Here we are in Episode 48 of The Side Hustle Show, and I’m joined by Jeff Steinmann from HowtoQuitWorking.com (and author of the book by the same name).
Jeff’s a real hustler who left his corporate gig a few years ago to pursue the entrepreneurial path. He’s got a unique perspective on side hustle businesses, including how to bring them to market quickly to minimize your risk and failure rates.
I was originally connected to Jeff through Mike Kawula over at SelfEmployedKing.com — thanks Mike for letting me know about his work!
This is a good one for anyone struggling to get started and find what they can sell.
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- How to identify the unique value you bring to the world.
- How your friends and peers can generate your business ideas for you.
- Where to find people with the specific problem you aim to solve.
- How to clarify exactly who your customers are and what they want.
- The fastest way to “go to market,” get your initial customers, and get feedback.
- How to drive Amazon customers back to your platform or website.
- How to scale up your side hustle to higher values and higher price points.
- Jeff’s #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation.
- How to Quit Working book
- The Side Hustle Show w/ Alex Harris
- My Fiverr Case Study ($920 in 10 Days)
- Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
- 5 ideas that were too simple to work, but did anyway
- HackingPhotography.com | The Side Hustle Show w/ Mike Newton
For more on getting started with Amazon publishing, please check out these related posts.
What do you think of Jeff’s brand of quick launch side hustle entrepreneurship? I think he makes some solid points about maximizing your time, not sweating the traditional “company formation” nonsense, and quickly getting your product to market to validate the idea.
What do people ask you for help about? What would your first product be? Let me know in the comments below.
New! I’m running a little experiment in getting the show transcribed because several people have asked for it. It’s not perfect but should get the point across.
Here you go!
Click here to download the transcript.
Extended Show Notes
Side Hustle Show listener Hannah Rounds put this together — Thank you!
Hannah writes cookbook reviews and provides original recipes at www.cookbookauthority.com. She’s working on turning her 5-9 hustle into a full time reality.
Want lifestyle success? Learn to add value.
Jeff Steinmann is a self-proclaimed lifestyle fanatic from howtoquitworking.com who gives us step by step instructions on leveraging you side hustle to add value in the marketplace and eventually launch out of your job and into the career you love. He’s so passionate about this topic that he wrote the book on it (How to Quit Working). In a recent interview, Steinmann revealed the steps he took to make his Side Hustle dream into a full time reality.
Step 1 (A): Don’t leap off a cliff
A lot of people want to be entrepreneurs (about 60% of Gen Y is planning to quit their day job in the next two years), but learning to add value in the marketplace is anything but easy. Jeff Steinmann admits, “I side hustled way too long”, but his conservative approach is actually what paved the path to his current entrepreneurial success as a real estate investor, coach and lifestyle fanatic.
Steinmann explains that a typical attitude towards entrepeneurship is, “I want to quit working but I have bills to pay. I can’t just quit my job and go jump off a cliff and take on a bunch of risk and invest a bunch of money in a business. Why would I do that? I pick up the newspaper and I see statistics that like 70% of businesses fail in the first five years. Most of them fail in the first year.”
If you fall into this trap of thinking that a blind leap is the only way to start a business then you might never get started. You’ll be paralyzed from fear. In reality, there are all kinds of things that you can do while you were still working but on the side, to get your business off the ground without giving up your paycheck.
According to Steinmann, “You keep going in and keep doing your job and get your paycheck and you do some of these very simple things that you can do to get a business going while you were still working, so you don’t have to take that big risk. You don’t have to be scared; you don’t have to have a lot of money, you don’t have to give up your income. Just get it rolling on the side and then, when it is time, you have a foundation to stand on. You’re actually jumping onto something solid instead of into thin air.”
Step 1 (B): Find something to sell
Now that you’re no longer scared to start, you have to find something to sell.
“Nobody on the planet has ever made a penny without having something to sell.”
One mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they get burned out before they ever get to the market, but Steinmann’s approach to entrepreneurship is much simpler.
He advises, “We make entrepreneurship business so freaking complicated. We start out with, ‘Oh my God, I have to get a website and I have to think about customer service. I have to think about this and that.’ But really, all it is, is identifying what value it is that you bring to the world and then charging people money for that.”
Instead of starting with a website, and developing a customer service model, Steinmann identifies conversations with real people (your mom and your spouse don’t count) about the value is that you bring to the world as the place to start your business.
What you can sell, what value you add starts with one simple question:
What do people ask you to help with?
This can take the form of a few statements/questions, for example:
- I need your help with X.
- Can you tell me what you think about x?
- Can you walk me through x?
When you figure out what X is, that thing is where you start. Because that is where there is already a tide of people coming to you and it is where people are already interested in what you’ve go.
Once you understand X, you just have to make it bigger and start charging money for it.
Step 2: Let the conversation grow
Once you’ve identified your skill, the next thing that you do is you figure out what that thing is and then you open up a larger conversation with it. Since you know that you can add value, you need to find the people who need the value you offer the most.
Ask yourself this question: “Where can I find people that have that problem that could benefit from what I offer?”
Steinmann explains, “There are all kinds of places (to find people who need your help) and it is so easy these days to find people. There is no geographical boundary anymore. In the pre-Internet world, you would really have to largely focus your efforts on your local area, but now the only real very you’re that we face is language.”
Some specific places that you could search for people willing to give feedback are online forums, your existing social media network, blogs, or offline locations (where the conversation is already happening).
Step 3: Listen!
For a lot of would be entrepreneurs, listening is the hardest part. You understand that you can add value, and you’ve got a great idea, so you might be tempted to start building a business right away, but you actually need to understand how your consumers need you to add value to them. This is going to be different for every business.
