My sales manager and I were on the interstate on the way to visit a prospect who he’d been trying to close for a long, long time.
I stared down the road, knowing it was an exercise in futility. This prospect was a price-driven buyer, and we simply couldn’t compete with the low-ball offers they got from our competitors.
But yet we persisted, because, well, when you’re in sales that’s what you do.
Numbers have to be hit. Targets achieved.
My sales manager said something about sales numbers and it was unsettling. It felt like it was yet another threat against my livelihood and my sense of security.
I didn’t say anything in response, I just bit my tongue while that feeling of frustration and fear occupied my mind.
I’d had enough. His words were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I was done. That day I knew my career in sales was over.
You know that feeling you get when you’ve just had enough and you can’t go one step further? Yep – that’s the feeling I had.
Too many things I couldn’t control. Too many ridiculous expectations from those who only cared about hitting targets.
Too much pressure for me as a square peg to fit into that round hole.
It was the epitome of corporate life and it sucked.
We visited the prospect, and just as suspected, despite our best efforts and the best pricing we could offer, they weren’t going to close.
We got back in the car and hit the road. We got back on the interstate to head back to Tallahassee with little to no discussion. If he was talking, I didn’t hear him. It was just silence. I drove, lost in thought about what my next steps were going to be, because I knew I was done.
The panic of what was going to happen next set in. I had a daughter who wasn’t even a year old. I spent that ride home figuring out how I ended up here: so far from where I wanted to be, so far from doing work that was creative, that mattered, and so unbelievably miserable.
The problem was, even though I’d started to experiment with making money online, I really hadn’t made very much. In fact, for the sales that I had made the fees and shipping costs virtually eliminated all my margin and I lost more than I made.
I didn’t know squat.
Most importantly, I wanted to be able to provide for my family. My daughter was a baby at the time, and we were struggling financially as it was.
I felt like something was very wrong with me because I didn’t fit.
I remember thinking, “is this all there is? Is this what my life is going to be?”
It was miserable and frustrating.
I’d done what I was supposed to do: I went to college, I got the good job. I had what I was “supposed” to have, but I felt empty inside.
I felt like I was a square peg in a round hole and as a young dad, I didn’t fit and it was terrifying.
How did I end up here?
“How did I end up here?” I thought.
It was the result of following the advice given to so many: “You need to get a good job with a good company.”
We’ve heard that all before, right? But for me, that “good” job with that “good” company was a source of misery.
As that square peg trying to fit in to that round hole, I felt a ton of pressure.
Tons of pressure because I dreaded every day of what I was doing.
Tons of pressure to hit sales numbers from managers who were just grateful they weren’t in the field anymore.
Tons of pressure to be able to keep my job and provide for my family all the while, being at the whim of someone who really only cared about whether sales target were being hit. Or not. To them, nothing else mattered.
Not me. Not my wife. Not my daughter. It was always “what have you done for me lately?”
There was nothing creative about what I was doing. There was nothing inspiring about chasing sales numbers. On top of all that pressure, there was the creative part of me that was dying to get out.
I was really good at what I did, but my skills were no fit for this kind of work any longer. I was great at working with people – I loved my customers. I loved finding solutions to their issues that I could help them with. I loved learning about their businesses and what made them tick. I loved the creative part of finding solutions to their biggest challenges.
There had to be a better way.
The lights come on
Doing what I was doing in sales wasn’t all bad because it afforded me the opportunity to see first hand how people were doing amazing things online and inspiring ideas that had been brewing for a while.
Probably the only cool thing about that job as a sales rep that I hated so much was that I got to spend a lot of time talking to people who were already doing business online.
It was incredible to hear their stories and see how people were living out their lives on their own terms, doing amazing things.
After the initial feelings of fear and uncertainty overwhelmed me, they gave way to feelings of excitement and anticipation.
It was incredible to see these people doing business online, generating sales, fulfilling orders, and generating income.
My time with those customers started to grow as I learned about their business, how they did what they did, how they got started, and how they built their businesses.
I talked to people who built 6 and 7 figure businesses by selling online through channels like eBay and Amazon out of their home. I learned from brick and mortar shops who’s online presence added 100-200 additional sales per day on an average day. I learned from people who were selling flatware – plates, cups, silverware, etc. I learned how e-commerce worked. I learned how to build business sites. I learned how to build how to plan and build big sites. I learned how to design beautiful sites.
It was time to use all the skills I learned from my time in sales and combine that with what I’d learned about web design & development.
Putting the plan into action
My plan was to learn everything I could about web design and development.
A couple years before that afternoon interstate trip to make that sales call I decided I needed to start learning web development. At first it was just a hobby, but it rekindled my interest in coding that I had as a kid. Since I’d already been working web development and had built a few small sites already, I was intrigued to see how people were doing business online and doing well with it.
I knew that not only could I earn a living designing and building websites, but I could take care of my family doing it.
So I started building websites. First for myself, then for clients. I built e-commerce sites. I built blogs. I built sites for businesses. I built sites for creatives and entrepreneurs.
Then I decided that I was going to learn all I could about marketing online.
I feel like Thomas Edison felt when he declared, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
It’s funny – I’ve studied so many different ways people do online marketing. And the result was I learned a lot about the ways not to do online marketing through experimentation and finding numerous ways it doesn’t work.
Finding the right tools
Finding reliable sources to learn from was really hard when I was getting started.
I bought books. Lots of books. I spent hundreds of dollars on books, and hundreds of hours learning through trial and error. I used to have a stack of programming books on my desk.
I remember being utterly frustrated by the process. As someone who was new to learning and building websites, the process to get started was profoundly frustrating.
It took a lot of time, learning and money to get a website built.
I spent a ton of time learning, and building.
Since that time, I’ve built a ton of sites. I’ve helped launch brands. I’ve helped businesses develop e-commerce tools and strategies.
I’ve developed content initiatives to drive membership a health club chain by using blogging and content creation strategies.
I’ve helped a ton of businesses get started blogging and I’ve helped a ton of bloggers take their first steps into the online world.
I’ve designed and built all kinds of different websites from websites for HMOs to the newest blog.
I learned what works, and just as importantly, what doesn’t work when it comes to building websites.
The basics are always the same, whether you’re just starting with a blog, or you’re ready build a site for your brick and mortar business.
There are essential steps that you have to complete in order to make any web project successful.
That means that your site needs to be awesome on a number of levels and you need to have a plan. What I talk about here on this site is specifically geared to be a resource for those who own, manage and/or want to get started with their own website. Whether it’s a blog, a niche site, an e-commerce store, a company site, or some sort of hybrid you will find help here.