There has been this really interesting thing happening to me this past year. It’s small moments when I see that I’ve actually been able to gain some real freedom with the work from home business I’ve been building (really… it’s a work from anywhere with a good internet connection business, ha!).
The first of these moments came last summer. My wife and I were on vacation in Aruba for about a week (which is totally freaking awesome BTW, and I highly suggest that everyone goes at least once). I was sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, and I decided to bring my laptop out there to check in on the site and a few marketing client projects that I had going.
I decided to open up all of my various affiliate accounts and started adding some things up to just see how the month was going, and I quickly realized that month was going to literally be my best month of affiliate sales so far for my business… and my butt was firmly planted on an island in the Caribbean.
For the first time ever it sank in that I had actually created the legit “#laptoplifestyle”
I had another one of those moments while my wife and I were visiting friends in Florida last month. We did some sailing, ate some amazing food, and just had an awesome vacation. I checked in on M$M and some other things, and there it was again… the realization that I had achieved that elusive lifestyle we keep seeing hashtagged on Instagram posts from people who are riding in hot air balloons through Istanbul.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “Dude, I've been reading your income reports for months now – this is not new,” haha. And… you'd be right. But to be honest, it’s still pretty hard to believe that I’ve reached that particular milestone.
This is probably going to sound way oversimplified, but I’ve always just thought of myself as a guy who quit his day job because I figured out a sweet gig that lets me make money from home. I take great pride in that and want to help others do the same, but I guess I’m saying that what I’ve been doing still hasn’t fully set in.
While I still am that work from home guy (currently sitting here in gym shorts), there was something about being on vacation with my wife, with my laptop in my lap, and counting money that didn’t take too much time to earn that made it all hit me.
Freedom. I had actually freaking created it from nothing.
After I had my first little “aha” moment, I immediately thought about all of the people I've talked to who are trying so hard to make the same thing happen for themselves. There are probably even more people who are still sitting in jobs that they hate because they feel like it's “what they're supposed to do.”
Then, it also hit me how many bogus ads I see from “coaches” on Facebook who promise to get you to six figures (first it’s a free webinar, then a HUGE price tag for some vague and ineffective coaching services). They use shady sales pitches that promise total freedom or online business success with no substance. If you search “laptop lifestyle”, some of the top results are from “gurus” promising exactly that.
I actually believe I could make twice as much money next month if I decided to tell everyone how “easy” this all is instead of telling the truth that what I've done is extremely difficult.
Okay, here’s what my pitch would be:
You too can make money from home!! It’s never been easier!!! Even my dog could do it!!!! Get rich NOW!!!!! Sign-up NOW for my $8,000 course that gives you the 3 simple steps to build a work from home business that WILL lead to that beach house in Barbados!!!!!! EVERYONE IS SUCCESSFUL!!!!!!! This is the ONLY plan you’ll ever need!!!!!!!!
The sad thing is that some people would click on that pitch and buy in because there are a lot of “#laptoplifestyle” big dogs who have made it look way too easy to reach the upper echelons of success. Fortunately, my parents raised me to be a good person.
So, I want to take some time today to reiterate that what I and other bloggers/online entrepreneurs are doing for a living isn't easy, even though it often seems that way.
Owning your own business, whether it’s work from home or working while mountain climbing in the Himalayas doesn’t necessarily mean that you have reached financial freedom either. Debt freedom or true financial freedom (which I'm personally still pursuing) isn't easy. Hardly anything is easy in life.
Those people I mentioned above, who are struggling to make it work, are really struggling. Even the successful ones spent a lot of time wading through it all to make that life a reality. There are failure, criticism, 12+ hour work days, and really just sacrificing a lot to maybe (BIG maybe here folks) one day make money from home, or on a beach/boat/mountain/atop a majestic unicorn, whatever the dream might be.
If you're still dead-set on dipping your toes into an online business after reading that, I'd like to share a few pieces of wisdom with you.
Here are 5 things to consider before pursuing the laptop lifestyle:
1. First of all, are online businesses even viable?
Short answer: Yes.
