When is the right time to start thinking about creating your own thing – something you love that you can start on the side and make money out of?
Well for the past month I've been celebrating the 5 year anniversary of Screw Work Let's Play and sharing the 5 biggest things I've learned in the last 5 years.
Here's the last one, number 5:
There will never be a right time! You just have to start
We are all busier than ever these days. Jobs are more demanding, technology is more distracting, and family and friends don't take well to being ignored either!
And just like there's no perfect time to start a family, there's no perfect time to start your own thing.
At some point you just have to decide that you're going to take that first step.
SWLP reader Issy Zinaburg did exactly that not so long ago:
"After a long time wondering what to do instead of consulting, I read Screw Work Let's Play and attended a workshop ran by John. My first realisation was that I had known all along what I wanted to do: namely to get into interior design, which I had studied before succumbing to the idea that I 'had to get a proper job, because you can't make money doing anything creative."
Sometimes even if you have such a clear direction, you still need some help, encouragement and guidance to take action on it as Issy realised...
"My first concrete step was to take an SWLP course. I seem to remember getting quite stuck on the course at first, not really knowing how to take action. But I learned that the first thing I needed to do, after a number of years of neglect, was to get my creativity going again.
Initially I helped out some friends with their places for free, and then worked up to getting some paid projects, which was amazing. It was a dream to be getting paid to do interior design as the design part of the job didn't feel like work at all (albeit I liked some other parts of the job like dealing with tradesmen and suppliers less!)"
Having taken action on one big idea, other ideas started popping up:
"Amir (my hubbie) and I weren't sure whether we wanted to continue to live in London or not so we decided to take some time out to travel.
First of all we spent some time driving round France, Spain and Portugal in Betty the old black cab my hubbie converted into a mini-campervan. Then we spent 5 months in South America including living in Rio for 4 months.
After taking the time out we came back to the UK a year ago and have since had a baby; but what travelling taught me was that it was really important for me that my business would allow us the freedom to be able to travel often and/or possibly even move abroad at some stage without having to start over.
So I started to think how I could bring more of my business online to make me more location independent.
That's where the experience of my former life as a consultant came together with my earlier experiences helping friends out with their places (where I had to be sensitive to our friendship and gently help coach them through the process rather than be too dictatorial). This inspired me to come up with my Ecourse and online design coaching services, which help people discover their own style and design their dream homes themselves.
So in the 4 years since I read Screw Work Let's Play & did my first SWLP programme I have gone from being a disillusioned management consultant thinking I didn't know what I wanted to do, to reigniting my passion for interior design, starting my own interior design biz, and finally taking it online though creating an ecourse and offering 1to1 interior design coaching atissyzinaburg.com"
None of the things Issy and Amir chose to do were easy decisions. But at some point you have to realise that you really do only have one life.
And you can be pretty sure everything Issy and Amir did included the odd "Head in hands" moment as Charlie and Harry called them in my post earlier this week about launching their innovative ice cream.
Sometime it comes down to a critical piece of advice or an encouraging word at the right moment to put you back on track.
Where are you on making it happen?
If you haven't yet found something to start or haven't been able to get under way with it, I want to help.
I am celebrating 5 years of Screw Work Let's Play by doing something new; something to help as many people as possible to find their own idea and get it going.
That's my mission and that for me is play.
Get my new step-by-step programme to find an idea you love and get it making money:
Over the past month I've been celebrating 5 things I've learned in the 5 years since Screw Work Let's Play was published and Harry and Charlie are the ultimate playful example of my 4th major learning:
#4: When you've got a good idea, run with it
– and hold nothing back!
It's easy to be hesitant about our ideas but Harry and Charlie show just what can happen when you really go for it. This week I had a chat with them to get the inside scoop (sorry) on Oppo Ice cream.
Here's what happened:
John: How did you come up with the idea for Oppo Ice Cream?
Harry: I first read Screw Work Let's Play while on a beach in Egypt on a Windsurfing trip in April 2011. It got both of us thinking about ways to do what we enjoyed doing. So a month later in May we decided to go on an adventure in Brazil.
We were going to break the unofficial world record for the longest distance travelled by kite buggy on land, unsupported. We got the sponsorship in June, and we were on a plane to Brazil by July!
Charlie: During our kite buggy adventure we ran out of food so lost 8kg of bodyweight in 2 weeks. Not to be recommended and fairly painful! We survived on wild superfoods, which tasted fantastic whilst being very healthy. This was proof that it is possible to make the most indulgent food healthy. What about luxury ice cream that’s good for you? So I quit my job, and founded Oppo.
Everyone said it was ridiculous and for many months it was! Following 25 months of research, three different factories and lots of ‘head in hands’ moments Oppo launched in October 2014 – Waitrose, Ocado, Wholefoods and many independents.
