Do you want to be an entrepreneur for the most fatal, most killer reason out there?
When I first chose to eschew the prospects of a standard 9-5 career and nosedive directly into entrepreneurship, I was blissfully unaware of the challenges that laid ahead.
Cocky voice inside my head: “Come on RC, this won’t be hard. You’re smart, you’ve got ideas, and you’re a badass sexy MOFO…get out there and make us some money!”
Me (replying to cocky voice): “Ok!”
Hah…how foolish I was.
Damn you, cocky voice inside my head. Although I’m grateful you got me thinking about entrepreneurship and got me to stop making excuses and start doing, I’m pretty pissed off you had it all wrong on 1 crucial account:
You sold me the #1 worst reason to be an entrepreneur.
You thought it would be easy to just start makin’ money and plowing it in.
Voice: “RC, you’ll struggle for a month or two…but I bet you’ll start raking in some cash after about the third month….give it a year, you’ll be pulling in $60-70 grand easy. We’ll be rich!”
At this point I get slightly freaked out the cocky voice inside my head refers to itself as an entity distinct from me.
What I’ve realized from my entrepreneurial journey is this:
If your goal going into starting a business is to make tons of money quickly up front, you’re going into it for the wrong reason, and you’ll not only a.) fail to meet your goals, you’ll also b.) cause yourself a mountain of unnecessary anguish along the way.
Because businesses take years to develop to the point of producing an exceptional amount of money beyond what a “normal paycheck” working for someone else would.
And to prove that point, I’m going to share with you the progress on my businesses, and a case study from one of the coolest bloggers of all time.
But I just want to make some quick cash! Waaaah!
Cool! If just picking up a few extra bucks is all you want, that’s easy: do some freelancing.
In the course of about 15 minutes worth of searching, I was able to get a freelancing gig worth about $25 per hour; and anyone with a high-level engineering or business skill (e.g. CAD development, accounting) could probably do even better.
But random freelance contracts aren’t a business, they’re a temporary cash-flow solution.
When I talk about building a business, I’m talking about building a scalable, process-oriented business that churns merchandise, product or services, and pops out a big pile of money for you on the other side.
My progress so far: proof that businesses are tough to build in the short run.
After 5 months after the start of software development, just finished the alpha version of the software, and only now getting it ready to show to people (there’s going to be a helluva lot of iterations to do from this point).
Original estimated time to completion: Full version of software ready to go by January 2013.
Current estimated time: A year or two (December 2013 – May 2014).
Why it took longer: Before starting Focosos, I didn’t know much about software development; I just had domain expertise (knowledge of the problem that I wanted Focosos to solve). Finding programmers for Focosos took more than 3 months of full-time effort. And when I did find programmers through a local university, it became clear that the programming process would not be short, and that software development would take at least 9 months.
In general, my expectations were completely off.
I have about 110 subscribers so far in the 2 months of consistent effort on the site, which isn’t a lot as far as blogs go, but is good for considering how early I am in writing this blog.
Time estimation: I did a good job with this one. Since I had my previous less-than-successful blog, I knew what I was getting myself into, and what I had to do in order to make successful content and drive traffic.
When we started back on October, we thought developing this would be relatively easy…just do some basic CAD modeling. We even started FusionCase around the idea of having it on Kickstarter in 6 weeks. This turned out being a terrible idea (there was no way we could finish that fast).
Original estimated time to completion: 6 weeks
Actual time: on Kickstarter at the end of February, early March 2013 (more like 5 months).
Why it’s taking longer:
- Putting stuff on Kickstarter is harder than just posting it and crossing your fingers like a doofus. YOU need to do the marketing YOURSELF…like reaching out to blogs, getting press coverage, activating your personal network…and getting that cash money to flow from someone else’s wallet to yours.
- Manufacturing this would be harder than expected and is a bit of a wildcard.. The injection-molding process requires an exacting design methodology, which we’ve had to pay a consultant to deal with. The slightest error could cause us to way overspend our budget, and if done shittily, could send us into bankruptcy like this poor fellow’s Kickstarter project did to him (link).
Again, our expectations were completely off. It hasn’t caused us any problems per se; but the slowness is frustrating nonetheless.
Well RC, maybe you’re just a screwup; what if everyone else can launch faster than you?
No doubt some people can, and have! However long it takes you is relative to your capital, your experience, the strength of your idea, and the ability to execute.
But you’re being an idiot if you miss the main point here: that success in business isn’t overnight, and that you’re being a complete dolt if you’re reason for going into it is “I want to be rich now!”
A case study: one of Gen Y’s favorite bloggers before he was famous.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
I talk about I Will Teach You To Be Rich a lot because Ramit Sethi is a complete badass. Not only is his material highly informative and engaging, he also relates to young professionals to a T.
Ramit started his blog in 2005, and released his best-selling book in 2009.
You look at him now and think “holy shit, this guy must have really had his stuff all figured out! If I just copy him, I’ll be rich in no time!”
First, he’s been blogging for 7 years. And look at what his blog was like when he started (courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine). Does this look like the blog of a guy who’s going to go on and make bank from a 5, 6 figure book deal? Look at his article “Saving on Gas” from Sept. 3, 2004, which is like 82 words long. Does that look anything like the cutting-edge, super-researched advice he offers today?
And I find this one hilarious: look at his first downloadable “product”: 2-page Word doc overview of personal finance, which formatting-wise looks like one of my high-school book reports that I whipped out at 3am the day it was due.
Interestingly enough, he directly advocates doing things in this product that he specifically decries in his later works (notice how he says to save on lattes? That’s like his #1 least favorite way of saving money now, in his later works).
And how about when he started the blog? He must have had some amazing grand plan that guaranteed success, right? Well, not really: he actually started the blog with no “best-kept secret” to become an A-list blogger, except to write a lot (source: this interview).
Notice how much has changed over time with Ramit’s work, and notice how there was no cry of victory from his early works. He was just another guy with a blog; but unlike many bloggers, he spent years developing his brand and broadening his influence.
Ramit’s key to success was long-term focus and consistency, and constantly learning how to get better: not having the “super-secret trick to make money quick on blogging”. Check out this article that came out before his book release. Interesting that the author mentions “he probably knew he’d be writing a book on personal finance someday”. http://www.ryangeist.com/marketing/the-dirty-little-secret-behind-ramit-sethi-book-launch/.
And, if this is the stuff it takes to launch a successful blog, do you really think you have any chance of getting it done quickly? (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/01/26/ramit-sethi-exposed-how-he-earns-millions-blogging/).
I could go on with examples of famous people, and I can think of a couple personal examples too:
- A 23-year old friend of mine who owns a successful real-estate investing company who made less than $10,000 in his first year of business (now he makes 6 figures).
- Family members who, when they started their own business, frequently wondered if they would have enough money to make it through the month, including a year in the late 1980s where they didn’t make a dime (think savings and loan crisis era in Arizona…the economy was fully submerged in the crapper back then). Their only form of entertainment was going to Chuck E Cheese’a once every 2 weeks and buying a cheap pizza, beer, and $10 worth of arcade tokens.
If these people who are making a killing now struggled at first and had it tough, what do you think your path will be?
A focus on goals and long-term consistency is the key to success; a concept proven time and time again by those who actually are successful today.
If you’re looking for a quick buck, don’t even bother. Things take time. If all you want is money on the side, do freelancing. But if you want to start a sustainable business, do it the right way, and plan for the long haul. Don’t let your short-term emotions fool you away from what may be an amazing, goal-shattering long-term success.