Case Studies

The Real Reason Why You Should Wake Up Early

Total Reading Time: 2 minutes.

It’s Not What You Think

The real reason you should wake up early has absolutely nothing to do with the conventional wisdom around the benefits of early rising.
It has nothing to do with getting more done, or getting to the gym at an early hour, or having time for your morning ritual, or even making a green juice smoothie to be healthier.
It has nothing to do with any of the attributes you might attach to waking up early and its benefits.
The actual core, underlying root reason that a human being should wake up early is because there is a deep wisdom and science to this habit.
 

What’s the Science?

The physical act of waking up early triggers a response in the language of the individual that confirms that action.
By affirming and acknowledging this action, a person’s language reconstructs itself to mirror the fact that they are someone who rises early, in order to get more out of life and enjoy each moment to rise with the sun in order to fully dive into all of waking life’s pleasures.
After all, this entire experience — life itself — goes by in the blink of an eye. Eventually, our language begins to shape our thought constructs about this action.
When this trifecta or triumvirate takes place, we essentially have the three pillars of consciousness – love, happiness, and truth — working in tandem with each other to affirm a new identity.
In this case, the identity would be that of someone who enjoys and relishes every second of life and needs to rise early with or before the sun rises in order to maximize their pleasure and enjoyment of the experience they are receiving.
This signals to the brain an intense level of enjoyment and fulfillment that is deeper than fleeting moments of happiness.
It’s 24/7, 365.
 

Final Thoughts

By building this ritual or habit we are effectively reshaping and remodeling our experience of the world. We are confirming that existence in life itself is precious, sweet, beautiful, unique.
It’s everything that ever is and everything that ever will be.
This isn’t about early rising. This is about fully loving life itself.
Note: I just finished a 21 Day Early Rising Challenge and woke up at 4:47 every day (except two days, where I woke up and pretty much went back to bed).
 

Resources

  1. Pillars of Consciousness: Buddha – Zen – Tao – Tantra – Osho is renowned not only for his wisdom, but his skill as a guide to a deeper understanding of complex philosophical concepts using humor and the art of storytelling paves the way for readers to as Buddha said be a light unto yourself.
  2. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM)  – What’s being widely regarded as “one of the most life changing books ever written” may be the simplest approach to achieving everything you’ve ever wanted, and faster than you ever thought possible.

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Photo credit: Sleeping ManCC license

Why a Sabbatical Can Massively Boost Your Focus

Total Reading Time: 6 minutes.
I’m going on a blog publishing sabbatical. Before you get sad and feel like you just stepped in a puddle and have wet sock (worst thing ever), allow me to share some reasons why you may want to do the same. I’ll also share my own motivations for doing this toward the end of the article.
I once learned from a brilliant man—Eben Pagan, creator of my favorite program for work effectiveness Wake Up Productive—that it’s critical to be deliberate with our time. Eben is the archetype of the modern-day internet entrepreneur. He has made tens of millions of dollars selling information products, and built a virtual business and team that spans the globe.
He does things that might seem silly to some, like having a dedicated person in his life he calls the meter fairy, who makes sure he always has enough quarters in his car glove compartment to pay for street parking. One of the biggest business-related lessons I’ve learned is how to focus on only the most important tasks.
I’ve been using the method below for a couple years, but have only recently begun to understand its true power. We must be very self-aware of how we spend our time. There is a simple formula we can use to help monitor our activities.

Increase Productivity with Simple Time-Management

All of your time can be divided into these two chunks:
1. High-dollar or high-lifetime-value activities
This is where our priority should be. The most important aspect is what tasks we’re actually working on. High-dollar value tasks are the ones that generate you the most revenue/sales. High-lifetime value tasks are creative activities to help toward your pursuit of grander, long-term goals—and can also lead to more income.
Are you creating a new report in Google Analytics or a spreadsheet for your website? Are you calling your email list hosting company to troubleshoot a problem? These are not high-value tasks. Are you putting together a document for your client? Are you attending a conference in your field to get an education and meet like-minded people? There you go—these are high-value tasks. Do more of this, and cut the rest.

