My crazysexycool podcast experience. Wait, minus the sexy part.

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For most of my professional life, I have interviewed the “experts.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Tommy Lasorda. That one guy in the R&D department.

All amazing experiences, expect for the R&D guy, because I did not understand a word he was saying.

Anyways, this week I FINALLY was the expert.

You see I was interviewed for the Power of Part Time TV, a growing audio and video podcast based in Chicago.

And it was awesome.

Last week I received the e-mail from the host, asking if I was interested in being featured on his podcast. He said we had too many things in common not to connect.

I responded back in, oh, 15 seconds, and said “YES!” Then I booked a time for the interview, which I thought was a 11 a.m. in the morning. It was 11 p.m.

A day or two later, I suddenly realized I was going to be interviewed on a video podcast. Uh, I have to look AND sound good. The whole you-can’t-win-an-election-if-you-look-like-a-scrub-on-TV theory was racing through my mind.

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And what would my backdrop be? All the big-time guests on TV have like Washington D.C. in the background. My options were a cornfield without corn in it yet, um, window blinds or, wait, the temporary man cave in the unfinished basement.

Temporary man cave it is.

My tech setup team had a huge challenge. Thanks to my super old laptop, which has to be plugged in at all times, and the one plug downstairs at this point, the team had to string together two outdoor extension cords just to reach my Skype interview location. Editor’s Note: I don’t have a tech setup team.

Then I ensured the background looked as trendy, vintagey as possible with old picture frames, wood boxes and Beats Audio headphones I bought in China for $20.

Finally, I navigated my metrosexual closet and found a solid combination of a white long sleeve, green skinny tie and my new oversized black glasses. All my ex-girlfriends are going to be kicking themselves when this comes out, I thought.

I logged on to Skype and bam there was the host, in his living room with a microphone. He filled me on the drill and then the interview was live.

Gulp.

It was so crazy. Someone I had never met, just across Lake Michigan, was asking all about me. I had to stop myself from asking questions. He asked about why I started Great Lakes Entrepreneur, about my blog and about my upcoming e-book.

I soaked it all up, stoked that a job wasn’t at stake with this interview. Instead I had a rare platform to share everything I think about on my commute to work, my lunch break and during extended bathroom stall visits.

Everything went pretty smooth and the host finished with the question every podcast host asks, “Where can listeners learn more about you?”

“Follow me on Twitter @greatl …. uh, @greatrep … I mean … uh , yeah that’s it.”

Twenty some minutes of good converstation and I completely forgot my Twitter handle.  Live. Thankfully, I recovered and directed listeners to this site.

Overall, though, Twitter handle aside, the exposure was incredible. It has inspired me to work even harder because my name is out there just a little more.

Take that R&D guy.

Other podcast-related posts:

http://www.greatlakesentrepreneur.com/2013/12/4-reasons-podcasts-arent-just-for-nerds/

Comments: What podcasts do you listen to?

My Final E-book Excerpt: Define your brand

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My e-book, The Ultimate Side Business Startup Guide, is finally coming out this month. I delayed the launch a few weeks to make sure everything really rocked. And all my jokes were funny.

So, because you have been so patient, here is my final excerpt to whet your appetite. The Ultimate Side Business Startup Guide will be available April 21. Click here to ensure you get a copy!

“Page 21:

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

Build trust

Blogger Jeff Bezos is right on with this quote. A brand is a reputation. Which companies have great reputations? Amazon. Apple. Target … until the whole “your-credit-card-was-compromised-just-in-time-for-Christmas” deal.

PR agencies don’t always have the best reputations, especially among your average journalist. Therefore, I chose to become a journalist-friendly, straightforward communication company. I would build trust through AMAZING story ideas consistently sent to the media.  No crap.

Get Results

Incredible media coverage ensued. One of my clients landed multiple front-page stories in major newspapers and business publications. She said her phone kept ringing for days.

For another client, in addition to front-page coverage, they received a request for a live Saturday morning interview on TV.

My clients were impressed.

A brand had been built.”

5 Compelling Reasons to Start Using Fiverr Tonight

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$5 doesn’t go very far these days.

