What does someone who wants to be an entrepreneur do after college?
October 10, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to figure out what do with my life after college for money and in general. I have a couple ideas like remote tech support and web development, please give me your wise advice (very long explanation)

After reading lifehacker.com’s “ask metafilter roundup” several times over the last year, I decided last week to actually become a part of this great community (or aka as the hive, right?). I spent my $5 to get on here and want to introduce myself and ask for a little guidance from those wiser than me. After just graduating summa cum laude from the U of Arizona with a marketing/business degree in May, I am now in limbo between partying and real life. I used to be able to drink, get high, drink some more and stay up until 7 AM doing nothing, but now I feel my life should start. I have now moved back in with my two wonderful roommates (mom and dad) to my hometown in Los Angeles (Calabasas… if your unfamiliar with the area: known for Incubus, the Menendez brothers, Will Smith, Howie Mandel, reality shows like Jessica Simpson’s, Denise Richard’s, and the Kardashians). There are a lot more celebrities and powerful people that live and have lived here, but I won’t dwell on that because I don’t think you really care . As I digress, my point is that everyone I live around is very successful (in terms of money).

I have always been motivated by making money (especially on the internet); when I was 12 I first opened up a website selling turbo antenna boosters for FREE (with 4.95 shipping and handling—hope none of you fell for that). It was a great little scheme until the popularity of those things died out (making 5k when I was 12 was amazing). Then I moved on to selling U.S. car flags on eBay immediately following 9/11 (made some nice cash there too). I can relate a lot to another’s post (which I can’t find right now) about having everyone around me think that I was going to cure cancer or start the next Google by the age of 21. My family and friends all still believe that I am going to be the next Bill Gates and its hard for those thoughts to escape my head because I have been so brainwashed by them.

Anyway, my main business has been credit card processing for last year. It earns me some good residual income, nothing that I am proud of, but it covers some very minimal expenses. I plan on working very little on that, just supporting the service for current clients and adding others from WOM. It’s a side thing for me.

So after reading through this post I realized I could really benefit from setting up a similar service myself. I do computer support for about 15-20 family and other clients (they are always asking me if they can recommend me to others, but I say no because I am too busy with other things). I usually install the free LogMeIn on their computer and they call me up when they have a problem. I get $80/hour which seems very high in comparison to the poster’s proposed rates. However, unlike the poster, I would rather get a virtual team together that could log into my client’s computers and fix whatever basic computer problem they have (they should be shifts that will allow 24/7 support). I haven’t worked out the pricing, but somewhere around 20 bucks/month for a certain amount of time spent for help (spyware, MS word problem, printing pictures, installing drivers; anything over that specific amount of time would be more money hourly). I know “LogMeIn’s Rescue” could allow my clients to click on & be able to connect with someone on my team that can solve basic computer problems (the problem is that Rescue is expensive at $200/month which might be nothing in the future but is significant now). Crossloop has what’s called helpers in their network but I don’t know how it would be configured to work properly. There is also GoToAssist (Express Beta) which is currently free and does what I would want it to do, but will eventually cost money. If I went with LogMeIn or GoToAssist, I don’t know where to find qualified techs to be online and available 24/7. This post gives a lot more examples of software to use, but I dont know how I could get that team together. Eventually and down the road,
I would like to do 0% of the actual computer fixing
Oversee customer service/acquisition of new contracts/handle accounting
Have my virtual team be available 24/7 for 100% of my client base.

I have also been making money doing web development off and on for the last 10 years (since turbo antenna). No programming or writing code but using Dreamweaver and templates. I am at the point now where I would like to just be able to middle man the situation and get competent and qualified people together into teams to get these projects done when people ask me. For instance, I have this hotel owner in New York that needs a redesign of his site to include virtual tours, videos, a reservations system, and clone the look and feel of delano-hotel.com website. So if I charge the owner $4000 for the site, I would like to get it done for around $2500 (35% profit). In essence, my profit could be attributed to acquiring the client (finders fee), figuring out the scope of the project and its requirements (alongside developer), drawing up a proposal, handling correspondence/updates with client and team, and payments. I even posted a job on metafilter for this a couple days ago but no hits yet.

