If there is one thing you may have in common with a lot of entrepreneurs I meet, it’s this: YOU are killing your business. This is too common with service-related businesses, especially those who offer things related to online marketing and web presence—yes, I’m looking at you all in SEO, SEM, SMM, content, web design, apps, and anything similar to any of this stuff. Your content could be a problem, but it may be worse.
1. You’re a jack of all trades…but master of none.
Offering a lot of sideline, add-on, related services is great—it helps you serve your clients better. But you need a specialty, something you truly excel at if you are a small or medium business because you simply don’t have a team sizeable enough to be good at everything. You won’t be able to be in the know with such divided attention, and the work you do will reflect this. And customers won’t want to pay plumber prices to a DIY-style handyman.
2. You do it all.
Even if you know how (or could easily figure out) how to edit your newest photos, tweak your site’s CSS, and process your payroll, is that the best use of your time? Learning every facet of developing, marketing, and managing your business takes time, and sometimes this time could be better spent on activities that directly make you money. And this also drains your energy, and your work could reflect this. Trust your team—or build a team you trust—and delegate work that is taking you away from the things you love and/or the things you do that make the business profitable.
3. You don’t have an assistant.
I have three assistants—one is a Las Vegas local, and two are virtual assistants. They tackle professional and personal tasks, which allows me to have more time for money-making activities, higher level decision making, and even a little goofing off. Asking them to handle time-consuming stuff including correspondence, research, scheduling, data entry, and setting appointments really frees me up to focus on my business. If you don’t have an assistant, find a VA on Upwork right now.
4. You don’t charge enough.
Rates below market (or below your skill and experience) are killing your business—the slightest bit of overhead will eat those flimsy margins in a minute! Those low rates may even make you less appealing to some clients, as they assume your work will be as cheap as your rates. And clients who aren’t willing to pay an appropriate rate often don’t see the value in what you do, and do you really want to be underpaid and underappreciated? Do research today and adjust your rates accordingly.
5. You don’t network.
Even if you have a robust business from referrals and advertising sources, you need to get out there and network. Even if it’s a small get together you find on Meetup.com, you should take time to talk to other business people in your area or others in your industry. Make friends and allies at these events, and work should eventually follow.
6. You turn down work.
Some work needs to be turned down—things outside the scope of what you do, with impossible expectations, or with no profit should be passed on. I’m talking about completely doable things in your wheelhouse that will make you money—even if it’s a new client or a business of smaller stature than other clients. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, take it. You aren’t a freelancer—you own a business—so shuffle work around, bring on a freelancer, or ask someone to work overtime to get things done.
7. You aren’t getting an education.
If you aren’t evolving, your business will be a dinosaur before you know it. Even if you are nutty busy, take time to attend classes, go to conferences, read books, and seize on other educational opportunities related to your industry. This will keep you competitive, fresh, and relevant.
8. You aren’t looking for more.
Unless you are going out of business, always be seeking new clients. Again, you are an entrepreneur, not a freelancer, so bring someone else aboard if your workload is at capacity and you land a new account. Even if you are completely complacent with what’s up now, what happens if your biggest client drops off? Without smaller accounts to fill in the vacuum (or another big account to help you weather the storm), you’ll end up in the black hole.
9. You’re all about the profits.
Yep, profit is a big part of owning a business, but if that’s your only rationale and motivation for being in business—yikes! Enjoying what you do and being passionate about it will make attract and keep more quality team members and clients. Also, if you care more, it will guide you to make decisions that are really best for the business overall, not just the books. If the human element and a spark is missing, you may find your firm wasting away regardless of how fiscally responsible you are. Consider selling and start up something you care about beyond the bottom line.
10. You’re too much about the people.
It’s good to care about your team, but you need to know when enough is enough. Don’t keep team members on board if they aren’t a good fit. I don’t care how good of a job they used to do or how long you’ve worked with them, if they haven’t been doing good work anymore (or are doing something detrimental to your business), let them go.
11. You aren’t “social.”
You need to have social media accounts for your business…and probably for yourself as an entrepreneur as well. People expect businesses to at least be on Facebook and Twitter, and if you aren’t, these potential clients will question your legitimacy. Working these channels may not make sense for your marketing, but just being on there with minimal posts and interaction is a must.
12. You’re a cruddy client.
You probably rely on other businesses to help you serve existing clients, find new business, or keep things running smoothly. If you don’t pay your bills on time, ask for things last minute, nickel and dime, have poor communication, or ask for preferential treatment, you are running on borrowed time. Be the kind of client you want to have. If you continue with cringe-worthy behavior, those you rely on will start serving up lower quality or will fire you as a client, leaving you scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Oh, and they won’t refer other work to you! I always have folks asking me about specialty SEO firms, and I have one SEO firm constantly asking for referrals, but I’m not sending anyone there! They have two outstanding invoices, constant asks for top tier writers at lower rates, and emails that regularly go unanswered for up to a month.
13. You don’t get professional help.
You should sometimes consult a CPA and an attorney. I am all about the DIY, but these folks can save you a lot of money, hassle, and heartache—even though you may have to pay a bit upfront. This will make so much more sense the first time you are sued or audited.
14. You’re constantly selling.
You want to be always on the lookout for new clients, but not everyone is a new client. Save the sales pitch for when someone asks for it, otherwise it’s a big turn off. Instead be friendly, genuine, and helpful, and when someone asks for what you do, they will be much more receptive.
15. You act big.
Your team of three may get it all done, but a 30-strong team is more impressive to some. That makes acting big tempting, but that is a lot of work and a ton of embarrassment when you are called out. Be proud of your accomplishments and broadcast them, but don’t act like something you’re not. Own who you are and where you are going.
16. You do whatever it is you were dreading seeing on this list.
This list isn’t exhaustive, so you may have been reading this with baited breath, waiting to see your faux pas as one of my points. And maybe you didn’t. That doesn’t mean you aren’t killing your business—it just means that I got tired of typing. So stop it. Just stop it now.