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TMBA580: Mailbag: Making New Moves in the New Year

January is one of our favorite months of the year because it’s a time for starting over, setting new goals, and making plans for how to achieve them.

It’s no surprise then that our inbox starts filling up with messages from excited entrepreneurs who are looking for new ways to push forward with their businesses.

This week, we’re reaching into the mailbag once again to answer questions submitted by Tropical MBA listeners around the world.

We’ll be discussing a series of topics specifically related to starting new businesses, finding new revenue streams, and making new moves in your business in 2021.

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Woven.

Woven is an all-in-one calendar that helps you manage and blend both your work and personal lives, enabling you to spend time on what matters the most.

With Woven you can sync all of your calendars in one place, including Google Suite and Microsoft integration, create new scheduling links from directly within your calendar, and much more.

Woven makes it easy to plan, join, and manage video events, helping you schedule with Zoom and Google Hangouts. With multiple timezone integrations, Woven is ideal for remote workers and productivity hackers.

Woven is a calendar for power users and those who are serious about their productivity, allowing you to schedule time with others and protect that precious maker time for yourself, all while giving you analytics so you can track your time and gain insights into your week.

Do you have ideas for things you’d like Dan and Ian to discuss on future episodes?

Our producer Jane would love to hear from you at [email protected] or leave us a voice message using the record button below.

Dan: Alright everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I’m here with the bossman. Give me a microphone check over there.

Dan: January has been exciting. I had to write down everything that happened last week, just to remember, it just feels like a lot is going on. People got back from vacation and started doing business, started sending us emails. And we’re going to be reviewing a handful of those today, on today’s q&a episode, we really appreciate your questions and emails. And a lot of these are focused around a theme. And so I thought we would today discuss skills frameworks, ideas for starting new profitable businesses or creating new profit streams off of your current business.

So today, we’re gonna kick around a bunch of ideas about, you know, how to do new things, how to change it up a little bit, you know, 2020, maybe it was a drag for some of us who want to do something different, want to make a little bit more money, have a little bit better business in 2021. And that’s what a lot of the frameworks we’re going to discuss today. And the questions that were asked of us have to do with those themes. Before we get into all that, I think it’s worth doing a little biz update. I know you have a new addiction. And look, this is a new year, you’re supposed to be getting rid of addictions.

Ian: Got rid of a couple.

Dan: You’re down with one.

Ian: I got rid of a couple for a couple of weeks. The thing I love about the New Year’s is like, ‘Yeah, I’m really gonna do better and be better and all this stuff. And I’ve waited 12 months to do it’. So my new thing is I’m like, I’m gonna start the bad vices in like February, give myself a good 11 months, you know, a good run at them, and then quit it. Because there’s no point in starting something bad in November, you know, just have two months of it at that point, you Yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about. My new addiction is a little thing I like to call Logrocket.

Dan: Logrocket is like an all-time hilarious startup name. I love it. Let’s just talk about why listeners to the show might be interested in a tool like this.

Ian: I’m probably late to the game on this, Dan. But basically, we installed Logrocket, and it watches what people do in our app over at Dynamite Jobs. And I think, you know, the last time I paid attention to software, it was like Heat Maps, basically, like, oh, they’re clicking on this button over here. And that in conjunction with Google Analytics tells me that maybe we should change this. I think Logrocket takes it like 10 steps forward, basically, what they do is they record the actions of your user. So like, you’re watching their mouse scroll around the page, you’re watching them type text.

Dan: Is this disruptive to user testing? It’s remarkable. You go in there and you see the icon of the user, and you watch their session. And on the one hand, it’s like, ‘Oh, is that a little creepy?’ It’s like, no Because they’re trying to solve problems on our platform. So if we notice that they’re running into roadblocks, and we can jump in, send them an email, try to help them out with that roadblock.

Ian: I’m coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas, watching these videos of people, and what they’re doing in our product, not only from like, ‘Hey, we should change this text’, or, ‘Hey, we should change the way this operates’. But even down to pricing, like watching people add things and then like, subtract things, then be like, ‘Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder if it got a little bit too expensive for them?’ Yeah. So it seems like, to me, this is just going to be an invaluable tool. And like, I’m gonna have to wall off, like, several hours a day to watch this stuff. Because I think eventually what’s gonna happen is like, patterns are gonna emerge, obviously. But in the beginning, I’m just taking copious notes.

