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  • Writer's picturemelissaholmescreative

Five mistakes small business owners make, and how to avoid them

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Running your own business? Whether you're a kitchen table start-up or a high-flying entrepreneur, here are the five main mistakes I see small business owners and freelancers make – and how to prevent them.

I’ve been my own boss for 16 years. I’ve worked with all sorts of businesses – coaches, gift-based businesses, artists, yoga teachers, large retailers, makers, charities, builders… The list goes on. I work mostly with female founders though; women who’ve often started their business to fit round their kids or their own wellbeing, and who want website copy, blogs, social posts or emails that sound like them. As you'll appreciate, I’ve seen (and been guilty of making!) plenty of business mistakes over the years…

These are the five mistakes I see most from my clients and other small business owners... and how you can avoid them.

1. Thinking we can do it all.

We’ve been sold the myth that we can do it all and have it all. The truth is, it’s damn hard. Running a business, sometimes holding down an additional job at the same time, managing a household, general adulting, raising a family… It’s knackering. We can’t do it all – not unless we want to burn out. Hiring support and outsourcing (whether that’s a VA for your biz or a cleaner for your home) is one way to earn more bucks by focusing on your zone of genius and saving your energy for your business so you have time and energy to focus on the other important things in life. 

2. Staying in our own bubble.

Whether it’s spending all day at home working working working (guilteee!) or only communicating with others in our field, it’s easy to narrow down our view. Try to create space that allows you to get out and about, interact with others and gain new experiences, contacts and viewpoints. You can do this through in-person or online networking or co-working (I recommend SmallBizBigChat if you're in Glasgow, or Being Freelance and Doing It For The Kids), or maybe getting out and working in a different place (gotta love how a change of scene skyrockets your productivity).

3. Looking at our competition.

Comparison is the thief of joy, right? Something I’ve learned recently is there’s no such thing as competition in business. Sure, if someone rips off your ideas, there’s a competition comparison to be made there. But in terms of what you offer and how you offer it, you have no competitors. No one else does it like you. I promise! It’s your superpower. 

4. Not keeping our books up to date.

Ugh, I know right? The tax year is about to end and you haven’t updated your accounts since… last May? You started the tax year with good intentions but it all tailed off when life got in the way. Save yourself the stress. I schedule a Money Management Monday every week and run through all my transactions on @quickbooksuk. When it comes to submitting my tax return, the process takes minutes, not hours (or days, as it used to!). Be kind to yourself by time blocking some time for your accounts each week, rather than having a mass panic every January!

5. Working in our business, not on our business.

You’re so busy making, serving clients, promoting what you do, you just haven’t had time to make a plan for where your business is heading. But taking time out to learn something new, or creating goals that are measurable and time-bound does wonders for your productivity and business. Want to gain 100 new IG followers by the end of the month? Map out the steps you need to get there. Keen to add new subscribers to your mailing list? Dedicate time to devising a great lead magnet to attract them. Want to get ahead of yourself for the next seasonal selling event? Plan your product range, special offers and social posts for the run-up to your busy period (end of term teacher gifts, Christmas stocking fillers, new year wellness services) sooner rather than later!

Want more tips like this? Keen to know how I can help lighten the load and help you with some of it? Check out or visit my Instagram or Facebook for more helpful business advice and freelance stuff!

Alternatively, you can book a power hour with me and we can chat all things business, strategy, marketing and planning – let me help you with some fresh ideas and a new point of view on how to make things better for your business.

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