Because a story is worth telling. I write a lot of listicles, and I was going to make this a listicle, but since almost all of the above links are to listicles, I think that genre has been overdone for the question: Are you a wantrepreneur or entrepreneur?
My Entrepreneurial Journey
I have embodied what many of these lists call a wantrepreneur for many years. I look back now and embrace it with passion. Because for me, being a wantrepreneur means that I try, I work, and I learn. But, things don’t always go the way I want them.
You can read more about my personal journey with multiple businesses on my LinkedIn Profile. Long story, short, I have done 13 different businesses or freelance-type work in my adult years. Add to that my 8 different jobs I have held, and I am one busy fella.
For the purpose of this blog, my consulting, and your own sanity, I have a simple definition of a wantrepreneur. If you are working on a business but making less than you would earn picking rock in the fields of southern Idaho, you are a wantrepreneur. Working includes the time you spend thinking about starting a business because thinking is often the biggest hurdle in business-life.
If you just say you are an entrepreneur but don’t even think about starting a business, you are just a want. Sorry.
It was not until this last year that I moved from my definition of a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur.
Wantrepreneur: You Earn Less Than Burger-Flipping High School Dropouts
I remember interviewing for a McDonald’s job a couple of years ago and they asked me if I could handle earning minimum wage and I laughed at them. After working for overseas content mills at $4 an hour, I would be happy to work for $7.25 an hour. Delighted, in fact.
Sadly, I didn’t get the job.
Entrepreneur: You Start to Figure Things Out
Now, I know that there are plenty of entrepreneurs who set the standard for entrepreneur as someone who builds and exits businesses. While I respect their vastly superior build-and-exit experience to my scratch-for-sustenance experience, I disagree with their definition.
To get a little nerdy, entrepreneur was coined by a French economist, Jean-Baptiste Say, in 1800 in response to an omission he saw in the classic The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. In this definition, Say crafted together the word to mean one who undertakes. He used it to describe the type of business person who undertakes a venture, assumes an unknown amount of risk, and hopes for a profitable return. (Investopedia)
These three parts of an entrepreneur mean that, by my definition, a wantrepreneur is also an entrepreneur. They just have not reached a point where their ventures are able to sustain them.
If you are actually doing something towards your business, have taken some amount of risk, and are hoping and working towards a return on that risk, then you are an entrepreneur.
Even if the only capital risked is the time you put into creating it.
So, to answer the question, are you a wantrepreneur or an entrepreneur, the answer is three questions. Because all the best answers to questions are more questions.
Have you started a business venture?
Have you taken risk for an undetermined outcome or result? This means you are not creating gadgets or raising calves. Those are easily determined businesses (manufacturing and agriculture). Now, creating new gadgets for raising calves faster is an entrepreneurial venture, because of the added risk of creating something new.
Have you a hope of profit? If your entrepreneurial ventures keep bringing low to no profits, consider yourself a wantrepreneur. And keep trying. If your entrepreneurial ventures are bringing more than you can earn in an American entry level job, then congratulations! By my arbitrary, etymological, historical, and contentious definition, you are an entrepreneur!
Thanks for reading.
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So, you’re starting your business, and you think that successful people work a minimum of 80 hours a week until they have it made.
Sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead, you say.
Not so fast. I could give you research that shows people stop working efficiently after 55 hours of work, I could show studies that link proper sleep to less stress and increased success, but I would rather give you my reasons, and I think they will apply to you, too.
Tired People Are Grumps – I was reminded of this tonight while putting the beautiful friends above to sleep. With my wife’s school schedule, my business, and sleeping changes with a new bed, I have not gotten enough sleep, and it showed. If you do a business that needs customers (that’s allof them), then you should avoid both being too tired and too hungry. People don’t like you when you’re grumpy.
Do Your Best – My first time taking the SAT in high school, I got a score 120 points below where I expected it, because I had only slept 4 hours the night before. Did it again with a good night’s sleep, got the score I was looking for. The difference between a world record performance and every one else is often a fraction of performance. Don’t let your addiction to action and lack of sleep keep you from being a world change.
