An old friend visited Bali a few weeks back and we had a great time catching up on life. A few days ago I received this email.
“…. might be a good topic for a blog post… what can I be doing now to better prepare myself for moving towards the location independent lifestyle? The hard part is where to begin. In your opinion, what are the top 5 things one can do to prepare themselves? I figure while I am stuck in this non-fulfilling but well-paid job I can be learning about new things and skills that will get me ready to be successful. I just need some direction on that. If you have some advice, or want to write a blog to the other half of us who haven’t yet grown the pair to make the transition to help us find our way that would be pretty sweet…”
My friend is a really smart guy with a lot of varied talents and passions. He’s got his MBA. He’s got a high paying consulting job that isn’t very intense or stressful. He’s got the power to make whatever he wants with his life.
Let’ me be clear: we are talking about entrepreneurship here. Not affiliate marketing. Not passion. Not niche sites. Not outsourcing. Not automation. Not social media community building.
We are talking about owning valuable shit– preferably businesses. That’s the name of the game. Owning businesses is the surest and most sustainable way to location and time independence.
Philosophically, the space to begin is with your mindset and habits. It’s not going to be about where or when you start. You start now. Your business and future will come from the types of actions you do everyday. You’ll skip around a lot until you hit something that works. Here are 5 things to consider, as requested:
1) Be ruthless with your personal finances.
Developing a smart personal finance plan is the first entrepreneurial act. It should roughly look like this: “we spend WAY less than we make.” My transition from worker to entrepreneur coincided with an aggressive debt reduction plan and bold new spending habits (including a cash based spending plan). I found Dave Ramsey’s resources to be extraordinarily useful. Ian likes this blog.
Your basic goal is to stop spending money. For every hundred dollars you spend on bullshit or retail therapy, the business gods shed a tear. Read Felix Denis and Mark Cuban on the topic. Take your money out of the market and put it in a savings account. Don’t listen to your friends who say otherwise. Get rid of your credit cards. I don’t care how many points they earn you.
Stop taking loans. Get rid of the ones you do have.
Finally, write down exactly how much money you want to be making (after expenses). Start thinking about how many units you need to sell to get there.
Congratulations, you are an entrepreneur now.
2) Quit your job.
This is the part of the article, where my father, if reading, does a face palm. “Dan… tone it down a notch…”
What I’m about to say will be derided by all others in your life. You’ll likely only hear it from me. All the more reason to give it a think.
Your job is the single biggest time investment in your life. When you don’t have big money working for you, you only have your time. You need to invest it better.
You have two options. First, you can super-hack the job to provide you with cash runway while you start small businesses on the side. Hustle during your lunch break, leave early, sneak work in to your desk, use company resources for your start-up (be wary, wary careful here… this could be illegal, immoral, or other….) get home and keep crankin’. If you don’t have the energy to sustain this (it’s hard), or vision to start executing (you need to know what to do), the single best thing you can do is quit and find a better job.
You often say your job is ‘boring’ and ‘unfulfilling.’ Entrepreneurship and location independence aside, that fundamentally isn’t good enough. Don’t make me launch into a carpe diem speech!
A lot of successful entrepreneurs parlay their professional skills into small businesses or freelance consulting work. If you don’t see a straight path from your professional career into a solo gig or small business, get the hell out of there. Find an industry that is training entrepreneurs. One that challenges you and forces you to learn. Start working out that hustle muscle.
In my limited experience, the best way to train to be a small business entrepreneur or start-up founder is to be the right hand man of an established one. Find a gig like that. Take less money to do it if you have to.
3) Get used to saying no.
Recognize the pressures that exist around you. If you don’t protect your time and your money, other people will spend them for you.
Your friends are throwing weddings in different countries. Can you attend? No. Your family throwing lavish reunions at 3rd party sites. Can you attend? No. Friends throwing 6 hour Sunday afternoon party. Coming? No. Beach vacation on the east coast! NO. Saturday morning shopping to ‘invest’ in a new mattress for your house? NO. NO. NO. I think you get the point here.
Dave Ramsey puts it best: “live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”
4) Frame of the consequences of your actions in 3-5 year windows.
If all this stuff sounds intimidating, I understand. Don’t curl up in a snuggy yet. Here’s the thing: short term thinking fertilizes failure. Period. You’ll need to cultivate short term motivation, and long term thinking.
If you think about your life in 3-6 month timeframes, quitting your job seems dumb, irresponsible, crazy. If you think in terms of 3-5 year windows, it’s probably the single most profound thing you could change to improve your chances of succeeding as an entrepreneur. See also: businesses take 3 years to start.
Same for my decision to blog and podcast. If I’m thinking in 6 month timeframes, it looks like a waste of time. If we are talking 3-5 year windows the move makes more sense. On the surface long term thinking looks intimidating, but in action we’ve found it has freed us up to take greater short term risks and cop to bigger challenges.
5) Consume insane amounts of content and act on it.
Podcasts, audio books, books, blogs, websites, magazines, seminars. Cut the shit. Consider speed reading. Figure out quick what is good and what’s crap. Implement the ideas you learn. Don’t just read Adsense Flippers and catch yourself thinking “their model is interesting.” Buy a site and toy around with the thing. Talk to others who are doing the same. Are they making money? What can you learn?
By the way, a good rule of thumb with starting new businesses: stop thinking of doing new stuff. Find businesses that are making a lot of money, and find small ways you can improve their services or products and launch. Take some of that money for yourself and grow it.
Another way to look at businesses is as entities that gather intelligence on markets. By participating in markets– say by launching your own niche site– you’ll have more and better information on that market (or cash flow) than any bullshit business magazine ‘market prospectus’ is going to give you (oh yeah, don’t listen to business magazines).
Information overload is a term used by people who aren’t doing anything. Don’t let that be you. Set up a site with a buy-now button and start trying to convince people to click it. Immediately. Can’t find a niche? Just buy a site. You’ve got the money.
I can’t imagine Ian saying he’s “got too much information on this marketplace we are participating in!” Nonesense. As an aside, I often find this amusing, for a handful of the products that Ian designs for our company, there is no other human being in the world who knows more about them. No wonder it makes him a full time living.
Bonus : Nobody is going to give you the good shit… that includes money, power, and the answers.
It ain’t easy, but you’ll get used to it. Having a job is all about finding scripts that look good and falling in to the bit parts. Being an entrepreneur– and doing crazy stuff like making money from anywhere– or even just building successful businesses, is about writing your own scripts.
Forget about the opinions of everyone in your life who thinks they know what they are talking about and doesn’t have exactly what you want.
The world is a big place and you don’t need to limit yourself to the people you found yourself with.
Identify exactly what you want in this world, and start to connect with people who have it. Learn from them, get honest feedback from them, and improve.
Stay in on Friday night. Hustle. Build a new life for yourself. The party gets better.
You might ask yourself: is this really all worth it?
Only you can answer that for yourself.
You know my answer.
PS, we’ve pulled together our best 10 episodes for getting started with location independent businesses, you can see the description at this link.