Ever since I got the entrepreneurial itch, I have not managed to fully scratch it.
This seemingly harmless idea managed to turn into a constant 2-year battle as I fought harder than I ever have to reach my dreams.
With no major success, my dreams and ambitions have eluded me like a silent ghost for almost two years.
Every time I feel like I'm close, every time I feel like I've finally found the business that will elevate me to the heights I've hoped for, every time I'm on a streak of good luck - it all comes crumbling down.
A lot of entrepreneurs can relate to me on this.
We all start businesses for a specific reason - whether it's freedom, happiness, money, family, or any other reason.
When I started, I was just a smart schoolboy who finally decided to steer clear of the status quo.
I've barely ever failed academically before and so I jumped into business with the same mindset.
Not long into my journey, I faced one of the most devastating failures I've ever failed.
I didn't want to continue on my entrepreneurial path any longer.
No matter how much I tried to give it up, the itch just wouldn't go away.
That's when I realized that I'm stuck with this forever now, it's either I succeed and reap the rewards I've always wanted - or I continue to try and try.
In this article, I wanted to put my thinking hat on for a second and talk about every single business or side-hustle I've ever tried.
Here is every business I've tried over the last 2 years and the lessons I learned - year 1.
When I started dropshipping, It was positioned as the answer to my prayers, my angel in disguise.
I had just finished sixth form (year 13 of school) due to a violent interruption from the virus, and I was left at a crossroads.
There were 3 options, but all of them seemed dark and scary:
- Go to university
University was the scariest option for me - had I gone down this route, I would have been trapped into the system.
- Do an apprenticeship
An apprenticeship seemed like my best bet at the time. Every apprenticeship which made my eyes glow quickly turned me down after the virus because they could no longer hire a lot of people.
- Take a gap year
Taking a year off was scary because I didn't want to be an entire year behind my peers.
I felt doomed, lost, like I just wasted 13+ years of my life.
All this time going to school, a place I didn't want to be, just to end up here?
It wasn't long after that I discovered dropshipping.
At the time it seemed perfect because it was exactly what I wanted.
A simple way to get rich without needing to be like Jeff Bezos.
All I needed was:
- A product
- A supplier
- A website
These 4 things would have made my dreams come true.
A few months into the process, I had chosen my product, found a great supplier, had a bad-a** website up on Shopify and I was ready to run ads.
My first product, although I did no research, was actually a really good product.
It was a Lumbar back-stretcher being sold under the name 'Flexiposture.'
Once I started to run ads, I had dreams of reaching $300K+ sales in a single day (yes, that's how unrealistic my mind was back then).
More excited than I've ever been, I woke up and immediately picked up my phone to check the sales I had made.
"I made $300K after one day of selling? This is amazing!"
As I turned on my phone, there were no Shopify notifications... weird.
Once I logged into Shopify, my heart dropped and I felt an almost-depressing chill go through my body.
"It didn't work!"
There was $0 in sales on my dashboard and I was shocked, how has no one bought this?
With only a few days left of my Shopify trial, I decided to turn off my ads, turn off the store, and call it quits.
1 day after launch...
That's all it took to quit.
This was one of the biggest learning curves in my journey when I think back over it.
I learned so much just from this one experience.
I learned that it's not just about the product and the ads.
You need a high-quality product that is positioned in a way that solves your audience's problems.
When I had the ad made on Fiverr, I didn't tell the person to solve problems, I told him to make it look cool.
Secondly, my ad targeting was off - I wasn't targeting people who would need a product like this.
Finally, it's not about the supplier, it's about the convenience to the customer.
Whilst Amazon was able to ship products in 1-day, my store was telling customers to wait up to 45 days to receive their products.
We're in an age where people are the least patient they have been in history.
My mindset was completely screwed as well.
After seeing no success with a single advert that spent £11, I decided to quit.
Business is all about experimenting, it's about trial and error.
Spending £11 was nowhere near what I needed to spend to start seeing results.
I was very scared and fearful of taking risks and losing money.
Those are the main lessons I had picked up from my first ever business.
Here's an article that talks about how you can build a dropshipping business with no money.
After my first failure, I started searching for alternate ways of making money.
I tried very hard to forget about entrepreneurship but I couldn't.
Once you get the itch, you can't get rid of it - you gotta see it through.
I tried to find different businesses, but I couldn't think of any other opportunities.
I was still unsure of how to really come up with business ideas, I didn't know the secrets behind them.
I still believed that to build a business, you just need a product that's never been done before.
This mindset traps a lot of entrepreneurs and leaves them stagnant.
At this point in time, it's almost impossible to build something that hasn't been done before unless you're the smartest person in the world.