Why Are You An Entrepreneur? I have never ran into a human being who says “I want a job working all hours of the day for little pay.” People start businesses because they want freedom from that rat race, not to perpetuate it.
Now, I understand that sometimes a business is like a newborn, it keeps you up all night. But, just like our children, the business needs to grow up a little and sleep in its own room.
Before you wonder what is wrong with your sales and marketing stats,
Before you look at your SEO and SEM,
Before you split-test your CTA or headline,
Before you consider whether you have the right target market,
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I really understand what I am offering?
If you do not know what product or service you are offering, your metrics will not help you. Find something that you can do that other people want before you look at metrics. For example, I have started a board game company, a book publishing company, and several network marketing endeavors, but none of those were things that people would actually pay me for. Then I started blogging and got paid.
Find something you do that other people want, before you wonder what marketing statistics are.
Do I think people need this?
If you don’t believe in what you do, why should anyone else? One of my current marketing clients spent some time blogging for other people on Blogmutt and then decided that an outsourced content writer was not her cup of tea. So she started writing Greater St. Louis Parks, and now has a site that she and I can recommend to anyone who travels through or lives in the greater St. Louis area.
Do I love Doing My Service or Using My Product?
Again, you may think someone else needs the product, but if you have no means of connecting with your target audience, then you become a push salesperson.
Take some time to really consider these questions before any other question in your business. Only when you know that you do understand your product or service, you see that people need it, and you love the product as much as your customers do, only then can you truly succeed in marketing it: you understand your business, your product line, and most importantly, your target market.
Have you heard the oft-quoted meme that 90% of businesses fail within the first 3 years? Or 5 years? Or 2?
Have you heard that 75% of statistics are made up on the spot? (Get the joke?) Yeah, business failure is one of those statistics, but according to a blog I found reading other blogs yesterday, the real number is 33% of small businesses will close due to failure in the first 6 years.
In a similar manner, the NY Times tells us that there are 10 reasons small businesses fail, including the math doesn’t add up (too small a market, etc.), poor management (lack of focus and vision), and being in a declining market.
Whether it is 90% of businesses who fail or 33% of businesses, starting a small business is hard. One of the hardest things you could possibly do. To make it easier, I am going to show in this post how marketing helps your business survive.
The one idea I want to take from this definition is in the middle of the post:
“However, since the emergence of digital media, … [marketing] has increasingly become more about companies building deeper, more meaningful, and lasting relationships with the people that they want to buy their products and services.”
Marketing is about relationships.
This is what has inspired me to look at marketing as an art form, as a collaborative creative process. If you have ever played in a symphony, you realize that certain types of art require a collaborative creative process. Marketing is one of these arts.
Good marketing involves input from customers, from the public, from your business alliance partners, and more.
So, an original definition of The Art of Marketing:
The art of marketing is a collaborative process using the best of design, content, and analytics tools to create a beautiful process where customers are served by a business.
The art of marketing uses the best design, content, and analytics to beautifully serve your customers.
Now, there are two types of great artists: those who work from their art, and those who work for their art.
Johann Sebastian Bach worked from his art; as a worship leader and performer, he was constantly creating music for his patrons in order to earn an income. He did not become popular until long after he died, when his art was discovered by Felix Mendelssohn.
Neither of these great artists are the ideal we want in a wealth consumption world, but when it comes to keeping your business alive through the first 6 years, they are both inspirational.
Surviving the first 6 years requires a dedication to your business that many other people will not understand. “I am going to be rich.” is not a statement that will keep you going. A marketing minded mission gives you the strength to continue working when customers cancel, when your emails get ignored, when no one visits your website for weeks.
All of these things may happen to you, and what will you do to keep going when they do? The marketing mindset helps get through mortal wounds of a profit-motive business.
“I cannot get clients.” – Consistent content creation is key to getting new clients. A marketing artist creates for the joy of creation and failure to acquire new clients is motive to find other solutions while continuing to work on your business. In the 10 years I have been learning marketing, I have worked at over 10 different jobs and business ideas, including giving maternity shots to over 7000 cows. If I can do that while practicing my art, what can you do to provide while your business grows?
