Developing Entrepreneurial Skills and Creating a Second Source of Income

Last month I began a project designed to develop new skills relating to entrepreneurship and create a second source of income. I introduced the project in my previous article James Altucher, Financial Freedom, and a Side Hustle.

The present post is a progress report after month one.

The Past Month

One of the ways I planned to develop entrepreneurial skills and create a new income stream was to start a side hustle. After one month, I’m finding the biggest challenge to creating a side hustle to be getting stuck in the idea generation phase of what my side hustle will be, and therefore getting held up from executing on an idea and gaining real world experience.

Nevertheless, as I continue to deal with the above challenge, over the past month I’ve progressed in developing clarity, learning, generating ideas, networking, developing skills, and earning a few dollars outside my day job.

Over the past month I did the following:

  • Attended the Social Innovation Challenge at Memorial University and gave a business pitch to a group of entrepreneurs. To be honest, the pitch did NOT go the greatest, due to a mix of nerves, lack of experience, and lack of prep time. However, it was rewarding to get practice giving a pitch and to have the opportunity to start connecting with members of my local community. It was a terrific opportunity to get advice from experienced entrepreneurs on how to give an effective pitch. One of the many takeaways for me after getting feedback on my pitch was that in addition to focusing on how many people my business would be able to help, I also need to put more effort into outlining why this would be a profitable business to invest in!
  • Set up and attended a meeting at Memorial University’s Entrepreneurship Centre. One key takeaway from this meeting was the importance of developing the ability to notice real world problems and learning to ask myself “is this a big enough problem that people are willing to pay to solve it”.
  • Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. My biggest takeaway from this book was that for starting a side hustle I should be more focused on learning as quickly as possible what customers want and less focused on doing excessive planning. As Eric describes, the goal is to learn quickly by accelerating through the feedback loop of a) turning ideas into products, b) measuring how customers respond, and c) learning whether to stay on course or change course. Through this process, any effort that is not absolutely necessary to learn what customers want should be eliminated.
“In The Lean Startup, the goal is not to produce more stuff efficiently. It is to as quickly as possible learn how to build a sustainable business.”
-Eric Ries
Cover of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Read James Altucher’s How To Make $2000 In a Weekend report and The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth book. A couple key takeaways from this reading were: a) Desire more success for others than for yourself (e.g. introduce people to others who can provide value for them; introduce people to ideas without any expectation of receiving something back); b) Everyone is an entrepreneur. The only skills you need to be an entrepreneur are an ability to fail, an ability to have ideas and to sell those ideas, the courage to execute on those ideas, and to be persistent so even as you fail you learn and move on to the next adventure; c) How do I pick the right business idea? By executing on as many as possible. The right idea will pick you.
  • Wrote and published a blog post titled James Altucher, Financial Freedom, and a Side Hustle. Like every blog post I’ve ever written, I found the process of writing this post last month to be invaluable for developing clarity on the current project, and it gave me the opportunity to form new connections with several people I met through the post.
  • Attended New York Real’s video call for Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher. This gave me the opportunity to discuss concepts relating to creating income streams, gain experience doing video calls, connect with new people, and get a lot of new insights on how to create infographics from Pamela Sisson (the designer of the attention-grabbing book cover shown in the image below!). It is my hope that learning how to create infographics will be valuable for promoting my blog and my future side hustle. A few highlights from the discussion with Pamela on creating infographics that I found to be particularly helpful were to a) put an especially large focus on coming up with a good title and subtitle and making the infographic clean and easy to read, b) use Adobe Illustrator (which I had never even heard of before), c) find a popular article and create an infographic based on that, d) check out resources with incredible infographics for inspiration, such as Information Is Beautiful (an amazing site!), and e) check out Noun Project for nearly a million icons available for infographics (I was able to find an icon on this site for every single topic I searched for!). For more from Pamela on infographics, check out this video of our chat — James Altucher Book Cover Designer Pamela Sisson Talks Infographics.
New York Real Video Chat (image created by Olive Hui)
  • Got affiliate marketing accounts set up on Amazon and updated an old article of mine to include those affiliate links. I haven’t earned any money off affiliate marking yet, but did get more clicks on my affiliate links than expected. I still have mixed feelings about using affiliate marking links in my articles because I feel like it might water down the articles (e.g. by encouraging me to plan my articles around how to get affiliate links included in the articles). For the present article I addressed this issue by only considering use of affiliate links at the end once the entire article was already written. Scanning the article before publishing it, I decided I could add several affiliate links throughout the article without changing the content of the article in any way.
  • Participated in an online research study with Simon Fraser University and received $30 Amazon gift card. I found it rewarding to be a participant in this study on social interactions and well being, and it made me think that participating in more research studies may be an interesting option for generating a few extra dollars outside my day job. I purchased the Tao Te Ching with part of this gift card yesterday, and it was pretty cool to feel like I was getting the book for free!
  • Submitted application for AdSense to use for my blog. My application got rejected, but I think I’ve identified the issue (too many images, not enough text in my most recent posts) so should be able to get it approved now. However, I’m skeptical that using AdSense will lead to creation of any significant amount of income, so this hasn’t been a high priority.
  • Have done a daily exercise involving writing down three problems I notice each day while going about my daily life. This exercise is designed to get me into the habit of noticing problems, which I can potentially create a business to solve. I’ve began reflecting on this list, asking myself questions such as “which of these problems would I actually pay someone to fix for me?”.

