Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.
The past 2 years have been the most challenging time of my life. I went through rough times and faced tremendous challenges. Whoever tells you that the entrepreneur life is a cake walk is probably just messing with you.
When quitting my previous job to commit full time with my online career, I knew it would not always be easy. You can’t expect to be constantly growing in today’s economy without hitting some bumps. And the bumps I’ve hit in the past 2 years were more like brick walls.
Let me give you a quick overview of what happened to my business in that period of time.
1. Associating with the wrong people
Two years ago, I was doing pretty well. My business was growing substantially every month and it felt great. I moved to a new country while keeping my business on the right track. I was planning to start a secondary company in order to develop my own traffic source.
When I arrived in my new place, an old friend from high-school reconnected with me. (I’ll call him M. because I don’t want to out his identity). My online successes were never secret and from what I understood, M. wanted a piece of the action. I was quite skeptical because he had zero experience at being an entrepreneur and no online venture of his own. He’d been living the 9-to-5 life forever, so I was afraid he would not be able to commit. (And boy, was I right).
But M. was a programmer and that’s exactly what I needed to start this new project… So I spent a long time explaining to him that being an entrepreneur is not like a 9-to-5 job, you have to put in crazy hours in the beginning and the return is minimal (i.e. you can’t pay yourself for quite some time). He seemed to understand so I gave him a chance.
We opened the new company and started working on the project. A deadline was set to a couple months later for an Alpha version of the project. Little did I know that he had absolutely no intention of committing to the project as needed. Instead, he kept his 9-to-5 rhythm for a while, then started getting crazy drunk every other day.
Whenever we went to networking events to test the waters for our project, he was bragging about being in a start-up and how we were going to capture people’s data and spam the shit out of them. Let’s just say: super bad image for our project. Instead of getting people excited about it, he was destroying its reputation before the launch.
Fast forward 2 months, he missed the deadline. No surprise there, he was slacking off like crazy. I got him to set a second deadline 2 months later, that he missed. Then a third yet another month later, that he missed as well. I was starting to get pretty pissed that he was not working enough so we had a mild argument. As a responsible adult & entrepreneur, M. stopped working totally during a week after the argument to show me that he didn’t appreciate being scolded. I was like “WTF dude?! You’re already 5 months late.”
And finally, after 7 months of slacking off, M. decided to simply give up on the project.
To top it off, two hours after announcing me that he was quitting, he was having a meeting with a direct competitor to try to get a job while bringing our project with him.
As if it wasn’t enough, I was waiting for the project to be launched to get a visa to settle in that new country. Thanks to my big-time friend M. I never got it and ended up being kicked out of the country.
When looking back at this situation, I realize that nothing good could have come out of this situation. The hints were significant but I discarded them for the wrong reason: he used to be a friend.
M. is the kind of guy we call a “caviar socialist” in France. In other words, he talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. He’s going to argue with you for hours that rich people should pay more taxes in France, yet he lives in a tax haven, is married to an investment banker, doesn’t pay any rent (wife owns the place) and goes on vacation to dream destinations every 2 months (thanks to the wife again). I should have spotted right from the start that he was a leech, but I didn’t.
Here’s another word of wisdom for you: be careful who you’re listening to. Before we launched the company, everyone we knew was like: “That’s awesome, you’re going to do great together“. One year later, the same people were all: “We knew it couldn’t work, you know how M. is… The guy is just a slacker.”
Always do your homework and triple-check everything before going on a joint venture with someone. Especially if they are wantrepreneurs instead of entrepreneurs.
From this point, I won’t get into any joint venture with someone unless they have a proven track record as entrepreneur. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste time and energy on people who want the benefits without putting in the effort.
2. All eggs in one basket
At that point, I was left with a company being closed before even starting doing business, my first company was slowing down because I neglected it while developing the new business, and no place to live because I just got kicked out from the previous country.
While we were working on the new company with M., I left my first one on autopilot: big mistake. The profits decreased slowly but it was still coming in, so I didn’t worry too much. I enjoyed my time while traveling around various countries.
Two months later, I received an email that crumbled my world: the affiliate program that was making 99% of my income got terminated.
I had a panic attack.
I had grown reckless over time, and I didn’t want to see that I was in a very dangerous situation. All my eggs were in the same basket, and in the blink of an eye I lost that basket.
