We are now on Facebook!

Hello all!

We are now on Facebook! We sat on the sidelines long enough, due to  Facebook’s significant privacy issues, we have decided to move forward as this is how many people are talking to each other these days. So we will be talking to you where you are most comfortable.

This said we will keep your privacy and not release your information like Facebook does, which is anyone willing to pay. We sell nothing, and will not release your info even to your momma!

Follow us at our Facebook page –> https://www.facebook.com/FreeLearner.how/

And join us in conversations at our facebook group “Life Hacking for Personal Independence and Freedom” https://www.facebook.com/groups/freelearner.how

And as always we hope you join us as we learn to live free each and everyday!

Why writing a business plan kills your startup

Years ago my wife was very excited about starting up a new business to do event décor for parties. She worked out the numbers and projected she could make about $1500-3000 a weekend after labor and cleaning. She talked with me and we decided to go out and buy some event décor stuff and get her going. She did a few parties for friends to build a portfolio, see what people wanted and estimated how long it took to decorate the parties. It was a bit of work, but it looked pretty profitable. So as loving husband I gave her the advice that all of my friends and family have given me when I wanted to start a new business, and told her to write a business plan so she can be more strategic in her sales. Writing the business plan completely killed her business.

What do you mean it killed her business?

Exactly that. She had an incredible passion for it, she went out and took action to go find the materials, buy the products, did a few demos, got some clients, made a few bucks and she HAD a business, it was running, but once she had to sit down on the computer to project her 5 year plan, that was it, it was dead as a door-nail. This isn’t because my wife is afraid of business, technology or writing. My wife is a medical scientist and is a super nerd, she literally goes to staples once a week to browse pencils and stationary. She loves to be organized. This should be her jam, but once she had to project a future, and make numbers to support it, create a market analysis report and projections of her supplies, it became overwhelming. She asked me “Why do I have to do this? These numbers seem fictitious.” And I replied “So you know where to put your effort, create a plan. 90% planning with 10% action will get you to your goal”. This is the sage advice I had been given for every failed business I ran too. Wait what?

I have run 4 successful businesses over the past nearly 20 years, one lasting 17 years, but I have started 6-8 unsuccessful ones too. Every single one that was a success I “fell into” and went with my gut. Every business idea that failed was when I wanted to “take it seriously” or “create a strategic plan”. Ie, I wrote a business plan.

So why does a business plan kill your business?

I think there are a few reasons it can kill your business.

  1. It kills the fun — The biggest one is that you are making a plan for something that you haven’t even tried yet. You don’t know how the market will ACTUALLY react to your product or service. You are literally just doing mental masturbation by playing with the numbers and not putting any work into this idea.
  2. It kills the passion — You are passionate about your business and you want to throw a wet blanket on it by pretending to do business on paper? You are literally wasting your time, and you know it! Your conscience is telling you “STOP! STOP! Why are you doing this to me! I want to DO MY BUSINESS! “
  3. It promotes the idea that you aren’t ‘smart enough’ – Comprehensive business plans (5-10 year plans) are very detailed, and can be overwhelming. Mostly they make you “figure out” things that you don’t have the experience to ask or know when you are starting a new business. You can be an accomplished business person, but going into a new sector makes you a n00b again. What happens is you start eliminating or N/A’ing out sections, but this makes you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, because you don’t have the information. The thing is, you DON”T NEED THAT INFORMATION YET.
  4. It promotes getting a loan — Are you writing this to be professional or to get a loan? Many people write a business plan to be professional, but what does this mean? Usually you are looking for validation, and validation comes in the form of a loan to many people. Imagine this scene in a movie, a guy brings his shiny new business plan to the bank and has the loan officer look over it in their marble office and say “mm, that’s interesting, wow sir you really have a great plan here, here is a bucket of money.” They shake hands and now he owns Google. That shit is a myth. Honestly that is the message bankers want you to hear, so they can lend you that money that will likely fail, so they can get their interest from you. You don’t need a lot of money to start your business.
  5. It promotes the idea you need ‘permission’ – Item 3 & 4 go together, because it gives this idea that someone else knows your business better than you do, so you are asking permission to start from someone “smarter”, “who knows the business” or an employee of a bank who has never actually run a business to give their blessing to YOUR IDEA. YOU DO NOT NEED THEIR PERMISSION, YOU SEE THE NEED, SO GO FILL IT!
  6. It wastes time – You do NOT need a business plan right now, you need to be trying to sell that shit as quickly as possible with the lowest investment possible.
  7. It will fails before you start – This plan you made in 40-60 hours is a fantasy. You are literally are making shit up. You will feel bad if you do not meet your goals that you set for yourself, because you haven’t even tried yet. Don’t do this to yourself.

