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For anyone who is intrigued by the prospect of a portfolio career, Entrepreneurial You presents practical tips and offers simple strategies for aspiring entrepreneurs to make money from solo enterprises.
But the book goes beyond the remit of a traditional how-to guide for sole practitioners. It also offers tools for anyone who wants to develop diverse revenue streams — even people in full-time employment. The author, Dorie Clark, gives a compelling argument at the outset of Entrepreneurial You about why, in an “uneasy economic environment”, mastering diverse sources of sustainable income is an essential art in any field.
Following her own advice, Clark has more than one job title: she describes herself as a marketing strategy consultant, a professional speaker and an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (and, of course, an author). She is also a resounding optimist, offering case studies of entrepreneurs who have turned independent projects into robust profits.
She was not always so successful. Clark includes her early career setbacks in this book, along with what she learnt from them. After she was made redundant from her job as a political reporter at a weekly newspaper in 2001, she had an epiphany: “No job, I realised, is secure.” Clark discovered the importance of having more than one revenue source.
Over the next several years, Clark turned to platforms ranging from podcasts to public speeches to build her brand and her business. But the process was not always profitable. When she began, she wrote articles for reputable publications without pay in an effort to gain exposure and, of course, new clients. Now she charges $6,000 for a half-day strategy session.
Entrepreneurial You includes Clark’s interviews with more than 50 successful entrepreneurs, “earning high six-, seven-, and eight-figure incomes with solo or very small businesses”. Within a few years of starting her own business, Clark says she was earning a six-figure income.
But she did not have the flexible schedule she wanted. In order to reach “a new echelon of elite clients”, who could offer bigger budgets, and give her more financial freedom, Clark realised she had to reinvent herself.
That strategy can apply to anyone who wants a career boost. Clark describes how she and her fellow sole proprietors attract new clients by using a range of endeavours, including writing articles, speaking at conferences and teaching online classes. They also harness online marketing to expand beyond their existing client bases.
Her advice is to build a database of potential new clients. By getting the email addresses of the people who might be interested in her services, she can offer them access to self-assessments and other tools that might pique their interest.
Clark points out that monetising expertise requires different skills than those needed to be great at a job. Confidence and market savvy are crucial. She relays another story from early in her consulting career, when she offered a client the rate of $60 for an hour of her services, because: “That was just a bit less than my acupuncturist charged”. When the client accepted the rate a bit too quickly, Clark realised she had undersold her expertise.
Clark is confident that her monetisation techniques can be applied across disciplines and industries. This is the third in a trilogy of books with equally aspirational titles: Reinventing You and Standing Out. This one reads like a how-to-succeed-in-business manual with a healthy dose of self-help. Clark wants to ask readers: “How can you create a long-term, sustainable business that rewards you emotionally, intellectually, and financially?”
She offers sage, if oft-repeated advice: “it’s easier to keep an existing customer than to win a new one” and “as an entrepreneur you can’t put a price on your reputation; without it you’ve got nothing”. But her underlying theme is building readers’ confidence in their entrepreneurial ideas.
Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams and Thrive, by Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review Press, £18.99/$28.00
The writer is an FT video and Facebook live producer