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xShepherdx

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Hey all,

I'm 28 years old and started my first company right out of college. In the two years since, I've grown the company to a whopping $1k profit per month with revenues averaging about 2k monthly. :rofl:

While the amount is pretty laughable compared to other stories I've read here, I'm EXTREMELY happy that I took charge and started my own business. I've learned so much more than I could ever put down in writing, and I'm still learning more and more every day. I consider the two years I spent building as my personal master's program...except I actually got paid to learn all the stuff LOL.

That said, I think it's time to move on from this business, so I'm putting it on autopilot for a bit while I try out some other business ideas and get to know like-minded people. Which brings me to...

It was about a year ago that I read @MJ DeMarco's book Unscripted and it immediately grabbed me. Mostly because it pointed out all the things I was doing wrong haha. Unfortunately, I put off joining the forum until I had spent an additional year trying to squeeze water from a rock, but after registering and reading through a bunch of the recommended posts, I am incredibly glad I joined.

I look forward to talking to everyone and hopefully sharing a success story of my own someday.
 
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Pink Sheep

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2k is nothing to laugh at!
I hope you can continue to grow, and be able to free yourself from time and money!
Please ask if you need advice. Lots of pros here happy to help
 

Ernman

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Welcome to the forum. If you liked UNSCRIPTED you're going to love MJ's latest, The Great Rat Race Escape . $2K revenue with $1K in profit each month is better than a lot of folks do, congrats.

At the risk of intruding, I'll remind you of MJ's admonition to be monogamous to your biz and ask why you're starting a second? Have you analyzed the numbers and are convinced there's no future to it? Bored with the process? Stuck and not sure what to do? Please understand, I'm not judging - just asking to better understand.
 
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xShepherdx

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Welcome to the forum. If you liked UNSCRIPTED you're going to love MJ's latest, The Great Rat Race Escape . $2K revenue with $1K in profit each month is better than a lot of folks do, congrats.

At the risk of intruding, I'll remind you of MJ's admonition to be monogamous to your biz and ask why you're starting a second? Have you analyzed the numbers and are convinced there's no future to it? Bored with the process? Stuck and not sure what to do? Please understand, I'm not judging - just asking to better understand.
Thanks for the welcome, kind words, and recommendation, I'll have to pick that one up.

And I'm happy to share, here are my main reasons:

1) The products I sell piggyback off of another company's products, and that company is pretty small so my upside is very limited. I was naive and didn't know/understand this starting out, sadly.

2) I started the business because it was something I could easily do. Unfortunately, that meant everyone else and their grandmother did as well. That's fine because my brand still stands out among the crowd, I just have a hard time finding other people to work with because every YouTuber, blogger, and other content creator in the space is selling their own competing products.

3) I don't have the technical skills to create content for the space so it has to be outsourced. Paired with the points above, it's just not working for me.

I know those probably seem like excuses - and I'm sure they are to a point - but I've tried like mad to grow the company and nothing has worked. Meta ads, influencer marketing, affiliates, blogging, getting featured on blogs, giveaways of our products, giveaways of other prize packages, etc. have all failed to move the needle.

#1 could potentially be remedied by switching the company I build my products around or building for multiple companies' products. However, points #2 and #3 would still stand and those are actually the biggest obstacles IMO. If I had the ability to create content for my niche I could probably pay my bills, but I say that very cautiously now.

Long story short, it took me starting a business and getting my teeth kicked in for two years to realize that market size, knowing how you will get your product in front of people, and how to solve an actual problem for people are very important things to figure out...preferably before starting a company. Those and about a zillion other newbie lessons haha.

I've analyzed the numbers to death and there's really no upside for the business. Sure I could squeeze an extra couple thousand out of it if I kept plugging along, but I think my efforts are better spent on a new company with a more significant upside.
 

xShepherdx

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2k is nothing to laugh at!
I hope you can continue to grow, and be able to free yourself from time and money!
Please ask if you need advice. Lots of pros here happy to help

True! If it were anyone else I'd congratulate them, but I guess I just feel like I could be doing so much more.

