Start Where You Are

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“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”

commonly attributed to the famous American tennis player, Arthur Ashe although various Internet sources also attribute it to Theodore Roosevelt

We don’t know who said it first, but it’s solid advice for everyone starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.

Some people have an idea to do something to make money, but then they spend all their time talking about it to other people and making excuses for why they CAN’T do it.

“If only I had the money to ….” or “I’d love to do it but I don’t have the skills” or “this would be great but I don’t have the time” and on and on it goes.

However, many entrepreneurs do not set out to be an entrepreneur from the start as they are simply looking for a way to make some money – either in addition to being employed or INSTEAD of being employed by someone else.

Some of them may already have a good job but want to experiment making money some other way – perhaps by doing something else that they really enjoy (more than the job they are already doing).

These people often start with something small, low cost and low risk and they (hopefully) start to make some money from their “sidehustle”. A sidehustle is a very American term that is beginning to gain global recognition – it simply refers to “doing something on the side” (not “full time employment”).

Many of those people will be happy with whatever money they make and that will be that.

But some might grow their sidehustle to the point where they can give up their main job and become a self employed entrepreneur, even if they don’t think of themselves as being “an entrepreneur”.

A few of those might even grow their business to the point where they start employing people themselves and they can begin to work “on the business” instead of “in the business” (I’ll cover this in a later post and insert the link here when I do).

I have previously provided an exercise you can go through to come up with ideas to begin your entrepreneurial journey in the post here.

But what if you’ve gone through the exercise or already had an idea of the kind of thing that you would like to do, but you don’t know what to do about it?

How can you “start where you are”?

In this post I’m going to focus on three common ways (business models) to make money from your idea:-

  1. Selling a service
  2. Selling a product
  3. Selling an audience

Selling a service

This is by far the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to start earning money by:-

  • Selling your skills by doing things you already know how to do (or can easily learn) for other people who are prepared to pay you to do it for them.
  • Teaching other people to do what you already know how to do

The service you sell could be related to something you currently work in, or it could be skills you have built up doing a hobby, or it could just be something you taught yourself how to do and other people aren’t willing to take the time to learn how to do it for themselves.

For example – pretty much every business (no matter how big or small) in the world right now needs a website. Setting up a basic website is relatively simple once you learn how (you can learn how to do this by watching YouTube videos or this post here has a handy step-by-step guide).

But many people are either too scared to try to do it themselves or they don’t have the time or patience to learn as they only ever need ONE website. If you know how to buy domains, set up website hosting and install a simple CMS like WordPress, you have a marketable skill that can be sold to other people by setting up websites for them. I know a load of people that know how to do this but they never think of offering it as a service to other people.

But it’s not just technical / online skills – pretty much any skill that you have can be offered as a service to those that don’t have your skill.

Start where you are by digging deep and thinking – what can you do that other people don’t know how to do (or don’t know how to do WELL) or just don’t want to do?

One of my daughters loves house-plants, but she has a reputation in the family for “killing them through kindness”. Basically, she has a tendency to over-water them! When she moved from the UK to an apartment in Thailand, she was faced with a new problem – she didn’t know many of the exotic plants or how to care for them. Her solution came in the form of a “remote plant consultant”!

A local lady offers “plant consulting” via video calls. My daughter shows her the plants and the consultant advises her where in the apartment they should be located (sun, shade, fresh air on the balcony etc) and how they should be cared for. If any of the plants look “sick” then my daughter can phone her and get her advice on how to make the plant better. It’s a genius idea and of course the lady has expanded her service by selling plants and supplements directly herself and she will also do “home visits” for people that need them.

Isn’t that a great way to make money from knowing something that other people need to know about?? Could YOU do something similar if you start where you are?

Perhaps you know how to fix or restore things? People often throw away perfectly usable furniture and household goods because they don’t know how to fix them.

