Money is only one form of currency. You need to look at the bigger picture.
Allow me to demonstrate with a story.
The summer before my senior year of college, I shutdown an app I had launched the semester prior. I say ‘shut down’, but the truth is that it failed pretty spectacularly.
My college town was a crazy party town. The app I launched made it possible to pay cover charges to the bars with your phone, so you didn’t need cash. Eventually we would build in a feature where students could take surveys to earn credits to pay for their covers.
That feature would have made us a spectacular amount of money. You see, there are programs that pay pretty well for survey completions. So if the program paid us a $1 when someone completed a survey, we were going to give them $.25 worth of credits to buy cover charges with.
We amassed a few thousand users in the first month and sold ~$10,000 in covers through the app. However, we ran out of money before we could build in that key feature.
We only made $.50 on each cover at the time, and it cost us at least a couple dollars to acquire a new user. Plus, it was much harder to sell our idea in to the bars, because cash covers meant tax-free profits (plus the bouncers liked to take their cut of that cash).
At the end of it all, I was completely broke.
I had been working 30 hours a week trying to make enough cash to keep the business afloat. I had dropped a couple classes to make enough time to keep the business afloat. I had a drinking problem from trying to cope with stress and keep the business afloat.
I went through a nasty break-up and had to give my dog away to someone who could take better care of him.
To say I was depressed would be an understatement.
On the bright side, I was heading into an amazing internship with an iconic company that paid me really well. On the grim side, I was quite lonely working in St. Louis for those 3 months.
Loneliness and depression don’t go well together.
That’s when I found Quora.
I began to participate soon after finding it. Mostly I was telling stories about my business failure, but not being very honest because I worried about what people would think.
Every time I would submit an answer, my heart would race out of my chest due to the anxiety from putting myself out there. Still, this was therapeutic for me.
I was able to literally get these feelings off my chest. This was key to my feeling better over the course of the summer.
I did a good enough job at my internship to secure a very lucrative full time offer for after graduation. I returned to school, stacked with cash from the internship, and ready to coast through senior year.
Things were much better now. My writing continued on Quora, but instead of using it for therapy, I began writing stories of all the crazy things I had done to make money over the last 10 years. Mostly it was a lot of e-commerce and drop-shipping how-to content.
Soon after, one of my answers went crazy viral and was actually published on. Super cool.
I decided to leverage all this exposure I had by building more specific how-to content with affiliate links weaved in. These links were used when I recommended services in my guides, and those services paid me handsomely if someone decided to use them because of my recommendation.
Over time I realized the same strategies that made me successful in e-commerce would make me successful here too.
Specifically, it was easier to get a reader to take a second, third, and fourth recommendation if the prior recommendations turned out to be good recommendations in the readers eyes.
I also learned that if my content was more engaging and more helpful, my audience and their trust would grow.
How to find quick and easy startup money for your business
The most important currency of our time is attention.
Attention doesn’t need to be purchased. Acquiring attention just requires generosity with your time and experiences, engaging people with stories, and generally providing value to other people at scale.
Attention is up for grabs. It’s up for grabs on Quora, and it’s up for grabs on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
These platforms make money from advertising. They make more money from advertising if users are on their platform frequently and for long amounts of time.
If your content is something that keeps their users around, they will show them more of it. That means if you capture people’s attention, the platforms will generally bring those people into what I call your ‘sphere of influence’.
When someone is in your sphere of influence, they are frequently exposed to your content. They feel like they are getting to know you, and their trust grows over time.
That’s how attention is nurtured into interest.
As you start taking people off-platform to even more engaging and valuable content on your own site, that interest turns into desire. A desire for whatever dream or solution you are presenting.
Then many of those people at the desire stage will take action. They will buy what you are selling, if it’s right for them.
If they are satisfied, they will buy again, and again, and again. They will tell their friends how great you are, and some of those friends will be brought deep into your sphere of influence too.
Those friends will perhaps even skip the first few stages, right to action, because they regard their friend’s advice highly.
Because of this whole dynamic, I was able to make some solid passive income from my writing on Quora and my blog about e-commerce. That’s how I learned about the power of attention, and the stages thereafter.
Eventually, I met enough people from all of this who were actually willing to pay me by the hour for my help. My content demonstrated my marketing ability to them, but they had a business, a lot of cash, and some problems that needed solving by me.
They didn’t have so much time on the other hand, so they asked to hire me. Since March, I’ve picked up so much business I’ve had to hire two other consultants to help manage the workload, and we are negotiating employment with a third.
Even better, I’m actually doing work I am proud of now, and I look forward to getting out of bed to crank it out. When I still had a job, I slowly progressed from waking up at 7 AM in the beginning, to waking up at 9 AM and showing up late almost every day because I was so miserable.
You don’t need money to start a business. You need the attention and trust of the people you want to sell to.
It’s 2018. You can get in touch with anyone now. So go and do it.
Of course, it takes time.
But even money doesn’t help you get trusted much faster. It just makes it easier to get people’s attention if you have nothing valuable to say.