Shawn Manaher is the founder of Sidepreneurs, which is a blog and podcast that helps individuals who have day jobs build side businesses - so that they can eventually "graduate" into full-time entrepreneurship. In this interview, Shawn shares his story and gives advice on success, habits, books... and even grooming. :)
Okay Shawn, thanks for joining us today. Tell us the story behind Sidepreneurs – what is your background, and what motivated you to stat the business?
Shawn: So Justin, thank you so much for having me on... Really been looking forward to this.
And with that, the background behind Sidepreneurs... the Sidepreneurs Podcast was my own experience as a "sidepreneur" back four or five years ago – I forget how long now. But I was working in [the] corporate world, and I was enjoying the benefits of really being in a position that was geared towards who I was as a person.
Really enjoyed it but I found that I was enjoying it so much I was getting bored with myself; I was looking for something to challenge myself. At the same time, my wife, April - she was getting a master's in education, so she was working full-time, going to school full-time, and we didn't really have a whole lot of time left over to just hang out.
And during the time she was doing her school, I was like, well, I can either learn how to play Madden 2010 over and over again, become an expert in that - or I can do something I always wanted to start, which was start my own business.
And so, the long and short of it is - I started with a thing called Google AdSense Passive Income - which basically is a way in which to make passive income online - and started out with that... was making some really good money with that. Started at $100, $300, $500 - $1,100 a month.
I was really seeing how that can grow - and then out of that, out of that experience of learning how to do passive income, I found a niche in the market that was open, which was content. Content creation, people needing content for their blogs, content for their white papers, content for their PowerPoints – whatever you name related to text content... people needed that.
And so we created a platform called the Content Authority, which was the bridge between individuals who needed content and writers who I had connected with [who] had the skills to write that content.
And out of that, started my own Sidepreneur journey... was doing that for three years, and then moved on from corporate life to [work on the business] full-time.
Great. And so, with Sidepreneurs, specifically, what makes your blog and podcast different than the other entrepreneurship content that is out there?
Shawn: You know, Justin, we talked about this [before the interview] that Sidepreneurs is a niche within a niche, right? The "entrepreneurs" space has just become so popular these days. Hollywood has sensationalized it through shows like... Shark Tank and out of that, it has really become – you know, start-ups are happening everywhere... there's opportunity to just start a business. It's so much easier nowadays than ever before.
I think being an entrepreneur is cool and fun - and so, in my approach for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, and starting a business around helping entrepreneurs, I wanted to focus in on a niche... a focus. Because I think there are so many people focused on entrepreneurs, I wanted to make sure that I was carving out my own "blue ocean" - if you will - to help me to leverage my experience towards a certain group of people.
And what I decided to do - and why my blog and podcast and Sidepreneurs is different - is that it's the name. It's "Sidepreneurs" – it's individuals who are working on the side, trying to start their business while working for somebody else. And those individuals, they have unique challenges, struggles and trials that they're working through that I believe that through Sidepreneurs and the work that I'm doing can help them.
Yeah, I think it's a fantastic and very relevant angle to entrepreneurship. Now let's go back to the days before Sidepreneurs. What was the biggest obstacle that you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
Shawn: Honestly... it's probably the biggest struggle that I face today - and I don't know that I really overcame it.. it's time. I just... there are so many things - even before Sidepreneurs - that I was wanting to work on, that I just didn't have enough time to do.
I mean, I've since learned how to basically get more time out of the day by scaling, by creating systems within my business so that I have more time. By leveraging other people's time, talent and ability for my business; by outsourcing – you know, people are able to outsource to individuals in other countries at a fraction of the cost for what they would maybe pay maybe on the US based-side. And so, that has resulted in allowing me to have time.
But that really is - honestly if I'm thinking of it - time is just one of those things I think that we all have a struggle with in trying to both manage it and then get more out of the day because as entrepreneurs.. they're thinking, "Well, I don't have enough time – I've got family, I've got work responsibilities, I'm starting my own business and I just don’t know how to manage all that time."
I think scaling that has helped. Getting focused has also helped. Planning out my day so that I know exactly what I'm doing when I'm doing it has helped with that time. But if I'm honest, I still struggle with that and try to get as much time out of the day as possible.
What's your biggest piece of success advice that you'd like to pass on to others?
Shawn: So success, for me, is... it's an interesting thing. I think success is very subjective in a lot of ways... I think that when we look at what success for one person is and to another, it can be subjective.
If I'm looking from a monetary sense, I think the device that I have in building a business that is successful is finding any opportunity that you can, do something that is predictable, profitable, and aligns with your passions.