The only things that haven't been built are things that go above and beyond our technological capabilities.
As I thought to myself about different businesses, one of my friends introduced me to 'forex trading.'
He told me that there was a 'guru' he payed on a monthly basis who taught him how to trade forex.
He told me that if I sign up and then get a few people to also sign up, I could make money without even trading.
Fast forward to today, that's what you call a pyramid scheme.
My friend had gotten scammed by him and had quit forex a few days after telling me about it.
However, I stuck to it - forex seemed very interesting and so for the following 2-3 months, I made it my mission to learn everything there is about it.
I watched videos, courses, and have a notebook full of forex notes.
Every day, I told myself that once I know how to trade 100%, I would start testing things out on a dummy account.
All along, I had carried my mentality from dropshipping to forex.
I was scared to lose money and so I didn't want to try and fail again.
I started to get worried about failure that I didn't want to take action.
Forex, like dropshipping, was positioned as a get-rich-quick scheme.
There were 'gurus' making $100s of thousands per month trading forex, and that's all I wanted to do as well.
It seemed great, a simple way to earn without any competition.
Turning $10 into $100, $100 into $10,000.
The reality is that this is not how trading forex works.
To trade forex, you need to let your money grow over time, I was learning about flipping money - which is a very risky, short-term way of thinking.
However, most YouTubers and courses talked about forex as a way to make money fast.
No one ever told me that you can't just print money with it.
That's when I started to slowly get wary of YouTubers and gurus.
After my realization, I noticed that I was learning too much, too quickly, and not putting much into action.
There's an abundance of information out there in the world.
Today, to be successful is no longer about who knows the most, it's about who takes action on what they know and protects themselves from fake information.
Everybody on the internet wants to teach you something, it becomes hard to filter out the fakes.
That's what I struggled with whilst learning forex - a lesson I've carried with me till today.
To be successful in any field, there are some principles you need to know, the rest comes from your own trial and error.
Don't listen to everyone you come across, only pick a few people you know are telling you the truth and commit to learning and applying what they teach.
If you go out of your way to learn too much, you will end up fatigued and unable to take action.
This, by far, was one of the worst things I've ever done in my life.
After the 13+ years of school, this was the worst waste of time I've ever made.
For a few months, between dropshipping and forex trading, I was working on growing an 'influencer' Instagram account.
It was another one of those inspirational pages that post about wealth, making money, and motivation.
My intention was to grow the page into a massively influential page that helps entrepreneurs reach the next stages in their journey.
Every day, I would post a single image/carousel that I made on Canva and I was part of engagement groups that are designed to help your Instagram posts rank on the explore page.
Ranking on Instagram's explore page is everyone's goal, everyone's dream because that way you'll be able to get a ton of free exposure and grow much faster.
For a few months straight, I spent a few hours a day growing this Instagram page thinking I was doing enough to reach my goals.
Eventually, I could branch out into things like paid promotion, start new businesses and advertise them on my page, or even do coaching.
However, I had to snap out of the dream I was living when I realized that I have only grown to around 500 followers within 3-5 months.
A ton of pages on Instagram simply buy fake followers, that is not something that I wanted to do because it would not have helped me grow the page.
There's a massive difference between growing a real following and buying followers - the former are actually engaged in your content, ready for you to post daily.
At this rate, it would take ages to reach a level I was happy with, a level where I was growing rapidly.
Instagram is a great place to have an audience, however, the age of growing rapidly has gone away.
It's much harder to grow on social media today than it was a few years ago, or when the platform was much smaller.
However, if I posted on something like TikTok, I could have had millions of followers today.
It's important to build an influence on platforms that don't have as much noise just yet.
Even TikTok is reaching that point right now where it will be very hard to grow until the next social media platform comes out.
On top of this, the content I was posting would never help me build an audience.
I was posting things where I didn't show my face, I was posting things that every other page was also doing.
To grow on social media, you need to be genuine, and you need to stand out.
That's why my blog grew pretty quickly - the content I post is helpful, not just copied and pasted from another place like Forbes.
Secondly, building an audience takes time - it's not an overnight process but it's one of the most important things in the world because an audience can make your dreams come true.
Affiliate marketing, once again, was a very short-lived side hustle.
When I first started out in business, I heard of affiliate marketing.
Although I chose to try dropshipping instead, affiliate marketing was always something I wanted to try because it seemed simple enough.
You just find a product, promote it, and get paid, right?
But that's where all the gurus ended it off.
That's where all the gurus cut it short - they never told us about the rest of the things that go into affiliate marketing.
The things that make the business model look bad.
They only spoke about what got people to pay for their courses.
