Think Like An Entrepreneur, Not An Employee #CareerChange

June 19th, 2020

I recently did a 6-week series for Pluralsight on jobs and careers. It was a lot of fun (and a bit of work :p).

In some of the emails I’m getting from people I can sense a great deal of frustration. This frustration is coming from being in the hamster wheel we call the job search. Again and again, doing the same things, not getting anywhere. I remember waking up during my Big Job Search and thinking “why get out of bed? Why do the same stuff I’ve been doing? I’m not getting any reactions.”

I made a career change. I went from employee, at a corporate job, to entrepreneur. Many of the people emailing me are talking about career changes. I’m reminded of the fabled 10,000 hours that it takes to become an expert. You’ve heard that, right? You need to spend 10,000 hours on something before you can claim to become an expert? That is 5 years of full time work. Nobody I know, in the job search right now, has 5 years to develop expertise and then start their job search.

The urgency is now.

I’m not going to dispute the 10,000 hours thing. People smarter than me claim that. It sounds catchy. And I’d rather a surgeon with 10,000 hours work on me rather than a self-described surgeon with 100 hours works on me.

What I want to dispute is the level of knowledge, skills, or expertise we need to START SOMETHING.

A couple of years ago, at my dream job in a dream company with my dream boss (all that lasted 10 months) I remember watching people slowly do stuff thinking “man, thanks to the amazing sales team there is time for superflous, slow, unproductive meetings.” People could literally sit around, not adding value or producing, and still collect a paycheck. The rhythm we sometimes see in the corporate world is slow. Measured. Good for our mental health. Intent on reducing stress. Focused on creating a great (read: fun) place to work.

Fun Work Culture

But I had been an entrepreneur for about 12 years. My mantra was “you eat what you kill.” You don’t produce, you don’t pay bills. You don’t pay bills, you got problems. There was no paycheck that came every other week. If I wanted to pay my mortgage, or go grocery shopping, or even think of something like a vacation, I had to have revenue lined up.

If corporate was peaceful, which I think too many of us slip into when we land our job, then entrepreneurship was anxiety. I’m not saying that is necessarily bad (or that peaceful is necessarily good), but it was definitely a major shift to go from entrepreneur to “I have a job, and no matter what I do today, I’m going to get paid.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for you to have more anxiety in your life. I do, however, want you to think differently about your career. You see, if you listen to experts telling you that you need to wait, that you aren’t ready, that you don’t know enough, that you haven’t put the hours in, or that you can’t do something, you have a problem. You have been fed a line of bull, and you accept it. And that is harming YOU.

Entrepreneur Waiting

When I put my entrepreneur hat on, back in 2006, I learned about “sense of urgency.” I didn’t think of myself as anxious, rather I had a sense of urgency. If I didn’t know something I had to learn it. Consider:

How do I create an online business from scratch? From product management to design to development to QA to marketing to sales to pricing to customer retention to customer acquisition to financing the venture to …

How do I become a blogger? Is it a consistency thing? Is it a messaging thing? Do I need to write to a human or am I playing a Google/SEO game?

How do I write a book? How do I get a publisher? How do I self publish? I had no idea. But I had to learn all of that, even though I wasn’t an expert.

How do I become a professional speaker? I was confident in my public speaking skills, although I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. How do I create a business line out of professional speaking? How do I get more gigs, how do I engage with my audience, how do I get repeat business, how do I do all of the logistical stuff a professional speaker deals with, should I have “back of the room sales, etc.?

How do I create a DVD, which I can sell at a much better margin, and have more control over than my books? NO IDEA. Never done it before.

How do I start doing online courses? Where do I host them? How much do I charge for them? What exactly constitutes a course, anyway? Do I need special equipment and software? How do I edit and produce my stuff? Is it a long webinar, or a chopped up series of small clips?

These are SOME of the things I’ve done since 2006. I didn’t have expertise in any of these areas.

But my sense of urgency, and my need to create income, led me on the path to learn. Did I make mistakes? YES. Did I work crazy hours? YES. Was there sacrifice? YES. Did it cost money? YES. Was I out of my comfort zone? USUALLY.

