Going Solo. 5. It’s a piece of cake.

We’ve looked at why, how, how much, and when. This is a piece of cake. Isn’t it?

No.

Reality check

Time for a reality check. Going solo is tough. You will work long hours for no pay. For every success, you will experience multiple failures. Your family life will suffer. Your social life too. At times, frustration will be overwhelming. You won’t know which way to turn or what to do.

If you plan on making your side-hustle your main revenue stream, then just take a moment. Sit back now, perhaps pensively stroke your chin for effect. The odds are against you. Most businesses fail. If you have invested capital, then you will probably lose it.

Sorry about that. I was just concerned that you might be getting a bit carried away.

Bear-traps

Let’s complete an exercise. Time to get into the notebook again. Start a page – “Bear-traps”. Start writing down what might go wrong. Make a list. This will be specific to your particular project, but common themes will emerge. “No time. No customers. Revenue too low, costs too high. Too busy” Keep going. Keep imagining things that might not work.

Yikes.

That was no fun, was it?

Alright. Let’s go to work. How do you prevent each of these things happening? How would you deal with them if they came to pass? Perhaps the answer is obvious, or perhaps you need to write a few lines. Go through the list. Think each scenario through.

How did it go? How do you feel? Afraid? Crushed? Emboldened? Empowered? There is no right answer, but you have just stress-tested your idea. Hopefully, you have identified key threats to your business.

OK. Let’s keep going.

Sacrifices

New page. New title. “Sacrifices”. List out the sacrifices you are going to make to get this thing going. Are you kissing goodbye to TV time with the family? Are you halving your gaming-time? Write them all down. Again, how does this feel? Depressing? Exciting? Test your commitment.

You will be making these sacrifices with no guarantee of any successes.

Sometimes, going solo is a piece of cake, mostly, it isn’t.

Think on this.

Next week, we’ll pull everything together and make a decision.

Going Solo. 4. Where will you find the time?

Time

The finite resource. You spend some of your time earning money to fund your life. We spend yet more time sleeping, eating, and drinking.

You need to find the time to follow your dream. Time that might otherwise be spent with loved ones or on other things. In my opinion, this is the single biggest sacrifice that you will need to make if you want to go solo. There is an often used trope:

“Don’t say that you don’t have time. You have the same hours in the day as Albert Einstein/Jonny Ive/Nelson Mandela/Insert overachiever here.”

There’s truth in this. We all have multiple demands on our time. We make choices. Assuming that you are keeping your day job and starting a side-hustle, then you have to choose to spend some of your leisure time differently.

Notebook

Pick a page, say 10 pages before the end of your book. Write “Time Audit” at the top and in the index. Next Monday, account for every hour of the day on this page. On Tuesday do the same on the next. You can get as granular as you like with this, and there are all manner of electronic methods too – Toggl springs to mind, and I use one called Harvest. The Tech companies are pretty good about showing you your device usage if you care to look for it. We’re just trying to get an honest understanding of where our time is currently spent.

For example – my morning looks like this so far.

  • Up at 0600
  • Dog 0:20
  • Social Catchup 0:15
  • Swim 0:30
  • Journal 0:10
  • Business – Suppliers 1:05
  • Journal 0:20
  • Writing 1:00

I don’t try to account for every minute, whether I spend 6 minutes or 8 minutes on a coffee doesn’t interest me. We all need those minutes in-between, “margin” as some writers call them.

At the end of the week, revisit each page and tot up where your time is going. Again – be honest. You’re not publishing this anywhere, it’s for you. Most people I know come across one or two categories that surprise them. Social media and that wonderful phrase, “content consumption” often come up.

Analysis

Looking at your week, where can you find the time that you could reassign to the side-hustle? An hour in the morning before the household wakes? On your commute? As part of your lunch break? Instead of Game of Thrones or Fortnight? Something has got to give. It can be tempting to look at sleep. “I’ll just go to bed an hour later.” Be very careful. Sleep is important, you need it to function at your best and starting a new business, you want to be at your best.

Family

If you share your life with one or more people, then you need to discuss your plans with them. You will need their support going forward, and this is the time to get buy-in.

At the end of the week, you should have an idea of where you can find the time to dedicate each week, and at what point in the week. You will know what you are setting aside to achieve this, and, if relevant, you have support of those with whom you live.

This is beginning to look possible, isn’t it?

