Why social media empowers you to live your life on your terms

Whenever I see my friends, at some point the conversation inevitably turns to work and how they are getting on. Needless to say, they are all over 40, and work in a wide range of areas, but they are generally professionals of one kind or another.

The first thing that always happens is they tell me about their latest problems at work. It might be long hours, stressful situations, a terrible boss, fears about job security, or just plain disillusionment. When they ask me how I’m doing, I am almost always able to tell them great news about all the progress I’ve made with all my business ventures.

Now this isn’t because I’m an incurable optimist, or a naive fool. I genuinely enjoy what I do. I learn something everyday, I interact with great people all over the planet and I feel that in some small way I make a difference in the world. I do what I choose, whereas they choose to do what they believe they have to.

They explain that they wish they could do what I do but they feel unable to escape from what they have spent the last 10, 20 or 30 years doing. They may hate their job and feel it has no security, but even that is less scary than being self employed. After all they know that every month they get that comforting pay cheque, which is worth 20 or so days of toil and grief.

I think this must be a very widespread attitude. For today’s mature professionals, since childhood, they have mostly been taught that qualifications, a career and a monthly pay cheque are the path to security and fulfilment. And even now, when employers are laying off thousands every month, pay levels are static or falling, job security and generous pensions seem like ancient history, they persist in this belief.

Having your own business used to be a pretty brave decision. It was truly risky. It meant that you’d almost certainly work longer hours than someone who was employed. You’d probably have to invest most or all of your savings and the potential returns were not necessarily very great.

The internet has changed all of that permanently. But more importantly, it is social media which has opened up the opportunities for everyone beyond what anyone could have imagined even 5 years ago.

As recently as 2 or 3 years ago, I was a director of a business where we’d routinely buy ‘clicks’ from Google onto our website for £7 or £8 a time. And so did lots of other businesses. If 15 or 20% of these visits resulted in a sale, we’d make a smallish profit. Years earlier, I’d been the marketing director of a firm with a media budget of around £7m a year. This budget was spent mostly on TV ads which were used to encourage potential customers to visit our website or phone us up. That cost was more than the combined salaries of the 250 or so people that worked at the firm.

Fast forward to today. Thanks to social media, you can get hundreds of visits every day to your websites for free. And because you have often engaged with people before they choose to visit, you have a friendly relationship with them already. So the traditionally huge costs of advertising to make your potential customers aware that you even exist, have been eliminated especially for the small entrepreneur.

Suddenly, having your own business isn’t so risky. And your potential customers are more like friends. What could be better?

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