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3 lessons learned from launching my 6-figure business

For years, I was that guy.

The one who “never lived up to his potential.” The one who bounced around from one dead-end job to the next, making little money:

  • Restaurant manager — $20 an hour
  • Appointment setter for a car dealership — $15 an hour
  • Telephone interviewer — $15 an hour

I was the guy who spaced out at work, dreaming of my own business. Who never stopped annoying my friends with my ideas for the next big thing.

But I thought I didn’t have the brains, the genes, or the guts to succeed, so I did nothing. It felt safer.

Now that’s all changed. It’s 4 years later, and I’m making six figures from my online business.



My website, FreelancetoWin.com, has generated over $230,000 in the past 12 months

It wasn’t magic. It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t meditate for hours hoping to “get in touch with myself.”

No, I just studied successful business owners.

It turns out that real entrepreneurs don’t think about starting a business like the rest of us do. And until you adopt their mindset, you will never be successful on your own.

Today I’m going to reveal the three most powerful lessons I learned in this process. These three simple mindset shifts will help you conquer your fear of starting a business and start thinking like a successful entrepreneur.

Mindset shift #1: There’s no such thing as a “natural” entrepreneur

It’s easy to get intimidated watching famous entrepreneurs. They seem like they were “born to succeed.”

But it’s an illusion. There is no “success gene.”

For example, did you know that Mark Cuban’s first job was bartending? Or that Sara Blakely failed her law school entrance exams and worked at Disney World before founding Spanx?

The reason famous entrepreneurs seem so natural is that, by the time you hear about them, they’ve had a lot of practice. Do you remember the first time you heard of Mark Zuckerberg? It was years after he started Facebook.

Want more proof that entrepreneurship is a learned behavior? Check out the chart below. It shows the first jobs of six of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs:

Entreprener

First Job

Oprah Winfrey

worked at a grocery store

Michael Dell

sold newspaper subscriptions

Martha Stewart

babysitter

Michael Bloomberg

parking attendant

Jeff Bezos

McDonald’s employee

Warren Buffett

newspaper delivery boy

It’s not a superpower. It’s a skill. Figuring that out is the first step every true entrepreneur needs to take.

Here are some action steps to help you get started:

  • Read as much as you can about successful entrepreneurs’ histories
  • Pay particular attention to where they started, what they were doing before they “made it,” and any failures they encountered along the way
  • Ignore the media when they try to portray someone as an overnight success. To paraphrase Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec, “It takes 10-15 years of hard work to become an overnight success”
  • Don’t compare yourself to billionaires. We all have to start somewhere!
  • Realize that if others did it, YOU can do it, too. Steve Jobs once said, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you”

Mindset shift #2: Mistakes are good

When we are children, we’re taught early on to avoid mistakes. “Don’t color outside the lines.” “Why didn’t you get an A on the test?” “Be careful not to spill that!”

But successful entrepreneurs love making mistakes, because it teaches them what to avoid in the future.

Take Elon Musk, for example. In January, his company, SpaceX, tried to land a rocket booster onto an ocean barge.

Unfortunately, one of the booster’s landing legs malfunctioned, and the entire thing was destroyed.

You might think the event was an embarrassing failure. But check out Elon’s reaction on Twitter:



RUD means “Rapid Unscheduled Descent” — AKA crash landing!

Most people would have trouble staying this positive if their 10-speed got a flat tire, but Musk sees it as an opportunity to learn and make improvements.

New entrepreneurs need to embrace this mentality. First, mistakes should be expected. Nobody’s perfect. Second, use your mistakes to make positive change.

Since you probably won’t be landing rockets any time soon, let me show you a quick example of a mistake I made a few weeks ago in my online business.

Last month, I sent a survey to more than 10,000 of my email subscribers to see if they’d be interested in buying a course about freelance blog writing.

But most of them didn’t even understand what “freelance blog writing” means!

I received dozens of confused and frustrated responses, like this one:



One of the many confused survey entries I received

Five years ago, an outlash like this would have crushed me.

But today, I don’t let it get to me. I learned a valuable lesson. I never would have known that my readers don’t know what “freelance blog writing” is had I not sent out the survey in the first place.

