30 annoying things you're doing that will shrink your audience, flummox your fans, and turn off potential clients
by Brittany Taylor
published November 4, 2017
updated June 5, 2018
¶ I’ll admit it: I do have a long list of pet peeves and minor grievances. For example, I hate listening to people chew food and I refuse to touch pans that have contained cooked broccoli. I even think toes look like strange E.T. fingers (and I don’t like people touching my feet).
These oddball items aside, there are a number of things professional people and business owners in particular do that are universally annoying. I promise you I’m not the only one who finds every item on this list of annoying things to be frustrating, irritating, exhausting, and, sometimes, infuriating.
Take a gander and act accordingly, won’t you?
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The ultimate list of annoying things you’re doing that are hurting your business and your professional prospects
Have you ever wondered why people are rolling their eyes at you? Or why your on-site time sucks? Or why your follower count is low? Or why people never respond to your social media posts? You might just be annoying the shit out of them. And—lucky you—that’s an easy thing to fix.
Here’s a long list of annoying things. If you’re doing things on the list, you’re getting even luckier today, ‘cause I’m also telling you what to do instead of that annoying thing. Jackpot, baby. Read ‘em and weep. Then get to work.
#1. Using the same stock photos everyone else is using
If you absolutely can’t take your own photographs, try to find little-used stock photo sites or other resources that offer Creative Commons licenses, like Flickr, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library.
May I suggest an alternative to photos? Try graphics.
#2. Dropping trendy buzzwords on social media
If you were “authentic” before “authentic” was hip, use it! But if you’re jumping on board because everyone else is, pause and consider your brand language. Think carefully about the words you want to use to talk about your business and your beliefs.
#3. Writing dime-a-dozen blog posts that don’t add to the conversation
Make your blog posts better by avoiding topics that have been covered ad nauseum—or by adding your own twist, expertise, opinion, or perspective to these blog posts.
The best way to do this is to tell personal stories in your blog posts.
#4. Playing the follow/unfollow game on social media
Organic growth is the best growth. To achieve it, follow the people whose content you want to see and interact with them regularly in order to build relationships.
#5. Posting self-serving mini-blog posts on Facebook groups
A better way to get attention in groups is to be of service. Answer questions, offer advice, and if someone is looking for a service provider or products that you offer (or know someone else who does), provide a referral.
Looking for a new online community? Try my 20 top picks.
#6. Spending 75 percent of your webinar pitching a new product
Nobody signed up to listen to your sales pitch, so if you must pitch, keep it to the last few minutes of your presentation rather than letting it overshadow your presentation. Remember: The more quality content you offer for free, the more likely you are to attract customers who will happily pay for your very best stuff.
#7. Not crediting sources for photographs, quotes, or facts
To borrow ethically, link back when you can and always use a full name (and tag on social media). Get a little extra internet karma by telling the person or business you’re citing that you’ve mentioned them in your content.
Grab the Creative Entrepreneur Code of Ethics here.
#8. Using pop-ups and welcome-mat opt-ins constantly on your website
Occasional opt-ins are fine. When you combine a welcome-mat with a 50-percent read pop-up and then a close window-triggered pop-up on every single post and page, well, that’s just irritating. Sprinkle them strategically rather than dumping them on.
#9. Interacting with communities only when there’s something in it for you
The largest benefits that can be had from social communities online come from the relationships you build—and pitching your products or services doesn’t build relationships. Instead, linger in groups. Get to know people. Comment on posts offering help and support.
#10. Creating a color palette with no pop
Pastels are in, and that’s fine, but you do want to include at least one color that catches attention. If you need help finding something complimentary, using a color wheel or a free color palette generator.
Is your blog design making readers run the other way?
#11. Re-posting popular, unoriginal content on Instagram
One occasional meme to celebrate October 3rd? Fine. Sourcing most of your content from other people’s feeds? B-O-R-I-N-G. Instead, brainstorm graphics or photos you can DIY—or collaborate with another professional.
#12. Never talking about yourself when you talk about your work
Many of us work on variations of a theme. If you don’t add a personal element, you’ll blend in with your competition. Instagram is a great way to start sharing personal stories and peeks into your life. Desk snaps, pet shots, and #fridayintroductions will help your followers warm up to you.
I struggle with shyness, introversion, and social anxiety. Did you know there's a difference between the three?
#13. Auto-commenting on social media posts
These comments come across as spammy and tone deaf. Instead, spend 10 minutes a day scrolling through your various feeds and commenting where you can be encouraging or helpful.
#14. Sharing only your products or services
Instead, try to follow the 80/20 rule (that’s 80 percent other people’s posts and promotions, and 20 percent yours) or the 30/30/30 rule (that’s 30 percent promo, 30 percent education, and 30 percent entertainment).