Dan: We’ve already seen patterns emerge, right? As of the recording of this, it’s pretty difficult to change your photo and a certain kind of profile on our platform. And we were wondering, like, ‘Oh, why don’t these people have photos?’ And it’s like, oh, yeah, you can watch them, like, have the difficulty in real-time. And stuff like that, that just piles up. I’m sure this could be super interesting with, you know, the checkout process and stuff like that. You actually see people considering a purchase on your application. It’s, well, crazy stuff. Very cool. One other thing, Ian, you know, the listeners have been following our journey, really, since March of 2020, digging into dynamite jobs and exploring the potential there, and I’m sure so many people listening can relate, you just go to your woodshed, and you build things, and you do things and you kind of have a sense that they’re valuable. But, you know, it takes a while to build them. And it takes a while for people to understand what you’re building and to hear about it and to participate in everything. And man, coming back to work January 1, the first week of business in 2021, we did a month’s worth of business.

Ian: Yeah.

Dan: And it’s remarkable. It reminds me of the concept of the downhill fixie, this idea that there are moments in your business when you get stretched during your career when you get challenged. And all of a sudden, you make a breakthrough. And you see what it’s like to be at the next level you’ve been sort of planning for, dreaming of, and it was pretty interesting to experience it firsthand. And to like, see the velocity of how everybody was moving around. And I think, look, it probably has something to do with the fact that it was the holiday and people were shut down for a couple of weeks. So you know, people come back with force. But it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a valuable lesson for us, as a team, to experience that kind of success that we can be the sort of company that operates at that level. And I think there’s also like a marketing element, Ian, where, you know, people are really starting to get a sense that, you know, DJ is a really decent place to go, if you have a hiring problem, you know, if you’re frustrated with, it’s like, sort of like our offering kind of addresses all these kinds of concerns, like, ‘Hey, you want to post a job, you know, we got something for that. It’s like you want some extra eyeballs on that job, we got something for that. It’s like, you want us to go out and promote it to other communities and sites, we can do that or you want to do interviews for you’. I think people are getting hip to the idea that we’ve got a pretty integrated service offering across the needs that companies that are hiring have.

Ian: I’ll say this too Dan. I’m starting to question the launch, like the idea of a launch too because I’m not sure if we mentioned this on this podcast, but we launched a product to candidates on our platform about a month ago. And the answer that we got was like, like a resounding no, that first day was like, ‘Nope, not interested in this’.

Dan: But so far, we’ve got like one yes, every single day since then, if not more than that, which is interesting.

Ian: And of course, we’ve tweaked some things. But I just want to point out for myself mostly, like how long it takes for some of your work to catch up to you. And how when you can put something out there at first, it cannot resonate, but it can be really close. But because you didn’t get any feedback you just think is a big solid ‘No’. You do a little tweaking and you find out that it might be a ‘yes’. So just something to think about in our business. Dan is like you know, sometimes these feedback loops there aren’t as instant as getting a like on Instagram.

Dan: The thing I think of is, you know, progress isn’t always incremental. One of the hardest parts about growing a product business is that distance of the feedback loop from your input to the response, it’s not going to be immediate every time. you can’t always validate every single action you take, you have to take real risks, you know, towards the product that you believe in. And you just have to keep kind of doing incremental things every single day, even though there are no breakthroughs. Because the way it works is like all of a sudden, you breakthrough. Just trying to draw lessons and on the one hand, you know, you don’t want to go in the woodshed and be a ‘good idea Glen’ and hang out there and dream up this reality that never truly exists. You know, so you want to avoid that. But on the other hand, that’s a necessary part of a lot of what growing businesses is – working hard, but no immediate feedback, especially when you’re building products. And even though we’re doing software products this time around, and it does remind me a lot of back in the days when we used to build industrial furniture products, where, you know, those feedback loops were long. And it took us a while to get it in the hands of customers and to see if they valued our work.

Ian: It’s so hard, Dan because I think it’s still really hard to understand what a feedback loop is? And how to interpret it, you know, because I think you can hear ‘Hell yes’. And then ‘Jell no’, from the same group of people basically, and have a successful product. So, part of it is just trusting your intuition. Part of it is bringing to the table, like your special sauce, like some piece of knowledge, some group of people that you have some kind of product that you’ve identified that works, you’re bringing something special to the table that your competitors don’t have or an insight that you know to be true.