Yeah, you can pick up a deeply discounted “Illustrated Yoga for Men” book at Barnes and Noble, a few loaded grillers at Taco Bell’s Happier Hour or a XXL green Chaps Ralph Lauren golf polo on clearance at Macy’s for that price.

But why would you want to see such a thing, subject your stomach to such a thing or, worst of all, force the general public to look at such a thing?

Don’t despair. There is a new hope for green paper with Abraham Lincoln’s face on it.

I’m talking about Fiverr.com, the largest marketplace for services starting at $5. The site, which is organized into 12 main categories, offers thousands of sellers from across the world. Each seller has a service page where they explain their work, feature examples and display reviews from customers.

That said, here’s 5 compelling reasons to start using Fiverr.com tonight.

1. Fiverr inspires you to think outside the box every day.

Courtesy: Fiverr.com

Courtesy: Fiverr.com

Ever thought of advertising your message using a person holding a sign of your choice and doing a handstand next to a beach? Didn’t think so. But for $5 someone will do that on Fiverr. You can also choose from people willing to create custom cartoons, write messages on their abs, or create promo videos in oversized geek glasses. I can’t make this stuff up.

2. Fiverr enables you to experiment without too much financial risk.

Say you arer interested in exploring a new side business. Hot yoga, with get this, pets allowed. Instead of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a designer, you can spend $5 on a basic logo from Fiverr that will get “Hot Dog, Hot Yoga” off the ground. If it flops or you lose interest, you are out a Starbucks latte. Not a weekend vacation to Traverse City.

3. Fiverr helps you tap into the global talent base. 

I try to chant “USA, USA, USA!” at least once day, preferably five to six times a day if possible. Obviously, I love my country. However, people across the world have some pretty good ideas too. If you are looking for some cultural flair, Fiverr is the place to go. You can have products created in different languages and  have access to people who look a lot different than anyone in your city. This is a huge asset if you are creating a product for a diverse customer base.

4. Fiverr saves you time so you can focus on higher-value added things in your business.

Recently, I tried to do some design work on my own. After nearly an hour of frustration, I had accomplished nothing. So I hopped on Fiverr and found someone to do the work. I submitted my order about 11 p.m. EST. I woke up about 7 a.m. and 6 images were in my inbox, fresh from the wonderful country of Germany. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Now I could finish the project I was working on without banging my head against the wall because of the design issue.

5. Fiverr provides an opportunity for you to start selling eventually.

If you have an interesting service to offer, Fiverr allows you to open up a page as well. You might be skeptical of only making $5 for your work. However, the site permits using add-ons, such as express deadlines, to charge more to customers. Think of it as a way to experiment again. Maybe you can fine tune your service and then spin off the business elsewhere.

Conclusion

I hope you check out Fiverr and can benefit as much as I have. Well, I am off to purchase this awesome service!

fiverr

6 things you don’t know about breakupgoods.com

breakupgoods.com

Tom Lira of breakupgoods.com

Sure you’ve heard of Craigslist. And eBay. They’ve completely disrupted the classified ad industry and allowed people across the world the chance to sell unwanted items to interested buyers.

Gently used kiddie pools.

Vans down by the river.

Backstreet Boys first CD.

But those sites are huge. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and not find any compelling deals, which is the whole reason people are looking online in the first place.

That’s why Holland resident Tom Lira thinks, OK, knows he has developed the perfect solution to online marketplace fatigue: breakupgoods.com.

Lira said his site, which went live in 2010, but really took off in 2013, recently became the largest marketplace in the world for distressed sales from breakups and divorces.

“That’s a big milestone,” Lira said.

And he and his 10-person team aren’t ready to stop innovating anytime soon.

breakupgoods.com

So what’s breakupgoods.com actually about? Here are 6 things you don’t know about breakupgoods.com.

1. Breakupgoods.com compiles all distressed sales items from Craigslist, eBay, and other niche classified sites into one catch-all site.

The technology behind the site searches for any item listed online due to a breakup, divorce, move or other loss. Surprisingly, Lira said, many sellers offer TMI details in their descriptions, which explain why they are getting rid of the item. The crazier the situation, the better the price of item. For example, he remembers a Mercedes selling for half its worth just so an guy’s ex wouldn’t get it.

