Before you hate everything about the COVID-19 pandemic, see it as the opportunity for creating a small business doing what you love. In fact, this is the best time to reinvent your entire life; your health, beliefs, habits, wealth, where you live and even who you hang out with.
This is the time to make money with your talent instead of the usual paper-chasing crap. The perfect time has been thrust into your hands. The question is, will you take it?
Since early March 2020, most parts of the world have been at a somewhat standstill courtesy of the crazy spread of the Corona Virus. People around the world are trapped in lockdowns, quarantines and in the worst cases, isolation.
Companies, learning institutions and every place that doesn’t offer essential services have sent their employees home leaving someone you know without any source of income. In the worst-case scenario, that person is you.
Does that make it all sad, bad and dull?
Mostly yes. But maybe if you looked at the slowed clock as an opportunity to create the version of you that you love, the picture would brighten up!
And this is how to do just that.
First, bid goodbye to your pre-COVID-19 pandemic life; the past ain’t coming back baby!
If you lost your job, no love lost. Let it go. And if you still have one, sign the divorce papers already and start creating a small business doing what you love as you have always wanted. The job was good while it lasted.
Now, you are free!
Second, remember the intimate details of a happy version of yourself when you engaged in doing things you loved to a point of losing track of time. You got engaged so much that you didn’t notice the morning rays of the sun peeping through your dining window.
You just meant to work on that thing for a few hours after dinner, but the present moment extended for hours keeping you captive in the flow. You just couldn’t part with it because you believed it was your reason for living.
List all such things.
Don’t confuse such times for the nights you spent on some boring project under the intimidating watch of a tight deadline. I mean the fun stuff.
If you are like me, a crowded ball of fun activities, you may be tempted to hate yourself because there is so much you loved to do. And you still do. Your list may extend to double digits. But don’t worry about the list; we will sort it out together right away.
My next sentence may sound merciless, but it is worth doing if you want to stay on the journey with me.
Listen friend, I don’t want you getting stuck with a hobby in one hand and a glaring temptation to pursue a separate 9-5 paper-chasing activity in the other.
I dare you to summon the courage to strike off any act of passion that lacks the potential to create the life you desire. If you can’t use it to serve other people and make some moola while at it , it is unworthy of converting into a small business.
Sounds like fun? Let’s do this!
10 Steps To Creating A Small Business Doing What You Love
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to go about it.
But first, some house rules. By the power vested in me by the Deities of Writing, I hereby baptize your talents and every activity you love doing, ‘Love-Product’. And the painful but daring process of converting such into a small business shall from this point on be handled under the file ‘passion project’.
You may now kiss your dream lifestyle!
Step 1: Package Your Love-Product
Bundle up the thing you love doing so you can present it to people who come your way. Have the paintings, pastries, crotchet work, voice-over teaser, mock logos, songs and videos you have designed ready for the runway.
Soon they will need to strut before the eyes of the world to woo many hearts.
If you have more than one activity that turns your heart on and you feel compelled to convert such into a small business, prepare each one of them for the show.
Warning; more than 3 unrelated activities will drain the life out of you. It is better to invest 90% of your time in packaging one love-product and have the others compete for the 10% than trying to do them all.
Packaging also involves learning what others in your field are charging for the product, how they offer it, and their joys and sorrows with it. This helps you not look ignorant of the market trends even if your love-product seems unique. Aim to always appear as the expert in the hood!
Don’t get stuck with the preps though, packaging is a continuous process and you may need to redo it to please different clients.
Step 2: Evaluate What You Love Doing For Monetization
The only way to know if you can make money with your love-product is to show it off to as many people, with lots of patience. You may not like the next sentence though.
Speak to real people as a matter of priority, and social media as No. 2.
By speaking you own up to the fact that you have a product to offer and that you are looking for people to serve with it; customers.
Use these 3 questions to help you know if you can make money by creating a small business doing what you love.
1. Who wants it?
Not the mere Like-rs, Retweet-ers and Follow-ers, but the real people who want to own the product you have created doing what you love.
This calls for you to speak about love-product to at least 100 people; friends, relatives and not-friends. Dare even to ask people you don’t talk much to if they would like to test your product, at a fee. It is scary and sounds dead stupid; but scary and stupid have been selling for the longest time in history, just like algebra, and no one knows why.
Yes, you will be turned down. But being turned down isn’t the worst that can happen to you when sharing the gospel of your love-product. Missing the opportunity to make someone else’s life better with your product is. And you will never know what the person would have done in return if you showed it to them.
2. When and how do they want it?
Understand the seasons and tastes of those who want your love-product. One customer may only buy one crocheted bikini and then go silent. But when they wear it at the beach, post a photo of it on their Instagram page and tag you, there’s no telling how many more will be required and in what colours and style.
