Never Get a Real Job

Five things you need to know to always be your own boss
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Unemployment and underemployment have become global epidemics. The age-old mantra that says "Work hard, get good grades and go to school to get a job" is antiquated. Now more than ever, to protect your livelihood and your financial future, you must learn how to create your own job to keep a job.

To help you do just that, here are five tips and a few reality checks.

1. Kill your ego now
Entrepreneurship is not about yachts, fancy cars and making millions. Entrepreneurship is challenging, and running it day to day is hardly a dream come true. Don't set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals and expectations. That includes believing you and your idea are special. Accept it: You're both simply one in a million--and not in the positive way you might assume. To stay alive and thrive, you'll need to remain grounded, practical and rational. Focus on what's really important: finding ways to generate immediate, sustainable revenue.

2. Be unoriginal and unsexy to be profitable
Reinventing the wheel dooms you to being run over by it. "Original" businesses are often costly money pits that take a long time--if ever--to gain any real traction with consumers. Don't try to out-innovate yourself. Unoriginal works. Unsexy is profitable. Stop thinking about building the next Facebook. Instead, start building the next tutoring company, bookkeeping firm or other essential, tried-and-true business. Be original in the way you market and brand your business concept, not in the concept itself. Your ability to generate sales and garner clients will be better for it.

3. No one will invest in your idea
Get it out of your head that your business will attract investors or large bank loans. The vast majority of startups don't. No one will read a long, drawn-out business plan, nor will anyone take your business seriously unless you have a proof of concept, a track record, proven managers and, most important, generate real, consistent money. Instead of trying to raise capital, master the art of selling. Bootstrap your business until it can be launched as an early stage venture. Build your business with client revenues and time, not on the hopes of imaginary angel investors and VCs.

4. Avoid bottomless money pits
Having a "great idea" doesn't mean it will translate into a viable business. Don't trick yourself into believing your idea is so good that the money question will just figure itself out later. No revenue model, no business. So if your startup's success is based on a hypothetical exit strategy, major web traction or some other one-in-a-billion dream shot, go back to the drawing board before you find yourself in the poor house. Look to earn money yesterday, not spend it without a return for many tomorrows.

5. Fake it 'til you make it
Inexpensive technologies and virtual office services make it easier than ever to be more productive and efficient, and allow you to have a presence on a global scale almost instantly. They also enable you to position your company to look and sound like a multimillion-dollar enterprise, all while working from anywhere--even your parent's basement. Use virtual phone systems and virtual mailing addresses to create a professional vibe. Hire virtual assistants and specialists at a fraction of the price of salaried employees. Even when your company starts bringing home the bacon, use these tactics to keep your expenses low and your profits high.

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