But, they’re not for everyone.
The reality of online businesses is that the vast (and I mean vast) majority of people who start blogs, FBA businesses, Etsy stores, etc. don't actually make it.
There's a lot of pie left out there, so I'm not sure that competition is the biggest problem.
I check in on blogs that have been started through my site by people who are super excited about it, and several of them don't even make the site go live! It honestly bums me out so much because they'll never know if they could have been as successful as they wanted.
So, if you are going to spend the money on a website, course, or some kind of coaching program, then do yourself a favor and actually follow through with the beginning steps. I don’t know what it is that holds certain people back… maybe it’s fear? Maybe it’s all the extra work you have to do in the beginning? I don’t know, but if you want to have any level of success from an online or work from home business, you MUST go all in with it.
This is going to sound harsh, but too many people aren't willing to put the time or effort into creating a successful online business, and that’s just me being honest with you.
I believe in online businesses with every part of my soul. Owning one has completely changed my life, and that's not some bogus statement. I trust the process so much that I am actively helping others do the same thing with my Facebook Side Hustle Course. Sure, that is a plug for my business, but it’s one I believe in because Facebook Ads were really the biggest part of my success with Millennial Money Man.
What I do for a living is a real thing… it’s how I know that online businesses are still a viable option.
I get up in the morning, open my laptop, and start working. I repeat that day in and day out. I do get some breaks, and I’m at a point now when I can do more of that, but there is still an astonishing amount of work, especially if I want to grow my business even more.
2. Beware of the fast success promises…
I've been doing this for three years, and I'd say that success in the online world came pretty quickly for me.
But, I'll never say that the same could happen to you.
I’m really proud of my success, and I think that I can help others build their businesses, save some money, work on investing, etc. but I also know that my success here online isn’t what many will experience. This doesn’t make me any better than any other bloggers out there, it’s just that I found a way to make it work.
Fast success isn’t a reality for the majority because there is no one size fits all format for online businesses. I know this, you know this, but there are a lot of people still selling that model.
Let’s take blogging for example: a huge part of it has to do with your story. Have you done something that people latch onto and find really interesting? For me, student loans were my story… I paid off a bunch of student loan debt quickly, tapping into a large segment of people that went through the same stuff that I did.
Most people shy away from telling people that they lived with their parents (or in-laws in my case) to pay off their debt, but I embraced it. That was my edge.
Of course, I had to take my lumps when my story blew up a little bit – but sticks and stones and all of that.
Being as open and transparent as possible drew a very specific group of readers to the site, and I've been slowing growing ever since.
Now, that’s what worked for me, but every business is going to have some different angle to come in from. I can’t sell that same model to someone who is building a marketing business.
My advice when you are looking for tips on growing an online business (or anything else related to your finances) is to look for people who don't over glamorize or oversimplify their success just to get your money. Try to find “influencers” who would look you in the eye and tell you how hard it really is.
If you aren’t listening to it yet, my good friend Mike Yanda and I started a podcast called Laptop Empires. Mike has figured out how to work from home with kids, while building a marketing firm, and we talk a lot about the realities of being an online business owner. We share real advice and experience for those starting ground up to those already deep in their businesses. We’re also doing our best to debunk that whole “quick success with a work from home business” thing we’re seeing too much of.
3. You have to provide value
Value is the key to making a successful online business. If I wanted to sell some widget, there's no doubt in my mind that I could market the ever living crap out of it on Facebook, or any other platform for that matter.
The rub is that just because something pops up in someone's feed doesn't mean that it matters to them or that they'll buy it.
Value can be a hard thing to work on when you are getting started because some of it does depend on your audience. But, it also depends on the service or product itself. If that widget I mentioned was the worst product ever, at some point my marketing skills wouldn’t be able to keep up with the fact that a crap product is a crap product.
Value means you are giving people a reason to click over, it means they’re sticking around, and it means they’ll want more from you. It’s creating loyalty and trust between you and your audience/clients/customers.
For my business specifically, the reason that my M$M Facebook ads get four cents per click (which is very low/efficient) is that I focus on promoting value first and sales way down the road.
