"He made $26K flipping silly little websites!"
This ad copy caught my eye. It's a perfect example of a tempting "business opportunity". In one simple sentence, the ad implies that there's some little-known, simple thing you could learn how to do, that could make you a lot of money.
Thousands of entrepreneurs and wannabe-entrepreneurs fall for such promises. And this leads them down a predictable and ultimately disappointing path...
You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That
Business opportunities are always highly promising and tempting. "Learn this easy thing! Make all this money!"
But, to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite authors, Ben Goldacre: I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.
In reality, things are always more complex, slower and less exciting than originally advertised. And herein lies the real trap. You sign up for a way to make easy money, but what you actually get is a job. If you want a chance to make any of the promised money, there's work to do. And more often than not, it isn't work you like doing or ever wanted to be doing.
Consider the Day-to-Day
The key to avoiding the business opportunity trap is to consider the day-to-day. If you ask yourself: "do I want the money and lifestyle that's being promised here?" the answer will always be "yes!"
But the answers will be very different if you ask yourself: "what will my day-to-day look like, if I get into this business? And is that something I want?"
Don't ask “do I want the money and lifestyle this business opportunity promises?” Instead, ask: “what will my day-to-day look like, in this business? Is it aligned with my strengths and goals?”
It's a mistake to only look at the potential payoff. Of course, we'd all like more money and freedom. But you know that classic mistake of chasing the carrot on a stick? Slaving away at a career for decades so that you can have a lot of money once you're old, only to realize you've wasted most of your life?
Well, getting into a "business opportunity" in which you do unfulfilling work you hate, just so you can maybe make some money and quit your job is no better than that. It's merely another flavor of the same mistake.
What Does This Mean in Practice?
Ideally, we could all do greatly fulfilling work and get handsomely rewarded for it. Ideally, you don't have to compartmentalize your life into "work" (which you hate) and "life" (which is what you need to recover from work).
Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world.
There's no guarantee that what you like doing lines up with what is economically valuable. Plus, passion is often something that grows out of what you do. We shouldn't wait for passion to strike, before taking action.
So, I am (still) not telling you to follow your passion. What I am saying is that it's good to have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses. It's good to know what fulfills you and what doesn't. And I recommend that you align your entrepreneurial plans with those insights.
For example, the reason I create a lot of video content and written content isn't because that's the most profitable thing I could possibly be doing. It doesn't represent the greatest opportunity for me to make as much money as possible. But I love creating things. And thus, creating content is something that helps my businesses and also keeps me sane and happy.
Someone else may be much more content pouring over endless spreadsheets, to optimize the next round of PPC ads. There's a lot of money in that too, no doubt. But for me, it would make me miserable.
An Aside About Misleading Marketing
On the topic of promising "business opportunities": most people will tell you that the reason they promise quick & easy money and hide all complexity is because that's how you get people to buy them. People want the quick fix, right? No one wants to deal with something complex.
Here's a counter argument: I recently launched Course Craft, which is a system for creating an online course business.
You could call this a "business opportunity" product. However, building an online course business doesn't happen over night. And it's not for everyone. In the sales material for Course Craft, I made this abundantly clear. I never presented it as a quick or easy solution. I explicitly told people not to buy it if they were looking for a business opportunity. I even published an overview "map" of my course, which clearly shows that the course covers a lot of material and I made it clear that there would be homework.
Thousands of people bought the course.
I believe that this shows us 2 things:
- Hype and misleading promises are not necessary for selling something successfully.
- It proves my point from this post. Maybe I could have sold more and made more money by framing my course as a quick and easy business opportunity. Maybe I could have made more money by making a different course altogether. But I wouldn't enjoy that. I wouldn't like the day-to-day of creating a business based on such a deception. So I don't do it.
With the right strategy, you can succeed without needing to succumb to opportunistic behavior.