Instead of taking it slow, and spending tons of money to “do it right,” I had to just do something. I talked to people about each of those questions I listed (and more). I talked to people who had been down the path, and learned from them. I found people willing to share and help. I studied. I applied critical thinking. I weighed alternatives and juggled priorities.

Entrepreneur Love To Learn

And most of all, I just DID IT. I tried. I threw the proverbial spaghetti on the wall, and some of it stuck. I learned from everything I did.

Here I am, 14 years after The Big Job Search. 14 years * 2,000 hours is 28,000 hours. So maybe I’m 3 times an expert (if 10k hours makes you an expert).

My point, though, is that you don’t have to be an expert to do stuff. I wasn’t an expert in any of those things. I still don’t consider myself an “expert.” But I had a sense of urgency that drove me to think, and try, and be okay to fail, and try again.

My first book? Not proud of the quality. Super proud I wrote a book, but not proud of the book. Even the fourth edition of it… not super proud. I think “it needs to be better.”

But guess what? I did it. I wrote it. And I’ve written two others. Why? Because my sense of urgency drove me.

Get your own sense of urgency. Get on that path, and get off of the “when this happens, then I’ll be qualified” path. Want to change careers? Then DO IT. Figure it out. Try things. Learn as you go.

Want to start a blog, or a podcast, or a consulting business? DO IT.

Entrepreneur Podcast

If I spent 30 minutes with you on a call right now I could coach you on how to become a consultant. Save your money, put away your wallet. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to LinkedIn, create a new job on your profile. Call it [Last name] Consulting. Or, call it [Your specialty] Consulting. There. You are now a consultant. This is, as they say, hanging a shingle out.
  2. Email everyone in your network telling them what you are doing, and then work the phones.

That’s it. You’ll get your first customer and you’ll do okay. Maybe a little worse than okay. But you get that customer, you bring value to them, you bill them, and you learn from the whole experience. Then you get another, and another, and another, and in a few years you think “man, I kind of feel bad for my first customer. I’ve learned so much.”

Don’t wait for five years from now. Start now, learn along the way.

The first freelance website I built was for a new realtor. She paid me $400. It was okay-ish for the time. But really, it was horrible. Especially compared to now. But doing that first one, working with a client, delivering a product, was a great learning experience. It was a stepping stone to get to where I’m at today.

DO SOMETHING. Don’t wait. Don’t listen to the experts telling you you aren’t ready.


Fling the spaghetti. 

Flinging Spaghetti Entrepreneur

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Funding Your Business Part II: The Benefit of Self-Funding and Sales-Funding

September 2nd, 2016

This week I wrote How much money do you need to start your new business? In the comments, Kim write that it was a liberating post that helped free her mind of the layers of reasons why she couldn’t start her own consulting business.

This morning I had another thought… kind of like a “and another thing!” that just came to me. It’s a simple concept but very, very powerful. Imagine two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Get $100,000 of funding. For whatever reason, you need a lot of money to get started. This could be for equipment, tools, clothes, staff, rent, salary, etc.

Scenario 2: Fund-as-you-go, or funding through sales. You can start today, looking for a consulting customer, and you have everything you need (your brain, a phone, an email account, and… that’s it).

Here’s the thought I had this morning: Stopping a business that you have funded, with your own money or someone else’s, is kind of hard.  Well, stopping it isn’t hard, but what do you do about the $100,000 that you borrowed?  You could sell the stuff you bought, but you might not get dollar for dollar.  What if you have a basement full of stuff (like a heat press machine for making custom designed shirts and hats and stuff), with a payment on them, or an investor that is expecting you to find customers and make sales… that is hard to end.

If you are funded through sales, then it’s easy to “stop.” You have no outbound financial obligations… you just stop working. Take a few days off. Take a few months off. Perhaps pick it up next year… no big deal.  And what’s great about this? It’s just as easy to start it up again as it is to stop it again. I’m not saying to be fickle, but when we are taking about freeing and liberating, having a business that doesn’t start out with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt is more flexible…

Pretty cool, huh?


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Courage, Entrepreneurship, The Job Search

November 20th, 2015

One of the benefits of spammers commenting on old blog posts is they bring the old blog post back to my attention.  Such is the case when a spammer left a comment on this post: Courage and the entrepreneur.