Reflecting On Important Questions

I reflected on some key questions throughout the month, and then went on to identify new questions to think about in the upcoming month:

What Skills Do I Want To Improve At?

  • Communication skills including pitches, presentations, making a good first impression, and effectively conveying warmth and confidence
  • Writing of blogs and ebooks
  • Facebook advertising of blog posts and products/services, and a better understanding of how the Facebook algorithm functions
  • Graphic design and creating infographics
  • Sales
  • Website development and design
  • Other: Creating higher quality and more compelling video logs, 3D video creation and video animation, voiceovers, creating online courses, copywriting

What Are Some Potential Next Action Steps?

  • Courses and skill building projects — Take a single course on Lynda and do an associated project with the course (as I am doing for infographics — completing a course on Lynda and then designing my own infographic to implement what I’ve learned)
  • Networking — Set up one meeting with an entrepreneur in town. Make a list of ten people I can reach out to to start a side hustle together. Find an entrepreneurship group in town and join the group. Talk to five people I know about how we could work together on a project.
  • Taking action on a side hustle — Select even a moderately good business idea and begin to implement it to gain experience.
  • Facebook marketing — Start a campaign to get blog subscribers or run an ad on a product or service to determine interest. Do A/B testing to start getting a sense of what ads are effective on Facebook.
  • AdWords —Spend $5 per day on Google AdWords to start learning how it works.
  • Start an email list.
  • Blog monetization — Do more research on how to monetize blogs, including learning more about how AdSense and affiliate marketing works. Republish existing articles with affiliate links.
  • Write a book — Do James Altucher’s 30 day book writing challenge. Write 1000 words a day for a month to create a book on a random topic and put it on Amazon.
  • Online Sales — Post three items for sale on Kijiji or Ebay.
  • Identify products I’m passionate about — Find five products or services I’m passionate about that make a positive impact and contact companies that sell them to see how I can get involved.
  • Kit — Develop kits on and start promoting them.
  • Online learning — Identify three online entrepreneurship courses/programs that look helpful.
  • Vlogs Start posting weekly video logs on YouTube that track my progress and give me the opportunity to develop my communication skills.
  • Medium — Research top influencers on Medium and contact for guest post.

What Are My Top Goals For The Upcoming Month?

This month my most clearly defined goals all relate to developing some of the skills mentioned above:

  • Publish two more blog articles on Medium: One article summarizing my status learning about entrepreneurship and creating sources of income (the present article), and one article relating to either running a Facebook ads campaign, creating infographics, or the process of connecting with major Medium influencers who have 50,000 or more followers
  • Following up on our New York Real video chat, I will learn how to use Adobe Illustrator and complete an infographic based on James Altucher’s blog post A List Of 30 Day Challenges You Can Start Today.
  • Complete ten video logs, each a minimum of one minute long, to continue improving at clearly communicating my views.

I will also continue to focus on overcoming the challenge I mentioned at the start of this article relating to creating a side hustle — being stuck in the idea generation phase of what my side hustle will be and therefore getting held up from executing on an idea and gaining real world experience.

What Are Some Ways I Could Make Money This Month?

