The Top 5 First-Year Mistakes.

Even once you’ve got past the starting-up stage, there are still plenty mistakes to be made, and most of them are going to be made in your make-or-break year — the first one. Here are the top five things to avoid.

Waiting for Customers to Come to You.

Too many people wait for their customers to phone, or come to the door, or whatever. They get one or two customers through luck, but nothing like enough to even begin paying their costs. These people sit around, looking at their competitors doing lots of business, and wonder what they’re doing wrong.

You can’t be like this. You have to go out there and actively try to find customers. Talk to people, call them, meet with them — whatever you do, don’t just sit there!

Spending Too Much on Advertising.

So everyone tells you that the only way to get ahead in business is to advertise. Well, that’s true, but you need to make sure that you stick to inexpensive advertising methods when you’re starting out. Spending hundreds of dollars for an ad in the local newspaper might turn out to get you very few new customers, and you will have spent your entire advertising budget on it.

Make your money go further with leaflets, direct mail or email — these are easily targetable campaign methods with high response rates and low costs. Remember that it is always better to spend money on an offer than on an ad, and always better to spend money on an ad than on a delivery method.

Being Too Nice.

When you’re running your own business, it can be tempting to be everyone’s friend, giving discounts at the drop of a hat and making sure that you don’t hassle or inconvenience anyone. That’s all well and good, until you find that your Good Samaritan act has just halved your profit margin without lowering the cost to the customer by very much at all.

Sometimes, you need to realise that you’ve got to be harsh to make a profit. Give people discounts to encourage them to buy or to come back, not because you like them or feel sorry for them. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless in your pursuit of home business success. Nice guys don’t finish last, but they are running in a different race — one with much less prize money. If that doesn’t bother you, of course, then feel free to go for it.

Not Using the Phone.

You’d be surprised just how common phone fears are — if you’re scared of the phone, you’re not alone by any means. Many people are terrified of making phone calls, and avoid them wherever possible. I have seen more than one home business owner reduced to tears on the phone and trying desperately to hide it from the customer.

You need to try your best to overcome your fears, as talking to customers on the phone is almost as good as meeting them for real. Letters and emails are useless by comparison. The best way to overcome phone fears varies from person to person, but it can often be as simple as making the phone fun, by calling friends and relatives often for a while and getting used to it. Alternatively, try working in telemarketing for a while — if that doesn’t make normal phone use look like a walk in the park by comparison, then nothing will.

Hiring Professionals for Everything.

It can be tempting to think that, since you’re starting out, you should just find a company or person to do every little thing you need. People seem to especially overspend on design services.

You might think it’d be great to have fancy graphics all over your website, but would it really increase sales? If I saw it, it would put me right off. Likewise, a slick brochure often fails to say anything more than ‘I’m going to charge you a premium to pay for my expensive brochures’. Don’t hire someone unless you can demonstrate that the service they’re going to provide will increase your profits by more than the amount you’re spending — if you’re not sure, try it yourself first, and you can always upgrade it later.

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