Questions and Answers For Location Independent Entrepreneurs

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Questions and Answers For Location Independent Entrepreneurs post image

In this article I’ve answered some of the reader questions I received over the last few days (I sent an email to readers who are on the mailing list). If you did ask a question, you can find my first reply by searching (CTRL + F) for your first name.

I’m happy to discuss your issue further, either in the comments or privately. Think of my response as a jumping off point (and with a grain of salt for that matter!). Thanks for reaching out and dropping me a note!

For those of you just browsing by this long post, you might find this article a slog. There could be some interest in seeing how entrepreneurs approach problem solving, and also to see the pains and frustrations that exist in the marketplace.

Below I might write with a more flip tone than normal because I’m moving fast. I don’t mean to disrespect anybody. There will be a lot of typos and bad jokes. Apologies! I also tossed a few pictures in of the past few months to break up all the word action.

If you can’t find your question, or if you don’t think I’m being useful, feel free to drop me a line or drop it in the comments below.

Here’s an epub version of this post. Here’s a PDF. For posts like this, I often use Instapaper.

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You have a number of books that you’ve been talking up, like Start With WhyWork the SystemRockefeller Habits, et al and they sort of tetris together into a larger whole. I started with Work the System, and it didn’t grab me that much… until I read Start With Why. Now that I explicitly know my Why, it informs my Strategic Objective and my Principals document, etc. So: What’s the best order to read them in?  Thanks for everything – Josh Skaja 

I’ve been sitting on publishing a massive reading list for almost a year, but since you’ve challenged me, I’ll put a flag in the sand. Here’s a list of 10 of my favorite business books to read in order. I’m thinking of utility and application when it comes to business here:

  1. Four Hour Work Week (Mental operating system RE: society and lifestyle).
  2. Getting Things Done (Getting your shit in order and dealing with tons of information).
  3. How to Get Rich (Mental operating system RE: business, dealmaking, and grit).
  4. Getting Real (Staying small and tight while you learn about your marketplace).
  5. The No BS Guide to Direct Marketing (No money, no business).
  6. The Ultimate Sales Machine (No money, no business).
  7. Start with the Why (Long ball thinking).
  8. Good to Great (Long ball thinking).
  9. Work the System (Get leverage and automate the mess you’ve made).
  10. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Learn how to be a leader, or at least try).

I just launched (today) my new podcast called Bootstrapped Web. What is your process for preparing each episode of LBP?  How do you come up with show topics?  How much of each show is scripted vs off the cuff?  Do you record once per week, or do you record a bunch all at once and schedule them in advance? Cheers, Brian

Congrats! I have a document linked on my bookmarks toolbar called “Podcast.” Inside that document there is our recording checklist that looks like this:

  1. Turn on Caffeine App
  2. Use “Better Touch Tool” to Split Screen Audacity and Podcast Sheet
  3. Flip on test audio.
  4. Are your levels between .5 and .7?
  5. If you don’t talk, is the audio level completely flat?
  6. Test your audio.
  7. Listen back. Are you sure the input is from your best quality mic?
  8. Does your mic have pop guard or situated away from your mouth?
  9. Confirm your computer is not plugged in and away from ungrounded outlets.
  10. Turn your phone in the vibrate position

This checklist prevents us from screwing up our recordings, which is something we used to do all the time back in the day. Either we were using the wrong mics, or had electrical interference, or similar oversights.

Regarding coming up with content I have a similar form. During the week preceeding the show (and realistically, the day before) I fill out a document that has sections like this:

  1. Title
  2. Joke
  3. Stick around to the end…
  4. Shouts
  5. News
  6. Meat and Potatoes (sometimes like a 5 point checklist, outline, quotes, etc).
  7. Just the tips.
  8. Song.

Generally Ian and I talk about the show for 30 minutes to 1 hour before we record. I don’t really know how we come up with topics. Part of the reason we don’t interview people is that our travel schedules make it difficult to schedule guests. Instead, we were forced to talk about what we knew each week rather than relying on guests. I’d love to say coming up with content has gotten a lot easier, but it really hasn’t. We still struggle to come up with ideas and keep it fresh. Having a weekly deadline is probably the smartest thing we ever did creatively.

DC Party

DC Berlin Opening Party

Where do you go for inspiration? Sometimes I am super eager to get on and create more value but the problem I find myself in is that I don’t know what to work on! Kind regards, James

I read a book, take a walk, or take a run. I am an Audible.com and Amazon.com super user. Over the past year or so I’ve been taking a deep dive into history books. They inspire me because you get to listen to people contending with incredible struggles that had massive implications for others. I find it helps put my own struggles into perspective, and gestures towards higher principles I could aspire to in my work.

Lately I’ve been enjoying reading all of Stanley Karnow‘s stuff– check out Vietnam : A HistoryIn Our Image : America’s Empire in the Philippines, and Paris in the 50’s

I also try follow my natural inclinations for what I find interesting. I don’t read or watch things because I’m “supposed to.” I often think of the famous anecdote of Steve Jobs studying calligraphy and that innate interest finding it’s way into his business really resonates with me. There’s something compelling about following people and businesses who express a real passion and investment in the things they do.

Not knowing what to do from a creative perspective is pretty normal, I like David Allen’s speech where he talks about being calm and decisive in the middle of a storm. A pre requisite for that is having your ship tight. Once you are organized you can go make messes and go on adventures.

If all else fails, call your competition and try to chat with them about business.

I was recently in Japan for a couple of months working on organic farms. I intended to keep a blog about the trip but didn’t write a damn thing. I’m glad I didn’t need to do actual work while I was there. How do you get any work done when you’re traveling? Is it sheer discipline or what? – Brad

If you’d rather work on farms than do your ‘real’ work, it’s not a bad litmus test for how important your work (or aspirational project) is to you. Rather than finding ways to velco yourself to the office chair, focus on something you truly want to go pro at. If getting hours on your project is a consistent losing game for you, try to find one you can make some small wins at and start getting momentum. If “blogging your trip” is too much to get started, try “micro-blogging your trip” or similar.

If you want to travel for the long term, it makes sense to find work that your travels contribute to rather than detract from. I find that I write well while on the road because I’m not so distracted by people and phone calls, and I’m inspired by the new settings and interactions taking place.

This spring I spent a few weeks in Europe where I put away my laptop for the first time in years, but generally what brings me the most joy isn’t seeing the temple in a new place, but seeing the coffee shops and hanging with local entrepreneurs, which generally keeps me more or less productive while on the road.

How [do you] find sources for products and how you research physical products to have made – Nate

For years we’ve had an implicit “niche selection algorithm” that we use for our business– a checklist that helps us determine whether or not an opportunity is a good one for our business. In our product business that generally looks like: must be primarily steel work, must be over $300 retail price, must be 15 million market cap, etc. Until last night we never formally wrote it down (thanks for the question!?), and even now there’s still a lot of “experienced scoping” out of stuff everywhere we go. I still stop off in malls, and at gas stations and look at stuff and wonder if we can make something better. Still the most important heuristic for us is “Rip, Pivot, and Jam.”

Once we’ve found a product category we think could be a winner, we start pounding the pavement via web searches and services like Alibaba.com to find the original manufacturer (not agents) to pull our pricing together. We try to get real people on the phone ASAP.

I would like to know some of your ideas on in-person marketing. My target market is brick-and-mortar stores with fewer than 5 locations, and I’m having a very hard time coming up with phone numbers to call … I’ve resolved that the only way to market effectively (except for cold emailing, which I’m doing but seeing a very very low response rate. We all know the definition of insanity…)… Should I try to pitch on the spot, or schedule a meeting for later? Thanks, and keep hustlin! – Joel

Keep in mind that what you are describing sounds like extremely high customer acquisition costs, so the first step is to ensure your product is profitable enough to justify such a hard hustle. If so, the next step would be to develop an ‘approach’ script similar to what the guys in the Game did and go to an industry trade show or gathering.

It’s tempting when we start new businesses to focus on “bad” customers– i.e., people who could benefit so much from your services because they have no idea about them and haven’t even started to think about implementing them. I’m thinking in particular of the local SEO market and other similar marketplaces– I’d skip these altogether. It’s a much better play to sell SEO to SEO pros for example, than to local businesses who barely understand it. Companies who are educated and used to seeing ROI on this type of stuff– and not to mention have a budget– they’ll also help you evolve your product faster.

Whereas a local SEO or marketing business is mostly about finding clever ways to acquire and retain uneducated, uncaring, and under-budgeted customers, starting a high end marketing firm could put you in a spot to develop something truly interesting for the marketplace.

