5 First Steps to Becoming a Solopreneur

SolopreneurWell here we are. That time of year when, for many, the bright glow of optimism and resolutions is dimmed by the reality of the day-to-day grind. But isn’t your desire to escape that day-to-day grind at least part of what fueled those resolutions in the first place?

Don’t be a slave to the calendar. If you resolved that this will be the year that you finally escape from the 9-to-5 monotony, and start working on your own dreams rather than busting your ass for someone else, you still have more than 11 months to make that a reality. That’s plenty of time to get some traction.

Break it down into actionable steps

Looking at the whole picture of what you want to accomplish can be intimidating. That’s why it’s important to break it down into steps.

Keep it practical, and simple. Start with defining what you are as a solopreneur. For example, I’m a project management solopreneur. I offer a buffet of services and products under that umbrella, but that’s the heart of what I am. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with a client as a project management coach, or assisting a client with some of the more technical aspects of scheduling and managing their projects, my business revolves around project management. The reason for this is simple – knowledge, skill, and experience in that subject matter. I have plenty of all three, and I like the work that I do, so it was an easy leap for me to develop my business along this path. What about you? What are you good at? What do you love? What do have experience with?

Sometimes the answers to those questions don’t align the way you wish that they would. Maybe you have the passion and the aptitude, but lack the experience. Maybe you have the experience and the skill, but lack the passion. This is where you need to dig a little deeper. If you’re going to make the transition from employee to solopreneur, you’ll want to follow your passion. But maybe you need to start selling what you know, while you’re gaining more experience in what you love. A journey isn’t accomplished in a single step.

Begin before you’re ready

This is the one that holds most people back. The never-ending wait for that perfect moment. And it is absolutely never-ending. Some people are waiting “for the right time”. But does such a moment actually exist? If you’re waiting until you have 6 or 8 or 12 months of living expenses saved before you spectacularly quit your job and start your own business, then invariably the day after that moment crystalizes, some unforeseen event will occur which changes your situation or your budget. Life is riddled with surprises. You can’t plan for all of them. Waiting doesn’t guarantee success. It just runs the clock.

Why wait at all? Why not start your solopreneur path now, while you still have a day job and a steady income? Yes, it is absolutely more difficult to try and squeeze extra time out of your already busy days. But if it’s important to you, and if it can be a life-changing experience (yes!), then isn’t it worth sacrificing a few hours of television every week to work on your dream?

Once you’ve made the decision to turn your dream into reality, you’ll also need to avoid getting bogged down in the weeds that will undoubtedly surround you. You can’t write a perfect business plan, create the perfect website, have the perfect Facebook page, and perfectly hit all of your sales targets, all at the same time. You need to do the best you can, adapt as you go, and keep moving forward. Understand your business goals, create a simple landing page, let your social networks know about your exciting new business, and then focus everything you have on making sales and delivering value.

Make your first sale

The best time to make your first sale as a solopreneur is when you already have an income from another job. It means working evenings, working weekends, and agressively managing your time. But this is your dream, and your life-changing plan that you’re working on, so that won’t be a problem.

It’s one thing to lie to your friends, but don’t lie to yourself. Not every failure is due to “not having enough time”. If you can’t make a sale now, what makes you think you can make a sale after you quit your day job? And remember, all sales count. It doesn’t matter whether your first customer is a friend, a colleague, or even your current employer (though I’ve only seen this happen in very few situations).

A paying customer is a paying customer. It’s a critical first step to validating your business idea. And making a sale, securing income, for a business that you own and that you started and that you’re delivering all by yourself? It’s an indescribable feeling.

Keep up the momentum

Have you ever heard that expression, that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job? Sales aren’t dissimilar. That’s one of the reasons that making your first sale is so critical. Sales lead to other sales. As long as you capitalize on the moment, and nurture them correctly.

Customer feedback, word of mouth, marketing your existing sales to gain more sales all help your business develop and grow. Take on as much work as you can handle. “As much as you can handle” means as much as you can confidently deliver successfully, even if it means overloading your schedule for a period of time.

Monitor, measure and move

There’s no point to putting in the work unless you have the courage to reap the reward. This means that once you’ve made a few sales and have some momentum, that’s the point in time when you have to make the hard decisions. Is now the time to leave your job and devote all of your time to your business? Can you continue to do double duty, and perform well at both your day job and your solopreneur side business, for a little bit longer?

Once again, you need to be completely honest with yourself. The reality is that it’s highly unlikely (though not impossible) that you’ll earn enough business income on the side, in those evening and weekend hours, to actually match or surpass your regular paycheck. In a perfect world, yes, this is what would happen. You would continue to work on your side business until its earnings were the equivalent of 120%-150% of your paycheck. Then you would quit your day job, reclaim all that extra time, and not miss a beat in the income department. But now we’re back to waiting for perfection, and other things that never happen.

So, no, you likely won’t replace your day job income by working on your solopreneur business evenings and weekends. And no, it’s not reasonable to think that you can work 12-14 hours a day, every day, for a lengthy period of time without completing burning out. And that’s a hard way for a dream to die.

The question is whether you have sufficient success with your side business that the time is now right to go all in. Evaluate your performance with a critical eye, but don’t succumb to pessimism and cynicism. It’s important to be honest and objective. Reviewing performance and trying to project future sales is a risk-based game that every solopreneur, freelancer, and self-employed person needs to play.

Look at your performance in terms of percentages. What is your percentage growth over the period you’re reviewing? What percentage of your time did you spend on making those sales and delivering those results? What capacity constraints do you have now? How will this change if you quit your day job? How many months and how much money will you burn before your business income will confidently cover all of your expences? These are numbers that can help you make informed decisions and mitigate your risk. They’re also numbers you’ll never have until you make that first sale.

One last question to consider. What will you be doing on January 1st, 2017?

Will you be making the same resolutions as this year, hoping once again to start working on your dream?

Or will you be toasting your own success and reflecting in wonder on what an amazing and life-changing year it’s been?

“How did it get so late so soon?” ~ Dr. Seuss

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Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 3

I don’t consider myself a particularly rebellious person. I cross the street when the light says “walk”. I stop at red lights even though it’s the middle of the night and the streets are empty. I don’t park in ’no parking’ areas (unless it’s cheaper to pay the parking ticket than it is to pay for suitable parking). I don’t spend all of my energy raging against ‘the system’.

But I am infinitely curious. And I as much as I’ve tried, I can’t stop myself from continually asking the question “why”. I realized very early on in my career that this is not a character trait that bosses or corporate executives welcome.

“All employess shall follow the dress code”. Why? Can’t they be trusted to dress appropriately for their circumstances without needing to follow a ‘code’? Do employees need to be indistnguishable in order to be effective?

“Employees are not permitted to work from home”. Why? Because if they’re working from home, how do you know they’re working? How do you know they’re not? How do you know if they’re working while they’re at the office? Are they monitored every minute of every day? Presumably they need to produce results. If those results are produced, does it matter from where?

Why do organizations create so many rules geared towards dictating the behaviour of employees? Is it because there are always a few people who make poor decisions, and organizations don’t have the courage to deal with those people directly so they make blanket rules to save themselves from having awkward conversations? Could it really be sometime as simple as cowardice?

For some of us, myself included, transitioning to self-employment is like finally finding your way home. It just “fits” better than the master-servant world, with it’s rigidity, rules and expectations. Where trust is an anthem that never manifests.

Nevertheless, freeing yourself from that world isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Through your employment years, you’ve become indoctrinated with the rules and regulations of the corporate world. One of your first goals as a solopreneur is to shed those chains, and break free. The longer you’ve been an employee, the more you’ll need to unlearn.

Unlearn: 8 Hour Days

When you work for yourself, you don’t have an eight hour work day. Some days will be 12 hours. Some days will be 3 hours. Trying to sculpt this into a more predictable pattern is a losing battle. You’ll need to be flexible. For some, this flexibility will be jarring. But there are two sides to every coin. You need to be flexible, in order to meet the demands of your clients and customers. But you also get to be flexible, and enjoy the benefits of a more integrated work-life schedule. You’re no longer obligated to work from 9am to 5pm. You may find yourself working from 8am until 1pm, then spending your afternoon at the beach or the golf course or gardening or working on the next best seller, and then working again from 6pm to 10pm.  And the next day, your schedule may be completely different. Be disciplined, but enjoy the flexibility.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Waiting for Direction

Your days are no longer dictated by direction from those above you in the food chain. There is no one above you. You may have clients and customers that you interact with, but it is not their job to manage you, nor is it your job to “report to” them. Be proactive. Take the initiative, and ensure that you’re continually driving things forward. Don’t sit and wait for a client to get back to you. Follow-up, clarify, communicate. You’ll make mistakes. Own them, learn from them, and move on. Always forward.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Validating Your Decisions

