Last week I had the opportunity to join John Lee Dumas on Entrepreneur on Fire, a top business podcast. It was a ton of fun!
At the end of every show, he asks guests this question:
“Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one.
You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars.
What would you do in the next 7 days?”
After more than 900 episodes, I consider this John’s “signature” question. This is what I told him:
I think the food and shelter taken care of is part of this question that a lot of people overlook — I mean with just that I’m already better off than a large percentage of the population, and that in itself affords a lot of freedom — I’m already looking at climbing Maslow’s pyramid.
If you recall the Hierarchy of Needs from Marketing 101, the next tiers on the hierarchy are relationships, esteem/achievement, and creativity — working toward something with purpose with people you care about.
So here’s what I might do. Put the shelter up on Airbnb. Boom — All of a sudden I’m making money AND meeting new friends from all over the world. Two birds, one stone.
In the meantime, I’m re-joining and re-engaging all my existing social networks and groups both online and locally because I can trace nearly every big win of mine on the old earth to relationships, and here I’m starting from scratch.
Next I’m asking what I can create that has value? Remember, I still have all my existing experience and knowledge so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to re-create some of the value I already have.
If my cush food and shelter set-up is expiring and I need to ring the cash register, I’ll hustle and sell some freelance service like writing or editing or marketing. I’d get clients by giving free samples of my work to my growing 1st and 2nd degree network.
If I’m not pressed for cash I’d love to re-create what I’m building at Side Hustle Nation because I believe in the mission. Of course it sucks to start from scratch and it’ll take some time but it’ll probably be faster the 2nd time around.
That plan puts me on a path to re-climb Maslow’s pyramid with relationships, esteem/achievement, and creativity.
And credit where credit is due — the Airbnb thing was actually Bryn’s suggestion!
Naturally, there are some common threads in the answers, including the elements I touched on of networking, selling some service, or re-creating what you had on the “old” earth.
But since Side Hustle Nation is a creative bunch, I posed the question to in my email newsletter:
What would you do?
And with a free Side Hustle Strategy session on the line for my favorite response, here’s what I got back. Jon was the winner, so he’ll lead us off.
(If you have a killer answer for the $500 question, be sure to add it in the comments below!)
Side Hustle Nation Answers “the $500 Question”
Jon Subacz | MyLocalNinja.com
With $500, a laptop, and the next 7 days, I would do the following:
Day 1: On Day 1, I would:
- Purchase a domain name (~$5 from GoDaddy with coupon maybe less!)
- Setup WordPress hosting ($15/mo at Flywheel) and install WordPress.
The rest of the first day would be used to complete the setup of the website and a create a compelling offer.
I’d create a productized service and set 3 price points, anchoring the mid-level package at a price that I could “live with” per sale. The low package would be priced really low that was just too good to pass up, to hook potential customers that are still on the fence.
Day 1 would come to an end with a finished website, a business model with pricing, some simple copy, and a compelling call to action. Total spent, $120.
Nick’s Notes: here’s a step-by-step case study on how to set up a great-looking website for your service business.
Day 2: I would start Day 2 by testing the website and making sure that everything setup on Day 1 works, including the shopping cart and checkout process.
I would then prepare a series of checklists and simple documents outlining how to perform the services offered in each package. Nothing too detailed as everything will likely change once we get customer feedback.
The remainder of Day 2 would be spent researching blogs, social media sites, and complementary services to develop a list to reach out to for exposure on Day 3. This would take up the rest of Day 2. Total spent, $120.
Day 3: On Day 3, I would start the process of marketing the website and getting information out there. Since my service products are focused on a specific niche, I would reach to the list I developed on Day 2 and try to gain exposure for my new services.
I would offer referral opportunities to influencers within my niche and finish the first half of the day by sending emails to everyone on the list.
During the second half of the day, I would seek out a few customers that were willing to try my services for free in exchange for feedback and a testimonial.
The services I envision could be performed or started within a short time period. This would end Day 3. Total spent, $120.
