The lot of a modern businessman is a stressful one and there is always so much to do. It would take a pretty compelling set of reasons to convince a successful businessman (or even an unsuccessful one) to add something else to an already packed schedule, so why would he even think about regular Yoga classes. In this article we examine the three main benefits of Yoga and how they apply to the busy businessperson.
Benefit Number One: Physical Health
All business-man’s goal is to become wealthy isn’t it? Have you ever heard the saying that your health is your wealth? Believe me it is true. No matter how much money you have you cannot benefit from it if you are dead and personal health is often neglected in today’s busy corporate world. But the question is not whether one can afford the time for exercise to become healthy; it is whether they can afford not to. Health is a shifting scale – you are not either healthy or dead. It’s important to think about how much your level of health affects your work. A healthy body will allow you to concentrate more, work harder and increase the time you spend productively.
Yoga is the perfect way for a businessman to look after their physical wellbeing. Because the exercises are so incredibly low impact, they can be performed even by the most out of shape person, and the more regularly they are performed the better that person’s health will become. Yoga is a very efficient method of releasing tension and stress. During a workday certain blockage develop around the body and many of our vital organs do not get the full amount of oxygen and nutrients that they need to function at peak efficiency. Yoga stretches different muscles groups in certain ways that will lead to these blockages being released and the blood flow bringing the bodies organs all the oxygen and nutrients they need.
Yoga’s health benefits are both immediate and long term. In the short-term blood flow is increased and the body functions better because it is achieving the nutrients it requires. Tension is also released from muscles and the bodies lymphatic system can more effectively deal with waste products. In the longer term these will be ongoing benefits and the digestive system will also function more efficiently, which has innumerable health benefits. The general balance, co-ordination and flexibility will also be greatly enhanced.
Benefit Number Two: Mental Health
Have you ever considered the importance of a breath? We know that when someone stops breathing, they die, and even this simplistic understanding should tell us how important it is to breath. But breathing properly is often ignored. It is vital not only for the numerous health benefits, but also for the strong mental advantages it allows us.
Yoga sessions will usually begin with a standing, breathing exercise. The simple process of taking in a deep breath and releasing it slowly is incredibly calming and the basis of the breathing exercises that are a vital backbone to the Yoga discipline. The key to this breathing is that it draws our attention to the one simple action of breathing. We become very aware of the life-giving benefit of a deep and controlled breathing cycle and can achieve a level of calmness that we often don’t seek out in our everyday lives. That calmness itself is a stepping-stone to achieving focus.
The ability to focus is probably the single most important primary skill in a work environment. There is always so much going on around us and so much that needs to be done that it is difficult to focus on the single task we are doing because of the multitude of things ‘in the back of our mind’. Regular Yoga teaches techniques to quickly clear the mind of all these other distractions and then focus our mental efforts on a single task. It is also a great provider of personal discipline. The self-discipline that is learned from focusing on the body and becoming master of oneself is a key benefit of Yoga.
Benefit Number Three: Happiness
Happiness is a goal that is often sacrificed in the short term in exchange for some mystical point in the future when everything will come together and be okay. Yoga doesn’t move you any closer to that mystical time, but because you develop such a strong sense of self and connection with yourself, it is common to become more content with your current situation. You will find that the more you practice Yoga the more you will be comfortable spending time alone as well as amongst other people. Your sense of self-worth will increase, and you will perform better in social situations. This is perhaps the most important gift that Yoga will give to you.
Over the past week, I have been working with the model, social media star and actress Alexis Ren to launch her own brand, REN Active (http://www.renactive.co). Many social media stars have launched merchandise: most is usually the typical banal array of t-shirts, hoodies and caps sold at concerts and events by stars and celebrities. What distinguishes REN Active is that it has been beautifully crafted and designed in the very same minimalist aesthetic and style that her 10 million followers have already come to know from her. Alexis Ren has not only launched products, but a genuine brand with a message.
21st century society has become accustomed to the newly-formed celebrity of emerging You Tube talent, Instagram “hotties” and blogging fashion and beauty mavens. Over the past several years, so-called “digital talent” have matured from being the millenial outliers of the media world to being becoming part of daily life for middle America and the rest of the globe. Unlike the awe fans feel for traditional celebrities, actors and pop-stars, followers of social media talent are immersed inside the daily life and routine of the influencers they follow.
Because of this direct relationship between follower and influencer, a global marketplace has developed between brands and social media stars buying and selling their influence over the millions of constituents they react with on a daily basis. An entire economy of agents, agencies, media networks and brand consultants has emerged around influencer marketing. Because technology is so closely linked with social media, never before has it been easier to target any particular demographic or measure the direct success of any influencer-based marketing campaign. In the “good old days”, it was just a well-founded guess how successful an expensive ad campaign gracing the pages of Vogue might have been. Today, a brand knows exactly how many consumers have clicked through to, commented on or “liked” any digital social media campaign they have invested in.
Major ecommerce and brick and mortar retailers are now also looking to partner and create joint ventures with social media stars and celebrities to help launch new businesses. From my own experience representing “new-age” digital talent, Walmart, Jet.Com, Target and even traditional department stores are moving into the game. A new class of incubators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are also emerging, seeing the opportunity to partner with social media talent by contributing their expertise, capital and management skills to help launch new brands.
Will Alexis Ren and her fellow social media standouts be the Ralph Laurens, Oprah Winfreys and Donna Karans of the future? No one really knows, but it is certain that they will have an impact on the landscape of media, entertainment and commerce in the foreseeable future.
If you have an inquiring mind and speak clearly, chances are, you would excel at podcasting. A podcast is like a radio show that you produce, but people can listen to it any time they like and you can record it any time you prefer. There’s no set schedule, and the equipment you need to get started is inexpensive. All you need is a theme for your show and some good ideas.
Have you ever listened to the radio and thought, “I wish I didn’t have to listen to all these ads”? If you’re like me, 99 percent of the time the ads on the radio are for things that don’t even apply to you, your interests or your needs. I often wonder about the advertisers — are they really taking the time to test and analyze whether their money spent on radio ads is actually converting? Or are radio ads just a strategy some marketing consultant told them to implement and no one is paying attention to see if there’s a return on investment?
Imagine the difference in experience when someone is listening to a high quality, informative, interesting podcast that’s ad-free. At the end of the podcast, perhaps the host (you) says, “If you’ve just heard this podcast, you earn a promotional code! Enter the code ‘WINNER’ on our website and get 10 percent off all our new…” Or “Get our free ebook on this topic at…” If you just gave 15 to 30 minutes of quality content, you’ve earned the right to pitch. And your audience is much more likely to trust you and follow your direction because you’ve earned the right to pitch to them respectfully and fairly.
According to an article, “The Rising Popularity of Podcasts,” there are six reasons a business owner should consider podcasting:
It doesn’t take much to get started.
Podcasts are perfect for storytelling.
They’re extremely convenient to consume (most are only 15 to 30 minutes long).
You can become known as an industry expert.
Your listeners are in it for the long haul (because they subscribe).
You can reach a new, targeted audience.
How to set up your podcast
There are three phases to setting up a podcast.
Phase One: Show format
Before you decide on your show’s format, answer the following questions:
1. Do you want to produce your show every week? Every other week? Monthly? Don’t do a daily show unless you have a clear strategy in place. Start weekly or twice a month. That’ll be plenty.
