Friday, September 11, 2009

Entrepreneuring One More Time

I know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, because I believe I could do better than the person who employs me. When I enter the world of business, I realized that I am not good in a few things: taking risk and doing sales. I started a zero cost freelance business and didn’t take the initiative to look for more business. I manage to gather a handful of customers, but the business didn’t flourish due to obvious reasons. As time passed by, I realized freelance software development is just a temporary solution. To gain long term financial freedom, I have 2 options: to develop a software product or web media.

I realized there is a lot which I need to learn. Though I had left employment for almost 3 years, but I had fallen into another comfort zone. I had managed to create a decent amount of income, but not enough to gain financial freedom (just like employment, but with more freedom); which means I need to breakthrough to the next level.

Whenever I know I had some weakness or problem, I can choose either to go around the problem or face the problem directly. I know I am not good in sales, so I choose to become a passive freelance software developer; waiting for people to knock on my door, and I don’t advertise or do cold call (which is really bad, some to think of it). Somehow I managed to live by in this delusion, probably people know that I am providing such services and I got repetitive business as well. It’s okay, but not great. Then I thought of another brilliant idea which does not require sales effort, which is web media: to develop a useful and informative website and collect advertising dollar from Google Adsense. I just need to focus on creating the web platform and content, and Google Adsense will help me look for advertiser. It took quite a few mistakes and a few year to make it work (and some money), but it just started to pay off in a small manner. Basically, I avoided doing things I am not good at.

Lately I engaged a few people and realized how a few of them actually become an entrepreneur. Software people like me always start with zero cost, and we provide our services (much like a house contractor). Most people out there are traders, where they bring in products with potential and try to sell it out in the competitive market as fast as possible (high risk high return). How do they succeed? They probably need to be familiar with the industry, so that they know who to sell it and how to sell it. They can try selling cheaper or at lost, just to penetrate the market and get people to start using it. They need to appoint as many dealers and distributors, thus mass email or faxing is required. What ever products you try to sell, there are already existing competitors in the market. The key is how are going to get people interested in your product, most probably by similar capabilities (or better if possible) and a cheaper price. Let’s say a Shell Lubricant is RM 100 per liter, what if I can offer you a lubricant made in Singapore for RM 90? There will always be people looking for similar product with a cheaper price. Once you can penetrate yourself into the market, then you would need to develop your brand name and appoint more reseller to strengthen your position and increase exposure. For most business, you don't need something exceptional and unique, just something useful and affordable. To tell the truth, most people would fail in their business; but, you will never succeed if you didn't do anything.

I realize in order to succeed in business; I need to take risk and do sales (or talk to more people about my idea, product or services). I need a marketing strategy on how to penetrate the market, or even be number one. I start talking to an old friend lately, and he makes an effort to introduce some business to me. Even though I don’t do much of sales, but at least I should talk to more people to increase my exposure (better start calling my old contacts for a drink).

For long term prosperity, I would need to focus more on a flagship software product and web media, and be more aggressive in terms of promotion and sales (telling more people about it). Age of 30 might be a bit too late to relook into the idea of entrepreneurship, as more commitments shall be coming in the next 5 years. Hopefully I had learned all the lessons required, and it’s time put my mind into full swing action one more time.

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