Recently Jon and I flew to Virginia to work on location with a client of ours. While going through airport security, it was discovered that I was carrying some serious contraband so airport security made me toss the tube of highly suspcious terrorist hair product I had on me. So now with the free world safe from my heinous schemes, we traveled on.
It's a silly thing, but I don't quite feel like myself if my hair isn't sticking straight up in the air, doing it's best Eiffel Tower impression. So after we landed and took the shuttle to the hotel, I decided I'd try to get some more of this highly dangerous hair product of mine. It turns out a big box store was just under a mile away. Perfect, I'll just walk down and grab some.
The hotel we were staying at was in business park of sorts and didn't have much in the way of sidewalks, but that didn't stop me or the other brave pedestrians who had worn a path through the grass on the side of the road.
The moment you step off someone else's path, you are forging your own. There's freedom here.
I began walking on the little dirt path but quickly found I had a hard time staying on it. My feet were just too big. I gave up on the path and stepped off into the grass. I noticed two things immediately. 1. It was much softer to walk on. The path was packed down and was like walking on concrete. 2. It was bumpy! From there on and on the way back, I stayed off the path and it got me thinking...
One of the best pieces of business wisdom that I have ever learned came from Andrew, a veteran copywriter whose companies specialized in marketing for pharmaceuticals companies.
Soon after I got laid off from my job at a marketing firm, a mutual friend agreed to set up the meeting. In preparation for it, I updated my portfolio and felt very bold in choosing my new freelancing rate: $40 an hour.
I believed that the quality of my work would speak for itself.
$40 an hour was over twice as much as I had been earning per hour in my salaried position, including benefits, but the firm where I had worked sold my services for $85 an hour. As a freelancer, I could offer the same product for half the price. Surely clients accustomed to paying $85 an hour would be eager to get twice as much for the same price—or the same project for 1/2 of the cost.
Andrew looked at my writing samples, while my heart fluttered in my chest, and then after asking me about my hourly rate, he asked if he could give me some unsolicited advice.
What he said next floored me...
My wife and I went on vacation recently, and a pool float reminded of the importance of creative packaging.
A basic adult-length pool float of the sort that dumps you into the water as often as it holds you up will set you back about $3. At Winn-Dixie that same float already filled with air costs twice as much. An employee earning $8 an hour probably spent one minute per float with an air compressor, and this simple service enables the grocery store to double its profit on each float—an extra $180 for every 60 floats that leave the premises.
Wow. That's a lot of money in exchange for $8 and air, but the air, of course, represents convenience. Many people on vacation are more than happy to spend $3 to not have to blow up a float.
Even those of us who don't own grocery stores have something to learn here: for a minimal expense you can often tweak the presentation or packaging of your products and services and dramatically increase their perceived value.
I intentionally left an important insight out of my last post: people don’t change until it hurts worse to stay the same. They might hear a piece of great advice for small businesses, such as implementing first fruits, but actually hearing and doing are two different things.
And it’s the doing that’s most important. To that end, I have outlined below what I call the Make It Hurt system.
Sounds appealing, right?
Humor me with a quick thought exercise and consider what you stand to gain by using the system. If you’re like most of the people I know, you’ve got at least one or two skunkworks secrets rattling around in your gourd. I’m not talking about fire-extinguishing tasks and activities that you must address to stay afloat and pay your bills, but non-urgent projects that might fall under “Business Development."
Perhaps you're familiar with this maxim: "The cobbler's children have no shoes." Many freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners share the cobbler’s problem and leave their businesses barefoot. In this post, I will share some advice for small businesses that has the power to change your life.
Most freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners have the best of intentions and the worst of execution.
Do you ever find yourself making excuses about why you haven't finished an important but non-urgent task or project?
I left off the last post with a question about developing a smart brand positioning strategy: should you worry more about being an expert or simply being likable?
Before I attempt to answer, I should clarify: I do think you can be both. This question doesn't relate to the depth of your knowledge or level of your talent but to how you build a brand around them and how you sell them.
