TIME Careers & Workplace

50 Reasons to Start Your Own Business

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Resources are plentiful with the dominance of the Internet

Some people are destined to be entrepreneurs. From the time they get through school, or maybe even before that, they’re hungry to start a business and lead it to success, and they’ll stop at nothing to make that dream a reality.

Related: 3 Steps to Eliminating the Barriers to Becoming Self-Sufficient

For others, starting a business is a scary, intimidating notion. There are too many unknowns to take the plunge. But if you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur, don’t forget all the benefits that go along with it:

1. Flexibility. Work your own hours.

2. More spare time (eventually). Spend more time with your family and friends. But note: This is only applicable once your business is established and you have employees handling the majority of necessary responsibilities. Don’t expect to have more spare time until you reach this point. In fact, expect to have much less.

3. Call the shots. Nobody else is going to set the rules. You are.

4. Set your own deadlines. No more last-minute rushing unless you want to do it.

5. Sell how you want to sell. Online? In person? Inbound? Outbound? It’s your call.

6. Create your own environment. You can set the formality and culture of your organization.

7. Pursue your passion. You can do what makes you happy.

8. Create something from scratch. Watch your organization grow from start to finish.

9. Meet new people. Network with other entrepreneurs and professionals.

10. Build a team. You decide who to hire and bring into your company.

11. Create jobs. Improve the economy with new job opportunities.

12. Help people. Use products and services to improve people’s lives.

13. Become an expert. Learn the ropes of your industry through first-hand experience.

14. Invest in yourself. You take the risk, and you’ll gain the rewards.

15. Make more money. If you want a pay raise, you can give yourself one.

16. Financial independence. No one else is signing your paychecks.

17. Tax benefits. Write off your biggest expenses Note: while you do get to write off lots of expenses as an entrepreneur, beware the “self employment tax.”

18. New challenges every day. Find new ways to stimulate your mind.

19. Get exposed to new cultures. Discover new perspectives and approaches.

20. Discover new fields. Delve deeper into your industry.

21. Create an asset. Give yourself something sellable to hedge your bets.

22. Connect with your clients. Forge real, personal connections.

23. Delegate boring tasks. Don’t do anything you don’t want to.

24. You can stop working. Work you enjoy doing can’t be described as “work.”

25. The power to give. Have the power and flexibility to donate time or money to worthy causes.

Related: The 8-Step Battle Plan to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

26. Get involved in the community. Participate actively in your neighborhood and region.

27. Improve your industry. Push your industry forward with new innovations and ideas.

28. Get a mentor. Meet valuable, insightful mentors and learn from them.

29. Become a mentor. Take your own knowledge and experience, and mentor someone else.

30. Learn new skills. Branch out in new departments.

31. Attend new classes and seminars. Constantly refine your skillset and stay updated.

32. Have a big office. If you want the biggest office in your workplace, it’s yours.

33. Work from anywhere. Work from home, an office or a beach if you so choose.

34. Have the option for multiple ventures. Start another business when you’re done with this one.

35. Gain entrepreneurial experience. Being an entrepreneur makes you a better professional in almost any position.

36. Get recognized. Start earning name recognition and build a reputation.

37. Get things done faster. Set your own efficiency rates.

38. Build a personal brand. Take the time to develop your personal brand, and tie it into your business’s.

39. Get more creative. Create your own opportunities and your own solutions.

40. Inspire others. Serve as an example for other people to follow their dreams.

41. Reduce your commute. Find an office space closer to your home.

42. Have more job stability. Never worry about being laid off or fired.

43. Find pride and fulfillment. Finally start taking pride in the work you’re doing.

44. Reach your dreams. If you’ve ever dreamed of being wildly successful, this is your chance.

45. Learn to embrace failure. Even if you fail, you’ll walk away with new skills and more experience you never had before.

46. Have a great story to tell. It will be a fun story for your grandchildren one day, win or lose.

47. Leave something behind. Pass the business down to your children and grandchildren.

48. Change the world. It may seem like a lofty goal for you right now, but your business really could change the world.

49. Resources are plentiful. With the dominance of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find resources you need, including startup capital, loans, grants and even mentors.

50. There’s nothing stopping you. What’s really keeping you from being an entrepreneur? Of course there are risks, but there’s nothing forcing you not to take them.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, there’s nothing really holding you back. Take the leap, and lead the company you’ve always wanted.

If you decide to take the leap, be sure to grab my ebook to help with your growth, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.

Related: 10 Reasons Why 2015 Will Be the Year to Start Your Business

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Things to Consider Before Investing In a New Project Idea

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Following through on the wrong project ideas can be a big waste of resources

startupcollective

Question: What is one thing you ALWAYS do before green-lighting a new project or biz idea?

