The Entrepreneurial Frame : A Simple Checklist

The Entrepreneurial Frame : A Simple Checklist post image

I’m sure you’ve heard an entrepreneur say: “if you took away my business, I could build another one from scratch.” 

More than anything, the statement refers to a way of looking at the world: the entrepreneurial frame.

One you have it, finding some kind of success with your projects becomes profoundly easier.

The good news? It’s not so hard to get it for yourself.

The entrepreneurial frame helps you to balance distant goals and big dreams with the simple and routine actions that lead to them.

If you’ve got a project or business idea that you care about, I encourage you to run it through the following checklist. If you can mange to say “yes” to most of the questions, you’ve got the entrepreneurial frame (there’s a scorecard at the end!).

In my experience, the entrepreneurial frame is also extremely effective in areas like art and non-profits.

*  *  *

(Y/N) – “Making a living by doing the type of work I want to do is my top priority.”

If you are over-focused on your end product, what you want to see in the world, or are unwilling to draw clear lines to when and how your project could make you a living then you are hurting your chances of sustaining that kind of work.

A common example of this is writers and bloggers who insist on writing whatever comes to their mind and meets their tastes, rather than looking to do a useful service to others via their writing. Bloggers will, for example, avoid choosing a focused niche for their writing because they “don’t want to be pigeonholed.” Ask yourself: what marketplaces (or groups of people) cares about your pigeonholedom?

I appreciate the idea of visionary entrepreneurs being passionate about a particular product and making a million bucks off of it, but noobs too often see guys like Kevin Rose, Steve Jobs, or some mega-blogger and confuse the result with the process. If you are obsessed with some lofty product ideal to start, you are in a dangerous position of ‘knowing what the world needs’ without knowing anything.

When you are getting started, you need to be a servant, not a visionary.

Another way to put this: find the processes (work) that you love, not the products (particular instances of product or art). 

(Y/N) – “I don’t need that much to live.”

You only need the opportunity to do the work and enough money to pay the basic bills. If you need more than that, you are putting your work at risk. If somebody asked me what’s an easy way to get tons more personal freedom, I’d say: “spend much less money than you currently do.”

(Y/N) – “I have defined in hard terms what it means to fail.”

A project is already dead in the water if it doesn’t have a fail point. One of the reasons personal blogs consistently fail is there is no particular reason they exist, no way they can fail, nobody they serve, and so eventually they just get forgotten about.

(Y/N) – “My work is focused on a particular problem that people (or organizations) have.”

And you solve it in a unique way. Most amateur projects are based on a ‘great’ idea or the artists’ immediate need for expression (or income!). I’ve noticed many personal projects cash out into having nothing more that ‘entertainment’ ‘participatory’ or ‘inspirational’ value. If that is the case, they’ll probably fail. It’s just not compelling enough, in general, to get people’s money at a small scale. You’ll need a huge audience if you want to sell ‘inspiration’ or some other product with a soft value.

(Y/N) – “My best 20 hours of weekly work are aligned with my desired trajectory.”

Most normal humans have 20 super productive hours a week. How you spend those 20 hours will be the single most important factor determining how you make a living in the future. Many people have a central career while cultivating side projects that utilize very different skill-sets. This is a poor startegic decision. If you have a career, best to start side projects that leverage the strides forward you are making in your best 20 hours. If your job is taking you in a direction you don’t want to go, re-claim those 20 hours immediately by finding work that builds the skill sets you need to do the work you want to do.

(Y/N) – “Although I enjoy encouragement, I’m looking for ways to get better critical feedback.”

Again the idea of doing something bigger than yourself, getting out of your own head, and building something with its own identify. Refuse to get all pissy when somebody says something offensive about your work. Try to evaluate what they are getting at, and decide if it’s worth working to address. Your project deserves it.

(Y/N) – “I can explain my project in clearly with the format: I help x do y.”

It’s easy for people to join up, subscribe, buy, follow, and share. Don’t listen to your friends’ opinions about this stuff. Look at the numbers, and know why they matter.

(Y/N)- “I’m willing to suck it up for a few years to make this shit happen.”

A few weeks ago I was blabbing similar advice across the dinner table and somebody jumped in saying“that could take a few years to implement!”

No shit?!

Think about it this way: in a previous life you probably would be willing to spend 4 years in college paying a bunch of money to sew the seeds of long term employement.