Dan: One of the things you can do, that we’ve done in both cases, you always ask yourself, ‘Hey, what’s the worst that can happen in this particular situation?’ And for us, it’s, ‘Hey, we sell hiring services’, right? And, yeah, we’re taking a risk to do the software portion. But you know, it looks like that floor is getting a little higher, you know, because we’re building software, we have a high ceiling, you know, who knows what it could be. But we have that ceiling that’s getting a little …. Well, we got a good services business here on our hands that we can certainly make a living off of. So that’s kind of one way to approach this feedback loop is to just make sure that you’re always moving that floor up of what your downside is. All right. So, Ian, with that in mind, well, now that we’ve established our credibility as visionary entrepreneurs, and addicts of Logrocket, let’s get moving on to some wonderful listener questions.

Dan: So first from Kyle, “I am just starting my entrepreneurial career, I have a question for you guys about the skills necessary to do this. It seems like every opportunity in the online space is going to require a fantastic web page and great SEO skills. But I don’t have those skills. Is that something that I need in order to start up a successful business? If I don’t have those skills in the bag right now, what extra steps am I going to need to take in order to get started off on the right foot?” Alright, so it’s worth pointing out that Kyle is where every single entrepreneur of all time starts out, which is at square one.

Ian: Yeah.

Dan: And the coolest part is that there’s not a specific skill that you need. There’s not a piece of paper, there’s not an amount of money that you need to pay. Entrepreneurship takes all comers because, fundamentally, entrepreneurship is about generating systems of value, making money and saving it.

Ian: It’s funny, Dan, a side note, like I’m learning how to TIG weld. It’s funny to watch, like people critique these different welds online because you know, you post them on chats and whatnot. It’s like, ‘Oh, that looks horrible. I can’t believe that’s sealing. I can’t believe this holding’. It’s the same thing with Kyle. It’s like, no, at one point, yours look exactly like that. There’s no skipping that step, everybody’s looks like that.

Dan: Yep. So here’s a couple of thoughts I’ll just dole them out, Kyle, you know, this website thing? Yeah, website and SEO are interesting for certain business models, right? But for a lot of new entrepreneurs, they can actually be enormous distractions, because you spent a lot of time working on websites and ranking the website. But that fundamental of a product-market fit or an offer that’s profitable isn’t there. So could you take the ‘no website challenge’, right? Could you run your business off of a ‘Dynamite Jobs candidate profile’, for example? If you come to Dynamite Jobs dot com and pay nine bucks a month, which is, you know, 100 bucks a year. And then you put an offer up there, that’s for some sorts of consulting that you could do or a valuable service you could provide? Could you not make margin over that 100 and never have to invest in a website, or SEO, just learn how to rank on the DJ platform. There are countless platforms like this that you can build a business off of whether it’s Upwork, LinkedIn? How about a Twitter profile that just leads to a form or a landing page? Or how about go over to the LeadPages dot and sign up for a really beautiful landing page that describes the product or service offering that you do? So yeah, I would just get rid of a website and SEO at the beginning. Of course, ultimately, you want to work on a platform that you can own the leads you generate for whatever business you start, and that’s going to involve just keeping their email addresses, right? You don’t need a website to do that.

Ian: I can’t tell you Dan how many websites I’ve come across that have very little information. And I come to find out that they’re the biggest players in the space. Like always, I’m like, this person’s either doing zero revenue, or this person is doing the most.

Dan: It’s true. I think we made a kind of a conjecture recently on the podcast that half of the folks that come to DC conferences, our Dynamite Circle conferences, don’t really use the website as an integral part of their marketing. You go where the customers are. And it’s very expensive to build a website that there are customers on. And so that’s part of the reason, it’s not actually a critical skill, though. It’s, you know, interesting to figure out how you can integrate that strategy. And also, I think there are a lot of faster ways you can learn about entrepreneurship than ranking websites. I’d put it that way.

