How to Carve Out Your Own Slice of Independence

american flag art by hugh macleod

Today is Independence Day in the U.S. I’ve written before about the theme of independence and how it plays out in our lives today.

Independence is more important to Americans than ever. Thirty-five percent of the U.S. workforce are now working as freelancers. And while the current uncertainty around our health insurance system might make it seem “safer” to take a more traditional job, rapid economic change also creates a lot of turbulence in traditional employment.

Running a “side hustle” — a micro business with controlled costs and limited risks — offers amazing benefits for your peace of mind, your financial health, and your creative soul.

In other words, it can help make you healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Abruptly quitting your job so you can jump into running a business, on the other hand, is often a short road to health-killing stress, money crunches, and panicked decisions.

So — if you have the luxury of spending some of your time, in Jeff Goins’s phrase, “building a bridge in the direction of your dream,” this is an awesome time to do that.

I wrote my first Independence Day post for Copyblogger in 2009 around three critical steps to take toward independence. Those same three steps are just as relevant today. Here’s how I’m thinking about them in 2017.

1. Expand your audience

I strongly believe that for any business owner, the audience is the source of all the good things.

  • Revenue
  • Product ideas
  • Reputation
  • Creative energy
  • Meaningful work

It starts with a solid understanding of your own values, and clarity about precisely who you want to attract.

Once you have a concrete idea of who you want to serve with your business, focus relentlessly on that person’s wants and needs.

We have lots of tips for you on how to “get more traffic,” but you always need to approach it with that attitude of service and respect.

2. Create a revenue stream

Once you know your audience incredibly well, you can start figuring out how to help them get what they want. That’s where sound product ideas come from.

Most people start with the idea of a product or service they’d like to offer. That’s a recipe for a business without customers.

It’s wise to start small — what’s sometimes called the minimum viable product. This isn’t, as some interpret it, a half-assed offering that you haven’t put much time or care into.

Your first product or service should be your best guess, rooted in a deep understanding of your audience, of a small way to create a meaningful change for that audience.

  • If it’s not grounded in your audience’s desires, they won’t buy it.
  • If it’s not small, you’ll get overwhelmed before you can launch it.
  • And if it doesn’t create a meaningful change for them, you’ll never get any momentum.

3. Never stop learning

The United States was born during the Enlightenment, a time of disruptive change. The Industrial Revolution only accelerated that change — for good and for ill.

Things seemed to smooth out for a while there in the 20th century (other than those nasty world wars), but the age of the computer showed us what disruptive change really looked like. And there’s no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.

To navigate all of this change gracefully, each of us, of every age, needs to become a lifelong student.

Beyond facts and figures, we need to nurture our ability to create and evolve.

We are all makers. We are all artists.

It’s our nature as makers and artists that will bring us to the best possible future.

As I wrote back in 2009:

Knowledge is your greatest asset. It can’t be stolen or confiscated. It sets your intellect free. And when your mind is free, the rest of it is just a bunch of beautiful fireworks.

How about you?

Do you have anything cooking that will help you become more free? Let us know about it in the comments …

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