The first internet dollar I made was selling Gmail accounts for $15/100 accounts; I’ll get back to this.
Two years ago I had the bright, possibly misguided (WAY misguided) idea that I could drop out of school, quit my job and join the ranks of instant internet millionaires – whilst being 10k deep in student debt, and ZERO savings to speak of. I left my job at Neverblue, an affiliate network in Victoria, BC Canada, wonder-struck by the piles of internet monies I had been seeing affiliate marketers (AMs/IMs) making.
Note to self: seeing and doing are two VERY different things.
Sure, I had seen people making money, and had a general idea of how they were doing it. I had been exposed to SEO, email marketing, Facebook Ads, and various other promotion methods. Nothing to it…right? In fact, I didn’t even want to be an AM, but instead wanted to help local businesses grow their business via the before mentioned promotion methods.
Long story short, I had no effing idea what I was doing, and I thank God the trusting business owners who encountered me during this wake of potential destruction weren’t negatively affected.
Second to exposing me to this world, Neverblue introduced me to internet marketing communities. Forums and blogs chock full of internet genius. Without any doubt, I would have been screwed without. Plug: WickedFire
During the first few months I:
- Survived off my credit card – lesson learned.
- Convinced 1 or 2 people to pay me for SEO.
- Ate a lot of McDonalds.
- Slept a 3-4 hours nightly at best.
- Learned how to be LEAN (no, I am not talking about my physique)
I define lean marketing as leveraging the most cost efficient marketing techniques and/or processes that enable you to make the quickest and/or greatest gains for your hour and/or dollar spent.
Not only did I learn how to be lean, I became obsessed with creating/learning processes/systems/tools that would enable me to best validate dollar (mostly hours) spent. When you are starting out you have all the time in the world, and some money. When you are starting out and don’t have a job, you have all the time in the world, no money and rent to come up with. Needless to say, I had to learn real quickly WHAT was going to make me money – now. Did I do a good job of that? Debatable.
Per Wikipedia, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage the price difference between two or more markets. I define it was my saving grace.
Rent was coming up, and I needed cash like yesterday. So naturally, like anyone else in my predicament, I started building Gmail accounts, and by the 100s, sold them to my internet marketing brethren. Yah, there are people that require Gmail accounts by the 100 – hell, by the 1000 I later found out. After my first 1000 (sorry Google), and 999 accounts late, I hired my first assistant from India. For a whopping $2/hr, Ackbar (not his real name) created 100 Gmail accounts, and put $13 in my pocket every hour I could sell 100. Demand was pretty high after a couple weeks, and soon I was selling about 2000 of these suckers per day. Assuming I worked an 8 hour day, which I didn’t, I made $32/hour. $15 more per hour than I had been making at my fluffy job.
You see, I had no idea how to make money online. Seeing money, and having an idea of how to make money are two very different things. So I scrounged until I found demand for something totally ridiculous, and sold it to a group that I could get the ear of. In retrospect, could I have looked at what other people were selling to this group, add my secret sauce and sell it on the next internet marketing forum for twice the price – probably. Was selling Gmail addresses the best, most profitable use of my time – heck no. Did I come up with money for my rent that month – fuck ya. And while I was at it, did I buy a 24 inch monitor that month – boy did I ever!
Moral of that story? As a budding business owner/internet entrepreneur you don’t have to come up with the coolest new thing. Hell, you don’t need to even come up with something unique. Most of the successful guys I know did not. They got their feet wet, started at the bottom of the totem pole, and drank every bit of knowledge up they could as they rose.
Back to arbitrage…
Fast forward 2 years, and I have 25 of the hardest working team members, most full-time plus, from all parts of the world.
My greatest asset, the ying to my yang, my ops manager, whom until not too long ago was earning $3.50/hr. He is 27 years old, and came to me with zero internet marketing experience to speak of. In the near two years we have worked together, he has grown to look after my all our Google Places work, and manages 10+ team members. We met each other on Odesk.
This post’s send away:
- If you can hack it, jumping in with both feet is the fastest way to learn to swim.
- Backing helps, but is not necessary. You don’t need money to make money.
- Turn off f*cking Dexter, and work your ass off. You aren’t too busy. Pick your priorities.
And more importantly:
- Spend time not money. Download WordPress, watch some DIY videos on Youtube and build your own website. Learn how to write good copy, improve conversions, etc. Here is a list of great blogs from the folks at Unbounce that will get you started. You get the idea…
- Unlike business owners before you, you have powerful web apps you can leverage to increase exposure and decrease marketing dollars spent. Think Twitter, blogging and Odesk.
- Work smarter and harder. Is there someone else that could do your job, better and leave you enough margin to still eat? While also enabling you to work harder at making more money? If you can get past your ego, spare a bit of time to train, I bet the answer would be yes.
To date, we’ve built 3 businesses (built many more, but failed), and serve amazing people on 5 continents. After 2 short years, we have reached some measure of success and I proudly call myself a SEO & entrepreneur. This is the start of our 3rd year, and strangely my job really hasn’t changed. I get my hands dirty every day, doing what needs to be done – be it creating a citation, shopping for links or optimizing a website. My team and I still work our tails off, and I very much doubt that will ever change. However, thanks to adopting lean practices early on, my business is miles ahead of where we would be. Our shoe string budget forced us to dig deeper and deeper and re-think everything. And as a result our products are beyond anything I otherwise could have put together.
Why am I sharing this with you? Why am I writing this? Because I am fiercely passionate about building lean businesses. About building clever processes, and leveraging technology/apps/etc that enable you to create new efficiencies and squeeze out more margin than you had ever believed possible. More times than I can count, I have had highly respected industry folk give me a good shake (by the shoulders) and say “How can you charge those prices, [slay] and make money?” The answer is always the same: LEAN. I want to share this knowledge, because I think everyone should be running their businesses like this.
Why do you care? If you’ll have me, I invite you to continue to read my blog, where I intend to share everything I know about building and marketing a business in a lean fashion. I will shed light on inefficiencies and in the process help save you time and coin. I may also ask a few of my co-conspirators and other industry folk to share some of their secrets to running a lean business too.
You won’t want to miss my next post where I teach you how to use Odesk like a pro, and kill it!