11 Common Small Business Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Don’t let common mistakes get in the way of your success as a business owner. Use this list to overcome the pitfalls and watch your business grow.

Running a small business can be rewarding and challenging at the same time, and there are ample opportunities for both success and failure. The pressure of building a business while trying not to make any mistakes can be overwhelming, but luckily, there’s a surefire way to keep on top of things. 

Being a small business owner myself, I've been through all of the ups and downs, and I've learned that the best way to succeed is to learn from the mistakes of others and try to avoid them.

To make your start easier, I've put together a list of the top mistakes you should be aware of as a small business owner. With advice on how to overcome these common pitfalls, you’ll be able to move forward with your business with confidence. 


11 Common Small Business Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Here’s my list of common small business mistakes, with advice on how to avoid and combat each one.

1. Not Creating a Business Plan

Regardless of the industry you’re in, a healthy business is made of many moving parts that can be difficult to organize. 

Without a business plan, you may find yourself creating inefficient systems and lacking a clear goal. This can lead to wasteful spending and overspending since you don’t have thought-out budgets and sales goals.

How To Avoid It

You can avoid this mistake easily by creating your own business plan. It doesn't have to be overly complex or formal, but try to cover everything that might be important to your business in the next year or more. 

Just map out your expected operation costs, how you’ll provide your services or source your products, and who you want to sell to and why. You can make it as detailed as you like.

2. Not Having a Smooth Checkout Experience

If your business involves selling products or services online, neglecting your checkout process could have significant consequences. 

The internet is full of online shops and unfortunately also full of scams, and when a checkout page is slow or buggy, customers can fear their money might get lost and back out of the transaction. 

With the sheer amount of online stores available, it can be difficult for many to build brand recognition and develop trust that way, so it’s important to make sure your storefront and checkout experience gives a trustworthy impression as well. The ability to offer different payment methods is increasingly important, too.

How To Avoid It

You can create a smooth checkout experience by using Pay.com as your payment service provider.

With an easy-to-use interface, you can integrate a professional and reliable checkout page into your online store and display all the security badges and certifications your customers need to feel at ease. 

Pay.com checkout pages are also customizable, so you can maintain consistent branding and show users that your payment system is a fully-integrated part of your site. 

You can also use Pay.com to generate direct Pay Links or even take credit card details over the phone. It's a flexible, reliable, and trustworthy system that will ensure your customers can pay in the way that suits them best. Click here to find out how you can get started!

3. Not Having a Clear Way For Customers to Contact You

Even small businesses are expected to have some form of customer service, so customers can communicate their thoughts and problems directly to the company. 

When there’s no “tell us what you think” button on your website or your general contact information is hard to find, it can make potential customers wary. Besides, allowing customers to contact you is important both for positive and negative feedback. 

How To Avoid It

For most small businesses, a contact form on your website is the best way to collect issues and complaints, and social media is the best platform for casual communication and feedback.

Be sure to make a “Contact Us” page on your site where you can include the contact form and link to all of your social media so customers don’t have to work hard to find and talk to you.

You can also add a chatbot to help visitors get quick answers to their questions and get in touch with a real person as soon as possible. 

4. Not Having a Marketing Plan

When you’re starting a new business, it will be difficult for new customers to just stumble onto your website by chance. It will take time for Google to trust your page and begin showing it in search results, and people won’t know your name to search for you directly. 

This is why it’s important to have a marketing plan. Without one, you could stay unseen for far longer than you need to. 

How To Avoid It

A good marketing plan begins with researching your target audience and where they spend their time. Once you have a good understanding of this, you can start to find ways to get your name talked about in these spaces.

This can involve paid advertisements, social media accounts, joining and contributing to relevant communities, and guest posting on relevant blogs. For small businesses, there are also a lot of ways to market your brand for free or on a low budget.  

5. Underpricing or Overpricing Your Product

Pricing your products or services correctly is very important, but it can also easily go wrong. It’s common for new businesses to underprice their product in the hope that a new cheap alternative will draw in lots of customers, and equally common to overprice in order to start making a profit quickly. 

