I started working online two years ago, my story of business failures started to sprout since then.
Not once or twice, but many, many times.
And somehow, through it all, I've so far managed to come out on top and last year we profited over $100k working online while traveling.
Still, I like to talk about failure on the blog. Not to be negative, but it's important to make sure we're telling the whole story. It can't all be about how I got a 6 million reach on Triberr in two weeks with 80 Twitter followers.
(Wow, that's quite a few failures right there, I suppose I need a post about some of my big wins too!)
But since I'm on the topic, might as well wrap it up with a few more failures from working online for two years.
First Virtual Assistant: Loss - $60
Our first failure happened with our very first virtual assistant back in December 2012.
We hired a girl off of eLance who came with strong references and was willing to work within our price range for around $60 per hour.
Virtual assistants were a new thing for us at the time and we were excited about the prospect of getting some extra help with our blog.
At the same time, we weren’t earning nearly as much on our blog as we do now so we had to really consider the cost/benefit analysis.
Unfortunately, before long our first assistant, Anita, had practically disappeared. She didn’t send any work and wasn’t responding to our emails.
Weeks were going by and we felt like we were losing time and money dealing with her. Eventually, we decided to let her go.
Inevitably she did submit some of the work, albeit late, and by that time, as some of it was time sensitive, it wasn’t even necessary anymore.
We paid her what we owed her despite not getting what we wanted.
Some people might have given up then and there but we decided to try it again. We hired another girl, Maria, and it worked out wonderfully.
Maria has been with us ever since and is our longest running virtual assistant to date.
She has helped us on numerous projects and motivated us to hire more VAs, who have also worked out very well.
Additionally, we have several more assistants as our business has grown, and while we've had ups and downs along the way the general trajectory has been positive.
QuickMarketingPackages.com: Loss - $650
My first attempt to break into new businesses was by buying a website that sold fake social media followers like Facebook likes and Twitter followers.
I had seen these types of websites sell on flippa before and reportedly they were earning a lot of money without that much work.
I thought it would be the perfect side business because we had VAs who could help us by now, were connected with bloggers who might be interested in fake followers, and I had a few ideas of how to market it.
The website was selling on Flippa but was taken down for some reason, I think the seller was going to be traveling – or so he claimed.
The seller contacted me directly offering to sell it to me for $500 flat and handle the transfer.
He agreed to transfer the website along with the suppliers + marketing strategy beforehand so I didn’t have to pay upfront.
Often these websites reportedly earn about $1-$2k per month and sell for $800+ so this seemed like a good deal, apparently too good.
Everything was delivered as promised, but as I got into things, well, sales weren’t exactly booming.
The marketing strategy seemed to have some holes in it and despite the seller’s claim that he was only spending 30-60 minutes a day promoting it I was unable to replicate any of his success.
I even spent some additional money setting up a Facebook page with my own likes and having my VA promote it, and all and all we probably spent $650 on the site and never received any revenue.
I asked for a history of the buyers, which he supplied, but when I emailed them almost no one got back to me.
I still own the site but I have basically given up trying to sell on it.
The listing ended up not selling as the most I was offered was $50 for everything.
The listing cost me $29, so again, we lost additional money on the site..
It’s hard to say for sure but it’s likely I was scammed.
Moreover, because it was not off Flippa I was not even able to leave a review.
The unfortunate thing about this experience is it really soured my desire to buy websites off flippa for nearly 6 months.
Afterwards I did start buying websites again, though slowly.
Trip Goggles: Loss ~$500+ and a lot of time
Vicky and I started this website with the best of intentions, namely we thought the travel community would benefit from a website that shared everyone’s stories together.
Actually, I still think it would, and the food niche has done quite well with websites such as FoodGawker.com (though food is maybe a bit better when it comes to photography than travel).
We hired some programmers off of eLance who had great ratings and a long history.
I really didn’t think it would be too complicated as it was just wordpress and we wanted something similar to an existing site.
The programmers were downright awful.
Dealing with them was an incredible headache. They were always late, always wrong, always doing everything they shouldn’t have been doing and not doing what we were asking.
They didn’t listen, ask questions, and just spat out stuff that we couldn’t use.
The project kept getting delayed and they kept offering us discount after discount if we would see it through with them – so we did, but it was still a disaster even though we got the website for a lot cheaper.
Even when it was done, it still didn’t work like it was supposed to and we had to hire a new programmer to finish it up.
Even after all that, we never could get the site working right and it ended up messing with our execution later on - which was horrible.
Eventually, we just let the domain expire (when I should have at least tried to sell it and make some money back).
Overall, this is definitely not how we envisioned things and we should have canceled on the programmers after it started to not go well, but we thought that we would be better with them at a discount price since they at least had started and were familiar with the code/project then scraping the whole thing.
Blogging Partnership: Headache
Many people know us for the blogging partnership, which was a huge success.
Still, our first attempts at working with people were difficult.
We didn’t have the terms completely hashed out and we accepted a few clients that really weren’t a good fit.
One in particular emailed us saying they were very interested in making money selling sponsored posts.
I was really interested in working with them because they have a quality, well known site and I knew that the types of posts they would be offered would be in the $200+, which meant a lot of money for everyone.
What I didn’t consider was how picky they were, and they found just about every reason in the book to refuse offers.
They didn’t like the terms, the client, the price, etc, and despite getting a lot of great offers (at least by normal standards) we didn’t sell a single sponsored post on their site and had a lot of headache dealing with them in the process.
It was a lesson in knowing who the right customer is for your product/service. Although they had a great site, if we can’t sell anything on it then it doesn’t do anyone any good.
I was blinded by the fact that I thought they could bring in thousands of dollars (which they could have), but the reality is that people with worse sites who are more accommodating end up making a lot more – and that’s who we started targeting afterwards.
At one point I got a request from another well known blogger and knew this time that I should refuse it, and since then we make sure to pick the right types of people for the blogging partnership.
My Biggest Lost - ~$100k
Acts Of Omission - ~$100k
Warren Buffet said that the biggest failures he had in business and in life were things he DIDN'T do - acts of omission.
I couldn't agree more.
I think about how well we did last year with our side projects, but I also realize that had we been a bit savvier, a bit quicker, and a bit more aggressive we could have doubled that.
Yes, I honestly believe that, and I've seen the numbers, and am quite confident that we left another $100k on the table, for sure.
If there's one take away here, it's that you have to take mitigated risks.
We had the capital, the knowledge, and the time - it was the perfect scenario to take risks.
Unfortunately we were conservative with our money and didn't go after buying and building sites that we would end up doing later on and eventually clearing $20k in profit on one month using the exact strategies I was perfectly capable of doing one year earlier. [/sociallocker]
As you can see – business failures are practically unavoidable.
There were definitely actions we could have taken to improve our odds in some of the above cases, but in many of them we were completely right to think there was potential – sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
The best thing you can do is to minimize your downside. This way, you will learn as you go and never be completely out of the game.
Always do your due diligence. As I said there were actions that we could have taken to prevent some of the above.
Buying the website outside of flippa wasn’t a bright move. Or, when Tripgoggles started going sour – we should have scrapped it or at least hired new programmers instead of powering through it – the option was there but we just didn’t take it.
Try not to be blinded by what you think should happen and look at the reality of the situation.
I’ve had plenty of times where what I saw was “big money” and I actually took a loss.
I was fooled by flippa sales reporting false income, by websites I thought would sell a lot of sponsored posts on but not paying attention to difficult clients, and a whole lot of other things that made it impossible to achieve the big money that was never really there anyways.