Story provided by Your Job is a Joke –
Some people are in the right mind-set and have the appropriate life circumstances to just throw in their jobs to dive into entrepreneurialism. Others, like myself, would prefer to take a safer approach.
This article is all about everything I learned through starting a company ‘on the side’ while still working a 9-5 job, and on a shoe-string budget.
I chose this strategy for three main reasons:
– I had zero marketing or business knowledge/experience
– I was going into a high-competition industry (coaching) so I predicted it would take time to battle for customers
– I would be unlikely to find investors as it was an ‘overhead free’ service, not a product, so I would be asking money to survive rather than invest in something tangible
And let’s face it, for years I had believed that working 9-5 is a truth of life, so changing my belief system took some time. When I heard about YourJobIsAJoke being put together I felt excited. I couldn’t wait to share the learning I have been through over the last year to help people like yourself make quicker progress.
Note this article is not about how to figure out what kind of business you’re going to set up – this is for after you’ve already got an idea.
Below are my top 10 tips on how to avoid making the millions of mistakes I had to make to learn how to start up a company, with little free time and almost no money:
1. Learn marketing first!
As a career coach I always recommend that action comes before learning, as trying something before learning how to do it properly is the most efficient way to make progress. The one exception to this rule is when you are going into business for yourself for the very first time. You absolutely must learn the basics of marketing before you take serious action; before you even decide on your company’s name!
I spent nine months writing a book that almost bombed because I got the name wrong! Do not assume that because you think your idea is great that others will too. It’s the worst trap for first-time business owners.
Business is marketing. So you’re now an entrepreneur? That means you are now a marketer and sales rep. It is unavoidable if you want your business to survive and thrive.
2. Friends and family are your first customers.
Sick of swallowing your pride? Too bad, it’s time for another helping! That’s right, your friends and family who love you so much are now your first customers. That doesn’t mean you have to charge them full freight, but just realise that your early sales are like to come from people within your social circle, including friends of friends and other distant contacts. They provide a safety net to test things on as well, particularly when you don’t have a large marketing budget.
Don’t let pride hold you back (a mistake I made), because these contacts also provide another valuable service: testimonials. I finally ended up giving two friends of friends free coaching for six months, just to test out my service and gain genuine testimonials/references.
3. Budgeting 20%.
Whatever your budget, do your best to find a way to put aside at least 20% towards your business (more if you can). You may need to sacrifice some luxuries here. Ask yourself this: “if I give up my … (e.g. weekend drinking night) to have a successful business in 5 years, will I be happy I did it?” Pretty straightforward right? You need to assign this money like it’s already spent. Be prepared to lose it all just to learn what not to do. Just think, if you become a 6-figure beast in 5 years, you won’t give a damn about any money wasted now!
4. Virtual Assistants.
Learn the basics of web design through one of the free services (I used the beginners programme at sourcewave.com), just to figure out the easy parts and the hard parts, and then get yourself a Virtual Assistant. These are people who can do the stuff you don’t want to do or have no skill in, often for very reasonable prices. My main VA Hemant from India set up my site almost completely for about $100. I spent months struggling with it myself (I’m not an IT kinda guy) which was ultimately pointless, and in terms of cost per hour, Hemant is a much better investment.
Virtual assistants are crucial when you have massive time and/or budget constraints.
5. Prepare to work weekends and evenings.
If you really want this to work out without having to quit your current job right away, then prepare to give up some stuff. Aim to find at least 10-20 hours per week to dedicate to this at first (on top of your day-job). That means giving up non-essentials like television, getting drunk, and sleeping. I spent about 3-5 hours per night setting things up in the early phases, and most of one day on the weekend.
On that note, because you’re now working two jobs, do not sacrifice all socialising and exercise. These two factors are essential to your productivity and sanity. Do exercise at least four times per week and spend time with friends and family completely undistracted by work at least once per week.
6. Act first, learn later.
Just emphasising a point here, once you’ve learned basic marketing, it’s time to act. Always aim to act first and learn from the experience. Get ready to make many mistakes and hit a whole lot of setbacks. But don’t let this put you off, because this part is actually fun! I still make a good five or so significant errors every single week (used to be every day, so I’m slowly getting it) and it’s the best learning ever. Welcome to the school of life!
Trying to learn it all and be perfect before you make a move is another deadly trap. The imbalance between knowledge and experience will paralyse you, because you won’t know where to start. Instead aim to take action without any knowledge, then read up a bit on that specific subject, figure out what you did right vs. what you did wrong, and then try again. Might seem illogical, but I promise that your progress using this method will be far quicker than the other way around.
7. Develop and internet presence early on.
Once you’ve decided on your product or service, you need to start building up an online presence. There are very few businesses these days that can justify not marketing through the internet. It’s just such an easy, cheap source of finding leads and prospects (and if you don’t know what those terms mean you definitely need a marketing course, stat!)
I advise starting with Facebook. Set up a free page and start building up a list of ‘likes’. Experiment with different types of posts to see how people react. Don’t forget to invite all your friends to like you page (it’s probably better to invite 10 a day than all at once – it makes your page feature every day on newsfeeds this way). Take your ‘latte’ money and use it to promote posts. This is the best advertising for a low budget – choose your minimum daily spend (aim for at least $6-$10) and promote a post per day. Hint: high population countries like India are cheaper to promote to and more likely to ‘like’ your posts, but if it’s not your target market then you’re wasting time.
And don’t forget all the other options, like Google+, LinkedIn, PinIt, Twitter etc. Set them all up and do as much free posting as you can. And as for promoting, never go more than 20%. That is, for every post you do actually asking people to buy, you need at least 4 ‘non-promotional’ posts to balance it, so you don’t appear spammy.
8. Link into resources.
Websites like YourJobIsAJoke and others not only provide great tip, tricks and techniques, they also link you into an exclusive network: entrepreneurs. Going out on your own is pretty terrifying, and when you don’t get the results you expect, doubt will start to creep in. Sites like this will help you remain confident that you’re on the right track. I read at least one entrepreneur’s article per day, not to learn but to just confirm that other people are doing this crazy stuff too!
9. Prepare to suck!
You can be doing everything right and still not make a single dollar/yen/rupee/whatever. If you are constantly learning and improving along the way, this is not a big deal. It takes an average of 12-18 months for most new businesses to break even, so prepare to not make much progress at first. Think of the early stages as getting the biggest mistakes out of the way and developing the core skills of an entrepreneur. You’re in training, so do not expect the results of the masters – doing so you will only disappoint and de-motivate yourself. Learn to love rejection for the feedback it actually is.
10. Get a coach for your weakest area.
If your budget allows, get a coach for whatever your weakest area is likely to be. Mine was marketing, and after 6 months of throwing money into various advertising options and not making a single dollar, I finally swallowed my pride and got a coach. Boy, do I wish I had done that sooner! You will have blind spots that only an expert can get you through quickly. So if you can afford it, hire a reputable coach or mentor in your weakest area.
If you can’t afford it, go out and get as much free advice as you possibly can! Beg, borrow, blackmail and steal to get anyone successful you know to share their wisdom with you. Choose only those who are proven successes and basically ignore everyone else’s ideas. Everyone you know will have opinions on how you should run your business, but very few will actually have a clue as to what they’re talking about. Seek out millionaires, CEOs, advertising agents, marketers, sales reps, whoever – just choose people who know their stuff and pump them for information.