2. R3: Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation
Yes—the rest of your time should be spent—resting. “This is blasphemy, Arman! You’re promoting laziness.” I understand this goes against standard logic for most of us. It’s easy to believe that if you’re not busy hustling 24/7 it means you’re lazy. This attitude and approach work for some people, like Gary Vaynerchuk, who has created a movement around hustling.
In order for you to be effective at what you do (the high-value tasks), you need to keep your mind and body in an optimal state. Taking care of yourself and disconnecting from work is critical. Spending a little time by yourself isn’t a bad idea either, my experiment from an entire year of solitude changed my life. Relaxation is also a time to build the creative muscle.
Meditating, or simply slowing down the mind, can do magical things for your creativity.
I value presence over productivity, and first learned about this from the incredible Maria Popova. The method above does promote productivity, but at its core it promotes a presence and effectiveness that other complicated productivity solutions can’t offer. Alan Watts also spoke of this often and highlighted how our society lives to work, his famous talk on Work vs. Play explains this beautifully.

What to Do with All the Other Tasks

The question of how to cut the rest is an entirely different one, but here’s a quick primer:

  1. First work on saying no to yourself. Then get better at saying no to other people without being rude.
  2. Now work on identifying the tasks you should not be doing (the ones not in line with your craft and strengths as a solopreneur).
  3. And finally, outsource these tasks to a virtual assistant or intern. I love Fancy Hands and use them daily (here’s a full review of the service).

Why You Should Take a Sabbatical

Now you understand the foundation for how you can approach your work. As always, experiment with this and see if it works for you. Now how do sabbaticals (not the type your professor takes, but a self-imposed break) tie into all this? At times we may find ourselves working too many projects. It’s easy to get caught up saying yes to exciting opportunities, which means it’s no longer possible to dedicate enough time to the high-value tasks.
A sabbatical is a way to say—that’s enough. A sabbatical can be a complete disconnect. Or simply taking a break from a specific business, project, or task in your work. In my case, I’m taking a publishing sabbatical, which means I’m not planning on publishing any content directly on the site, but of course, I will continue communicating with my readers and sharing insights through my email newsletter.
By choosing to go on sabbatical you can disconnect from a task (or everything else) to focus on a bigger opportunity. Or, it can help to regenerate your creativity and enthusiasm for the work. James Clear talks about taking a sabbatical from his writing around twice a year—something I think every writer should consider.
In my case, I’m working on multiple huge projects (the biggest of my life so far), which is both high-dollar and high-lifetime-value work. It would be irresponsible of me to take time away from this, especially since it aligns directly with my grander vision and helps me better serve my readers (you) much better.
Sometimes we just have to go all in. By turning off the mind when it comes to other tasks, we can be fully immersed in a new world and spend more time carefully crafting the new project. That’s what I’m doing right now, and if it resonates with you, I recommend you consider it too. Be specific about what really matters. Focus on a single brand promise and message, then deliver on it with laser focus.
It wasn’t easy to make this decision, in fact, I was initially feeling guilty just considering it. In the end, I asked myself a simple question: would my readers rather receive a few new articles, or will they gain more from the multiple projects I’m working on that I’m certain will provide 10–100X more value in the long-term? Easy answer.
How long will I go on this publishing sabbatical for? The current plan is around 60 days. How much time will I save? You might be wondering how blogging takes away from this—after all—how long does it really take? A 1,000–3,000-word post (the typical length of my articles), takes anywhere from two to eight hours to research and write, and even longer to edit and publish. But I actually spend even more time promoting my articles to reach new audiences than on the creation process—another 10–20 hours a week.

Conclusion

So—think about your own life, your projects, and your goals. Are you avoiding working on the highest-value work? Would a project-specific sabbatical help? If so, start re-structuring your daily plan right now. Keep it to a maximum of 2–3 tasks per day, and focus all your energy and effort around that.
Sometimes all we need is a jolt to realize we’ve been avoiding the real thing all along. Or perhaps you’ve been unintentionally procrastinating, feeling disconnected from your craft, or simply too busy to make an impact. Either way, a sabbatical could be just the thing you need.
To learn more about my projects and get behind-the-scenes insights, make sure you get access to my private email list.
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Photo credit: Unsplash

How to Make Money ($2,700/Month) Publishing Amazon Kindle eBooks with No Writing — Passive Income Case Study

Note: Two cool things…

  1. To help you take action I’ve created a downloadable tool called The Beginner’s Guide to Rapidly Self-Publishing Kindle eBooks — scroll down and you’ll see a form, pop in your best email and I’ll send it to you for free.
  2. There’s an awesome infographic at the bottom of this post, helpful for you visual learners. Feel free to share that or embed on your own site.

