It’s hard to believe that 2018 is soon coming to a close and people are starting to think about what they’re going to do for New Year’s. I still vividly remember ushering in the 2018 and thinking about my plans for the year.
My main goal for this year was to try new things and expand my business empire. It’s been a year full of challenges and many ups and downs. Fortunately, I also gained experience in a bunch of new areas that I look forward to expanding and growing in the months and years ahead.
The big push this year was undoubtedly ecommerce. Many of you may not know this, but ecommerce was one of my first online biz successes. Back in 2004-5, I used to hustle on eBay, selling and reselling various electronic products before opening up my online store and sourcing products directly from China.
The beautiful thing about ecommerce is that it’s a pure money-making play. Unlike a blog where you write, write, write and then, one day, hope and pray to somehow monetize it, ecommerce is about making money from day one. There’s a product, a sales page, a checkout page and, finally, my favorite part of all: the credit card input form.
In this way, you have a business from the very first day and a business is only as good as how much money it’s bringing into your pocket. If you don’t know how to sell, you need to do something else or close up shop. I really like this aspect because it forces you to be super focused. Customers either like your product or not. You either have a business or you don’t. There’s no in between.
My team and I are currently running 3 ecommerce stores. A new one is being launched next week, while another one should up and running sometime in October. They’re all selling products in different areas, serving different market segments and audiences.
Timing is key. October marks the start of Q4 (Quarter 4) which is the most profitable time of the year. Q4 includes huge shopping days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas. It’s essentially a period where people are buying everything and anything in sight, either for themselves or as gifts for others.
Ecommerce forced me to understand many interesting things about selling physical products such as sourcing in China, fulfillment of orders, worldwide shipping and even a bit about manufacturing your own products, basically all the behind-the-scenes stuff you don’t even think about—although we’re not yet doing the last one.
The other thing I dove into head first at the beginning of the year was Facebook Ads. Many years ago, I used to buy Google AdWords to promote various products and services, so I’ve gotten fairly proficient at it. FB Ads, however, is an entirely different animal.
Advertising on Facebook is extremely powerful because FB knows so much about their users (usually even more than you know about yourself), that it can accurately predict whether the person it’ll show your ad will buy your product or not. As a result of such a powerful algorithm, it’s very easy to quickly see if the product or service you’re promoting will be successful.
The downside of FB Ads is that the platform itself is extremely complex. People who’ve been doing online advertising for decades believe that FB is the most complex advertising system out there right now (or ever was). It’s certainly not for a faint of heart. After several months of experimenting with different techniques (and losing a ton of money), I finally figured out a strategy that works predictably well for what I’m trying to do and makes me money while I sleep.
FB Ads has a rather steep learning curve and that’s why a lot of people start and quit soon after. Still, it’s an extremely powerful tool to reach users around the world and pitch your products/services. Even if your initial campaign or business fails, you can turn around and sell something else on the platform.
In the next several months, my team will be increasing our ad spent in anticipation for the year’s most profitable time, Q4.
While I’ve been building and running different blogs for many years—even before this one—I never took blogging seriously before Maverick Traveler (and even that is more of a hobby instead of a real business). However, this year I decided that I will take blogging more seriously. How? By becoming laser focused and delivering lots of value.
Back in 2016 and 2017, I experimented with building various sites in different topics geared for very specific audiences. Somewhere along the line, I lost interest in running them and they eventually languished and mostly died.
So, I took the lessons from that experience and began building a couple of more laser-targeted sites earlier this year. A few of them are up and running and others are being launched very soon. This time, however, they’re being built around areas of topics I’m super passionate about so hopefully I’ll have the motivation to run them for the foreseeable future.
The biggest problem with starting an ecommerce business—and where blogs have an upper hand—is in branding. I’ll be honest, the ecommerce stores we’re now running aren’t exactly built around a brand. They’re just products that we’re sourcing from China, putting them into our own warehouse and shipping them all over the world. Thus, it’s very easy for a competitor to come in and sell exactly what we’re selling while undercutting us in price.
The solution is branding. When you create a brand, you’re essentially selling an image. Coca-Cola may sell a black fizzy sugary drink that anyone can make, but there’s a reason it’s a multi-billionaire dollar company and it will be next to impossible for someone else make a similar drink and steal their sales. Their brand is just too strong.
In the upcoming months, the focus will be on creating stronger brands around everything we do, especially in areas where substitute products exist, such as ecommerce.
This means hiring professional photographers, videographers, and designers to create unique experiences for our products and present them in ways that truly connect with our audiences. Since others aren’t doing that, we’ll create a stronger brand and make more money.
Branding is a long-term play that won’t pay dividends immediately but should increase in value in the months and years ahead.
Thanks to assets that I’ve been building such as niche sites, ecommerce, and other properties, I have access to an audience with specific interests. That means creating more products and services that solve the audience’s problems.
Information products can be lucrative as soon as you know who your audience is and what problems they’re trying to solve. You attract the audience by delivering lots and lots of value, and then you monetize some of that value by creating products that go above and beyond what’s already available out there.
If someone has a specific problem to solve and you have the experience and/or the knowledge to solve that problem for them, they won’t hesitate to pay you for the solution, if it means saving a lot of pain and time in solving it themselves.
I’m currently planning to launch new informational products targeted to the niche sites’ audience as well as the buyers who bought products in our ecom stores.
Last, but not least, there’s the site you’re reading now: Maverick Traveler. To be honest, this site is more of a hobby of mine and a way to give back by explaining what I learned and show you what worked or didn’t. It’s also a way for me to share my living abroad experience to show you how such a lifestyle is possible.
While I haven’t been writing much during the summer, my goal is to put out more content, most consistently. New content will be primarily in two categories: making money and travel/living abroad. I look forward to keeping you updated on my journey in both areas.
This was the first year when I slowly started building a team. I have a partner on a certain piece of the ecommerce business, and he’s been pushing me to delegate a lot of what we’re doing and outsource it.
Call me a micromanager, but I’ve always been much more comfortable doing everything myself or at least controlling what everyone else is doing at all times. So, delegating and hiring people to do the important things have been challenging to say the least. This is something I need to become comfortable with in order to scale the business.
When I started my online biz journey many years ago, I only stuck to the business areas and techniques that I was familiar with. I initially thought that I was capable of only making certain things work, and would automatically fail at others.
A few years ago, I realized that my thinking was incorrect. There are a lot of different techniques and methods of making the Internet spit out cold hard Benjamins, and every method and technique should have its place in your arsenal.
The point is that everything works. Everything has its place. Everything. Even if you’re only good at blogging, there’s no reason to ignore ecommerce which is seriously blowing up right now. Even if you’re an ecommerce king, there’s no reason not spin up a couple of (or a few dozen) of niche sites and enjoy free traffic from Google.
If your customers out there, you should find a way to reach them one way or another.
From now on, I’ll be trying anything and everything that even has even the slightest chance of success.
After all, if there’s one maxim I continue to live by, it’s that for all my successes and failures, one thing I still don’t know is how to create the former without the latter. 2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
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