Oppo replaces sugar and cream with stevia leaf and virgin coconut oil. Each flavour is boosted with a unique superfood, creating a delicious luxury ice cream containing fewer calories than an apple.
Did you try some other things out before you came up with the Oppo Ice Cream idea?
Charlie: I've always had little projects - from selling Pokemon cards at primary school to having a tuck shop at school when I was 13. I had various more serious concepts I worked on just before Oppo - for example an app where you can create your own postcards abroad and they get printed and sent at home - but then I realised there were several other multi-million pound companies doing just that and I didn't see how I could do it any better.
However the Oppo idea had always been smouldering in the background, I just didn't quite know it. I've always been fascinated by nutrition and fed up with how our favourite foods aren't good for us. It seemed to me like large food manufacturers were lazy and stuck in their ways. Sugar and artificial ingredients are cheap and easy ways of making food taste great.
Even though the world's largest ice cream manufacturer told me my aim of healthy ice cream was utterly impossible - I've proved if you work hard and think different it's perfectly possible to create food utopia - our favourite indulgent foods that are good for you too.
What made you think this is the right idea to pursue?
Charlie: It grabbed me. I became more excited the more I thought of it and realised how awesome it would be if I managed to create an ice cream that was truly healthy. I thought I could turn the category on its head.
Until now, innovation in the category has been in different formats, flavours or sizes. Uninspiring. What about changing what we understand ice cream to be? Using none of the same ingredients yet still arriving at the same end result – a product that can legally be called ice cream and still has the taste sensation of your favourite treat.
For an idea to be worthwhile it’s got to excite you in every way, and continue to excite you as you develop the idea. Oppo did that for me. Crucially, it did it for others too.
The Oppo Story
What were your first steps to act on the idea?
Charlie: Asking industry experts. I first asked if it was possible to create such a product – they all said no, so I realised I was on to something.
Then I changed my questions to – “what would a company have to do to succeed, if they created such a game-changing product?” Through this I learned about marketing, FMCG brands, product creation, branding etc. That limited understanding was what I started with.
It was then that I left my job to start full steam ahead. In hindsight, I could have stayed at my job for longer, which would have given me an income for a little longer but I was lucky that I could move back with my parents, and later on to my brother Harry’s sofa to save money and work 100% on Oppo.
When did you first realise this thing was going to take off?
Charlie: Firstly when I created the product – when I realised I had done what I set out to. Then it was when Harry joined the business full time after I’d been trying to get him on board for 2.5 years.
However I think it’s rare that you find a big milestone that suddenly catapults your business, or when you realise something will work. As an entrepreneur you always have to have unflappable belief that it will work, of course it will – if you don’t, no-one else will. Milestones and big events only occur after the accumulation of months or years of intense work. It’s rare to find sudden success one day.
What was your first playcheque?
Harry: So I guess our first playcheque was a £10,000 order from Waitrose! With ice cream it’s slightly harder to create a play project in the way you should do to test an idea, but I’m sure if Charlie was less convinced about the idea then we could have done that, and grown the business more slowly and with less risk by taking market stalls and the like to test demand.
Now we have a team of 10 from a small office in Clapham in SW London. We got into wholefoods last week, a large contract caterer the week before, a national distributor this week, and are speaking to various other retailers and wholesalers to grow the Oppo brand.
Recently we raised £300,000 in three days, making us the fastest food and drink start up globally to raise investment using crowd funding, and the most over subscribed company on the Seedrs crowd funding site.
We have also won an award for most innovative product of the year, and have been shortlisted in the final ten for Virgin’s pitch to rich award – fingers crossed we get through as the prize is £250,000 of marketing budget which Oppo sorely needs – and it’s all dependent on votes! Hint hint…
John: Read below how to vote for Harry and Charlie and their healthy ice cream on the Pitch To Rich site.
What’s your advice to someone trying to choose the right thing to pursue?
Harry: Work out what you like spending time doing and where you often forget the time when you’re doing it. Then work out if there is anything in particular about that activity that you seem to get a buzz from, and examine ways that other people might want to pay you to do that.
But I didn’t really do any of those things. In our case it was spotting something that we wanted to change in the world, and then finding an opportunity to do that. It’s then about being relentless in the way you pursue your goal – nothing is perfect and there will always be setbacks, but you’ll find the right path in successfully navigating those setbacks.
Like the idea of healthy ice cream?
Take a moment to support Harry and Charlie...
I've been approached by several SWLP readers about their entries for Richard Branson's Pitch To Rich competition for new businesses and have been helping out wherever I can (retweeting their campaigns etc).
Harry and Charlie are particularly exciting because they are very close - in the top half of the final ten contestants - to winning no less than £250,000 of help with their business. Plus, it's for a healthy ice cream. What's not to like?