… my financials tells me I’m making decent margins, turning over 5 figures last month… I’m chasing my tail regarding payments etc. I’m for the most part bootstrapping and don’t really take much out for my own expenses I understand its pretty normal to be skint as a start up, but how long does this kinda thing actually tend to last and is there anything I may be doing wrong or missing. I’m toying with the idea of a ~5% price increase because I suffered that from one of my key suppliers but didn’t pass it on. You can have a peak at the site at www.frozenreptile.co.uk if you wanna see one of the weirder niches! Kindest Regards – Dan

You gotta drill down into your margins and your accounting. Although things are generally tight when you run an inventory business, that doesn’t mean you can’t create “hope” on paper. What most small business owners find when they sit down and take a hard look at their books is they aren’t making enough margin. Might be time to re-evaluate from the top level too– take a 40,000 ft shakedown and ask yourself the big questions– for help doing this check out The Personal MBA (here’s some Cliff’s notes courtesy of Derek Sivers).

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A view from the Dominator’s condo in HCMC

…how did you and Ian made a start? How did you guys overcome the first difficulties like lack of time and expertise. I assume there was a “Just Do It!” attitude involved, but I’d like to hear about what difficulties you faced at the very beginning (this is kinda where I am now) and how you mastered them. So keep it up guys, I am looking forward to your mail. – Max

I’d like to say it was all grit and determination, but I’m not sure. We all seem to screw up our own stories. One thing that motivated me was that I was financially desperate. I needed to create a business that worked out. I knew that my career would never give me the type of wealth I wanted. I could go on making six figures for a decade and never have the ability to spend 6 months in China taking on projects that interested me. Given how much energy and time I was giving to my job, it didn’t seem like a reasonable trade.

One thing we really struggled with was our initial partnership. You can hear a little about it here. We struggled with our mutual understanding and what everyone brought to the table, and what the medium to long term implications of that agreement would be (we started with a third partner as well).

We struggled with cash flow and making money. Rice and beans for years man! Take that vacation or hire an employee? Buy nice stuff or buy more inventory?

It wasn’t that those were outright difficult decisions to make– it just took a lot of getting used to from my old employee mindset. Here I was making cash investments that wouldn’t pay me back (potentially) for years! I was the guy used to getting the paycheck and running to buy something.

It’s an odd thing making consistent and daily long term investments– in both your time and cash– while you’ve got a lot of immediate needs. You’ve got to find a way to keep the stress of your immediate needs to not show in your business, where they’ll poison your strategic thinking and your relationships with your customers.

I’d like to make a niche specific site that sells high end suit accessories. What kind of timeline or milestones alert a blogger to the “It’s time to start turning readers into customers” moment. Are there any sneaky tests I can do to find out the quality of my user base? Keep killing it – Andrew

I like your high-end approach. As a general rule the audience at the top end is more likely to act. I’d ensure you start with a lazer focus out of the gate– better to focus on “men’s ties” than “menswear.” If you have success in the first category you can always parlay your success into a broader brand. In fact, this is probably the #1 mistake new brands make– trying to start to broad in order to accommodate future growth. That’s a tragic mistake that often doesn’t get noticed until you are a year in and not seeing the results you need to survive.

Regarding testing your marketplace– why not make your journey to source the best products and stories a part of your content marketing? You’ll see right away what types of things your readers and interested in.

Where do you think the hottest trends in niche site topics are occurring? I am participating in the Niche Site Duel 2.0 that Pat Flynn is currently running and could really use some help on a category of keywords to start searching. I have done a lot of research on what to do once a set of keywords are identified but there doesn’t seem to be much info about finding the keyword category in the first place. Thanks again and take care, – Jo-Ann

I’d forget about all the mini niche site stuff unless you plan on making a business out of your process– in other words, unless you plan on building out your niche site portfolio at scale.

If your plan is to ‘pick a winner’ try the following:

  1. Is the market growing?
  2. Are the incumbents making good money?
  3. Can I bring a sustainable and profitable edge int the marketplace over the next 1-3 years?
  4. Can I imagine myself on-stage at the industry leading conference within 3-5 years (does it pass the “on stage test.”
  5. Use keywords only as a litmus test for market size and interest, keyword competition isn’t of so much interest for an idea that passes the on-stage test (because of the timeframes involved), but for a niche site portfolio it would be a more important consideration.
  6. If so… GO!
  7. Mess up. Learn stuff.
  8. GO AGAIN!

Regarding trends: some of the most interesting ones are happening in the space of entrepreneurship. The massive proliferation of online entrepreneurship and all the implications of that– these entrepreneurs need services and guidance – everything from accounting, human resources, to guidance for operating in a global environment. I’d focus on selling to those business owners.

I heard your recent interview on A Congruent Life and thought it was absolutely amazing…I especially liked your words, “It didn’t come naturally to me. I got sold on the benefits and outcomes that people who had really committed to it were getting…” What do your weekly meetings with Ian or other managers look like? Could you explain what type of metrics, development ideas, tasks, and goals you guys are discussing?… -Thanks Jeremy

Yes, this changes all the time. Currently I meet with my team members Elisa and Kim every Monday and Friday at 11AM. We discuss all of our open projects as are listed on our strategic operating documents. You can find out about those here. On Friday afternoons at 5PM, all of our team members deliver reports regarding their current open projects. Those reports outline the status of their current big initiative, as well as next week’s big initiative. I talk to Ian on an almost daily basis, but on Friday afternoons we have a formal meeting where we discuss the overall health and direction of our business. Here’s a document that looks very similar to the one that we open when we have that meeting. Each business we run has one of these strategic operating documents.

I would like to hear more podcasts about lifestyle business and families. I even got my wife to listen to the one were you interviewed the a greenback tax husband and wife team.  Thanks, Eric

I agree I would like to do more of this kind of content. Most responsible parents aim to keep their children away from me, but I’ll do my best. Part of the reason I don’t over-focus on these distinctions is that they are way less interesting to me than entrepreneur / non-entrepreneur. I am friends with Dave and Carrie because they are hardcore entrepreneurs who I learn so much from when I spend time with them. The fact that they have two awesome kids is a double bonus!

What advice would you give to finding a partner like Ian that shares your ambition / direction? I’ve done my 1,000 days myself and have built my biz to over $5k/m mainly through SEO and now want to build something meaningful and think would be way more productive with another one of me. Or perhaps it’s better to find an opposite that complements? Cheers, Richard

In general I recommend against partnering for skill sets or resources for people who are bootstrapping into new businesses. There was a great interview on Mixergy a while back where the founder described starting a new business as “going to war” and as a process that requires total focus. To that end, Ian and I have zero side projects (and if we demand one, like this blog for example, it get’s rolled up into our primary holding company).

“Going to war” generally requires some deep level of personal or professional affinity and that’s tough to find. Partnerships are like relationships, so it helps to put yourself in an environment where you are bumping into other entrepreneurs regularly, weather that’s something like DC or getting on a conference circuit etc. When you do decide to get down to biznass, I recommend a limited contract with clear timelines spelled out if you still have side projects or other businesses.

How do you know which content is “high friction” if you are Just starting Out with a new Blog/ Project . I Need 5 actionable Tips ;-) Thanks – Patrick

1) Write something for advanced people in your niche. 2) Write on a topic that is related to existant cash flows (ie, people spend money on the issue). 3) Illuminate a perspective that would help solve a real problem people are having more efficiently. 4) Make it the best content on that topic in the entire world. 5) Send it personally to people who can benefit from it.

What if you wake up tomorrow in a parallel universe? You’re still Dan Andrews and you get to remember everything that you know right now. But you don’t have Ian. No business. No connections. All you have is an OK job and 10k saved in your bank account. You don’t even have to pay rent because you’re living with your parents :) What would you do waking up and realizing what happened? – Love you man, Adrian

“Ok job” is where I’d start. That’s not good enough. Plus, 10K is enough to live in SEAsia for 6 months, which represents a non-trivial percentage of my total creative working life. I’d get on a plane to a place like Chiang Mai where I could live cheap and network with a lot of like-minds. I’d then endeavor to solve high-level problems for entrepreneurs via my writing and research. I’d focus on problems that people with chops and passion care about– like the hyper globalization of small businesses– and put something useful to that end on the internet every single day.

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A quiet weekend with friends in Mui Ne, Vietnam

I’d like to know how other people give back. I’m so grateful for the life I’m able to live and try to give back 10% of my income to those less fortunate. But being on the road a lot and in new and unfamiliar cities I find it hard to find out who to give back to… – Greg 

I like the idea of micro-loans like Kiva has pioneered. Although I think a more interesting strategy for giving back might be to put that 10% into a separate account and save it yourself. What the world needs is imagination and your unique energy. If you can give that with some real juice behind it (that 10% saved up over the years) double the better. Why not save your money until you come across a project that is so compelling you have to take it on? Letting go of 10% of your profit annually to give to an industrialized NGOs feels lame for a reason– it sorta is. We are entrepreneurs, tasked with the responsibility of trying to make the world the place we want it to be.

Obviously just spitballing here– and this advice is just my current perspective– but I’d save the money, let it build steam, and deploy it when you’ve got a clear vision.

