Here’s Why You Should Wait Until After You’ve Started Your Business to Acquire the Correct Skills


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“But I’m not an expert. I don’t have any degrees or qualifications. How can I start a business? No one will take me seriously, let alone pay me.”

i feel that all the time of my students. I patiently remind you that I am a high school student and, on paper, my only qualification to manage Facebook and Google ads is the fact that I run a seven-figure agency that manages Facebook and Google ads.

It usually doesn’t sink, so I refer them to a recent one Wall Street Journal article that tells the all-too-familiar story about a group of graduates who can’t get a well-paying job. This particular story, however, shares the struggles of students enrolled in the MFA film program at Columbia University, New York’s prestigious Ivy League school. These students took on six figures of debt to earn an MFA degree, only to discover that not every student could be Scorsese right away. An Ivy League education couldn’t save them from the same low-paying entry-level movie jobs as someone who didn’t. take out a condo-sized loan.

We have an epidemic of overeducated, underpaid wage chasers in this country because we have the success equation completely backwards.

What I’m about to share with you applies not only to starting a business, but also to people who just want a lucrative and fulfilling job. I’ll describe how most people approach skill acquisition, and then I’ll tell you about success people approach the acquisition of skills.

If I do my job well, you will be convinced that you don’t need to be an expert to start a business. In fact, if you’re not an expert right now, you better be.

Related: 8 keys to come off as the expert in what you sell

Like most people acquire skills

“Go to college! Get an advanced degree! That’s how you make it.”

It’s amazing how people refuse to believe what is in front of their eyes. Columbia filmmakers are not unique. According to a PayScale survey, 46% of American workers reported being “underemployed.” Meanwhile, 76% of respondents said it was because they weren’t using their degrees in their careers.

But people blindly follow the same old routine, which goes something like this:

  1. Spend time and money on education to acquire skills.
  2. Go to market with newly acquired skills.
  3. ???
  4. Benefits?

Let’s talk about two things about this approach. First, you bear all the risk. You are sinking tons of time and money to acquire the skills you expect the market will reward you. In reality, many graduates enter the market only to find that the market does not need their skills. Worse, many find that their advanced education makes them overqualified. They have been priced out of the market.

Related: 5 steps to establish yourself as an industry expert

As entrepreneurs acquire skills

Entrepreneurs, and other knowledgeable people, take a backward approach to what I described above. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Go to the market and ask them what problems they have.
  2. Find out how much they would be willing to pay to solve this problem.
  3. When you find a problem that the market will pay a lot to solve, go out and acquire the skills you need to solve that problem.
  4. Get your first customers.
  5. Refine your offering, using your first customers as hands-on training.
  6. Present your offer to the market.

An entrepreneur starts with the market: listening to what they want, and only then acquire the necessary skills.

There is also much less risk up front. Yes, it may take time and money to acquire the skills needed to solve the market problem. Maybe it will require a degree? Maybe it won’t be? But it probably won’t be. You can do wonders with books and online courses.

But no matter how much time and money you invest, you invest it knowing there’s a payday waiting on the other side. Because? Because you are responding to the market.

You are the solution to a problem. And, after all, that’s what people pay money for. Columbia filmmakers learned the hard way that there was no bigger problem to solve, and that didn’t change just because they had an expensive title.

Related: 7 ways to position yourself so people see you as an expert

next steps

Here are the reasons why you should start your business earlier you have the skills to deliver. Once you start doing your market research, you’re in business.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Pick a niche, any niche. Don’t be tempted to follow the money – everyone is making available consulting services, doctors, lawyers, etc. Often, the more obscure and esoteric the niche, the better.
  2. Talk to people in the niche. Find out what their biggest day-to-day problems are.
  3. Ask them how much they will pay to fix the problem. If they say less than $2,000, you may not have a viable business. It has to be worth your time.
  4. Want extra bonus points? If you’re feeling ambitious, ask them to take out their credit card and pay you for the solution before you know how to deliver! It’s a bold move, but that’s how you know it that people are willing to pay for the solution. It is the definitive validation of the product’s market fit.
  5. Now, and only now — go out and get the skills you need to solve the problem.

You don’t need to become a 10,000 hour master. You just need to know a) more than the customer and b) enough to solve the problem.

Solving the problem is everything. Thread that needle and you’re as good as paid.



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