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes.

Before the Dark Ages, the industrial revolution, the birth of technology, and even the internet — we had books. Books are one of the few constants that distinctly identify human culture. But with the birth of digital products and the internet, one thing has changed, and that is the explosion of eBooks.

With Amazon, Kindle eBooks have become a booming business, and writers of all types are creating a name for themselves, and making a nice income. Self-publishing has flipped the script on the traditional publishing model.

With the internet as our platform, anyone can create a new stream of income for themselves, of course with a little work. That’s where Saeed Rajan of Escape Your Desk Job comes in.

Saeed has been making around $2,700 a month by publishing eBooks on Amazon, and he hasn’t written a word himself. When Saeed wrote to me about this, I knew it was my duty to share his story and create this case study interview on his first book, so you could learn more about this opportunity.

Use Saeed’s experience as a model, and you could be well on your way to a brand new stream of passive income. In my opinion, this is a fantastic way to get started as a solopreneur and get your feet wet. I even mention self-publishing as one of my top 15 solopreneur businesses in this post.

Below is my case study with Saeed…

Why did you decide to get into Kindle eBook publishing?

I didn’t have a lot of time to start a business from scratch, so I was looking for a passive income (spend money to make money) type of venture. 

I had a couple friends who were making a killing from selling apps on the App Store, but I didn’t have enough courage to put that sort of money into a project that I wasn’t familiar with. 

After a bit of research, I learned that self-publishing eBooks was a very similar model to producing apps, but it was a lot cheaper and a lot easier to get done. [Arman’s note: If you do want to create an app, use this 8 day app business plan]

The costs weren’t too high, so I didn’t have to even think twice about it. After posting a couple job descriptions for my first eBooks, I realized how much more simple it would be to find an author as opposed to an app developer. 

How much did it cost?

My first eBooks cost me a total of $375.  I paid $350 to get the book written, and I paid $25 to have a professional looking book cover made for the book.

How long did it take to make your first sale?

From the time I decided to publish an eBook, to the day I got my first sale was exactly 2 weeks.

My first eBook was published on February 8, 2013, and my first sale(s) came on February 10, 2013.  I remember it like it was yesterday – I made a whopping $9 in profit in that one day.

What’s the name of the book?

Piece of Cake Paleo – The Effortless Paleo Baking Bible.

How much money has the book made you since you published it?

As of September 30, 2014, this eBook has totaled $2,401.66 in total profit.  This figure does not include sales made outside of America.  The figure is actually much higher, but it would’ve taken a while to gather all the profits from every region the book is sold in.

The eBook is still consistently making money, and although sales have decreased dramatically since it was published, the current return on investment is 740% (and counting) and the average profit 2014 has been $47.11 per month (not including any sales outside of America). 

Keep in mind that this money is coming in from doing zero work, and I’ve used the proceeds from the first eBook to scale and produce more books that pay just like this one.

How did you decide on the topic of the eBook?

I browsed through the Kindle Bestseller’s list and took note of what was already working. I noticed a few books on the Paleo diet in the bestsellers lists so I dug a little deeper into the subject.

Reading customer reviews was a huge help.  I learned a lot about the market, and learned what they did (and didn’t) like about the bestselling Paleo books. I noticed a lot of people complaining about not being able to eat the foods they crave, and how the recipes in the books were good, but too complicated.

I also learned that baking had it’s own category on bestsellers lists, so I decided to come out with an eBook of simple, Paleo baking recipes. [Arman’s note: this is a key learning that he applied from his research — awesome!]

Any resources/tools you found helpful to get started? 

I used Elance (now Upwork) [Arman’s note: I use Upwork a lot and highly recommend it] to find a ghostwriter and I used Fiverr.com to hire a designer who created my book covers.

Scrivener [also recommended] was an awesome tool that made formatting the eBooks really easy for me.  It’s a word processor that effortlessly compiles text into a Kindle-ready format (among others).  I would only recommend using Scrivener if you and your ghostwriters are both using a Mac. 

Microsoft Word is sufficient enough to get the job done otherwise. Copyscape is an awesome free tool you can use to make sure you’re not uploading any plagiarized work.

What were the biggest mistakes/wastes of time/money?

I made an update to the eBook – letting readers know about other books I’d come out with, and the updated eBook version I uploaded to the Kindle store was missing some chapters.   