You can help them out by voting on the Pitch To Rich site - it takes literally just a few seconds.
What should you dedicate your life to? What's your passion? Which of your ideas will really pay off? Which one can actually make money? Do you actually have the skills or even the confidence to pull it off?
These are the kind of questions that can seize us when we're trying to choose something new to start. Sometimes they grip us once we've actually got into motion on doing the thing we love.
Where do we find the answers to these important questions?
Well, this month I'm sharing "5 things I've learned in the 5 years since Screw Work Let's Play was published" and the third of my five is summed up by Ernest Hemingway's classic quote:
"The shortest answer is doing the thing"
As I've led thousands of people through my programmes over the past 5 years it's become increasingly clear just how powerful it is to find your answers in action.
The key is to "Get version 1.0 out there" as Screw Work Academy graduatePete Linforth summarises it. Pete did this and ended up creating anxietybuster.co, attracting 8000 Facebook likes on his Anxiety Buster Page, and even writing a book that reached #4 in the Stress Management bestseller list on Amazon (as Pete put it, "That really made my day!")
So how does it work?
Over the last couple of years I've been teaching something I call the Play Cycle - a way to get into action right away and learn as you go. People on my paid programmes have found it so helpful that I've decided to share it here.
Here's what it looks like:
Firstly you've got to act – find a way to put your idea out into the world, perhaps in a scaled down form. Then reflect on what happens - did you enjoy it? Did it use your skills and talents? Did other people respond positively? Then use all of this to adapt what you're doing, improve it and go again.
So if for example you want to help people improve their time management, get into action and find a willing victim to be your first test client. Try out your ideas and help them as much as you can. Then reflect on the results and how you enjoyed it and adapt accordingly to make it even better. No need to have all the answers at the start! And if you find you don't like working one-to-one at all, perhaps you adapt by running workshops or becoming an author or blogger instead.
This requires you to "Be willing to dive in and see what happens before you've worked everything out" as Screw Work Academy graduate Rachel Kerr put it. She used these strategies to both boost her copywriting business at welcomewords.co.ukand start a new Brand Definition service by teaming up with a creative web & design agency.
And because you're starting in a more manageable way and not trying to make everything perfect it's much easier to get the thing going even if you're short of time. Screw Work Academy graduate Amanda Harrison (who is the world's only female commercial Tiger Moth Pilot!) said the key is to, "Do something everyday towards your dream or passioneven when you don't feel like it. Start with 20 mins and it will soon gain movement. Grab every opportunity as they arrive, even if you're not ready for them. Nothing is perfect, just do it.".
Amanda has now been booked for 2 speaking events, appeared in the press, launched her website www.AmandaJHarrison.com and had discussions about her idea for running a Dream flying day - all while continuing her day job in pilot training.
Here's what you can do now:
Don't muse too long on what to do and where you're heading. Choose a project you can do in a few weeks that appeals to you (use the Playcheque formula as your guide), and get out there and do it. See how it goes and how you like it. Be willing to adapt on the fly. Then you too will find the answers are in the doing just as Mr Hemingway promised.
Need help unlocking the Playcheque Formula?
Get my new step-by-step programme to find an idea you love and start making money out of it here:
Recently I watched a video that blew my mind. The speaker Ricardo Semler runs a Brazilian company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars and yet has almost no rules at all - no set hours, location, holiday time, management structure, or business plan.
Want to go to the beach or to see a film on a Monday afternoon? You can.
And it was all inspired by Ricardo's take on life (and death):
"On Mondays and Thursdays, I learn how to die.
I call them my terminal days. My wife Fernanda doesn't like the term, but a lot of people in my family died of melanoma cancer and my parents and grandparents had it. And I kept thinking, one day I could be sitting in front of a doctor who looks at my exams and says, "Ricardo, things don't look very good. You have six months or a year to live."
And you start thinking about what you would do with this time. And you say, "I'm going to spend more time with the kids. I'm going to visit these places, I'm going to go up and down mountains and places and I'm going to do all the things I didn't do when I had the time." But of course, we all know these are very bittersweet memories we're going to have. It's very difficult to do... So I said, I'm going to do something else.
Every Monday and Thursday, I'm going use my terminal days. And I will do, during those days, whatever it is I was going to do if I had received that piece of news."
As Ricardo reveals in his talk, he discovered that a lot of new employees had a hard time adjusting after working somewhere else - and after the way education prepares us to be a passive employee. He realised they needed to start this more natural way of working earlier. So they started a school. That way people would never be brainwashed to be workers, instead they would become 'players' right from the start.
What do you think?
What do you make of Ricardo's ideas? Even for me, they were pretty radical! But I believe this is the vision for work for the 21st Century.
