Want to call yourself an entrepreneur? Than sell something.
This is a guide to making your first sale on a good or service in one day.
Most people think starting a business is a major risk. They consider it to be a HUGE decision that requires months of planning and significant upfront investment.
Well, that sounds like it would suck to me.
I prefer to not do things that suck, therefore I'm not interested in starting businesses like that. I like to start businesses the simple way that requires no real risk and less than an hour of planning.
The strategies outlined below are of course specific to certain types of ventures, but the principles behind them are solid and can be applied broadly.
I don't like to write much fluff (not too good at it), so let me just get right into sharing my approach to starting a service business or launching a product with minimal effort and risk.
I will walk you through two examples that have specifically worked for me:
- Selling a service offline
- Selling a product online
SELLING A SERVICE OFFLINE
So, this is a real life, creating a business in your community type of thing.
Most people who decide to do something like this (probably 90 percent or more) will spend weeks or months planning everything out to the T, and will then either:
Bail on their plan at some point and revert back to what they were doing before.
Dump a bunch of money into going forward with their new business, to which 50% of them fail in the first year and most will have failed by the end of the second.
Here is how this would look in real life:
Johnny wants to build websites as a side business. He is a self-taught and self-proclaimed computer nerd with the skills necessary to build a good quality small-business website in about 10-20 hours. One night, while sitting at home thinking about how much he hates his current job, he gets out his calculator and decides he could charge $1000 for a website and could build about 2 per week. So, $2000 per week for about 48 weeks per year (because of course - he'll take a month off because he's his own boss) leaves him with a $96,000 per year salary.
Yeeee HAW! Johnny sees the light! Why wasn't he smart enough to see this sooner?? He's going to be RICH!!!
So, yeah - sitting there eating his microwave dinner and watching mad men, he decides to start a business.
The next day after work, buzzing with excitement, Johnny decides his first step will be to go to the bookstore and buy some books about starting a business. After purchasing and reading the wonderful books The Personal MBA and Book Yourself Solid, he feels like he has a grasp on what it will take to get his business launched. He’ll need smart marketing materials, a professional appearance, business mentors, and strong testimonials.
Still thinking that he'll soon be rolling in the big bucks, he spares no cost in purchasing some high-gloss business cards, a new desk chair, and some super amazing new accounting software. He continues this preparation trend for the next few weeks, building himself an amazing websites, and stocking it with helpful articles for his clients. Adding a bunch of other cool services to his offerings (more potential $$$). Securing his new Twitter handle and launching a Facebook page, etc, etc, etc. The trend continues, on and on, forever and ever. You get the point.
It's at this point that Johnny will either be burnt out or will have gotten excited about a new idea and be on to something different. Or else, he will realize that he needs to actually go out and SELL SOME WEBSITES, at which point his balls shrivel up with fear, and he runs for the hills. Or...ideally, the poor soul actually gets lucky and starts drumming up some business and does pretty good for himself.
I hope to Jesus that its the last one. I hope he succeeds, I really do - but most people don't. Their sense of fear or else life's distraction usually get in the way.
But I do things differently.
I think if you are going to start a business, you can avoid distraction, and mitigate the momentum of fear by getting it over and done with in a day.
Here is what I would do if I was Johnny:
- create a simple flyer of my services (with a maximum of one or two services, ideally productized services)
- print out 100 copies
- go around to 100 small businesses to drop off a flyer, make sure to smile and don't bug them unless they engage you in conversation (if they do, ask questions about their needs/frustrations.
- offer an incentive (like 20% if they book a new website design by a certain date)
- see what happens
For example, here's one I did a couple years ago selling email marketing services to restaurants:
One of two things will usually happen.
1. something - you will get a few calls over the next couple days or months, and your business will slowly blossom from there.
2. nothing - no calls, no $2000/week, no freedom
If something happens, go with it. See how you enjoy the industry. Take on clients slowly at first and begin to organically build the components and systems of your business. Once systems are in place, then you can be growth focused.
If nothing happens, interpret it. Learn from it. If you think you may still have a shot, go pass out 100 more flyers. Or take the information you gathered from talking with business owners, and maybe decide to shift gears and offer them different solutions to match their true needs.
See, it really is a win-win. And it can all be done in a day or two.
Even if you strike out with 4 or 5 ideas in a row, eventually one will take and you will land your first client. Eventually, and still with just a few days effort, you will have a legit business on your hands.
Give it a try. If you have any questions about this process, ask in the comments.
SELLING A PRODUCT ONLINE
I went into a whole big parable schpeel on that first one and I'm too lazy to re-create that effort. Trust me when I say that most people who set out to sell products online (or even offline), spend weeks or longer planning, building, and often times trying to figure out how to re-create the wheel.
STOP WORKING SO GODDAMN HARD!!! Your making me feel tired...
He's a simple, and very specific way to sell your first product online:
- research what’s selling well on Etsy.com (go to craftcount.com, and also browse products on Etsy paying attention to how many sales each shop/product has)
- consider eliminating all products that can't be quickly reproduced
- decide which of those things you have the ability to make in one day
- make said "thing"
- pop it on etsy
- share your listing with friends and family and encourage them to share it
- see what happens
Rinse and repeat this cycle a few times every month, and eventually you will be selling products online. I guarantee it!
I did this exact process, and now every day or two I sell an 11" x 17" print for $21.50. It costs me $6 to print, ship, and package each print, so each sale results in $15.50 profit.
The original print took me 3 hours to design, and now it will be available to sell for the rest of my life. So long as my printing and shipping stay highly automated - those original 3 hours might turn into thousands of dollars over the course of my lifetime.
It really is that simple. And this really works. No big upfront costs. No months of planning. No major feel like a piece-of-shit failure.
I became heavily inspired to shift my role in life to creating and building things after reading the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. So, to pass on the inspiration, I will purchase a copy of the book (you can pick kindle or print) to the person who leaves my favorite comment before MARCH 1st. On March 1st I will announce the winner right here and tell you how to collect.
UPDATE: Mathew, your comment was selected as the winning comment. Contact me via email (nddodson at gmail) to get your copy of Austins book.
Top photo is the "slow house burger" from when I opened an underground restaurant in 2010.
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