Category Archives: Advice

Some Insight from Ernest Hemingway

ernestI have the same fear. I’m trying to really live but it’s difficult when I work at least 20 hours a week, go to school, and run 2 businesses. Besides the business part, I don’t control my time. If you control your time, you control your life. Work and school is something where I just go through the motions and jump through the hoops. There are too many days that I feel are wasted. Too many days where I’m not really working towards anything and my wheels are just spinning under me.

I need more instances where I feel alive. More instances that get my adrenaline rushing that let me know that I’m alive. Playing it safe never really got anyone anywhere. Life should be measured by how many near-death incidents you’ve had; not by how many days of vacation your employer “allows” you.

That’s what we’ll be working towards starting in 2013. Hope you’ll join me.

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You Don’t Get to Decide When You Die – Live Accordingly

These are some rough sketches that my dad did for me. I think he’s an incredibly talented artist who’s creativity has been oppressed by other responsibilities. I hope to incorporate his artwork into this blog and eventually offer prints and original paintings for sale to help keep you motivated through your hardships. Whether it’s making it through the day, growing a business, getting out of debt, or creating the life that you have always wanted. Or a combination of a bunch of things.

We waste a lot of time. Doing something tomorrow or one day turns into doing it never. We think we have a lot of time and that we’ll live for many more years but the truth is, we don’t really know. We don’t know when we’ll die. Part of what makes life exciting is not knowing the answer to that question. But it also makes us take a lot of things for granted. We don’t really live as if we’re dying.

But we are. We die a little more each day until our time is up. Don’t be afraid to live the life you’ve always wanted to live until its too late. Life is for living, not for working. There’s more to life than spending most of your life working in a building being surrounded by people that you probably didn’t choose to be around. You should spend more time with friends and family and not your annoying co-workers who don’t add value to your life.

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Bob Dylan is One Smart Dude

This quote resonates with me particularly well because I totally agree. This is the lifestyle that I’m searching and yearning for. It’s why my priorities are what they are.  It’s the reason for this blog.

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Business Advice to a Friend

A friend of mine wants to create an online furniture store and a few of the questions he had were:

  • How do I turn it into a legal entity.
  • How do I deal with copyright issues if I want to use the same name of a company that’s in a different industry?
  • How should I get the word out and promote the blog?
  • Is there anything else I should think about?

I figured others would have the same questions so this is why I’m posting my brief conversation with him.

* * *

First and foremost, I suggest that you turn your venture into a legal entity other than yourself. This turns most of the liability and risk involved to your business instead of your personal self. If someone sues you, they can only go after your business’ assets instead of your own like your house, car, etc.

If you will be the only owner, I suggest you become a sole-proprietor limited liability corporation (LLC.) Along with the protection against possibly getting sued, you get tax breaks and a resale number/tax ID number that you can use to get supplies and other stuff at wholesale prices.

We used our accountant to set everything up for us. There is a specific site for each state to do it as well. Sunbiz.org is the site for Florida. A little exploring and you should be able to find one for Pennsylvania. There is a fee to renew your entity each year. This varies from state to state I think.

I’ve heard that legalzoom.com is a good place to set things up but haven’t used it myself so can’t tell you what I think about it.

I have no idea what the copyright issues would be if you try to use the same name as another company that is in another industry. That’s something you’d probably want to ask a copyright lawyer about. They are expensive so have you thought about maybe using another name to avoid the issue altogether?

Once you have a legal entity set up, I’d suggest creating a PayPal account to make it easy to do accounting for the business and create an easy way for customers to pay you.

I’d use godaddy.com to buy a domain. We’ve used it for all of ours and it’s a rather simple process….if the domain is available. The domain should be as simple as possible, something catchy, something easy to remember, or better yet, a combination of all 3.

Next you’ll want to find a site to create your store with. We use shopify.com for our original store. Rather simple but a bit pricy. Thebigcartel.com is cheap but you can’t do as much. Etsy.com would probably be a good site as you’ll be making handcrafted furniture and such. That’s what I was going to use for my furniture store. I’ve heard good things about the community as well.

You’ll definitely want to have a blog along with the site. I wouldn’t suggest Facebook as it whores itself out to companies for money. I get bad vibes from companies who promote on FB and personally pay no attention to them. A waste of money if you ask me.

I’d definitely create a Tumblr as people like to reblog pics and what not. Talk to your followers, ask them their interests, why they follow, etc etc. Be a person; not a company.

