Ready to escape the rat race, but not sure how?
That is the main question to ask yourself before picking up Microbusiness Independence by Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton.
You may remember that I spoke with this husband and wife team just last year about their automatic chicken waterer called The Avian Aqua Miser. They recently updated their ebook and offered me the chance to review it here.
Their ebook is a collaboration of their success. The more their business grows, the more they have learned about what it takes to succeed. You are given the opportunity to learn secondhand what worked and what failed during their startup process. Do not mistake this for a promotional book about their business. While they do draw on personal experience, the advice is flexible enough to fit nearly any microbusiness idea. They have successfully created a go-to guide that can help nearly anyone fulfill their dream of working for themselves.
The advice is not limited to what you need to do. It also forces you to get active. Worksheets are sprinkled throughout the book to help give you an idea of what you will need if you choose to follow this path. Each one is generalized enough to work for any idea, but specific enough to fit your situation. Even the simple real life examples can help bring each idea into perspective for you.
Their book does exactly what it describes; it will help you start a microbusiness. You will learn how to get the ball rolling, and it will teach you how to determine when enough is enough. The goal of the book is to help you start and keep your business at a micro level. If you choose to go beyond that point, you will need to grow beyond the bounds of their advice. However, if you want to maintain a profitable business without creating a new style of rat race for yourself, you cannot go wrong. To be honest, at only $2 this book is a worthy read for nearly anyone wanting to know more about business. If you’re still unsure, a free preview is available for download on the purchase page.
Anna was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about her book, and expand on some of the ideas that can be found in it.
What inspired you to write Microbusiness Independence?
My husband and I wrote Microbusiness Independence as a team — I did a lot of the writing, but he was the one who thought the book was worth putting together. Unlike me, he’d spent twenty-five years entrenched in the rat race, struggling to get free. He understood that, for many people, just wrapping your mind around the idea that there’s an option for making a living without a job is tough, and it’s even tougher to get there through trial and error. We hope that our book will give people the tools to become financially self-sufficient faster than we did.
Who do you feel would receive the most benefit from reading your ebook?
People who are itching to find more time to live their lives are likely to get the most out of our ebook. As I mentioned in the book, if you’re happy with your job and don’t really have anything to go home to, you’re not going to put in the effort required to break free of the rat race. On the other hand, if you’re working 40 hours a week as an accountant while dreaming of herding llamas, our book is definitely for you.
Learning as you went along with your own business seems to have worked out well for you. Outlining your successes in the book not only helps lead the reader in the right direction, but offers them the opportunity to start off on the right food immediately. Since the last update you have done on the book, have you thought of any new tips that you may want to include in future versions?
Our second edition went “to press” just over a month ago, so I haven’t thought very hard about the third edition yet. Currently, we’re working on figuring out other ways to scale our business up without using any more of our time. We’re experimenting with outsourcing simple parts of the project, like getting our paperwork printed in bulk by a local printshop. To answer your question, I don’t really have any tips yet, but I suspect the third edition will give a lot more information about how to spend even less time while raking in more money once your microbusiness has proven itself.
Your book outlined the benefit of keeping a reasonable price because it has the potential to drive in more sales, leading toward more revenue. What about the old adage, “Quality over quantity.” When applied to price and sales, do you think it applies?
I think that both quality and quantity have a place in the microbusiness world. Of course, you should try to make your product as high quality as possible, but at the same time, I know from personal experience that it’s awfully hard to choose a $100 high quality option when a $20 low quality option is available.
One way to get around this is to sell a do it yourself kit option, the way we do with our chicken waterers. We make sure that the unique part of our do it yourself kit is very high quality and will last for years, then in our instructions we give people the option of making a nearly free chicken waterer out of a washed out milk jug, a moderately priced chicken waterer out of a five gallon bucket, or even a fancy version out of a thin, stainless steel container. This puts the decision of whether to pay for high quality in the hands of the consumer without requiring us to invest a lot of cash at the beginning of our microbusiness venture into expensive merchandise.
You’ve mentioned it at least once in your book, and it definitely is not a get-rich-quick scheme. If I must label it, I would call it a get-rich-smart guide. Although it is not quick, the potential to reach profitability in a reasonable period of time is there. Following your advice, how long do you think the average person may take?
I think that most readers should be able to start paying all of their bills in six months using the tips in our ebook. That assumes that they’re willing to quit their jobs and live frugally on savings for a few months while pouring body and soul into the project. If you’re starting a microbusiness and only have a few hours per week to put into the project, you should probably expect to wait longer.
Since our ebook recommends marketing your microbusiness product primarily through the internet, readers should be aware that the internet rewards longevity. Search engine optimization is a great way to get customers to turn up on your website without paying a cent in advertising, but your website is basically on probation for the first six months and won’t receive too much traffic that way. If you want to jumpstart your business but know you won’t have much time to put into the project for the first few months, I always recommend that you build a website now to start working your way through the probationary period so that your microbusiness can soar even faster when you have time to put into it.
In the book you mention not needing a patent, and your thoughts on avoiding a patent for someone just beginning the building process. Has the reward been worth more than the risk for you? Do you foresee a future need for a patent on your own product? How about others? Why or why not?
We’re still very happy with choosing the non-patent route. As I mentioned in our ebook, you need to be prepared to sink $5,000 to $10,000 into attaining a patent, and then would have to spend even more money to hire a patent attorney to sue anyone who tries to infringe on your patent. We believe that microbusiness owners have to minimize their financial outlay in the first few years while getting their feet under them, so paying thousands of dollars for a patent doesn’t fit the bill. If we’d chosen to go the patent route in year 1, we would have had to get a part-time job to make ends meet, which would have slowed down our microbusiness’s growth and probably cost us even more money in the long run.
Lately, I’ve started to realize that the internet’s rewards for longevity extend into the patent sphere as well. We’ve been running our chicken waterer business for so long that if someone wanted to steal our idea, it would be very tough for them to compete with us online. I suspect that other microbusiness owners would find the same protection, especially if they follow our advice and create a niche product.
As someone who hopes to stay within the binds of a microbusiness, what problems have you — and potentially your own readers — encountered in maintaining a manageable size?
At the end of our second year in business, I was a bit concerned that our business was getting out of control, that we’d get greedy and start putting in more hours to make more money. So I shut down our ads and we coasted over the winter. However, in year two, I realized that we could scale up our business using a few simple techniques that allowed us to triple our income while barely increasing our number of work hours. We were able to spread some of the wealth around to local businesses (and through hiring my mom part-time), making us feel less greedy while also maintaining lots of free time to work on our other projects.
I think that it’s essential for any microbusiness owner to write down their goals at the beginning of the project and keep them in mind as their microbusiness grows. For most of us, a microbusiness is a path to independence, and more money doesn’t do much good after we’ve met all of our needs. Staying true to your original vision will help keep your microbusiness manageable even as it grows over the years.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I appreciate you taking the time to read Microbusiness Independence and to ask such thoughtful questions. [My pleasure!] The only thing I would add is that a microbusiness is very attainable for anyone who has a passion for independence. If you’re willing to live frugally for a few months or years, you may never again have to commute through rush hour traffic five days a week.
If you could only restrict it to one lesson, what is the one piece of advice you hope the reader would take away from your book?
The trick to making your microbusiness a success is creating a niche product that you can sell to a global audience through the internet. It may seem easier to advertise someone else’s product (affiliate marketing) or to undercut the competition and sell a well-known product on Ebay, but if you take a bit of time up front to come up with a unique product that no one else is selling, you’ll keep all of the profits for yourself and can make a living wage.