Problem Solver Seeks More Things to Fix

Recently I’ve been rethinking how I feel about work and jobs. As you may or may not know, I help business owners solve technology and marketing problems, which gives me some freedom to choose who I work with and when. I don’t have fixed hours and if I work more, I can get paid more, but it’s not all roses and cherry blossoms.

When you run your own business, while you may earn more, much of your work is doubled or even tripled. Not only do you have to do the work, but you have to go earn it, and then process all the finances, documentation, and taxes on the back end. In a traditional job environment the work is handed to you and you just do it. When it’s done, someone else processes it. Your work is finite and so is your pay.

A Paradigm Shifts Again

For ten years I worked full time jobs in banking and technology, and I always would told myself I’d be happier running my own business until one day I did. I started off running it on the side in 2007 and in 2011 I finally went full time. I do web design with HTML, CSS, and WordPress, email support with web hosts and Google Apps, and computer and network support for Microsoft products like Windows and Server 2003/2008.

While I have been successful at running my own business, there are two reasons why I’ve recently began applying for jobs in the Indianapolis market. The first reason is because I realized that the ideas I had about working hard now in order to do much less later were not realistic. I didn’t even realize I had this mentality until after a couple of months had gone by and I discovered that there will never be a time when I’m doing ‘nothing’. I’ll always be doing something, so why not just spend some time figuring out what I want to do, not just what I can find a job doing.

The second reason I began looking for jobs in the Indianapolis area was because I realized that it didn’t matter who I was doing the work for, as long as I was enjoying what I was doing. Even as a business owner, I have a boss. I have clients, my wife, and my Lord to report to. It’s not just willy nilly around here. I have to meet or exceed all of their expectations just as I would have to in a traditional job scenario – only more so because while the rewards are higher, so are the risks. There are no written warnings with clients, just lost opportunities in the future.

You Are a Startup

A friend of mine, Jason Cobb, recently coined a term, “You are a startup,” meaning that whatever you’re doing, do it like a startup. But what is a startup? A startup is traditionally a software company that is rapidly trying to create a product that is useful and monetizeable as fast as they can. It normally involves a small team consisting of a leader, a technical co-founder, and a marketer. These roles could all be one person, or it could be five people, but the point is that it’s a small team pushing out useful iterations of a product with the hopes of expanding very fast once a market can’t live without it.

So how does a startup mentality apply to you? Whether you are working for a client or for a company as an employee, you must be producing stuff that matters, you must be a leader, and you must be marketing yourself. This means listening to your customers and getting feedback, getting to know your fellow employees, and continuing your education (via meetups, books, or traditional training).

As I wrote about in 13 More Books for Every Entrepreneur, Reid Hoffman, (co-founder of LinkedIn) together with Ben Casnocha (entrepreneur and author) have written a book about managing your career as if it were a start-up business: a living, breathing, growing start-up of you. The thesis is that the same skills startup entrepreneurs use, professionals need to get ahead today.

Now that I’ve experienced running my own business, I no longer look down on the traditional 9-to-5 job because I know that I can have impact either way and still accomplish my goals of learning, growing, and taking care of my family.

12 Month Goals (and Roadmap)

I recently subscribed to a blog I’ve been reading since 2008 called I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. Today he sent out a link to a PDF with a 12 Month Goals Roadmap worksheet, very similar to Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan. I’d like to share my answers here.

1. What will you be doing for work? – Editing HTML, CSS, and PHP; Converting static HTML web pages into dynamic CMS blogs; converting clients from POP email access to Google Apps; training users on how to use WordPress; Affiliate Marketing; Computer Network Troubleshooting and Repair

2. What’s your boss (or the person to whom you’ll be accountable) like? – Gives me feedback; Challenges me; Considers me an expert in what I do; Trusts my decisions; Considers my feedback

3. Where will you be working? – The Greater Indianapolis area, preferably along US 31, Keystone Ave, or 465; In an office with time allocated to work in blocks without interruption,  the ability to get up and walk around or go outside for a walk; And good Mexican, Chinese, and Thai food nearby.

4. How much time do you spend working? – 10 hours a day, 70 hours a week.

5. What does your Monday look like? – Reading and sharing emails until noon, viewing reports, and responding to client requests.

