The rhetoric for “building your own business” is appealing, but it doesn’t convey how much work it really is to run a successful business.Ame Proietti, Freelance Copywriter
Are you tired of working at the same old job that leaves you feeling unfilled and miserable?
Do you think building a business is the answer to obtaining a life filled with freedom and a steady stream of profit?
Are you ready to take a leap of faith into the world of entrepreneurship and push your abilities to their extremes until you reach your dreams?
Step in line.
There are a billion and more business ideas swirling in people’s heads, yet, very few have the tenacity, willpower, and patience to pull it off.
Consider this a reality check before taking the plunge into building a business.
Don’t go quitting your day job on a whim because some internet guru told you it was possible to “get rich quick” if you only worked 4-hours a week.
And don’t waste your hard-earned savings on product development, marketing campaigns, and random people if you’re not comfortable losing it all and getting nothing in return.
If so, let’s go through all the fundamental elements that are needed to build a business.
Then, you can decide whether or not you’re truly up to the challenge.
The truth about building a business
It’s easy for people to show off their numbers and metrics when they have already achieved “braggable” milestones.
For example, I may not be a millionaire, but I’ve earned $60,000+ on Upwork as a side hustle.
While traveling South East Asia by bicycle, I would use Upwork to earn $1,000 to $2,000 per month quickly. And, I only worked up to 20 hours max.
In theory, I was enjoying a “4-hour workweek” (more on that later).
However, what you don’t see is all the time, effort, and struggle that went into building my freelance copywriting business.
Here’s the truth:
- I accepted many jobs that were below my standards simply to keep busy and put money in the bank
- I worked with a lot of frustrating clients until I finally focused on a target market that was aligned with my personal goals, interests, and beliefs
- It took a few months to fine-tune my approach to pitching and landing high-paying clients
This was my experience building a business focused on a unique skillset: copywriting.
Yet, the same pattern exists if you want to sell a product.
When I tried to build a drop-shipping business, it failed so fast.
- I was too focused on making money instead of building a business that people would love
- I had no passion for my products and felt embarrassed to sell them
- I lost interest after the first week because I never generated a single sale
My drop-shipping business was a disaster.
I spent a month learning how to set up a server on Google Cloud and create a WordPress website.
While building my online shop, I messed up the code for the server and lost everything. I stared at a blank white screen and wasted a week trying to figure out what went wrong.
Eventually, I gave up and built the entire shop all over from scratch.
The point is, when you’re building a business for the first time, there are many challenges to overcome and unexpected experiences that may cause you to lose hope.
Challenges of building a business
This will sound harsh but, your business idea is worthless if you don’t know how to extract it from your head.
Yet when you start putting thoughts on paper, you’ll quickly realize there’s a lot of work involved to get a business off the ground.
Here are 5 important questions you should answer before investing any time, energy, or money into building your business:
- What exactly do you want to sell? (Your offer)
- Is there anyone already selling it? (Your competitors)
- Do people actually buy this thing? (Your target market)
- What do you need to promote it? (Your marketing strategy)
- How much will this cost to get started? (Your overhead/expenses)
Let’s take a closer look at each of those.
You don’t have a business if you have nothing to sell.
Whether it’s a physical product, a digital product, or a specialized service, you need to be able to articulate your business so that other people understand it.
I call this “your offer,” but it’s the same as the product or service you want to sell.
Now, I often see people get too focused on boring “features” while coming off as annoyingly “salesy.”
I know this because I’ve been there many times before. There were times I had no money, and I was desperate to make something so I could feed myself and pay my next month’s rent.
If you want to build a successful business, you have to think clearly about what you want to sell and who and how you’re going to sell it.
That’s why analyzing your competitors and understanding your target market is foundational to generating money as fast as possible.
If your business doesn’t have competitors, there may not be an existing need for whatever product or service you plan on creating.
Have you ever seen the TV series Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank?
Many smart entrepreneurs use that to gain exposure to their already booming business or to establish a partnership that gives their business a cash injection.
However, there are also plenty of ridiculous business ideas that have absolutely no place in the world.
Just go to YouTube and search “dumb + shark tank pitches/dragons den pitches,” and you’ll see what I mean.
You do not want to be the person who gets rejected for an idea that’s useless and impossible to scale into a profitable business.
The best thing you can do for your business is to identify your competitors.
It’s better to see what real people are doing and analyze how they are succeeding to find ideas to help your business.
Plus, it also verifies that there’s a real marketplace available for you to sell your product or service.
That’s not to say that you can’t innovate the next great invention that will change the world for the better. This is just a realistic approach to building a viable business to sustain your life, family, and future.
Your target market
If there’s no one willing to buy, you’re just going to waste your time.
Obviously, your competitors will show you that a market exists. But that doesn’t mean that you can pop up shop, and people are going to come walking through the door with money flying out of their wallets.
You need to understand your target market so that you can present it to them in a way that appeals to their needs.
This ties back to “your offer.”
If you can understand your target market, you’ll be able to position your business in front of people who are the most likely to buy from it.