In your opinion can we still be successful internet entrepreneurs even if we don’t have social skills, or don’t know how to be social and make connections? … I’m great in SEO but can’t get enough clients because the social part, its hard for me to promote my own self. BOOYAH – Adam

Don’t promote yourself, promote your craft. In many ways, the web is a better delivery mechanism for complex messages anyway. It’s tough to talk tech over beers. Focus on creating useful tools and content for your clients. If you care enough about your craft, surely you will want to connect with others who have the same type of skin in the game. General “socialization” at the local pub not required and in fact can be a problem anyway. Care about your shit so bad that others can see it. Given that, and as long as you aren’t a jerk or overly needed, that’s social enough to be successful.

My biggest problem at the moment is trying to scale my affiliate business.  I just hit $10k last month for the first time.  I’m trying to outsource my content writing + publishing so I can purely focus on my interest and what I’m good at: SEO.  I’m finding it hard keeping [my employees] motivated and progress is slow. [Any advice?] Cheers, Tim

Well done on the business sir!

What I’d do in your boots is make explicit your process for niche selection and ranking. Why are you so good at SEO? How can others emulate your motivation and know-how? Figure out how much it’s worth to you, hire, and keep crackin’. You’ve already figured out how to make money with SEO, you shouldn’t be doing it anymore.

You are having scale problems precisely because you are good at SEO. It’s the issue talked about in the E-Myth— the conflation of your core skill-set with the skill-set of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship isn’t about baking cakes, SEO, writing blogs, or the various other skill sets that make us bread out of the gate. It’s the practice of starting and scaling businesses. A practice that requires you to identify the highest value centers in your business and scale them. For the low level work that nobody is motivated to do, I’d focus on getting those out to contractors (bulk content, link building etc). Why bring that low level stuff into your team?

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Jesse Lawler from Smart Drug Smarts giving a presentation at our recent event in Berlin.

Got any tips on how to increase conversion rates? Thanks, Ryan

I’m a big fan of some of Peter’s thinking here, at the level many of us are operating at conversion data isn’t even statistically significant, so messing around with the color of buttons might be a nice way to get us to take action, but will likely be  superficial relative to changing the value proposition we are offering clients, or building out different and deeper relationships with them. So my tip is kinda lame, but the best way to improve your conversation rates is to improve your relationship with your clients.

I’ve had a shift in the rest of my life that puts my biz on the back burner, so I need to largely maintain it rather than focus on growth. What’s truly essential for my business to be a Two-Hour Workweek biz?  – JJ

In general, the more time you spend on building the entrepreneurial skillset and assets, the less you need to work on them. So a business irony: if you want to spend less time on your businesses, you need to spend more time on your businesses.

That’s not to say there is no hope. If you have an alternate source of income (job) for now that’s sweet, consider taking all the profits from your side income and investing them in a talented team to run and grow your business. You might experience some unforeseen upsides by continuing to serve your customers well while you take a break. Even if the business no longer makes much profit if you put somebody in charge, it could make sense if it’ll bring opportunities in the door. While you are earning a living on the side, your business could at least be working for you by keeping up opportunity and deal flow.

I’m curious as to your strategy for asking for referrals from customers, business contacts, and friends.  What are your best practises? – Mike G.

I know there are a lot of clever approaches people use here– stuff like incentives etc– but I think if you have to ask your clients to tell others about your business, you should focus on the remarkability of your product or service. Kick ass for your customers, and then do something small after or during the transactions that delights them.

My business partner and I are a few months away from launching a software in the travel industry. There is competition in our market, and some of our competitors are selling great products. I know that you often advise not to use low price as a differentiator, but our product will be significantly cheaper than what our competitors offer. Our goal is to reach very small/small agencies who don’t have a large budget to spend on softwares but that would definitely save a lot of time thanks to our product… what would you spend your marketing budget on if you were in our position? Also, do you think getting affiliates could work in our case? – Max

Yeah Max you’re killing me man! Lower price differentiator and focus on a marketplace who does not have budget / does not invest in this type of thing. With this type of approach, you’ll likely never be able to afford a significant marketing or sales budget. That’s okay. You’ll need to bake your marketing into your product. Why would your customers want other agents to use the app as well? Why would they tell other industry friends about it? If you don’t have that element (virility?), you’ll likely need to go upmarket. (Please keep in mind I’m talking in general principle and out of my ass!). Best of luck with the launch.

The past 3 yrs I have been able to launch over 7 books onto the NYT list and start several online projects that did over $100k in revenue last year. It’s been a great training ground as I decided to take the entrepreneurial leap in starting my own marketing consulting agency 2 weeks ago, ClymbMarketing.com. Tricky thing is that my wife and I were also expecting out first little girl who came last Thursday! I ripped, pivoted and jammed in the first month and killed it acquiring over $10k a month in consulting retainers for the next 6-12 months. Super exciting but wondering what would be the most ideal first hire for me to make and when should I do it? I’m not the technical type so I’m thinking somebody that can design and code whose services can be added/extended to the projects that will come out of the retainers. If you had to hire from the start all over again would you do it sooner? Where would you go to find quality talent? – Mike Worley

Rock on Mike! The best first hire is the one that replaces what you do. It’s so tempting to hire somebody who “picks up the slack” but there’s generally a good reason why you aren’t getting to that stuff. Being busy is a great heuristic for defining what’s important in your business. I’d be serious about creating a constiutuion for your business which includes the SOPs you implicitly execute in order to deliver value to your customers. You are ready to hire when you’ve got 90% of their first week completely documented in SOPs. You are ready to hire when we can flip the question around and you can tell me precisely what the person is going to be doing. “My new sales rep is going to execute SOPs #3, 4, 7 and 8. I’ll continue to control the financial SOPs etc.”

I have 1 year before I graduate college (with a major I no longer care much for, nor is much use). What do you think might be the highest leverage actives or best skills to learn in the next year, so that in 1 year from today I can either get hired someplace where I can learn more, or use what I have built up in the past year to start working for myself on a business? – Marshall

I wouldn’t bother waiting a year. That’s a long time. Start being useful right away. Is there a way you can intern for somebody important now? (Don’t wait to be ‘accepted’, just start helping them). Could you help one of your professors roll out a project? Start stuff. Break stuff. Demand stuff. Write a great blog that is useful. Don’t let some random university define the speed limit of your life. Ask yourself who you want to be like, and go help them with everything you’ve got.

…I’ve launched a business to help agencies buy/sell high end custom vehicles/event production gear (eventXchange.biz). This is a tough business to automate and it’s very niche due to the uniqueness of the products. The being said, I wanted to start in an industry I know and expand to a couple of other places I see opportunity where more of a system is entirely possible. …how do you automate something that is difficult to automate and so relationship driven? – Jason

Sounds like you’ve got a great start in a particular domain Jason, it’s very similar to the way I started my location independent career. I had domain expertise in a niche that was difficult to take on the road. Rather than trying to do one thing to get another– the differed life plan as so nicely laid out in Randy’s book here— we decided instead to hire for that business the moment cash flow would support it.

We decided if the business wouldn’t support a high level employee’s salary running it, therefore allowing us to move around as we please, it wasn’t worth it and we should move on anyway. This is something I touched on when talking to Andy— given there are so many ways in which you can start a business and generate an income, it’s worth choosing ones that you can live with over the long term. For me that was location independence.

Regarding automation of relationships it always comes down to 1) hiring 2) training. These two books should help.

Might not be a quick question to answer.  But I’d love to hear more behind the scenes stuff about the structure of your companie(s) – how your teams are structured, how you balance all your projects, what kind of client work you do and how it overlaps with the products, what are your most important SODs….. that kind of nerdy stuff :) Also don’t know if you’ve heard, but I have hooked up with Andrew Todd as the CTO of CloudCase. We’re going to Chile! :D – Dylan

Congrats Dylan you are a boss. I talk with Ian every day regarding strategy, looking forward to following your journey to Chile. On Friday afternoons at 5PM I talk with Ian (generally for hours) regarding top level strategy, how we can up-level ourselves and our team members, and the best and most elegant actions we can take to communicate those intentions to our team members and customers.Here’s a generic document that has the basic outline of our strategic relationship. We currently do very little client work, only very high end custom manufacturing, it doesn’t represent an important part of our business right now. Our business changes so fast that the most important structures are how we communicate with each other. As long as we are talking in a structured way, we feel we can adapt the business to the market’s needs.

We’re a luxury gift company www.indulgegiftbox.com – and we’ve just started our journey in content marketing. Our strategy is to simply create content we think our target market is interested and which is also somehow related to gifting. So we have just created our first article on ‘best spa days in London’ and planning to post it this week. Once it’s posted what would you recommend we do to help get as much exposure as possible and some links? – Neil

The best content marketing will have a point of view that will motivate people to act. The best way to promote it would be to send it personally to the people who whom it would impact and let them know you wrote it for them. For your content marketing efforts it might make sense to start with one of your verticals, EG weddings and create point of view content that serves them.

