Thursday 02 Sep 2010
My gosh, you were sharp. You built the nation. Every day, you got up, put on the suit and tie and gave your all to the boss, safe in the knowledge that when the time came, far off in the future, the company would take care of you. You worked through Nixon walking out of office in disgrace, man walking on the moon in triumph, the strange days of the oil crisis and the heady excitement of a brave new computerized world, a la Silicon Valley.
Whether you entered the workforce with hopeful enthusiasm or a pain in the neck, you quickly learned that your earnings depended upon keeping the corporate machine running smoothly. Maybe you were lucky and your work had dignity, or maybe your boss was a loon and nothing but those pay checks kept your whole office from rising up and throwing him out a 10th storey window. Maybe you really enjoyed your job and the chance to put your skills to work, solving problems and getting things done. You may have been winging it the whole time, or you may have had your retirement planned out to the last nickel, but you knew that your loyalty to the company would be rewarded when it counted. Your bright, fresh mind, years of your life, and perhaps a considerable bit of your soul went into the deal.
And then it happened.
Standing at attention in the office at 123 Main Street, American Town, USA, you were told that your job had left the country and would now be performed in India. Clean out your desk. Escort to the door, just in case you might do something. Or, perhaps someone made a mistake and let the janitor vacuum up your 401(k) with the office debris. Or, perhaps you survived downsizing, outsourcing and theft, only to get caught in the game of Monopoly in which the whole nation lost and the bandits disappeared over the horizon, waving their get out of jail free cards and, queerly, millions of dollars of thank-you money from the government. You came home one evening, took off your tie, sat down on the couch and asked yourself, “What the hell was all that about?”
What happened to the loyalty that was supposed to pay off? Did you really sit through all of those meetings about being a team player, a top salesman, a winner, for this? You grit your teeth through decades of office stress for what, come again? You had every reason to believe you were building the nation, but you certainly didn’t give years of your life to build this. Whether you lost your job or have sort-of retired, and decades are passing before your mind’s eye with a ponderous question mark hanging over them, you are sharing the experiences I have heard described by so many people who are now in their middle years. However you look at it, whomever you blame, this country has failed a huge number of workers who believed that diligence, strong work ethics and company loyalty would pay off in the end. Who could blame you for feeling ripped off or deciding that the whole human drama of progress was one big charade?
But there is one thing you learned in those years as an American worker that remains perfectly true. Our system still places the highest value on earners. You have only to look at your electricity bills, your car payment, and your rent or mortgage payment to see that the ability to maintain some kind of autonomy and mobility will only be possible if you earn. With the wolf at the door, some of you will fight your way back into the workforce for a second, third, forth of fifth move in your career and you will be relieved and grateful to be earning again. With half the town turning out for every job opportunity, you are lucky if you get hired. Conversely, some of you will suspect that you are failing to get every job you apply for because the decision maker thinks you are ‘old’ – that unspoken failing. Well, don’t take this judgment of your worth and potential. Just don’t take it.
All those years clocking in may have given you more than a paycheck, and this is what I’m encouraging you to think about. Whether in the office of out of it, the years you’ve got in your back pocket may represent knowledge that would be of value to others – on the web.
Perhaps what you can share is actually something you did in the work world, or perhaps it’s the hobby, area of study or specialty that you never had enough time for when you were clocking 9 to 5. More and more Americans are examining their knowledge, skills and talents and discerning whether these assets can be turned into an Internet-based business that can create a living wage or a supplemental income for them in the coming years. Don’t be taken in by the get-rich-quick articles you will find elsewhere on the web, promising something for nothing. You are certainly too smart for that. Rather, the most important thing you need to learn about starting an Internet business is this:
You’ve Got To Have A Really Great Idea.
It isn’t loyalty to a boss, not causing hassle or being a team player that earns money on the web; it is really great ideas. So, your very first task in considering how you can make a comeback as an earner on the Internet is to hit upon a viable idea. This means making lists. It means doing keyword research. It means looking to see if someone has already succeeded with your idea. It means determining how you can do something better than anyone else has.
As crowded as the Internet is these days, you will find that so many great ideas are already taken and being utilized well, so the competitive nature that was encouraged in you in the corporate America of yesteryear will serve you well today. You’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be a competitor and you’ve got to provide something that people really value. It doesn’t matter whether you end up selling paperclips in thousands of sizes or teaching people how to yodel with virtual lessons; the bottom line will be familiar to you as supply meeting demand. Get the great idea. See if there’s a demand. Meet it. That’s the task that’s in front of you, and I won’t understate the difficulty of succeeding, but I know first-hand that success is totally possible.
Need a little inspiration? Take a look at the terrific website of our client, George Beck of Fisher’s Laser Carvers. As George tells it on his website, he viewed his retirement from the corporate world as his chance to let something really near to his heart take center stage in life: woodworking. George’s really great idea was to use his skills to create top quality wood pieces for the public and he tells me orders are coming in so fast, he may have to hire elves to help him at Christmas this year. You can do what George Beck has, with your own area of expertise or skill. There is nothing I applaud more than that first brave step onto the web, and this is what I have made a business of helping people like you to do.
Your Comeback Checklist
Everyone’s procedure for starting an Internet business will be a little different, but here is a basic outline of questions for you to find the answers to.
1. What skills, talents, knowledge, hobbies or interests do you have?
2. Do you have something to give that people want? Start doing keyword research to find the answer.
3. Will you sell a physical or virtual product, or simply educate people?
4. Can you compete? Is there an opening you can fill, or can you best your competitors with a superior effort?
5. Will you make money by making the product, sourcing the product from elsewhere and reselling it, or by writing materials and monetizing them with something like Google AdSense, thereby making your money from advertising?
6. What is your budget? How much money can you spend on product/content development, the acquisition of hosting and a domain name and the acquisition of a professional website that will enable the public to take your venture seriously?
7. Who will be on your team? Do you plan to do it all yourself, learning the disciplines of design, search engine optimization, human usability, copywriting and marketing and putting these to work for your venture, or will you assemble experts in these fields to be a part of the team you are building?
8. Are you prepared to work at this for 1+ years before you begin seeing a profit? Like any other business, you must establish yourself and you must be capable of paying your bills while you work for the success of your new business.
Being realistic about what it will take to succeed on the Internet is essential. Every month, I hear from hopeful folks who want to take their business idea online in a professional manner but have no budget set aside for this. Doing this right will not be free, and while it will certainly cost less than opening a brick-and-mortar store or renting an office building, you must be able to make a reasonable investment. The wonderful thing about 2nd careers on the Internet is that they often offer golden opportunities to earn a living while doing something you’re actually really interested in – a scenario frequently totally absent in the corporate world – but this doesn’t mean you should treat your business like a hobby. If you’re serious about your success (if you really want to earn money), you’ve got to treat your plan seriously, and that dictates a genuine investment of your mental powers, time and money. Put on a tie if it will help. Hold a board meeting – even if the only attendees are you and your dogs. Find the great idea, get fired up and go out there and win. But this time, do it your way.
Ready to do business on the web your way? Give us a call: (707) 981-7943. We root for independent thinkers and have helped tons of small businesses on the road to success.