Many moons ago, as a student attending a Business Studies College, I found myself facing a small financial predicament.
Summer was fast approaching and I was extremely short of cash and in need of a financial boost, not only to get me over the summer period, but also to supplement my student grant for the following year. (Yes, those were the good old days when student grants were still available!)
On a whim, I placed a very short advert in the ‘free’ section of my local weekly newspaper, which read:
‘Young man has van, will travel.’
The results were interesting to say the least, and I was taught a valuable life lesson: you don’t need to be an established ‘bricks and mortar’ business in order to ply your trade. You can just as easily market yourself as an individual.
After I placed the advert, I promptly forgot about it… or just simply went to the pub, as students tend to do. But as the week rolled around and the paper became published, the phone at home went mad.
I was living with my parents at the time, and indeed the ‘van’ from the advert was on temporary loan from my dad, so I didn’t really have much to offer the world, except a willingness to have a go. And that sometimes is all it takes.
If my memory serves me correctly, I received six or seven job offers (part-time) before my little advert expired. One was delivering goods around the county; another was wheel-barrowing unlimited amounts of heavy gravel from one side if a building site to another… and the list went on.
In the end, I took the easiest job: a spot of gentle gardening in the leafy, posh part of the nearby village of Harpenden. As for all the other job offers – well I sold those to my student friends, who also were looking for temporary work. Result!
And thus the fragile flame of my entrepreneurial spirit was fanned.
I realised that if you have got a passion or life skill, then you can offer that. But if you are unsure how to define your skills, then you can simply let the world know exactly what you would like to achieve, then see what comes back to you.
I was reminded of this latter option, by another advert I recently saw, which said something along the lines of: ‘Experienced antiques dealer, returning to the UK after a 10 year absence, looking for work in a similar field. Willing to entertain most ideas and work long hours.’ He was offered a job shortly after.
The trick, it would seem, is to take the initiative and make the first move. This might take the form of an advert in a paper, a card in a local newsagent, or you could simply put out the word through your own network of friends.
When I stop to think about it, I have got a lot of self-employed friends who started in exactly this way:
- A lady taxi driver, catering solely for female clients.
- A lady gardener, also for lady clients.
- A dog-walker offering overnight accommodation for canines.
- An ironing and pressing service.
- A catering service.
- A local farmer offering B&B accommodation.
- A child-minding service.
- A wedding planner.
All of these people started out by courageously taking the first step. Sometimes their early endeavours quickly morphed into something completely different, which they could never have imagined when they first started.
If you are thinking of a spot of self-promotion, but wish to try using online media outlets, you might consider:
- Facebook – Let people know what you have to offer, or find out what their needs are.
- Gumtree – Check out the local adverts to see what other people are offering, or what goods or services they are looking for.
- Udemy – This is one of my favourite websites, as it allows anyone to make simple courses, providing solutions to many of life’s needs.
- Kindle – A popular genre of book is one which answers frequent and sometimes urgent questions, e.g. ‘How to stop your dog barking/jumping/chewing?’
I was impressed when one of my Kindle students came up with a book title How to boil an egg… brilliant. The book he produced was very short (obviously), but sold very well indeed.
Matching one problem with one solution = equals one opportunity.
So if you find yourself knocking your head against a brick wall when the universe isn’t offering you the opportunities you seek, then perhaps it might work better if you flip the situation around.
Instead, look at your own skills that you are passionate about, or identify problems for which you could offer solutions, and then take that all-important first step.
Until next time, have a great week.