If you don’t learn to embrace mistakes, you get stuck in analysis paralysis. You spend all your time thinking instead of acting. You can’t grow a successful business that way any more than you can drive a car that’s stuck in neutral.

Here are some action steps to help you overcome your fear of making mistakes:

  • Focus more on being decisive and less on trying to make the “right” decision. You’ll never know until you try, and if you’re wrong, you can always try again.
  • If a decision is reversible, try to maximize your gain. For example, last year I raised the price of my online course even though there was a chance I’d lose money if readers balked at the cost. The result: I quadrupled the previous month’s revenue. And if I’d been wrong and people didn’t buy, I could easily have changed the price back at any time.

Since the decision to raise the price was easily reversible — which meant my risk was practically nil — my only goal was seeing how big I could grow my business.



My monthly sales quadrupled from September to October of last year

  • If a decision is irreversible, try to protect yourself from losses. For example, imagine spending $5,000 on advertising, or giving away 50% of your equity to an investor. Unlike the previous example, you can’t just change your mind if these decisions don’t work out in your favor. So you need to be more conservative with these types of “bets.” For this reason, guest blogging is my favorite way to build an online business — it’s free, and anyone can do it.
  • If you do make a mistake, go over it carefully to make sure you don’t repeat it. The key is to figure out exactly what went wrong. Was your plan built on flawed assumptions? Did you execute poorly? Was it a failure of the last mile? Once you figure out the answers, you always win, regardless of the immediate outcome.

Mindset shift #3: Focus on giving, not getting

Typical wantrepreneur fears revolve around me, myself, and I.

“What type of business should I start?” “Will people buy from me?” “What will my friends think if I fail?”

This type of thinking sets you up for failure. Successful entrepreneurs don’t focus on themselves — they focus on helping others. For example, you may have heard Ramit talk about how he gives away 98% of his material for free.

Back when I was stuck in a self-centered mentality, I came up with business ideas only I cared about, like a medical records faxing service no one needed and a new cat food no one wanted.

Once I created a course designed to help other people make their lives better, 1,000+ people joined! In the last 12 months, I’ve made more than $200K!



My past 12 months’ sales: more than $200K from helping others

Plus, some of my blog posts have gotten hundred of comments and shares. And I’ve been able to get additional exposure for my business by guest posting on high-traffic websites in my industry like Business Insider, Copyblogger, and Upwork.

Here are some action steps for creating a business others will love:

  1. Think about problems you’ve overcome in your career or personal life. Did you train your dog to walk without a leash? Are you ridiculously productive at work? Do you have 20 awesome hacks for overcoming anxiety?
  2. Talk to people who are similar to you and see if they have the same problems. You can even start with friends and family to make it really easy.
  3. Once you verify that others also have these problems, teach them how to solve them. You can do this with a blog post, a video course, or even through coaching sessions.

By doing this, you’re showing others that you want to help them improve their lives. That’s how you build the trust that turns them into customers.

Make sure to follow up with the people you’ve helped, too. Once they’ve achieved measurable success, you know you have a proven system that you can confidently charge people to learn. And you also have a business that will succeed.

To become an entrepreneur, think like one

Being a successful entrepreneur isn’t magic. But it’s not difficult, either. All it takes is a few simple changes to the way you think.

Once I began adopting these mindsets, I went from broke wantrepreneur to six-figure business owner in less than 3 years.

A huge bonus of earning money this way is that I get to make a living by helping people improve their lives.

Practically every day I wake up to messages from people I didn’t even know beforehand, thanking me for helping them do work they enjoy, charge what they’re worth, and enjoy more freedom.



Now I’d like to give you a challenge: What false beliefs are holding you back from living a Rich Life? Why haven’t you started your dream business or gone after a new job, or whatever it is you want?

Drop a note below in the comments and tell me about it! Then I’ll give you my best advice for pushing past your fears.

