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Progress Thread From Fiverr to Freedom: Creating a Value-Centered $10K/M Service Business from Nothing

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by UnrealCreative, Jun 18, 2017.

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  1. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Since January, I have been freelancing from gigs posted on Craigslist with relative success.
    Most of what I did was attached to my name however, without any rhyme or reason. Just a hustle.

    A few months ago once I started picking up more gigs related to a specific service I offered,
    I decided it'd be a good time to create a brand/business separate from my identity,
    specifically dedicated to that kind of service.

    The goal is $8.8K-$10K per month gross revenue, putting all processes in place to run with little input, and to sell close to $500K or more as soon as physically possible. Honestly I'll probably look back at these calculations and laugh, but that's the benchmark for now. Better than nothing!

    Last week was my highest-earning and most time-intense week yet,
    so it's time to make a Progress Thread since things are picking up steam.

    Happy to say I'm currently making more than at the previous job in significantly less time.
    The main focus right now is keeping up momentum so I can get ahead, and creating a big enough buffer so I'm far away from financial stress, personal and business-wise.

    Some big wins from this past week:
    • Got REALLY clear on exactly what my target is for the business system, and what it'll look like at the end with all processes in place. @V8Bill 's book helped a lot with defining revenue, and E-Myth really helped in defining what I'd like it to look, Org chart and all. For most this sounds like an action fake, but it really makes it a whole lot easier to chip away at the marble daily when you have a clear picture of what you want it to look like. There really was zero structure beforehand.
    • Making my outbound process much more efficient and testing new methods of getting customers. I set up a series of RSS feeds that consolidates ALL Craigslist listings (based on my keywords) into an easy-to-read RSS reader. That way none of my leads have to be manually sourced, which takes time. Also set up the same RSS auto-sourcing method on a few other websites to sniff out potential clients.
    • Expanded into a few new services related to my core offer to help my current clients. All to help Customer Value Optimization - Providing the most amount of value to the current client pool as possible so there's less worry of reaching out to new clients.
    • Like I mentioned above...highest earning week and I'm still alive!
    Some challenges to address next week and long term:
    I got a big chunk of work from Fiverr this week...But here's the thing: I've experienced an anomaly.

    I got a MASSIVE traffic spike (about 10 times my usual visitors) for 2 days, and then it drifted back to normal. I feel skeptically optimistic about this occurrence, as it was out of nowhere and not really sure how I can repeat it.

    So, my short-term goal is to migrate my customers off the platform ASAP, and not just because of a strange uncontrollable anomaly. Here's why...
    • Violating Control: I am at the whim of Fiverr, and don't like my current precarious situation.
    • Margins: I won't be able to hire out or re-invest into the business with 20% cut into my margins.
    • Cash Flow: If I perform a gig, I won't get paid for that gig until the funds cleared. So although this was my highest-earning week, and a big chunk came from Fiverr, I won't be able to withdraw all the funds until a week or two.
    As for some other worries...
    • All profits are going directly to paying down my living expenses in advance so there is a buffer. This is either a smart move because of not having to worry about finances, or a dumb move because I haven't re-invested it into the business (paid ads, for instance). Everything is bootstrapped at the moment, so getting a 20hr/week side job isn't out of the question yet.
    • My main worry is keeping up the momentum & energy. All output is directly tied to me, and if I burn out from work, well........So, I'm really working on maximizing my customer value, and getting higher margins from my core offering from leaving Fiverr and raising my rates so I can begin outsourcing these projects.
    Anyway, I'll keep you guys posted!
    Thanks for reading :)
     
  2. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    By the way, special thanks to @Damian Pros and his awesome resources available for Fiverr sellers.

    Honestly Fiverr is like a gross Saturday afternoon flea market of Deep South USA™ , so if you even look remotely professional or try to distinguish yourself as a BRAND and not a commoditized INDIVIDUAL, then you will have the upper hand.
     
  3. Napoolion
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    Napoolion Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Good luck on your journey.

    I am doing something similar right now, but I cut out the fiverr from start and instead drive traffic to my website. I just have tested the idea, got a first customer with awfully built website (took me around 2 hours to make it). Now improving the website and going further. So will follow the thread and see how you will do. :)
     
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  4. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Just did some reflecting over the past month, so wanted to give an update.

    Big Wins since last update:
    • Realized I had doubled revenue since last month (May)
    • Made only 1/7th of my sales this month from outbound methods. The remainder was from Inbound Methods; primarily from Fiverr Searches, most of which became repeat customers. I had barely done any outbound sales for nearly 2-3 weeks because I've been tied up with production (good and a bad thing, more on this later)
    • Built out company website. No sales from it yet (just launched yesterday) but will direct my non-fiverr customers to the platform for testing. This is intended to fix my margins (Fiverr takes a 20% cut) and cash flow problems (Fiverr pays out about 2-3 weeks after you complete an order) by taking orders directly on the site. This will also help stay organized - previously customers had to manually send me money to my paypal, email files, etc... big mess.
    Big Challenges to Address this week and beyond:

    • Capacity Issues: For nearly 2-3 weeks, all of my time was dedicated to production only. The big problem was that ALL production is linked to my output, and as time went on and stress/exhaustion began to set in (several late nights, little physical workouts, too much caffeine and feeling sick, bad health in general), my ability to perform began to suffer and so did my deliverables. My general sentiment to my customers also suffered - I always try to go above and beyond for my customers, but the sustained workload and stress made it a lot harder to put a smile on, haha.
      ^^Remember this? Because of my cut margins, cash flow problems, and paying down available cash for personal expenses - this crippled my ability to temporarily offload some of the work to a subcontractor. Bad idea. Lesson learned: Keep as much liquid cash available as possible.

    • Keeping Up With The Pipeline & Growth: Would have I rather taken a step back from production to make more sales and improve processes? Absolutely! I would have rather at least kept up with clients I've already sold to as opposed to prospecting. So I'm trying to strike a fair balance between production, growth activities (improving processes, etc), and sales. Glad I went through this period though since this sudden influx has expanded my capacity to produce. Really pushed the limits.
    Some Other Worries:
    • I'm still holding on to two consistent freelance clients. They'll need to go soon as the service I provide for them is outside the scope of the Productized Service. I will ride this one out through mid next month probably, when enough clients replace them.
    • Related to the freelance clients above...I have one client who is a very generous buyer, but has communication issues. Although I like the guy, I don't have a contract or down payment from him. Careless mistake. I trust he'll pay and continue to communicate, but I really don't want to get blindsided in the future.
    • My focus is a bit split between improving my Fiverr rankings to drive more sales, or taking a leap of fate and going strictly with the new site for getting clients. Fiverr is already working as a good channel to get clients from search (some of which I'll migrate to the new site) but I'll continue to have cash flow and margin problems. There's also a bit of a sunk cost because of how much has been invested into Fiverr so far. I'll have to make a decision about how much more effort I'd like to dedicate to Fiverr versus the new site.
     
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  5. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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  6. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Another set of updates since last time.

    Big Wins since last update:

    • Getting Extremely Clear and Organized: I began to get overwhelmed in the day-to-day operations and reached out for help. The general conclusion was that I was trying to eat the elephant (business) all at once so to speak, as opposed to breaking it down into bite sized pieces. It was really bad. Led to a lot of unhealthy habits like staying up until 1AM and waking up at 3AM, drinking way too much coffee, no exercise, et cetera. Was feeling physically exhausted for days on end without much effective work being done.

      After getting my personal stuff fixed, this video spoke directly to the situation I faced, and really helped ask the right questions to clarify what I was doing:

      View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-XnmLojB6g&ab_channel=BrianTracy


      The combination of this video and MJ's concept of the value array in UNSCRIPTED has really allowed me to re-imagine the business. Now I have stored & documented my own Business Value Array, which is a list of each value attribute in my business and what value skew I use for each attribute.

      In addition, I have documented every service offered in a spreadsheet including price, cost of labor, cost of marketing, how much I'm willing to discount per product, unit profit, et cetera. This has also led me to realize I need to charge slightly more over the next few months if I am going to have a chance at offering a product at a reasonable profit margin with all expense estimations (although pretty conservative) into account.

