Posts tagged entrepreneur
Well it’s Father’s Day once again. Time for reminiscing about fathers and the past. As you may know, my own father passed away shortly over a year ago. Father’s day was always a big day for us. A chance to thank my parents for everything they did for us (Mom got her own day but you know how things go).
But my daughter’s birthday and Father’s day are typically celebrated on the same day. So in my own home, Father’s day has been little more than a hurried “Happy Father’s day” as we rushed to arrange parties and fixin’s.
This year is different. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday last weekend and this weekend she’s off to go shopping with her aunt. So I’m sitting here, relaxing and thinking about Fathers and everything they give to us.
My own Father was an entrepreneur. As was his Father and his Father before that. All the way back to Thomas (great-great-) who left Wales (and maybe Ireland) behind to take his business to the new world. Maybe even before that. I’ve spoken before of how I learned to be an entrepreneur at my great-grandfather’s knee. And it seems to be something that is absorbed. (My brother and one sister are both entrepreneurs as am I).
My Father (and grandfather and great-grandfather) taught me to think and be an entrepreneur. My university taught me to be a businessman. The two together gave me a good base for all my entrepreneurial endeavours including freelance writing and training. And as frustrated as I get with the life, I hope my children will become entrepreneurs as they grow.
The sad reality is that we can no longer rely on a job. The big corporations have walked away from their responsibilities. Mutual respect and loyalty is a thing of the past. Just when wisdom is earned, and the joy of sharing is realized, the new corporation decides that they can no longer afford you. The current economic reality makes that trend even worse. Companies no longer dumbsize — now they disintegrate, all in the name of pleasing analysts who have no stake in the company.
The age of the entrepreneur is on us. Unfortunately, even entrepreneurship has its difficulties.
Last night, I published the Kindle version of Paul and my first book as an entrepreneur and publisher. “101 Limericks about Public Speaking” has been available for some time now. At first in PDF eBook form on our TrainingNOW.ca site and then in print. But now, it’s available in Kindle eBook. And in many ways, it represents the changes that are occurring in the writing business.
When I first started, marketers created systems and wrote them up as eBooks. These sold for highly inflated prices. After all, you were selling a system not a book. And the traditional publishers owned the print book market. You sold an agent who in turn sold the publisher who deigned to print and distribute your book. If you wanted to self-publish, you dealt with a vanity publisher.
Today, all that has changed.
Self-publishing is the rule not the exception. And while print books do sell still and will for some time, the eBook is the way of the future. Booksellers such as Amazon now set the tone and the price. And the big publisher is being squeezed out as the author’s realize they don’t get much from them in the new reality. On the other hand, other Booksellers (such as Apple and its iBookstore) have yet to recognize the changes and still give the publisher the power.
It may seem that I’m pro-Amazon’s and anti-Apple/Kobo/Nook’s stances. But the truth is both are valid. Amazon has recognized the new reality in the writer’s market. And they’ve taken advantage of their size to force their opinions on the publishing world. The Apple/Kobo/Nook camp has been slow to recognize the changes. And they’ve been slow to react. They’ve chosen to give up control to the big publishers.
The truth is in between. There are situations where the price of a book should include the price of the system. And there are situations where the price of the book should be low. The truth is that all four groups need to have input into the price of an eBook — the customer, the bookseller, the publisher and the author. No one group can dominate or the price will shift in their favour at the expense of the others.
Right now, the writing and freelance writing market is on the cusp of change. Where will we be tomorrow? Who knows?
Isn’t being an entrepreneur fun?
Everyone has to begin somewhere. No one just leaps into the top spot in an industry. Or starts off knowing everything there is to know.
And that is especially true with freelancing. It doesn’t matter what type of freelancing. Computer work, software design, art, writing, bookkeeping. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working in your field. Freelancing in a field is different than being an employee in that field.
Maybe you’ve written your first book or maybe your third eBook and you’ve gotten a taste for writing a book. So now you’ve decided you like it and you want to become a freelance writer. Good for you. But you’re going to find it’s a whole different world. So in this blog entry I’m going to share some tips to help beginners in freelance writing. To ease the transition as it were.
1. Freelancing is a business.
Being a freelancer might seem at first glance to be a form of employment. But it is a business and you need to think in terms of running a business. That means like any entrepreneur, you need to spend time working on your business. In fact that is your priority over working in your business. You are no longer a writer — you are an entrepreneur. So think and act like one.