Test Assumptions

“There are lots of great ideas, but it’s easier to devise them than to execute them. So before you go off and try to execute new plans, it’s imperative you test some basic assumptions. If you already have customers, speak with them directly about the idea and take their feedback to heart. If you don’t, set up a landing page with an AdWords campaign to test response and prove the market exists.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

Ensure It Aligns With KPIs

“Before giving the go-ahead to a project or idea, it’s critical for me that the project aligns with our key performance indicators. If a project doesn’t drive to one of our key metrics, it’s likely not a worthwhile pursuit or use of resources. To have these kinds of checks and balances, it’s important to establish KPIs early on. Once in place, it’s a useful rubric to green-light ideas.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Take a Step Back

“The worst thing you can do is pursue a new project or business because it sounds like an exciting opportunity. The problem is that pretty much every new idea seems like an exciting opportunity at first, but only the best of the best maintain that excitement weeks or months down the road. Set it aside and don’t think about it for a while. If you pick it back up and get just as excited, go for it.” — James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

Analyze the Pros and Cons

“I’m always thinking of new projects or business ideas to help grow our business, so I’ve developed a system to green-light them. First, I write them down and let them marinate for a few days. If the idea still seems legit, I’ll set up a call with my partner, discuss the plan/implementation in detail and write out a pros/cons list. We then analyze the data to make the final decision.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Run the Numbers

“Before moving forward with any new project, I want to make sure that it’s worth our time and the ROI is there. Numbers don’t lie. Financial projections are an essential tool for determining ROI and helping us make business decisions based on fact, not gut.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Ask If It’s What People Want

“I see so many entrepreneurs, especially in the startup world, creating new businesses and products without even determining whether there’s a market for them or if people really want their product. Before green-lighting any new idea, I survey people, hold focus groups, run market tests through AdWords and even call people.” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Organize the Project First

“Before green-lighting a project, you should take the time to organize it. It is prudent to the success of the project or idea to know how long it will take, how it should be executed and who will be responsible before committing to a launch.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Define What Success Looks Like

“Without a clear definition of what success will look like for a given project, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s on track or even finished. By making a point of defining success before we even get started, we can decide how to measure a project and tell if it’s reaching the necessary goals.” — Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

Run Some AdWords Tests

“Google AdWords is fantastic at validating market interest. I’ll run a few different ads over the course of a few days or a week to test how well they convert and at what rate. That tells me how crowded the space is and how strong the market interest is. Usually I don’t even create a landing page. Instead, I’ll send them to one of my other sites.” — Jared Brown, Hubstaff

Talk to Real-Life Customers

“Always test your ideas by talking to people in the real world before you invest tremendous amounts of time, energy and money. Don’t be afraid of anyone stealing your ideas. Get feedback in the wild. Even if it’s simply by sending an email to your customer list asking if it’s something they’d be interested in, that’s a start.” — Cody McKibben, Thrilling Heroics

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways That Helped Me Make My First Million Dollars in Profit

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Remember that Rome was not built in a day

Making a million dollars in revenue is hard. Making a million dollars in profit is even harder.

Every entrepreneur dreams of reaching his or her first million dollars in profit. I was no different when I started my first business with only a few dollars to my name. You often hear people talk about how high their revenue is. To me, that’s just a vanity metric. There is no point starting a business if it is not sustainably profitable.

Here is a list of nine factors that helped me reach my first million in profit — I hope they can help you reach this milestone as well.

1. Bootstrapping is important in the first few years.

I started my business without any outside capital and without any business loans. I used every penny that I generated to grow the business. Bootstrapping allowed me to concentrate 100 percent on building my company without worrying about loans and debt. I worked hard and rolled all of the profit back into the business. It required personal sacrifices but in the end I was able to build a successful debt-free business.

Related: 5 Steps to Build a Million-Dollar Business in One Year

2. Your first idea will not be how you make your first million.

It is very rare that an entrepreneur will hit a home run with his or her very first venture. I was not any different — I made my first million running a business brokerage with FE International, but this was not the first thing I tried. I failed and got knocked down a couple of times but that didn’t stop me. If I gave up after the first couple of failures I would never have succeeded. Don’t get discouraged if your first idea doesn’t go according to plan.

3. Working within your own means will set good habits for the future.

When you set limits and work within those limits it lays a solid foundation to build from. I didn’t have limitless capital when I started and I had to account for every dollar that I spent. This turned me into a very disciplined business owner and I still have the same approach to this day. I analyze every opportunity and weigh the positives and negatives.

Even though I continue to increase overheads in line with ever-increasing revenue, I am still conservative with spending as I’ve become disciplined from years of bootstrapping.

4. Do not surround yourself with naysayers.

Nothing will set you off course quicker than surrounding yourself with negative people. You will learn quickly that you can never please everyone and there will always be doubters and people that will always have something negative to say. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and push the negative energy out of your life. You will become much more productive, focused and ultimately, successful.

