51 Alternatives: Painting Numbers on Curbs

Aside from my normal job stuff, this is the first entrepreneurial test I did. I bought a curb painting kit, which included number and design templates, and lots of spray paint. I got a permit to go door-to-door, and took some kids with me to practice.

It was pretty cool to get the business we got. I think we painted about 30 curbs, although I don’t remember.  At one point we were making between $40 and $60 an hour.  It was fun with my kids, it was fun to meet neighbors, it was fun making some easy money, and it’s still fun to drive by the curbs I painted and see how good they look.

It wasn’t all peaches, though.  One night we went out and got no sales.  That sucked.

One time I was painting a curb and the sprinklers came on, so I couldn’t finish just then.

Another time I was painting and the neighbor’s sprinklers came on, which also caused a problem.

My kids got bored after a while, and they stopped wanting to go out (even though they were making money).

After a while I got busy with family responsibilities, and I had some business stuff to take care of with my day job, and I kind of put up the tools.

But heck, $40 – $60 an hour… that’s good money!

In the comments on this page you can see someone said they made 80k a year painting curbs!  Crazy!

Why Small Businesses Fail, Hurt and Suffer

This morning I was talking to a career professional (solopreneur) who asked me how others in the industry are doing in this economy.  You would think a sour economy and lots of layoffs and unemployment would be good for their business, but that’s not necessarily true.  People are tighter with their money, more cautious on their purchases, and more inclined to DIY.

I shared two observations I’ve had over the years as I’ve seen small businesses start, thrive, fail, stumble along, etc.  There are two things I consistently see with this type of industry, but it could very well apply to your business or your industry.

First, too many solorpreneurs underprice their services. One of my favorite comments after an industry conference is “I’m going to raise my prices!”  I don’t hear “I’m going to gouge my customers!”  What I hear is “I’ve been undervaluing what I bring to the table, charging wrong, and I now see that I can and should fix it.”

I think the biggest problem is people charge for an outcome based on the number of hours it will take to deliver it. They are in an “hourly” billing mode, without regard to the VALUE of the outcome.  Don’t get stuck in an hourly billing mode… think about your VALUE.

Second, many solopreneurs don’t understand how to get new clients, and keep a healthy pipeline. Really busy right now with clients?  What if it all dries up, and your prospects all say no?  Keep a pipeline full… be creative, get in front of your prospects, help evangelists talk about your stuff.

No one is every so busy that they can afford to stop marketing.  Maybe they change their marketing techniques, or they put in systems to manage high demand, but don’t stop marketing. Ever.

Think about it… does this apply to your business?

51 is the new 101

When I announced this book I was so excited to announce it as 101 Alternatives to a Real Job.

As the project evolved I realized I couldn’t do 101 for this book.  It would have made it way too big.  I needed to modify it.

My pride got in the way and I chewed on the change for a few weeks until I finally realized I could change it to 51 Alternatives.  No one would really know or care, and the value would not necessarily change.

Changing it from 101 Alternatives to 51 meant I could spend more time and offer more information in the Alternatives I wrote about.  I could have more interviews and input from others, and have that be more common, rather than have those types of quotes in just a few Alternatives.

I came to the conclusion that the quotes and input from others would really be the meat of the book.  As a reader I think I would be more interested in what other people said, rather than what the author said.

So I looked for quotes from people who are actually doing it.  Not only did that make this book a much bigger project, it added a lot more content.

There you go.  That’s my rationalization for paring it down to 51 Alternatives.  Who knows, maybe there will be a 51 More Alternatives book out later.