OK, NO PLAN, GOT IT, JUST HAVE ACTION. RIGHT?

So the truth is you do need a basic plan. When people think a business plan they think of these comprehensive plans, you need a micro plan. It is literally the things you know.

YOUR PLAN CONSISTS OF JUST THREE THINGS:

  1. How much does it cost me?
  2. How much can I sell it for?
  3. Where do I sell it?

This is all you need. Period. Later you can fine tune it, but this is what we call the MVP plan. The minimum viable product plan. You should be able to do this in your head.

Example: I am selling a book that I bought for $1 for $5 to a bookstore. I made $4. That is a business. Now you just need to figure out how many books to sell to that bookstore so you can make your $100lk a year, right? That is the fine tuning. But it all starts with the first sale! Go sell that book anywhere you can today! If no one will buy your book, then try again tomorrow. By day 3 if no one is buying your book, then get a new book and try that or try lowering your price. That is the fine tuning. It took 1 day to give you more information than all that time pretending to have a business. When you make a sale, you legitimized your business. You are a business person. It works. That is incredibly valuable.

Pro tip – Use spare money to try your plan, I’m talking about like $10 or $100, whatever you think is play money, use that. You can make money from any amount of money.  Then set a deadline to sell. I will sell $10 of product in 2 days for $15. That is 50% profit!

Sounds too simple right? Because business is simple. You have something that someone else wants, don’t over complicate this. Is it easy? It may not be easy, you are going to have to break down a lot of mental barriers to get that first sale, but that is why it is the hardest and best feeling when you accomplish it.

I have created a quick tool for you to help you get started, it is a 7 day Quick Setup Guide.  It will walk you through some basic questions and help motivate you to get going on your project.

Now go out there and make it happen. You are one step closer to learning to be free.

Kill over $40,000 in debt on a $55k salary

For years I have been doing side hustles to attack my debt. As like many people I listened and read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book and fell in love with the concept. My wife and I attacked our debt, balanced our budget and killed over $40,000 in debt in two years on a $55k salary and paid for college at the same time in cash. How did we do it? Budgeting is first, but side hustles are second.

According to urban dictionary a side hustle is:

“Sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job. Maybe playing weekend gigs or life coaching. SELLING AMWAY IS NOT A SIDE HUSTLE — it’s just a stupid way to alienate your friends.
When start up your own business you probably want to get some side hustle going. Maybe a small low stress consulting job on how to get a side hustle going.”

So the key here is that it isn’t your main source of income and isn’t part of any master plan for any long term consistent money. This isn’t as much as a diversification strategy as it is a fun way to make some extra dough on the side and play with some ideas. Many of these can be very profitable, but side hustles in general are good money for a while and then the market matures and makes it less profitable.

What are some easy side hustles (gigs) I can do on the side?

Mobile App related hustles:

Drive Sharing

Uber – Everyone and their mother has heard of Uber, they are like a taxi service for private car owners. A person uses the Uber app and creates a pickup and drop off location and an Uber driver in the area comes and provides the transit.
Cash potential : $18-60/hr.