  • Sell my stuff on Kijiji or Ebay
  • Rent out my apartment on Airbnb
  • Affiliate marketing on my blog (republish existing articles with affiliate links, publish new articles)
  • Submit new application for AdSense
  • Join another online research study
  • Get part time service job (e.g. Tim Hortons) that will give me the opportunity to both make some extra money and develop communication skills at the same time
  • Write article for the local paper
  • Teach a class or offer a service locally or online (e.g. meditation class, thesis writing support, environmental consulting, fitness class, blogging, programming, nutrition class)
  • Create video logs and try to make advertising money on YouTube
  • Do landscaping work
  • Grow and sell vegetables to increase local food security (ok, maybe this would take slightly longer than a month to earn income from!)
  • Freelancer — Go to Freelancer’s website and get a freelance job and/or get a product designed for me that I can sell

If I Had To Start A Business This Month, What Would My Top Choices Be?

  • Environment — environmental consulting company/ renewable energy sales or installations (wind, solar)/ electric vehicle sales / environmental advocacy (e.g. elimination of plastic bags)
  • Health and Wellness — meditation center/ offer meditation sessions to businesses around the city to increase productivity of their employees/ floatation center/ health and wellness center/ fitness and nutrition training
  • Other — eBay store, start local car share service, computer programming services, blogging business, non-profit effective altruism charity, virtual reality center (e.g. video games), an online and in person community for like minded individuals who want to take themselves and their lives to the next level, create a “Gratitude Newfoundland” daily blog and monthly magazine that highlights one reason each day to be grateful for living in Newfoundland (e.g. the selfless acts of a particular individual), start podcast for people of Newfoundland

What Problems Would I Pay To Get Solved?

For the past month I’ve done a daily exercise of identifying three problems per day that I notice as I go about my daily life.

Reviewing the list, I asked myself “Which of these problems would I be willing to pay to get solved?” I found asking this question allowed me to exclude a lot of problems that I had previously thought were big problems but that in fact I would not pay to solve. Asking this question was a good first step in determining what a business idea might be.

Moving forward I will continue identifying three problems per day, will start generating ideas to solve these problems, and will interact with potential customers to learn about the problems they encounter.

The problems I’d be willing to pay to solve:

  • Grogginess every morning
  • A huge lack of clarity on how to execute on a business idea (would pay for a painfully in depth roadmap outlining the whole process)
  • Lack of fitness classes that fit into my schedule (nothing available later in days)
  • Lack of interactions, socializing, and social events while at work
  • Unclear about how to most effectively utilize Facebook to both connect with people and get my posts seen (e.g. I don’t understand how the algorithm works)
  • Wasting time and energy submitting online job applications that may never even be read
  • Coffee travel mugs always start leaking after a month of use and cause a mess and annoyance(!)
  • No real world communication skills training workshops locally
  • Impossible to find clothes that I like and fit, too much effort to go out shopping in busy mall, and don’t know what is in style (would pay for a stylist who picks out clothes for me and brings them all to my house)

Identifying More Key Questions To Reflect On

Throughout the past month I identified additional important questions to reflect on moving forward. Most of the questions are from The Lean Startup, and relate to starting a side hustle:

  • What projects can I do that even if they are a ‘failure’ (e.g. I don’t earn any money) they will still be valuable for skill development and learning?
  • What do customers want (what they really want, not say they want or I think they want)?
  • What is my vision?
  • What is my strategy to achieve that vision?
  • What core metrics should I focus on?
  • What A/B testing can I do (e.g. websites, ads, product differences)?
  • What are my hypotheses? How can I test them?
  • What are some short term experiments I could run to learn new things?
  • What assumptions am I making that I could test
  • What is my minimum viable product?
  • How can I get in contact with potential customers?
  • How do I determine whether or not a problem I identify is worth solving?

Moving Forward

Over the past month I’ve developed my skills in pitching business ideas, communicating, writing, and creating infographics. I have done some networking by attending events, and have learned new business concepts through reading several books. I earned $30 outside my day job by participating in a fun online study, but beyond that have not yet had success in generating a second source of income, although I’ve taken measures that may pay off in the future such as registering for the Amazon affiliate program.

Moving forward, I will continue focusing on building new skills, especially in writing, creative design, communication, and sales. I will work to overcome my biggest challenge to date of getting stuck in idea generation mode, and move on to actually executing on an idea for a side hustle.

If you would be interested in teaming up with me on a project, I’d love to hear from you!