You need to research the types of people who will buy your product or service and segment them into unique groups.
To do that, ask yourself the following questions:
- How old is your ideal buyer?
- How much money do they make?
- Is your product or service most suitable for men, women, or children?
- What brands do they love?
- Where does your target market like to shop?
- Where do they live?
- What type of education do they have?
- What problems, needs, or wants do they have that your product or service will fulfill?
Create a document and write down your answers.
It would help if you also created “buyer personas,” which is a hypothetical character that represents your ideal customers.
Here’s what that looks like:
Taking the time to do your “homework” is going to pay off in the long run.
But perhaps you hate “homework.”
If that’s the case, you may never succeed at the next step: marketing your business.
No business will survive or thrive if you don’t have the ability to do marketing.
Marketing is the fuel that drives your success. The better your marketing, the more people will come to buy from you. And the more people that come, the more money you will make.
The easiest way to get started is to introduce your new business to the 3Fs:
Usually, the people closest to you are willing to support your new business venture. But that’s not only the case.
You may not have friends and family who understand or support you. That’s why I never rely on them to get a business started.
Yes, it’s a blessing to have, but it can also be a curse.
The success of your business will always come down to your marketing ability.
However, this can be difficult.
You must “package” your business, whether it’s a service or a product, in a way that’s attractive and affordable for the people you want to buy.
You need an elevator/sales pitch. A convincing one.
You have to approach people. A lot of people.
You will hear many no’s. And not always politely.
But that’s not all. There’s more!
What marketing tools are you going to use? Will you rely on social media? A website? Shopify? Influencers? Agencies? Etc.
If you’re bootstrapping your business, you may not have the money to do any of that. So, what should you do?
If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you’ll eventually go bankrupt.
Every business needs a balance between the money coming in with the money going out.
However, it is possible to start a business with $0.
Dropshipping, consulting, copywriting, and graphic design are some businesses that require no financial capital upfront.
Other businesses can be built without money, like apps and software, but those require a lot of time and talent.
The best thing to do when building a new business is to start small and stay lean. This means minimizing all costs and not hiring anyone until there is a steady stream of income.
Even when money starts flowing in, hiring people will take away your profits.
You will likely have to rely on your skills, in the beginning, to prove that your business can make money.
If you can find one buyer, you should just as easily be able to find another and hundreds more after that.
Is a 4-hour workweek realistic?
Let’s return to the concept of building a business and only working 4-hours a week.
The honest answer is: yes, it’s possible.
However, getting to a 4-hour workweek may require a lot of work in the beginning.
If you’re wondering, Tim Ferris came to fame famous for this idea in his book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.”
In short, the book implies you can “escape” the grueling 9 to 5 working world with a profitable lifestyle that requires only 4-hours of work per week.
It goes on to suggest that the path to a “rich life” can be achieved by:
- Being effective, not efficient
- Validating business ideas quickly
- Charging a premium for products or services
However, that’s easier said than done.
In a 2019 Global Wealth Report by the Credit Suisse Research Group, they claim that a total of 46.8 million millionaires exist worldwide. And they collectively own approximately $158.3 trillion.
That’s just over 0.5% of the world’s population.
If you’re building a business hoping to become a millionaire, 4-hours a week might not be the way to do it.
Here’s how much you’d have to earn to reach $1,000,000 in a year:
Earning $1,000,000 per year
|Per Month||Per Week||Per Hour|
Let’s reimagine this with modest numbers while being honest with ourselves.
We’re very likely not to build a million-dollar business in a year.
Perhaps earning $100,000 is more realistic?
Here’s what that looks like:
Earning $100,000 per year
|Per Month||Per Week||Per Hour|
These numbers help visualize the number of hours needed to build a business that earns $1,000,000 or $100,000 per year.
But how does that translate to a sellable product or service?
Let’s look at the numbers to make $100,00 selling a product or service at a specific price.
How to make $100,000 a year:
|Sell a||$5,000 product or service to||20 people|
|Sell a||$2,000 product or service to||50 people|
|Sell a||$1,000 product or service to||100 people|
|Sell a||$500 product or service to||200 people|
|Sell a||$200 product or service to||500 people|
|Sell a||$100 product or service to||1,000 people|
|Sell a||$10 product or service to||10,000 people|
If you can build a business with a specific price point, all you have to do is meet your yearly sales target to earn as much or as little as you desire.
Unfortunately, business theory and business reality don’t always turn out the way you want or expect it to be.
Still think building a business is right for you?
I hope I didn’t discourage you from building a business. I just wanted you to have an honest opinion on what it’s like before you go chasing a dream.
Building a business is risky.
You’re more likely to fail if you don’t prepare or put in the work to make it successful.
- Research your product or service to determine if it’s sellable
- Analyze your competitors to get ideas for your business
- Identify your target market and understand their needs
- Develop a marketing strategy that gets buyers fast
- Manage your spending by starting small and staying lean
And, if you really want a 4-hour workweek, don’t be surprised by the massive amount of time it takes to get there.
It is possible, with a little trial and error, you can build a successful and profitable business.