2. Beyond the automated features, breakupgoods.com has plenty of user-generated content.

Lira said breakupgoods.com users can add to the site, much like Pinterest where the community “pins” items to their individual boards. If an individual finds desirable breakup-related items on another site, they can “tag it” and then compare it on the breakupgoods.com platform. “They cluster it for us,” Lira said.

3.Breakupgoods.com has serious international reach.

U.S. traffic continues to increase, yet a surprising trend is the international interest, Lira said. Recently, the site has seen activity in places such as London and Bangladesh. Breakupgoods.com users also are searching for hard-to-find, regionally exclusive items on the site.

4. Breakupgoods.com is totally free but, for the sake of the team, does and will make more money.

The site doesn’t even require an email to get started. Lira said the company makes money through diverse revenue sources. One money maker is affiliate marketing, or providing links to other sites and getting paid when they are clicked. Breakupgoods.com also features ads. Another revenue source the company experiments with is listing fees. He explained the site offers direct listings in some densely populated areas, and based on traffic to the site in those areas, will charge for the listings.

5. Breakupgoods.com has caught the eye of private investors.

Lira went full-time with breakupgoods.com in January 2013. Since then the company has raised nearly $250,000 from angel investors and the new Grand Rapids-based Start Garden investment fund. With each validation from investors, breakupgoods.com has rolled out new features and services to keep up with traffic. “We’ve continued to increase our server power,” he said.

6.  Breakupgoods.com ultimately helps sellers move on and buyers find a great deal.

Critics may argue the site is benefiting from people’s unfortunate circumstances. However, Lira said the sellers are providing the information voluntarily. They need to get rid of the items and breakupgoods.com offers a format, a place, a connection that catches potential buyers attention. In any business, people are attracted to a good story. And his site has plenty of them.

I had every excuse not to go there alone. But here’s why I finally did.

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Have you ever tried to talk yourself out of a choice?

Recently, I did and I am glad I lost the argument.

You see I have wanted to check out a local microbrewery for months. For whatever reason, however, a trip there never panned out.

Yet last week I suddenly had an opportunity most adults, and especially new parents kill for: a few hours of free time.

So I set off into town with no concrete plans, which is an amazing feeling for a personality like me. I hate rigid routines. And planning things too far in advance.

There was a beautiful sunset in the distance as I traveled down the country road with endless cornfields on each side.

Maybe I could pop into a coffee shop and read. Or drive to the beach and catch the sunset. Possibly squeeze in some shopping.

But then a scary idea popped into my head. What if I went to the microbrewery, gasp, solo? I mean I really wanted to go and I had nothing stopping me.

Except, of course, fear.

The inner pushback began. By yourself?  That’s too big of a risk. What if you look stupid? What if you see someone you know?

I tried to dismiss the concerns but even more came at me. You didn’t dress to kill so you can’t show up there. What if they don’t have any beer you like? Then you will waste time and money.

The doubts started to weigh on me. As I reached the city, I consider pulling off the route, settling for the coffee shop or the beach.

But I kept going.

Just as I reached the parking lot of the microbrewery, I noticed it was packed. One parking space left.

Once again I second-guessed myself. What if there aren’t any seats inside. It’s not too late to bail. The sun is still setting so just go to the beach.

Something wouldn’t let me leave though.

I walked in and to my surprise a perfect bar seat was open. I had a view of the Michigan basketball game and could talk to people on both sides of the bar.

And what a night it was. I ordered a flight of beer, cider and wine. Everything was amazing. Better yet I struck up conversations with random strangers and learned so much about industries that were typically out of my comfort zone.

I left the microbrewery beaming that night. If I listened to all of my stupid fears, I would have had an average night at best. Nothing extraordinary.

As I reflected on my decision, I realized that going to a bar alone wasn’t that big of deal.

Yet how many times in life are we scared to go the bar alone?

Do we give up on that business idea because it might not work? Do we skip that networking event because we might not know anyone there? Do we delete that e-mail because the other person might not respond?

The next time you are nervous about a decision, think twice. Perhaps you are nervous about the decision because it’s the right decision.And you just need the courage to make the decision.

