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Entrepreneurship

How To Transform Your Project Into Your Main Job That Makes Money

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My first year of writing is nearly complete. In starting my own online site and business, I realized a few entrepreneurial secrets that aided in the success and development of Frugaling.org. Hopefully, some of these ideas inspire you to make more and take advantage of any downtime you have to achieve your own entrepreneurial dreams!

A fun alternative to a temp job

Finding time for extra income opportunities was daunting last year. I wanted to make and save more money to pay off an overwhelming amount of student loans. I was rapidly approaching $40,000 in total debt last May. I thought about getting a menial job that paid me about $8 an hour after taxes. I scoured Craigslist for random temp jobs, but grew hopeless as the opportunities didn’t often fit within the parameters of my challenging semesters. The debt was unmanageable.

Sometime in mid-July, Frugaling.org became a real second income for me. My advertising revenue and traffic skyrocketed. I felt a rush when I published articles that would get read by 10, 100, 1000, and eventually by up to 10,000+ people at a time. But the excitement was heightened because I knew this would perfectly sync with my busy graduate student schedule.

You make your own schedule

Here and there, I began to work on the site. I’d type a story between classes or when I finished work for the night. In a fleet of passion through my fingers, I’d hammer out intricate articles that were entirely my own desire. As much as I wanted to share my voice with others, I was writing for my own growth, too.

Unlike the Craigslist opportunities or strange side jobs around my college campus, writing online and becoming entrepreneurial allowed me even greater freedom in money-making endeavors. It was far easier to squeeze an hour of work where I could fit it, then worry about someone else’s overlapping or differing schedule. Frankly, it was empowering.

Entrepreneurial success is often predicated on fall back options

Graduate school, work, and my other job account for about 60 to 70 hours of work per week. At times, it was hard to digest how many hours were dedicated to my education. Until this academic year, I considered myself to be lazy. I didn’t want to work all that hard and found any opportunity to waste time.

By creating an outlet for my thoughts and conveniently forming it around my schedule, I kept my prior obligations while starting a new project. My grades and school experience hardly changed; actually, I was more diversified and felt grounded in life because of my entrepreneurial spirit.

Starting a business takes a certain gusto and risk, but having options helped insure against failure. If Frugaling didn’t work out, that would be okay. This wasn’t the only business venture going for me, and I wasn’t putting all my eggs in one basket. The failure of this would simply be a drop in the larger bucket.

Follow these examples to find your own achievement

I’m not alone in starting a business while staying busy. There are a tremendous number of tech titans that took to something on the side, and it turned into their main income. Here are two examples:

Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox

Houston was searching for a method to avoid the constant need for a flash drive. As a graduate student at MIT, he coded a rough basis for Dropbox.com. Basically, it would allow users to place a file online, and have access anywhere in the world to that same file, as long as there was Internet. Houston met his business partner at MIT and launched the company with the safety net of getting a masters degree from a top-tier institution with massive social connections. If Dropbox had failed, he would still be hirable at some terrific institutions. If it succeeded, he would get the best of both worlds.

Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook

Zuckerburg’s story is legendary now. Through a series of startups and ideas, Mark created a site that was exclusively for Harvard students. It was originally entitled, “The Facebook.” This elite establishment became the perfect territory to foment incredible demand. From there, Zuckerburg and his partners slowly spread the idea from university to university. The elite model appealed to a variety of people, but if it had failed, he would still be getting a Harvard degree.

Written by Frugaling.org

Entrepreneurship

What Kills A Startup

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1 – Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback

Ignoring your users is a tried and true way to fail. Yes that sounds obvious but this was the #1 reason given for failure amongst the 32 startup failure post-mortems we analyzed. Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups. For instance, ecrowds, a web content management system company, said that “ We spent way too much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision. I’d recommend not going more than two or three months from the initial start to getting in the hands of prospects that are truly objective.”

2 – Building a solution looking for a problem, i.e., not targeting a “market need”

Choosing to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was often cited as a reason for failure. Sure, you can build an app and see if it will stick, but knowing there is a market need upfront is a good thing. “Companies should tackle market problems not technical problems” according to the BricaBox founder. One of the main reasons BricaBox failed was because it was solving a technical problem. The founder states that, “While it’s good to scratch itches, it’s best to scratch those you share with the greater market. If you want to solve a technical problem, get a group together and do it as open source.”

3 – Not the right team

A diverse team with different skill sets was often cited as being critical to the success of a starti[ company. Failure post-mortems often lamented that “I wish we had a CTO from the start, or wished that the startup had “a founder that loved the business aspect of things”. In some cases, the founding team wished they had more checks and balances. As Nouncers founder stated, “This brings me back to the underlying problem I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made.” Wesabe founder also stated that he was the sole and quite stubborn decision maker for much of the enterprises life, and therefore he can blame no one but himself for the failures of Wesabe. Team deficiencies were given as a reason for startup failure almost 1/3 of the time.

4 – Poor Marketing

Knowing your target audience and knowing how to get their attention and convert them to leads and ultimately customers is one of the most important skills of a successful business. Yet, in almost 30% of failures, ineffective marketing was a primary cause of failure. Oftentimes, the inability to market was a function of founders who liked to code or build product but who didn’t relish the idea of promoting the product. The folks at Devver highlighted the need to find someone who enjoys creating and finding distribution channels and developing business relationship for the company as a key need that startups should ensure they fill.

5 – Ran out of cash

Money and time are finite and need to be allocated judiciously. The question of how should you spend your money was a frequent conundrum and reason for failure cited by failed startups. The decision on whether to spend significantly upfront to get the product off the group or develop gradually over time is a tough act to balance. The team at YouCastr cited money problems as the reason for failure but went on to highlight other reasons for shutting down vs. trying to raise more money writing:

The single biggest reason we are closing down (a common one) is running out of cash. Despite putting the company in an EXTREMELY lean position, generating revenue, and holding out as long as we could, we didn’t have the cash to keep going. The next few reasons shed more light as to why we chose to shut down instead of finding more cash.

The old saw was that more companies were killed by poor cashflow than anything else, but factors 1, 2 and 4 probably are the main contributing factors to that problem. No cash, no flow. The issue No 3 – the team – is interesting, as if I take that comment ” I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made” and think about some of the founders and startup CEOs I know, I can safely say that the main way that any decision was made was by agreeing with them – it was “my way or the highway”. I don’t therefore “buy” the team argument, I more buy the willingness of the key decision makers to change when things are not working (aka “pivoting” – point 9).

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About the Author

This article was produced by Broadsight. Broadsight is an attempt to build a business not just to consult to the emerging Broadband Media / Quadruple Play / Web 2.0 world, but to be structured according to its open principles. see more.

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Callum Connects

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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