When life hands you lemons, open a lemonade stand. Better yet, when life hands you lemons, have a lemonade stand already open. Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and make lemonade.

When life hands you lemons, open a lemonade stand
When life hands you lemons, it helps to have a lemonade stand already open. (Tweet That)

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Life will hand you lemons. But two things will greatly impact how you come out of a downturn.

1. How you choose to respond.

This is the positive outlook and determination side of it. The old saying goes, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” I agree with the idea of that, but why not go further and open a lemonade stand?

Start a business, offer a service, or make something that you can sell. There has never been a better time in American history to start a business and there is certainly never a better time to open a lemonade stand than when life hands you a large pile of them. Just add sugar and water.

2. How prepared you are.

Even better than opening a lemonade stand after the fact is having one ready. I’ve written before about the values and virtues of having a side business, so I won’t repeat those here. But the gist is that having a side business in addition to your “full-time job” gives you two things: extra income to save and a ready-made lemonade stand when life’s lemons are poured out.

My story

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When I was twenty-four, my dad fired me. Literally the day after my twenty-fourth birthday. Even though I totally deserved to be fired, it sucked. But I left the golf course that he ran and immediately went home to work on a client’s website. I was able to finish that home construction site more than a week early due to the extra time. I got numerous referrals from them.

A year before I started a web design business on the side to supplement my income during the tough winter times. I relied on word-of-mouth referrals and wasn’t actively looking for clients, but I saved up the extra money. When my dad fired me, I had more than six month’s expenses in the bank.

I spent the next few days actively marketing my services. And since I had a decent portfolio already, I wasn’t starting from scratch. Within a few weeks, I had multiple clients and was making more than I had made working for my dad.

All because I had a lemonade stand already open.

Years later, I was married with a newborn and a brand new house. I woke up on a beautiful Saturday morning and what started out as a promising day immediately went sour when I was laid off. The company I was working for was struggling financially and had to lay off close to half their staff. I was one of them. That afternoon, I worked on some stuff for one my side business’ clients.

For the previous four months, I had been working with some small clients as a consultant. The income from that not only gave us a huge cushion to withstand months of no “full-time” job, but I was literally able to pick up two new clients within a couple of months.

The rest, they say, is history. I now operate my version of a lemonade stand, Matt McWilliams Consulting, Inc., full-time. It is my business.

Looking back, the reason why life’s lemons never buried me was because I already had a stand open. And come to think of it…the lemons turned out to be huge blessings.

What can you do today to prepare better for life’s lemons?


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14 thoughts on “When Life Hands you Lemons | Starting a Second Job

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Do you think somehow you attracted lemons because deep inside you wanted to open your own business? Perhaps you were building more than a safety net, but carefully working hard to build your dream?

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Very possible. Both times, I loved my “lemonade stand” more than my real job. At the same time, I never envisioned either being a full-time job worth much money until I was forced to do them.

    2. Wow. That’s an interesting take on it. Must ponder my own situation. I love what I do, just not my current situation. Perhaps I am attracting it? Hmmm…

      I don’t know the first thing about being an entrepreneuer, having always worked for others, but I would love to start a virtual assistant business.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Simi. First off, welcome to the conversation! Don’t be a stranger! Let me share with you the “first thing about being an entrepreneur”… Wanting to be an entrepreneur. If you REALLY want to start a virtual assistant business, start there! Think about it, kick some ideas around, talk to some people you respect about the idea!
        You can do it!
        …oh and keep reading this blog, Matt will give you all sorts of ideas, suggestions and tips to make your dreams a reality!

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Hey Simi, where are you located?

        I know a lot of people in the VA business that could possibly help you.

  2. Zech Newman says:

    Great personal stories Matt. Our greatest failures and setbacks really can be our biggest wins. Major difference building something when you don’t need it. A lot harder trying to start the fire when you are freezing to death. Didn’t work out to well for the guy in “To build a Fire” by Jack London.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Never read the book but I have a good picture in my head…frozen hands, body unable to move…hard to build a fire that way. Great analogy Zech!

    2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      “Our greatest failures and setbacks really can be our biggest wins” I love that Zech!

  3. Jon Stolpe says:

    I can continue to build my platform through blogging, social media interaction, and off-line writing.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great way to build a lemonade stand Jon!

  4. Paige Gordon II says:

    I just have to accept that no one is going to build it for me… If I’m ever going to have a lemonade stand, it will only be because I put forth the time and effort to build the dang thing! Thanks for the constant encouragement Matt

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      True. They don’t build themselves either 🙂

      1. Paige Gordon II says:

        lol sure would be easier if they would though! 🙂

  5. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    I’m doing it now. Working my butt off before and after work on side projects that–at best–can turn into full time gigs–at worst–give me fantastic experience!

    Thanks for the encouragement and motivation my friend!

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