Tag Archives: tips

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

Bureau of Idea Approval

Seth Godin describes our culture’s attitude towards implementing ideas:

    I’ve encountered thousands (it might be tens of thousands) of people walking around with great ideas. Some of the ideas really are great; some are merely pretty good. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ideas. Ordinary folks can dream up remarkable stuff fairly easily.
    What’s missing is the will to make it happen.

    A lot of us would like to believe that there’s a Bureau of Idea Approval, or the BIA if you like acronyms. The BIA sits in judgement of ideas and blesses the best ones. Go ahead and hone your remarkable concept, submit it to the BIA, and let them do the rest.
    Alas, it’s not going to happen like that any time soon.
    Tribes,

Naomi of Itty Biz puts it like this:

    “Do you really think this is a good idea? I told my husband and he seemed really lukewarm.”

    I hate to get all cliché on your ass but if I had a dollar for every time I heard something like this I sure as shit wouldn’t be living in Canada’s Snow Belt when there are perfectly good beaches in Bali I could inhabit.

    In the time I’ve been hanging out in the aforementioned Snow Belt doing home business marketing consulting, I have heard one bad idea. (If you’re reading this, it wasn’t yours. I’ll tell you right now that the creator of the idea in question does not read this blog.) Sure, there are lots of bad ideas in the world, but intelligent people reject them before they hit the discuss-it-with-your-loved-ones phase and the lame idea never sees the light of day.

    Why Your Loved Ones Want You To Fail

And yet, the idea persists. We feel like there’s some process we have to go through, some certificate we have to get, before we start work on our ideas.

By the power vested in me by me…

It’s really OK to try. I mean, you should engage in some serious thought before you, ya know, quit your job and move across the country to open a store selling organic notepaper. But there are lots of options that are less drastic… that are, in fact, very low-risk. Join some online forums about your topic, and figure out what hashtags are used on twitter to identify those discussions. Start a blog and talk about your ideas. Start a meetup where people can get together and talk about your ideas. Write a manifesto. Make an online store. Start a 30-day Trial.

I hereby give you permission. Thanks to David Seah, visual designer of inspirational awesomeness, you can even have a certificate.

I also hereby deputize you into the Bureau of Idea Approval. Whenever you hear an idea that’s worth spreading, present its creator with a certificate. Whenever someone approaches you to ask your opinion of an idea, give them a certificate when you tell them to give it a shot. Whenever a loved one is ready to surrender to the threat of an invisible mallet, give them a certificate saying that their idea is a good one.

Let’s make this world a more idea-friendly place.

-Raina

Download: Bureau of Idea Approval Certificate

Note 1: I have typed out Bureau of Idea Approval each time, because the US already has a BIA, which stands for Bureau of Indian Affairs, and I don’t want anyone to get the two mixed up.

Note 2: 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.

Dangerous or Gutsy?

Scenario:
You and some friends are on a tour in the African savanna, enjoying the scenery and the wildlife, when an angry rhinoceros charges the vehicle. There’s a rifle on the seat next to you with enough power to stop the rhino. Do you

    a) Scream and cower in terror?
    b) Grab the rifle, take aim, and shoot?

Please note that this is a scary situation. Sitting up straight, taking careful aim, and shooting steadily will require a lot of courage. It’s a gutsy thing to do.

But it’s also the safest thing to do. If you miss, you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t tried, so there’s no downside risk. If you hit, you’re a lot better off than if you hadn’t tried, so there’s a lot of potential upside. You’re clearly better off doing the gutsy thing.

And… how does this relate to business?

We tend to associate “gutsy” stuff with “dangerous” stuff. And sometimes that’s true: going over Niagara Falls in a barrel requires guts and is dangerous. But sometimes, as in the rhinoceros example above, the “gutsy” decision is also the least dangerous decision.