While the COVID-19 pandemic lock-downs the better part of the world, study human behaviour towards your love-product. Show off your love-product while your target clients are still holed up at home with their gadgets. And like you right now, they are scrolling up and down the screens in search of something exciting for their eyes to feast on.
Imagine them staring at your crocheted bikinis, pastries, cat videos or a great article you have written, like this one.
See them asking, ‘I need to share a piece of my life I have recorded in a secret audio file with the world. Can you use it to write my memoir in about 20,000 words in the next 60 days?’
Quite alluring, huh?
Dear talented friend, if this season passes you, there’s no telling when another opportunity like it will show up. So, brave up and show off your love-product!
3. Will they pay for it?
It is one thing to have someone drooling over the beauty of your love-product. It is another to reward you in appreciation for the effort put into creating it.
Most admirers have the muscle to pay for your love-product, but some don’t value it enough to put their money where their mouths are. So, they ask for a free samples in exchange for exposure. That’s why most love-products end up as hobbies.
You must have heard the vibe; the suggestion to hang your painting in a restaurant to brighten the place and ‘sell’ your name. The request to post two fresh articles on someone’s website for free so they can see if their audience will love them. The call to perform as a curtain raiser at the famed event for free. But in the end, you receive no feedback, no orders, and no referrals.
If you must give free samples, choose who deserves such and who doesn’t. Ask for something you need in exchange for what you offer; money, a dedicated network or a favour to elevate your sales.
Free services are a great marketing tool to woo new customers, but not for people who have experienced your services. A discount maybe, but don’t let desperation for fame lead to misuse of your natural gift by freebie addicts. So do your homework!
Step 3: Test the Love-product for Post Pandemic Eligibility
Now that you know your love-product is cool and has the potential to bring you some good money, the temptation to begin serving it is large. But for it to qualify for conversion to a small business that will give you the life you desire – and replace your former job – you need to test for its longevity past the pandemic.
Start by divorcing your worry.
Assume that the pandemic is here to stay and things won’t return to the old default settings. Can your love-product thrive in the new normal; social distancing, face masking and lock-down included?
If pursuing it requires the old normal, that’s not your culprit. Go back to the list of the things you love doing and run the next activity in line through the steps we have just covered.
Reason; the best money-making love-product is the one facing forward to tomorrow. Not the kind mourning about yesterday. Yesterday isn’t coming back, at all.
The right love-product to convert to a small business should keep you busy serving people around you; virtually and physically, with something they need now and in the new future, making money from it and having fun while at it. If it misses this combo, it is out!
Step 4: Can It Sustain Itself and Its Users?
Evaluate the love-product’s sustainability. Can it serve and satisfy you and those who need its services at the same time?
Any love-product whose capital is more than you are willing to lose at the moment is not a keeper. You don’t want to indulge in a passion project that scrapes your bank in a season like this. And don’t fool yourself into getting grants or loans to start your small business. It is damn stupid!
Instead, use what you have; a fraction of your savings, a lot of your free time now that you are holed up at home and a boatload of your energy!
Any activity you love to do but have no money, time and energy to do isn’t worth taking up, leave alone converting into a small business. This should trim your list of fun activities that can replace your job to a bare minimum!
Step 5: Keep Alternative Love-products Close
Look at your initial list of the things you love doing again. A fair number of them have the potential to make money.
If the only condition holding you back from turning a love-product into a small business is money, keep it close to the top. Number 2 even. Soon your chosen love-product will convert into a full-blown business and rake in enough money to fund the next culprit.
Remember, the success of any small business is a result of the amount of attention you give to it. Give it time to grow before picking your next baby to nurture. Family planning is essential even in business.
Again, the first passion project may require a supporting love-product to walk with, pick the No. 2 from the list.
For example, my first love is writing, but to relax and generate new ideas, I create YouTube videos on other people who have turned their love-products into small businesses. I do it for free and use equipment I already own.
This is what I mean.
Step 6: Shut up and Work!
Feeling insulted already?
I mean it. Stop fidgeting on your phone and posting your new love on Facebook and do the dirty work.
Converting that love-product into a small business aka handling the passion project file requires you to drop everything that doesn’t contribute to its success and doing the real work.
That includes letting go of some of your ‘friends’ and ignoring some family members!
When I decided to make writing my passion project, I had six other careers from the manifestation of my talents. You are looking at motivational speaking, team building, reciting spoken word, professional networking, business mentorship and emceeing. All of which brought in some good money for two years. I loved them all, I still do.
But I had to let them go to pursue writing as a matter of priority. You can read all about them in my book: I Hate Me.
I started by evaluating the loss I would incur if I put them aside for 2 years so as to focus on writing for my clients and my own books exclusively. That also meant evaluating if the amount of pain I would experience by losing partners who had become friends was worth it.
Then, I called the partners involved in each one of the six careers and told them I was leaving them for the written word. Those were the most torturous calls I made that season, yet, very much relieving. Think of it as laying the foundation in preparation for the passion project.
