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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Entrepreneurship. Difficult to spell. Harder to live.04-27

Entrepreneurship. Difficult to spell. Harder to live.

I’ve often thought that the biggest hurdle to becoming an entrepreneur is because the word is so frigging difficult to spell. It genuinely took a few months before I could finally spell it without autocorrect.
2 years ago I decided to go out on my own. Cast myself into the frenetic feeding frenzy of freelance (and alliteration) or, its more formal title, entrepreneurship. All joking aside, close friends ask me “How’s it going?”, “Do you think you’ll do this forever?”, “Do you miss a steady job/income/office?” so I thought I’d take this opportunity to get some initial thoughts down.
Let’s get this part out of the way quickly....It is a stereotype
All the blog posts and magazine articles are right. It is feast & famine. Looking at your email and iPhone every 5 minutes willing it to ring with your next gig. It’s a hundred conversations for 5 bona-fide opportunities. It’s a million cups of coffee – and a new caffeine threshold. It’s a Bedouin lifestyle humping your laptop from Starbucks to Starbucks finding that elusive free wifi. Most importantly,it’s a massive rush....
So, Dear Reader, here is what I’ve learnt;
Network or Die: Pretty obvious but if you aint drumming up new leads and prospects you’ll fail. Get over the aversion of asking friends and colleagues for projects. Get over your shyness and look for ways to find new avenues to work. Hank Blank writes a very practical (and prolific) blog on Networking. His tips are crisp, astute and, importantly, highly actionable.
Determine your value: A prospect asked me recently “so what can you do for me?” My answer was so long-winded I think I only missed offering up “Bar Mitzvahs and children’s parties” That’s not a value proposition, that’s value delusion. Yes, I can do many things (including parties) but what is it I do well. Ideally what do I do better than others. Your prospects shouldn’t have to work that out for themselves. That’s your job.
Never say No. Don’t always say Yes: Be mindful of the projects you sign up for. Securing projects you can do “okay” means no bandwidth for projects you can be spectacular at – and build equity/reputation behind. When presented an opportunity always evaluate it against your value proposition – not just your bank balance. Taking a lucrative but ill-positioned assignment could hurt you immeasurably.
Build your partner ecosystem: Business basics. A single person can’t scale. You need partners for numerous reasons. Access to prospects. Differing POV and ability to challenge your ideas. Companionship. Complementary skills. Pretty obvious right. Two things I’ve learnt. Always seek out truth-tellers because that’s invaluable input when you’re on your own. Two, expand your view of partners. Complementary ones are obvious. I’ve find it never hurts to have a few supplementary ones too. Folks who do what you do. Folks you can throw a project to when you’re too busy and who will pay you back in kind later. Remember your clients come looking for a solution, seldom a person, so being able to provide a solution – even if it’s another person – carries weight.
Bond physically, scale virtually: People do business with people they’ve met or feel they know. Your initial gigs will be people you’ve had coffee with. However, use virtual settings to amplify what you’re unable to do in person. Be highly visible online. Write blogs. Contribute to discussions. Build a virtual presence that deepens and amplifies what you physically could never do as a single person. While I may not personally hold much stock in Klout, it is imperative that prospects – and partners – can gauge what you’re all about and whether you’re someone they wanna work with. The default place for gauging that is Google, not Starbucks.
With the zealotry of a reformed smoker I’m a huge proponent of going solo. The harsh reality is that more companies are looking for resources they can turn on-and-off rather than absorbing overhead and benefits. Let’s face it, marketing is also inherently a young person’s game so unless Sir Martin or Mr Levy are buying your agency and writing you a huge cheque, you’d better have a plan for “life after marketing” – going solo is one way to build your Plan B.
These are my initial observations. What have been yours? What landmines have you stepped on that I’ve not addressed? How have you remained committed to the entrepreneur’s life?

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