I’ve body slammed my job to go it alone. No more petty bosses, micro-managing supervisors, snowflake coworkers, and bad office coffee. It’s all me. Time to put up or shut up. Now what?!?
Why I Decided to Keep an Entrepreneur Journal
Yo, yo, yo. Since I mercifully rescued myself from the cubicle zombie plague, I’ve spent a little time relaxing and vacationing but mostly I’ve been wandering around the house in a what-do-I-do-now? fog.1 The good news, and I’m sure my GF would agree, is that I’ve found some direction and settled into a new routine. The not so good news is that finding a direction brought on a crush of thoughts and ideas that I need to get out of my head so I can focus on my new life.
My head is a massive, chaotic space swirling with thoughts and ideas. Everything is just bouncing around all over the place. It’s an incredible mess.
Years ago, I took up journaling to help organize that mess. A way to figure out which thoughts to keep and which to jettison. Journaling lets me develop a plan. Not a plan like a set of numbered instructions, insert Tab A into Slot B sort of thing, but a personalized mental model that I can use to approach life with reason and adhere to my ideals.
For me, success requires a plan. In order to have a plan, I need a way to track what I do and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. So, rather than attack entrepreneur life with a strategy that reminds one of Shirley Dog’s daily assault on her dinner, I decided to keep an entrepreneur journal.
Since I’m going to take the time to put pen to paper, I figure why not post the journal to my blog? Any of you who follow along2 may get a chuckle out of my comical attempt to make money. I’m picturing Chevy Chase at his slapstick best, but you younger readers feel free to conjure whatever comedic images you think are most appropriate.
But, through sheer persistence and force of will, I’ll have some successes as well. The key is to document and learn so that, eventually, the successes will become routine and begin to outnumber the failures. Then, I’ll get to the real work of building wealth and freedom.
A Primitive Mind Creates Multiple Income Streams
As I write this,3 the economy is about as stable as a three-legged elephant with vertigo.4 Given that fact, along with how quickly my work situation changed, I’ve decided to build multiple, strong income streams.
Being of a primitive mind, the well-being of myself and my family is my top priority. As such, diversifying income streams gives me a safety net should one of those streams dry up because of something like, oh I don’t know, the coming financial apocalypse.
To start, my income streams are these: 1) this blog, StrengthAndReason.com, 2) my ecommerce business, and 3) gig work.
Given my tendency to fall fast and hard down the proverbial rabbit hole on interesting subjects,5 I’m not sure how dividing my attention among multiple projects will work. I usually end up doing the more interesting work and ignoring everything else. So, I’ll have to find a strategy to keep all projects moving forward. I see a lot of time management/work flow/goal setting experiments in my future.
I’ve always enjoyed writing. People even complimented my writing in my younger days. Unfortunately, since law school, my writing muscle6 has turned into a Netflix binging couch potato.
To be fair, life as a Government drone required a fair amount of writing. Unfortunately, most of it was just an exercise to test my find and replace skills in template documents, so there was little room for creativity. Additionally, I had little incentive to produce quality work. Micromanagement disease infects Government offices to a clownish degree. So much so, that at times the final work product bore only a cursory resemblance to what I had produced. By the time my management and the agency’s attorneys got done puking their own stylistic preferences all over my work,7 the finished product ended up looking like something produced by the Borg hive mind.
Well, Strength and Reason is mine so I have the freedom to write about what I want, when I want, and how I want. It’s going to be a painful process at first, for me, the writer, and you, the reader. With practice and repetition, however, I know my writing skills will come back and my voice will sing out loud and strong across the Internet.
My plan for monetizing Strength and Reason is to first focus on affiliate commissions. Later, I’ll try my hand at producing some eBooks and perhaps a training course.8
Income Stream 2: Stop Your Grinnin’ and Drop Your Linen,9 It’s Ecommerce Time
I formed a company to sell products on Amazon about a year and a half ago. My original business model was to purchase branded products (like Playtex gloves) then resell them on Amazon for what would hopefully be a profit. Unfortunately, that model hasn’t worked for me. The profit margins are razor thin because sellers compete on price in order to get sales. Get enough sellers on a product listing all competing on price, and you end up with a race to the bottom that eats up most, if not all, of your profits. To date, I haven’t figured out a good strategy to avoid that situation.
Now that I have plenty of time to dive deep into the ecommerce world, I’m pivoting my business to a private label model, something I’m much more excited about. In private labeling, I create my own product with my own brand name that I then sell on Amazon. This model allows me to compete product quality and features instead of focusing solely on price.