In return, I started getting great feedback from my writing business. Like this:
Now it’s your turn.
You have to give this passion project your all. So, drop any other thing that consumes your time, and the people attached to those things too. Let them know you won’t be available to them. Then pour all that time and energy into the passion project.
If you live with your family, as I do, let your spouse, children, mother, father and siblings know. They may not like it, but when they see your dedication, they will either help you or give you space. Both are necessary.
Don’t be surprised if a few sit on the fence waiting for you to fail so they can remind you that they warned you. Such people are good fuel for your project. They keep you focused because you don’t want to look like a loser. Keep them close, but in darkness.
Step 7: Forming a New Routine
Dedicate the next 365 calendar days to the conversion process; operation Thumbing the Passion Project file. This includes repackaging, marketing and actual selling of the product.
Journal your progress every day while keeping your eyes on the level of outreach, expenses and income. And then add another year of committed work on top.
Every morning after making this decision, seek ways to get the passion project accessible to your target customers. Don’t waste half of your day posting about it on social media. Focus on building the intricate details of how the project works. Then test every bit of it to see what works and what doesn’t.
Engage with real people throughout the process so that within 2 months of the extreme commitment, you have some tangible results. Devote yourself to learning and improving every day.
Step 8: Repackage. Market. Sell. Repeat
The whole project may not function all at once. Neither did Edison’s bulb work within a month. But he encouraged himself in knowing what didn’t work. Do likewise.
Encourage yourself in knowing what your target customers don’t want. Then go further and ask, ‘If all these are negatives, what is the positive?’
Better still, for every rejection, ask ‘Why don’t you like it?’, ‘What don’t you like about it?’ and ‘What would you like instead?’ Keep asking real people real questions and noting their answers.
Remember, your passion project always seems right in your eyes, but unfavourable in the eyes of those you ask. This will help you build the right thing for the right people. It will also help you know if you are speaking to the right people.
It happened to me
Over the last ten years of living in Mombasa, my current residence, I have met many salespeople dealing with investment products. Mortgage guys, insurance, credit cooperatives, and interest-group banking; the famous Kenyan chama.
I picked their forms, sometimes filled and submitted, but hardly made any payment past the account opening fee.
Reason; when I sat back and thought about the products, there was nothing exciting in them for me!
Early this week I ended a relationship with one offering educational policy after a two-month affair. I didn’t see the logic in putting aside approximately $900 every month so as to get 15% interest on the whole pile 5 years from the day of opening the account. That would be 2 years after its purposed use.
Did I mention I couldn’t access the cash anytime in between?
My reason for saving isn’t to keep money out of reach, it is to invest it in areas it will grow and still be accessible as and when I need it. It is the main reason I have the money in the first place. That makes me the wrong client for most of these salespeople. Not to mention, wrong timing.
If this isn’t your style, or you have various sources of income that allow you to stash money aside for use ten years from now, good for you. But that may also mean this article isn’t meant for you. Unless you are reading for a friend in need. In that case, remember to hit the share button. Thank you!
Take advantage of the current global standstill to grow your passion project; pitch to various people, strangers included, restructure it to suit different people and document the findings. Then once every week, review the information and concoct an improved direction to take.
Use the internet with wisdom. You don’t want to spend hours discussing your love-product with people who only say, ‘Oh, it’s nice’. Nice doesn’t sell. Good doesn’t sell either.
‘How soon can I have it?’ is the only phrase that closes with Kaching!
Remember, most products move faster offline. So train yourself to see beyond the internet. Never let online advertising steal the time meant for offline encounters.
Dealing with real people gives you the feedback you need to grow your product. And when you have adjusted it to suit the customer, deliver it and get paid. Then repeat!
Step 9: Price it Like Apple!
Keep good records of your progress whether or not you are making any money.
Indicate your expenses so you know how much of the initial capital is going into various activities in the passion project. In the near future, you will need to identify those need-holes and keep an eye on them for repricing of the product.
Oh, don’t worry about changing prices, the initial is always a trial price. It is derived from what the current market dictates, the cost of production and the need for fair profit. It is hardly correct or even satisfactory. And most of the time you sell yourself short anyway.
I say this with a lot of pain because I have written great articles for agencies that paid me $10 for a 2000-word article but they sold the same piece for $200; $1 for 10 words!
If that doesn’t hurt, then stick to the market price. Don’t forget it is called the market price because people who are no better than you have stuck with it for donkey years and want it to be the norm.
If not, defy the odds and state the true worth of your love-product. Tame your own breed of clients; those that don’t crawl with the flow.
Become the top layer in the market; the one only daring people go to. The one others in your field benchmark with. Then push yourself to make your product even better and price it like Apple!
Does that mean overpricing?
