I'd already been working for myself for a couple years doing Web design (back then a chap didn't need to have sick skills like Charlie, Norcross, and Reese have), selling on eBay, and just straight up hustling before I started my first extremely profitable business in 2002 for just $119.40 (back then it cost a little more, this is what it would cost today).
If you're a member of the Freedom Frighters you know a tiny bit of this story, but I'm going to go in-depth now. Strap yourself in and hold on tight! (Err, if you actually do that, please first pull your car to the side of the road before continuing on reading this. Safety first!)
The Beginnings: HustleHow it all began: In the year 2000 I met a girl who sold stuff on eBay. I'd already been dilly dallying on eBay, but she taught me about a fun little niche. She taught me how to find free stuff to sell on eBay. This wasn't a hugely profitable business (I'm getting to that part!), but for college students working very part time it was awesome and very consistent.
There were 2 main aspects of this "free auction profits" niche. First was getting lots of free after rebate stuff from stores like CompUSA, Staples, and OfficeMax. Sometimes this stuff was beyond free. We'd actually sometimes get paid after the rebates were sent! The second aspect of the free stuff was going to record stores and getting free stickers/cassettes (yes!)/CDs/posters/paraphernalia that street teams would leave in stores promoting bands. We would never take ALL of the stuff, just a few of everything. There was (and probably still is) a huge market for band stuff on eBay.
All in all, this business could pull in $500-$1000 profit in a good month. Again, not hugely profitable, and it really depended on if the rebates were rocking hard or not, but it was not especially time consuming. (Side note: I was also beginning to dabble in affiliate marketing at this time. Like I said, hustling!)
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
More Hustle. Hustle Times Two. Hustle Hustle Even!All throughout my eBay selling (even before the free stuff) I was a member of a small eBay sellers forum/message board. I spent a lot of time answering questions and also getting help. I had no Web site, and nothing to sell. I was just there because I loved learning about auctions and what others were doing. And I also thrived on teaching new auction sellers the ins and outs.
One day I e-mailed the guy who ran the forum. We'd had many previous contacts, but this time it was something new. I'd read about people selling these things called information products, specifically eBooks. So I e-mailed him, told him about the free stuff I sold on eBay, and asked him if he thought it would make a good eBook. He already had an information product to sell, so I figured I should get advice from someone with experience. (<-- So important I did this.)
"Yes! Write it! I'll promote it!"
Wowza! Sweet. :)
So what did I do?
I got my ass in gear, wrote the guide, wrote the sales page, designed the Web site/eBook cover, and released that eBook, Free Auction Profits, within 10 days!
Then I e-mailed Jim, the guy who ran that auction forum, with a copy and an affiliate link.
What did he do? He promoted it without the affiliate link! He said it was thanks for all the awesome help I provided on a regular basis in the forum. :)
First Sale (!!!) and Goal SettingFrom idea to first sale was just 10 days. This was October of 2002. (In 2006, after I stopped selling that product and quit that business I put up a copy of the eBook for free at FreeAuctionProfits.com. It's strictly for posterity so please don't take anything written there as gospel nowadays. It probably isn't valid. Also, please excuse the formatting and AdSense. I don't really know how to edit that site now.)
My goal with that information business was to make just $400/week. On top of what I was already making with other stuff, it would mean I'd never have to get a job after University. I hit that $400/week goal within a month. So I doubled the goal to $800/week. I reached that a few months into 2003.
Stepping It Up To 6 FiguresNext goal: $100k/year. It took a little bit longer to reach that goal. If you remember reading Sweet Shit Saturday #004, I talked about a guy named John Reese. With the stuff I learned from him I turned this tiny little information product business into a 6 figure earner in 2004, when I was 23 years old.
The gist of how I did that: I stepped up my eBay game by learning about wholesaling and drop shipping and then released a $97 physical (as in, real mail!) product that taught how to find wholesalers. With the higher price point I could offer affiliates a nice commission on a great product and still make ~$30 per sale after all fees. I sold low 5 figures worth on launch day. A few thousand went to affiliates, but along with all of my other income streams, it was my first $10k profit day. We'll talk about that (and at least one other 5 figure profit day, as an affiliate not merchant) next Monday.
Breaking Down The Costs Of My First 6 Figure BusinessLet's break down the costs of what that first tiny info product business that changed my life would cost today ...
1) Domain Name: $9.69/year (or free)
My domain name advice is simple. I like .com the most although I do own a bunch of .net and .org domains. Choose a name that sounds good (RidiculouslyExtraordinary.com) or a choose a name that has a bit of a benefit already built in (HowToLiveAnywhere.com). Length of name doesn't matter much since you'll be doing your promoting online.
I've been using NameCheap.com to register domains lately. Good prices and free domain privacy. I used to use GoDaddy, but switched for my last 9 domains (including HowToLiveAnywhere.com).
You can honestly use any domain registration service you want. The Web host I use will actually give you one free domain ...
For $95.40 per year (including domain name) you can use the same host I use: BlueHost. Many people don't recommend them. Many people do. They're not perfect. No Web host that costs less than $10/month will be perfect. Hell, I used to have $500/month managed servers and things weren't perfect with those either. Don't get too caught up in choosing a Web host. Every time BlueHost has been down they've been good about providing quick status updates. And while my wish is that they'd never be down, I know things happen with computers.
Note: BlueHost is on WordPress.org's recommended hosts list because they make installing Wordpress really easy.
3) Credit Card Processor/eBook Delivery Service: $5/month or $49.95 one-time
When it comes to your first info product I can only recommend these two: e-junkie.com (use coupon EJVIDEOS for a 67 day free trial) and clickbank.com. E-Junkie is $5/month and Clickbank is a $49.95 one-time fee. Each have their benefits and downfalls. For what it's worth, Free Auction Profits (the infoproduct I talked about above) was launched on Clickbank. I'm using E-Junkie for How To Live Anywhere. E-Junkie has much lower fees (i.e no fees beyond the $5/month) than Clickbank ($1 + 7.5% per sale). But Clickbank take care of paying your affiliates. With E-Junkie you have to login once/month, download a file that you upload to Paypal, and pay your affiliates yourself. It takes less than 10 minutes. :)
Double opt-in e-mail lists have been responsible for generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for me. Double opt-in simply means that somebody signs up for your e-mail list (for example, my Freedom Fighters ecourse), gets an e-mail asking them to confirm subscription, and clicks a link inside that e-mail before you can actually send them any messages. This is the anti-spam approach to e-mail marketing. It's permission based marketing and completely on the up-and-up.
More than anything, building an e-mail list is the key to starting a successful long-term online business. I interviewed 2 experts on list building for How To Live Anywhere, that's how much I believe in it.
I use AWeber.com. It starts at $19/month. As your list grows in size your costs will increase a bit. But that's a good thing. If your costs are increasing your profits will too (especially if you do what the 2 dudes I interviewed in How To Live Anywhere tell you to do).
And that's it. Free domain + $95.40/year Web hosting + $5/month e-junkie account + $19/month Aweber account = $119.40
For $119.40 you can get started with your own info product empire. Technology is awesome. :)