1. Not creating an office separate
from the rest of the house.
Imagine yourself in a regular office, and answer the following
- You wouldn't be able to unwind in your office cubicle,
- How focused on work would you be if 8 loads of laundry,
a pile of dirty dishes, and the dog were sitting on your
- Would you really feel like you even HAD a weekend if you
were still at your desk on Saturday and Sunday??
The answers are fairly obvious. If your living room is your
office, you will never give your work the attention it deserves,
nor will you give yourself the attention you deserve when
you aren't working.
2. Working at all hours of the day
A no-brainer. If you can't take down time, you will burn
yourself out no matter where you work!
3. Not setting a schedule.
You wanted to do this for the flexibility, you say? That's
fine, but try to keep yourself on as much of a schedule as
possible. When I closed up shop on my freelance graphic design
business in 2004, I felt like I finally had my first day off
in four years. I had worked whenever I wanted, and
then didn't ever feel like I could relax when I wasn't working.
I felt guilty for not working on my business, but also felt
guilty for not keeping the house clean! I didn't realize the
level of my burnout until it was too late. Don't let it happen
4. Starting without a plan
If you have no road map, you won't know where you are going.
Worse, you may be telling yourself, "Well, anything is
better than my regular job" - thus you would be focusing
on what you don't want rather than what you DO want. It would
be like getting into a cab in Chicago and saying, "I
DON'T want to go to the Sears Tower". HUH?
A plan is just that - a business plan. It may be intimidating,
and you may have heard that you don't need to do one if you
aren't seeking start-up loans. But do one anyway, even if
it's scaled back. You will have a clear direction to move
forward and know your outcome on any given day.
Here's a good book to get you started.
a Successful Business Plan: Advice from the Experts
5. Ignoring the legal aspects of setting
up your business
Are you going to be a Sole Proprietor? S Corporation? C Corporation?
Do you even know the difference?
It's OK if you don't, I still don't either. :) But that is
because I told my lawyer what I wanted to do, he gave me an
overview of the pros and cons of each, and then we decided
on an S Corporation for my freelance design business, Aminion
Design Ltd. The thing I liked the most was that if for some
reason someone decided to sue me, they couldn't take our house
or other personal assets away. Luckily for me, I never had
the opportunity to test it!
6. Not consulting a Certified Public
I found out the hard way that you have to pay the Illinois
Department of Economic Security unemployment insurance on
yourself - from the minute you start taking an income from
the business. I had thought it silly that I would have to
pay unemployment on myself - I was my only employee! And for
the first year of my business, I had only taken dividend income,
so how could I owe unemployment insurance back wages?!
The joke was on me - to the tune of almost $900. And to this
day, I wonder if I had 'Laid Off' myself, could I have collected
unemployment on me?! I doubt it!
Lesson learned = talk to a competent accountant and get your
payroll set up accurately before you take a cent out of the
7. Keeping disorganized records
There is a LOT you can now write off now that you are a business
owner. But if you shove your receipts into a box and come
April (or March for corporations) hope you can figure it out,
you are creating bigger headaches for yourself than you can
I spent weeks dreading the time I needed to set aside to
get my records straight every year. I spent more energy on
putting it off than I did actually doing it!! For my first
two businesses, there weren't as many options for electronic
record keeping as there are today. This time around, I have
invested in a good version of
Quicken Deluxe 2006,
I have my bank records download and categorize themselves
automatically, and I print all of my receipts to an image
file so I can save them in one folder on my hard drive.
8. Making my hobby my business
There's nothing wrong with this, if done correctly. The thing
to ask yourself is, "Just how marketable would the product
of my hobby be?" There are many moms who do well in the
crafting business, but it depends on what your products are.
My first business was hand-painted children's furniture. In
the early '90s it was all the rage. I targeted my audience
to parents so I could reach them easier.
What I found out was that parents don't like to spend $200
on a rocking chair that will likely be trashed within a year
or two. And it took me 15-20 hours to create each chair -
but after expenses, I was making about $3.00 an hour! I was
able to start creating products that made more sense and more
money - smaller items that I created from templates. But not
after loosing precious time and money to learn the lesson.
9. Spending too much time at home
With work, two kids (and a third on the way at the time)
and a house to run, I got out of the house very infrequently.
I am a social person, and was cooped up in my basement office
for days on end. My friendships fell by the wayside, and I
found myself lonely - and dipped into a depression. Only in
hindsight can I see now that I was cutting myself off from
the things that would keep me happy, challenged, and growing.
Schedule time with friends, and make it mandatory that you
meet anywhere but your house. Even better, make it mandatory
that you meet in public - a good dose of interaction will
do you good!
Another way to stay out of the doldrums AND build your business
is to join a relevant professional association. I volunteer
on the board of CIMA, the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association.
I have built great friendships there, built a great network
of individuals who give me phenomenal advice, and I have also
found many clients in the process. It's a huge win-win!
10. Letting a fear of sales stop you
This one really killed any chance I had at growing my business.
Many women are afraid of rejection - and thus also are afraid
of sales. You may be able to create a business that doesn't
require you to sell - but that's not very likely. More likely,
you will avoid making sales calls, freeze up when you have
to make a presentation, or let your fears feed a feeling of
insecurity - all of which I can say I have (UN) successfully
done in the past!
The turning point for me was when I went to a sales seminar
and learned about what true sales is all about - helping people
who have a need for your product or service. I can either
help someone, or let them sell ME on their limitations. I
prefer to help people - and to clarify, I only sell to people
who will really benefit from my expertise.
Having and building a positive self image is, in my book,
the number one factor for success in any business - especially