Ian: Kyle I’ll mention this too if you want to see absolute dog crap SEO go to Dynamite Jobs. We’re in deep trouble. And it’s because we built it on WordPress, initially, we’re transferring off that. But we built on WordPress initially. And there’s a bunch of plugins and Google hates us, because we’re not optimized and all this stuff. So basically, we don’t like don’t rank for anything for the first two years. And, you know, Dan, you and I were always talking about that. It’s like, ‘How do we rank? What’s going on here? We have a good product or we have good jobs. It sucks that more people don’t know about it’. But here’s what we had to do, Kyle. We had to go out and build real relationships. And you know, what’s gonna outlast Google rankings, always, is real relationships

Dan: And it’s just expensive to do. Right? It’s expensive to maintain a website. It’s so much easier to create a high-quality landing page with LeadPages than it is to like, install a full website, to get a developer involved, to like get all your assets. It’s just a lot of work. And you have to ask yourself the question Why am I doing this? What’s the strategy here? And until you have a really clear answer to that question, maybe you’re better off by just having a very compelling Twitter presence that leads into your landing page or whatever, or Instagram or wherever your ideal customers hang out, like, that’s where you need your marketing presence. And this leads me to this idea of just having a specific ambition. This is the conversation that is going to happen whether you’re an extremely successful, wealthy entrepreneur, or whether you’re just getting started out is like, ‘What are you trying to do in the world?’ Because your job as an entrepreneur is to define that, in some narrow way. ‘I’m trying to, you know, help people do these sorts of things for this amount of money at this kind of deliverable’.

When we used to teach students in person, Ian, the first exercise we would always do in articulating these value props would be to ask three questions. ‘What problem do you solve? What’s the unique way in which you solve it? And then how can someone take the next step if they want to participate in that value?’ You got to answer those three questions. That’s fundamentally what entrepreneurship is about. And then on the backside, is like, ‘Well, why are you motivated to answer these questions?’ Well, because you’ve got a dream line if specific ambition for a kind of lifestyle you want to achieve, the kind of money you want to earn. In order to do that, you got to do some napkin math about how many of these problems you got to solve, you know, in order to get to where you’re heading. These are actually the questions of entrepreneurship as well. And I think that’s part of the reason this is such a fun lifestyle, is that you really get to sit down and define for yourself what kind of lifestyle you want to achieve, and what business might help you get there. And so no, there’s no, there are no checkmarks here. There are no specific things you need to learn. There are really no rules.

Alright, Ian, let’s move on to our next email, we got an email from listener David, who said, “I just listened to the last episode talking about business fundamentals. But I didn’t understand what you meant with, quote, ‘try to rethink your freelance agency so you can take your personal time out of the equation’, were you referring to delegating both the production and sales aspects to others, or to shift from freelance to a product that solves the same need, or maybe creating some customization app for the client that lets them design the product in an easy way that frees you from the task? Could you give me some examples? I think my views might be limited. Many thanks to the pod. It’s been a great help in redesigning this year’s business goals in a more efficient way”. Well, thank you, David. My first thought was like, ‘Well, heck, Yeah, why not all the above? Sure’. Let’s talk about this issue a little bit. You know, one of my favorite ways to think about this is the best freelancers and agency owners are the ones with zero skills, right? If you have skills like if you’re a great video editor, or whatever, you might be tempted to sell your time to others who value video editing highly. And then all of a sudden, you’re essentially building a job for yourself rather than selling skills.

Ian: I think you’re getting way ahead. Let’s just back it up for a minute here. Because this, to me, in a roundabout way, David’s email is like, the reason why you have mentors. For me, a mentor has always been a view into the future, this could be me 20-30 years from now, that was a big part of having mentors, when I was younger was like, ‘Who might I become if I follow this person’s path?’ Sounds like David’s at a point where he’s like, started a business. And he’s very much a part of that business, meaning he’s trading his time for money. And I think for a lot of people, it doesn’t matter. When you first start a business you are so happy to not have a job anymore, that you’re still willing to trade your time for money. And I think a lot of people end up staying there, which is totally cool if that’s where you want to be. But there comes a time and a point. Maybe it’s five years, maybe it’s 10 years, maybe it’s two months into this journey, where you realize, you want to do something else, you want to take a vacation, you don’t want to think about this anymore. But you want your cash flow to continue. Meaning, if you step away from the business, you stop earning money.

That’s what we’re trying to say basically, coming back to the question, ‘try to rethink your freelance agency so you can take your personal time out of the equation’, there might be a time and point in which you do not want to do this again, but you want to preserve the business. So how can you figure out a way to get yourself out of that business early, if you want to do that? Now, that being said, I think it’s totally acceptable to work inside of your business if it’s something you really enjoy, and I come across a lot of people, they really like working inside of their business. But I promise you there will come a time where you want a little break. So maybe it just means redundancy. Maybe it means you can call on your cousin or your uncle or whoever to do your job for two weeks. But maybe it means having a team around you that can cover no matter when or where you want to go and have it be sustainable.