There is a thriving business to made collecting household goods (often offered for free on places like Facebook marketplace) and restoring them with a bit of paint and polish. I personally know a couple of people who do exactly this (although doing this really falls into the next category of “selling a product”).

Sometimes it’s just that people would rather pay for a service than do things for themselves. I’ve seen people that have turned “poop scooping” into a full blown business where they go into a pet owners garden twice a week and clear up all the dog poop. I recently read about a person living in America who has built up his poop-scooping business to the point where he now “outsources” work to a load of kids in the neighbourhood. He has become the “sales guy” who handles the contracts and the money, while the kids make some extra pocket money out of scooping the poop. The guy quit his job to focus on his business and he’s making more money out of it than he was from his full time job!

The same goes for raking up the leaves or cutting their lawn and many other everyday tasks that you could earn a bit of extra cash on the side for.

During the global lockdowns of the COVID19 pandemic days, a chef in Portugal started offering online courses teaching people how to make pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). My wife and I joined one of these one hour classes as we really love these tasty treats and we were surprised to learn how easy they are to make! The one hour course cost €35 and there were approx 20 people on the zoom call at the time …….. Not a bad hourly rate wouldn’t you say?

My future son-in-law is a bartender. He regularly runs private cocktail making classes showing people how to make cocktails with the alcohol they have in their home and he designs 3 custom cocktail recipes specifically for them. All his classes are run remotely over Zoom with people from across the world and he fits these into his own schedule when he is available.

Start where you are by thinking what skills you have that you could potentially teach people over a Zoom call and have them pay for it?

The downside of selling a service is that most often, the service (at least to begin with) will be limited by how many hours in the day YOU can spend doing this. Of course if there is a demand for the kind of service you offer, you could expand to hire other people to provide the service instead of you. This would take you to the “next level” of entrepreneurship and building a business.

Selling a product

This is by far the most common type of business model you will be familiar with. You either make a product from scratch or you buy and sell products.

This may or may not require you to have a shop / retail location but it WILL require you to think very carefully about how much raw material or stock you buy, which will impact your cashflow (cashflow and profit are two very different things – we will cover these terms in a later post and link back to them here).

Sometimes, you could think of a way to get your raw materials for free!

The header picture of this post is of a piece of artwork that I bought from a craft market in South Africa. The elderly gentleman who creates these, initially went around scavenging in rubbish bins for discarded pots of paint and pieces of wood. He told me he would approach building sites and houses where renovations were taking place and he would ask permission to take away the discarded pots of paint and paintbrushes. This was his initial source of raw material and he complimented it with literal “rubbish” in the form of litter like cooldrink cans and plastic water bottles, all of which he cuts up and adds to his colourful montages to add an extra dimension to them. He started to sell these on the side of the road and as people found out about him, they started bringing him their own leftover pots of paints and materials which they gave to him. When I met him in his workshop in the craft market, he was surrounded by piles of what most of us would regard as trash, which he turned into art.

He is living proof of the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”!!

He started with nothing and now has a thriving business from it.

Going back to the lockdown days, a young man living a couple of streets away from me got caught up in the whole “baking sourdough bread” trend that everyone went crazy about on social media. He had never baked anything in his life before, in fact I think he’s a qualified electrician! It turned out that he was rather good at baking bread and he gave a couple of loaves away to neighbours as he was making more than he could eat. Well, it didn’t take long for the word to get out and pretty soon he was overwhelmed with orders for bread and he realised he could turn this into a decent income stream. Fast forward 2 years and he’s had his kitchen health inspected and certified and he’s expanded his range to include a few different breads and buns and this is now his full time job!

Other ideas to make money from selling products related to things that you are interested in include bargain hunting in stores, searching thrift or charity shops and going to flea-markets and car-boot sales (or whatever the equivalent are in your country) to look for things in your area of interest that are available at a discounted price. There are hundreds of YouTube videos of people that make a small fortune buying and selling toys and others that buy and sell vinyl records (retro items are often in high demand). eBay and Facebook Marketplace are free or low cost ways to sell these items and you can spend as much or as little time as you want doing this. Again, there are people that have given up their full time jobs to do this as they started to make more money from it than their “real” jobs.