Go the bar alone tonight.

Discussion: What decisions have you been scared to death to make? Let me know in the comments!

6 ways to flaunt your Spring Break trip without annoying your Facebook friends. Number 5 is my favorite, hands down.

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I visited Florida four times in the last three years to escape the brutal Michigan winters.

Of course this year, during the worst winter of my life, I had no southern escapes planned due to the craziness of a newborn baby in the mix. So I have watched from afar, noticing 98.5% of Michiganders have escaped to the Sunshine State within the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a disturbing trend emerge on my newsfeed: most people have absolutely no idea how to market their winter getaway.

What I mean is Michigan travelers struggle to tell a cohesive, classy and downright interesting story about their vacations. And that’s a shame. The result? They annoy every… single … one … of their Facebook friends with terrible images, boring narrative and downright TMI.

Therefore, I have decided to step in, and, with years of diverse Spring Break experiences, provide some guidelines for Spring Break via social media.

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1. Whenever possible, showcase a picture with the Heisman pose.

It’s timeless, recognized by most sports fans and can’t be misinterpreted for an obscene gesture. I think. You don’t see this in many vacation photos so your peeps will totally stop scrolling and say “whoa, awesome.” Extra points if you trade shirts with someone of the opposite gender on the trip and incorporate the Heisman into the resulting photo. Trust me it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

The Heisman is a welcome replacement for the “arms-wide-open-look-of-ta-da” pose, the “I’m-shirtless-because-I-eat-whey-protein-24/7-so-I’m-flexing” pose or the dreaded “oops-this-is-awkward-because-my-arm-is-around-someone-with-hostile-body-language” pose.

2. Stop checking in at airports, for the love of….

There’s nothing unique or adventurous about walking through an airport terminal. It’s like an overpriced mall food court with a much higher strip search potential. Sure you landed at your destination or your layover has you so close to your fabulous resort.

However, in a recent survey, 6 out 7 adults said they “at most” would like an airport check-in, but never, ever comment on one. Ouch. I mean, come on people, you aspire for the elusive comment. 6 likes is not worth the data usage.

3. Put 10 seconds of creativity into your album title.

“Small rental condo with a bunch of pasty, grumpy old people” is much, much better than “Fort Myers 2014.” Like a good book , your album title is your chance for a good first impression. Let me put it to you this way. When Lindsay Lohan comes out with a memoir someday, it won’t be “Lindsay’s Life.” Better chance of “To rehab and back and back and back,” you get the picture.

For my multi-city Spring Break bash in 2011, I called the album “I could so live here: My 9-day Southern Florida adventure. Your Facebook friends will ask why could he live there? (Everyone is really good looking, which is a morale booster). Why 9-days? (You’re right, not the typical vacation length. I got stranded in Florida for two days because of a blizzard in Michigan. Yes, best news ever.)

4. Please, please, please avoid a “be jealous” call to action. 

If you don’t remember any other point, remember this. Market your trip right and people will be jealous. Writing it makes you look desperate. This trip is awesome, right, right, right? Please validate me.

The point of the trip isn’t to make people jealous after all. It’s to make memories with your spouse, your parents, your assistant baseball coach or your Match.com first date. Focus on that and be present on your trip. During a trip to Panama City Beach a few years back, I didn’t have a cell phone or digital camera. Just a throwaway camera. It was an incredible trip everyone was jealous of because we went nuts and weren’t trying to impress anyone.

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5. Near famous attractions, find “that guy” to provide a refreshing twist.

Anyone who has visited New York has a picture of the Statue of Liberty. Probably 45 pictures actually. Will people click on all of them and be amazed? Probably not. Trade those 45 for one. During Spring Break 2005, my group and I visited the Statue of Liberty. We found that guy: a man dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume with a huge American flag. Five of us gathered around and settled on spontaneous poses. The result was epic. More photos ensued, including an all backside one and others I don’t care to repeat.

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Sometimes “that guy” is in your group. In Toronto, my buddy Eric and I posed in a slightly sketchy manner with downtown Toronto in the background. Be jealous. Wait, no, I didn’t say that.

