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6 Mistakes That Will Strengthen Your Startup

It’s the end of the world.
You play out the scenario in your mind, over and over, until your brain feels like it’s going to explode.
You take it personally. Of course you do. It’s your business and you care about it.
But all is not lost because making mistakes is a very effective way to learn (so, chin up!).
And making them early on is the best way to build concrete foundations to support your startup as it grows.
Whenever we make mistakes at BrightByte Studio (and we’ve made a fair few), we try our best to think objectively in order to learn, strengthen and improve our business.
Here are a few mistakes we’ve made on our journey, which hopefully you’ll make and learn from too (I’m being ironic, I hope this post prevents you making the same mistakes we did).

1) Operate Without Business Terms

If you want to learn things the hard way, go about your first few sales without a Terms of Business document.
And when a client explains that they thought you would come round and groom their chicken as part of the website redesign, you better have a compelling reason for why you shouldn’t.
The fact that you don’t like chickens doesn’t really matter because you weren’t clear about the services you would deliver.
Things can get very awkward.
You need a Terms of Business document.
Without it, you’re asking for trouble.
You are not specifying any contractual obligations between either parties in the business engagement.
A Terms of Business document is usually presented alongside a formal proposal which outlines the services on offer; ask the client to agree to both in writing before any engagement so you can effectively manage their expectations.
No chicken grooming included (unless you’re into that kind of thing, I’m not judging).

2) Believe The Client Is Always Right

Contrary to the popular, annoying, motto – the client isn’t always right.
It won’t take you long to realise that the rest of the world, sadly, doesn’t share your good values and morals.
When you’re in business, prepare for things to get ugly because in a lot of cases – it just will.
Sometimes you’ll keep doing everything you can for a client but it still feels like they are sucking the soul right out of you.
And guess what? they still won’t be satisfied with your efforts when you’re done.
As time goes by you’ll get better at spotting these people but all the time you believe the client is always right, you’ll never know when to call it a day.
Fortunately you have a choice and, when these people come along, you can be factual and firm when you feel it’s justified.
You can even choose not to work with them if things get really bad – just be sure to include a ‘Cancellation of Services’ clause within your Terms of Business which gives either party a fair exit.
They agreed to your terms when they started working with you, remember.

3) Be Unclear About Your Payment Terms

Enjoy working for free because you love what you do so much and don’t have bills to pay? If so you can safely skip this section. If not, read on.
If you are unclear about your payment terms, your client will be unclear about when to pay you.
If my head was a bit bigger (or our payment terms a bit shorter), I would get them tattooed on my forehead.
Trust me folks, you don’t want to get caught-up in lengthy legal pursuits trying to get paid for your skill and hard work.
When you’re battling to get paid everything has to be official, it takes ages, is stressful and usually ends up costing you more than it’s worth financially (but you must pursue it).
Announce your payment terms with a big smile, ask for an agreement in writing and be open and transparent about when you must be paid. This makes dispute resolution a whole lot easier (and sometimes even fun).
If someone is hesitant to agree to your payment terms without a valid reason, save yourself the hassle and dodge that bullet.

4) Act Like You Know Best

The chances are that you don’t (yet).
I know you’ve made the leap into entrepreneurship and that takes guts and courage but if you’re just starting out, for all your skill and enthusiasm, you don’t have 40 years of experience under your belt.
So listen to people who do. Learn as much as you can, consider their advice, absorb their experience and learn from their mistakes too.
Unfortunately, the business world doesn’t run on passion and enthusiasm alone.
So don’t be too proud to take, or actively seek out, good advice (or do, if you really do ‘know best’…).

5) Don’t Hire An Accountant

We didn’t.
We got hit with a £1000.00 fine (ouch).
Simply because we forgot to file a return to companies house (harsh right?).
No excuses. We just forgot.
Accountants don’t tend to forget these things (well, the good ones don’t).
We couldn’t be happier with our accountants, they support us and really care about the best interests of our business.
So if you want to learn the hard way and probably get fined, don’t get an accountant.

6) Don’t Talk About The Budget

It’s like how all good relationships start.
You spend loads of time chatting on the phone, you even meet up and start bonding over a coffee.
You talk about the future, how good it will be, how well you’ll work together…
You’re the perfect match.
You send out a proposal, confident it’s a winner!
Only to be hit with the silent treatment.
No reply, no call, nothing.
The romance is dead and you are both left feeling cheated.
You forgot to discuss the budget.
It’s the most simple yet most difficult question to ask when you first start out… (we just don’t feel good asking about money).
It goes like this: “What is your budget for this project?” and it’s a very powerful and reassuring question.
Ask it as soon as you can and then pause and wait. You may experience an awkward silence or a change of subject. Keep waiting, keep quiet. The answer will come.
But if you’re happy waisting days on proposals and meetings, definitely don’t ask for about the budget.
What mistakes have you made and learnt from?