2. Rainy days come sooner than you think.
One of the main pieces of advice that debt counselors give is to put away roughly six months of earnings. As a freelancer your goal is to put at least a year’s earnings away. And you need to start as soon as possible.
3. Time is a limited resource.
As a freelancer you’ll soon learn that you are being drawn in many different directions. If you let it you’ll soon find yourself spending too much time on one part of your business and not enough on another. You need to ensure that you are allocating time to each of the major elements of your business – marketing, finance, information, production. Each is important and each needs your respect and involvement.
4. Sometimes it pays to not do things.
Some people believe that no one can be an expert in everything an entrepreneur does. That’s just not true. In fact it’s easy to do. But what is true is that it isn’t wise to do so. In any job — especially running a business — there are jobs that you don’t do well. There are jobs you don’t enjoy doing. There are jobs that are worth less than other jobs. There are jobs that anyone can do. There are jobs that require specialized knowledge. And then there are jobs that you need to do yourself. And jobs that will earn you more by doing them. As a freelancer you need to identify which group those jobs belong to. And then hire someone else to do the less valuable, less enjoyable, less suitable jobs.
5. There is no such thing as downtime.
As an employee there will be the occasional period of unemployment. And vacation time. And holidays. And other than searching for a job most people take those times as relaxation time. As a freelancer, you will be out of work far more often. But that downtime isn’t. You need to spend the time wisely. Tip number 3 applies even during downtimes. Even if you allocate the time to vacation!
6. Showing is better than telling.
One of the key marketing tools you must develop from the first is a writer’s portfolio. As an employee your main tool is your resume. Not because it’s the best but because the person hiring uses the same rules for everyone. As a freelancer you’ll find you get hired by two disparate groups — those who know how to hire a writer and those who don’t. Your portfolio is what the people who know will want to see. So build it quickly and keep it up to date.
7. Keep your own counsel.
Complaining is an old privilege of employment. However, you’re not an employee. You need to appear professional. And professionals know how to keep their opinions to themselves. So don’t get involved in employee bitch sessions. While your customer isn’t always right, they are your customer. And their business is their own to run. Not yours.
I’m ticked …
Notice my site … changed a bit hasn’t it.
Used to look consistent. Now … not so much. Used to be a mix-mash of traditional html, WordPress blog and forum. But at least it looked consistent.
Now not so much.
That’s not the least of it. I use WordPress to drive a number of sites that are part of the TrainingNOW family and a number of other companies (e.g. VProz) that I’m either involved in or otherwise have a relationship with (i.e. maintain). The problem is that WordPress broke all my sites in the last update.
Yes, I said broke my sites.
As a “former” techie, this ticks me off. But then again, I come from a platform that doesn’t EVER have legacy code in the way PCs do. Upgrade? Cool. But it had better not break what went before or it’s back to the drawing board. Which means there’s always new stuff to learn without unlearning the old. But that’s a heck of a lot easier than rewriting a million dollars in application code. (For the techies in the group, any html in pages was lost, workarounds around the menu stopped working around, and plugin options suddenly stopped the plugin from working. And oh yes, the theme I was using is no longer maintained so I couldn’t even keep the look consistent.)
But, since we’re all internet marketers here, I’m going to ignore the details and focus on the business effects.
Yesterday, was supposed to be a day of writing a new course. This week is turning into a write-off as appointments get in the way of producing. What was supposed to be a day of squeezing production between the appointments ended up being a day of fixing webpages. Including one that allowed my customers to download a product they had paid for. (At least it didn’t affect LearningCreators!). What really hurt was that this download was actually hit three times by the “changes”. No sooner did I fix one problem but another further down the stream appeared.
So what can we learn from this?
- Being able to download product is critical. (That means test it in full and fix it immediately).
- Don’t upgrade WordPress (or its plugins and theme’s) unless you have time to verify it hasn’t broken anything.
- If the pages need to appear consistent, then use WordPress for the whole site (not just the blog). Replacing a theme is easy. Replacing a theme and customizing it to look like your brand is not that hard. Replacing a theme and then customizing it to look identical to the html version is a major pain. (Technically, you can use a common CSS. But since WordPress has added improved Page handling, it isn’t necessary).
- Identify your critical processes (such as product delivery). Always have a backup ready to go at a moment’s notice. The backup should appear as transparent to the user as possible.
- Be flexible with release dates for product. Build in lots of time between completion and release. Then hope and work toward not needing that time.
