Əsas səhifə The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
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More Praise for THE $100 STARTUP “With traditional career doors slamming shut, it’s easy to panic, but Chris Guillebeau sees opportunities everywhere. Making a career out of your passion sounds like a dream, but in this straightforward, engaging book he shows you how to get it done, one simple step at a time.” —Alan Paul, author of Big in China “Business, like traveling, is often improved by starting poor. You are forced to improvise, innovate, and stay close to reality. You can’t buy solutions, so you have to create your own. Suddenly you have the first part of success—something of value. I got all this from The $100 Startup, which is full of practical advice about inventing your own livelihood. I’ve done a handful of $100 startups myself, several of which I later sold. Chris Guillebeau knows what he is talking about. Listen to this book! —Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants “This book is more than a ‘how to’ guide, it’s a ‘how they did it’ guide that should persuade anyone thinking about starting a business that they don’t need a fortune to make one.” —John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine “Is that giant knot in your stomach keeping you from starting your own business or pursuing the career of your dreams? Chris Guillebeau’s seasoned, practical advice and his efficient blueprint for entrepreneurial success will alleviate your anxieties and get you on the path to being responsible for—and in control of—your future.” —Erin Doland, editor-in-chief of Unclutterer.com and author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week “You can’t grow a thriving business on wishes and dreams. You need the kind of nuts-and-bolts wisdom that only comes from hard-earned experience. Chris Guillebeau has been in the trenches for years, and in The $100 Startup he guides you step-by-step through how he and dozens of others have turned their passions into profits. It’s essential reading for the solopreneur!” —Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative “Startin; g your own business doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Follow Chris’s advice, and you’ll help people, have fun, and never work for ‘the man’ again.” —Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business [image: ] [image: ] Copyright © 2012 by Chris Guillebeau All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. www.crownpublishing.com CROWN BUSINESS is a trademark and CROWN and the Rising Sun colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Guillebeau, Chris. The $100 startup : reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future / by Chris Guillebeau. p. cm. 1. New business enterprises—Management. 2. Entrepreneurship. I. Title. II. Title: One hundred dollar startup. HD62.5.G854 2012 658.1′1—dc23 2012003093 eISBN: 978-0-307-95154-0 Illustrations: Mike Rohde Jacket design: Michael Nagin Jacket photography: Comstock/Getty Images v3.1 This book is for: those who take action and those who provide the inspiration ROAD MAP Cover Title Page Copyright Dedication PROLOGUE: Manifesto A short guide to everything you want. PART I UNEXPECTED ENTREPRENEURS 1. Renaissance You already have the skills you need—you just have to know where to look. 2. Give Them the Fish How to put happiness in a box and sell it. 3. Follow Your Passion … Maybe Get paid to do what you love by making sure it connects to what other people want. 4. The Rise of the Roaming Entrepreneur “Location, location, location” is overrated. 5. The New Demographics Your customers all have something in common, but it has nothing to do with old-school categories. PART II TAKING IT TO THE STREETS 6. The One-Page Business Plan If your mission statement is much longer than this sentence, it could be too long. 7. An Offer You Can’t Refuse The step-by-step guide to creating a killer offer. 8. Launch! A trip to Hollywood from your living room or the corner coffee shop. 9. Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion Advertising is like sex: Only losers pay for it. 10. Show Me the Money Unconventional fundraising from Kickstarter to unlikely car loans. PART III LEVERAGE AND NEXT STEPS 11. Moving On Up Tweaking your way to the bank: How small actions create big increases in income. 12. How to Franchise Yourself Instructions on cloning yourself for fun and profit. 13. Going Long Become as big as you want to be (and no bigger). 14. But What If I Fail? How to succeed even if your roof caves in on you. CODA DISCLOSURES AND INTERESTING FACTS BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! FISH STORIES APPENDIX: TWENTY-FIVE SELECTED CASE STUDIES GRATITUDE ROCKSTARS FROM THE $100 STARTUP PROLOGUE Manifesto A SHORT GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU WANT Imagine a life where all your time is spent on the things you want to do. Imagine giving your greatest attention to a project you create yourself, instead of working as a cog in a machine that exists to make other people rich. Imagine handing a letter to your boss that reads, “Dear Boss, I’m writing to let you know that your services are no longer required. Thanks for everything, but I’ll be doing things my own way now.” Imagine that today is your final day of working for anyone other than yourself. What if—very soon, not in some distant, undefined future—you prepare for work by firing up a laptop in your home office, walking into a storefront you’ve opened, phoning a client who trusts you for helpful advice, or otherwise doing what you want instead of what someone tells you to do? All over the world, and in many different ways, thousands of people are doing exactly that. They are rewriting the rules of work, becoming their own bosses, and creating a new future. This new model of doing business is well under way for these unexpected entrepreneurs, most of whom have never thought of themselves as businessmen and businesswomen. It’s a microbusiness revolution—a way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose. Other books chronicle the rise of Internet startups, complete with rants about venture capital and tales of in-house organic restaurants. Other guides tell you how to write eighty-page business plans that no one will ever read and that don’t resemble how an actual business operates anyway. This book is different, and it has two key themes: freedom and value. Freedom is what we’re all looking for, and value is the way to achieve it. Stumbling onto Freedom More than a decade ago, I began a lifelong journey of self-employment by any means necessary. I never planned to be an entrepreneur; I just didn’t want to work for someone else. From a cheap apartment in Memphis, Tennessee, I watched what other people had done and tried to reverse-engineer their success. I started by importing coffee from Jamaica, selling it online because I saw other people making money from it; I didn’t have any special skills in importing, roasting, or selling. (I did, however, consume much of the product through frequent “testing.”) If I needed money, I learned to think in terms of how I could get what I needed by making something and selling it, not by cutting costs elsewhere or working for someone else. This distinction was critical, because most budgets start by looking at income and then defining the available choices. I did it differently—starting with a list of what I wanted to do, and then figuring out how to make it happen. The income from the business didn’t make me rich, but it paid the bills and brought me something much more valuable than money: freedom. I had no schedule to abide by, no time sheets to fill out, no useless reports to hand in, no office politics, and not even any mandatory meetings to attend. I spent some of my time learning how a real business works, but I didn’t let it interfere with a busy schedule of reading in cafés during the day and freelancing as a jazz musician at night. Looking for a way to contribute something greater to the world, I moved to West Africa and spent four years volunteering with a medical charity, driving Land Rovers packed with supplies to clinics throughout Sierra Leone and Liberia. I learned how freedom is connected to responsibility, and how I could combine my desire for independence with something that helped the rest of the world. After returning to the United States, I developed a career as a writer in the same way I learned to do everything else: starting with an idea, then figuring everything else out along the way. I began a journey to visit every country in the world, traveling to twenty countries a year and operating my business wherever I went. At each step along the way, the value of freedom has been a constant compass. There’s no rehab program for being addicted to freedom. Once you’ve seen what it’s like on the other side, good luck trying to follow someone else’s rules ever again. The Value Doctrine The second part of this book is about value, a word that is often used but rarely analyzed. As we’ll consider it, value is created when a person makes something useful and shares it with the world. The people whose stories you’ll read in this book have succeeded because of the value they’ve created. Often, the combination of freedom and value comes about when someone takes action on something he or she loves to do anyway: a hobby, skill, or passion that that person ends up transforming into a business model. The microbusiness revolution is happening all around us as people say “thanks but no thanks” to traditional work, choosing to chart their own course and create their own future. Small businesses aren’t new, but never before have so many possibilities come together in the right place at the right time. Access to technology has increased greatly, and costs have gone down greatly. You can test-market your idea instantly, without waiting for months to gauge how prospects will respond to an offer. You can open a PayPal account in five minutes and receive funds from buyers in more than 180 countries. Even better, as you build a community of loyal customers, you’ll know well in advance what to make for them and how likely you are to be successful without investing a lot of money. In fact, the more you understand how your skills and knowledge can be useful to others, the more your odds of success will go up. Perhaps most important, the vital career question of what is risky and what is safe has changed permanently. The old choice was to work at a job or take a big risk going out on your own. The new reality is that working at a job may be the far riskier choice. Instead, take the safe road and go out on your own. What if you could achieve your own life of freedom by bypassing everything you thought was a prerequisite? Instead of borrowing money, you just start—right now—without a lot of money. Instead of hiring employees, you begin a project by yourself, based on your specific personal combination of passion and skill. Instead of going to business school (which doesn’t actually train people to operate a small business), you save the $60,000 in tuition and learn as you go. Remember, this book isn’t about founding a big Internet startup, and it isn’t about opening a traditional business by putting on a suit and begging for money at the bank. Instead, it’s the account of people who found a way to live their dreams and make a good living from something they cared deeply about. What if their success could be replicated? What if there was a master plan you could follow, learning from those who have made it happen? It’s a Blueprint, Not a Vague Series of Ideas I’ll share more of my own story as we go along, but this book isn’t about me—it’s about other people who have found freedom, and how you can do the same thing. During an unconventional book tour, I traveled to sixty-three cities in the United States and Canada (and eventually more than fifteen additional countries), meeting with people who had made the switch from working for The Man to working for themselves. I then worked with a small team to create a comprehensive, multiyear study involving more than a hundred interview subjects. Combing through reams of data (more than four thousand pages of written survey answers in addition to hundreds of phone calls, Skype sessions, and back-and-forth emails), I compiled the most important lessons, which are offered here for your review and action. This blueprint to freedom is fully customizable and highly actionable. At many points along the way, you’ll have a chance