How to avoid common mistakes when running a business

Running a business isn't easy. You can encounter all sorts of challenges on a daily basis. That's whether you're struggling with finances, dealing with difficult people or jeopardising your health due to over-work.

It's no wonder that most start-ups fail within the first five years. But don't despair! There are steps you can take to ensure you run a successful business and survive for many years to come. Here are our top tips on how to avoid common mistakes when running a business...

Don't become a workaholic

I heard a friend say the other day: "I hate Christmas! It's such an inconvenience. I want to work!". That was the ultimate warning sign right there. And if you've found yourself saying similar things lately, then you might want to take a step back and reconsider your work/life balance.

When you work for yourself, it's all too easy to become a workaholic. But chaining yourself to your desk doesn't actually get you anywhere. It only tires you out and impacts your productivity and happiness. You could even damage your health – causing things like RSI or a bad back from sitting at your desk for prolonged periods.

Work smarter and make the most of downtime to let your mind and body rest, recharging your batteries ready for another working day.

Keep your finances under control

When freelancing, it's unlikely you'll have a regular salary. So keep your finances under control. Send out invoices at the same time every month and make sure you chase the money once the 30-day standard payment terms are up.

It's also advisable to build up a reserve, so you've always got something to fall back on should you have a quiet month or two.

Deal positively with difficult people

As a business owner, you will undoubtedly come across negative people. From over-demanding clients to gossipy competitors, it's unfortunately an inevitable part of entrepreneurship.

But how do you tackle negativity? No matter what, always remain friendly and professional. Leave your emotions out of everything you do. And remember that emails are things that can be kept on record so be very careful what you write. Besides, sometimes it's much better to arrange a meeting or just pick up the phone.

Got an angry client? Try to understand why they're upset and do your very best to resolve the situation. But if they become completely unreasonable walk away gracefully, if you can.

Got someone being negative about you and your business online? Post something back that's helpful and positive. If that doesn't work and they insist on staying negative, then just leave them to it. You tried your best and that's the best you can do.

Understand egos

It's unsurprising that egos in business tend to be the main reason why problems arise. Our own ego can get in the way of running a successful business. From our need to be right all the time, our arrogance and our self-importance – our egos can do a lot of damage, especially when it comes to marketing.

What you have to understand is that it's not all about 'me, me, me'. If we focus too much on ourselves, we forget the most important thing of all – and that's our customers!

So drop the ego, become more self-aware and be open, friendly and flexible. It will be the best thing you ever do.

Learn from your mistakes

We all make mistakes, so don't beat yourself up if you do. It's the only way we learn and become better. I've made more than my fair share of mistakes and you will too.

But really think about where you went wrong, so you can take positive steps and avoid making the same mistakes again.

Hired the wrong accountant who messed up your finances? Hire someone else! Said the wrong thing to a client in a meeting? You'll certainly never do it again. Thought you could trust someone who ended up letting you down? Be careful about who you trust in future.

No matter what mistakes you make, learn from them. They'll make you wiser, stronger and more capable of tackling anything that comes your way.

Do what you're good at

We've all got our own specialities and skills. We also have things we're not especially good at, so learn to delegate or bring in freelancer support whenever you need to.

Understand that you can't be good at everything and let go of the ego. It's good to have a team of people around you that enhance your business and make it better.

But when you do delegate or hire outside help, let these people get on with their jobs. You don't want to be a 'control freak' and stifle their own productivity.

Keep a marketing focus

Finally, don't neglect your own marketing. You need to make sure your business is out there. Either hire someone to do it for you, or keep a daily focus.

Ensure you can easily be found online by carrying out some basic SEO and make best use of everything out there from directories, online portfolio sites and blogs to e-zines and communities. There are so many ways to market your business cost-effectively, so there's no excuse!