When you stop working for the day, have you really gotten anywhere? Will the hours that you spent today still be paying off for you next week, next month, next year?
If your answer is “No,” then you’re probably here because you’re somewhere on the left side of this spectrum:
But you want to be over here on the right side, in the land of the product business:
Because you know that a product business can help you build a better life — because freedom & self-determination also increase from left to right, and total compensation can, too. That’s the power of the Investment Mindset coupled with your specific skills.
But how do you get there from here?
What do you need to move from left to right?
You need to create an asset, which will continue to pay you well after you’ve recouped your design/development time. And to be able to create that asset (aka product), you need the following things:
- the skill to make something people want
- the habits for execution
- the time to execute every damn week
- the money to smooth the slow growth
But, while those skills are absolutely necessary, they’re not sufficient. You also gotta hang in there — and create the environment in which you can hang in there.
Prepare for the long haul
I’ve surveyed many bootstrappers and the consensus is that it takes between 9-18 months to hit $100,000 in yearly run rate. Growing a business takes time — time as in sustained weekly effort and also calendar time to grow.
And that takes money, because you’ve got to eat & keep a roof over your head.
If you’re savvy, and you follow all the right strategies (see Don’t Fave This Post), you can start making your first product dollar inside of 3 months. But that can’t & won’t create energy or time.
So, how do you achieve escape velocity from job- or freelancer-land to product biz land? How do you make the time? How do you transition?
How do you get more of what you need — money, creative energy, and time?
For whatever situation you’re in, there are steps you can take right now to create the environment you need to do your investment work.
First: If you’re in a job…
Your goal is to create more time & energy in your life for building investment assets (aka products), without seriously compromising your income. How? This depends on what type of job you have.
If you’re working at a startup…
Assuming a startup job entails more work, more diverse responsibilities, more hours, and less pay than a traditional corporate gig — in exchange for the infinitely receding carrot of valuation — well, our best advice to you is:
- Get a competing job offer and… quit. OR
- Quit and open a consulting practice. See consulting disclaimer box.
Infinitely varying jobs of long duration are exhausting beyond their hours. A less-demanding job will leave you more time & creative energy, and might even pay you more. Consulting, if you’re already set up for it with exposure & habits, can also be a million times better.
Basically, startup jobs are designed to mechanically extract value from you until there’s nothing left. This is exactly the opposite of what you need for investing.
If you’re in a corporate job…
You may be in a better position than you think to create the environment you need.
Here are tactics you can use to get more time, energy, and money:
- Bring a proposal to create a more value-producing chain of delegation/automation/systems to your boss, get permission to implement, then negotiate a shorter work week.
- Get a competing job offer for a 20%+ salary increase, and use that to negotiate a 4-day work week (with regular, not extended hours) instead of a raise.
- Just flat-out ask for a raise or better yet a shorter work week at your same salary in lieu of a raise (it’s a functional raise).
- Skunkworks automate or delegate some of your job, and then present your solution to management as both A) profit-increasing and B) a reason to give you more flexibility.
- Quit & start consulting, instead. See consulting disclaimer box.
Does negotiating a 4-day work week sound absolutely ludicrous & unattainable? It’s not. I did it at my second semi-corporate gig, and have helped several of our students do the same. Like anything else in business, it’s all about the give & take of value with the other party (in this case, your employer). Make them a good offer. Our suggestions above are a great place to start.
Consulting Disclaimer Box: Consulting is only a good first choice if you’re desperately ready to be done with regular employment, and have strong habits for implementation & sales already. Only take this route if you have an easy way to be visible to clients (a blog, an OSS project), and rationale for charging a solid hourly rate, and are willing to apply good business practices (see below)… or else your learning curve & inefficiencies will eat up even more of your time & energy than a staid corporate job.
Second: If you’re already a free agent…
You’re unconstrained by a regular job with somebody else setting your specific hours and pay — yay!
Your goal, though, is still to work fewer hours for the same or more money…and also you want to learn how to act like a business. There are strategies, processes, procedures, and mindsets to work on. From here, everything you do can help build your eventual product business.
Plus, of course, you can get paid.
If you’re a freelancer…
Chances are, if you’re a freelancer, you’re a sucky freelancer. No judgment — it’s easy to be that way in a boom market like this one. Your task, then, is to go from a freelancer to a consultant.
Freelancers are viewed as tools to be deployed to produce a work-product; consultants are viewed as strategic advisors, to set direction & make decisions.
Tools don’t get to set the terms of their engagement, but advisors do.
Not convinced you’re acting like a tool? A tool waits for work to come to them, takes small projects, accepts random or horrible clients, fails to build a career out of piecemeal work, fails to use business processes to increase efficiency, starts from scratch with every engagement, fails to understand or deliver business value, fails to follow up, and naturally, charges too little. Sound familiar?
Here’s how to stop sucking and free up time, money, and energy, in no particular order:
- Track all your time, and bill for all of it. (Freckle Time Tracking can help.)
- Learn about the business value you can produce for your customers and hammer it hard in all of your interactions: your sales page, every meeting, every report.
- Raise your rates accordingly, work fewer hours, for fewer and better clients.
- Create workflows & documents that you reuse for every engagement; interviews, processes, steps, dates, deliverables, follow up sequences.
- Charge for proposals.
- Write, educate, create projects people can use to get in front of your best clients… create & groom that sales pipeline.
In short, learn basic business skills and they will magically transform you from a tool into an advisor…*poof*!
If you’re a consultant…
If you already focus relentlessly on delivering business value to your best clients, and you’re already systematized and self-regulated, then there’s one step left for you:
- Package & productize your consulting offerings
Creating a new “consulting product” for every engagement is wasteful of time, energy, and money. (And also the opportunity to build the skills you need to sell products.)
So, your next step is to create specific results for specific prices, and practice selling them like a product instead of one-off engagements. Fixed price investigations, reports, or structured engagements, or even recurring monthly engagements where the scope and price are completely constrained.
From here, it’s just another step or two to actual products.
No matter where you are, start today.
Yes, if you’re in a soul-sucking job, it can feel like you’ll never get your head above water long enough to make long-term decisions and then act on them. Yes, when you’re working around the clock as a freelancer because you act like a tool and not an advisor, it can be hard to imagine how things could be different. You probably feel like “This is just the way it is.”
It isn’t. Things can absolutely be different. You can make them that way.
If you’ve got enough skills to be swamped with work & demands, then you can do this.
But nobody’s going to do it for you. You’ve got to be the one to carve out that time, energy, and money.
So hop to it.