to pause and work on your own plan before continuing to learn more about what other people have done. A few of the people in the study are natural-born renegades, determined to go it alone from young adulthood onward, but most are ordinary people who had no intention of working on their own until later in life. Several had been laid off or fired from a job and suddenly had to find a way to pay the bills or support a family. (In almost all these cases, they said something like, “Losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn’t been pushed, I never would have made the leap.”) Make no mistake: The blueprint does not tell you how to do less work; it tells you how to do better work. The goal isn’t to get rich quickly but to build something that other people will value enough to pay for. You’re not just creating a job for yourself; you’re crafting a legacy. This blueprint does not involve secrets, shortcuts, or gimmicks. There are no visualization exercises here. If you think you can manifest your way to money simply by thinking about it, put this book down and spend your time doing that. Instead, this book is all about practical things you can do to take responsibility for your own future. Read it if you want to build something beautiful on the road to freedom. Can you transition to a meaningful life oriented toward something you love to do? Yes. Can you make money doing it? Yes, and here are the stories of people who have led the way. Is there a path you can follow for your own escape plan? Yes—here is the path. Follow it to create the freedom you crave. PART I UNEXPECTED ENTREPRENEURS [image: ] YOU ALREADY HAVE THE SKILLS YOU NEED—YOU JUST HAVE TO KNOW WHERE TO LOOK. “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” —MAYA ANGELOU On the Monday morning of May 4, 2009, Michael Hanna put on a Nordstrom suit with a colorful tie and headed to his office building in downtown Portland, Oregon. A twenty-five-year veteran sales professional, Michael spent his days attending meetings, pitching clients, and constantly responding to email. Arriving at work, he settled into his cubicle, reading the news and checking a few emails. One of the messages was from his boss, asking to see him later that day. The morning passed uneventfully: more emails, phone calls, and planning for a big pitch. Michael took a client out to lunch, stopping off for an espresso recharge on the way back in. He returned in time to fire off a few more replies and head to the boss’s office. Inside the office, Michael took a seat and noticed that his boss didn’t make eye contact. “After that,” he says, “everything happened in slow motion. I had heard story after story of this experience from other people, but I was always disconnected from it. I never thought it could happen to me.” His boss mentioned the downturn in the economy, the unavoidable need to lose good people, and so on. An H.R. manager appeared out of nowhere, walking Michael to his desk and handing him a cardboard box—an actual box!—to pack up his things. Michael wasn’t sure what to say, but he tried to put on a brave face for his nearby colleagues. He drove home at two-thirty, thinking about how to tell his wife, Mary Ruth, and their two children that he no longer had a job. After the shock wore off, Michael settled into an unfamiliar routine, collecting unemployment checks and hunting for job leads. The search was tough. He was highly qualified, but so were plenty of other people out pounding the pavement every day. The industry was changing, and it was far from certain that Michael could return to a well-paying job at the same level he had worked before. One day, a friend who owned a furniture store mentioned that he had a truckload of closeout mattresses and no use for them. “You could probably sell these things one at a time on Craigslist and do pretty well,” he told Michael. The idea sounded crazy, but nothing was happening on the job front. Michael figured if nothing else, he could at least sell the mattresses at cost. He called Mary Ruth: “Honey, it’s a long story, but is it OK if I buy a bunch of mattresses?” The next step was to find a location to stash the goods. Hunting around the city, Michael found a car dealership that had gone out of business recently. Times were hard in the real estate business too, so when Michael called the landlord to see if he could set up shop inside the old showroom, he had a deal. The first inventory went quickly through Craigslist and word of mouth, and the biggest problem was answering questions from potential customers about what kind of mattress they should buy. “I had no business plan and no knowledge of mattresses,” Michael said. “My impression of mattress stores was that they were seedy, high-pressure places. I wasn’t sure what kind of place I was trying to build, but I knew it had to be a welcoming environment where customers weren’t hassled.” After the first experience went well, Michael took the plunge and studied up on mattresses, talking to local suppliers and negotiating with the landlord to remain in the former car showroom. Mary Ruth built a website. The concept of a no-hard-sell mattress store went over well in Portland, and business grew when the store offered the industry’s first-ever mattress delivery by bicycle. (A friend built a custom tandem bike with a platform on the back that could hold a king-size mattress.) Customers who rode their own bikes to the store received free delivery, a pricing tactic that inspired loyalty and a number of fan videos uploaded to YouTube. It wasn’t what Michael had ever expected to do, but he had built a real business, profitable right from the first truckload of mattresses and providing enough money to support his family. On the two-year anniversary of his abrupt departure from corporate life, Michael was looking through his closet when he spotted the Nordstrom suit he had worn on his last day. Over the last two years, he hadn’t worn it—or any other professional dress clothes—a single time. He carried the suit out to his bike, dropped it off at Goodwill, and continued on to the mattress store. “It’s been an amazing two years since I lost my job,” he says now. “I went from corporate guy to mattress deliveryman, and I’ve never been happier.” [image: ] Across town from Michael’s accidental mattress shop, first-time entrepreneur Sarah Young was opening a yarn store around the same time. When asked why she took the plunge at the height of the economic downturn and with no experience running a business, Sarah said: “It’s not that I had no experience; I just had a different kind of experience. I wasn’t an entrepreneur before, but I was a shopper. I knew what I wanted, and it didn’t exist, so I built it.” Sarah’s yarn store, profiled further in Chapter 11, was profitable within six months and has inspired an international following. Meanwhile, elsewhere around the world, others were skipping the part about having an actual storefront, opening Internet-based businesses at almost zero startup cost. In England, Susannah Conway started teaching photography classes for fun and got the surprise of her life when she made more money than she did as a journalist. (Question: “What did you not foresee when starting up?” Answer: “I didn’t know I was starting up!”) Benny Lewis graduated from a university in Ireland with an engineering degree, but never put it to use. Instead he found a way to make a living as a “professional language hacker,” traveling the world and helping students quickly learn to speak other languages. (Question: “Is there anything else we should know about your business?” Answer: “Yes. Stop calling it a business! I’m having the time of my life.”) Welcome to the strange new world of micro-entrepreneurship. In this world, operating independently from much of the other business news you hear about, Indian bloggers make $200,000 a year. Roaming, independent publishers operate from Buenos Aires and Bangkok. Product launches from one-man or one-woman businesses bring in $100,000 in a single day, causing nervous bank managers to shut down the accounts because they don’t understand what’s happening. Oddly, many of these unusual businesses thrive by giving things away, recruiting a legion of fans and followers who support their paid work whenever it is finally offered. “My marketing plan is strategic giving,” said Megan Hunt, who makes hand-crafted dresses and wedding accessories in Omaha, Nebraska, shipping them all over the world. “Empowering others is our greatest marketing effort,” said Scott Meyer from South Dakota. “We host training sessions, give away free materials, and answer any question someone emails to us at no charge whatsoever.” [image: ] In some ways, renegade entrepreneurs who buck the system and go it alone are nothing new. Microbusinesses—businesses typically run by only one person—have been around since the beginning of commerce. Merchants roamed the streets of ancient Athens and Rome, hawking their wares. In many parts of rural Africa and Asia, much commerce still takes place through small transactions and barter. Unconventional approaches to marketing and public relations have also been around for a while. Long before it was common, a band had an idea for communicating directly with fans, bypassing the traditional structure of record labels as much as possible. The fans felt like they were part of a community instead of just a crowd of adoring listeners. Oh, and instead of relying primarily on album sales for income, the band would rely on ticket sales and merchandising at an unending series of live concerts. The example sounds like it’s happening today, but the year was 1967, and the band was the Grateful Dead. What’s new, however, is how quickly someone can start a business and reach a group of customers. The building process is much faster and cheaper today than it has ever been. Going from idea to startup can now take less than a month and cost less than $100—just ask any of the people whose stories you’ll read in this book. Commerce may have been around forever, but scale, reach, and connection have changed dramatically. The handyman who does odd jobs and repairs used to put up flyers at the grocery store; now he advertises through Google to people searching for “kitchen cabinet installation” in their city. It’s not an elitist club; it’s a middle-class, leaderless movement. All around the world, ordinary people are opting out of traditional employment and making their own way. Instead of fighting the system, they’re creating their own form of work—usually without much training, and almost always without much money. These unexpected entrepreneurs have turned their passion into profit while creating a more meaningful life for themselves. What if you could do this too? What if you could have the same freedom to set your own schedule and determine your own priorities? Good news: Freedom is possible. More good news: Freedom isn’t something to be envisioned in the vaguely distant future—the future is now. The $100 Startup Model I’ve been hearing stories about unconventional businesses for at least a decade, even as I’ve been operating a series of them myself. Through my work as a writer and entrepreneur, I had access to a wide circle of microbusiness case studies: profitable businesses typically run solely by one person without much in the way of startup capital. In preparing for a comprehensive study, I began by checking with many of my friends and colleagues, but I didn’t stop there. In 2010 I produced a series of workshops on low-budget business ideas with Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation. The first time we announced a workshop, it sold out in ninety minutes. We then offered spots in another workshop that wouldn’t be held for several months, and it sold out before lunchtime. Since it was clear we had found a demand for this information, I dug deeper. While hosting the workshops, I became interested in the “follow-your-passion” model—the idea that successful small businesses are often built on the pursuit of a personal hobby or interest. I conducted interviews with entrepreneurs all over the world and documented their stories for an online course called the Empire Building Kit. The course was the inspiration for launching the project on a wider scale and then for writing this book. I had a number of case studies in mind at the outset, but in preparation for writing the book, I cast the net much wider. I drew respondents from online and offline, collecting data through a Google form that grew to thousands of data points. As I traveled