SEO MasterclassWhen Alexej opens his laptop, entrepreneurs flock. It’s like clockwork.

Here’s a question for those of us that are just starting up. Over the past several years, I’ve maintained a personal blog documenting some of my experiences with the wonderful world of greasy food (www.belly-busters.com). Why choose WordPress over Blogger? Are there any specific benefits, or would you consider this to be more of a matter of personal preference?

WordPress you can self-host so you have flexibility in terms of performance and advertising. WordPress is much more powerful in terms of functionality and scales better as your business matures. As a serious business it also hurts your credibility to be on a Blogger site. You will run into limitations eventually, so I think it makes sense to start off on the right foot, especially given the interface is really easy. With WordPress you should set your design and forget it– focus on marketing and content instead of messing with the site. We use Thesis, although there are plenty of great cheap/free themes at places like WooThemes and ThemeForrest. As you mentioned, getting proficient with WordPress also has the side benefit of helping you to build a marketable skill set, whereas the business ecosystem for Blogger isn’t attractive.

As a full time writer online, I enjoy the freedom that this “extremely mobile business” and lifestyle afford. But a tech guy I am not! How can I attract more clients to my web site, or even find them and track them down? My rates are low, I am a 2-time Platinum author at EZA, and all my clients rave about my work… –Patrick

I’d try to find out why your super happy clients aren’t making more referral sales. Raise your rates and try to find ways to keep clients on a monthly retainer model. Aim at the top end of the marketplace. You are solving a non-profound problem right now (bulk words) that might be part of the reason why you aren’t forging deeper relationships with your clients which would parlay into more work. For example: instead of writing cheap articles, try to market a book ghostwriting service.

Would you have any recommendations for someone who’s about to start a new job in a new city but who wants to leverage the change towards an independent life? It seems like expectation management and deliberate networking would play a lot into this. – James

Minimize moving and relocation costs to zero if possible– lean on new company if necessary. You don’t need to do the “standard” $300 Wallmart run etc. Get a cheap apartment and use it as a chance to have a social re-set to start hanging out with entrepreneurs instead of vampires or those satisfied with chilling out. The key part here is: don’t spend your money :)

We started an effort to do more content marketing through blogging. The problem is I have no idea whether it’s worth the effort and expense to continue. I know our blog gets traffic but engagement is low. What’s the best way to measure the ROI of blogging? What are the most important metrics that I should be looking at to know it’s a worthwhile investment? Thanks! – Mike

You ought to be measuring “conversions” and lifetime value of a customer. There is software that helps you identify phone leads from websites and it’s easy to set up Google alerts on your website to track those who’ve made to to check-out, ie “thank you” pages. A simple way to get started would be to put an email opt-in at the end of your blog posts with a call to action that’s similar to your headline. Through your email marketing efforts you should have a general idea of how much an email lead is to your company and you can work backward from there.

The more aggressive advice is that you’ll often have more success with stuff that can’t be measured to begin with– like content that has a strong point of view, or content that makes a difference in your marketplace.

Where’s your book? I can’t be the only one who wants to buy multiple copies ;) Brandon

In it’s current form you wouldn’t want to pay me a dime!!! Draft number two is finished as of this week and we are we’ll be setting a publish deadline this Friday. Thanks for your support!

What is your suggestion for getting started? From some of your podcasts (I faithfully listen to both Tropical MBA & the LBP) you and it seems you’re more about products and less about driving traffic through a blog you monetize. What do you think would be better for starting out?  Do you think some one who has lots of ideas should focus one at a time on seeing if they work or just kind of sprinkle it out there and see which one catches? -Joey

The best way to get started that I’ve come up with is Rip, Pivot, Jam. I’m not against side projects, but I wouldn’t start them until you’ve got one thing “rolling.” Some businesses require time– you literally can’t push them any faster– you need to let the marketplace react to your marketing efforts. Sometimes what you are doing today will only roll in as results months down the line. I’d probably use that time lag as a chance to run some experiments on the side, in particular if those experiments are very similar to your core “business” and could be rolled into one working unit if they work out.

I thought I was mentally tough and could handle the ups and downs of starting a new business and writing my own life script, but I find myself regularly doubting myself and going through serious mood slumps based on nothing else but the troubles (fears, underachievement’s and plans-gone-wrong) of my business. Can you detail how you successfully overcome major mental ‘dips’, perhaps as they apply to the 1000 day rule conceptCheers Dan, look forward to seeing your answer. – Lewis Q – http://sobur.co

One thing I think of when I think back on all this shit, is how important rock-solid relationships are. I read somewhere that the way to make a relationship work is to always put your partner first, and I can say that Ian and I have did that, in particular through our first 1,000 days. Ian and I also have a strong personal affinity built on our belief that people attract like, and that molding your personal constitution is critical to the types of people you attract and the outcomes that engenders. Do you have someone that you can talk to on a day to day basis about this stuff? If you do, can you cultivate and improve that relationship by documenting it or formalizing it? 

We externalize ourselves into our business. Part of the reason I’m sitting here all day typing away is that I think of myself as a writer (or somebody who very much wants to be one) and that inner thought gets externalized in my business.

I have a close friend who is always getting into precarious business situations– making a ton of money and then losing it kind of thing. My sense is that he believes this is the true nature of entrepreneurship– big wins, and big busts. But it’s easy to see from the other side of the table that he is only externalizing his favorite way of being in the world onto his entrepreneurial ventures.

So a few heuristics: what would the person on the other side of the table say about you? Will they partner with you? Why or why not? How can you accentuate the strengths you bring to relationships (both current and future?) Could you act on it? Who can I reach out to in my network for more consistent and long term support and sharing? Am I working for the right why? 

All that and it’s possible that, being the CEO sucks, mostly, and the dips aren’t so abnormal, we just need to focus on not being a punk and quit[ing]. You are just getting started!

My question is on transitioning from a full time job to a lifestyle business. My problem right now is not having enough time. How do you know when to make the jump and quit your full time job to go full time on your business? Do you wait until you have enough revenue coming in to support yourself on your own? I find that building that revenue will take more time than I have right now. My full time job takes most of my energy and along with personal and social activities, I’m left with little to focus on building my business. How much revenue/savings is enough to make the leap? Thanks, Kraig

It’s very tough to make a science of it, what’s clear is that you need to make a big change. Check out this article. Try to get rid of your expenses so you don’t need the job, or you can take on one that requires less time. Building a business is generally very difficult and requires a lot of resources, if you don’t align your entire life behind it for a few years, it probably won’t happen.

Regarding your social obligations– if your friends are pulling you away from what you know you need to be doing, you might need to find new friends, or give your current relationships a break so you can focus on changing your life. Changing your core relationships– and starting to hang out with entrepreneurs– can be one of the most powerful ways to change your life trajectory.

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Recording LBP #159 with Jon Myers and the Bossman.

I’m currently experiencing some “growing pains” with my business. Do you have any advice for scaling up and hiring quality people to do things like customer service? My customers are very emotionally dependent on me being there for them. How can I make any sort of transition easy for them? -Clayton

It’s a good sign that your customers are emotionally involved in your business, in fact, many great service businesses suffer through this exact high quality problem. Finding ways to scale your relationship with your clients is all about writing missions, principles, and empowering others to act them out. You might encounter some resistance from clients or collateral damage from your changing role in the company, that’s par for the course and it’s territory worth getting used to managing.

I started this organization with other people’s money and now I’m on the outside without any equity in the business.  I’ve learned so much from this journey and I’m ready to start something new in a market I love and understand. I see so much potential in this market that my employer will never touch.  Unfortunately, I signed a non-compete when I joined 12 years ago. I know mindset is so important to taking the leap into the unknown.  Any tips for getting the right mindset in this situation? – Winston

I think about positioning yourself for long term success. If you feel like you are in a bankrupt situation, the sooner you can maneuver out the better. I’m cranky and possessive when it comes to my time, and that’s because the long term implications of how you spend it are so massive. If you want out, you might use that as impetus to try and cut a deal with your employer for equity or a strategic partnership on a sister venture you could create. Make it a win / win for them. When it these ‘middle of the road’ type situations– especially when they are at the center of your creative and economic life– I try to either break them or make them winners. There’s no fun to be had hanging out in the middle.