Lyft – There is another company that is just like that called Lyft. I have driven Lyft and made some decent side hustle money on this! I’ll post a detailed cost benefit analysis in the next few posts.
Cash potential : $18-60/hr, $35/hr guaranteed some weeks. GET A $220 sign-on bonus here!

 Delivery and Moving:

BuddyTruk – Have a truck? Help someone out by helping them move or haul something in your truck.
Cash potential : Up to $40/hr.

GoShare – Have a truck or van? Help someone by moving or delivering their stuff. Just like BuddyTruk but a bit more money.
Cash potential : $47.52 – $61.92/hr

 Amazon FlexAmazon delivers everything and they need help! Sign up for Amazon Flex and you can help deliver their packages. Flexible and easy. You don’t even need a nice car!
Cash potential : $18-25/hr

Car Sharing:

Turo – Everyone needs a car at some point, do you have more than one that you want to loan out? Check out Turo. You sign up and setup a schedule for when your car is available, the rate, and if you are willing to deliver it and you are ready for some cash. This one was new to me, even with my little Nissan Leaf, they quoted me $8,435/yr if I rented it with them! I just signed up!
Cash potential : $7,000-$47,000 per year if fully available.

Advertising:

Wrapify – Drive a lot where there are a lot of “eyes” on you, great! Wrapify will wrap your car in a paint safe advertising wrap, they do panels all the way up to the full car. They manage everything through the GPS located app, giving you some extra bucks! I checked with Lyft and you CAN wrap your car while drive sharing! Uber hasn’t replied yet. Sorry guys Turo said no.
Cash potential : Up to $500/month on top of your Lyft money!

 Carvertise – Same gig as Wrapify, but less money.
Cash potential : $100/month

House Renting:

Airbnb – This service has been around since 2008 and has short term to long term renting down to a science. There are hundreds thousands of people getting their home paid for with Airbnb, did you know that most people get 3x-5x more for their home renting with Airbnb than by traditional renting? I have used this service as a customer and literally have stayed in the nicest places in the world for as little as $20/night for a whole house compared to $300/night!
Cash potential : Generally your mortgage multiplied by 2x-5x. Get a discount on your first night with Airbnb here!

 Sell Stuff:

Amazon, Ebay, Craigslist – If you didn’t know you could sell on either of these you are really living offline. But you may not have known you can sell USED items on Amazon and have them store, pack, ship and handle all the customer service issues. I have done this and made several thousand dollars in a few months!
Cash potential : Could literally be millions. Google it.

 OfferUp, LetGo, Facebook Marketplace – These little babies have made a few thousand dollars for me also, super simple. Snap a picture, list a title and description, $ you want and bam you can have it sold in a few minutes.
Cash potential : Could literally be millions. Google it.

Retail Arbitrage – So this isn’t an app per say – it is a technique. You go to a retail store (or their dumpster) and buy items on clearance. Scan it with one of the above apps such as Amazon and see how much money you can make off of it. I literally did this at Fred Meyer and Target and made $400 off $20. It is dirt simple. Do it.
Cash potential : Could literally be millions. Google it.

Offline Side Hustles:

Everyone wants an app or a company to help them make money. Honestly it reduces options and makes it a safer place emotionally (safer feeling in the pack, “Well Abe made money”), but this is where opportunity is too! Do something no one can do or wants to do and you can make money.

What are some of these? Well for starters babysitting, dog walking, childcare, dog sitting, cleaning animals, woodworking, painting, starting a consultant biz, you get the idea.

I literally had a student of mine pay for his entire college degree by WASHING TIRES for people while they worked. Hey everyone wants good looking wheels right?

If you literally want a list, take a look at my buddy Nick’s list at Sidehustlenation.com

Keys to success: Be open to an opportunity, test it quickly, think about the result in $/time, double up on successful ideas. Let go of unproductive ideas.

Be consistent. Be honest and serve with integrity. Be consistent.

Which solar system is right for me?

When people ask me how if they can install solar, they generally mean solar photovoltaic or solar PV. To help you get solar on your home, let’s explore some of the common technologies and common terms to help you be an informed solar designer or owner.

