I wanted to quit.
I look to my fiancee, her eyes quietly fixed on the road, and half jokingly say, “I think I want to start working for Men’s Warehouse”
She says, “Ok”
At that moment I realized our lives were in trouble.
An entrepreneur is born.
3 years ago I was fired over a pair of pants.
Like any good story, mine starts with a difficult decision; Pound the pavement to find an unsatisfying job, or risk the financial security of $9-12/hour job in a failing economy and work like mad and free myself of the system.
You can assume I chose the latter.
Due to a false start on a freelance career a few years prior, I knew full well what I was in for. I studied, and studied, and studied.
Many research sessions would last for 18 hours. I’d fall asleep, head on the keyboard, drooling from all of the information being absorbed.
Terms like “Be authentic.”, “Be transparent” and “Be interesting” kept pestering me. Blog after blog, topic after topic, these catch phrases simply would not go away.
So with my tongue planted firmly in cheek, I Googled “How to be interesting” and came across Copyblogger for the very first time.
I’ll never forget it.
The article, written by Jon Morrow, gives 21 different ways to “be interesting”. “Be right”, “Be wrong” “Unleash your inner dork” are just a few.
It dawned on me, “interest” isn’t one size fits all, but an extremely personal concept.
Combine this with hyper-targeting paid advertisements towards very specific groups of people, now “interest” isn’t something you have to guess at, and your chances of people going nuts about you go up dramatically.
14 days after this breakthrough, I got my first real client, Atlantis Technology, through a chance encounter at a Super Bowl party.
The false start.
Two years prior to the pants incident, I was a key player on the SEO team for the #1 timeshare resale company on the internet.
In the year I was there, I was one of three people who helped the company grow from $8 million a year to $12 million a year business.
I went to conferences, my strategies were recognized by respected leaders in the field, and I was making more money than my peers. By all measures, I was on top.
But something didn’t feel right.
I didn’t like what I was becoming. The company’s vision for my future didn’t line up with my own.
I was originally recruited by a drunk employee while working third shift as a pump jockey at the gas station across the street from the couch I called home.
Here I honed my acumen for understanding people.
But with easy money, I felt my most honorable attribute dying.
“You can chase rainbows, or you can stick with me.” the C.E.O would say to me in a private conversation the day before I left.
Perhaps it was the lighting, maybe it was the wind, but for some reason the C.E.O’s Rolls Royce, which I had seen hundreds of times before, caught my attention on my way in the next day.
So I walked in the front door, stepped in the elevator, walked through the first set of doors, then the second, turned the corner and went into his office, pulled my shoulders back and totally unsure of what would come next and said…
“I saw your licence plate as I was walking in. ‘RiskIt’ told me everything I needed to know”
And then I was on my own.
My first “client” was a musician.
We agreed I would help increase sales of his album.
For two months I made sure the music video I edited held the top of the charts on Youtube and Myspace (it was still popular at the time)
However due to a few payment related “misunderstandings” I lost everything. My apartment, my girlfriend, and plenty respect from friends and family.
In two months, he quadrupled his sales, and I hit rock bottom.
Fortunately I had a friend that would lend me his couch, unfortunately he would convince my girlfriend at the time to cheat.
Having nowhere else to go, after six months of denial and depression, I would eventually return to the uniform of the gas station I started at.
Not long after that, I would upgrade from the $9.00/hr job to the $12.00/hr job selling cell phones, where 6 months in I would get fired over pants.
The entrepreneur’s journey.
Getting fired over something as silly as pants, was exactly the motivation I needed.
Refusing to repeat history, I knew every step would be forward, and any agreement would mean I got paid before the work was done.
My first real client paid $600 for an hour of SEO consulting time, just enough to pay the rent that month.
I spent countless hours raking various freelancer boards, until eventually I found a subcontract job with a start-up “agency” founded by one half of a late 90’s one hit wonder pop duo.
They paid $750 a month which was enough to pay the rent and phone bill.
Our agreement wasn’t fair, but I also knew I had to “pay my dues”. Very quickly, I put myself in the position of having conversations with clients and explaining exactly how the process of paid advertising with “Being interesting” worked, and helped the company grow, and maintain a steady client base.
Due to the amount of time the “agency” demanded, they hesitantly re-negotiated a rate of $1,650/ month, and got them to agree to buy me an iPhone.
After several months at that rate I tried to negotiate slightly more because 90 hour work weeks at $1,650/ month became hardly justifiable .
Most of the time, I was an island, not being contacted by the “agency” for weeks at a time. And when I was contacted it was to be called up at 3 A.M to see if I was still working.
“Why should we pay you $2,000 per month?! You’re out of your mind!”
Shortly after my 1 year anniversary of working with the agency, I took the client and parted ways with the company.
I joined Third Tribe, made new contacts, and over the past two years of working totally independent of anyone, I’ve grown my business to a very comfortable place.
My entrepreneurial spirit was on life support.
But aye, there’s the rub.
That’s just the back story, three years later, the beginning of the story is over.
If this were a movie, sustainable business is where you fade to black and roll credits.
But it was just the beginning.
After three years, the challenge of “get clients” and “make money” wore off.
The reality is, I reached the experience plateau every business owner encounters at one point in time or another.
Nobody tells you this is the most critical point in your career.
Most people stop here and live comfortably.
But I’m not one to stop. I want to be legendary.
Again, I had to make a decision.
Keep doing what works, and be comfortable. Or seek out new challenges with uncertain outcomes.
