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9 mistakes small businesses make (and how to avoid them)

Written by: FreeAgent
3 min read

If you’re running a small business, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of making these common mistakes businesses make. To help you identify, avoid or fix them, FreeAgent has put together a handy blog to help.


Mistakes aren’t really 'mistakes', right? If you believe the self-help gurus, they’re 'opportunities for growth'. Well, it might be easy to say that with rose-tinted specs on, but as a business owner, making avoidable mistakes can cost you time, money - and sometimes a sliver of your sanity too.

So save the growth opportunities for everyone else, and learn from these all-too-common small business mistakes so that you never have to make them yourself.

1. Selling yourself short

When you’re new to the business, knowing how to price your products or services can be a minefield. If you underprice your expertise, it can be a difficult financial hole to climb out of. Make sure that your prices are competitive, fair and reasonable and provide you with a decent profit margin. Keep an eye on your competitors in order to gauge the average market rate, and review your pricing model regularly to ensure fair payment for your work.

2. Waiting too long to hire

While you might be a bit of a solo act when you first start out, it’s important to recognise when to start growing your operation. If you’re struggling to meet demand, this could be a great time to experiment with expansion. Whether you hire an employee to help deliver your product or service, or to handle a specific function like administration, taking on an extra pair of hands can be a crucial part of growing a small business.

3. Neglecting your professional network

It might not be at the top of your list, but building your professional network can open the door to heaps of opportunities that you might never have known about. From a friendly ear to shared challenges, to learning new industry tips and tricks, taking the time to get acquainted with your industry peers can be hugely rewarding. When they have more work than they can handle, they might even recommend you to their customers. Try digging about online to see what relevant groups you could join and then get networking.

4. Not having a business bank account

Opening your first business bank account can sometimes feel like a scary step, but it’s an important one. Although not legally essential, having separate bank accounts for your business and personal finances is recommended. As well as keeping all of your business costs in one central place, having a dedicated business bank account can also provide you with a clearer picture of your cashflow. A business bank account can also appear much more professional to customers and suppliers alike.

5. Underestimating the value of marketing

If you’re not marketing, you’re not reaching your business’s full potential. A great first step is to set up a social media account for your business - even just on one platform at first. 

6. Putting your personal life on hold

You’d be hard-pressed to find a small business owner who hasn’t found themselves occasionally, or perhaps not so occasionally, putting work before their personal life. When you’re the driving force behind the success of your business, it can be difficult to take your foot off the gas. A work-life balance can be notoriously tricky to achieve but it’s well worth the effort.

7. Neglecting your professional development

When you have customers paying for your expertise, it might feel like you already have all the skills you need for your business to succeed. However, if you can dedicate some time to learning a new skill or improving an existing one, you might be surprised at how much this could benefit your business. If you don’t feel up to a full-on professional qualification, check out the wide range of free online courses available from providers like The Open University.

8. Failing to plan for the long term

Once your business is up and running and you’re achieving your day-to-day objectives, it’s important not to neglect your long-term goals. While capturing these in a formal business plan can be extremely helpful, it’s not essential. As long as you have an idea of where you’d like your business to be in the next 5-10 years, you’ll have something to prepare for and strive towards.

9. Ignoring your accounting responsibilities

Aside from accounting professionals, not many people glean much joy from managing their accounts. But like it or not, keeping your books in good order is essential for any business. Failing to properly record and submit your finances to HMRC could not only land you with a hefty fine, it could land you in sticky legal territory too. 

And if you find that accounting is your biggest business headache, let FreeAgent’s award-winning accounting software help you out. You get FreeAgent included with your Mettle account - saving up to £150 a year (based on FreeAgent’s lowest tariff).

Find out how to sync your Mettle account with FreeAgent in our guide.

Disclaimer: *To get FreeAgent included, customers have to make at least one transaction a month from their Mettle account. If they don’t make one transaction a month, or if their Mettle account is closed and they continue to use FreeAgent then the FreeAgent fees will apply.

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FreeAgent offers award-winning accounting software.

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