About 9 years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to crochet. I had a newborn baby and I was living in a state that had a winter season for the first time in my life. We also didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t afford to buy quality hats. My grandmother had taught me the basics as a kid, but I hadn’t picked up a project in years.
I sat down one day and started following a YouTube video to learn how to make hats. It clicked so well, and so I made a few more. I offered them up to a couple of my friends with babies, too, and they all loved them! One of my friends suggested I try selling them, and given our financial situation at the time, I thought there was nothing to lose.
So, I set up an account with Etsy and decided to give it a shot.
I took some pictures of a couple of hats on my kitchen table that night. I put them under my florescent light fixture on my shiny black kitchen table and started snapping away.
They were dark, the color was off, and I wasn’t even bothering to use a model, but what did I know? To me, at that time, the pictures were good. So, I listed my hats on Etsy and I waited.
And finally, I got a sale! That was a huge boost to my ego and so I listed 3 more hats. A couple of those sold, too.
Before I knew it, I was in business. It’s not something I planned at all. I just made too many hats for my own daughter to wear, so I started selling them so I could buy yarn to keep going. It was truly just my passion for the craft that got me started.
While that business has since closed, it was an amazing adventure and blessing for me. It got off to a rocky start, and I made a lot of mistakes, especially that first year! Still, every single one of those mistakes was a learning opportunity for me, and looking back, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. So today, I’m going to share 5 mistakes I made when I started my first business!
1. I didn’t properly plan my business.
Like I said above, I kind of fell into my first business by accident. I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing, and didn’t take any time at all to prepare.
This mean that I didn’t take any time to pick out a good name, learn about SEO, product photography, or anything like that. In some ways, I guess that was really good, because it eliminated a lot of stress and made the experience fun. Still, I could have been more successful in less time if I’d been prepared with some basic knowledge of what it takes to run a business.
2. I didn’t know my own worth.
Pricing is really tricky, and as a new business owner, I didn’t know where to begin. I very much had the mindset of “cheaper is better” when I was starting my first business. I’m ashamed now to admit that my first hats sold for around $10 each.
Looking back, I know that that barely covered my materials and costs associated with selling the hat. I wasn’t actually paying myself an hourly wage at that point, much less turning a profit.
At the time, I couldn’t understand why I felt like I was working so hard for so little money, but now I know.
If you’re just starting out, take some time to research pricing before you list your items online. Whether they are handmade items, digital products, or some sort of service, you need to be sure you are paying yourself fairly.
3. I didn’t build up a social media following.
When I started my business, I didn’t know a thing about social media marketing. (Was that even a thing 9 years ago??) I started my business on Etsy and relied 100% on their internal search function.
I had nowhere for repeat buyers to follow me for a long time, and probably lost out on nurturing a lot of true fans in those early years. People like to be able to keep track of the businesses they love. If you don’t give them a place to get to know you and your products, they’ll likely forget about you and move on to a business that does.
When you’re getting ready to start your first business, be sure to build a page on Facebook or Instagram for your fans to follow you. You can even do this before you launch, so you can really build up some excitement about your new venture!
4. I didn’t have a structure for growth.
Since I didn’t really plan my business at all, I didn’t have a structure in place for growth, either. This left me scrambling in an unorganized mess when one of my products was featured on Etsy. I had about 5 times the sales that day than I was used to getting in an entire week, and it resulted in a mess. It was a great learning experience, and I was able to get some systems put in place ASAP, but I had to muddle through a lot of busy chaos to figure it out. Looking back, I really wish I’d had some systems in place before it got to that point.
5. I thought I could do it alone.
This is probably the biggest mistake I ever made in my business. I’ll admit it. My ego was a little inflated. People liked my hats and my first few sold pretty quickly. I didn’t think I needed to learn anything from other business owners. It took me months to accept any sort of advice from other Etsy shop owners, and I still refused to see a lot of areas that could use some help. Having someone that’s been there ended up making all the difference in the world for me, and I wish I’d accepted help on day one!
While having a friendly mentor is always nice, it’s not always feasible. Sometimes, you just need the resources in front of you that can help you learn.