It sounds illegal, right?
But it's not. I know because I'm constantly doing it, just like other aspiring entrepreneurs and independent businesspeople. While my colleagues at my day job – a marketing agency in New Jersey – are busy stealing Clorox wipes and Kleenex tissues, I'm busy stealing ideas. What I mean is, I'm taking the same services my employer offers its clients, adding my own creative twist to them, then offering them to my freelance clients. These personalized services, responsible for helping my clients' businesses grow, have helped solidify the foundation of my freelance writing career.
The best thing about stealing in this respect is that it's perfectly legal and ethical. It's a kind of thievery you can feel good about.
The reason it's legal is because of competition. Think about it: if only one company was allowed to offer press release writing, clients would be pissed. Today, clients don't want services from a monopolistic company. Clients want services delivered with passion and personality, not a press release created by some blank face they imagine working in a cloth-covered cubicle.
So why then do all these large companies rake in so much money? This is a whole different topic, but it's because they have a shitload of authority and are trusted. It's a snowball effect. One large client led to another large client which then led to popularity and the ability to charge outrageous prices for something you and I can complete better, for cheaper, on our own time while making twice as much as we make now.
What's amazing about this time we live in is that freelancers can gain authority too, and they can graduate and become entrepreneurs. No longer do geniuses like us have to work in giant institutions. We can do things our own way. We can provide a superior service to clients using our originality, talent, experience and a collection of online platforms.
I'll mention these platforms soon. But before I move on, I want to say that many large companies aren't the tyrants I make them out to be. They're not all monopolistic and void of passion. In fact, they can inspire passion in us. From working at these places, we're able to learn about the biz, learn about the services and products clients really want, experience what works and what doesn't and, ultimately, use our creativity and wit to create something unique. Something we can call our own that makes us and our clients feel special.
First, what you have to realize is that the day job you slave away at can offer you so much more than mediocre pay. If you think the only opportunity you have is to get promoted and make a few more grand, you're looking at it all wrong. There's more than the one-dimensional opportunity everyone around you sees. In reality, there's a whole business plan looking you right in the eyes. All you have to do is steal it and make it your own.
What to Steal From Your Day Job
You don't want to steal everything – only the really good things. Just like a common thief wouldn't steal your parents' wedding picture while rooting through your mother's dresser, I wouldn't steal the "Blog Commenting" service from my day job. And yes, it's as terrible as it sounds. We actually have a department dedicated to commenting on shitty blogs on our clients' behalf. Needless to say, when I'm having a bad day at work, I think of all those poor souls just a few aisles down from me.
I wouldn't steal that service just like a comedian, wouldn't steal a bad joke revolving around Miley Cyrus. You and I wouldn't steal either of these things because no one cares and they're hard to make work. So what should you steal? Something I like to call "golden nuggets" – a copywriting term that's cheesy as fuck but really sticks.
If your day job is anything like mine, it offers an array of services. A handful of these services actually benefit the company's clients while the rest are just fillers. The one's that provide the most benefit are the golden nuggets.
The only reason the other services exist is to expand the amount of offerings the company has. With more offerings come more ideas to pitch and more money to be made. Little do clients know that these services aren't benefitting them in any discernible way and will most likely be omitted from the company's calculator within the year. These are the services you leave behind, like the criminal leaves behind your parents' wedding picture.
Steal the services that clients speak most about in a positive way. If you feel confident in providing these services on your own in a unique manner, steal them. Steal them and make them better … make them your own. And don't worry about getting caught. The services I'm talking about are intangible. You carry them away in your mind and, as they stir and fuse with your own ideas, all evidence vanishes.
How to Start Your Own Business
The best way to start your own business is to leverage the power of the Internet. Using your new ideas, your workplace experience, your passion and talent, offer your services to everyone around the world. Once you do, you're officially a freelancer. Not quite an entrepreneur, but getting there.
How do you offer your professional services to people? There are many ways that would require a series of posts, so, for now, I'm only going to list the two most important here – the two I'm currently using and doing quite well with. The first way is with freelance platforms (where you should start) and the second is with a website (where you should graduate to after picking up some projects on freelance platforms).
Create a freelance profile
The freelance platform I use and love is oDesk.com. Filling out a profile and finding work is incredibly easy. While it's somewhat difficult to get the projects you really want at first, you eventually will after you complete some smaller projects. These smaller projects are the ones that build up your freelance portfolio and build trust among future clients. Other popular freelance platforms are Freelancer.com and Elance.com. I recommend sticking with one.
Create a website
Even if you have just a plain-looking website, it immediately places you in a more preferred bracket of applicants. This goes for freelance and full-time jobs. Today, thanks to some amazing web developers and software engineers, it's easier than ever to create a website. All you need is a domain and hosting account (I use Go Daddy – about $60/yr), a way to easily manage your content (I use Wordpress - free) and a theme, also known as your website's paint job (free to $100+). If anyone says you need more than these three things starting out, tell em' bullshit.
Even if this whole freelancing thing doesn't appeal to you, having your own website will work wonders for your full-time job application success rate. Ask a handful of your friends if they have their own website and none will say "yes." That's because personal websites are rare. And rare things are precious and given precedence.
Why You'll Succeed Moving Forward
I know you're going to succeed for the same reason I know I will: your product, service or idea will be personalized with passion. The truth is: you did everyone a favor when you stole it in its generic form from your day job. Because of you, the world of products and services will become better. Through the amazing freelance platforms available and the ingenious Google search (what finds your online face), you'll give the agencies you stole from a run for their money. People that need certain services will discover you – the freelancer and entrepreneur – and they'll never turn back.
I firmly believe that our generation is the generation of freelancers, and my belief was confirmed just days ago when an online marketing agency contacted me. They said that even though they had a writing department, they were interested in seeing what a freelancer could do. Why? Because deep down they know that freelancers and entrepreneurs hang onto something that's stolen away by the front doors of agencies: pride and passion ... the main ingredients of truly exceptional work.
With websites, social media, email and other interactive online platforms, we can instantly connect with people all around the world and build a virtual of dynasty of ideas and services that consumers crave. Whether that dynasty remains your own or grows is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain: you must start somewhere.
My recommendation? Steal.
Services, ideas, wisdom, experience. Steal it all and listen to my mother when she says, "Don't quit you day job just yet."
Top photo courtesy of USA Network