I completely freaked out because I was left with zero income, and it paralyzed me for several months.
3. Downward spiral
When I was making good money, I had decided to grow some side projects and I didn’t stop them when I lost my source of income. As a result, I kept pouring money into them for months.
After a few months of complete paralysis, I started some smaller scale projects to secure a regular income that would be my safety net when I get hit like that a second time. I started building authority sites in a few niches, convinced that SEO would be the key to more security.
The traffic started picking up and I started earning a small income from these sites. But it was not covering the costs involved into developing stellar content and growing a decent audience for them.
In order to decrease my personal spending, I had also moved back to the family home.
After 9 months in the red, reality hit me: my company was bankrupt.
I was back to square one with a few extras: broke, in depression, overweight (thanks to depression, I had put on some weight), and with no business.
4. Getting my shit back together
When you hit rock bottom, you have only 2 options: give up, or go up. (Click to tweet)
I realized that I was not being held down by what happened in the past 2 years, but I was paralyzed by my vision of these events. When you fail big time, it’s not easy to get back on your feet.
My failure looked so big that I was scared shitless of failing again. I was completely depressed, but not yet ready to give up on everything. I still got a shot at life.
First thing was to get my weight back under control. Being a depressed couch potato was not for me anymore.
When I lost my mom, I learned the hard way that when health is not good, other things in your life tends to go wrong as well.
I started eating more healthy and in more reasonable quantities, and doing a little exercise.
Since I took the decision of getting my life back, I’ve been consistently losing between 1.1 and 2.2 lbs per week. To date, I have lost almost 30 lbs and I feel so much better!
When I was eating crap all day long, I was feeling like crap. Now that I eat healthier, I feel a lot more energized and my productivity went through the roof.
the second step was to grow some capital to:
- Cover my minimal living expenses,
- Grow a business again.
To grow some capital fast, there is no better way than CPA arbitrage. Once you get some working campaigns, you can literally blow things up.
The downside is that you need some seed money for hosting, tracking, traffic… So I scraped together all the remaining monies I could find to use as seed money.
Since I was on a very tight budget, whenever possible, I used free trials or $1 trials to get data from tools I needed to build some campaigns. I prepared a list of all the information I needed before signing up anywhere, and watched video tutorials for these tools so I knew my way around before even signing up.
After signing up for the trials, I knew I was on a tight schedule so I was getting all the data that I needed as fast as possible, then canceling my subscriptions before the end of the trials.
Once I had data, I started building some very small campaigns and ran them with limited budgets to optimize them on-the-go while limiting my losses.
I soon hit some winning campaigns that I managed to grow very fast thanks to weekly payment terms with my preferred affiliate networks.
One of the biggest challenges for me is to focus on what brings the best ROI. As online entrepreneurs, there are always new opportunities and new ideas to develop. It’s important to learn to say “no“.
I have new projects’ ideas every single day. But instead of jumping from a project to the other, I’m now focusing exclusively on the tasks that will put the most money in my pockets. I’ll have time for new projects when I won’t have to worry about paying for food anymore.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (Click to tweet)
In the past, I used to build basic CPA arbitrage campaigns: buy traffic cheap, send traffic to offers, make a margin. The problem with that model is that it’s a hit or miss: when traffic stops, so does your income. I made this mistake once before, I’m not going to make it again!
To secure an income, I’m using the capital from my CPA arbitrage campaigns to build some long term assets. The idea is to build 3 websites is specific niches. I plan to use these 3 websites with both SEO and paid traffic. Each of them has their own persona as the face of the website owner. I crafted detailed biographies complete with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts, so the visitors of each site can relate to them and it’s way easier to build an audience.
These 3 websites are still in very early stages because I’m a lot more careful with my capital, but they’re going to be awesome resources for everyone in these niches. When you lose everything once, you learn to manage things better.
5. To sum it up
Shit happened, snowballed from bad to worse, then slow recovery. (Click to tweet)
Well, that’s it for today. It feels both weird to sum up over 2 years of my life in a single blog post, and good to share it with you. I hope you appreciate the blunt honesty in there. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below.
Also, it would mean the world to me if you could use one (or several) of the social network buttons up there to share this article with your friends. Thanks!