Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, December 19, 2008

Self-Employment: Successful Steps To Become Your Own Boss - John Buckman At LeWeb08

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John Buckman, the entrepreneur behind Magnatune, shared his personal vision for successfully becoming your own boss at LeWeb '08 conference in Paris.

Photo credit: Ustream

The title of his presentation was "Love Entrepreneurship: Your Own Way" and his focus was specifically on what key points you MUST follow if you want to start your own online business. Many startuppers fail because they do not pay attention to some very fundamental strategic rules of good entreprenurship and dive into their projects without thinking of the consequences of their initial, time-pressed decisions.

Being an entrepreneur it's not all fun and games. If you want to become your own boss, you have to make sure first that you do make the right choices.

So which are the successful steps to self-employment?

Becoming independent and self-employed is like a chess game. It's cool to start playing the game and have other people under you doing what you ask, but if you don't play smart and make the correct moves, things may not exactly go the way you may have expected.

If you, like me, didn't have the chance to see John Buckman live at LeWeb, this is something you don't want to miss. Here for you his great talk recorded on stage at LeWeb, and a full English transcription:

Intro by Daniele Bazzano


Love Entrepreneurship Your Own Way

Duration: 9'

Full English Text Transcription

John Buckman: Here are the quick steps that I see for self-employment.

1) Think of Lots of Ideas


The very first thing is: just start thinking of lots of ideas. Starts reading a science fiction, futurism, start watching TED... just start writing ideas down.

2) Do Nothing


And then, this is the crucial step: do nothing. Don't do anything with those ideas.

Just keep thinking of ideas and writing them down, and the reason is that in three months most of those ideas are going to be shit. And it's going to take you at least three months, if not six to nine months to get those ideas together.

Too many people jump on the first ideas they have and start doing them, and they shut their brain down and they stop thinking of other clever things.

This is my own personal test, I called it the pub-test. I spent half the year in England and Brits are well-educated, which means they're a very tough audience for new ideas.

I go to a pub with a friend, it's noisy, we're having a beer, and then about 15 seconds I explain my idea. If they don't stop drinking their beer and pay attention, my idea is not good enough.

It's very simple. It's because a noisy pub, with beer, lots of queue other people around... it's what the Internet is like: there are tons of distractions, there are tons of things pulling people away.

If you're not interesting enough to get someone to look up from their beer, it's not gonna happen. Try again.

3) The Elevator Pitch


Now, think about your product: what this really comes down to, it's some sort of elevator pitch, some sort of very simple explanation.

It's called an elevator pitch because if you're stuck in an elevator with someone famous, let's say Chris Anderson of TED, and you want to speak at TED.

What would you say in those fifteen seconds that would excite him, that would make him take your card, and call you back?

4) Write The First Line of Your Press Release


I can't stress this enough: before you do any work, write the first line of your press release.

So many companies leave this still later.

They make the product, they get it to ship and then they write the press release, and they realize that the first line of their press release is boring.

The product is already made, there's nothing you can do: you have a boring product.

You need to work the other way around. How is that first line of that press release going to get people interested?

5) Write The First Paragraph of Your Homepage


Next, write the first paragraph of your homepage. This is the follow one.

Someone says, "Uh, that sounds interesting, tell me more". You have three or four sentences to get them excited.

Make the homepage finally hunt for unique names.

This is actually not nearly as important as you would think. A lot of companies like my own Magnatune, or even ones like Seesmic, are not the best names in the world, but if they're really good ideas and they're memorable, that's fine. It's not a problem.

6) Don't Borrow Money


This is really crucial. Don't borrow money. Figure out how to do the idea extremely cheaply.

7) Make a Mock-up


Next finally, make a mock-up. Show it to people. Again, see if they are really excited.

8) Launch Before You Are Ready


And this is crucial. Launch way before you're ready.

Get it out there. Start getting feedback. See if the idea is any good, because you might be really wrong.

After you pitch at the bloggers, if no-one cared, if you didn't borrow money, you don't have anything invested in it, other than a few months' work. Kill it, start over.

You just learned something, you just learned why the idea was bad. Start again.

9) Don't Quit Your Day Job


This is also crucial: don't quit your day job.

A lot of people think they need to get funding, quit their day jobs, start with a bunch of partners, and go off.

What you really need to do, is get that salary and find time on the weekends, on the evenings, to work on your project, and gradually lower your time commitment to your job. But only quit it once you have enough money.

10) Salespeople Are a Bad Idea


You also discover that salespeople are an extremely bad idea.

The reason is that salespeople require capital and that also generally mean that your idea isn't that good. Your idea isn't that good because it requires salespeople to convince people it's good. If it's good it should convince people on their own.

Great products build word of mouth.

11) Pitch The Bloggers


Another fallacy is that if we just had a big PR and marketing campaign, that everyone would know about our product that would be great.

That's not true either. Because if you can convince just a few bloggers that it's interesting, and a few early users, that is something really unusual, then it will happen on its own.


John's Secrets


I got a few case studies here. This is my secret, it's really really simple.

The secret to getting massive press, and I have got massive press for my project, so the first one is the hardest:

a) Be Interesting


Be really damned interesting.

Guy Kawasaki in his famous books says: "If you're not getting press, get better reality".

That's a more clever way of saying what I'm saying, but find something really interesting.

b) Convince Influential Bloggers


And then you just need to convince two influential bloggers that it's really interesting. That will get you the stage.

If it's not that interesting it won't go anywhere.

c) Focus on Freelancers


Another secret, this is for traditional print media, is focus on freelancers, not on staff writers.

Freelancers will write about small people, generally staff writers won't. And the reason is that staff writers get stories from editors, whereas freelancers have to find stories and pitch to the editor.

Become a cause that freelancer would personally like they have personally invested in.


The Flow of Things


This is the flow of things:

This is from each one.

It's just a cascade. Each media watches the next media and it happens automatically.

Here some of the story angles. You had to download this to read us more, but think of as many edgy stories as you can. Especially when what's happened has been written about. So, when a journalist contacts you can give them something really juicy to think about.


Click above to enlarge image

This is the Magnatune homepage, this is my elevator pitch, "we are not evil", It's very cute, it makes people laugh, and then there is this massive paragraph.

What people see is "we are not evil", bla bla bla bla bla.


Final Tips


Okay, some final tips.



Those of you who are French, you need to look at Dedibox.

For a thirty euros a month you can have a machine of a 100 megabits. It's only available to French people, and it's a wonderful thing.



I recommend you use PHP, because it's a simple technology. You can hire people cheaply.

Make Your Homepage Pretty


Don't skimp on graphics.

Do Everything Yourself


Do everything yourself. And if you're not technical, sorry, you're going to have to be technical.

You're going have to learn technology at some level. Otherwise it's not going to happen.

You're going have to read a lot of books. You got to learn everything out running a company, but it's going to be a lot of fun. And if it is successful, you get all the percents.

You can't lead people if you don't know how to do their job.

Don't Borrow Money


Don't borrow money, because if you fail, you can just start again next week.

That is all I wanted to say, thank you very much for listening. Bye-bye!


Additional Resources

Originally presented by John Buckman for LeWeb '08 and first published on December 10th 2008 as "Self-Employment: Successful Steps To Become Your Own Boss - John Buckman At LeWeb08".

About the author


John Buckman is founder and CEO of, an online record label which was recently named as one of the "Top 20 Music Download Sites" by Time Magazine. John also founded, an online community for exchanging used books. His past accomplishments as a programmer and entrepreneur include having founded email software company Lyris in 1994. Buckman is also a well-known figure in the open source community and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Photo credits:
Think of Lots of Ideas - Jason Stitt
Do Nothing - vukx
The Elevator Pitch - Henrik Andersen
Write The First Line of Your Press Release - Pavel Muron
Write The First Paragraph of Your Homepage - mipan
Don't Borrow Money - mipan
Make a Mock-up - DG Flugzeugbau GmbH
Launch Before You Are Ready - Jón Helgason
Don't Quit Your Day Job - Diego Cervo
Salespeople Are a Bad Idea - cookelma
Pitch The Bloggers - Yurok Aleksandrovich
John's Secrets -3Girls3Boy
Be Interes - CHOReograP
Convince Influential Bloggers - Marc Dietrich
Focus on Freelancers - James Steidl
The Flow of Things - tombakyt
Dedibox - Dedibox
Use PHP - Wikipedia
Make Your Homepage Pretty - Karam Miri
Do Everything Yourself - semenovp
Don't Borrow Money - Tyler Olson

John Buckman -
Reference: LeWeb '08 [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Friday, December 19 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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