Opinions expressed by toptecheasy.com contributors are their own.
“But I’m not an expert. I don’t have a degree or degree. How can I start a business? No one will take me seriously, let alone pay me.”
I hear this all the time of my students. I patiently remind them that I am a high school dropout, 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 penetrate so I refer them to a recent one Wall Street Journal article that tells the all-too-familiar story of a group of college graduates who can’t get well-paid jobs. However, this particular story shares the struggles of students enrolled in the MFA filmmaking program at Columbia University, New York’s prestigious Ivy League school. These students took on six debts to earn an MFA degree, only to find out that not all students could be Scorsese directly. An Ivy League education couldn’t save them from the same low-paying, entry-level film jobs as someone who didn’t take out a loan the size of an apartment.
We are facing an epidemic of overeducated and underpaid wage hunters in this country as we have completely outdone the success equation.
What I am going to share with you applies not only to starting a business but also to people who simply want a lucrative and fulfilling job. I will describe how most people approach the acquisition of skills, and then I will tell you how successful people approach the acquisition of skills.
If I do my job well, you will be convinced that you don’t have to be an expert to start a business. In fact, if you’re not an expert now, you’re better off.
Related: 8 keys to coming across as the expert in whatever you’re selling
how most? people acquire skills
“Go to college! Get a higher degree! That’s how you pass.”
It’s amazing how people refuse to believe what’s right in front of their eyes. Columbia’s filmmakers are not unique. According to a PayScale study, 46% of US workers said they were “underpaid.” Meanwhile, 76% of those respondents said it was because they didn’t use their degree in their careers.
But people still blindly follow the same old routine, which goes something like this:
- Invest time and money in education to acquire skills.
- Enter the market with newly acquired skills.
Let’s discuss two things about this approach. First of all, it puts all risks first. You are sinking tons of time and money acquiring skills you hope for the market will reward you for it. In reality, so many graduates enter the market only to find that the market does not need their skills. Worse, many feel that their higher education makes them overqualified. They have priced themselves out of the market.
Related: 5 steps to establish yourself as an industry expert
How entrepreneurs acquire skills
Entrepreneurs, and otherwise smart people, take a backward approach to what I’ve outlined above. Here’s what it looks like:
- Go to the marketplace and ask them what problems they have.
- Find out how much they would be willing to pay to fix that problem.
- If you find a problem for which the market pays a hefty fee, go out and acquire the skills you need to solve that problem.
- Acquire your first customers.
- Refine your offer and use your first customers as hands-on training.
- Present your offer to the market.
An toptecheasy.com starts with the market — listening to what they want, and only then acquire the necessary skills.
There is also much less upfront risk. Yes, it can take time and money to acquire the skills you need to solve the market problem. Maybe it requires a degree? Maybe not? But probably not. You can work wonders with books and online courses.
But no matter how much time and money you invest, you invest it knowing that a payday is waiting on the other side. Why? Because you respond to the market.
You are the solution to a problem. And people end up paying for that. Columbia’s filmmakers learned the hard way that there was no bigger problem to solve — and that didn’t change just because they had an expensive education.
Related: 7 ways to position yourself so people see you as an expert
Here are the reasons why you should start your business sooner: you have the skills to deliver. Once you start your market research, you’re in business.
Here’s how to get started:
- Pick a niche, any niche. Don’t be tempted to follow the money – everyone pitches for consulting services, doctors, lawyers and so on. Often, the obscure and more esoteric the niche, the better.
- Talk to people in the niche. Find out what their biggest day-to-day problems are.
- Ask them how much they would pay to fix the problem. If they say anything under $2,000, you may not have a viable business. It must be worth your time.
- Do you want extra bonus points? If you’re ambitious, ask them to get their credit card and pay you for the solution before you even know how to deliver! It’s a bold move, but that’s how you know that people are willing to pay for the solution. It is the ultimate validation of product-market fit.
- Now — and only now – go out and acquire the skills you need to solve the problem.
You don’t have to become a master of 10,000 hours. You just need a) to know more than the customer and b) enough to solve the problem.
Solving the problem is everything. Thread that needle and you’re pretty much paid.