2. Will you have guests? (Most do!) Who are the top 100 people you’d like to interview? (Hint: Choose people who have big lists to promote your interview of them to, or who are exceptionally interesting, or whose friendship could really grow your business.)
3. What’s your one specific statement? My literary agency’s statement is “We sell good books to good publishers.” If I were doing a podcast for that company, that is the last thing I’d say at the end of every podcast, so people remember it. If you have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition — something your company does to make you unique or rare in your category), put it on an index card so you can use it at the end of your podcasts.
Phase Two: Set up your studio
You don’t have to start out with anything expensive. To start out, you’ll need the following items:
A quality microphone
A pop shield that goes over the top of the microphone (about $20)
An extender arm to move the microphone closer or further from your mouth
Headphones that don’t “leak” sound (in-ear or cupping your ears)
Phase Three: Launch like a linebacker
First you need to arrange a time to talk with your first guest. Then do some research about your guest and prepare a list of good questions that you want to ask him or her. (Decide if you want to share the list with your guest in advance — it’s not mandatory!)
Prepare yourself and your space. Put the dog outside. Shut your office door. Unplug the phone and turn off your cell. Get rid of ambient noise (air conditioning, forced-air heating, a fan etc.). You don’t need a swanky sound-proofed studio to do this. Take a few breaths and remember that this is your first podcast, and it’s normal to make a few mistakes.
When the time comes, thank your guest, tell them how excited you are and promise them that you will give them time to pitch their book, song, product, website or whatever it may be at the end of the interview.
Hit record when the conversation begins. Relax during the interview. Pay 100 percent attention to your guest. Talk naturally, but get your questions in, unless something more interesting happens, and you find yourselves walking down a different but fascinating conversational path.
At the end of the interview, ask your guest if there’s anything else you should have asked; prompt them to talk about their product or service and repeat the URL after they mention it.
Stick in your call to action — “Come to the website to get your discount code” or “Free ebook” or whatever it is that you want to pitch — and remind your audience when the next episode will be released. Tell them where, and how to get your podcasts. Finally, end with your USP, give the audience the hyperlink one more time, and thank them for listening. You did it! Podcast one is complete!
Publishing and promoting
Where do you put your finished podcast? How do people find out about it? When your audio file is ready to go, you can upload it to a site like www.LibSyn.com, which hosts podcasts in the same way that Vimeo or YouTube host videos and the same way your website host sponsors your website. From there, you promote it and make it available in various distribution arenas. The website http://www.LibSyn.com creates the RSS feed (Rich Site Summary) that you can use to connect to sites like iTunes, www.Stitcher.com and Google Play.
Podcast expert Stephen Woessner advises, “Just because somebody doesn’t have a network or a platform or a [mailing] list already doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start one. Go spend a couple hundred bucks on a Facebook campaign, create a website, link your website to your podcast, which you’ve uploaded to iTunes, and use Pat Flynn’s Smart Podcast Player. Drive people to your website, give them a great gift to open the podcast link.”
Making money from your podcast
Once you have a lot of regular listeners, you can:
Have people pay to be interviewed by you
Sell advertising (like a radio station does)
Sell from the podcast (an ad at the end, a pitch during)
Convert listeners by giving them something on your website and then having your reps sell to them directly.
There are pros and cons to each option. Think it through before you determine your strategy.
All the podcasters I know consistently describe it as the single most important thing that exploded their lead generation. Of course, we know that once upon a time in the history of American business, the cotton gin and the telegraph did similarly amazing things. But heck, you’re here now. May as well take advantage of the technology that’s working at this moment in history.
The truth is that most authors will not sell more than 500 books. Typically, their book stops selling after their family and friends have already bought it. The reality is that many authors do not have a following, which will halt the sales of their book.
An engaged following is crucial to the success of an author’s book. Although, if your book does not sell 5,000 copies, it does not mean that you should surrender as a failure.
This is why the author needs to become entrepreneurial if they want long-term success. Once the author starts thinking like an entrepreneur, he/she eventually becomes an authorpreneur.
What is an authorpreneur? It is an entrepreneur that offers products and services that are based on their book(s).
A Wall Street Journal bestselling author can teach others authors about how their book can make the list too.
Alternatively, a health author can sell their health coaching service as a supplement to the book.
I consider myself an authorpreneur. In my book, Reaching the Finish Line, I offer flexible career paths to ease the transition to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
As a result of the book, I offer personal consultations and a monthly coaching program for those who wish to go beyond the content of the book. Regardless of your book, you can create products and services that supplement your book.
There are three paths that you should consider to become a successful authorpreneur. There is a path for everybody. The sensible way is to choose the path that falls within your capacity.
1. Traditional publisher.
Many people desire a traditional publisher because of their international distribution in physical bookstores.
It can be even more important if your intent is to target an American or German audience.
Ninety-two percent of American university students and 95 percent of German students prefer print books over ebooks, as discovered in a recent international study.
This study is quite encouraging if your plan is to get your book in all the big box stores, airports, and major bookstores. Although, it is worth noting that traditional publishers will not do a lot of marketing for your book. However, their network of connections can open up an abundant amount of opportunities for you. With those connections, you can partner with some cool organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Amtrak and JetBlue.
It is these partnerships that can help you sell more books and attract potential clients.
2. Independent publisher.
More people are learning that they can make more money with their books elsewhere. Some aspiring and struggling authors do not care about the fame, but rather on making a sustainable living as an author.
Independent publishers offer an advantage — better terms. They do not offer the typical terms that you will get from a traditional publisher (10 percent royalty for print books and 25 percent royalty for ebooks and audiobooks).
Independent publishers also offer the convenience of allowing you to keep the rights to your book. Often, with a traditional publisher, you commit to an agreement for a duration of five to seven years.
The only potential disadvantage that may dissuade authors is the book advance. Some independent publishers offer a small book advance, usually between $2,000 to $5,000. However, some others will not offer any book advance, especially if they are a small press or new publisher.
As an indie author, you will make more money from your books, but you will not have the privilege of leveraging a major publisher’s connections. While your indie publisher may have a network of connections, it is likely that it will not be enough for you to be dependent on them.
You should also consider partnering with local businesses and nonprofit organizations. It can be harder to form alliances with the national ones if they do not know your brand. However, local businesses and nonprofits are significantly easier because they are more likely to work with local residents. After all, you and they share a common objective, which is making a difference in your community.
These types of partnerships can open up opportunities to sell more books and attract potential clients.
Self-publishing is without a doubt the easiest way to publish a book. Before there was the book platforms (like Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks) and aggregators (like Smashwords, Draft2Digital and Pronoun), the majority of people were limited to publishing with Author House, Xlibris or iUniverse.
These publishers are commonly known as print on demand publishers. Fifteen years ago, publishing with one of these companies was not such a bad idea. Now, today’s technology has made it easier to publish, and distribute your book through various eBook platforms.
If you truly want to be the publisher, you will need to use your own international standard book number (or ISBN). You can register the name of your publishing company with this number.
Alternatively, you can use an ISBN from the company that will be helping you publish your book. However, that company will become the default publisher (i.e. CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Smashwords or Draft2Digital).
The distinct advantage as a self-published author is that you will make the most money in comparison to other authors. You can make a net royalty of up to $6 per ebook and $7.50 per paperback book.
Conversely, the main disadvantage is that there will be no publisher to pay you a book advance. Why? Well, you would be the publisher, hence the name, self-published.
Besides the higher profits, you will also endure the other advantages and disadvantages of indie authorpreneurs.
