• Katie Earl

The 5 Biggest Mistakes I've Made in my Business (So Far...)

Updated: Feb 25

Running your own business is tough as hell. There’s so much to learn, and so many mistakes to be made. Like everyone, I’m very guilty of showing off my highlights reel without necessarily sharing the rough with the smooth. So today, I’m opening up and telling you all about my biggest mistakes so far - there’s bound to be more as I continue on this running-my-own-business thing!

Here’s the top 5 that I hope you can either relate to, or learn something from!

  1. Thinking I had to learn how to do everything before I did it In the early days, I spent most of my time reading free guides, watching training videos, and attending webinars about how to run a business. I didn’t even consider this to be a choice I made, I thought it was what I had to do! But far from making things easier, I actually became overwhelmed very quickly. I was taking on so much information without the ability to act on all of it. I was attempting to learn to run, before I could even walk. Running challenges, growing an email list, onboarding new clients - I was learning about all of this before I even knew what service I was offering! I know now that this is a common trap that new business owners fall into. It’s one that even more experienced business owners go through too as they struggle to delegate or outsource. Some call it perfectionism, others call it productive avoidance. Whatever it was, it didn’t serve me. But what it did do was help me to be more discerning about where I focus my attention. It also helped me to realise that I’m not good at everything. Some things, no matter how much I wished I could do them myself, are just not worth the agro.

  2. Opening a facebook group without knowing why When I set up my business - and still now almost a year later in fact - Facebook groups were the ‘in’ thing. Everyone was running one, hosting challenges in it, and generating leads as a result. Inspired by my recent revelation that action is better than learning, I decided I’d give it a try. But after a few months of repeated weekly threads and the odd guest live, I found the group feeling more like a chore than something that fitted easily into my business. I closed the group, being honest about where I preferred to spend my time. You know what? Everyone was supportive. As fellow business owners, they got the fact that I needed my actions to be aligned to my energy. For a lot of people, the Facebook group model works like a charm. But like every single marketing and lead generation tactic out there, it’s only right for the people who really suit it. There's also loads of different ways of implementing these strategies, as I found out later on when I had another go at running a FB group. I now run another FB group that is wayyy more aligned to how I like to create content and interact with my audience. For a while I thought that running a FB group simply wasn't for me, but it turns out that by doing it my way and not trying to replicate how other people were running their groups, it's really fun! I think this is a lesson about running a business generally, not just opening a Facebook group. Just because it works for others, doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to work for me - whether that’s groups, memberships, email lists, blogging, you name it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!! For this reason, I don’t believe that blogging is right for everyone - even though this will mean some people choose not to work with me. So when potential clients approach me, I’ll take the time to understand why they want to invest in my service, and be very honest if I don’t think it’s for them. If I can, I’ll even recommend a different service-provider who might be better suited for them.

  3. Paying for memberships before knowing what I’d get from them When I first set up my business, I didn’t even see it as a business: I was a freelance proofreader. Not a business owner. And as a proofreader, I knew I needed to be a member of the governing body for that profession. I didn’t even think about it, I spent a couple of hundred pounds on membership for the year and enrolled on an online course so that I’d be able to move up into the higher tiers of membership to be eligible to receive work through it. But here’s the thing: I didn’t really need to do that, not straight away. In fact, I never even got round to completing the course I’d enrolled on. So the membership and the course was money down the drain. If I’d waited maybe 4 or 5 months, I would have been offering something entirely different as a service, and would know that my money would have been better spent elsewhere. But this, of course, was a huge learning. So even though I hate to waste money, I don’t regret this mistake. At the time, I believed I was doing the right thing for my work and my future prospects. It has also taught me to look carefully and ask lots of questions before investing in anything like a membership. Is this the right move for me? Is it the right time for me to be investing in something like this? It’s these questions that I encourage my clients to ask before investing in my services too, because I believe so strongly that we must have the right answers to them before parting with our money.

  4. Listening to everyone’s advice Listening to good advice from trusted sources is always worth doing, and rarely a mistake. The mistake here was that I tried to listen to advice from EVERYONE. Anyone who was giving advice about business, earning money, marketing, sales, I was making notes and trying to act on it. But as we all know, there is more than one way to run a business. In fact, there are countless ways you can run a business, especially a microbusiness that you run by yourself. So instead of taking in all that info like popeye and his spinach, I just got completely overwhelmed. Often, two very established and reliable sources would contradict each other - how was I supposed to know which was right?! I decided that the best way forward was to pick a system that felt good and just follow that. I shut out all other ways of being and found that by doing this, I was far better off.

  5. Forgetting that I can work to my schedule, not everyone else’s To begin with, I was determined to start work every day at 8:30am and work ‘til 6pm, with a short lunch break. But, as many of you may have found, working flat out all day every day in a pandemic isn’t something I felt up to every day. Soon enough, I was pushing that start time back to 9am, or 9:30, and feeling utterly crap about it. I’m sure if I tried long enough and hard enough, I could make myself into a morning person. But early starts were one of the things I hated most about my employed gig, and a massive factor in deciding to work for myself. So recently, I decided that I wouldn’t have a start time and an end time. Instead, I’d have my important tasks for the day, and as long as they were done, I’d had a good day at work. I think this works on many levels, not just how you schedule your day. Some people’s business takes off quickly and suddenly they have loads of clients. Others take a little longer to get established and really find their niche. Comparing the size of your email list or your monthly income to someone else is a totally pointless exercise. It makes you feel like crap, and undermines all the amazing stuff you’ve achieved simply because there’s some other stuff you haven’t yet. This lesson is one I have to teach myself again and again. It’s hard not to compare, but the day you can manage to leave that mindset behind is the day you’ll start to fly. I find that my clients have learnt this lesson about blogging. For too long, they’ve had “write blog” written in their weekly schedule, two words that feel like a slap in the face every time they don’t manage to get round to it. So, instead of letting that continue, they’ve let go of the pressure to write their own blog and instead asked me to help them. The feeling of relief when they realise they can get rid of that slot in their calendar is palpable every time we start work.

So there you have it: my biggest mistakes so far in business.

The funny thing is, writing them out like this has made me realise that I don’t actually regret any of them. Each mistake was really just me learning on the job. I’ve still got a long way to go, but if I learn this much every time I make a mistake, I think I might be doing ok after all.

How I’m putting these lessons into action

You might have noticed that most of these lessons inspired how I help my audience as well as how I run my business.

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