5. Hire people that are smart and have different skills.

You can’t wear every single hat within your business. You also can’t learn to do everything perfectly — there just isn’t enough time in each day. Hire experts in every department. Build your organization with the very best talent available. Will some of your team members be smarter than you in some areas? Of course, but as Malcolm Forbes said, “Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.”

Related: What You Can Learn From 8 Kids Already Making a Million Dollars

6. Do not fixate on the competition.

If you spend your time worrying about what the competition is doing, at best you are going to become only a slightly better version of them. Yes, you need to be aware of what they are doing and you can analyze their strategy, but putting too much time and energy into following their every move will take precious time away from growing and improving your business.

Do you want to always be looking over your shoulder and in the rear-view mirror or do you want to focus on innovating and changing the game? Do you think Apple is worrying about the competition? Sure, the company is keeping track of them, but the majority of its focus is on innovation.

7. Your time is valuable, so don’t cut corners.

Every entrepreneur eventually realizes that time is his or her most valuable asset. We all want more of it and it will always be finite. The last thing you want to do is have to backtrack to fix mistakes that could have easily been avoided by doing it properly the first time. Don’t cut corners and avoid careless mistakes and it will save your time fixing preventable issues.

8. Rome was not built in a day.

You need to set attainable goals and then work hard to reach and exceed them. As an entrepreneur you will come in contact with numerous other opportunities and you will think of other ideas along the way. Don’t lose focus — you can’t chase every single opportunity or dollar.

Those that do lose focus, instead of reaching their goal, they make it halfway to several goals. Work hard and crush your goals so you can continue to grow sustainably, setting (and beating) aggressive goals along the way rather than being distracted by side projects.

9. Back yourself.

Running a business is hard. There is no room to be self-conscious and not believe in yourself. People will tell you that you are wrong. People will laugh at your ideas. People will leave. People will not pay you.

Regardless of who you choose to work with, no one will care as much about your (and your business’s) success as you do. You must have faith in yourself and back yourself to succeed, even when your back is up against the wall and when others may doubt you.

Related: 5 Things I Learned Growing $2,000 Into a Multi-Million Dollar Business

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Types of People You Should Avoid for Your Personal Sanity

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Because it only takes one sad person to double the chance of your unhapiness

If you want to build a great business, you have to be very deliberate about whom you let into it.

Emotions and behaviors may circulate through social networks in patterns similar to what’s seen in epidemiological models of the flu virus. Every positive person you let into your life increases your chances of being positive 11 percent, estimated a study published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

“Just one sad friend was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy,” Wired summarized about the report.

Figuring out whom to avoid and whom to let in won’t always be easy. But with a little practice, you can get really good at staying far away from people who might bring your business down. Here are 10 people (whether employees or clients) you should avoid if you’re starting a business:

Related: What the NFL’s Toxic Achievers Can Teach You About the Workplace

1. The siren.

Sirens are those amazing and enticing people who come into your business and completely distract you. More than anyone else, these people have a way of stealing your focus and throwing your efforts off track.

A lot of promising futures have been sacrificed to sirens. Some people have sold their businesses for way less than they are worth and others have given up on their businesses to chase a get-rich-quick scheme than some sirens pitched them. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let an amazing person make you forget that you and your business have something amazing to offer the world, too.

2. The goat.

Goats are those wildly charismatic, big-talking and full-of-luck people who seem to get away with everything. These people have many strengths.

The problem is that they use their strengths in devious ways. Goats have little ambition beyond convincing others to make bad decisions. If you find yourself constantly making bad business decisions every time you’re around someone in particular, it’s time to cut that person out of your business.

3. The elephant.

An elephant never forgets. Elephants are those people in your business who never let you live down past mistakes. They never let you live down who you used to be or how many times you’ve messed up.

Don’t let an elephant pull you back into the past. Everyone fails, especially entrepreneurs. If you’ve failed, it means you’ve learned. So stay on track and keep moving forward.

4. The hater.

Haters are people who want to be on top but don’t want to work to get there. Instead, they want to push everyone else around them down so it will seem like they’re on top.

Haters are losers but they also can serve as a source of motivation in a strange way. Don’t let haters into your business but use them as motivation to make your business as strong as possible.

Related: When Workplace ‘Slackers’ Derail the Cohesion of a Team

5. The narcissist.

Narcissists are talented people who are too consumed with themselves to take action. They’re especially bad at taking team-oriented action.

A narcissist might even encourage you to put the image of your business over its reputation. This is always bad idea. When starting a business, it’s best to be transparent and authentic. Don’t try to make things seem bigger than they are and avoid trying to be something you’re not. Instead, be real. Keep narcissists out of your startup and stay focused on your reputation, not your image.

6. The nemesis.

When you’re starting a business, sometimes you’ll have to work with someone whom you can’t stand and who can’t stand you. If you’re not careful, this can become a major distraction.

