Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Lessons learned from raising $1 for my business

February 11th, 2013 · No Comments

In my last post I asked for $1 from you to help me start a new business. This is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done. In this post I’d like to explain to you why I was doing it, how much money I raised, and what lessons I learned from this experience.

For the longest time, I have wanted to generate enough online income so that I can quit my full-time job and come off the corporate track. I have this goal NOT because I want to retire. In fact, my business hero is Charlie Munger who is still working at age 89. I want to have a very long and enjoyable career that I can work until advanced age. But, I want to have the freedom to choose 1) the type of work/business and 2) people who I work with. Furthermore, I want to create geographic and financial flexibility so that I can better take care of my family and pursue my own dreams.

In other words, I’m not looking to retire. I am looking to create a business to support the lifestyle I want for my family.

Over the years I have dreamed about many things. I have tried several ideas. This blog and the Ebooks I published are two examples. I was able to generate several hundred dollars of online income each month consistently over the past three years. But, I have not been able to get to the next level (i.e. grow the business by 10X to get to several thousand dollars per month.) It has been frustrating. And I feel an increasing sense of urgency to take my online business to somewhere.

I got a wake-up call when I read Noah Kagan’s writing’s on Wantrepreneur epidemic and how he created a million-dollar business in a weekend. The story is inspiring. But it is also scary. Am I one of the Wantrepreneurs? Am I in the wrong frame of mind? What do I need to do to change?

Last Wednesday I got an email from AppSumo about the How To Make Your First Dollar course. I was intrigued by the sales copy — you should read the sales copy to understand why I was intrigued.
The problem is that the online course costs $300. I have never paid for any online class. I have never signed up for any “get rich” books, tapes, or programs. I am too skeptical to buy any of these stuff.

But, there are several things about this course offering that is different.

  • Noah Kagan has a lot of credibility. I have been following his blog, listened to his talk at UC Berkeley, read his post on Four Hour Work Week, shopped at AppSumo, and marveled at many of his entrepreneurial successes.
  • This class has a tuition of $300 but has a 60-day money back guarantee. The 60-day money back guarantee took the risk out of my purchase decision. I don’t mind to spend the money but I definitely want to get my money worth. On the other hand, I’m willing to make a commitment by investing $300 — it will force me work hard to get a solid return on my investment. I learned this from my past experience. I signed up for Kaplan GMAT class when I was applying business school. The $1200 Kaplan tuition investment really forced me to study extremely hard to get a good score. I wanted badly to get my money worth. 🙂
  • Noah’s style and substance resonate well with me. He is original, pragmatic, realistic, thoughtful, honest, and common-sense. He is not trying to teach people to become a millionaire; he teaches the right mindset and approach to build momentum.

So, I paid the $300 and signed up for the course last Thursday. My first exercise is to get the first $1 by emailing 5 friends, talking to people, social media, or whatever method.

Does this sound easy to you? It’s not easy for me because it feels awkward. Here is a list of thoughts came across my mind:

  • Are my friends going to think this is silly/crazy/stupid on my part?
  • Now everyone will know I’m taking this class. Will people think me as someone who is desperately trying to get rich quickly? (like people who bought the “make money” product from an informercial?)
  • Will any of my blog readers help me? What if nobody respond to my request?

I thought about just skip this exercise. But, Noah made it very hard to skip this step — basically I must complete this step to advance to the next step of the course.

So I swallowed my pride and worries, made a blog post, tweeted about it, posted it on LinkedIn and Facebook. During the first 24 hours, I didn’t receive anything.

I emailed Noah for support. His response? “Blogging is weak. Go to talk to a real person.” I had to admit I was avoiding emailing or calling someone directly. I was too embarrassed. But, I had no choice if I want to continue the course. So I texted a friend and he immediately Paypaled me $1. Interesting enough, within an hour, I received a $1 donation from a reader of this blog who I didn’t know. And the next day I got another donation of $8.28 from a fellow reader of this blog. Thank you all!

I learned several valuable lessons from this experience.

First, I learned to ignore my worries by committing and not having any other option. The experiment is not something I’m used to to; it’s awkward for me. However, I have no alternative — if I want to continue the course, I have to do it. Making up my mind and not having another option really pushed me to complete the task while ignoring my worries.

Second, giving is a very gracious act, and we should all give more to others and to the universe. It’s impossible for me to describe the feeling when I received donations from my friend and two fellow blog readers. I’m very grateful and thankful. I was really in need of support and encouragement. Their generosity is exactly what I needed. And their investment in me might very well motivate me and propel me to reach my goal.

Third, the first dollar is the hardest. To make the first dollar, I need to look around who I know, what resource I have access to, and what I’m familiar with. Once I get the first dollar, things get easier.

In the next 90 days, I’ll continue to blog about my progress and learning from How To Make Your First Dollar. Stay tuned.

Tags: Learning and Growing · Start-up Success

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