- Watch the upgrade sequence. All themes and plugins should be upgraded shortly after a major WordPress release. If not, you need to check that they aren’t obsolete. If they are then you need to start the process of replacing them.
- Be flexible. Stuff happens. And always at the worst possible time.
- Don’t overcommit. You’re running a business (and have a life). That means you need to make appointments. But don’t let the number of appointments overload your ability to work on the business.
- Balance is needed in your business. Too much production and not enough marketing and you won’t sell. Too much marketing and not enough production and you won’t have enough product to sell. Too much production and/or marketing, at the expense of not enough administration and you could find yourself not being able to deliver what you sell. Or know what has sold and what you should produce. (Okay, I’m cheating here. This is actually something I’ve learned over the last six months. I just had it reinforced.)
- Project management rules are really business rules. The good habits that I’ve learned as a project manager are the same habits I need to remember as a business manager and entrepreneur. (Or vice versa)
Good luck with your business!
Oh darn, I didn’t catch my post on Wednesday … :sad:
You see, I didn’t actually want to post it. Why? Because on Wednesday I published a blog post on a different blog!
Yup … go to OurLittleBooks.com and check out my article.
We’ve made arrangements with a publisher (Our Little Books) and a marketer to share posts. So over the next couple of months you’ll see articles on publishing and on marketing your book appear in this column. And you’ll see articles on why you need to write “how to” books and how to write “how to” books (and other non-fiction) appear in their columns.
All for you, to help you become a better entrepreneur.
(For those of you looking forward to my series … we return to the regularly scheduled series on Monday … check back and enjoy!)
It’s been a real excercise in frustration splitting up TrainingNOW into three seperate pieces plus (A publisher of online training & books, a creator of information products, and a copywriting, web SEO and SEM, and ghostwriting company plus a seperate course site for writing how to books and information products). Let’s just say that it’s been a difficult birth. And now it’s going to be an even more difficult period raising these poor children!
Just to be mean, some of them don’t seem to want to get born!
We’ve talked about some of the hard parts (see the series: Lessons Learned) mostly in just getting a website up. But I haven’t really talked about one of the other issues … learning to talk about yourself.
You see, the latest site to come up is ContentCreators. Well, hopefully up by the time this is published. Now recognize that ContentCreators is our outlet for selling our writing services — traditional copywriting, web copywriting (including SEO and SEM), ghostwriting, and editing. It’s not like it’s new or anything. I’ve been doing half of it for oh … umm, oh s**t, geez I really am that old! (FYI, I literally learned entrepreneurship at my great-grandfather’s knee – and I was writing copy by age 10. Which was a few years ago). And Paul’s been doing the other half for more than most internet marketers have been alive! But I’ve always done it for other people more than for myself. Check out Can Da Software if you don’t believe me. Even ignoring the fact that it’s needed a graphical redesign for oh, 10 years now. Let’s face it, the copy was iffy when it was written some 15 years ago. Yes, it was as soon as the web hit Toronto – don’t remind me!
But I learned something from this.
I learned that I hate copywriting for myself because it’s just too much like tooting my own horn.
But, as an entrepreneur, it has to be done. And I know it. And I know I’m good at it. You see, the other half of the story, is that I just recently spoke to two of my clients.
One is Newport Funding (I did their website, coached them through SEO selection and coached them through writing their own copy). Even at one remove, I was able to boost their search engine rankings – and the proof is that their new website was able to generate 2 new contracts this week. (That’s a lot in their business).
The other is ThreeO Project Solutions (I co-wrote the AceIt! textbook). I was setting up a deal with him and he mentioned that his customers have complimented the book and that he believes I’m largely to blame!
Now the point is that in both cases, both clients are overjoyed with the work, and have promised that they will write a testimonial. After all, testimonials are the life-blood of the internet marketer.
Do I look like I’m holding my breath?
The sad truth is that less than 10% of the people who promise you testimonials will ever sit down and write one for you. Why? Because it’s too much like work. (Most ask me to write the testimonial and they’ll sign it – which I won’t do).
So where does that leave people like you and me?
Having to toot our own horn. Having to say how good we are and why people want to buy from us. And frankly, yes, it feels like bragging. And, yes, you may be lucky and able to hire someone else to write your copy for you.
But the bottom line is … if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you need to learn to sell. Not just “solution-selling” where you listen to someone with a problem then solve it. But “hey, I’m great, my products are wonderful, and this is why you should buy” selling. If you don’t then you’ll never succeed, and you’ll never get ahead. If you don’t promote yourself then noone else will! That’s the essence of marketing.
