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Entrepreneur.com discovers “free”

The Shoestring Venture book and series is all about exploiting low-cost to free resources to found and build your business. Well, Entrepreneur magazine has caught on with a recent article, “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Money quote:

Today, the web is full of free tools to help entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses for next to nothing. It’ll just cost you some time and an internet connection.

Pay careful attention to that sentence, “It’ll just cost you some time . . .” As Hamlet says, “Ay, there’s the rub.” More after the break.

There’s a certain fiction that you find in all articles of this stripe: nobody ever writes articles about failure. And for every person Entrepreneur Magazine can track down with a great story of using Facebook and Google to build a $50 million dollar business while spending nothing, there’s hundreds more who tried the same trick and are now scrubbing pots at Applebee’s.

Just because there are free tools doesn’t mean that your exempt from all the rules that apply to other businesses:

  • You have to have customers and a product that appeals to customers. Some people luck into this, some are intuitive geniuses, and others do all the groundwork to determine they have a viable product that they can sell to a large and reachable market. That latter group constitutes the bulk of the success stories out there.
  • You have to know what you’re doing. Yeah, there are folks who stumble into business success (like Josh Brolin in “No Country for Old Men”). But using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Google AdSense, and blogging have an impressive learning curve to deploy those tools most effectively.
  • You have to fail. It’s the cardinal rule of all business that you’re going to plant your face firmly on the concrete more than once. Failure can either be an expense or it can be tuition. The folks who succeed use failure as tuition.
  • You have to spend time. Listen, folks, I’m a blogger and a darn good one at that. It helps that I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years, have honors degrees in English from a good university, doctoral work in English from the best doctoral program in the country, taught writing for eight years, worked another eight years on the creative side, and have an MBA from a top program. But, even though I’ve got this incredible pedigree as a writer and business consultant, blogging, like marathoning, takes work and discipline. You have to do it every day without fail. The same applies to succeeding at social networking, affiliate marketing, or all these other tools out there.

    Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric and language of articles like this. At some point, you need to master the nuts and bolts of tools like social networking or blogging. Then you need the discipline to do the work. Day in, day out.

    Fortunately, Shoestring Venture discusses all the nuts and bolts of these free tools rather than dump a bunch of inspirational stories on you. If you want to be inspired, read the Entrepreneur article. Then buy our book if you want to actually turn this inspiration into hard-earned success.

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