I'm definitely not going to shut the business down or give up though. I have some new products in the pipeline and new marketing campaigns with some sizeable blogs in the space. Nothing that's going to change the game overnight, but I'm still working to grow the company bit by bit.

And I'll definitely be asking for advice as I become more familiar with the forum. Before that, I have a mountain of existing posts to read through haha. This place is pure gold!
 

xShepherdx

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Welcome to the forum!

Everyone starts somewhere! You got paid to learn. Now think big, and then think bigger than that.

Thanks for the welcome and the advice. Will do! :)
 
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Ernman

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Thank you for sharing that @xShepherdx - that helps a lot. It would seem you've learned some very valuable lessons - that's awesome. As long as we learn, don't give up and put that knowledge to work - we will be successful.
 

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Congrats on the first business and welcome to the forum!

Thank you for sharing your experiences. One thing I'll say is that you'll never regret that time you came out swinging after college and became profitable your first time out to bat. That's awesome. Good luck with the next business and I look forward to reading about it.
 

SDFreedomFighter

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Thanks for the welcome, kind words, and recommendation, I'll have to pick that one up.

And I'm happy to share, here are my main reasons:

1) The products I sell piggyback off of another company's products, and that company is pretty small so my upside is very limited. I was naive and didn't know/understand this starting out, sadly.

2) I started the business because it was something I could easily do. Unfortunately, that meant everyone else and their grandmother did as well. That's fine because my brand still stands out among the crowd, I just have a hard time finding other people to work with because every YouTuber, blogger, and other content creator in the space is selling their own competing products.

3) I don't have the technical skills to create content for the space so it has to be outsourced. Paired with the points above, it's just not working for me.

I know those probably seem like excuses - and I'm sure they are to a point - but I've tried like mad to grow the company and nothing has worked. Meta ads, influencer marketing, affiliates, blogging, getting featured on blogs, giveaways of our products, giveaways of other prize packages, etc. have all failed to move the needle.

#1 could potentially be remedied by switching the company I build my products around or building for multiple companies' products. However, points #2 and #3 would still stand and those are actually the biggest obstacles IMO. If I had the ability to create content for my niche I could probably pay my bills, but I say that very cautiously now.

Long story short, it took me starting a business and getting my teeth kicked in for two years to realize that market size, knowing how you will get your product in front of people, and how to solve an actual problem for people are very important things to figure out...preferably before starting a company. Those and about a zillion other newbie lessons haha.

I've analyzed the numbers to death and there's really no upside for the business. Sure I could squeeze an extra couple thousand out of it if I kept plugging along, but I think my efforts are better spent on a new company with a more significant upside.
Congrats on the business, just taking action and making it work at all is major success. That you had answers to those questions is also great.

I think we've been brainwashed to think it's bad to give up on something but if you know it's not going to work, it's way worse to keep wasting your precious time and energy on something that won't ever asymmetrically scale so kudos to you for realizing that.

Good luck with your next venture!
 
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MJ DeMarco

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Welcome, great to have ya. Sounds like you are already forging a process.
 

Black_Dragon43

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Nice work - I also never had a job and always worked for myself. You learn something priceless that way, which is how to fend off for yourself and you get the confidence that you can rely 100% on yourself.

If I could have a repeat, I’d do it again, but I’d ask for a bit more guidance than I had initially.

Remember that business is all about solving problems that people care about and getting paid for that. Focus on looking for unmet needs and fulfiling them - that’s how you’ll be able to grow your revenue over $10K/mo… that’s really the heart of it.

There’s no marketing trick or sales gimmick that can get you there reliably. You’ve got to become a spotter of value. And if you do that, even with average marketing and sales you’ll get very far, since you’re building off a solid foundation
 

xShepherdx

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Wow, lots of replies! Thanks everyone so much for the warm welcome, I can't express how great it feels to finally be surrounded by like-minded people. I finally feel like I'm not crazy...or at least that crazy :playful:

As long as we learn, don't give up and put that knowledge to work - we will be successful.
I agree with this 1000%. I've wanted to quit many times, but I know that if I just keep going I'll eventually have learned and experienced enough to become successful in business.

