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The Micropreneur: A Brief History

~ 14 Minute Read

Given that the about me page on TM is likely not to be that helpful when it comes to giving you a background on myself I figured that I should dedicate a post to enlightening any aspiring micropreneurs out there.

When I started my micropreneurship journey I had just finished grad-school and started practicing as a school psychologist in the southeast corner of my home state of Ohio.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting southeast Ohio then you know that the most popular past-times of this most beautiful place is doing copious amounts of crystal meth and placing fake rubber testicles on the back of your super-duty pickup truck.  I know, I know, I’ll get you in touch with a local real estate agent so you can make this dream your reality.

Let’s Start a Business Kids

At the same time I started a profession I knew deep down was not what I wanted, I accomplished a goal I had a passion for: I started a business.  Like a real one, with a tax EIN and everything!  I quickly got started with my first failed attempt at starting a money making website.  And boy did I have the perfect idea.  If perfect to you is a double serving of shit sandwich.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Poo

The year was 2011, and Groupon was all the rage.  People were coming together to get 50% deals on everything you could think of; food, trips, gas, hookers.  As a long time runner I thought that if they wanted 50% off on these things then they’ll want 50% off of race registrations too!  So, I went about creating a website that would offer discounts to runners for race registrations “Groupon style”.

I quickly got on to Upwork (Elance at the time) and hired the first Indian firm that had a bunch of 5 star ratings from their previous clients.  They quoted me $2,000 to build the website based on my vague job description.  I mean, seriously, what could go wrong?

A lot actually.  This project turned into months and months of late night Skype calls and frustration as things were lost in translation.  I had no clear vision and they weren’t exactly top of the line coders.  Really the only interesting thing that happened during this time in my life was that close to my home a man had committed suicide and released like a billion exotic animals just to see what the fuck might happen.

At the end of this process I did actually end up with a semi-functional website, which is a bit amazing looking back now.  I did the online registration services for about 20 local races that year, which netted my business a hefty profit of….wait…for…it….$1,000.

But you know what?  I was excited.  I had a website that people were using and it worked!  I ended up running this site through 2014 primarily because it was offering a good service to people I knew and enjoyed working with.

Website Numero Dos: (Barely) Finding Success

After getting the race registration site up and running I was ready for more.  I mean my first site was such an overwhelming success, why not try this again?  And that’s a lesson for the kids out there: in business, you have to be a gluten for punishment.  Being a glutton for such punishment, I went about creating my next website.

But this site was not going to be the same as the first.  Instead, I had learned about creating Amazon Affiliate sites thanks to Spencer at Niche Pursuits.  At the time, he was making some decent side loot by doing reviews on survival knives.  Basically, the process was to pick a low competition niche, write articles targeting specific keywords, rank in Google, and make money by referring visitors to Amazon.

“Godammit Spencer, that just sounds delightful” I thought to myself and went on my way creating an Amazon affiliate site around a specific sporting good product.  Again, I didn’t really have an idea what I was doing, but I figured it didn’t hurt to try.  Did I say I was a glutton for punishment?

I went about creating a front page for my Amazon affiliate site and then other supporting pages.  All of these articles were reviews of existing products that were already for sale on Amazon.  Within a couple months of adding content I noticed that to my surprise I was getting traffic coming in from Google.  I remember being more excited than I should for getting 30 visitors a day, but hey at the time this was a BIG deal.

Making It Rain Ones

After a couple months a little money started rolling in.  Now, I’m not talking about the “fuck you” money that many other bloggers humble brag about, but more like hey I’m making $15 a day!  “Jess (my wife) and I could go to Wendy’s with this kind of money on the daily” is a thought I remember having.

Coke and Hoes Money
Coke and Burgers Money

Lest you get confused, I did not make the $7,765 in May, 2013, but rather $488.  The former number is the value amount of purchased products from those who were referred to Amazon by visiting my site.  However, this did mean I was making some decent side money while continuing to work full-time.  Each month after May I was earning about the same amount of money, and then December happened.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-57-28-pm

Well fuck me sideways and call me Sally, that’s some actual money there.  As you can imagine, December is a big month for many Amazon Affiliate sites because everyone is hustling to find Christmas gifts for our loved ones (and those family members we tolerate).  As such, more toys and other products are sold on the during this time of year until about the 20th of December when it starts to slow back down.  Making this $1,854 in December in 2013 was and still is the most excited I’ve ever been since starting this business.

Why? Well, because it meant that this business was growing, and $1,800 in a month can make a real difference for those of us who hang out in this ever shrinking club called the middle class.

Okay, Now What?

Once I started making decent side hustle income I went on attempting to create many other sites and ventures, most of which fell right on their face.  Let’s talk about those for a moment.  There was another running site (did I say I was a gluten for punishment?) where runners would score points for running races and top point earners would win prizes at the end of a running season.  There were a handful of other Amazon affiliate sites, some of which had mild success, but nothing like the first one I built.

As you can imagine after a while I became a bit disillusioned with not finding the success that I had found from my first Amazon affiliate site.  “Why aren’t these other affiliate sites doing as well” I thought to myself often.  It must be someone else’s fault, yeah, that was it.  It was those jag-offs at Google fucking with me!

Buying a Site

For the 15 minutes a day that I wasn’t cursing out the Google gods I was spending some time looking for sites for sale on flippa.com.  For those who don’t know, Flippa is a marketplace where you can buy and sell websites.  After searching for awhile I found an Amazon affiliate site that looked like a good opportunity.  This site was getting about 600 viewers per day and was making about $700 a month reviewing an accessory related to smoking cannabis.  Not that I know anything about that.

After doing some research and vetting I went ahead and bought the site for the “Buy It Now” price of $7000.  Looking at the prices of these websites now, the 10x monthly multiple for this site was an absolute steal.

