How to be an entrepreneur (without leaving your 9-5)

August 18, 2009
By gwenbell in Online Marketing

I just finished reading Lisa’s post from April, “It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck,” and took it as a reminder to write provocative headlines. Lisa nails it when she says, “entrepreneurs are ruling this recession.” In fact, in March, 2009, The Economist put out a special report that I bought and love – the report was on entrepreneurship. They called entrepreneurs “global heroes.” It was a good reminder for me – and for my nonconformist, entrepreneurial friends around the globe – to keep up the hard work. These are a few ideas that have worked for me on my entrepreneurial journey.

Micro-fy your outreach I’m a big fan of thinking small. I just bought a loft in Boulder, Colorado. It’s not huge but it gets the job done. I think your outreach needs to be the same. Consider the weight of the paper stock on which you print your business card. That type of detail can be the difference between your card landing in the recycling bin or being the topic of a blog post.

Give something away (free food!) Once, I received a business card with a packet of seeds attached. Another time, a hand-made piece of gourmet chocolate. Both of these businesses, since the time of our meeting, have gone on to do great things. I believe giving away food with your business card, if it’s delicious, is a winning situation. We all get hungry, eventually, right? Let people associate your name and contact information with something tasty.

Get public (work once/week from a coffee shop) Lots of folks have written on how to get out of the cube. One of my personal favorites is Michelle Goodman’s “The Anti 9-5 Guide” (follow her on Twitter). Working once a week from a coffee shop if you can get your boss (even if that boss is you) to allow it, can expose you to new ideas, random pieces of information that you might not catch cruising the social web.

List your ten offerings Put your ten current offerings on your site, sticker, business card, 3×5 card, 8×10 sheet of paper at the door. Remind yourself and friends of what your top offerings are. Don’t assume your friends know. They don’t. Or they’ve forgotten on their own quest to remake themselves. The best way to explain what you are up to is to first remind yourself.

Trade Many of my successful entrepreneur friends traded their services long before they got paid for their services/wares. You don’t have to keep giving it away, you can trade up.

Team up with other entrepreneurs Chris calls this building your small army. Call it what you like, just think about who is in yours. I know who is in mine and whose armies I consider myself to be in. Basically, when they call, I come. And it’s mutual.

Ask for it Ask for testimonials. As soon as you finish a gig, no matter the size, ask for a testimonial. I keep the testimonials fresh because I view my site as a résumé-in-motion.

Make yourself scarce (the case against attending every event) There are folks who want to be at every single networking event, conference, meetup and tweetup under the sun. I know, I sometimes am one of those people. But I think it’s also crucial to know when making yourself scarce leads to growth.

Be relentless Put a follow up date on the calendar and follow up with prospective clients/gigs.

Wear yellow Know when to stand out. Know when to make a splash.

On that note, know when not to wear yellow Know when to let someone else be center stage. It’s easy to think, erroneously, that if they’re looking at you you’re doing something right.

Microaction Do a bit of this now. Not tomorrow. And see the microactions stack up.

Even if you’re employed, act like an entrepreneur Because hey, you never know, you might be someday!

I’m an entrepreneur for life. I became an entrepreneur even while I had a job (albeit, an unconventional one teaching English to elementary school children in Japan) and once I started my first business I knew it was right for me. Someone asked what I think of Lisa’s “You Just Suck” post. My answer? It resonates. If it resonates for you, take that string and run with it. Entrepreneurs are fond of referring to what we do as a hustle. If you love the hustle, entrepreneurship might be right for you.

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