Dan: Ian, just for argument’s sake, let me draw a harder line here. I mean, I agree with you. But if someone’s asking for my advice, I’d say the day to really consider doing this is on day zero when you conceive of a business. There is an argument to be made that part of entrepreneurship is about understanding value and how it gets delivered and how you can externalize those systems and own them outside of your work because your work is kind of something different than value delivery systems, right? And so what you can do is you can have an employer, and you can say, ‘Well, I understand the system of how to convince people to hire me. So I’ll just convince multiple people to hire me. And now I’m like, diversified or I make a little bit more, I don’t have to go to an office or whatever’. But that’s just very much step one, about like the systems that are at work. Now, what’s the next step? You got to understand the delivery side. That requires understanding, typically, some kind of arbitrage, or undervalued labor that can be resold at a margin to somebody else. And one way to do that is to productize the labor. One way to do it is to find geographic arbitrage. One way to do it is to charge way less than what it would cost to hire an equivalent employee.So these are the systems where the action is, right. Can I give a few examples?

Ian: Yeah.

Dan: There are a lot of mothers that have all this professional history and education, then decide to have children. And now they can’t work a traditional job because they only have a few hours a day, but they still have a high skill set and the ability to work a few hours a day. So now there are companies like user testing and other companies that are finding that labor arbitrage and saying, ‘This is an underutilized asset. I’m going to reposition it towards big companies. And they can do things of value that only take a few hours, like some user testing stuff. And now all of a sudden, I’ve identified a system of value’. And that’s my job as the entrepreneur, not to work in the system, but to identify the system.

Ian: Now, Dan, I totally agree with you, on this point, it would be great from day one to sit down and figure out all these systems and how they’re gonna scale. But I gotta disagree with this is how it actually happens. I think most people, they come upon a good idea or what they think is a good idea, maybe a little bit of a product-market fit, and then they start going for it. And then they realize, ‘Oh, crap. Now I’m in this situation’. I would equate it to building a house from the inside out. So it’s like, I build the room in the center. I’m like, ‘Oh, crap, I need a door’. And then I build a door. And I’m like, Well, I need another room. But I built the room right next to it, well, how do I make a hallway down to the other room that I need. And so it’s like, you start building these walls around you and before you know it, it takes you five minutes to get outside of the house.

Whereas like, if you envision the whole thing, and build it from the outside in, it might have a little bit more flow and structure to it. So coming from first principles, it was like the first idea was build one room, put a roof over my head, and like, ‘Now, I’m good, you know’, but it’s like, ‘Now I got a family now I need a mudroom, now where’s my dog gonna stay all this stuff kind of starts to happen’. And so I think like, you’re outlining the best possible scenario, and oftentimes that happens for people’s like, second and third businesses, but like, for my first business, like, I totally screwed this up. So maybe one of the solutions here is to model your business behind somebody else’s. And again, this like comes back to having mentors, and it’s like seeing what people in those businesses are doing.

Dan: I would just say this, if you’re a freelancer, or you’re starting a small agency, if you just made a rule for yourself that you were never allowed to do any work, except for sales, marketing, systems, that you’re never allowed to do the delivery, you’re always going to win with that role. If the work, the delivery the clients require, like your input to have it go down correctly. And then ultimately, you’re trying to replace that level, there’s probably not enough margin there. That’s why it’s easier to sell on the phone than it is on a website. Because on the phone, you don’t have to externalize the value delivery that well. We see this all the time with our candidates at Dynamite Jobs, they always say, ‘Just get me on the phone with a hiring manager’. And that’s true, they can communicate their value better on the telephone, that’s because they’re not good at externalizing the systems of value, the words, the images, the sequencing that communicates value, those things are very complicated. That’s what entrepreneurs do. And so, in other words, I think it’s a very entrepreneurial move to say, ‘Hey, this year, my goal is to get out of all delivery. And my goal is to really get clear on the margins of the labor I’m selling, ask myself if it’s productized enough, if it’s positioned correctly, if I have the correct margin’. That’s a big step forward for anybody that’s doing a services business.