The final word.
The truth is that few authors are making over $100,000 a year from just writing books. If you want to make an annual six or seven figure salary, you have to create products and services that are based on your books.
Do you want to be an authorpreneur? Well, first you need to write a book. When will you start writing your book?
Sacrifices are important to success. In order to doggedly pursue a goal, some things have to be given up.
But figuring out what to sacrifice and when is not a simple equation.
In order to remain true to yourself and your company, you must consider elements of your life to be non-negotiable. Here the top five.
1. Your health
The exhausted, overworked entrepreneur is a tired and ill-informed stereotype. If a business owner is surviving on four hours of sleep a night and a diet of coffee and fast food, they’re not going to achieve much for their company.
Getty Images | Carl De Souza
Richard Branson is an avid kite surfer
Getting adequate sleep, exercising and eating a healthy diet will make you a more effective leader for your business. There is a direct link between health and productivity, and most successful entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson and Jack Dorsey, make it a priority.
Instead of pulling an all-nighter to troubleshoot your website, go to bed. Wake up early and tackle it in the morning. The more exhausted your brain, the less efficiently you’ll operate and the more likely you’ll make a mistake.
Build exercise, sleep and healthy eating into your schedule. Make time to work out on your lunch break, set a firm bedtime for yourself or spend an hour meal-planning on Sundays. Sacrificing your health for the sake of your business is counterproductive.
2. Your family
It doesn’t have to be a “family” in the traditional sense. It means your support network — the people around you who hold you up, ground you and provide a reliable safety net. No entrepreneur is anything without these people.
Your family might be your spouse and children, a close circle of friends or your parents. Whomever they are, you can’t sacrifice your family in the pursuit of your business goals.
You will lose some headspace while attending to your business. It will require a lot of attention, but that attention shouldn’t be to the detriment of your inner circle. The people who have helped you get to this point should never take the backseat. Always make time to appreciate them and recognize them.
Mark Zuckerberg, for example, makes it a point to be home three nights a week to give his daughter a bath.
Your priorities speak volumes about your character, so it’s important to keep those priorities straight if you want to be successful.
3. Your vision
People will pull you left and right as you build your business. It can be easy to get confused and forget the original vision and mission of your company. Don’t let this happen.
While it’s important to be adaptable, it’s also important to stay committed to your vision. Don’t let the negativity and criticism of others diminish your idea. Many of the most famous and innovative entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, were told many times that they were crazy.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX
People will try to get you to change your ideas so much that you don’t recognize them anymore. But as an entrepreneur, you cannot afford to sacrifice your vision.
4. Your curiosity
A unifying characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is curiosity: a willingness to think of things differently, consider the impossible and flesh out complex ideas.
This curiosity is a playful thing, and some entrepreneurs find themselves sacrificing it when they move into the formal environment of the business world. But curiosity breeds innovation, which is integral to your business’s success.
Warren Buffett says that both he and Bill Gates are motivated by curiosity.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are friends and leading voices promoting philanthropy.
Don’t let formality and seriousness overcome you. Always remain playfully curious, as this quality will help — not hinder — your business growth.
5. Your team
The people whom you bring on to help build your business — from your partner to your website designer — are central to your mission. These people aren’t the backs upon which you build a business, they are the business.
Like your family, your employees should be treated with respect and appreciation at all times. Sacrificing your relationship with the team that holds up your business will only hurt your progress and tarnish your company’s reputation. Just ask Uber’s Travis Kalanick.
Holding true to a set of values will improve not only the way people perceive you as a boss and business owner, but your self-image as well. A business isn’t worth much if you give away literally everything — your health, your values, your family—to get it. When it comes time to make the hard decisions, don’t let go of these parts of your life.
There are many good reasons to become an entrepreneur. We live in a place and time that not only celebrates entrepreneurship, but makes it both possible and rewarding. Even those of us who never take the plunge at least occasionally fantasize about what it would be like to create and run a business of our own, whether we’re after the creative potential, the feeling of autonomy or the chance to follow our passion.
I firmly believe that anyone with the right dedication can become a successful entrepreneur, regardless of his or her motivations. However, there are some “wrong” reasons to become an entrepreneur, and if they constitute your motivations, you’ll be more likely to be dissatisfied with your work, will burn out,or will actually fail:
1. To get rich
Thanks to the popularization of outlier entrepreneurs who seemed to become overnight billionaires, there’s a common misconception that entrepreneurship is the fast track to getting rich. As the owner of your business, you’ll be entitled to at least a portion of the profits your company makes (and potentially all of it, if there are no other owners). In addition to that, you may draw a salary.
However, that won’t guarantee that your business will be profitable, or will succeed indefinitely. It’s certainly possible to make a good living from your business, but you can’t count on striking it rich — even if you have a good idea.
Being motivated only by money will interfere with your ability to make long-term decisions for your business, and will leave you feeling unsatisfied and stressed if you don’t meet your target numbers.
2. To become famous
It’s true that becoming an entrepreneur has the potential to increase your personal visibility — especially if your marketing strategy relies on media exposure. Look at entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban, Richard Branson or Elon Musk: Tese are high-profile people who get lots of media attention and have attained celebrity status.
However, pursuing business creation and management for the sole sake of gaining popularity for yourself is a bad idea. Relentlessly pursuing more personal branding opportunities is going to take you away from the office, where you’ll be needed. Plus, your idea of successful entrepreneurship will lmost certainly be distorted by survivorship bias.
3. To have unlimited vacation
Yes, it’s true: As an entrepreneur, you’ll get to make your own schedule. You’ll set your own hours, work whatever days you want and take unlimited vacation time, if you want. But, remember, your business’s success will depend on the effort you put in, and the unfortunate reality is that your first business is more likely than not to fail.
If you’re busy traveling six months out of the year, you won’t have enough time invested in your business to help it become successful. If all you can think about is vacation time as a business owner, you’ll be grossly underestimating the amount of work it takes to run that business. Instead, chances are, you won’t have much time for regular days off for at least a year or two.
4. To make other people happy
Some entrepreneurs start businesses because they like the idea of being a positive force in the world, and I respect that. They want to build a great team, take care of their employees, make clients happy and make the world a better place while they’re at it.
Unfortunately, though, this mentality may lead to poor business decisions; for example, you’ll be more likely to keep unproductive workers around (rather than making tough decisions to fire them) because you’ve bonded with them. You’ll keep unprofitable clients because you refuse to move on. And you’ll sacrifice your own profitability for other causes.
You may be willing to make those sacrifices, but your business won’t do anybody any good if it ends up folding. As a business owner, your primary responsibility should be to make the right decisions for your business.
This position will make you feel sort of like a parent, with the business your child. It’s up to you to protect it and nurture it. After all, if you don’t, who will?
5. Because, “Why not?”
You may not have a specific motivation. You may just have an idea and the impression that anyone can become a business owner. At that point, you might also be thinking to yourself, “Why not?” and be building a business for no reason other than the fact that you can. This is a whimsical approach that does have a chance of succeeding, but it’s more likely that you’ll start running into problems you had no idea existed.
Do you have a financial model? Do you know how to scale? Do you know how much capital you need to start or what competitors are out there? Are you psychologically strong enough? Are you familiar with the dark truths of entrepreneurship?
