Thanks to an old friend and the magic of social media, a fellow ex-Zimbabwean farmer now living in Australia recently visited my blog and became a subscriber. We have
been exchanging emails and catching up on the ups and downs of life after being forced out of one’s home and country.
Most ex-Rhodesians and Zimbabweans are a reticent bunch and tend to stay out of the spotlight, so I will just refer to him as R. R asked me about my journey to become an internet marketer, was it as lucrative as many “gurus” with their stories and videos of rags to riches or sleeping in a car to a Miami mansion-with-expensive-sports-car-in-the-driveway, sales pitches promised?
After emailing R a frank account of my own experiences, I realised that many other aspiring entrepreneurs would find it interesting and that it could save some of my readers a lot of time, money and heartache.
So here is my reply to R with some of the more personal and (to non-displaced ex farmers) irrelevant details omitted:
I don’t mind you asking at all. If I can help others avoid some of the pitfalls and hurdles I have stumbled over and blind alleys I have been led up during my own journey to get to Robert Kiyosaki’s 4th quadrant I will do so with pleasure. (We had been discussing the book “Cash Flow Quadrant”)
No I am not anywhere near earning a huge income from the internet or eBooks. I am living from month to month, but surviving quite happily. I don’t let it worry me, I reckon nothing can be worse than the Zim experience of losing our farms and being in a police cell with 26 criminals for a few days.
I first arrived in Canada in June 2003, to a) put some distance between me and Mugabe’s men who wanted to put me back in the police cells and b) to start the immigration process which we were allowed to do while living in Canada on “Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds”. Sue stayed in Zim, unlike me, she was able to keep her mouth shut and stayed in a cottage on my brothers 50 acres in Marondera which was at that time not threatened.
The conditions of applying for permanent resident status while living here mean you are not permitted to work.
With no money and no income, I had no option but to live with my son, his wife and 2 kids in a small semi-detached house in the city. I was going out of my mind with boredom. Then through another ex Zim farmer who had moved here, I met the owner of a large vegetable, berry and sweetcorn farm. I asked him if I could just spend time on his farm. To cut a long story short, we got on well and that eventually turned into a full-time business relationship which lasted until my heart attack in 2010.
When we got our immigration approval in 2004, Sue came over and we rented this old farmhouse where we still live.
Prospects of a higher paying management job at my age and with my lack of Canadian business experience were not good. I had been out of the corporate world for 15 years and I did not want to commute 50 or more km a day to the bigger cities. I could probably have got a better paying job on the factory floor, but I would rather die than be exposed to the union mentality, boredom and stress of being an employee after 15 years as a business owner and employer. There was also truck driving but it would have meant many days and nights away from home.
As much as I enjoyed being outside, my farm responsibilities took 7 days a week and up to 12 hours a day right through summer which meant that we had no life of our own, the few hours I could take off on a Sunday afternoon had to be spent cutting wood to keep us warm in winter.
In 2006, I joined a network marketing company. It was not a planned thing, a distributor contacted me when I was really fed up with the farm work. I (naively) believed that it would be a ticket to the wealth quadrant in a short space of time! (Robert Kiyosaki again)
Of course, with no local network of business or social contacts or old school friends, it did not take off, I spent a small fortune on buying leads, advertising, courses, magazines, books, but nothing helped. I then tried about 6 different network marketing companies selling everything from vitamins to cheap electricity and gas and discount coupons for groceries. I continued to accumulate credit card debt by buying more information, maintaining the monthly autoship where applicable. I am sure I was not the first and won’t be the last to tell this story!
About 2 1/2 years ago, I saw a sales page for an internet marketing system that was designed to help you make money out of all the people who said “NO” to your network marketing opportunity. I had tried something similar a few months earlier which relied on automated blogging but which I thought was unethical and bordering on fraudulent, so I dropped that. However this new system did introduce me to blogging and the idea of affiliate marketing, it also included some good training. That is what convinced me that I should really become good at blogging and social media. Although the system was good and I did get quite a few sign ups, none stayed with it for more than a few months so I did not make money with it.
After a year or so, I also began to feel that the promises were bordering on the unethical, it was costing me money to stay with it and I could not afford to continue spending a few hundred $ a month on adwords.
When my heart attack in September 2010 put a sudden stop to my involvement in the farm business, I vowed that I would starve before going back to it or getting a “job”. After a couple of weeks of rest, I started applying myself to building an online business.
I am still involved with Asea, a network marketing company selling a health product that helps cells communicate, that brings in money every month. Most of the promotion for it is online. Affiliate commissions from links that I put on my blogs, or ads on the blogs, my fan page and updates on Facebook, twitter and many other sites bring in more. Consulting gets me a bit more, I did a bit of off-line work last year. My wife Sue works mornings only on a horse farm, that helps our finances and gives her an outside interest.
As yet, I have only sold a few copies of my first eBook, I will be adding new promotions for it to increase sales.
The biggest mistakes I have made are:
- Being too believing about how “easy” network marketing would be.
- Going in too many directions at the same time and getting nowhere.
- Spending far too much time reading and learning and not taking action.
- Buying too many “solutions” – Looking for that “Magic Bullet”
- Paying for those solutions by credit card.
- Trying to replicate our Zimbabwe lifestyle.
- Plugging on, not recognising that a change of course is needed. (different to not giving up)
- Not using time effectively – being seduced by “busy work”.
I am convinced that it is possible to earn a very good income on the internet, but it is necessary to act strategically and not just chase opportunities which is the biggest failing with most of us. However, I do think that the easy days are over, some of the earlier high flyers of online information marketing are not doing so well and it might not be quite so easy to earn big incomes very quickly.
One of the best models I have come across is the “Agora” model, so named after the publishing company that refined it. Now a multi million $ operation.
It is this;
- Determine what you are both good at and what gets you excited. (Your Passion)
- Work out how that could help people.
- Find a group of people with a problem / need/ desire/ that your solution can help. Your niche.
- Start a blog that will get read by those people. – Drive traffic to it.
- Offer them something for free as an incentive to subscribe to your list.
- Send them email newsletter offering a mix of free information, interesting stories and links to things for them to buy.
- Rinse and repeat, then find another niche and follow the same strategy.
Over the Christmas holidays, I gave a lot of thought to how to get my business moving up to a new level, here is my strategy:
- As a priority, develop more offline income using one of my major strengths– Social Media Consulting for small business.
- Abandon 2 niche blogs and concentrate on this blog and my new Social Media site / blog.
- Make a better selection of affiliate products to promote for my 2 niches.
- Narrow the focus of this blog.
- Increase my online promotion activity for my network marketing business.
- Improve my time management.
- Take consistent action every day.
- Provide value in every interaction with clients, customers and those whose paths I cross.
In a nutshell, I think the way to go is to spend a bit of time finding that niche and what value you can provide to it, then apply yourself 100% to that and forget dabbling with all the other peripheral stuff like network marketing, coaching, copywriting, website design, and trying to promote too many incompatible products or services – all traps I have fallen into. There is nothing wrong with any of those on their own, but to be successful, I believe we can only afford to focus on one or two major activities.
That’s it, hope it helps people understand four things:
- There is no “Magic Bullet”.
- Focus and consistent, persistent action are essential ingredients for success.
- Perseverance and not giving up are admirable and important but so is recognising what is not working.
- In the real world, very few people find instant success – in any field.
Wishing you success in all your endeavours.