When you are meeting with a new prospect, should you emphasize your experience and credentials or should you simply show yourself to be likable, a person easy and fun to work with?
I will spend the rest of this post explaining why I believe the latter represents a better brand positioning strategy for earning a lot more money.
Big news here at Kicktastic. We're growing! We're very excited to introduce you to Austin Church – our good friend and head honcho of Bright Newt, not to mention the creator of fun, moustach-ey iPhone apps. In fact, we've been working with Austin on various projects for nearly three years. Let's just say we're finally making it official. Look at that picture. He fits right in! We've watched Austin grow his business by leaps and bounds, and he's itching to share everything he knows with you. How? We'll tell you in a minute....
What else has happened since you launched back in June?
We've been busy, that's what. Check it out:
Did we mention this free blog?
We just added a brand new blog section to Kicktastic. Austin will be leading the charge here, posting regular articles with strategies and tactics for polishing up your brand, landing cool projects, and making more money ASAP. And of course Nate and Jon will pitch in, too.
If you've read the last two posts, you now know that Kicktastic exists to 1) make solid business training affordable for everyone; and 2) give you the complete elephant and help you make money freelancing or transform your small mature business into a supercharged rocketpack made out of money.
Short answer: The purpose of all the trainging is to help you grow by leaps and bounds and take more cash home.
The first step is mental. You have to lay claim to this adventure of being responsible for your livelihood. Maybe you got laid off and were pushed into the world of self-employment forcibly. Maybe you're fresh out of college and can't find a job in your chosen field. Maybe you already have a decent paycheck and nice enough boss, but the work is sucking out your soul.
Regardless of where you're coming from, you can't ride the employment fence. If part of you is still waiting for another salaried position to fall in your lap, then you won't truly commit to learning for yourself how to generate a sustainable income.
When we left off, I was telling you about the birth of Kicktastic and how I think everyone should be able to afford solid business and marketing advice and have access to unique business ideas. You also need some skin in the game.
Of course, you don't have to venture far on the Internet to find all sorts of training programs and courses and bootcamps and deep-cavity body searches for everything from SEO to personal finance.
So where does Kicktastic fit in?
I'll tell you in a moment, but hang with me for a second as we go on a brief but relevant tangent.
You've probably heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant. It originated in India, and though the number of blind men changes from one version to another, the gist is the same: each man touchs a different part of the elephant—the proboscis, a tusk, a leg, the tuft on the tail. When asked to describe an elephant, each man gives a very different answer: An elephant is like a hairy vine. Or a thick, smooth bone. Or the trunk of a tree.
Yes, I am going somewhere with this.
What does making more money have to do with elephants?
After reading and reviewing Chris Guillebeau's latest book, The $100 Startup, I decided to start teaching people about business. This resolution was rather peculiar because I never wanted to be a businessman in the first place.
After getting laid off from a marketing firm in April 2009, I started Bright Newt, and for the past three years, I've been on an enlightening journey of self-employment, helping my clients with brand consulting, marketing strategy, and copywriting business. In 2009 I was able to earn 24% more than if I had kept my salary. In 2010, I made 33% more than in 2009, and in 2011, 47% more than 2010.
I was happy to be making more money, but I didn't understood the significance of these numbers.The few friends who knew about this growth told me that this was abnormal, especially for a guy who has never taken a single business class and who at the time would always reach for The Chronicles of Narnia before Good to Great.
One friend went so far to say that I was "really gifted" at business. Me? Good one!
I stopped laughing when I realized he was serious.
After a good friend lost his house to foreclosure, I started pondering the question in earnest. Why had my income had grown by leaps and bounds? My friend was a gifted designer with a box full of awards. Why had his business struggled?
Business is not a meritocracy, and just being better at what you do isn't enough to pay your bills and create your desired lifestyle. My friend "Bob" never made the transition from artist to businessman. He made eye-catching logos but had trouble saying no to pushy clients. He did the work, but he didn't build the business.