The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup Book Cover The $100 Startup
Chris Guillebeau
Business & Economics
Three Rivers Press

Smart. Simple. Clear. Concise. No nonsense advice for how to start your side-hustle. Quitting your "real" job and starting a business in your spare bedroom is a fantasy. Once you figure out how you are allocating your time you can then cut the fat and fill those cycles with your side hustle. I like the one page business plan approach. If you can't articulate your value proposition in one page, you need to think about it a LOT more.

Instant Consultant Biz Gary’s business is great, and no one cares that his website looks like it was made ten years ago. He also didn’t wait for someone to accredit or endorse him for his business. There is no “consulting school” or degree. You can start a new business as a consultant in about one day, if not sooner. Follow these two basic rules: 1. Pick something specific as opposed to something general. Don’t be a “business consultant” or a “life coach”—get specific about what you can really do for someone. 2. No one values a $15-an-hour consultant, so do not underprice your service. Since you probably won’t have forty hours of billable work every week, charge at least $100 an hour or a comparable fixed rate for the benefit you provide. OPENING FOR BUSINESS* I will help clients _________. After hiring me, they will receive [core benefit + secondary benefit]. I will charge $xxx per hour or a flat rate of _____ per service.

This rate is fair to the client and to me. My basic website will contain these elements:

The core benefit that I provide for clients and what qualifies me to provide it (remember that qualifications may have nothing to do with education or certifications; Gary is qualified to book vacations with miles because he’s done it for himself many times) b. At least two stories of how others have been helped by the service (if you don’t have paying clients yet, do the work for free with someone you know) c. Pricing details (always be up front about fees; never make potential clients write or call to find out how much something costs) d. How to hire me immediately (this should be very easy) I will find clients through [word-of-mouth, Google, blogging, standing on the street corner, etc.]. I will have my first client on or before ____·[short deadline]. Welcome to consulting! You’re now in business. *You can create, customize, and download your own “Instant Consultant Biz” template at

Reality Check Checklist Questions for You Instead of just during your free time, would you enjoy pursuing your hobby at least twenty hours a week? Do you enjoy teaching others to practice the same hobby? Do you like the ins and outs (all the details) of your hobby? If you had to do a fair amount of administrative work related to your hobby, would you still enjoy it? Questions for the Marketplace Have other people asked for your help? Are enough other people willing to pay to gain or otherwise benefit from your expertise? Are there other businesses serving this market (usually a good thing) but not in the same way you would? Note: Chapter 6 looks at market testing in more detail. If you’re not sure how to answer the marketplace questions, stay tuned.

Most of us like to buy, but we don’t like to be sold. Old-school marketing is based on persuasion; new marketing is based on invitation. With persuasion marketing, you’re trying to convince people of something, whether it’s the need for your service in general or why your particular offering is better than the competition’s.

Find out what people want and find a way to give it to them. As you build a tribe of committed fans and loyal customers, they’ll eagerly await your new offers, ready to pounce as soon as they go live. This way isn’t just new; it’s also better.

A better method is to ask if they’d be willing to pay for what you’re selling. This separates merely “liking” something from actually paying for it. Questions like these are good starting points: • What is your biggest problem with ______? • What is the number one question you have about ______? • What can I do to help you with ________? Fill in the blanks with the specific topic, niche, or industry you’re researching: “What is your biggest problem with getting things done?” or “What is the number one question you have about online dating?”

First of all, keep in mind the most basic questions of any successful microbusiness: • Does the project produce an obvious product or service? • Do you know people who will want to buy it? (Or do you know where to find them?) • Do you have a way to get paid? Those questions form a simple baseline evaluation. If you don’t have a clear yes on one of them, go back to the drawing board.

Always think in terms of solutions. Make sure your solution is different and better. (Note that it doesn’t need to be cheaper—competing on price is usually a losing proposition.) Is the market frustrated with the current solution? Being different isn’t enough; differentiation that makes you better is what’s required. There’s no point in introducing something if the market is already satisfied with the Solution—your solution must be different or better. It’s significance, not size, that matters.

The 140-Character Mission Statement Let’s break down the planning process into a very simple exercise: defining the mission statement for your business (or your business idea) in 140 characters or less. That is the maximum amount of text for an update on Twitter and a good natural limit for narrowing down a concept. It may help to think of the first two characteristics of any business: a product or service and the group of people who pay for it. Put the two together and you’ve got a mission statement: We provide [product or service] for [customers]. As described in Chapter 2, it’s usually better to highlight a core benefit of your business instead of a descriptive feature. Accordingly, you can revise the statement a bit to read like this: We help [customers] do/achieve/other verb [primary benefit].

The additional purpose of a FAQ is to provide reassurance to potential buyers and overcome objections. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the main objections your buyers will have when considering your offer and carefully respond to them in advance.

John Morefield, an unemployed architect during a time when jobs were scarce, set up shop in a Seattle farmer’s market with a sign that read “5-Cent Architecture Advice.” In exchange for a nickel, he would give advice on any problem that homeowners, real estate agents, or anyone else brought to him. The 5-cent advice was effectively a lead-generation program that might lead to additional business, but John legitimately and genuinely offered professional advice without the expectation of more than a nickel. As news spread of the 5-cent architect, John got free advertising from CNN, NPR, the BBC, and numerous other media outlets. Because of the attention—and new clients who came in through the farmer’s market—John is now a successful self-employed architect, a key distinction from his peers who are still trying to get hired at firms.

As things get busy, evaluate your options according to the “hell yeah” test. When you’re presented with an opportunity, don’t just think about its merits or how busy you are. Instead, think about how it makes you feel. If you feel only so-so about it, turn it down and move on. But if the opportunity would be exciting and meaningful—so much so that you can say “hell yeah” when you think about it—find a way to say yes.

“People are often inclined to think that distributing work to a few others is what partnership is about,” Ralf continued. “But that is just subcontracting. True partnership must create more than just a divided list of tasks.”

The $100 Recap Before we close it out, let’s look back at the key lessons of this book. First and most important, the quest for personal freedom lies in the pursuit of value for others. Get this right from the beginning and the rest will be much easier. Always ask, “How can I help people more?” Borrowing money to start a business, or going into debt at all, is now completely optional. Like many of the people you met in this book, you can start your own microbusiness for $100 or less. Focus relentlessly on the point of convergence between what you love to do and what other people are willing to pay for. Remember that most core needs are emotional: We want to be loved and affirmed. Relate your product or service to attractive benefits, not boring features. If you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else. Use the process of skill transformation to think about all the things you’re good at, not just the obvious ones. Find out what people want, and find a way to give it to them. Give them the fish! There is no consulting school. You can set up shop and charge for specialized help immediately. (Just remember to offer something specific and provide an easy way to get paid.)

Some business models are easier than others to start on a budget. Unless you have a compelling reason to do something different, think about how you can participate in the knowledge economy. Action beats planning. Use the One-Page Business Plan and other quick-start guides to get under way without waiting. Crafting an offer, hustling, and producing a launch event will generate much greater results than simply releasing your product or service to the world with no fanfare. The first $1.26 is the hardest, so find a way to get your first sale as quickly as possible. Then work on improving the things that are working, while ignoring the things that aren’t. By “franchising yourself” through partnerships, outsourcing, or creating a different business, you can be in more than one place at the same time. Decide for yourself what kind of business you’d like to build. There’s nothing wrong with deliberately staying small (many of the subjects of our stories did exactly that) or scaling up in the right way. It only gets better as you go along.