6. Choose your vacation gear wisely because you never know what Google Images will uncover. 

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I am super guilty of violating this tip. I can pull off many fashion feats – orange pants, bright pink sweaters, layers upon layers and soon – blue glasses. Unfortunately, I can’t pull off four things, no matter how hard I try – tank tops, cutoffs, v-necks and short bathing suits. I tried and failed at Disney (see South Beach pic). Maybe someday. But for now I avoid them because of long arms, lack of muscles and superwhiteness.

So many vacation outfits I see on Facebook make me cringe. Like I can’t make it through the rest of the album. A good exercise on vacation: look in the mirror, walk away. Repeat. 10 times. If you feel confident, each and every time,  you are good. If not, change. Choose wisely or stick to photos of your dinner.

Conclusion

Well, those are the guidelines I live by. I have failed but picked myself up again.

Please, no tips. But I do accept frequent flyer miles.

What tips would you add? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest Blogger: Are you more effective working alone or with others?

BY SETH GETZ

coworking

Photo Courtesy: Yutaka Fujiki of Flickr Creative Commons

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

-Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company Founder

Entrepreneurship and innovation are social processes. Yes, we can come up with ideas in isolation, but working with others helps us make them a reality. Social interaction spurs the thinking process, making us aware of problems and potentials we may not have noticed before. Our ideas come to life as we critique and improve upon each other’s plans, but we get stuck in a rut without feedback. We need the energy that comes from sharing our ideas with others. Otherwise, we lose sight of the big picture as we spin our wheels, unable to take our ideas to the next level. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? What keeps us from creating and getting involved in the social aspects of innovation?

1. We believe innovation comes from isolation. 

We are taught that we need to get away from distractions in order to be creative, and to an extent this is true. We all come up with great ideas in isolation, but what matters is what comes next. I know I come up with great ideas while in the shower, but unfortunately when I get out and get on with my day most of those ideas drop dead. By the next morning, I may not even remember them. What if I was around someone else and quickly shared my ideas? If my thoughts were embraced within a group of coworkers, I’d be a lot more likely to hold on to them.  Positive feedback gives us the energy that allows our ideas to gain traction.

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Seth Getz

2. We worry that someone will steal or criticize our ideas.

Fear keeps us from sharing our ideas. What are we so worried about? Perhaps we think someone will take our ideas and run faster with them than we can. Maybe we fear the inevitable criticism that comes with opening our ideas to the world. Can we handle people critiquing our “babies?” At first it might be hard, but unless we share our ideas and risk feedback, it’s unlikely that they will ever become a reality.

Don’t try going it alone. We all have this image of a solitary Thomas Edison toiling away in his workshop, but what we should be visualising is the little-known group of 50+ innovators that came to work with him from all over the globe. Together, they created a culture of innovation that allowed them to literally shed light on the world. Finding other people who are innovative thinkers and getting together with them on a regular basis allows us to create an energy and buzz that can never be rivaled.

The takeaway

So, how should we start sharing our ideas? Many turn to online forums, but Internet connections can never beat face-to-face conversations and close physical proximity. When we work together in the same space, challenging ideas flow and bounce around at an accelerating pace, creating a culture of innovation.  Having lunch or coffee with other innovative people allows us to spark new ideas and refine old ones, and spending a day working together enables even more to be done.

Put yourself out there! Connect with the sort of people who bring these organizations to life. Find the ones who challenge your way of thinking the most, and work with them every day if you can. As James Cash Penney (the man who had the idea for a little thing called the department store) once said, “growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

About the Author: Seth Getz is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small businesses and the people who start them. He is cofounder of Warehaüs Business Center, a vibrant co-working space for creative entrepreneurs located in Holland, Michigan. You can learn about Seth on his blog, sethgetz.com, and for more about Warehaüs visit the website, warehausholland.com.

Book Review: “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough

Can a child’s intelligence be improved over time?

And second,  are other noncognitive factors, character if you will, just as important to academic and ultimately professional success?

Author Paul Tough wrestles with those challenging questions in his 196-page book entitled “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.”

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Although super academic at times for the average reader, “How Children Succeed” delivers a hopeful perspective in the midst of a rapidly-changing environment in America’s education and business landscapes.