I currently have a steady exercise coaching  practice in San Francisco. The problem: I pay anywhere from $1,500-$2000 per month to rent space to work with my clients.  On top of that, I pay about $1,000 per month on home rent. The idea struck me that if I moved back home with the folks in Texas I would eliminate both of those expenses.  This would free up time to focus on transitioning to my online business and continue learning the essentials of internet marketing. …My goal is to ultimately live outside the US. Could you expand on when might be the right time to do such a thing and any other considerations that might need to be in place before cutting the cord this way with regards to baselining, bootstrapping, etc.? Thanks! – Darwin 

Assuming your parents will have you, and you won’t go insane, going home sounds like a great gig to me (those are big assumptions!). If your goal is to travel around and work abroad, it’s critical to get off the expenses hamster wheel and you’ve got a huge nut right now. I don’t see any reason not to make the jump ASAP, and pick up one client to cover basic expenses and start hustling! One thing to consider about moving back home is ensuring you are focused on building out a network of like-minds. If they aren’t in Texas, make it part of your process to get them on the phone often! You’ll need support and relationships to make your new career work.

For anyone looking to break into a market with a new online business, what tools or steps would you recommend on finding out the most important information about the competition that’s already out there? i.e. their traffic, subscribers, Google keywords, revenue, what’s working for them, etc Thanks! -DA

The telephone! I’m serious! Call them. Call everyone. Ask around. Meet them. Figure out what’s up and who’s doing what. Go to the next trade conference. All the good stuff is generally hidden from the Googles.

…I decided to start a blog regarding setting up of an an e-commerce site for online retail shops instead… My goal is to monetize my blog in 6 months or less… Should I first work on getting my first 10 true clients?  … I was inspired by Authority Engine … Do you think their strategy applicable to my niche and services? I have heard/ read in one of your podcasts/ blog to test first if you have at least 10 subscribers (out of 100) who are willing to pay for premium products or services… Do you think this is a promising niche? Thanks! – Shirley

I would tweak your concept to focus on advanced people and not beginners. Ben’s concept works because his clients see ROI on them and can retain him and promote him to their similarly invested networks.

How do you decide when to make a pivot? In your pivots over the last few months/years, what were the factors you looked at when making that pivot? I am at, what feel like a potential pivot point and I’m trying to decide if a pivot is needed or if I need to just buck up and preserver and market the hell out of this product. Cheers – Jono Co-Founder of Lolonga Beauty

I generally ask myself are there small market experiments I can run while leveraging my current workflow and resources. I like finding low cost ways ‘pinging’ new markets to see if there is potential there. It’s very often the case that the work your doing will be much more valued in parallel marketplaces, so I like to have a process baked into our businesses that allow us to gather that information without spending too much energy.

Examples would be taking your sales funnel and porting it to 5 new niche ideas and run some campaigns to them just to see how they perform. This is potentially a great strategy if the workflow is the same. Since you’ve got cash flow you can be really picky about the niches you decide to pick up into your portfolio.

Sometimes niches are like love– the best kind is just easy. If your niche is giving you a hard time, sometimes it’s worth it to play the field a bit.

Sort of off topic, but I think relevant to location independent types… It would be interesting to hear your take on relationships (i.e. girlfriends/boyfriends) while living the digital nomad life. Thanks! Greg

Sometimes this lifestyle can force your hand in relationships and accelerate their progress. It can be difficult to date people who are committed to a location based job, and on the other hand can be difficult to make the decision to travel with somebody. On the positive side, your freedom of location and time can allow you to put a lot of quality energy into your relationship if you make it a priority.

Why did you guys choose to base your bar business out of California?  Didn’t the taxes scare you off? How do you remove yourself from the bar business and operate overseas when you have a physical product?  I could understand if you have a Saas type of biz but isn’t it much more tougher with physical products? Thanks again -Anon

We based out of CA because that’s where we started. Yes it is more difficult leaving a product based business relative to  a SAAS businesses, but to be honest, “leaving” any business is all about cash flow (do you have enough to hire a quality team), processes (have you written them), and mindset (do you have something better to do).

The mindset part, by far and away, is the hardest part for people. People think they are critical to their businesses’ success and so they end up being so.

My mindset started off different. I always figured, given there are 1,000’s of options and opportunities in terms of what type of business we can choose to start, if the one I built didn’t give me location independence, it wasn’t worth it.

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I’m in the US visiting my nephew (and family), and my product eye keeps wandering. What a cool idea! 

I’m having trouble sourcing the sort of products I want (mens toiletries and essentials). I’ve signed up to Worldwide Brands but haven’t found much yet. How would you recommend finding the best products, avoiding the scams and being based in the UK would you recommend finding suppliers in the UK? – Leighton

Sites like WWB tend to suck in my experience, I’ve always had the very best experience going direct to the manufacturers. There isn’t any one magic bullet to getting it done, it’s a lot of pounding the pavement and calling around, but it’s not bad practice for when you’ll have to start making cold-calls to potential clients :)

I am wondering if you could provide some tips on how to best utilize a forum for a new guy looking to ramp up his part time business. – Tom

Look at the most popular threads. Therein you’ll without question find a litany of paint points and frustrations. Take one of them, and go to work on it. Build a solution and offer it up for free. Work with your early adopters to adapt your product into something you can charge for. While you do all these, be sensitive to the community guidelines and precedents.

Question: What’s the biggest thing that separates those who “crush it” and those who meander their way to success?  – John McIntyre (John just launched a new podcast on email marketing. Check it out here).

Aside from having a clear idea of what you want, and being willing to articulate it, it often seems to come down to determination and self-control. How bad do you want it?

Clarity of vision is an incredibly powerful thing. That’s why we focus on building out what we want our futures to look like– on spreadsheets, in conversations, in designs and mock-ups– even if the future ends up looking nothing like our projections, they help us to act with conviction in the face of uncertainty.

Yeah, in my “entrepreneurial” pursuits and fulfillment seeking, I keep following a pattern… I just have had a hard time finding the right fit. Everyone that knows me says I’m very “entrepreneurial,” but on my own, I just don’t think I’ll ever be that much of a success. Any thoughts or advice? – Aaron

I wouldn’t start with trying to fulfill yourself. Yes, you need to do work on terms that are agreeable to you, but you’ll likely get a lot more fulfillment– and most certainly entrepreneurial success– by focusing on other people’s problems.

It’s going to require some grit and perseverance, and you are going to need to stick to a consistent path for a while. If you do so, the quality of your professional relationships will improve. People want to partner, buy from, employ people who have a track record of a success and a body of work. Those are expensive to create, I know, so nothing like introducing a little external pressure! Having visibility from your customers, and moving them to goals that are meaningful to them is a great motivation to get out of bed and stay focused during your working hours.

One roadblock a lot of people are facing, is those providing client services who start to hit capacity working themselves, and need to hire a skilled, dedicated person to expand capacity for new clients.  For a service that requires a high level of intelligence and skill like PPC campaign analysis, strategy consulting, audio or video editing, how would you approach that first hire to expand capacity? – Ben

There isn’t a skill you mentioned that requires years of training. With detailed SOPS you could train new employees in a matter of weeks. As far as I know, Ben Krueger had never edited audio, now I’ll go to him with questions about the industry’s new tools. The key part of working the system is writing processes for people off the street, and for even things like outbound sales this is 100% possible. Exceptions would be advanced technical backgrounds or really really high level stuff like the strategy consulting. For those things I think you can build that into your SOP as well: what precise track record and or qualifications does the person executing this SOP require? 

What are some industries/niches that you think are ripe for picking off using the Rip, Pivot and Jam method right now? And, If you could spend some time right now learning new skills that would then be the base for launching a new business, what skills would you focus on (software development, SEO, SEM, copywriting, etc.)? Thanks, Tanvir

I’d focus on writing and journalism: there’s never been a better time to write for enterprise, and it costs nothing but time and effort to execute. I’d be taking a look at what people like Sovereign Man, Mark Sisson, and other’s are doing in terms of parsing and distributing information to make great businesses.

I recently re-branded my personal site around the topic of part-time entrepreneurship (SideHustleNation.com). It’s a subject I’m really into since it’s how I got my start and how I believe a ton a great businesses got their start. There’s not really anything for sale at the moment, and readership is small. My question is how to level up the audience quickly, which I know has a huge potential. Thanks for everything you guys do!! – Nick Loper SideHustleNation.com

The quickest way to get more traction faster with your audience is to focus your message. The problem you solve is well defined, but the perspective from which you do so needs more focus. What’s the answer to the problem? Remote work agreements? Consulting practices? Niche site portfolios? I’d pick one and make your brand about that. You can always parlay your audience into new solutions when you want to branch out in the future. Good luck with the new show, sounds great!

“Just Shipping” is important. Obviously.  But where do you stand, generally, on making sure your product is almost perfect, versus just getting it out the door?  By “Shipping”, I don’t mean in the mail – I mean launching. For context: We’re about to launch the first-ever bilingual Shopify theme (supports two languages, as the name implies). The deeper we dig, the more we realise there is to do.  You know all those little bits of an Ecommerce website that need translating?  Like “Add to Cart”, “Next”, “Submit”, and others?  Yep. They all need a way to be translated on the fly, as well as product information, menus, buttons, and everything else.  There are tons of them. I know we’re going to finish it and produce a killer product — it’s just a question of timing. Do you think we should get it out in the wild — and run the risk of having to fix, manually, issues brought up by clients — or wait longer and get it picture-perfect before launching? – Tristan.