For the longest time, I’ve been choosing comfort.
Since leaving the “agency” and working for myself, I gotten engaged, had a baby, moved into a nice condo.
The thought of putting any of that at risk was absolutely terrifying. So I did what any reasonable person would do, enough to maintain. Enough to keep the status quo and make sure there was enough income to support my new little family without putting anything at risk.
But entrepreneurship is a muscle, the less you work it, the more it atrophies.
And because I wasn’t challenging myself, my business started to suffer.
I stopped selling ebooks. I stopped farming out side projects. I stopped taking risks. I stopped blogging.
And my customers stopped responding.
To say that I was boring would be an understatement.
I got sucked into the vacuum of sharing everyone else’s content. Re-iterating what everyone else was saying.
I had forgotten what it was about myself that made me unique.
Get the paddles, we’re losing him!
Which brings us back to the beginning of the story.
When I said, “I think I want to start working for Men’s Warehouse” to be met with an emotionless, “Ok” and the awkward silence of two people not knowing what to say next.
I knew I had to do something drastic.
It didn’t take long to figure out what to do next, because it was one idea I continued to write off, telling myself “I don’t have time.”
And by all rights, this may have been the exact wrong time to actually commit to this project. I was three months away from getting married, my son was 8 months old, we were moving into our house soon, I just started a collaborative project with 6 other people, and Google+ was just about to launch.
But none of that mattered.
If I gave up, if I walked away from my dream, I would have been sentenced to life wondering “what if” and knowing I didn’t fight for my right to be free of the system.
There was no plan, only purpose.
Over the next 21 days, I wanted to show how you can Facebook to develop deeper relationships with your s and create content they love interacting with, and products they can not live without.
Day 1 had to be mind blowing. I had to exceed the expectations of my audience if I was going to resuscitate. my entrepreneurial spirit.
But how do you start teaching something that’s so widely covered, by people with much larger reaches, and with so many different “starting points” and still create mind blowing content?
You simplify. Take the approach nobody else is taking.
Day 1’s video was titled “How to Navigate Facebook to Gather Customer Intelligence”
Most would start by saying “This is how you set up a Fan Page”, but without knowing how to fully utilize Facebook’s search, that Page is an island, and you have very little understanding of how your prospective s are actually talking.
I wanted Day 1 to demonstrate just how powerful Facebook’s search actually is when it comes to linguistic analysis, competitive analysis, and content analysis, so Page Admins new and established were able to gain new insight from these videos.
By taking an uncommon approach, and actually starting at the beginning, there was a great amount of positive feedback. Because I was answering a question many had, but might not have thought to ask, it set the tone of what to expect for the over the next 21 days.
You would think this would be the point where I tell you each day got easier, and each video took less and less time to produce. And this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Each morning, I had to dig deeper to find the topic for that day’s video.
Every day I pushed to be better than the day before.
Every topic, I was determined to make people really think about their .
More than half of the videos in the series would take anywhere between 16-18 hours to produce a 5-11 minute video. Each video would have quite a bit of research put in. If someone else was saying it, I wanted to say it better. If someone did a study, I would incorporate actual facts and figures. If there was a point I wanted to demonstrate, I’d find the one that was demonstrating it the best. If there were other techniques that applied to more than “just Facebook” I wanted to incorporate those too.
Ultimately, I wanted to demonstrate that Facebook was just a platform. Headline writing techniques, image optimization, and timeless persuasive writing techniques still apply, if not more so because of Facebook’s content ranking algorithm.
I still had client work, I still had to teach my coaching students, I still had to find time for my family, I still had to do all of the other little things that made it so “I didn’t have time”
No more excuses.
In the end, 2 hours, 31 minutes and 4 seconds of video were produced.
My computer had crashed, I ran out of hard drive space, and had a million other things I had to manage, but in the end produced more footage than the average feature length film (and had a minimal amount of “filler” material).
I’ve been told the series was extremely helpful, and has helped numerous people turn a corner, for which I am grateful.
From a purely selfish standpoint, to my website is up 13% , people are taking 42% more actions than before, and my time per visit to my website is up 41%.
But most importantly, I proved to myself I am fully capable of doing something this huge.
After completing such an enormous undertaking, I’ve learned how to better maximize the time in the day, and have become much more productive in the time I’m spending.
I realize sharing links on Twitter or videos on Youtube isn’t “working”, any more than watching Food Network means you’re cooking.
I’ve begun to take myself, my business, and my s much more seriously, and will continue to challenge myself to be more, do more and achieve more.
I can’t allow excuses to derail my success, or let limiting beliefs govern what I do. Nor will I allow meaningless distractions eat the time in my day.
Jon Morrow said it best,
If you want to succeed, you can’t wait for the world to give you attention the way a cripple waits for food stamps to arrive in the mail. You have to be a warrior. You have to attack with the madness of a mother whose child is surrounded by an army of predators.
Simply showing up and “being a part of the conversation” won’t cut it.
If you really want to succeed, you have to create conversation, not just participate in it. You have to fight yourself to produce content that refuses to be forgotten, and won’t accept any less than being memorable.
If this means spending 16-18 hours a day, for 21 days, so be it, because who are you to hold your best ideas captive? How many lives are you changing by holding back?
Stop lying to yourself, and stop holding your best ideas hostage.
I know you have time, because you just read this article.
Be different, take the time to level up, and do what you thought to be impossible.
The world will be a better place because of it.