Tough argues that students often fall into two categories: they come from wealthy families and face no adversity at all, or they grew up in low-income families and faced too many tragic events. Both situations are dangerous.

He writes children today need a balance of working through real-life challenges with the love and support of their families. Not letting them fail constantly. Not helicopter parenting. Instead a delicate process of encouraging children to take risks, possibly fail and then learn from their mistakes.

Examples throughout the book, including a national champion chess team from inner city New York, suggest kids who master non-academic traits like perseverance, self-control, and curiosity can overcome lower IQs. In fact, they have a better chance to finish college than children who are only “smart.”

I observed an amazing connection to entrepreneurship in the book.

What better way to develop noncognitive skills than starting your own business? To experience the ups and downs of attracting customers, building a product and competing with other businesses.

Unfortunately, adults resist the dream of their own business because they’re worried they aren’t smart enough.

But what if, as Tough proves, intelligence can be improved, as in intelligence isn’t fixed? And what if character is just as important as intelligence, so an experienced, hard-working, resilient individual can compete with a Michigan grad?

Think about it the next time you consider sidelining your dream.

I think David Crowder still hates me. The 15th sentence of this networking nightmare explains why.

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On paper it was a great idea because it was free.

You see as a poor college student anything free was synonomous with good.

Food especially.

But the event that trumped all events we had been associated with in the past was: a free rock concert.

To us, the David Crowder Band was a big deal at the time.

And he was playing at a huge megachurch in Grand Rapids, which meant we only had to carpool to make this a cheap adventure.

College students are experts at carpooling.

So a bunch of Central Michigan University students piled into a bunch of cars and took off. As a recent grad, I met them there.

The concert, which took place during a packed out church service, was amazing.

Afterward, the band stuck around and talked to everyone who wanted to meet them.

Enter the immature, shaggy haired, always late, yours truly.

Our group talked with David Crowder for a few minutes. He was so nice and posed for an unforgettable picture with us.

The story would have been great if it had stopped there.

But the kid who refused to go to bed before 2 a.m. for all his college years, even when he worked at a 4 a.m., got greedy.

I pulled David Crowder aside as the group dispersed and told him I was a writer.

Then I handed him my college business card and said if he ever needed any writing assistance to drop me a line.

I am still waiting for an email.

As he walked away, I realized I had made a terrible mistake.

I had invested a couple of minutes into his life and now I expected we were suddenly going to be business partners.

What a selfish move.

Years later, I still kick myself for doing that.

So often in the business world, people try to get ahead without investing the proper time.

It turns people off.

Thankfully, since that networking debacle, I have learned the power of business relationships. How have I built a vibrant, diverse network of business contacts?

I ensure I actually invest time in getting to know people before I ask for favors.

I discovered it’s amazing what people will do if you have helped them in the past.

People have introduced me to new clients, got me free Notre Dame tickets, penned blog posts for me and paid for my ridiculous giant frozen yogurt creations.

I hope David Crowder doesn’t hate me. If I attend one of his future concerts, I will chill in the back row.

And keep my business card to myself.

Guest Blogger: The Biggest Surprise of Launching My Side Business

BY NATHAN COLLIER

It was summer, July of 2013, and I was sitting in the back row of my MBA capstone course, ready to take the last final exam of my academic career.

Credit: Nathancollier.net

Four pages, 50 multiple-choice questions, and a blank Scantron sheet stood between me and graduation. I wasn’t worried about the test; multiple-choice questions have always been easy for me, and I was prepared.

I was worried about other things.

It Started Because of Money

I was 32 years old, married to the love of my life, father of one child with another coming soon. I had good job that mostly paid the bills, but my wife was (and is) a wonderful stay-at-home mom. So while we had enough to get by, the end of the month was always tighter than I wanted it to be.

What troubled me was my college debt. My company has no tuition assistance benefits, and I had gone through the MBA program entirely on student loans.

That meant, six months after graduation, I was facing a new, $300 per month payment on those loans. It wasn’t enough to bankrupt us, but it was enough that it was going to hurt.

The classic move here would have been to find a new job with a better salary. I suppose I could have done that, but I hadn’t been in my job long, and the prospect of being the “new guy” again just wasn’t appealing to me.

