When you start a business—or start dreaming about entrepreneurship—you tend to get a lot of feedback from the people around you. And by feedback I mean advice. And by advice I mean sometimes really awful, unhelpful comments. Wading through it all to discern the useful from the useless can be really tough.
That’s part of the reason I started my business mentoring program, Own It. Crush It. I want to help new and stalled creative entrepreneurs gain the confidence to own their authority (and follow their guts), own their businesses, and crush their goals. As talk to my mentees about their experiences with starting and running businesses, I hear a lot of really awful advice they’ve received.
Today, I’m sharing with you some real-life examples of crappy advice from 14 amazing entrepreneurs…and the lessons they learned.
And I’d love to hear in the comments below about the worst advice you ever received!
“You have to spend a lot of money to do well or even get noticed. Several people told me that, and ironically, they were all coaches who were pitching their multi-thousand dollar services to me. For the record, having a coach can be a great thing, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to start out. I started on a shoestring budget and put everything I made back into my company to strategically grow it. Now, not only is my business in a place where I can financially afford more (like coaching services), but I’m also more seasoned and feel better about where I choose to spend lots of money.” Leslie Friedman, image consultant, author, and speaker
“Get a professionally designed logo. The reason it was bad advice was not because a professionally designed logo is not a smart investment. Rather, it was bad advice for someone like me who was still in the soul-searching phase of the entrepreneurial journey. If you have an idea for an online business, be sure to not only assess the feasibility of the idea but also ask yourself if you are truly committed to it. Ultimately, that investment ended up being nothing more than an expensive lesson since I hadn’t fully vetted my idea and in the end I wasn’t truly committed to it.” Chantel Arnett, Blogging with a Smile
“To build your portfolio, you need to give away your work for free or for a slight fraction of what you would usually charge. I should have valued my worth and not given away my services at such a low price point. I’m now struggling with raising my prices and having people pay what I believe I’m worth. Don’t doubt your worth just to build a portfolio!” Ashley Schackow, social and web development manager
“Change your brand, no one will understand it. When I first created my brand The RE Geek, everyone told me I should change it because no one would get my look, my references, or my love of sharing knowledge with everyone. I held strong though. Stuck with my brand, and guess what? People responded and they love it Embrace who you are and work it into your branding.” Mary Tice, the RE Geek
“Fake it ’til you make it. It was well-intentioned, but I ended up feeling like a fraud, trying to be someone I wasn’t. I found it was better to be myself and take action toward being the person I wanted to be, rather than acting like someone I wasn’t.” Holly Doherty, Rediscover Radiance
“Not earning enough? You could always just go and get a ‘real’ job. We find a lot of our close friends and family don’t understand just what it is we are trying to achieve with our entrepreneurial business. Like the memes you often see online, they think we have the choice to decide whether or not we get up in the morning and work. They don’t understand how much time and effort actually goes into sourcing clients and new opportunities, and the energy it takes to put yourself out there on a daily basis. We’re happy to say we’re now one year in and going strong! Definitely not looking for that ‘real’ job.” Sarah & Laura, Sarah & Laura Design
“Start off on every popular social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter). I followed this advice with my first blog, and my social presence grew incredibly slow because I couldn’t figure out how to dedicate enough time to each platform.” Kleneice Chambers, Humble & Whole
“Don’t quit your day job. It’s true, you need to be practical, support yourself, and pay the bills. You might have to keep that day job for a while until you figure out finances. But I was only able to fully pursue both my business ideas once I quit my full-time teaching job (with benefits and a 401K) and invested in myself by moving to San Francisco to complete my MFA in Writing. It was from this leap that my ideas really started to blossom and take root, and I wouldn’t have had the time or creative freedom if I was still invested in a job that didn’t fulfill me. Now I wake up every morning excited to review client resumes, to help students study for the ACT and SAT, to post paleo recipes, and to guide people in pursuing self-care.” Allie, The Bohemian Nation
“Just start and take action. This caused me to take the wrong action with a new blog and waste around a year of trying to attract people who didn’t actually want to read and engage with my content. It’s a common phrase you hear entrepreneurs say, but one that’s useful when there’s an overarching strategy in place.” Neil Sheth, Only Way Online
“Someone said we should reconsider using so many exclamation points in our copy and client communications. While in the scheme of things it sounds like a silly piece of advice, it all comes down to our branding. While this advice may ring true for other businesses, something that has helped set our business apart and attract our ideal clients is our brand personality—exclamation points and all! Don’t water down your brand because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Know your audience, know your brand and stay true to that!” Anna Osgoodby, co-founder Bold & Pop
“Once someone told me I should simply give up because my business idea was silly and it would never make me any real money. Well luckily for me, their advice has made me work twice as hard. And this week was the first week that I was able to work from home full-time on my business after quitting my corporate job because I have replaced my full-time salary. I learned to believe in myself. I knew that I could make my business work and so I just had to block out all of the naysayers and trust that I knew what I was doing.” Madison Fichtl, Virtual Assistant
“You really should get out of SEO blog writing—there’s really no market for that anymore. SEO is dead. Five years later, I’m still an SEO blog writer, sometimes an over-booked one! People always think every way to sell products or services is dead. Find whether you have an audience ready to buy your product and the best way to position it. There will always be people who tear your idea apart, but don’t doubt your own research and intuition.” Laura Pennington, Six-Figure Writing Secrets
“Eight-plus years ago when I was just starting my business, my first business coach encouraged me to purchase a high-priced CRM because I should set my business up for where I want to be rather than where I was. It turns out I bit off more than I could chew, both in system features that didn’t fit my new business and in cost. I learned from my own mistake and encourage my clients to find the system that meets their needs while allowing some room for growth.” Christine Morris, Fabulously Balanced Life
“Don’t worry about your site, worry about the money. I felt this advice was the worst because your site plays a huge role in visitors becoming clients. It can be the first impression a reader has of you, and if it looks as though it’s been half done or as though no effort was put forth they may expect the same results in any work you produce for them.” Ashleigh Marie
NEXT STEPS: Thinking about finding a mentor to help you grow your business (and offer USEFUL advice)? Download my free checklist, “20 Questions to Ask a Mentor” below!
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