Day 4: After working hard for 3 days, I would use Day 4 to test the service on new customers and continue to gain feedback.
I would invest $200 in a split between Google Adwords and a Facebook Ad campaign. Each campaign would be closely monitored for conversion rates and adjusted as needed. Any new customers would be responded to immediately to build additional “brand ambassadors” and positive word-of-mouth referrals.
I would spend any remaining time on Day 4 cold calling and emailing potential customers. Total spent, $320.
Day 5 – 7: On these days, I would basically rinse and repeat Day 4. After onboarding and delivering any new work, I would implement the lessons learned back into the business procedures, checklists, and ads.
Any profit would be invested into running more ads. I would determine customer acquisition costs and ROI on ad spend to developing a marketing plan going forward and how to best scale the service.
If needed, I’d start developing a process to bring on additional part-time staff to help deliver the services.
That’s how I would spend the $500 and 7 days to build a business. The business would be in a niche that I am already familiar with and therefore would greatly reduce the effort and time spent on researching side hustle ideas and potential market opportunities.
Matthew Allen | DumbPassiveIncome.com
Since my food and shelter is taken care of – I guess I would have to visit a thrift store or something and get some clothes with a little bit of the $500 so I wouldn’t have to walk around naked!
Since I know how to build WordPress sites and have some SEO knowledge and experience – the fastest way for me to start making some money with my laptop would be to do client work for others.
In the next 7 days, I would find local businesses who either need brand new websites or need website redesigns. I would sell them on my ability to rank their sites in the search engines and get more traffic to their sites, which in turn will bring them more business.
I would do the first few sites for free – just to build up my portfolio. I would use more of the $500 to buy some of my favorite Internet marketing tools (like Long Tail Pro) and some premium WordPress themes.
After I have those first few sites under my belt as proof – making money from there on out will be easy. Just show other local businesses what I’ve done and offer to do the same for them.
Shane | SideProjectProfit.com
At first I started thinking about creating a product, paying for hosting, setting up a website, and going down that route, and then I realized no matter what I create, 7 days and $500 is too limited to get any sort of traffic/marketing/SEO exposure at all.
I realized the most important thing I’d need to do is connect with like-minded people that can get me hooked up with something that can bring me income.
I’d spend the next 5 days taking 5 people out to lunch (assuming $100 is enough to pay for lunch and cab fare). I’d start with a random stranger, get to know them, and ask them if they knew anyone else similar to me. Then I’d take that next person out to lunch. Rinse and repeat til day 5.
At the end of day 5 I should have connected with a couple people that can utilize my skill set in exchange for income.
Christopher Norris | CopyGhosting.com
1. Find out what people know. Find out what the best search engine is in the world, and start searching the web
2. Find out what I know that other people don’t. Make a list of my strengths, skills and experience and find out via the web if I can monetise them. Seek out the competition and look for business niches.
3. Work out what I can offer clients. Write a business plan, starting with the “personality” of how I want to present myself to the world. Research price points and profit margins.
4. Build a website. Present the personality of my business offer to the world, as well as how my skills and experience can help clients increase their profits.
5. Research networks, get registered and introduce myself. Find out the equivalents of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram – and start networking.
6. Focus on key targets. RIMPS: Research, Introduce, Meet, Pitch, Sell — then repeat, with other key targets.
7. Listen, learn and implement. Measure result and level of client satisfaction. Take on feedback from clients and analytics, and act on comments, both positive and negative. Change the business offer to accentuate the positive. Repeat steps 1 to 7.
Patrick McCoy | HybridComputerServices.
I would take that $500 and buy coffee and donuts for as many businesses as possible and soft sell my skills or idea.
I firmly believe in the law of reciprocity.
I have no doubt that someone in from that $500 would be happy to purchase my skills or idea for an upcoming project.
Gabriel Neuman | GabrielNeuman.com
The first thing I will do is to find a free computer with Internet I can use. After I find that I will go to a pawn shop and sell the laptop, which will give me another $700 to bring my total to $1,300.