As I spent a few weeks learning about affiliate marketing, picking products, and building my list of emails, I quickly realized that I was doing everything wrong.
There was a channel on YouTube that explained how to make thousands in extra income per month from affiliate marketing.
It involved picking the product and building a list for free from Google.
Simply search terms for your product on Google, copy the entire Google search result and throw it into an email filter tool.
This will help you find a bunch of emails (illegally I think, under GDPR, etc) that you can then send emails to.
I quickly realized that this will never work.
People, in general, are not stupid.
There are a bunch of fake emails and spammy emails going around and so people have grown immune to these things.
They no longer like receiving spammy emails and can even get you in trouble for it.
Affiliate marketing, like any other business model or side hustle, is real, it works.
However, it only works when you do it right.
Here are 3 main ways it could work for you:
- Build an audience
This is very simple, try to build an audience online.
This was my main goal with the social media page - I wanted to build an entrepreneurial audience to which I can then advertise products.
This is very time-consuming, and will not get you the results you're looking for in the short-term.
- Find an audience
Finding an audience is as simple as building a list of people you want to work with and reaching out to them.
Tell them that you're partnered with [brand name], and you're looking to work with influencers in [niche] to help [audience] with [problem the product solves].
You can either send free products to influencers, or you can pay them to advertise the products with your affiliate link.
- Paid ads
this is the easiest way to get in front of an audience, however, it's also the most expensive and the most complicated.
Paid ads require a skill that is pretty hard to learn.
On top of this, you can lose a lot in the process whilst testing to see what product is good.
Affiliate marketing is not as easy as just finding a product and advertising it.
You need a real, high-quality product, that solves a problem and advertise it to a large audience or a small one that trusts you.
Towards the end of 2020, I restarted my YouTube channel.
Before restarting the channel, I was focused on gaming videos.
I enjoyed posting on the channel, but it was very difficult to get traction which was extremely demotivating considering the time it took to edit and record the videos.
When I restarted the channel, I restarted it in the entrepreneurship and business side of things.
I finally revealed my face to the world online - something I was horrified of doing before because I felt like I was not photogenic.
It took a lot of thinking and pressure to finally make the decision to start making videos like that.
The first few videos were a success.
I was getting quite a lot of views with only 300 subscribers.
After that, the views started to vary massively.
Some videos got hundreds of views, a few got thousands, whilst many got 10s of views.
It was demotivating and very time-consuming.
It took me up to 10 hours per day to fully record and edit each video including the time it takes to transfer videos from my phone to my laptop and the time it took to upload to YouTube.
I didn't think I can keep consistent at this - especially if I was to build a business simultaneously.
I know I've said that comparing yourself to others is bad before, however, I couldn't help myself.
Every day, I saw people on YouTube or social media blowing up from silly content that doesn't help anyone whilst I spent 10s of hours each day posting content that barely got noticed.
I really enjoyed posting content, but I didn't enjoy spending so long on something that gets no traction at all.
I made the decision to put my channel on hold until I could build a business, automate it, and find a balance of time.
That way, I could also post more meaningful content since I would have more real-world experience and knowledge from building real businesses.
When I start posting again, there will be a balance of business, reaction, and gaming videos (I think) because I want to build a fun channel!
During one of my YouTube videos, I started a series on my channel called:
Turning £10 into a six-figure online business.
The plan was to start with a small £10 investment and build my way up to £100K+ per year as a part-time freelancer.
If you check my channel, you'll realize that there was only a part 1 to that video, it was not carried on after that.
This reflects the success of that project.
After getting on Fiverr, I realized that it was going to be very difficult to gain traction on the platform because there are so many others doing exactly what I was doing.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about becoming a successful freelancer on Fiverr.
Had I known those principles I outlined in the article, I would have been able to build that series up.
It was a cool little series idea that got lots of views on its debut video, but I failed to follow through on it.
I never saw myself as a freelancer - I wanted a real business that can be automated.
Freelancing is still trading your time for money.
It's just another way to get a little more freedom with your schedule whilst working from home.
After the COVID-19 virus, a lot of jobs are now 'working from home' and so it's not much different freelancing or finding a full-time job.
As a freelancer, you can switch this side hustle into a full-time business eventually, however, I was much keener on building a real business.
It made me realize that you should not try to force yourself into doing something you're not truly interested in.
If a business is what you want to build, then build one - no matter how long it takes, how many tries it takes, just do it.
This, along with my YouTube channel was around the same time my partner (friend) and I got into building our marketing agency.
This is where year 2 all started.
I will be discussing the other 6 businesses I tried in my second year (year 2) of business and entrepreneurship in a follow-up article.
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