10 of the Worst Habits of a Small Business Owner

Biting our nails, chewing loudly, talking too much - we’ve all got bad habits. We hope they don’t negatively affect our lives, and for the most part, habits are forgivable, but when it comes to your business, there are plenty of bad habits that might be keeping you down! With over 50% of businesses not making it to their 5th year, we want to avoid any of those negative tendencies we can. So check yourself before you wreck yourself…okay, maybe we’re too old to say that, but you get the picture - here are our 10 Worst Habits for a Small Business Owner!

1. Not Bookkeeping

This one is number one, because it’s my own personal worst business habit! I made a 2018 goal to bookkeep every month, and have already failed 4! Bookkeeping is boring, and it sucks, but it’ll change the entire way you do business. If you properly bookkeep, you’ll see where you stand financially, you’ll understand your budget, know which projects are making (and costing!) you the most money, and be better prepared for tax season. We partnered up with our friend Amy Northard, CPA on a Tax Prep Guide for Creatives, but if you’re a bookkeeping weenie (like me!) then you can always hire an accountant and create a standing appointment for this task - trust me, you won’t regret it!

2. Acting without Thinking

As entrepreneurs, we are doers, makers, actors. Heck, that’s what got most of us here today. Often that can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s harmful to our businesses. Taking a little time to hash out an idea fully can lead to it being more successful. Or you may realize after some time and consideration that your idea isn’t as great as you initially thought - but this way, you’ve saved a ton of time for yourself!

bad business habits

3. Trying to Do Everything Yourself

If you own a business, you know all about wearing a ton of different hats. Sometimes you’re an accountant, Operations Manager, marketing coordinator, and even the janitor all on the same day. The truth is though, at some point, trying to do everything yourself prevents your business from being able to grow. You have a special talent that makes you different and sets you apart from everyone, which is the core of your business. And guess what? There are people out there whose special talent is accounting, operations, marketing, or even janitor-ing. Hire them. Let them do what makes them an expert, and you focus on doing what makes you an expert, which is what your clients are actually paying you for.

4. Not Charging Enough

The money part of a business is hard, and charging what you’re worth is scary. But there’s no point in opening a business if you can’t support yourself on it. Remember to account for all tools involved in a job, even if you already had them at home, as well as all the time it takes communicating up front about the job, bringing that client to you in the first place, and all the paperwork that’s involved on the back-end to make that job happen!

5. Worrying about Price

Like we mentioned, pricing is scary. I see this fear in myself whenever I send my new highest proposal, or come in at a figure that I know is above the client’s initial budget. It’s tempting to lower your pricing to help people out, for a million different reasons, but none of those reasons are good enough to warrant a change in your pricing. The truth is, that if the only reason a client is choosing you is because you’re cheaper, then you don’t want that client anyway. You want clients who are going to choose you for a specific reason, such as your style, your ideas for their project, or your overall brand persona, not just because you are the cheapest. Our favorite resource for pricing for Calligraphers/Letterers is this Panic-Free Pricing Course, and our favorite resource for Stationers is Design House Prep School’s Pricing for Creatives Course(s).

lessons for creative entrepreneurs

6. Saying YES to everything

This is a similar one. It’s hard not to say yes to discounts, any old job that finds you, policy changes, or anything else a client asks of you (especially if you’re still in the booking process). Once you get the hang of saying NO, nothing will feel better, I swear! It’s the biggest weight off of my back when I can confidently say no to a project that I just don’t think is the right fit, or stand by my contract policies with ease. In the beginning, I was a “YES” girl, accepting late spreadsheets, assembling welcome boxes, adding on “one more escort card” for free, agreeing to match someone’s invitation fonts for their address calligraphy, you name it, I would say yes! In some ways, saying yes to new challenges allows for growth, but you eventually have to set your own limits. Once you start setting boundaries with your clients, they’ll learn to respect you more as an artist, and both of you will be happier in the long run!

7. Spreading too Wide a Net

So we used to say YES to any job that came our way. This led to discovering some new vendors, techniques, and materials that we wouldn’t have otherwise found, which we are so thankful for! However, about 9/10 of the new projects we took on ended up in stress and in the hole instead. We now use the Ideal Client Worksheet exercise (do it yourself for free!) to actually do the opposite - we want to narrow down our previous market (all engaged couples) to a much smaller niche bride (for instance, yours may be “late 20’s, glam, sophisticated, Big City couples with $50k+ wedding budgets”). Accepting not only that you can’t serve everyone, but that you don’t want to serve everyone, is a huge step toward success.

8. Trying to Skirt the Rules

Good gooley mooley, as my mom used to say. I have no idea how to spell that…but it’s important to highlight that you GOTTA make things official. You gotta be a legal, legit, registered, tax-paying, doing-things-right business if you want to go anywhere. Know copyright rules, know your contract in and out, know what you owe, just do the right thing and don’t try to cheat the system, even if you don’t agree with it. That’s all.

9. Comparing Yourself to Others

Comparison is the thief of joy, right? But seriously, we’re all on social media all day seeing where everyone is in their lives. That’s not true though. You have no idea what is going on behind the scenes in someone’s business. They could be traveling all over, have 1.3 million followers on Instagram, and not be making a dime. They could be 3 years ahead of you in business, or they could even be hugely perfect and successful in a world that would be miserable for you. This may be the toughest habit to break on this entire list, but do your best to remember that your path is the only one you can actively change, so there’s no point worrying about theirs.

10. Not Evaluating Yourself Honestly

All of these habits have ruined businesses and will continue to ruin businesses in the future, but not being honest with yourself is the worst offender of them all. The sign of a truly good business owner (and, well, person..) is one who can evaluate his or herself honestly and act on that evaluation. Acknowledging your flaws will help you find ways to compensate for them in your business. Recognizing which of your ideas are and are not working will help you steer in a more productive direction. Knowing when to give up will save you wasted time and energy. Basically, all of the habits we’ve mentioned already can be fixed with a simple honest evaluation.

If you’re not so comfortable being honest with yourself - it’s hard, we get it - then you can always find an accountability partner or mentor to help break some of your bad habits. Our Business Re-Boot Camp program, for instance, is a month-long mentoring session focused around 4 main areas (Goals, Process/Pricing, Marketing, and Future Planning) of your business. Find out a little more information here if you’re ready to kick some of your own bad habits to the curb! And let us know what you think of allll these business no-nos - were any of them on your bad habit list this year?