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7 Essential Steps to Start Making a Living Doing What You Love (Finally!)

7 Essential Steps to Start Making a Living Doing What You Love (Finally!)

Does this sound like you?

You go to work each day. And each day you do, you watch the clock. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m.

That’s when you get to go home and devote your time to what you truly love doing. That thing that brings you joy. That thing everyone tells you you’re so fantastic at. That thing you wish you could do every day instead of working.

If this sounds anything like you, don’t despair. You can make a living doing what you love.

Take the following essential steps to transform your passion into a business that frees you from that soul-sucking job, and enables you to live the life of your dreams.

1. Talk yourself out of it

Let’s face facts. The minute you decide you’ll start a business doing what you love, you’ll face naysayers. People will question your choice. They’ll give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t start down this path. They’ll tell you how risky it is, and point out all the people who tried but couldn’t make it work.

So beat them to the punch. Make a list of all the reasons why you shouldn’t start your business. Then for each of those reasons, write down what you will do to overcome that obstacle.

Let’s say the excuse is you don’t have enough time in your schedule. Your solution could be: “Cut out two hours of television a day to work on my business.”

By putting a plan in place to overcome the common objections that arise, you’ll better position yourself to smother those voices of dissent.

Bonus points: Write down all the reasons why you should move forward with your dream (freeing your soul from your current job should be on that list). Refer back to these compelling reasons whenever you need a push to keep going.

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And speaking of televisions, the next step explains what to do with yours.

2. Throw your TV out the window

Building a business takes time. And doing it right takes more time. And since all of us have access to only twenty-four hours in a day, time is a scarce resource.

Don’t fret though. All is not lost. I’ll bet you can find tons of extra time in your day if you cut out activities that don’t advance you toward making a living doing what you love.

Television is an easy thing to cut out. Yeah, you may not be able to talk about what happened on the latest episodes of Scandal or Game of Thrones, but you will be able to see tangible progress you’re making toward getting your business off the ground. That’s ten times more satisfying.

TV isn’t your time suck? Perhaps social media is. Whatever it is, take inventory of how you spend your existing time, and find two activities you can either cut out altogether, or significantly reduce. Find at least two hours in your day to free up.

Bonus points: Maximize your time by multi-tasking during activities that don’t require a ton of mental energy. Listen to a podcast while you cook, or do some research while you eat. You’ll find plenty of time when you’re hungry to find it.

3. Say adiós to your friends

As you get laser focused on building your dream business, you’ll need some new friends. People who will be invaluable to helping you reach your goals.

That doesn’t mean you have to ditch your existing friends (unless they’re unsupportive of your goals). You’ll just spend less time with them for a while, as you get cozy with the new additions to your friend list.

Write down at least three folks you need to add to your inner circle. Be sure to include the following three people:

  • A mentor, someone who is currently doing what you wish to do. They’ll guide you along the right path, and give you advice on what to do and what not to do.
  • A trainer, someone to push you beyond where you think you can go, hold you accountable, and kick your butt into shape when necessary.
  • And a peer, someone who is working toward similar goals. They’ll be there for support, venting sessions, and to share tips.

Bonus points: Let your current friends know what you’re working on. Explain that they’ll probably see you a bit less for a little while as you work toward your goal.

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Not only will they appreciate the advance warning before you stop showing up at happy hour, but they should also become a source of encouragement for you to move forward.

Besides, not being the social butterfly will help you with the next step.

4. Develop a taste for beans and potatoes

Your new business will need some upfront investment to get started. And once you do launch, arriving at the point where you can fully replace the income from your existing job will take some time.

So save your money. Pinch pennies. Look for areas to cut back, and put extra income aside as seed money for your business. Live below your means.

Create a budget of the necessities you need to pay for on a monthly basis (Starbucks is not a necessity). Then for anything else that doesn’t make the must-have list, cut it out of your budget and save that money.