You and you alone are responsible for your business, and the decisions you make. You’ll neeed to make decisions constantly, every day. Be thoughtful, but don’t let yourself get dragged down by ‘analysis paralysis’. Overthinking, stalling, second guessing yourself, and deferring decisions will cost you more time, money, and opportunity than a bad decision. You will not always have all of the information you want before executing. Decide, take action, and then manage the outcomes of that decision, whatever they may be.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Working Hard

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: yes, of course, working for yourself is hard work. But don’t use “hard work” as the solution to every problem.

If a customer demands more than you have agreed to, or is looking for you to meet a deadline that you know isn’t reasonable, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can “work hard” and get it done. Nor that you should just work hard and get it done. In most cases, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even worse, you may succeed, resulting in raised expectations, more demands, and an unsustainable cycle that leads you straight to burn out. As a solopreneur, no one is going to intercede on your behalf, or protect your interests. Ever. You need to protect your own interests, and sometimes this means saying no, setting boundaries, and managing difficult conversations. Sometimes it can even mean ‘firing’ your client.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Putting Yourself Last

Employess are used to waiting their turn. Some patiently, some resentfully. They’re trained to have lowered expectations. Not enough money this year for professional development? Wait until next year. Not enough money this year for bonuses (for everyone)? Wait until next year. Overdue for a promotion but no career path available? Wait until it’s your turn.

As a solopreneur, you’re only competing with yourself. Make sure you develop your skills, manage your career, and explore new challenges. It’s all too easy to become completely consumed by the demands of customers and clients. It’s important to carve out at least a little bit of time to invest in yourself. It will make you a better professional, which will be reflected in the engagement and enthusiasm that you bring to your daily work.

Just like an employee.

 

 

Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 1

By far, the most frequent questions asked of me, professionally, have to do with making the switch from employee to solopreneur. Or from employee to contractor, or freelancer, or entrepreneur, or self-employed, and so on. Whatever your perspective. It transcends demographics, industries, skills, and experience levels. People at every age and stage of their life, in a variety of careers, are inquiring about leaving the world of employment to strike out on their own.

In fact, I know so many people who are thinking of making the switch from employee to solopreneur, or independent contractor, or freelancer, that I often think the world of employment is on the brink of being decimated by mass resignations of the workforce any day now.

Of course, that’s not even close to reality. For a couple of reasons.

Employees – No Longer First Choice?

First, corporations aren’t desperately seeking to hold onto their employees these days. In fact, the trend is just the opposite. Organizations are looking for contractors and freelancers more often as a means to get the job done. (Intuit 2020 Report: 20 Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade) The world economy continues to shift more toward a “gig” economy, where resources are hired to deliver tasks and projects, rather than hired to fulfill the role of “employee of company x”. In many situations, this is a less expensive option for organizations, even though contractor rates on the surface seem high in comparison to employee salaries. But beneath the surface, it’s the associated expenses related to staffing employees that drive companies to engage “per project” resources more frequently. Employee benefits, paid time off, sick leave, overtime pay, on-boarding investment, professional development and training costs, off-boarding investment, and more add significant bloat to the salary line item. With contractors and freelancers, what you see is what you get. Work is estimated, budgeted, contracted, delivered, and paid for. The end.

The Courage to Change

Second, of the many people who are thinking of making the switch from employee to solopreneur, most will fail to pull the trigger. It’s not so much that they’ll fail at their attempt, it’s that they won’t even try. A small tragedy, really, for those who have the desire and likely the capability, but simply lack the courage to realize their dreams. On the other hand, for those of us who pulled the trigger years ago and make our day-to-day living as solopreneurs or contractors, we needn’t ever really worry about a flooded market. There will always be just enough fear to hold back just enough people.

At the same time, a few will certainly dare to take the leap, and so I’ve decided that the next few posts are for them. Or for you, if you count yourself among them. There are all kinds of “how to” and “tips and tricks” posts out there on the interwebs which can give some great tactical examples of steps to take to make this transition. For my part, I’d like to focus on sharing some thoughts and experiences about what it’s really like to live without a pay-check. Because all of those people who are to afraid to pull the trigger? Well, they have a point. It’s terrifying.

