There are some people who can sell you sand in a desert. I’m not one of those people.
I’m not a natural entrepreneur. I did not set up lemonade stands on summer days as a kid, and I did not sell anything until I hit college.
My dad held the same government job until his retirement.
The fundamentals of business that come so easily to so many entrepreneurs took me months and years to grasp.
Unsurprisingly, I believed a lot of myths about starting a business. These myths kept me from taking the plunge sooner.
Today, I want to dispel some of these myths.
Myth #1: You need to be business smart to start
In undergrad, I studied English. Then, because I love being unemployed, I followed that up with a Master’s, also in English.
So when I say I don’t have any business skills, I’m really not kidding around. I can analyze a Shakespeare sonnet, but hand me a business plan and I’ll look dazed and confused.
This is important to remember. Entrepreneurs, like writers, do a lot of myth-making.
There is a pervasive myth that you need to be some sort of entrepreneurial genius to start a business or have an MBA and years of business experience.
The truth: anyone can start a business. Anyone!
To create and transact is as fundamentally human as sketching stick figures on a cave wall or falling in love.
Most of the knowledge you need to start a business is easy to acquire. Much of it can be learned on the job.
I’m not saying that an MBA or years of experience won’t help. They will, But the average person reading this doesn’t need them, at least not at the start.
Business experience is good to have, not a need to have.
Learn to identify between the two. It’ll save you a world of trouble later.
“If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the right thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.” – Robert Kiyosaki
Myth #2: You need a flashy website, office, or business card
No, no you don’t. I got my first two clients without a website.
I straight up emailed them. Something like, “Hey, you don’t know me, but your blog sucks. I’ll make it better.”
I was shocked by how many people responded. I had no website, no references, nothing.
What I had was a willingness to start a conversation. You’ll be surprised how far that can take you.
Even now, my website is just a single page of plain text, nothing fancy. I want to make it bigger and better, but that can wait. Just like the office and the fancy stationery.
Myth #3: You need money to start a business
This is true. Then it’s not. It really depends on your business.
You’re not going to start an airline without cash, but you can start a service business.
Anything small, simple. Something that requires only one investment. That investment is time.
Think about some of the most successful service businesses: building a website, writing a blog post, mowing someone’s lawn, taking care of someone’s pets/kids.
Doing any of these professionally doesn’t require a lot of initial investment. Perhaps a domain name and a web host at most. That’s about $15.
Surely you have $15 to spare?
Myth #4: You need to have a lot of contacts to start a business
I stalled starting a business because I was convinced you need to have tons of contacts to start.
But I’m an introvert. Networking is alien to me. I walk into a room and freeze.
So I stopped networking. Instead, I started giving.
I found my first client by giving something away (a slide share presentation, made from one of her blog posts) for free.
I did not ask anything in return, but when she needed someone to help her repurpose her content, she turned to me.
I made my first friends online like this. A couple of these friends turned into clients.
It’s a powerful idea. It isn’t transactional. It doesn’t assume a ROI.
You give something because you feel it will add value to someone’s life. Sometimes, that value will come back to you tenfold. Sometimes it won’t, but that’s the very nature of giving.
“Chase the vision not the money. The money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh
Myth #5: Your business needs to be perfect before you launch
You don’t need perfection. It’s a good aim to strive for but it can often be a crutch. A crutch that keeps you from launching.
Forget about perfection. Instead, embrace the pivot.
Right now, as I type this, I have a huge whiteboard in my room filled with business ideas.
Some of these are service ideas. Some of these are product ideas. I won’t work on 95% of them but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that if business A doesn’t work, I can always pivot to business B, C, D, E, or F.
That’s the good thing about being an entrepreneur. Your first iteration of a business doesn’t have to be its final iteration.
There is tremendous room to change in-between.
In other words, build the business you can build today, not the business you want to build tomorrow.
Myth #6: You need to be an expert to start a business
Being an expert is great. It means you have knowledge about a narrow topic. You can often sell this knowledge for cold hard cash.
There is one problem though: becoming an expert requires time. Lots of time.
I’m lazy. I’d rather start a business today than spend years becoming an expert.
So I took the anti-expert route. I figured out what problems people had, then I offered them my help for a fee.
I learned how to solve the problem along the way, or hired someone else to do it.
It’s just a faster way to do things.
Myth #7: You need to master branding, positioning, marketing, advertising, accounting, and hiring to start
Before I’d even started a business, I worried about hiring the right people. I wondered where I could find the right people.
Then I wondered whether they would even join my company.
When I got over my hiring worries, I worked myself up into a fit over keeping accounts.
Never mind that I did not even have a business yet, or any revenue.
Before launch, I fretted over branding. I worried if my logo looked good, or if the orange on my site was too bright.
In hindsight, all of these are trivial things. Logos can be changed, accountants can be hired, and people will work for you if you pay well and give them interesting challenges.
The only thing you need to do is go out there and build.