When starting something new, we all make mistakes. In fact, I believe that one of the best ways to learn something is to try, mess up, and try again. This holds true in relationships - I've learned never to tell my husband "we need to talk" unless I want him to freak out - hobbies - always check to make sure you have the ingredients before cooking - and in business.
But I also believe that regretting mistakes isn't worthy of your time. Instead, you have to learn from them, improve, and move on, something I've had to do many times in my business.
So what are some of my biggest business mistakes?
1. Buying a course before I knew what I wanted to do.
Why It Was a Mistake: I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was desperate to find a way to make money online the easiest way possible.
When I first started Lemon and the Sea, I thought that I wanted to create a DIY blog and make money through ads and sponsors. So I bought a course to teach me exactly how to do that. Now, the course itself isn't to blame for being a mistake - I shouldn't have invested in it until I knew that I wanted to do that long term.
It wasn't until a few months later that I discovered that I was actually passionate about helping other creatives build brands and websites that would help them create a business that they loved (and that I didn't have enough DIY ideas to make a blog work). And now I can better invest in courses and programs that benefit me because I know my goals and my business.
Why I Don't Regret It: Even though I spent money on this course and didn't end up using it in the long-term, it was my first introduction into running an online business. I was able to get behind the scenes of someone else's journey and learn that their business plan wasn't for me.
2. Offering A La Carte services to everyone.
Why It Was a Mistake: I thought that by working with anyone who was willing to pay me would help me build my business, but it just made it harder for me to find what I do best.
My first client - who I am forever grateful for - was also the first time I compromised on my packages and it's been difficult to get back to sticking to how I work best. She came to me for branding, but we ended up only working on a logo design because of her budget. While that was fine at the time, it set me up to believe that I wouldn't be able to sell larger packages because people couldn't afford them.
That meant that every time I quoted a project, I would second guess every detail and talk myself into charging less even though I knew my services were valuable.
Why I Don't Regret It: By taking on A La Carte projects, I was able to work with a variety of clients and learn who I worked best with and how I could best serve them.
3. Setting up a 50% deposit, 50% at completion payment plan.
Why It Was a Mistake: I wasn't able to bring in a steady income and my clients weren't held responsible for delays.
For designers, it's standard to require 50% of a project quote for a deposit and then invoice for the remainder before delivering final files to a client. That's what I had seen from everyone at the time I started Lemon and the Sea and it was what I set up as well.
But I found out pretty quickly that invoicing that way makes it really difficult for me to have a steady income because my payments are tied to delivering on a project, not on the time I put in. Basically, by charging only 50% up front and then doing all the work before getting paid again, I run the risk of doing 90% of the work and then having a client refuse to pay.
Charging this way also means that when a project is delayed because a client isn't able to meet their deadlines, I lose out on money I expected to have.
Why I Don't Regret It: I've learned a better way that benefits both me and my clients and I've made that a part of my packages so I can have a consistent income and my clients get the most for their money.
4. Listening to everyone online for advice.
Why It Was a Mistake: I lost my voice in all the noise and forgot that I have a unique point of view.
When I first started working from home, I had no idea what it meant to run an online business, so I filled up on advice from everyone. I watched every webinar, read every blog post, and followed all the advice I could find.
But I was so filled up with noise that I forgot that I had something unique to bring to the table - a mission and a way of doing business that no one else had. I felt like an impostor because I wasn't doing as well as other people and I didn't have the experience everyone else did. And I truly believed that in order to succeed online, I had to create a business that looked like one that I was watching.
Why I Don't Regret It: I learned a lot from all those blogs and webinars and I've also found that my own way is the best one for me.
5. Thinking that investing would be a silver bullet.
Why It Was a Mistake: I assumed that by investing in programs and people, my business would take off without me having to do the work.
After that first course, I was hesitant to invest again, but eventually I did. I was selective in who I hired and what I consumed, but I also believed that simply by putting my money into something, I would see an immediate return.
Of course, that didn't happen. No program or person can make your business grow except you - and that takes time.
Why I Don't Regret It: I enjoyed every investment I made and created some great connections, all while learning that I had to put in the work and rely on God's provision and timing to see growth in my business.
A few things I'm glad I did early
Now that you know the mistakes I made, I thought I'd share some of the smart decisions I made early in my business that have set me up for success.
- Setting up my LLC and getting a business bank account
- Keeping detailed records of purchases and income
- Engaging in Facebook groups and Twitter chats to build relationships
- Finding a group of local creatives that I can connect with
No matter what mistakes you've made, you can always adjust and change for the future. And hopefully you've made enough good decisions so that you're set up for success even when something doesn't go the way you expected.
Lemon and the Sea is a branding and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creatives who enjoy being involved in every step of the process to help them update their brand and website so that it better reflects who they are and what they do. From logo and collateral design to Squarespace websites, I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into their what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a brand that represents them.