In the past several weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time with John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books which is a terrific collection of ideas and resources. Of course, I’ve been through this before so it’s not unmarked territory for me.
When Making a Living Without a Job came out originally, I wasn’t nearly so experienced. Much of the promotion was spearheaded the first time around by Gilly, my Bantam publicist. This time, I have a publicist, too, but I’m generating a lot of promotion myself.
Last week I recalled a valuable lesson I learned when I was a new author. I was contacted by a public relations firm in Minneapolis that specialized in author promotions. I talked to one of their agents on the phone who then sent me their brochure and price list. Although they promised spectacular results, I was not at all convinced to use their services.
Months later, I sat down and totaled up what Gilly and I had done and then, using the pr agent’s price list, totaled what it would have cost to have them do the same work. Any guesses? My low-end estimate was $20,000. Obviously, our sweat equity was valuable.
Sweat equity is an old real estate term describing an investment of time. Sweat equity is the capital of the DIY movement and it’s equally popular with small business startups. In fact, when I look at the stories of some of my favorite businesses—Ben & Jerry’s comes to mind—sweat equity is a recurring theme.
Derek Sivers is a case in point. The founder of CD Baby, Sivers has gone on to other endeavors, but credits his willingness to invest time for much of his ultimate success. In fact, he blogged about it and said, “I can’t remember anything in my last 20 years of running my own business that really felt like hard work! Was it hard work finding band members, scheduling rehearsals, or trying to book gigs in the college market? Not really. It felt like an extension of the creative process of making music. Was it hard work answering thousands of CD Baby e-mails myself for the first few years? Not really. It was good to hear what people were thinking, what problems they were having, and felt great to solve them all.I could see how these things would seem like hard work, but when it’s your company or you’re so filled with love for what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Of course, sweat equity isn’t just about saving money: it’s also a way to master every aspect of your enterprise. In order for that to happen, you must believe that investing your time and energy is worth the effort.
If you do decide it’s worthwhile, you’ll be in good company. As Seth Godin points out, “Bootstrappers built this country, and they continue to make it great. Virtually every business—from IBM to the local dry cleaner—was bootstrapped, usually by people with far less smarts, less money, fewer connections and less vision than you have right now.”
So get busy. The sooner you invest, the sooner you’ll be seeing a return.