The Sweaty Startup: Think Small and Do NOT Pursue Your Passion

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How’s this for a different path to entrepreneurship: Don’t have fun. Don’t pursue your passion. Don’t try to change the world. This Medium article profiles Nick Huber, founder of The Sweaty Startup is basically the opposite of the Silicon Valley story that you see everywhere else:

“The Sweaty Startup,” on the other hand, is all about achievability: Create a service business. Do it better than competitors. Make a couple hundred thousand a year, work 40 hours a week or so, and leave plenty of time for family, friends, and hobbies. […] “It’s get-rich-slow,” says Huber, who cautions against following your passion when creating a business. “You gotta do something not-fun for five years to make this work.”

Why? It all comes down to competition. If it’s fun, the competition is too intense and as a result the margins will be too slim. You have to find the stuff that nobody else really wants to do, searching the “inefficient markets”, and do it better than the (limited) competition.

His point: there’s too much competition for the fun stuff — so go for the scut work. “People don’t want to hear this stuff,” Huber says.

“Let’s think about who’s making really good money by not being very good businessmen, and go compete with them.”

Not Fun = Good (Less Competition)

  • Plumbing
  • Pest Control
  • Lawn Care
  • Firewood delivery
  • Maid services
  • Water damage removal

Fun = Bad (Too Much Competition)

  • Smartphone App that goes viral
  • Bakery
  • Designing jewelry
  • Cute stuff on Etsy
  • YouTube/Instagram influencer
  • Life coaching

As with many things this is all easier said than done, but I’m sure some folks will happen to have the personality and knack for this type of thing – which is also perfectly compatible with financial independence. Create your own six-figure job, save a large percentage of it for years, and when you’re close to being done, the best part is that you also own a valuable asset. You can now sell that small business for a multiple of the annual revenue. (Compare this against a franchise, where if you don’t do it right, you are simply “buying a job”. Read this Hustle article about Subway franchises.)

I became curious about early retirement after I couldn’t think of any job where I’d say “Wow, I love doing this so much, I’ll work until I die”. Some people truly love their work. I know that now. However, other people are built to “suck it up” for a while and then get the heck out. With this concept, you can sell your job when you’re done, and sail off into the sunset.

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  1. Is this advice for the young who (more likely) have years to invest/waste on drudgery ??

    If you are older, you don’t want to waste your (clearly) limited time left doing not fun stuff.

    • I would think that this fits better with someone with enough free time upfront to build up the business, and enough years left to enjoy the benefits when you have a stable group of repeat clients and a good reputation, etc. But everyone can only choose amongst the options available to them, and maybe one of these businesses will look like the best option for some.

  2. Bob Loblaw says

    This is a great article for those of us who have never liked a job.

    My question is, once you start that pest control business and start making good money, do you learn to like it?

    • I suppose it all comes down the person. I’m sure many people would be able to take pride in providing a useful service (like pest control), being well-compensated for it, and in the knowledge that over time they are an expert in that area. Of course, that’s kind of how I think about dentistry as well 🙂 even though I have no interest in it myself.

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