We’re living in a time of relentless economic upheaval. The rules and career guidelines are being torn up and re-written as our increasingly digitized infrastructure is paving the way for not only more job anxiety but also, and crucially, more opportunities to diversify.
Dorie Clark’s new book, Entrepreneurial You, builds on the lessons from her previous best-selling titles, Reinventing You and Stand Out. I’ve long admired Dorie, who takes one big breath, looks at a rapidly changing globalized economy, and challenges readers to leverage their expertise and skills to develop new income streams. In reading, I was energized by her experience and enthusiasm — it’s impossible to read this book without then taking a long, hard look at your own business practices. Here are a few ideas I’ve borrowed from Dorie to great effect in my own business strategy.
1. No Job Is Completely Safe
Dorie can relate to the instability of a changing economy, and reflects in the book on her own experience in journalism — an industry that has undergone one of the biggest overhauls in recent years. On one of her early jobs as a political reporter in 2001, Dorie says she was made redundant and left with the realization that the idea that there are any jobs that are completely protected and “safe” is a falsehood.
I can relate to this realization with my own career highs and lows. The lesson that jumped out at me was about safeguarding your income and confidently leveraging your skills in a society that’s shifting and changing in immeasurable ways. Side income streams allow you to create fallback mechanisms and passive income that can give you more economic confidence when negotiating your way through life. Dorie calls this “career insurance,” which is a phrase I really like.
There’s a tendency in many business guides for so-called gurus to promise the world and sell lofty ideas with little fruition. Alternately, Dorie advocates the long game and carefully putting the building blocks in place to diversify and capitalize on new opportunities.
Multiple income streams allow you to assist clients in lots of different ways. To this end, I’ve been working on my own online courses to make them even more humanized and customer-centric for the people who buy them. By leveraging my background and know-how in speaking, writing, evangelizing brands, consulting, increasing my course offerings and writing books, I’ve been able to place smaller bets with safer rewards.
2. You Don’t Have To Be A Big Risk-Taker
A lot of budding entrepreneurs and people with a great idea are put off by the idea of taking a big risk. But you don’t have to quit your job and throw all of your savings into a new venture or side hustle; you can work on passion projects in your spare time and eventually even leverage new skills to expand your duties at your day job.
The key here is systematic small bets instead of massive risk-taking. Business is about using data and evidence to take considered action — then, if you’re not successful, you haven’t lost considerable resources and you haven’t failed. Perhaps your data wasn’t comprehensive enough. Whatever the reasons, you can learn from your small bets and remain unscathed.
This approach is sensible for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Even taking the smallest possible step and validating a new idea by telling a friend about it is progress. This goes to show that entrepreneurs aren’t risk-hungry; they’re careful and considered.
3. Work For Exposure
When you’re just starting out with your side hustle or new business venture, you may be encouraged to work for free. You should consider it — in the right circumstances.
Dorie’s book explores this, but by no means does she recommend consistently doing work for free and letting people take advantage of you. However, when you’re looking for experience, you can offer your services to folks on trim budgets or with whom you have good relationships already. This helps to build your confidence, generate testimonials and earn some referrals. With that, you can grow your client base and start charging healthy rates.
Giving away some of your expertise so that you can learn from a project or make some new connections can be just as worthwhile as short-term revenue — and you never know, it could lead to long-term work.
4. Data Is Your Friend
Sometimes it feels right to take action based on your gut instinct or disregard evidence that pushes you toward a direction you’re not happy with. But data and factual analysis are critical to your new or established business.
Entrepreneurial You made me even more aware of the importance of sourcing various datasets and evidence before making decisions. Dorie describes using a research standpoint to communicate her ideas and repackage complex concepts and data captured from her interviews into straightforward, actionable strategies. Approaching your business from a research standpoint (for example, collecting customer testimonials and insight) can really help you to move forward.
I encourage my customers and audiences to reach out to me by including multiple touchpoints and ways to connect. I’ve developed my own tool that’s integrated with Facebook Messenger to facilitate conversation and use social listening to generate data I can use to build my business. This is then connected to my CRM so I can segment things further, including where people are coming from and what kind of information they prefer.
5. Find Strategies That Work For You
One of the most salient points Dorie explores that resonated with me is the need to find ways of working and growing your brand that is comfortable for you.
If you’re introverted or quite shy, then networking events could be overwhelming, so work on online spaces where you can make connections and build your confidence. After reading, I felt encouraged to focus on public speaking because I enjoy it so much. In fact, I’m now putting together some new, refreshed materials to send out to organizers.
Dorie aims to equip readers with the models and mentalities to free themselves from being locked into restrictive careers that are increasingly precarious and less stable. What I discovered is that we often have the skills required already, but the next step is building trust with an audience and utilizing your skills in new formats.