It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time I wearily stumbled into my apartment, finally finished with my frantic 14-hour day.
After my first year of investment banking, I knew this wasn't the life I wanted. I was rarely able to see friends and family, and spent many weekends gazing longingly at a beautiful day through an office window. My work-life balance was all work.
So just a year into my first career out of college, I decided to quit. Though I planned to honor my commitment to a two-year stint, I immediately started stock-piling cash reserves like the Chinese Central Bank. I didn't have a definitive plan yet, but I knew I wanted to give myself as many options as possible.
Striking Out on My Own
When those two years ended, I vowed to never again be a corporate slave. I hunkered down to work on building a business of my own, flirting with a few different ideas before settling on the eCommerce model. Not long after, I opened my first online store selling radio equipment.
Within six months, I was making enough to cover all my expenses, and within a year, I was able to support myself and my new wife, Annie. (Apparently she was a sucker for guys who quit prestigious finance jobs to sell radio equipment out of their bedrooms.) In year two, I launched a second business, TrollingMotors.net.
With two websites providing a healthy income, I decided it was time to do something I'd always dreamed about: travel the world. I hired a full-time employee to handle the day-to-day operations of the businesses and began preparing for a grand adventure.
Last February, Annie and I set out on a seven-month journey to more than 20 countries. We taught slum children in India, sailed the Grecian Islands, and hiked Patagonia. It was an absolutely incredible year. And as we traversed the globe, my businesses continued to operate smoothly and profitably in the background.
That’s the story of how I went from “an unfulfilled desk jockey to a fearless entrepreneur,” as Caleb puts it. All it took was a little vision, a basic website, and the desire for a better life. Anyone could do it, and I’m surprised it was so easy… except that it wasn't.
The Real Story
You've undoubtedly heard stories like mine before. Guy gets job. Guy hates job. Guy starts business. Guy makes money. Guy travels the world. These stories are often accompanied by an offer to duplicate “Guy's” success in just seven days with his $99 eBook!
But I'm not here to sell you anything. Instead, I want to share the parts of my journey that others leave out. The difficult, unglamorous parts you seldom hear with internet success stories.
So why am I sharing the nitty-gritty details? To give you a realistic idea of what's really required to build your own life-changing internet business. And to inform you that many of the problems, setbacks and doubts you’ll face were once shared by those “successful” entrepreneurs you’ve read about.
So, in the interest of transparency, here are some of the things I struggled with when building my own business.
Sacrifice Isn't Sexy
Saving money was instrumental in allowing me to quit my job and ramp up my business. But it was also difficult and even embarrassing.
To help save, I kept my 1990 Toyota Camry after starting my job in investment banking. This college beater had survived a collision with a kamikaze deer and was cobbled together with two-toned parts. I parked my Frankenstein car blocks away from the office, partially to save on parking fees and partially to save face at the office.
Now, I'm not saying that you need to drive a beater for five years in order to be successful online. But you DO need to be willing to sacrifice in order to make your business dreams a reality. That could mean giving up your weekends for a year to work on your business. Or downgrading your lifestyle to save a chunk of money so you're not a slave to your job. Regardless, you have to give up something substantial, and it will probably be painful.
(Note from Caleb: Speaking of saving up money to make the leap to being an entrepreneur, we're just over a month away from the launch of Make It Rain, the course I'm creating specifically for aspiring cubicle renegades that need to get their finances in order first. Sign up for the early access list for more info.)
The Work Gets Harder
As Caleb has written about before, to succeed you have to be willing to put in the work – A LOT of work.
In the early days of my business, I'd work 60-plus-hour weeks in my cramped bedroom, often late into the night, because there was so much to do. I had to incorporate a business and research a niche. I needed to learn about shopping cart software and get it running properly. Then I had to build a website. This was all before I opened for my first day of business.
Building something from scratch – and getting it noticed by the world – takes significant effort. Much of that work is often boring, time-consuming and draining. I can remember feeling totally wiped out after hours of writing SEO emails, wanting nothing more than to take a break and play video games with my roommates.
I sometimes gave in to the temptation, but just as frequently I put my head down and sent out another dozen marketing pitches.Passion is an important part of success, but so is the willingness to “suck it up” and overcome the obstacles between you and your goals.
Kiss Your Confidence Goodbye
I consider myself a fairly confident guy, but starting my first business really tested this perception. Staying motivated despite a lack of short-term progress can be incredibly difficult. When I finally launched my new site, it took nearly two weeks to get my first sale. During that time, I was constantly second-guessing myself and my decision to strike out on my own.
When sales finally started to trickle in, the daily ups and downs of the order volume would often determine my mood. Good days would bring a surge of confidence and reassurance. Bad days would lead to endless self-doubt. It was an emotional roller coaster.
In times like these, it’s crucial to have someone who believes in and will support you as you work through the rough spots. My wife was an incredible source of confidence and support, and had faith in me when I doubted myself.
So How Can You Do This?
As a Pocket Changed reader, you’re likely interested in creating your own business. Though it's not an easy process, it is definitely possible!
Unfortunately, an eBook or business course isn't going to be your golden ticket to success (although a quality course can provide valuable guidance). Instead, make sure to focus on and recognize the traits that will help you achieve success, including:
- An Overwhelming Desire to Succeed – Having an unbreakable resolve to see your business through to success will serve you amazingly well. It’s often not the brilliant people who succeed in life but those who are most persistent and take action daily toward their goals.
- Long-Term Commitment – If you can accept early on that you might not see the fruits of your labor for several months, you’ll be more likely to persevere. Building anything of substance takes time, and it's not something you can rush.
- A Willingness to Sacrifice Now – To achieve your dreams, you need to be willing to make drastic changes in your life that aren’t always pleasant in the short-term. Be honest with yourself when it comes to how much you're willing to give up.
- Self-Instruction & Problem Solving – Being able to teach yourself new skills is critically important for entrepreneurs. If you can’t solve problems as they arise, your business grinds to a screeching halt. Troubleshooting and learning new skills are imperative for long-term success.
- A Support Network. It’s crucial to have someone who believes in you and can offer encouragement amid setbacks. Make sure you have a cheerleader who can help sustain you when times are tough.
Nearly all successful people have struggled at some point in their careers. Knowing that others faced similar challenges will help you feel less isolated as you work through difficult stretches. Even Instagram, which is often hailed as an “overnight success,” has a long backstory filled with hard work and commitment.
Thankfully, It's Worth It
I hope my honesty hasn’t scared you from your entrepreneurial aspirations. Striking out on your own is hard, but the results are well worth the price.
My sacrifice and dedication eventually paid off. I now own successful eCommerce businesses managed by a fantastic team, freeing me up to pursue other ventures. I'm able to set my own schedule and work when and where I choose. I've had the chance to travel the world. And, of course, I've been able to create a healthy income to support my family.
Was it easy? No. But was it worth it? Absolutely.
Willing to sacrifice for your own life-changing business? Grab your free copy of Andrew's eBook on how to start an online store. You can also follow him at eCommerceFuel.com where he blogs about running his own businesses.