And that happens in business sometimes, too. Buying enough factory capacity that you can actually meet demand, shipping a product you know isn’t quite as good as you’d like, or starting a blog in your free time… all of these take courage, but are, objectively, the best, smartest, safest decision.

Recognizing which ideas are dangerous, and which are gutsy-but-good, is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Resources for Further Reading
Intelligent Risk Taking
Risk Analysis

Play it Safe — and Experiment

In Learning From Your Competition, I discussed what things you can learn from your competitors, including what price, which promotions, and which combinations of products are most likely to be effective for your business. But if your business just copies what other businesses do, why should any customer go to you? This is especially true on the internet, where “Just like Facebook, only different” has repeatedly proven a recipe for failure.

What your competition does is safe

Nonetheless, copying the competition is a good place to start your entrepreneurial ventures, because you know there’s a market for what they’re selling. If you offer a product that’s basically the same as your competitors’ most popular product, at a price that’s the average of all their prices, using the same promotional methods as they do, you’re pretty much guaranteed to sell some of it.

It’s a low-risk choice, but it’s also a low-reward choice: since your offering is essentially identical to everyone else’s, you’re relying on the vagaries of fate to randomly steer some of the customers in your direction.

Once you’re safe, then experiment

With your solid base of safe, low-risk products, you have a relatively stable platform from which to explore. Now start experimenting.

Experiment with new products, or product combinations. Would your customers like these new items? Would they like the deluxe edition? Instead of buying products individually, would they like a subscription?

Experiment with prices (the people who select the MSRP are just guessing, too). If you put this on sale for 10%, does it increase the number of sales by more than 10%? If you increase prices on this one by 5%, how many people still buy it? What does it go for on eBay? Does it make sense to have different prices at different times of the day? Different times of the year? In different locations?

Experiment with delivery. Does it make sense to open another location? To offer home delivery? To create e-products that can be sold everywhere? Will customers pay extra for quicker delivery or more efficient locations?

Experiment with promotions. Is advertising the best method? What about networking meetings, or a booth at local events, or seminars at your local library? Are your customers on Facebook? Would they like to receive information via text message or email?

Keep what works, get rid of the rest

Eventually you’ll have a fantastic marketing mix — product, price, distribution, and promotion — that is great for your customers, and gives them a reason to bring their money to you.

Resources for Further Reading
Seth Godin on Competition
Risk Analysis

The Problem with Competitive Metrics

I’ve I’ve mentioned previously my MBA class this term is centered around an online simulation which I’ve mentally dubbed “Sim Startup” (although it has no affiliation with The Sims or Sim City.) The simulation is divided into 6 quarters, during which our executive team must make decisions about product, manufacturing, advertising and so on, and then see how we do in the marketplace. The class is divided into four such teams so that we have competitors and our hypothetical customers have more choices.

Last quarter, my team achieved the following:

  • Revenue increased by $2.9 million
  • Operating profit increased by $400,000
  • Our products were rated 5-8 points higher by consumers
  • Our ads were rated up to 10 points higher by review boards
  • We matched manufacturing to demand so that we neither sold out nor had too much excess inventory.

Not bad, eh? But our team is depressed, because we’re now in 4th place among the competing teams instead of 2nd.

Does it matter?

There are some advantages to looking at your competition. But it doesn’t make sense to judge “success” based on whether you did better or worse than other businesses. Did you go into business because you wanted to do better than existing companies? Did you quit your job and take on the risks of being an entrepreneur because you wanted to beat the pants off that guy down the road? I’m guessing not.

The purpose of metrics is to help you achieve your objectives. So the metrics you use should be based on what you want to achieve. Did you start freelancing to get more money? Then measure how much money you made compared to last year. Did you become your own boss so that you’d have more flexible hours? Measure how many of your kids’ soccer games you missed. Did you open a store so you could share the joy of your hobby with others? Measure how many of your customers have taken up that hobby. What your competitors accomplished is not relevant to your goals.

Don’t count the other guy’s money.