Ian: Yes, and I think, Dan, if you’re scared about getting yourself out of the business, I just always remind myself when this comes up, like every single person I’ve hired to do my job, in this situation, has always been better than me. And like, every time I go to the racetrack, every time you go to the golf course, generally speaking, there’s somebody better than you. So there’s always this concern, ‘Oh, they’re not going to be as good as me’. And like, every time I find somebody better than me,

Dan: And if the answer was, ‘I can’t find anybody better than me’, then well, then you’ve found yourself a job. And so sometimes you need to look at it a different way and flip it upside down. Look, we sell recruiting services, Ian, I understand what it takes to recruit people. Have I ever done it? As we’ve sold it? No. Because that wouldn’t be a business. That would be me being a recruiter.

Ian: Which, to be fair, I mean, coming back to kind of the beginning of this point is like how a lot of businesses start. It’s like, ‘I have a skill set. I don’t want to do it for someone else anymore. I want to do it for myself’. And so it’s not hard to see why you’d end up in this position, basically. But I think what we’re trying to say here is like, ‘Here’s a way to avoid that. Here’s a way to actually own your time in a different way’.

Dan: Yes. This is why, if you’re thinking about it from a skill delivery point of view, that’s why I said you know, my kind of intro point to David here was like, ‘I do think that skills are dangerous’. I think if you’re overly good at what your firm does, it can prevent you from doing more entrepreneurial things. And there’s plenty of literature to back that idea up, ‘E-Myth Revisited, ‘Mastering the Rockafeller Habits ’, etc. All right, David, we appreciate your question. Let us know what you come up with and let us know what your margin is.

Alright Ian our next email is from Duarte, ‘Hope you guys are well and healthy. I started listening to the program five months ago, and I’m loving it. I never listened to a podcast before all this mess put me in a position where I need to diversify my knowledge. I worked in hospitality for 15 years now. And it’s been really frustrating to stay home. Either way I’m looking to start an e-commerce business on Amazon as a side job and listening to you guys every week helps me a lot. It helps me keep my focus positive. I tried other pods’. He said podcasts but you know, he means pod. ‘But the way you pass your message for me, is the best. Thank you. Hope y’all had a great Christmas and a great new year? Duarte’. Absolutely love the new listeners from diverse backgrounds getting into what we’re all about. A couple of things – I love the idea of diversifying out of a career while you still have a career, there are so many ways that you can start on your entrepreneurial journey that aren’t putting up a big website that costs you a bunch of money and hiring people on Upwork. and stuff, you can have an eBay hustle, you can have a Craigslist hustle, you can get serious about your personal finances, that’s the easiest way to be entrepreneurial is to take a look at your portfolio and personal finances.

Another thing is to not completely abandon all that you’ve worked for for 15 years. This is one of the things that I think people really think that everybody out here on the internet is just doing internetty things in order to make money on the internet. That’s not true at all. We bring our career experience with us. And we have more entrepreneurial experiences than we often give ourselves credit for. After all, we have convinced people to pay us to do our jobs for many years. There’s a lot there, there’s often a lot of relationships and know-how from our previous careers, that can be an enormous asset as we start our online journey. So that’s one thing I always encourage people. I say, ‘Hey, you make a lot of money for the company you work for, right? You’ve learned a lot doing that. Is there not some of that experience that could be extremely valuable for you, as you start your online journey?’

Ian: I’m always curious. Duarte’s worked in hospitality for 15 years, what exactly you did there and what you might bring to the online space. Because my guess is there’s something. You mentioned starting an Amazon business. And Dan stole my point, as always here, when you mentioned Craigslist and eBay. Amazon, in my mind,and I haven’t checked in with these folks admittingly for a while now, but like saturated, very hard. Still tonnes of opportunities, a lot of those opportunities are going to the people that have been on the platform, a long time. They understand it, they’ve figured out ways to manipulate it. It is of more competitive space than it’s ever been. And I think the same can be said for eBay and Craigslist. But, that being said, the level of competition is actually lower on these platforms. So when you start to think about what this venture might be, start to think about some of these less known platforms like eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, places where you might have a little bit less friction, where you make it a little bit more beginner’s luck. Where you won’t have to work so hard to make $1 I think. I’ve known people that have made millions and millions of dollars on Amazon. But I do think it matters when you get in. I’m not gonna say that it’s too late to get in. But when you look at all the literature, when you look at all the courses, when you look at all the people profiting from people getting in on Amazon, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is the opportunity the same it was 10 years ago?’