Underpricing can sometimes drive customers away because they’ll doubt the quality of your product and could even suspect a scam. By overpricing, on the other hand, you can risk under-delivering on high expectations of superior quality. 

How To Avoid It

Finding the sweet spot is all about researching the current market and taking note of the prices your competition charges. If you want to charge slightly more than the most successful competitors, make sure your product is up to scratch, and don’t raise the price too much.

Similarly, if you want to offer a cheaper option, make sure you don’t undercut the competition by too much, and explain what you do to help bring prices down.

6. Being Slow With Refunds

Refunds are a natural part of running a business. Mistakes can happen during packing and shipping, and sometimes customers buy the wrong product or the product just doesn’t meet their expectations. 

When these situations arise, the worst thing that can happen is the customer feeling ignored and being driven to talk about their bad experience elsewhere. This can affect your star ratings on review sites, and possibly influence other potential buyers. 

How To Avoid It

To make the best out of a refund situation, always endeavor to get the refund back to the buyer as soon as possible, and make sure not to exceed the average time limit written in your returns and refunds policy

Pay.com can help you process refunds quickly, and you can easily keep track of them on the Pay Dashboard

7. Expensive or Slow Shipping

There are various ways to deal with shipping and delivery, and with big names like Amazon offering quick delivery for cheap prices, consumers have developed high standards.

This can be difficult for a small business to match, and you shouldn’t run yourself into the ground by trying to offer the exact same standards. At the same time, slow and expensive delivery can drive customers away.

If a similar product can be bought elsewhere and delivered more quickly, there is a chance the buyer will choose the competition over you. 

How To Avoid It

Firstly, make sure to do your research properly and ensure that you’re getting the best value shipping and delivery for your money. Secondly, if you find good shipping at a slightly higher price, consider raising the prices of your products slightly to cover it. 

That way you won’t need to pay more, and buyers won’t feel like they’re overspending on delivery.

You can also consider eating the cost of the shipping on bigger orders. Setting a monetary threshold after which the delivery is free can be good for two reasons. For one, your customers may be happy that the option is there at all, and two, you may be able to sell a little more if customers will be adding extra products to their carts just to reach the free delivery level. It may seem counterproductive, but it does happen.

8. Not Accepting Enough Payment Methods

Lots of people have a favorite payment method, whether because they trust it more than others or just find it more convenient. Offering a wide variety of methods can help improve your customer experience. 

On the other hand, offering only a limited number of payment methods can sour a customer’s experience and even affect your reputation in a similar way to having a buggy checkout page. This can lead to cart abandonment, where the customer has items they’re interested in but chooses not to go through with the purchase because of not being able to pay with any of the payment methods you’re offering.

How To Avoid It

The simplest way to offer a wide range of payment methods is to sign up for Pay.com. Setting up your account and integrating a checkout page is quick and easy, and selecting the payment methods you want to accept is even easier.

Simply toggle on the payment methods you want, and they will appear as options for your buyers. With major providers like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Maestro, Mastercard, Amex, and Visa available, you’ll be able to accommodate every kind of customer.

9. Not Researching the Competition 

Market research is essential for both new and established businesses to grow and thrive within their industry. Competing with other similar companies is how you can improve your products and provide the best possible services to your customers. 

If you don’t pay attention to what the competition is doing, you’ll find that your pricing, shipping, quality, and other factors will stand out from the norm – and often not in a good way. 

While consumers do want variety in their options, companies that don’t fit the general standard can end up appearing suspicious or low in quality. 

How To Avoid It

Research, research, research. Market research should be a part of creating your business plan as well as developing your operations, and should be updated regularly once everything is up and running. 

As well as using market research to develop your base products and prices, you can also use it to properly time offers and promotions to coincide with other businesses. If you hold a sale at the same time, you can avoid losing business to your competitors during their sale period. 

