13 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make and How to Fix Them

Bad joke alert: I just flew in from Atlanta, and boy, are my arms tired!

ba dum ching!

Anyhoo, I recently spent a mind-blowing week at Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Business Live Retreat. This was my third year attending the retreat, and it made me realize just how far I’ve come since the day I decided, “Hey, I’m gonna quit my job as an editor and start life coaching!”

OK, there was a little more involved than simply making the decision, but I do believe that it has been the second most transformative and rewarding decision I’ve made in my life. (If you’re wondering, here’s #1 on my list.)

I’ve grown tremendously as an entrepreneur in the 2-ish years I’ve had my business. And if you go snooping around in the Archives, you’ll see just how far I’ve come! Please be gentle. 🙂

Part of being a business owner is putting yourself out there and doing things that may or may not work. But if I could talk to myself back when I had nothing more than an idea, this is the advice I’d share.

Here are 13 mistakes entrepreneurs make and how to fix them.

By the way, the above photo are all the mistakes that entrepreneurs at the retreat promised never to make again!

They Treat Their Businesses Like Hobbies

One nugget of tough love I like to share with my clients is that if you’re not making money, you don’t have a business…you have a hobby. You might really love what you’re doing, and you might be spending every waking second on it, but that’s not cutting it.

Businesses are supposed to make money, and you have to make money so that you can continue to do your amazing work that serves the world. It’s time to flip your thinking. Money isn’t the root of all evil. It’s energy, and it’s a beneficial tool.

They Don’t Find a Niche

Startup entrepreneurs HATE choosing a niche. This means choosing your ideal customer’s specific demographics and building your business around a unique selling position. Why is this so difficult at first? Because entrepreneurs want to sell to everybody: men, women, iguanas, young, old, vampires, in English, in Spanish, in Klingon, and everything in between.

Your customers want to feel special, as if you’re speaking only to them and their needs. Write for (and sell to) one person.

They Don’t Have Freebies

I realize that I just said that you have to make money in order to have a business, so why am I also suggesting that you give away stuff for free? It’s simple: people love to try before they buy. That means you gotta ditch your lack mindset and give it away, give it away, give it away now!

By giving them a free taste (like they do at Baskin Robbins), they’ll be more tempted to buy one of your paid products or services. If the free stuff is this yummy, just imagine how delicious the paid stuff is! I’ve corralled all my freebies into the Editor’s Toolkit for easy consumption.

(Note: This is my client Christine and my accountability partner Elizabeth.)

They Clutter Their Websites With Ads

You know what makes my brain hurt? Visiting a client’s website and seeing the screen cluttered with sidebar and banner ads. “Why are you advertising other people’s stuff when you have products to sell?” I’ll ask. They normally don’t have a good answer, especially when they do the math and see they’re only bringing in pennies from these random ads.

Instead, cut the clutter and focus on what you have to offer. It’s about owning your worth and being confident in your own leadership.

They Refuse to do Marketing

So, what’s your business? Photography? Interior Design? Health and wellness? Coaching? Nope. That’s not your business. You’re not in the business of [blank]. You’re in the business of marketing.

No matter what you sell, you’ll never run a successful business unless you get your services out there in front of the people who will pay you. That means connecting with other experts, commenting on websites, mastering social media, writing guest posts, doing interviews, and all the other little things that get you noticed.

They Don’t Ask for Help

It can be scary to start a business, and it’s even scarier to admit that you don’t know what you’re doing. Refusing to ask for help will slow down your progress, cause you to make more mistakes, and prevent your product from getting in the hands (or heads) of the people who could most benefit from what you have to offer.

This isn’t the Hunger Games, and it’s not every girl for herself. Asking for help might mean getting an accountability partner, joining a mastermind, taking a class to improve your skills, or Googling whatever you don’t know. That’ll put the odds in your favor.

(Note: I ate so many delicious meals at the retreat. It was heaven! Nom nom nom…)

They Choose Passive Over Active Income

Many entrepreneurs want to start out by selling something sexy like a home study program, an e-course, or a video training. These are called passive income streams because they don’t require you to be present to make a sale or fulfill the order. This is what people are talking about when they say “make money while you sleep.”

But passive income isn’t the quickest way to make money when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a ton of subscribers, followers, or readers.

A better choice is to start with active income like consulting calls, coaching packages, or in-home visits. Yes, this requires more of your time and effort, but you can charge more too. A handful of active income sales can replace hundreds of passive income sales.

They Compare Themselves to Others

Ugh, this one’s a toughie for me. I’ve often fallen into the trap of comparing my coaching practice to other people’s businesses. This can cause you to feel jealous and hopeless—not ideal when you want to be attracting good energy and customers.

I turned it around by unfollowing and unsubscribing to notifications from other entrepreneurs that triggered me. The less of them I saw, the more I could focus on my own growth and my next steps.

