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Who do you believe? Who do you trust, online and in life?
I want to share a story with you, something I hope can help you as you move forward in business.
When I was 22 years old, I was in the Air Force and working Langley Air Force Base, at a place called MILSTAR (Military Satellite And Tactical Relay). It sounds complicated, and the job itself could be, but thank God all we did was play PlayStation on the 3 p.m. - 11 p.m. shift.
Because of the cake hours, that job became the birth of my online career. I had no clue what I was doing; I just knew that the Internet was the future, and I hated being in the Air Force.
So I started reading forums - particularly the SitePoint forum when I first got started. I was reading about 10-12 hours per day. I couldn't stop. Merchant accounts, conversion, websites, HTML, blogging, e-books, etc. It just didn't stop. My brain was on fire.
Then, in the beginning of 2004, my wife and I registered our first domain name, and it was game-on.
As I'm writing this on January 11, 2010, I've gone through all of my corporate tax returns and calculated that I've spent a little over $250,000 on my Internet education. This includes seminars, paid phone calls, mentorships, coaching, digital products, physical products, etc.
You're probably asking the question, "Dude! Are you freakin' serious?" Yup.
Most people think I'm crazy. And, at the end of the day, maybe I am.
But here's the real reason I spent that much money on education: I always thought I was missing something. I always thought there was so much more I could learn. Basically I didn't feel "qualified." I thought I knew a lot, but not enough.
In 2005 I got sick from the stress. Back then I would have books about marketing, copywriting, and the Internet piled up by my side. I would read until my eyes hurt. I'd study until I fell asleep. Then, I'd wake up and do it all over again. And the sick part is, I always felt like I was so far behind...I felt like everybody was so far ahead of me, and it drove me even harder.
Insecure? Maybe. Not confident in my own abilities? Possibly. Serious about succeeding? Absolutely. If I knew then what I know now, would I still do it? No.
So, in 2007 I had a "moment of clarity." I had just paid $800 to talk to a sales "guru" on the phone for an hour because I wanted to acquire a skill I didn't have at the time.
After that disappointing phone call, I was very frustrated with the value delivered. I knew about 100 times more than the person I'd just spoken to, and I knew it in my heart. It was an important revelation for me personally. That call helped me prove to myself that I was "qualified."
After all these calls, courses, and time, you're probably asking what I learned.
Let me answer this question very bluntly. After $250,000 of Internet marketing education, consulting with CEO's, doctors, marketing professionals, lawyers, and making a full-time living online myself, I offer the following advice...
1. You're probably much smarter than you think. Most people have no idea what you know.
2. Wisdom has nothing to do with time. There are 85-year-old idiots. Time doesn't make you smart; study, working hard, implementation, and experience do. Never be discouraged by age - yours or someone else's.
3. There are more scam artists online than you think. Be skeptical - a lot of people are faking success online.
4. Be careful what you study when it comes to marketing, copywriting, conversion, etc. You can waste a lot of time on "information." Know that action normally trumps education, but I highly recommend getting some education before you create an action plan. Most people go head-first into stuff they have no clue about it, and the action they do take is almost worthless.
5. Only build relationships with people of integrity. The majority of online marketers are willing to whore themselves out and be associated with anyone as long as it makes them money. I see this every day. Integrity is so important.
6. Be yourself. I think the biggest reason people fail online is because they aren't doing what they truly love. Some people love the marketing process, like me, and that's fine - do that. I personally could sell washers and dryers, I just love selling, design, conversion, building, creating, etc. Some people have to actually sell something they love, and those people should stick with that. You will never make it long-term in this business if you don't wake up hungry, ready to make things happen.
7. You must distinguish between what matters and what doesn't matter. Decisiveness is a quality you must develop. Think, then decide quickly. Time doesn't create better decisions, unless the decision requires more information. If the decision doesn't require more information, make the decision fast, be confident in your decision; then, move on and forget about it. Don't worry if you made the wrong decision.
8. Learn to ask great questions. I recommend when you are speaking to anybody that you think of great questions and ask them. It shows humility, and you'd be surprised at how much people will open up to you. Be willing to learn. Labor for the right questions, and ask a lot of them.
