You Are Better Than You Think

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, it’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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#1 Vyrotek on 05.29.07 at 6:59 pm

Great article. I’ve been quite literally trying to avoid getting sucked into IBM. I hope I have enough “smarts/stubbornness/stupidity” to stick with the projects I have put so much of my time into.

#2 Everett on 05.29.07 at 9:19 pm

One of the SEOs that I worked with at a former company asked me a few months ago how much to charge for SEO services or how much to ask for as a salary. I told him “You’re worth what you think you’re worth”. That isn’t exactly true 100% of the time, but I think it got the point across.

Great post, by the way. I’m always so inspired by your blog entries. Keep it up.

#3 sugarrae on 05.30.07 at 6:24 am

>>>genuine personality

So that’s why I have readers? :P

#4 Adam Ferguson on 05.30.07 at 7:27 am

Good article. I’m kinda struggling with this right now as well. There’s so much to learn and so much competition already, but I’m stickin with it for now.

#5 Cornwall SEO on 05.30.07 at 12:49 pm

I was living on a meaty gravy chain for years until Google dropped it’s pants and took a humongous dump on my head 6 months ago.

It was so bad I had to schlep down to the local chamber of commerce to pick up a bit of SEO consulting work, as someone once said, “sometimes you just have to eat the sh*t sandwich to get what you want”.

But, no more. No more breakfast networking for me, no matter what the quality of the black pudding. I now do what I love. Writing linkbait. Ok so my clients are SEO’s who don’t mind mixing it with the Norms. But at least they speak my language and I don’t have to explain why having your website in frames is a bad thing.

I love the act of creation, it’s not really work. More therapy.

That’s the key for me, find what you love and it all becomes easy. If you are in it just for the money become a divorce lawyer.

Those who excel in the space, love what they do, you can smell it.

I think it’s not only about “how rich?”, but how much do you love it.

#6 blakekr on 05.31.07 at 5:26 pm

Wow, you really tackled on of my bleak little internal landmines. Thanks for that.

#7 David on 06.01.07 at 5:24 am

Thanks… This is a great article. On another note, I think that it’s so cool that you are living your dream.

I plan to put this on our “Who Said That?” feature of our blog today. But I’m not going to SPAM the comment box with our blog name.

#8 durtbagz on 06.04.07 at 1:30 pm

i plan to put this on my blog as well. i am starting my own company and blogging about the issues/dumb stuff/questions i face. i’m stubborn and a part-time idiot so reading something like this is good for someone like me.
(PS durtbagz is the co name. it’s not porn, it’s a bag co)

#9 Andrew on 06.15.07 at 3:56 pm

Awesome article, I especially agree with the part about genuine personality being truly worth something these days because YOU DON’T SEE IT THAT OFTEN:

“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.”

Oh, and I also liked the first sentence concerning disreputability, but personally, I like being disreputable :D


P.S. Oh yeah, check out my site and learn how to make some friggin’ fimo beads or something :P

#10 thebassman on 06.24.07 at 5:50 pm

Thanks for that article. It was the exact motivation I needed right now. I’m in that spot where I’m making enough to live… but that’s it. I want more. All I gotta do is keep on keepin’ on.

Tim L. Walker