One of THE most rewarding things I have ever done was starting my own business. Can I suggest you build the business you love not the one sold by Gurus.
It has given me the opportunity to live life on my own terms and not dance at the end of a leash for an employer. I’ve got huge amounts of personal freedom and complete control over my income and time.
I’ve spent nearly nine years doing this self employed stuff, and on the way I’ve listened to a lot of Gurus telling me how I should build a business. I’ve learned the hard way to listen to my gut and build a business I love not what they tell me I want.
What lots of Gurus tell us is based on their temperament, what excites them, so I suggest you read their words, but adapt to your own world view.
When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world. – Derek Sivers Anything You Want
I Always Wanted To Be Self Employed
I have an authority issue, I don’t like being told what to do, as a result I was a spiky employee, if a boss looked at me the wrong way it would set my back up.
I was always really good at my job, so I was never sacked but I was such a pain in the ass that I never progressed and moved up the ladder.
Lacking the progress that was clearly my manifest destiny 🙂 I started looking at how I could start my own business, but this was the early 90s and starting a business required a business plan, capital (I didn’t have any) or lending, premises and a staff. I was not interested in any of that.
Sooby Doo fast forward 10 -15 years.
It was early 2008, and I mentally said “screw this”, opportunities were everywhere online, I decided to set out on my own, I left my corporate job and started doing some contracting gigs and in the background I began building wpdude.com.
I was not climbing the corporate ladder so I decided to build my own.
The Steep Learning Curve
I was a skilled techie but had very little business understanding so I started to read and take online courses like it was going out of fashion.
I never realised this before but I love learning about the mechanics of business. Marketing, processes finance etc. There is so much to learn and so many business consultants selling their way.
With every new guru I found, I would try and shape WPDude to match their vision.
I would look at other businesses doing what I do and try to emulate their business model.
I would create somebody elses idea of a great business not mine, and I would find very quickly that I hated doing it their way and a pivot would happen.
Guilty As Charged
Here are some shiny new business models I’ve done and dropped along the way
Membership site – I started the WordPress owners club, a membership site with training and live webinars. I’m an introverted techie, training is not my thing.
Info products – I created a series of information products, they were good, but I work in technology and an info product is obsolete almost as soon as the e-ink is dry on an e-book. Info products need evergreen content to work.
Building a big team – I built a big team to deliver my services. I don’t like being a manager, I like things done my way, I had to sack a lot of people, not nice.
Trying to emulate WP Curve – I saw the massive success and ultimate acquisition of WP Curve by Godaddy and thought, why can’t I have that, we do the same thing. Jealousy crept in, then I realised they have 30-40 members of staff, layers of project managers, slick processes, nope not for me.
Listen To Your Gut
It’s a cliché I know, but your gut reaction to something is a great way to judge if a Guru’s advice will work with you and your business.
IDEA:Employ a team of ten and a project manager to allow you to get out of the business and work on it not in it
GUT: Erghh! rational mind translates to Neil, you are an introvert managing a huge team would be a huge stress to you. You are a control freak giving over your client projects to a project manager would make the big vein in your head throb.
You Have Idiosyncracies Embrace Them
We are not all the same, so the advice of one Guru may not work for you and your temperament.
Embrace your differences and use them to grow a business tailor made for you.
If live video streaming does not work for you don’t do it, you might be a better written communicator, do that.
You might be a great manager, excellent, build a team to take your business forward.
The Business I Love And How I’m Doing
In no particular order here are some things I brainstormed during my annual planning day on Thanksgiving 2016. I take a day off to plan out the coming year. This years theme was building a business I want.
I offer two key services, one off projects which are delivered by me and a recurring maintenance plan WP Insure delivered by my team.
Recurring revenue – rather than just one off projects, I want to flatten the feast / famine cycle of project work and have recurring revenue streams. I have this in my maintenance plan which is a recurring subscription service. I’m looking at white labelling a WP Dude hosting service again this will be a recurring service.
Retainers – instead of having large multi hour retainers for a few clients I have over 100 micro retainers with many clients delivering backups, updates and fix on fail services. I have a pre-set income from this so the fear of starting from zero each month is removed.
Time Off – I want the ability to take time of or even a prolonged sabbatical if I want to and still make money, this will be achieved via my maintenance plan delivered by team members other than me.
