Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Launch a Startup for $100

This is an interview with Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and his new book, The $100 Startup. In this interview, Chris and I talk entrepreneurship, creativity, and what it takes to launch a successful business these days.
$100 Startup

$100 Startup By Chris Guillebeau

Jeff: What’s the $100 Startup about, and why is it needed?

Chris: Two things: first, it’s the collective story of 1,500 “unexpected entrepreneurs” who all started businesses without a lot of money or special skills. Second, it’s a blueprint for readers who want to create their own freedom by doing something they love.

It’s needed because people are dissatisfied. They want more from life than a soul-sucking job that takes their energy without providing much in return.

People have always been dissatisfied, of course, but they haven’t always known which steps to take to create independence. The book is an attempt at providing 300 pages of next steps.

Jeff: In the book, you tell stories of businesses you’ve seen launched on a bootstrapped budget all around the world. What was one of the most interesting ones?

Chris: The book includes a wide range of stories, from six-figure blogging businesses to retail shops. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but since you’re a writer, I’ll point you to Brett Kelly’s success.

Brett was a self-described geek who wrote the first eBook on Evernote, the free note-taking software. This project earned more than $100,000 in its first year, and allowed Brett and his family to get out of debt.

It’s an incredible success, of course, but in researching the book and talking to people, I heard story after story like Brett’s. It seems that success can indeed be replicated, if you take the right steps.

Jeff: You live your life, traveling the world and supporting yourself online. What is it about this lifestyle that attracts you, and what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Chris: Personally I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I’ve been self-employed for nearly 15 years and extensively traveling for 10 years. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is always focus on value. Value is one of those words that is often used without much definition. My definition is that value simply means “helping people.”

You aren’t likely to succeed as an entrepreneur, digital nomad, or whatever business goal you aspire to without helping people. In other words, you can do what you love, but you must find a way to connect that with other people’s needs.

Jeff: You’ve made a living, it seems, primarily through your words and ideas. What direction for writers do you have about how to support themselves professionally and financially? Is it really true that we’re all doomed to poverty?

Chris: Well, much the same advice for aspiring entrepreneurs also applies to writers, but with a key difference. More than anything else, the best writers continuously inspire us. We can also be educated through good writing, and we can also be entertained — but of all these things, inspiration tends to stick with us the most.

I like the quotation from Maya Angelou:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Therefore, to make it as a writer, focus on making people’s lives better through inspiration. This can be done in fiction as well as non-fiction.

Jeff: How can people find the $100 Startup and support it?

Chris: It should be widely available in your favorite local bookstore, or it’s also offered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and foreign translations are coming out throughout the world over the next year. (Affiliate links)

* * *

Have you ever launched a startup or wanted to launch one? What did it take — or, what’s holding you back? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Thanks for the interview Jeff! This is the second time this week that Chris’s book has traipsed across my computer screen… he seems to be reaching through the screen and doing a mind-meld on me.

    Must purchase this book… must purchase this book…

  • “We can also be educated through good writing, and we can also be entertained — but of all these things, inspiration tends to stick with us the most.” Interesting point, and I think it’s true. The writing that attracts me most is the writing that challenges me and gives me a desire for something greater.

    I think that’s why I’m aiming to do those very things in my own writing.

    Thanks for the interview, Jeff.

  • Chris, were you homeschooled? This book sounds like just the thing that homeschoolers come up with. I see it becoming a “go to” resource for high school seniors and graduates that see the futility in going into debt for a college degree–or even those college grads that cannot find jobs. One question, are the bulk of those you interviewed  making their money online?

  • Love this.

    Love what Chris has done with this book. I’ll be reading this in the very near future.

  • Chris, love the part about Value, and I totally agree

    Keep doing what you’re doing because it’s top notch!

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • Jeff thanks for this interview.  Chris – I bought your book on Tuesday and just finished it. I am glad to see myself on the right track….. BUT not only that – you made me believe that it’s possible to have the life I want.  Not just possible – but PROBABLE.  Love. Love. Love.

  • Prayerforfreedom

    Took more tenacity then I realized I had. A consistant passion to continue to do what I love.

  • Best quote I’ve heard all week:  “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    As writers, I think we need to hear that often. 

  • I’ve recently launched an online business that’s already seeing profit, and yes, we started it for way less than $100.

    One key is keeping your eyes and ears open for needs and then invent a way to fill that need. For me, it came in the form of the world’s largest trade days and my hometown of Canton, Texas. I’ve worked there for years, learning the needs and wants of both the vendors and shoppers. One morning, in a rush, FirstMondayInsider.com came to me and we (my mom and I) spent months building the blog, newsletter and social media presence. Now we have coupon advertisers and hundreds of subscribers. Will this be the next big thing for Canton? I have no way of predicting, but the few hundred extra dollars a month are well worth the effort and fun we’re experiencing.

    I hope Chris’ book inspires and gives direction to others to begin living the life God’s called them to.

  • I launched a startup a couple of years ago, a small computer repair business. It lead me to a full-time job that I’m currently at. It’s not where I want to be for the rest of my life so I’m always interested in what guys like Chris have to say. 

  • Great interview, Jeff. I just finished up the audio version of the book. Inspirational content. I did a short review on my blog today. I think it ties in well with Michael Hyatt’s upcoming book.

    I’m currently working on a start-up style writing project and the 39 step product launch checklist that Chris has on his book page will be very helpful. It’s really nice to see all the loose ends covered in one simple list.

    Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see Chris when his tour goes through L.A.

  • Great advice here! I follow both of you and I will definitely be checking out Chris’s book. I just started a blog myself about 3 months ago. My husband and I have been working on it and its a lot of work. We love it though, working together and on something we’re passionate about has been an amazing adventure so far! There is so much to be said for being your own boss, it doesn’t even feel like work anymore…

    /// @theworld4realz



  • I was honored to get an advance copy from Chris and be part of his launch team. The book is awesome and inspiring, it motivates you to take action. The theme of finding work that gives you freedom and add’s value is a much needed message. It’s great to see the book doing so well, I’m definitely taking notes!

    • Agreed. He’s a wealth of knowledge.

  • I launched a start-up a while back and the one thing it took was this – Courage. 

    The rest (money, stock, location, partner e.t.c) came as a result. 

  • This is a great book and must read for anyone is business. The steps for launching and marketing a product are worth the price of the book alone.