If these motivations represent only a portion of what’s driving you, they probably won’t sabotage your efforts. For example, if you like the idea of becoming rich, but you’re also interested in being your own boss and working with a team of people you get to choose, your monetary motivations aren’t likely to interfere with your happiness or your decision-making.
Most entrepreneurs fail. Some fail more than once. Some fail big before going on huge success. Moving through failure does not make you a bad entrepreneur. It actually gives you the tools to become better at business. Many people are tempted to look at their failures as a horrid stain on their professional lives when, in fact, they often serve as a strength. Here’s why.
Failure is everywhere.
There are endless stories about failure and what entrepreneurs did to overcome it. The front page of Entrepreneur.com is filled with the failures and successes of people like Tony Robbins or Elon Musk, and those posts get some of the biggest page view totals.
Musk is flirting with failure all the time. He has his share of doubters and critics who don’t think he’s going to succeed with his Gigafactory or Solar City for instance. People are still pretty skeptical SpaceX will ever really make it to Mars or that Musk will even deliver Tesla’s Model 3 shipments on time.
You don’t see often stories about people who failed, shied away from opportunity, then just crawled into a cave. The oft-cited, iconic lessons on failure from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Walt Disney still hold true. One of the most famous authors known today started from a place of unemployment and depression –- Harry Potter creator, J.K. Rowling.
Who hasn’t had a poor interview, lost sale, negative review or missed opportunity? They can cause a range of reactions — even emotional or physical pain. Some people get a stomach ache and dive into a hole of self-pity and doubt. Others get defensive and look for every excuse to justify the loss. People who succeed in times of failure know how to view the situation, overcome their fears, and take back control.
The experience of failure changes your interpretation of the world. It can distort your perceptions, create conscious and subconscious feelings of negativity, and make your future seem unattainable. Only you can change your internal experience from fear and pessimism to optimism.
Take control over failure to change your future.
Before trying to see a failure as a strength in the context of entrepreneurship, you need to conquer any negative inner monologue you’ve got going on. If you’re struggling to see the good in the face of failure, try these techniques to regain control:
Use psychology. People don’t need to struggle with clinical mental health issues to benefit from the principles of modern therapy. Explore various therapy models such as cognitive behavioral therapy to overcome underlying fears associated with failure and learn new ways to cope in the future.
Identify the reason for failure. Confront the cause of failure and learn from it. There are three main types of failure: preventable, unavoidable, and intelligent. Each arises from situational or human errors and the type can inform corrective actions in the future. Even if the failure you need to explain happened years ago, take time to dissect it today.
Be ready to tell the story. You can sweep some failures under the rug and no one will question you. As an entrepreneur, however, you may face questions about your past that you want to answer confidently and honestly. This may happen if you’re seeking investment or looking for people to help you build your company. Lay out what happened, identify the type of failure and its circumstances, and describe your response. I’ve interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs who have failed, and they typically say they’re more interested in how you respond to failure than the fact that you failed. If you took effective corrective action to soften the defeat or later picked yourself up to keep trying, you persevered. Perseverance is a trait integral to entrepreneurial success and people know it.
Understand that it doesn’t really matter much. It hurt a lot at the time, but the truth is, your little failure doesn’t matter much. Other people may not really look at it as a failure at this point anyway. Wear the darn thing like a badge of honor.
As I mentioned, failure is everywhere. Whether an economic downturn shut down your last business venture or you made a glaring mistake in a past job, you are not the person you were at the time you suffered through difficulties.
All that really matters is whether you picked yourself up and kept going. If you can be someone who perseveres, learns from mistakes, and moves forward, no failure will stand in the way of actual success in life. You know what they say; the real failure is the person who stops trying.
As the world is becoming more advanced and technology is slowly shaping up the majority of our lifestyle, the prospect of working and doing the same routine every day is becoming less promising. Today, more and more millennials and like-minded individuals are choosing to be digital nomads.
A digital nomad is someone who works “mostly online” and travels the world at the same time, according to the Interaction Design. As opposed to earning a minimum-wage job in the same location from the usual hours of 9 am to 5 pm, becoming a digital nomad is much more exciting.
As long as you have a stable internet connection, a laptop, and certain skills, there’s no stopping you from becoming a digital nomad. Working for yourself as an online entrepreneur or a freelancer can be very rewarding and the amount of time you can spend on yourself is definitely a major plus.
The idea is becoming increasingly popular nowadays that there are conferences and startups bursting out to help digital nomads develop working experiences and for them to have a chance to share their ideas and socialize. The New York Times recently featured a startup called “Unsettled”, a 30-day co-working experiences for working professionals, small business owners, and creative people looking for a chance to combine work and travel.
Michael Youngblood and Jonathan Kalan, both digital nomads, founded Unsettled and has now reached a customer base around the globe. Kalan explained that the name “Unsettled” is a perfect name for their startup since everyone of us has felt unsettled at some point in our lives, so why not embrace the uncertainty? Kalan also added that Unsettled is about turning something known as negative into something positive.
Timothy Ferriss also wrote a book about the whole premise of being a digital nomad. It’s entitled the “4-Hour Work Week” and it discusses the popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle.
Becoming a digital nomad takes huge dedication and the right mindset. If you’re someone who wants to get out of a dull, corporate job, then maybe consider becoming a digital nomad yourself.
Alex Tew didn’t give a damn about paying his “dues.”
At 21, he was about to start a three-year business management course at the University of Nottingham . . . but there was one significant problem: money. He didn’t want to be saddled with ridiculous student loan debt he would work years to pay off. Most students his age just shrug and accept that society “requires” them to play by the rules. Tew’s mind was in a completely different place.
After brainstorming ideas to make some extra income to pay off the loans quickly he decided to launch a basic website that would sell one million pixels on the homepage to advertisers for $1 each. A truly strange idea in 2005 that has since been copied ad nauseam.
Though Tew is from England, he thought “million dollar” was more attractive than “million pound” from a marketing perspective. There are more Americans online as well, so he decided to go with US currency. For the record, I think he was right!
The pixels are too small to see individually, so they were to be be sold in blocks of 10×10 for a minimum purchase of $100. Each advertiser could choose what pictures they wanted to display in their allotted space and to where they wanted the pixels to link. The plan was ingeniously simple . . . but Alex had no idea if it would actually work.
“From the outset I knew the idea had potential, but it was one of those things that could have gone either way,” he remarked on FT.com. “My thinking was I had nothing to lose (apart from the 50 Euros or so it cost to register the domain and setup the hosting). I knew that the idea was quirky enough to create interest . . . . The internet is a very powerful medium.”
The first few sales rolled in slowly — mostly to family and friends — propelled entirely by word of mouth. Word spread more quickly as people heard about the site. The BBC picked up the story and it blew up. Visitors poured in. Advertisers lined up. After only one month, the site had made more than $250,000. After two months, it topped $500,000.
Demand spiked around New Year’s 2006 when only 1,000 pixels were left. In the interest of fairness, Tew auctioned the remaining slots off on Ebay to the tune of $38,100. He’d just made $1,037,100 in five months. Media attention was largely praiseworthy, calling the idea a brilliant example of novel, innovative advertising and entrepreneurship in the internet age.
Naturally, others were less enthused. Don Oldenburg of the Washington Post called the site “a cheap, mind-bogglingly lucrative marketing monstrosity, an advertising badlands of spam, banner ads and pop-ups.” He went on to write “it looks like a bulletin board on designer steroids, an advertising train wreck you can’t not look at. It’s like getting every pop-up ad you ever got in your life, at once. It’s the Internet equivalent of suddenly feeling like you want to take a shower.”
