During my December session with my coach, he made a quick statement that I had to write down: “Make sure your plans help you build a business, not buy a job.”
I’d heard him say something like that before, but it really stuck with me this time. I shared the statement on my Facebook Page, and pretty quickly, a fan named Mark chimed in with this excellent question:
How can one tell, if one is building a business or buying a job?
Which after a few answers was followed up by another:
I do often trade my time for money and feel trapped by it. What are some ways that we can transition from buying a job to building a business?
Let’s look at the first question: how can you tell if you’re building a business or buying a job?
Here’s my take on it: A business is a living, evolving entity through which I contribute my gifts and meet the world’s needs. I am compensated for my expertise, and I have a certain freedom and flexibility. I’m also creating something sustainable that can exist after I’m ready to move on to a new adventure or have departed from this earth.
A job is something I still might create, but I’m more likely to be trading time for money. The enterprise is dependent on me doing all of the work, and I may have too many eggs in one basket (one big client and only a few smaller ones). I’m more bound by traditional structures, with less ability to take risk and evolve.
To my response, Christian Marie Herron of The Introvert Ideal added,
“For me, it comes down to how I feel. Do I feel bound by my business (or client) as with a job? If yes, then that’s a clue that I am building a job versus a business, and some days I do feel that way! I know I am on the right track when things feel effortless, fun and natural.”
Christian makes an excellent point: some days can feel like a j-o-b, like we’re more earth-bound, so to speak. And we still focus on building a business so we can experience those more effortless moments when we feel freedom and fun. The more of them we have, the more we move towards sustainability (of ourselves and our business). We want to keep doing what feels good!
This is where Dianne Juhl of The Feminine Face of Money chimed in and started to answer the second part of Mark’s question about how to make the transition. She shared,
“…if one is building business (vs. buying a job), there are distinct visionary and sustainability issues to be addressed:
4. Raise capital
5. Be a better business/corporate citizen”
I think the bottom line with Dianne’s advice is that the business builder is always thinking of making connections and investments, rather than being passive.
Building a business is proactive: you are intentionally creating the type of work you want to be doing and saying “no” to clients, customers, partners and projects that don’t fit your vision. Buying a job is more reactive: you’re more willing to take any work that comes along, even if it isn’t the best fit, because you “need to pay the bills.” This leads to a dependence on either lots of little jobs, or one big one, that leaves you with a sense of being held captive. You also end up spending lots of time in minutiae and administrative tasks, rather than being able to delegate those necessary but draining activities to an assistant or technology.
To build on Diane’s response and respond to Mark’s second question, “What are some ways that we can transition from buying a job to building a business?”, I’d add:
- Clearly identify your core strengths. What can you do better than anyone else? And who needs those services or products more than anyone else? Focus all of your products and services on THAT, rather than trying to be all things to all people (in other words, find your niche and stick with it long enough to get solid feedback).
- Be willing to experiment. When I first started, I went through the “throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks” phase. It felt scattered and energy-draining. Experience brought me to my “research and development” phase, which I consider myself still to be in. It involves a lot of trial and error. But unlike the spaghetti scene, it’s more strategic, intentional and informative. Experimentation keeps things from being routine and constantly brings me closer to a more aligned business model.
- Notice where you’re trading time for money. I had an extremely accomplished coaching client who would bid out projects based on the number of hours it would take her to complete them. She didn’t consider her creative energy, expertise, overhead or past experience. So I asked her, “What would happen if you considered how much you want to make from this project? Not how many hours it will take, but what your expertise is worth?” Starting from that place completely changed how she viewed her relationship to her client and the project. She realized her value resided in much more than just the actual time she gave to the client.
- Diversify your revenue streams. In 2011, approximately 75% of my income came from one client. They were my “anchor client,” and I was exceedingly grateful for their business. This can start to be dangerous, however. It’s easy to lean on a single client and think they’ll be there forever. It can also lead to a touch of apathy when it comes to prospecting and cultivating new clients. So in 2012, that same client only accounted for about 40% of my annual revenue. There were fewer projects, yes, but I also ramped up my other activities so that my revenue was coming from more sources.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t connect these two dots: that understanding which you’re doing – building a business or buying a job – is critical for the introvert entrepreneur. Either path is fine. Buying a job works when you are interested in an endeavor that’s shorter term, more predictable or less draining. Building a business is much longer term and requires that you pace your energy and seek out support that will expand your capacity. The point is that you need to know which path you’re on and employ strategies that work with your strengths and energy, rather than against.
What’s been your experience? What do you see as the difference between building a business and buying a job?