      Now, I'm specifying processes and procedures for each role I play in the company according to the Organizational Chart I created a month ago. This process of up-heaving everything I do at once has been a lot of work, but well worth it. Previously I had put off getting organized because it had mostly fell into the back of my mind as an action fake. At this point when you're priming to scale, it's not. Before it was 50% Selling and 50% Production, day in day out. When I ran out of work I'd sell, and when I was done selling I'd work. This cycle repeated until things started breaking down.

      Getting everything out of my brain and onto paper has been refreshing. I'm so so so excited to begin selling more once everything is organized.

    • Dropped freelance clients: It didn't take much to do this. I am in negotiation for 3 large accounts coming on so I'm not worried, but I also didn't have a choice.

      Remember this guy?

      Well, I learned what the Florida Baker Act is and why he hadn't been communicating...

      So gonna have to write off some work as a loss.
      Have contracts in place.
      Have the scope of what you'll do in place BEFORE the project.
      Get payment UPFRONT.

      At the same time, remember that customers are people. He was a good client. We'd vibe pretty well over the phone.
      So be kind. Customers are people too (and mental illness f'n sucks).

    • Fixed Cash Flow Issues: Now I have a predefined productized service that customers pay for upfront straight from the website. This is awesome and give me a lot more resources to deploy for hiring (when it's time) as well as other things. Just having money upfront is so nice I can't explain it. Chasing down people who need to pay is a pain in the ass. I still have a few Fiverr sales come in (which isn't compatible with the upfront model) but I'm looking to migrate them to the website by offering massive incentives for doing so.

    Big Challenges to Address this week and beyond:

    • Beyond getting more organized, I haven't hit any major snags yet. I'm kinda coasting right now, since a lot of the work I get falls into my lap from Fiverr searches or repeat customers. In fact, I don't think I've even done any massive sales efforts/advertising in about a month. The biggest thing right now is just getting everything organized fast enough so I can scale without much friction. Some days/weeks just feel too slow right now and I'm worried about complacency, but on the other hand I don't want to burn out again.

      We'll see what happens. The goal is at least $2K MRR presold by the end of the month, but it may only be up to those numbers by mid next month.
    I think that's it for now...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2017
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  7. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Small Update. Got to breathe a bit since last update.
    Took about 2 weeks of light work - Now I'm picking up sales A LOT.

    So...

    • The Client base is growing. Cant' even keep up haha. Also took the leap of faith. After facing more challenges with Fiverr, I'm 100% committed to getting off the platform and getting my current clients to work directly.

    • Been head deep in re-creating my website to be more functional as a funnel. Better format, cost estimator, and some other things I couldn't do with my previous ghetto setup. Discovering Divi Builder and some other plugins has really opened my eyes to what's possible as a sole person figuring this stuff out. The lightbulb went off where I said "wait...I don't have to hire a programmer to do that! I can do that myself!" and I've been working tirelessly on it since.

    • In the same regard, I'm having trouble squeezing enough juice out of the day. Feeling a bit overwhelmed at how much stuff is on the plate right now.

      EDIT: Also, subbed out my first project to a freelancer. We'll see how it goes, but it was such a relief since this week has been like drinking from a firehose :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
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  8. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Let's talk rookie mistakes...
    Honestly, I've messed up these past 2-3 months or so in one serious regard:

    ^^^Remember this?

    I've heard it's fairly common for service businesses to spend 80% on production, and 20% on sales.
    It really should be 80% Sales, 20% Production.

    What's worse is focusing <20% of your time on sales because projects have just fallen into your lap for the last 2-3 months.
    Mostly from Fiverr searches and random people coming out of the woodwork from months back.

    There may not be anything inherently wrong with getting clients coming to you, but the problem is...

    • When you take prospecting for granted. You basically stop working your 'Hustle Muscle.'
    • While focusing on production, your pipeline dries up and old prospects fall through the cracks.
    • When you take a hit, or you create a vacuum from making a poor business decision, you can't recover as quickly.
    • Because you haven't worked your 'Hustle Muscle,' kicking up dirt from prospecting is much harder (or awkward, since your prospects forgot about you)

    In other words, Never ever EVER neglect sales.
    NEVER neglect real hustle, making connections, and giving without asking for anything in return.

    ^^^This is why.

    Although I've (thankfully) picked up a few large monthly accounts, a hearty amount of inbound sales (that I never had to work at getting, btw) still came from Fiverr. My account isn't deleted, but I raised my prices and drove away some consistent buyers in the process without sufficient follow-up and incentivizing them to get off the platform.

    Grant Cardone talks about how people almost always underestimate the amount of sheer effort it'll take to accomplish something.

    In this case, I've created a void and didn't make enough effort to fill it.

    So in the meantime, looks like I'll be changing my strategy, likely using Fiverr as part of the funnel to reach customers I couldn't normally sell with cold traffic or reaching out.

    Look before you leap.
     
  9. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    This thread is overdue for an update.

    September was pretty rough to get where things are now, but in short:
    • Hired a new freelancer with more experience to handle some of the production workload.
    • Earned the equivalent of my previous job's MONTHLY salary in a WEEK from this business. 70% of which is Monthly Recurring.
    • Working less hours and earning more than ever. Happiness levels significantly higher.
    • Focusing on my strengths (strategy, systems) and learning to be a more effective delegater/manager
    The hard part about this month was my earnings were capped since I was the bottleneck for production.
    My earnings were capped by my energy, which was slowly diminishing over prolonged periods of stress from such a heavy workload.

    Not sure how to squeeze more juice out of the day, I reached out in this thread for help:
    Rant - Comparing Work Hours to Other People

    Shortly after, I reached what I can only describe as brick-wall burnout.
    Lots of sleepless nights, dreading waking up to more mounting work,
    generally feeling very helpless.

    I came to the conclusion that I MUST hire,
    or I'd run the business (and myself) into the ground.

    At the same time, I knew my personal OS needed an update.
    This had been the 3rd or 4th time crashing and burning, and I had enough.
    I came across a timely post by @eliquid on BuSo called
    "Not Fulfilled? Depressed? Maybe You Need An Alignment"

    This was a great time period to learn deeply about myself;
    How I operate, what my needs are, and really fleshing out a brand-new mission statement and value set.
    We get so busy that we forget the importance of deep introspection - It's been a game changer.

    Similarly, I discovered Billy's ( @snowbank 's ) blog and had my brain dislodged.
    His post "How To Set Goals If You’re Not Sure What You Want" really helped me examine
    how I could design life around maximizing happiness day-to-day with the business.

    My days are now focused on solving hard problems creatively, or
    creating new systems to make things more efficient, or improving existing systems.
    The "grind" of production has removed by my freelancer for the most part,
    which has allowed time for these incredibly important growth activities.

    Sure, some days are still gonna be hard. I still have to handle some projects myself.
    But this is leagues better than where I was a few weeks ago.
    I have more energy to go above & beyond for my clients since we have the capacity to do so.

    It is such an incredible feeling.

    Special thanks to everyone who replied and offered help in my burnout thread earlier.
    @AgainstAllOdds @amp0193 @Philip Marlowe @Envision @Nicoknowsbest

    Additional thanks to @Aaron T for ongoing inspiration, as well as the help in the other thread!

    p.s. for the love of God, if anyone is running a services business, HIRE sooner than later.
    It's not as scary as you think, and you can start taking your time and life back.

    That'd be my main regret of this entire thread - not hiring sooner so I could get more sales for the people I have on board.
    I SHOULD have hired 3 months ago when I hit this point, and I could have done so. The earnings were there, but it was a scary choice to make.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  10. eliquid
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    eliquid Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Good stuff.

    Yeah I posted that on another forum and not here. I wasn't sure how the FLF peeps would take it so I posted there to get feedback before posting here.

    Since you've linked to it, I might copy over now.

    Glad it helped and glad you are on track now
     
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  11. Philip Marlowe
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    Philip Marlowe Every Day On, No Days Off Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Thanks for the shout out Unreal!