Commentary like this always makes me laugh because it’s a prime example of how deeply ingrained the “pay your dues” mentality runs in many of us.
Oldenburg (perhaps appropriately named?) seems to imply that perhaps Tew doesn’t “deserve” such praise or reward because The Million Dollar Homepage doesn’t follow procedure. It’s way outside the box. It’s ugly.
At the very root of his complaint, he probably feels like Tew’s success wasn’t earned. I get it where he’s coming from. To witness a stupid, simple website like this make more in five months than most traditional employees make in an entire career might be infuriating and mind-boggling to some.
It triggers the same type of rage you feel when you see an invention on late night TV and think to yourself, “I could have thought of that!” I’ve been there. The urge to give in to jealousy and envy is strong. But, to the hackers, misfits and rebels of our generation, these types of massive wins by the underdogs of society are simply validation that we’re on the right path. Their success means that we can do the same.You are part of this new world and the opportunity to make such massive strides is yours as well as Alex’s.
Am I telling you to go out and build another Million Dollar Homepage? Of course not. It probably wouldn’t work. The allure was in the novelty. What you should be paying attention to is Tew’s trajectory and overall approach to creating his life. His willingness to take risks. His rejection of the “time spent” model and his playful approach to ethically skipping steps and getting ahead. This is how you need to start thinking.
Jace Hall told me years ago, you don’t need to pass through “B” to move from “A” to “C.” With creativity and hustle, you can live the life of your dreams now. Not in 30 years.
Oh, by the way: After the success of The Million Dollar Homepage, Tew dropped out of the business degree he was fundraising for in the first place. And not a single due was paid. Take that, establishment.
And lots of parents and grandparents won’t like this new truth. Even some of your friends won’t like it, because if you don’t have to pay your dues, that means you can be successful NOW. And that’s scary to a lot of people.
It’s pointless to think this isn’t true. Alex Tew and people like him prove it every single day. He built a simple website, advertised it and he made over $1 million in five months. No dues paid whatsoever. If anybody’s convinces you to let go of this antiquated mindset, let it be Alex.
Bryan Johnson (born August 22, 1977) is an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is founder and CEO of Kernel, a company developing a neuroprosthetic device to improve brain function, and the OS Fund, a $100 million fund that invests in science and technology startups that promise to radically improve quality of life.
He was also founder, chairman and CEO of Braintree, an online payment system. Braintree was acquired by eBay for $800 million in 2013.
Johnson lives in Los Angeles.
Johnson, who has been described as a “serial tech entrepreneur,” launched three startups, whilst at university, between 1999 and 2003. The first, which sold cell phones, helped pay his way through Brigham Young University. In that business, Johnson hired other college students to sell service plans along with cell phones; Johnson earned about a $300 commission on each sale.
The next two businesses he started weren’t as successful. Inquist, a VOIP company Johnson co-founded with three other partners, combined features of Vonage and Skype. It collapsed in 2001. Johnson has attributed the failure to an inability to secure funding following 9/11 as well as errors made by him and his co-founders.
Following that failure, Johnson joined his brother and another partner on a $70 million real estate project later in 2001. The project struggled to achieve sales goals and required additional capital. Johnson and his two co-founders moved on.
Johnson formed the idea for Braintree while he was working at a part-time job selling credit card processing services to businesses, work that he took to help pay his bills while the real estate venture foundered. Johnson became the top salesperson out of 400 nationwide, breaking previous sales records.
When Johnson moved from Utah to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, he continued working for the same card-processing company. Nine months after accepting a management position at Sears, Johnson formed Braintree and approached some of his old customers to solicit their business.
Johnson has said his goal was to improve customers’ payment experiences—something he saw lacking—and to build an “exceptional” company that both his team and their customers would love.
Braintree’s rapid growth was spurred by clients in the technology industry including OpenTable, Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, and others. The company was 47th on Inc. magazine’s 2011 list of the 500 fastest-growing companies and 415th in 2012. That year, Braintree purchased Venmo, a startup that lets users send and receive money from each other electronically, for $26.2 million.
While Johnson received $25,000 to start the company after winning a business plan competition from the University of Chicago in 2007, he otherwise bootstrapped the company before raising venture capital — $34 million in a Series A investment from Accel Partners — in June 2011. At the time, Braintree was processing about $3 billion in credit card payments annually and generating $10 million in revenue.
By September 2013, the company announced it was processing $12 billion in payments annually, with $4 billion of that on mobile. Shortly afterward, on Sept. 26, 2013, the company was acquired by eBay for $800 million.
Johnson started Kernel in 2016, making a personal investment of $100 million. The company’s goal is to build an implantable device to improve brain function in humans, such as memory, while interfacing with artificial intelligence (AI). Initially, the company is focusing on applications for patients with neurodegeneration such as memory loss.
Patients with epilepsy are among the first to test the technology, which relies on algorithms that mimic the brain’s natural electrical signals to improve communication between brain cells. Kernel refers to itself as a “human intelligence (HI) company”; Johnson, who has written that the combination of HI and AI will prove to be of great importance for the future of humanity, says his longterm objective is to improve both intelligence and quality of life as human lifespans grow longer.
The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What advice would you give your 22-year-old self today?” is written by Pete Johnston, CEO of Lystable.
I always knew that I was not going to spend my life working for someone else, but it took a while for me to get to the point where I could actually build my own company. Throughout this process, I received two key pieces of advice—one personal, one professional—that I would give to my 22-year-old self.
My background is in graphic design, and after graduating from university I took a couple of freelance and agency gigs before landing at Google. It was a great job, but I knew that it was going to hard for me to settle there. I had just never found my groove in a company, and so was always looking for what my next thing would be. I felt that I just needed the right idea. In all my jobs, I’d experienced the pain points involved in managing freelancers, and this experience, combined with exposure to all the entrepreneurs succeeding through programs like Google Campus and Google Ventures, inspired me to found Lystable.
Armed with this inspiration, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was on my own, without many connections or much experience, but I managed to wrangle a meeting with the managing director of Techstars London, an organization that helps entrepreneurs build their startups. He was upfront with me, saying that I would never get into Techstars as a solo founder with no product, no team, and no business plan. My cozy job at Google, where I got three free meals a day and stayed squarely in my comfort zone, was beginning to look pretty nice. But after a number of weeks and grueling interviews, Techstars decided that they liked my idea. I was told during my final interview that if I wanted to pursue it, I needed to hand in my notice to Google the following day.
I made the decision to leave the Google mothership and venture into the unknown for the first time. Everyone around me thought I was crazy. My mother couldn’t believe I left a job that paid well and enabled me to support myself. I knew that founding a startup would be risky and involve a different pace of life, but I still wasn’t totally prepared for the intense, draining experience of going through an accelerator program as a solo founder, with no one to share the burden of brutal feedback.
At Techstars, I was introduced to a veteran in the startup space who generously met with me on a regular basis. He said to me, “Look, it’s going to be scary. This is normal. All passionate startup founders go through this, and you can’t give up. Keep going.”
This was what my younger self needed to hear. There are countless moments of doubt and fear as an entrepreneur. I know it sounds simple, but “don’t give up” was a piece of advice that got me through the intense ups and downs and reminded me that I could start a company. The unknown used to be something I feared. But now I welcome it, since I know I have a great team and network behind me.
