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May 4, 2024

5 business lessons I learned the hard way

Running a business can be complicated sometimes, and I’m all for being open about the learning journey. There’s so many things that I learned to avoid simply from hearing horror stories from other entrepreneurs. Learning from other’s mistakes was something that made me feel like I had a bit of a head start. However, they don’t teach you everything, and the best lessons are the ones learned from your own mistakes. So here’s some of my mistakes and I’m hoping you’ll learn to avoid them too

This post contains affiliate links. Making a purchase on one or more of the websites linked in this post could earn myself a commision.

Have an email list incase socials die off.

Social media was the main place where people connect with me. I’ve had a few videos go viral. And with viral videos comes hate, and with hate often comes being reported. Some people will straight up report you when they don’t like your content. I never post anything bad or offensive, but trust me if someone hates my designs enough, they’ll report. Weird right?

I was worried maybe my account would be banned if it continued. I’m unsure whether this would actually happen, but I didn’t want to risk it, so I started an email list.

I have thousands of engaged entrepreneurs on my list now who receive 2 emails a week without the worry of that being taken away my a social media platform. Monday’s newsletter is all about social media tips and trends, and Friday’s newsletter is my Designer Diary – real, raw stories about running a business. Also, when you sign up for the newsletter you get access to a secret page full of free resources called The Freebie Vault. It’s pretty neat.

Personally, I use Flodesk for my email marketing because it was the only platform that I could find that was customisable but was also one-flat fee per month for unlimited emails.

Before with other email marketing companies I was paying more per month every time another 100 people subscribed. Flodesk is literally my favourite platform for emails. Plus if you sign up with this link, you can get 50% per month for a WHOLE YEAR.

And the best part? Everyone who has a Flodesk account also gets an affiliate link like mine, so you can also start earning over $30 every time someone signs up with your link. Share the love or whateva

People will rip off your brand

When I first started out as a brand designer I had a kinda boring brand identity. It was still colourful and fun but nothing like I have now. I was still learning and I didn’t prioritise my own brand (that’s a lil bonus mistake I made thrown in there.) But I’m just gonna show you a picture of my Instagram Highlights and let me know what you think about this:

brand design copy instagram stories

The ones on the left were mine, the ones on the right were someone else who had been following me for a while. {Name is blurred for protection of the person}. I did message them and politely asked them to change it. They said they were inspired by me, but wanted to keep it because it was unique.

Now listen, it’s definitely not the most unique, standout branding in the world. When people rip off my brand now I really know it. But it still wasn’t fair.

The other day I received a DM from someone saying they loved my work, and I thanked them, we had a normal conversation. I started following them and had a peek at their website and.. Complete rip off of my website. Literally the same design with some words changed. I even found they were using the same yellow as my brand yellow in the same places. Literally, the exact same hex code. Wild.

But what I’ve learned from this is that people will do it. And it’s exhausting having to chase it. When you have a brand that’s unique and like no one else, it becomes obvious when people copy it. But the original will always be better. If you need to stop looking like everyone else and want a custom brand identity, hit me up here. Let’s talk about it

Have a secure payment system that is designed to protect you

When I first started my business I was using PayPal. I was using it for about a year, mostly because I didn’t know what else to use. PayPal seems pretty safe, it’s one of the biggest systems in the world. BUT… PayPal seems to favour the buyer when there is difficulty. I had a previous client of mine dispute all the charges from our project after it was finished. I lost hundreds.

Luckily, I did have a contract that they signed. A contract that stated the work was complete and they were happy. If they were unhappy, they could have said so, and we would go back and make changed, no problem. But this wasn’t the case. This client kept using the designs after disputing the charges. Because of the contract I was able to explain to PayPal that this was not an issue on my end. I did get my money back, months later. Literally, almost 5 months later.

Now I use Stripe. I’ve never had an issue with it and I love their online invoicing. I can create an invoice for a client and it will give me a PDF copy, email it to the client and give a live payment page where they can pay online. Hassle free. Sign up for free here

Organise your business from the start.

Macbook screen with Notion Content Planner

Don’t wait until you’re busy to start organising. It will be hell on earth. Luckily, I tend to be quite organised and I managed my way through. It took a lot of trial and error to find an organisation system that worked for me, especially for planning content and managing client projects. I use Notion – literally my favourite app. I even use Notion Calendar in my daily life. It’s self explanatory, I couldn’t live without Notion. It’s the king.

Don’t take on too many business social media accounts unless you’re ready to hire a social media manager.

I learned this business lesson the hard way, real fast. Most social media platforms require consistency. They want to see that you’re a user on the platform. And not just as a creator but as a part of a community. You need to engage and be present. I personally recommend starting with one social media platform then adding another once you’ve got the idea of the first. I was posting daily to Instagram, and dropped this down to 5 days a week so I could start posting on TikTok too. The slight drop in engagement was worth it to have a whole new platform to reach people on.

But now I want to master Pinterest. I love it, I use it in my client projects and I want to start posting on there more. But unless I hire out help, I’m gonna have to loosen the reins on the other platforms. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Remember, quality and consistency is more important than quantity.

And that’s it. Thats 5 lessons I learned the hard way in business. And I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more lessons for me to learn. I’m hoping this post will give you a few less to have to experience yourself.

Your local chaotic creative with a tooth gap & a caffeine addiction

MEET ROBIN

I’m Robin, a brand designer from the UK who translates online personas into all killer no filler brands that are as personal as they are professional.
I believe every entrepreneur like you deserves to be proud of your brand and CAN charge premium for what you do. And it all start with having visuals that look good, supports your goals and feels like YOU. My brand design process is personalised to support you for your individual, unique strengths which means... your brand is about to go from cookie cutter to cult favourite.

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