When you're starting out on your own, it's hard to imagine how you can compete with the big players in your field. How can your idea for a book on personal finance possibly stack up against Rich Dad Poor Dad?
How can your idea for a time management app succeed when there are so many other apps out there? How can you get noticed as an NLP practitioner in a sea of similarly qualified people?
Well I have a strategy I teach in the Screw Work Academy IDEA LAB to solve this exact problem.
I call it superniching.
Don't take on the big players at their own game, instead choose a very particular corner of the world and set out to provide the very best service/product/event/blog for it.
“If you want to be the best in the world, make your world smaller”
– Seth Godin
A superniche can be a very particular kind of person. Your time management app could be designed entirely for visually-minded or 'right-brained' people (a group very poorly serviced at the moment).
Or your superniche could be a very particular problem you solve. If you've got yourself out of personal debt and learned a lot along the way, your finance book could be focussed purely on that.
Don't try to emulate the giants
If you look at the giants in your field and try to copy them you won't succeed. That's because those giants usually started out by superniching too.
Facebook may be the #1 global social network now but when it launched it was strictly only available for Harvard students (you had to have a Harvard email address to register). Then it was rolled out to other US colleges, then UK colleges, and finally the general public.
Oh and it looked a little different back then:
Starting out with a very particular niche didn't slow down Facebook's progress, it sped it up. It allowed Facebook to spread quickly throughout Harvard and go on to dominate other groups even though there were several other more well established social networks available at the time.
How can you superniche?
Which specific group of people could you help? Or what problem are you best placed to help people with?
Whether you end up providing a service, writing a blog or book, launching an online business, running events, or creating an app, the same principle applies.
Find out how to positively impact one very particular group or problem. If you can do that, then you can expand from there – or you might just find you can make a great living with your favourite little niche.
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When you make your first £10,000 (or $ or €) doing something you love, you never forget it.
It's one thing to make a few pounds/bucks here and there but it's another altogether to make that first 10k.
And that's because, as I discovered earlier on in my career, that the activities that could make 10k go on to become significant income streams or even 6-figure businesses.
12 years ago this month I quit my job and declared publicly that I never wanted another job for the rest of my life.
The first thing I did as a stepping stone was to land myself a short consultancy gig at the BBC and walk away with £12,000. I knew then that consultancy was going to work out for me (and indeed it made me more than my previous salary but in a quarter of the time).
Similarly at Screw Work Let's Play HQ when my first group programme made £10k in a few months I knew that the only way was up. I then launched my first large scale programme that made £15,000 in a few weeks. (The same programme later went on to make £50,000 in the same timeframe)
So that threshold of 10k is an important landmark.
How do you get to 10k?
If you're not already there, how do you get to the point of making your very first 10k from something you love doing?
Well I've boiled it to down to a progression of 6 steps - right from the beginning when you don't even have an idea of what you're going to try to make money out of.
The key is to focus on just one of the steps at a time.
Here are my "6 Steps to 10k":
1: Generate dozens of candidate ideas (this is actually very easy when I show you how to do it properly)
2: Evaluate your options quickly & choose your basecamp idea - a starting point for something you'll enjoy doing and that can make proper money
3: Take your basecamp idea & make something of your own out of it - something that stands clear from all the competition
4: Choose one of a dozen easy monetisation methods for your idea
5: Make your first thousand - when you know how, you can do this without elaborate marketing strategies and without even having a website. Make a £/€/$1000 and you know your new thing is something that people will pay for
6: Your 6-figure strategy - choose your strategy for recurring income and scaling to 6 figures, build your platform of prospects/readers/raving fans and hit that all important first 10k
Because when you can make 10k, you can make another and another and another...
When you know how each step really works it is a lot simpler than you would imagine. That's not to say it's effortless of course; you'll learn a whole heap of fascinating stuff at every step and develop yourself enormously.
But the payoff is profound.
You feel like a different person when you've been through the whole process of finding something to pursue, making it happen, and making some proper money out of it.
At that point, freedom is in your sights - making a great income from something that you care about and that really excites you.
I've got to be honest though, getting through these steps on your own is hard. Most of us have been misinformed about how this whole process works and on top of that it's difficult to maintain the motivation and discipline when you're doing it alone.
Fortunately you don't have to.
I've seen the transformational effect on participants of my programmes from being in a like-minded group and from having a clear plan to follow with regular expert input.
So I decided to create something new to lead people through the 6 steps to 10k
It's called IDEA LAB and it's the result of my work with 150 people over the last two years in the Screw Work Academy – people who have gone on to create hit blogs, get paid for their creative work, write bestselling books and quit their jobs.
Read all about it on the new website - click the logo below:
If you need to ask something before you book your place on IDEA LAB, there is a chat button on the site where you can leave a message for the team or even speak to me live.