If you are keeping score at home, that means I now had one main sporting goods affiliate site, a cannabis accessory site, and some other sites that were making a bit of money here and there.  Things were slowly gaining momentum.  My wife and I could now go to Wendy’s for lunch and turn around and get hibachi for dinner, whooo!

Rockefeller That Shit

In 2014 all the big names in the make money online sector were pumping this whole new way to, you guessed it, make money online.  The hot new thing was called private labeling.  The gist of this was that you find a product with little competition selling on Amazon, find a manufacturer making said product, slap your logo on it and bam! You’re now a millionaire!

At least that’s what the make money bullshitters would have you believe.  I mean these guys were falling over each other trying to stick their dicks in all of Amazon’s holes.

But I must give those same bullshitters a bit of credit because after listening to a podcast about private labeling I had an epiphany.  The products that are being reviewed by the site I just bought in the cannabis space are perfect for private labeling!  They were small, simple, and not likely to break, and best of all is I already had a marketing channel via the website.  And let’s not forget that I’d receive my affiliate commissions for referring customers to my own product.  Somewhere in hell, John D. Rockefeller is smiling.

John D. Rockefeller "Smiling"
John D. Rockefeller “Smiling”

Cherry!

The next step was to find a company already making the product I wanted to private label.  As most do, I went over to Alibaba and went searching.  I found several manufacturers and asked them to send me samples of their products.  After testing each, one sample stood out from the others.

Now the company making this product was out of China, hard to believe I know.  The sales reps for these Chinese companies take on English monikers so that they are easier for dumbass Americans like us to pronounce.  Well, when I ordered the sample from this company I spoke to “Pete”.  “Pete” was a very responsive young man who had a great handle on the English language.  Unfortunately, when I went to make my first bulk order “Pete” was no longer, instead I was greeted by a lady named “Cherry”.  I knew when my new sales rep’s moniker was a slang term for female genitals that we might be in trouble.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time thinking about the branding and logo of this product.  And by spending a lot of time thinking I mean that I constantly harassed my wife for ideas, and boy did she pull through!  After looking at what was on the market she mentioned that everything was branded for the stoner culture.  With the rising tide of cannabis we wanted a brand that was a bit more mainstream and had a touch of class.  I went to Fiverr and paid $15 for a logo.  Yeah, I was spending big on this one boys.

I gave “Cherry” the logo and she said that it would take about 60 days for my order to arrive.  Fast forward 60 days and my order finally arrived.  I quickly opened the first box with the products inside and quickly realized something was off.  After some closer inspection I realized that the logo looked like a drunken screen printer had put it on.  The font was different making everything look weird.  To say the least I was freaking out.  I went to “Cherry” and asked what the hell happened.  As it turns out they needed the logo in a different file format, but didn’t tell me this or convert the file themselves.  Holy shit, and I thought I was lazy.

I demanded a discount and did receive 10% off my order.  Because I didn’t have anything to lose and still had the leverage of the Amazon affiliate site I went ahead and shipped my product into Amazon FBA and hoped for the best.

The Orders Start Coming In

To my surprise I immediately started seeing orders come in for my product.  Again, I believe that this was mostly due to the fact that I was promoting my branded product on my own already popular Amazon affiliate site.  Shortly thereafter I was also thrilled to see reviews start to show up, and despite the fact the logo was screwed up no one seemed to notice.  In fact, we had glowing reviews, and have a 4.8 rating on our product to this day.

Suck On It School Psych, Suck On It Hard

Before I knew it I had been selling my product for over a year and watching the income from my affiliate sites gradually increase over time to the point where by 2015 I was making more money from my part-time business than I was as a school psychologist.

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-2-08-08-pm
My Amazon Affiliate Earnings from January 1st, 2016 to November 3rd, 2016

At the same time I was becoming more and more disenfranchised with my career and I wasn’t enjoying life the way I should.  Often, I’d come home angry and I generally wasn’t a lot of fun to be around.  I knew that my job was causing this, but at the same time I didn’t want to give up the money it was providing.

However, at the end of the 2015-16 school year I had had enough.  I decided for the next year I would only work two days a week.  But even that proved to be too much as the day before I was supposed to start I realized I couldn’t bring myself to go and called my boss to tell him I wasn’t coming back.  It was tough because I didn’t want to let anyone down, but it was the right thing to do for me and those I love most.

My Life As A Full-Time Micropreneur

Boy oh boy did I make the right decision.  The last four months have been the best I’ve had in a long time.  I am enjoying what I do more and I am happier.  Generally, I get up around 8, have breakfast, and then head down to the local coffee shop and get to work writing content and managing my business projects.  It is a great environment and I’ve met some nice folks.  I usually keep regular working hours so that I can be with my family when my wife gets off work.

My business has also benefited from me giving it more time and effort.  My product sales have tripled recently thanks to several factors and affiliate earnings are up too.  I’m now in the process of making some changes to my product so that it won’t be so generic, which will allow it to stand out even more from the competition.  I also have another Amazon affiliate site I’m building up, but must admit it will likely be my last.  After having done several it is time to move on in my business ventures.

Listen To Me, Dammit!

So, why am I telling you all this?  The first reason is so that you don’t become a school psychologist.  It really is terrible.  The second reason is that I wanted to offer some encouragement to those out there who have struggled with their business dreams like me.  It can be discouraging to see others make it sound easy when it really isn’t.  You will have to grind your way to the top and it will take time.  Never get too discouraged.  If you stick with it luck will find you.

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2 thoughts on “The Micropreneur: A Brief History

    1. Paul,

      Thanks man! I’ve been kind of back and forth on whether to put the effort into this site, but your comment offered some much needed motivation.

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