If you read my site for the next five years and love the value I provide, you're probably going to buy a course from me later on because I first gave everything I could to you for free.
I literally have people now asking to be sent affiliate links for products I promote so that I can get credit for something that they are going to buy for their site. THAT is how you know you are providing value.
Value is relevant to every online business. Working this out isn’t going to be the glamorous part of that laptop lifestyle, but trust me it’s what all of those very successful people are constantly working on.
Even if your style is less of that cruise through the Mediterranean hustle and more of that sit on the sofa and work from home business model, doing things like garage sales on eBay or starting an Etsy shop, require some time to think through your value proposition. The market will tell you whether or not you're right, no matter where your butt is planted.
4. Be honest with yourself
Annnnd this is one of the hardest things to become good at. I said the value thing was hard, but this one actually wins for its difficulty level because being honest with yourself and your business is less working energy and time and more of a psychological thing.
It’s also a hard thing to help others with.
I get emails from people who have been blogging for five years and still aren't making money. When that comes across my inbox, my goal is to get them to self-evaluate and be honest. It could be that they just aren't talented enough to make it, or it could just be that their strategy sucks and they are in denial.
When I think of being honest with yourself, I always think of sports.
Sports are an incredible way to understand this because, from very early on, they literally weed you out if you aren't good enough. Coaches will straight up tell you the truth about your abilities, then they’ll either bench you or cut you from the team. You can work harder to grow your skills and strength or you can do something else.
Business can be the same, but it’s easy to hold on for too long because nobody is coming up to you and saying, “Sorry Bobby, you're a little too short and kinda too slow to play wide receiver.”
Even if the market is trying to tell you exactly that, it doesn’t mean you are listening. This is why I only ever made it to fantasy football, because I listened, but not that much… and anyone can do fantasy football.
But… I mean I’m pretty excellent at it.
Ok, sorry, back to building an online business and making money from home and hashtag laptop lifestyle, NOT football.
There are things that I'm not good at with my business. I could either recognize those things and work on my weaknesses or just bury my head in the sand and never grow. You probably know which one I'm picking. 🙂
5. It's OK to try something and fail
Like I just mentioned above, being honest with yourself is HUGE. I think it takes a stronger person to admit their weaknesses, like lack of talent, misdirected strategy, or a crap product, than one who is too stubborn or proud to admit they might not have it all figured out.
That honesty, often times, leads to a realization that you have failed at a particular task, goal, or plan.
This is going to sound cliché, but failure causes reinvention, which in turn creates success.
I probably legit fail at something at least once a week, but I'm so open to the failure process now that I almost look forward to it when I'm trying out new things that will help grow my business.
Failure = learning, and as a former teacher, I respect that game more than nearly anything else in life. I’m not a parent, but I think this is one of the most important lessons you can teach your children. It isn’t just for future business pursuits, it’s an everyday, real-life thing.
Seriously, if you have a cool idea for a website or really want to try your hand at Amazon FBA, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. If that fails, be honest when figuring out why.
Be ready to shift or pivot on to the next idea, take what you’ve learned with you, and work on creating something awesome.
It is possible to create the laptop lifestyle?
I’m going to share a secret with all of you: that elusive laptop lifestyle is just people who have started and grown a work from home business.
But, they are the ones who have tried, failed, tried more, worked 100+ hour work weeks, maybe some more failure, didn’t let their pride get in the way, and just did that lather, rinse, repeat until they figured out a formula that works for them. And still, there are people doing that who don’t reach the level of success we’re talking about.
I promise that I didn't write this to deter anyone from their dreams or goals.
I am 10,000x happier with what I’m doing now. I’d take all of that effort and struggle and multiply it by 1000 and it would still be worth it.
I’m sharing this all with you because I just want anyone who wants to follow the path that I'm on to understand it a little better, and hopefully keep some of you out there from quitting your jobs when you shouldn’t. Seriously, some readers have actually done that and it terrifies me.
There's a ton of opportunity out there right now for millennials in the online space, and I'm living proof of that. Just… be smart.