Congrats on the first business and welcome to the forum!

Thank you for sharing your experiences. One thing I'll say is that you'll never regret that time you came out swinging after college and became profitable your first time out to bat. That's awesome. Good luck with the next business and I look forward to reading about it.
Thanks for the welcome and kind words!

I'm beyond proud to have bet on myself right out of college. If I would have went the traditional route, I never would have learned everything I did in the last two years.

Congrats on the business, just taking action and making it work at all is major success. That you had answers to those questions is also great.

I think we've been brainwashed to think it's bad to give up on something but if you know it's not going to work, it's way worse to keep wasting your precious time and energy on something that won't ever asymmetrically scale so kudos to you for realizing that.

Good luck with your next venture!
Thanks! I think learning to take action has been one of the biggest lessons I've learned. Nothing is perfect and you really can't know until you try.

I'm still not sure if I'm able to call it quits on this one yet, I'm still finding things to try and re-try from new perspectives. The Jay Abraham book that was posted in a thread here was really helpful and I put some of it to use just this morning. So I still have a lot to learn and try haha.

That said, I totally agree that time is precious and I should be pursuing something that scales asymmetrically. I'll be applying that to my current biz and any future ideas from here on out.

Welcome, great to have ya. Sounds like you are already forging a process.

Thanks for the welcome, you're absolutely correct. :)

Nice work - I also never had a job and always worked for myself. You learn something priceless that way, which is how to fend off for yourself and you get the confidence that you can rely 100% on yourself.

If I could have a repeat, I’d do it again, but I’d ask for a bit more guidance than I had initially.

Remember that business is all about solving problems that people care about and getting paid for that. Focus on looking for unmet needs and fulfiling them - that’s how you’ll be able to grow your revenue over $10K/mo… that’s really the heart of it.

There’s no marketing trick or sales gimmick that can get you there reliably. You’ve got to become a spotter of value. And if you do that, even with average marketing and sales you’ll get very far, since you’re building off a solid foundation

Unfortunately, I can't claim to have been as bold as you! I spent about 5 years working in public services before I realized I wanted to do anything business-related and made the career switch.

And I can't agree enough with your point about there being no marketing trick or sales gimmick that will get me there. I've had several (naive) moments where I thought "Oh if I just do X thing, then I'll be swimming in revenue!" and it's never worked. Only providing actual value has.
 
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xShepherdx

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Update: First, thanks to @Ernman for asking me to clarify my problems. By writing my problems down I was able to see how simple (not easy) it would be to adjust and continue to grow...probably much faster than ever before.

And after reading more about how @Kak and @MTF approach things, I realized I was very guilty of action faking and working on projects that would grow the company by 10% instead of the 200%+ I should be shooting for. Thinking bigger (and then bigger!) has been hugely beneficial, and I realized I was stopping myself because of fear, though it didn't feel like it at the time.

My revenue this month has been in the toilet, but that's okay because I realized I had ZERO actual processes for anything and the lack of revenue was a direct result of that. @Johnny boy's lawn thread was super helpful and showed me a glimpse of what good systems can do (and exposed how poor my current systems are).

After being brutally honest with myself I found I had no real sales funnel, no process for generating content, no process for outreach, etc. All I had was random fits of action - no wonder I felt like I was drowning!

So, for the next few weeks, I'll be working on:

1)
Writing down literally everything I do and putting it into an organized list that I could hand off to someone else if need be. This is more for me than anyone else, but damn does it help me systematize everything and save time. Right now this is a Trello board that has a column for each main process (Eg. product release) with each task as a card with contact info, links, etc. I'm not great at outlining processes yet, so if anyone has any pointers or is willing to show off how they outline their processes I'd love to see it.

2) Refining my email automations - Right now my email automations don't generate any revenue outside of the occasional random purchase. To remedy this, I've signed up for every single one of my competitor's lists and will be using them to remake my email sequences. I've also found a bunch of gems on this forum that I'm working to implement as well, but if anyone has any advice regarding eCommerce email automation, feel free to share. I suck at it and want to suck less!