I wrote this post in May of 2009… JibberJobber was barely three years old. As I read this it reminds me of the feelings of despair and anxiety while much of my world thought I was killing it in my business.  I’ll be the first to tell you that starting a business, while a great learning experience, is really, really, really hard.  On many levels: financially, personal relationships, sanity, etc.  Here’s my post from six years ago… not much has changed.

Sometimes I think I’m nuts. Even though I’m more sane than others.  But seriously, what am I thinking, doing my own business? Where’s the safety net in that??

Sometimes I think I’m dense. Even though I got a hecka lot of education, and feel like I’m rather witty.  This “dense” thing comes mostly when I compare myself to others.

Sometimes I’m lonely. Even though I have a terrific wife and family support, and thousands upon thousands of people who read my stuff in my blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  But when I’m sitting in my office, all by myself, with hours to go in the day, wondering which thing I should do next, I wish I had a team working with me.

Sometimes I feel poor. Especially recently as we paid for a new baby, a broken van and car, my doctor’s visit to get my calf looked at, working on getting our basement finished, and payroll… but then I think about the families I met in Mexico who know what poor, and poverty, and hunger, are, in a way that i’ll never have to know.

Usually I’m hungry. Not for food, but for success.  Actually, not even crazy-wild success, just the kind of success that pays the bills for a family with a modest lifestyle.  That’s what i told my publisher, and why I swore I’d make money from book sales.

Most of the times I’m scared. Scared of failing.  Or scared to take steps backwards.  I often wonder if I’m the right guy for the job, and then I just get back to work, day after day, to get the job done the best I can, and hope that indeed, I could be the right guy for this job.

I’m an entrepreneur.

I feel privileged, and hope that I don’t mess this up.

I feel like this is bigger than me… much bigger than me.

I feel like thousands of people need me to keep on plugging along, as my stuff (whether it’s JibberJobber or my books or DVD or blogs whatever) are making a difference to them.

I feel like my future is in MY hands. Not the CEO of Enron, or some board of directors, or some cranky boss… but my own hands.  Please let me not screw this up.

I’m an entrepreneur. While it isn’t easy, it’s rewarding.  I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Check out the great comments from back then.

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Funding Your Business: The Four F’s and A Novel Idea

April 29th, 2015

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:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Fools
  • 401k

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.

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I triple-dog dare you to pick up the phone TODAY

December 4th, 2013


I somehow got turned on to Ari’s Take, an awesome blog of Ari Herstand.  Ari is a musician who blogs about how to make money as an indie musician. I’ve been reading a number of his blog posts – they are awesome.  Pretty much everything he writes about is the same stuff I’ve been writing about.  Get the correlation between a job seeker and a musician trying to get on the map?   Too many similarities to list.  I’m sure the parents of a musician probably think they are unemployed.

The post I want to share is Ari’s DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE PHONE. I thought it was going to be a simple “pick up the phone, you chicken!” post, like I’ve written before (February 2007, July 2012, September 2013), … and it has that.  But there is so much more!  This post is rich!

Read the post, get inspired to call someone today… but also study his email strategy.  He talks about one, two, three… even seven or eight emails!  And check out the format, content, and message of his emails.  Check out the email signatures (awesome, awesome!).

aris_take_headshotFolks, I’ve blogged about all this before.  Now I’m sharing Ari’s post because I want to show you that improving your communication (email, phone, etc.) is something you need not just for this job search but for the rest of your career.  Embrace this idea, don’t run from it!  Get better at it NOW, consider your job search a time for personal training and improvement, and it will help you be better for the rest of your life!

Here’s a video of one of his songs, and here is his youtube page. Check him out!

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Four more weeks until Jan 2. What are you doing to prepare?

December 2nd, 2013

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.

That “something might be seriously considering, or starting, a side business, to create an alternative/multiple revenue stream and maybe even start down the path of 100% self-employment.

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?



