Tag Archives: theory

Resource: Self-Monetization Fundamentals

Figuring Out What’s Going On

This whole blog is talking about concepts that are strange to most people — not having a job, “monetizing” your skills, how the internet has changed the game — and it can be overwhelming and confusing. These resources talk about the big picture.

Books

(Affiliate links to Better World Books will let you buy it new or used, or search for it at your local library. Proceeds benefit worldwide literacy programs.)

The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. This book probably sums it up best: how the combination of technological and social changes have made it possible for people to make money while not working (and without exploiting the masses). How to get in on this action, from starting your own online business to convincing your boss to let you telecommute.

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. Google is probably the most successful company in the “new rules” of business — certainly one of the most successful. Jeff discusses why that is, and the implications it has for every industry he can think of.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Not so helpful on the explanation or analysis, it is a great example of how you have to change your attitudes about money before anything on this site can help you.

Blogs

Steve Pavlina’s Blog His new stuff is pretty strange (it’s like those TV shows that make no sense in season 6 unless you’ve seen all the seasons before it), but happily, his old stuff is still there for reading. Check out 10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed, How To Make Money From Your Blog, and How To Earn Your First Love Dollar. From there, the related articles at the bottom will give you plenty of reading material.

Seth Godin’s Blog is a must-read for anyone in business today — which is all of us. Godin is a marketer, which means he had a good view of how the internet changed the relationship between business and consumer. And he was kind enough to share it with us, through the course of several books, and his blog. (All of his books (at least all the ones I’ve read so far) should be on this list as well, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you. And the blog delivers a tremendous amount of value for free. You can always pick up the books later.) His posts don’t take very long to read, but you can spend an enormous amount of time thinking about them and how they apply to you.

David Seah’s Blog is a nice perspective on freelancing/self-employment from someone who remembers that entrepreneurship isn’t all sunshine and roses — it’s often a struggle with your self-discipline and self-doubts, and sometimes means you have the worst boss in the world. His Printable CEO series is designed to help you do the job your boss used to do as well as the job you still have to do.

Next Week: Resources for getting started

Risky Compared To What?

There was recently a large MTG tournament here in Denver, and since I know a lot of gamers, several people in my social circle competed, including my partner (who’s been playing since the game was invented and is quite good) and a coworker (who’s 10 years younger, and is just starting to play “seriously”). My coworker played with a “net deck” (one he’d assembled using instructions online), and my partner played a “rogue deck” (one he’d invented himself). And each thought the other was taking a big risk.

Who’s Right?

Well, the first thing to know is that tournament rankings usually look much like this:
A bell curve with net decks in the middle and rogue decks on the ends

That is, net decks are still available online because they’re good decks; they’ve been tested and tweaked by thousands of people. But they are available online, so everyone knows about and prepares for them.

The second thing to know is that my partner is one of the best players in the state, and he builds really good decks.

My coworker, with less experience and fewer resources, is unlikely to build a deck that’s better than a net deck; he’s comparing the lower tail to the big hump, and concluding (correctly) that he’s better off with a net deck.

My partner is almost certain to place highly, on the top half of the curve. And up there, the net decks are the poor options — there is simply no way to be the best when you are identical to 20% of your competition. Your only way to stand out from the pack is to be different.

K. So What?

The same dynamic is at work in any sort of competition — including business. On any metric you care to name (price, convenience, quality, safety, etc), companies and products will be distributed along a bell curve like this, with anyone who follows “industry standards” safely in the middle and the differentiation products out on the ends. If you don’t follow industry standards, you risk being below average. If you do follow industry standards, you risk never being above average.

In a game tournament there’s a clear, simple definition of “best” — the person who won the most games. But in business, it’s not that simple… and that’s a good thing. If there was only one “best”, there would be little room for competition, and no way for newbies to break into the field. But that’s not the case. There are lots of definitions of “best”, and you can certainly meet one of them.

Application

Have you done a SWOT analysis for yourself and your entrepreneurial venture yet? You should. But for the moment, I just need an internal analysis, because we need your strengths and weaknesses.

For your weaknesses — things that you’re worse than average at — you’d do better to copy the competiton, and get yourself up to average. Read blogs, check out books, call an expert, call your networking aprtners, or whatever, but move yourself towards what the rest of the industry is doing.

For your strengths — things that you’re better than average at — it’s possible that industry standards are holding you back. Take a look at everything you do in that department and ask yourself why you do it Because you’ve found it to be good? Because you think it might be good? Because everyone says you have to do it that way? And regardless of why, what results do you see from it? Do you think it’s the best you can do, or do you think a different approach might work better?

Then experiment… slowly. Industry standards, like net decks, are still around because they are good. Most exist for some reason. So you don’t want to throw everything away. You just want to try a few new things, see how they go, and try a few more.

