In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.
Still in his early thirties, Chris is on the verge of completing a tour of every country on this planet – he’s already visited more than 175 nations – and yet he’s never held a “real job” or earned a regular paycheck. Moderately, he has a special genius for turning ideas into income, and he uses what he earns both to beef up his life of adventure and to give back.
There are many others like Chris – those who’ve found how you can opt out of traditional employment and create the time and income to pursue what they find meaningful. From time to time, achieving that perfect blend of passion and income doesn’t depend on shelving what you currently do. You&aposll start small with your venture, committing little time or money, and wait to take the real plunge when you find yourself sure it&aposs successful.
In preparing to write this book, Chris identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group he’s chosen to concentrate on the 50 most intriguing case studies. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions which may be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment.
Here, in the end, distilled into one easy-to-use guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment. It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even supposing you don’t believe it such — and what other people will pay for. You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees. All you want is a services or products that springs from what you find irresistible to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.
Not content to talk in generalities, Chris tells you exactly how many dollars his group of unexpected entrepreneurs required to get their projects up and running; what these individuals did in the first weeks and months to generate significant cash; one of the crucial key mistakes they made along the way, and the an important insights that made the business stick. Among Chris’s key principles: if you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else; never teach a man to fish – sell him the fish instead; and in the battle between planning and action, action wins.
In ancient times, people who were dissatisfied with their lives dreamed of finding magic lamps, buried treasure, or streets paved with gold. Today, we know that it’s up to us to change our lives. And the best part is, if we change our own life, we will be able to help others change theirs. This remarkable book will start you on your way.
Q&A with Gretchen Rubin and Chris Guillebeau
GR: One thing that in point of fact sets your book with the exception of other similar books is its specificity. You in point of fact drill down on how people have in truth built these businesses. Why did you&aposre taking this approach?
CB: Because most books about business are too generic. They&aposre filled with platitudes instead of data and real instructions. There&aposs nothing fallacious with saying “Go for it!”—but the purpose of this book is to say, “OK, you are ready to go for it? Great. Here&aposs how you in truth do it.”
This isn&apost a book about business, at least not as the general public take into consideration it. Instead, it&aposs a book about freedom. It&aposs for individuals who wish to escape from corporate life, build something of their own to beef up their families, or just find a way to make more cash.
GR: Is it in point of fact imaginable to make a good business out of your passion?
CB: Yes, but the key is to combine your passion with something that is useful to the world. I used to be very passionate about eating pizza and playing video games, but no one wanted to pay me to do it.
That&aposs why we need to go further, until we find the convergence point between what we&aposre excited about and what other people value. For example, I met a guy who was once a snowboarding instructor in Canada. He created a DVD set of instructional videos. He followed his passion, he found a way to make it useful, and it&aposs now a $300,000 a year business.
GR: Many books about startups focus on technology companies; by contrast, you focus on small businesses started by people creating companies around something they find irresistible to do. Steadily, they don’t look like typical “entrepreneurs,” don’t come from traditional business backgrounds, and don’t have special skills. Why did you&aposre taking this approach?
CB: I think there is a real misconception about entrepreneurship. As you noted, some people hear the word startup and consider such things as venture capital, funding rounds, and eventually cashing out if imaginable. It is not that different from the conception of traditional business—wearing a suit, sitting at the back of a desk, playing golf after lunch.
But there&aposs also an entirely different way of creating freedom, and it&aposs just now starting to get the attention it deserves. This alternate perspective is about starting by yourself, with limited money and no special training. You are not looking for outside investment (of any kind), an MBA, or a 65-page business plan that no one will ever read. You just need a services or products, a group of people willing to shop for it, and a means of getting paid.
GR: The economy has numerous people feeling anxious about their financial situations. Do you think this can be a bad time to take a risk like a startup?
CB: When the economy causes us to feel anxious, it is usually a good time to reassess the whole concept of risk. For many people, it can be much riskier to cast your lot in the traditional job market. But what if you did not have to compete in a crowded marketplace—what if it&aposs worthwhile to essentially create your own job? The beautiful thing about starting small means that you are not necessarily competing with anyone, and your financial risk is low.
In the long run, risk is related to security. Among the people in this book were successful in creating their own security instead of entrusting it to someone else.
GR: You did a crazy amount of research for The $100 Startup. What surprised you the most?
CB: The very first thing that surprised me was once how willing most respondents were to discuss the inner workings of their business, especially the financial details. The common attitude was once: if this helps other people in their work, I wish to share it.
Digging deeper, I used to be surprised by one of the crucial interesting businesses people had started. There&aposs a guy who earns more than $100,000 a year helping people use their Frequent Flyer miles. There is another guy in Croatia referred to as “Mr. Spreadsheet,” who has also crafted a six-figure business helping corporate employees manage data better. There were also a number of interesting businesses that were more traditional, like a retail yarn shop in Portland and an Israeli-American designer who created a business selling hand-made wedding contracts.
GR: You give some controversial advice: you don’t need a business plan, you don’t want to spend too much time planning, you don’t need a large amount of cash to launch, and you don’t need special skills or expertise. What do you say to those who disagree?
CB: I&aposd say the proof is found in everyone who has made it happen. My hope is that this book will serve as a blueprint for many more success stories, just like the unconventional and unexpected entrepreneurs I talked to from in every single place the world.