If you have no skills, no clue what to do and don’t want to create a 100 hour/week grind, do this instead.
There’s are two types of first-time wantrepreneurs: The type that jumps in blindly, going full-throttle with an idea they may have neglected to validate or research much at all, and the type that spends months or years meandering in the lost zone.
To clarify, entrepreneurs (not wantrepreneurs) are the ones who’ve already validated their idea, done the industry or audience research, and have been resourceful enough to take progressive action. Most of us, though, if we’re honest, started off as wantrepreneurs, and that’s the group I see flailing around in the dreaded “lost zone”.
The lost zone isn’t relegated to lazy, low aptitude, or incompetent people. I know of ex-Ivy League graduates with layers of masters degrees and certifications who’ve spent three years or more in this lost zone! Some of these people were valedictorians, magna cum laude, or corporate climbers ascending to the top of their ladder. The lost zone doesn’t discriminate based on education, IQ, or even past experience.
Let me explain the “lost zone”: This is the special place where wantrepreneurs fantasize about having a business, without actually experiencing any of the challenges, risks, or learning lessons that come with execution. Wantrepreneurs in the lost zone may fool themselves into believing they’re making progress with hours spent reading motivational gobbledygook, chanting affirmations, binging TechCrunch, and devouring every sensationalized startup “documentary” on Hulu or Netflix. In reality, inspiration is not perspiration, and it certainly isn’t execution.
If you — or anyone you know — are currently flailing around directionless in that wantrepreneurial lost zone, feeling demoralized by the fact that you still haven’t made your first entrepreneurial buck, there’s a solution. While this solution may not instantly produce your billion-dollar idea or launch the venture that will become your life’s work, it will do a few things for you:
- 10x your entrepreneurial confidence with an actual accomplishment
- Separate your time from money, so you don’t fall down the hourly freelancer rabbit hole or rebuild yourself a thankless grind of a job
- Either make you significant cash ($1,000 — $10,000+) with your first sale or generate a machine that becomes a long-term, cash-flowing asset from which you make hundreds, thousands, or much more each month
No, I’m not talking about OnlyFans or selling spicy feet pics to virtual admirers. Instead, what I’m suggesting can be applied to any industry, any audience, and can result in a wide array of businesses within weeks or months, rather than years or decades.
Some people will tell you to go learn a skill so you can begin charging hourly for that. While that’s not bad advice, it risks incidentally trapping you into the hourly grind. Furthermore, it leaves the options for “which skill” wide open, sending you right back to the lost zone where you started.
There are, however, some skills that also produce sellable or monetizable assets along the way. If I were a lost wantrepreneur, and I had at least three hours and $300 I could commit to a new venture, I would NOT buy a course, join a mastermind, or attend some entrepreneur networking event.
The truth is — though nobody wants to admit this — these days, you don’t actually need any of those things to get started or be successful in business, especially not at the beginning. You need a thing (an asset) with clear current or future value (that can make money) and a place or audience to sell or monetize it. That can all be accessed for next-to-free. Here’s how:
There are countless tutorials on YouTube that teach newbies with little to no technical acumen how to build an entire business with no code, using a combination of WordPress (free), cheap hosting, and a robust, but affordable (usually $30 to $250) theme or plugin(s).
Some people peddling basic website flipping courses or moonlighting as WordPress “designers” will tell you to slap a simple, “modern” site together or write a few industry-relevant blogs, then post it for sale and watch the bidding war commence. In reality, this is the low-effort, low-payoff way to maybe make a few hundred bucks (if you’re lucky), or just waste time building a low-quality thing nobody really wants.
Instead, you want to find the in-depth tutorials that teach you how to go from nothing to building an entire e-commerce platform for a specific industry or a new, industry-branded social network that sits behind a paywall or includes multiple in-site monetization options (or a comparably robust, marketable directory, marketplace, or the like). These tutorials aren’t short; they’re often between 2 and 4 hours at least, but they truly hold your hand through every single step.
- Where to get your domain and hosting
- How to install WordPress (or whatever other builder)
- Where to get the theme or plugin that enables you to build the aforementioned robust site
- Discount codes to get all of the above a little cheaper
- A step-by-step overview of how to set the theme or plugin up and fully customize your site
- A rundown of marketing and monetization opportunities
I don’t just know the above secondhand; I’ve actually done it, and I’ve built entire platforms that a previous, less handy (less resourceful) version of my earlier founder self would have paid a pretty penny for. In fact, years ago, I did spend between $30k and $100k to hire credentialed teams to build websites and apps similar to what I can build myself today in a matter of days or weeks, for just a few hundred bucks.
Why are we building these?
The reason I suggest lost founders go through the hands-on process of building one of these more robust, but industry-specific sites or apps is because doing so will both empower you with a new skillset and get you to think like a founder and a customer.
- If this is my site, how will I monetize it?
- Should I add the membership paywall plugin?
- Should I add in-app purchases or integrate AdSense?
- Who are the users in this industry and where can I reach them?
- Where can I promote this site to get backlinks and free promotion?
As you’re asking the above questions, you’re assessing how you would run and grow the site into a successful, profitable startup. You’re asking those questions because you know you’ll need to lead with those answers to get the site sold for the highest price to a best-fit bidder in the chosen industry. However, at the same time, you’re challenging yourself to decide whether after all that is said and done you’ll want to part with the site at all. In the end, you’ll get to make that decision, which is where the cash flow begins.
To sell or to grow, that is the question. Literally, that is the question you’ll ask yourself once you’ve built this well-planned, instantly monetizable new industry-specific asset of a website or app. You get to decide if you’re pumped up enough with the excitement and momentum to move forward and plan to launch and monetize it yourself, perhaps turning this into your next accidental business.
Alternatively, you get to decide if you’d rather sell it to someone in this chosen industry who could more easily or quickly benefit from it (or leverage their network to grow it better or faster than you could). If so, you can go list it on a site like Flippa or BizBuySell or simply start hopping into industry-relevant Facebook groups or communities to find a buyer (or multiple, to kick off a bidding war).
Let’s say you choose to sell: Awesome; you probably poured somewhere between 20 and 100 hours of blood, sweat, and tears into building it and pocketed between $1k and $10k (or more, depending on exactly what you built and how far you took it). Sure, it was a 2 to 3 hour tutorial, but in order for a newbie to follow along and turn it into a living, breathing, customized, payment-enabled website, you’ll probably be watching it 5 to 10 times, with many pauses along the way, slowly implementing each step.
Let’s say you choose to grow: Now you’re an actual entrepreneur, as you’re in the trenches finding clients, executing SEO strategies, and getting immersed in the chosen industry. Depending on the type of site you built, industry you chose, and monetization options you implemented, you could be making hundreds to thousands of dollars on a recurring basis in a matter of weeks or months. However, it doesn’t have to be forever. If you decide (after proving the concept) you’re disenamored with the industry or have stumbled upon a more appealing opportunity, you can now sell it for an even higher value, since you’ve gained traction and cash flow.
By this point, you have a bit of entrepreneurial success under your belt! You made a thing and either got people to use it (or pay money to use it) or sold it. That’s what business is: You make a thing or provide a service and find or attract the people or parties willing to pay you for it.
Now you get to decide to either rinse and repeat, building and selling similar (or different) things for other industries, stacking those 4+ figure profits each time, or you get to choose one area to hunker down and grow to 6, 7, or 8+ figures. Either way, you’ve created something out of nothing, amassed a monetizable skill set, and have moved from the wantrepreneurial lost zone into the true land of entrepreneurship.