A version of this first appeared here on my Entrepreneur.com column.
We all make mistakes — it’s part of life, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. This game is far from a cakewalk.
Mistakes can end up costing you time and money, while also causing you to miss out on opportunities. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the early days of my entrepreneurial journey. Here are five early mistakes I made — don’t make the same ones.
1. I tried to do everything myself (and I foolishly thought I could).
I thought I was unstoppable — working 18 hour days and living on Red Bull washed down with pre-workout supplements for non-stop energy. Instead of helping my business, I was burning myself out and living an unhealthy lifestyle.
The sooner you can come to terms with the fact that you can’t do it all and learn to delegate tasks, the better off you will be. I put people in place that were exceptionally good at what they did, and assigned them to handle applicable tasks, which cleared my plate. This allowed me to not only better allocate my time to work on the business, but to create a healthy work-life balance as well.
2. I didn’t spend enough time building relationships.
When I first launched my marketing agency, I thought of the competition as enemies. I wanted to crush everyone. I would get emails from founders at other agencies wanting to network and discuss strategies. Selfishly (and foolishly), I deleted every single one.
Over the years, some of the most beneficial relationships I built were with other industry professionals, and today, some of my close friends work in the industry. There is so much to gain from networking and bouncing ideas back and forth — take the time to network in person at conferences or at the very least, join industry related Facebook groups.
3. I didn’t understand that my time was priceless.
This is a common mistake many entrepreneurs make, and I chalk it up to excitement — you want to talk to everyone that shows interest in what you are doing. The trouble though, is that when you give away your time for free, you are pulling it away from your business.
When I started my marketing agency and we were a service provider, I would speak to every business owner that inquired about what we offered. There were no qualification steps in place to ensure the potential customer had the budget to hire an agency. Over time, we implemented qualifying questions into our lead forms. Throughout the years, my company has evolved into a consulting agency and I now charge for my time.
4. I didn’t put enough effort into building my personal brand on social media.
I knew the importance of social media from day one, but I focused on building and engaging through accounts for the company. I completely ignored my own personal profiles, which was a huge mistake. Today, all of my social media energy is focused on my personal accounts, with the majority of my focus on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
You can have social profiles for your brand, but you can’t neglect your personal social media. Personal branding is so important today, and social media is a huge component of that — most consumers would rather interact with a person, rather than a faceless company account.
5. I didn’t see the big long-term picture.
When I first started, I was so focused on the “now” that I failed to think long-term. My agency offered every digital marketing service under the sun — from SEO and social media management to website design and pay-per-click management.
It would have been wiser to specialize in just a few services and focus on growing them, which we eventually did. Over the years, we limited our offerings, eventually eliminating all services and becoming an online marketing consulting agency. Try to look ahead three to five years when making decisions — it’s something I wish I did from the beginning.