Being independently funded means freedom, but it also means you are dependent on your systems. There is no steady paycheck, fall back plan, or built-in structure aside from what you create for yourself. The pandemic has shown the weaknesses in our systems, though, as I discuss in my new book Build From Now, those issues have been there all along.
This is a wake-up call to indie entrepreneurs, creators, and leaders. Based on my own experience as an entrepreneur and coach, here's what you can do to create stability now.
Multiple income streams
Exclusivity is dead. As a coach, I have talked to many entrepreneurs this year who lost their customers, don't have their anchor client, or otherwise lost their primary income source. It doesn't make any sense to build your product for just one type of demographic or overinvest in catching a big fish. Better to eat modestly regularly than to potentially starve.
As I wrote about recently, Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried attributes his company's success to having multiple clients rather than one major one paying the bills. He explained that he wouldn't want this to happen, but because Basecamp's revenue is so equally distributed across a large number of independent customers, if a small group of their customers left tomorrow, they'd be fine.
Keep your IP (or sell it for ridiculous amounts of money)
As music writer Ted Gioia notes, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and other creators are selling or negotiating selling their songwriter catalog rights right now. For instance, Stevie Nicks reportedly sold the copyrights to her biggest songs for around $100 million. Of note, though, is that her song with Fleetwood Mac, "Dreams," has become ridiculously popular again based on a recent viral TikTok. In other words, it may have been the perfect time to cash out at a high price--even though this means she won't control her art anymore.
Chances are you aren't part of Fleetwood Mac. I'm certainly not. But whether it is your modest startup or your creative content, owning your IP means you can be agile when new opportunities arise, build your brand as you see fit, and take full advantage of the future.
In my case, I created my own publishing imprint for the The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur series and Bring Your Worth series. When the former became bestselling books, I was able to get the lion's share of the profit and quickly scale up the content into audiobooks, videos, online bootcamps, and more. If I didn't control the IP, then I'd have to wait for another company to push the proverbial button--and they would be prioritizing their own issues, particularly during a pandemic.
Partnering and sharing audiences
A year of the pandemic, social distancing, and political turmoil shows how quickly we can be disconnected from our own audience. You can't tour, you can't keynote, and you can't network.
Audiences and businesses need each other more than ever, particularly the small and independent businesses. Partnerships will become the norm as more learn that sharing audiences multiplies profit, creativity, and opportunities for all involved.
I experienced this myself. For my previous book Bring Your Worth, I partnered with producer Purple Fluorite, which released the theme song "#BringYourWorth featuring Damon Brown." For the Bring Your Worth audiobook, I featured Purple Flourite's music in the interludes. We exposed our unique audiences to each other, we played into our particular strengths (music versus content) and, as one or both products take off, we both get paid.
So as you start 2021, use these money tips to help bring more funds your way. After all, as an entrepreneur and bootstrapper, your success is up to you.