If anyone is interested in using my services or would just like to get together for coffee, please don’t hesitate to email me or follow me on Twitter.

This is one of those personal blog posts, if you’re interested in reading more about me specifically, try this one next or not, it’s your life.

Don’t Change. Profit.

Why are people so interested in the new(s)? Because they hate change. Here’s how to capitalize on that fear:

I recently wrote about how people don’t like to change and it got me thinking, “What if I created products or services based on the premise that people hate change?” Tablet computers are revolutionary partly because they don’t have a keyboard, but one of the most popular accessories for a tablet computer is a keyboard. This is because people are used to computers having physical keyboards and they hate learning something new. Incandescent light bulbs are going to soon become illegal and people will be forced to buy fluorescent or LED light bulbs instead. People hate this and will now pay a premium for the regular old incandescent light bulbs. Nintendo releases the Wii 2, the most advanced gaming system yet, but people are still clamoring for games and accessories for the NES. It’s not retro – it’s change rejection.

Call it whatever you like, there is money to be had in working against the onslaught of new products. Solo or one-cup coffee makers like the Keurig and their K-Cup system is now all the rage, which means there could be a market for the standard, large coffee pots you grew up with. Ebook readers and ebooks are now sold more on Amazon than traditional paper books. This could mean there is an opportunity for well-designed paper books to make a comeback. Ten years ago, in the height of the CD era, vinyl was cool. Now cassette tapes are coming back into style. Whatever is normal can become cool when change comes around. Digital wallets that use your phone to store credit and debit card information will soon replace your regular wallet, which means regular wallets will start to become cooler than ever. Read More

Who Asked You to Start a Business, Anyway?

So you want to start your own business? Great. Here’s what your’e up against:

The Government – It seems like the government should have your back. After all, you’re creating taxable income for them and either do or will help create new jobs, which in turn creates more taxable income for them, but your new business is a change – and no one likes change. First the state wants you to register your business with them. This costs money upfront and then again every year or so to keep it registered. Then you may also have to register with your local government and even with your local sheriff’s department. These are all people who could say, “No”. And if you are thinking of setting up a physical presence, there may also be zoning restrictions, which leads to the next roadblock.

Your Neighbors – Your neighbors may be friendly now, but if customers start showing up or you have daily deliveries or pick-ups from FedEx and UPS, they may not be so happy. See, people expect things to stay the same and now you’ve decided to all of sudden up and do something different. Shame on you for disturbing the peace around your neighborhood. Even if city officials don’t mind that your business is not really zoned for it’s location, your neighbors might, and once they start complaining to the government all of a sudden those zoning restrictions matter more than ever. You can try to be nice to your neighbors and work with them, but remember, they don’t like change.

Other Businesses – Other businesses are like the old guard or the established society. You’re the new guy who wants in. They have the websites you need backlinks from. They have the cash flow to outlast you. They don’t want to help you get started. They are just waiting for you to go out of business and leave them alone so they can keep doing what they’ve been doing. Businesses, like people, do not like change. You’re a nuisance to them just like you’re a nuisance to your neighbors. We’re not talking about competitors here, but since you brought it up, just hope your competitors don’t have your Craigslist ads taken down, click on your Google ads to run you out of funds, or report your business closed on Yelp.

Your Family – Your family will, like your neighbors, smile to your face and talk about you behind your back to each other. They will all hope that when you run out of money you won’t come to them begging for help and won’t try to change their lives in any way. Remember, people do not like change. You were supposed to keep your job, not start a business. Did they say you could do that? What will the rest of the family think when you fail? When they ask you how your business is going, expecting you to say it’s failing, try hard to keep a straight face when they act concerned about your future and wish you well. There only wish is for you to go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before (and to never ask them to change).

Yourself – You are the biggest obstacle to your own success. It’s you who decides how you are going to handle each and every obstacle you face. No matter what life, the government, your family, neighbors, friends, or other businesses do or say to you, it’s your choice on how you react to them. You are your own hero and they are the dragons. Will you slay them? So you have no money and rent is due. What does that have to do with how you feel? Who controls your feelings, really – you or your rent? Choose to be a success and do the work it takes to be successful and you’re 90% better off than any of those change-averse people (just like you). If what you’re doing isn’t working. Change.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain