Ah, yes. Drowned in a sea of over-eager entrepreneurs trying to make money online by teaching others how to make money online, I’ve waded through my fair share of awful business advice. We all have, haven’t we?
Maybe some of us have even taken some of this advice. I know I have in days of old. I won’t tell you which of them, but I will tell you that I’m certainly not above anyone who resorts to the tactics on this list. Because I have tried one or 2 of them, if we’re being honest here.
And you know what it felt like? Shit. It felt like real shit.
If you’re generally a good person who doesn’t like to take advantage of people (which you probably are) and appreciates good business–AND would like to learn a lesson in cognitive dissonance, try a few of these. And you can feel like a pile of shit, too!
What’s wrong with all the advice on this list? Well, anything that makes you want to take a shower or that conjures up phrases like “sleazy car salesman” and “pyramid scheme” in your head is probably not the most sound business advice, for one. That’s what this stuff does to you–it doesn’t feel quite right because it isn’t quite right.
I’m kind of a romantic when it comes to business–I love it, I respect it, I marvel at the pure beauty of it when it’s done right. Like how Audible refunds you an audiobook if you end up not liking it, no questions asked. Like how Apple is currently running an Apps for Earth campaign. Or like how Canadian airline WestJet wowed its passengers by getting them personalized Christmas gifts.
It’s beautiful, see? Good business is being thoughtful. Good business is doing the right thing.
When it’s done right, it’s pure delight. It’s knowing what’s of value to your fellow humans and figuring out how you can help, and if that’s not the loveliest thing you’ve ever heard then get out my face.
So I’m calling all us internet skeezballs out. Admitting it is the first step. We’ve let things get pretty shitty, guys–we’ve given shitty advice and have treated other people shittily purely for the sake of hoping they’ll turn into customers and hand us some money. And that’s just…well, shitty.
Let’s stop being shitty and start being good. Let’s help each other. Let’s stop watering down the internet with shitty advice. And let us learn from our mistakes.
Without further ado, ladies and gents, the dumbest advice of the entrepreneurial age.
1. “Marketing”: Follow 4 assloads of people on Twitter.
So they’ll follow you back! And then, if you really want to feel like an asshole, you can unfollow them as soon as they follow you! (Or, if they won’t follow you back, might as well go ahead and unfollow those guys too. Jerks.) Anything to keep that old follower/follow ratio up, right?
Do I even have to go into why this sucks? When it comes to marketing, this is the laziest shit I’ve ever seen–not to mention rude and thoughtless.
You don’t know these people. You don’t know if you’re a good fit for each other, and the more people you follow the less sense of community you’ll have on your dashboard. This cheap trick goes against the whole point of Twitter. If you’re following people with no intention of engaging them on a REAL level, you’re wasting your time. And everyone else’s.
What to do instead: For god’s sake take a class in marketing because this bullshit isn’t even close to the real thing. There’s actually plenty of free marketing advice online that doesn’t feel like soul-sucking work; you’ll just have to use your good judgment on whether or not a certain technique is really taking advantage of people at its core.
Of course, the first step to great marketing is actually offering something of value. I know–ridiculous that I’d even have to say that–but empty offerings ‘roided out with marketing hype are all too common nowadays.
2. Networking: Introduce yourself by creepily asking people, “What can I do for you?”
To the naked ear it may sound like you’re saying, “What can I do for you?” But what you’re actually saying is, “Is there something I can do for you that will simultaneously make me look like a super cool good guy and also make you feel indebted to me for some sort of favor in the future?”
I’m not making this up. Someone actually thought that was good networking advice.
I found this article thanks to Ash Ambirge at The Middle Finger Project, who references it in a blog post that starts out asking, “Are these people on crack?” Possibly, Ash. Possibly.
What to do instead: Literally anything else. Or just make small talk like a normal person. Even a standard introduction like that is better than coming off a douche who fancies himself the all-knowing wish granter. Or–even better–take Ash’s advice. (Here’s the article again so you can go check it out.)
3. Productivity: Wake up an hour earlier.
And magically add an hour to your day! Ah, it’s so simple, and what a damned fool I’ve been not to think of it myself.
Want to spend more time on a personal project? Or want to spend more time writing/reading for your career? Just wake up an hour earlier to do it.
While we’re at it–want more time to exercise? Wake up another hour earlier. How about more time for engaging on social media? That’s another hour earlier. Want to spend each morning meditating on your life and wondering why you’re so tired and beaten down because you’re now either waking up 3 hours earlier than a normal human being and getting no sleep every night OR going to bed at 7pm each night like a 90 year old woman/newborn baby? You guessed it–wake up an hour earlier.
I always want to say to people who give advice like this, “Oh yeah? Well where does that hour come from?” It’s gotta come from somewhere–whether you’re going to bed an hour earlier or losing an hour of sleep, there’s always something that’s getting pushed from your schedule. (And if we’re all the highly-motivated go-getters we say we are, chances are we’re not getting an exorbitant amount of sleep to begin with.)
Which is why this advice makes absolutely no sense. And habits based on lack of sleep are not habits that are likely to stick, a struggle you’ll feel when you’re forcing yourself to get out of bed an hour earlier every day.
What to do instead: Focus on energy management instead of time management. Instead of trying to operate on less sleep and wondering what the hell’s gone wrong when you’re falling asleep over your desk at 2:00 in the afternoon, eat right, get enough sleep, and optimize your schedule based on your energy levels throughout the day.
