Why Building a Successful Business Requires Embracing Permanent Beta

permanent beta

This post is from team member and contributor Kali Hawlk who’s documenting her journey to quitting her day job and starting her freelance business. Read the rest of her story here.

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.

So say it with me: entrepreneurs are equally as creative as any other artist. Know this and embrace it. (Click to tweet this idea.)

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 Cat Alford of Budget Blonde, who’s a writer for Careful Cents, too. She 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.

entrepreneur creative quote

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.

(Carrie’s note: this post couldn’t come at a better time for me personally. I’ve been going through a few iterations of my business in the past few weeks. So expect a follow-up article related to this topic. What Kali writes is vital advice for us all.)

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  1. Sara says:

    Kali –

    Such an excellent and relevant post for all solo- and entrepreneurs at any point in their journey! When I started freelancing a year ago, the vision I had in my head for my full time business was MUCH different than what it looks like now that I’ve been at it for six months. Adaptability isn’t always easy, but once you realize how necessary it is, it becomes a natural way of life. Finding that intersection of what you’re good at, what people are willing to pay you for, and what you are ultimately passionate about is so important! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Kali says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Sara! I agree that being adaptable isn’t easy, but that’s fantastic that you’ve managed to do it and your business benefited from your willingness to adjust your vision. I think it’s important for us to all have long-term goals so we have direction and focus – but it’s equally important to remember that things aren’t set in stone 🙂

  2. Alexa says:

    This a great post Kali. I agree. Being adaptable is so important and can lead you to finding work you would of never considered.

    I’ve been writing for personal finance and business blogs for awhile now and recently one of my clients asked me to do more virtual assistant work. Now I’m editing other writer’s posts, scheduling, managing social media for 5 websites, plus more. It’s a very welcome change and something that I’m enjoying far more than just writing.

    I think you’ll do awesome at whatever you do though. You’re an amazing writer! Wishing you nothing but the best!

  3. Damian Wolf says:

    Really great article Kali. As a solopreneur have similar thoughts and fears like you, but this is a normal part of our life. I think that I’m in permanent beta since 2009 :). I’ll keep watching on your future articles here.

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