Previewing your eBook thoroughly before it goes out to the public is key.  It wasn’t until I got a couple bad reviews that mentioned the missing chapters that I fixed my mistake.  I emailed Amazon’s help center and they graciously emailed all of the buyers with a new update.

Another mistake I made came when I hired the same ghostwriter on for more eBooks in the same series.  I think he got a little too comfortable with the job and he started skipping steps.  I trusted him to do as good of a job with the new books as he did with the original, so I didn’t bother getting them proof-read by family members, and friends. 

I received a couple bad reviews on the eBooks and quickly realized that I should’ve been more thorough. Now, I ask my ghostwriters to send me segments of the book as they are completed.  This way I can send some short reads to family and friends during the creation process and get their feedback on the content before it goes out to the public.

How did you market the eBook?  Any key PR/media wins? How did they happen?

First I built up a bit of social proof, by purchasing copies of the eBook for friends and family to read on their Kindle devices in exchange for an honest review. I asked them to post the Review on the Amazon.com website so that people would be able to get their feedback.

Next, I used Amazon’s KDP Promotions so my eBook would be available for free for just one day.  I posted to Facebook, and a few websites that promoted free eBooks. 

Using this strategy, I was able to get more than 1200 downloads and I cracked the top 100 free eBooks right away. I later found out that a lot of the traffic had come from a popular ‘Real Food’ Facebook page that posted my free book to their followers.

Amazon also rewards author’s who give away a lot of free eBooks by promoting them within the Amazon website. That was all the marketing I ever needed to get these results.

If you did it all over again, what would you do differently?

Knowing what I know now, I’d have paid a lot less for my first few eBooks.  I paid somewhere around $0.04/word for the first set of books I came out with. After learning about the market, I know the competitive rate for most freelance writers is about $0.02/word (and keep in mind this rate increases for more rare niches).

I’d have also scaled a little more quickly than I initially had.  The investment for this eBook was small and I had the capacity to come out with another 3 eBooks for 3 separate niches at the time I started. 

This would’ve provided me a lot more capital from the proceeds, a lot more opportunity for scaling, and a much better understanding of the different markets on the Kindle stores. Not all markets are big payers, and some markets get saturated quickly.  It’s really easy now to waste your money if you don’t perform the right research at the beginning.

I’ve written a post on my blog describing in more detail how I go about doing this.  I recommend anybody getting started to check it out and follow the steps closely to avoid the same mistakes I’ve encountered. [Arman’s note: We all make mistakes, but we should learn from each other’s. Here are some of my biggest ones]

What’s the 80/20 of successful publishing?  What would any of our readers need in order to get their first eBook up and start makings some passive income?

I’d say the 80/20 is giving the readers what they want.  Like I mentioned, reading through the reviews of popular books will give a really good insight to what the audience is looking for.  You already know the audience is there, so just give them what they want – and make sure it’s high quality – Amazon will do the rest. 

You really don’t need a lot to publish an eBook onto Amazon.  You’ll need to have prepared:

  1. The niche-book in docx, epub, or mobi format (I recommend no less than an 80-page book)
  2. The book cover in jpeg format
  3. 7 keywords so people can find your book
  4. A benefit-rich title and/or subtitle
  5. An author to take the credit (you can always use a pen name and make someone up)
  6. A brief description of the eBook (why the book is important, what the book is about, and how the book will help the reader get what they’re asking for with a call-to-action at the end)
  7. A price for the eBook (I recommend starting at $0.99 until you get some reviews and sales – you can increase the price after).

The eBook submission process takes less than 5 minutes, and Amazon doesn’t often take longer than 24 hours for your book to go live.

I noticed your eBook is also available in paperback.  How did you do this, and how did you link it all together?

Amazon has a subsidiary site called Createspace.com.  Once you’ve uploaded your eBook to kdp.amazon.com using all the stuff we just talked about, you can used the same information to upload your book to Createspace. 

Createspace will automatically link your paperback book to your Kindle eBook will also fulfill all of your orders for you so you don’t have to do any extra work on your own end. 

A couple cool things about this:

  1. You can order your own book and get a paperback version delivered to your door.  I like giving away my books as gifts and as sample copies to other companies that might be interested in selling my book for me as well.
  2. You can price your paperback much higher than an eBook (I recommend between 12.95-19.95 depending on your competition).  Each sale will amount to a much higher royalty than you would normally receive through your eBooks.