Mainly I am looking to put together a team(s) that can get any type of web programming done (web 2.0 design, CSS standards /compatibility testing, backend programming, flash programming…everything) Like if they aren’t the best at doing it, they know the best or a very qualified person to get that part of it done. I have talked to several startup owners like popdeck.com, rocknclothing.com, branders.com and they all told me about Indian development (which may fit my needs or may not). I have looked to online freelance sites (getafreelancer, guru, odesk, elance). Im not sure if Im too critical, but the quality of work and logic doesn’t seem to be there (common sense stuff). I am thinking of a project team that has maybe a manager, designer, variety of programmers, and tester that I can just give a task to and they will complete it. Maybe I should have a couple different teams that could accomplish different aspects; like one team for design, one for programming, and one for testing. Or maybe it needs to be divided along programming types. Most of those Indian guys act like they are one-stop shop solution for web development; they are the best at programming flash and the best at developing a iPhone app and they are also the best designers (and then they show me a mock of their site built in frames/tables). But at the same time I am open to having it programmed overseas if the quality is good and the client will be happy. I am sure that someone in the U.S. knows of good developers overseas and has good enough logic/communication skills to take my input and turn it into something good.

So to wrap this long rambling post about my current life situation:

What path do you think I should take? Should I try putting together the remote support team, the web development team, or stick with the credit card thing? I clearly can’t put 100% into everything.

How should I go about putting together these teams?

What suggestions do you have for current situation I am in?

Thanks for your time and once again sorry for the long post.
posted by schindyguy to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I just got back from a 9 hour car trip and didn't read your entire post or put much thought into this response, but IMO you should do three things:

1) Get a job working for someone who has done exactly what you want to do with your life. Apprenticeship is the way to go in almost every field. Learn from the mistakes of others.
2) Start something small on the side. Having a 'real' job is the best way to stomach the ups and downs of getting a business off the ground.
3) Understand that you'll probably want to go back to school at some point. Even if you don't think that's the case right now, every peer of mine who is really driven has wound up back in school after a few years out in the real world.
posted by paanta at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2008

Honestly, you dont sound like "the next bill gates" to me. Your previous experience selling antenna boosters is just a scam. Your remote support idea sounds overpriced and I certainly wouldnt hire you to fix anything of mine with that kind of margin, especially when I can get face-to-face service with a local Ma & Pa computer store. Your virtual tech wont be able to fix my internet connection or install a peripheral, which are the two most common residential computer complaints. Also, what happens when your tech runs "superspywarecrapremover" and trashes my machine? How will he reimage it from afar?

As far as web development goes; ideas are a dime a dozen. You sound like an unnecessary expense for a developer. A freelance developer doesnt need a man of "vision" to take 35% of the commission.

Seconding getting a real job while continue to experiment on the side. I think you'll find that what you assume to be profitable is anything but.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:18 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get some experience in your field before trying to invest in it. You'll look a lot less foolish. Practical, hands-on experience. With the knowledge you have right now, becoming an entrepreneur in technology would be like a fish investing in bicycles. Where I live (San Francisco) I hear ideas like yours discussed, dissected and shot down almost daily over coffee. If I sound discouraging, it's because I am. You are taking about a very competitive game with low barriers to entry, so you really must bring your A game if you don't want to be left bleeding on the floor.

You've an idea about being the middle man, but what you're taking about is essentially a scam. There is no easy, legitimate money. You say "I even posted a job on metafilter for this a couple days ago but no hits yet." Yeah, well there you go. No hits. Just taking 38% markup for being a middleman is asking a lot when you're not providing any mentioned benefit. Neither the client nor the contractor wants to give you money. Why should they?

Being a middle man only works when you have a network to exploit, of both clients and suppliers, and one doesn't have good access to the other. What are you doing to earn that money? Connecting the two? Gee, we all have Internet access, craigslist, eLance.com whatever. We can find each other. Bring something valuable to the table. The world does not work in such a way that being slighly above average means you get rich quick.

Get both sides of the equation in place, along with providing value, and take only 10% and you might succeed.

