Being Self Employed Gave me Less Freedom

The first business I started when I left my corporate job in late 2011 required meeting with clients in person.  The travel time to and from their offices to my home along with the (often) lengthy meetings just felt, wrong.  I was self employed, but still felt “trapped” in the corporate bubble (perhaps especially so because my largest client was my former employer!).  Worse, my schedule was dictated by my clients availability which didn’t resonate well with me.  After long days of meetings and entertaining clients, followed by a lot of networking after hours and attending various events, I still had to prepare quotes and do the actual work.  Weekends and late nights became catch up time for the paperwork.

workplace-stressI became highly stressed out, as my family time was being invaded and it was negatively affecting my relationships with my wife and sons.  I came to realize that I didn’t have a business at all.  I’d just created a job, that on an hourly basis for the amount of time involved, didn’t pay all that well either.  I thought being self employed would give me more freedom, but it didn’t.  No benefits, no time “off”, no sick days.  It was a constant hustle and I had to compete for every dollar in a very competitive industry.

Things quickly got a lot worse when one of my main clients ran into financial difficulties and delayed paying me for 5 months.  We negotiated a lower price and I was paid way less than I was owed (after spending a ton of time on their projects up front).  Being a solopreneur, I had no leverage and had to pretty much take whatever money I could get out of them as it looked like they might go under.  I burned through most of my savings during this time, and began to rack up debt on my line of credit.  Not fun times, and a painful lesson for me.

I decided to pivot in 2013 and while remaining in my industry, I changed the way I went to market.  Probably not a great decision, but I essentially became a competitor to most of my old clients. It started out very well, and I began making a decent living again.  But over time, things became increasingly competitive, and many of my long term suppliers wouldn’t support me as my old clients (now competitors) threatened them if they dealt with me or other “independents”.  This left me in a precarious position, where I had a much more limited range of products to offer my clients.  I was competing on price, and getting beaten down by my competition.  Sales slowed and I began to struggle again.  My wife began to look for a full time job, but the shortfall in our finances was becoming unmanageable.

10516720_10152156649471507_512920890627556701_nSo in 2014, we sold our house and moved into a larger, nicer home in a more family friendly area further out in the suburbs.  The cost of the new place was a lot less than we had sold our house near the city for, and I was able to repay all of my debts and have some working cash left over with some of the equity from the sale.  This was a smart decision, and we actually prefer our life in the new area to the old one now.

I continued to run my business and focussed on clients closer to my new home.  The market was a lot smaller, but there was a little less competition which helped.  With the working cash on hand and the sales I made, plus my wife now working a decent paying full time job, we were able to start rebuilding our finances.  But I knew I needed to find a better way.  I was done with the industry I’d worked in for 14 years and needed to move on.  My heart just wasn’t in it any more.

I made a decision not to fight the inevitable.  I was determined to get some balance in my life and work in a business that didn’t require meeting clients face to face.  It was late 2014 when I discovered Amazon FBA and I became very excited.  Could this be the business I’d been looking for?

IMG_0474I sent my first shipment to Amazon Canada late November 2014.  It was a bunch of used books I found around the house, that scanned and showed a profit potential.  I was sceptical, but figured I’d give it a shot.  They all sold, and I made $100 or so in profit and I was thrilled!  This was proof of concept for me, and I saw the potential and wanted to figure out how to do this full time.  I began to increase my knowledge and sourced products from local stores and AliExpress.  I signed up for the Proven Amazon Course which was the best decision I made.  I don’t promote any other courses at this point, and I wholeheartedly tell anyone serious about learning the Amazon business to stop what they’re doing, and sign up.  It even comes with a 100% money back guarantee, so there’s really nothing at all to lose.

As I learned more about the business, my sales increased (as documented on this blog where you can follow my progress) and I began making some money.  But I realized that the Canadian market was too small to make a living and that I needed to get on Amazon.com to really start making money.  I took the plunge to .com and never looked back.  By June 2015,  I was making a full time income from Amazon.  Up until this point, I’d still been running my other (time consuming) business on the side as well.  So I decided to go all in.  The fact I’m still here talking is proof that this business has paid off and works.

One of things I enjoy the most about the Amazon business is being able to work from home and spend time a lot more time with my family.  It can definitely be challenging at times and requires a lot of patience and self discipline, but it’s so much better than the way I used to live.

10527855_10152156649466507_1457474044403009514_nMy arrangement works particularly well as my sons are in school and my wife works a full time job during the week, so I have the day for uninterrupted work time.  I also have my own home office with a closing door(very important!) and I’ve structured my working hours in such a way that they don’t interfere with family time.  It’s not always easy though, and I often find myself checking Facebook or responding to messages when I shouldn’t.  My wife is quick to remind me to put the phone down though, to which I sheepishly comply 🙂

Spring break and especially summer break can be the most challenging though.  I try to take my vacations during this time, and we often head down to Santa Barbara, California to stay with family there for a week or two.  I also take time to go camping, or spend the day with the kids at the lake during summer.  And sign the kids up for day camp to keep them happy, also giving me more time to work.  All of this requires that I adjust my working schedule and the type of work I do.  I get up earlier and work before the kids wake.  I change my sourcing activities to wholesale, and online arbitrage and limit Retail Arbitrage during this time.

flagI recently launched my first eBook, based on people asking me for help on How to sell on Amazon.com from Canada.  It’s sold over 150 copies in the first month, and I thank everyone who purchased it.  I’ve updated it a few times since launch (I move quickly!) and given those who purchased a copy a free update.

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy helping others succeed on Amazon, and while I don’t enjoy coaching one on one, I do like writing eBooks and working on Facebook with people.  So stay tuned, because I’ll be releasing more content for you, that as always is 100% based on things I’ve already done and tested.  There are a lot of “Guru’s” out there who tell, but don’t do.  Many have since moved on to entirely information products and don’t even sell on Amazon any longer.  I may not have the reach and shiny object chasing appeal of these types, but one thing you can always count on is that I practice what I preach.

I wish you success on your own journey, and please don’t give up if you’re struggling.  It’s easy to look around and feel inferior to others when we hear about their success.  But I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not all a bed of roses and we all have fears and doubts.  It’s how you manage those fears and the actions you take every day that makes all of the difference.  When I was a teenager, Tony Robbins said in one of his books “There’s no such thing as failure, only outcomes!”.  This has always resonated with me and I remind myself of it all the time.  You may not produce the result you wanted, but you succeeded in producing a different result.  Many best selling products were created due to things not working out as planned.  Just learn from your mistakes and avoid doing the same thing twice.  Lick your wounds, pick yourself up and soldier on!

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All the best,

Duncan