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34: Your Passion Can Be Your Day Job

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There will be people who will tell you to be realistic and not make unrealistic plans.

There will be well-meaning loved ones who will tell you that a secure, well-paying day job is the most important thing in your adulthood.

I will tell you that they are right, and they are wrong.

They are right because a day job is important in this economy. The money that comes from your day job will help sustain your business and prevent you from taking shortcuts just to make profits. Those shortcuts that sound so good right now will ruin your brand in the long run (and we definitely don't want that).

They are wrong because a well-planned business that is based on your passion can sustain a comfortable living and make you excited to work every single day.

But to get to that point, commit to gradual changes that will make your passion profitable enough to replace your day job.

You don't have to jump into your passion right away. But you don't have to give it up either.

Here's a few basic but important steps:

  1. Save money that you earn from your day job to invest in your passion. Use it for branding, tools, knowledge and helping hands. All this will ensure that your brand is a premium brand.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone and do things you won't normally do. Whether it's networking, learning how to do accounting, or knowing how to close sales -- you have to do it. No one else will do it for you.
  3. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, be flexible instead. It's normal to have your heart set on one thing and put all your hopes on it. It's wise to have multiple sources of income so that your business won't fail when one thing goes wrong.


This third point brings us to my most recent article on Narrativity & Co: 15 Ways to Make Money From Your Passion.

I wrote the article because I wanted to share with you the infinite possibilities of turning your passion into a business.

If you love photography, you don't only have to take photos of events.

If you love baking, you don't only have to bake cakes for people.

If you love fashion, you don't only have to design clothes. 

You can do all those things, and MORE. What I recommend is for you to start daydreaming, be outrageously optimistic with your goals, and then start making realistic plans. Be both a dreamer and a doer. ;)

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29: New Year Business Resolutions

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My years as an undergraduate got me used to not viewing the calendar in 12 months, but in 3 parts. Semester 1, Semester 2, long semester break. So for the past 4 years, I made new semester resolutions instead of new year resolutions.

Now that studies are over and done with, I find myself having to change how I view the year. Instead of planning for every 4 months, it's liberating (and exciting) to see that I can plan for my business for the entire 12 months. Anything seems possible because it seems like a lot of time to work with.

We know that it's dangerous to plan too far ahead. Circumstances change, even your interests might change. A small business is best when it's flexible and manoeuvrable. But you know what's equally (if not more) dangerous?

Taking the business month-by-month. Not actively growing your business, even for just a tiny percentage.

There's a lot of things that one person can do in a year. The key is to not make wishy-washy resolutions. 

Focus on things you can really act on, challenge you as the business owner, and make you feel like you want to do it right this instant. It has to be that exciting for you, because you'll be the driving force.

More than anything, planning the whole year makes you see the big picture. When you have the big picture in mind, then only you figure out what you need to do to make that happen.

Deconstruct the big picture to see the details. This way you don't waste time doing things that don't contribute to your ultimate goal. 

For year 2016, I want to challenge myself by doing things I haven't done before and are pretty much outside of my comfort zone. They're monumentally important to my goals, so I'm all raring to go.

1. Create at least 4 email courses

I am honestly so encouraged by all your responses to my survey in the last email, when I told you about the FREE email courses I'm producing for 2016. (If you haven't sent in your input, now would be a good time too! I'm all ears)

What I confirmed is that the majority of you are juggling your passion and full-time job/studies (just like me). So that means that you need practical, efficient and concise steps for growing your brand on your own.  

I won't throw quick fixes your way. What I'll do is show you growth strategies that will make you feel good about what you're doing. When you're being interviewed a few years from now about your success, you'll be able to answer all questions with genuine pride. That's what I'm aiming for. 

2. Join/create a mastermind group

When I first heard about mastermind groups, it felt like a 'must-have'. Flying it solo can mean that you're alone with your worries and questions. A mastermind group will feel like bestfriends that know exactly what you're going through. 

A mastermind group is a group of 3-4 people who have a common interest. The members discuss their experiences (in this context, their business), give and receive feedback, and keep each other accountable.

The best practice would be to meet in person every week, but online Skype meetings work well too. Are you interested in joining/creating one too?

3. Produce at least 1 video

You know what I'm seeing on Facebook and Twitter these days? Videos. Videos being shared by hundreds of thousands of people. That's a huge reach and I don't think this trend is going away anytime soon.

The video that convinced me was the Ixigo Coolest Hotel Room Secrets video that I saw when a friend shared it on her Facebook. This video and other popular ones have three things in common:

  • They're short -- usually just 1-3 minutes per video. 5 minutes tops!
  • They get to the point quickly.
  • They have useful/relevant/informative content.

Another inspiration is the many short videos that Buzzfeed makes. (Example: How to Make Your Food Look Fancy AF)

The way these videos are formatted makes me think that it didn't take too long to film them. They look like they will be a worthy investment of my time and money!

By sharing my new year (business) resolutions with you, I've essentially made a public promise that I will deliver. When I'm feeling lazy, I'm going to think of this public promise and get back to work, because otherwise I'm just all talk. 

What are your new year (business) resolutions? I'd love to hear!

