Founder’s Log 091417-01: In The Beginning… The Start of My Online Money Making Adventure.
Welcome my friend!
If you are reading this, then thank you. Thank you for visiting my website and spending your valuable time reading my story. I figured, if I’m going to be journaling my adventures on the road to success, then I might as well start at the beginning. No one wants to start a book in the middle of the story right?
So here is the story of how I came to be an online entrepreneur and how I broke my money milestone. It’s a long story and I’m sorry about that, but I needed to do a lot of catch up and I feel the substance is in the details. Hopefully, it will provide some value and insight for your life.
Chapter 1: In the beginning…
My hero’s calling was a bit late in the game in terms of age. Well, at least I thought so. Perhaps the unknown forces in this universe were trying to call me earlier in life but I was blind to its requests.
I accepted my calling when I was around 27. I can’t remember what day I decided exactly, but my tolerance for sitting in heavily air-conditioned offices and ice cold cubicles had just about reached its peak. It’s like the classic scenario you see in countless movies like Office Space or that movie where Charles Xavier smashes Starlord in the face with a keyboard… you know, that movie called “Wanted.”
It’s a pretty cheesy movie, to say the least, but it starts off with a kid around my age stuck in some Groundhog Day life, returning to some corporate cubicle hell while the boss yells at him for no real reason at all. Of course, this is a glorified version of actual events, but regardless, I could definitely relate. It’s not until the Hero’s mentor, Angelina Jolie comes in to save the day and rescues him from the toxic unfulfilling lifestyle and mentors him to greatness.
Altho the movie kinda got weird from there, the beginning is a great example of how life is for the majority of people in this world and, before that moment, I was one of those people.
Before I realized I needed to make some serious life changes if I wanted actual success in life, I was just coasting my way through life waiting for some outside force like Angelina to save me from my pathetic existence.
My mindset was broken in a several ways.
- I was banking on someone else, like my employer, to make me rich. I thought if I worked hard enough and long enough, eventually I could get a big enough raise to be well off.
- I thought you had to have money to make money.
- I thought I could succeed by doing the bare minimum.
Those are the three things that really stymied my ability to succeed. That’s it, it was my mindset. Not lack of money or resources, it was my mindset.
Perhaps I got it from my childhood experience growing up in a lower class, low income household. Who knows? That’s not to say my parents sucked or anything. No definitely not! My parents are amazing. They have always shown me 100% unconditional love and gave me a wide range of knowledge and strong moral values which define me today. The unconditional love and strong moral values are what I think are most important in the development of a child. I wouldn’t trade my parents or my childhood experiences for the world.
With that said, there were a lot of things I did learn from my parents growing up, but finance and business were not really one of them. Because of this, I may have adopted the mindset that rich people are born rich and I could never be on that level of success. And I certainly don’t blame that mindset on anyone but myself. I know now that I am accountable for everything that happens to me in life. But it was that poor mindset I created for myself that hindered my ability to succeed. Luckily I eventually had the opportunity to take the red pill and enter the matrix.
So let’s talk about the Matrix…
Chapter 2: Taking the Red Pill
So what changed my mindset?
I guess if it comes down to one thing, it would be the meeting of someone my age who was much more successful in just about every way…. my new boss.
I had just been hired as a Web/Graphics Designer for a marketing firm in Scottsdale, AZ. It was a great gig, don’t get me wrong. But the guy who was running the shop, signing my paychecks, driving around in nice cars, going on trips to Vegas with a beautiful girlfriend every other weekend in a private jet was a guy who was pretty much the same age as me.
I couldn’t help but be in awe of someone who had achieved so much at such a young age. And it wasn’t like it was a family-owned company passed down from generation to generation. This was built from scratch.
Needless to say, I was completely envious of that lifestyle at the time. Shortly after realizing the history and operation of his success, I realized something and said to myself, “I am no different. If he can do it, so can I!”, “I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to figure this stuff out!”
And I did what any motivated person would do at a time like that… I turned to the trusted source I always turn to in times of need… the internet of course!
That’s when I started actually taking action.
