For Those Frustrated with Making a Living Online – 28 Business Lessons Learned in the Trenches

For Those Frustrated with Making a Living Online – 28 Business Lessons Learned in the Trenches post image

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Today I’ve posted 28 insightful business lessons from an anonymous friend and internet entrepreneur who generates $80,000 months in sales. He does it 100% online with a fascinating business.

First a quick TMBA Update: Our mastermind group, now called the “Dynamite Circle” is currently accepting 3 new members. You have to apply to join. We’ll open up the public later in the summer. Applications are easy to fill out and are due June 15th, 2011.

See for more information

If you are interested about the future of our mastermind group, I’d LOVE to hear your feedback on our mock-up for a our new product called “The Dynamite Circle.”

Here is the what the mastermind currently is.

  1. A weekly phone call and private forum. Members are TMBA alums and successful internet entrepreneurs.
  2. The call is 1 hour most weeks. Time is 6PM PST Sunday evenings. 10-15 minutes will be the featured participant sharing a focused business problem. The rest of the call will be focused on smart people working through your problem, or trying to improve your current solution. If you can’t make this call, you can apply for “forum only” access.

Our rules:

  1. You must be willing to share your business openly with other members of the mastermind group. An element of trust will be a big part of this. I’ll do my best to weed out sharks and bad people, but there is an element of risk here that you’ll need to take on.
  2. You must be willing to show up and contribute to the group.
  3. You must have a strong Skype connection.
  4. Blog posts or public mentions about other member’s businesses are prohibited, scout’s honor.
  5. You will not be allowed to record phone calls except when other entrepreneur’s are reviewing your site and you have received permission from everyone on the call.
  6. If you find the advice you receive from my organization helpful, you will shamelessly promote every product I ever sell. :P

I work to ensure:

  1. No two accepted businesses will be in direct competition with each other.
  2. Everyone gets structured, kick-ass advice, to the best of the other participant’s abilities.

Ideal candidates for this program:

  1. “Successful” entrepreneurs. I’m not even sure what that means, but we’d like people to join who have some business chops and demonstrated successes. Up and comers (that’s me!) welcome.
  2. Have a business that depends on the web in some fundamental way, and is currently making revenue.
  3. Work regularly with full-time employees, contract workers, or co-founders.
  4. Have useful/marketable skill sets and are excellent communicators.
  5. Feels comfortable putting group advice in to action and showing results in aggressive timeframes.

If you want to apply to be in the mastermind group, please email Dan at Tropical MBA the following:

  1. Tell me in 2-4 sentences + 1 URL what your business does.
  2. Tell me in 2-4 sentences why you think you’d benefit from a mastermind group like this.
  3. Tell me in 2-4 sentences what you believe you’ll bring to the table.
  4. Send me your phone number, or Skype contact ID, so I can call you.

I look forward to working with you,



For Those Frustrated with Making a Living Online – 28 Business Lessons Learned in the Trenches

by Anonymous [Dan: confirmed in person as the real deal! I really love this reader’s attitude and approach to business and life, I wish he would start a blog!]