As of the day I post this, my company is set up and I’m doing market research to identify good product ideas. Of course, there is no guarantee that the product I go with will be a winner, but gathering and analyzing data increases my odds.
I additionally have an original product idea that I’m working on. That will take longer to bring to market but there is a higher upside.10 At the moment, I’m building a prototype to see if the product is feasible.
If you’re wondering if it’s intimidating, unsettling, or whatever to walk away from a well-paying job where, frankly, performance expectations are very low, to focus on projects where success and failure means the difference between a steak dinner and a can of spam, the answer is: Yes.11
I’m not expecting the blog or the ecommerce business to generate much in the way of profits in the next year or so, but I would like to have some easy cash flow while I build those income streams. I thought about picking up some contract legal work, something I have done in the past to earn money. After considering it, however, I decided that legal work would require too much effort. I want easy, mindless work so I can devote maximum effort to the first two income streams.
Which brings me to gig apps. A few weeks ago, I signed up for Gigwalk, Field Agent, and Observa. So far Gigwalk and Observa have not offered many opportunities in my city but Field Agent is well represented. I’ve only done one gig, taking pictures of a house for an insurance company, but it was easy, close enough for me to walk to, and I made $5.00 for snapping about 6 pictures of a house from the street.
I plan to give some other gig apps a try over the coming months to see how they work out. Wag being one. I am an active person (hence the Strength portion of Strength and Reason), a dog lover, and I try to get outside every day. As such, getting paid to walk dogs seems like a no-brainer to me.
Doing these small gigs isn’t going to make me rich, I get that. I want to stress that opportunity costs are coming strongly into play here. Given my legal, IT, and Federal Government background, I could get much higher paying work, but that work would take up more time and energy, taking away from this blog and my ecommerce business. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. Plus, those higher paying jobs mean that my productivity will only enrich someone else, and that’s not what I’m after here.
Have a Plan, Use a Journal
I’m not a meticulous planner, but having a rough plan is a benefit when undertaking a new project. Journaling is a great way to track my progress and run through next steps with the added benefit of keeping a running record of what’s working and what’s not. Putting my journal online will keep me accountable since I don’t want to look like a lazy bum in front of all of you nice folks.
I’ll publish a weekly update on my progress in each area so you can keep up with what’s going on. If anyone out there is in a similar situation and finds this information valuable, I’d like to hear from you.
1 Twenty some odd years as a cubicle zombie must have turned my brain into Swiss cheese. When I suddenly found myself a free man and truly in control of my time, the shock left me somewhat catatonic. I needed an adjustment period. Kind of like how Steve Rogers/Captain America needed time to adjust to the modern world after he woke from the ice.
2 Pretty much my GF and maybe my Uncle, if I can guilt him into it.
3 October, 2019
4 Negative interest rates in Europe that are threatening to come to the U.S., massive government debt that our cartoonish Democratic presidential hopefuls are guaranteeing to send even higher, a laughable trade-war with China, and the Fed implementing QE while denying that it is doing QE are just some of the highlights.
5 I once spent a Saturday reading every Middle Earth related Wikipedia article, w/my copies of the Hobbit, the LOTR trilogy, the Silmarillion, the Book of Lost Tales 1, and the Book of Lost Tales 2 at my side for reference.
6 Scientific term: Writerus Wordius Dorsii.
7 I’m fine with substantive changes to a document to correct errors that I make, but in the Federal Government, managers and supervisors justify their bloated paychecks by making sure their initials are adequately represented in the document’s change history. That meant a lot of unnecessary stylistic changes.
8 My first idea for a training course is “How to Roll Your Eyes at Your Boyfriend Without Giving Yourself a Migraine” presented by my GF. She’s a champion eye-roller thanks to all of the practice she gets rolling her eyes at me.
9 Aliens is a classic movie. RIP Bill Paxton.
10 Sorry, I would tell you what my idea is but then I would have to kill you, or get you to sign an NDA but then I would to involve an attorney which would make me wish I were dead. Besides, my board of directors, i.e. Shirley the Dog, ordered me to keep it a secret, so blame her, not me, for being stingy with the info. P.S. All you SJW’s, please don’t run off to your safe spaces with your knickers all twisted. I’m not really going to kill anyone.
11 Although rampant micro-management and a dearth of leadership makes it remarkably easier.