Nick Corcodilos takes on US Employment Issues, Monster, ATS Systems, Databases, Hiring, Congress… Pretty Much Everyone

October 29th, 2013

Nick_corcodilosNick Corcodilos writes a weekly newsletter that is worth subscribing to.  Today he wrote his 500th edition, and it’s great.  He normally answers questions from readers (many know him as “Ask The Headhunter”).  He wrote his own question this week, instead of using someone else’s, and it’s very blunt:

WTF is going on with employment in America?

Yes, we’d all like to know that, right?

Nick talks a lot about a lot of the aspects of employment (and the job search) in America.  His article is worth reading, and marking it up with a highlighter.  He exposes a key problem with HR departments, and the horrific affect of outsourcing hiring to recruiters, etc.  He again exposes the ridiculousness of job boards, which according to a hiring survey are horribly ineffective but still a huge destination for corporate spending.  He talks about some ideas on how to fix the problems at a meta level.  He even talks about believing in yourself and starting your own business, if the hiring thing isn’t working out!

Read his post here.

The question is, what does any of this mean for you, the job seeker?  Do you do the job search different now, knowing any of this?  I think so…!

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Successful Kickstarter Campaign

October 21st, 2013

I have been asked a lot about Kickstarter.  Bottom line:  I love it.  It is an awesome way to get your “thing” (company, product, etc.) funded.

Check out this really cool Kickstarter campaign I learned about on a LinkedIn group I’m on: Lono Sprinkler Controller. They had an idea (allow you to control your yard sprinklers with an iPhone app) and asked for $75k to get it up and running.  As of right now they are almost at $90k.  Clearly, people want this.

I love the humorous video at the top of the page.  The details of the product/solution/benefits and the technicalities of the product and project are listed below the video.

On the right side you can see that donate as little as $15, or as much as $899 (or $5k), and what you get for those levels.

This is a brilliant way to fund a project.  No longer do you need to go to Angel Investors or VCs (which is overkill for most people/startups).  If you have an idea, dig into Kickstarter and see what others are doing, how they are doing it, who is successful, etc.  Very cool stuff :)




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Crisis = Opportunity? Creating revenue from the Obamacare/Obamatax changes

August 22nd, 2013
This post is about finding opportunities to create revenue streams. I go into this more, with other examples, and tips from entrepreneurs, in my book: 51 Alternatives to a Real Job (now on the Kindle).

Assuming ObamaCare is really going to happen, and no amount of whining and limb-chirping is going to change anything, what does that mean for YOU?

As a country we’ve already seen employers make changes to employees, whether that is letting them go or just cutting back their hours, or dropping health care from spouses. Read this article and the comments for more: UPS to drop 15,000 spouses from insurance, cites Obamacare

The job market should get a lot more complex as people are getting dumped into it, or they need just a few more hours (less than 30 thank-you-very-much) to make ends meet.  People are going to be confused and the government will be overtaxed trying to explain and educate, and sign people up, as well as chase down the bad guys they can charge the penalty to…

It sounds like one big hairy mess.

If there is one big hairy mess, there is an opportunity to HELP.  Politicians might not have read the bill (ha!  I said “might not have”… I should have written definitely haven’t), but what if you read it, study it, become expert in it, and find ways to consult to companies to help them?  I am guessing a lot of people who are helping companies right now are doing it based on an incomplete understanding of the meanings and consequences of the bill… which means rash decisions are being made. Rash could mean wrong solutions.

Obamacare should create more jobs in the government to administer the bill.  I’m guessing this will be a big growth area for jobs.  We’ll need more IRS cops to break down doors and put people in obamacare prison for not paying the tax (or whatever they’ll do to the offenders).

But will there be opportunity for YOU to create a business?

I don’t think this type of business will be small.  If you could figure this out and help companies navigate implementation, I think we’re talking about millions, maybe billions of dollars.

If you could help employees and families who have been cut from insurance, had their healthcare increase to a point where it is unbearable, or lose 10 or 20 hours and HAVE TO pick up more work, there could be a revenue stream there.

I don’t know how it will play out but it looks like a crisis is brewing, and if there is a crisis, there is opportunity.

What could that opportunity be?

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Diane Kohler thoughts on 51 Alternatives to a Real Job

August 14th, 2013

diane_kohlerDiane 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 :)

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