Unless you mean charging more than you can account for, no. If you deliver value bundled in a unique experience, then match the price. The secret is to keep making that product so good that your customers won’t need to be persuaded to buy it.
If it is a service, make it mouthwateringly desirable. Like the last novel you read that sucked you in and made you one of the characters. The way you feel right now as you read and question my sanity. ‘Who made this girl a talent deity to tell me what to do with what I love?’
Step 10: Get Ready For Small Business Roller-coaster
At this point, your love product has metamorphosed through the passion project process and become a small business by right. Congratulations!
But does that mean you won’t fail?
The fact; Edison failed. I failed. Don’t imagine you are any different. Heck! You will fail.
Failing is a class you can never miss when playing the game of money with your love-product. Reason being, the first version of the love-product is based on you; what you want. Not what the client want. You end up making something adorable in your eyes and selling it to your Facebook friends, their neighbour’s and pets.
That gets you past the first 6 months with some kind of profit. But when you exhaust those fellows, you are left with people who wouldn’t be caught dead with it.
The free-fall begins!
Save those tears for a joyful day if not the night when more important bits of the small business refuse to connect, like balancing your accounts.
You will have moments of tears, sweat and blood. But let those stay in your training room. Leave them there for the janitor in you to clean when you return from the victorious escapades. Whenever you think of them, they will fuel your zeal to keep going until you make it.
There goes the victory trumpet!
Growing Others With Your Small Business
I will let Tomi Adeyemi, Jerry Jenkins and J K Rowling among other gifted writers answer the question for me.
Despite being New York Times bestselling authors, they remain humble and help others. So, look for people you admire in your industry, or close by and see what they do after acing a high score.
You may not be able to do as they do, but it will give you a hint. Tomi Adeyemi and Jerry Jenkins teach other writers to craft their own stories through online courses while J K Rowling’s support for charities stands unchallenged.
What about you?
Go back to the list of the passions you wished to pursue but couldn’t. This is a great place to start, but this time, focus more on changing people’s lives than profits. Besides, your first love-product converted to a small business has given you the name you wished for.
You may need to keep one hand in your first culprit to keep it running, but you will notice that you have more time to do other things. Venture into the second passion on the list or something you fell in love with along the way.
Whatever you do, invest what you make from the first love-product turned business so you have enough cash to allow you to pursue others you desire. Enough doesn’t mean billions. Such come as you help more people. So give.
Give to the needy, not for praise purposes, but for pleasure. Give because it is the right thing to do. And because if you were in the receiver’s place, you would want to be given. Help someone else rise up from the dirt of lack so they can build their own passion project and have a better life.
And even if your love-product doesn’t convert into a stable small business within the first 2 years, go on and give. Don’t delay supporting someone else every month without wanting anything in return. Just do it. That’s when nice ideas come knocking, helping you improve the small business even better. Give and give some more.
I Failed While Creating a Small Business Doing What I love
Between the years 2007, when I began writing articles online, and 2016, the only money I ever collected from writing came from my first book, Millions of Robots. I wrote part of the book in 2010 out of extreme frustration and completed it in 2011.
My attempt to get it published met 8 rejections with one firm insisting I had no authority to write about Kenya’s education system and recommend anything new because I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree.
How that correlates with being a writer, I have no clue.
I self-published and launched the book in 2016 selling 80 copies on D-day. Over 30 copies had been sold prior to the book launch at $5 a copy. Today Millions of Robots is available all over the world and it goes for twice the amount!
And despite being an avid online writer, my first paid online project came through in May 2017. A friend saw the advert from Kenya’s leading newspaper and sent a screenshot of it persuading me to apply. He had bought a copy of Millions of Robots the previous year and had been present during the launch.
But that’s not the picture I want you to see here.
Notice instead the 9 years of writing, over 8 rejections and the uncountable number of hours spent scribbling words in notepads and drumming keyboards. Feel the hurt of empty promises made by websites that vowed to pay if my articles hit a certain number of views. Not to mention the number of times I gave up and changed lanes to painting, scrap metal collection, running a tuck shop and taking an IT degree.
I don’t regret any of them though, they all brought me back to the written word.
It also took me 11 unanswered proposals to get my first writing job on Upwork and a whole month of waiting and trying. And don’t let me tell you of the other proposals I write that never get a response.
So yes, you will fail. But don’t abort the mission. Reflect, research then return.
As long as you keep trying, you will fail. It is also the one thing you need to do to succeed. But the more you try, the more you get closer to what works. And a pile of lessons you can pick notes from.
You will learn what part of your talent is your true love and what isn’t. You will even realize that what you thought was a passion, was a passing fling. The small business is hidden in the trying, failing and refusing to give up.
Then one day when the pandemic is no longer a thing to worry about, you will remember this article and smile because you never wasted the lockdown moments. Instead, you locked your world down to work on what you love for the long run!