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How to start a business doing what you love and keep loving it

How to start a business doing what you love and keep loving it

When she was 22, Sophia Amoruso began selling clothes on EBay under the name Nasty Gal Vintage. At the age of 28, she had amassed $250 million. How did she do it?

Simply put, she took a culture that she loved–vintage, hip, girl culture–and made a business out of it. She continued being fresh and relevant to her audience of Millennials. She did this by staying true to herself as an empowered Millennial woman–a #GIRLBOSS.

Like Amoruso, you can take what you love and make it a business without sacrificing your love for it. But beware. The journey isn’t easy. It takes vision, courage, smarts, persistence, and organization. You may have to sacrifice some of your idiosyncrasies to appeal to a broader audience.

At first, you may feel a twinge about making money from a purely passionate activity. But ultimately, if you truly love what you’re doing, you’re giving something valuable to people, something worth more than money. You’ll keep adapting to make it fresh. The world, and you, will be better because you’re doing this.

Examine yourself

Do you really want to do this? Have no doubt. The reality is you’ll be embroiling yourself in the world of business; you’ll be taking what you love and attaching numbers to it. You need to make money to live. Are you doing it because you love it, or because you want to make money?

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Do what you love because you love it. The money will come because you’ve taken the right steps to make it a business. Making what you love into a business is just required for you to be able to do it all the time. The real question is: do you want to do what you love all the time? Of course you do.

Set your expectations

This won’t be easy and you won’t even necessarily make money. You can expect to take what you love to the next level. Your art will get better. Your writing will improve. Your people skills will flourish. Expect to excel at what you love. If you don’t find yourself excelling, keep at it. If you find yourself excelling, keep at it. This is what you love and you know it. You can expect to excel when other people know it, too. They’ll see what you love for what it is, like when people are immersed in a painting. You’re just a conduit for something truly independent of you.

Get down to the nitty-gritty

You knew this was coming: there are practicalities to making this a business so you can do it all the time. These things aren’t what you got into it for. They’re the necessarily evils of the system. Keep your eyes on what you love–but get the practical stuff right.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a gateway to the logistics of starting a business. You can use this as your push-off point. Here you’ll find advice and links on everything from how to start a business to hiring and retaining employees.

Determine your business structure. If you’re not going to have any partners—say you’re a visual artist—you’ll want to register as a sole proprietor. This simply means that what you do as an individual is your business in the eyes of the law.

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But say you’re in a band. Then consider registering as an LLC (Limited Liability Company). The LLC means each partner, or member, shares tax responsibilities. But any debts accrued won’t rest on your shoulders. Instead, they’re on the business as an entity.

Once you’re officially setup as a business, head over to the IRs site and get your Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. You’ll also need to register your business with your state.

Prepare to accept payment

As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, it’s important to be able to monetize your work. If you’re selling your art, an EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa) card reader allows you to do so from anywhere. With a credit card reader, you’ll be able to take payment from the many people who don’t have cash and prefer a card. EMV is the evolution of the card readers you see on seller’s phones at farmer’s markets and concerts. EMV is now mandated by banks, because it reduces fraud. If you don’t have it, you may be liable for fraudulent card transactions.

Find funding

There are multiple ways to get funding for your business:

  • Crowdfunding—Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, Sellaband, etc.
  • Competitions and grants—colleges, government organizations, trade organizations
  • Venture capital—MicroVentures, VCapital, FundersClub, etc for online; and see Wikipedia’s list of traditional firms
  • Microfinancing— Kiva, Accion, Opportunity Fund, etc.
  • Angel investors—angel groups, e.g. AngelList, Gust
  • Venture debt investors—firms such as Trinity Capital Investment and Kauffman Fellows provide financing even if you don’t have positive cash flows or assets.
  • Bank loans—most local banks have funding for their account holders

The type of funding you pursue will depend on the nature of your business. There’s all sorts of crowdfunding available for any sort of venture, but a site such as Kickstarter is best for artists who have a physical product to promise investors. If you’re going to take on venture debt, have a clear view on paying it back, or you’ll have to liquidate or declare bankruptcy.

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The SBA also may provide financial assistance to you if you:

  • Operate for profit
  • Are doing business in the US
  • Have some owner equity to invest

Try out the other options, including using your own assets, first

Overall, there will be funding for you if you’re willing to buckle down, do the research, fill out the forms, and go for it. Just make sure your business plan is in place before gunning for funds.

Do research and networking

As you’re preparing to start your business, and once you do start your business, talk to anyone you can find who has done something similar:

  • Access internet forums
  • Research local entrepreneurs and reach out to them on LinkedIn
  • Find Facebook groups
  • Look at their websites and physical locations
  • Send emails, introduce yourself, ask for advice
  • See about sitting down with them for coffee

Anything you can do to find a mentor will help you immensely. Mashable has a list of entrepreneur social networks for just this purpose. Ask about every stage of starting, maintaining, and excelling.

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Understand your brand and audience

The branding process is ongoing. Your brand strategy is essentially a roadmap for how you plan on adapting to an uncertain and volatile marketplace.

Your name is a big part of your brand. Like Sophia Amoruso, make your DBA (Doing Business As) name a reflection of what inspires you. In Amoruso’s case, it was funk singer Betty Davis’ 1975 album, Nasty Gal.

If what you love is art, you have a set of ideals. Your ideals are related to who you are, they’re related to your views, and they determine your aesthetic. Understanding your brand is a matter of identifying your aesthetic. Write it down in pencil so you can go back and change it. That’s because your aesthetic can, and should, change as you and your audience evolve.

Evolving with your audience is important. It shows you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you. It will also help you keep loving what you do, because evolution keeps things fresh and exciting.

Featured photo credit: Wikipedia( via en.wikipedia.org

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Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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