Chris Guillebeau is a successful serial micro-entrepreneur and the inspirational blogger on his awesome website, The Art Of Non-Conformity. For years now he has been providing unconventional strategies for life, work and travel. He’s a huge traveler himself having already visited 188 countries. He now has only 5 more countries to go to reach his goal of visiting all 193 by the ripe old age of 35! And he recently came out with a new book titled The $100 Startup that shows you how to lead a life of adventure, meaning and purpose while still earning a good living.
So given that I am co-hosting the Austin event this year for Meet Plan Go which is dedicated to encouraging and teaching others how to travel the world and given likewise that my partner and I are dedicated to the same with our website and book, How To Travel For Free, I was very excited to get to read Chris’s new book and tell our readers about it. Also, I’m personally right in the midst of starting a couple of new small businesses with the goal of obtaining additional financial freedom to travel even more than I already do, and without a doubt reading this book has already helped me in many ways.
In a nutshell, The $100 Startup lays out concrete ideas and instructions on how to create and market a unique offering of goods and/or services that provide real value to customers who are willing to pay you for them. And throughout all these insights Chris weaves in 50 interesting, real-life, case studies on how people like you and me were able to find their niche and restructure their lives to be able to do the things they want to do.
As you can imagine Chris is a very busy man, but last week I was lucky enough to get to ask him a few questions about The $100 Startup which I think is going to change the lives of many people all over the world for the better.
Me: What do you think makes your book different from other similar books on starting a business?
Chris: Well, hopefully it’s not a business book—at least not a traditional one. It’s a manifesto for freedom, combined with a specific plan of action based on a comprehensive study. The key words are specific and actionable.
Me: Do you think a certain innate personality is required to become a successful entrepreneur?
Chris: No, but I do think a couple things help. First of all, it’s good to be curious—to be willing to ask questions and pursue different lines of inquiry. Then it’s important to take action. Almost everyone has a business idea of some kind, but most people don’t do anything with their idea. Our research found that success was much more likely with those who took action within 30 days instead of planning for months without actually doing anything.
Me: The $100 Startup seems to be really focused on starting a small business doing something you are passionate about which is a wonderful thing. But what about the people whose number one passion is to have the freedom to travel long-term? In other words, their main focus is to find some way to earn money from a business while on the road for an extended amount of time, even if the potential business doesn’t necessarily involve work that they are passionate about. Do you think this book can still help them?
Chris: Well, that’s still an example of a classic lifestyle business: a business that supports your life instead of the other way around. There is more than one way to pursue freedom, but most people don’t want to lay around on the beach all the time. They want to do something meaningful and fulfilling. So I’d say The $100 Startup will be most helpful to everyone who wants to find their own freedom by creating something valuable for other people.
Me: For people who are looking to start a business that can eventually be run while on the road traveling is it a prerequisite for them to be pretty computer literate?
Chris: It depends on the business. We talked with all kinds of people, including those who run offline or retail businesses. It certainly does help in many cases to be familiar with the online world, but I don’t think you need any highly specialized, technical skills.
Me: I know you are a huge traveler and that you’ve been a very successful entrepreneur even though you constantly take great trips. What’s been the biggest challenge for you as far as running your business affairs while on the road, and how do you work through that?
Chris: Good question. I’ve found that I’m fairly good at maintaining my different businesses while on the road, but I’m not so good at starting new projects or creating long-form content such as book manuscripts. For that reason, I travel half the time and stay at home the other half of the time. When I’m home, I’m working on the big things. When I’m on the road, I’m still working, but not as strategically—and that’s OK, since I love travel.
Me: What single piece of advice would you give to someone who really wants to be a mobile entrepreneur so that they can travel the world, but they are hesitant to take the plunge because they’ve never started a business of any kind before in their life?
Chris: I’d encourage them to look at all their skills and life experience, evaluating those things to see where a viable business model might be found. Sure, they haven’t started a business, but that doesn’t mean they are unskilled. Chances are, the skills or experience they’ve developed in one area may help them to create a business model in another. For example, Sarah Young had never ran a retail business before she opened her yarn shop, but she was an experienced knitter. She noticed there was no yarn shop in her hometown that provided a friendly, welcoming environment, so she decided to open Happy Knits. There are lots of examples of people who have followed a similar model for online, location independent businesses as well.
Therefore, start with what you’re good at, and then work relentlessly at figuring out how that thing (or those things) can be transformed into something valuable for others. That’s how many successful, $50,000/year or six-figure micro businesses are built.
* * *
So there you have it. Chances are that if you are reading this article you are the kind of person who wants the financial freedom to travel more and live a life that doesn’t include continuously working 9-5 for someone else. Starting you own business is certainly one of the ways that can help you accomplish this. And if you’re looking for inspiration and details on how to get started with very little money, this book is for you.