And if you’re just starting, and don’t yet know your strengths/weaknesses? I advise you to give them some consideration — your personal strengths are the best place to start an entrepreneurial venture, and you’ll really want to know them. Take online quizzes, read StrengthsFinder 2.0, talk to your friends, talk to your coworkers, and do some journaling. But as a starting assumption, you can use the industry standard for everything, and adjust as you discover what you do well.

Resources for Further Reading
Play It Safe — and Experiment
Risk Analysis

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Entrepreneurs Have More Fun

At TedxBoulder this weekend, David Thomas gave a talk on what makes a place fun. His argument was that fun comes from ambiguity: from both being and not-being an astronaut when you’re a kid, from rides at Disneyland that both are and are not jungle cruises. Disneyland is in fact the epitome of this ambiguity-for-fun, with their “house for a mouse that’s not a house for not a mouse.”

William Glasser, in Choice Theory argues that fun is an evolutionary response to learning: critters that enjoy learning are more likely to learn, and therefore more likely to survive. When you have fun, you’re learning, and when you learn, you have fun. (This makes the US education system and its ability to make learning miserable, a really impressive — if depressing– accomplishment).

Yes, it can be fun

Whichever conception of fun you prefer, you get more of it by deliberately monetizing yourself, instead of accepting a 40-hour-a-week job by default.

Pick a job, and be a Linchpin

Even if you decide that employment is the best way to go, you don’t have to be a mindless cog in a machine. Look for opportunities to do work that matters, even if it’s just recognizing places where your current job could be made more efficient. The challenge of spotting ways to be a better employee will keep you engaged and learning, and the ambiguity of your job description will make your creative mind happier.

Work For Yourself
Self-employees have lots of opportunities to learn all kinds of things: basic accounting, basic marketing, how to handle customers, among many, many others. And ambiguity, too: the strangest one is the realization that you’re an expert in the eyes of some, even if you feel like a complete novice.

Work For Assets
Creating a business is fun because you both are and are not working for yourself — and explaining that at a cocktail party can take a long time! Also, just like being self-employed, you learn a ton.

Invest
As with all non-employment monetization methods, investing has ambiguity of outcome: when you wake up on January 1st, you have no idea how much money you’re going to make this year. And you can, if you choose, learn about something new every year or every month: real estate today, pork belly futures tomorrow.

Scary Can Be Fun

In the last post, we talked about why it takes courage to explore alternate monetization — to be an entrepreneur. It’s a scary thing to do. But roller coasters and haunted houses show that scary can be fun… and being an entrepreneur is fun. Pick a low-risk option and try it out.

The above product links are affiliate links. If you enjoyed and appreciated this information, you can give me monetary reward by buying products through those links. Learn More.

Why Courage?

When I moved my blog to this URL, I went through each post and sorted them all into my current categories. And as I did so, I noticed that a lot of my pages are filed under Personal Development, and most of those are filed under Courage. What gives? Why is personal development even on a website about money anyway?

The short answer is that the test market wanted it. I started this blog because I had met actual people who had questions about monetizing their skills and talents and experience, and so my posts have been answering their questions, or explaining things they didn’t understand. And a lot of that was not about the differences between LLCs and S-corps, or the selection of a logo, but about more fundamental, fuzzy things. Like organization, frugality… and courage.

In my personal, limited experience, very few people fail in business because they don’t have the technical skill or the ability to research business entities. They fail because they ask the wrong questions. They fail because they don’t bother to look up the answers. They fail because they let their brother-in-law talk them out of it.

Most people end up in an uninspiring dead-end job that they hate because they don’t have the courage to change it.

Courage in Self-Monetization

Courage to Be Different

The fact is, most of our world, and all of Western society, is oriented on employment. If you ask someone how to get more money, they will tell you to get a higher-paying job. If you ask someone what you should do out of college, they’ll tell you to get a job. If you don’t ask what you should do out of college, they’ll still tell you to get a job (I’ve been going through this a lot).

And to buck that trend takes courage. To tell your mom that you’re not going to get a job. To tell new acquaintances that you don’t have a job. To have to explain, for the 200th time, that it’s OK, you don’t need condolences, you like being unemployed. You have to have the courage to be different.

The Courage To Try Something New

There are lots of things that are comfortable and familiar to you: writing 2-page essays with 12-point font and 1/2″ margins, tuning into your favorite TV show, going shopping, cleaning the house. And given the option, you’d rather do something that’s comfortable and familiar than something that’s new and scary. But all of the non-job monetization options are new and scary, by definition (anything new is automatically scary).

It’s easier to fall back into your routines. But if you’re going to monetize yourself without working 40 hours a week, you have to have the courage to try something new.

The Courage To Take A Risk

Employment is a world of known outcomes: you go to work in the morning, you get to leave at night and take home a paycheck each Friday. That’s the deal, and it’s your employer’s job to make it happen. OK, from time to time there may be BIG moments of uncertainty, where you get downsized or you change departments or whatever, but basically your day-to-day routine involves no risks at all.

