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.

If your idea of being an entrepreneur is 1) Find the Formula, 2) Follow the Formula, and 3) Repeat the Formula, you’re probably better off being an employee. “Just tell me what to do,” is not the mantra of creative businessowners. 

On the other hand, if your idea of being an entrepreneur is 1) Experiment, 2) Evaluate, 3) Evolve, you’ll have a great time building something on your own.

For the past quarter of a century, I’ve been studying people who succeed and looking to discover the common denominator. If there’s one word that describes these innovators, it’s Participation. And if there’s one person who demonstrates that every day it’s Peter Shankman.

Shankman is currently training for his fourteenth marathon, is a skydiver, writer, and entrepreneur. His speaking schedule would leave most of us breathless. He’s innovative thoughts on social media, public relations and creativity have made him one of the most popular speakers on the circuit today. He recently showed up on CNN bringing his expertise to a story of the day.

Shankman is best known, however, for taking a little idea he had for making it easier for journalists to find people to interview. Three time a day, five days a week, his Help a Reporter Out mailings go out to over 100,000 people. I’ve personally benefited from this and been interviewed for three magazine articles as a result and several times a week I send along requests from a journalist or blogger to someone I know.

When Shankman made the switch from employee to entrepreneur, he did so with the same proactive flair that serves him so well today. He says, “So when I started my first PR firm and had no money, I did it by selling a t-shirt about the movie Titanic in Times Square. The shirt read simply, ‘It sank. Get over it.’ I made a fortune.”

Look closely and you won’t see any formulas here, but there’s success of all kinds. I suspect that Peter Shankman would laugh if you asked him for his secret. He’s too busy making every day the best it can be and he has no time for nonsense. One of his Twitter posts summed that up: “New rule: people who have 2 put ‘guru’ or ‘genius’ in their Twitter handles to show that they are, are obviously not.”

You won’t find any formulas in Derek Sivers’ article, either, but it may be the best thing I’ve read in a long time about Why You Need Your Own Company. I’m thinking of memorizing it. It’s absolutely brilliant.