It was seventy and sunny in West Hollywood and I was stuck inside at a Starbucks staring at a flashing cursor on a glowing screen, asking myself the same question I had been asking for the past four years…
What business should I start?
At the time, I was in one of life’s awkward “in-between” stages.
I had recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in marketing, taken (and then quickly quit) a job at a local agency and was in the midst of killing time in Los Angeles helping my brother get settled into his new apartment… and hopefully, figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Sometimes, the most frustrating thing about not knowing what to do with your life isn’t necessarily the not knowing part… but the not knowing while everybody else around you appears to be knowing exactly what the hell they’re doing.
I’d liken it to walking into a big rig mechanic shop, not even possessing the mechanical savviness to change the oil on your own vehicle and being handed a wrench and asked to help on a great big gigantic engine…
You’re left feeling a bit lost.
For an entrepreneur or freelancer, this anxiety is compounded tenfold because your family and friends don’t always agree with your dream of becoming the next Elon Musk and when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around and you still have nothing tangible to point to that you’ve made or built or created, you find yourself feeling like an asshat.
Or, at least this is how I felt as I sat in the Starbucks feeling myself begin to cave harder than a piece of tin foil in a hail storm.
Thankfully, I eavesdropped in on a conversation taking place behind me.
It sounded like it was between an older, more seasoned entrepreneur and some young bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kid like myself who had dreams of building the next Tesla or Airbnb or Facebook or what have you.
The wolf barked (or, howled rather).
The wolf was giving the pup a few pointers on how to hunt and offered up some advice that I hope changed the young man’s life (because it certainly changed mine).
Now, this was years ago and I don’t have the memory of a supercomputer. So, it goes without saying that I’m not recollecting the conversation word for word.
But, it went something like this…
Kid: “I’ve got dreams of starting this thing (I don’t remember what the hell it was). I really think it could be big.”
OG: “Well, do you have a product?”
Kid: “No… but I have some ideas and some sketches.”
OG: “So, you haven’t sold anything yet?”
Kid: “No… not yet.”
OG: “You need to stop building, stop brainstorming, stop trying to think of the next big idea and instead just go out and make a $1. That’s your job in this game. To just go out and make a $1.”
Just go out and make $1.
Now, for all I know, this could have just been a conversation between a sales manager and one of his reps who was falling behind. But, regardless, it had an almost immediate impact on my thinking.
Suddenly, I stopped trying to think up the next billion-dollar idea and instead changed my focus to making $1.
I asked myself… what do I do well? Or, at the very least, better than most.
Writing was what immediately came to mind. But for you, it might be something entirely different… like dog walking.
People have a way of complicating things. And, since entrepreneurs are people, they tend to do the same with starting businesses.
One example I give constantly to show just how simple entrepreneurship can be is a guy named Ryan who runs a dog walking business called Ryan For Dogs.
One day he was playing with his girlfriend’s dog and surprised himself with how quickly he taught the little guy a trick. Upon realizing that he was half-way decent with man’s best friend, he started asking his neighbors if he could walk their dogs for a small sum of money.
They said yes and others said yes and today, Ryan runs a six-figure dog walking business.
The reason Ryan will make more money walking dogs than the vast majority of entrepreneurs ever will is because he kept shit simple by focusing on making a $1 rather than chasing unicorns.
This is where the lesson lies.
For every Facebook, there are thousands of companies who wanted to be Facebook and fell flat on their faces. Ideas, strategies and products aren’t worth shit until someone buys them.
The problem entrepreneurs and freelancers struggle with is getting too caught up in making the product versus making the $1.
Ryan, down the road, can always start selling a specialty dog leash or collapsible dog bowl. But, by focusing on making money now and stowing that money away in the bank, he’s not only establishing an income stream but he’s getting paid to do market research.
Right now, the best thing you can do is go out and make a $1. That begins and ends with finding a skill and then knocking on doors to see who is willing to pay you to perform that skill.
By Cole Schafer.
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