I started to research stuff like:
- “How to make money online”
- “Starting an online business”
- “Affiliate marketing”
- “Passive income”
- “Starting an E-commerce business”
- “Online marketing”
I looked for anything business related that would help me start making money or start a profitable business that I can be passionate about with little to no money to start.
Yeah, no money, because I had no money. Heck, I was in debt and struggling, living paycheck to paycheck.
That’s when I found people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Pat Flynn, Jason Van Orden, Jeremy Frandsen, Joe Polish, Seth Godin, Ramit Sethi, just to name a few, who helped me think about stuff in different ways and shift me into a positive and successful mindset.
Researching and reading websites, Reddit posts, books, and watching videos about online business and marketing helped a ton to get started, but out of all that the medium, what helped influence me the most was…. podcasts.
Podcasts were perfect. They were 100% free and I could listen to them every day for 30-40 minutes a day while I was stuck in traffic going to the job I didn’t want to go to. Business and marketing podcasts like Internet Business Mastery, Smart Passive Income Podcast, and I love Marketing Podcast helped motivate me to take action and informed me about what I could do to get started.
I needed all the help I could get because I had no money, minimal experience, and was starting from scratch. No mentors or outside help. (In hindsight, I should have asked my old boss to be my mentor, but he was busy enough as it was).
The only thing I had going for me was my drive to learn and my experience in web design and development. That definitely helped reduce the cost of things, but if you are reading this and don’t have any experience with design or development, don’t let that stop you because you really don’t need to be a pro to get started. Setting up a website these days is all plug and play with WordPress and creating graphics can easily be designed with programs like Canva or Gimp if you don’t have enough money to hire someone. I will explain more about how to do that in other posts.
Back to my story…I had everything I needed to get started but there was a problem, I still didn’t start. Well not right away. Perhaps it was the abundance of information. Or perhaps I was still afraid. But I got stuck in what’s called “analysis paralysis.”
Chapter 3: No Action, No Results.
The basic definition of analysis paralysis is: “Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.”
Starting a business, or pursuing your passion is extremely scary. The last thing any of us want to do is spend our hard earned time and money only to fail and come out with nothing. That’s the mindset most people have. It seems, by nature, humans are afraid to fail. But the ones who are most successful are the ones who fail the most.
Failure is just something that happens from time to time, but when you fail it’s not like you are left with nothing. Failure may leave you broke, but failure gifts one of the most important things in life and that’s experience.
Being stuck in analysis paralysis is essentially just being afraid to fail. Your mind nitpicks everything, trying to make sure everything is perfect before you begin.
With an online business, your mind will struggle and try to stop you from taking action because things aren’t perfect. Thoughts will eat at you telling you your product isn’t perfect or even original, or that the market is over-saturated, or your domain isn’t the best, or your logo or the design of your website is not as beautiful as you would like.
There are so many things that you want to be perfect. No matter what you do, the problem is: it will never be perfect enough. And if it is, you’re too late.
That was me. I didn’t take action because I wanted the “perfect” product/niche that was guaranteed to make money. I wanted to be the next Edison who invented the light bulb. When I finally realized I wasn’t going to be the next Edison overnight, I found a niche I actually liked. But I didn’t take action because I demanded Hollywood-level quality with my website, graphics, videos, and blog posts. I figured no one would want to visit my website if it wasn’t professional looking. Although design matters, it doesn’t matter as much as you think.
It took me a while to figure this out. The mindset you need to have is to take action now and refine later. Yeah, this is common sense to a lot of you who are in the matrix but overall…. JUST DO SOMETHING!
Just like how the podcasts allowed me to shift my mindset to optimism and success, here is a video that kinda changed my mind to finally get me to get out of my analysis paralysis and actually do something.
Chapter 4: Comfort is the Enemy of Progress.
Well, I started to take action. I thought I was being as productive as I could be, but in hindsight, I was half-assing it. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted all the freedom and fortune and the grand idea of having the title of a founder or entrepreneur, but the problem was I wasn’t struggling or starving enough to do any real work. Even though I disliked my cubicle hell, I was so comfortable and secure at my current job, I chose to hang out with friends and to be social after my day job rather than working on my business.
