When I started JibberJobber I learned a little about how venture capitalists and angel investors fund businesses. It was a fascinating journey into a world that seemed exciting and a little dirty/sleazy. I learned about the Four F’s… have you heard about these? These are the four sources of funding that an entrepreneur should look at before they go to a VC or an angel. They are:
I used two of these sources to fund the early days of my business. It was necessary, and I’m forever grateful to have had those sources of funding to help JibberJobber get onto it’s own two feet.
But it bugged me that that is what I needed to do. I had this novel idea that my business should have been funded by… get this… people paying for it! That’s what you might call “self-funding.” Many companies are not self-funding… they rely on continual investments to fund their payroll, rent, parties, etc. Companies like Amazon, who seems to own the retail world, did this for years.
Anything wrong with self-funding?
For most of you, starting your own business, getting funding from VCs or angels isn’t the right route, and you might not be able to tap into the Four F’s. So how do you fund your venture (aka, pay your rent and buy food) in the early days?
The answer sits in understanding the basic nature of your business, and whether you are offering products (that you are creating) or services.
JibberJobber is a product, which meant that we spent months to develop it before we went live. A book is a product… you spend months writing and editing and preparing for the publisher, and then you have one, or a thousand, or a million. Your job is to take this *thing* and market it.
A service might be something where you charge an hourly rate to do something, like an hour of consulting, a day of speaking, doing a haircut, writing a resume, mowing a lawn. Typically, you can start doing a service, for money, right now, today, without any investment. I have plenty of ideas of things you can do in exchange for money today.
Is one better than the other? A product can require a significant investment up-front, with the idea that you could sell it when it’s made, or you could sell the company if you prove it successful. Expect to continue to invest in R&D. The payout could be crazy. The failure could be ruinous.
A service might take no money to start, and you could get gobs of money per hour immediately (for example, consulting for $250/hour, or speaking for $5k an engagement). But you might not be able to sell your company later, no matter how good it performs, because for a while, YOUR ARE THE PRODUCT.
When I started JibberJobber I had illusions of grandeur about how much money I was going to make. All the while, I required investment from family and my 401k. It took a couple of years before my company was in the black. A COUPLE OF YEARS. That was not in the business plan!
The same month I started JibberJobber, I had a friend, also laid off, who started a business, but his was a consulting business. He was billing clients in week 1, and every week since then. Where I was burning through lots of money, he had very low overhead and was bringing in more per hour than he had ever done.
Who was the fool? Was it me, for not self-funding, or was it him, for going down a path that would not have a big payday (acquisition) in the end?
I’d say neither were the fool. But looking back on it now, I wish that I would have figured out how to consult for one to two hours per day back in the early days. That would have been a way to self-fund.
I know a guy who was starting a business while working at the grocery store at nights stocking shelves. Glamorous? Hardly. But it worked for him and his family. It was his way of finding funding for his venture.
Let’s wrap this up… funding a business can be hard. But there are many, many options. You don’t have to just hope to get on Shark Tank, or get laughed out of one hundred VC offices. Be creative. Many of the businesses that we enjoy today were started in someone’s basement, garage, or even bathtub (ecolabs). Without funding. With a dream and hope and elbow-grease.
Just don’t be too proud to consult for a couple of hours a day, or to work at the grocery store at night. Eventually, your own little business will be self-funding.
I’m not talking about business cards… I’m talking about a card that people want to give to others, on your behalf, or for your benefit.
Of course, this could be your business card, but if you have a traditional, boring business card, it’s likely people will just file or lose your card.
What could you do to help people become your evangelist? What is exciting about you, or a program you offer?
WAIT… did I just say “a program you offer”… ???
YES, you, a non-business owner, can have a “program.” You can have a weekly or monthly radio show (free on blogtalkradio.com). You can do a one-time webinar to share “Ten Things People In Our Industry Need To Know For 2015” (or “learn from our mistakes from 2013,” etc.). YOU are an expert in something, aren’t you? Why not do one of these things, which are NO COST to you?
My first attempt at this was my Pink Slip (I just re-ordered 5,000 of these):
For my new video game class (which is a lot more about personal empowerment and less about becoming a video game nerd), I had these designed (and just ordered 5,000 of these):
I prefer to have something like this that people can say “wow, that is cool, can I have more of those to pass out to my friends,” rather than a boring business card that will get lost in the pile of other boring business cards.
Are you making it easy for your contacts to talk about you?
I’ve run JibberJobber since 2006 and have found that January through March or April is the time when most people are (finally!) really serious about their own career management.
December feels like a month when you can’t really do anything… people complain that it’s a horrible month for the job search. Employees are out of the office, on vacation, and hiring decisions are left until the new year… so why try?
When I was in my job search I didn’t care what holiday it might have been, or whether it was a weekend or 3 am. I had anxiety, and I felt a great sense of urgency to do something to end my unemployment! I wasn’t doing the right things, but I certainly wasn’t going to celebrate anything (like a national holiday) simply because everyone else was. It’s hard to feel festive when you feel like an incompetent.
What’s more, many job search coaches say the holidays are definitely a time to do job search stuff, even if you employ different tactics. But let’s say you doing believe any of that stuff… what COULD/SHOULD you do between now and January 2nd?
Whether in a job search or not, smart, astute, “self-driven” professionals are going do something. It might be as baby-step simple as listing 10 – 20 people they need to talk to, or 10 – 20 companies they want to network into come January.