Dan: I got an idea for someone in hospitality. One of the common skill sets you develop in hospitality is that you develop rapport with strangers, you figure out ways for strangers to give you money in the form of tips out of nowhere. Well, you need some tips about how to run an Amazon business. And the way to do that is not to go get some Amazon course, or to Google about it online. The way to do that is to build the trust of someone who knows what they’re talking about, like Ian said earlier in the episode, a mentor. How can you find one, someone that will show you what they’ve done and what your potential is? One of the ways you can do that is you can build rapport as you do in the service industry, you can do free things for them, you can offer to give them your time and energy in return for the perspective that could change your life. This sort of relationship is a lot cheaper than going out and buying a course, it’s a lot more time-efficient than googling around endlessly for months thinking about what might be a good idea to do. I’d recommend focusing on the relationship game and figuring out folks who can show you the way.

Ian: Dan, can I give away my eBay business?

Dan: Sure. Thank God, that means we don’t have to do it.

Ian: Exactly. This might exist already. But I haven’t found it yet. I literally have 1000s of dollars of car parts sitting in my shop that I will never get rid of. Because I cannot be bothered to box them up and put them on eBay. It’s too much trouble. I can’t do it. But if I could drop those parts off somewhere, and I might even be willing to make the listing. But if I could drop those parts off somewhere, I would be willing to take pennies on the dollar, because in my mind right now that money is just gone, I’m never going to capture it because I’m never going to go through the problem of solving it.

Dan: Like one 1-800-Gotjunk for eBay stuff.

Ian: Yeah, dude, if it was like, ‘Drop your junk off in Austin, drop your junk off for eBay and will like give you 50 cents on the dollar’, I would pull up with my truck and just, I would just dump it on their front lawn and be like, ‘Cool, man, let me know how that works out’.

Dan: Good luck with your hustle. Encourage you to do these small actions that shake it up, you know, you make a couple of bucks doing something on eBay or talk to somebody who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars on Amazon on the telephone, you do one of these little things that really can change your life because it can help you to understand just how much agency and power you have in your economic life. That’s part of what entrepreneurship is about. It’s about feeling your own capability to go out there. And, you know, get employed wherever you want, figure out a way to start a business, figure out a way to start a partnership, find a mentor, etc. These are things that we can all do once we just get a little bit of confidence going.

All right, final email today, Ian, we got a note from Elliot who said, ‘Hey, Dan, I just finished listening to the art of personal blogging and love this episode, longtime listener of nearly seven years, met fellow DC-er while they were living in Shanghai’, a lot of cool personal anecdotes here, Elliott, appreciate that. When that episode ended, I found myself not ready for it to end. You guys could have talked for another hour, I would have enjoyed every minute’. So the question essentially Elliott has is, ‘How to start a blog for fun and profit in 2021, actionable information and tips always useful’. Essentially, Elliott’s pointing out here in his email that most of the people that talk about what services to use when you start a blog, or whatever, typically benefit from that advice. So maybe just hear a few words from us on what we would do in 2021, if we were to start a blog, ‘Huge thanks. For all these years, Dan and Ian, Elliot’, our privilege really, my first thought Ian is before we even go to start a blog or nowadays really, Twitter and Instagram have taken a lot of the thrust and energy that, you know, used to go into blogging from marketers and I think that for people just starting out in 2021, that’s a good thing because I think it’s easier to do an Instagram that’s compelling, that gets a following than it is to do long-form writing. Same deal with Twitter. So that’s kind of cool. Uou could do I suppose YouTube or tik tok as well. There are all different kinds of options. Nowadays, we’re not just talking about writing articles, but with all of these things Ian I think the most important thing is your conception and your competition.

And so a conception is simply figuring out a profitable audience from day one. And, you know, my punching bag on this show has always been travel bloggers, because this idea that you just need such an enormous audience, in order for your blog really to be relevant. Whereas if you focused on international business travelers, now you’re getting a little bit better. But if you focused on international people who want to be options traders, now all of a sudden your conception is getting narrow, such that if only five or 10 or 15 people that were relevant read whatever information you were putting out, you have the potential to make sales on that.