Look into thefancy.com and pinterest.com as well. You could create usernames on these or you could just have people post your pics and stuff on these sites because they want to. Focus all your attention on a social network or not at all. Twitter is ok but I’m not much of a fan. You’ll just have to test it out for yourself. It could be a good way to network with other furniture builders and learn from them.

You’ll definitely, definitely want to have great pictures of your furniture and goods.

Don’t ever pay for advertising. Let things grow organically through word of mouth.

You’ll need to figure out how you’re going to ship and with which provider. We use the Postal Service 99% of the time and have hardly had any issues.

Packaging is something that you’ll want to think about as well. Everything is intertwined when you build a brand and shitty packaging won’t help.

Pricing is another interesting point which will take another day lol.

Recommended readings:

$100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau

Trust Agents by Julien Smith and Chris Brogan

* * *
We’ll probably be exchanging more messages so stay tuned to see how things turn out. Do you have any other suggestions or tips for him?

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7 Reasons Why it Doesn’t Suck to Work for Someone Else

I used to totally be against working for someone else.

I’m almost 23 and the longest job I held was as a receptionist/file clerk at a doctor’s office for about a year and a half. The only reason why I kept it for so long was because it was decent pay and it helped fund my pursuit of becoming a professional soccer player career. Travel, hotels, training, food, and gas gets pretty expensive after a while.

I get bored easily if I do the same thing day after day. I get bored when there’s no opportunities to advance. I get bored when things are relatively constant. I like to always be learning something new and doing new things.

For the past 4 years, I’ve also been working on my family’s business. I personally never made any money from this. My payment was that I was able to live at home. There probably were A LOT of 80-hour weeks. A lot of sacrifices were made. A lot of experiences that I missed out on. A lot of friendships and relationships also crumbled because of it.

But I was totally fine with that. I was doing something that I was truly passionate about. You know what they ask, “if you didn’t get paid, would you still do your job?” Well in my instance, that quite literally was what was happening. I was meeting new people from around the world and we worked on a bunch of awesome projects. We were creating some beautiful stuff. I’ve learned priceless things about business that will benefit me for as long as I live.

Unfortunately, these things don’t mean a damn thing if you still live with your parents.

That’s why, a couple of months ago, I decided that I need to make some money by working for someone else. Apparently, the region I live in, is the second-worst region in the entire United States as far as recovering from the Recession goes. Only Detroit was worse. Go figure.

With that being said, the job market wasn’t exactly hot for a young person who didn’t have any “traditional” work experience or a degree.
The only job I was able to get was as a newspaper delivery person. The hours were great…..2:30-4:30 am, 7 days a week. Geeze, I wonder why I was able to get that job?

I lasted only 6 weeks there. The great thing about that job was that I had to give them a 30-day notice if I wanted to quit. Awesome! Thankfully, they found a replacement quickly and I quit about 2 weeks after I gave my notice. I learned some great life lessons but I was still unsuccessful in the money department.

After a couple of weeks of aimlessly filling out applications wishing and waiting for something to stick, an old friend of mine got me a job at a restaurant as a cook. Me….a cook? My repertoire of meals consists of bacon and eggs, cereal, and nachos. I wish I was joking. I’ve been there almost 6 weeks and lets just say, cooking is not for the faint of heart. Hours of dishes and bullshit chores take a toll on you.

But it could be worse.

My General Manager loves me and he says that I’m the future of that restaurant and that I have lots of potential.

That’s all what I was really looking for. Someone to give me an opportunity. Any opportunity. May not sound like much, but its great to get praise from complete strangers. Especially when you step way outside of your comfort zone and it pays off.

I also start a second job in exactly a week. This might actually turn out to be my career. I’ll be a teller for a large bank. My dream was never to be a banker, God no!

But they’ve given me an incredible opportunity. A life-changing opportunity.

My mom has been with the company for most of my life. Her managers helped me prepare for the interview and did all they could to help me. I’ve yet to meet them in person but it’s incredibly great when complete strangers want to genuinely help you. I think they’re more excited about me getting this position than I am!

This company will reimburse me for my tuition and books so it looks like I’ll be getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance after all. (I also used to strongly be against traditional higher education.) Grandma and grandma will definitely be happy to hear that. I’ll also get a 401k and health insurance. Might not sound like much, but entrepreneurs who work for themselves would kill for things like that!