3) Building my network - Despite the flood of newcomers into the space, I've realized they're a relative non-issue. Yes, they drive down costs because they will undercut literally everyone. But when you don't compete on price and are able to show up on the biggest channels in the space and show that you're legit, people start to take notice. (The Jay Abraham Mindest PDF was a brilliant read and helped with this a lot!)

4) Getting my products listed on different online shops/distributors - This was a huge place where my fear was holding me back. But thanks to the many names and resources linked above, I realized I had something nobody else did - an entire line of products built and ready to sell. All I need to do is show these stores that the market is growing and in demand (it is) and I'm going to be able to tap into hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of new potential customers. As I said, fear was big here, so I found my easiest possible target (one store that carried a small selection of my type of product) and pitched them. The resulting response from them was a literal "F*ck yes let's do this" and once contracts are signed and the dust has settled I'll be able to leverage this to get onto bigger and bigger stores.

5) Releasing new products every month - I'm retooling my store to offer more products based on widely used software, and by doing that I also realized I have greatly increased the number of people I can hire to build products. More people working -> more consistent additions to the store -> increased inputs into the systems I'm outlining in the first bullet point -> increased revenue. I have all of the parts in place to make this happen, now I just need to put it all together.

There's also a ton of little stuff I've realized thanks to revisiting CENTS and the many lessons in The Great Rate Race Escape and Unscripted . I actually feel excited about my company again and can see how to turn this business into something that is truly Fastlane.

I'm thinking about starting a progress thread on INSIDERS to keep me accountable, but for now, I just wanted to thank everyone for commenting on this initial post and for all of the wisdom shared on this forum. It really is a gold mine!
 

heavy_industry

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I've signed up for every single one of my competitor's lists and will be using them to remake my email sequences.
Drevil_million_dollars.jpg

I love it. :rofl:


Good luck moving forward with your business!
You're clearly on the right path as you've made a honest assessment on yourself and your company, discovered where the problems are, and started fixing them.

Keep us updated!
 
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xShepherdx

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I've been excited to update everyone on my progress, but I wanted to wait until I had actual results to share.

So, here's an update on the 5 items I had listed above.

#1) Writing down literally everything I do and putting it into an organized list

After an extremely helpful chat with @Johnny boy I got a great workflow setup and now I can manage 10x the content creators I was before. I've now got guest blog posts lined up to drip out onto my blog for the next month or two, additional products being worked on for my shop, and more. All of this is significantly easier to manage and my hours doing "management" have dropped to 1-2 per week.

However, I haven't fully stress-tested this new workflow yet as I've been focused on...

#2) Refining my email automations

I've been collecting emails in exchange for free digital downloads since I started my business. However, I failed to take the time to learn email marketing properly. After seeing the flows that @JasonR shared in his post, I realized I wasn't even segmenting my audience correctly - never mind even having separate flows for those segments!

So, I took some time to dig into Klaviyo and learn what it can do on a deep level. Now, I have created segments for each of my ~20 products on my shop and ~20 free downloads, (Now I can send hyper-targeted "You may want to upgrade" campaigns/flows to people who have only downloaded one specific product, vs who's ever downloaded that one product - for example.) and this has already shown very promising results...

My avg open rate went from 7% (LOL) to 28% and is still climbing, with clicks following a similar trend. Order rates have stayed near zero BUT my revenue from all emails has gone from $100/month to $400+/month and I hadn't even finished implementing key parts of my strategy like...

A huge 90-day welcome sequence containing ~50 emails. The core of these emails will be short 2-3 email series that introduce each of my main products, and in between there will be blog, video, and free content mixed in so that the flow doesn't feel like one long advertisement - though it is. My new subscribers are only a few days into this flow, so I'll update with the results as they start to come in.

On top of this, I have several other flows that, once activated by a subscriber, take precedence over the welcome flow. Stuff like post-purchase follow-ups, browse abandonments, cart abandonments, etc. are all set up to divert them for a bit, and then put them right back in the welcome flow.

