It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere, and thanks to a wondrous alignment of SEO and some actual experiences in my recent entrepreneurial activities, I wanted to share an insight into having patience and playing a slower, longer game in creative enterprise than what’s currently popular.
Spring is a season for preparing the soil and sowing seeds. If you’re still new in your business, the metaphor holds that you’ve got quite some time left before you can start tearing those plants out of the ground. The problem is that too many of us, especially the younger ones, are doing just that, and then complaining that the sprouts do not nourish.
The Myth of the Quick Buck
People aren’t just going to hand you lots of money just because you’re awesome.
I work in the writing and publishing field, and I’ve learned the hard way that this isn’t a transactional field of service. Sure, you may be tired of hearing that it’s “all about relationships”, but in the pursuit of the quick buck, it’s easy to forget it. It takes time to develop trust with your prospects. This is especially true if your product or service is something that’s a four-or-five figure investment on the part of your clients.
If you’re starting up, I’m sure there’s a temptation to skip over this part and get straight to closing these “whales”, but there isn’t. In publishing and writing especially, this is a gradual process of building trust, rapport, and credibility. The same applies to many other creative fields.
“Without Integrity, Nothing Works” (a.k.a. “Get Your Shit Together”)
est founder Werner Erhard was right on the money. Integrity isn’t morality: it’s the state of being whole and complete. What integrity looks like in an entrepreneurial or freelance context is that you not only have the basic functioning components of your business in place – for example, a website, a business number, a working computer, etc.. – but that you yourself are also keeping up with your health and well-being, your bills, and your commitments.
And how about those bills? Too many of us – and I’m guilty of this as well, so don’t think I’m casting the first stone – go into entrepreneurship because we think it’ll get us that quick buck. I talked about this notion of “burning your boats” in order to “take the Island”.
However, what often happens is that you end up trying to milk money out of your start-up way too quickly. There’s no energetic capital yet, your following is tenuous and not nearly as devoted as you are, and people don’t yet trust you. As such, no cash is flowing in. That’s when the gimmickry comes into play: the “one day special”, the overly high discount on high-value products or services. You compromise your value, and surprise-surprise, no one buys.
Meanwhile, because you quit your job or have no other source of income because that’s how you interpreted “burn the boats”, your bills keep piling up, and so does your desperation to pull something, anything, out of the seedlings you’ve just planted in the ground.
This is why you see many self-employed people occasionally flail about, offering anything and everything to get someone to buy their stuff. But flailing is a huge gumption drain, and you’ll have nothing left before too long to do anything.
This is why I now tell every young person who’s eager to take the leap to take their time. Get that job slinging lattes at Starbucks if you have to, or stay working full-time and devote three hours a night and parts of your weekends to nourish your business. Get your shit together, get your bills paid, and keep some left over to invest in your enterprise. It’ll stop you from flailing about when the floor falls out from under you.
Gary Vaynerchuk says, over and over again, that patience is among the biggest deficits among new entrepreneurs today. This is coming from someone, by the way, who already had experience building businesses and is now one of the more prosperous and influential entrepreneurs around today. In Vaynerchuk’s words, the payoff is coming. “Stop crying, and keep hustling”.
And if that quote’s not enough, if you’re still balking about having to work a j-o-b for a while, consider this rhetorical question from Mr. Les Brown: “do you know the quickest way for you to get back on your feet is to miss two car payments?”
Enjoy the Growing Season
I’ve never farmed, but I know it’s a lot of hard work. You’d never see a farmer plant fall-harvest crops in May and then try to reap them in June, so why would you expect your start-up business to pay your bills right away?
Entrepreneurship is among the most exciting, frightening, joy-filled, and heartbreaking things anyone can do, and I’ve only been at it for less than a year, but I’m putting in the work to make sure that my business grows well, even if some of that work involves doing something else to pay my dues.
My enterprise is still growing, and I’ve stopped flailing about trying to harvest what hasn’t yet grown. I am allowing time and attentive care to do their things. Summer sun is coming and I plan on enjoying every day out in the fields, sunny and rainy alike, knowing that the harvest will be bountiful.
Will you do the same?