And work on being more concise. Very few people are going to read through all that. What's the reward for them? You really have to focus on brning value to people if you wnat to be an entrepreneur.
posted by Ookseer at 1:47 AM on October 11, 2008

My family and friends all still believe that I am going to be the next Bill Gates and its hard for those thoughts to escape my head because I have been so brainwashed by them.

Maybe this advice comes a little late, but never listen to what your family and friends say about what you do until you have spent a lot of time around professionals in the same field and understand how you fit in. Use encouragement for what it is. Unless they are professionals (as in lifers, not necessarily moneymakers), never give it critical value. It's personal. In my field (art), the difference between working to the standards of those two crowds generally divides those who make meaningful developments with their work from those who never grow but assume that they'll be successful if they just keep at it. Honestly, you sound a little green, and if you want to play a hard moneymaking game, there are going to be people who will spot this and take advantage of you.

The scam you ran when you were twelve? Mentioning that is the equivalent of putting a sketch from a life-drawing class in your portfolio; sure it was good for your level at the time, but if you need to reach that far back for examples of your ability, you haven't done enough yet. I was a pretty good donut store employee when I was 16, but that's not on my CV.
posted by nímwunnan at 10:21 AM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

All of the things you've mentioned, you seem to enjoy only because you've found ways to scam people out of money for short periods of time. What do you actually enjoy doing, independent of the money? Do you actually like doing any of this stuff? Are you good at it? What would you do with your life if you didn't need any money?

Right now, you're hopping from one thing to another trying to make a quick buck. You're not going to find satisfaction in that in the long term. Figure out what you actually enjoy and are good at, then go get yourself the education and skills you need to learn to do that. Don't waste your time with this get-rich-quick nonsense.
posted by decathecting at 11:38 AM on October 11, 2008

Response by poster: Well I wasn't expecting those type of reactions/answers. Thought it would be a little more encouraging and not so snide (but I guess everyone is so successful that their advice sounds condescending...) Those of you with sincere ideas, thanks for them. Anyway, all I am really trying to find out is:

How to find some web developers that can get anything done (whether its cheap farming it out or doing it in the US)? Just a couple guys I can go to in order to middle man the job (which btw isnt a scam; if you believe that, you are just plain stupid).

"Being a middle man only works when you have a network to exploit, of both clients and suppliers, and one doesn't have good access to the other." That's exactly my point: There is a plentiful supply of clients I know need web dev, I need to find the right development team to "connect" them to and make a percent. If I go through all those that need it and it drys up, then I'll believe your economic theory.

And for anyone who believes that you cant make millions making phone calls and connecting people with one another and then taking a percent for doing it is also stupid: they shouldn't be giving advice to anyone (even anonymously through the web).
posted by schindyguy at 4:25 PM on October 11, 2008

Seconding "be concise." Learn to say what you mean in fewer words.
posted by Neofelis at 4:25 PM on October 11, 2008

And for anyone who believes that you cant make millions making phone calls and connecting people with one another and then taking a percent for doing it is also stupid: they shouldn't be giving advice to anyone (even anonymously through the web).
posted by schindyguy at 4:25 PM on October 11 [+] [!]

I have a friend who has been doing what you want to do since he was 16, and he's got lots of money. Your model, in the rough terms you have there, isn't invalid, but the way you talk about it is wildly different than the way he runs his business. He's involved in the process from start to finish, works with local, trusted talent, chases down and meets with clients himself, charges competitive prices, and oversees back-end development that can make their future work easier and more profitable. He never writes a single line of code, and though he does some of the design himself his main tool is his iPhone. But I would never describe his job as making phone calls and connecting people. If that's what you want to do, you'll have to do it better than the internet already does.


note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks.

Your comment has really helped me find the answer to my question. Thanks :)
posted by schindyguy at 4:48 PM on October 11 [+] [!]

Do you understand that you just quoted guidelines saying not to make wisecracks and then followed it up with a sarcastic comment that goes nowhere? With that and calling unwelcome advice "stupid", you're operating at DH0 and you will get nothing out of this post. I'd say most of the rest of the comments are at least DH5, but they may not seem that way if you take them personally and let them upset you.
posted by nímwunnan at 8:39 AM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mod note: schindyguy, I'm one of the mods here on metafilter. I understand that you may be frustrated with some of the answers you're getting in that they aren't what you were you hoping for, but you're essentially being a jerk to the people trying in good faith to help you understand the situation you're asking about. Dismissing swaths of the userbase as stupid is a poor, combative way to approach AskMe, and you need to cut it out.