Everything else, not so much. When you wake up on January 1st, you don’t know how much money you’ll make this year. When you start a month, you don’t know where your rent money will come from. Depending on the business you’re in, you may wake up in the morning not knowing if you’ll have any work today.

And you have to try things without knowing what will happen. An ad writer who’s an employee knows that they’ll get paid their daily salary regardless of how successful the ad is. A small businessperson has to launch an ad into the world with no idea whether it will be successful or not. A restaurant owner has to start the business without knowing — for sure — whether they’ll get enough customers to stay open. An investor has to buy the apartment building without knowing whether the economy will take off or tank.

There are no certainties in an entrepreneurial lifestyle, whether you’re an occasional freelancer or a multi-million-dollar stock trader. Your day-to-day life is full of unknown outcomes. You have to have the courage to take a risk.

The Courage To Take Responsibility

An employee can always blame someone else.

    “I’m sorry; it’s company policy”
    “My boss told me I had to do it this way”
    “The board made that decision; I have to carry it out.”

An entrepreneur can’t. It’s all you. You made the decision to run that ad. You made the decision to carry that product. You made the decision to deny that refund. It means you get credit for the good stuff… but you have to have the courage to take responsibility, however it turns out.

The Courage To Fail

I don’t like failing. You don’t like failing. No one says to themselves, “Gee, I’ve got a whole day off! I think I’ll go seriously suck at something.” It’s not fun. And that’s a good thing: hating to fail is what makes you try to succeed.

But, I’m sorry, you are going to “fail” at least some of the time. Learning to be an entrepreneur is just like learning any other skill: you missed the goal a bunch when you were learning to play soccer, you wrote a lot of illegible stuff before you figured out how to write, and you’ll have trouble selecting products, naming the company, developing a brand, and writing a business plan, as you learn how to monetize yourself. It’s just the way it goes. If you’re so afraid of failure that you won’t give it a try, you won’t get anywhere in this project. You have to have the courage to fail.

You Have to Have Courage

If you have all of the above characteristics, you don’t need me to teach you how to do business taxes; you’ll do the research and figure it out for yourself. If you don’t have the above characteristics, there’s no amount of education I can give you that will let you succeed.

In the end, it comes down to you.

Resources For Further Reading
The Invisible Mallet
This Ain’t Middle School
Risk Analysis

Monetize Yourself Media – Sell Your Expertise Directly

This post is part a series on specific media for monetizing yourself. Today I’m going to talk about another category of potential media: selling your expertise directly through books or information products.

Sell your expertise in products

Write a book

Yes, you can write a book. It used to be that writing a book involved a huge mess. You had to get an agent, who had to convince a publisher that you could sell 1000 copies, so as to find a book deal, then negotiate an advance, and so on. Big deal, big mess, and contingent on the approval of people you don’t know and probably don’t like.

Not any more. It’s now easy to

  • write a book (word processing! No more white-out!),
  • publish a book (you can publish an ebook for free, or get someone to publish it for you for less than $100. Paper books can be printed in lots as small as a dozen, so publishing houses are far less concerned with selling 1000 copies), and

  • market a book (it’s hard to get on the shelves of Barnes And Noble or Borders, but almost trivial to get on the “shelves” of Amazon.com).

Now all you have to do is figure out what to write a book on. What have you found yourself wishing you could find a book about? What have you had to experiment and develop mostly through trial and error, because there are no books on it? What do your family and friends call you to get help with? Don’t tell me that there isn’t anything; see the story below.

Create Information Products

A book is actually a subset of information products, but I gave it its own category because it’s by far the best-known information product.

An information product is just what it sounds like: a product that provides information. A book is one example. Other examples include (but are not limited to):

  • a DVD on how to use your new exercise equipment, or
  • a 1-page checklist of things to pack on your vacation, or
  • a spreadsheet that sorts your expenses into budget categories, or
  • a deck of flash cards, or
  • a comic book on how to play this board game, or….

Information products are great because they’re so flexible, and it’s entirely possible that your expertise doesn’t fit well into a book. Someone whose gift is in designing and assembling awesome carpentry projects would be far better off selling how-to videos. If your gift is organizing things, you may be better off selling mini e-books like “101 Things To Take on Vacation” or “Everything to Do To Get Your House Clean Enough For Your Mother-In-Law”.

But I Don’t Have Expertise

Judy Murdoch tells a story of a teacher who said she couldn’t make an information product, because she wasn’t an expert on anything. Judy challenged this statement, said she was sure the teacher knew something worth $50. Intrigued, they started discussing.

Turns out…
this teacher, having years of experience with 7-year-olds, knew how to get first graders to pick up after themselves.
Wouldn’t you pay to know that?

The lesson?
Everyone undervalues what they know. You undervalue what you know how to do, just because you know how to do it.

We’re all experts at something. You just have to find your market.

Resources For Further Reading
Information Product Development from Highly Contagious Marketing
Buy The Book Marketing: Internet Marketing for Authors