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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
Today I’m getting vulnerable and sharing all of my BIGGEST business mistakes and regrets. These are the things I would have done differently in business, ways I’ve wasted money and the behind-the-scenes details of my biggest self-sabotaging habits.
It’s so tempting to want to spend money on all the things you “think” you need to run a business, but in reality you can get started with very little. I spent years obsessing about needing a perfect website. Eventually I hired a website designer to help me. They were amazing, but my business wasn’t actually profitable yet and I hadn’t worked with that many clients so I had no idea what my niche was or who I was as a business owner.
I barely ended up using that first website or my original branding. It quickly became out of date and didn’t align with what my business eventually evolved into.
If you’re just starting out in business you can get started with a super simple website or skip the website phase entirely until you’re at least six months into making money. The very first clients you get often don’t care about your perfect website. Most of my original clients didn’t even know I had a “fancy” website as they found me through a referral or in a business group.
By the way about a year ago I did end up completely overhauling my website and redoing all of my branding (this time with a template!) I have seen a huge ROI on the latest website refresh now that I’m five years in business and have a much more established brand, but the first website was definitely an expensive mistake.
Early days business Mara had the worst money mindset. I felt lucky that anyone was willing to pay me AT ALL. I accepted really low paying projects, never raised my rate and worked with a lot of clients that honestly weren’t the greatest (think messaging you in the middle of the night constantly, assigning last minute work and being super critical not the greatest type of people).
Since then I’ve done a lot of work on my money mindset and imposter syndrome. It’s ok to take lower paying projects when you’re just starting out. They help you learn and grow as a business owner, but make sure you’re regularly re-evaluating your rates. Don’t get sucked into all the feelings of thinking you aren’t worthy or that if you aren’t the cheapest people won’t want to work with you. If you’re good at what you do and care about others there will always be clients out there looking for your services.
I completely ignored having any sort of email list in the early days of my business, which was a huge mistake because email lists take time to grow. They also grow exponentially so the sooner you start one the better!
I don’t think you should put all of your time into email early on. You’re not going to have an audience yet and when you’re working primarily with one-on-one clients it’s not an important factor, but it is important to at least have a few opt-ins and get your list started so that when you’re ready to grow more of an audience you’re not starting from scratch.
Embarrassing truth: I didn’t start my email list until I was making over six-figures in business. Nowadays I’m super intentional about creating helpful free resources and regularly emailing my list but I do feel behind compared to other business owners who started their business around the same time.
Most business owners get started by offering one one one services, but there will come a time when your business gets too busy for you to continue to take on more clients and you have to get more creative about how you grow your income. I wish I had focused on passive income streams in my business a lot sooner.
Passive income is something that really grows over time and compounds, so if I had started sooner it would have grown more by now. But I really didn’t start selling my own digital products until the four-year mark of my business. I was so focused on the fact that in order to make more money I needed to just work more and more hours which ended up being pretty unsustainable and led to a lot of burn out.
The mindset hurdles when you’re a business owner are REAL. So many other business owners experience this by the way. Sometimes there’s a really cool thing we want to do, but when we see that someone else already did it we think there’s no space leftover for us.
It’s totally normal to want to do things that other people are doing too! No one tells doctors or lawyers that there are already too many of those in the world and to not go for it, but yet for some reason as business owners we tell ourselves we aren’t allowed to do something if someone else is already doing something similar.
You’re allowed to do the things that interest you! Add your own unique spin to it and it’ll never be exactly the same as what someone else is doing. There will also be a bunch of people out there who like your approach better too.
Taxes freak most entrepreneurs out! There’s a lot of information floating out there that you’ll get sued or that you’re wasting money on taxes by not having the right business structure. I am not a lawyer or an accountant and there are certain situations where those things might be true, but in the early days of my business I felt super freaked out that I needed an official LLC for my business.
Honestly setting up my LLC early on probably didn’t do a ton of harm, but I did end up doing it way earlier than I needed to. I could have remained as a sole proprietorship for a couple of years. In some ways setting up my LLC made my business a little more confusing to do the taxes on. At the very least I wish I had invested the money to talk to an accountant about it ahead of time to make sure it was the right decision. I was super strapped for cash in the early days of my business so I figured out how to file and set up an LLC on my own, but I think my timing was early and I ended up paying more money in taxes instead of less.
I fully expect that I’m going to continue making mistakes in my business. Mistakes are a huge part of learning and growing as a business owner so you should never be afraid to make them. Even though all of these things felt like mistakes looking back, there’s probably a bunch of lessons I learned from making these mistakes that helped me too!
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