My books make more money through Createspace than they do from Kindle eBook sales, so this 5 minute procedure is more than worth it for any book you plan to publish.

Conclusion: Here’s an Awesome Infographic to Explain the Kindle Ebook Passive Income Revolution

Click on the image below to see a larger view:
infographic kindle ebook passive income

Share/Embed This Image on Your Site (copy the code below):

A fantastic case study. What did you think? Will you give self-publishing a shot?

Note: This infographic was created for ArmanAssadi.com by The Pineapple Inc — a custom website design and development agency.

Photo credit: AutopilotCC license

7 Biggest Mistakes I've Made as a Solopreneur

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes.
Good lord almighty, have I made some mistakes. This isn’t easy to admit or share publicly. As I write this, I’m telling myself to imagine this is just a private journaling session and will forever stay locked up — never to be shared with anyone, anywhere.
My hopes are that by being completely honest, raw, and unadulterated I can save you countless hours of headache and stress. Sometimes a simple mistake or defeat can seem like the end of the world. No matter how hard you try to play the optimism game, your reason will attempt to overpower all hope.
It takes time to see that your mistakes were just training. In fact, your mistakes and defeats are what make it possible to experience (and enjoy) success one day. Even now, I make mistakes, daily. The little ones still upset me, and the bigger ones can torment me. I’m sure you know what I mean, and have experienced the same feeling.
At times, it’s just not possible to do it right the first time. Experience is necessary. Nonetheless, there are many mistakes that can be avoided. These mistakes are not tactical or strategical, but educational — mistakes that lack wisdom.
As a solopreneur, it’s your job to educate yourself. No one else is going to tell you what to do.
This realization is both inspiring and heavy. This leaves me with a responsibility to make good decisions, get relevant and actionable advice from mentors, and study like a madman.
With that said, below are the 7 biggest mistakes I’ve made as a solopreneur.

1. Unnecessary Overhead/Expenses

One of the first big decisions I made when I became a solopreneur was to get an office space. Well, actually, a new friend at a conference offered the space to me. He said he’d only charge me $100 a month for the desk. In San Francisco, that’s quite a steal, so I took it.
Looking back, I think this is a big mistake. An office space is a luxury, and often an unnecessary expense for a new entrepreneur. In the beginning I didn’t look at it that way, but now I know better. $100 can be invested in the business (here are 15 business ideas) and go toward generating more revenue (e.g., through Facebook ads).
Even better, that money could be set aside for investing into new and existing assets, which could then put off more cash flow. Both of these concepts I didn’t understand before.
It didn’t stop there. I was the new entrepreneur, living the dream. If I wanted it and found a way to sell myself on its utility, I purchased it. Shiny new equipment, fancy software, and cool tools—all this is unnecessary overhead.
Looking back, my profit margins could have been higher from the beginning.
A top priority for every new entrepreneur should be to maximize cash flow.

2. Not Sacrificing

When I first left Google I felt an incredible sense of freedom, and I still do. For me, leaving the job world was symbolic, because I knew deep down that it was the beginning a new journey. I was ready to burn the bridges and go all in.
Yet, I didn’t sacrifice a whole lot. No massages? No nap pods? No billiards next to organic ice cream machines and table tennis next to refrigerators full of unlimited snacks? No problem.
I pretended (to myself) that everything was exactly the same. I continued enjoying the same activities, and living the same way, as if I was still making $120K.
This is a big mistake, but it’s not entirely about the money. The mistake is that I never sacrificed the way every solopreneur and entrepreneur must do in the beginning. I wanted to simply glide on over into this new world, and refused to sacrifice my lifestyle. I also didn’t sacrifice enough of my free time, and should have been more like the dedicated solopreneur I am now.
Looking back, it was right to enjoy my newfound freedom and flexibility. Yet, I should have sacrificed more of my social life. I should have said no more often. Great things happen in solitude, and that would have helped me feel more connected to my new craft.

3. Trying to Maintain Work/Life Balance

This mistake is a continuation of not sacrificing. One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking I could keep the same hours and work 9 to 5 like before. Wrong.
I intend to build something that will leave a legacy. I intend to create valuable content and share information and lessons that can change people’s lives. That person lives and breathes their “work”, as I do now.
My mistake was naive, but forgivable. I tried to find balance, but couldn’t. It was a futile battle. I’m not advocating that you stay up all night and obsess over your venture. Knowing when and how to “turn off” is important. But to try and balance is difficult in the beginning, you’re better off just going all in.

