This quote got me thinking:
Every entrepreneur feels vaguely disreputable. Maybe you drive a crappy car. Maybe you never went to prom. There are enough stuffed suits in this world to fill fifteen Wall Street Journals a day. As anyone who watches American Idol will tell you, what this spun-out, over-hyped world is absolutely famished for is a little genuine personality. And, outside of your technology, itâ€™s probably the only thing you have. So stop trying to be like IBM and just be yourself.
Those words really rang true. When you are first starting out as a designer, webmaster, entrepreneur, blogger, or SEO, the “industry” can seem daunting. Why would anyone take you seriously when there are hundreds of better designers, better entrepreneurs, or better SEOs out there whose names have been around for five years and who have shiny websites, portfolios and published articles to back them up?
Let me put it this way, for those of you who do client work under their own name or brand, you know that it can be humbling very quickly doing business with a Fortune 500 company. They send you a 20 page contract and a non-disclosure agreement, and demand to pay you under net-60 terms. You’re just Andy Hagans the Link Builder (or Lady Lou the Logo Designer), and they are Gigantic Prestigious Public Corporation, Inc.; who are you to argue?
My younger brother is trying to learn SEO. He sometimes seems daunted by how much there is to learn, and how much work goes into it all. He admits that he has a hard time committing because he is afraid of failure. I try to explain: this is a marathon, not a race. You’re going to be here a while, and you won’t be rich right away, but you will get there eventually. Settle in, get to work and try to have some fun on the way!
I think as an SEO or webmaster, the largest hurdle you’ll ever face is getting from $0 to $100 in profit every month. That represents doing something entrepreneurial and taking initiative, which is further than 95% of your “normal” friends will ever get. It seems to me that the initial $100 / month is harder to attain than it is to get from $100 to a few thousand per month, which is enough to live off of (though this is probably the second biggest hurdle you’ll ever face). If you can reach that point relatively early in your career and have the smarts/stubbornness/stupidity to stick with it, chances are, you’re going to be rich. The only question is, how rich?
As entrepreneurs, a lot of things are out to screw us. We don’t get a tax deduction for our health insurance, like our “normally employed” brethren do in a roundabout way. We work longer hours. We have to deal with lawyers and stupid tax forms. We have more stress. It only takes a single bout of bad luck (illness, injury, family problem, lawsuit, search engine penalty, changing external environment), and the whole thing goes bye-bye, Return to go and do not collect $200. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have self-selected yourself as having more guts or greed than the average human. Either one can get you through.
Back to that Fortune 500 company which sent me a 20 page contract, a non-disclosure agreement, and demanded to pay on net-60 terms. At that point, my business had gotten slightly off the ground, and I wasn’t exactly starving (well, if you’ve seen me, you know that I’m never starving, but I mean starving for cash ), so I asked myself, do I really want to deal with this horsesh*t? The answer was no. I replied to them: I don’t sign contracts (I know, that’s ghetto, but I didn’t want to pay for a lawyer to review it considering it was a smaller project), and I required payment upfront. I figured they would blow me off, but their response was, OK, where do we send the payment? It amazed me, but it shouldn’t have. I performed a niche service that they couldn’t do themselves, and thus I had something that they wanted. I had leverage.
So what is the lesson here? If you look at the Web as a sort of ecosystem, I think many of the nodes (and people) in the system hold a lot more value in their position than they know. As the environment evolves in the future, many of them will learn how to better unlock and monetize that value. The winners are those who decide to be players in the first place.
If you take yourself seriously, other people will. You are a CEO, and you are better than you think.
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