Yes, it feels like bragging. Yes, it goes against a life time of hearing your mother say “Nobody likes a braggart”. But if you want to succeed you need to draw attention to yourself. And you need to convince people that you are as good as you are. And that means you need to tell them just how good you really are.
But man it’s hard!
Up until lately, I had thought that the sense of entitlement was limited to those who were younger than me. That my generation had created this sense as part of our growing up.
I was wrong.
My wife’s aunt demonstrated that very clearly. Because that was what was at the basis of her actions. She felt that she was entitled to anything Gerry had left behind.
As entrepreneurs we need to guard ourselves against this attitude … in ourselves, in our employees and in our clients. And learn to use it ethically.
So what is the sense of entitlement? It is a belief that for whatever reason, a person is entitled to something. That they have earned it, and they deserve it. That they should have it.
The truth, of course, is different. Yes, we may have worked for something. Yes, we may have, in the eyes of a rational God have earned it. But that is no guarantee that we actually will or should have it.
An entrepreneur sees this in their own actions. After all, we all work hard to build a business. We give up our time, energy and sweat. For those foolish enough we may even give up our family and health. But that is no guarantee of success. If it were far more people would be successful. And far fewer of the people who are, would be.
Life isn’t fair.
As entrepreneurs we need to leave the sense of entitlement behind. We need to try and try and try again. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Sometimes failing through our own faults and sometimes suceeding despite them.
But never letting our sense of entitlement fool us into believing that we should stop or that we’ve earned our position. Because we haven’t. We may have paid for it, but we haven’t earned it.
We see it in our treatment of our suppliers. How many times have you said to a supplier … that’s too expensive, I can’t afford it. You should work for this amount. As if it’s their problem that you haven’t earned enough to pay the price. As Dan Kennedy recently remarked, “It’s not that the price is too high, it’s that your earnings are too low for it.”
We see it in our employees (or ourselves in that role). We see it in how they treat customers. Do the customers owe us their custom just for having the products? Do they have to buy just because we’ve gone out of our way? We’ve all seen this sense of entitlement in the poor treatment we’ve had in major department stores. Clerks who were more interested in discussing their latest date than in serving the customer.
We see it in our customers. We see them believing that we should give them free information just because we did so in the past. We see them wanting to pay rates well below fair market. We see them chasing the cheapest price without regard for the quality of the product.
This sense of entitlement is a failing we all need to fight against. Both in ourselves and in others. The truth is much less pleasant but at least we deserve the result.
It was James M Barrie through his character Peter Pan that said “I’ll never grow up”. (Well, actually I believe it was Disney that first paraphrased him).
But there comes a time when everyone needs to grow up. And a time when everyone needs to not grow up!
From an entrepreneur’s viewpoint growing up is a two edged sword. Well, make that a triple-edged sword!
An entrepreneur must grow up enough to recognize and accept his own mistakes. After all, risk is the name of the game being played. And sometimes the other half of the risk game (impact) is in the negative when the risk bill needs to be paid.
There are two parts to the risk equation. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the equation. An entrepreneur must understand the equation because he’s going to be playing the risk game.
What’s the equation? Risk times impact equals exposure. In every day English, risk is this bad, bad thing. We expose ourselves to risk. We’re caught by risk. He risked everything!
But risk really only means a probability not equal to one. In short, if it isn’t certain, it’s a risk. Good, bad, doesn’t matter. (Webster’s defines it wrong btw it has a very precise mathematical/probabilistic meaning). The good or bad is part of the risk impact (which can be good or bad). So winning the lottery has a risk associated with it (about the same as being hit by lightning) plus a good impact. So it has a net good exposure … if nearing zero can be called good! Until you buy the ticket … then it has a bad net exposure. Why? The cost of the ticket is usually higher than the exposure.
The point is that if you are going to play the game, you better grow up quick and realize you aren’t going to win all the time! That’s the other half of the game, you see. Sometimes when the impact is good (or even great) the risk just doesn’t come through. And sometimes, when the impact is bad it does. The key is to learn how to manipulate the risk so that it happens more often when the impact is good and less often when the impact is bad.
And that just because you’ve failed doesn’t mean that you did it wrong, or you’re wrong or anything else. It just means you weren’t lucky this time.
Of course, you also need to learn from what you’ve done. Which takes maturity.