I used to be a waiter and would always get bigger tips from the tables where something got messed up and I helped them fix it than from the tables were everything went okay. That may or may not apply!

Regardless of how much time you spend with the theme, you will have to manually fix issues brought up by the clients. I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid that, particularly if this is your first product. I’d get the thing into the hands of 5-10 free users who are passionate about the product yesterday. Work out your development with them and get the thing on the market as soon as you can.

The key metric is does it solve an important problem for them? If it does, they might put up with a few oversights. If putting out the product is going to burn your client base, be a little bit more conservative. You can afford to be so since you’ve got a cash flow going, so no sense in pissing people off for arbitrary timing requirements. That said, you’ll frustrate people in ways you never even anticipate! That’s the fun of doing business, and in general, the value of “just shipping” and having a high level conversation with your marketplace (i.e. monied) as soon as possible. PS KEEP CRUSHING IT!

Any, my question is about e-mail marketing services. First, I have to give you a shout out for getting me to start using EMM. It has been a big boost to my business and traffic. Anyway, I hear people talk about Mail Chimp, Aweber, iContact, and now infusionsoft and entreport. Some are obviously for newbies (like me) and other for more advanced dedicated servers (entreport) but my question is this? How would you rank the lower tier ones? At what stage do most businesses jump to the higher ones like infusionsoft and entreport? Thanks. And keep the good work. You podcasts are as entertaining as ever. – Todd

The key thing when you are just getting started out is collecting with double opt-ins. That’ll give you ultimate flexibility in moving your list around to alternate systems in the future. I’d personally recommend Aweber. They have good pricing and a solid auto-responder service out of the gate.

Aweber has also announced recently that they are adding customer segmentation, which is the critical differentiator between Entreport / Infusion and the lower end stuff. By the time you need the advanced features, Aweber might need them. The time when Infusion /Entre become relevant for entrepreneurs is when a $4,000K annual investment is a no-brainer in terms of listen monetization, so you need to have some scale and some complexity in your product suite, that’s where list segmentation really shines, is driving people into highly specific offerings based on relevance.

…is featured in both, is there any reason why I shouldn’t be creating a flashy website that promotes my lifestyle brand (even though that brand doesn’t yet exist)? Should I be more concerned with following the 4HWW’s example of testing the market by setting up a simple Amazon account to sell my product, or should I come out gun’s blazing with the brand that I want to create and develop over the next few years? Cheers – Lucy

As a rule: great copy and great photos and get your design out of the way. I’d use a proven and minimalistic wordpress theme if possible. You can jam your brand messaging down people’s throat all day long (we tried with our cat furniture business), but the truth is that nobody cares. They just care how good the product is. The way you could inject brand at the beginning of a product business isn’t through heady brand-ish inuiendo, but by telling a compelling story about why you are doing what you are doing. That’s something people can talk about. Upstart brands generally won’t see great results by trying to create faux-gravitas around something nobody knows about. I’d keep it simple and let your product, and backstory of it play the central role.

I would like to ask how you can use a VA to create content (so ask them to research a blog post or even write a “skeleton” blog post) or, perhaps, more realistically, how you can get a VA to re-purpose content (pasting existing posts into Slideshare presentations/PDFs with links, etc.) So, the best uses for a VA in the content/SEO arenas. Thanks, Rob Cubbon 

One of my vague business maxims is, if you aren’t willing to do it, nobody else will be. In other words, what has worked for you in your business so far that you’ve done? Hire for that. If you aren’t willing to do meaningful SEO work yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hire it out in a bootstrapping environment.  Whatever you want to hire for, you should probably do it yourself for the first few weeks! (bummer, eh?)

Hey wild man Dan – I feel like we’re family I’ve been listening to you for so long now. Probably not a topic that will make the podcast,  but I’d like to hear some of the nitty-gritty details about real life in southeast asia on occasion (the good and bad). I dig the book tips and Grade A business portion very much…… – but, as one who is measuring furniture & storage rooms to stash all his stuff and head to SEA for a year, I really find myself continually running through mental checklists that I’m certain are wildly out of whack. – Faron

This morning I had two phone calls so instead of leaving my place I went to Eat.Vn and ordered breakfast and coffee delivered to my door. After I left for a lunch meeting some lady cleaned my place and did my laundry. This afternoon I’m meeting with the Dominator and Ian to talk about a new business venture we are working on.

Part of the beauty of moving abroad is that sometimes a lot of the small stuff can melt away, and we can get away from the sort of vague pressures that are often associated with environments we’ve been in for a while.

Living abroad is what you make of it. Many people love to ‘go native’ and build beach huts and throw barbeques with local islanders, others make investments and get caught up in local politics, and still others use the estrangement as a meditative and focusing bubble.

All that said, if you find me and buy me a beer I’ll tell you some crazy shit :)

My biggest challenge right now is finding an effective way to present my 100-plus info products to my audience. I don’t know if I should retire some to cut down on the number available, or create higher dollar value packages, or what. I produce large scale virtual events that people pay to attend live, and after the event is over I break the classes apart and sell them individually. So I constantly have new products, but I don’t know how to most effectively introduce these or market these over time. Thanks! – Lain

Have you recently done an 80/20 analysis on the products that are making the most difference in your business? One strategy that could work is to bundle the 100 small products into 5-10 mega packages, that themselves could be bought in one comprehensive package (maybe with a dose of coaching). I’d then take the small products that are lost in the fold and use them as free marketing for the big ticket items that are making the biggest difference.

I’ve been running a successful eCommerce business online for the past 12 years, but I’m wondering what’s next?  What do you feel is a good next step for someone who’s already built an online store?  Do I get into wholesale?  Teach what I’ve done?  Attack another market? I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks, Joe

Hey Joe there is no question that there is a huge need for experienced entrepreneurs to step up and help the next generation of people interested in getting into the space, and your legible and successful track record could set you apart from people who have a low “walk to talk” ratio. In some ways I’ve seen people have more trouble transitioning to their second business than they did going from employed to entrepreneur.

The courage required is similar: leave what you know and hope it doesn’t all burn down. Maybe you could check out Clay’s heuristic of “waiting for something you can’t not do.” You have an incredible amount of flexibility, you could potentially leverage it to do big things in other markets. We are able to do a lot of things for free and a lot cheaper in our business because we lean on our initial successes. An example, of course, is me being able to write this blog! :) But we do it in our product business too all the time, for example the infrastructure that we have in place allows us to be the price (and profit) leader in some of our new industrial niches.

I like your question. You are in an enviable position of being able to do almost anything you want to do. Why not doing something that really excites you?

Thanks for doing this Q/A. I am dry testing an ebook that I am making for self defense now to see whether or not to go ahead with it. Is there any way to make my book stand out from the others? It isn’t a very saturated market, but I am competing against big dogs like the Gracie family and some UFC fighters. (Site is Simplestreetfighting.com if you want to link to it or critique it). Very Respectfully, Chris Grimm

Get somebody famous to sign the cover and write a damn good book. (The biggest “strategy” Tim Ferriss employed in his brilliant marketing of 4HWW– that very few noticed– was that he wrote the best book in the space). Great books have an ‘internal’ marketing strategy– they demand to be passed on, year after year. Sorta like GTD. :)

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One of the countless classy lounge spots in HCMC. Fast WIFI included.

I have a small but growing drafting business.  So far I’m the lone worker.  I know it’s not the best business model, but I’m very close to having enough work to step away from my full time job and work for myself.  That in itself makes it worth it for me.  The other bonus is that I can change the same rates as my company and I get to keep all of the pay!  … At times I have more work than I can handle and I need someone to farm out simple drawing tasks to.  I’m not talking about engineering work, but they do need knowledge of current industry standard software. Would you recommend I outsource this to someone in the Philippines?  What is the best way to locate a potential person to use? Thanks, Daniel

For stuff like this we generally use Odesk.com. Arbitraging high end knowledge work– sometimes called “KPO”– is an increasingly feasible business model if you can set up great front end marketing and client relationships. Every other week I shake the hand of some entrepreneur who’s got 50, 100 etc people here in Asia cracking away at CAD designs or e-commerce solutions. There’s not reason why this model can’t work at a much smaller “lifestyle” level if you don’t want to go so hardcore :) Good luck with the new business and the transition.

Dan, I wanna blog, and know  about market samurai, seo, niche sites, bla bla, but i dont know how to install and use wordpress, i get dizzy with the first steps. How do i proceed – Oscar

Ask yourself which industry conference you’d want to be on stage in 5 years, and write articles that would get you there.

I want to create a remarkable podcast, any tips? ~Travis

Check this article out. You need an angle. Also check out this. Email me with your concept and we can chat it out if it is unique enough to make a dent.

