Thirteen Lessons I’ve Learned as a Novice Internet-Based Entrepreneur

It’s been roughly one year since I started this website, and over that time, things have changed. I’ve learned more about internet businesses, and shifted my focus several times, before returning to a slightly altered vision of my original idea.

There’s been a lot to learn about the process of building something from nothing. I’ve wasted a lot of time, applied some great advice I found (mostly at Bold and Determined and Good Looking Loser), tapped real-world friends who are successful entrepreneurs, and learned from my own mistakes and roadblocks.

Ultimately, I’m in a great place. Everything has been set in motion, and I’ve built the foundation that my future will be constructed upon. I’ve analyzed my weaknesses and strengths. I’ve developed a vision, put it on paper and got down in the trenches to make it happen. The infrastructure is there, and cash has started to trickle in. Within the next week, my main site will go live and a massive marketing campaign can begin. That trickle is set to become a raging torrent.

Despite the fact that I’ve only just begun, as I said earlier, I’ve learned quite a bit about the initial building stage that I was completely ignorant about, and I’d like to share these points with everyone.

1) Do not waste time (make hay while the sun is shining). For six months, I was receiving a payout from my former job, and did not have to worry about money whatsoever. Instead of developing a strict budget, saving the majority of the cash (thus extending the time I would not have to work), and using a massive chunk of free time to develop my business so I wouldn’t have to go to work for anyone else, I elected to find a part-time position (because I wanted to make EVEN MORE money). I traded my time to an employer, and wasn’t careful with my earnings (because I had enough coming in that I didn’t “need” to be strict about it). When the six months ended, I had not made much progress towards developing my business, and I had not saved much. I had, however, worked a whole bunch of hours to buy a bunch of shit that I didn’t really need. At this point, I now have to suck it up and work for someone else again while continuing to develop my business, leaving very little time for anything else.

2) Twitter, when used correctly, is a great way to meet like-minded people. I’ve had great conversations with a ton of people on Twitter. There’s a long list of interesting people I’ve met, both virtually, and in the real world, because of this platform. That never would have been the case without Twitter.

3) Twitter, when used incorrectly, is a gargantuan echo chamber. A fun yet ultimately worthless time-suck that crushes productivity like an ant on the sidewalk. I can’t remember how many days I’ve flushed down the toilet watching entertaining videos that served to do nothing more than reinforce my already rock-solid viewpoint on varying issues.

4) If you have a viable, logical business idea; see it through instead of thinking about reasons why it won’t work. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy analyzing why I “might not be able to pull this off” from many different angles. It’s a huge waste. There is no way to gauge this other than to just get out there and get moving every single day. You have doubts? If they’re not HUGE, GLARING issues (For example: I want to start a supercar company with my savings of $600), and they’re more like “This is sort of a crowded market. How can I differentiate myself?”, dive in head first instead of analyzing everything to death. As soon as you get some momentum, you’ll figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

5) Your business must be the #1 priority, and you cannot have another goal at the same time. Your business comes before your girlfriend, your family, or a traditional career. If you try to have multiple goals, the business will suffer, or both will end up being half-baked and progress will slow to an absolute crawl. There is no compromise, only single-minded focus. Compromise is for those who don’t really care if they succeed or fail, for those who don’t consider it a “do or die” scenario. I have had to put many things on the back burner recently, dedicating less and less time to visiting the gym, and almost zero time towards recreational activities. I will have plenty of time for that when everything is in place and I have some serious momentum. Or maybe I won’t have time for it. I won’t know until I get there. 

6) Learn the value of isolation. Go to a coffee shop and shut off your phone. Take a trip by yourself, and SHUT OFF YOUR PHONE. 99.9% of people do not see the point in doing this, and do not value this. People want your time, your attention, and your focus. The other day was a great example. I wanted to work by the pool, to get some sun while working and to jump in the water every hour or so. This was a terrible idea which did not work at all, as my parents and girlfriend were constantly doing their best to distract me and divert my attention elsewhere. Yes, they mean well and just wanted to spend time with me, but I found myself frustrated and gave in because nothing was getting accomplished. To truly get things done, one must be isolated. Alone. A computer, an internet connection, and a burning hunger for success is all you need. I mean look at Victor Pride. The guy moved to CHINA to focus on Bold and Determined.