Try to realize that what you don’t like about a nemesis is probably something you don’t like about yourself or it’s something that you like too much about yourself. Either way, something is at odds with your identity and the only way to fix it is to turn the mirror on yourself, not the nemesis.

Your adversary can be your advisor in a way. If you bring a nemesis into your startup, use this person to learn about yourself. Once you do this, he or she won’t be your nemesis anymore.

7. The Ares.

Ares is the Greek god of war. Ares-type people love conflict. They are addicted to drama and winning at all costs, even if there’s nothing to be won. Any time spent trying to correct or even understand an Ares is a waste of time. You are better off ignoring these people and keeping them out of your business altogether.

8. The Dionysus.

Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, parties and pleasure. Dionysus sorts are pleasure seekers who have very little patience for anything other than instant gratification.

Be careful when letting these people into your business because base pleasure of any kind is both addictive and time-consuming. It’s important to have friends and have fun, but you should never sacrifice your startup to a string of late nights.

9. The black cat.

Some people can walk into a business and light it up. Others walk in and kill it. Black cats are the latter. They are the people who seem to have a dark cloud following them everywhere they go.

These people are unlucky, negative and always depressed. Don’t feel bad for these people. Odds are, they like sitting in the pits. They like the attention it gives them. So, let them sit. Just make sure they’re sitting outside your business.

10. The fat cat.

Fat cats are those people who will come into your business, throw a bunch of money around and offer you the world. Whether these people are angel investors or venture capitalists from top firms, don’t let their flash or their cash distract you from the fact that they want to control your company and make money off you.

Be very careful with whom give your business to. You didn’t work this hard to watch your brand and reputation go down in flames at the paws of some fat cat who is now calling the shots.

Related: Motivating the Negative Nancy on Your Team

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

20 Tips for Getting More Done Every Day

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Don't confuse being busy with getting things accomplished

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, getting things done is incredibly important. You have to have vision, you have to plan, and you have to work with great people. But if you never move into action, all of the plans, visions, and staff in the world won’t save you.

Don’t confuse being busy with getting things accomplished. It’s possible to work an absurd number of hours without actually making much progress. Unfortunately, being busy is much easier than being productive. So here are 20 tips for making sure you’re actually getting the work done.

1. Know where you are and where you want to be.

You need to know both where you are and what you want to accomplish every day. This is not that bulky business plan you never look at. This is about knowing what should happen every single day and which of these tasks will move the needle most for your business.

2. Get enough sleep.

This cannot be overstated. If you’re exhausted, you won’t get as much done and you’ll make more mistakes. Whether you choose to rise early or work late and sleep in, make sure you get enough rest.

3. Get fit.

Getting fit can make a big difference in your productivity and perspective. Making simple, small changes in regards to your physical activity can improve your business and your life, as well as help you get more done and ultimately reach your goals.

4. Take steps toward a deadline.

When you’re moving your projects toward completion, you’re doing real, important work. If you spend an hour organizing your inbox, what have you accomplished?

5. Use a prioritized checklist.

By having a list of all that needs to be done, with the most important projects first, you’ll set yourself up for success. Checking off tasks is satisfying, and you’ll ensure the key ones aren’t forgotten.

6. Don’t overcommit.

This is a great tip from Lifehack. Not only should you not overcommit in a single day, but you should also carefully monitor your overall workload. Don’t be afraid to say no sometimes.

7. Close social media.

Close Facebook, Twitter, and anything else that distracts you. If you want to get work done, you’ll need to cut off the avenues you use to procrastinate.

8. Forget multitasking.

Multiple studies, including one using MRI images from the University of Michigan, show that effective multitasking is a myth. The brain switches tasks quickly, but too much switching decreases concentration and increases mistakes.

9. Use the Pareto Principle.

Listen to Tim Ferriss and put your focus on the 20 percent of your tasks that give you 80 percent of your results.

10. Focus on service.

When you spend time each day serving others, you’ll find yourself feeling so empowered and motivated that tackling your own tasks is a no-brainer.

11. Use time blocks.

Rather than bouncing around from task to task, set blocks of uninterrupted time to work on specific items. Make sure your employees know these are “no-talking times.” Focused work will let you get more done quickly.

12. Use a timer.

When working through your tasks, estimate how long they will take and then try to beat the clock. It can make even dull tasks into a fun game, and you’ll surprise yourself with how fast you can be.

13. Create routines.

Habits are one of life’s strongest forces. The more tasks you can make into habitual routines, the more energy you’ll have left for bigger tasks. As the Harvard Business Review notes, we have a limited amount of willpower. Be sure you’re circumventing the amount you need to use by implementing good routines.

14. Change your environment.

Doing the same things, in the same place, day after day can cause burnout. Try a change of pace and do your work in a different location.

15. Work out midday.

Exercise has proven benefits when it comes to energy and feeling great. By taking a midday workout break, you can come back to your work refreshed and more productive.