The other cutting edge is emotional maturity. Learning to accept others’ failings. Learning to accept your own failings. In short, growing up emotionally.
The final cutting edge is the back edge.
Learning to NOT grow up.
Keeping that sense of wonder that opens your mind to new experiences.
Keeping that sense of exploration that what happens if … that opens your mind to constant learning.
Keeping that sense of fun, that is its own reward.
It’s this last blade that is the true cutting edge of entrepreneurial thought. The edge that cuts through the calcification that seeks to stratify those who do not understand the true entrepreneurial spirit.
Okay, up to this point I’ve kind of kept to just how to books. After all, my book and course focus on how to books.
How to Write Your How To Book in 24 hrs or Less
… sort of obvious eh?
But what is a how to book? It’s just a particular form or media to carry learning content.
In other words, we happen to be using it to teach but we could as easily be using another format for teaching the same material.
In fact, we often want to.
Two principle reasons … other forms are easier to learn from and easier to generate. Duh? So why are we even bothering with books? The answer is twofold. First, some people need to have it in writing in order to learn (actually a small but important percentage). But more importantly from the entrepreneur and consultant’s point of view, people value books more. Publish a book and gain instant credibility! A book needs to be one of the cornerstones of your expert marketing effort.
But that’s not the topic of this post. (Do some hunting … I’ve discussed it before and will again later.)
The point of all that is that some of the other types of learning content are like articles and blog posts. Short and quick and easy to get out. And really, really hungry for topics!Man they just chew topics like CRAZY!
So how do you come up with topics for these topic munchers. Now I’m not talking about the alternative forms of the material. That’s where the book is repeated in book, webinar, video and audio formats. I’m more talking about the small “articles” you’ll need around the topic for marketing purposes and blogs.
First start with your topic …. say writing how to books (self serving ain’t I?).
Then ask 7 to 9 questions about the topic that you think you’re audience might like to know. Of course, asking your audience is the best way to create this list. And easier too! But you can create your own list by adding words and deleting words. Start your questions off with How, why, when, where, what, who. Try to concentrate on the things that would be important to your customers/audience. Things like money are always important.
So let’s say I make up the following list …
- How do I write how to books?
- Why should I write how to books?
- When should I write how to books?
- Where should I write how to books?
- What topics should I write how to books about?
- Who should write how to books?
- How can I make money writing how to books?
- How can I make a difference writing how to books?
Once you’ve got that list, you’ve should be able to pick out at least 5-7 which are suitable. By suitable I mean small and reasonably tight. After all “How do I write how to books?” kind of covers the whole topic! But doing a short summary might work.
Now take that list and come up with some related questions your audience might have about the topic. Keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
So for example, if I take “How do I write how to books?” and expand on that I might get
- How do I write well
- How do I develop topics
- How do I determine chapters
- How do I create a content map
- How do I determine what my audience really wants
- How do I make money with books
- How do I edit books
I could go on but you get the idea. By the time you finish the second level you’ll have at least 49 topics. Now expand on those and you’ll be somewhere in the area of 343 topics.
See … there’s lots of topics. And I haven’t even mentioned the lists (top 10, 7 ways to, the 5 things you must know).
Of course, there’s one problem with this method.
Okay, two problems; the amount of work involved, and the fact that you may or may not hit the problems your reader is interested in.
If you ask your audience – and they bother to tell you — you’ll get a much better list of the problems they’re encountering. Address those problems and you’ll have a much better list of topics.
The key is getting audience involvement.
My background is in IT. I’ve been creating websites since the web was initially opened to the public. I even know why HTML is scripting not programming, what the initials mean and where it came from. (HyperText Markup Language was a subset/supraset of Standard Graphics Markup Language. SGML was a statndardized set of codes which controlled the big printing presses. Think typsetters marks).
In fact, my consulting business is in IT. Most of the training we do is in IT (or management skills).
But in this business I am first and foremost a business manager. An entrepreneur.
And at some point I need to decide. Is the work that needs to be done worth my time to do it? Would I be better off hiring someone and letting them do the work for me? Even though I can do it, it may not be worth my time. Better to throw $$$ at it than the one asset I can’t replace or increase – my time.
Lesson Learned #9:
Money or Time
If you want to play, you’ve got to pay. Your time is always more valuable than the guy beside you. The key to success is to know what you need to do, what you shouldn’t do and who to hire to do it instead. The corolllary is that hiring the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best way to get the job done. Sometimes, paying more is a better investment.