The $100 Startup: Chris Guillebeau’s Excuse-Killing Guide to Starting Your Business NOW

What reasons have you given yourself for why you haven’t started your business yet?
Do you dread putting that business plan together?  

Are you numbingly confused about how to generate revenue?

Have no idea where start, period?

Doubt you have enough expertise or qualifications to start your own business at all?
Well, I’m nudging you today, because there’s now a resource available that kills your doubts and excuses to help you start your business now

  The Bleak Workscape

By now, you’re probably sick of hearing the ugly (un)employment statistics, so let me twist the blade just one last time to get you moving: the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics pegs total U.S. unemployment at 8.1% for 2012.

If you went to college like I did, you’re still not safe: the USBLS reports the college grad unemployment rate is 4.1%; and college dropouts come in at 7.7%.

Those numbers make one thing clear: you can’t wait for anyone else to create jobs; you’ll need to create your own. But you already knew that, right?

So what’s stopping you from starting your business? Doubt and fear (usually of rejection and/or failure).

The help you need is here now, so commit to killing both of those today. Start small, and build your business up further once it’s off the ground.

The Most Effective Way to Start

People always say it takes money to make money, and it really does. Sometimes the most effective way to move forward is to invest in robust resources, so do yourself a favor and drop the $13.80 (that’s the current sale price) on Chris Guillebeau’s latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future.

Guillebeau, a successful globetrotting entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and a college dropout himself, lays out 14 meaty chapters of actionable advice, backing it up with case studies of what he calls “accidental entrepreneurs” – people who were forced to start their own business due to layoffs, or who started a project that they didn’t expect to generate revenue that ended up paying very well.

In case you’re concerned that the book is mostly fluff, it’s not – it’s three years in the making with concentrated results from interviews and surveys with some 1,500 successful entrepreneurs all over the world (plus his own entrepreneurial experience). 

Here’s a chapter-by-chapter primer to get you started.

(You’ll want to print or bookmark this.)

Chapter 1 - Renaissance

1. According to Guillebeau, you need these 3 things to start a business: 
  • a product or service
  • an audience willing to buy it, and
  • a way to get paid

2. To know what kind of business to start, figure out your market convergence (the common point between your passion and what other people care about).

If you’re not confident your passion converges with what others need, use what Guillebeau calls skill transformation. In his words, “if you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at other things too” (p. 20). Basically, apply your knowledge to a related topic and build a business from that.

Chapter 2 - Give Them the Fish

1. Chapter title translation: people want their products nicely packaged and handed to them, instead of you showing them how to do it or get it.

Here’s Guillebeau’s personal example: he set up a project that showed people how to get travel discounts, but got a lukewarm response. He then regrouped and launched his current project, Travel Hacking Cartel, which provides travel deals directly to his customers instead of showing them how to find them, resulting in a 600% increase in sales.

2. The book has value-packed info boxes in most of the chapters, starting here. The first is a list of business idea sources, so even if you don’t want to come up with a business idea using the tools in Chapter 1, the “Where Do Ideas Come From?” info box on pages 27 and 28 shows you four key areas to explore. Here are two for you: 
  • an inefficiency in the marketplace: find a flaw in an industry or procedure, and start a business that fixes it. People flock to solutions.
  • new technology or opportunity

3. The “Six Steps to Getting Started Right Now” info box on pages 35 and 36 includes the three points in Chapter 1 and adds the publicity step (you can’t build your product or service and hope your customers come – you’ve got to take your product to them.

Chapter 3 - Follow Your Passion…Maybe

1. Chapter 3 basically lets you know the blunt reality of the “follow your passion” adage: not all passions can be made into a business, and not everyone wants to make their passion a business for fear the rigors of running the business will ruin the fun.

2. This might shock you: “you can establish a specialized consulting business in one day – the more specific, the better” (Guillebeau, 2012, p. 54).

Don’t worry, Guillebeau provides a handy resource for setting up a consultancy if you’re interested in starting one: the “Instant Consultancy Biz” info box on pages 43-44 (which is also available as a PDF download from the book site).

Chapter 4 - The Rise of the Roaming Entrepreneur

1. Ever thought of being a location-independent entrepreneur? It’s possible, you know – and this chapter lets you know what you need to make that happen, including a useful travel info box on page 63, “A Brief Primer for Location Independence”.

Here are three little nuggets for you from the 9-bullet box:

  • keep your work in the cloud (i.e. Dropbox)
  • start your travels in Latin America or Southeast Asia (they’re more hospitable than most regions)
  • having a U.S. or Canadian passport can get you into most countries

2. If you’re a writer or blogger, you’ll love the meatiest info box in the chapter, “Become Your Own Publisher” (p. 69), which is also available as a downloadable PDF from the book site.

Chapter 5 - The New Demographics

1. Here's the main thing you need to understand in this chapter: ditch the rigid demographics model when defining your market (age, income, education, location, etc.) and instead use psychographics: define your target audience by values, skills, beliefs, interests, and passions.