“My clients don’t pay enough.” – Art understands different levels of involvement. Some people want to enjoy art, some people want to participate. Some patrons need a single small item, others want consistent new content. Combining art and business understands that diversity in customer levels is key to practice.
“I don’t have enough products or services.” – Marketing is about finding the product mix that your customers need. Art is about creating for the joy of it. When you combine art and marketing, you will create out of habit and this problem will be reversed.
“I don’t know who my ideal client is.” – This is understandable if you are just starting out. As an artist, remember that your first client is yourself. I have heard many marketers say that you are not your own ideal client, and I disagree. Your first client is yourself, because if you do not enjoy what you do, why do you expect anyone else to?
“I don’t have ANY clients.” – Find something else to do. Seriously, if you have no clients, find some work to do and find a place where you can get paid to do your work. Online, I have found work at Freelancer, Thumbtack, Wyzant, and Blogmutt. Offline I have found work from my coworking spot, my church, family, and local music stores who needed teachers. Keep looking for a client until you find one, and you might learn something about your own aesthetic along the way.
The First 3 Years
Getting through the first 3 years of a business is going to be the hardest part. But, treating your marketing as an artist will help in all aspects of your business. As such, here are the final 5 areas the art of marketing will help you grow your business through the first 3 years and beyond.
Plan to Fail
I once heard of an author who bought all the copies of his first book because he thought it was not fit to publish. I have seen master potters throw 3 to 5 pots, breaking them down each time, until they find one they like. It took me 4 years to realize I was a poor violinist, and another 4 to actually sound good.
Artists fail all the time.
In business, do not plan all your success on one product. This does not honor your target market, does not help you plan for a product lifecycle, and does not give you opportunities to succeed when you do fail.
If you plan at least 3 product lines (currently mine are writing, consulting, affiliate sales, full-service marketing, tutoring, and violin teaching), you can succeed financially even if you have a 66% failure rate.
Give Yourself Time
Do not start a business when you need income yesterday. Two of my business failures were because I tried relying on them to provide for my family too early. Here are some things you can do to give yourself time to start a business:
Get part time work – Many part time jobs are easy enough that you can think through your business while doing repetitive tasks.
Drastically cut costs – What can family, friends, and customers do to help you out? This is the point where bartering makes sense, and if you have to spend time living in your parent’s house or your brother’s spare room, that’s ok.
Learn to DIY – You don’t know how long it will take to find something that clicks. During that time, you might have to do a lot of menial tasks because you cannot afford to do otherwise.
Learning an art takes time, and you need to give yourself that time in your business. Make certain that you are actually making enough money to pay for your four walls (food, housing, transportation, clothes) before you cut the cord to your part or full-time job.
Test, Change, Test, Change
In marketing speak they call this split-testing (try out two variations of a marketing theme and keep the better one), in music it’s called woodshedding.
Again, you don’t know what will make your business successful, so practice many things and keep what works.
Build Collaborative Relationships
The vision of the solitary artist is as romantic as it is false.
Vincent Van Gogh would still be a moody artistic failure if it wasn’t for his sister-in-law’s belief in him, even after he died.
Handel’s Messiah never would have been performed without the support of nearly one hundred other musicians: violinists, trumpeters, flutists, choral singers, operatic stars, and more.
The more your business grows, the more you will need collaborative relationships.
Focus on Your Art
Starting a business is not for everyone. Mike Rowe tried to work with his hands many times before he built a business empire in show business about people working with their hands. There are still many successful business people who work within other businesses, and there is no shame in that.
If you want to start a business, it has to be larger than your desire for financial or schedule freedom. Starting a business, growing a business, and keeping a business is a passion, you need passion to drive it.
For me, my marketing is my art, for a counselor it is the finished product of healthy children. For an inventory handling business, your art is happy clients enjoying your product.
The art of marketing is a great tool to ensure that your business continues now and in the future. If you do not have the time or energy to do your own marketing, why don’t you send me an email and see if I can help you with your business?
Life is difficult, marketing too. Even when marketing gets difficult, it helps to find the good in your life. The Jacobs Brothers with the Life is Good T-Shirt company have a great story to remind us how to get and stay ahead of depression when doing marketing, sales, or just staying alive.