The important thing about the listening step is that it is forcing you to break away from the “idea mentality.” You probably generated eight great ideas before you had your morning coffee, but it doesn’t mean that the market wanted any of them.
You don’t pick ideas. Start the conversation with people and let them tell you what they want!
You can ask people questions like:
- What is it that you are really struggling with?
- What is it that is giving you a problem in this area?
- What is your absolute biggest pain point?
The goal of these conversations is to find out the really specific problems that people are having around this that the one solved. You are opening up the conversation so that you can pinpoint areas where you can help.
This listening portion is extremely important, because at this point, you might be getting really excited about your idea, but you are still working to understand if you’ve got a valid, marketable idea, and you will know that you have a valid marketable idea when you can solve somebody’s biggest pain, something that hurts really bad.
It’s important to note that large companies (like Chia Pets or Snuggie creators) can actually shift market demand because of their enormous marketing budgets, but for Side Hustlers looking for a way out of job; it has got to be all about the pain points.
Steinmann says it this way, “You do not need an LLC. You do not need a logo. You do not need a website to just go out and talk to people, and that is the step that people tend to miss. And what folks tend to do is they go off into that whole creating a logo and getting their legal advice and all of this kind of stuff that we think is what we do we start a business, but it is actually ahead of having a conversation…(you) do not have any time to waste on anything that is not moving them from where (you) are to where (you) want to be.”
Aside from listening, at this point the only other thing you need to be doing is capturing people’s contact information; you will need it later when you start asking people to pay you for your solutions.
Step 4: Will Somebody Pay me for this?
Now that you’ve started the conversation, and you understand the problems that people solve, you have probably developed a hypothesis for you can solve them. The validity of the hypothesis is proven when somebody gives you money to solve their problem.
Once you’ve gotten to customer number three, you know that the marketplace likes your idea because the first person is probably your mom and the second one might be a fluke, but customer number three proves that the marketplace values your idea.
Although setting up shop is going to look different in every industry, one great way to test the market is by selling a Kindle book.
Steinmann suggests, “Write a quick e-book and to put it up on the Kindle in Amazon. Price it at $.99, because that, really quickly, is going to get your idea in front of a lot of people that will have the potential to buy it. And either somebody is going to buy it or they are not.”
The beauty of a platform like Amazon is that buyers have the opportunity to leave a review. Then you have more feedback, and you can create an even better product.
The feedback is exactly what you are seeking, “(Readers) might tell you that it sucks and it’s the worst e-book we’ve ever read and that’s totally okay. Because it is not failure because we are still in the planning stage and in the learning process, so what there hopefully going to tell you is why they think it sucks. And then, all you have to do is address the issue of why people think it sucks.”
One key to successfully launching your first product is to get momentum with the people that you have already talked to. You can simply send them an email or a Facebook message saying, “Remember that problem we talked about, I wrote an e-book about it, and its only $.99”
A few pointers on writing your e-book in a way that builds your audience:
- Drive readers back to your website by offering them something for free (training series, worksheets, or another exclusive offer)
- Offering something multiple times throughout the book is helpful because it allows you to have multiple hooks.
- Write a description that contains words that people search for (He offers even more tips on this in his free five-day program)
Step 5: The Conversation Never Ends
Once you have started the conversation, and you are guiding people to pay you money for what you’ve got, you have to keep the conversation going. You need to understand what works and what doesn’t work for people.
You are asking questions to understand what do people want more of, what do they want tomorrow?
A paying customer is your most valuable asset because they’ve already “invested” in you. They have already been exposed to you, to spend more money with you.
With each step in the conversation, you can work out the next step of your business. Perhaps it will be more e-books, or maybe a training course. Perhaps it’s a mastermind group or individual coaching. It could even be a physical product, but you won’t know unless you continue the conversation.
The great thing about this process is that with each step in the conversation, you are actually able to add more value, so you can charge more. Your book isn’t going to be $.99 anymore. Maybe it will be a $14.99 book or a $2500 seminar.
As you continue the conversation, you are continuous goal is to build a following, so it’s important to not approach the conversation from a “scarcity mindset.” Being generous with your offers, genuinely caring about the outcome of the people whose problems you are solving is going to help elevate your business.
“Don’t approach your business from a scarcity mindset.”
“The most important principles of business is to be generous and you’ve got to be caring,” Steinmann explains, “I know it sounds very counter intuitive to most businesses that are out there, and it is one of my missions in life to change that. You have to come at it from a generous and caring standpoint, and then people trust you more and like you more. They are more willing to buy more stuff from you. There is that whole fear and misconception that you shouldn’t put your best stuff out there and maybe you should save it or hold it back but that just doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t have any application in the practical world. So don’t hold back with worries about selling yourself short. Come at it from the mindset of wanting to be generous and I just want to help people with this thing, and note how your generosity will ultimately float out of your bottom line.”
Step 6: If you get discouraged, keep going
In reflecting on his path to entrepreneurial success Steinmann said, “I don’t have any regrets.”
“I don’t look at anything as a mistake, just a learning experience.”
He encourages new side hustlers to spend their time, “Talking to people about your idea, real people, not your mom or your sister or your spouse. Talking to real people about your idea and getting their feedback and learning about what is it that they struggle with and why do they struggle with it and getting some sort of a solution in front of them in terms of the low-cost or a free product… Forget about failure. Forget about ever looking at anything as failure. There is no such thing as failure; it is just feedback. And if you put something out there and it is a complete flop, great. You’re one step closer to finding something that works. I know this sounds cliché and I know that everybody says it, but it is just so important to view it that way.”