2. One of the most AMAZING jewels in the entire book is in this chapter: if you’re still struggling with what kind of business you want to launch at this point, or if you have several business ideas and can't seem to choose one, use what Guillebeau calls the “Decision Making Matrix” (p. 85-87).

Here’s how the matrix works: list all of your business “possibilities” in rows, and label five columns thus:
  • Impact
  • Effort
  • Profitability
  • Fit with Vision
  • Total

Rate the first four columns for each business possibility on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the least) and then put the sum in the “Total” column. Once you’ve filled the matrix in, get to work on the business idea with the highest total.   

Chapter 6 - The One-Page Business Plan

1. As the name suggests, Guillebeau provides just that on pages 102-103, and was gracious enough to also provide a downloadable PDF version on the book’s site.

2. Every business needs a mission statement, but Guillebeau challenges you to narrow yours down to a tweet – 140 characters – and provides an info box to help you do it on page 105.  

3. He also explains that a key to your business’ success is testing your market to find what works and what doesn’t, and provides the “Seven Steps to Instant Market Testing” info box on pages 96-97, which is also a downloadable PDF from the site.   

Chapter 7 - An Offer You Can’t Refuse 

Guillebeau lists 6 essential things you must do when creating an irresistible offer for your service or product; here are 3 for you:

Chapter 8 - Launch!

Guillebeau provides a comprehensive 39-step product launch checklist in this chapter (p. 140-144) for what you need to do before a business or product launch, how to ramp up to the launch, what to do on the big day, and what to do afterward.

Thank God he also offers the PDF on the book site.

Chapter 9 - Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion

Guillebeau hits on the importance of building relationships as “a strategy, not a tactic” (p. 156), (meaning it’s a long-term thing, not a quick revenue source) and also offers  “The One-Page Promotion Plan” info box on page 159, as well as the PDF.

And he also includes a message/email template on page 151 for building your friends’, family’s, and colleagues’ anticipation for a new project you’re working on (no info box or PDF here, sorry – you’ll have to buy it to see it).

Chapter 10 - Show Me the Money 

As the title states, this chapter guides you through properly pricing your product or service, and Guillebeau provides 3 important tips here, but here’s the one you need to know right now because it bucks common business practice: price your product or service based on the value provided, not the cost of producing it.

I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that, but it makes total sense.

Chapter 11 - Moving on Up 

This chapter shows you 3 ways to tweak your business model to increase your revenue. Here are 2 for you to chew on: 
  • the upsell: offer a complimentary item in the sale (a.k.a. “would you like fries with that?”)
  • the cross-sell: offer related items (a.k.a. Amazon’s “Customers Also Purchased This” feature)

Chapter 12 - How to Franchise Yourself  

If you’re feeling comfortable or bold enough to expand, this chapter’s for you.

Franchising yourself involves doing one of two things:
  • either reaching more people with the same message (expanding your reach),
  • or reaching a totally different audience with a new message (a new/different business)

Guillebeau uses Problogger’s Darren Rowse as a great example. Rowse reaches the blogging crowd with Problogger, serves an altogether different audience at the far more successful Digital Photography School, and his a third blog for the social media marketing audience, TwiTip – Twitter Tips. Same guy, three different blogs and services, three income sources.

There’s even more useful expansion info in this chapter, so be sure to read it.

Chapter 13 - Going Along

This chapter basically covers the crossroads you’ll inevitably reach in your business: stay small, go bigger (hiring employees or contractors and such), or find a happy medium (working a job part-time while working on your business part-time).

There’s also a very useful “Health Insurance” info box, which is always an entrepreneurial thorn, so definitely read that to learn what your options are.  

Chapter 14 - But What if I Fail?

In the final chapter, Guillebeau gives you the same foot-to-tail treatment I’m giving you. As he points out, failure’s not guaranteed, so stop fearing it. Even if you do slip, the key is to learn from the experience and move forward as quickly as possible. As Nike says: just do it. Now.

What You Need to Do Now

I know that was a lot of info, so if you’ve made it this far, I humbly applaud your endurance. Here’s your homework:

1. Go to and click “Resources” to download the 6 sweet info-packed PDF guides: 
  • Instant Consultancy Biz
  • Become Your Own Publisher
  • Seven Steps to Instant Market Testing
  • The One-Page Business Plan
  • The 39-Step Product Launch Checklist
  • The One-Page Promotion Plan

2. Go to the “Order” page and purchase the book from the distribution channel you desire (the $13.80 price was on Amazon).

3. Start exploring those PDFs while you wait for the book to arrive as well as the Decision Making Matrix I described in Chapter 6 above.

The future of your business starts now. Guillebeau provides all the tools you need in his book, and I’ve given you many of them here. Get on it! 

Important disclosure: as of this posting, I am not a Chris Guillebeau affiliate, so I won't make a commission if you purchase the book. I'm simply sharing the great value I got from it with you to help you on your business journey.


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