to sixty-three cities in North America on a book tour, I kept meeting and hearing about more unconventional, accidental entrepreneurs. When I finally closed the nomination process, I had more than 1,500 respondents to choose from. All of the respondents met at least four of the following six criteria: • Follow-your-passion model. Many people are interested in building a business that is based on a hobby or activity they are especially enthusiastic about. As we’ll see, not every passion leads to big bank deposits, but some certainly do. • Low startup cost. I was interested in businesses that required less than $1,000 in startup capital, especially those that cost almost nothing (less than $100) to begin. • At least $50,000 a year in net income. I wanted profitable businesses that earned at least as much as the average North American income. As we go along, you’ll notice that the range varies considerably, with many businesses earning healthy six-figure incomes or higher, but a baseline profitability level of at least $50,000 a year was required. • No special skills. Since we were looking at ordinary people who created a successful business, I had a bias toward businesses that anyone can operate. This point can be hard to define, but there’s a key distinction: Many businesses require specialized skills of some kind, but they are skills that can be acquired through a short period of training or independent study. You could learn to be a coffee roaster on the job, for example, but hopefully not a dentist. • Full financial disclosure. Respondents for the study agreed to disclose their income projection for the current year and actual income for at least the previous two years. Furthermore, they had to be willing to discuss income and expenses in specific terms. • Fewer than five employees. For the most part, I was interested in unexpected or accidental entrepreneurs who deliberately chose to remain small. Many of the case studies are from businesses operated strictly by one person, which closely relates to the goal of personal freedom that so many respondents identified. I excluded businesses that were in “adult” or quasi-legal markets, and in most cases also excluded businesses that were highly technical or required special skills to operate. The baseline test was, “Could you explain what you do to your grandmother, and would you be willing to?” Next, I wanted to look at businesses started by people all over the world. About half of our stories come from the United States, and half come from the rest of the world. From Silicon Valley to Atlanta, the U.S. is a hub for entrepreneurship, both in terms of values and ease of startup. But as we’ll see, people from all over the world are creating their own microbusinesses, sometimes following the U.S. model and other times doing it independently. Finally, in making the last selections for the studies presented here, I had a bias toward “interesting” stories. Not every business needs to be sexy or trendworthy—in fact, many of the ones here aren’t—but I liked stories that highlighted originality and creativity. Two years ago in Minneapolis, Lisa Sellman attracted my attention by telling me about her dog care business. At first, I didn’t think much of it. How profitable could a dog care business be? But then Lisa told me how much money she made: $88,000 the previous year and on track to clear six figures the next. All of a sudden I was interested. How did Lisa do it … and what lessons could we learn from her? Each case study subject completed several detailed surveys about his or her business, including financial data and demographics, in addition to dozens of open-ended questions. The group surveys were followed up with further individual questions in hundreds of emails, phone calls, Skype video calls, and in-person meetings in fifteen cities around the world. My goal was to create a narrative by finding common themes among a diverse group. The collected data would be enough for several thick books by itself, but I’ve tried to present only the most important information here. You can learn more about the methodology for the study, including survey data and specific interviews, at 100startup.com. [image: ] In other studies, books, and media coverage, two kinds of business models get most of the attention. Business model number one is old-school: An inventor gets an idea and persuades the bank to lend her money for a growing operation, or a company spins off a division to create another company. Most corporations traded on the stock market fit this category. Business model number two is the investment-driven startup, which is typically focused on venture capital, buyouts, advertising, and market share. The business is initiated by a founder or small group of partners, but often run by a management team, reporting to a board of directors who seek to increase the business’s valuation with the goal of “going public” or being acquired. Each of the older models has strengths, weaknesses, and various other characteristics. In both of them, there is no shortage of success and failure stories. But these models and their stories are not our concern here. While business models number one and number two have been getting all the attention, something else has been happening quietly—something completely different. Our story is about people who start their own microbusinesses without investment, without employees, and often without much of an idea of what they’re doing. They almost never have a formal business plan, and they often don’t have a plan at all besides “Try this out and see what happens.” More often than not, the business launches quickly, without waiting for permission from a board or manager. Market testing happens on the fly. “Are customers buying?” If the answer is yes, good. If no, what can we do differently? Like Michael’s progression from corporate guy to mattress bicyclist, many of our case studies started businesses accidentally after experiencing a hardship such as losing a job. In Massachusetts, Jessica Reagan Salzman’s husband called from work to say he was coming home early—and he wouldn’t be going back to the office the next day. The unexpected layoff catapulted Jessica, new mother to a three-week-old, into action. Her part-time bookkeeping “hobby” became the family’s full-time income. In Pennsylvania, Tara Gentile started her business with the goal of being able to work from home while caring for her children; the business grew so quickly that her husband ended up staying home too. Across the Atlantic, David Henzell was a director for the largest advertising agency outside London. He left in part because he was bored with the work, and in part because of a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome that left him struggling with “chronic director responsibilities.” In his new company, Lightbulb Design, he makes the rules. “For a while the illness managed me,” he said, “but now I manage it. Lightbulb started as a way for me to make a living on my terms. It’s still on my terms, but now we are kicking ass!” The people we’ll meet vary considerably in the ways they chose to structure their projects. Some eventually opted for expansion, either by hiring or building teams of “virtual assistants.” Erica Cosminsky grew her transcription team to seventeen people at one point, but by working with contractors instead of hiring employees, she retained the freedom to keep things simple. The Tom Bihn luggage factory in Seattle grew to a seven-figure operation, while remaining completely independent and turning down offers to sell its line to big-box stores. Others pursued partnerships that allowed each person to focus on what he or she was best at. Fresh out of design school and disillusioned with their entry-level jobs, Jen Adrion and Omar Noory began selling custom-made maps out of an apartment in Columbus, Ohio. Patrick McCrann and Rich Strauss were competitors who teamed up to create a community for endurance athletes. Several of our stories are about married couples or partners building a business together. But many others chose to go it alone, with the conviction that they would find freedom by working primarily by themselves. Charlie Pabst was a successful architect with a “dream job” as a store designer for Starbucks. But the desire for autonomy overcame the comfort of the dream job and the free lattes: “One day I drove to work and realized I couldn’t do it anymore, called in sick, drafted my two-week notice, and the rest is history.” Charlie still works as a designer, but now he works from home for clients of his choosing. We’ll view these stories as an ensemble: a group of individual voices that, when considered together, comprise an original composition. In sharing how different people have set themselves free from corporate misery, the challenge is to acknowledge their courage without exaggerating their skills. Most of them aren’t geniuses or natural-born entrepreneurs; they are ordinary people who made a few key decisions that changed their lives. Very few of our case studies went to business school, and more than half had no previous business experience whatsoever. Several dropped out of college, and others never went in the first place.* In sharing these stories, the goal is to provide a blueprint for freedom, a plan you can use to apply their lessons to your own escape plan. Throughout the case studies, three lessons of micro-entrepreneurship emerge. We’ll focus on these lessons in various ways throughout the book. Lesson 1: Convergence As we’ll examine it, convergence represents the intersection between something you especially like to do or are good at doing (preferably both) and what other people are also interested in. The easiest way to understand convergence is to think of it as the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on. Consider these circles: [image: ] Not everything that you are passionate about or skilled in is interesting to the rest of the world, and not everything is marketable. I can be very passionate about eating pizza, but no one is going to pay me to do it. Likewise, any individual person won’t be able to provide a solution to every problem or be interesting to everyone. But in the overlap between the two circles, where passion or skill meets usefulness, a microbusiness built on freedom and value can thrive. Lesson 2: Skill Transformation Many of the projects we’ll examine were started by people with related skills, not necessarily the skill most used in the project. For example, teachers are usually good at more than just teaching; they’re also good at things such as communication, adaptability, crowd control, lesson planning, and coordinating among different interest groups (children, parents, administrators, colleagues). Teaching is a noble career on its own, but these skills can also be put to good use in building a business. The easiest way to understand skill transformation is to realize that you’re probably good at more than one thing. Originally from Germany, Kat Alder was waitressing in London when someone said to her, “You know, you’d be really good at PR.” Kat didn’t know anything about PR—she wasn’t even sure it stood for “public relations”—but she knew she was a good waitress, always getting good tips and making her customers happy by recommending items from the menu that she was sure they would like. After she was let go from another temporary job at the BBC, she thought back on the conversation. She still didn’t know much about the PR industry, but she landed her first client within a month and figured it out. Four years later, her firm employs five people and operates in London, Berlin, New York, and China. Kat was a great waitress and learned to apply similar “people skills” to publicizing her clients, creating a business that was more profitable, sustainable, and fun than working for someone else and endlessly repeating the list of daily specials. Contrary to conventional wisdom, success in entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily related to being the best at any particular activity. Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic series, explains his success this way: I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The “Dilbert” comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That’s how value is created.† To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills. Lesson 3: The Magic Formula Bringing the first two ideas together, here is the not-so-secret recipe for microbusiness alchemy: Passion or skill + usefulness = success Throughout the book, we’ll examine case studies by referring to this formula. Jaden Hair forged a career as the host of Steamy Kitchen, a cooking show and website featuring Asian cuisine. From an initial investment of $200, cookbooks, TV offers, and corporate sponsorship have all come her way due to the merging of passion and usefulness. The recipes Jaden shares with a large community on a daily basis are easy, healthy, and very popular—when I met her at an event she was hosting in Austin, I could barely get through the throngs of admirers to say hi. (Read more of Jaden’s story in Chapter 2.) Elsewhere, Brandon Pearce was a piano teacher struggling to keep up with the administrative side of his work. A programming hobbyist, he created software to help track his students, scheduling, and payment. “I did the whole project with no intention of making it into a business,” he said. “But then other teachers started showing interest, and I thought maybe I could make a few extra bucks with it.” The few extra bucks turned into a full-time income and more, with current income in excess of $30,000 a month. A native of Utah, Brandon now lives with his family at their second home in Costa Rica when they aren’t exploring the rest of the world. (Read more of Brandon’s story in Chapter 4.) The Road Ahead: What We’ll Learn In the quest for freedom, we’ll look at the nuts and bolts of building a microbusiness through the lens of those who have done it. The basics of starting a business are very simple; you don’t need an MBA (keep the $60,000 tuition), venture capital, or even a detailed plan. You just need a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. This can be broken down as follows: 1. Product or service: what you sell 2. People willing to pay for it: your customers 3. A way to get paid: how you’ll exchange a product or service for money If you have a group of interested people but nothing to sell, you don’t have a business. If you have something to sell but no one willing to buy it, you don’t have a business. In both cases, without a clear and easy way for customers to pay for what you offer, you don’t have a business. Put the three together, and congratulations—you’re now an entrepreneur. These are the bare bones of any project; there’s no need to overcomplicate things. But to look at it more closely, it helps to have an offer: a combination of product or service plus the messaging that makes a case to potential buyers. The initial work can be a challenge, but after the typical business gets going, you can usually take a number of steps to ramp up sales and income—if you want to. It helps to have a strategy of building interest and attracting attention, described here as hustling. Instead of just popping up one day with an offer, it helps to craft a launch event to get buyers excited ahead of time. We’ll look at each of these concepts in precise detail, down to dollars-and-cents figures from those who have gone before. The goal is to explain what people have done that works and closely examine how it can be replicated elsewhere. The lessons and case studies illustrate a business-creation method that has worked many times over: Build something that people want and give it to them. There’s no failproof method; in fact, failure is often the best teacher. Along the way, we’ll meet an artist whose studio collapsed underneath him as he stood on the roof, frantically shoveling snow. We’ll see how an adventure travel provider recovered after hearing that the South Pacific island they were taking guests to the next morning was no longer receiving visitors. Sometimes the challenge comes from too much business instead of too little: In Chicago, we’ll see what happens when a business struggles under the weight of an unexpected two thousand new customers in a single day. We’ll study how these and other brave entrepreneurs forged ahead and kept going, turning potential disasters into long-term successes. [image: ] The constant themes in our study are freedom and value, but the undercurrent to both is the theme of change. From his home base in Seattle, James Kirk used to build and manage computer data centers around the country. But in an act of conviction that took less than six months from idea to execution, he packed up a 2006 Mustang and left Seattle for South Carolina, on a mission to start an authentic coffee shop in the land of biscuits and iced tea. Once he made the decision, he says, all other options were closed: “There was one moment very early on when I realized, this is what I want to do, and this is what I am going to do. And that was that. Decision made. I’ll figure the rest out.” As we’ll see, James later got serious about making a real plan, but the more important step was the decision to proceed. Ready or not, he was heading for a major change, and it couldn’t come soon enough. A few short months later, Jamestown Coffee opened for business in Lexington, South Carolina. James and his new staff had worked ten-hour days for several weeks to prepare for the opening. But there it was: a ribbon to be cut, the mayor on hand to welcome the business to the community, and a line of customers eager to sample the wares. The day had come at last, and there was no looking back. KEY POINTS [image: ] Microbusinesses aren’t new; they’ve been around since the beginning of commerce. What’s changed, however, is the ability to test, launch, and scale your project quickly and on the cheap. [image: ] To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional. [image: ] If you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at other things too. Many projects begin through a process of “skill transformation,” in which you apply your knowledge to a related topic. [image: ] Most important: merge your passion and skill with something that is useful to other people. *Jeremy Brown attended two years of technical school but left without graduating. After he founded a successful company, the school invited him back to speak to students as a “success story,” not realizing that his success had come from leaving the program to go out on his own. “The speech was a little awkward,” he says, “but the students liked it.” †Scott Adams, “How to Get a Real Education at College,” The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2011. [image: ] HOW TO PUT HAPPINESS IN A BOX AND SELL IT. “Catch a man a fish, and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.” —KARL MARX Along with some of the other stories mentioned briefly in Chapter 1, we’ll return to the Jamestown Coffee Company as we go along. But first, let’s consider a key principle of building your way to freedom through a microbusiness based on a skill, hobby, or passion. The hard way to start a business is to fumble along, uncertain whether your big idea will resonate with customers. The easy way is to find out what people want and then find a way to give it to them. Another way to consider it is to think about fish. Picture this scenario: It’s Friday night, and you head out to a nice restaurant after a long week of work. While you’re relaxing over a glass of wine, the waiter comes over and informs you of the special. “We have a delicious salmon risotto tonight,” he says. “That sounds perfect,” you think, so you order the dish. The waiter jots it down and heads back toward the kitchen as you continue your wine and conversation. So far, so good, right? But then the chef comes out and walks over to your table. “I understand you’ve ordered the salmon risotto,” she says as you nod in affirmation. “Well, risotto is a bit tricky, and it’s important we get the salmon right, too … Have you ever made it before?” Before you can respond, the chef turns around. “Tell you what, I’ll go ahead and get the olive oil started.… You wash up and meet me back in the kitchen.” I’m guessing this experience has never happened to you, and I’m also guessing that you probably wouldn’t enjoy it if it did. After getting past the initial surprise (Does the chef really want me to come back into the kitchen and help prepare the food?), you’d probably find it very odd. You know that the food in the restaurant costs much more than it would in the grocery store—you’re paying a big premium for atmosphere and service. If you wanted to make salmon risotto yourself, you would have done so. You didn’t go to the restaurant to learn to make a new dish; you went to relax and have people do everything for you. What does this scenario have to do with starting a microbusiness and plotting a course toward freedom? Here’s the problem: Many businesses are modeled on the idea that customers should come back to the kitchen and make their own dinner. Instead of giving people what they really want, the business owners have the idea that it’s better to involve customers behind the scenes … because that’s what they think customers want. It’s all the fault of the old saying: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” This might be a good idea for hungry fishermen, but it’s usually a terrible idea in business. Most customers don’t want to learn how to fish. We work all week and go to the restaurant so that someone can take care of everything for us. We don’t need to know the details of what goes on in the kitchen; in fact, we may not even want to know the details. A better way is to give people what they actually want, and the way to do that lies in understanding something very simple about who we are. Get this point right, and a lot of other things become much easier. [image: ] For fifteen years, John and Barbara Varian were furniture builders, living on a ranch in Parkfield, California, a tiny town where the welcome sign reads “Population 18.” The idea for a side business came about by accident after a group of horseback riding enthusiasts asked if they could pay a fee to ride on the ranch. They would need to eat, too—could John and Barbara do something about that? Yes, they could. In the fall of 2006, a devastating fire burned down most of their inventory, causing them to reevaluate the whole operation. Instead of rebuilding the furniture business (no pun intended), they decided to change course. “We had always loved horses,” Barbara said, “so we decided to see about having more groups pay to come to the ranch.” They built a bunkhouse and upgraded other buildings, putting together specific packages for riding groups that included all meals and activities. John and Barbara reopened as the V6 Ranch, situated on 20,000 acres exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Barbara’s story stood out to me because of something she said. I always ask business owners what they sell and why their customers buy from them, and the answers are often insightful in more ways than one. Many people answer the question directly—“We sell widgets, and people buy them because they need a widget”—but once in a while, I hear a more astute response. “We’re not selling horse rides,” Barbara said emphatically. “We’re offering freedom. Our work helps our guests escape, even if just for a moment in time, and be someone they may have never even considered before.” The difference is crucial. Most people who visit the V6 Ranch have day jobs and a limited number of vacation days. Why do they choose to visit a working ranch in a tiny town instead of jetting off to lie on a beach in Hawaii? The answer lies in the story and messaging behind John and Barbara’s offer. Helping their clients “escape and be someone else” is far more valuable than offering horse rides. Above all else, the V6 Ranch is selling happiness. [image: ] On the other side of the country, Kelly Newsome was a straight-A student and an ambitious Washington, D.C., career climber. By the time she started college, she already had the goal of big career achievement in mind. From the top of her class at the University of Virginia School of Law, she went on to a high-paying job as a Manhattan lawyer—her dream for more than six years. Alas, Kelly soon discovered that dutifully checking the company’s filings for compliance with the Securities Act day in and day out wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for back in law school. After the high of scoring her dream job wore off and the reality of being a well-paid paper pusher set in, Kelly wanted a change. Abandoning her $240,000-a-year corporate law gig five years in, Kelly left for a new position at Human Rights Watch, the international charity. This job was more fulfilling than the moneymaking job, but it also helped her realize that she really wanted to be on her own. Before the next change, Kelly took time off and traveled the world. Yoga had always been a passion for her, and during her time away, she underwent a two-hundred-hour training course, followed by teaching in Asia and Europe. The next step was Higher Ground Yoga, a private practice she founded back in Washington, D.C. There were plenty of yoga studios in D.C., but Kelly wanted to focus on a specific market: busy women, usually executives, ages thirty to forty-five and often with young children or expecting. In less than a year, Kelly built the business to the $50,000+ level, and she’s now on track for more than $85,000 a year. The practice has its weaknesses—during a big East Coast “snowpocalypse,” Kelly was unable to drive to her appointments for nearly three weeks, losing income for much of that time. Despite the lower salary and the problem of losing business during bad weather, Kelly says she wouldn’t return to her old career. Here’s how she put it: “One time when I was a lawyer, having just worked with an outstanding massage therapist, I said to her, ‘It must be so great to make people so happy.’ And it is.” Like Barbara and John in California, Kelly discovered that the secret to a meaningful new career was directly related to making people feel good about themselves. Where Do Ideas Come From? As you begin to think like an entrepreneur, you’ll notice that business ideas can come from anywhere. When you go to the store, pay attention to the way they display the signage. Check the prices on restaurant menus not just for your own budget but also to compare them with the prices at other places. When you see an ad, ask yourself: What is the most important message the company is trying to communicate? While thinking like this, you’ll notice opportunities for microbusiness projects everywhere you go. Here are a few common sources of inspiration. An inefficiency in the marketplace. Ever notice when something isn’t run the way it should be, or you find yourself looking for something that doesn’t exist? Chances are, you’re not the only one frustrated, and you’re not the only one who wants that nonexistent thing. Make what you want to buy yourself, and other people will probably want it too. New technology or opportunity. When everyone started using smart phones, new markets cropped up for app developers, case manufacturers, and so on. But the obvious answer isn’t the only one: Makers of nice journals and paper notebooks also saw an uptick in sales, perhaps in part because of customers who didn’t want everything in their lives to be electronic. A changing space. As we saw with Michael’s example in Chapter 1, car dealerships were going out of business, and he was able to rent his first temporary mattress space on the cheap. Not everyone would have thought of locating a mattress shop in a former car dealership, but Michael grabbed the opportunity. A spin-off or side project. One business idea can lead to many others. Whenever something is going well, think about offshoots, spin-offs, and side projects that could also bring in income. Brandon Pearce, whom we’ll see more of in Chapter 4, founded Studio Helper as a side project to his main business of Music Teacher’s Helper. It now brings in more than $100,000 a year on its own. Tip: When thinking about different business ideas, also think about money. Get in the habit of equating “money stuff” with ideas. When brainstorming and evaluating different projects, money isn’t the sole consideration—but it’s an important one. Ask three questions for every idea: a. How would I get paid with this idea? b. How much would I get paid from this idea? c. Is there a way I could get paid more than once? We’ll look at money issues more in Chapters 10 and 11. What Is Value? The stories of the V6 Ranch and Higher Ground Yoga are good examples of how freedom and value are related. In California, John and Barbara found a way to pursue the outdoor lives they wanted by inviting guests to make the ranch their escape. Meanwhile, even though Kelly makes less money (at least for now) in her new career, her health is better and she does work she enjoys—a trade-off she was happy to make. Freedom was Kelly’s primary motivation in making the switch, but the key to her success is the value she provides her clients. Let’s stop for a moment and look at the concept of value, a word that is often used without much exploration. What is value, exactly? Here’s a basic definition: val-ue: something desirable and of worth, created through exchange or effort In our context, an even easier way to think about it is: Value means helping people. If you’re trying to build a microbusiness and you begin your efforts by helping people, you’re on the right track. When you get stuck, ask yourself: How can I give more value? Or more simply: How can I help my customers more? Freedom and value have a direct relationship: You can pursue freedom for yourself while providing value for others. As we saw in the discussion of convergence, a business ultimately succeeds because of the value it provides its end users, customers, or clients. More than anything else, value relates to emotional needs. Many business owners talk about their work in terms of the features it offers, but it’s much more powerful to talk about the benefits customers receive. A feature is descriptive; a benefit is emotional. Consider the difference in the stories we’ve looked at in the chapter thus far. The V6 Ranch helps people “escape and be someone new.” Isn’t that more powerful than just offering a horse ride? Kelly’s private classes help busy female executives prepare for their day in a quiet setting, a much more meaningful and tailor-made experience than going to the gym with hundreds of other people. We can apply the same thinking to the examples we briefly reviewed in Chapter 1. At its most basic level, we could say that Jaden Hair (founder of Steamy Kitchen) offers recipes on her website, but plenty of websites have recipes. A much stronger benefit, and the one that Jaden puts forward, is that her work helps families spend quality time making and enjoying delicious food. Similarly, Megan Hunt makes dresses, but that’s not the point: She also helps brides share in the anticipation, celebration, and memories of a perfect day. Who wouldn’t pay for that? The list below provides a contrast between features and benefits.* [image: ] This kind of analysis applies even to businesses that you might think of as boring or commodity-based. Michael Hanna (the mattress guy) talked with me about selling a mattress to a family with an infant and then seeing them return two years later with their three-year-old, who now needed to upgrade to her first bed. This kind of story, which Michael tries to communicate frequently, is much more interesting than talking about box springs or mattress ratings. Overall, the more a business can focus on core benefits instead of boring features, the more customers will connect … and purchase. As you think about how to apply the $100 Startup model to your own quest for freedom, these three strategies will help. Strategy 1: Dig Deeper to Uncover Hidden Needs You might think it’s obvious that restaurant patrons don’t want to wander back to the kitchen and make their own meals, but sometimes what people say they want and what they actually want are different things. Kyle Hepp, a wedding photographer who travels the world from her home base in Santiago, Chile, learned that sometimes you have to look deeper. Kyle’s clients tend to be young and hip, and they’re drawn to her work because it is non-traditional. Sometimes they even say they don’t want any traditional wedding shots. “We’re not into old-school,” was how one couple put it. Kyle agrees and spends her time at the wedding getting fun, candid shots that she knows the couple will like. But that’s not all. Having done this for a while, Kyle knows that what her clients want and what they say they want may be different—and she also knows that the families of the bride and groom may have preferences of their own. Here’s how she handles these competing desires: On the day of the wedding, I’ll grab them and say, “Let’s get your family and just do a couple of traditional shots.” I’ll make it quick and painless. I make sure everyone is laughing and having a good time and it’s not those awful, everybody-stare-at-the-camera-and-look-miserable kinds of shots. And then after the wedding, when I deliver those photos, either the bride and groom’s parents will be thrilled to have those pictures (which in turn makes the couple happy), or the bride and groom themselves will end up saying they’re so happy that we did those shots. Kyle goes above and beyond by giving her photography clients what they really want … even if they hadn’t realized it themselves. Strategy 2: Make Your Customer a Hero In India I heard from Purna Duggirala, who said that he operates a training business to “help people become awesome at Microsoft Excel.” Microsoft Excel doesn’t interest me much, but Purna’s financial details caught my attention: In the “Last Year’s Net Income” column on my survey form, he had written $136,000. A salary like that is impressive where I live, but I’ve traveled enough to know that in India it’s huge. What’s more, Purna was on track to earn more than $200,000 the next year, his third year of operation. His customers were big fans. When I Googled him, I found a comment that said he was one user’s “BFF for Excel,” his best friend forever. What was he doing to attract such a response from spreadsheet users? Purna started his website several years back, but for a while it only contained posts about his family and life in India. In 2009, he settled in and got more serious, chronicling a series of tips and tutorials about using Excel to become more productive. Crucially, he didn’t target Indians, but instead reached out to interested prospects all over the world. He also didn’t depend on advertising revenue, something that very few people in our study mentioned. Instead, he created products and services himself, offering downloadable guides and an ongoing training school. He was also a good copywriter. Updating spreadsheets can sound like incredibly tedious work, but Purna positioned the core benefit away from numbers and toward something far more powerful: “Our training programs make customers a hero in front of their bosses or colleagues.” Not only would their work become easier, Purna said, but other people would recognize and appreciate them for simplifying a complicated process. A former business analyst, Purna quit his job when it became apparent that he would earn much more money with the new business. Despite having such a high income in India, Purna and his wife continue to live frugally. “We are in a position where we would not have to worry about money for lots of years to come,” he says. Even better, new customers arrive every day from Google searches, mainstream media coverage, and hundreds of links. “If I wanted to turn it off,” he told me, “it would be very difficult.” Take it from Purna: If spreadsheets can be made sexy, surely any business can find a way to communicate a similar message. Strategy 3: Sell What People Buy In deciding what to sell, the best approach is to sell what people buy—in other words, think more about what people really want than about what you think they need. Perhaps a story of my own failure-to-success progression will help illustrate this principle. Early in the life of my business, I created a project called Travel Ninja. Since I’ve been to more than 150 countries and regularly fly more than 200,000 miles a year, I’ve learned a lot about getting from place to place on a budget. Travel Ninja would be a guide to illustrate how it all works—how to book round-the-world tickets, how to take advantage of airline mistake fares, and so on. As I surveyed my audience, the initial response was encouraging. Plenty of people said they were excited and wanted to learn about these topics. A previous launch for another product had sold five hundred copies right off the bat, so on the big day I dutifully got up early and updated the site to make it live. Then I waited … and waited. Orders came in, but at a much slower rate than I expected. At the end of the launch day, I had sold only a hundred copies—not terrible, but not great either. For several weeks, I was puzzled by the low response. The feedback from the customers who purchased Travel Ninja was almost unanimously positive, but so few people had purchased that I knew something was wrong with the messaging. Finally I figured it out: Most people don’t care about the intricacies of how airlines work; they just want to know how to get cheap tickets. My prospects who didn’t buy felt overwhelmed by the details and complexities. Like the overeager chef at the beginning of the chapter, I was trying to take them into the kitchen with me, not just giving them the meal they wanted. Ah-ha. Lesson learned. I regrouped a year later with another travel product. This one was called Frequent Flyer Master, and I did everything I could to make it more accessible. I even used the previous experience as part of the sales copy: “Maybe you don’t want to travel to twenty countries a year like I do. But if you could go to one place for nearly free, where would it be?” This product did much better, selling five hundred copies on launch day and going on to produce more than $50,000 in net income over the next year. The success was also quite a relief, because for almost a year I had wondered whether people would buy information about travel. Thankfully, they will—if it’s packaged properly in a way that meets their needs. Another year later, I applied the lesson even further: The most frequent request from Frequent Flyer Master owners, who otherwise loved the product, was for more updates on late-breaking travel opportunities. With that in mind, I created the Travel Hacking Cartel to tell people exactly what to do to take advantage of deals all over the world. The careful message this time was: Don’t worry about the details; just do what we say and you’ll regularly earn enough miles for free plane tickets every year. This launch did the best of all—more than three thousand customers joined on the first day. I had finally figured out how to give my customers what they wanted. Product 1: Product 2: Product 3: Travel Ninja Frequent Flyer Master Travel Hacking Cartel 100 Sales 500 Sales 3,000 Sales Six Steps to Getting Started Right Now As we saw from the stories in Chapter 1, you don’t need a lot of money or special training to operate a business. You just need a product or service, a group of people who want to buy it, and a way to get paid. We’ll look at each of these things in more detail throughout the book, but you don’t have to wait to get started. Here are the six steps you need to take: 1. Decide on your product or service. 2. Set up a website, even a very basic one (you can get a free one from WordPress.org). 3. Develop an offer (an offer is distinct from a product or service; see Chapter 7 for help). 4. Ensure you have a way to get paid (get a free PayPal account to start). 5. Announce your offer to the world (see Chapter 9 for more on this). 6. Learn from steps 1 through 5, then repeat. Almost all microbusiness building follows this sequence of events. Of course, we’ll be discussing specifics as we go along, but it’s always better to start from where you are than to wait for everything to be perfect. If you have an existing business and are thinking about how to apply the concepts from this book, focus on either getting money in the bank or developing new products or services. These are the most important tasks of your business—not administration, maintenance, or anything else that takes time without creating wealth or value. If you’re not sure what to do, think about any of these ideas: Can you contact your customer list with a special offer or incentive? Can you introduce a new product or service to complement your existing portfolio? If you’re a coach or consultant, can you offer a special deal for clients who prepay? Is there a new way you can attract subscribers, clients, or customers? But one way or another … just do something. Friedrich Engels said: “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” Choose the ounce of action today. What People Really Want As I learned from my early mistakes, homing in on what customers really want from a business is critical. Simply put, we want more of some things and less of others. In the “More” column are things such as love, money, acceptance, and free time. We all want more of those things, right? In the “Less” column are the undesirables: things such as stress, long commutes, and bad relationships. If your business focuses on giving people more of what they want or taking away something they don’t want (or both), you’re on the right track. [image: ] A spa takes away stress while making guests feel loved and accepted. A popular message is, “We’ll do everything for you—relax and leave the details to us.” This is also the message that a good restaurant sends, not, “Come back into the kitchen and make your own dinner.” Brooke Snow, an artist and musician, struggled to make a living by teaching classes in her small Utah town. She got by without working a real job and paid for college without going into debt, which could be considered a success on its own, but making ends meet was a continual battle. One day she realized the obvious: Instead of putting up flyers in Logan, Utah, and hoping for enough phone calls, what if she could teach anywhere in the world? The change happened by accident, ironically after one of the worst days of her initial business. “I had to cancel a class due to underenrollment,” Brooke says. “At the time my husband was starting graduate school, and we had an eight-month-old baby and a new home.” Needless to say, the pressure was mounting. When she phoned Micah, one of the few students who had enrolled, to notify him of the cancellation, it turned out he was a doctoral candidate in instructional technology with an emphasis on distance education. Brooke describes herself as a good photographer and teacher but not highly technical. Happily, she is also good at bartering—and in this case, she offered private lessons to Micah in exchange for his help in setting up an online course. Since it was almost perfectly in line with what he was studying, Micah was thrilled to help Brooke make the online transition. In the last year Brooke taught all her classes locally, she made $30,000. In the first year she offered the class online, she made more than $60,000. Nice! Going from offline to online helped a lot, but Brooke also attributes the successful transition to something else: the idea of always being willing to share. Early in her career, she went to a seminar where she heard someone say, “If you make your business about helping others, you’ll always have plenty of work.” Here’s what happened next: That statement changed my life. I was in an over-saturated market of photographers competing for portrait work, all of whom were very closed about sharing any trade secrets. I let go of fear and embraced the concept of helping others (so I could have “plenty of work”!) and decided to start teaching classes on photography in my basement. One family skeptic cautioned me that I would be “training my competition.” Thankfully, making my business about helping others has proved itself over and over. We’ll return to Brooke’s theme several times throughout the book. I call it the freely receive, freely give approach. When all else fails, ask yourself how you can help people more. What do people really, really want? At the end of the day, they want to be happy, and businesses that help their customers be happy are well-positioned to succeed. The V6 Ranch creates modern cowboys. Kelly’s yoga practice helps busy executives prepare for their day in peace. The restaurant we went to at the end of a stressful week—when it’s not making its customers pop back into the kitchen—helps its patrons relax and decompress over a glass of wine and great service. Conversations with the group returned to this theme many times in different ways. The common theme was to figure out what people want and then find a way to give it to them. This is the road map to a successful, profitable business. As you build your escape plan, keep your eyes on the prize: creating real value by giving people what they really want. KEY POINTS [image: ]Value means “helping people.” Our unexpected entrepreneurs discovered that when they focused on providing value above all else, their businesses were successful. [image: ] Give people what they really want, not just what you think they should have. Give them the fish! [image: ] The more you can market a core benefit instead of a list of features, the easier it will be to profit from your idea. Core benefits usually relate to emotional needs more than physical needs. [image: ] Most people want more of some things (money, love, attention) and less of other things (stress, anxiety, debt). Always focus on what you can add or take away to improve someone’s life … and then prepare to get paid. *See the “Fish Stories” appendix at the back of the book for twenty-five more examples of how to reframe a descriptive concept as a benefit-driven story. [image: ] GET PAID TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE BY MAKING SURE IT CONNECTS TO WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT. “Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” —RALPH WALDO EMERSON Like many of us, Gary Leff begins his day with email. As a CFO for two university research centers in northern Virginia, he’s in touch with colleagues from morning to night. It’s a good job that he enjoys, and he has no plans to leave. But the “early early” morning email traffic comes from another source: Gary’s part-time business as a specific kind of consultant. Like me, Gary is an active “travel hacker,” earning hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles every year through various airline promotions. Many executives also earn plenty of miles, usually from business credit card charges, but earning miles and redeeming them for actual vacations are two different things. The executives typically have no idea how the process works and don’t have the time to learn. How many miles do you need for any specific trip? What if the airline tells you no seats are available? If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to get frustrated and give up. That’s where Gary comes in. For a fee (currently $250 for up to two passengers with the same itinerary), Gary will set up the trip of your dreams based on preferences you select. Clients tell Gary where they want to go, which airline their miles are coming from, and any restrictions they have on their travel dates. Then Gary gets to work, combing databases to check on availability, phoning the airlines, and taking advantage of every loophole. It may sound strange to pay $250 for something you could do on your own for free, but the value Gary provides through the service is immense: Many of the trips he arranges would otherwise cost $5,000 or more. He specializes in first- and business-class itineraries, and some of them feature as many as six airlines on a single award ticket. You want a free stopover in Paris en route to Johannesburg? No problem. You want to allow plenty of time to visit the Lufthansa first-class terminal in Frankfurt before continuing on to Singapore? Done. If he’s not successful in booking your trip, you don’t pay—the business succeeds only when it provides real value to clients. In addition to executives, Gary’s clients are often retirees headed for cruises and couples planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip: basically anyone who has a bunch of miles but doesn’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to use them. Business picked up after he was featured in Condé Nast Traveler, but aside from calling the airlines to book the tickets, Gary manages communications entirely by email. The part-time job brought in $75,000 last year and is on track to top six figures annually. Since he has the full-time CFO gig and other business ventures, Gary invests the money instead of spending it. “I honestly do this because it’s fun,” he says. Meanwhile, he cashes in miles from his own bulging mileage accounts to travel the world with his wife, squeezing in luxury trips to the Philippines and Thailand between financial planning meetings back home. [image: ] Gary’s business, like many others we’ll look at, can be described as a follow-your-passion business. Gary was passionate about travel and had found a number of creative ways to enjoy first-class trips around the world at economy prices. He started helping people do the same thing, first as a volunteer community member for several travel forums, then on a blog, and then on an individual basis for people he knew. Word got around—“Hey, Gary, I’d like to take my wife to Europe and I have all these miles … What do I do?”—and before he knew it, he had more requests for help than he could handle. The next logical step was to start charging. He built a very basic website and set up shop in a short period of time, not entirely sure what would happen next. Would anyone purchase this unusual service? Well, yes, they would—and even though Gary is content in his day job and has no plans to leave, he no longer depends on it. If something changed at work, he’d have no problem living off the funds from his side business or ramping it up to something bigger. Gary’s story is inspiring but not all that uncommon. As I foraged for case studies and went from interview to interview, I learned to stop being surprised when I heard that a coupon-clipping website run by a single mom brought in $60,000 part-time or that a handmade toy business was closing in on $250,000 and hiring multiple employees. Instant Consultant Biz Gary’s business is great, and no one cares that his website looks like it was made ten years ago. He also didn’t wait for someone to accredit or endorse him for his business. There is no “consulting school” or degree. You can start a new business as a consultant in about one day, if not sooner. Follow these two basic rules: 1. Pick something specific as opposed to something general. Don’t be a “business consultant” or a “life coach”—get specific about what you can really do for someone. 2. No one values a $15-an-hour consultant, so do not underprice your service. Since you probably won’t have forty hours of billable work every week, charge at least $100 an hour or a comparable fixed rate for the benefit you provide. OPENING FOR BUSINESS* I will help clients _________. After hiring me, they will receive [core benefit + secondary benefit]. I will charge $xxx per hour or a flat rate of _____ per service. This rate is fair to the client and to me. My basic website will contain these elements: a. The core benefit that I provide for clients and what qualifies me to provide it (remember that qualifications may have nothing to do with education or certifications; Gary is qualified to book vacations with miles because he’s done it for himself many times) b. At least two stories of how others have been helped by the service (if you don’t have paying clients yet, do the work for free with someone you know) c. Pricing details (always be up front about fees; never make potential clients write or call to find out how much something costs) d. How to hire me immediately (this should be very easy) I will find clients through [word-of-mouth, Google, blogging, standing on the street corner, etc.]. I will have my first client on or before ____·[short deadline]. Welcome to consulting! You’re now in business. *You can create, customize, and download your own “Instant Consultant Biz” template at 100startup.com. When I met Megan Hunt at the co-working space she owns in Omaha, it was 6 p.m. and she was just coming to work. Megan keeps odd hours, preferring to work through the night with her infant in tow. Unlike most of our stories, Megan was determined to be an entrepreneur from a young age. “I started when I was nineteen and a sophomore in college,” she said. “I never intended to do anything but work for myself. I always knew that I didn’t want a conventional job, so I never expected to resign myself to a fate other than the one I wanted as an artist. I worked a few eight-to-five desk jobs, but I wasn’t discouraged because I only saw them as the means to an end: gaining enough capital to start my own full-time venture.” Megan now makes custom wedding dresses and bridal accessories full-time, selling them to women age twenty-four to thirty all over the world (42 percent of her customer base is international). After earning $40,000 her first year, she’s now scaling up by carefully hiring two employees as well as founding the co-working space where her business is situated. (Since she’s the owner, no one can complain about her night-owl work habits.) Almost every business owner we’ll meet in our journey has at least one disaster story, when something went off track or even threatened the life of the business. In Megan’s case, the big disaster came right before the holiday season in 2010. After spending seventy hours crafting high-end flower kits for two customers, she shipped them out via the U.S. Postal Service … and the packages disappeared into the postal service void. “It was terrible,” Megan told me. “I had to refund money I didn’t have, and the worst part was thinking about the brides who now didn’t have flowers for their wedding.” But she did what she had to do—refunded money, wrote teary apology notes, posted the whole story on her blog for others to learn from—and moved on. Aside from vowing never to use USPS again, Megan loves her business and wouldn’t want to do anything differently. “I spend every day learning from people who inspire and motivate me in the co-working space,” she says, “and I interact every day with customers who are in the midst of their own love stories. I have a young daughter who I am able to bring to work. My earning potential is unlimited, and I am free to reinvest in my happiness with every dollar that comes in.” [image: ] It all sounds so simple: Pick something you love and build a business around it, the way Gary and Megan did. Cha-ching! But is it really that easy? As you might expect, the real answer is more complex. Building a business around a passion can be a great fit for many people, but not everyone. In the rush to pursue a passion, a number of things tend to get left out. First, you can’t pursue just any passion—there are plenty of things you may be passionate about that no one will pay you for. Remember the all-important lesson of convergence we’ve been looking at throughout the book. You must focus continually on how your project can help other people, and why they’ll care about what you’re offering in the first place. I like to eat pizza, but no matter how passionate I am, it’s doubtful I could craft a career around my love for mushrooms and black olives. Instead, I had to find something more interesting to the rest of the world. Sometimes a false start precedes a successful microbusiness. In Reno, Nevada, Mignon Fogarty created the QDT Network, best known for her signature show Grammar Girl. The show was a huge hit almost from the beginning, spawning a line of books, related programs, and non-stop media attention. But before she was Grammar Girl, Mignon pursued a similar idea in an unsuccessful attempt to build popularity through podcasting. Here’s how she tells the story: Before I launched the successful Grammar Girl podcast, I was the host of a science podcast called Absolute Science. I loved doing that show and I was passionate about it. I actually put more effort into promoting that show than I did for the Grammar Girl podcast, and although Absolute Science was well received, after doing it for nearly a year it was clear that the show was never going to make enough money to make it worth the time required to produce it. Mignon changed course, trading science for grammar. The answer wasn’t to abandon her passion altogether but to make sure she connected the right passion with the right audience. “Absolute Science” “Grammar Girl” Passion … but not Passion … and a enough audience substantial audience Next, many successful follow-your-passion business owners understand an important principle that aspiring (and unsuccessful) business owners don’t. The missing piece is that you usually don’t get paid for your hobby itself; you get paid for helping other people pursue the hobby or for something indirectly related to it. This point is critical. I began my writing career by sharing stories about a quest to visit every country in the world, but I don’t get paid for that. I have to create value in my business the same way anyone else does—without real value, I wouldn’t get paid, and the travel would be just a hobby (albeit a passionate one). Let’s look at another example. Benny Lewis, originally from Ireland, likes to say he gets paid to learn languages. Benny’s story is inspiring: He makes more than $65,000 a year, reports to no one, and goes from country to country immersing himself in different cultures. But as we look at the story more carefully, we find that there’s more to it. I first met Benny on a layover in Bangkok. Benny doesn’t drink, which is probably a good thing because he is quite possibly the most naturally enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. Over a couple of mango juices, he told me his story. Twenty-four years old, Benny had been traveling abroad for the past two years. As a child, he spoke only English. He graduated with an engineering degree and no known aptitude for foreign languages. Moving to Spain after graduation and consulting with clients back home, he became determined to learn Spanish. Six months into his stay in Seville, however, Benny felt frustrated with still not knowing the language, spending most of his time with a group of expatriates and Spaniards who spoke English. He decided to speak only Spanish for an entire month, with no exceptions. At first it was awkward and embarrassing; he didn’t know how to conjugate verbs, so he just used the present tense and wildly waved his arms behind him to indicate that something had already happened. But the funny thing about using only another language is that you learn it much more quickly than when you rely on English as a backup. Within a few weeks, Benny was speaking comfortably. The month-long immersion was much better than the six months before it, and he was now hooked on learning other languages. He moved to Berlin and learned German, then to Paris to learn French, and then to Prague to learn Czech, a notoriously difficult language. Putting his engineering career on hold, Benny started traveling and never stopped, working at short-term consulting jobs to pay the bills wherever he could. With his non-stop energy, he got up in the middle of the night for conference calls in North America. Being single (and not drinking) made it easy to live on a small amount of money, but it was obvious that Benny had a great skill to share with the world. His message to everyone who would listen—by this point the whole bar of expats had heard about it—was that anyone can learn another language even if you think you aren’t “gifted” or spoke only one language as a child. Benny’s method was based on proven success. Within two years, he had learned seven languages (fluently!), and regularly tested himself with native speakers he met while traveling. Once in a while, he tutored someone in language learning, but the approach was scattershot. “Benny, your skill is amazing,” I said when I met him that night in Bangkok. “Why don’t you get more serious about teaching this method to more people?” (To be fair, I can’t take much credit for pushing him. Benny had been thinking about the idea for a while, and many other people had gathered around the bar at that point, encouraging him.) He toyed with a few different names for the idea before hitting on the perfect one: Fluent in 3 Months. Everyone raised a bottle of beer in approval while Benny sipped his juice. Just as soon as he learned Thai (his eighth language), he would get to work outlining everything he knew about language hacking. The vision was solid, but the work was tough. Benny struggled with fitting everything he knew into a collection of documents, videos, and interviews. He kept waiting for it to be perfect … and then he kept waiting. “I finally just had to give up on perfection and get the thing out the door,” he said later. The course is now available in eight languages—all taught by Benny himself, naturally. To market Fluent in 3 Months, Benny made YouTube videos giving a tour of his apartment in five languages (including different dialects). He stood on street corners in various countries and sang in the national language, dressing up in native costume and offering free hugs. When I ran into him next in Texas, he was wearing a set of goggles on top of a hat. “Uh, what’s with the goggles?” I asked. His answer was typical: “I wear them when I travel so people will ask, ‘Why are you wearing those?’ Then I have an easy way to get to know them and try to learn their language.” Benny says he gets paid for learning languages, but as you can see, there’s more to the story: He actually gets paid for helping people. True, the inspirational side is important (people enjoy watching and sharing his videos), but without the helpfulness, he would just be the sober Irishman who speaks a lot of languages and there would be no business model. Along with first understanding that not every passion makes a good business and then realizing that businesses and hobbies are often distinct, there’s one more important point: You may just not want to combine your hobby with your work. If the hobby or passion serves as an important stress reliever from your day job or other commitments, are you sure you want to assume full-time responsibility for your hobby? Some people find that it’s better to keep their passion separate from their work. Review the Reality Check Checklist below to see if a follow-your-passion business is a good idea for you. Benjamin Franklin, an old-school entrepreneur, put it this way: “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” Reality Check Checklist Questions for You [image: ] Instead of just during your free time, would you enjoy pursuing your hobby at least twenty hours a week? [image: ] Do you enjoy teaching others to practice the same hobby? [image: ] Do you like the ins and outs (all the details) of your hobby? [image: ] If you had to do a fair amount of administrative work related to your hobby, would you still enjoy it? Questions for the Marketplace [image: ] Have other people asked for your help? [image: ] Are enough other people willing to pay to gain or otherwise benefit from your expertise? [image: ] Are there other businesses serving this market (usually a good thing) but not in the same way you would? Note: Chapter 6 looks at market testing in more detail. If you’re not sure how to answer the marketplace questions, stay tuned. When I asked our group of unexpected entrepreneurs about the follow-your-passion model, I frequently heard a nuanced answer. Almost no one said, “Yes! You should always follow your passion wherever it leads.” Similarly, almost no one dismissed the idea out of hand. The nuance comes from the idea that passion plus good business sense creates an actual business. To understand how passion can sometimes translate into a profitable business, look at the chart on this page. In addition to passion, you must develop a skill that provides a solution to a problem. Only when passion merges with a skill that other people value can you truly follow your passion to the bank. [image: ] Another way to think about it is (Passion + skill) → (problem + marketplace) = opportunity Although it is important, passion is just one part of the equation. If Gary’s skill at booking award tickets suddenly disappeared, it wouldn’t matter how passionate he is about travel. No matter how passionate Megan is about her dresses, if a willing marketplace didn’t exist that is eager to buy them, she couldn’t be in business. The next step is to transfer your passion into a business model. Everyone we’ve met thus far has used a slightly different business model to monetize his or her project, so let’s look at how each of these four examples cashed in. Gary is paid through a set fee (currently $250) for his specialized consulting service. Benny sells a direct product (language hacking guide) for a fixed price from his website. Megan also sells a direct product (custom dresses and wedding accessories), but her pricing is variable. Mignon provides her popular podcast service for free to listeners, underwritten by advertising and sponsorship. Each model has specific strengths and disadvantages. Gary makes $250 at a time … but then has to “earn” the fee by arranging someone’s travel. Benny sells his guide for just $29 … but the process is automated and he doesn’t have to do anything after the money comes in. Megan sells a variety of products (and also owns the co-working space), so her income is diversified … but the main project of making wedding dresses is labor-intensive. Mignon’s sponsors provide reliable, regular income … but she loses a certain amount of control by introducing advertising in her communication to the audience. Despite the differences, the core goal for each of these approaches is finding the right kind of product or service for the right group of people. Without the right fit, none of the projects would be successful. But when you find the formula, there’s no denying that a business built on the right kind of passion can be highly successful. In Venice, California, Gabriella Redding built a million-dollar hula-hoop business after losing weight through hooping. Before that she was a tattoo artist and then a restaurant owner. “I’m an artist,” she told Forbes magazine. “Artists are serial entrepreneurs because we have to figure out ways to sell our work. It’s either that or you become a starving artist, and I’m not a starving artist.” Compared with working just to make a living, it’s much easier to do what you love and get paid for it. You just have to find the right passion, the right audience, and the right business model. KEY POINTS [image: ] As in the examples of Gary and Benny, good businesses provide solutions to problems: “What do I do with all these extra frequent flyer miles?” “How can I easily learn a new language?” [image: ] Many follow-your-passion businesses are built on something indirectly related, not the passion or hobby itself. When considering an opportunity, ask: “Where is the business model?” [image: ] Not every passion or hobby is worth building into a business, and not everyone will want to have a business that is based on a passion or hobby. [image: ] You can establish a specialized consulting business in one day—the more specific, the better. [image: ] “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION” IS OVERRATED. “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” —JOHN LE CARRÉ Packing a carry-on bag with running shoes and two changes of clothes, I head out into the world via a short connection from Portland to Vancouver International Airport. Later that evening, the twelve-hour Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong gives me two hours to watch a movie, six hours to sleep, and four hours to write emails. Arriving in Asia, I clear immigration (no bags to claim), check my wallet to see if I still have local currency from the last trip here, and settle into a concourse chair before jumping on the train into the city. I flip open the laptop, connect to “HKG-Free-WiFi,” and log onto the world. Whoosh … out go all the emails I wrote on the plane, and in come 150 more that arrived during the night. I check in with Reese, my designer, about a project we’ve been working on. I answer customer support requests—a page on our site is down, someone needs a login, and so on—and write a quick update to customers. I review reader comments from my latest blog post and quickly check my daily list of email signups, the only metric I monitor on a frequent basis. (If all’s going well with new subscribers, everything else should be OK.) I often stay in guest houses and hostels, but later tonight I have a conference call scheduled for the bleary hour of 2 a.m.—it’s daytime in North America—so I head to the Conrad Hotel. Fortunately, I slept enough on the plane that I’m good to go after a shower, so I set up shop in my “office” for the next two days. A few hours later, the host on the call is saying “good afternoon” to everyone, and I try to refrain from mentioning the local time while looking out at the Hong Kong skyline. On this trip I’m headed on to Vietnam and Laos, but I could be going anywhere. After I adjust to the time difference over the next couple of days, I settle into a routine of morning work and afternoon exploration. At least one week a month, I live in this dream world of travel, work, and frequent coffee breaks. The business is structured around my life, not the other way around. I know what some people think: It sounds like a fantasy. Well … it really is happening, on a broad scale, for thousands of people all over the world. My example is just one of many; let’s hear about a few others. Case Study 1: The Music Teacher In 2009, Brandon Pearce was living in Utah and working as a successful piano teacher, meaning that he got by and paid the rent while doing something he enjoyed. But Brandon was also intensely curious, and wanted to combine an interest in technology with his passion for music education. As he thought about colleagues he knew, he found the convergence point between his skill and what they needed. “Music teachers don’t want to deal with business administration; they want to teach music,” he said. “But in the typical music teacher’s workday, they have to spend much of their time dealing with administrative tasks.” Scheduling, rescheduling, sending reminders—in addition to time, all these things take up a lot of attention and distract from teaching. Furthermore, many music teachers aren’t making all the money they should, since payments are sometimes overlooked and students fail to show up. Brandon didn’t intend to create a business at first; he just wanted to solve what he called the “disorganized music teacher problem” for himself. The answer was Music Teacher’s Helper, an interface that Brandon created for personal use before turning it into a one-stop platform for music teachers of all kinds. The teachers could create their own websites (without having any technical skills) and handle all aspects of scheduling and billing, thus enabling them to focus on the actual teaching they enjoyed. Was this a market in search of a solution? Yes, and the market was substantial. Was Brandon giving them the fish? Yes, and because music teachers are often on a low budget, Brandon made sure to highlight the fact that paying for Music Teacher’s Helper might actually save them money over time, but to ensure the business’s profitability, he didn’t skimp on the price. The service is available in several different versions, including a free version for limited use and going up to a $588-a-year version depending on the number of students.* Three years later, Brandon’s life is quite different. Instead of living in Utah, he now wakes up in sunny Escazú, Costa Rica, where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. He has ten employees living in different places around the world. He carefully tracks his time and estimates that he spends eight to fifteen hours a week directly related to the business. The rest of his time is spent with his family and on various side projects that he pursues for fun. Brandon and his family used to live in Utah and now they live in Costa Rica, but that’s not the whole story; the whole story is that they could live anywhere they want. When they needed to do a visa run, they went over to Guatemala for eight days, and since Brandon and his wife are “unschooling” their children and can easily take them anywhere, there’s no telling where they’ll end up next. (A tentative plan involves moving to Asia.) Oh, and one more thing: Music Teacher’s Helper is currently on track to earn at least $360,000 a year. Because his customers commit for the long term and pay monthly, it’s unlikely that this number will ever go down. Instead, it will continue to increase as more and more music teachers join the ranks. Case Study 2: The Accidental Worldwide Photographer Originally from Michigan, Kyle Hepp is an “accidental” entrepreneur in the literal sense. Having relocated to Chile with her husband, Seba, Kyle made ends meet by working on side projects for AOL while she looked for a job in her planned field of sports management. The South American lifestyle was great, but Seba’s job as a construction engineer was far from secure, and the company started to go under. One Friday afternoon, he received notice that his salary was being cut 20 percent. He declined to sign a new contract and was immediately let go. Two days after learning of the layoff, Kyle was out jogging when tragedy struck in the form of a pickup truck that ran into her at a crowded intersection, sending her flying a hundred feet from the point of impact. Her injuries weren’t life-threatening or permanent, but as you’d expect, Kyle was badly hurt. After a week in the hospital, she spent several more weeks at home, unable to walk and with so many bruises that she couldn’t even type—thus ending the side gig with AOL, which was done on a contract basis. “Between my husband’s layoff and getting run over by the car,” Kyle told me with a straight face, “it was kind of a bad weekend.” Kyle and Seba had been married for nearly three years at that point and hadn’t ever had a real honeymoon, so they decided they might as well take vacation time while they could. Instead of looking for work, they booked flights to Italy and spent several weeks seeing Europe for the first time. Before the accident, Kyle had been dabbli