#15. Discussing only the good, shiny things that happen to you and your business
Perfection is boring. While aspirational content is certainly a nitch, we can’t all be dreamers and doers every minute of every day—that would be exhausting. Sharing the shitty things that happen in your life make you look like a normal person doing a generally great job, all things considered. For a great example of this, check out Mariah Coz and Jen Gotch.
My not-shiny thing: I'm a sick boss. This is what it's like to live + work with a chronic illness.
#16. Sugar-coating products for which you are an affiliate
When I see affiliate links or promotions, I’m always dubious because I know the person offering them is getting a kickback for talking them up. If you’re an affiliate, go out of your way to explain who the product is for and who it isn’t for, what’s great about it and what’s lacking, what problems it solved and what problems it doesn’t.
#17. Only taking a stand or expressing an opinion when it has become popular
Sometimes, we don’t have time to respond to current events right away. Sometimes, events become bigger in the cultural zeitgeist than we expected them to. But when you’re consistently echoing stands others have taken, you look more like a sheep than an individual.
To avoid that, decide upfront what sorts of opinions you want to associate with your professional brand. Give yourself guidelines for what you’ll discuss and what you won’t. Doing this makes it easier to formulate an opinion quickly and decide if it’s one that makes sense to share on behalf of your business.
#18. Consistently flaking on deadlines and commitments
It’s OK to cancel or reschedule appointments or projects that aren’t going to work for whatever reason. It’s not OK to do it 75 percent of the time. If you have to back out, notify ASAP and be flexible if you’re rescheduling. And, in the future, consider the patterns that cause you to cancel things and if there are changes you can make in your systems or habits to do it less frequently.
#19. Harping on the same topic over and over again
Niche-ing down is great, but that doesn’t mean you should be a broken record. Try to diversify your messaging, entertainment, and educational points and to add varieties of depth and complexity to them so that you’re not continually publishing different takes on the same content.
#20. Not responding to people who leave you comments
Everyone wants to be acknowledged! If you want to build a relationship with your audience, you need to take part in the conversation. Responding to comments is a part of that.
#21. Creating graphics with difficult-to-decipher fonts
Enough. With. The fancy. Cursive. Fonts. Ninety-eight percent of them are impossible to read. If you can’t read the words in a second, it’s not a good display font. Pick something else.
#22. Continually re-sending email newsletters with corrected links or information
Sometimes, you screw up an important date or fudge a link. We all make mistakes! But there are some newsletter senders who routinely send out their email, wait five minutes, then send out an “oops! I forgot to share the link!” email, just to ensure they’ve caught your attention. Don’t be one of those people. Proofread, double check dates, and test every link before you send.
#23. Refusing to discuss your prices without a lengthy conversation
This is a really common sales tactic and it certainly has its defenders. I’m not one of them. If I can’t figure out what your price range is, at minimum, I’m moving on. Why? Because I know what I have sitting in my bank account. You can add all the value in the world via your product, but if I can’t afford it, I can’t buy it—period. Instead, be upfront about your prices, and if you have to defend them, spend time doing that.
#24. Disappearing from your blog or social media without warning
I’m guilty of this one. I will raise my hand here and hang my head. It’s absurd, really, because this is SO EASY to avoid. All you have to do is post a “I’ll be taking a break until X” message. That’s it!
#25. Sending email newsletters your audience did not opt-in to
Whenever you change the focus or frequency of your email newsletter, you should ask your current subscribers to opt back in. Most newsletter platforms make this very easy to do via link tracking and segmentations.
#26. Peppering your website with broken links
Most web hosts offer a link check tool that runs through every link on your website. If yours doesn’t there are likely third-party extensions, plugins, or services you could use to do that work. To avoid running into these problems, try to avoid changing URLs and if you do, redirect them to the new addresses.
#27. Ignoring rules in Facebook Groups and Group Pinterest Boards
Group administrators are fast, but they can’t catch every rule breaker the second they commit a no-no. And to me, a rule-following goody-two-shoes, most rule breakers are social media pariahs I don’t want to interact with because, frankly, how dare they?! Don’t incur the wrath of strangers. Follow the rules.
#28. Not responding to client inquiries promptly
One business day—that’s the ideal response time, even if the response is “I’m slammed right now, but here’s an FAQ and a brochure about my services, and I’ll get back to you by next Monday. Thanks for understanding!”
#29. Leaving your full name and business email address off your website
There are limited circumstances under which I can understand you not including your full name or email on your website. These circumstances don’t apply to most people. Most people who don’t include them simply don’t realize they’re not there. Go double check, please, because when people like clients, journalists, press reps, and collaborators want to reach out to you, they might give up when you make finding these details quite difficult.
#30. Re-pinning graphics that aren’t properly linked
It does take more time to click on each pin you plan to repin and ensure that it’s well-sourced, but it’s worth it so that people don’t become frustrated with you and the site you’re pinning from. Click. Confirm. Pin. That’s it!
Feeling unsure of yourself as a business owner is part of creative entrepreneur basic training.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.