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Why Building a Successful Business Requires Embracing Permanent Beta

I’m a natural bookworm, but while balancing a full-time job and a fledgling digital business, simple things like reading too often fall by the wayside. So one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get through at least one book a month.

Setting little goals like this, along with much larger, more ambitious ones, helps me keep track of the smaller things that I otherwise wouldn’t make time for.

One of the books I read last month was Behance’s and 99U’s book, Maximize Your Potential. The whole book was full of great insights for creative entrepreneurs, but one part in particular stood out to me more than anything else.

It was an essay about the importance of being adaptable. A successful owner of a creative business must always be willing to try new things and to test fresh ideas. In other words, we should be in “permanent beta“.

You Are a Creative Entrepreneur

There are two, sometimes difficult concepts to grasp in play here.

The first is obvious, and what this post really means to tackle: the fact that in order to be successful with our businesses, we have to think of ourselves like we’re constantly in beta testing mode.

The second is one I want to briefly address before moving forward. Did you notice there above that I mentioned owners of creative businesses?

Before you say you’re not a creative person, or your growing side hustle isn’t a creative one, stop right there! If you’re an aspiring solopreneur, no matter what you’re doing, you are creative. 

We normally think of expressing creativity in the form of a traditional art: drawing, painting, acting, designing, etc. But creativity is in no way limited to these expressions.

Owning and running any kind of business, from something in the financial or legal industries to virtual services, requires a tremendous amount of creativity on a daily basis.

What Does Being in Permanent Beta Mean?

Being in permanent beta, and accepting this mentality has helped me launch my casual side hustle into a true digital business.

It doesn’t mean you must constantly reinvent the wheel and try something new every other day. There are some tried-and-true methods, systems, and tools that are reliable and worth incorporating into your business.

You don’t need to change for the sake of doing something different. Rather, being in permanent beta means you’re open and willing to innovate where it makes sense. Even more importantly, it means accepting when one of your ideas isn’t working out — and knowing when it’s time to try something new.

Don’t Let Failures Discourage You

I originally started my side hustle with the intention of being a full-time blogger, much like the fantastic Cat Alford of Budget Blonde (and writer for Careful Cents, too!). Cat documented her journey to becoming a full-time blogger in six months right here, and she was one of the first people to inspire me to try and turn blogging into a career.

After running my own blog for a few months, I reached out to several of my fellow personal finance bloggers seeking staff writing positions. Nothing really panned out.

It was discouraging. I started to feel like freelancing — and having some sort of digital business — wasn’t going to be a realistic outcome for me. It was always going to be an elusive dream, a life reserved for others who had it figured out where I continued to struggle.

That is, until one of the people I had contacted emailed me back and said while they didn’t need help with writing, they did need some assistance in handling some day-to-day business and website tasks. I perked up, intrigued by the possibility of a new gig I hadn’t even thought of trying.

Picking up a client helped to ease the disappointment I had felt in getting turned down by other bloggers. I felt like I could continue to pitch myself or apply and secure gigs now that I had shown myself it was possible.

Be Willing to Adapt

I hadn’t given up the idea of writing, but I obviously needed to make some tweaks to my approach. It was time to go through a new iteration of my original plan to be a full-time blogger.

Instead of focusing on blogs for my next round of efforts to land more freelancing positions, I turned my attention to businesses that happened to have blogs. I started pitching my services to these potential clients — and started landing new gigs.

I was willing to change and adapt based on what was working well, and more importantly, what wasn’t. From this point, I continued to go through fresh iterations of my ultimate plan. The goal shifted from “be a full-time blogger” to “be a freelance writer, blogger, and virtual assistant” to, finally, “be a content manager.”

That last one came when I realized content management was my personal sweet spot: the intersection of what I was good at, what I was passionate about, and what people needed me for (and were willing to pay for my help).

It was like a lightbulb going off, and I felt more confident about my ability to build a content management business than I had about any other potential side business I had tried thus far.

Embrace Flexibility and Change

Had I not been able to let go of the idea that I was going to be a full-time writer, I wouldn’t be as far along the path to a full-time, successful business as I am today. The importance of allowing yourself to be in permanent beta, or going through multiple iterations of your ideas and plans until you hit upon the exact right course for you and your skills, cannot be overstated.

Be willing to make changes within your growing side business. Make room for new ideas and new ways of doing things. Growth will follow the venture that is willing to flex, change, and innovate.

If something that you thought was an excellent idea, a perfect plan, isn’t panning out, accept that you may need to return to the drawing board. Don’t be afraid that you only have one good idea (and if that doesn’t work out, there are no other options).

You are a wellspring of creativity and your business will benefit if you allow things to run in permanent beta, where you’re free to test fresh ideas, thoughts, and plans.

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