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“My philosophy is that whether you have an online or offline business, your website is working for you 24/7—it’s not just there to look pretty.”

Go Fire Yourself is a blog and podcast started by Laurel Staples that is designed to help part-time entrepreneurs quit their jobs, grow their small businesses and make more money.

What inspired you to launch your business?

At the end of 2007, I quit my high-paying mechanical engineering job to move back to my hometown of Nashville, TN and start my own retail store. To be quite honest, it didn’t go very well in the sense that I lost a lot of money (you might recall that December 2007 was when the recession began), but I became completely hooked on being my own boss. Despite the fact my retail store closed only a mere two years after I opened it, I decided that I never wanted to work for someone else again. So I haven’t.

Now, years later, I am a successful photographer and I run a blog and podcast called “Go Fire Yourself” to help other entrepreneurs quit their day jobs, grow their businesses and never look back. On the blog, I write about the valuable lessons that I’ve learned along the way and some of the big mistakes that I’ve made (that hopefully other people will avoid). Plus, on my podcast, I interview all types of successful entrepreneurs that have quit their 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their dreams.
In the past 6 years, I’ve learned that nothing lights me up more than discussing how to grow and market small businesses. In addition, there are very few things more rewarding than inspiring other exceptional people to make a living by following their true passions in life.

When I was interviewing Mitch Gordon for my podcast this past year, he said, “Entrepreneurship is a little bit of a sickness and a disease,” he laughed and continued, “but it’s one that I’m happy to have.” There’s no doubt that this perfectly describes me, and my blog is designed for people who feel the exact same way.

What issue does your core product help solve and how so?

My core product on “Go Fire Yourself” is my content. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that “content is king” and of course, this is definitely the case when you have an online business.

I create my content to inspire people and to give them valuable action steps that take them closer towards making enough money with their side business so that they can quit their day jobs.

One of my main goals is to help small business owners optimize their web presence. My philosophy is that whether you have an online or offline business, your website is working for you 24/7—it’s not just there to look pretty. It’s working for you while you’re at your day job, while you’re sleeping, and while you’re running errands. There is literally nothing else that will work this hard for you.

Therefore, when you can effectively optimize your business’s web presence, your site can start selling (or at least pre-selling) your product or services for you while you do other things. This way, you have a greater chance of quitting your day job and making a smooth transition into becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
The next step for me in my business is to package my content in different forms such as an audio course and physical book. Currently, these are on the way and they are being specifically designed for people who are really serious about their growing their business and taking their life to the next level.

What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?

My biggest challenge as a small business owner has been dealing with money. Being a former engineer, I am great with numbers and I love organizing my finances in detailed Excel spreadsheets (yes, I’m a nerd), but when you never know how much money you’ll have coming in the door that week, month or even year, it’s difficult to plan ahead with your expenses. If I’m not careful, the feeling of uncertainty around money can lead to a sense of anxiety and desperation to find new clients. Because of this, I’ve worked hard to build up my resilience over the last few years and now have a more relaxed view on the matter.

The first thing I do to deal with the money issue is to just trust that it’s going to be there when I need it. I know this doesn’t sound like a solid business model, but it works. When I look back at the past 6 years of my life since I quit my job, I’ve always found a way to make ends meet (certain times were tougher than others, but it always worked out). If that’s the case, why would I assume that the future would be any different? I’ve learned that there’s always money coming around the corner, even if I can’t see it yet.

Second, I got in the habit really early in my entrepreneurial career of only buying what I need. I don’t go on shopping sprees, I don’t take elaborate vacations and I don’t fill my closet with shoes—I only purchase the essentials and I feel good about all my spending. In the end, what makes me happy is not collecting more stuff—it’s that I get to do what I love to do every single day of my life.

How do your competitors view you?

With my blog, there are a few other people doing similar blogs and podcasts to me. At first, I did think of them as competitors and went into the scarcity mindset of “there’s not enough room for both of us on the Internet”. Then I got over that (really fast) and reached out to them to see how we could benefit each other and spread our similar message to a wider audience. So I would say that my blog “competitors” now hopefully view me as a companion and an ally.
With my photography business, I’m not sure if my competitors (i.e. other photographers in Nashville) even know of me. Most of my business is through referral partners and word-of-mouth, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t even on their radar.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?

My biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs is to act now on an idea, but don’t act on every idea that you have.
I’ve found that many entrepreneurs are like idea machines. Churning out ideas like candy coming from the Willy Wonka factory—it’s endless. Many times, as an entrepreneur, the problem is not conjuring up ground-breaking ideas, it’s that you have so many incredible ideas that (1) you don’t even know where to start, or (2) you’re always starting something and never finishing it.

I like to call this “Entrepreneur A.D.D.” I didn’t realize that I suffered from it until recently and it’s something that I encourage other entrepreneurs to be aware of.

So when I say “act now”, I mean that you shouldn’t let this constant influx of ideas bog you down so much that you freeze in place and never start anything. If you’re currently starting a business, keep in mind that there are no “soulmate” business ideas—meaning there is no ideal business that is a perfect fit for all your needs. In other words, if you have several business ideas floating around in your head, choose ONE and act on it right now—starting today. You can never get closer to your dream if you don’t start somewhere.

On the other hand, “don’t act on every idea you have.” This is where I have struggled in the past. In the past, every time I came up with the “next big idea” for my business, I would immediately take strides to implement it. Because I was implementing idea after idea and never really finishing anything, this has wasted hundreds of hours of my time and probably tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. What I realized is just because I have an idea in the moment, doesn’t mean it’s top priority.

As a business owner, you need to get really good, really fast at effectively filtering your ideas and only selecting the right ones to work on in the moment (and putting the others on hold for a later time.)

What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

The biggest risk that I’ve ever taken was quitting my high-paying engineering job to put all my money into starting a retail store. The retail store didn’t work out very well (personally, I wouldn’t recommend opening a retail store to anyone), but in general, life as a “recovering engineer” has been pretty great.

My whole upbringing had guiding me along the safe and narrow path. Since I was young, I was destine to get a great job, buy a house and have a family. Except that I never wanted any of these things—ever. So I made the decision to exit that life and enter my new life.

Today, I honestly couldn’t ask for a better life. I wake up every day excited to be alive (without that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach) and I do what I love to do. It’s not always easy and it’s not always smooth—and believe me, there have been some incredibly hard rough patches along the way, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s turned out great so far. Not perfect, but pretty darn great.

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