Fun – I want running my own business to be fun, if something inside my business is a pain in the arse (types of work, clients, team members, the marketing channel De Jour) it gets dropped, I’m only doing things that are fun and I like.
Income goals – I’ve set some income goals I want to achieve, I’m not going to be a millionaire and I don’t want to be, but I will be very comfortable when I reach my goals.
Minimal – I subscribe to the minimalism philosophy of only having enough to meet my needs and desires, I’m not keeping up with the Jonses in my personal life so I’m not keeping up with them in my business life. So minimal tools, minimum viable team to get the work done, minimal costs. No looking at other businesses and judging myself against them, they don’t have a business I would love.
Life long learning – I love learning so I want my business to be a conduit to learning. I know I said I followed too many Gurus, but I’m not suggesting you stop learning. I’m saying read what they have to say and apply it to YOUR perfect business.
Space – I wrote about space earlier so I’ll not rehash here go and read my post SPACE.
Professionalism – I want all my clients to have a very professional service delivery so I’ve documented a consistent way my services are delivered and how I communicate that delivery to my clients.
Creative outlet – I want wpdude to be a creative outlet too. The technical service delivery does not provide that outlet, but blogging, creating videos and marketing plans are all very creative and I get to scratch that itch.
Variety – I want a variety of different work so I have opted on many small technical support jobs rather than very large build jobs taking multiple months. The Guru’s say create a productized service and deliver that over and over again, personally that sounds very dull.
Life outside of the biz – wpdude has already delivered much of that for me, I get to pick my girls up from school, I’ve never missed one of their shows or sporting events. I don’t work weekends, my phone get set aside in the evenings but I still need to work on this. More discipline to finish by 5pm for example, my business is important to me but it is not the be-all end-all
Meets my quirks – as I’ve already said I’m introverted so WPDude needs to meet my quirky needs, I’m not interested in Webinar marketing, that drains me entirely, I don’t want to be making phone calls all the time, so email and a helpdesk are my communications tools of choice. I’m not interested in managing a huge team; check I’ve got a single team member doing processed orientated work so management is minimal.
Position As Expert – I know I’m really good at this WordPerss stuff (my very British reserve is kicking in, it’s very hard to brag about my expertise) and I need to position myself as the expert, experiments in budget $99 per job services from another Guru have diluted my marketing.
Sellable – this is a sticky one, I’m going to want to retire someday,but who wants to buy a job? WPDude as it is, with me delivering the services is not that attractive, but several hundred maintenance clients with a team to deliver the service is. That is my exit plan in the future. It will be an organic growth on the back of a business I like running.
The Micro Agency Is Born
I’ll write more about this idea in my next post but I’ve stumbled over an idea or framework in which an online services business can thrive and still meet my needs. Grr I sound like a Guru myself now (the $999 programme will NOT be published this coming fall).
I call it the Micro Agency because it’s a mix-up of a solopreneur freelancer and a very very niche agency. Stay tuned for details.
Wrap Up – Build The Business You Love
Am I cured of Guru worship, hell no I often get a nagging feeling that I’m moving too slowly and if I could get 10 more members of staff and bill them out at X per day I can sell up and move to Tuscany.
But ten more team members would give me ten more headaches, and ten times less calm, it’s not what I want, I’m building the business I want to please me, to meet my goals not some distant Guru who knows nothing of my personality.
Are you building the business you love, comments below…
Photo Credit: Lucas Lima 91 Flickr via Compfight cc
Neil, I have been working with you since 2009, and I never realized how much alike we are. Except for the specific details, I feel like I could have written this!
You are awesome at what you do – keep it up! I look forward to many more years of working together.
So very tru Neil, we have done the same with blokboek.com, a community,of professional graphic communication experts, based on a website that would be not there without you WPdude. Thank you for your support in the last 6 years and for putting clear why we happy what we are doing now. Regards, Rob
Neil, thank you for your brilliance and candor.
Indeed, the “trick” (actually, there are no tricks, or shortcuts) is to create something congruent with who we are. And along the way, we really get to learn who we actually are. Usually through some kind of failure, or bursting of delusion.
The payoff is we create the LIFE we want. And that is wealth beyond compare.
Neil, i couldn’t agree more, i think we all get caught in this trap when we first start our businesses and i too set and end time to my work day. Great post.