Waiting for a Break

As you may have gathered from various other articles I’ve written, my time is split between multiple commitments. I work as an employee during the day, during the evenings I do some development for various clients, I’m building up a referral network, and working on various projects of my own. As such, the amount of time I spend working is steadily increasing, but I haven’t yet taken a plunge to free up more time.

Like many people I know, I’m fairly reluctant to accept risk, which for some aspects of my life, is certainly a good thing. In others, however, not only is this trait not considered advantageous, it can act like a ton of bricks trying to fly. In starting a business in particular being risk-adverse is not considered to be a good thing.

When looking at what it would take to get my own projects moving, I discovered that there are 3 types of breaks I could aim for.

Lucky Breaks

A lucky break is when something or something comes your way that provides you with an opportunity that you could not have arranged. What is perhaps the most sought-after break is finding an investor who will remove some of the financial risks or obstacles to let you turn an idea into a business.

Such breaks, in my opinion, should not be sought-after (although, of course, if one comes your way, you would be foolish to turn it down). They happen so rarely that any effort put into chasing such a dream is likely wasted, and could be better spent on actually putting sweat equity into a project.

Unlucky Breaks

Some people who have built their own businesses have had a stroke of luck, often realized only in hind-sight to have been for the better. I have talked to dozens of small business owners who all said that they started their business when they were laid off from their corporate careers (okay, some weren’t corporate, but they were employees). Out of work, with some severance money to live on for a few weeks or months, they launched their own business.

Such a break is what I call an unlucky break. Few people want to be laid off (although I can think of more than one exception to that), but a year after losing their jobs, many more will admit that being fired might be the best thing that happened to them. Being forced to figure out how to make a living, they went and turned an idea into a business, or a hobby into a full-time job. Work became fun, and they were now in control of their own destiny.

Kevin O’Leary, in discussing his background on the last episode of Dragons’ Den, talked about being fired from his first job, and not knowing at the time what the word meant. However, he learned that he didn’t want his life, success, and career to be in anyone’s hands but his own, and built his own businesses. His first job as an employee lasted one day, and was his last.

Earned Breaks

An earned break is one which you can control to some extent, but not completely. Often, it will only be in hindsight that you will be able to see what the break was. Such a break is best illustrated with an example.

Jordana thinks of an idea for a website, so she builds it. She invests $10 in a domain and $60 in hosting for a year and launches. Rather than invest in a partner or hire someone, she does all the graphics, marketing, and business planning herself, keeping her financial investment to a minimum.

Once the site goes live, she convinces her family and friends to check out the site, and give her some feedback, which she then uses to improve the site. She creates a social media presence for her application, and, while perhaps not professional, brings her site to the attention of a few hundred people, of which perhaps 5% decide to check it out.

One of her visitors likes her site, and passes it on to his friends with a recommendation, generating a few more visitors. This happens with several users, creating a cascading effect.

Six months after publicly launching the site, Jordana realizes that she has 500 users on her site, growing at about 10% per week. Her site is generating about $200 per week in passive income, also increasing by about 10% per week. She is also starting to get some referrals through her site, bringing in a further $500 per week and growing.

In this example, the project never underwent a major upheaval. There was no sudden influx of money. There was no newspaper column featuring her. Sure, such events could have brought her to the same position in less time, but those were things outside her control. Instead of chasing those, Jordana focused on chasing her project, to make it as good as possible.

There was, however, a break, and that occurred when her site gained its first user who did not know Jordana directly. When her site became capable of attracting the interest of users with no ulterior motives, she broke the first major hurdle in her drive to success.

Summary

We aren’t all so unlucky as to lose our jobs, forcing us to work hard for our success. We won’t all be so lucky as to have someone drop $100,000 in our laps to try to build our latest idea into a business. But we all have the ability to just work hard at creating a solid product that fills a need, and if we focus on that, our success will be that much sweeter.