16. Capture fleeting thoughts.

Nothing uses up brainpower like trying not to forget something. By writing it down immediately, you’ll free up your mind to focus on other, more productive tasks.

17. Replace “I can’t” with “How?”

When it comes to being productive and overcoming burnout, you can’t accomplish what you think is impossible. By asking how to accomplish something instead, you’ll frame your work as achievable and get more done.

18. If you’re struggling, take a break.

Odd as it seems, sometimes the way forward is to stop. Regular breaks will give you a fresh start on your tasks.

19. Handle paper and email once.

By forcing yourself to take action on papers or emails right away, you’ll avoid having them pile up into an overwhelming mass. Make it a goal to handle them only once.

20. Eat healthy snacks.

What you eat has a big impact on how you feel. Rather than eating something that will give you a sugar rush and then a crash, focus on healthy foods like nuts or carrots.

Having a focused, productive day isn’t always easy. However, by following these tips you should be well on your way to getting all of your truly important tasks done each day. In the end, you’ll find yourself truly productive—not just busy.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Unconventional Tips for Becoming Successful

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Because success requires timely out-of-box moves

startupcollective

Question: What is your most unorthodox tip for becoming successful in business?

Sell Joy

“Stop focusing on selling your product or service; instead, focus on the joy your company creates, and let that drive your growth. Scale the joy. Systematize how you deliver the joy. Sell the joy.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Become an Expert in Something

“If you’re an expert in one aspect of your business, you’ll be able to share your expertise and drive new business because of it. Contribute to publications that reach your target audience, and they’ll come to you for more expertise and assistance.” — Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

Deliver Happiness

“I am a huge fan of the Zappos “delivering happiness” movement. I think that the paradigm for how companies and customers interact is changing in a big way. When I see examples of terrible customer service, it makes me shake my head. Delighting your customers is the fastest way to grow a hugely successful business.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Customers

“You cannot please everyone, so find the customers who fit your company, and don’t waste your time on customers who don’t.” — Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

Remember Business Is Personal

“Business is personal. This is contrary to every cliché you will hear about leading an organization. But at the end of the day, all you have as a business person in the 21st century is your relationships — not factories, widgets or pipelines.” — Panos Panay, Berklee College of Music

Don’t Work All the Time

“When I was young, I used to pull all-nighters a few times a week and would average only a few hours of sleep a night. Looking back, my life was totally unbalanced. I was far less productive and extremely unhealthy in general. Now, I have dinner with my kids, work out every day, do yoga, maintain a reasonable balance and get way more done than when I “worked” more hours.” — Danny Boice, Speek

Do Things That Don’t Scale

“These are the words of the great Paul Graham, and we have implemented this to great effect at DJZ. At the beginning of a company’s existence, you often have to undergo time-consuming tasks to recruit customers that wouldn’t make sense on a huge scale (e.g., personal thank-you letters to customers or gathering new signups in person). These initial unscalable gestures are what ignite the flywheel.” — Michael Simpson, DJZ

Run a Half Marathon Every Year

“When you’re the founder of a startup, your company is on your mind all the time. In fact, you can run into some major personal issues by not being able to properly “shut off” from business mode. I’ve found that signing up for a major athletic event like a half marathon is a great way to de-stress. It forces you to train every day and focus on something besides your business.” — Eric Bahn, Hustle Con Media

Break Rules

“Sure, rules are great. They create momentary stability and processes we can all adhere to, but breaking them for the right reasons can lead to breakthroughs, unique experiences and stories that build businesses and brands in unimaginable ways.” — Henry Glucroft, Henry’s / Airdrop

Don’t Try to Do It All

“Get out of your own way. It’s easy to get caught up trying to do everything in a business when really you should be focusing on removing yourself as a bottleneck. Entrepreneurs should spend their time building systems and plans for their business and watching things happen. Being CEO doesn’t mean you have to be doing all the work.” — Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences

Say ‘Yes’ More

“Success is rarely, if ever, a straight line. And sometimes, the things that are slightly off track or seem a bit outside the lines are the things that may yield the biggest results. So I recommend you say “yes” to interesting things, people and experiences. Those are usually where the action lies.” — Eric Koester, DCI

Buy a Watch

“My most unorthodox tip for becoming wildly successful in business is buying a watch (any kind!) and actually wearing it (every day!). Being punctual in business is key. No one likes to be held up or waiting on an associate who is running behind. Be early to every meeting, finish meetings on time, and never get caught saying, “I’m sorry, I lost track of the time!”” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Create Multiple Streams of Income

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Diversifying your income stream is crucial to protect yourself and your family against the unavoidable ups and downs in finances

“Don’t let the opinions of the average man sway you. Dream, and he thinks you’re crazy. Succeed, and he thinks you’re lucky. Acquire wealth, and he thinks you’re greedy. Pay no attention. He simply doesn’t understand.”
Robert G. Allen

At age 25, I began planning my exit strategy to leave a lucrative career in sales to become an entrepreneur and pursue my passion: empowering people to maximize their potential and make significant improvements to their results.

