Okay, that was overly dramatic. I actually really enjoyed my time out of the country. I saw some amazing places in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Colombia, I made more friends in six months than I made in the prior decade, became fluent in Spanish, and improved my health a little (I could work almost THREE hours a day, haha). It gave me a lot of perspective, and I’ve been a WAY happier person since.
I also made the leap to doing something I had always been really uncomfortable about doing—hiring cheap laborers overseas. My average worker now gets paid $400 per month instead of $4,000 per month! They are almost as good as my prior workers, and in some ways they are better.
What’s Happened Since…
Since the crash of my second internet business at the end of 2016, I have had to reinvent EVERYTHING. I had to start something that I couldn’t be personally involved in when it comes to the day-to-day grind. I was limited to being a leader and delegator exclusively with a max work capacity of just 10-15 hours per week. I was horrified of hiring people and paying them a lot like I did in the past, so I hired as few as I could and paid them a much safer salary that was only ~20-30% of the revenue coming in each month.
The first new project I started was a site providing a done-for-you advertising service for authors called BookAds.
I started out with tons of excitement as BookAds looked to be a major breakout success, quickly scaling up to over $20,000 per month in just a few months. But soon after I became 100% certain that it would grow to become my first 7-figure website, the negative reviews started pouring in.
We grew too quickly, too soon for sure.
But the REAL PROBLEM is that we were offering to help people advertise their “products” without screening those products. Most books are turds folks, and you can’t market a turd. Believe me, we tried. But unless a book has 100+ reviews, is totally professional in every way, is in a hot category, is a fairly new release, and is already selling dozens of copies per day on its own, there’s really not much that can be done to significantly alter its fate. As I often say when I see a book that has no shot at ever selling, “Damn, even Oprah couldn’t sell that shit!”
And because we weren’t able to change the fate of Memoir About Nothing by Nobody and similar feeble attempts at publishing, we made a lot of people unhappy. It was yet another painful experience, and it has taken us an entire year to patch things up and get BookAds thriving again. While it will never be a 7-figure website, it’s a success—profitable every single month since it was launched over a year ago. And I’ve still only got ~200 hours of my time invested into it.
In many ways, BookAds was the perfect business (I averaged about $3,500 per month working only 2-3 hours a week), so I decided to try it again with a book cover design service, 100 Covers.
Trying to run a book cover business was going to be tough. I’ve never designed a book cover. I’m not an artist. I’ve never even opened Photoshop.
So instead I focused on what I could do:
- Find great people to hire
- Help those people boost their professional potential
- Create an amazing work environment conducive to excellent creative work
- Make customers as happy as possible
- Track the numbers
- Market the thing
It was INSANELY fun! And I found that there were actually many advantages to not knowing how to do the work that was being offered as a service. I was forced to focus on what actually makes a business successful—building a team, leading a team, and doing everything in my power to give customers the ultimate experience. And very slowly and cautiously marketing the business.
And, after working for just 5 hours per week on average for a little less than a year, I’ve got a website making thousands of dollars of profit per month (revenue jumped from $700 in February to $13,675 in December), customers are happy and keep getting happier as the quality of the work keeps progressing, my workers call it their “dream job,” and I’ve planted the seeds of something that can grow to be really special in a couple years. All this happened on fewer than 50 website visits per day. There is PLENTY of room to grow.
All that’s required to be successful is to learn the keys to hiring and inspiring a few low-wage workers to do great work, provide that work as a service to clients, go out of your way to make customers happy, and slowly market the thing as the team develops more speed and skill at their craft.