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23: You Don't Need Your Family's Approval.

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You don't need your family's approval when you brand your business.

Or your friends'. There's no need for them to say 'yes' before you say 'yes'.

Every time you have to make a decision -- be it about branding, financing or anything else, really -- the decision is yours alone.

By asking for your family and friends' approval, you're essentially asking them to take responsibility for the decision.

But if the decision turns out to be wrong, the blame isn't exactly shared, is it? No one cares if it's your sister who told you to choose that course of action, because it's your business.

And they'd be right! Who is the most invested in making the business work? No one should care more about the business than the owner.

 

If it's your business, you have to call the shots.

And that is why as the owner, you should have the final say in everything. Ask for feedback from your friends and family, but you have to decide. You're the leader.

I get that it can be paralyzingly scary. There's pressure to get it right every time you make a decision.

I feel this pressure too, from choosing a newsletter topic to deciding what image to upload on Instagram to buying a software. I'm not always 'on point'.

But that's business for you. It's okay to not always be right. It may sound super corny, but you can learn from your mistakes because you made them yourself.

 

How do we learn from our mistakes? We retrace our steps and thought processes. We look for patterns and inconsistencies. Then we know what we should have done differently.

Imagine if you're always getting approval from Relative A, Friend B, Colleague C, Sister D. It'll be extremely difficult to determine how exactly they came to their conclusions.

And the decision often ends up becoming a Frankenstein's Monster, because it's the pieces of everyone's opinion sewn together. Your decisions become not streamlined and not consistent.

Remember, it's impossible to please everyone anyway. Don't let your brand become a jumbled mess of contradictions. Ask for feedback, but own your decisions.

You will always make mistakes, but you can choose not to repeat your mistakes. Trust me, you'll be excited with your own growth.

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21: Audience First, Product Later.

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I used to offer a paid branding service for small businesses right here on Narrativity & Co.

I cancelled the service.

Unfortunately or fortunately depending on who you ask, branding is still very new in Malaysia. It's seen as a privilege not available to small businesses.

But it's not. I know it's not. All over the world, branding has been an integral part of small businesses. It's not limited to giant corps and people with money.

Branding is for all businesses, not just the big corps.

Heck, personal branding is huge. Actors, politicians, that famous girl on Instagram. They've all branded themselves. What's stopping a business from doing the same?

So being the naive and overly optimistic person that I am, I thought I could replicate this wonderful practice in Malaysia. Introduce branding not for the sake of capitalism, but as a way to weave passion with business.

I saw branding as a way to make people care about what they buy, and for you as a business owner to be able to sustain your craft for years to come. I still feel this way.

Sounds good right? It did to me. As soon as I graduated from university this year, I set to work on Narrativity. Registered it at SSM and all that. Bought a domain name, paid for a website plan. Spent so much time poring over the website design that my lenses had to be changed (bye-bye RM280).

I thought I could make it work. No 9-5 job for me, I'm going to work on my dreams. But I was making a fundamental mistake.

 

Where are the actual people that I want to sell to?

Where are the people I want to sell to? Are they (figuratively) gathered around me, listening to what I have to say?

Here I have a product that will make a difference in people's lives, but no one to sell it to. And for good reason -- I'm nobody's friend. I'm a stranger.

No one trusts me to have their best interests at heart, because I haven't spent time building that trust. I have no authority, no credibility. You're not just going to hand over your hard-earned cash just because lil 'ol me say that branding is a wonderful thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did have two clients while the Branding package was still on the website. But the branding process left me so stressed out that I just had to reexamine the package.

What was wrong with it? It didn't take into account the particular requirements of the Malaysian market. It wasn't tailored for Malaysian business owners. I knew branding was new in Malaysia, but I assumed that everyone was on the same page as I am.

If I wanted to make branding possible and revolutionary for small businesses, I have to spend time sharing with them how it works. The importance of a simple versatile logo, the consistency principle, etc.

When you educate your customers, you become someone they trust.

I didn't do that, so I ended up sabotaging my own product. Do you want to know the first thing I did after realizing this?

 

No customers = give up?

I applied for jobs. I wanted to have a steady income that I could partly channel into Narrativity. The domain name, website plan, newsletter service provider and Google Apps for Work are being paid for using my salary. (My current job has much to do with entrepreneurship, I'm very happy to say)

Make no mistake, Narrativity is a business. I want to sell something. But it's also my passion. It would kill me to launch a mediocre product that doesn't help people and their businesses. It would go against everything that I ever dreamed about.

To truly feel fulfilled in your business, you have to sell something you care about. Something that makes lives better in any aspect.

Now I know that the only way to launch a great product is to find out what people need. Solve real problems instead of getting too attached to an 'idea' of a product. I want it to genuinely and effectively solve your problems.

So that's why I'm here talking to you. I'm not selling anything to you. Scratch that, I don't have anything to sell. Everything that I'm sharing with you from the articles to newsletters to tips are for you free of charge.

In the process, I'm learning more about business and branding everyday. So much of my motivation comes from the fact that you were willing to listen to me in the first place.

When I do have a product, I'll be proud to sell it to you. Because I would have made it just for you.

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