In this week's episode of Unfinished Business, I talk with Andy about business disasters, and we share some of our experiences.
I've not had one massive disaster, but most of the little disasters I encountered, I could have avoided. Making mistakes is part and parcel of running a business, the important thing is how you respond.
I'd like to encourage others to share some of their mistakes, so here's my list and what I did to make sure I didn't make that mistake again:
Mistake: When I started out, I was charging very little because I was worried potential clients would say I'm too expensive and I'd not getting any work. I was working very long hours and found it difficult to cover living expenses.
Solution: I increased my rate. I looked at working on different types of projects and switched from working on websites on my own to contracting on longer-term projects which felt more stable.
Projects going over budget
Mistake: Projects were going over time and budget. I wasn't keeping track of my time, so my estimation for the next project wasn't accurate. I could have earned more working somewhere at minimum wage.
Solution: I got really strict about keeping track of time. I used timekeeping apps that integrated with FreeAgent. I also started estimating 25% more time than I thought I needed. That way I could either meet or exceed expectations.
Last minute rush to get taxes filed
Mistake: I would leave my accounting until the last minute and have a really stressful few days trying to get everything ready to send to my accountant.
Solution: Now I update my accounts every Friday morning. This also means I'm better at keeping on top of when invoices are due. Freeagent has a tax timeline which helps me see what's coming.
No payment agreement
Mistake: I had a client take 2 years to pay me after I'd launched the site. I didn't take a deposit, I had no contract, and I didn't ask for payment until after the site had launched.
Solution: I now ask for a deposit, contract, and payment before I launch the site. I have automated reminders that are sent out every few days if an invoice is overdue.
No communication with the designer
Mistake: When I worked for agencies who were acting as middlemen, they'd sometimes send me a couple of static photoshop mockups of a site their client wanted built that just didn't work for the web, and I'd have to find a way to make it responsive. There were very rarely any styles for basic things like links or headings. I couldn't talk to the designer, so I'd have to spend a lot of development time doing design work to fill in the gaps, and I'd resent every minute I spent building it. It meant I couldn't produce the quality of work that I was striving for.
Solution: I should have learnt more about the project and what I'd be working on before jumping in. I now don't work for agencies unless I can work alongside the designer, and I encourage them to produce and maintain a styleguide.
Mistake: I used to offer hosting alongside web services. I was getting lots of calls outside work hours about problems with hosting, or I'd be spending a lot of time chasing up clients every time their domain name or hosting was due for renewal.
Solution: I moved clients away from my reseller account and decided to not manage client hosting. I set them up with their own accounts which they manage the billing for.