. In fact, you can learn from blunders that other small business owners have faced when launching a company. Here are seven common mistakes solopreneurs make:

1. Playing the short-term game.

Putting all your savings into a business is a scary proposition, but you shouldn't expect to make that money back in the first year. Instead, think of your new company as a long-term proposition, one that will last decades, rather than rushing to recoup your investment. Freeing yourself in this way will allow you to price products competitively (below market value) while you get off the ground. When you work on increasing your customer base and leave making a profit for later, you create a more sustainable business model.

2. Doing the busy work.

Solopreneurs are proud of being well-rounded individuals, and this character trait will help you succeed in business. However, you have better ways to spend your time than sending out invoices from freelancers and tracking company expenses for tax filings. Until you have employees that can handle the busy work for you, outsource tasks that eat up your time during the week. You are far better served testing ideas and winning new clients than answering general help emails.

3. Going with a low-tech setup.

While not every business depends on technology, customers consider a website, online support, and social media accounts to be standard for companies in 2016. Rather than thinking of these tools as gadgets or toys, think of them as convenient ways to engage your consumers on a daily basis. As for technology around the office, you need the latest equipment to compete with larger businesses in your industry. Investments in computers and other bits of technology usually qualify for tax deductions.

4. Setting impossible goals.

While you never want to set the bar too low, setting it too high is almost as unproductive. Solopreneurs must take into account the growing pains their business may have and keep their goals realistic—especially while you have a skeleton staff and little financing. Once you see a strong customer response and have revenue rolling in, feel free to upgrade your goals to accommodate the new reality. In the meantime, have a set of realistic resolutions and goals, and work hard to achieve them.

5. Hiring blindly.

An Ivy League education or years of experience in a similar field may be attractive in a job applicant, but once you decide to expand beyond a staff of one, solopreneurs need to inject life into their business with every hire. Before you bring anyone aboard, consider how they will impact day-to-day operations. If you see passion, independence, personality and flexibility, you are on the right track. If you get the sense that someone is just looking for a steady paycheck, keep looking. Also, if they are used to working in a corporate structure, make sure they can transition well to the culture of a small business.

6. Losing the marketing game.

The Internet is full of websites and social media feeds, and the competition is only growing. If your company lives or dies by its online marketing efforts, make sure you have professionals on your side. Hiring a talented online marketer may be the best investment you can make when launching a start-up business. Otherwise, look into outsourcing this key business function to a proven winner.

7. Letting your best employees walk away.

It's obvious when you have someone with emerging talent in the workplace, so do whatever you can to keep that staff member on board. Whether it requires a higher salary, a better company culture, or more responsibilities, find what your best employees want and need, and give it to them. Keep in mind that you almost always spend less and get more by retaining current talent.

Solopreneurs often make mistakes when launching businesses. If you can manage to avoid some of these errors, you'll have a smoother path to success.

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