Top 10 Mistakes Creative Entrepreneurs Make in their First Year

It's amazing how much you can learn in just a year of being an entrepreneur. Many do's and don'ts. Owning your own business is hard and it takes faith that success takes time and does not happen overnight. Here are a few things that I learned from my first year of being an entrepreneur. Hopefully these tips can help save you time of frustration in your own journey.

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1. Have Systems for EVERYTHING

Ok. This sounds like super DUH. But there is more to it. I have always been a pretty organized person. At least to the average person’s standards. I was never really OCD, but I knew where everything was & I was never late to things. Always five minutes early. Always prepared.

This all sorta went down the drain when I had my twins. I found myself talking on my phone to my husband all frustrated & complaining to him that “I can’t find my phone!”. I know really dumb sounding but, that’s what happens when you’re a new mom of twins. I lost my keys like all the time, only to find they were in the bottom of my purse or in my pocket the whole time.

It was not so much that I was not organized, because everything had a place. But there were no defined systems in place. Whenever you go through a transition in life you have to figure out what works best. I was still moving things around in my kitchen cabinets a year into the house to find a better flow.

The same goes for your business. You should have a defined system & order of doing things, even down to writing your blog posts. For instance, perhaps you outline it first, then you write it, then you create your graphics, then you post it & email it out to your list, then you post it to social media. Whatever that system is, write it out & follow it. Things will go a lot smoother. I promise.

2. You Have to Invest Money to Make Money

Okay, this one took me probably the longest to realize. I heard people say it over & over again but I was too stubborn to really understand why & listen. With our family wallet being pretty tight with school loans, & the twins hospital bills from when they were short-lived NICU babies, even investing $5 for something that I could easily take the time to do myself seemed so crazy. I have always been a money saver & spending what seemed like unnecessary money to me was just out of the question. I have heard those stories of multi million dollar companies that started out on their own & only invested a few hundred dollars. They did it! Why couldn’t I?

What I did not understand was the time factor. Of course you can probably grow your business without spending money & doing it all on your own but, the amount of time to get you there is CRAZY more than if you just invested. PLUS the thing with investments are, if they are good ones, they will get your money back & much more. That’s why they are called INVESTMENTS.

3. You Cannot Do It On Your Own

A lot of new entrepreneurs see people on Instagram that have HUGE followings & think that they can get there too with smart promoting & marketing. The truth is, everyone started at the bottom sometime. AND guess what? Those people you envy that are big now? Well, they did not get there on their own. The best way to grow your audience is through sharing, supporting, collaboration & networking. To get in front of another audience, start sharing other's work that you admire & that is something your audience would like too. This will build relationships with them & most of the time, after you build relationships, they will start sharing your work to their audience in return.

4. Don’t Price Yourself like Your Client Has your Wallet

I know it is really easy to underprice your work as a creative entrepreneur. We feel like if we put our prices at what we think we are worth, we won’t get any clients. That is not true at all. When you price your services or products what they are worth, you will gain you IDEAL clients & lose the ones that are so doggone hard to work with - you know...the ones that suck the life out of you. Yes, them. You won’t have to work with them. Stop pricing yourself like you are the one having to pay for it. Because not everyone’s wallet is the size of yours.

5. Niche Down

Honestly, this was such a hard concept for me to grasp but once I did it, there were no regrets! It was downright awesome & freeing. Instead of having all these different projects floating around in your head, you can focus on your passion & put all your energy & time into that one thing to make it great quality!

Niching down also allows for you to hook up with the most awesome people - AKA your target audience. When you niche down, your services or products appeal to only a certain type of person instead of having a whole bunch of services that a whole lot of people are interested in. You end up getting to work for the people you WANT to work for. You become a better creative entrepreneur & your clients are happier. I found that once I niched down, I felt like my purpose was really clear. Your time is so valuable so do what you really love, not everything you know how to do.

6. Only Take Jobs That Fit

I used to take every job I could get. Like I said, our wallet was very tight. However, once I niched down, the less job inquiries I got that were NOT what I wanted. When I did get one, I had to learn to say, “I’m sorry. I do not do that type of work. This is what I do. I can do this for you or here is someone who is really good at that.”. Always refer them to someone else. Don’t just leave them hanging. Even if you have to do some research.

7. Create Detailed Contracts

A lot of new creative business owners are afraid to email out a contract in the beginning of a project because they are afraid it will look or sound really cold hearted. Well, tough love. You are a BUSINESS. Every business has to deal with the legal side of things & protect their own butts. I don't have too many client stories where I had to pull out the contract over an issue but boy I am glad that my butt was covered when I did have to.

Make sure your contract covers everything you can think of. When I drew up mine, I googled some examples. Make sure you do not copy someone else’s though because a lot of times that is illegal in itself. Many businesses sit down with a lawyer & write their contract, paying big money. So please, don’t steal their property. Use it as a guide to see what issues to cover in yours.

8. Be Upfront that Your Services are not Free

Believe it or not, I have been offered jobs before where someone heard what I do & asked if I was interested in working with them doing XYZ, & it turns out it was voluntary work. The offers that seemed like obvious pay work were always super exciting & it is so easy to say “YES! Absolutely!” However, I want to caution you not to agree to that too soon. Instead, say a more professional answer like “ Yes, I would love to sit down with you & discuss my process & package pricing to see how I can help you.” This makes sure that there is no miscommunication over your work being for free for some ridiculous reason. Don’t learn the hard way like I did. It does not have to be awkward at all. Just be confident & straight-forward.

9. Don't Get Too Excited Until the Money is in Hand

I have had many potential customers tell me they are very interested in XYZ. I get super excited & tell my husband that I just got a new client. Well, I learned not to get excited until you have a signed contract & a check in hand to start. A lot of times these seemingly very promising clients just drop off the face of the earth & never return your emails or they come back & say that they don’t have the money at this time & they will get back to you. Then they never do. Even when you follow up a month later. It is always frustrating to me when businesses do not respond to emails but all I can do is make sure I respond to mine.

10. Be Active About Searching & Promoting

Don’t think that every customer is going to come to you. They won’t. You need to be engaging with your audience & following them through social media & emailing. You NEVER need to be all promotional & no value. Make sure you are not one of those annoying multi-level marketing people who never leave you alone & just promote, promote, promote with no value. :)

Melissa McKenzieComment