I wasn’t struggling enough to truly want it, but I guess some higher power was listening because that’s when something happened that changed my life dramatically.
After working there for a while and not gaining any traction with my half-assed side business adventures (go figure), I realized how much I had dug myself into debt. I came to the conclusion that the only way out was to make more money and that my old company wasn’t paying me enough so I decided to apply for a job with a company that wanted to pay me the money I thought I deserved.
I decided to chase the money and was quickly hired by a larger more corporate marketing firm even closer to where I lived in Phoenix, AZ. Man, I felt great! I negotiated my salary with determination, they accepted, and they rolled out the red carpet while providing me all the bells and whistles I could wish for.
Unfortunately for me, the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.
Not even two weeks in, I started to regret my decision. Promises made were broken and, long story short, I ended up working much longer hours with tight deadlines, and well…the pay… wasn’t much more than my last job due to the number of extra hours required. On top of that, I had 3-4 bosses telling me all sorts of different things and I was working around a bunch of frightened, nasty people who would throw each other under the bus because they just went through a massive firing/rehiring, and everyone was on edge thinking they would get canned next.
I thought it was bad before, but now I was in literal corporate hell.
Needless to say, at this time in my life, I had to take real action. There’s nothing like having a fire burn under your ass working in a toxic environment to give you the motivation to get moving.
With the added motivation of hating my job now, I would go home every day and experiment building websites that hopefully turned into a profitable business.
I started creating affiliate website targeting niches in specific industries that I thought might be profitable. I tried doing keyword research and SEOs so the sites would rank in Google. I also tried hosting re-seller programs and a couple of affiliate e-commerces.
I also listened to this podcast episode where this couple talked about how they bought cheap stuff at Walmart and discount stores and flipped them on Amazon FBA for a profit. So I tried that for a little and I think I broke even. But couldn’t help but think how foolish I looked going to random places, using my phone to scan random products I thought would be good deals, buying them and then re-selling them. I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing?”
I quickly got bored and quit because I had no passion for the work and the sites made no money.
Maybe some people have the dedication to work hard on things they don’t care about, but not me. I need something to work on that I can be passionate about while giving value to this world.
I failed multiple times building sites that didn’t make a profit, but overall l learned so much in the process. It was hard and I was getting a bit discouraged.
And then the worst happened…
Just when I didn’t think things could get worse for me, I guess my attitude and vibe of not wanting to be around that toxic company was pretty apparent, and they pulled me aside not even 3 months after starting, and let me go.
I was shocked. I didn’t expect it and I had minimal money saved to survive. I officially hit rock bottom.
I remember not being allowed to go back to my cubicle to get my things, and once again, like in the movies, they handed me a box full of my stuff and security escorted me to the door. I think I went through all the stages of grief.
- Denial – “No, you’re not firing me, this is a joke, right?”
- Anger – “ You can’t fire me! It’s not my fault!”
- Bargaining – “C’mon, just give me another chance, I’ll do better.”
- Depression – “Wow what am I going to do now…”
- Acceptance – “Wow this is for real.”
It was rough because I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps they saw my screen while I was working and saw that I was applying for different jobs. Yeah, who knows. I really knew deep down I didn’t want to be there and it was more of a blessing than a curse, now that I think about it.
Sitting in my car in the parking lot, contemplating what to do next, I told myself out loud that day, “I would never put myself in that position again.”
I realized a lot of things that day.
- I realized I need to stop being mediocre.
- I realized I needed to take my career and finances seriously.
- I realized I need to focus on the long-term game.
- I realized I need to stop relying on just one source of income for survival.
I was ready for a change.
Chapter 5: When Preparation Meets Opportunity
Losing that job made quite a hit to my self-esteem. Regardless of the reasons, experiences like that make you start to think some crazy stuff. It hurts your pride. It makes you think you are worthless. It can diminish your character….if we let it.
I’m a pretty resilient person so it didn’t take long for me to bounce back.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
Luckily for me, I have a pretty solid online design portfolio that I created over time that I can always fall back on to get a Graphic Design/Web Dev job somewhere. Because of this, I was able to grab another stepping-stone-job at a sign shop to pay the bills. My salary was cut in half, but I didn’t care. I would just cut my expenses in half and work twice as hard to make this business thing work.