Like if you're going to do something that's successful - and I've interviewed over 140+ successful entrepreneurs, and some of the things that I'm seeing from them as well as in my own life - is that when I find that I am successful, it is the intersection between the things that are predictable – that is I can deliver results time and time again, it's gonna be predictable; it's profitable – that there is an endgame, there is something that is going to result in profit out of this; and then it also aligns with my passions.
So when you look at those things - and I think a lot of times we start with our passion, or we start with something that we know - it's predictable. Or we start with this money-making idea, but when we miss those other two things - the predictability or the passion or we miss the profitability and the predictability or any mix of those - when we're missing those other components, we can get frustrated in building this business because it's not going to be successful.
But where you can - I'm gonna replay it - where you find that predictable, profitable and passionate thing that you can do, I would say go for that and you will find success, because one – in that it's predictable, you have the skill set that you know and need in order to do it. If you need to get that skill, sure, go for it, and get that skill so that you can deliver the result that you're looking for - but make sure that it's within a reasonable time period.
Moving from there - the profitability. In building a business, if you think that as you're building this business that there is no clear path to profitability - that is, you know exactly how you're going to make money on this venture - you will not succeed in it.
Time and time again, I see even in my own businesses and my own side ventures too, the Sidepreneur venture that I've created, there have been things that I tried that were not profitable, and ultimately did not become a success because it missed that one component. I think a lot of times we focus on 'we want to make money,' but we actually don't know how to make money with the ideas that we have.
The last thing is where I think most people start... is passion. People often are very excited and really anticipating the result out of the passion that they have for whatever it might be. Maybe it might be an important cause, maybe it might be you're passionate about the idea of something that you've found online that's making passive incomes, like I don't know – selling T-shirts, whatever it might be.
You have all this passion and it's good to have that passion, but don't forgot those other things: the predictability and the profitability.
Now what are two or three of your most important habits?
Shawn: So, for me, I have really ordered my life and business much more than I have in the past. I've been reading a number of books that have helped that; I've been in contact, in connection with mastermind groups that have focused [on] that, but some of the things that have been very helpful for me and habits that I've created are, number one, checking email only like three times a day.
By checking it when I first get my initial work done, then check it midday, and then end of day, I'm able to clear through the email that comes through - and then at the same time, I'm able to not be locked in and tied to this – like, whether it's on your phone, or on your desktop, your laptop, whatever it might be, I'm not tied to that. And that has totally transformed the way in which I do business.
The other thing I would say - in terms of building habits in 2015 for what I've been doing so far - is taking time away from my business. I think that over the last five years, I've had an unhealthy amount of focus on my business. That is to say that I just wasn't taking time to get away.
I wasn’t taking vacations, I wasn't taking days off, and that sounds all... really amazing and awesome, like man – working hard, you've got to put in that first ten years, and I've been running hard at this for the last five years, and have been seeing results, but I haven't been taking time away.
And so, the habit that I built in this year, I actually have scheduled time off. I actually have block[ed] time for vacation. I actually took, just took the first few days in January this year of 2015, took some time to block off vacation time, which I hadn't done in years.
And so, I tell you, it really has, number one, opened my eyes to more clearer ideas and thoughts about my business; and number two, it has really helped me to align better to what I truly love and believe in and want to spend time doing - [and] that's spend time with my family.
And in that clarity, in that refocus on family has actually helped my business because I think I'm a better person... I'm a clearer-minded person, I'm maybe less - if I'm honest - less frustrated with things in business when I had time to step away.
The last important habit... for me has been waking up early. Getting started before everyone else does. And this is translated into just waking up, getting started, getting a number of things knocked out within the first couple of hours of the day before anybody else is up - and that has helped me to really focus in on the things that I want to get done, and it really sets off the day right.
So that's been some of the habits that have been important for me.
Great. Now a lot of people understand the importance of owning a business to achieve financial freedom, but at the same time they don’t pursue it. What do you think is holding them back from starting their entrepreneurial journeys?
Shawn: I think the biggest obstacle for individuals is fear of a number of things.
Fear of failure - they think that I do not either have the ability, the skills, the mindset, and I'm afraid of failing. And that's very real for some folks. So I don’t want to mitigate in or ignore that... I want to just understand that individuals are going to have a difficult time with this; they're afraid of falling on their face.
But my question to them is: What's the worst that could happen? Like what's the worst thing that could happen to you in failing? People – are you afraid people are gonna make fun of you? Are you afraid that your family is going to lose respect for you?
All these fears or fear of failure that come up really go to the end degree of saying 'What is it going to really look like?' And when you kind of peel it all back and you look at that fear of failure itself, it's not really as big of a deal as we think.
I can tell you I failed. At no time has my family laughed at me and said 'This is ridiculous!' I've failed, and I have not succeeded at times - but nobody was waiting there to make a big deal about my failure. Often times, that fear of failure is something that we ourselves are dealing with.