The second important piece of advice was about how to approach my product. In the early days of Lystable, the Techstars London managing director told me to throw out the rulebook. I was accustomed to a somewhat rigid corporate environment, and he wanted to make sure that I didn’t limit myself.
That advice still rings true for me today, more than I ever thought possible. For example, Lystable is currently tackling payments from our companies to freelancers this quarter, and originally I thought something as transactional as this was going to be simple. I was totally wrong—we ended up needing to find more creative solutions to the problem.
These two pieces of advice—don’t give up and completely ignore the rulebook and conventions already in place—have had a profound influence on who I am as an entrepreneur. If I hadn’t listened to these lessons, I’d most likely be back at a nice comfy corporate job, wondering about what could have been.
Twenty-six year-old Amanda Hocking doesn’t fit existing stereotypes of Internet entrepreneurs.
Described by the New York Times as a “hipster schoolgirl,” Amanda favors Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts, jeans, and prefers to go sans shoes.
Well, perhaps her fashion sense meets with some entrepreneurial stereotypes.
The similarities seemingly end there when you consider that Amanda is an author of fiction. Specifically, she writes paranormal-romance fiction involving vampires, trolls, and zombies.
Amanda’s been profiled in the Times and many other places because she’s sold around $2,000,000 in ebooks — without a publisher. She was one of the early success stories to come out of the Kindle Store, joining James Patterson and Stieg Larsson as one of the bestselling digital authors on Amazon.
Now, things have changed.
Amanda has a deal with St. Martin’s that pays $2 million upfront for her next four books. Her “Trylle” series of books has been optioned by Hollywood, with the screenplays penned by one of the scribes of the film District 9.
It’s certainly an amazing story. But does she qualify as an entrepreneur, much less an Internet entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.
So, let’s take a look at what Amanda did to generate that $2,000,000 in revenue.
She’d completed her first novel at age 17, which was rejected by over 50 publishers. Years later, Amanda took a decidedly different approach:
In 2009, Amanda started treating writing as a job, not a hobby (it’s a business venture).
She began combing bookstores and doing industry research to see what was getting published and selling, as well as reading a lot in her genre (market research).
She continued to submit her manuscripts to New York, and continued to be denied. Her last form rejection letter arrived in February of 2010 (no access to or control of traditional resources).
In April of 2010, Amanda digitized her book “My Blood Approves” into the new .mobi format for the Kindle reader (adoption of a new technology standard) and uploaded it to the Amazon’s Kindle Store (exploitation of an emerging online marketplace).
She offered her books for $.99 to $2.99 (industry pricing disruption).
On the first day, Amanda sold 5 books. The next day provided similar results.
A couple of months later, things got out of hand:
June 2010, she sold 6,000 books
July 2010, 10,000 books
January 2011, over 100,000 books
Summer of 2011, 9,000 books each day
Sounds Like an Internet Entrepreneur to Me
It seems like a magical story, but Amanda was very deliberate. She treated her book as a startup.
Then lightening struck, which is what would-be authors inspired by her meteoric rise tend to focus on. Most often, that won’t be the case.
Amanda was in the right place, at the right time, with the exact right product. It’s the way markets are supposed to operate if you eliminate all the noise. And make no mistake — a great book that people want to read is still the core requirement.
The opportunities for the authors of great digital books, whether fiction or nonfiction, are still in the infancy stage. But you’re going to have to add one exceptionally important element to Amanda’s deliberate approach.
You can’t depend on the marketplace to notice the book on its own until you’ve sparked enough initial sales. But how do you make sales otherwise?
It’s a classic chicken and egg situation, until you tilt things in your favor.
One way or another, you need to build an audience. And the smart entrepreneurial approach for authors involves creating free online content to build that audience before you try to sell a book (or anything else).
In other words, become an Internet publishing entrepreneur. Your first book is simply your first product, no matter the level of artistry you put into it, and your biggest asset is your audience.
Luckily, this entrepreneurial process can be much more lucrative than the indentured old school approach. Ironically, it’s the traditional publishing industry that gets credit for kindling this entrepreneurial fire among authors.
Big Publishing Drops the Audience Ball
Trey Ratcliff is a photographer who built a blog to showcase his work. The audience that platform attracted resulted in three prospective publishing deals.
Trey went with Peachpit Press, due to their size and reputation in the photography niche. Out to a fancy dinner with some of Peachpit’s top executives, Ratcliff realized the true nature of his publishing deal.
In his own words:
I’m sitting there in a nice restaurant in San Francisco with all these executives of a major publishing house. It’s one of these power dinners of lore. We’re there to discuss the upcoming launch of the book, and I’ll never forget what happened. They asked me, “OK, Trey, what are you going to do to market this book?”
It’s the dirty little secret no one tells you about the modern book deal: it’s up to the author to drum up interest, publicity, and sales for the book, despite the fact that publishers are ostensibly still in the “distribution” business.
It didn’t have to be this way.
To this day, Internet pundits plead with publishers to build “huge, vertical-specific communities, prime them with regular non-book value and establish direct relationships.” But the publishers rejected that very advice over a decade ago, a decision that forced authors to become online marketers, even within the context of the traditional book deal.
Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin saw it happen, upfront and personal.
A former book packager, Seth shifted to the Internet early, founding the email marketing firm Yoyodyne in 1995 and selling it to Yahoo! in 1998 for $30 million.
Godin’s first bestseller, 1999’s Permission Marketing, explained the online marketing practices he developed that allowed direct and profitable relationships with prospects. Moreover, the book itself achieved outsized sales using the very strategies and tactics Seth preached, via an opt-in email list that grew rapidly as Godin gave away a third of the book for free in exchange for an email address.
Seeing first hand the power of establishing a direct relationship with prospective book buyers, Seth tried to help the publishing industry see the power of building an audience for themselves and on behalf of authors.
How could an industry that exists to distribute books not want incredibly cost-effective direct distribution?
Strangely, Seth’s ideas were ignored, and sometimes rejected with the type of venom that accompanies an abject fear of change. Instead, the collective choice among book publishing companies was to throw authors under the bus and see who survived.
“By 2002, it was clear the publishers were not going to build an online audience,” Godin told me for this article. “The authors had to do it themselves.”
Got Audience, Why Stop at Books?
Meanwhile, Trey Ratcliff did some math.
The excited new author went to work, drumming up pre-sales support from his audience with a limited-edition print, along with a signed copy of the book. He promoted relentlessly via his blog and on Twitter. He even arranged and paid for his own book tour.
The book was a roaring success, selling out on Amazon in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. At that point, after all that hard work, Trey realized just how tiny his 15% royalty rate really was. Peachpit kept 85%, which in turn went to printing, physical distribution, big New York offices, staff, lawyers, bookstores, etc.
In other words, no one was making any money.
It was Trey, however, who was in the unique position to do something smarter. After all, he had the audience that attracted the publishers in the first place.
So, he became the publisher by founding Flatbooks. His fledgling ebook business hit 6 figures in revenue almost immediately, and now boasts 80% profit margins.
The best way to successfully market something is to have true believers with big followings talk about it on the Internet. Since we have many authors who are socially popular, a multiplier effect begins to take place.
Notice he said “successfully market something,” which is specifically not limited to ebook publishing. Once you have an audience, the door opens to consulting, paid speaking, software, innovative new platform launches, and more.
You’re really only limited by the needs and desires of your audience.
Three Key Takeaways:
If your goal is to write books and make a living from them, build your audience before you need it. Start today.
