Thursday, September 11, 2014
I Got Myself a Plan (or two)
Hello there! If you’re one of the hundreds who dropped by last week, welcome back. I figured that title (“How to Make a Million Dollars”) would lure people in, but I wasn’t expecting such a response. Obviously people are interested in finance, so I think I’ll stick with the topic, for this week at least. And it’ll have to be from my limited personal experience. I’m a writer, not a financial expert. If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be a writer.
That said, I stand by both the plans I proposed last week. They will work, eventually. You can get a million dollars by persuading a million individuals to each give you a dollar, or by producing a million items to sell for a dollar each. Your success will hinge on the quality of your product, customer demand, and how hard you’re willing to work. You won’t get the million all at once, but with luck and good timing along with the other requirements mentioned, I’ll bet you can earn yourself a comfortable living.
Though maybe not at writing. That’s tricky to make a living at. Most of the time you’ll find yourself waiting for weeks for word from publishers, and the word might be “no”. If it’s a story or article, you get a one-time payment (sometimes on acceptance, but sometimes on publication, which can be another year or two). If it’s a book, you might get an advance. E-books, the wave of the future, don’t pay advances. Either way, royalty payments are usually sent out quarterly, sometimes monthly, occasionally twice a year. That’s assuming your book sold enough to earn you royalties. I once got a royalty payment of three pennies. No kidding. They sent me three pennies in an envelope. The stamp cost more than the payment. Oh, and while you’re waiting for your money, the bills keep showing up in your mailbox with depressing regularity. Hope you held onto your day job.
If you want to make a million faster than that, you’ll probably be better off choosing a different product. If I could bake, I’d do cookies or cupcakes or muffins or something along those lines. Nobody’s going to turn down a cupcake, and you can whip up a couple of dozen of those in an afternoon. Some places are already selling muffins at a dollar a pop. Just find a million people hungry for your product and you’re in business.
True life example: local (Lancaster, PA) businesswoman Anne Beiler. She made her millions with pretzels—the soft pretzel, to be specific. Ever heard of the Auntie Anne’s franchise? That’s her. She’s rich now, but she wasn’t when she started out. She built the foundations of her fortune at a farmer’s market in Downingtown, selling one pretzel at a time. Her efforts paid off handsomely: she sold her company a couple years back for several million dollars. Think about that next time you’re smearing mustard on a pretzel.
Here’s what she did right. She took a popular regional treat (the Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel) and, if you’ll pardon the pun, put her own twist on it. Food, especially portable snack food, tends to go over big with shoppers. Beiler experimented with flavors like garlic and cinnamon, and set up shop in a venue with plenty of hungry foot traffic. Her product caught on with the buying public, and she was on her way.
Now at this point she could have stuck with the farmer’s market stand or opened her own pretzel shop and continued as a one-woman operation and maybe done all right. Instead she took a chance and opted to franchise. Auntie Anne’s pretzel stands started popping up all over the place, with other people making the pretzels according to her recipe.
Beiler got out of the kitchen and stepped into the CEO’s office. That’s another decision you may find yourself faced with. How big of a business do you want? Do you want to do it all yourself, or farm some or all of the tasks out to others while you supervise?
No matter how big or small your operation becomes, it all comes down to following one of the two plans: you either find a million people willing to give you a dollar for something, or create a million products and charge a dollar apiece. Or $5, or $10, or whatever the market’s willing to bear. I’m just using the dollar as an example. How many people you can get to hand over those dollars will determine how fast your million mounts up.
That’s the bad news. No matter how you choose to make your million, at some point it’s going to require selling. Life is all about selling: selling a product, selling your services, selling yourself to a potential employer. If you hate the thought of sales, too bad. You want to be rich? You’re now a salesperson. Like it or don’t, it’s the only game in town.
Right now, I’m not very good at it. Those hundreds of page views we got last week? I don’t think I made any sales. I won’t know for sure until the quarterly royalties come in. Looks like I need to work harder on my sales and marketing techniques. Or maybe I’ll go bake muffins. If that takes off, I can write a cookbook. Wishing you huge profits …