Self-employment – can you make it?

“Make a Job, Don’t Take a Job” is the title of a report by former journalist Martin Bright, and although it’s aimed at encouraging entrepreneurial endeavour within the creative industry, it has relevance for all job seekers in the current economic climate.

In yesterday’s Observer (Review) there was a fascinating feature on graduates who rejected the traditional ‘compact’ that says you do well at school, go to university, get a degree and that guarantees a job. Of course it’s a falsehood now, and given that kids will be saddled with significant debts after higher education, it’s high time we questioned this orthodoxy.

According to Bright, it’s more a question of having an idea, a computer, broadband access and then away you go! Of course, it’s not quite so easy but the Observer piece highlights a number of young people who have made a decent fist of self-employment.

Joshua Magidson (24) founded an on-line business called eatstudent.co.uk, having himself found it hard to find a decent home delivery takeaway service after a night out with the lads! He now has over 300 restaurants advertising on his site and 15 UK universities on his database. Apparently, the web site’s popularity rose thanks to the slogan “Sex, Drugs and Egg Spring Rolls”!

But it’s not just on-line businesses that students are forming. Gerard Jones (pictured above), a promising footballer, formed his own coaching school and turned down an offer from Manchester United to be one of their paid employees. In his first year Jones taught over 4,000 students and his (very large) poster adorns his local shopping centre, a hero in his home town of Hull.

What interests me about the cases highlighted is the way they’ve immersed themselves in something that’s close to their heart, and attracted attention in the process. Magidson’s activities caught the eye of JustEat and they poured money into the web-site, enabling the young entrepreneur to grow (they were keen as he was the only one focusing entirely on the student market).

But it’s also to do with what Simon Sinek talks about in his TED presentation – start with the WHY. In other words, because of some personal experience these entrepreneurs decided to right a wrong, to do something that wasn’t being addressed – in other words to challenge the status quo. Sinek calls this leadership. For him, companies and individuals who LEAD effectively do so because they articulate their BELIEFS FIRST, and the benefits and features second. The trick is not to find people who need what you supply; it’s about finding people who believe in what you believe.

My point here is that if you start up some business just to make a profit, you’ll struggle to gain a following. You’ll rely on advertising to PUSH your product or service in front of people, and in a world of more choice and less time this strategy is becoming defunct.

Think in terms of your manifesto, not your brochure or CV. Talk about why you do what you do. Craft a compelling message and deliver it with skill and passion. Use multiple platforms to spread your message, and soon enough you’ll start attracting people to you – the right people. Something in your message resonated with them. Something touched them about what you were doing and saying.

The government is right to encourage entrepreneurial endeavour, but people need a lot of support and advice to set something up, sustain it and make it successful. The good news is there’s never been a better time than now for the under-resourced to start a business, pursue an ambition and take charge of their own future (take a look at our MojoLife concept).

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