Don’t think self-published. Think publisher. Better yet, digital media producer.
Accelerate. Once the audience is on your side, books are only the beginning. Be more like Jay-Z than James Patterson.
Not every author will do this, unfortunately. Many will grasp dearly to the Amanda Hocking story, depending on Apple and Amazon to become the new intermediaries that “magically” make them rich.
But Apple and Amazon don’t make money from caring about you. They’ll aggregate the hopes and dreams of millions along the long tail, letting just enough new stars shine to keep the dream alive.
At least the traditional publishers pretended to care.
Regardless, it’s up to you … now more than ever. Go make an audience happen.
Brian Clark is Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer, a multimedia email publication exploring the business of independent digital media. Get more related content on Twitter.
Imagine lying on a beach, sunlight hitting your face and sand between your toes. You grab your phone and check your bank balance to find that it’s increased $500 since sunrise. This may seem like a fantasy, but for some savvy entrepreneurs, it’s the reality of their passive income streams.
To be sure, it’s not all sunbathing and dollar signs. “Passive income” simply refers to money that you earn on a regular basis with minimum effort to keep it trickling in, a state of affairs that isn’t always easy to bring about. Plus, the extra money you earn passively is usually supplemental—it’s rarely enough to live on full-time. But it can still prove a crucial tipping point. For hobbyists looking to take their passions to the next level, it can generate enough capital to launch a new business, laying the foundation for eventually ditching a day job.
1. MAKE SOME MERCH
There are a number of third-party services to help entrepreneurs and hobbyists alike sell physical products, while outsourcing the logistics of fulfillment and shipping to a platform, which then takes a cut.
Daniel Caudill, founder of Merch Strategies, jumped head-first into the world of merchandising after taking a health-related leave of absence from his job. He says he now generates around $14,000 in passive income per month.
“How I’ve been able to do this is through e-commerce sales with Merch by Amazon and RedBubble, which are third-party suppliers that handle fulfillment,” says Caudill. “One fantastic thing about building passive income is that every action you take in the process can result in massively inflated returns over an extended period of time.”
You just need some patience, he suggests, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The fulfillment sites Caudill has relied on make it easy to get started. You just set up an account, upload your designs, and can create your own digital storefront in less than a few hours.
Over the years, I’d toyed with this idea but couldn’t justify buying large batches of products, storing them, and then shipping them. After weeks of research, I came across a site called Printful that not only prints high-quality designs but also automates the fulfillment process through an API integration. By using an automated distributor, I can sit back, relax, and let them handle the fulfillment logistics.
2. SELL SOMETHING DIGITAL
You don’t need to make physical goods, though. Sharon Tseung, founder of Digital Nomad Quest, started built a passive income stream to support her travels. “I love doing graphic design work on the side. After discovering that Etsy allows you to list digital products, I created editable Photoshop templates, such as media kits, greeting cards, and resumes, and published them on the platform.”
The design work took some time at the beginning, but now Tseung can more or less sit back. “Other than some maintenance and customer support, this income stream has been quite passive and can be managed anywhere with Wi-Fi,” she says. That means she can maintain her digital Etsy shop while she’s on the road.
“When it comes to passive income,” Tseung adds, “my advice is to always remind yourself of the long-term benefits. There may be substantial upfront work, but the time and freedom you can obtain makes it all worth it.”
If web development is your forte (as it is for many digital nomads like Tseung), you can consider building a software product that brings you a recurring monthly revenue. Dustin Nay, a website consultant, did just that and now generates thousands each month wit his automated web management and support tools.
Building a software product may sound like a daunting feat that only full-time startup founders would want to tackle. But Nay points out that those with day jobs can chip away at even the biggest projects incrementally—the key is just to keep the momentum going. “Start taking action right now, and don’t stop. You’d be surprised how much money you can earn without having all of your proverbial ducks in a row.”
3. GET WRITING
If you’re willing to dedicate time to daily writing, setting up a niche blog or website can be a great place to start earning passive funds with minimal overhead costs. If you can establish an audience for your content, you can begin selling products, finding affiliates, and hosting ads on your site, all of which can bring in some steady passive revenue.
Monetizing a content site isn’t easy even if you have a sizable reader base, but Travis Ketchum, founder of Contest Domination, recommends starting an email list so you can provide value and build relationships with cold prospects automatically. He suggests linking to helpful tools and services that pay a commission related to your niche.
Jared Romey, writer and founder of Speaking Latino, estimates that he now pulls in around $3,000 to $5,000 monthly through his series of ebooks. “I’ve been selling 12 books that I’ve written and published, as well as a website selling materials and resources to Spanish teachers,” says Romey. “The royalties were great, and eventually the books became my start to blogging online, which helped expand my online revenue stream even more.”
There are a number of platforms for self-publishing ebooks, from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace to independent options like Lulu and Smashwords. As Romey puts it, “Just get started, make mistakes, adjust, make more mistakes and keep moving forward.”
4. GRAB A MIC AND START PODCASTING
Some entrepreneurs are finding success producing podcasts and leveraging advertisements from sponsors. Bilal Zaidi, founder and host of Creator Lab, produces weekly podcasts where he interviews entrepreneurs, designers, educators, and artists.
Like Romey and Nay, he also emphasizes the importance of just diving in and learning to swim once you’re already in the water. “Get your idea out of your head, and start to commit to your revenue stream by forcing yourself to tell others about what you’re doing,” Zaidi says. “You don’t have to know every detail before starting.” Podcasting is about conversations, and conversations evolve as they unfold—you’ll get the hang of it once you get started, he suggests.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about launching your own company for a long time. Or maybe you’re just staring at your cubicle walls for the zillionth time but only now starting to consider ditching them for good.
Making the leap can be daunting, but you don’t have to dabble on the side for upwards of a year before going all in (though some entrepreneurs do!). In fact, not only can you start building the foundation for your company months before you commit full-time, you can even set an ambitious but achievable timetable for that process.
How does 90 days sound?
WHAT TO COMPLETE IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS
First, it’s helpful to reckon with the (relatively) longer-term priorities you’ll want to accomplish by the end of the three-month period you’re setting yourself. And that mainly comes down to getting your finances in order.
Suze Orman might cringe if she knew that when I started my business, I had zero savings and some hefty student loans. In retrospect, this was a poor decision. If I could do it all over again, I’d save up enough financial padding for six to 12 months of living expenses before leaving my job. Using credit cards to get started ended up working out in the long run, but it was a risky and very stressful move.
There are plenty of ways you can start saving and become financially prepared for your first venture. From skipping your daily $5 latte to moving to a cheaper apartment, even surprisingly small tweaks to your lifestyle can turn you into your own angel investor. Cutting back on expenses for just 90 days can give you enough funds to hire a designer to mock up your idea.
And for me (but not just me), design proved the most important investment I could’ve possibly made in order to establish my credibility early on. Even with a savings account (or, in my case, credit card limit) of just $500, you can typically design a sales PDF, build a simple landing page, and print a stack of business cards. Once I’d made those three initial investments, I was able to start pitching and secure some early contracts.
Hyekyung Hwang, CEO of the Seoul coworking space Hive Arena, recommends cutting back 30% of your normal expenses when you’re planning to launch a company. “When I was getting ready to take the plunge, I moved back with my parents for a few months to meet my business goals,” she says. Like Hwang, I also realized I’d have to abandon my New York City apartment to find a less expensive abode. To get back on track financially, I moved to a small town in Spain, knowing rent would be one-fifth the cost of living in Manhattan.