First off, let’s talk terminology. This way you know what you are looking for when you are getting quotes.

A solar panel, which creates electricity, is called a solar “module.” It is made up of solar “cells.” The solar cells can range from 24-72 cells (in 12 cell increments) and operate at roughly 0.5VDC each when running. We tie these cells electrically in “series” by hooking them from the negative side of one cell to the positive side of an adjacent cell till we reach the end of the cells. Then we have one side that is positive and one side that is negative to get the desired output of either 12VDC (24 cells) to 36VDC (72 cells.) These cells are then housed between a piece of aluminum frame and tempered glass.

GRID TIED

As solar professionals, we hook up the modules in series, just like we did with the cells, to increase their voltage which feeds into a device (called an inverter) that converts the electricity from DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current.) This way, it can be used it in a home, business or even to power up the utility grid. If you hook up multiple modules in a series, it is called an PV array.

From the inverter, it sends the AC electricity into your service panel (breaker box) to power the house, or business and then it can be sent out to the grid to provide power outside the home or business.
This system is called “grid tied” or “interactive.”

OFF-GRID

You may have heard the term “off-grid.” This refers to a system that is not connected to the utility “grid” at all. This system works by having solar modules hooked up to a device called a “charge controller.” This device charges a set of batteries, and those batteries are “inverted” with an inverter to take the batteries DC power and convert it into AC power. This AC power goes into your service panel to power your home. It is rare to see any businesses use this model; however, it is readily seen in subsistence homesteading.

SO HERES THE RUB – Off-grid systems use different components, even down to the solar panels than what is used in interactive systems. Interactive systems are cheaper, easier to install and the components are more available than off-grid. They also take up about 98% of the solar PV market. The other big deal is that if you hook your system to the grid, you can receive a tax break. In the USA, this equates to 30% from the federal government plus any state incentives for the next several years. If you are not connected to the grid, you receive no incentives.

The choice is obvious as a business decision: less costly, easier to install, significant savings … go with interactive! But this system has one downside, it does not provide power to your home or business if the grid has an outage. I repeat, no power from the grid, no power from your system even to your home on a sunny day. The reason we do this is so that your do not electrocute the lineman who could potentially be working on the down power line someplace.

So, if the components are different, how can I hook to the grid, get incentive AND provide power when the grid goes down? I want to have backup power. Our new system is called AC coupled.

AC COUPLED SYSTEMS

AC coupled systems use a standard interactive system setup (presumably from a previous installation that happened.) Then it utilizes the off-grid components such as the charge controller and batteries; however, it brings in a new piece of technology called an AC coupled inverter. This component is made a few different ways but usually, it is part grid tied inverter, part charge controller, and has a new electronic component installed called an automatic transfer switch (ATS.) The ATS has been used with generator backup for decades. It is reliable, efficient, switches a parallel circuit to the grid to your home or business, and activates a generator. We use this to switch the power line going to the grid to a disconnected state and then routes the power from the solar PV to the batteries as well as use the batteries to power your service panel.

These systems are much more complicated, more expensive, but do qualify you for tax incentives, either in part or completely, and provide all the sexiness people want when they think about going solar.

So, which one is best for you? That is a bigger question based on locations shade, budget and needs for your system. Stay tuned for our next article that goes into a business case on these topics.

30 DAY TO NEW HABITS CHALLENGE RESULTS

CONCLUSION TO OUR 30 DAY TO NEW HABITS CHALLENGE

We have finished our challenge and found that indeed there was a significant impact on our family interactions. At the start of the challenge, we had no preconceived notions of what we wanted out of it or expectations. We started by creating a set of metrics that would guide the challenge and help assess our little study. Along with the benefits of the challenge, I’ll discuss some obstacles we overcame and how we did it; So, that in the future if you decide to do a similar challenge you know what to expect.

BENEFITS TO THE CHALLENGE

QUALITY PLAYTIME:

The best benefit from the challenge is a significant increase in us being present with our kids. Without the TV distraction, you really do feel like you have more time. Time hasn’t changed, but the perception of time definitely does. I have been staying home with the kids and my wife, so we have more time than the average person to spend with their family. On an average day, we take them for a walk around the neighborhood/go to the park and homeschool. This said, without the TV, we spent on average an additional 2 hours of solid playing with the kids, we spent time playing Candyland, making art, drawing, singing songs and reading. This time was awesome, I really enjoyed this more interactive time. The other time we had before the challenge is more passive, but good too, as playing with them actively really gets you tired physically and emotionally!

QUALITY FAMILY TIME

This one is a little harder to define oddly, but this is the time that we are spending together as a family unit, not individually with the kids or with our spouse. During this time, we had a significant increase going and doing things. We spent a lot of time driving, because as it was raining the entire time and the kids were sick, so it restricted the activities to local outings. We had all our meals at the dinner table (since there wasn’t any TV to watch, the couch eating didn’t make any sense) and we spent time talking and telling knock knock jokes. This really lowered my stress level to have this time together.

LEARNING TIME

The kids learned a ton these past few weeks, school was for about an hour a day, but spilled over into other times of the day. Without a TV, the day is long! We took this time and my daughter learned addition, Spanish, counting in Spanish, puzzles and logic maps. As it is now she is going through 1st grade books, and learning to read and she’s only 3 (ok almost 4)!

I was hoping that we were going to learn more on a personal level, but our time defaulted to the kids, which is still good, but I would change this and schedule personal time for us individually to learn or do whatever we wanted.

PRODUCTIVITY

We are planning on selling our house and nearly everything that we own. That means there is a ton of work to do along with keeping the house clean and the kids taken care of. During these past few weeks we were very productive, we cleaned out one of our rooms, we listed a bunch of stuff in the garage, sold some stuff and our biggest job was listing books on Amazon under their fulfilled by amazon service (FBA). We listed 177 books for sale out of 250ish books we had, take a look at a future article on how to list of FBA for resale. We estimate that after fees we should make around $9,000 on these items!

PERSONAL AND INTIMATE TIME:

Without going into much detail here, we found had an hour to ourselves each day that we used for reading, talking and snuggling excluding intimate time. I found myself spending a lot of this time working, this is so hard to turn off. I am a worker, but I really hate that my default value is to work. I guess this is a good trait in some cases, but I also wish I had more balance. I had a great time talking with my wife about everything, but we spent a lot of time talking about non-kid centric issues too which was awesome. We spent a lot more time together being a couple these weeks too, which was amazing. It is great to be with such an amazing woman who loves me so much! 😃

DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHALLENGE

Television permeates into our lives in all kinds of ways, it isn’t just TV shows, it is Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and all kinds of other streaming services that take up our time. Honestly, these shows are a lot better quality to those shows we watched in the 80s, more compelling, linear and accessible! I have compiled a short list of the main challenges we ran into during our challenge.

ACCESSIBILITY

The accessibility of media makes is so hard to pull the plug, because I can take the “TV” with me anywhere, during dinner, during time out, anywhere with internet. Luckily, I have an unlimited data plan to keep me plugged in at all times (sigh). To help conquer this we actually installed an app on our phone that notifies and tracks our usage of apps so we can make sure we are aware of our daily habits. This really helped to curb our usage and realize how much time we spent on our phones too!

WORK EXCUSES

I’ll own up to this one, I love playing with my kids, but I can’t play with them as much and continually as my wife, after about 10 minutes I am ready to be done. Playing with them for hours was great and excruciating at times. I found myself making up excuses to work, because that is what I feel more comfortable working than playing. What I learned from this was that I needed to find out how “I” play with my kids, playing tea party gets old quick, but taking them to the park or the pool I can do for hours! I just need to learn to play with them that makes them happy and on longer excursions; something we can both enjoy.

VISITORS

During the second week, we had my Wife’s Dad over who loves to watch TV as much as I do (a lot), and he was scheduled to work in Portland for the week, so he stayed with us. We didn’t want to impose our rule on him as it would have been difficult for him, so we made the exception for him. We didn’t watch TV until he came home, but then ended up watching several movies and TV shows over the week he was there, essentially having us call it a failure and we ended the challenge on day 12. Our plan was to pick up the challenge after he left, but felt a bit disingenuous to continue. We are planning on starting this again as the benefits was substantial.

BOREDOM

Let’s be honest, TV fills the time and when there no TV, there is more time. Time that feels like a hole without TV. Your mind wanders to watching movies, or wanting to catch up on your show. It was hard over time to stay diligent. At the beginning, it was very easy to ignore the TV and other distractions, but over time the wandering mind and TV craving made it hard to not give into the temptation especially when you see someone else is enjoying it. I would suggest that you create a plan and schedule activities for each member of the family to keep you in solidarity.

FAUX FAMILY ACTIVITIES

We ran into an issue after about day 5 when we let our daughter watch her tablet, because she was sick and we wanted to comfort her. This led us to hear it and made our mind wander, which created a slippery slope of other distractions starting with playing a videogame on the TV. It wasn’t “technically” on the naughty list, so we had a discussion and decided that as long as it was a “family activity” that we were going to be OK. We tried it, and the first day it went super smooth, we all were actively decoding puzzles and talking about the Final Fantasy lore to our kids and limited it to 2 hours of play. Then the next day and the days after went from 2 hours to nearly 6 and completely took over the day. It was a slippery slope to TV and we fell for it. My advice, avoid anything that uses the TV screen. TV is not just the show or movie, it is the distraction we are really complaining about.

PERSONAL TIME GETTING CONVERTED TO KID TIME

We spend all time with these little kiddos, but as any parent can tell you need your individual time to pursue your activities and your time together without the kiddos. We found that with the hole of TV that we filled it playing with the kids, which is awesome, but we also didn’t leave any time for us at the start, and changed it to at least an hour a day toward the end of the challenge. My suggestion is that you schedule these times and make it so it isn’t at the end of the day or it will get converted to bed time.

THE RESULTS

30 DAY CHALLENGE METRICS AND RESULTS
PARENT VALUES WIFE ME TOTAL
QUALITY FUN TIME 5 4 4.5
ADVENTURE TIME 5 3 4
PRODUCTIVITY 5 5 5
INTIMACY 5 5 5
LEARNING TIME 4 3 3.5
PERSONAL TIME 5 5 5
TOTALS 4.83 4.16 4.5
KID VALUES DAUGHTER SON TOTAL
FUN TIME 5 5 5
ADVENTURE TIME 5 5 5
LEARNING TIME 5 5 5
PLAY TIME 5 5 5
TOTALS 5 5 5
These values were determined by a percentage based off of how we felt at the end of the challenge in the following areas make a 2.5 as a normal day with TV, and anything lower is worse than a day with TV and anything higher than a 2.5 of being better than a day with TV. Each point is valued at 20%, so a 5 is 50% better than a day without TV.

 

We successfully finished 12 days of our 30 day challenge and learned quite a bit. First off that the TV is a real addiction, after just a few days of not watching it we found our mind wandering to the TV. We also found that we had so much time available when we turned the damn thing off. This wasn’t a huge revelation as we knew that was going to be the case, but to experience how much time is wasted is really something.

I think that by limiting the TV significantly that it does improve interactions with the family, but it isn’t just TV. TV is the scape goat, it is the digital life we have now, it is TV, YouTube, Google, email, everything is just so accessible it makes it very easy to allow these devices and services to fill up our daily routine and raise our kids. We need to take back the time, try the challenge and see how you and your family feel after. We are planning another challenge with a schedule and a plan on activities. We are implementing a limit on our devices and thinking about where we want to spend it, instead of just defaulting to the box. That’s it for now tune in later!