I just saw their story on Inspire More from September, where they talk about how their mother would have the entire family recount something good that happened to them that day.
This attitude of joy and appreciation stayed with them until they were adults and they were able to build a $100 Million t-shirt company. I love their t-shirts and don’t have enough of them, but I am definitely planning on getting more after reading their story.
One of the best resources for dealing with the difficulty of life and marketing is appreciation and joy. My wife and I try to take time each night with our children to share one thing we appreciate about each other around the dinner table. Besides dinner table appreciation, I also try to take time each day and think about 3 or more things I appreciate about each member of my family, and about my business.
In order for appreciation to be successful, it needs to be true, specific, and current. For example, if I told my wife that I appreciate how much energy she puts into changing our kids diapers, it would not work because it is not current. The two kiddos above have been out of diapers for a long time.
On the other hand, when I post to my personal Facebook page
I appreciate her constant commitment to being a mom. This is all three of the prerequisites above: it is true, specific, and current.
Appreciation in Marketing
Practice is very difficult, and it takes time to remember what you are doing well and to verbally express it. I appreciate that my business has grown to the point where I have earned more in the last 8 months than I have in all my other business adventures combined. Good things that have happened to my marketing include a lead from LinkedIn bringing in a new client, Facebook business challenges have given me room to grow and expand my business.
So many good things to be grateful for.
When you are looking at the dreary days of practice for marketing your business, take some time to think through the good that has come into your life. Even if you are homeless and broke, what relationships are you grateful for? (My wife and kids, my parents and siblings, and many more were on my list)
Leave a Comment
Please leave a note in the comments about things you appreciate in business and life. Let’s take some time to share the joys of building a business, of creating content, of caring for our families, of earning just enough to survive, or whatever brings happiness into your life.
September is half over. This month has been a roller coaster of ups and downs; how do I pick myself up after more than a week away from this blog?
I wanted to do the post-a-day challenge, but I didn’t. I wanted to do list-building challenges, but I didn’t. We had planned for a trip to the beach on Monday that did not go as planned. I am now working on a Saturday because of financial reasons…
September is half over. I have learned and experienced so much this month. While going on our trip to the beach, my wife and I experienced the wonderful love and grace of God and family helping us out through some unplanned expenses.
I have learned more about using a service mindset to close marketing accounts. I have seen my views on this website respond directly to the work I put into it, and that validates me as a writer and marketer.
I have landed 3 new tutoring students this month and just closed out my tutoring schedule!
This is my wife:
She is dancing again after 5 years of consistent physical therapy, chiropractic, and deep-tissue massage (And blogging). She got a call-back about teaching in a local studio this month. Amazing.
I am so blessed, the only reason I feel like I cannot continue this site is because I fell behind on some lists. I fell behind because I was:
Preparing a proposal for an inbound marketing customer.
Finishing first edits of a book for a customer.
Taking time with my family.
Learning additional things this business needs.
Finishing an amazing study on Joy with my wife and our Pastors.
Spending time each day meeting with my beautiful children.
I am grateful and appreciative of the life that God has called me into, and I look forward to helping more of you start and market your own business. I look forward to helping you write engaging content and learn how to grow as a content creator.
Leave me a note on how you have been blessed this week?
How do you set goals when there is too much to do and too little time to do it?
As a business starter, father of two under 5 years old and husband of 6years, there is never enough time to get everything done. Ever.
Maybe you are one of the privileged few who have set an agenda, created daily habits, and regularly plan and execute a limited number of goals to achieve success!
Or maybe that person is a myth.
With real life, habits form slowly and they are often disrupted by the people around us.
Procrastination becomes an essential part of our self-management because it is easier to waste time on mindless tasks than it is to transition to productive tasks when you only have 15 minutes between cars, children, and whatnot.
Setting and Achieving Goals
I often create overwhelming goals. It always helps to come back to my goals, review them, and adjust them as needed.
While my goal this month is to do list building challenges and a blogging challenge, I want to look at the specific goals I have for finding and connecting with actual people this month.
How Many People?
Part of the list building challenge, I am setting the goal for my personal list, one of my customer’s lists, and for views to my website.
25 New Subscribers for My List
100 New Subscribers for Aletheia Christian College’s List
1000 Total Views on My Blog
With writing, editing, teaching, tutoring, dadding, and husbanding, these goals are less than I was planning when I started the challenges a week ago, but a goal that cannot be adjusted in mid-stride is not a good goal.
What are your goals for this month? Who are people that you need to connect with?
Without contradicting my post on why a service mindset is much more important than closing the sale, I want to delve into more about what it takes to do the close. In technical terms, the close is the moment at which you have legally and practically entered into a business agreement with a customer. For some businesses, this is when you have signed the contract, for retail, it is after a product has been scanned and charged to the customer.
Asking for the close is that gut wrenching moment where you are asking a customer to commit. There are many resources to help a salesperson get over their fear and help a customer decide to purchase, but I want to show that this fear is a good thing, and why an inbound methodology embraces the pain of closing to make a better situation for everyone.
You Are Committing – Fear of commitment is not just for single 30-year-old sitcom characters. Commitment means that you and your client are going to be in a new relationship after coming to an agreement. While this is no big deal for many transactions (There is not that much impact on my relationship to a teller when I buy Reeses), for others, it can mean a long-term business relationship that can entail hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars.
You Are Asking Someone To Be Vulnerable – When I offer a solution to someone, they have to admit that they need help in that area before they commit to working with me. Asking for a decision should, therefore, be done with the tenderness towards others vulnerability, and even, to a certain degree, pain.
You Are Being Vulnerable – Closing a sale means that you, as a salesperson or freelancer, are exposing your reputation and honor to the success of this relationship. If the product/service does not work for your customers, at best you will lose a referral, at worse your name will be mud.
Spending Money Hurts – A good salesperson understands and empathizes with their customer. Yes, if you successfully ask for the close you will receive money, but you need to understand the pain that they will be feeling with the decision to spend money. If you understand their pain, you can serve them better.
You Are Exposing Your Entire Marketing/Sales Process – Guess what, no customer has to purchase! This truth can be extraordinarily painful when your cash reserves are low and new account is the difference between another month late on rent and positive cash flow. As you ask for a commitment to purchase, a customer may say yes, not now, or no. And your job is to serve them regardless of their statement. Ouch.
There Are Others Relying On This Moment – See the picture above. This is from a rather trying time with my daughter; shortly after the photo was taken she received a feeding tube. She is one of three people relying on my ability to get new customers and serve the customers that I have. No matter how much I want to serve my customers, I have to think about the people who I provide for every time I ask a customer to commit. The fear of failure is its own pain.
It’s Nothing Personal, It’s Business – This statement is so patently false, it makes me groan. Whether a customer says yes or no, I am going to feel it, personally. People say this statement to try and keep the pain of “failure” away when someone says yes, but it has a tremendous negative side effect. If you look at people as “business” and not persons, you are losing the capability to bring joy to your business relationships.
Yes, asking someone to commit should have a certain level of fear and pain; you are human after all. The secret to dealing with that pain is not to learn new techniques to convince more people to buy from you or to learn how to brush it off. The secret to dealing with the pain of asking for a sale is to realize that win or lose, the people you are serving are individuals worthy of all the respect and love that you give to your closest friends and family members.
You may not be able to work with this customer or even be friends with them, but that does not limit their worth, or yours. Remember Og Mandino’s famous scroll “I Will Greet This Day With Love In My Heart.”
The bigger the ask, the more fear, nervousness, and pain involved in asking for a commitment. But, it is worth it.
I have been working as an online professional part time for 2 years. In June, I went full-time. It has been a rush; it has been scary; I often feel overwhelmed. These are all statements that any business owner can relate to: you are constantly working to land clients, working to serve clients, working to track your current work. Any rest you get has to be intentional because you constantly feel behind.
This month, I am going to grow my business, build my mailing list, increase my client list, and grow my business.
As such, I am committing to restart the 30 day blogging challenge, after only completing 18 days last month. I am committing to Nathalie Lussier’s list building challenge as well.
How does someone do all this in one month while still providing value to customers, working on joint ventures, and designing new products?