It might be something as in-depth and time-consuming as writing a book (even if it is a small ebook) with the purpose of establishing and enhancing their personal brand.
Depending on what your year (or last quarter) looked like, you might simply take this month off to do “nothing” – like read some books or articles you’ve been meaning to catch up on, take a real vacation and mentally, spiritually and physically recharge, to be ready for the next year.
Whatever you do, please don’t give up on December. Whether it is a strategic and very tactical job search to hopefully get some interviews or offers lined up in January, or a more long-term career management strategy, take the time to do something on purpose to finish out this year.
I can’t tell you what it should be – so you tell me… what will it be?
Diane Kohler’s tagline is “Career & emotional intelligence coach parlays experience, enthusiasm & humor to help people & orgs thrive!” She got one of the early copies of my book and wrote this in an email to me (her comments bolded and indented):
I am just finishing reading your book and I hope you are already working on its sequel.
I told her it would depend on how this book did … writing a book is a BIG project
MY hope for your book is that job seekers don’t just scan the table of contents and decide they don’t want to paint numbers on curbs, etc, and leave the book unexplored.
This is my hope and my fear, really. If I picked up the book and looked at the LIST of ideas in the table of contents, I probably would not buy it. But, if you read the stories and experiences and tips that are in almost every idea/chapter, that is where you get the good stuff…
You are so right that it’s value is in providing kindling, sparks, catalysts for HOPE.
This book is 99% hope and catalyst, and 1% list of ideas.
People need to read it not to necessarily to find THEIR next idea there, but to fan the flames of their own imagination.
Humans are much smarter than we think. If you think the list is limited at 51 ideas, or 501 ideas, you are wrong. YOU might have something completely unique to offer.
Thank you, Diane, for sharing these thoughts with me and my blog readers
Still, one of my favorite quotes in the reviews, by Mike Hudson:
51 Alternatives is not an answer book, it is a question book, and that question is “Why not?”
This is definitely a why not book. I think some of the ideas in here are “too far out there” for many people. But if you get tired of having layoffs hanging over your head, or if you wonder why you are only making $x/hour and barely scraping by, or if you just want to feel more empowered personally, then WHY NOT?
I’ll never forget an email I got from a friend who makes a bunch of money in a job that takes him away from his family 5 or 6 days a week, for the last many years. He commented that he didn’t have the guts to do what I was doing… here is his question with my reply (which I blogged, of course):
Do you have the guts to ask WHY NOT? Check out the WHY NOT book, 51 Alternatives to a Real Job. Now on your kindle browser
I got a surprise message from my printer on Friday morning that the books were ready to pickup… so I spent ALL of Friday getting them (my daughter took pictures, which I should have posted soon), packing the pre-orders, and then going to the post office to ship them. Shipping is… expensive! I even ran out of envelopes to put them in (cool because that hasn’t happened to me before, uncool because some of you got VERY EXPENSIVE envelopes – I chose to foot the bill for those instead of making you wait until I got my new envelopes).
Anyway, if you pre-ordered, look for it in the mail soon.
I drove to the printer yesterday to approve the proof of 51 Alternatives to a Real Job. We had some last minute challenges to get it to the printer so we might run one day late, but they said I could pick up the books on Monday (the 1st, which is when we were hoping to ship the first batch) or Tuesday.
What a cool experience. It actually took all of 5 minutes to approve the proof. I looked at the cover to see if it was even and the spine and back and front looked right, and then I flipped through the book to see if the margins looked good. I learned there is a thing called the 40/60 split on the margin, which means when you open a book, the inside margins are 60% and the outside are 40%… that’s how you can open a book and read without having to peer in the crack and try to read words too close to the spine. Who’da thunk?
As I tell more people about this book I sometimes am nervous. They’ll hate it…. they’ll think it is a pamphlet (which is what some said about the first edition of my LinkedIn book – whiners who have never done a book project before)… they’ll think the ideas are too above them, or too below them… they’ll think “I could never do that!” and then trade their time at a company they don’t care about, working on projects that don’t inspire them, reporting to bosses they hate. But no, they won’t consider doing something for their own financial empowerment. I have been worried people will see this as a fattened list of ideas… which it kind of is, but with so much more.
These will be the people who complain about the book.
I hope YOU will do two things as you read it:
Mark it up! I want you to write in this book and highlight it! Get a crayon or colored pencils and mark stuff. As I was proofreading it for the last time last week I was impressed at how many AWESOME quotes are spread throughout the book. I was so inspired by the entrepreneurs I interviewed and with their wisdom and experience.
Talk about it! I hope this book inspires you to talk with a spouse, child, brother or sister, parent, or friend about ideas. I want you to become personally empowered and not beholden to “the machine.” Share ideas from this book — whether they are one of the 51 Alternatives or whether they are quotes from entrepreneurs or whether they are ideas that you get as you read the book. Maybe none of the 51 Alternatives are for you… that is OKAY! I hope as you read you get ideas for what would work for you.
If you mark it up, and it inspires you, and you talk about it and have this become a big part of the new conversation about your income, and the income of those around you, then my mission is accomplished.
Please let this book inspire you and your family and friends!
Here is the recording of Tuesday’s webinar. To make it bigger just push play, then click on the “bigger” icon towards the bottom right. You can access all ATE webinars here. Sign up for future ATE webinars here (great stuff coming up!).