If there's any confusion on this point, email or consider making a post to Metatalk, but please lay off the defensive stuff in here, pronto.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:37 AM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: @ cortex

Will do. I wouldn't have a problem with constructive criticism or valid answers to my questions. I just have a problem with subjective opinions like "you don't sound like the next Bill Gates to me" and calling me a "scammer." It is condescending and does nothing constructive to the conversation which is what I thought the point of this community was. I was very happy to join here and now it seems to be a let down. Hopefully my opinion will change in the future by other users in the community. Sorry for the confusion and defensive comments (and in no way did I mean to dismiss the entire community's brilliance, I was simply upset at that specific users comments). I was amazed at how intelligent the average user was on here and the detailed answers they gave (that's why I joined).
posted by schindyguy at 4:42 PM on October 14, 2008

Bill Gates by your age had written and sold BASIC for the Altair. If you want a good life, dont compare yourself or expect to turn out like the top 1% of the top 1%. Be practical. There's a real lesson there.

Selling "antenna boosters" is a scam, and you know it.

It seems to me that you just want to weasel your way into some ultra-cush management position without first paying your dues. People here are telling you that its impractical. Your fantasy role doesnt exist, unless youre willing to work at the bottom, make your own contacts, and come up with your own ideas. Not to mention take ownership for all your risks and understand that scammy fads are not "business experience."

Lastly, you are literally asking random people on the internet "what business should I do." I think that's a sign of a real lack of business smarts. There's no shortage of get-rich-quick crap on the internet. You wont find it here.

The criticism in this thread is pretty light, its just you were expecting compliments and phone numbers to people's contacts. This isnt how this place works.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:30 PM on October 14, 2008

People have given you some very detailed advice. That advice included suggestions for ways to gain real-world experience in the fields you are interested in, tips to improve your communication skills (I'd also add on this front a caution about proper grammar and spelling, which is pretty crucial if you want to sell your skills as a client communicator), anecdotes about how people they know have gone into business for themselves, and specific critiques of your business plan.

Yes, much of the advice was phrased harshly, and I apologize if my use of the word "scam" hurt your feelings, but I thought it might be helpful for you to be aware of the way that experiences such as yours are viewed by both the general public and by potential future business partners. They will not see it as valuable experience that makes you a better investment risk; they will see it as evidence that you are unserious and unlikely to be worth doing business with. If you want to be taken seriously, you should stop engaging in such practices and make every effort to distance yourself from those experiences.

There are basically two ways that people become successful in business. The first way is to have a product or idea so amazing and unique and perfectly suited to its market at its time that customers are drawn to buy it, at which point you work tirelessly day and night without rest to produce and market and sell it and network with others and plan for the future, and if you're lucky, you succeed. The second way is to have a non-unique product or idea, but have the experience and wisdom to create a business plan that is slightly better than your competitors' so that you can take advantage of openings in the market and differentiate yourself from the dozens of other folks out there trying to do the same thing, at which point you work tirelessly day and night without rest to produce and market and sell it and network with others and plan for the future, and if you're lucky, you succeed.

There is no such thing as easy money unless your mommy and daddy are very rich or unless you want to bet on the extremely poor odds of the state lotto. Figure out what you want to do with your life, then go out and learn how to be very, very good at it. Hope that at some point, you have a brilliant idea, but even if you don't, know that if you work hard to learn your profession, you can be successful simply by being smart and creative and persevering. But you cannot be successful without doing most of the hard work yourself.
posted by decathecting at 8:33 AM on October 16, 2008

I would also add that dealing well with failure (learning from it rather than being devastated by it) as well as dealing with criticism are both skills that are absolutely necessary for anyone going into business.

But you spent the $5 and you put yourself out there, and that's not a bad things at all. It's a good start.
posted by Ookseer at 12:30 AM on October 17, 2008

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