I think another fear within that is that [we're fearful that ] we financially are not going to make it. You know, we live in a world, in a country... and we're talking about the US that has a lot of abundance, a lot of opportunity.
But often times, I think that we are... we fail to take action because we think that we need to become a millionaire before we have realized how we can earn just $100 online.
And I think there's the problem that people don't... the reason why people don’t pursue it is because they don't see the steps that logically go from making $100 a month online to $1,000 to $10,000 to $100,000 - and because they don't see the steps, they ultimately look at just 'I want to make a million dollars online' but because they don’t see the steps to get to that million dollars online, or they are always focused on that million dollars and not just like a simple goal, they often times never get to that big goal. Because they haven't planned out how to get to $10 online, $100 and so on and so forth.
So those are the couple of things that I think with regard to the reason why people don't do this; that holds them back.
Now for people who have actually started their Sidepreneur journeys, what books would you recommend for them?
Shawn: Now – do I have a limit on this? Dude, I have read and read a number of things. So I'm gonna throw out a couple of books in a real-time level, give you some ideas for this.
So number one – The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Great book in terms of understanding the effect that compounding has on your life and your business. The idea that the repeatable habits over time and how they are able to really accelerate anything that you want to do – if you want to become an expert in anything, read The Compound Effect. If you want to learn how to better manage your money, read The Compound Effect. If you want to look at relationships, read The Compound Effect. A very good book.
The next book - The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. A fantastic book about really understanding that - connected with The Compound Effect - The Slight Edge is really a partner to that in a lot of ways that really helps you understand how the difference in those that are successful and those that are not successful - and again, I'm putting quotes to those words, is "the slight edge." It's not like in golf. The number one player to the number ten player – it's a slight edge that the number one player has. In reading this book, you'll understand what do they do that's different that you can apply in your life to have a "slight edge" in your business.
The other one I'll recommend is a recent book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan called The ONE Thing. You know how I talked about earlier about people not knowing how to... start a business because they're focused on the million dollars, and they don’t know how to do $100, $250 and so on and so forth.
Well, The ONE Thing is all about understanding what's the one thing that I can do today that in so doing would make everything else obsolete or not needed in my life. That is to say, we often have these big goals – well, what's the one thing today that I need to do in order to meet that goal for tomorrow, for the next week and so on and so forth? So within ten years, we're meeting these big goals.
There are a number of others books that I could recommend - The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a great book for startups and individuals who are looking at creating a very slimmed-down, scalable business. Fantastic book. So those are a couple of them, I have a hundred more I could recommend, but that's it for now.
Yeah, those are some great resources. Of the non-book resources such as podcasts or blogs... do you have something that you think would be helpful?
Shawn: Yeah, I think that... with today's very knowledge-minded world, we have everything and anything. I would say get focused around the things that you need to grow in, and carve out and just research yourself what podcasts and blogs those need to be.
I'm not being specific because I believe in not necessarily in subscribing to 100 different things nowadays. I think that we are too busy and there's too much time that we don’t have to listen to a lot of blogs and podcasts unless it's very specific to what you're looking to do.
So, for me, when I look at resources that I'm connected with, Convince & Convert is a great blog and website that focuses on a lot of things related to marketing.
Social Triggers is another great blog that is focused in helping you to understand how to better connect with individuals by way of the way you're writing and the way you're presenting things.
Recently for me, I'm looking to build my list... Brian Harris' VideoFruit.com is a fantastic blog and website for that.
So those are a couple of things for me that I would recommend and also for those that are looking to start their own Sidepreneur journey...
Now switching gears to grooming - what's your single best grooming tip for men?
Shawn: Get a haircut! I mean I just think of my own entrepreneurial life and one of the things that I have often seen results... is just the time when I made sure to take time to get a haircut and I actually try and schedule [it]... getting that haircut really reminds... me that I just – you look better, you feel better depending on your hairstyle and how long you need to get a haircut.
But for me, getting a haircut, making sure that you get that on a regular basis, it just can present a much better image, and it can make you psychologically just feel better about yourself and starting your day.. something about [getting a haircut] really does that.
Last question for you: how can our readers connect with you?
Shawn: Yeah... thank you again so much for having me. What I would say - if you want to connect with me - there is only one Shawn Manaher in the entire world. So that makes it easy. My name is Shawn Manaher – so you can connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus – any platform, social media platform you can find me on @shawnmanaher.
Or if you'd like to connect with me regarding Sidepreneurs, you can connect with me at Sidepreneurs.com.
Thanks to Shawn for the interview! He shared a bunch of resources in the interview, and here is a summary of them:
- The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Blogs & Other Resources: