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I wouldn’t do that to you. But it does remind me of the first product I’d ever bought online. That was click bait.
A few years ago, I was in a strange position. I had new surroundings, new friends, and a new focus. That’s when I first turned to the internet to do more than research my term papers. I wanted to use it to make money.
I know, I know. Been there done that. Well, I hadn’t been there and I damn sure hadn’t done that.
It was learning time. I was like a starving man who’d stumbled across a feast prepared for Queen Victoria.
I devoured everything.
I read blog posts about starting an online business.
I watched YouTube videos about how to become an expert.
There was even this one time a guy got me to pay $5 on Fiverr for a $2 money train. They gave me a lot of “information” to be successful. It didn’t turn out well.
I was a walking encyclopedia of best practices. Here I was full of wisdom from all the greats. I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I’d already planned what I’d do with the money. As a young twenty something, I’d make a lot of money, retire to Fiji with a mixed girl, have endless trysts with the locals, and catch my dinner on the ocean while chatting with the old fishermen.
I’m a man – shoot me.
I was full of theoretical start a business advice. Here are some of the things that were floating around in my head.
Huh? I didn’t catch that. Oh, these are obvious, everyone knows this. Ah, ah, not so fast. No matter how many times a lie is repeated, it’s still a lie.
Of course you need to be passionate about the business, that’s how Bill gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet made their fortunes right?
They worked countless hours and made the necessary sacrifices right?
They built a team that was attracted to their passion to change the world right?
Let me tell you about Mr. Unpassionate — a multimillion dollar business owner. Mr. Unpassionate started his business when he was down — really down. At the time, he had three kids and one on the way. He was struggling to meet up with rent payments and his cable had already been cut off.
His apartment really needed to be fumigated. He couldn’t open the cupboard at night without the roaches fighting with him over the last can of baked beans. Along comes Mr. Semi Passionate and tells him about this wonderful opportunity in real estate.
Mr. Unpassionate bites. He spends the next few months learning everything he can about what he considers the most boring industry in the world. What sustains him are his dreams about moving to a house in the hills, paying his kids college tuition with cash, and getting his wife that Mercedes she’s always dreamed of.
Mr. Unpassionate doesn’t care about real estate. He cares about putting food on the table and making sure his kids never lack.
One myth busted. Moving on.
There I was on my first foray into online business with the wisdom of the greats. They’re living large. I’m talking houses in the hills, traveling to exotic locations, and being all around badasses.
They couldn’t be wrong – could they? No, they couldn’t.
I jumped in head first. I’d find a product to sell through marketplaces like Clickbank, hack away at some code until my website was halfway decent, and borrow, steal, or cajole my way into enough money to test my idea.
Sometimes I’d skip lunch for a week to be able to bid on ad space. Not my finest moment.
Long story short, I was burning money for over a year with nothing to show for it. Finally, a few of my friends held an impromptu intervention.
If I didn’t get my shit together, they were going to take my phone and computer. That was my crack – I was an addict. They didn’t understand I was building an empire and I’d be damned if a few lunches and missed classes were going to stop me. Ingrates.
They had the benefit of numbers. I didn’t want to get into a boxing match with five of my closest companions. Believe me; nothing was going to make me give up my laptop without a fight.
I was forced to agree to their demands. Secretly, I was hatching a new plan. After my intervention, I asked myself a simple question.
How would I start a business if my life depended on it?
How would you start a business if your life depended on it?
There are many ways to skin a cat. Too many. There are many ways to get your feet wet with your first business. But, and this is a big but, the most efficient way is always the most efficient way.
If my life was hanging in the balance, I’d throw out all the advice from the gurus.
I’d throw out all the best practices I imbibed from the internet — all the info from the gurus. They’re not going to save your life. Would you try to save your favorite golf club when your house is burning down? I don’t think so.
Instead, you’ll focus on a few important documents and items you cherish. Your wallet, family heirlooms, and your kid’s pictures are coming; everything else is getting left behind.
All those best practices work, and I’m sure there’s data to prove it, but we don’t have time for that. We’re trying to stay alive.
This is where it gets fun. You’re forced to get the ball rolling or die trying. For one, you don’t have any time to waste so building a product is out of it.
We also don’t have much in the way of resources so investing in anything but the essentials is also out of it.
What does that leave us? A lot of room for creativity. Let me show you what I’d do and why.
I don’t care if your market is middle aged overweight moms. Choose it and stick with it. Once you’re in it, figure out their deepest wants, needs, and desires. My life matters. I think yours does too. We can’t afford to make mistakes. The pressure is on.
What’s that you say? People are more health conscious these days, they know they need to get in shape, you don’t need to work too hard for this one. I should give you a better example.
You’re joking. Never assume anything.
What will make them pay money is getting that beach bod they had before giving birth. They’ll pay for their husband to look at them the same way he did fifteen years ago. They’ll pay for the promise to live to see their grandchildren.
This is what motivates us. We don’t care that we’re at a higher risk of diabetes and cancer. Those are things that don’t happen to us. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. How many people go around wondering if they’ll get hit by a car today?
None 2 if you do then your problem isn’t something I can solve. We do have a family shrink though, send me a line and I’ll hook you up if you need it .
It happens, but it doesn’t happen to me, you, or them.
What’s the difference between a novice and someone who’s read three books on the subject? An ocean. She simply doesn’t know what you know. After you read three good books on a subject, you know more than 95% of the population.
Use Google. It’s your friend. Type in something like Ultimate guide to getting in shape. Ultimate guide to losing weight. Ultimate guide to anything related to the goals of your market.
Read, compile, and arrange the information you use into a strategy. Refer to it often.
This is where gets tricky. How do you know you’re offering the right thing? Well, because people buy it.
Forgive me, that’s not a good answer.
You know you’re offering the right thing when you use the language of your market and they’re happy to talk to you. They converse with you as a friend and confidant – not a salesperson who wants to take their money.
It shouldn’t be a hard sell. Communicate where they are now and where you’ll help them go. Use their words.
We don’t have time for that.
We’re not building anything. We’d die before it was done. Instead, we’re getting clients. We don’t need a hundred. We don’t even need 10. We just need enough to get proof of concept.
Three paying customers is enough.
How do you get them?
That’s the easy part, you send them a personal email highlighting their challenges and how you can help them. You can meet them in the coffee shop. You message them in forums.
Pound the pavement.
It doesn’t need to scale at this point – scaling can come next. We’re staying alive – remember?
You don’t need to lay it on thick.
You don’t need to use psychological triggers.
Just a sincere message telling them about your epic offer and how they can take advantage.
We’ve averted death. Clap for yourself. You deserved it.
The best practices you see online are cool. They work. They’re built for a certain demographic of people. When they’re being written, the author makes a lot of assumptions.
What happens when you don’t have any of those things? Do you throw in the towel? No, you work like your life depends on it. More often than not – it does.
Once you understand that – everything you touch turns to gold.
Make your own best practices and your own path. Understand what’s worked in the past and tweak it until it works for you. No two houses are exactly alike even if they were built using the same blueprint.
No two businesses are exactly alike even if they’re built using the same philosophy.
Next time you want to start a business, think about how you would do it if your life depended on it.
Let me know what you’d do in the comments and don’t forget to share.