There are many YouTube videos of how to do “retail arbitrage”. This is the technical term for when you buy items sold at a discount in shops and then you sell them for a profit. One of the biggest places people do this is on Amazon via “Fulfilled By Amazon” – I won’t go into detail in this post but if you google the terms you can find out more about them.

I grew up in a rural area where the local stores carried a very limited supply of goods. One enterprising farmer would take orders from all the surrounding farmers for items that were only available in “the big city”, which was a 2 hour drive away. The profit he made from buying and selling those goods was often more than he made from farming!

The downside of selling a product is that money management becomes more complicated if you need to set aside money to buy stock of the items you are going to sell.

There are however ways of selling a product that don’t require any upfront money at all – Amazon KDP is a way for you to create and sell books simply by uploading a manuscript (for a novel or non-fiction books) or a template (for notebooks and colouring in books etc). There is also a thriving global “Print on Demand” (POD) community that make use of platforms like Redbubble to sell t-shirts, hoodies, duvets, caps, coffee mugs and many more items, all without having to invest in stock as each of these items are printed and shipped by the platform when an order is placed. In the case of both Amazon and Redbubble, they pay a “royalty” to you for your design.

Start where you are by considering what you could make, or buy and sell to make money?

Sell an Audience

This is by far the hardest and most time consuming path to follow – but it can also be the most profitable as you can use your audience to do both 1) and 2) above.

By “audience” I mean “engaged followers” on some form of social media like facebook, tiktok, youtube, a podcast etc OR your own website.

Audiences can be monetised in a number of ways:-

  • Advertising – some platforms like YouTube make it easy to do this
  • Affiliate marketing – linking to 3rd party sites and getting paid for leads
  • Sponsorship – brands of all sizes are interested in reaching new audiences and some are prepared to pay just to be associated with you
  • Selling services to your audience
  • Selling products to your audience (directly as opposed to affiliate marketing)

Mr Beast is a YouTuber that started posting content in 2012 at the age of 13 years old – he’s currently worth millions of dollars and has grown his brand and team to over 30 people!

YouTube pay out millions of dollars each month in advertising revenue to content creators and there are many other platforms that do the same – all of these content creators are making money out of their audience.

I am a motorbike rider and I follow a number of motorbiking YouTubers, one of which goes by the name of “Itchy Boots”. She quit her job in 2018 to start riding a motorcycle around the world. She has built up a huge audience and has become one of the most watched motorcycling channels on YouTube which earns her thousands of dollars in ad revenue in her sleep!! In addition to this, she sells merchandise (selling a product) and she sells courses (selling a service by teaching people how). AND she is sponsored by numerous brands that both pay her money and send her free merchandise which she wears in her videos. Not a bad way to earn a lucrative living doing something you really love!!

The daughter of someone I know personally was working at a green grocer and she regularly got boxes of food to take home for free. One day she decided to video herself making a healthy dinner from the vegetables in the box. The company loved her video so much that they offered her money to do more of them – so she did. Now she has a thriving Instagram channel and she has published a cookbook and she is working on releasing a cooking course – all of which earn her far more money than her original job used to!

There are YouTube channels for almost everything you can think of – from gardening and plumbing to cooking and coding, kids reviewing toys and adults reviewing gadgets, people teaching skills and giving advice – the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

The trick is to find YOUR unique way of engaging an audience and then consistently put out content that grows your community.

A word of caution however – I’ve met many people who aspire to build an audience as they look at “influencers” on social media and believe it’s easy – it’s NOT easy to build a REAL audience – but those who do, can make a decent living out of it.

Start where you are by thinking about what content you could create to capture people’s attention and build an audience.

So there you have it – the three common business models to start where you are to begin your entrepreneurship journey. Which one will you start with and when?