You may have heard of Chris Guillebeau. He is at the forefront of a new breed of bloggers and creative entrepreneurs who are making a substantial income from their creative output, and inspiring thousands of other people to do the same.
As well as writing for free on his blog and in his two hugely popular manifestos, Chris has published a number of Unconventional Guides * which offer up to the minute advice on freelancing, publishing and travel hacking, and even the art of building your own online empire. As well as pursuing his goal of travelling to every country in the world before the age of 35, Chris has worked tirelessly to build his platform and a community of people around him, and he’s made a fantastic living from it.
In his new book, the $100 Start Up, which is already out in the US and available in the UK from this week, Chris provides a clear guide to getting started with your own business, using the examples of hundreds of members of his community who have done the same. He provides concrete figures too – he only features those who are earning at least $50,000 a year, but many of the businesses featured bring in several hundred thousand pounds a year. Most of them started with around $100 dollars.
That’s pretty amazing, right?
As Chris says in the introduction:
Small businesses aren’t new, but never before have so many possibilities come together in the right place at the right time.
One of the key points that Chris is making is that anyone can start a business if they can just grasp some of the key concepts in the book and apply them to their own situation.
Most of them aren’t geniuses or natural-born entrepreneurs. They are ordinary people who made a few key decisions that changed their lives.
Whilst Career Renegade is a great ‘awakener’ to alternative career possibilities for creative people, and Slim’s book is all about the transition from corporate employee to business owner, the message of $100 Start Up is more straightforward and not necessarily aimed at creative types.
It deals with all types of businesses, from dog walking to language learning. But it isn’t hard to see that anyone who is able to turn $100 into a liveable annual wage is using a great deal of creativity. And Chris himself is a great example – a writer who is extremely successful, not just scraping by.
The Basics of Business
The “$100 start up” Chris is recommending could also be referred to as a micro, or freedom business. Your goal is to have freedom for yourself, but to do that you need to provide real value for others, and to communicate that value to them as clearly as possible.
Ultimately, Chris’s message is a simple one. He covers the basics of building a small business and emphasises that you don’t need more that, at least to get going. Taking action, and making that first sale, is all important.
The basics of starting a business are very simple; you don’t need an MBA, 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.
He adds that it helps to have an offer and a way of building interest, or hustling, and to use well proven techniques such as a launch strategy.
What the book goes on to outline is bound to make a few internet marketers sweat; people have been selling this information online packaged in expensive clothes for a long time now. Chris has brought the advice all together into one easy to follow book which will cost you around a tenth of his suggested start-up costs, much less than most of the information products which include similar info.
Throughout the book Guillebeau provides simple, but comprehensive one page checklists to help with choosing between competing projects, creating a basic business plan and market testing – as well as the essential ‘reality check’. You can get additional resources at the dedicated website for the book.
Of course, there are plenty of areas touched on in the book that you might want to investigate more deeply. But if you have any interest in earning money on your own terms, once you’ve read this book you’ll be struggling to come up with an excuse for not getting started right away. As Guillebeau says:
“The most important thing is to keep taking action”.
How I Intend to Use the Book – Action & Commitment
I’ve bought a number of products from Chris in the past and have found them very useful in my transition from civil servant to freelance writer. His blog was also a key inspiration behind this one.
However the book is a great reminder to me that I have been stalling somewhat in using the knowledge I already have. I could potentially earn money in more ways than just copywriting for businesses, and I intend to more fully explore some of these other options.
It is also an eye-opener when it comes to how much money many of the people featured are earning on a regular basis and whilst my quality of life is more important to me, it has convinced me I need to be a bit more ambitious in terms of my financial goals.
Chris is one of those ‘everyman’ figures – someone who seems relatively normal and therefore inspires others to follow his lead. However he is a very smart guy who works extremely hard. Not everyone can be him!
As you know if you read this blog regularly, I struggle with the commitment part e.g. when it comes to consistently working on this blog, and I’m actively trying to improve my own habits and work ethic.
All the information in the world isn’t enough if you don’t follow through, and this is a great reminder to keep pushing myself. Basically, if this book doesn’t inspire me (and you!) to get moving, nothing will.
(note: the above links are affiliate links which means if you buy them, Amazon might one day send me a gift voucher (I’m not holding my breath). The link above to the Unconventional Guides website is also an affiliate link, but Chris’s affiliate programme is a lot more generous so I might actually earn some cash if you use that one. There is more info on affiliate promotions in the book!)
Some creative types have known what they want to do all their lives. From the minute they start to crawl and gurgle something resembling a human language, they have made a beeline for that one thing that floats their boat – whether it be a paintbrush or a pencil, a drum set or a guitar, or a camera.
I hate them.
Okay that’s a bit strong. Perhaps more accurate to say, I’m insanely jealous of them (the lucky swine).
Because I’ve never known what I wanted.
Writing is the thing that comes most naturally to me, but perhaps because of the culture I was brought up in it never seemed like something to pursue as a career, like a doctor or lawyer.
So as well as writing, I drew cartoons, I played guitar, I messed around with a camcorder and made daft DIY music videos. I tried scriptwriting, I tried music reviewing, I even tried this really daft new trend they’re calling blogging, which has enabled me to write, take photos, make videos and record podcasts.
I even get paid for my work as a copywriter now, though not full time as yet. I really enjoy it, I find it rewarding and interesting and it’s definitely suited to my skills. It’s taken me until my early thirties to finally get paid doing something creative that I really enjoy – and it’s still not my full time job.
But guess what? I still want to play guitar, I still want to draw and paint and make daft DIY music videos etc etc. I can’t quite give up on all my creative dreams. I wanted to write a novel, I wanted to record an album of my maudlin acoustic guitar ballads and I wanted to make a short film or even a feature. Still do in fact.
Even now, with all my efforts to be more clear-minded, I just can’t settle on one thing.
Which is where this month’s Clear-Minded Classic comes in. It’s a book called The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, by Margaret Lobenstine.
The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries are 20 video diaries I have filmed since I took voluntary redundancy in February 2012 – after ten years working in the Scottish civil service.
The videos also feature footage from a couple of adventures I went on to meet other bloggers and self-employed people from around the world and get their perspectives, including the World Domination Summit in Portland and a trip to Oslo.