Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Skepticism and Business

Generally I write about positive things you can do for your business but today I want to talk about things to avoid doing. There are always people out there willing to scam you (just look at the spam in your email account) and a recession really brings them out of the woodwork because people are desperate. To be honest here I am involved in the skeptical movement (though not as actively as I would like to be) so this is a subject I have a lot of personal interest in.

There's a lot of sketchy information and advice out there on business. You need to look at things with a skeptical viewpoint before jumping in. What does this mean? What it means is that just because someone says they are an expert you shouldn't automatically believe everything they say, you need to critically evaluate ideas before you put them into practice and if they don't work for you after a reasonable amount of time stop doing it. That goes for this blog as well, I'm simply sharing my thoughts on running a business and what has worked for me. Not every piece of advice I give out will work for everyone.

Some Basic Skeptical Tools

Skepticism isn't about being closed minded or rejecting things out of hand. It's a tool for finding the truth and to help protect yourself (and in this case your business) from being deceived. It involves thinking critically about claims you are presented with, requiring evidence, and spotting common arguments that obscur the truth. A good primer on skepticism in this great video by Brian Dunning called Here Be Dragons

Skeptical Links

Some Advice to Be Skeptical Of

This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few example of how unscrupulous people will try to play on your hopes to get money from you. A comprehensive list could (and does) make up many books.

Easy Money: Remember the old saying "if it sounds to good to be true it probably is"? Get thousands of sales in 30 days guaranteed without really trying! Just pay me X amount of money to get the secret! I don't think so, the only one possibly making all those sales is the person trying to sell you their plan. Running a business is work, anyone saying otherwise is either deluding themselves or trying to scam you.

Home Business Offers: It's tempting when you already have a business from home to add an extra source of income. There are some legitimate ways to make money working from home such as article writing, putting affiliate product links on a site or blog where you get a commission if someone clicks it and then buys something, and some others. However there are a mountain of scams, some big red flags are if they charge you money to get started or worse won't give you the full information on the offer until you fork over money. More information from the Federal Trade Commissions here and here.

Grant Money: The government really does give away a good bit of money in the form of grants and you may be eligible to apply for some. However you don't need to buy any book, software, subscription, etc. to find out where to get grants. The US government very kindly offers a website where you can get all the information for free at
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