Perhaps the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is the fact that there are many opportunities to advance. Opportunities such as working for them somewhere in Europe! I was born in Germany but my family immigrated to the United States when I was a baby. I’ve always wondered what life would be like if I lived there and I promised myself that I would move there as soon as possible. Well, it looks like it’ll be possible sooner rather than later.

Judging by the title, you’re probably wondering where in the world the “7 Reasons Why it Doesn’t Suck to Work for Someone” are. Sorry about that. I thought you needed the background info to get the full effect. Here they are.

  1. You don’t have to come up with all the answers. As an entrepreneur, you are the boss, the secretary, the head of marketing; you’re everything. If there’s a problem, you have to fix it. If there’s a question, you have to answer it. Even if you don’t have the answer. As an employee, its nice to be told what to do. There must be a reason why they’re telling you to do it, right? Don’t take this for granted.
  2. You get to learn the systems of the company that you work for. Someone spent a lot of time, energy, and money figuring them out. Systems run the world. There is a system of travel, a system of learning, a system for growing food, etc. In growing your business, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Take what you can from the systems where you work at and tweak it to make it better to relate it to your business. Free education on how to create a business right there.
  3. Having a source of income outside of your business is a great way to alleviate stress and pressure for your business to succeed. As much as you think you know what you’re doing, you really don’t. As much as you think you can control and build your business for success, you can’t. Shit always happens. Businesses can quite literally close overnight. Natural disasters can mess up a good thing. Your competition can cream you if you aren’t careful. Appointments and contracts can dry up within days. Since you have a different source of income, you can leverage this against your risk of loss. Leverage is a really good thing to have.
  4. Making money, any money from anywhere, is great. You can use the money that you make from your job in your business to improve it. This source is better than getting a loan from friends or financial institutions.
  5. Having an outside source of income buys your business time to be successful. The notion of “if you build it, they will come” is bullshit. It takes lots of time to build trust, credibility, and a reputation. It could take months or even years. Or not at all.
  6. Cash flow is really what you need to grow any business. If you don’t have a constant cash flow, you’re screwed. Bills will be paid late and you’ll be charged late fees and get higher interest rates. If you can’t pay your employees (if you have any) on time, well guess what…you won’t have employees much longer. Some quarters will be better than others. Most businesses do not have a constant cash flow. I have a great friend in Michigan who told me that you basically save all that you can that you make in the summer to cover the downfall of business during the winter so you can survive to see the next summer. If you have outside cash, you can use this to cover any shortfalls in business that you might experience.
  7. If you’re really fortunate, some jobs will include benefits. Some are better than others. In my case. tuition and book reimbursement is an incredible benefit to me. Not only will this potentially advance my career with this company, having my degree will make me more appealing to any other potential employers. Getting my degree was something that I was eventually planning on doing anyways but basically getting it for free gives me more incentive to get it quicker.

To sum things up, not everything sucks about being employed by someone else. Just don’t sell out, get comfortable, and keep doing it for the rest of your life. Almost everyone has done this. They’ve given up on their hopes and dreams. They exist but they aren’t alive.

Get what you can out of the experience of being employed and use it to chase your dreams. Yes, it sucks to go to work to do things you might not necessarily enjoy, but you’re luckier than some to even have a job. It’s a privilege to be employed. Take advantage of it.

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15 Tips for Better Business Writing

The best class that I took during my shortened higher-education career was definitely a class titled, “Writing in Business.” It set the basis on which my business writing skills have been created.

During the 4 years that our business has existed, along with my side projects, failed business ventures, and my blogs, I’ve probably written hundreds of thousands of words through e-mails, interacting with our customers and fans, and creating copy, ads, and setting up systems.

That’s a lot.

I’ve recently started writing and editing documents for other businesses and they’ve been amazed with what I’ve come up with. There definitely is an art to writing business documents. The business writing style isn’t something that they teach in school. Heaven forbid, we actually learn something useful!

I’ve always thought that my business writing skills have been above-average but there really isn’t anything that I can compare them to. The feedback I’ve received lately has confirmed this but has also opened my eyes to the fact that most micro businesses could use help with their writing. You see, we’re either motorcycle mechanics, make-up artists, or photographers and those are things that just come naturally to us. Writing however, probably doesn’t.

As a micro entrepreneur, you’re many things; secretary, head of marketing, bookkeeper, and negotiator….but writer? Not so much. This is  an area that has a large effect on a lot of aspects of your business. It’s up to you to use it to your advantage but in most instances, it’s working against you.

But you aren’t to blame. You have a lot on your plate and writing takes time, energy, and brain power. I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to do after you’ve been busy putting out fires all day.

Without further ado, some tips for better business writing.

  1. Write to a specific audience. Write as if you’re talking to a single customer.
  2. Write to the type of customer that you want to attract. If you want to attract aspiring models, use language and terms that they can relate to.
  3. Help potential customers realize that you’re talking to them. Say something like “are you a vintage motorcycle enthusiast who needs a professional, experienced mechanic to work on your motorcycle?” if you want to attract vintage motorcycle enthusiasts who need someone to work on their motorcycle.
  4. Trigger their emotions. People aren’t always rational. They buy with their emotions; not their rationality.
  5. Share action steps with your audience. Tell them what you want them to do! If you want them to follow you on Facebook, say “please follow us on Facebook if you’ve found our information helpful.” Or something like that.
  6. Make it easy for them to follow through on your action steps. If you want them to e-mail you, share your e-mail address a couple of times. Better yet, give a direct link for them to write you with. Nothing worse than confusing potential customers. Major turn-off.
  7. Make things as simple as possible. Do not use big words, do not beat around the bush, and do not make people guess.
  8. When dealing with irate customers, try to defuse the situation. Apologize even if you know they’re in the wrong. Offer solutions that make them feel like they’re in control of the situation.
  9. Write things from your customers’ point-of-view. Your business doesn’t exist to serve you; it exists to serve your customers. Give the people what they want!
  10. Be as professional as possible. Bad grammar and misspelled words will make potential customers question your intelligence and professionalism. That’s never good.
  11. Remember, it’s all about the customer’s perception of you and your business. What do you want them to think?
  12. Everything once its published online or elsewhere, can be seen forever. Think twice before writing something nasty. It will almost always come back to bite you in the butt.
  13. Whatever you write is technically a part of your marketing efforts.
  14. You could have the coolest, greatest widget in the history of the world but if you can’t effectively tell your customers how awesome it really is, none of that will matter because you won’t sell a damn thing.
  15. Be as friendly as possible. If people e-mail you, e-mail them back in a timely manner. Ask them a question and keep the conversation going.
  16. Don’t be a d*ck. Most of the time, customers do business with a certain business because of the people…why do you think customer service is so important?
  17. I realize the title of this post is “15 Tips for Better Business Writing” and this is number 17. Point in case, undersell  and give your customers a little extra whenever you can.

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17 Things I Should Have Known at 17

This post was inspired by Julien Smith’s post titled 20 Things I Should Have Known at 20. Awesome food for thought so check it out.

5 years ago, I was 17 and in my freshman year in college. Damn, how things have changed! This was before our business, before I tried out for professional soccer teams, and before I’ve met so many incredible people around the world by doing what I love. This isn’t directly related to running a micro business, but a lot of these lessons can be used in running one.

 

  1. Your GPA in school has no direct correlation to how successful you’ll be in life.
  2. The college you go to has no direct correlation to how successful you’ll be in life. It’s no big deal if you don’t go to college.
  3. It’s about who you know, not what you know. Street smarts get you further than book smarts.
  4. It’s not a good thing when your credit card limit constantly increases.
  5. You probably won’t be friends with the friends you had in high school 5 years after high school.
  6. You probably won’t marry your high school sweetheart.
  7. Potential is a great thing to have but eventually you have to do something with it.
  8. Don’t do “it” just because everyone else is. Have your own opinion.
  9. Do as much as possible when you’re young. Play as many sports and join as many organizations as possible.
  10. What you write on Facebook, stays on Facebook.
  11. They say that high school is the best 4 years of your life but that’s only true if you’re proactive and make it that way.
  12. He who provides the alcohol will be popular.
  13. He who provides the alcohol is probably only popular because he provides the alcohol.
  14. You get away with a lot more when you’re young, so take advantage of that. Do dumb shit and learn from it.
  15. Don’t let the dumb shit you did in high school scar you for the rest of your life.
  16. High school crushes are awesome. You know what’s better, actually having a girl/boy friend instead. Ask the person out.
  17. Don’t break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and keep on going back out with them. This is a great way to become emotionally unstable. Once it doesn’t work, it will never work.

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