I’m looking to hire some quality graphic designers / Photoshop experts. Have you had any experience with hiring graphic designers in the Philippines? Do you know the going rate for a full time graphic designer? Also, is Manila the only place in Philippines to find some quality people to hire? Are there other comparable cities? Cebu maybe? And what about the rest of Southeast Asia? Any other countries you’d recommend for hiring quality graphic designers for similar budgets as Philippines? Thanks – Dan

500 – 1000 bucks for a good graphic designer in the Philippines, Cebu just as good as Manila IMO. Elsewhere yes! Indonesia would be the next place I’d look. There is a trend happening on the ground that I haven’t seen any data to support, it’s just my experience– young people in South East Asia are learning English in droves.

I know it might be a non-profound statement, but the English level here in Vietnam from 2008 (when I first lived here) to now seems to have improved significantly  That’s another way of saying the Philippines– which some would content only has the competitive advantage of “good accent” English– will lose it’s competitive advantage in the virtual assistant space as the million’s of young English speakers from places like Vietnam, Indonesia, China, and elsewhere flood the marketplace.

How do you track your sales / marketing performance. I’m setting up a funnel type tracking approach trying to use google analytics and excel (to collate week by week stats for each step a customer takes to signup / use our product). This does work but its clunky and i hate spending time thinking about this when i should be out engaging with people or coming up with future ideas / strategies. I’ve seen kissmetrics but not ready to spend on that yet. Matt from Image Witness

There’s good news: there is something more profound you can do than pimping out your entire funnel and tracking everything. What you track is critical to your business. Check this out. Run hypotheticals with yourself and ask yourself the implications on your business if you track certain things. Take for example the metric of traffic. We don’t report or provide visibility to that metric to our team here at Tropical MBA. Why? Because if we track it and discuss it we might try to optimize for it. If we optimize for traffic, we wouldn’t be inspired to create content that helps the types of entrepreneurs we want to connect with and so on. So the act of selecting what metrics you are going to optimize for is most of the battle. I’d focus on 1-3 things and report on them weekly.

A question that is probably unrelated to the most you will get today.  After following your blog and podcast for a year or so, I finally got up the courage to suck it up, quit my job and move to Asia.  I am currently in Korea and am making my way to Bali in a couple months. Since you are a local… do you have any suggestions of places to visit?  Stay?  Places to meet some interesting people?! Thanks for all and keep up the work man! – Jeff

Congrats! Go for lunch and swimming at Potato Head, and make sure you catch a sunset at Uluwatu— one of the most stunning vistas I’ve ever seen (plus you can watch big wave surfers on a famous wave). There’s lot’s of local shack type places you can eat at on the cliff, but you can also eat / hang out at the Single Fin at the top of the bluff. Get a massage at Jari when in Seminyak, and get some rockin’ Balinese foods at Warung Eny. If you need to get some work done check out Anomali.

What are the key tips for an effective launch marketing strategy? Cheers – Dan 

I wouldn’t launch. I’d start small and start serving your customers one by one. Launch strategy is generally better applied to existant businesses than to brand new ones. You want to build a suite of products that is sustainable without launches. Once you’ve got the fundamentals and cash flow down, you can layer on launches as gravy. I don’t see many great businesses that depend on them.

After a long life in the office I desperately long to switch to a new lifestyle. But, although I do have an entrepreneurial spirit, I am not exactly a web-expert. Would it be possible to create a place-independent lifestyle despite of this? In short: how to get started and find the right people and/or ideas to get started? Thanks and best regards, Ann

Yes, although you don’t need to be a web expert, you ought to focus and develop an expertise at something. For me that was managing customer manufacturing products. The biggest thing to keep in mind is long term trajectory. This stuff takes a long time, so that should take some pressure off your immediate lack of understanding. There’s never been a better time to learn new stuff, I recommending jumping in and breaking stuff. First step: become an apprentice.

IMG_4175

A view from our back patio in HCMC.

… how taxes work when making a full time living on the internet and working abroad.  If for example I’m bringing in $2,000 per month from my internet marketing business and I decide to quit my other job here in Cali and move to the Philippines for a while do I still need to pay American (state and federal) taxes on that income? Philippines taxes?   I need to take into consideration any taxes on income and the fact that I will need to be making more than just enough to “get by” so I am able to keep pumping money back into my business for growth. Thanks, Jeff

Disclaimer: I’m not qualified to give tax advice. What follows is just my perspective.

It’s nice to plan stuff out like this in advance, but I just want to caveat that this type of consideration isn’t critical to starting a new business, and when you’ve got very few resources, focusing on critical stuff (like invoicing customers and getting them their wares) is where you need to be. That said, I can help a bit. If you plan to move abroad, consider qualifying for the FEIE. You might be eligible to save big in taxes. The moment you leave, I’d sign up to be a customer with Greenback Tax Services. Their pricing is amazing and they’ll get you all sorted. America won’t double tax you, so if you did get residency in the Philippines and pay taxes there (unlikely given your situation), you’d get credited. You will be taxed on your worldwide income, so you’ll pay taxes just like normal, but there are some advantages for expats that the folks and Greenback can help you take advantage of (FEIE being the most important).

I need a new policy that makes people comfortable enough to buy without hesitation, but doesn’t screw me if they return.  (My products cannot be resold if they’ve been used, and I don’t want to eat the costs of returns. ) Possible solution – return anything (even used) within 30 days for 75% credit.  (25% would cover most of my costs so I’d break even) The returns would then be “reconditioned” and donated to a pet shelter.  I’m make it seem like the 25% would cover the cost of reconditioning so that they customer doesn’t feel bad about losing the $.  Thoughts on that plan? Or, it it better to just have a liberal return policy without all the details and build the loss into the cost of business? Thanks Dan! – Jed

Hey Jed, unfortunately I don’t have any “solid” data on this from my business, but of course the dogma (particularly in the internet marketing space) is that you’ll always make your money if you offer free returns. That, of course, is really easy to say when you are selling ebooks!

This is where having a company constitution and principles– I’ve had to make hard decisions along these lines when my employees challenged me regarding our principles of “solving customer problems” and “making it easy on the customer.” If you were to adopt similar principles of customer service, offering partial returns doesn’t really solve their problem– they don’t want the product.

We don’t seem to suffer so many returns so it hasn’t yet been a problem to go all in on this point. You could also add a tinge of friction. If you’d like to make a return, just call this number!

I do like the idea of adding a donation element to the return clause though, it’s very cool that the furniture goes to local shelters!

I just want to know why you and the CEO don’t talk more about Rapid-Prototyping / 3D Printing more since you are involved in industrial design, especially the boss as he is the artist right?  Also, you can check out a new 3D printer project I’m working on and let me know what you think – BotBQ.org – The Open Source 3D Printing BBQ .  If you guys are in or around Frankfurt on 21-22SEP2013 you can witness the unveiling at the #OS3DC – Open Source 3D Drucker (Printer) Convention Markus Link is hosting in Frankfurt – OS3DC.org as it will be awesome. Thanks, have a great day and keep ballin, Jason 

Jason brother you are doing the lord’s work. We see this space as revolutionary too, we just don’t yet have any experience with it and don’t yet have a business conception that puts us in that space. We are very interested to learn more, however.

Do you still recommend Jumpstart? 2) Which accounting firms should I talk to? Many thanks! – Steve

RE: Jumpstart, Yes. Regarding accounting…. check out Edwin Cheung & Siu HK Accountants, and let them know I sent you! :)

I’m interested in your take on modern SEO, partcularly for eCommerce stores. I’ve recently spent a lot of money on “high quality” SEO services only to have my ranking plummet. What is working for your businesses now, and do you have an SEO vendor to recommend. Cheers from Sydney, Australia, – Ben Porter – Cuffed.com.au

Since SEO is such an important lead source for our businesses, we first of all ensure all the knowledge of how we earn leads is in our business. We in fact don’t make the distinction between PPC and SEO internally, instead we are talking more “organic visibility” or inbound marketing versus paid advertising. I don’t think it makes any sense to hire firms who are anything less than 100% transparent with what they are doing for your sites. The best SEO strategies always seem to involve CEO level thinking– during consulting gigs I’ve gone so far to change the name of my client’s company– and for that reason I hesitate to contract consultants unless I”m paying them to teach me what they know.

If you really need big time rankings in competitive key term markets, it might make sense to kick Travis an email at SupremacySEO.com. If he won’t take you on as a client he might be able to point you in the right direction. This sort of key term specific approach is fun, but over the long haul we’ve had a lot more success by having solid content proliferation and syndication strategies. The best SEO strategy that’s always worked since day one is putting out targeted problem solving content in channels where your prospects hang out in, whether that’s iTunes, Youtube, Google search, Facebook, etc etc.

