If you want to skip the growing pains associated with being a new business owner, avoid making these 5 mistakes.
These are 5 things amateur or inexperienced business owners do:
1 – Jump in without research
When you get a business idea, it’s so exciting and you want to strike while the iron’s hot.
But you end up wasting time an money by jumping right in rather that taking the time to research the existing market.
A few things to spend time researching before launching a business or product are:
- Competitors – who will your product be competing with? Who is your target market already buying from? What do your competitors do well and what can you do better? What level do you need to rise to to compete with them…because that’s the level of quality your target market will be expecting (e.g. quality of products, branding, photography style, etc.).
- USP – how will your business and its products be unique, when compared with similar products already on the market? If you don’t know, consumers won’t either. Your unique factor must be something your target market cares about and that will influence buying. Being “handmade”, “one of a kind”, “your designs” isn’t enough. Chances are, you don’t care who designed an item you’re thinking of buying, or the technique used to make it, or how many hours it took to make. But you might care if it follows a new trend your favorite celebrity is sporting, or if the item is environmentally friendly, or if it caters to an allergy you have, etc.
>> If you want to learn more about finding your business’s USP, check out: 8 Mistakes Handmade Businesses Make with their USP
- Keywords – if you want to grow your business online, you must understand which keywords your target market is using and implement those keywords properly. If consumers are searching for a “bib necklace” but you’ve listed yours on Etsy as a “statement necklace” (or something more obscure such as a “Jane necklace”), consumers aren’t going to find your items, even if you’re selling exactly what they’re looking for.
>> Learn more about keyword research here: How to Increase Traffic to your Etsy Shop
Don’t assume everything will work out and you’ll figure it out as you go.
Research and plan now to save time and money and protect your profits.
2 – Make decisions without consulting numbers
The biggest and first “number mistake” new entrepreneurs make is setting prices based on what they think consumers will pay.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a “well I price my products by (insert overly simplified pricing strategy) and never had a customer complain” message (in response to my article The Right Way to Price Handmade Products).
It is great when customers feel your products are worth the price you’re charging.
But just because customers aren’t complaining doesn’t mean they’re covering all their business costs and profiting.
So many small business owners spend their personal money on business expenses and can go years without realizing they’re not profiting, or worse yet, are actually losing money.
You must know your business’s expenses inside and out if you want to build a profitable business that stands the test of time.
>> You may be interested in: The Right Way to Price a Handmade Product (Step-by-Step Formula)
Once a business has sales and statistics to work with, they should use those to guide every decision.
>> Did those 20 hours spent on Facebook last month result in any new sales? Facebook’s return on investment should help you determine whether to keep dedicating time to it or not.
>> Did one type of post/newsletter/event generate more attention/sales than another? Your marketing effort’s conversion rates should help you determine which techniques are working and which aren’t.
If you’re in business to make money, you must pay attention to your numbers.
Here are 5 important metrics to calculate each month: 5 Business Metrics to Track Monthly
3 – Think everyone is their target customer
This is the mindset that’s the hardest to break new business owners of.
>> They make jewelry and figure every woman could wear their pieces, so they don’t bother getting specific about who their target market is.
>> Or they make soap and figure everyone uses soap, so there’s no point in finding a niche.
That’s like a restaurant owner thinking everyone will be their patron just because everyone eats.
There are so many restaurants to choose from, another one serving a bit of everything really isn’t noteworthy. Not many people will be willing to stray from their favorite restaurant to try a new one that doesn’t seem that different.
On the other hand, a restaurant catering to people who follow a Keto diet is noteworthy and will catch the attention of every person who’s on a Keto diet. It may even get others wondering what Keto food looks like and be curious to give it a try.
Just think about your consumer habits.
Are you drawn to products that are generic and sort of a fit for you? Or do you prefer products that feel like a business is finally paying attention to people like you and offering products that are a perfect fit for you?
Just as you have preferences when it comes to style, colours, prices, sustainability, etc. so do consumers.
Just as you can’t create an ice cream flavour that appeals to everyone, you can’t build a business that appeals to everyone.
So choose your target market wisely and build a business that’s perfectly suited for them.
4 – Think it’s going to be easy
When I was new to the entrepreneurial world and starting my first handful of businesses, I clearly remember thinking getting customers was going to be a cinch.
I thought I just needed to show up at a craft show and my products would sell.
When I started an online marketplace for selling handmade I thought “I only need X number of people to sign up to cover my monthly costs. That doesn’t seem hard.” and “who wouldn’t buy a membership for $5?!”
In both situations, and more more, I was wrong.
“If you build it, they will come” may have been true in 2005 when did Etsy launched and when millions of people weren’t looking for ways to build a home-based business, there weren’t millions of handmade products to choose from, PLUS major retailers copying small businesses and creating items that have a handmade vibe.
It’s now much harder to launch a business and get people to pay attention to it.
>> Consumers don’t care if your product is cheap; (most) people don’t just spend money for the sake of spending money. They want something that’s a perfect fit for them.
>> Consumers don’t buy a product just because it’s handmade or one of a kind; they care about how your product will make their lives better (not yours).
>> Consumers have millions of options when it comes to the product you’re selling (unless you’ve invented a new product). Your business and products must be unique enough to cut through all the noise and make consumers understand why they should buy from you instead of your competitors.
As harsh as these statements are, if you keep them in mind, you’ll be prepared for the effort that’s required to build a business that stands out in today’s market.
5 – Put themselves first
You should always take care of your physical and mental health first. That’s not what this point is referring to.
Inexperienced business owners put their business wants before the consumers’ wants.
>> They make what they feel like making; not what consumers are interested in buying.
>> They post the social media content they want to post (e.g. pictures of their products they want consumers to buy) instead of content consumers are interested in when scrolling social media (e.g. inspiration, tips, ideas, etc.).
>> They focus on the information they want to get out during a sales pitch or in a product description (e.g. “each piece takes me 2 hours to make”) instead of thinking about the information consumers care about, need for making a buying decision, and that will encourage them to buy. (e.g. this hand knit throw is longer than most store-bought throws so your toes won’t get cold.”).
If you want your target market to pay attention to your business, you must put them first.
Before making any decision (e.g. what to create, what to post to social media, which keywords to use for an online listing, which events to sell at, what to write in product descriptions, etc.) think of your target market first and what they want.
I made many more mistakes than these when I was a new entrepreneur starting my first few businesses. But these are some of the bigger mistakes to avoid.
Please share any of your important lessons in the comment section!
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!