9. Determine to live your life on deadlines. Most people don't, but you must. When I start doing business with a new person, I always let them know how I do business, and they're always surprised. I let them know that I put everything in my Outlook calendar with a deadline, and then forget about it. This does 3 things. First, it allows me to forget about the project, freeing my brain from more information. Second, it establishes my expectation of the person who's working for me. And third, it allows me to figure out who is dependable.
10. Be teachable. I still read a lot. I do so to stay fresh and on top of my game. Don't ever think you know it all. Continue to search for tactics and techniques that can help your business, but be more obsessed with implementing what you learn so you can test it for yourself.
11. If you're going to follow someone's teachings, make sure that they are making money with the same things they teach. This can be very hard; I've been through many "teachers" and spent a lot of wasted money, and most of the time I just keep coming back to the basics or a book from back in the day.
12. Build your "team" early. Find your graphic designer, webmaster, etc. early. Pay them what they ask, pay early or on time, and be faithful. These people will play a very important role in your success. I went through about 15 graphic designers before I found the person I'm with now. And I'm not afraid to send that person business either. Never be afraid to share the wealth.
13. Recognize your weaknesses. I am not skilled at webmaster-type work such as CSS, HTML, etc. It stresses me out and it frustrates me. But what would be even worse is if I tried to fight that weakness on a daily basis, tried to excel at something I'm not gifted at, and become even more stressed and unhappy doing that sort of thing. Recognize your weakness and outsource it.
14. When starting out, I recommend a 50% education vs. 50% action model. As you start becoming more successful online, I'd recommend moving to a 30% education vs. 70% action model.
15. Start to value testing. I recommend that you stick with A/B split testing. It's so easy, and anybody can do it. You will probably get discouraged, as most do, if you start with multivariate testing, learning about different compressions and algorithms, etc. Just stick with A/B testing and do it consistently.
16. Become a person of extreme consistency. You win at this game by doing it every day. Don't stop. Go, go, go, go, go. You're looking for longevity in the game. When you do something and it works, the next thing you have to ask yourself is if you can outsource the task and scale it. If you can, write up a procedure or record a video so you can train someone to do it. But most people will work really hard for 2 to 3 weeks and get burned out. Don't let this be you. It's all about consistency, day in and day out.
17. Understand that making money online is a learned skill, nobody is born with it. I know people who are stumbling and fumbling all over the place, bringing in a few million bucks online. Frankly, they are not that great as marketers, copywriters, or tech people. They just execute on the basics, day-in and day-out, and work hard.
18. Pick an Internet business model you're comfortable with and do it. Don't try to be a "guru" if you're an introvert. Don't create your own products if what you really want to be an affiliate. Don't worry about what other people say is the best model. There is no "best" model. The best model is the model that lines up with the type of life you want to create for yourself. I personally think one of the better models is creating your own products because you have full control of every part of the sales process.
19. Commit to execute daily on the basics. Most people are into tricks and schemes. Sure, tricks and schemes can and do work, but while you're executing the tips and tricks, never neglect the basics, and make sure to hammer on them almost daily.
20. Think of your online business as a constant work-in-progress. Understand that you're never "there." Once you think you get "there," there will be something else you want achieve and do, and it will feel like you're starting all over again. Embrace the process.
21. Commit to learn about design. It doesn't take long - read a few books, learn about typography, etc. Your design affects your conversion, which affects your bank account. Don't neglect the importance of design. You don't have to be an expert, but do try to understand it.
22. Spend more time researching your competition. You can reverse engineer your competion when it comes to selling processes, link building, etc. Spend more time on this, and you'll never go wrong.
23. Find people who have achieved what you want to achieve, and be humble enough to search them out and talk to them. Make sure they are making money outside of "coaching". If they say they are in a lot of different markets, don't believe them, make them show you a few to verify. Most coaches don't make money in real businesses, their business is coaching. I try to avoid that type of coach.
I could keep typing a lot more of these lessons learned and words of advice, but I want to keep this blog post to under 2,000 words and it's getting a bit long winded :-).
Hopefully you got something from this blog and enjoyed it. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment.