Millions of online businesses are started each year, but many never succeed. It’s relatively easy to find small business ideas, and the steps for starting a business are well-known. But many newbies make common startup mistakes that make success elusive. To help you succeed, we’ve put together this list of the top 10 common online business mistakes and how to avoid them.
1 – Waiting too long to launch a product/service
When you start blogging or podcasting to build an audience, it’s easy to get stuck on the content “hamster wheel” for months or years without ever offering something for sale.
Some people are waiting for some magic audience size “1,000 subscribers” or maybe “10,000 visitors.” Some can’t find the time to blog or podcast or make videos AND to build a product at the same time. Otherssimply talk themselves out of creating a product because they’re afraid no one will buy it. They don’t want to fail after putting in so much time creating content.
Whatever the reason, this is a fatal trap. If you’re building a business, you need to address the biggest risk head-on. Your first product might not be all that good. But the sooner you put something out there, the closer you get to sustainable revenue.
2 – Letting Minor Details Slow You Down
When you’re starting a business, you want everything to be right. You want the perfect logo, an iconic business website, a business card design that makes you memorable. But all of these things are relatively minor because they can be changed after you launch the business. If you’re bogged down by some detail that could be changed in the future, remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Let “Good enough” be good enough to start out. You can make improvements once your business is launched and you know what customers are looking for.
3 – Solving an Unimportant Problem
Businesses fail all the time because they try to solve a problem nobody or not enough people really care about. If you put your product or idea out there and nobody buys it or shows interest, there’s a good chance you should look for a more important problem, not a bigger audience.
4 – Pricing Your Product Too Low
It can be tempting to try to undercut the competition’s price to win sales. But doing so is dangerous. If you’re not acutely aware of all of your labor, materials, packaging, credit card acceptance fees and other costs of doing business, you may lose money. Even if you can sell profitably at a much lower cost than competitors, you could set off a price war. Consider finding ways to add value or perceived value to customers instead of competing on price.
5 – Not being different enough
In most markets, customers have different options to choose from. While it’s tempting to try to emulate the success of competitors, you need to create a competitive difference for your business
Even if your site or product is arguably better than the competition, “better” is subjective. Instead of simply trying to be better, you need to be different. Then, when someone asks why your site or product is worth her attention, your answer will be objective and easy to understand.
6 – Giving Away Too Much for Free
Everybody loves a freebie. That’s why so many businesses offer free products or services to attract customers. But don’t give away so much for free that it cuts into your profit margin or your billable hours. If appropriate, make your freebie a A downloadable checklist or fact sheet that you give away in exchange for client contact info. If you’re giving away a “free consultation” limit the time you’ll give away for free. If you’re letting customers sample an online service, limit the time they have to try it and/or the features they can try.
7 – Overlooking Customer Service
When your business get busy, it’s easy to forget about engaging your customers. But returning customers are the most profitable customers. Be sure you have multiple ways to to communicate with your customers and get them to engage with you. Ask them to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list and have a feedback or contact us page so people can easily reach you. Be active on social media, and promptly answer all questions or inquiries your customers make.
8 – Going it alone
No one can succeed in business alone. You need people to make it work. Your customers are people, your suppliers are people, your service providers are people.
Most importantly, you need support from other entrepreneurs who are at similar stages as you are, and from others with more experience.
The more connected you become with other entrepreneurs, the more normal your quest becomes. You’ll no longer feel crazy or alone, and you’ll realize that we all face obstacles just like you’re facing.
Reach out to another entrepreneur or two, and ask them to meet weekly. Share your struggles and goals, and review your progress each week. This simple process is so powerful. Take an hour of time each week to discuss each other’s business needs.
9 – Confusing “blog” with “business”
Repeat after me: a blog isn’t a business. A blog isn’t a business.
A blog is an incredible platform for sharing your ideas, connecting with people and growing an audience. The same is true of podcasting, YouTubing, or any other place you might publish content for free.
Giving away free content isn’t a business. It’s a tool for building influence. Don’t count on turning that influence into sponsorships or advertising dollars. You’ll need a more direct plan for earning an income if you want your blog or podcast to pay off.
10 – Not starting at all
This is perhaps the biggest mistake of all. Don’t be that friend who talks and talks about starting a business for years and never does anything thing about it.
It’s easy to get so worried about all the possible mistakes that you never get started at all. But that’s the only way to guarantee failure.
Starting a business isn’t a sure thing — it takes guts and intelligence and heart and hustle — but you will get better over time ONLY if you start.
The best way to ensure you’ll succeed is simply this: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the process. So dive in, get started and find a community to support you, because you are not alone.