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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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Daniel Matthews, CPRP

Daniel Matthews is a Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner and freelance writer with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Published on August 14, 2018

17 Versatile Work Skills Employers Want to See in Potential Employees

17 Versatile Work Skills Employers Want to See in Potential Employees

When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

1. Know what you want but more so why you want it.

Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

2. Diplomacy and conflict resolution skills save money, lost productivity and efficiency.

Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

3. Know how to set and reframe your own goals.

Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

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4. Great time management and organization skills make you highly productive.

Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.

In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

5. Be a flexible team player by being able to change roles when required.

Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

6. Initiative, self-motivated and driven.

When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

7. Be confident but not arrogant.

Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

“How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

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There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

8. A positive attitude.

Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.

Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

9. You are resourceful but know the value of asking for help.

There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

10. Emotional intelligence creates a harmonious workflow.

Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

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So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

11. Be able to adapt your learning style.

There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.

We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

12. Flexible leadership style.

Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

13. Incredible communication skills that actively listen and give clear messages.

Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

14. Accountability, responsible and dependable.

We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.

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When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

15. Exercise proactive self-awareness.

Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

16. Apply a problem-solving growth mindset.

When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

17. Be teachable.

If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

Stay versatile and keep learning

Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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