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Going Solo. 3. Money. Can you afford to go solo?

Money

On the next blank page of your notebook, write “Finances”. (Don’t forget to add it to the index.)

This bit is scary. Just writing that word is frightening, which in itself might spawn a series of posts: “Why we are so bad at money.” I digress.

Audit

Step 1 is to perform an audit on your personal finances. This process could definitely provide a hundred blog posts. If you are looking for a template/approach, you might do a lot worse than look at “You Need A Budget” (YNAB). What we are trying to work out is how much money we need to live each month. Write “Income Requirement” under “Finances”. Write down all your expenditures. Rent/mortgage, utilities, food, travel, everything you spend.

For most people, this exercise is, in the first instance, pretty simple. Very quickly, they arrive at the point, “I currently earn 1,000 dib-dabs per month, and I could certainly cope with earning 1,000 more, but if I earned any less, there would be trouble.” This post is for those people.

Side Hustle

Quitting your job tomorrow to focus on speculatively writing the script for “Star Wars 45 – Facebook Fights Back”, would be very dramatic, and we all love a dramatic gesture, but to be honest, it’s probably not a great idea.

Whether your solo project is a creative one, a business one or a combination of both, it is unlikely to finance next month’s rent. Almost always, going solo begins as a side hustle. You are going to start your new “thing” without giving up your current income.

You may already have known that, but stick with me. This exercise is not about the result, but about the process. You have documented not only your minimum monthly income requirement, but why it’s the minimum. If you have done this properly, you should already be feeling empowered. You know what you need and why.

Start-up capital

Now – aside from the income question above, let’s look at capital. Does your solo project need capital? Do you need a start-up fund?

I’m not talking about the money you might need in the future, I’m talking about the money you will need to spend to get your side-hustle going.

I’ll give you a clue. The answer, at this point, is “No. I do not need capital.” I have raised money in the past, to start a new venture, and we’ll come back to that, but at this early stage, we’re talking about a side-hustle.

I often hear objections to the above.

So, let’s deal with those now. Continue your Finance pages with, “Start Up Capital Requirements”. List out all the things that you actually need to start your side hustle and your estimate of their cost. Knock your self out. Enjoy! In minutes, you can get yourself to 50,000 dib-dabs. A new computer, business cards, mobile phone, website, stationery, a desk, gardening tools, new suit. The potential list is endless, and of course specific to your business idea.

Wasn’t that fun?

It’s a useful exercise, and I do not doubt that you do need (or want) all of these things. I believe in you. You will have that Mac Pro. Just not yet.

Mindset

Before you buy anything, work out who will pay for it.

The device upon which you are reading this post is what you will use to find customers. You may even have more similar devices. Even if you have none of the tools that you need to deliver whatever it is you are going to do, first, get customers. Get commitments.

Before buying a rake for 5 dib-dabs, have someone who is going to pay you 5 dib-dabs to rake their lawn. Then borrow a neighbours rake and get your first job done. Then ask the neighbour if they want to sell you the rake for 3 dib-dabs.

This is important. It’s also not about capital. It’s about a mindset. If you have some money laying about, that you want to invest in your side-hustle, don’t. You’ll just buy stuff you don’t need. Trust me. I know this for all the wrong reasons. You also won’t learn anything. I am prepared to take on trust that you are really good at spending money. We all are. I, for example would consider myself an expert on spending money. What you need to learn is, can you hustle? Can you generate income with nothing more than words?

Summary.

You can afford to go solo. Because you are not going to spend any money.

Time? Yes. That’s next week’s post.

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Going Solo. 2. What’s the start point?

Start Point

You think you want to go solo. That’s great. I’ve worked for myself since 2003 and I wouldn’t ever want to work for anyone else, ever again. Let’s work out your start point.

You can do it. Everyone can do it. But being able to do it does not mean that you should do it.

If there is one thread that runs through everything involved in being your own boss, is that the buck stops with you. There’s no one to bail you out. The first maxim is “be honest with yourself”.

Notebook

I’m an analogue sort of guy, as will become increasingly obvious. Grab yourself a notebook. I’ll happily sell you one, but any book will do. This book will record your thoughts and chart your progress.

Leave the first few pages blank (we’ll put an index in here). At the top of say, page 5 write,

“Going Solo”.

