This post is all about the M-word (money) and how you can use it to fund your dreams. There are 2 reasons I hear most often from people about why they can’t pursue their dreams: 1. They have no time. 2. They have no money. Both are lies. Both are excuses. It’s up to us whether we choose to accept them.
For the most part, we all start out with the same; none. And today, we are going to assume that is exactly where you are. Broke. Because we’ve all been there.
Let me begin by saying that up until about 4 years ago, I hated money. I had no financial goals for my life and was extremely frivolous in how I spent it. I’ve learned a lot about money in more recent years. The most important thing I have learned is that I control it and not the other way around.
Your own money philosophy will have a LOT to do with how you are capable of funding your dream. Mainly because if you are not disciplined with your money, everything I am about to say won’t mean a thing. So let’s begin with the first tip:
- Get your personal finances in order.
I’ve had to claw my way out of the debt pit a few times. I’m done with that now. No more debt for me. The scary part is, debt is normal to our society. We have accepted it to be. Right up front, get rid of it, so you can use your income to fund what is actually important in your life. If your credit is terrible and you would never qualify for a business loan (which I don’t recommend, either) but you’re driving an expensive sports car and are complaining you don’t have the money it will take to fund your dreams; your priorities are screwed up. Or if you don’t have enough money to pay your monthly expenses, but just got a fresh tattoo; again, priorities are off. I’ve been there. Most of us have, I call it my early twenties. One last note on this personal finance thing – If you are hoping to get investors and hope others fund your dream, what makes you think you will be more disciplined with somebody else’s money if you aren’t with your own hard earned income? It will take sacrifice. You will either be willing or you won’t. Sell your car, drive a beater, live in a space that costs no more than 15% of your income and you will have a lot more money. Trust me (too intense? You’ll be ok, that was the toughest point, but the most critical).
- Lose the Big Break mentality.
They are unicorns. They may happen every once and a while, just like lottery winners, but most of those people end up right where they started; broke. Resolve within yourself that it is going to take hard work and discipline to achieve your dream. If it’s anything other than that, it will be a wonderful surprise. Although, I think the long paved road to success is necessary to build character. Either way, don’t anticipate it happening over night. Don’t waste your energy and resources looking for a break when you could be investing it into your dream and building an actual plan. That brings us to the next step.
- Have a Plan.
I grew up with a Business man. I learned early in life, that if I were to have a desire or venture and needed my Step-Dad’s support (and by support, it was probably money or for him to pay for something I couldn’t afford) I had to present it to him as a plan. I’m not kidding. A break down of what I needed, why I needed it and its potential return on investment. He never asked me to present it in those terms, but the questions always led to that sort of information. So eventually, that’s how I would always bring it to him and when I had clearly thought out all of those things on my own and still knew I needed or wanted it, he generally supported me (as good Dad’s do). Investors are the same. They tend to also work off of probability. You’re likelihood of success probably isn’t high if you have not mapped out your plan yet (you’re not that serious about it). Somebody is not going to just give you money for a great idea (unless you actually go to have your ideas patented), they want to see the skeleton. Its purpose, why it would be successful or beneficial, how long will it take to get a return, who your target market is, how you will get it out to the world and even who is doing something similar. These are all things you should know about your dream. If you don’t, you have work to do. Put a plan together. If you need help, here’s a simple template to start.
- Meet lots and lots of people.
Don’t let your dream stay a dream. If you are a living life as a hermit, it will be just that. People are the necessary element to everything. Let me be clear: You need people to believe in you. You may need people to give you money to get started. It will be people who buy what you are selling. It will be people who tell other people about the thing that you are selling. It will be people who connect you with other people who may be a good resource for your cause. You will need a person who is a mentor. I don’t care who you are or what your dream is, you will need people. Business people like to call this networking. I like to call it, having a LOT of friends. This is how you will meet others in your industry. This is how you, again, will find a mentor. This is how you may find a partner. This is how you may find an investor. I’m not just talking the social media stuff, either. Physically get out and go meet people. Meeting people is free and it will be your biggest return. You may ask, “Where do I go? Nobody knows who I am.” Then serve. I am sure you know of others in the field you want to go in. Start by serving. Join groups. Offer to help, for free (I know that seems counter-intuitive to this blog post), sometimes there will be a return on your investment. Sometimes there won’t. That’s the risk involved. Either way, there’s a learning moment. Can you use social media, of course. But don’t rely on it. What I have discovered is that social media is a lot of lip-service. Lots of stroking of egos and no physical support. Be above that. Show up. It means way more.
- Don’t quit your day job.
Sure, dumping your day job will give you more time to focus on your big dream. But it also may cause you to settle. Let me esplain. If you have kids, (in my case, cats and dogs) and a mortgage and a car and health insurance and need to buy groceries, keep the power on, use AC in the summer time, you are going to need to fund these expenses. They don’t go away when you quit your job to pursue your dream. So when things get tight and it’s nearing the 1st of the month, you may settle for the quick and not so fulfilling jobs to sustain your living. Keep your day job, fine-tune your craft, have margin for error in your finances and when you have surpassed a consistent and sustainable income, then maybe it’s time. Be wise. Also, your day job could give you the financial support you need now to fund the beginning stages of your dream.
- Start with what you have.
My Step-Dad (the wise Business man), shared his story of his business with me. Even though he has been in my life since I was 7, I had never asked. There were a couple of great take-aways. First, he was very intentional with working with whatever he had at the time. He never took out a business loan or asked anybody for money. He wanted to own his own business (that was his dream) so he started with what he had. He began a plant maintenance company. Basically, he watered peoples plants and they paid him for it. Water and a bucket. That’s pretty resourceful if you ask me. His overhead was watering buckets and maybe gasoline to drive around to the homes and offices of all the plants he watered. Second, he was always thinking outside of the box and how he could evolve. This next part is about 30 years of data so I am going to condense the evolution of his dream of owning a business: Plant watering led to selling pots for plants – led to making potted arrangements – led to selling arrangements for events – led to event planning – led to creating props for events – led to renting out props for events – led to designing for events – led to space planning – led to selling soft goods – led to interior design – led to high end residential interior design. Oh and he still has his plant company on the side. He started with what he had and evolved it into a lucrative business. He didn’t discover his passion for design until he was later in life, but that has been what he enjoys doing the most. He may have never discovered it had he not just gotten started with what he had. Take a step forward and get started. You don’t need millions of dollars. Actually, it’s better if you don’t.
- Educate yourself on additional resources.
“Dominique, what about dreams like traveling the world or building wells and helping impoverished communities, there’s no money-making in that sort of dream. How does one fund it?” These are dreams of a worthy cause. There are a few things. The easy answer (but easier said than done), have a good day job. Be dedicated to whatever it is you choose to do with your career so you have more disposable income. A Market Leader of my company travels to other countries to support his altruistic aspirations regularly. He has set up his life so he can do these things. The other options if you are not some District Manager or CEO of a company; the internet. It is a wonderful thing. GoFundMe.com has become very popular. There are several variations of this type of website as well. You can search for funding support for all types of things, trips, ideas, product creation, etc. Kickstarter.com is a very popular one. However, I suggest, if you use something like kickstarter, follow through. I have backed (or helped fund) a project before. In july of 2014. The project was scheduled to ship in December of 2014. I have yet to receive it. Things like that put a bad taste in people’s mouths. If you use it, fulfill your commitment.
Your biggest commitment, however, will need to be to yourself. You either want to pursue the dream or not. Yes, financial support is necessary and there is plenty you can do to take control and get to where you need to go. But for now, start with what you have.