I met Chris at the WordCamp Denver 2018 Afterparty in July. We chatted about his business over beers and nachos. He stood out to me. I liked him. Navy veteran. Piercing blue eyes. Happy. Funny. Sharp enough to cut glass. I meant to keep in touch, but as is too often the case, I didn’t.
He pinged me last week and scheduled a phone call. His business is struggling and he’s weighing his options. We talked for about 45 minutes. I talked a lot, but I was worried I didn’t say much. So I wrote him the following email today:
I’m honored that you’d reach out for my opinion. After further reflection, I’ve distilled the following navigational beacons:
- If you feel your business is 10-20% from “making it” – that you are truly almost there – engage tenacity.
- If you are laboring to push a square rock up a hill, dig deep, swallow the brain chatter, and summon the courage to elegantly walk away from it.
- If you are somewhere in the middle, find a way to supplement your income.
I got the impression you were somewhere in the middle, but only you can make that call.
How do you balance a “side-hustle”?
Pick up a minimal-brain-work-required job that:
- Pays enough to make the spent hours worth it.
- Doesn’t deplete your creative & emotional energy
You should leave feeling energized and motivated to work on the business the minute that closing bell rings.
The best example I have seen first-hand is working at FedEx loading & unloading trucks. You can cancel your gym membership. It’s typically an overnight shift. Your day is open to meet with clients and conduct business. And it comes with health benefits.
Limit your Potential Downside Risk
For example, if you decide to take on debt to support the last section of your Bridge to Success, do it. It’d be foolish, in my opinion, to get that close and fail from a rigid aversion to debt. However, two factors are key here:
- Do not take on more debt that you could relatively-easily pay back with a post-failure fallback income (for me it was to sell BMW’s)
- How confident are you that you’re actually that close? (I spent 6 years thinking I was that close. In some ways I was. In others I was miles away.)
Finally, I looked through the home page of your website. Dude, you’re offering too much. WAY too much. Focus on one thing – maybe two. Something you know you can deliver easily and reliably without stress, brain damage, or learning anything substantially new. Figure it out once and keep doing it over and over. It’s boring, yes. But it’s profitable. And it leaves you the space to work on the run-a-business part rather than the doing-the-work part. After you’re driving a well tuned one-trick pony, you can add more.
Offering a multitude of services doesn’t meaningfully expand who can buy from you. There are 7.7 billion potential customers. 300 million just in the US. 2.9 million in the Denver Metro. There are more customers than you can service for any single, simple, offering. I spent years letting clients pay me to figure things out the first time. Not truly new things, mind you. Just new things to me. It was a disservice to both me and my client. I spent countless unbillable hours learning in a debt-fueled panic. They could have hired a practiced pro, paid less, and gotten a better product. I could have been turning my one-trick-pony money-printing crank. It took me 6 years to figure that out.
I hope that helps.
I also found this Wait But Why article particularly enlightening: https://waitbutwhy.com/2018/04/picking-career.html
And just for fun, when you’re done with that one, https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/05/elon-musk-the-worlds-raddest-man.html