It only takes 1000 days to sew the seeds of having an unprecentended (in human history) amount of control over how you spend your time, where you are a located, how often you move, and how much money you make.

It’s probably worth a few years.

So how did you do?

Scorecard (# of yes’s)

  • 8+  – “Entrepreneur.” Add your own? You’ll spend your life doing the kind of work you enjoy.
  • 6-7 – “Craftsman.” Do you really like your job that much?
  • 4-5 – “Middle manager.” Martyr to your ideas, and those of your boss.
  • 2-3 – “Guitarist in band.” Hey did that A&R guy show up to your last show?
  • 0-1 – “Sandwich artist.” Smoke breaks rule and you make a mean espresso.



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Published on 12.16.11
  • Justin Miramontes

    “A common example of this is writers and bloggers who insist on writing whatever comes to their mind and meets their tastes, rather than looking to do a real useful service to others via their writing. Bloggers will, for example, avoid choosing a focused niche for their writing because they “don’t want to be pigeonholed.” Ask yourself: what marketplaces (or groups of people) cares about your pigeonholedom?”

    Awesome. I read this as I took a quick break from working on my personal blog where I will ONLY be detailing specific internet marketing and online business strategies that just work.. It’s not something I plan on monetizing. I too am just damn sick of all the lifestyle design/inspirational bloggers who will only give you some actual processes if you pay them seventeen bucks or whatever the fuck.

    People who’ve actually had success starting businesses online need to do better to break the “internet marketing pyramid scheme” you and Ian rightfully called out a few episodes back. I can tell you’ve started to beat that drum pretty loudly and you guys have big plans for next year. Cheers to 2012 having some better, more useful content.

  • Right on target. Love the take on your first point. I’ve seen a dramatic increase in job requests once I started serving needs that were unmet and also focused on a particular market.

    It’s often harder to sell an experience (as opposed to a product/service) but yet so many think that’s the way to a 4HWW lifestyle because it give you a false sense that you’ve made it.

    I have a personal blog for fun but I’m not under any illusion that it’s a business. I do other stuff to make money.

    Question on the fail point…would that be strictly monetary reasons or other stuff?

  • haha love the end with “no shit”. I had a buddy when I expressed some ideas blew them off strictly on the basis of time. Some people expect things right away (self included). I like your second point on spending less. I find like with weight loss, the results are much more dramatic by spending less (eating less) than trying to earn more (exercise harder) at least in the short term.

    Thanks for the thoughtful questions.


  • stevewyman

    Hi Dan

    a long time lurker here. OUTSTANDING post EPIC even.

    My score 9.5 :-) 1000 hours well thats for ure. but my current plans are
    to launch 5 news websites on 26th decemebr 2011. Each will grow to be
    authority sites. 2 sold off by end of 2011 the other three will be brand
    names you may well know one day.

    My goal for this project is to by 14th Januray 2014 achieve and
    anualised net reatianed profit (after all costs and Tax’s) of $201,200
    from each of the two sites :-) alone. that will be my 55th birthday (old
    dude alert :-)) and 750 days of work from the start. at 10 hours a day
    that 7,500 hours (ive got the 2,500 under the belt already).


    damn fir

  • This is a great article dude. I read an old post the other day here, and it was awesome. I’ll try and find it. It’s interesting to observe the difference between your old and new style of writing. You’re writing is getting better and better. More engaging and easier to read.

  • MADphilips

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for this brilliant checklist, I had to run through it more th an twice to get the right answers to the questions. Very well thought out questions in deed. Very more like entrepreneurship FAQs.

    Got to your blog through Srinivas Rao [the skool of life]. I blog about entrepreneurship too, would visit here more often. Nice work!

  • Dan

    Cheers man!!! :) Thanks for that.

  • Dan

    Thanks John, I appreciate that. I’m thankful you still stop by on occasion despite being exposed the my real-life baloney. :)

  • Dan

    BALLA! The spacing on your comment is EPIC as well :) Cheers to passive income sir. I call it “cambodia cash.” 

  • Dan

    Cheers Turner thanks for dropping by. :)

  • Dan

    yeah that’s super lame sauce. ya know what works? Just super basic examples of showing what you did. Thats why i’m not a huge believer in personal brands and all that BS, it’s just a matter of being focused, clear, and actually doing meaningful work. 