How do you feel about using established communities to get a foothold in the market vs. just putting your head down and building your site/own community up from scratch. For example, if one were going to offer a course on specific music lessons, one might put a course up at Udemy to do things like: test their ability to product an awesome course, test the market response, start building a community to eventually transition to their own site… Do you think that could be worth it, or is it better to STFU and do your own thing. – Sean from DrumsLC.com

I’d start where the market is, and if there are established communities around talking about and buying the types of products you are creating you are in great shape. Always have your central hub, of course, but as long as the audience is at Udemy or Youtube, go there. Find legitimate value adds and reasons why your prospects would want to come to your site.

…one thing we are a little bit stuck on is the name. Do you have any tips on naming, and how important do you think it is for a name to reflect what the company does (for clarity for consumers, and possibly for SEO purposes)? – A

Forget about SEO when it comes to your brand. Check out this article by Paul Graham for the rest. Feel free to email me the finalists I’m happy to help with my perspective.

Will you link to my business? – Ace

Yes. Acechapman.com

 

 *  *  *

If you stuck around this long, holla to the hustle. Happy to help more or to try to provide some extra links or resources in the comments.

Cheers,

 

Dan

PS, I share a lot of the articles and books I read on Twitter.

PPS, if you’d like to receive emails from me, put your email address into the form below:

Published on 06.13.13
  • http://robcubbon.com/ Rob Cubbon

    Thanks Dan, great advice for me specifically. Only use a VA for stuff you’ve personally done already yourself.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers Rob… we’ve managed to stick to this the last few years and we’ve seen a lot of upside from hiring people and really challenging them as employees and ourselves as managers to hand off higher level stuff.

  • Nick Loper

    Awesome stuff, enjoyed reading through all the Q&As!

  • Darwin

    I really appreciate your response, Dan. But I assume when you wrote “I don’t see any reason to make the jump ASAP” that you meant “…any reason NOT to make the jump”. Slight confusion at first but I think I understood what you were saying. :)

    As I mentioned in my e-mail, the LBP and TMBA podcasts have been so huge in my new path in all things related to internet-marketing and as a crash course in getting my business transition going. There’s still more to learn but you guys got me on the right course.

    Millions of thanks to you, Ian, and everyone else who might be behind the scenes for what you guys put out there.

  • Andrea

    Thanks for linking to David Rusenko’s interview on Mixergy!

  • Ben Porter

    Long post Dan, but some real gold. Thanks for taking the time, much appreciated.

  • David Anderson

    Dan, awesome Q&A! I agree that calling people can be the best way to get an answer for your new business. Steve Jobs said he never didn’t get an answer when he asked someone for help… he would simply call business owners and ask questions.

    My following question to you…

    If an up and coming competitor called you, what would be the best (most respectful) way to intro the call to not come off as trying to take business away from you? How do you think they should go about calling you to ask questions?

  • Jason

    Dan, thank you so much for taking time to answer my question, I’ll definitely pick up the books you recommended. Also, reading the other Q&A’s was extremely helpful, great idea. Thank you!

  • Shirley

    Hi Dan! Thanks for answering my question. I learned a lot from this Q&A. I had fun reading the whole post. Looking forward to more useful content from your site.

  • dylanized

    Epic post!

  • Tristan King

    Monstrous and fantastic post Dan! Thanks for taking the time. I have a handful of Beta Testers for the Bilingual Theme lined up, so I’m going to get it to them asap. Take as much feedback as I can in a two-week period, then try to ship it out and adjust as we go along. Thanks for the help!

  • http://www.adventurous-soul.com/ Shayna

    Dan, this post was amazing. I saw myself in several of the questions, and your answers about facing the “dip”/doubt and building a customer stream one by one were particularly encouraging. Also very interesting to see questions from people at all different levels of the entrepreneurial journey.

  • Steven Tran

    You always put out amazing, high value content. Thanks for all the work you do.

    I’m 24 and single from San Diego, graduating soon, with no debt and around 8k saved up. I want to bootstrap and start up an online business and move to Saigon. Do you think it’s better to start an online venture here in the States and get some revenue coming in first, then move to Saigon, or build something completely cold in Saigon using just the internet and the phone to contact people in the US? I would have to be working part-time in the US to pay for expenses, however if I go to Saigon I can use the money saved up to purely focus on business for 6 months. Any advice? would love to meet up with you guys if you’re still in Saigon early next year.

  • Elisa

    Jeepers, talk about a value bomb. Liking the epub/pdf option on this too, it definitely reads like a Kindle Single

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers thanks Jason !

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hoping to out some more kindle stuff shortly !

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Rock on Steven, congrats on the graduation. The best time to start is yesterday! Being the US will give you phone connectivity and time zone advantages which can be critical in the beginning stages (it’s tough to do customer development with a 12 hour time difference). So yeah I’d get cranking, if you can’t get momentum in the states you’ll likely have an even tougher time getting it in Saigon– that said, being around so many entrepreneurs does bring up a service based bootstrapping option, e.g. proving services to other internet business owners.

    ANWYAY, see ya soon :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    hey thanks Shayna!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Rock on man, appreciate the question gave me a chance to think about speed to market. Of course you don’t need my help!!! :D

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    EPIC PICTURE

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thanks Shirley!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    I think the best approach is to respect their market leadership– which you do– you want to be where they are and so I think if you focus on that fundamental admiration / respect that plays well for you and for them… most people want recognition for what they’ve accomplished.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    cheers Ben thanks.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    sure thing !

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Darwin you are right thanks for that I made the update!!!!

    We love doing this stuff hopefully we can keep crankin’ it out.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers Nick thanks for your help on it !

  • David Anderson

    I agree, that’s a great approach. Thanks!

  • Becca Niederkrom

    Hey Darwin –

    I love their stuff too! Moved back to TX so I can invest more in my business and eventually (sooner rather than later) make the jump to all internet marketing and living more often in Nicaragua. Its tough making the move to the South for many reasons, got to find more ‘trep buddies that I can relate too. What part of TX might you be moving back to?

  • Darwin

    Hi, Becca. It’s great to hear from someone who is on the same path. I would be heading back to Houston. It would be great to connect and share experiences as I will also be looking to find more like-minded folks for support. Perhaps you’ve got some insight into how to make the most of that transition. You can find me here: http://on.fb.me/11mJqIZ

    Thanks!

  • Becca Niederkrom

    Still figuring it out =) I was actually working for someone in Silicon while here then left to do my own thing. My challenge is in working with boomers/mature market online – so not many internet marketers understand this world and likewise, not many folks in the senior industry understand the IM world. But I am making it work and moving as quickly as possible. Although, I’d rather being in Cali, TX takes a lot of the financial risk out of the equation. I’m in Dallas, if you pass thru or plan on passing thru, ping me. I’ll connect w/ you on FB

  • SouthOfTheBorder

    Dan great tips. On the question on paying US Federal and CA state taxes I recommend before you move overseas you change your US state of residence to a state with no income tax such as FL (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_income_tax#States_with_no_individual_income_tax for a full list). Firstly this eliminates you state income tax while you are abroad above the FEIE. But secondly, far more importantly, CA and other states who are short of money, have been going after ex-residents to collect taxes on the years they were not living in the state. And if you return the to state years later they may claim you never meant to permanently leave and charge back taxes based on your domicile and not where you resided. (domicile is where you intend to permanently live, residency is where you actually are located)

    If you have changed to another US state this is harder (hopefully impossible) for them to do. Changing states means changing all the things tying you to your old state – driver license, voter registration, library card, gym membership, incorporation, property ownership, bank account, etc. I have read reports of CA going through banking and library card records to send out tax due notices. Of course they sent them to the CA address, the person did not receive them and the first they knew of the issue was money taken out of their bank account by State of CA. Yes many months later they got some of their money back – after many many hours on the phone.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Great point thanks for that tip!

    Another thing for people reading this thread to consider RE: taxes is figuring out how you’ll approach the self-employment tax, which applies worldwide to many entrepreneurs despite FEIE and can be quite expensive.

  • http://tropicalnomad.com/ Adam Finan

    There is a lot of light reading recommended here!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    :D

  • http://www.belizeexpats.com/ Eden Rudin

    Great stuff, I stuck thru all the way to the end and now have 8 tabs opened from your links to go read too! Nice relaxing night, lol, and you will see me in DC soon!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    haha thanks Eden, hope it helped :)

  • Luanne Ronquillo

    Great answers to some great questions! I have a question, how do you get customers? I have an online retail store http://www.jalu.ca that just launched in April and we have sold about 30% of our stock. Given we don’t have a lot to offer right now in terms of product, but we can’t seem to sell out of the little product that we do have. How do we get more customers outside of our friends, family, and close network?

  • http://postfeminine.com/ Erika Awakening

    Wow this article chock-full of information and I love the photos. I like your down-to-earth and no-nonsense approach. Personally I’ve found that focusing on improving websites has tended to be a distraction whereas focusing on long-term customer relationships and repeat business is where most of the money has come from. Cheers.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    thanks!

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