 

 

Why Doesn’t Everyone Quit Their Job

Quitting Your JobIf it’s so great, why doesn’t everybody do it?

If that thought has ever crossed your mind while considering working for yourself, you’re not alone. I get asked this question time and again. Even more frequently, people don’t ask, they just skeptically assume that I do what I do as a temporary measure, until I ‘find a real job’. Well, it’s been 12 years, so I guess their definition of temporary is a little different than mine.

5 Obstacles to Being Your Own Boss

People cling to the 9-to-5 paycheck for a few reasons. And those reasons are not insignificant. They’re exactly what distinguishes the non-employed (but not unemployed) from the employed.

The Comfort Zone

It’s all they know, and they’re comfortable with the model. A paycheck appears every two weeks that pays JUST enough to pay the bills. Or, for those at the top of the food chain, pays the bills and affords them a comfortable lifestyle. Not rich, never rich, but comfortable.

Let’s not understate the harsh reality of self-employment. There is no paycheck. Ever. The only money you get is the money you generate from the work that you generate. That’s a considerable downside for many people.

The upside? The amount of money you get is the amount of money you generate from the amount of work that you generate. You don’t need to wait for a bonus, or a promotion, or the benevolence of someone above you on the corporate ladder. And there will always be someone above you on the corporate ladder.

You don’t need to perpetually bite your tongue or swallow your opinions to ensure that you’re always “on the good side” of your boss. If you quit your job and work for yourself, the amount of money you make is only limited by how hard you’re willing to work.

The Fear Factor That Kills Solopreneurship

The primary reason people stay exactly in the place they’ve been put in or stumbled into is that they’re afraid of change. Why? Because change doesn’t guarantee success, or improvement, or a better result. Change only guarantees difference. And difference may be good, but it can also be bad. Very, very bad. Why take a leap forward in the dark, when you can stay exactly where you are? Miserable, maybe, but it’s a known misery.

If you quit your job, what happens next? No one knows. Pretend you have a friend or colleague who quit their job to become a virtual project manager. They start slowly, get a few steady clients, and eventually build up their reputation and network over time. They get so busy that they start contracting out some of the work to take on even more clients. Success!

So you decide, great, and you quit your job to start an online business. Will you be successful? I don’t know. Maybe. Online work is on the rise and is expected to continue to increase over the next number of years. That would indicate a good chance of success.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe you’re not very good at what you do. Maybe you don’t work as hard as your friend. Maybe you haven’t thought about how to deliver your services efficiently and effectively.

The point is, when you work for yourself, it’s all on you. Does that thought scare you, or reassure you? That’s the inner voice you should be listening to. Do you want to be taken care of, or do you want to take care of yourself?

Commitment Needed to Be Your Own Boss

People know it requires more effort than they’re willing to give. They don’t necessarily admit this to themselves, but ultimately this is the root cause of a lot of inaction. Committment equals effort, and lack of effort is easier.

The path of least resistance will never travel parallel to the path to success.

The good news is that if you have the committment, you can reap the reward. Go to Google and search for successful entrepreneurs and read their stories. I bet you won’t find any that say “it was really easy, I was literally an overnight success, and it didn’t take an ounce of hard work”.

Commitment is something you need to assess at the outset, and then constantly revisit if you quit your job to work for yourself. You won’t have the luxury of calling in sick when you don’t feel like working; or taking a few weeks vacation and ignoring your email and voice messages while you’re gone.

Are you the type of person that leaves the office at 5pm every day, regardless of what you’re in the middle of doing?  Do you take a sick day every couple of months, whether you need it or not?  That isn’t reality when you work for yourself.

Criticism is Easier Than Ownership

It’s easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize. Always. Something I’ve noticed is that the biggest cynics, your biggest critics, aren’t those who have tried and failed, but those who have never even tried. Why?

No one likes to admit to cowardice. Much better to say that they had the “insight” to avoid a mistake, than to admit they were too afraid to make the attempt.

Admitting that you want this, that you really want this, but you’re afraid to try will help you take those next steps.  What are you afraid of?  Write it down. Then break it down.

Afraid of failure?  How do you define failure?  Not becoming a millionaire?  Not being able to pay your bills?  Not getting even one client?  How do you mitigate failure?  Start with clients and customers.  Work on securing your first sale before you’ve left the safety of your current nest.  Write it down.  Develop a plan.

A Little Narcissism is a Good Thing

If you’ve decided to spread your wings and go out on your own, then yes, you need to be a little narcissistic. Frankly if you spend too much time thinking about others and not enough time dwelling on yourself, you’re not going to be in the business of building a business. Think Donald Trump. But dialed back to reasonable scale. You’re just trying to build a life for yourself after all, not an empire.

There’s also an inherent danger in too much narcissism. Some people are stopped in their tracks from pursuing their dreams because they’re too focused on their own specialness. They truly believe that their circumstances are so incredibly unique, and so incredibly difficult, and so incredibly complex, that they can’t possibly do what others have done because those others just have it so much easier than them.

Really? Business owners don’t have spouses and children and parents and siblings and family commitments? Business owners aren’t busy? They don’t work hard? They don’t go to the gym or play hockey or go to their kids’ soccer games or have social obligations?

The truth is, you’re not that special. Neither am I. Neither are most people that are making a living working for themselves, working from home, running online businesses, running small businesses, freelancing, and otherwise generating their own income.  That’s good news.  It means there’s no reason that you can’t do the same.  If you want it, you can do it.

Conclusion

The biggest barriers to starting your own business aren’t external. It’s not money and resources and time that stop you before you even get out of the gate. It’s our own internal fears and doubts and constructs and rationalizations that keep us tethered to a situation. Breaking down those mental barriers are usually your first challenge.

It’s a little more complicated than “believe in yourself”, but being honest with yourself, examining what makes you tick, admitting your fears, and challenging your assumptions will move you forward. Get unstuck. Or, at the very least, conclude that maybe being stuck is where you’re happiest.

 

5 First Steps to Becoming Self-Employed

Self-employed home office

Many people dream about being self-employed and making money on their own terms. No more bosses, no more bullshit. But you can dream all day, and that won’t change your circumstances. The only one who can change your circumstances is you. It doesn’t need to be drastic or dramatic. Drama is best saved for the world of entertainment, not your professional career.  So you want to be your own boss? Let’s action that.

Start Small

I find people have pre-conceived notions of what “starting a business” means. Generally it’s whatever they’ve been fed in their daily diets of tech blogs and silicon valley success stories.

But there’s a big broad world of microcosms beyond those boundaries. Small businesses strive and thrive everywhere. With digital mediums and online marketing providing a lower cost of entry than ever before, people everywhere are making money for themselves.

If you’re an employee looking to step off the treadmill, do so at a reasonable pace. You don’t need to build the next Google. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the thought of renting office space, hiring employees, investing huge quantities of money just to ‘test’ whether your idea will work.

Start with what you can accomplish without a huge investment. Want to start a catering business? Cater a few small events initially for friends/acquaintances. Want to start an online business? Create a website and start actioning your plan for an hour or two each day, after your day job. Figure out what works and what doesn’t when the stakes are small.

Start With What You Know

Making money isn’t magic, and it isn’t dumb luck. It’s about generating value. People who don’t know what you know will pay you for that knowledge. And people who can’t do what you can do will pay you for that ability. Whether it’s a service (‘I don’t know how to do X, but you know how to do X, so I will pay you to do X for me’) or a product (‘I can’t create Y, and you’ve already created Y, so I will pay you for Y’).

Everybody has knowledge about something. Everybody has skills. What do you know? What can you do? It doesn’t have to be unique. You don’t need to be the only one in the world with this talent. But it needs to be comprehensive. Comprehensive knowledge or skills means you can compete.

Start Now

People that talk to me about wanting to work for themselves, people who dream of being self-employed, consistently express one common theme – “when the time is right”.

Often, for those dreamers, the time is only right when it’s easy (‘I have $100,000 in the bank and nothing to spend it on, what a great time to be self-employed!) or when it’s necessary (‘If I ever lost my job, I’d become self-employed’). “Easy” will never happen; “necessary” happens all too often.

The problem with waiting until you lose your job before you start your own business is that you’re starting at step 0 at a time when you have 0 income. Not smart.

Whenever you start, you will not be an overnight success. This doesn’t happen. Depending on your business, there’s a better than average chance that you also won’t be successful in one month, or two months, and possibly not even in six months.

Starting your business in your own time, while you still have a day job, is the safest, least risky path to successful self-employed.  That wasn’t my path.  My hand was forced, and I had to react, and react quickly.  Vistria’s origin story was more big bang than slow burn.

While the pressure of not knowing whether you’ll be living on the street in two months’ time is certainly motivating, it’s a less than optimal way to get started.  Better to have a steady income while you slowly and gradually work on your freedom plan.

The downside? It’s a hell of a lot of work. You will need to sacrifice your evenings and your weekends on a regular basis. The end game and the payoff is freedom. Freedom from being at the mercy of your bosses and co-workers, to answer only to yourself.

Only you can answer the question how bad do you want that freedom.

Start Confidently

As much as we rely on our friends to give us valuable feedback, be careful about asking your friends for advice about quitting your job.  Especially if your friends are salaried employees. By all means tell them about your endeavour and listen to their feedback. But don’t take their advice.

Employees will always offer the same perspectives about non-employees – ‘sounds risky’, ‘what if it doesn’t work’, ‘what’s your fallback plan’, ‘how do you absolutely know it will work’, ‘what if you can’t pay the bills’. You likely already have these doubts inside of you. Good. You should. It will motivate you to work harder to avoid those pitfalls. But don’t let your friends comments reinforce your doubts to the point that you fail to move forward because you’re paralyzed by fear.

Friends mean well, but if they’re working a 9-5 job, especially if it’s a job they hate, they’re likely not going to encourage you to break free of those same chains. Misery loves company.

Make sure you leave misery by itself as you walk on by.

Start, and Don’t Stop

This is the hardest step. Once you’ve started, you’ll be faced with challenges and obstacles, and even some failures. Don’t give up. If becoming sustainably self-employed was fast and easy, then everybody would do it. The secret, the secret that everyone really knows if they stop and think about it, is persistence. Do you really think that all of those people who are making a living as contractors, as consultants, as life coaches, as online business gurus, as retail flower shop owners, as caterers, as landscapers, as designers, as app builders, and on and on are really so incredibly special that they can succeed where you can’t?

Of course not. The distinction,the ONLY distinction, is that they don’t give up.  They persevere.  They believe.

Final Reminder If You Want To Be Self-Employed

When you think you can’t, when you have your doubts, when everyone tells you not to, remember this: Start now, start small, and start with something you know.  Don’t let the pessimistics and naysayers and cowards drag you down.  And after you’ve started, do not stop.

One Compelling Reason To Be Your Own Boss

Be Your Own BossI’ve been primarily a solopreneur for over a decade, with a brief venture into entrepreneurship that didn’t end well.

But when my startup company died a horrible death, it was ultimately solopreneurship that I turned to for comfort. Solopreneurship was my safety net.

Yet I know so many people unhappily working for someone else, wishing that they worked for themselves, but too afraid to pull the ripcord. Because they view any situation other than employment as risky.

Be your own boss?  Sounds great, you say.  But too risky.  Then why do people do it?  Are they just wild-and-crazy show-me-a-plane-and-I’ll-jump-out-of-it risk takers?

How Do You Define Risk

Solopreneurship, self-employment, freelancing, entrepreneurship, e-commerce ventures, any ventures you can think of, are so often deemed risky or not secure.

There’s no ‘safety net’ of a pay-check every two weeks.

That dependable pay-check that provides you with just enough money to get you through the next two weeks and so on and so on.

But hey that’s ok, because the pay-checks keep coming right?  Until they don’t.

Until the big company you work for is bought by another bigger company that doesn’t need little ol’ you.  Happened to me.

Or until you piss off your boss.  I’ve done this.

Or criticize the wrong bad idea.  I’ve done this too.

Or dare to suggest a better way of doing something that somebody thinks is absolutely just fine thankyouverymuch.  Me again.

One Compelling Reason

Solopreneurship, self-employment, freelancing, entrepreneurship, e-commerce ventures all have one significant common theme.  In each of these situations, the person with the most control and the most influence over your success or your failure is YOU.

In a choice between handing over control of my professional and income-generating life to a complete stranger, or owning it myself, I’ll always choose to own it myself.  Who’s my boss?  I am.

3 Key Reasons Not to Fear Failure

I was trying to think of how many times I’ve failed in my life, but who can count that high?

The interesting thing about fearing failure is that most of us do, and most of us pretend we don’t. I have absolutely no data to back up that statement, but I’d still be willing to bet on it.

Do you get up in the morning and think, “I would do X today, if I did not have a fear of failure”? Of course not. Fear of failure insidiously hides in the shadows, and disguises itself in many other costumes.

“I’d like to do X, but I just don’t have the time”.

“I’m going to do X, as soon as A, B, and C are ready and perfect”.

“I might try and do X, but I’m not going to tell anyone in case it doesn’t work out”.

The problem with all of those is that they lead to same result – inaction. X never happens. And you never know what potential wonderful results could transpire if you had just gone ahead with it.

Fear is an obstacle to everything. So here are my top three reasons not to fear failure:

 

Everybody Does It

Sometimes extraordinary people do extraordinary things, and you can’t help but think “I could never do that”. But failure? Everybody fails at something, as some point. From minuscule disappointments to catastrophic life altering events, failure surrounds us. So what is there to fear? Take comfort in numbers. Try something and risk failure. If the worst happens, so what? You’ll only have done what everybody else has.

Look beyond the surface of some famously successful people and you’ll see a path littered with failure and rejection. Michael Jordan was didn’t make the cut for his high school basketball team. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school. Walt Disney was fired by an early newspaper editor for “lacking imagination”, and his early businesses went bankrupt. How different their journeys would have been had they let it stop them in their tracks.

 

It’s Unavoidable Anyway

I was trying to come up with an example of how you could live a life without risking failure. And I just couldn’t get there. Maybe someone smarter than me knows the answer to this. Relationships and careers require leaps of faith and have their own inherent risk of failure. But even the smaller day-to-day details of living involve some risk.

Do you ever cross the street? Even if you limit yourself to well-lit, marked crosswalks, you’re still taking a risk. Is it risking failure? Maybe a careening car comes around the corner, and runs you over. Not your failure. But maybe just after you step off the sidewalk, you glance down at your phone, ever so briefly, just to see who sent that text, and then the careening car comes around the corner, and hits you during a moment of distraction that took away your opportunity to avoid becoming roadkill. Well, then that’s on you.

 

No Lessons, No Learning

Ever hear the expression, “It builds character”. I used to hate that expression. During certain periods of my life, I recall thinking, “Ok, I have enough damn character now, thankyouverymuch”. But I’ve learned to appreciate the truth of it.

Failing, falling, stumbling and tumbling are how we learn. You see this repeatedly, whether it’s among kids on the playground or executives in the boardroom. Those that took their knocks and got back up again have a resilience and sharpness that is completely lacking in those that led a protected, sheltered, everything-must-go-my-way existence.

Acceptance is Progress

And since everybody fails, and since it’s unavoidable anyway, maybe it’s better to get comfortable with failure. If you never suffer the consequences, how can you ever improve?

 “Accept failure, understand it, learn from it, and ultimately, move on from it.”

 

Find Your Life’s Purpose and Do What You Love

Finding Your Life's PurposeA bit of a departure this week, but I wanted to share one of my favourite Tedx events with you. Adam Leipzig’s boils down finding your life’s purpose to 5 questions and 5 minutes.  I love the 5 questions he poses.  Can you really find your life’s purpose in 5 minutes?  I say no.

But if you put in just a little bit of extra effort, and take the time to really ponder the questions that Adam asks, it can be one of the most eye-opening exercises you can undertake to find the path you should be following, regardless of the path you’re on.

“If anything is worth the time investment of critical thought, this is – what is your life’s purpose?”

How To Start a Business Without Money

Start a Business With No MoneyWhen I talk about how to start a business or the benefits of owning your business rather than working for someone else’s, people often leap to the conclusion that I’m talking about building the next Facebook.

I am not talking about building the next Facebook.

On the other hand, if you think you have what it takes to build the next Facebook, or Uber, or Google, then good for you. Make it happen. And then let me know how you did it.

But for the average 9-to-5’er who dreams of breaking free from the daily grind, there are very tangible and very attainable ways to make this happen. And no, you don’t need $1,000,000 in funding first. Or $100,000. You don’t even need $1000.

How to Start a Business With No Money

Create Value

Earning money is simple. If you can create value, you can earn money. We learn this as children, when completing chores or mowing a lawn or selling lemonade brought in that much sought after cold hard cash. The principle doesn’t change that much when you’re a grown-up. Do you have skills that other people lack? Are you willing to do work that other people shy away from? Do you have knowledge that other people seek?

When you have something that someone else needs, you’ve created value. When you’ve created value, you can earn money. Or exchange it for something you equally value, but that’s drifting too far off topic for today. Figuring out how you can provide value to earn money requires your brain, a pen and a notebook. Cost? $2.50 (plus your superior brainpower).

Tell People You Can Create Value

Tell people about your valuable thing, and how it’s for sale. People can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists. Starting a grocery delivery business? Let the people know. Tell them what you have to offer, and tell them how to get in touch with you. Keep it simple initially by creating or updating your LinkinedIn page, or Facebook page, or About.me page. Cost? $0. Pure sweat equity. And at some point you’ll need to evaluate this as well, but not just yet. Not when you’ve just started the journey.

Understand What Has Value For You

Everyone has a set of misconceptions about what they “need” to start a business. Why we have this clutter in our brains is debatable. Too many Hollywood tropes perhaps, that stick in our heads and prevent us from distiguishing between reality and fantasy. You don’t need a glass corner office in a high-rent district to start a business. You don’t need employees, at least not right away. You don’t even need business cards. You likely need a computer, or access to one. But it doesn’t need to be the best computer money can buy.

Make a list of what you absolutely need to create the value that you’re going to get paid for; not what you think you should have, or what would be cool to have, but what you need to get from point A (value realized) to point B (money received). If you’re starting a grocery delivery service, then you likely need a car. But you don’t need a Land Rover.

Understand what has real value in helping you meet your goals, and let go of optical value which exists only to impress people that you shouldn’t care about impressing. This is probably the most critical lesson for starting and running a business.

A continual process of separating substance from flash, and truth from bullshit.

Cost? Priceless.

3 Signs You Should Start A Business Today

Startup, Self-Employed, Business Owners

Lots of people are quite content to work for someone else.  To show up every day, put in their hours, collect their paycheque.  But many of us fall into one of two other buckets.  We either want to climb our way up that staggeringly tall corporate ladder of success, regardless of who owns the corporation, or we want to scratch and claw our way through those corporate walls to that mythical space beyond, where legend has it that it’s possible to be free, report to no one but yourself, and yet still make a sustainable living.

That last group?  Those are my people.  Those are the ones who are just aching to make a break for it.  If you’re not immediately sure whether you fall into that group, pay attention to the subtle cues around you.  More importantly, pay attention to the subtle cues within you.  Here’s my take on at least 3 character flaws that can help you be a successful business owner.

3 Signs You’re Ready to Start a Business

1. You challenge authority. Business owners challenge the status quo.

Look around you.  Listen.

Count how many times in the run of a day your colleagues say yes to things they should say no to.

Or simply remain silent rather than take the terrifying risk of walking out on that limb of being the only one to dissent.

To have a different opinion.

A unique opinion.

But it’s not enough just to *think* outside of the box, you also have to live there.  Do you constantly raise questions in an attempt to find real meaning in your work?  Are you always inventing a way to work around the rules, because you know you can get it done faster, better, or simpler?  Rules have a purpose, I know this.  But many organizations follow an unfortunate inversely proportionate application of invoking rules that make sense versus rules that ensure dominance and control.  Most organizational rules serve the organization.  Some of us want better answers than that.

Thinking of every angle, examining every perspective, seeing patterns and connections that others don’t helps you to persevere through the ups and downs of running a business.

2. When you want it done right, you do it yourself.  Business owners can rely on themselves.

If this is you, it’s both a blessing and a curse.  It’s impossible to survive long-term in any organization trying to take on all of its problems by yourself.  You need to trust your team, and you need to delegate.  But this type of passion stems from deeper within than any simple control issues.

It’s not that you believe other people can’t get the job done, it’s just that you know that you can get it doe and you can get it done NOW.  Why wait?  Why hesitate?

Patience is a work-in-progress to you.

You know that you can accomplish your goals, and you dive in and get it done.  The constant need to achieve and move forward, and the confidence to know that you can, gives you the drive and commitment you need to keep on going when the going gets tough.  This is an essential ingredient for anyone who thinks that may be ready to start a business.

3.  You get bored (really bored) really easily.  Business owners embrace change.

You change plans as frequently as you make plans.

You constantly have ideas and see opportunities everywhere, and it’s not enough to just dream about it, you actually wnat to go out and try it.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working for yourself is that every day is unique.

New challenges, new opportunities, new customers, new readers, changes in direction, zigging, zagging, and everything in between.

You never know what can happen.  And you like it that way.

And who decides how to act, react, hustle, slow down, and respond to all of these events?  You.  Just you.

If any of this resonates, then I just have one last question…what are you waiting for?