$100 Startup. Really?

The $100 Startup was an interesting read.  Basically what he was saying was that the world is full of choices and to be successful you must be open to possibilities.  As a historian in a constantly changing field where the traditional path is becoming harder and harder to follow,  I felt like that is especially good advice.  However, I found that this book was a little to slick and full of buzz words for my taste.  It always bothers me when people start throwing around how much money someone made is only a year.  I always feel like I’m being sold something.  It felt like he was trying to create value in his ideas by telling me how successful I could be.  I also found that he relied very heavily on anecdotal evidence instead of facts.  I think that he set unrealistic expectations for what starting a business is.  I know that there are people who start companies and succeed.  Yet what about the people who started a business and failed?  I want to hear their stories.  I want to hear the story where they picked themselves up and went right back at it.  It feels like he painted this great picture of huge successes without having to put any effort into a business.  Just find what you love, follow your passion and with little work at all, you to can be on track to make $100,000 next year.  I get it, and I agree with some of the things that he talked about.  You do have to be willing to take risks.  Half of the battle is the ability to see opportunities where others see roadblocks.  I also believe that value can be found in helping others.  This book felt really slick to me and read like it was ice cream instead of protein.  I think for him the best business of all was writing a book about how to start your perfect business for just $100.

I found far more value in Historians as Consultants and Contractors.  This was a much more realistic study of opportunities that exist for historians.  It stated the pros, the cons, and some of the industry needs that can be filled by individuals with schedule flexibility and a thirst for adventure.  No frills in this article, but there was lot of valuable information.  (Style + substance = success.)  I also enjoyed Crafting a New Historian.  This was a look at one individual’s road to an unexpected business.  This time without all the flash and buzz displayed in $100 Startup.  The author spoke of creating opportunity out of a hobby and his historical and research skills by becoming a freelance craftsman.  His realistic portrayal about the uncertainty of trying to follow the traditional academic path in his chosen field was helpful and timely.  History is a constantly changing environment.  To be successful as a historian I believe that it is vital to be open to non-traditional opportunities and careers.  I found this to be a much better example of how to create a niche for yourself out of a hobby.

$100 Startup to Craft a New Historian

People often joke about thinking outside the box of changing your paradigm, but Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup promotes that train of thought at a whole new level.  With today’s economy and such stiff competition in the history world it doesn’t bode well for us to think in simple linear methods for our future career paths. Over and over again we’re told by our professors that getting a degree does not mean we’ll get a job. Guillebeau’s depiction of so many different people turning their passion or talents into moneymaking enterprises is encouraging. While I wish there were more examples of recent graduate students becoming successful rather than professionals with ready learned skills to take into the world, his message is readily applicable for people in our positions. Putman’s “Crafting a New Historian” could easily transition into Guillebeau’s book as one of his examples. All Putman needs to do is take this surprisingly successful (if unexpected) career path, apply Guillebeau’s different suggestions, and focus on the value his enterprise brings and he’s the next chapter of Guillebeau’s book.
I think there is incentive for us in all of these examples and suggestions laid out in $100 Startup. Personally I hope to apply this frame of thought and emphasis on value to my graduate project. Even before that I plan to integrate it into my everyday frame of mind and presentation. With summer approaching I’ve started looking towards internships or summer jobs in the history field. Adopting Guillebeau’s view on the value of the skills I have to share with the world, I will present myself in hopefully a new manner. I have no strong desire to become my own self-made entrepreneur in the historical world, but that does not mean that I can’t use these formulas in my resume and self presentation while I’m applying. These are skills we can bring to different institutions. While reading Guillebeau’s book I kept picturing different ways I could have applied it to my museum back in Billings and how the littlest suggestions could have helped promote and present my museum to its patrons. While I don’t plan on becoming a traveling yoga instructor, the values and message of $100 Startup will be something I use personally as well as professionally in the future.

$100 Startup Reflection

In many of the history classes I have taken at BSU, the professors often stress think outside the box with a history degree. As the readings for this week and others have stated, a job in any field is not guaranteed for life. The private and public sectors both hit financial walls or worse, they fall off of a cliff. With a history degree people assume you are either going to teach, go into law, or work within a museum related field. Knowing that an individual may not either obtain the job that they want or hold onto it, the professors at BSU show their students that a history degree gives the individual student an enormous amount of tools that many public and private institutes want in their employees, tools and skills that they would prefer not to have to teach themselves. By understanding the skills that are obtained over the course of time it takes to get the history degree, an individual can come to understand that they are not limited to a perceived narrow line of professions. That the degree braches off in a multitude of directions. In the $100 Startup the author shows the reader the possibilities of career opportunities. The world of self-employment may be positively frightening to many people, but Chris Guillebeau wrote a book that attempts to show the reader they possess the skills to accomplish this task. Even if an individual does not want to go in the direction of self-employment, Gillebeau’s book shows historians that that knowing what skills they have enables them to effectively sell themselves to an employee.

A common expression is when one door closes, another opens. Reading Crafting a New Historian the expression fit the article very well. The author, Tyler Rudd Putman, explains his situation to the reader very simply. Unable to find permanent work within his chosen field of expertise, Putman turned to what he knew, creating historical costumes. Putman demonstrates Gillebeau’s advice given in the $100 Startup. Everyone has skills and these skills have a market. When people are able to effectively recognize the skills they have developed and honed new potential career opportunities appear. Opportunities that may have been missed in the past not because they were not there, but because people do not always see the entirety of what they bring to the table in terms of ability.


Chris Guillebeau’s book was an interesting read. I wouldn’t normally choose a book about business, but I feel that this particular book took a very friendly tone to the subject matter. The subject matter and trying to inject “business” into the humanities can be a tricky transition, however. On one hand, many people don’t readily recognize the importance of our particular skill sets and they have a tendency to devalue them. On the other hand, I think that many historians (myself included) undervalue ourselves and seem to be unwilling to “market” our knowledge. I know some people who argue that it’s wrong to charge someone to learn more about themselves and their history, personal or collective. Skills that become second nature to historians are highly sought after in a variety of fields, the issue becomes learning the appropriate buzz words to market. Previously, I was hired to format, footnote/annotate a manuscript and create the appropriate Chicago-style citations for each source. It’s not something that was geared specifically towards historians, but it utilized the skills I had gained during my historical training.

Where Guillebeau’s book provided the overview of self-promotion, the article from the AHA provided a good roadmap of how historians can better market themselves outside of the traditional path of academia. Many of the potential careers are ones we have discussed in class already, but I appreciated the way that article expanded on each of the potential roles to describe what jobs in those industries might look like. Putman’s article provided an interesting, real world example of someone “doing” history. I particularly appreciated this comment, “If history is going to survive in a world increasingly unsympathetic to thought for thought’s sake, we need practical historians who aren’t ashamed of their pastimes. Those hobbies might be more relevant than you think.” One of my “hobbies” has become a source of employment. The expertise I developed for fun has become a marketable skill set.

The $100 Startup

I found The $100 Startup to be a very informative, and helpful tool to use. For a while I’ve wanted to either start a record store, or start some sort of shop where people can hang out, drink and listen to vinyl records all day. The part on making your passion marketable really spoke to me because of that. Then I realized history is another passion of mine, and so by writing about history I am making my passion marketable, to a degree. However, the one part of this book that really jumped out to me was the importance of value. Providing a service for others, instead of simply wanting to cash in was one of the themes of this book. Instead of simply giving people what you want to give them, or what you think they should have, give them what they want, provide a service for them. As historians, that is a great goal to have in the sense that we should be helping others. While we shouldn’t give the people what they want all the time when it comes to history (since it will amount to Searching  for Sasquatch), providing a service is a good model for us to follow. It seems a lot of companies today are more interested in giving us what they want to give us rather than what we want, so I felt the portions of the book where he talked about providing a service was valuable. He did mention the importance of making money, which I agree with, but there was more than just making money.

Another reason I appreciated this book had to do with the uncertainty in the job market, so being more creative with your options opens your possibilities. With history there is no guarantee to making money once you get a degree, it’s helpful to learn other ways to put that degree to use besides finding a museum or a school to work for. It also encouraged me because it made me realize there are many options to pursue in your job hunt. You shouldn’t feel tied down to only one or two options, and making a passion like history become a career can be more accessible than many might realize. Guillebeau combined great advice and encouragement with an easy to understand approach.