    To my original reply to you (in your first thread), is your group of friends consistent with your goals? Or do you have someone, in person, that you can speak to? Not saying you need to dump your buddies, but they're comparing apples to oranges when discussing working until 2AM at Applebees vice your hustle.

    I love this forum, but being around someone else in the same line of work often allows you to share their enthusiasm or borrow their confidence. When you're low, they bring you up. When they're getting off track, remind them why they started this.

    I have a 9-5 that pays well and I honestly only have one friend that I can talk to about the corporate world of bonuses and incentive programs and what-not. (People rag on the 9-5 a lot here, but there can be money in it and not all are bad so long as you also know that it can disappear at any time - hence my fastlane aspirations)

    I also have someone who can't necessarily relate on the corporate side, but who's grinding towards their fastlane and we talk about that.

    Surround yourself with the right people, or at least have access to them.
     
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  12. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    For sure. Calibrating the compass is extremely important.
    Thanks again for your contribution.
    Hey Phil,

    I'm largely on my own here. Got 1-2 business friends, but typically we're all pretty busy.

    Related to the first thread - I think that was just a result of a lot of mounting pressure and not seeing any way forward except
    the bright-red neon sign painted in my head that screams 'WORK HARDER!'

    I'm typically not exposed to the Applebees Nightshift Owls except in passing remarks or by proxy - and I'm usually not affected by it
    (except in scenarios as above)

    When things get tough, I have a few friends who are willing to listen, even if they don't understand completely - and that's all I usually need.

    @SteveO had a really good thread about this topic here:
    The "Choice" of who to hang with..

    Even if my friends aren't entrepreneurs, they're doers.
    We're in some ways 'better' than each other in different areas of life, so we build each other up.
     
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  13. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Reporting back with good news and bad news.

    Good news is I've built a money printer. Google CPC generates a 1:3 ratio of profit. Spend $300, get $900.
    These new customers are also on a recurring basis, which is very exciting.

    Bad news is a competitor jammed my printer with click fraud...although I was asking for it since I bid on their brand names.
    After a thorough investigation, Google credited me back. The fraud IPs are now blacklisted from my campaigns and website.

    Needless to say it's been an interesting month. Will have to write up more in-depth later!
     
  14. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I don't bid on competitor brand names or encourage clients to. It's burning bridges you don't need to. Maybe they could have ended up a partner? Or in your case, they'll take exception and actively work against you.

    Well done building your machine.
     
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  15. eliquid
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    eliquid Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    What Ive done in the past with this topic:
    • Exclude competitor IPs within Adwords ( sounds like you've done this )
    • If I know the specific area my competitors are geolocation wise, I exclude that in my campaigns
     
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  16. UnrealCreative
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    UnrealCreative 'Pre-Revenue' Unicorn Hunter Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Thank YOU Andy! Wouldn't have been possible without your posts.

    Glad you brought this up. To be honest, I'm pretty sour about this.

    I really don't like playing dirty, so I'm sticking my neck out here in hopes that you or someone else can correct me...

    Every last company I'm actively competing against now has denied me a position at their company at my lowest point.

    The point where I couldn't pay rent or eat - and a perfectly able man was willing to work for almost nothing to help their company.

    Denied.

    It's not likely they'd want to partner now, and even if they did, would I want to?

    Couple that with where the vision of the company is heading...

    All is Fair in Love and War?

    Exactly.

    In fact, clicks immediately dropped to normal levels after IP excluding the state that the competitor resides in.
    When this info was given to Google, this was a determining factor to refund me or not.
     
  17. focusedlife
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    focusedlife Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    @UnrealCreative
    If I may... you were the karma they weren't expecting.

    Don't apologize for it.

    Embrace it.

    Moving forward, refer to it.

    Deny me, ok.

    Don't get mad when I beat you at your own game.

    Just sayin'
     
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    Interested to know how things are going.

    I launched my business on Upwork, similar to Fiverr. I have a few large ongoing clients and don't need to advertise at the moment as I'm at capacity with a small team. The thought of building my own lead generator has definitely occurred to me, though. How is that going for you now?
     
    ZF Lee, UnrealCreative and Andy Black like this.