4. Accepting the Wrong Advice

I was hungry for a strong start, and was willing to experiment with different projects, as long as they were relevant to my initial plans. The problem is, I was too hungry. I naively sought advice from the wrong people.
Why were they the wrong people? And how should I have known? One critical piece of criteria: they weren’t doing exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve learned to only get business advice from people that have done what I want to do (successfully), or are currently doing it.
It’s okay to get strategic or general advice. But I ended up pursuing an idea I believed in through a completely different method. This diluted my enthusiasm. I wasn’t proud of the work, because in the end it wasn’t uniquely mine.
Key lesson: always stay true to yourself and get advice from people that believe in you and your mission.

5. Researching/Testing Beforehand

Before becoming a solopreneur I didn’t know much about the world of online business. I’d read a book or two, and would browse a couple popular online business blogs, but that was about it. I know, shocking. Who does that? Me.
Not researching my industry/niche more was a big mistake. Not making my first dollar online before committing was an even bigger one. I committed to the idea of what I wanted to do without knowing what it would take.
This was both good and bad (ignorance can be bliss sometimes), because I took action anyway. If I did it all over again, I would definitely have set an initial goal to hit before making the leap.
Some examples: first 1,000 subscribers, first 10 customers, first $1,000, and so on.

6. Networking

For some really odd reason, I didn’t take the time to network with people much. This is abnormal, because most people would say I’m pretty good with…people. I love collaborating and sharing ideas with other humans, it’s where I get my energy.
I initially looked to my industry’s network and saw them as inspiration, not as a network. They were ahead of me, so at times there was a bit of envy to get there as fast as possible. At the same time, my social scene was too far “offline” (see mistake 3). I didn’t see the potential partnerships, friendships, and networking opportunities.
It’s important to network because you never know how you can help someone. All it takes is one idea or one perspective to change someone’s business. You also never know what friendships might arise, and that is invaluable as a solopreneur.
The people in your space will just “get it”. That understanding can’t be created with your other networks, so don’t take it for granted.
I take networking seriously now, and have dedicated time on my calendar for it. I recommend you do too.

7. Inconsistent Branding/Focus

It wasn’t until a year and a half into my journey that I realized I was making this mistake. It was a mentor that exposed the mistake to me. As soon as he pointed it out, it felt like a massive lightning storm of “aha moments” battering me all at once. It was painful, but also quite pleasurable.
The lesson summed up in one sentence:
Every single action you take in your business, whether it be creating a new YouTube video, attending an event, or writing a blog post, must always deliver on one single brand promise.
If the action or project does not deliver on your brand’s (yes, personal brand’s too) unique promise, then you are wasting your time. Furthermore, you are confusing your audience and customers with an inconsistent message.
As Larry Page, CEO of Google would say, you must have “laser focus” at all times. Prior to this epiphany I was spinning my wheels. I learned things I didn’t need to learn, and worked on unrelated projects. I was spread too thin.
Now, I know better. Since relaunching WILG in May of 2014 and making the brand my central platform, everything has changed. Exciting opportunities are coming in, our readership has exploded, and the brand has a consistent message. Plus, I’m able to focus completely on providing exceptional content to you.

Links to Resources

  1. The Lean Startup – Before you devote yourself to creating the most beautiful software or product in the world, learn about starting lean. Deliver the minimum viable product to your customers, and then iterate from there.
  2. The $100 Startup – It really doesn’t take much to get started. Read this book to learn how you can start your own solopreneur business for under $100. This site originally cost only around $100 to create.
  3. Regus – Hate working from home every day? Don’t get an office space. Get a Regus Businessworld membership. This will allow you to work from a business lounge (think fancy, quiet cafe) in almost any major city around the world, and even some small ones (2000 cities world wide). I use this around 1-3 times a week.

Mistakes can be painful. Some of them leave scars. But as with all mistakes, there is an equivalent benefit waiting in its shadows. You just have to be persistent enough to receive it.

What mistakes have you made in business or as a solopreneur? Which of my mistakes did you (hopefully) learn something new from?
Photo credit: MistakesCC License

Solopreneur Case Study: Premier Celebrity and MMA Photographer James Law

Total Reading Time: 5 minutes

I first met James Law in May of 2010 at the top of a mountain. No, seriously.