And if you’re living a life of efficiency and ease, you might even find you end up needing less sleep naturally. (See how that works? Taking the advice above is a backwards-ass way to do it.)
4. Sales: Play on people’s FOMO (fear of missing out).
Because, I don’t know about you, but I find that running a business on a tank full of good ol’ premium-grade customer fear makes me feel ALIVE. Or, more accurately, like a shitbag.
Is fear really the emotion we want to stir in our customers? Really?
“Don’t be the last to know about this new marketing tip!”
“Don’t be the only one in your friend group to miss this fun-filled event!”
Look, I know FOMO isn’t supposed to be some big evil thing. In fact, the term is used quite lightly nowadays. People actually want to use FOMO-based marketing. Like on purpose. (I started searching for articles on how to intentionally use FOMO in marketing to prove my point but I threw up in my mouth a little so I had to X out of it.)
But one thing’s for sure: there’s a skeezy way to do it and there’s a right way to do it. Honest, incidental use of FOMO like stating the facts (“only 4 left”, “offer expires on 5/1/16”, “space is limited” ) is just telling it like it is. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
But going out of your way to instill FOMO in your customer in the hopes they’ll give in and buy your product is pretty crappy. Intentional FOMO-play, over-exaggerated FOMO-play, that’s what sucks. It turns people off and it just isn’t good business. You’ll sound like a used car salesman. You’ll sound like the devil.
And if you disagree–if you think creating new problems for your customer instead of solving real ones they already have is good business, then get behind me, Satan. And watch me wow your customers away from you and your scary devil games by making them feel good about their buying decisions instead of freaking them out.
What to do instead: Avoid intentional FOMO-play. Don’t worry about incidental FOMO–that’s just business, baby. Brush up on those marketing techniques–real ones that require thought and empathy–and you won’t feel the need to resort to cheap tricks like FOMO-play at all.
5. Content creation: (Insert various clickbait tactics here.)
There’s just too many to count, so let’s get them out of the way in one fell swoop, all packaged nicely into our Worst Piece of Business Advice #5. Content creators in the back say “HEEEEY! HOOO!”
You know what it looks like. It’s FOMO’s next of kin. “You won’t believe what this person did when this ridiculous thing happened!”
Sounds innocent enough. But here’s the real problem with clickbait: its aim is not to offer the visitor any real value but instead to dupe them for the sake of profit. For more page views, for better stats, for money.
In short: it’s manipulative.
And often the integrity of the story suffers at the hands of someone who’s willing to twist the truth a bit for the promise of more clicks. Ever click a link just to realize that the title made the article sound way more sensational and newsworthy than it actually is? Clickbait strikes again, goddamnit.
So if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a whore, now’s your chance. Give click baiting a whirl and you’re sure to feel dirty, tarnish the quality of your content, and piss off a lot of people.
And you can do it all from the glowing light of your computer screen.
What to do instead: BE GENUINE. Christ. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
Practice writing and accept that not every post you write will have the potential to go viral. Write well. Offer something real. Use good headline practices, sure–but don’t count on the manipulation of others to win. Because that’s not really winning at all, is it?
6. Confidence: Call yourself an entrepreneur. (Fake it ’til you make it!)
I’ll get shit for this one, I can feel it.
This article says it all: Overuse of the Word “Entrepreneur” Has Leached It of All Meaning. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
When people say, “I’m an entrepreneur,” I want to ask, “but what do you do?” Like, really do? Without all the bullshit buzz terms like solopreneur and internet entrepreneur? Does it actually mean anything anymore?
Gone are the days when the word entrepreneur was used as a compliment–a compliment someone paid to you for being a leader in business. Not something you call yourself because you feel like it. It’s kind of like calling yourself a celebrity–it’s fine if other people want to pay that compliment to you but it’s kind of weird when you do it yourself.
Don’t try to put yourself up there with Steve Jobs and Tony Hsieh–real entrepreneurs–just by calling yourself one. Do something entrepreneur-worthy and let others pay that compliment to you. It’s way less weird that way.
Real movers and shakers don’t sit around paying themselves compliments. They get out there and they act like an entrepreneur, humbly and in silence. They act like the entrepreneur, the celebrity, the tycoon, the expert. And they wait for others to take notice.
What to do instead: Call yourself what you are: a business owner. But the even better option? Just tell us what you do. Be SOMETHING, something specific. If you’re a writer, great. You’re a writer. If you’re a startup manager, great. Anything but “I’m an entrepreneur!” or “I help people make money online!”
If you have something real to offer, tell us what it is. Tell us what you do. Calling yourself an entrepreneur just leaves too much room for conjecture, confusion, and cringing.
So What’s a Gal (or Guy) to Do?
Be genuine. Be deliberate.
Do things you’re proud of. Market, network, and create in ways you’ll be proud of. Go with your gut.
Putting yourself first is fine, but it doesn’t mean you have to make a fool out of your customer. And you know, it’s not too late to start giving better advice and to start questioning the advice we’re given.
Next time we make a business decision or writing up a marketing plan, let’s ask ourselves: am I duping people? Am I really helping out, or am I just adding to the noise? Is this the best I can offer?
I think if we try thinking this way for a while we’ll eventually find that ingenuity is the most rewarding business strategy of all.