Then beneath it, write the following

  1. What you are now. Employee? Student? Unemployed?
  2. How you fund your life. Salary? Savings? Partner? Any way you can?
  3. What responsibilities you have. Parent? Carer?
  4. What’s your personal situation? Do you live alone or with others? Do you fund just yourself or others?

Write as little or as much as you want. The important thing is to be honest. This book is for you. It’s your business partner. Don’t tell lies to your business partner.

Leave a line, and write down what you want to be; You Tube Superstar, Management Consultant, Landscape Gardener, Author, Model, Gravedigger, Personal Trainer – whatever it is that you want to be. What’s the dream? What are you aiming for?

Analysis

Don’t look now, but you’ve just documented a start point and an end point. If you were working for a big company, then you have completed a “situational assessment” (or any other of a thousand buzz phrases) and set a goal.

We are just going to call it the journey. We have identified where we are starting (Point A) and where we want to get (Point M). Now, all we have to work out is how to get from point A to M.

Now, go back to page 1 and write Index at the top of the page. Then write – “The Journey” on the left side of the page and “5” in the middle.

Wow. Look at you. You have instigated project “Going Solo”, completed a Situational Analysis, established a goal and documented and indexed the project. In an office, you should probably take a break here. Lunch maybe. It’s been a productive day.

Sorry, I’m being flippant (partially). We will revisit the journey and will write more pages on it. When we do – be sure to add the page number next to the 5. That way, whenever you want to reference the journey, you’ll know where to look.

OK. Lunch break over.

Take a look at the four questions and their answers. If you are unemployed, independently wealthy with no responsibilities, then what are you doing here? Go surfing. Immediately.

Conclusion

If you are not that person, then the chances are that your start point is, to some extent at least, going to guide your approach to going solo. That, my friends, is effectively the beginning of a feasibility study.

Next post – what to do about money?

My writing is supported by people like you. “Going Solo” is free, and will remain so, but some content is reserved for members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Going Solo. 1. So, you want to go solo?

Readers have asked me how I got to go solo. Hence, this new category of posts. Over twenty weeks, I will spell out, step by step, how to go solo. Posts will go up each Wednesday. While comments are not enabled on the blog, I’m always happy to answer questions. Grab me on Twitter @stulennon

On Fridays, I post about #livingthedream. Margaret and I have upped sticks from the UK and now live on the Mediterranean island, Cyprus. Mostly, it has been fantastic, although there have been so real lows too. You can catch up by clicking on the category “Living the Dream” in the main menu.

Going Solo

A key element of crafting our dream life is the ability to work for ourselves. I choose when and where I work. If I want to go to the beach, I go to the beach. I am master of my own time.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is.

Commuting

I work from home. I have a ground floor office that looks out onto my garden. It has a daybed, a couple of desks and a host of my favourite things. I work here, I read here, sometimes I nap here. In the past, I enjoyed listening to podcasts on my long walk to the office. Now, I take a swim before I come to the office, and can listen to podcasts all day, if I choose.

Working Hours

I play golf. Not everybody’s thing, I know, but I love it. Three times a week, I’m at the club. I play, drink a beer with my friends, maybe have a meal. It’s a lot of fun.

Cyprus is hot. In summer, it’s really hot. There is air conditioning in the office, but I don’t use it. When it gets unbearably hot, I go for a swim, then take a nap.

It’s tough to fit golf and naps into a traditional “employed”, working week. Certainly, everywhere that I’ve worked took a dim view of me going to sleep in the afternoons.

The Beach

Honestly, I’m not much of a beach-bum. That said, a lounger in the shade, The Mediterranean at my feet and a frozen cocktail at my side is not the worst way to spend an afternoon. I can do that and call it work. Technology enables us to work from anywhere. Sometimes, I swing by the beach to do some work, just to remind myself that I can.

The Boss

I’m accountable only to myself. There is nobody pushing me to do things that I don’t enjoy, or that add no value to my day. I decide what needs to be done, by when. It’s liberating.

Lucky me, huh?

Make your own luck.

There are no guarantees in life. Nor do many get everything that they dream. However – we can be pretty sure that doing nothing, leads to nothing.

Life is for living. I didn’t wake up one morning and find myself working for myself. A series of decisions have got me here.

I’ll lead you through those decisions, week by week.

My writing is supported by people like you.  The Going Solo series is free to all, but there are other series, limited to members only. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.