3) Building my network

I've done a good bit of networking and found a small group of creators who contributed the guest posts in item #1, video content, and so on. These people tend to be in parts of the industry with a lot of audience crossover to mine, so the content is relevant and - most importantly - free! (They get to tap into the audience I've built over the last few years, and I get free content to publish and advertise on.)

The results here will likely be shown in the emails I send through the automated welcome sequence. I get orders every time I send people free stuff, so these new pieces of evergreen content are a huge value add to my system.

4) Getting my products listed on different online shops/distributors

I recently signed a deal with one distributor which was a HUGE milestone for me. My products are now live on their website and I've already seen a few sales in just two weeks.

The strategy here is to slowly drip out my worst-selling products -> best sellers so that I'm always in their "new releases" tab on the front page of their website. As such, I expect sales to increase as I upload more products with broader appeal.

As sales increase, I plan on leveraging one distribution platform to get onto another and trade up the chain until I'm on all of the biggest distribution platforms.

5) Releasing new products every month

This was wrong, I don't need more products! I needed to sell more of the ones I already had AND build a system that allowed me to do that without spending 40 hours a week doing so. (Ex: Email automation, ads, etc.)

That said, I will still be creating new products, but the focus will be totally different though.

In my initial post, I whined:

The products I sell piggyback off of another company's products, and that company is pretty small so my upside is very limited. I was naive and didn't know/understand this starting out, sadly.

To remedy this problem, all of my new products will be built with the intent of expanding into the huge markets that exist outside my current bubble. I'll be starting with products that are closest to my current audience, but slowly branching out over time. I'll also be creating far fewer new products for now as I focus on building the sales of my existing catalog.

So, how's the revenue looking?

In creating the emails, I realized I needed to rework the copy on my website BAD. I did, and afterward...

My revenue shot up 146% from last month and I've cruised through a new all-time high in revenue. The cool part is, none of the stuff I've done to increase revenue has actually taken effect yet - so I'm excited to report back in future months!

Also, it's worth noting that for the last month my website visitors actually went DOWN by about 10% as I was focused on building the back-end systems. As the system starts to get users flowing through it, I expect users to increase dramatically so the time invested should be well worth it. Oh, and soon I'll be running proper ads for the first time in forever with (hopefully) better results.

What's next?

I have a long list of things that need to be done, but for the next few weeks I'll be:
  • Refining the email automations to generate consistent orders
  • Setting up retargeting ads to supplement the content promoted in the emails
  • Running ads (likely Meta) to promote my free products aka lead generators and fill up the sales funnel
  • Uploading the rest of my products to my the distributor
If anyone has questions about anything I shared above feel free to ask.

To avoid huge updates like this in the future, I'll be updating this thread more often with little things I learn, observe, or do.
 

xShepherdx

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The email sequences have almost all been completed and will be tweaked and finalized as users flow through them.

That means it's time to dig into GA4, set up conversions, events, and audiences to begin collecting more usable data and pave the way for retargeting. At first, the complexity of GA4 was overwhelming, but after watching tutorials and tinkering with it all morning I'm actually impressed. The data and reports here are incredibly useful!

Right now, the site isn't seeing enough traffic for Google remarketing though, so after the GA4 audiences are set up (probably by the end of Tuesday - if not sooner) I'll start digging into paid social.

Moving towards doing proper paid advertising feels like it's going so slow, but I feel like I've wasted SO much time by hurrying through things in the past. The John Wooden quote "Be quick but don't hurry” has been my guide here.

Knock it out, move on, repeat...
 

xShepherdx

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I'm now determined to turn the existing company's $1k/month of profit into $20k/month, so this becoming more of a progress/execution thread.

After reworking the emails I'm starting to see results and I'm still not using paid ads - though I'm working diligently on it. The flows within Klaviyo are finally generating consistent revenue, which is a first since starting the company.

I had to recruit a marketer to set up proper conversion tracking in Google as I was spending wayyyy too much time trying to figure out how to configure everything. The first round of retargeting ads should be set up within a week.

In the meantime, I'm focusing 100% on paid social ads and trying to understand how to make Facebook/Instagram marketing work for my company. I've wasted a lot of time & money here before, so this time I'm being extra careful about everything I do.
 
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