There Are 21 Comments

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Absolutely LOVE Danny! His freelancing course changed everything for me and got me started on a path to a more positive and far more lucrative place. His reinforcement of proper mindset gave me the courage to go for it all. Plus, he’s a real person who actually talks with you. I just love seeing people like him rock it and share with the world at large and take us from dreamers to action takers! And thanks for the Awesome post, Danny!!!! This came just when I needed it. :-)

Hi Danny,
Thanks for this wonderful post. I’ve been your subscriber for a while (and Ramit’s too, of course) and you guys are truly inspiring.
I have one little question on guest blogging – you said you drove traffic from known blogs by guest blogging and mentioned Upwork, Business Insider and Copyblogger. Would you be kind to share the links to your guest blog posts, please?
Everything else is understood and I will be happy to work on my mentality for the better :)
Zarina

I just tried posting them for you but putting a bunch of links in the comments seems to trigger moderation. So best bet is to google them as they are not hard to find.

Right now I’ve made some progress with my online business, by becoming more focused and working on what’s giving me the best ROI. I’ve also set goals (first time ever), made a small business plan and am slowly rebuilding. My business took a ‘hit’ when our daughter was born, since I cannot work 10 hours/day anymore, but now, by being more productive and focused I can do more work in 2 hours/day than I used to back then in 10.

Hi Danny – freelance to win student here, and so far the material has been quality. One question though — how much time are you putting into your business? Was it more or less when you first started? Hours per week estimate would be great.

I’m not afraid of long hours and hard work but it would be great to get an honest answer from someone who’s already done it.

I don’t track my hours and I don’t have a set schedule. It varies wildly depending on a lot of things, like how I’m feeling, what I’m working on, family, etc. I’ve put in 15 hour days and some days I just do nothing. It really just depends. This is the beauty of having an online business (and/or freelancing business).

Hi Danny – I’m a 23 year old college graduate and honestly feel like I don’t have enough knowledge/experience to teach others something to charge in an online course. What would you advise, or is this just a mental barrier?

First of all you’d probably be surprised at what you really know, and what people will pay you for. What are you good at? What do your friends come to you for advice for? But even if you really don’t have any worthwhile skills to teach, you can still BECOME an expert at something. I became a copywriting expert in about 6 months…if you put dedicated effort in it isn’t as hard as you probably think.

Your hacks have helped me sooo much. Finally, I’m starting to change my mindset and am now having some success on Upwork.

I was feeling inspired the other day and thinking that I should start blogging. I’m still on my journey to freelancing success, but I thought I could share some of my mistakes with folks, along with some lessons that I’ve learned so far. It’s not much, but maybe it can help someone who was as clueless as I was until recently. Good idea?

Hi Danny,
I would love to become a copywriter, but I have no experience. I don’t know how to write any copy. Where do you suggest learning how to write copy? I am a high school graduate, no college and the only work experience I have is being a caregiver/cna. I want to get out of that profession as soon as I can. I am a single mom wanting more for me and my kids.

The best place to learn copy is right here on GrowthLab. Check out the post about Copywriting Week on the home page…I wish this was around back when I was getting started!

I get especially enthusiastic about my ZTL idea when I imagine the people I can truly help with my advice. Furthermore, I liked the part about failing. I’m coming from academia into entrepreneurship, and the inherent or trained perfectionism of my past as a researcher has the potential to hold me back.

Joe Large

Have seen some writing jobs on Flexjobs.com Have you had any experience with that site? Probably could approach it roughly as you do with upwork.?

Hi Danny. I love it that you come around every once in a while to reassure with your optimism and knowledge.
As a graphic Designer, it has´t been too easy. I have had responses of many types and client behaviour that discourage me. But I am making the best of my mistakes and learning from each one. (For example, maybe I took to long to deliver a first draft on a brochure for which I received bad Assets on the first place) However, the one thing that I can´t get over with is when someone leaves you “hanging”. Feedback never received from work delivered or open contracts that clients don´t close. Isn’t it better to say when you don´t like something? I always say that the shortest path is the truth. On everything. That also applies to work.
Please give us feedback on that one.
I am still trying to reach the hidden Upwork economy!
Regards!

Danny, great post. We’ve exchanged emails recently about freelancing but the biggest fear or thing holding me back is impatience I feel. We all want it to happen overnight and it doesn’t, The hardest part is staying positive and to keep plugging along while overcoming my own self doubt.

Hi, Danny. Love the post I love helping other people but there are a couple of things holding me back my fear of failure and not knowing if I really do have the knowledge to be able to sell to potential clients. I would like to be a coach but not sure if I have the skills or knowledge to go that route what is your advice or suggestions?

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