You are never back at the beginning

whirl and reach out

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

You say to me, “I can’t believe this, but I had a look at my old notes, and this new idea I’ve had for this course is actually an idea I had, like, two years ago!”

You say to me, “I’m so embarassed to tell you this, but I’ve realised where I actually want to be is back in my Day Job.”

You say to me, “I’m back at the first business idea I came up with! Why do I have to be so indecisive?”

You tell me this like I’m supposed to pick you up by the scrap of the neck and shake you like a puppy, yelling. As if you are the puppy, sitting shamefaced next to a spreading patch of dampness on the rug.

But you (and T.S. Eliot, except not really) are wrong. You aren’t coming back to the same place. You haven’t gone wandering off to end back where you came from.

Because progress is a spiral, remember? You are coming back to a place that feels familiar, because it’s the same spot on the spiral.

Except this time… you’re a level further up.

This time you have the resources to actually implement the idea you had two years ago.

This time you can articulate the problems that urged you to leave your Day Job in the first place, and know how to make sure they don’t happen again.

This time you’ve quietly filled in the tiny holes in your plan so the new business is actionable.

It’s working. It’s working.

You’re doing it right.

Now go away and kick some more ass.

Creative Commons License photo credit: procsilas

10 lessons every entrepreneur has to learn

Superbokehtheorie

This is a story about you, my lovely. Pay attention to what you say, “Well, duh” to – those are the lessons you’ve already learned, and well done.

And pay double attention to the ideas you violently recoil from – those are lessons that will be coming, I promise.

1. Keep moving or die.

Like sharks, businesses have to keep moving forward.

That means that every week that you spend just getting through your work is actually a bad week.

No matter how frantic your inbox, you constantly need to be planning and working toward the next thing.

2. There are far fewer rules than we think.

In my opinion, there are really only three vital rules for business.

  1. Create something of value.
  2. Find people who appreciate the value.
  3. Sell it to them at a price commensurate with that value.

That’s it.

A colleague of mine told me recently about someone in the wellness industry who charges $30,000 for one session. And while that makes my brain go wobbly, I realise that all that says is that TO ME the value and the price are not aligned. To that practitioner and her clients, the value is clearly worth the price.

So they pay it. And (presumably) they get more than $30,000 of value from their session. So they’re both happy.

And that’s the point of exchanges.

Extra note: it’s the buyer’s assessment of value that matters. You, who can easily create the thing you’re offering, will never ever value it as highly as them. So ignore you, and listen to them.

(Are my rules missing something? Tell me in the comments.)

3. There is a big enough audience for you to do the work you want to do.

How many buyers do you need?

Ten a month, maybe, if you’re a coach.

A hundred a month, possibly, if you sell goods.

You know how many people have an internet connection and speak the same language as you? Let’s use a woefully underestimated number: 400 million.

Say it aloud: 400,000,000.

Four hundred million.

As long as it passes Rule #1, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling: there will be enough people to buy it.

You still have to find them. But they are out there, looking for you.

4. It’s really not about you.

I got a piece of criticism lately that filled me with pity, because it was so very clearly not about me. It was about the person who wrote it, and their experiences, and how they felt. I was nothing more than a big white sheet on which their views could be projected.

But this is also true for every bit of praise.

5. Eventually, you have to leave the beaten track.

You can’t follow in Cinderella’s footsteps and get her results: there’s only one prince, and Cinders has already married him.

To succeed – instead of just doing sortakinda okay – you need to blaze your own trail.

Thus, there will always be a point where you abandon the wisdom of all of your mentors and inspirations.

Good mentors will encourage this – rip-off artists will tell you that you’re doomed if you go your own way.

*wave*

6. Money isn’t evil.

Money is a form of power, and all power is morally neutral.

What we do to obtain that power, and how we use it? That’s different.

But you are in charge of your actions. Money isn’t the devil that made you do it.

You are.

7. Consistency is vital.

  • A business isn’t built in one offering.
  • A marketing campaign does not happen in one tweet.
  • One testimonial does not a recommendation make.
  • You don’t build a following from one amazing post.

Because we can all be magnificent sometimes.

It’s consistent magnificence that builds your reputation, your business, and your bank account.

8. Self-care is NOT optional.

The single biggest capital investment in your business is… you.

Many of us threw away the user’s manual and decided that we could run indefinitely with no maintenance at all.

9. Start wide, then narrow down.

When you’re entering a new endeavour, say yes to every (legal) suggestion.

  • Guest post? Sure.
  • Custom offering? Heck yeah!
  • Meetup? Why not?
  • New client? Bring it on!

But as you learn, as you experience, as you realise that large business clients are a giant ball of suck, or people who ask for six revisions are actually going to need twenty… then you start adding filters.

Filters like:

  • I should never do client sessions after lunch.
  • No clients who will debate endlessly. Get it done or GTFO!
  • I don’t touch Adwords.
  • Only invoice people who we’ve worked with before. (Except Sofie.)
  • Natural fabrics only.
  • Three revisions max!

These filters have two purposes: they save your sanity, and allow you to start targeting in on your absolute best work.

Love them, respect them – every single horrible client experience you have ever had is due to inadequate (or ignored) filters.

10. Your business will be as sane as you are.

Sane, well-adjusted people build sane, well-adjusted businesses.

Crazy people build crazy businesses.

When things go awry, sane businesses struggle. Crazy businesses fold.

11. The bonus lesson

Tell us one more vital lesson you’ve had to learn. Bonus points if you have one that I’ve haven’t learned yet…

Good news, lovelies: since I was incapacitated by illness and exploding computer last week, I’ve decided to keep the doors open for Cash and Joy Foundations for one more week, AND bring back the four-payment option. So if you are sick of having a love-hate relationship with your business and are ready to ROCK IT THE HELL OUT, then sign up today!

