You're the boss: now don't screw up! Small business mistakes to avoid

May 13, 2015

What’s the biggest threat to a freelance or entrepreneurial business? Hint: It’s not unreasonable clients, slow pay rates or competition. It’s the big kahuna – you.

Here are three pitfalls to avoid as you build your business.

Lack of a concept. I’m not talking about five-year plans, projections, or other doorstop-sized documents (although you may eventually need these). I mean a business idea that can be written on a napkin.

Here’s mine: Provide exceptional content to clients who won’t compromise on quality. These ten words direct everything I do. Provide: I provide copy — I don’t necessarily write it. This makes my business scalable and gives me the capability to handle large projects.

Exceptional content: Not every project requires highly intelligent, beautifully crafted language. I offer a premium product that commands a premium price. Clients who won’t compromise on quality: Rather than marketing to a specific sector, I target the top-tier players in industries where I have experience and contacts.

**Poor pricing. **I know a talented medical copywriter who freelances for academic publications. She charges $30 an hour “because that’s what the market will bear.” Another writer friend, with a similar background, charges $125 an hour working for pharmaceutical companies. When he heard about the academic writer, he called and offered to outsource his overflow to her for twice her current rate. She refused because “It felt like a sell-out” and “I want to control my own client relationships.”

The moral is, maybe it’s your pricing structure – maybe it’s your market – and maybe it’s your attitude. If you are charging less than you should, chances are you’re self-sabotaging.

Failure to build the appropriate pipeline. Most of us market our services to some extent. But are you fishing where the fish are biting – reaching out to prospective clients who a) need your services and b) are willing to pay for them? In my case, joining the local chamber of commerce might be fun, but most small businesses won’t be able to afford my services. I’m better off attending major conferences and building connections at well-funded, status-conscious organizations.

Creating a concept, pricing structure and pipeline that will support your business is hard work. So after you’ve got them on paper, why not take the rest of the day off? After all, you’re the boss.