Before quitting his job, Arthur Zudin, a self-employed UX/UI designer, found a number of coffee shops and meeting rooms to conduct business in while saving thousands on office space. “When I first started my company, I kept costs low and didn’t buy fancy equipment to meet my goals.” says Zudin.
WHAT TO START THIS MONTH
While you start working on paring back expenses, there are a few things you’ll want to tackle sooner, ideally within the next 30 days.
First up, prove market validation. If you have a business idea in mind, start looking for ways you can begin testing it in the next few weeks. Have a website idea? Build a prototype and get feedback from potential customers. Want to create physical products? Mock them up with Photoshop and show them to your friends to see what they think.
You can take some low-tech steps in the same direction. Before starting my company, I asked friends and colleagues if they thought there was space in the market for a PR and design agency specializing in hospitality. These conversations helped me flesh out my idea very quickly and refine my startup’s initial offering of services.
“If you know what business you want to start, I would work part-time for the next three months on that business,” says Ajay Yadav, founder of Roomi, an app for finding roommates, apartments, and sublets. “See if there is a problem you can solve, or if you can really get your idea off the ground during that time. If you can, then go for it full force.”
Worried someone will steal your idea if you start floating it to people and testing some products and services? Don’t be. One lesson I’ve learned is that execution is really tough. Many people don’t have time to pursue their own ideas, let alone steal others’. And if you’ve set yourself an overall 90-day timetable to launch, you’ll most likely beat out any would-be competitors to market.
You’ll also want to fail a few times within that first month—not intentionally, of course, but as a result of starting small and iterating quickly from there. If you labor a long time on perfecting a grand scheme, by contrast, it’ll be months before you finally test anything and learn you’ve got something wrong, and by then it may be too late to fix it.
Before starting my company, I made a list of short-term goals and how I’d get to each one within just a few weeks. That list ultimately became a flexible business plan that helped me focus on taking small, achievable steps to reach my bigger goals. Since starting my business, I’ve failed countless times. What’s important to know is that failure is inevitable—the sooner you trip yourself up, the sooner you’ll know what changes to make to move ahead. It’s pushing through the lows that will help you succeed in the long run.
Roman Romanuk, founder of the marketing tool Prezna, recommends selling something small before you build. “Sales is the most important part of starting a business,” says Romanuk. “If you can’t sell, find a partner who can. You can also find companies that already have relationships with your target market and offer them the ability to resell your product or service, and incentivize referrals.”
No matter what kind of company you’re looking to build, it’s important to just get started. Now that you’ve got a few concrete steps to take within the next month and the next quarter, here’s one more you can tackle this week: On your way home from work, pick up a few business books and start reading up on how others have done it. Before long, you’ll have a few ideas to start tossing around within your network, and your 90-day plan will already be under way.
Books can make, break or elevate a brand. For an entrepreneur, a book is the ultimate business card and a creative way to expand your voice. Most of all, publishing a book is a powerful way to share your story and expertise in a way that can change someone’s life. I can’t imagine my entrepreneurial journey without the writings of Zig Ziglar, Seth Godin and countless other wise voices.
As someone involved in the book industry for 20 years, I’ve seen plenty of successes and flops. And the ever-changing publishing landscape has created unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs to stand out.
Since I already know you want to publish a book — every entrepreneur does — here are seven common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Do it for the money.
Yes, a successful book should be cash-flow positive. But there are other ways to measure ROI. Some clients measure their book’s effectivenessby the doors that open or the clients they land. It’s quite possible to sell 10 books, and earn $100k in new business as a result. Not a bad return, right?
Additionally, if money is the main motivation, the quality of the book will suffer. When writing your book, keep your reader in mind, and hold nothing back to help them.
2. Fall in love with the title.
No matter how much you love the working title of your book, if there are 12 other identical titles available on Amazon — or one by Malcolm Gladwell — it’s time for another brainstorming session.
Do the painful work of brainstorming a title and subtitle early in the process. This will help you center the writing around a theme or word-picture. That said, be open about changing the title and subtitle as the book evolves.
3. Design the cover.
Your book is a product, not just an art piece. Unless your business creates bestselling book covers, hire a professional, and utilize focus-group testing. Cover design is an art form unto itself, so don’t be a control freak.
If every focus group prefers a design that’s not your favorite, consider a new favorite, or keep trying. Bottom line — don’t settle until your cover is amazing.
4. Don’t plan the book like a business.
The most helpful books, in my opinion, are equal parts visceral expression and strategic planning. Purposely decide how you want the book to position you and build your brand.
I always begin a project by interviewing the author and drawing out what the marketing pitch will be for the book. People buy books to find answers and solve problems. What questions is your ideal reader asking? What problems do they face?
Before you write, plan the progression you want the reader to experience and how you will address their questions and struggles. Develop a clear value proposition for your book, and make sure each chapter delivers on that promise.
5. Don’t let your humanity show.
I have two goals for chapter one of any nonfiction book I help develop — the reader must like the author, and the reader must trust the author. The old adage applies here, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Since your primary motivation is to help the reader, make that clear in the first chapter.
In addition to showing glimpses of your accomplishments, to build credibility, you must not take yourself too seriously. Admit a huge blunder or a weakness the reader can relate to. In other words, be human.
6. Don’t get endorsements.
It’s so much easier than you think to connect with the influencers you admire and receive a valuable endorsement blurb for your book. For first-time authors, endorsements are key to building credibility. An endorsement is a win-win proposition if your book is solid. The endorsers get their name and credentials out to a new audience, and your brand is elevated in the process.
Think about it. When perusing a new book, don’t you look at the endorsements and foreword when making a buying decision? So why not have persuasive endorsements on your book? The most strategic endorsements are from either well-known authors or those with well-known brands in their title. For example, people might not know Jill-Bob Smith, but they will recognize the brand they represent.
7. Don’t test the content.
Book ideas are great fun. We carry them around inside us with a warm fuzzy feeling. We imagine strolling into the bank with enormous royalty checks. But it’s scary to test a book idea in a blog, social media post or shop an article to an industry publication. What if people hate your premise? Or worse — what if no one cares?
But this is where books go from good to great. Use feedback to thicken your writer-skin and deliver a better product. Use social media to test your insights and craft more memorable statements. As with the development of any product, build a prototype, test it and improve.
8. Don’t tell stories.
No matter how riveting your worldview and ideas are, stories are the life blood of a good book. Human beings are wired to perk up when hearing or reading a story. And, believe it or not, your readers want to hear your stories.
I recommend at least one story in every chapter. These can be from your life, business or stories from history. And remember, if stories involve colleagues, get written permission to use their names, and/or modify the details and names to protect the innocent.
9. Don’t get help.
If you’ve never published anything, you’d be amazed at the team effort required. Just read the acknowledgements in the back of any great book. Developing a remarkable book is a sizable endeavor. But the process can also be much easier than you’d think.
Many wise leaders and communicators don’t consider themselves good writers, and that might be true. But this is where editors and ghostwriters come in. In fact, many of the books you’ve enjoyed were crafted from transcripts of interviews and ghost-written or co-written. (My clients find this a painless way to produce a high-quality book, especially here in the Colorado mountains.)
10. Don’t start.
Your book might just launch your career to places you never imagined. But if you don’t start, you’ll never finish. And you’ll never know how many people your book could have helped.