By Valerie Young
You love the idea of being your own boss. The ability to control your time and life, getting to do work you’re passionate about, perhaps making a difference in the world.
It’s a wonderful goal and frankly I can’t imagine living any other way. The big question is what are you willing to do to make that dream happen? Here are 4 questions that require an honest reply:
“Am I Willing to Put in the Time?”
When most six year olds were dreaming of being ball players or astronauts, James King already announced he was going to be a novelist. Like most though, James grew up and followed the traditional path: Marriage, kids, and a “real job” writing corporate training materials.
However, unlike the vast majority of people who abandon their childhood dreams entirely, James stuck with his. Every morning at 5:00 am he faithfully wrote for a few hours before heading off to work. His dedication to his dream was impressive. After all nothing in life comes with a guarantee of success — which makes the real question, “Am I willing to put in the time regardless of the outcome?”
Fortunately James was, which is a good thing because for him all that time spent honing his craft paid off. In 2009 his debut novel beat out some 6,500 writers in 22 countries to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.
His book, Bill Warrington’s Last Chance was published by Viking who set him up with a nice advance and a 10 city book tour.
True, James did not achieve his dream of being a novelists until he was 55. Nor has he made enough quite yet to quit his day job. But James is on his way and it’s all because he put in the time to keep working at what he loved, regardless of the outcome.
“Am I Willing to Fail?”
How many rejections or out right failures do you think it would take before you gave up? Five? Ten? One? (Don’t laugh. I know incredibly talented people who’ve stopped altogether after receiving a single lukewarm response.) How about 54? That’s how many book agents passed on James King’s fourth unpublished novel before he won the Amazon contest.
If you really want to be your own boss, you must be willing to put yourself and your work out there. That also means being willing to be suffer rejection, disappointment, and failure and still keep going. How many would it have taken for you to give up?
In the 15 years I’ve been in business, I’ve tried many things that have flopped. Am I disappointed when I spend days, weeks or even months on something and it doesn’t earn a dime? Yup. But the key is I always learn something too. Putting something out there is the only way to find out what the majority of your customers, clients, or audience want — or should I say, want enough to pay for, which can be two different things.
No entrepreneur gets it right every time — and almost never the first time. If things don’t work out immediately, then use it as an opportunity to figure out what went wrong — and then tinker with it until it works. In engineering it’s known as failure analysis. In sports it’s called watching the game tapes.
If what you have to offer isn’t making any money, adjust the price, your marketing strategy, your product, your writing style…. But whatever you do, don’t change your plan to make a living doing what you love.
“Am I Willing to Seek Out Inspiration?”
Everyone wants to be inspired. But being open to inspiration and actively seeking it out are two different things. When was the last time you actually carved out time to go looking for entrepreneurial inspiration?
Ideally, you want to seek out inspiration from people who are already doing the thing you want to do. But it’s not necessary. For instance, you don’t have to be the least bit interested in writing to be inspired by these videos of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winners, finalists, and editors discussing what it takes to write a breakthrough novel.
You don’t even have to stop watching television to be inspired — but you might need to change the channel. Some of the most inspiring shows on entrepreneurship come from young people. My local PBS station WGBY produces a wonderful show called Making It Here Teen Style. One of my favorite segments was about teen mother Anna Sullivan who started a successful jewelry business while finishing high school and raising her daughter.
Another fabulous PBS show is Biz Kids. Each episode of this slickly produced show features young entrepreneurs telling their start up story. You definitely don’t have to be a kid to benefit from their hard won lessons about the importance of business planning, marketing, money management, and much more.
If you don’t get this program in your area you can watch previous episodes online. Plus, there’s a downloadable curriculum you can use to inspire your own kids or other youth in your community — something I’ve volunteered to do at a local teen center called the Brick House.
One of my own more recent inspiring moments was getting to be a part of the Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment series. It’s been a longtime dream of mine to travel the country filming inspiring entrepreneurs, so it was fun to experience what it was like on the other side of the camera.
What was even more fun was turning the tables on Jessica and Dave, the young people in charge of the production. I figured when you spend four months traveling to 25 states listening to hundreds of people talk about their life changing moments, it has to change you as well. I was right.
There are valuable lessons to be learned anywhere and everywhere. You just have to be willing to seek them out.
If you’d like, you can watch my Aha Moment…
Or better yet take a few moments each day to listen to and be inspired by all of the Aha Moments. You never know who you’ll meet there!
“Am I Willing to Spend Money?”
After sitting in on one of his daughter’s college classes (also an aspiring writer), James King enjoyed it so much that he enrolled in an MFA program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. He didn’t spend all that money because he wanted a degree he said. Instead James wanted something far more valuable — feedback.
James’ investment was in his education (always wise). For Anna Sullivan it was in materials. Either way, you invest money because you expect to make that money back and then some. For James, the financial investment paid off in the form of a book deal. For Anna it’s profit. “The money is definitely the best part,” said Anna. “I was shocked at how much I could actually make off this stuff — I was shocked.”
Building a business is like building a house. You can build it quickly or you can build it slowly over time. If you want to go super fast, you can buy a business from someone else. Or you can hire someone to help you grow. That could be a coach or someone who can handle the marketing, or both. But like a house, you do need to invest in raw materials and the skill sets required to get the job done right.
So what are you willing to do to move your dream to the next level? Life is short and trust me, this dream of yours is not going to happen without you. Once you start experiencing the joy of progress, the time, money, lessons learned will be well worth the effort.
Note from Valerie: Discover the “3 Essential Secrets to Changing Course to Work at What You Love” in my new video available at the Changing Course home page. (I’d love your feedback!)
And while you’re there, sign up for a FREE session with a trained Profiting from Your Passions Career Coach and discover how to use the 5-Step Changing Course Formula to create a clear vision of the work you were born to do (hint: it won’t even feel like work) There are only a limited number of free spots available. Learn more here.