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10 Mistakes Aspiring Entrepreneurs Make (and How to Avoid Them)

Want to become a successful entrepreneur?

Then you need to know what not to do.

If you’re new to building your own business, it’s easy to make rookie mistakes—the ones that come from thinking too much, overcomplicating decisions, and having the wrong mindset. And if you make these mistakes once, well, you’re prone to make them again and again.

Which will only push you further from your goals.

Don’t be one of these people.

Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes when starting a business and get that much closer to your start-up dream.

Here’s where even the most ambitious folks go wrong…

 

1. They forget the number one thing needed for a successful business

Most aspiring entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing on themselves instead of their customers. You want to find the intersection between the business you want to create and the needs and wants of your customers.

You should never come up with a business idea just because you think it’s cool.  Most aspiring entrepreneurs fail because they have self-centered tunnel vision about what their business should look like.

Without customers who want what you have to offer, you don’t have a business.

Some ways to avoid this mistake are:

  • Perform market research
    If you don’t see anything similar to your idea online, odds are you don’t have a winning idea. You can use different platforms to validate product ideas like Google Search, Amazon, Quora, Facebook Groups, and more.
  • Talk to your current customers or potential customers
    If you have an audience or customer base to sell to, get feedback from them. If you don’t have an audience or customers, you can use groups and forums to gather ideas. Focus on giving value and asking open-ended questions instead of trying to sell right away.
  • Create a minimum viable product and iterate over time
    After researching your idea,  you want to create an initial product to offer, e.g., a sample of an e-commerce product or version 1.0 of an online course. You can even validate the idea by getting people to pay for a product before you create it.

 

2. They keep spinning their wheels instead of doing this

About a year into my writing career, I decided I wanted to publish a book, my first product. I tried to write one on my own by using free guidance on the internet, but things just didn’t click.

I went looking for answers and found an online course that taught how to write, publish, and market books online. The course cost $1,000, which was a big investment at the time. I decided I’d rather invest money into the program than have to worry about spending $1,000 for the rest of my life.

It worked.

Too many aspiring or beginning entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves without any guidance.

If you can start your business on your own without a coach, program, or mentor, great, but if you find yourself feeling stuck, why not turn to someone who already knows how to do what you’re trying to accomplish?

When you invest in yourself, you send a subconscious signal to your brain that says “I’m serious about this.” That investment creates more motivation to build your business and you pay for the most valuable resource to any aspiring entrepreneur: time.

Sure, you can find information for free to grow your business, but making an investment in business education can speed up the process.

 

3. They don’t understand the counterintuitive element of time

Most aspiring entrepreneurs have poor time horizons. Bill Gates puts it well:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

They think that every step will be just as hard as the initial ones and that the process will remain as difficult the whole time, instead of realizing that the first 20 percent of the journey accounts for 80 percent of the results.

You have to move past the beginner stage where every step is hard, you don’t understand the industry yet, and you’re learning all the skills and micro-skills it takes to get some traction.

Once you have traction—a bit of an audience, leads coming in, some sales, you’ll learn the nuances to be successful over time.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs quit before the first 20 percent of the journey is done.  Then they go through the cycle of starting new ideas, quitting, and starting again, without ever building a viable business.

Get through the 20 percent stage. Spend 90 days straight trying to build your business without taking a day off. Make it to 6 months. By the end of a full year, you’ll be well on your way to building a real business.

 

4. They put themselves in marketing “tactical hell”

You can choose many different business models, e.g., e-commerce, affiliate marketing, or freelance and service businesses. You can promote your business through a number of different platforms and channels, e.g., e-mail marketing, paid ads, SEO. There are a ton of different social media platforms you can use as well.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs try every different strategy, which leaves them bad or mediocre at every strategy. Ramit Sethi calls this ‘marketing tactical hell:’

Marketing tactical hell is what you hear when you hear people say, “You need to do all these things to get your business growing. You need to be on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, social media, email, webinars.” And you’re just like, “What? Where do I start?” “Do them all.”

Don’t listen to them.

That’s marketing tactical hell, where you’re doing a little bit of everything and going nowhere. Deliberate, methodical, systematic. That’s when you say, “You know what? I’m not gonna do most of those things. I’m gonna pick two of the most important things, and I’m gonna become really, really good at them.”

Instead, learn to build a stack:

  • Choose one model
    Focus on one primary business model to work with, create the minimum viable product, try to sell it, then iterate. Don’t switch from e-commerce to affiliate marketing, try to get e-commerce to work.
  • Choose one promotion platform
    You want to choose one platform to attract new leads into your business, either organic or paid. SEO is an example of an organic strategy and Facebook Ads is an example of a paid strategy.
  • Master one social media platform first
    The ROI of trying to get good at one social platform is higher than attempting to get good at all of them.

 

5. They don’t understand the customer’s journey

If you want to build a successful business, you have to understand which part of the journey your potential customers are at. Too many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t take the time to understand marketing and sales.

You need to build a system to move people through the different stages of awareness. You need to understand why they buy and under what circumstances they will buy. You’ll have to learn how long you need to keep them in each stage depending on the product you have.

