5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Online Business

When I started my first business I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I took a hobby and transformed it into my full-time job in about two years -- something I never imagined would happen in my life until I started my business. There have been many challenges, successes, and lessons learned from my entrepreneurial journey; when I sat down the other day to reflect on my first year as a full-time business owner, I found there were many things I wish I had known back when I first started. While this list could certainly be much more extensive, I’m narrowing it down to a more condensed version to share five mistakes you should avoid when starting your online business.

Not Utilizing Pinterest to Drive Traffic to Your Website

I honestly can’t remember what prompted me to start digging into the effectiveness of using Pinterest to grow my brand, but I definitely jumped on the Pinterest train way too late in my business. Once I started though, it didn’t take long for me to see results (aka increased traffic and sales on my website); had I started sooner, I know I would’ve seen that kind of success much earlier.

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When you utilize Pinterest for your brand by creating your own pins, optimized descriptions, and niche-specific boards, you attract a whole hell of a lot more people in your target market than you would on a platform like Facebook or Instagram, where the algorithm is ever-changing and you’re competing with so many other users. In fact, since I started using Pinterest strategically and consistently, 80-90% of my website traffic comes from there alone! I’ve become so obsessed with growing brands on Pinterest that I started offering management services to other business owners (if you want to get on my client list so I can help you grow your brand, you can fill out a form here). Whether you plan to hire someone to manage your Pinterest business account, or prefer to DIY your own, strongly advise you start ASAP. If you prefer to go the DIY route, I highly recommend taking this crash course on how you can use Pinterest to maximize growth. It will give you ALL the basics you need to know.

Related Posts: How I Tripled My Blog Traffic in One Month | How to Make Your Pinterest Stand Out | Where to Find Free Stock Photos | 5 Things to Do After You Publish a Blog Post | Pinterest Basics: Why You Need a Business Account

Not Pitching Enough

I let a lot of fear and lack of confidence hold me back from pitching my brand to retailers, influencers, and other people who could help me grow. I sent a lot of really shitty emails that came from a place of urgency and desperation, which only led to radio silence on the other end. I was treating my business like my baby and taking it so personally when someone would ignore my email or send me a rejection. It took me awhile to learn not to take it personally and to remind myself that if they said no, they either weren’t my people, or I had to frame my pitch differently.

I started experimenting with emails and DM’s on Instagram, and honestly found it more effective to message other brands and influencers via social media. I know there are plenty of people out there who strongly advise against messaging on social media as they feel it is less professional, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. In my experience, brands get back to you much faster on social media than email depending on how active they are and how large their following is. Worst case scenario, they say no, don’t respond or they provide you with the proper contact information to pitch via email.

Moral of the story: get comfortable pitching yourself. Sometimes people will approach you -- which of course is ideal -- but more often than not, you’ll have to do the leg work and get in touch with the people you want to work with, at least in the beginning. Before you start approaching brands or influencers, ask yourself: Why should someone work with you? What value do you have to offer to their audience or customers? What problem can you solve? How can YOU help them? These are all things to consider when you pitch yourself.

Focusing on Numbers Too Much

Everyone is after that swipe up feature on Instagram, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to the day when I finally have access to it. When I first started my business account I remember looking at my Instagram literally every few minutes to check my follower count and feeling so frustrated when the numbers would go down. It seemed like every time I saw a surge in followers, I’d lose even more within days. It took me awhile to stop caring so much about the numbers, and really start nurturing the followers I did have.

Something you have to remember is that plenty of people buy followers or find other ways to cheat the system, and it is so obvious when brands or influencers do this. I know you may feel anxious to reach a certain number of followers, but it is so important to let your account grow organically. I manage a handful of social media accounts right now and credit authenticity, consistency, engagement with current followers, and valuable content for their growth. Try to avoid posting just for the sake of posting, don’t neglect the followers you do have and always strive to provide value. It may take some time to get there, but it’s a marathon not a sprint. Focus your efforts on growing and running your business in other meaningful ways (like using Pinterest), and social media will take care of itself. Don’t get wrapped up in the amount of followers you have or don’t have, and find ways to make your existing numbers convert to sales.

Playing the Comparison Game

Ugh. I spent way too much time in the early stages of my business comparing my brand to others in my niche. While I think checking out successful brands that are ahead of you can be helpful to get some inspo and insight, doing this too often can become a serious issue. I’ve literally had to unfollow or hide notifications from certain brands because it was too easy for me to look at their social media every day and feel like my brand wasn’t good enough. I’ve had to remind myself to keep my head down, blinders on and stay in my own lane. I’ve had to really tap into my business, take a look at what was going well and what wasn’t going so well and determine the proper course of action to correct it without getting wrapped up in what other people were doing.  

Over the last couple of years I’ve received many messages from people who want to start their own businesses. They often tell me they are afraid to commit because so many other people are out there doing the same thing or something similar. They’re so busy comparing themselves to other business owners they let this stop them from going after what they want. I’ve seen many people put themselves out their and fail to grow because they’re constantly comparing themselves and their businesses to someone else. I know I’ve been close to calling it quits many times because I was way too deep in the comparison game, so I feel for people when I get these messages -- but my response to these aspiring entrepreneurs is always the same: do it anyway. Of course there are going to be people who started before you. Of course there is going to be competition. But what will be unique about your brand and what will set you apart is that your brand is created by you, and you are unique. If you are constantly comparing your brand to others in your niche, you’re not going to get very far. Stop comparing and focus on your own business, and I promise a massive weight will be lifted.

Neglecting Your Mindset

I firmly believe that THE key to a highly successful business is a positive, abundant mindset. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my negative, limiting beliefs were holding me back from success. When business was slow, I would find myself in a cycle of awful thoughts:

“My business isn’t good enough. No one wants to buy my products. I’m never going to be successful. I should’ve just kept doing this as a hobby. I don’t have enough money to keep going. I should just close up shop.”

In the same respect, when business was good, I would find myself in a cycle of positive thoughts:

“I can totally do this! My business is growing like crazy! People love my products and see their value. There is always more than enough money to keep things running. I’m a successful entrepreneur.”

Which statements are more likely to lead to a successful business? That’s a no brainer. There is so much wrong with that first set of statements it’s not even funny — but that truly used to be what I thought! You are bound to have moments of self-doubt but you can’t let them control your thoughts and your life as an entrepreneur. As much as you need to be working on your business, you have to constantly be working on yourself and your mindset, too. If you have a slow period, instead of beating yourself up, take a step back and see what you could do differently. When you mess up (because you will), or something doesn’t go the way you hoped it would (because that will happen too), instead of labeling it as a failure, consider it a lesson learned. When those negative, limiting beliefs come in, acknowledge them and change them immediately. Come from a place of gratitude and abundance rather than a place of lack or scarcity.

In order to change your mindset, you have to put in the work. There are a ton of incredible books, podcasts, and YouTube videos out there on mindset that will give you the kick in the ass you need to take back control. I talked about some of my favorite resources in this post and have become obsessed with the Manifestation Babe, who has helped me totally transform my beliefs about success and money. My other favorite resource for money mindset in particular is You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. Find some personal development tools that vibe with you and start diving in!

Running an online business takes so much time, hard work, and determination but avoiding these five “mistakes” can certainly help things run a bit more smoothly. If you have any suggestions for running an online business, or any questions in relation to this post always feel free to reach out! Here’s to a successful 2019!


If you want to see the YouTube video that explains these five mistakes a bit further you can watch below: