16 Sep Lessons Learnt From Running A Small Business
Every business has made mistakes in their history, whether they be a multinational corporation or a blog-turned-musician service company. I wanted to write this article to put some of my lapses of judgement and lessons learnt the hard way on full display, in hopes that it can help those reading from making them, or feeling stuck.
The Mistake: Not backing up my work.
Everyone says a computer glitch won’t happen to them… until it does.
The Outcome: A crashed computer and weeks of work lost.
What I Learnt: Back up your work – in the Cloud, on a USB, external drive, in your email, anything so that you have multiple copies just in case.
The Mistake: Not asking for a down payment on personalized work.
In this case, I was commissioned by a manager to write an artist bio, and never got paid because he stopped working with the artist before I finished it.
The Outcome: I put hours of work into something that never got me paid. Fortunately, I was not depending on that sum to pay a certain bill that month, so damages were minimal. Because an artist’s bio is something so personalized, I couldn’t recycle the finished project into anything else.
What I Learnt: If you are going to be creating a 100% customized piece for a client, they need to pay a certain amount (if not the whole amount) upfront. I wrote an article on what I learnt after this experience.
The Mistake: Agreeing to do someone a favour from fear of confrontation.
I used to be scared of standing up for myself. I had a tendency to take things personally and hadn’t yet drawn a line between the casual me, and the business owner. This meant that when my friends asked for favours/discounts/special treatment from my business, I didn’t want to say no, terrified that doing so would ruin our friendship.
The Outcome: I was pressured into attending/covering live shows and writing about far more abut my local music scene, which is not something I wanted to cover.
What I Learnt: If you can eloquently and logically explain your perspective to friends, they should understand you. If possible, avoid making close business deals with friends, which leads us to…
The Mistake: Not getting a contract in writing because of friendship.
This was the most recent mistake I made and it still stings. In my mind, asking for a contract to be put together and signed meant the same things as telling them “hey dude, I don’t trust you.” So I chose to walk on eggshells and promises of payment that were both non-existent.
The Outcome: He calls me up and decides to decrease what he’ll pay me, “since we don’t have a contract.” I had agreed to take on this amount of work for that sum, but now had the carpet pulled out from under my feet (and had to figure out how to pay the bills).
What I Learnt: It’s not tacky to ask for a contract, it’s professional. If I ever get nervous about entering this situation again, I’ll tell them (and myself) that the agreement in writing is to prevent miscommunications and for tax purposes.
The Mistake: Banking on potential.
In Quebec, we have an expression that translates to don’t sell your bear fur before actually hunting down the bear. I think it paints a better picture than the English counterpart don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Either way, a big mistake to make in any business is seeing things works in progress as done deals, when anything could still happen.
The Outcome: If the deal does not close, or something comes up and a project cannot be completed at this time, it’s best if you weren’t telling everyone excitedly about it.
What I Learnt: Keep quiet until things are official.
The Mistake: Ordering merch without testing the market first.
I ordered my first run of Pop of Colour merch before have a big enough fanbase to be able to ask them what they would want as merch.
The Outcome: I lost a bunch of money.
What I Learnt: Do research with your fans before dropping a load of money on something that takes up storage space.
The Mistake: Naming a global business with regional spelling.
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know where Pop of Colour was going to go when I first created the blog. I was more concerned with no one having already taken the username.
The Outcome: I work with a lot of Americans in the music industry. Because Americans spell their words differently, I need to take the extra step to make sure they know it’s C-O-L-O-U-R, not C-O-L-O-R.
What I Learnt: If able to, name your company something with universal spelling if you want to reach a universal audience. If not, do what I did and buy popofcolormusic.com and set it up so it automatically teleports those visitors to my proper website.
I hope you enjoyed cringing with me at these mistakes I made in the last two years or so. Whether you are an artist, blogger or entrepreneur of any sort, I want you to learn and grow from your own mistakes, and pass the wisdom you’ve acquired on after.