A $7 e-book requires a different marketing and sales process than a $2,000 online course or a $100,000 B2B contract.

Too many aspiring entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that a product, some ads, and some social media posts are all they need for business success. When you don’t take the time to understand marketing and sales, you’ll always be left in the dark as to why your business isn’t working.

You’re always moving them through a system or a funnel, even if you’re running advertisements for products that are ‘impulse buys.’

Find out which stage your potential customer is in and use the proper techniques to move them to the next stage.

Funnel graphic showing offers for each stage of the buying process (awareness, evaluation, and purchase stages)

Source

 

6. They focus on ‘window dressing’ instead of ‘meat and potatoes’

The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.

—Seth Godin, Linchpin

If you’re not familiar with shipping, read this. The gist? Done is better than perfect.

You don’t need a perfect website to sell products. You don’t need the most polished production to create videos for your YouTube channel. No need for a fancy logo and immaculate business cards. You don’t need to file for an LLC before you’ve sold a product.

You need to create something and try to sell it, period.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs focus on cosmetic problems that don’t move the needle. They do this to distract themselves. They distract themselves because they are afraid.

If you get the core elements of your business right—your product, your offer, your funnel, and your sales system—you can make money to focus on all the cosmetic and secondary items down the road.

Until then, create the bare bones platform you need to get started. Sure, create a nice website or blog, but get it done over a weekend, not months.

Package your product well, but understand the core value proposition matters more.

Good marketing and a shiny website can’t fix a poor product that doesn’t meet the needs or wants of your customers. Focus on what your customers want above all else.

 

7. They take their eyes off the prize and covet the prizes of others

You’ve seen online entrepreneurs post big sales figures that don’t do much more than make you feel envious of them.

Almost all aspiring entrepreneurs compare themselves to other business owners who’ve been in the game longer. Does some other business make $50,000 or $5,000,000 a month? Doesn’t matter.

Try this the next time you feel envious of another business owner. Look into their backstory and see how long they’ve been in business. Then, try to reverse engineer their strategies. Instead of just feeling envy toward them, see if you can learn from them.

Learn the major lesson that success in business takes time. Comparing yourself to other business owners doesn’t do much more than rob you of that time.

Each business owner’s journey is different. Success in business is a combination of luck and skill. You might get different results by trying the exact same strategy as someone else and that’s ok.

Give it enough time, though, and you have high odds of achieving success. Put on blinders when it comes to the success of others and you will get there much faster.

 

8. They mistake effort for progress

Nat Eliason wrote an article about the downfalls of ‘hustle culture’

Here’s a quote from the article:

Struggle porn [is] a masochistic obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working.

Struggle porn has normalized sustained failure. […] Working hard is great, but struggle porn has a dangerous side effect: not quitting. When you believe the normal state of affairs is to feel like you’re struggling to make progress, you’ll be less likely to quit something that isn’t going anywhere.

If you avoid some of the common mistakes when starting a business, like failing to understand your audience and customers, you won’t need to struggle to find success.

Don’t confuse time spent hustling on your business for efficiency and results. Don’t glorify failure either. You don’t want to fail. Sure, failure is part of the process, but not something to wear as a badge of honor.

Also, you need to stay in the game to build your business.

If you work 14 hour days and burn yourself out, you won’t have a business to work on. Yes, there will be times where 14 hour days are required. You will have to stretch yourself. You do need to hustle.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re hustling when you’re being inefficient and working too hard on the wrong business goals.

 

9. They put the cart before the horse

Don’t make a huge deal out of the fact you just started a business. Don’t go announcing it to all your family and friends.

For one, oftentimes saying you’re going to do something makes you feel like you’ve already done it. Derek Sivers talks about this in his TED talk. When you talk a big game, you let yourself off the hook, which prevents you from moving forward.

Second, when you share your ideas with people close to you, they won’t all support you. In fact, some people might try to try to tear your ideas down.

It’s human nature. The crabs in a barrel effect can keep you from pursuing your business goals.

Work on your business, build your little empire, and plot your ‘evil plan’ in silence. Announce your business and projects when they’re either done or have had some success.

Once you’re already successful in your business, then people will want to follow your lead. Sure, some people will still feel envy toward you, but others will start to be curious after you showed them you were, in fact, serious about starting your business.

 

10.  They stay on the launchpad forever

The more you run on the “advice treadmill” looking for answers on how to build your business, without doing anything, the further away you move from your goals.

No amount of information can substitute action. You can read all the business books you want, buy all the programs you want, watch videos, listen to podcasts, but you’ll never know if your idea will work until you try to make it a reality.

This means facing your fears—your fear of rejection, your fear of failure, your deep-seated fear that you’ll launch your idea but nobody will want it.

Most people let that fear stop them from ever starting a business altogether. When you keep trying to ‘get your ducks in a row’ you create anxiety from hesitation.

There’s no perfect answer for how to start or how to get over your fears. You just have to do it. Don’t fall into the trap of constant consumption with no creation. It’s a trap most aspiring entrepreneurs fall into and never get out of.

You can build a successful business. But you’ll never create one if you hesitate for your entire life.

In the words of Zig Ziglar:

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.