30 October 2013

The Six Most Common Business Mistakes You Want To Avoid

In the current economic climate more people are trying to start a business. 

However making it work is a pretty daunting task and you are bound to make mistakes along the way. Helen White describes the most common business mistakes to avoid.

1. Having no business plan

I have to admit that I still have no formal business plan, but I understand it is essential if you want to apply for a business loan or a grant. It also helps you to focus, set achievable goals and to move your business forward. Business plans are not set in stone and are flexible, so if you make changes to your business you will reflect this in your updated plan. Organisations such as Business Link and Business in focus (Wales) can help you with creating your business plan.

2. Not researching your business name

I originally wanted to name my jewellery business “Emerald Cat Design”, because Emerald is my birth stone and I love cats. However, when I googled the name I had to change my plans as the name was already in use by an American website design company. So I had to go back to the drawing board. My married name is quite a common name so I added the first two letters of my maiden name to my first name – not realising that Helenka is an actual name. I kept Design as it is flexible – if I want to change the type of craft I design it won’t be a problem. So when choosing a business name make sure you don’t end up with a name that has already been taken by someone else, but is also easy to remember and representative of your business and the kind of goods or services you sell. Changing your name along the way can be costly – especially if you haven’t done your research properly.

3. Not road testing your product or service.

When I started out with my jewellery I made the mistake of creating items without knowing who they would appeal to. If you sell a service or physical product you need to road test it with a small “audience”. Don’t rely on well-meaning friends. You want honest opinions – and that is best achieved by going out there. So if you have a product – only make a small batch before you invest in more and see how it resonates with your potential market.

4. Investing too much money in supplies

When you have small business you don’t really need that much at the start. A laptop and some business cards and a good internet connection are enough if you provide a service. If you create goods, then you want to limit what you spend on supplies until you have generated enough sales to invest and expand. Don’t get side-tracked by things you don’t really need!

5. Spending too much money on advertising

Advertising is expensive and in my experience doesn’t work very well. People tend to buy from people they trust. Which is why social media is a useful tool for your business – you create trust with your posts (and your product of course) and eventually this trust will result in a buying customer, a repeat customer or someone who might recommend your business to a friend. If you want to go down the advertising route I recommend reading this article by Steve Mc Kee.

6. Doing it all alone

As a small business owner you tend to try to do everything yourself: designing and pricing your product or service, sorting your own accounts, updating your website and social media accounts, marketing and PR. This can all become incredibly overwhelming and frustrating –especially when you are a creative type of person who just wants to get on with his/her product. And sometimes things fall apart and you make the wrong decision. So instead of doing it all yourself, why not outsource some of the work if you can afford to? If you don’t like sorting your own accounts – hire an accountant. If you struggle with writing your own press releases or copy for your website and marketing materials – why not hire a copywriter or PR expert? If you struggle with product photos you might want to find a photographer who loves taking photos of your products.

Last year I hired a small business helping me to improve my SEO and website layout as my website hadn’t attracted many visitors. While this work (that I would struggle to complete) was being dealt with, I was able to concentrate on other areas of the business that I wanted to improve.

About Author:
Helen White is a journalist, copywriter, PR consultant and jewellery designer based in Cardiff, where she lives with her cat and husband. 

You can find her journalism website at www.hkpress.co.uk and her jewellery website at www.helenkawhitedesign.co.uk
She also has a blog - http://helenspawsforthought.hkpress.co.uk/ and is on Facebook.

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