I wrote about why I left my iron rice bowl earlier this year, faced my fear, and dove into writing at Steady Compounding full-time. For anyone thinking about making the jump and doing a career pivot, here are some early learnings from my experience.
What’s Your Greatest Value-Add?
Some time back I saw a post by Ming Feng from Seedly which made me laugh.
I laughed because it’s true 🤣.
Starting a business or pivoting into a start-up definitely isn’t easy, and the learning curve is immense. I spent an immense amount of time revamping my blog, making sure the aesthetics looked nice, and ensuring the membership portal looked great.
One tip is to think about what is your greatest value-add and outsource the remaining tasks relentlessly.
Time is limited and there’s no way you can do everything by yourself. Personally, redesigning my webpage, setting up the membership portal, copywriting the landing page, etc.—the to-do list seems endless. Thankfully, with gig economy platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, you can find plenty of skilled developers and designers at reasonable prices.
Tim Ferriss’ Rule—if someone else can do it better and faster than you, and charges below your hourly rate, outsource it or pay someone to do it. But never outsource your decision-making for important things, including things that only YOU can do.
I focus most of my time on becoming a better investor, and then on marketing.
For me to deliver the maximum value to my readers, I must first and foremost be a good investor. By analysing companies, reading white papers, and speaking with other investors, I’m able to distill only the most important information for my readers.
When it comes to marketing, my philosophy is to build an audience by offering value before offering the product. I focus on resonance instead of scale. In other words, I write to offer quality insights instead of optimizing for search engines.
This would be counter-intuitive as most online marketing metrics focus on reach and views, not the depth of relationships you build with your audience.
Choosing Your Customers
Increasing sales rapidly is important, as cashflow is the lifeblood of any business. However, not all revenue is created equal, and I believe that attracting the right type of customers is essential for the business.
My membership page reflects the type of customers I wish to attract—readers who seek to learn and invest like business owners. I publish deep-dive reports on high-quality companies that are able to reinvest their earnings at high rates of return for years to come. These reports should serve as a springboard for readers to learn about a potential investment and do their own due diligence before investing, rather than stock pitches/tips.
One important lesson I took away from Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was Pareto’s Law, which could be summarized as follows: 80% of the output results from 20% of the input.
When Tim was feeling overwhelmed from working 15-hour days, seven days per week as an entrepreneur, he reflected on two questions:
Which 20% of sources is causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
Which 20% of sources is resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?
He realised 100% of his problems came from a small group of customers who were full of complaints and were always late with payments. Tim fired this group of customers and freed up a ton of time for himself.
I apply the 80/20 principle to many other areas in life. It reminds us that most things that keep us “busy” make no difference to the outcome we seek. We should focus our effort on the 20% of the things that deliver 80% of the results, instead of being “busy” all the time.
Being busy all the time is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being selective—with your work and the audience you are looking to attract—is the path of productive people. Focus on the important and ignore the rest, even if that might cost you revenue in the short-run.
Find Your Mountain
I love Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at the University of Arts and one message stood out to me—sometimes the way to achieve our goals will not be clear cut. And sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not we are doing the correct thing, because we’ll have to balance our goals and hopes with everything else—putting food on the table, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Here is what he said, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs in magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”
I imagine that I wanted to be a writer and a teacher, primarily on investing and self-development, sharing what I have learned over the years and supporting myself through my investments and my knowledge—and that is my mountain.
Having this imaginary mountain helps me with deciding what projects or opportunities I should take on, what topics I should write about, and which speaking opportunities I should go for or decline. More importantly, it serves as a compass on what I need to say no to, in order to say yes to the opportunities that bring me closer to my mountain.
When you say no, you are rejecting one option. When you say yes, you are rejecting every other option. Be careful what and to whom you say yes to. Find your mountain.
Most Growth Isn’t Linear
We often assume that life works in a linear fashion. Put in an hour of work, and you will earn an hour of wages. Put more in and you will get more out. This is common in the industrial age, where the amount of output rises proportionately with the amount of effort you put in.
Which is why we often hear the older generation say, “Young people should work harder, tahan longer hours and save money.” The output could be easily measured and you see the fruits of your labor quickly.
Linear growth looks something like this:
The problem is, most of life doesn’t follow this linear pattern. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is important. However, if we expect results to follow a linear trajectory, we will find ourselves feeling frustrated and disappointed.
When it comes to building our wealth, growing our business or online presence, it follows an exponential growth curve. It starts out excruciatingly slow in the beginning, but the gains accelerate and become easier with time.
Exponential growth looks something like this:
Neither type of growth is good or bad. But it is important to know what game you’re playing so that you can set your expectations appropriately.
Don’t expect exponential returns when you are playing the linear game. Likewise, don’t expect early results when you’re building something that has an exponential curve.
When playing the exponential game, the challenge is to continue working through the early days when there’s going to be little or nothing to show for your work. Most “overnight success” stories involve years of honing a craft before results appear.
Exponential growth requires us to be remarkably patient and diligent before enjoying a large payoff. Misalignment of expectations is what throws most people off track.
Importantly, we need to give our best effort even when we’re getting average results. Exponential gains kick in from sustained effort in the early years.
Request for Pro Bono Work
There are many times when working for free makes sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about, or perhaps, honing your craft to gain credibility and attention for your work.
Since pivoting into writing full-time at SteadyCompounding.com, I have received a number of requests to speak at company events, or work as a writer and analyst for investment funds, for free, and… for “exposure”.
Generally, speaking (1) for non-profit organizations looking to raise financial awareness, (2) at events such as the Seedly Personal Finance Festival or (3) on radio extends my reach at scale and provides real exposure, bringing me closer to my mountain.
But a good amount of these free requests came from large corporations, who make a ton of money every year, and these are closed door events for their clients only. For this group of people, here are some helpful responses that I have found on the internet:
Negotiating for payment can be scary (heck, even pay raise too if you are employed), but don’t undervalue yourself and do free work to hide from the difficult job of negotiating for your efforts. When you deprive yourself of all the upside, you are sabotaging your ability to do important work in the future. Know your worth, and don’t undervalue yourself!
Some Final Thoughts
I’m enjoying the growth and the experience of growing my blog. There are days where I doubt my efforts or wonder if I am good enough for this. Over the course of the year, there were many people who subscribed to my newsletter and plenty who unsubscribed as well.
As a writer, I’m supposed to say, “I appreciate you for giving me the opportunity!” But that’s not how I think about it 🤣. Everytime I see an unsubscribe email I go, “Dammit!”.
There are countless people I need to thank for my being able to do this. It all started with the seeds of my friends’ support, then it started to bloom when a couple of prolific fund writers and fund managers shined a torch on my writings by sharing it on their social media, and the opportunities to speak at Seedly Personal Finance Festival and MoneyFM.
Results haven’t been linear. But as I have mentioned in my previous article, the answer to producing outsized results is to do good work. Do good work, deliver the most value and everything else will fall in place.
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