5 things I’d do differently if I were to start over

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I don’t know how many of you know this, but I actually used to have a product-based business, which I closed down in early 2017. I’m actually really glad that business didn’t work out because I now have a business that I LOVE a million times more. And, I learnt a few hundred things that I don’t think I would have figured out otherwise. So, today I’m celebrating hindsight and sharing with you 5 things I would do differently if I were to start my first business over again.

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5 things I’d do differently if I were to start over

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I don’t know how many of you know this, but I actually used to have a product-based business which I closed down in early 2017. I’m actually really glad that that business didn’t work out because I now have a business that I love a million times more, and in the process, I learnt a few hundred things that I don’t think I would have figured out otherwise. It’s pretty funny when you think about it – I’ve spent maybe 7 or 8 years studying various business qualifications; first my bachelor’s, then I got halfway through a postgrad diploma before I quit corporate life, and then my master’s degree. And yet, I think I actually learnt more in my first year of business than I did in any of these qualifications.

Today, I’m celebrating hindsight, and I’m sharing with you five things that I would do totally differently if I were to start my first business over again.

#1: I wouldn’t rush into launching

I don’t know what was going through my mind around launch time. It was like I had this idea, and I felt like I had to launch it right away or someone else would steal my idea. It was ridiculous. To give you an idea of the rush, I had the idea for this business in late January 2016, and I planned to launch it in mid-March. I ended up launching at the start of April, simply because I was hospitalised for a week with a really, really bad kidney infection around the end of February. Oh, and did I mention I was still working full-time in a corporate job, doing fairly big hours? It’s no wonder I got as sick as I did. I was getting up at 4am every day to work on my new business, and then I was working late into the night after work.

So, if you take one thing from this, don’t rush your launch. There is no need to put that kind of pressure on yourself, and honestly, you’re going to end up doing a subpar job just because you don’t have the time to do things properly.

#2: I would invest money in professional branding

I started the product-based business with less than $5,000 in the bank. I’d literally just bought an apartment, and I’d spent whatever money I had left over furnishing my apartment. So, naturally, I DIY-ed my logo, my colour palette, my packaging and pretty much everything – and it looked like amateur hour. This meant I could only really charge amateur-level prices. Having studied marketing, I knew that branding was important, but I made a huge mistake – I dismissed branding as being for the Nikes or the Apples of the world, not for small startups like mine.

So, if I were to do it again, I would get a proper graphic designer – not someone on Fiver or Upwork. I would get a proper brand designer to create my brand and strategy.

#3: I would focus less on the followers and more on the connection I’m building with them

Because this was back in 2016, I managed to grow the Instagram account organically to 20,000 followers in under a year. These days, you would consider that a good effort. The thing was, I had all these followers, but I didn’t really capture their hearts. I wasn’t clear on my brand messaging, my story, my “why”, my vision, or any of the other things you’ve probably dismissed as not being very important. Take it from me: They are far more important than you realise.

#4: I would outsource more

It’s really fun being the customer service person and the accounts receivable person and the invoices person and the packing and shipping person and the marketing person – said no one ever!

If you’re trying to do a million different things, you’re inevitably going to be mediocre at all of them. Yes, I’m well aware that outsourcing costs money, and money is a luxury most of us don’t have in the early days of business, but you can’t grow quickly if you’re trying to do everything yourself. You don’t have to go and hire a team of full-time staff; just start with freelancers or contractors or whatever suits your business best and go from there. I really struggled with delegating, and it’s something I still do struggle with. But maybe if I hadn’t been the person packing 100 orders on my living floor one night, I would still be running that business.

#5: I’d spend more time getting to know my ideal customer

Honestly, I created a product that wasn’t really solving anyone’s problems, and it was a product that nobody really needed. And, because I didn’t have my branding spot-on, it wasn’t really a product that people wanted that much, either. Had I got to know my ideal customer a bit better, I might have taken a different approach to creating and marketing the products, or I might have saved myself a lot of heartache and just skipped the idea altogether.

So I hope you learned something from these mistakes. I certainly have, and let’s just say that my current businesses are a big improvement.

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November 7, 2018

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