10. Hiring Too Many People

Small businesses can be difficult to run alone, but bringing full-time employees on too early can be extremely expensive. It’s generally unwise to commit to a yearly salary before your profits have stabilized, and it can be easy to overestimate how much work you’ll actually have for them.

The result can often be too little work for too much money and this can really affect the efficiency of your operations. It’s also a difficult problem to fix, as you shouldn’t just hire and fire full-time employees on a whim. 

How To Avoid It

Of course, there is a right time to bring on employees as well, so the best thing to do is give the idea proper thought and run it against all of your sales and operations data. If the cost seems too expensive, and the potential workload a little light, consider using contractors and freelance workers instead. 

This way you can pay for the exact amount of work you need, without having to plan out a salary and benefits.

11. Failing to Improve and Optimize 

Setting up a business is a lot of hard work, and you’ll likely spend a lot of effort organizing the first version of your business plan.

It can feel difficult to just throw that work away when you notice a problem or an improvement that can be made, but ignoring things can have far worse results. 

No business is the same three years in as it was at its birth, because improvements and optimizations are essential to growth. If you fail to make changes to your business, you could experience stagnation early on, and even risk losing money if you ignore problems that require attention.

How To Avoid It

Needing to tweak and change your work doesn’t mean it becomes a wasted effort. Building upon foundations is a proper and healthy way for businesses to grow, so it’s important to get into the right mindset and be willing to put in the effort.

Always test and trial out new options to see what works best, and if something doesn't quite work, don't be afraid to let go and move on. Implementing changes means growth, and that's never a bad thing. If you're trying something out for the first time, it's a good idea to put it into writing beforehand and give it a trial run; when the trial period is over, go back and see the benefits and the flaws of your new idea.

The Benefits of Working with Pay.com as Your Payment Service Provider 

If you want to create a professional, smooth, and reliable checkout experience for your customers, Pay.com can help you achieve this quickly and easily. With a simple setup and easy-to-use interface, you can begin accepting payments in a short amount of time. 

As well as integrating a dependable and customizable checkout page into your website, you can also send Pay Links to your customers. This feature generates a unique link that you can send easily over text or email, and allows buyers to complete their purchase on a secure checkout page. 

Plus, no matter how many payment methods you choose to accept, you can manage all of your transactions and data in one place with the Pay Dashboard and keep track of your fees at all times so there are no nasty surprises at the end of the month.

Click here to get started with Pay.com now!

The Bottom Line: Avoid These Mistakes and Watch Your Business Succeed

Common mistakes are common for a reason, so don’t assume you’ll naturally get everything right on the first try. Instead, use this list to inform your decisions and keep your developing business on track and you’ll soon see the results you want. 

Your business can accept credit card payments smoothly. Sign up for Pay.com for easy access to major payment methods as well as professional, customizable checkout pages.


What's the best way for a small business to accept multiple payment methods?

Signing up for Pay.com is a great way to accept multiple payment methods both easily and securely. Pay.com’s simple interface allows you to just click on the payment methods you want to accept and they’ll automatically appear on your checkout page.

What's the #1 reason startups fail?

The top reason startups fail is simply that they run out of money. This can be caused by a variety of other mistakes like bad bookkeeping, ineffective marketing, and lack of research, or by just bad luck and a fundamentally weak business idea.

What's the most common mistake small business owners make?

Insufficient research is one of the most common mistakes small business owners make, because they don’t realize how useful it is to know the competition and know how to shape their own strategies around this information.

What are the signs of a failing business?

It can take some time to start making a profit from your new business, so not making profit instantly is definitely not a sign of a failing business. However, you do need to watch how much money you have left, and how much traffic you’re receiving. If these numbers are going steadily down instead of up, this could be a warning sign.

What's the best way to optimize my checkout process?

The best way to optimize your checkout process is to work with Pay.com and integrate its fast, secure, and customizable checkout page into your website. With top-rate security compliance and a variety of major payment methods available, you can make purchases a breeze for your customers and yourself.

Meet the author
Monica J White
Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it, with a special focus on fintech. She enjoys the challenge of explaining complex topics to a broader audience.
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