By Carolyn Bigda, special to Tribune Newspapers
The road less taken was once a choice for workers. Now, increasingly it may be the only option.
Moreover, while employers added some jobs, the decline in the jobless rate was due mostly to workers dropping out of the labor force.
For someone like Chris Guillebeau, a 30-something entrepreneur and author of the new book “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” (Crown Business, $23), the jobs report is just further proof that more people should consider launching their own venture.
“People normally ask, ‘Isn’t it risky to start a business?’” Guillebeau said. “But for a lot of people, the traditional job market is a much bigger risk today.”
In his book, Guillebeau argues it’s possible to turn a passion, idea or skill into a profitable business, often with an initial investment of just a few hundred dollars. He is part of a growing movement of young workers who believe that entrepreneurship may be the best option when a more traditional job is not fulfilling or not forthcoming.
Guillebeau spoke with us and offered pointers on going solo.
Here is an edited version of the discussion.
How can you turn a passion into a business? You have to find a way to make your passion useful to other people. One guy we write about in the book is a CFO (chief financial officer) who is particularly good at using his frequent-flier miles to travel the world. Colleagues would always ask for his help when they wanted to book an award trip. So a couple of years ago, he put up a one-page website offering to book these trips, for a fee of $250. He wasn’t sure if people would respond to it because this is something that travelers could do at no cost on their own. But he found that a lot of people didn’t know how to manage their miles or didn’t want to bother with it. So he has this one-page website that’s really a side business, and today he makes more than $100,000 per year from it.
How do you figure out which of your skills are valuable to other people? Pay attention to what people are always asking you about. When people ask you the same questions all the time, it’s a signal that you’re a perceived authority on the subject. It also shows there’s a desire and demand for that kind of information.
What if your idea isn’t quite right? How much will it cost you? Thanks to the Internet, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started today. We had 1,500 people submit information for case studies for the book. Of all the ones we looked at, the vast majority spent less than $1,000 to get started. I think the actual average was something like $400. Granted, you could spend a few months working on something, and it fails. That’s disappointing, but you’re probably going to learn something from the experience.
Do you need an MBA to be an entrepreneur? I’ve met a lot of what I call unexpected entrepreneurs, people who started their business after having lost a job or who went through a big transition. They stumbled onto something using the skills they already had. They didn’t have to spend a lot of money and they didn’t have to go back to school to get started.
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