I will go to a charity to help them get more donations and retain their actual donors. That will give me access to a list of people who donate to this charity.
I will create an ad campaign with $100 to retarget these donors thanking them for their support with some sentimental image related to the charity cause.
Next, I will ask the CEO if I can get in touch with the donors so I can promote my lead generation service for their companies, with the promise to automatically donate 10% of my earnings to the charity.
I will continue working half time for the charity, helping them find new donors and retaining existing ones.
Shawn Griffith | DownHomeThoughts.com
I would keep creating content to give away to pull in subscribers to my email list. Building the list is a key part of my strategy before I complete my book.
The $500 would be used as investment capital in my book about character. I’d spend it on items needing professional attention like cover design, editing, and internal layout for e-publishing and print-on-demand.
With the rest, maybe spend a little on Twitter and Facebook targeted advertisements.
Jessica Burde | JessicaBurde.com
I’d use the $500 to:
- Join the local Chamber of Commerce.
- Set up a website advertising my services as a freelance writer and online marketing consultant.
- Get a nice suit.
- Put together and send out an introductory mailer to the local chamber members with free info and tools on online marketing for local businesses.
- Hit at least one chamber event in the first seven days.
In addition (stuff that wouldn’t cost money), I’d read up on the local businesses and economy, identify a half dozen possible clients and send out query letters, get out at least one press release, find one local non-profit that I’d want to support and volunteer my services in return for sponsor status for the non-profit, and find one local radio show that covered local business to offer an on-air interview about the recent changes in local marketing.
Jarrod Dumas | Perception Writing Solutions
With the laptop, assuming it is the same world, I would recreate my Fiverr profile, my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and my Perception Writing Solutions business website.
Then, I would set about moving through the local community where I live, speaking with small business owners about the needs of their companies. Whenever someone voiced a need for freelance writing services, I would offer to do one 60-minute job for them free of charge.
I would use the $500 to purchase any materials I would need to complete these jobs, including paper and pen. When my customer received their product, and couldn’t say enough about how amazing it was, I would give them a small piece of paper with my contact information and let them know that the next job was only $5.
Within a few weeks, I would have enough money to begin traveling to nearby communities, offering assistance to other small business owners. Within a few months, I would be able to reach thousands of people, both in person and online, to help them grow their own small businesses.
What do you bet I couldn’t actually make a real difference in peoples’ lives, helping them earn a living to travel to cities they’ve never seen or put their child through school?
Lucky for me, I am able to do these things already in the world I live in today.
David Long | MyEmployees.com
If I was put in that position, I would definitely contact “Sneezers” (influencers) in a particular market I was after, and try to get either an endorsement deal or create a joint venture between us.
That way I would gain access to the prospects I need to reach to create sales and build my business.
I’d go with the Bryan Harris route:
Search for a “how to” article, learn the tactic, and write to somebody who has shared that article online.
Tell them that you also have read the post and offer to do what the article is about.
Cash in about $1000 and then start a blog about how I did $1000 in 2-3 days, and keep writing about your life in business.
Next, write an exact guide in ebook format about making $1000 in 2-3 days and start collecting emails with it.
Finally, I’d spend $10 on some nice ebook and take a moment off for reading.
I would get into affiliate marketing. I would go to a site like OfferVault and identify a keyword that I believe I could rank for – and one that would yield me a return on investment, one that could offer me a decent 3 or 4 figure passive income on a month to month basis.
With $500, I think this avenue, given the passive income it can generate, would be worth the risks involved.
I know HTML and CSS and basics of how SEO works – ie, backlinks from high authority, niche-relevant domains improve a money site’s rankings.
How would YOU answer the “$500 question”?
Leave your response below to help build on these great suggestions and help inspire other side hustlers and aspiring entrepreneurs. I’d love to see us get an awesome thread going here, so fire away!
What would you do?
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