First. I pray, and I listen.
I am committed to love my family before my work, and I will not try to navigate this complicated month of growth without God’s Spirit guiding my path and helping me love my family while dedicating so much energy to growing this business.
Second. Trello and Workflowy. These apps help me plan out my month, content creation, sales, etc.
I have planned out my entire month of writing on Trello. I brainstorm on Workflowy. These are the efficiency tools that I use right now.
Third. Have an attitude of learning.
I am learning from the organizers of the challenges. I am learning from other online business owners. I learn from the multiple books I am reading and the close to one hundred sales emails a day that I peruse.
Fourth. Love those around me.
I cannot work without the love of my family, the support of my church, and the networking I have built at my coworking office. When you have to do whatever you can to succeed, the only way to guarantee you are not going to burn out is to take purposeful time out and focus on loving others.
These are my items as I plan an outrageous month of growth and success. What do you do to keep your sanity in business? Leave a comment below.
The core to any small business is the business owner. For many small businesses, like mine, the core is also the periphery. Many small business owners are trying hard to create a business system which amplifies their efforts over time and hope to someday, possibly, start thinking about culture and other fun stuff like that.
If that is you, I want to write a short post on how your location, your resting habits, and the people around you help create a culture of innovation, even if it is just you!
As a small business owner or independent freelance worker, your location matters. Even if you do everything online in a virtual community. Going unplugged and working primarily from coffee-shops is a great idea, but there are some drawbacks to not being intentional about your work and business location.
Costs are increased by choosing a poor location. Efficiency is decreased and technology is limited by the location you choose to work in or sell from. For example, I was working from home, writing and trying to build a business.
My office was the kitchen, and my preschool age children spent part of their day sitting at the table learning to read, talking to me, drawing pictures, and watching videos. This was not ideal. It was costing me time and efficiency to work there and my laptop had given up the ghost a few months back.
Since I had not means to move to a coffee shop and could not work at home, I had to get creative. Thankfully, I was able to find Loom Coworking in Fort Mill. I was able to move my clunky desktop into the office and start working there within one day.
The location you work is important to your business, and it may be any one of the following places: coffee shops, beaches or other “resort” type locations, coworking offices, a spare room at home, your kitchen table, or a traditional business lease. It is important that you remember that the location you work in needs to give you ample opportunities to network with others, to do focused work, and to be able to put your pen down at the end of a work session.
Dropping The Pencil
I have to credit Morgan Snyder of Ransomed Heart for this idea, but it is key to building a healthy culture that breeds innovation in work. His Christmas blog from 2013 is a classic in my inspirational repertoire; he talks about finding the deeper magic (credit to CS Lewis) in his family one snowy day. He talks about dropping the pencil early to go home and fight for an intimate moment with his family. Now that I am working from a coworking space with a clunky computer, I am learning how valuable this idea is to building quality relationships with my family, myself, and God and how limiting my work time actually drives to increased productivity, rather than the other way around.
I know when I come into the office in the morning that I have limited time before I have to put my work down and go home. So I have to plan and commit to a course of action for my day that will increase my business and be accomplished in the hours I have allotted to that day’s work. This drives high energy innovation in the moment and also creates opportunities for me to recharge. When I drop the pencil, I have a 15 minute drive to be back to my family where I review how my day went, pray through my successes and failures, and prepare to go home and rest.
The next day, or next shift, I come back ready to work with a clear understanding of the limited time I have available. Finding time to rest and recharge is essential. If you want to have an innovative culture as a small business owner/freelancer, devote time each day and each week to rest, recharge, and love people around you.
MasterMind for Innovation
Innovative ideas I have worked on in the last week: recruiting students from a college planner (tutoring business), helping my wife take a semester off of grad school to recover from a busy summer and some stress in our family’s health (personal), and committing to writing 30 blogs in 30 days (writing work). All of these innovative moments in my life are the result of spending time with others and getting on the same wavelength as them relationally, what sales guru Napoleon Hill called a mastermind.
If you are going to create a positive, innovative culture in your life that drives you to greater success, you need to focus on finding a great location, taking time to recharge, and building masterminds with others!