And so, I think the key thing is starting out with a very narrow profitable conception at the beginning. Like, ‘I want to invest in Defi, I need freaking people who helped me do that. That’s the blog, that’s the information I’m looking for. That’s a Twitter account I’m looking for’. Now you’re creating a profitable ecosystem, just by your conception. Coming back to something we said earlier in the episode, even if you’re at such a high level, we’re talking about website design and SEO, it just requires too much of an audience to be relevant. And so I think you kind of want to start with that idea of like, ‘What’s the minimum viable audience?’ And that all starts from a profitable, streamlined conception?

Ian: Second question I’d be asking myself if I was Elliot, and maybe you’ve already figured this out, but it’s ‘the on-stage test’ and the on-stage test over at the TropicalMBA means, ‘What would you be willing to talk about on stage to an audience five years from now?’ And if you’re not willing to do it five years from now, then you probably shouldn’t be talking about it today. It’s one of those things that raises questions about your energy, you know, what are you going to have the energy to blog about for the next five years?

Dan: Well, the five-year conception pretty much works for almost anything, it’s really decent heuristic. I totally agree with the onstage test, Ian, but with one really important caveat, which is that when a lot of people think about what they want to be doing in five years, it’s tempting to come up with a more general topic, and to create more general content. So you really got to be specific in the early days in order to get that profitable audience going. And as you get momentum, you can gradually broaden what it is that you talk about.

Ian: Well, I’m really proud of you Dan, because I thought you were gonna lament the death of the personal blog. I thought this was gonna be the whole point. Because actually, we share that I emailed a guy the other day that has this blog, and I was like, ‘Hey, man, I just want to say thanks’, because like, it’s just like classic content, not on Instagram. It’s really informative. And he goes into a lot of detail. And I’m like, ‘Why isn’t Google indexing this, they don’t index this stuff anymore’. Like, so. You know, the blog. Gosh, it’s so sad but like the blog, in a lot of respects has died. It has gone to Instagram. It has gone to Facebook. But I think honestly, then it’s not going to be gone forever. I just think that the format’s changing.

Dan: A lot of people who would otherwise be blogging are putting their content on social, fair, that doesn’t mean that it’s still not an enormous opportunity and 2021. The bottom line is people who care a lot. And I saw a great point the other day that said, some guy on Twitter, this would have been a blog post 10 years ago, but he had this tweet storm about lessons he’s learned in his life. And one of the lessons was people don’t have short attention spans, they don’t stop using it as an excuse, you’re here, listen to this podcast for how many minutes now? People binge-watch Netflix all the time. And what this guy’s point was, I wish I could cite him. His point was – it’s not that people’s attention spans are short, it’s that they make decisions about what they’re going to pay attention to very quickly. So that’s why you don’t want to be just the next crypto account talking about general crypto stuff, because that’s expensive, it’s expensive to get people to read that. Because, again, they’re gonna make that decision fast. If you go back to this idea of, ‘What’s the problem you solve, what’s the unique way in which you solve it? And how can they then take the next step?’ That idea of coming up with a business conception, take it right to your blog, what problem are you solving and defi? Who are you solving it for? What’s the unique way you’re going to solve it, right. And if you just become a problem-solving machine for people who spend a lot of money on those problems, they will pay attention, they will read your blog post, they will check out your Instagram.

Elliott, that’s a start that’s simply what I’m most passionate about when it comes to putting out content in the world is just solving people’s problems. I think if you start there, the rest gets a whole lot easier. But if you’re stuck in ‘tool land’ and just constantly trying to grow your audience, and then something’s going to happen someday. I’ve just seen so so many content producers on that loop. And there’s really no event horizon that they get to enough followers or whatever, that it ever really works financially. And so, the great part is, you can just solve that problem on day one with a little bit of napkin math. We used to call this by the way, ‘Buy now blogging’ and ‘Pay now podcasting’. We have to figure out what the Instagram and Twitter versions of that are.

Alright, boss, man. I think what we’ll do is we’re gonna let some of these answers marinate this week, next week, we’re gonna come back with some business idea generation heuristics. I want to tease that concept. We have five frameworks for developing business ideas, which we’ll share on next week’s episode. If you have anything you’d like us to cover in that episode, hit me up via email Dan at Tropicalmba dot com

Ian: Awesome. Sounds good. I will talk to you next week.

Dan: Thanks for listening. I’ll see you all next week.

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