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© Ugur Akinci
Here is a question I get from my readers on a more or less regular basis: “should I quit my company and set up shop as an independent entrepreneur offering technical writing services? Should I just launch a web site and fly solo? What is your advice?”
Here is the summary of a letter that I’ve recently sent to such a reader. I’m sharing it here with the hopes that it may benefit others in a similar position as well.
The rewards and risks of “flying solo” are equally big. It depends on a number of things.
First off, the definition of the “services” that you are considering to offer – what is it exactly?
Is it something that a large group of people need and are ready to pay for? Demographics is important. Don’t try to sell something just because you love it; it’d better be something that other people are in love with too — the more, the better. Find a DEMAND, a wide-spread demand, then satisfy that demand.
Secondly, what would be your business model? Would you be trying to make money from the quality of service you provide? Or monetizing the TRAFFIC of the web site where the content is posted? Or a mixture of the two?
A third alternative, will your web site be just a business card for your LOCAL customers to have a taste of your offerings?
For example, let’s say you’re designing and building web sites. Here are some alternatives:
1) You can have a “business card” site where you list your services with a portfolio and fees. This would be for LOCAL customers. The real income would be from the payments you receive from clients who hire your services.
2) You can have a web site where you SHOW and TUTOR how to build a web site so that when thousands of people start to stop by on a daily basis, you start making money from AdSense, affiliate products (e.g., Amazon), or display ads.
3) You can do the above, plus also offer online courses for those who’d like to learn your skills at greater depth, etc.
In the USA there is some money in government contracts, in winning government documentation bids. For example, a telecommunications network built by Ehsan Bayat was funded mostly by government grants. I’m not sure if that’s the case in India. But you need to have good CONTACTS for that. Securing government contracts and then maintaining an acceptable level of service is certainly not a part-time hobby. It’s a full-time job.
It’s important to have a clear view about the “business model” you’ll be following, i.e., how you’ll make money. Once you decide on that, I’d recommend you start a pilot site BEFORE you quit your current job and test out the waters. You should know within a year whether the experiment takes root and becomes a robust stream of income to replace your current full-time job or should better remain a part-time trickle to support your main income.
Do not blow the bridges before you test everything, would be my advice. In calculating your needs do not forget invisible benefits that you may currently be getting from your current employer like medical insurance etc. Sometimes the cost of such benefits shoot up astronomically when you try to get the same coverage yourself, as an independent entrepreneur.
Assume NOTHING. Make LISTS and TEST everything.
Most importantly: do something for which you’ll be happy to wake up every morning! If you wake up and say to yourself “wow! I’ll soon go to work and have some fun!”, then it means that’s the right job for you. Otherwise it’s not worth it. Life is too short to do anything that does not give us pleasure, regardless of the money we make at the end.
The truth is, it’s impossible to make any money anyways if you do not feel that you’re having fun. If you’re not enjoying your work, trust me, it shows. And nobody wants to do any business with someone who is not enjoying what he is doing. People like other happy people and those who feel like they’re already winners. As they say: “Boredom is an orphan but fun has 7 billion parents.” So I hope in whatever decision you make regarding your future, you consider that as well.