The most difficult part of starting a business online is not what you’d think. Many people think you need a degree in Computer Science, investors, and to be part of a startup company. That could be true for some. However, in my case and in many people I see around me, you just need to shift your mindset and dedicate yourself to creating helpful things for others.
When you think of tech and education, your mind goes straight to Silicon Valley, that famous place where a lot of innovative companies are born, right?
I was chatting with a friend about this. He brought up the barriers to becoming successful in Silicon Valley, namely the prohibitive cost of education and the fact that women and people of color don’t always feel welcomed.
I don’t disagree. I said:
“I built a successful business with my phone and an Internet connection, so I don’t think it’s as prohibitive as you’re leading yourself to believe.”
Does that sound cavalier? Let me explain. When you go to work as part of a tech startup, or look for a job at any established company, you are playing by their rules. As an employee, you are seeking the company’s approval. You must fit their culture and their mold. Unfortunately, anyone who does not fit in – whether for education, experience, age, gender, color, or anything – may likely be pushed out, directly or indirectly.
Working out of Silicon Valley is not the only way to be innovative or make an impact. Any person with a willingness to learn, some understanding of social media, a smartphone and an internet connection can change their lives and change the world.
For years I was a classroom teacher / trainer / professor, not an employee of any innovative startup. Even working in education I felt the pressure to conform to the work culture, which surprisingly included a lot of negative stuff to deal with that I won’t go into here. If you’ve ever had any kind of “real job,” you can probably imagine. I did okay in some jobs, but more than once it did not end well. I realized I couldn’t change who I am. Luckily, I didn’t give up and I found my own way to create a living.
Five years ago I had no tech training and was barely using YouTube or Facebook. I started posting videos on YouTube to help my classroom students. Because I kept doing it and kept learning along the way, I have grown it into a business that has completely changed my life and is changing others’ lives too. I have a team of 3-5 working for me who happen to be all women, and my company will give over $10,000 to an educational charity this year alone.
When you stop looking for a job and start creating your own, you are the boss of you. You create your own culture of Company You.
I wasn’t looking for anyone to hire me when I started making YouTube videos. I wasn’t looking for approval, or permission. I was simply looking to help my students at the time. I didn’t focus on the negative thoughts, although I had plenty, for example:
“What will my friends, coworkers, and random people on the Internet think?”
“What if people prefer male teachers?”
“What if I’m not pretty enough?”
“What if I get sexual harassment online?”
“What if people laugh at me because I don’t even know how to edit my videos and I don’t have money to buy any special audio video equipment?”
“What if people say, ‘Who does she think she is to be acting like the expert?'”
Guess what? ALL of those things have happened. And I decided to continue anyway.
I decided to silence those voices and move forward with small steps because there was also a ton of positive feedback. One video, then another… and another.
Until a critical mass started following my channel, and then people started asking me how they could pay me for my help, and I accepted that as proof that maybe this thing I was creating could someday become something more than just a nerdy hobby.
I freed myself from any organizational chart and entered a cloud-based world where it was just my creativity, my camera, and wifi.
All I had to do was create. This was my new challenge. Creation is no easy task. But I love it because it’s up to me.
Then all I had to do was answer to my audience. This was also a challenge. But it’s beautiful to see a community growing around my creations.
When you start creating online, your audience effectively becomes like lots of mini bosses. They tell you what they want from you. Your income is not reliant on the goodwill of one boss, but thousands. Your creative journey can evolve, and your audience can too.
Your audience will not be drawn to you for how well you fit the typical profile of the job you once tried to get. They will be drawn to you for your quirks, maybe the fact that you didn’t get that dream job and you’re still alive, and maybe the reason they will adore you is that they see some admirable in the fact that you’re creating — without a boss to tell you to do it, without funding, without excuses, without asking for permission.