The post came about just from someone doubting whether you can actually make a good living online… I do and here some key lessons I’ve learned while building my online business.
  1. Don’t canvass the opinions of friends or family unless they have specific experience of what you’re trying to do. Stop listening to other people, because they don’t have much planned for you.
  2. Never watch a video or webinar unless you’re taking notes. It’s very easy to passively watch something because it’s interesting, but it’s only worth your time if you have notes on (a) what you have learned and (b) what your action steps are.
  3. The most dangerous number in business is one. Dont rely on 1 supplier, 1 website, or 1 source of traffic to be viable. When you’re looking for growth in your business, consider the hypothetical situation where you take any component out of your business completely. Then ask yourself how you would survive? For example, if you no longer got any traffic at all from Google, what would you do?
  4. Do more of what works. Sounds simple but isn’t all that common. This might be going to more networking events, building more sites, doing more SEO, or buying more traffic that converts well.
  5. Spend money to save time. Whether it’s an ebook, software, or an outsourced team member make sure you value your time like nothing else. Never buy anything unless it’s vital to your business this week. Don’t fall into the trap of an impulse purchase on the premise that “this could be handy sometime”. Save your money and your time until you really need it.
  6. Your best customer is the one you’ve already got. Chasing new clients or new members is often seen as the path to growth, but retention and appropriate cross and up-selling can be even more lucrative. Nothing is more important than Lifetime Customer Value. Look after your best clients forever. Go to your current existing clients and deliver more value.
  7. There are times when you are going to have to confront people with brutal facts, even people that you have had a good relationship with. A great definition of leadership is “getting people to do what they dont want to, so that they can achieve what they do want to.”
  8. Know your niche. Your passion and knowledge will come through and will also keep you going during the inevitable tough times.
  9. Planning is guessing. You need a long-term strategy, but don’t waste time on detailed long-term financial forecasts.
  10. Outsource as quick as you can but don’t micro-manage your team. That leads to a lack of trust both ways and typically forces them into ‘malicious obedience’ where they only do exactly what is asked and nothing more. Tell them the results you want and why. Explain your goals and vision because people want to be part of a mission, to belong to a bigger cause. Reward the behaviour you want, celebrate success, and catch them doing something right. And if an offshore team member goes silent you need to dig deeper because there is almost always a problem. Don’t waste time on the worst performers– spend that time with your best people so the reward for performance is that time.
  11. Good enough is good enough. Perfectionists are often just procrastinators. Good today is better than great tomorrow because tomorrow never comes.
  12. Use the phone as a relationship building and sales tool. It’s easy to sit behind your computer all day but speaking with people (or meeting them in person) is the way to build a relationship with someone. When you’re in the start-up phase you should speak to every new customer you get (but don’t say to them that this is company policy). Say I really wanted to speak with you today to find out how we can help you and to let you know we value your business.
  13. Survey your customers. It will highlight your strengths (which you can use as sales copy) and it will attract testimonials. But it will also highlight problems that need to be fixed and these are real opportunities for your business to get better.
  14. Pitch your website to a friends. Highlight the 3 most important things about why someone should buy from you. Then take a look at your site and see if those 3 selling points stand out like the proverbial. Often what we are trying to emphasise and what actually appears on the page are two separate things.
  15. Understand that selling is just the process of making it easy to move forward. Your website must solve a problem so you have to know very clearly what that problem is. And remember people love to buy, but don’t like being sold to.
  16. Ideas are worthless. It’s your ability to execute that matters and initiative isn’t nearly as important as ‘finishative’. Nothing happens without a deadline. Set a date and stick to it.
  17. Opportunities are endless. Don’t think that whatever is offered to you today is the chance of a lifetime because they come along at least monthly in this business. Remember the power of no if something doesn’t fit into your business/strategy/personality/whatever.
  18. Partner up with non-competing sites in your industry. People who already have access to your exact target market. Go to where your customers are, slightly upstream or downstream.
  19. Only do a JV if you cant do it yourself. Giving away 50% is a lot. Only do it if there is no other way, for example the person/company has the exact skills needed for a project that you dont have yourself or have affordable access to. And if you do partner up with someone make sure you have a contract in place that covers the worst case scenario. All partnerships end at some point, whether that is months or years so you may as well be prepared for it. “Most partnerships end as sinking ships.”
  20. Systems don’t restrict you, they free you. Eliminate>Automate>Delegate. The business has to work without you, otherwise all you have got is a job.
  21. Always remember WIIFM – Whats In It For me. Whether you’re writing a sales letter or contacting a potential partner just have the perspective of the person on the other side of the table. Understand exactly what you can offer that is of benefit to them. That might be money, exposure, skills they dont have or a number of things but just make sure you have given that plenty of thought.
  22. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take out. Less is more – elegant simplicity.
  23. You don’t have to be the number one world authority on your subject matter. Most people undervalue what they know, but the fact is your market is anyone who knows less than you do.
  24. If you’re building a list have an upsell on the thank-you page. Most people leave this as the standard page provide by Aweber or whoever and miss out on a real revenue opportunity. This is a great spot to sell because the person has already shown they are interested in you. You can actually get paid to build a list.
  25. Remember you are writing to one person not many. Don’t send an email blast that mentions subscribers, or readers or other generic plurals. Use ‘you’ a lot because it is always one person who is reading it and you are communicating directly with that person, not everyone on your list.
  26. Use ‘which means that’ as a prompt when writing your sales copy. After you have mentioned a feature, explain the benefit in more detail by saying ‘which means that’ in your head to further emphasise your point.
  27. Read. Invest in your brain because it’s the best asset you have.
  28. A startup is like pushing a boulder uphill. There’s a huge amount of effort to get to the top, but the momentum you get coming down the other side is incredible.



“Success is like being pregnant. Everyone congratulates you, but no one knows how many times you’ve been fu&*ed.”

Published on 06.08.11
  • Justin Miramontes

    I think I’ll have a lot to offer in a few more months. I just recently decided to leave SEO consulting and develop my ecommerce websites. We did a little over 20k the last 2 months and it’s been really exciting, but I still got a lot to get in order and I’m also not in a position to share my website just yet. Sounds pretty awesome though. Would love to join the forum and share some SEO/PPC tips that are crushin’ it for us.

    PS. If I hear someone say “Ideas are worthless” one more time I’m going to smash this wine glass on their face. :) And then apologize and explain to them why I disagree.

  • Eugene Farber

    “The most dangerous number in business is one” 
    That’s truth! I had a very nice Romanian girl writing some articles for me for a niche site. And she did a wonderful job at an amazing price. I had her start on another project. Which, to be honest with you, I stacked away somewhere in the back of my mind and forgot about. But then I saw some results and contacted her. No replies. 

    The funny thing is that I was contacting to pay her. Oh well…

  • Simona

    the company I work for focus all the objective on new acquisition instead of taking advantage of a good retention strategy…sometimes i feel like money is being trashed out of the window.

  • Damian Thompson

    Mate, there is a book to be written there. I might know a ghost writer or two…

  • Dan

    Actually would be easy for you to meet the guy who wrote this and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from him in only two brief meetings.

  • Dan

    Sometimes “freelance” and “flake” are almost synonyms. 

  • Dan

    BOMB. Justin I’ll have the admin make a sub forum for SEO PPC stuff so we can discuss Ecommerce tactics since I run 4 ecommerce sites as well. 

  • Damian Thompson


    Always jump at the opportunity to learn from “them that’s dunnit”

  • Dan

    Can you send me your email address? 

  • Justin Miramontes

    Fo sho! Damn, couldn’t find your email anywhere on this site or DM you because you’re not following me, haha, you can email me here though


  • Dave Huss

    Use ‘which means that’ as a prompt when writing your sales copy. After you have mentioned a feature, explain the benefit in more detail by saying ‘which means that’ in your head to further emphasise your point.

    Great advice here – customers don’t care about features, customers care about benefits.

    Think about the Apple iPod when it was introduced. If Apple started the conversation with potential customers by talking about how files are encoded on the hard drive the customers would just walk away…why should they care? But if Apple tells them it holds 1000 songs so they can carry all their music in their pocket! Now they are interested. Then Apple shows them that having one makes you cool. Now customers are standing in line for hours waiting to get one.

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