7) Don’t expect anyone to understand or to respect your wishes. I’ve been called shady, antisocial, a selfish asshole and a whole host of other things, but this won’t matter when you get to reap the benefits of your hard work. I’ve skipped birthday parties, weddings, and family gatherings because I needed to get work done. When your friends and family figure out why you haven’t been around much, some of them will panic and start trying to undermine you. They’ll tell you it won’t work. They’ll say your idea is stupid. They’ll find every reason to try and knock you down a peg, probably because they lack the guts to try something like this themselves. I used to be a hater, and when scoffing at someone else’s ideas, I would frantically be saying to myself “Holy shit, he’s probably going to be really successful with this, and here I am, just spinning my wheels. I suck. I want to bring him down to my level”.

8) If you have a hard time concentrating on your work, and are getting sidetracked, use a variation of the 30-5 rule. Work for 30 minutes, take 5 off to answer text messages, e-mails, make phone calls, fuck around on the internet. Just set a schedule and stick to it. I work best when I do something like 60-5, using the timer on my phone to let me know when it’s time to get to work, and when it’s time to take a break. Often times I skip the breaks, though.

9) You have to spend money and invest a massive amount of time before you will make any money. Once you have skin in the game, your standards will get very high, very quickly. I could never grasp this concept, as recently as a few years ago. The idea of investing time and money into something, growing it, and reaping the rewards down the road… this didn’t work for me. I simply wanted to show up, do my thing, and get paid. This isn’t the way it works when you’re building something from the ground up. I’ve spent a significant chunk of money on domains, hosting, logos and design. I’ve put in time and been a pain in the ass because I want it to be exactly what I’m envisioning. “Good Enough” doesn’t exist. The presentation has to be absolutely impeccable. My SEO has to be on point. My instagram posts, my tweets, and every bit of content linked to my business needs to be outstanding, and I won’t put anything “out there” unless this is the case. I am shocked to see small businesses with websites that are poorly designed and look (at best) ten years old, with no social media presence or SEO. Truth be told, they’re not making the kind of money they could be if they put in the effort, the time, and the money.

10) Make sure there is demand. Be the best at what you do, or do as good of a job as your competition, but for less money. Chris over at Good Looking Loser introduced me to these ideas, and he goes in depth during his “Success Principles” podcast series (I highly recommend these, by the way). My primary business is selling a service online.

  • I specialize in a small segment of my industry that is growing rapidly, meaning there is plenty of demand.
  • I charge 2/3 the price of my competition.
  • I offer a far superior, more in-depth product with much more comprehensive support than my competition.

11) If you offer a truly phenomenal product, your customers will spread the word. I learned this from my experiences with Red Supplements. I was blown away by their products, and as a result, I wrote articles about their products and commented about them on Twitter. It didn’t take me long to realize that myself and others who were raving about their products were, in effect, a guerrilla marketing team, spreading hype and talking about our experiences with their supplements. This is a fantastic strategy, as everyone wins. The business gets free marketing and new consumers, and the consumers end up with a product so spectacular that they feel compelled to rave about it on social media, and can sign up for a great affiliate program if they’re so inclined. Like I said, everybody wins.

12) You can have the greatest product or service in the world. If you’re not reaching your customer base, you’re still fucked. There are plenty of online businesses that don’t require any SEO, but right now, mine do. The idea is for people to find my site via Google, buy the product, and refer to the previous point for one aspect of my marketing. On top of this, there’s building a large social media base and having a visible presence at events, with plenty more to implement in the coming months and years. What is the purpose of this? To ensure that I have every conceivable advantage over my competition, who likely won’t have the sort of comprehensive marketing blueprint I’m developing.

13) Audacity. I love it when Mike Cernovich talks about audacity. The old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is 100% true when it comes to running your own business. You can help others, and they can help you. It’s often said that networking is the key to success, but most people will stop at putting together a shitty LinkedIn page (with obligatory “polo shirt and goofy grin” photo) and showing up at one or two “young professionals group” meetings in their hometown. Reach out to people. Offer mutually beneficial propositions. The worst they can say is “no”.

 

Truthfully, I could continue with this, but I want to keep the article brief and to the point. Within the next week or so, I’ll be rolling out my site, and making the links available both here and on Twitter for those who are interested in checking it out. There’s quite a bit of crossover between readers here and people who would benefit from the services I offer.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

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