So began my freelance journey, since that seemed the most likely way I could earn that extra $300 per month I needed.

I had six months to get there.

The Sweetest $4.36 I Have Ever Made

Choosing a business model was easy. I’m a copywriter and marketing pro by day, so I had a skillset already in place. All I had to do was offer those skills up on the freelance market.

I chose Elance as my starting point, not for any real strategic reason, but just because it was easy to set up a profile and get started.

I wrote a few basic proposal variations and started applying for writing jobs. It took a few weeks of experimenting, but eventually I hit on a strategy that worked.

I originally called it my “small job, small price” strategy, but when I told the story to professional copywriter Ed Gandia, he called it “Grouponizing” my services, which is a good way to look at it.

Basically, I offered a trial. I proposed to do some small bit of work for a small price as a way for the clients to get a feel for me and my work, and as a way for me to get a feel for them and their needs.

By late August, I had my first client, a recruiter in the financial services industry. My first assignment was to edit three job listings that were very similar to those you see on Monster.com or similar sites.

The price? $5.

My client paid that invoice promptly and immediately asked me to do further work, which I was happy to do.

There are fees when you make money on Elance, and those get taken out when a client pays your invoice. After these fees, the total profit from my first freelance job turned out to be $4.36.

It was, without a doubt, the sweetest $4.36 I have ever made.

The Difference Between Corporate Work and Freelancing

The moment I saw the first $4.36 come through, something changed deep inside me.

You see, in a day job, you have supervisors and managers and vice presidents, all of whom have the job of overseeing your work.

In that environment, I find it tough to know whether my actual work is creating value, or if the value comes from all the changes that get made during the review process.

As a freelancer, it’s totally different. You do your work, you give it to the client, and it’s either valuable, or it’s not.

Of the 12 clients I’ve worked for as a freelancer now, 11 have hired me for additional work, and 8 have left me unsolicited, across-the-board, 5-star reviews for the work I did for them on Elance.

My favorite review said this of my work: “simply brilliant.”

Confidence: The Biggest Surprise of Launching My Side Business

I know something about myself that I didn’t know six months ago.

I have something valuable to offer the world—skills that others are willing to pay me reasonably good money for. With that comes a completely new outlook on life.

Last fall, when I had my annual performance review, I didn’t get a promotion I had been working toward and expecting. I was really upset about it, and I certainly didn’t do my best work during the next week or two.

But now I know that it doesn’t matter. My future is no longer tied to a mysterious promotion schedule or the financial state of the company I work for.

These days, I stay at my day job because I want to, because I like the people I work with, and because I like the work I do. It isn’t perfect, but no job is–not even freelancing.

My work is better too, both in my side business and in my corporate job, because I no longer feel that all-consuming pressure that comes from tying your professional success or failure to one specific company. There, if you work hard, you might get a raise in a year. As a freelancer, if you work hard, you can give yourself a raise tonight.

It isn’t arrogance, but a calm I’ve earned only through the trial of starting a side business, of putting myself out there and letting the market judge whether or not what I have to offer is valuable.

That’s what my side business is about now: not a dollar amount, but about freedom to do the work I want, about experimenting, and about putting myself out there to see what the world actually thinks of my work.

It is the emotional side of things that was a complete surprise to me. I got into the freelance game as a way to make a little bit of money.

Now though, I realize it’s about way more than just money. My side business has become an adventure that’s meant far more than anything that’s happened in my bank account.

Conclusion

I’ve read more than my share of the thousands of articles all over the Internet about how to make money on the side. They are all valuable to a point.

But although they may offer a good technical approach, few of them talk about what, to me, is the most important part of making money on the side. So here’s what I want to leave you with:

Starting a side business is a journey of self-discovery.

There is nothing more inspiring than getting paid for your work, and I don’t mean paid through a salary. When you sell a product or service, people only buy it if it’s truly valuable to them.

That’s the most important thing: figuring out how to create real value for other people.

So take heart, be courageous, and just put yourself out there. I can’t promise you instant success, but I can promise the journey will absolutely be worth it.

Nathan Collier is a part-time freelance writer from Dayton, Ohio. Read more about him at www.nathancollier.net.