They Steal Content

Eek! It’s crazy frustrating to see newbie entrepreneurs feel so self-conscious and unworthy that they resort to stealing other people’s content. I’m not talking about general ideas (tons of people talk about productivity just like I do). I mean lifting entire articles, taglines, or proprietary programs.

Stealing someone else’s good content might get you a handful of Likes and subscribers, but your customers will soon discover that you’re not being authentic.

And if you catch someone stealing your content? Really think about whether you want to use your precious energy to call them out. People have stolen my content too, but they can never duplicate my enthusiasm, my story, or my sincere empathy for those who are struggling.

(Note: I did not steal this car. I just borrowed it for a sec before plowing into the side of the building.)

They Think They’ll Get Success Overnight

Overnight success stories seems to be everywhere you look online. Start a business and you’ll be raking in the dough in a matter of months! I love the idea of promoting online businesses because there are many advantages such as no salary cap, no overhead, and the freedom to work anywhere.

But the “instant wealth” that you see often isn’t the whole story.

That person who gained fame and fortune overnight probably had skills from her previous line of work that enabled her to grow her business quickly. (Full disclosure: I’m a trained public speaker, extrovert, and writer…all of which helps me be a more effective coach.)

These people often have money in savings or from a spouse to afford the higher-end designers, videographers, and stylists that can make them look professional and successful right from the get go. An overnight success rarely is overnight.

They Stop Learning

It’s imperative that you stay up to date on new technology and the changing needs of your clients. If you stop learning, then your business will become stagnant.

My favorite ways to continue my education are to try other coaching programs, watch creativeLIVE broadcasts, and attend workshops and conferences.

They Don’t Ask for the Sale

If you’re doing an interview for a corporate job, the most important thing you can do is to ask for the job at the end of the interview. And when you’re enticing your followers to buy from you or sign up for your services, you’re in an interview too!

Summon up your courage and ask for the sale. Don’t let your words trail off or hand over control to the other person. Own your self-worth and be brave! When you make an offer, you are serving your clients.

(Note: This is me with my clients Sara and Cathy. We look so color-coordinated.)

They Don’t Invest in Themselves or Their Businesses

Consider this: you’d never visit a doctor who doesn’t believe in going to the doctor. So why would you hire a coach who doesn’t have her own coach? Or hire any business person who doesn’t have a mentor?

Investing in yourself and your business shows the world that you see the value in your work. You’ll grow faster and be able to help more people by investing part of your income back into your business or to a coach or program to lead you to the next level.

And if you’re ready to invest in your success (or maybe finally get your business idea off the ground!), I’d love to work with you. Click here to get your free Life Editing Strategy Call.

What mistakes have you made with your business?

This post focuses on Step 2 of the Life Editing Process, Delete Bad Influences. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.

How to Run a Successful Online Business In Just 1 Hour Per Day

Take control of your time, streamline your systems, and attract your most likely buyers.


  1. KrisWithaK on February 14, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Having patience is huge – but balanced with the drive to make it happen. I”m SUPER guilty of not asking for the sale. Still. I’m getting better though, and I SWEAR I’ll have my sales pages ready soon 😉


  2. richelle on June 25, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I am so guilty of #1, treating my business like a hobby. Getting better, though! Thanks Sage!

  3. Ashley Urke | Domestic Fashionista on June 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

    It’s like you wrote this for me after our conversation yesterday! So good. Need to print this out and apply. Which by the way, I followed through with three things from our list this time…that’s already more than our last meet up list! 🙂

  4. Sarah @ Long Island Nerd on June 11, 2014 at 5:24 am

    I’m so glad you had a great time at the conference! It sounds like it was really inspiring and informative which is always a great combination 🙂

    I’m not an entrepreneur at the moment but have always dreamed of owning my own business and I’m so glad you wrote this post. I’m definitely going to be bookmarking it and when the time comes for me to pursue my dream I will have this amazing resource to refer back to 🙂 Thanks for another amazing post!

  5. Erica Layne on June 10, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    UM, I am doing way too many of these! Haha. For now, I don’t mind my writing being a hobby, because that’s about all I can handle with my family life and part-time job. BUT I do have dreams of kicking it into gear one day, so I am definitely pinning this for future use! 🙂

  6. Jennifer Kennedy on June 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Hope you had an outstanding time at the Up Level conference! I was curious to know about that one. Perhaps, I’ll check it out next year.

    Great list of mistakes! I know I need to do a lot more marketing than I have done. I need to start spending more time on the things that will bring in more money and clients. Thanks for the reminder!

    One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is trying to be perfect. It took me a long time to put up my work with me page only because I was reaching for perfection on my website.

  7. Rebecca on June 10, 2014 at 4:11 am

    Guilty as charged with many of these mistakes.
    It’s hard to see the right path sometimes but I’m working to market my business, update my content, write for one person, and ask for help when I need it so it so my photography can sit firmly in the business (not hobby) arena.