While still in my sales position, I started my first business — and my first additional stream of income — serving as a life and business success coach. In the past nine years, using the exact formula below, I’ve been able to add nine additional streams of income. These have involved authoring books, speaking, private and group coaching and staging live events.

For anyone who values financial security and ultimately desires financial freedom, creating at least one additional stream of income is no longer a luxury. It has become a necessity.

Diversifying your income stream is crucial to protect yourself and your family against the unavoidable ups and downs of economic and industry cycles. Because of the financial risks that come from relying on one source of income, such as a job or a business, consider creating at least one or more additional streams to generate cash flow.

Your additional income streams can be active, passive or a combination of the two. Some may pay you for doing something that you love (active), while others can provide income for you without your having to do much of anything at all (passive). You can diversify your income streams among different industries to protect you against major losses during downturns in one market and allow you to financially benefit from the upswings in another.

This truly is one of the not-so-obvious secrets of how the wealthy become — and stay — wealthy, which unfortunately isn’t taught to the masses. The good news is that it’s not magic. It’s not even complicated. Creating your next stream of income is a simple, step-by-step process, which you can arrange to start bringing you monthly income faster than you might realize is possible.

Related: The 3 Decisions That Will Change Your Financial Life

1. Establish financial security.

Now, this idea isn’t sexy, but it’s imperative: Don’t focus your time and energy into building a second stream of income until your primary source is secure. Whether you have a day job or own your own business, focus on establishing and securing a primary monthly income that will support your expenses before you pursue other steps.

2. Clarify your unique value.

Every person on this planet has unique gifts, abilities, life experiences and value to offer — and be highly compensated for. Figure out the knowledge, experience, ability or solution you have that others will value and might pay you for. Remember, what might be common knowledge to you isn’t for other people.

You and your personality differentiate your value from that of every other person on earth. Many people will resonate with you (and your style) better than they will with someone else offering value that’s similar or even the same.

Packaging is how you can differentiate your value. When I wrote my book The Miracle Morning, I had to overcome my insecurity that waking up early wasn’t exactly something I invented. Would there really be a market for the book? But readers shared that the book was life-changing in the way the information was presented. It was written focusing on how to significantly improve any area of life by simply altering how a person starts the day.

Knowledge is the one thing you can increase very quickly. As Tony Robbins wrote in Money: Master the Game, “One reason people succeed is that they have knowledge other people don’t have. You pay your lawyer or your doctor for the knowledge and skills” you lack.

Increase your knowledge in a specific area, and you’ll simultaneously increase the value that others will pay you for, either to teach them what you know or apply your knowledge on their behalf.

Related: Create Side-Hustle Income by Teaching What You Already Know

3. Identify your market.

Determine whom you are best qualified to serve. Based on the value you can add for others or the problems you can help people solve, who will pay you for the value or solution you can provide?

4. Build a community.

A turning point in my financial life came when I heard author and self-made multimillionaire Dan Kennedy say, “The most valuable asset you have is your email list, so focus on growing it.”

I don’t like to think of my email community as merely a list of names but rather as a group of individuals, each with their own hopes and dreams.

Here’s how you can build your community:

Acquire an email-marketing program (good: AWeber, better: Infusionsoft).

Get a program to create an opt-in page (good: LeadPages.com, better:Kajabi).

Create an added-value deliverable such as a free report, an ebook, an audio or a video training so that people will happily provide their email address in exchange for the value you provide.

5. Ask your community about their desires.

You can either guess or assume what people desire and need, invest valuable time in creating it and then hope your guess was correct. But remember: Hope is rarely the best strategy.

Or send an email to members of your community with the link to a survey (using a free service like SurveyMonkey), asking what they want or need help with in your area of value that you’ve identified. Ask open-ended questions to help you later brainstorm or offer multiple choices if you’ve already thought about what you can provide.

6. Create a solution.

After your community members tell you what they need, it’s your golden opportunity to get to work and create it. This could be a physical or digital product (a book, an audio, a video, a written training program or software) or a service (dog grooming, babysitting, coaching, consulting, speaking or training).

7. Plan the launch.

Think about how Apple rolls out its products. The company doesn’t just throw a product on the shelf or its website. No, the company makes it into an event. Apple builds anticipation months in advance, so much so that people are willing to camp out in front of stores for weeks to be the first in line.

Do that. To learn how, read the definitive book on the topic, Launch by Jeff Walker.

7.1. Find a mentor.

The best way to cut your learning curve and achieve a specific result is to find people who’ve already achieved what you want and then model their behavior. Rather than try to figure it all out on your own, find someone who has already achieved what you want, determine how this person did it, model this behavior and make it your own.