The extra money will accumulate quickly and fuel your business. It can also help cover your expenses while you’re waiting for the sales to pour in.

Bonus points: Find creative ways to make necessary bills even smaller. You have to eat, right? Search for ways you can still feed yourself well-balanced, healthy meals at a lower price. And since you’ll have to leave your house from time to time, consider carpooling or taking public transportation to get to and from work to reduce transportation costs.

5. Acknowledge your ignorance

To make a living doing what you love, switch your approach from that of a hobbyist, to that of a professional. This will include investing time to study and get insanely good at your craft. You’ll also need to learn as much as you can about the business of your business.

In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell laid out the case for how to operate in excellence:

“Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”

Your journey to business success will run much more smoothly when you prepare.

So in addition to practicing your craft, study your competitors to see who is most successful and why. Pay attention to why others may not have done well in the past. The more you learn, the better equipped you’ll be to create the ideal business plan.

Bonus points: Commit yourself to working on your craft for at least thirty minutes a day for the next month. That dedicated time of learning how to get even better at what you do will set you apart from others in your field.

It will also put you in a better position to tackle the next step.

6. Get your freak on

Did you know that there are more than 70,000 yoga instructors in North America? If your dream business involved teaching yoga, you would need to identify a unique reason why students should choose you, instead of one of the many other instructors.

The same goes for any business. To get your customers to keep coming back, you must give them a compelling reason to choose you instead of someone else.

As part of your preparation process, make a list of at least three things that make you different from other available options to meet your customers’ needs. Next, choose which of those things matters most to the customers you want to serve.

Bonus points: Once you’ve got that one thing that truly makes you different, assess if you could add another skill to your wheelhouse to make your business even more attractive to your customers.

7. Burn your boats

To transition from your current job to running your dream business, at some point you will have to quit that job. Sure, you could do work on nights and weekends to get your business going, but at some point you will need to make the full-time business leap for you to truly start making a living with it. A living where you don’t have to count your pennies before going to dinner with your friends.

I get it. Holding on to your job is safe. It’s nice knowing a paycheck will come on the first and fifteenth of each month. But if you’re not careful, that comfort will keep you stuck in a job you loathe rather than building the life you love.

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So to make sure you don’t get stuck, you’ve got to burn your boats.

Back in the 1500s when Hernan Cortez led his army of men in a conquest of Mexico, he ordered that the boats they arrived in be burned. He did this to prevent anyone from turning back and abandoning the mission.

In essence, he ensured commitment to the battle, by eliminating all opportunity to abort the assignment.

Burn your boats by writing your resignation letter. Set a date for when you will kiss your job goodbye. Maybe that’s six months or a year from now. Just set a date.

To help you feel more comfortable about picking the time, make a list of all the activities and milestones you need to complete before transitioning. Then estimate the time needed to get it all done. Use that as the date for submitting your letter.

Bonus points: After you write the letter, set it to send automatically from your email account on the date you plan to leave. Set it, then forget about it as you get to work on your business. That way, in six months when that lovely email goes out, your boats will be blazing.

Time to stop watching the clock

Your dream of getting paid to do what you love is in reach. You can totally make it your reality, you just need to follow these essential steps.

Then instead of watching the clock all day, you’ll just blissfully stand still for a bit—so you can savor the amazing feelings that come with making a living doing what you love.

Featured photo credit: Man with guitar via gratisography.com

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

1. Digital Savviness

As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

How to Develop This Skill

For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

2. Financial Forecasting

Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

How to Develop This Skill

Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

3. Video Production Skills

The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

How to Develop This Skill

Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

  • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
  • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
  • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

How to Develop This Skill

Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

How to Develop This Skill

Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

6. Honing Pitches to Investors

Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

How to Develop This Skill

Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

How to Develop This Skill

Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

8. Automating to Your Advantage

The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

How to Develop This Skill

Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

9. Managing Millennials

Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

How to Develop This Skill

Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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Offer Constructive Feedback

Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

How to Develop This Skill

Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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