I was back in San Diego, visiting my old friends and college town.

At the time I was working for 3M and had a great job coming out of school. I was living in Manhattan, had a company car, expense account — the works.

That weekend we went out drinking on a Saturday night, SDSU style. A friend decided to wake everyone up at 9 AM on Sunday morning and told us we we should go for a run. We were going to run up Cowles mountain and sweat out the hangover.

We abided.

James was also there for the run, and even brought along his camera. He casually took some photos of our “victory” at the top of the mountain. Then we got to talking.

He was at a crossroads in his career. I’m sure you’ve been there too. Remember the feeling?

A lot of us think we’re pursuing a noble career that’s meant for us (like my jobs at 3M and Google) and that we should be thankful for. We’re trying to do something that makes us happy, keeps us motivated, and helps us live the lifestyle we want.

Unfortunately, all too often we’re compartmentalized and boxed into a certain job, with specific things we can and can’t do. A lot of times, even these jobs that provide lots of “freedom” are really just shadow careers — a parallel of what we really should be doing. The problem is many of us haven’t quite seen or realized this yet.

Later on James followed up with me through email to do a little networking and…

“…get some advice on breaking into the next step in my sales and marketing career and am ready to grow”.

Clearly, he was simply looking to do anything else. So I gave him the standard reply. Told him about 3M. Described the job opportunities.

But then I asked him — “what actually interests you most?”

So James decided to open up and explain his situation.

“I’m really having a hard time with my job and I know that I’m not growing or learning anymore and its taking a toll on my psyche.”

How many times have you heard someone say that, or even felt it yourself? How unfortunate is it that this is happening to bright, talented, motivated men and women all around the world? Fortunately, there’s a revolution coming.

James also followed up with…

“I’d love to work as a sales/biz dev guy for an MMA or marketing company and do some photography on the side.”

Hmm..MMA? Photography? Little did he know the tiny seed he had planted in his mind was already in the works.

The rest is history.

Fast forward three years and James is not only living his dream, but doing it in style. He’s an incredibly successful and well-known professional photographer, currently Chief Photographer and Photo Director at UFC Magazine, and also has his own freelance photography business.

His interest all started when a neighbor down the hall showed him how to use a Nikon D50. He started shooting photos at gyms, and then of friends.

After a little online exposure…

“a new sports website called me and said ‘Hey James, want to come shoot Strike Force?’ (which is like the baby UFC). I took the day off work, drove up to LA to shoot. I totally thought I was going to get cage side but they put me way up in the rafters and didn’t have the right lenses for it so I was out of luck.

I ended up making my way down to cage side for the last fight and manual focused with my D700 and nailed almost every epic shot. Since that day, I put my day job aside and have shot about 50 UFC’s all over the world. [original source]”

I’ve been watching James’ progress through social media and keeping my eye on his website. Truly incredible stuff.

One day I had a sudden impulse to reach out and congratulate him. Then I remembered the initial email exchange with James three years earlier. So—I went back to that exact email and replied to it so he could see the progress and dramatic change in his life.

James did it. He did exactly what he wanted to do. He was clear about his outcome and powerfully focused on it enough to make it happen. Now he’s doing what he loves, has become very popular (as a result of his passion for what he does), and travels around the world meeting amazing people and enjoying new experiences.

Just in the next two months James will be in: New York City, Tokyo, Basel, Stockholm and a few other cities.

This article is a lesson on understanding what we want is not given to us by asking how. It’s given to us by asking why.

Know and understand your why’s. What is your true inner core? Who is the real you? What does that person want to experience during this lifetime? Why? 

Don’t say you want to travel the world because it’s fun. Go deeper. You want it because it makes you feel alive. It educates you and enriches your experiences. The why has to be strong, and at the true root level.

Then — after you have a strong why — ask how. How will this feed your purpose, or help you live the life you’ve always wanted?

This article is also a lesson on a simple truth that we’re all incredibly disconnected from: Anything is possible.

We tend to separate ourselves from these success stories. We read them and think, “well good for James, but that’s not me. He probably got lucky”. Then start listing all these bullshit reasons and limiting beliefs about why life is the way it is.

Rewire your beliefs. Start believing that you’re not limited to what life has given you in the past. Know clearly what you want and why.