    I think a fail point could be anything that is meaningful relative to your goals. So many people are in the game (so they say) to ‘put the world out’ ‘affect change’ or to ‘see what happens.’ Well you are just asking to waste your time, and it’s its not very serious thinking. My response is always “do you even care?!” 

  • Dan

    Cheers man, please email me the links to your post when finished. !!!

  • The lens you look through will shape your view of the world and determine your actions. If you want to build a business than this is the lens to look through. Good stuff Dan. I’ve basically been loading up on entrepreneurial books more than marketing/social media stuff and completely shifts your thinking. This is great, and I think one of those posts that everybody who is serious about building a sustainable business needs to read. I also love the 1000 days post. I think I’m abt about day 500. I recognize myself in many of those phases in that post. 

  • Dan

    thanks Srini! yeah ya know I wish somebody I would have read that post a few years ago, when I look at what you are doing, everything is going great, its just such a bitch to wait for time to catch up!!! for ian and i, it was a huge slog to get things through the first 1000 days. 

  • Great post dan, since i have a list of current as well as future business idea’s I will use this list to weed through them better. Since im having a tough time with some of these idea’s I think my biggest problem is burn out at the moment.

    I think for your first business 1000 days is about right BUT your next business should take less time. Mainly do to the fact that you learned and applied a lot so if you have a system? It should be a little faster next time?


  • Dammit, middle management. I’m fked. 

    Ha great post though. It’s interesting to think about this. I don’t consider myself entrepreneurial because I don’t focus enough on the dollars. I want to create stuff but don’t really want to sell it. I think entrepreneurs are always thinking about selling well before they create anything. 

  • JustinWCooke

    Wow, Dan…you know this is totally contrary, right?

    SO many of the “big ideas” are contrary to what you’re stating here.  I think it’s important to point out that they’re the EXCEPTION…not the rule.

    The goals and plans you’re laying out are REAL.  You won’t find the “top” people following these rules…but that’s because they’re the 1.-2% that make it.  MOST of us are forced to follow these rules.

    What we’re finding is that you’re better off following your passion through the avenues that these realistic plans provide you…not by being idealistic from the get-go.  We’ll have a podcast to follow up on this idea…we’ve been discussing it for a while now, heh.

    Bravo to you for having the gumption to call it like it is…that’s why we love your content, man…keep it up!

  • Dan

    yeah that makes sense, could even be more efficient if you effectively use the customers/audience/cash you built up.

  • Dan

    haha well Dan that’s a damn entrepreneurial thing of you to say… ya know if I could chose ‘loves to sell’ or ‘knows thyself’ it would be an easy choice. 

  • Dan

    haha yeah I do think following that personal energy is undervalued, beyond identifying it, people seem to have the hardest time with channeling it towards entrepreneurial stuff… it’s that marriage of passion and value to others that is so tricky, and so important to find if you are gonna stick to this crazy journey for the years that it takes to pay the bills :) 

    i’m really looking forward to doing some webinars for the TBMA readers in Janurary!!!

  • yea I’m finding it takes less time for me somewhere around 3 months to a year. To go through the steps and get a business working to the point where i dont have to worry so much

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  • JustinWCooke

    Our latest quick podcast was complimentary to (and probably inspired from) this topic, actually.

  • Dan

    Cheers just listened to it loved it!!! You guys are great on the mic. 

  • The first time you mentioned “solving a problem” as an entrepreneurial trait, I knew I was guilty as sin. The only problem I was trying to solve was the lack of $100,000 in my bank account!

    Now my projects have been improving and morphing, and the two big ones I’m working on at the moment actually do solve problems. Huzzah! Growing, growing, growing. It’s the best!

  • P.S. back in the DC soon(ish), learned the hard way to learn to conserve cash.

  • Dan

    haha cheers man!!! great to hear that.  

  • Dan

    spot is warm !

  • travelkru

    Entrepreneur… All I need now is to find a business to do so I can actually live the life I want. That’s the hard part! For me anyway…

  • Thanks for tweeting this out today, Dan. Sitting at an abysmal 4/8, my biz partner (DC’er) and I are addressing these at our next meeting.


  • Dan

    cheers Danny !! Appreciate you reading and implementing, that’s ENTREPRENEUR :D

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