While you might seek a relationship with a face-to-face human mentor, you could also hire a coach, read a book or articles by an expert or do web research. After some consideration, you may decide to make this your first step.

Schedule time to begin implementing these 7.1 steps, one at a time, and within months you can be enjoying the benefits, the perks and the financial security and freedom that comes from having multiple streams of income.

Related: Create Momentum When You’re Stuck in the Middle

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Quotes From Icons That Will Definitely Inspire You

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Let this be a year of inspirations

With 2015 right around the corner, that means new goals, new challenges, new opportunities and new milestones await. Here are 10 great quotes from successful entrepreneurs to inspire you to come out swinging in 2015, whether that involves growing a current business or starting a new venture.

1. I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big. — Donald Trump

No successful entrepreneur starts something with the goal of being mildly successful, especially not Donald Trump. If you truly believe that you have an amazing idea or think you can expand your business, then go for it. The “go big or go home” mentality has worked very well for many — will you be next?

Related: 50 Inspirational Entrepreneurial Quotes

2. Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough. — Mark Zukerberg

Sometimes, windows of opportunity don’t remain open for too long. If you have an idea or see an opportunity, strike and move fast. It is impossible to tiptoe along and avoid all mistakes or pitfalls. Those that wait, or move slow due to being over-cautious will sometimes miss out.

Facebook was struggling with monetization when the majority of its user base became mobile, but its team moved fast and now the company is beating Wall Street’s expectations.

3. When you’re first thinking through an idea, it’s important not to get bogged down in complexity. Thinking simply and clearly is hard to do. — Richard Branson

Look how most successful startups get off the ground. The companies set specific milestones that must be met in order for the concept to advance to the next stage. The longer it takes to hit each milestone, the greater the odds of the startup failing.

Don’t make things harder than they need to be in the beginning.

4. Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘What’s the best way to make money?’ — Elon Musk

When your product or service impacts people and changes the way we do things, it can be extremely rewarding. The best ideas always come from truly passionate individuals that started their company because they wanted to solve a problem. Musk recently decided to allow other companies to use Tesla Motors’ patents — because he feels it will benefit the world, not his net worth.

5. To get GoPro started, I moved back in with my parents and went to work seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I wrote off my personal life to make headway on it. — Nick Woodman

You have to be willing to make sacrifices, and in Woodman’s case those sacrifices paid off big on June 26 of this year when his company went public — he even got to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock market.

6. You always hear the phrase, ‘money doesn’t buy you happiness.’ But I always in the back of my mind figured a lot of money will buy you a little bit of happiness. But it’s not really true. — Sergey Brin

If you were a diehard baseball fan and you were presented with the following two options, which one would you pick?

  • Start a Major League Baseball blog that allowed you to travel around the country and watch baseball games all day. Business revenue potential: $350,000 a year.
  • Open a sewage treatment plant that required you to literally work with crap all day. Business revenue potential: $850,000 a year.

I would hope the first one would appeal to you much more. There is nothing more rewarding than doing something you absolutely love.

Related: 10 Brilliant Quotes From Warren Buffett, America’s Second-Richest Person

7. Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession. — Mark Cuban

You have to love what you do and become completely obsessive with every aspect of your business. If not, you will get burnt out quickly, leading to failure. Nobody is going to care about your company more than you, so be prepared to set the bar high and work harder and longer than anyone else. The only way you will remain sane is by enjoying every minute of it.

8. If you’re competitor focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer focused allows you to be more pioneering. — Jeff Bezos

Keeping your sights set on your competition will actually slow your growth. Constantly watching them takes your focus away from the one thing that is responsible for your success — your customer. Put all of your energy into creating happy customers and you won’t have to worry about the competition because they will be behind you.

9. Don’t be threatened by people smarter than you. — Howard Schultz

I love speaking with people that are smarter than I am. Anyone who truly believes that they are the know-all authority within their industry is delusional. Every entrepreneur has strengths, weaknesses and room to grow. Embrace every opportunity to speak with fellow entrepreneurs that are smarter, more established and more successful. That is priceless education.

10. Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles. — Steve Jobs

This couldn’t be any more accurate. My online marketing company works with established companies as well as startups. At first, they all want the same thing: more website traffic. Well, more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more sales and revenue. Focusing on quality traffic over quantity always produces better results. Less is often more.

Related: 13 Movie Quotes to Push You to Excel at the Entrepreneurial Mindset

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Documentaries Every Entrepreneur Should Watch on Netflix Now

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As the new year sets in, bookmark these entrepreneurial, inspiring films now. Make it a truly motivating year

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

After Thanksgiving dinner, as the food-coma sets in and you suddenly realize the need to capture your extended family’s attention—or, let’s face it, you need a little “me time”—here are five films you should stream on Netflix.

1) Burt’s Buzz:

This film chronicles the humble beginnings of Burt’s Bees‘ namesake and co-founder Burt Shavitz and his Machiavellian struggle with co-founder Roxanne Quimby.

2) Inequality for All:

Former secretary of labor Robert Reich, with a little help from entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, explains the increasing problem of income inequality in America and its implications for our economy.

3) Happy:

Scientists, researchers, and thought leaders explain the latest information surrounding happiness (and reveal why your vast salary isn’t making you much happier).

4) Somm:

For all the winos out there, Somm follows the lives of a few folks compromising time, relationships, and other goals to study for and hopefully pass the Master Sommelier Exam.

5) 20 Feet From Stardom:

With interviews from music’s biggest stars, 20 Feet From Stardom unpacks the lives of backup singers and their immense contribution to the hits we all know and love.

TIME Careers & Workplace

What You Can Learn From 8 Kid Millionaires

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These teenagers have a thing or two to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, both young and old

There’s no age limit when it comes to being a millionaire these days, and a handful of kids have struck it rich well before they can legally vote. They’re small business owners, inventors and entrepreneurs. I started as an entrepreneur when I was around 11 years old with my first candy stand, which grew to four candy stands, but that was nothing compared to some of these kids!

There’s is no age limit, either, when it comes to learning from others. These impressive kids learned from their own failures early in life but determined to keep going and to do it better the next time around. If you haven’t made your first million yet, the teen next door might actually be able to teach you something.

Check out these eight kids who made a million, or more, and what you can learn from their success:

1. Evan of EvanTube

With the help of his dad, this 8-year-old launched his own YouTube channel, titled EvanTube, and rakes in about $1.3 million each year. He reviews toys, talks about things that other kids his age are into, and he’s secured an audience that will grow with him. There are quite a few YouTube millionaires, so if you have the charisma to pull it off, it’s a free avenue for creating your own brand. Unfortunately, few entrepreneurs have the cuteness factor of Evan on their side.

Related: Young Millionaires: How These Entrepreneurs Under 30 Are Changing the World

2. Christian Owens

His motivator was Steve Jobs, and that’s how Owens made his first million at the age of 16. He got his own PC computer as an adolescent (soon followed by a Mac) and taught himself web design in middle school. By the age of 14, he’d started his own design company. Founder of Mac Bundle Box, he negotiated with developers and manufacturers to offer simple, discounted packages for his customers. The lesson? Follow your passions, claim your mentors and find a way to give people what they want for less.

3. Adam Hildreth

When he was just 14, Hildreth got together with friends to create Dubit—a social networking site. It was wildly popular in the UK and by his sixteenth birthday he had nearly $3.7 million in the bank. He then moved on to developing Crisp, which is a software company that helps protects kids from online predators. There’s nothing wrong with jumping on a trending bandwagon, but if you want continued success then find a way to branch out from it and innovate.

4. Cameron Johnson

Johnson was asked by his parents to develop invitation cards for a neighborhood party when he was 11. The guests adored the cards and started paying him to craft their own personal use cards. He founded “Cheers and Tears” by 14, then Cameron moved on to online advertising and software development. By high school, his monthly income was around $400,000. The lesson? Do everything well and don’t be afraid to try new things (or industries).

5. Geoff, Dave, and Catherine Cook

These dynamic siblings are behind, “MyYearbook,” a (still) popular social media site that’s based on where you went to school. These kids had just moved to a new school and wanted to make new friends, so an online yearbook seemed like the perfect place to start. This was before Facebook was a household name. The lesson? Sometimes nepotism works, and if you find a disparity in the market, you can be the one to fill it.

Related: These Siblings Are Cooking Up America’s First Meatless Butcher Shop

6. Farrhad Acidwalla

In between attending school in Mumbai, India, this 16-year-old is the founder of Rockstah Media. It’s a comprehensive marketing agency boasting 20 employees around the world. “My team is the backbone of my company,” says Acidwalla. The lesson? Everyone has the same hours in the day, so if even those with limitations (like being a kid) can grow a company like this, so can you.

7. Emil Motycka

What started as a lawn mowing business when he was nine turned into Motycka Enterprises by the time he was 18. In order to keep up with all the demands of a teenager, he works the graveyard shift and says, “I sleep four hours a night on average” and call it sleep for the week. That amount of sleep might not be the best advice, but perseverance, and being willing to do what it takes to get the work done, can certainly get you to his level.

8. Ryan of “Ryan’s Barkery”

One of the handful of kids featured on “Shark Tank,” as an elementary school kid, Ryan raked in $25,000 for 25 percent of his business. Now Ryan is 12 years old, and is the young entrepreneur and founder of a dog treat bakery. He is building his business in an industry (pet pampering) that’s recession-proof. The lesson? Find your own niche, it’s there waiting for you.

Think you’re beyond the age limit to make a million? Think again. Experience and maturity come with their own benefits.

Related: 5 Young Millionaires Instigating Innovation

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

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