I keep starting passionate businesses, people get excited about them, I make progress with them – then I lose interest in each before getting them to profitable – 4 so far. I still want them all out in the world, but I’m not an octopus!! :-/
Do you have something to say on this that can help? I know it’s not a lot of detail; I just hoped you’d dealt with this before.
Thanks for the question. I think this is something that a lot of multipotentialites struggle with, so I’d like to answer your question on the blog, if you don’t mind. That way more people can benefit from the discussion.
I’ve found that there is a huge overlap in the multipotentialite and entrepreneur populations. Maybe it’s because we tend to be self-starters, or maybe it’s that entrepreneurship lends itself well to doing many things, but I’ve found that most entrepreneurs also tend to be multipotentialites.
For one thing, running a business requires that you know a lot about many areas. You need to understand marketing, psychology, product development, branding, customer service, and so on. I use so much of my knowledge from past lives in the day-to-day of running my business. In other words, the process of entrepreneurship requires having a diverse skill set.
There’s still one problem though. And that’s not process, but content.
When you look at the business advice out there, most of it tells you that you need to choose a niche— one narrow focus for your business. The niche dilemma means that as a multipotentialite, you might end up with a lot of abandoned businesses. You start something up that’s very narrow, and because it isn’t multifaceted enough, you get bored quickly and desert it.
There are a few solutions to this.
Solution #1: Build a Renaissance Business instead of a niche-based business so that you don’t get bored as quickly, or at all
Having a business that is a bit more broad can help keep things interesting so that you can shift to a new product or subject matter altogether when things start to get stale.
The key to having a business that focuses on several topics, yet feels cohesive, is having a strong overarching theme: one unifying idea that runs through everything you do. I’ve written about this at length in the past.
Solution #2: Get your businesses to profitable faster, before the boredom hits
The next way to address this problem is to create the type of business that can be profitable soon out of the gate.
Some types of businesses are easier to start up quickly and with fewer resources. Obviously online businesses fulfill this criteria when you compare them to most brick-and-mortars. However, the blog/community-based business does usually take longer since you need to build your readership, show that you know what you’re talking about by providing helpful content, and create a product. It just takes a while before people start to catch on. The first six months of blogging can be pretty lonely.
Service-based work (design, writing, consulting, etc.) on the other hand allows you to potentially make money from day one. All you need is that first client and poof, you’re profitable.
There are downsides to this model too, of course. Trading your time for dollars still means that there is a cap on how much you can make, and possibly also the number of people you can help.
Service-based work and creating a community/products are of course not mutually exclusive. I launched my coaching practice three months after launching Puttylike, and did that along with web design for my first year, while the community was growing. Working with students in a one-on-one setting that first year allowed me to come up with my procedure for helping people find their overarching themes, test it, make adjustments, and get a sense of the questions people had. All of this ended up being research for my book, Renaissance Business. So service-based work is a good way to get started, and can translate into a product later on.
Of course, getting your business to profitable faster isn’t going to solve the whole problem, it’s just easier to step away from a business that is making money than one that still has a ways to go.
The flip side is that it is harder to step away from a service-based business, though not impossible. I know plenty of web developers who used to do everything themselves but now outsource a lot of their work. My friend Jon is calling his new consulting business an “agency,” as opposed to branding it as a personal service. This will help set up expectations for clients that the project may be completed by a team of people, not just Jon himself. This way, he can can step away a bit more easily in the future.
Solution #3: Get your businesses on auto-pilot and step away
Another thing that works is launching a business and getting it on autopilot, either by automating procedures, bringing in a team, or even selling the business. Most business owners do this to a varying degrees, the most extreme being serial entrepreneurs.
I’ve been experimenting with this approach a little myself. I don’t plan on fully extricating myself from Puttylike, because I love what I do. But over the last year, I’ve brought a few people on board to help me run the Puttytribe and I’ll probably be bringing in a few more this year so that I can free up time to focus on new projects.
Another example of automation is the affiliate-marketing model. I have a few multipotentialite friends who are really into niche sites/affiliate marketing. They do a bunch of keyword research, create a website around a narrow topic, set it up, and let it go. Then they move onto the next, accruing a number of sites in different niches that each bring in a few hundred (or more) dollars a month.
I’ve tried this out a little myself. From time to time I give it a go, but I always inevitably get bored after an hour of keyword research. However, some of my multipod friends are fascinated by keyword research, SEO, and really love learning about the process of building these sites. I wish that I could do it, because it’s a cool model. But it’s just not my jam.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through creating Puttylike and the Puttytribe, is the importance of systems and looking ahead. If you think that you might like to step away from your business in some capacity, it’s smart to get some procedures in place, so that you don’t end up in a situation where nobody but you could ever run the business (these situations aren’t usually terminal, but they can take longer to extract yourself from).
Solution #4: Abandon the business and move on
Maybe your boredom is a sign that you should stop what you’re doing and refocus. Not all businesses need to develop into a long term venture to be a “success.” Maybe you learned a lot of useful skills that will be helpful in a future project, and only by stepping away, will you be able to go forth and start that new project that will be wildly successful. Maybe you had fun running the business, and now you’re ready for a new adventure.
Sometimes you don’t even have the motivation to get a business on autopilot and it’s just time to let the project die. It is totally okay to quit, if that’s what your heart is telling you to do.
How have you dealt with the urge to jump ship on the businesses you’ve started?