Creative Commons License photo credit: eriwst

Micro-publishing, passion and strategy: a chat with Sean Platt

I’d like to introduce someone to you.

This is Sean. He's verbose.

This is Sean Platt. I spent a MIND-BLOWING hour with him talking about micro-publishing (you know, selling 99c books on Kindle), how to get started and rock it out, some of his most epic fails, and his hard-earned lessons. And lots of other topics. We’re both talkers.

If you are interested in publishing anything ever, you should listen to this interview. It is seriously that good.

Audio MP3

If the note-takers among you want to share your notes for the benefit of those who aren’t audio-friendly, that would be awesome. Tell us in the comments or send me an email.

Sean is a better writer than I am, so I let him write his own bio. Except I said I’d also call him “nifty”, because that is how I roll.

Want to know more about Nifty Sean?

Sean Platt is a content marketing specialist, publisher and awesome dad. You’d be really silly not to follow him on Twitter.

Click on the link to buy the Yesterday’s Gone pilot. It’s the best $0.99 you could possibly spend, but if you want to get the full “season” now, $4.99 will put a smile on your face for a week. Click to become a “goner,” and get exclusive chapters with shocking endings, along with a ringside seat to all the behind the scenes stuff (perfect for readers AND writers!)

Fair warning: if you don’t like serials like LOST and writers like Stephen King, you probably won’t like reading Yesterday’s Gone. But if you like stuff that starts out awesome, and then is awesome on every page until the WTF? cliffhanger ending, then you’ll totally dig Yesterday’s Gone. (I dare anyone who reads Yesterday’s Gone to not secretly like Boricio, especially by season’s end.)

Thanks Sean, for sharing so much smartness on how to rock it out to piles of cash AND joy.

If you have any follow-up questions, please pop them in the comments. And if you too would like to hear Sean and I talk about balancing strategy and white-hot passion, then let us know!

The artist and the alchemist talk about Why

Zarko Drincic - My working place...
The artist is sitting in the alchemist’s tent, on a chair that was made from the baseboard of a spice caravan. The artist is drinking a strawberry thickshake, but she is not happy.

The artist says, “There are piles and piles of people around who are telling me that “Oh, you should talk about Why you do your work so people can connect with it!” and that is completely useless advice to me. I mean, I get what they’re saying, but I can’t do it!”

The alchemist says Why is that?

“Because I do my work because I want to. I have to! I can’t not do it. And that won’t connect with anybody, anywhere. “Selfish Artist Makes Art For Herself”? Stop the presses. They have a reason to buy my art, but it has nothing at all to do with why I make it. So I can’t possibly talk about my Why.”

Ah, I see. Let us change the topic then. What is your art?

Well, recently I’ve been working on a series of violets forged out of bronze.

Interesting. Why that particular piece?

“I’ve been playing around with the ideas of beauty and fragility for awhile. I mean, I think it’s seriously fucking stupid how we’ve gotten this idea in our heads that beautiful equals fragile. And fragile, of course, means that other people have power over you. (‘Cos, you know, they can break you.) So there’s this weird dynamic that beautiful things and people have power because of their beauty, but at the same time they have less power because we think they’re not strong.”

And so these pieces…

“Are about how strength and beauty are not mutually exclusive.”

Ah. The alchemist sits silently for a time, plaiting one long strand of greyblack hair with rice bells.

Then the alchemist paints an ostrich egg with gold paint and vermilion and puts it in a cauldron.

Then the alchemist sits down again.

The artist swears calmly and admiringly, at some length.

“You just told me my Why, didn’t you.”

I don’t believe so. I think you told me.

The moral of the story

For a long time, I got this wrong with my clients. (Anyone who struggled through it with me, I apologise. It was a hard question, and I hadn’t quite gotten it yet.)

I get it now.

Artists, crafters, serial entrepreneurs… we create because we must.

Because it brings us joy. Because it makes us better people. Because you just. Gotta. Dance. Because it makes your world brighter. Because otherwise we’d go mad.

This is entirely, beautifully selfish, and thus not very interesting to talk about. It isn’t a useful way to connect with the people who want what we have to offer. (They’re glad you groove on your work. But this is all about me, man!)

However. There is a reason why, out of the ten thousand thousand possible projects, there is a reason why we made this one.

Your Why is not about Why you create. 

Your Why is about what you choose to create.

You create jewellery with hammered silver skulls. Why? Because we now live in a world where we are almost entirely divorced from death, and it’s made us morbid.

You write poems about Nazis in love. Why? Because human nature is beautiful and wretched, often at the same time.

You create websites with huge textured images. Why? Because technology doesn’t need to be cold and impersonal.

The rabbit hole may be longer than that.

You run a website that reviews different types of vitamins and makes money from affiliate links. Why?

Because I couldn’t stand my job any more and I wanted to see the kids grow up.

Why did you start this particular business?

Because I went to a seminar on passive-income businesses.

Why did you go to that seminar?

Because I really liked the brochure. It said, “Making Money Doesn’t Have to Suck”.

Why did that appeal to you?

Because a lot of the time, we make things harder than they need to be. The vitamin thing is the same – we don’t review super-specialised complicated vitamins, we make it easy for people to choose one that they can just take once a day and go.

Why is that the best approach?

Because life doesn’t have to be hard.

Bingo!

This wasn’t an accident.

Give ten people a blank page and a pen, and they’ll draw ten very different things. An elephant. A dripping tap. An axe murderer.

You make choices on where to concentrate your formidable creative talents.

And those choices reveal your Why.

A little less conversation, a little more action…

What are the pervasive themes of your work?

What topics do you keep returning to?

Why did you create this particular thing?

Dig out your Why and get it to work!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Zarko Drincic