7 Lessons First-Time Entrepreneurs Learn the Hard Way While Starting a Business
Being an entrepreneur is popular as ever these days. Everyone wants to say they are an entrepreneur until it’s time to do what entrepreneurs do — and that’s take an idea, bring it to market and scale. It’s difficult! While starting an LLC is the first step in your entrepreneurial journey, you may find yourself coming to a screeching halt at some point, forced to navigate around roadblocks. So how will you handle the obstacles?
We’ve got seven tips based on some common lessons learned by new entrepreneurs, which can hopefully help you bypass some of the hard work. If you fall victim to one of the pitfalls below, it can slow down your progress or derail your business altogether. Let’s learn from others’ mistakes.
1. Thinking the Process of Building a Successful Business Is Going to Be Quick
One of the first tips for entrepreneurs to grasp and understand is that entrepreneurship and starting a business is a marathon, not a race. If you think you’re going to start a business and all of a sudden become an “overnight success,” you’re going to be extremely disappointed and will quickly find yourself frustrated. “Overnight success” is a rarity and is like finding a unicorn. The tough thing to realize is that most people only see the end result (your success) and not the grind and work (over many years) to get there.
The best lessons for entrepreneurs come in the form of patience. You want to be able to visualize your goals and work towards accomplishing them. View everything as one step at a time. Nothing in life is easy, and nothing worth building is done overnight.
2. Wearing Every Hat and Having Your Hands in Every Aspect of the Business
While there’s nothing wrong with being a solopreneur, the fact is, you can’t do everything yourself and build a gigantic business. There are simply not enough hours in the day for you to tackle every project for your business. Instead, find your strengths, focus on them and delegate everything else.
If you are great at sales, focus on selling. If not, hire a salesperson. If you are good at marketing, concentrate on marketing. If not, hire someone. Freelancers, especially today, are in high abundance. Look to sites like Fiverr and Upwork to find independent contractors who can take on projects in their area of expertise.
3. Not Using Contracts
When you speak to entrepreneurs who have been around the block for a while, you’ll likely hear a horror story or two about not utilizing business contracts and getting burned.
Without a contract, it’s your word versus a customer, vendor or client. Words can be misconstrued, and when there is a misunderstanding, it could sever the relationship. Always have contracts in place to ensure all parties understand what is expected. It’s also your lifeline when trying to get paid. Without a contract, you could be left high and dry and never get a penny from a customer (it happens more than you’d imagine).
A best practice is to have a lawyer draft up all of the contracts you will need to run and operate your business. Lawyers can be expensive, however. Incfile offers a template library of 25+ legal documents that are written by a business attorney. If you form your LLC with Incfile, these documents are included in our Platinum package, or you can purchase them as an add-on service.
4. Thinking Social Media Can’t Help Your Business
Social media is incredibly powerful and one of the greatest tools for entrepreneurs to leverage. When you start up your business, you may not have a lot of capital to play with, unfortunately. Many new entrepreneurs skip marketing their business because they don’t think they have the money.
But one of the benefits of leveraging social media is that it’s FREE. You can create a business profile, seek out customers or clients to engage with and effectively market your business online without spending any money.
Figure out which platforms your customers/clients are on the most and use them. If you’re starting a freelance writing business, LinkedIn and Twitter are probably your best bet. If you’re starting a home remodeling business, Facebook and Instagram may be more appropriate.
Promote your products or services on your page, use testimonials when you have them to create authority in the industry and be sure to ALWAYS engage with anyone who comments on your social media pages. Social media is not a set it and forget it tool. Not responding to comments and questions can make your customers feel as if you don’t appreciate them and may lead them to shop elsewhere.
5. Handling Bookkeeping, Accounting and Taxes Yourself
Circling back to what was touched on in #2, one of the tough lessons for entrepreneurs to learn is that they can’t do everything. It is in your best interest to hire others when you can to help out. This is especially relevant for areas like accounting and taxes, which can have many consequences if they’re not done correctly. Not to mention, many entrepreneurs simply don’t have time to do all of their bookkeeping themselves.
Many business owners turn to accounting software to help. These programs can provide direction on what information you need to be collecting and reporting. They can even assist with filing your taxes.
Utilizing an accountant is another avenue to explore. Incfile offers a Business Accounting and Bookkeeping service that handles all of your accounting and tax needs. We can take that burden off of your shoulders and allow you to focus on other areas of your business. We’ll handle the quarterly bookkeeping, reconcile business accounts and prepare and file your tax return.
6. Believing Everything Will Be Fine and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen
As Murphy’s Law will tell you, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” One of the best tips for entrepreneurs is that you need to prepare for the worst but expect the best. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. You have ups and downs. Nothing stays consistent. The market changes. You lose clients. You gain clients. Your expenses go up. Your social media ad campaign isn’t working. An employee calls in sick, and a big project is due today. Or worse, an employee quits.
Always have a backup plan for all aspects of your business. If someone is out sick, have someone who can step up and fill in when needed. They don’t need to be an expert at it, but they should be proficient enough to be able to continue with the project. A/B test your ad campaigns and see which is working better. Then A/B test the one you found is producing more sales or leads and test it against something else. You always want to be prepared for anything. That also means keeping some money put aside if something happens, and you have an expense pop up that you didn’t budget for.
Surprises can hurt your business, but if you plan ahead, you’ll be much better off in the long run.
7. Not Changing and Adapting with the Times
A first-time entrepreneur needs the ability to adapt their business. When you start a business, it can be exciting to get going. However, don’t let your excitement place blinders over your eyes. You want to continue to see the big picture and change as needed. Business is a very fluid structure. Those who run their business like an arrow shot out of a bow may not last long. Be like water — easy to adapt to the changing environment around it.
As the market changes, the industry changes and the customer need(s) changes, you must adapt. If you stay narrowly focused, you’re going to miss the pivot going on and will fall behind and be left in your competitors’ dust.
Change isn’t a bad thing. The key is to pay attention to the business forecast, notice trends and make the adjustments early, so you’re ahead of the curve and evolving with the times.
Are you ready to start your LLC and turn your idea into a business? Incfile can form your business for $0 + state fee. There’s no better time than right now to build the business of your dreams!