I've made many mistakes in my entrepreneurial journey. And I have learned valuable lessons from each of them. Hopefully, you can learn from some of them so you don't have to make the same ones yourself!
Mistake #1: Starting out without a clear plan.
When I first decided to try my hand at being self-employed, I had no idea how to start or even what type of business I should try. Almost my entire career at that point had been spent in the US Navy, in a skill that did not necessarily transfer well to civilian life and certainly not as an entrepreneur. As a consequence, I tried everything I heard of - coaching (hard to do when you don't know anything), affiliate marketing, network marketing, blogging for money. You name it and if I had heard of anyone making money from it, I tried it. The only problem with that is if you don't have an idea of where you are going and plan to get there, you tend to scatter yourself all over the place and never focus on any one thing long enough to become successful.
Lesson learned: Take the time to determine exactly what your business is, set your goals, and then determine a plan to get there. It may seem slow starting, but trust me, you will be successful much more quickly!
Mistake #2: Listening to anyone who was making more than me.
It's true that there are many VERY successful home-based entrepreneurs. And it's also true that once many of them reach a certain level of success (or even when they haven't), they decide to add coaching and training to their business model. This means there are LOTS of people out there telling you what to do to build a business. And I listened to all of them. Some of them actually knew what they were teaching and were helpful. Many really didn't but just saw coaching as a way to make more money. But, just like trying many different types of businesses, trying many different methods of marketing before you understand even one of them is like throwing a handful of darts blindly at a target. You throw all of it out there and hope something sticks.
Lesson learned: Twofold on this one. First, just because someone is successful doesn't necessarily mean they are able to teach you to do the same. Find a coach or mentor that is right for you and stick with them.
Second, learn one skill at a time. Master it before you move on to the next. Again, you will get impatient as it seems slow in the beginning. But once you become the expert and start seeing results, you will be glad you did it this way.
Mistake #3: Focusing on money instead of providing real value.
Yes, we are all in business to make money. But I was so desperate to make my business work, I tried things and sold products that in my heart I knew just weren't right. And because of that my efforts were lackluster at best. Not to mention that the people who did come to me weren't satisfied. Who knows how much damage that did to my reputation and how long it took to overcome that perception?
Lesson learned: Focus on providing real service and value to as many people as possible. Instead of setting a goal to make as much money as possible, set a goal to change as many lives as possible. When you give and create value, the money will come. Promise!
Mistake #4: Buying every course, book, and program marketed to me in the hopes that I would find the one that would change my life.
Now I have a closet full of courses, books, and programs that I have never even opened - and a lot less money in my bank account. I didn't make myself any richer but I sure lined the pockets of many internet marketers.
Lesson learned: Before you join another program, enroll in another “opportunity”, or buy another product, ask yourself these questions.
1. Does this add to or complement your existing business? If the answer is no, cover your eyes and walk away!
2. What will you have to give up to make time for the new project? If you can't fit the new project in your day and don't have anything you can give up to open a bit of time, turn your head because this is not for you.
3. Will it generate enough profit to make it a worthwhile investment of your time? While you cannot guarantee that a project will make money, sometimes you can make an educated guess.
4. Are you willing to devote the time and effort it will take to make this worthwhile? There is no such thing as an easy, overnight path to riches. There is no magic button, no secret formula. It will take time and work. If you don’t want to give up either of those, move on!
Mistake #5: Trying to be someone I'm not.
I saw how successful people acted. How they presented themselves. How they spoke, and wrote, and interacted with others. I tried to be lots of different people in the beginning. Ken McArthur. Felicia Slattery. Bob Jenkins. Many others. Surprisingly, I failed each and every time.
Lesson learned: I am not any of those people. But I am the best "me" around! Sure, I can learn some things from each of them. But I am most comfortable - and most successful - when I acknowledge that I am a boomer-aged, slight nerdy (ok very nerdy), somewhat irreverent, woman who tries not to take life too seriously, who cares passionately about her family, friends, team, and customers. I have a penchant for speaking bluntly which some can find disconcerting. I love words and use them sometimes just because I like the way they sound - which some find pompous and arrogant. I can be somewhat impatient with you when you don't seem to want your success as badly as I want it for you. And I make mistakes. Lots of them.
What about you? What mistakes have you made? What have you learned from them? Maybe you don't want to talk about them, but maybe - just maybe - we can all learn something from them!