And that’s what I did. A month or so after working in the new job, I was on my way to work one morning and was listening to a Smart Passive Income podcast where Clay Collins and Pat Flynn were talking about the new theme marketplace Clay’s business Leadpages.net had just opened up.
When I got to work, I immediately checked it out and there were only about 10 themes available in the marketplace and they were accepting submissions for authors to create more themes.
I’ve thought about submitting to theme marketplaces in the past as I had the skills but the ROI never really excited me enough to take action. I’m sure I was missing out on a lot of money, but Themeforest.net is a pain to get approved; it takes 30%-50% of your theme sales and is super-saturated.
However, this new Leadpages marketplace looked like it had all the things aligned for a perfect money-making opportunity, I felt like I was providing value, and that made me happy.
- There’s a starving audience who use Leadpages and need more themes.
- The marketplace had only 10 themes and was not oversaturated yet.
- I can design a much better product than what’s currently on the market.
- And bonus, they were giving away 100% of theme sales. No take on their part.
Those 4 things made me jump for joy at the opportunity and I quickly learned how to code for their platform and submitted my first template as soon as I could.
I took action!
I studied the options, noticed they didn’t have any app-themed landing page templates and designed one, put a price of $10 on it, and submitted it. I was a little skeptical and unsure of what was to come, but the next morning I checked my stripe merchant account and saw $30 had been deposited into my account.
One template sold 3 times!
If there was a camera on me at that time, it would show me sitting there looking ridiculous with a huge ear-to-ear smile on my face.
I had finally surpassed the money milestone and I said to myself… “This was it…this is my way out.”
Chapter 6: Peddle to the metal
From that moment on, I worked day and night creating template after template. Not only did I like the work, I liked that the more I worked, the more money I made.
Best of all, the work was creating passive income. I created a theme and submitted it and it would literally make money while I slept. But that’s not to say it was 100% truly passive. I did have to update it from time to time and answer the occasional support messages.
After the first month of creating more themes and submitting them to the marketplace, I made around $800 in sales.
I kept making landing page templates and each month my income grew and grew as more templates were made. My speed for making the templates increased and I started perfecting a system.
6 months down the line and am up $30,000 in template sales.
When it hit that high for a couple months, I realized that it was enough for me to take the plunge, quit my job, and focus on creating, developing, marketing, and selling more themes to build my theme empire and possibly launch my new life of an online business entrepreneur.
I am not going to lie, I should NOT have quit my new job so early. But I was sick of doing the mind-numbing work and part of me just wanted to do it, just to do it to say I was finally free, to finally be my own boss and make something of myself. It was a rush and I was itching to build something great. I also knew I could easily get another job if this thing didn’t work out.
So I took the plunge and things were good, but still, I was afraid. I knew I might have just been lucky and that this business wasn’t a real business. I knew I was relying on someone else’s platform and one little change could make me broke in a day. They could decide the marketplace was too much of a hassle and remove it, and I would be stuck at square one – broke, with no job.
I kept reminding myself of what I said to myself when I was sitting in my car fired from that corporate hell marketing job.
“I will never put all my eggs in one basket again.”
And that’s when I realized I needed to diversify my passive income portfolio if I was going to survive.
Chapter 7: Growing & Evolving
What I was currently doing online was really no different than what I was doing working for someone else. In fact, it might have been worse. Why? Because I still had only one source of income and the environment was more unstable.
Yep… I decided I needed to diversify my income and generate a portfolio asap.
That’s when I created my theme website Markeazy.com. I set up this website to help market my themes but also to help me acquire more service-based business and utilize affiliate income.
Affiliate marketing is amazing. If you are new to affiliate marketing, it’s basically this: You promote other people’s stuff and get paid for it. That’s awesome! And of course, being the moral person I am, I only promote things I stand behind. That’s a must if you are doing affiliate marketing and want to give value in this world. Greed will get you nowhere, in my opinion.
That’s what I did to help fork my channels of income and this is how I did it.
Affiliate Marketing Strategy
I built markeazy.com to help open up another channel for theme sales, but also to open up a channel to use affiliate marketing strategies.
Originally, I thought that I would just make that site to help market theme sales and maybe provide some helpful resources like Aweber and Hostgator for Leadpages customers. But then I realized I could attach a custom affiliate link to each theme on my website. When someone bought my themes from my site and bought a new Leadpages subscription, I would earn double the sales.
The affiliate income from a SASS business is the best because it’s not just a one-off sale, it’s recurring revenue every month the customer holds on to the subscription. The affiliate sales from the SASS companies are where it is at.
Also FYI, there are multiple disclaimers on my website for anyone to see that there are affiliate links all over, so they know what they are getting into. Not only is this required to be legal, but it is morally right. I made sure the information was available and people are aware.
Custom landing page service business
Secondly, I opened up a custom landing page service business where I created custom landing pages for people to use Leadpages at a premium price. Well, I would create custom landing pages to be used anywhere, but the majority of people wanted custom Leadpages themes.
I was making passive income and wanted to continue building that as much as I could. I really wasn’t interested in trading my hour for dollars still, but it helped me build a network of paying clients and I gained more insight into what kind of themes to build for the marketplace. I would only take on those I felt were valuable in the marketplace.
Besides that, I would only take on the custom theme dev project if I felt the theme would do well in the marketplace and if they were ok with me rebranding the design to my own and selling it in the marketplace. Most of the time they would agree.
It was pretty good and I got Leadpages let me promote my website and service at the bottom of each landing page in their marketplace. I quickly updated my landing pages in their marketplace to reflect that.
Chapter 8: Adapting to Survive
Well, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end eventually. It was a great ride while it lasted and I’m still reaping the rewards of passive income from those themes, but it’s not at the level it was at its peak. Since then, Leadpages has gone through tremendous changes. I knew this day would come and I tried to prepare for it the best I could but it still hurts a little. My Leadpages passive income theme sales are minimal.
Overall, I was able to make over $124k in just passive income theme sales. Not bad I’d say for taking action!
Since then, Leadpages has changed their editor significantly and switched their focus within the theme marketplace. They have changed the marketplace and are not accepting any third party devs. With the changes, my theme sales have all but dried up. They are replacing the older themes with new free themes for the drag-and-drop editor.
This is why you never rely on one source of income, be it a job or with your business. This is especially true of an online business because things are constantly changing and you need to learn to adapt or die.
Luckily for me, I have experience, the mindset, the drive, and the motivation. Currently, I have focused on a more service-based business to build custom websites and landing page themes for Leadpages itself and Leadpages customers. (Because of my success, they have hired my company to design new themes for their new builder.)
Along with a few passive income sales from the themes I created in the Leadpages marketplace, I have affiliate earning coming in from businesses I’ve promoted like Leadpages, and others.
I plan to keep growing myself and my business and creating websites and products of value. This is something that I am in complete control of because, just like what happened to my themes in Leadpages marketplace, you never know when that marketplace or another business you rely on is going to die out and if you don’t adjust yourself for the long-term game, then you will be outplayed.
Chapter 9: The Future
So what lies ahead for me?
That’s exactly what this website, projectfounder.com, is all about. I am very optimistic about the future if I keep grinding it out and playing it smart. I am constantly keeping my mind educated, open, and I am on the lookout for something new. So I am not too worried about it. I’m a pretty “lucky person.”
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity“
Well, that is my story. I hope it provided you with proper context to understand where I am currently on my entrepreneurial journey and I hope it gave you some insight and motivation for your journey. If you open your mind, educate yourself, and take action, doors will start opening.
Although I am not at all at the level of success I want to be, achieving greatness is not easy. It takes blood sweat and tears and I know with enough grinding, I will get there someday. But follow me or check back on this website once in a while and see how I am doing on my journey. I am currently doing a lot of freelancing at the moment, but transitioning and building more websites to make more passive income.
Who knows what will happen, but I will keep posting journal entries here so keep on the lookout for the next posts.
If you read all this then wow, thank you! Let me know what you think in the comment section below and cheers to success my friends!