“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”
– Peter F. Drucker
Ego is a funny thing. You can see a historic trend, a guaranteed outcome, and still think it won’t happen to you. I’ve read dozens of business books and biographies. Almost all of them contained a section where things were going well before disaster struck. 5o Cent did well as a drug dealer before he was shot, Mark Cuban had an employee steal from him, and Steve Jobs got fired from his own company. Things were looking up for each of these men until fate nearly wiped them out. All of them had to innovate just to survive.
I never really thought that innovation would ever be something that I had to do. While I did start freelancing on oDesk and Elance, I did so out of curiosity. I didn’t even put a whole lot of effort into it. It was extra money, nothing too serious. My Fiverr business was all I needed.
Once my Fiverr business started drying up I discovered that I sucked at being a freelance writer. In the past I was able to sit back and watch as the customers rolled in. That didn’t happen with oDesk. In fact, it was a struggle for me to even get basic jobs.
Foolishly, I ended up getting sucked into working for a content farm just so that I could earn money. Writing dozens of junk articles everyday was depressing and I hated every minute of it.
Eventually I decided to make some changes. I went back and re-read a few business books, started studying my thesaurus, picked through every article about oDesk that I could find. I also quit my safe but boring job with the content farm.
Yesterday I got two hundred dollars worth of work for myself. At the content farm I was barely making fifty bucks a day, and spending all day grinding out content. While I still work hard, I make way more and produce a fraction of what I used to.
How to spark innovation
Although this probably won’t be the “cool” thing to say, I believe that people can’t change unless they are under immense pressure. Most people are comfortable enough in their lives that they won’t take action unless disaster strikes. When Amazon reviews were profitable for me I had no real interest in making money from anything else. Things were good enough.
Once things went bad, I took the comfortable route. I got a job working for someone else, in this case a writing firm, and wasted my time letting them profit. Unfortunately for my employers, I’d already seen my potential and knew that I wouldn’t exceed it by working for someone else.
I used my mundane content mill job to survive while I worked out my next move. There were a lot of nights where I was up until three in the morning plotting and scheming. I did all the research I could and dedicated my free time to learning about the industry.
Once I acquired everything I needed I set out on my own and started drawing in my own customers. Instead of wasting time on low paying jobs, I aimed directly for the most lucrative contracts. While gigs paying five dollars were getting swarmed with applicants, most of the projects I applied to would only have one or two other candidates.
By leaving behind the comfort of my content farm and focusing on a specific niche, I was able to grow my business and make money once again.