Then take immediate action toward it. If we simply hold onto some dream of working with UFC fighters and doing photography, but never buy a camera and never put ourselves out there — how can we possibly ever make that dream come true?

James did. And I challenge you to do the same. One day you’ll wake up and realize you’re living your dream. And that’s worth all the pain and effort in the world.

P.S. James is truly an amazing photographer. As a bonus, below are some of my favorite pictures he’s taken. James also has his own photography business and is available for projects in advertising, portraits, lifestyle, and sports. Head to his website to get more details.

Anderson Silva knock out kick - captured by photographer James Law
Anderson Silva knock out kick – captured by photographer James Law

Chuck Lidell vs. Boy - James Law Photography
Chuck Lidell vs. Boy – James Law Photography

Swordsman - James Law Photography
Swordsman – James Law Photography

 
 

Effortless Email: Reclaim Your Inbox (and Sanity) and Automate Email

Total Reading Time: 4 minutes.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the very best content from my course, Effortless Email.
This project took over six months to complete. I work on a lot of different ideas and projects. Here on the site is where I talk about these projects and my learnings, along with the lifestyle I’ve designed for myself.
I wasn’t always a Gmail ninja. In fact, I thought I’d be just fine sifting through my Hotmail searching for that funny viral video my friend sent me, amongst all the “male enhancement” spam emails.
For years I was drowning in my inbox, praying that email would become obsolete and I’d never have to look at or respond to another email again.
Well, that day hasn’t come (yet), and we live in a world where electronic-mail is still the primary way people contact one another.
If you’re stressed, frustrated, or even just annoyed with email and all the spam in your inbox—trust me, I understand.
Or perhaps, you simply aren’t utilizing the full power and potential of your email account, spending hours per day checking your email and still letting the important ones fall through the cracks.
During my time at Google and 3M, I started to realize that my individual success as an employee, and now a solopreneur, depended heavily on my ability to communicate with others like a professional.
My work email accounts were flooded with emails that all needed a response or personal attention.
My personal email was also flooded with spam and all those annoying notification emails. It seems that no matter how many times we uncheck that little box that says “Yes, I would like to receive all your special ‘dealios’ and I want 10 emails a day from you!” we still keep receiving them, don’t we?
Eventually, I became obsessed with email. I read every single book, article, magazine, and strategy by all of the top gurus out there.
I talked to other Googler’s that were considered “Gmail Ninjas” and asked them to show me their inboxes. I picked their brains, I implemented new strategies, and eventually, I created my own.
Now, I’m here as a solopreneur today, ready to share my strategy with you.

Create an Automated Inbox

Step 1: Create an Action/To-Do Label

  1. Click/choose Create new label from the left-hand side menu
  2. Name it: Action, To Do, @, or any name you choose

Step 2: Ultimate Priority Inbox – Custom Set Up

  1. Click the Gear (Settings) icon in the upper-right corner
  2. Choose the Inbox menu
    1. Inbox type: Priority Inbox
    2. Select Inbox Sections:

Section #1: Important (not Important and unread)

Section #2: All Starred

Section #3: “Action” or “To Do” section (Action label created in previous step for this section)

Section #4: Everything else

Step 3: Enable Keyboard Shortcuts (and learn them)

  1. Click Gear (Settings) icon in the upper-right corner
  2. Under General Settings
  3. Select: Keyboard shortcuts on

*These are the shortcuts you must know: 

Name

Shortcut

Action

Compose c Compose a new message
Archive e Archive your conversation from any view
Reply r Replies to the message sender
Reply all a Replies to all
Forward f Forwards the message
Delete # Deletes the message

 

Step 4: Prevent Annoying Emails and Spam

For all future product/service signups or registrations that ask for an email address, use: [email protected]

So for example, if my email was [email protected], I would use: [email protected]

Props to the folks that picked up on the Arrested Development reference. For your filter, you can use any word you like, and you can do this as many times as you want with different words.
I’ve found that this trick works the majority of the time, but on occasion, the signup form will tell you to use a “valid email address”.
After you’ve signed up:

  • Create a filter for any emails sent to that address to skip the inbox
  • Be sure to check the emails in that label/folder for a confirmation email, in case it’s required in order to activate service.
  • Filter the new unnecessary emails right away as they arrive in your inbox

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Any questions at all—comment on this post directly or reach out through the contact page.