I was born in Concord Mass where Louisa May Alcott's Little Women was set, so I always took her character Jo's advice to "write what you know from your own life" very seriously.
Ten years ago, when I looked for ideas to start my first online publishing company, I decided to create content for the people who were just like me. I'd just spent 13 years as a marketer in corporate America, so that's who I'd write for. Marketers trying to do a better job while juggling bosses, budgets, committee meetings, new technologies, and office politics. Thus MarketingSherpa was born.
But now, a decade later, I'm just not that corporate anymore. I've spent the last ten years as a small business owner.
As you know, if you've been reading this blog, I've spent the last six months mainly in thought and research, trying to decide what step is next. I launched one site, WhichTestWon.com, partly because I adore the A/B and multivariate testing so darn much and partly just as a shot across Fortune's bow, to let her know I'm back and ready for business. It worked. The site's quite popular, plus loads of old friends and new acquaintances have gotten in touch to say hi, and often suggest partnerships.
One of them was my old friend Brad Fallon. I first met Brad when he launched, what I considered one of the best B2B lead generation microsites ever, in order to help his fiance, who was a medical industry sales rep at the time. I was so impressed I wrote a Case Study for Sherpa on his work and asked him to speak at our very first B2B Marketing Summit back in 2003. Brad was nervous, I think it was his first public speech, but he did fine.
Some time later, inspired by his own nuptials, he launched a wedding favors ecommerce site that grew so quickly that the Wall Street Journal took notice. Then, in between visiting manufacturers in China and negotiating for larger and larger warehouse space outside Atlanta, he decided to launch a cutting edge learning community to help his fellow online entrepreneurs.
It was called StomperNet. It grossed millions in its first week alone.
A couple of weeks ago, I was just leaving the office when the phone rang. It was Brad, speaking so quickly that I fear all the caffeine in the Atlanta region had been funneled directly into his veins. Now that I was independent, would I consider coming on as part-time StomperNet faculty?
At first I was reluctant because that whole "make millions on the Internet" world that the StomperNet brand seemed to represent has never appealed to me. It's not that I don't believe you can't make millions -- if pushed I could name perhaps a dozen or more online entrepreneurs who have done very well *without* hundreds of employees, venture backing, MLM schemes, or selling "how to make millions" content to other people. Heck, I made millions and I didn't do any of those things.
However, I don't think making millions on your own is normal. Having survived the whirlwind and come out the other side, I also don't think for most people that type of lifestyle is healthy. My friends who've made millions work days, nights, weekends, holidays. I get emails from them at 1:15am on Christmas Eve because they've just had a new SEO idea they're all excited about. They take risks with their savings, their marriages, their health, etc that I wouldn't recommend to most anyone.
That said, I do think it's very possible for most people with an entrepreneurial bent to make a net income of $50-150k year working for themselves online, while not losing their sanity, health, or family.
I told this to Brad. I said, "I can only help people who are already entrepreneurial in nature and probably already have an online venture going. I won't promise anyone millions, but maybe I can help them increase sales by a few percentage points."
He said that was cool and that StomperNet is for regular online entrepreneurs who want that extra edge of success. The whole millions thing is outdated -- inevitably some people will make millions while others will make a good solid living, and that's ok. These days increasing conversions and sensible business practices for steady growth are where it's at.
So I signed on. I'll be doing a monthly conference call for StomperNet members, as well as contributing occasional content to the site. I'm one of many expert Faculty, including my other old pal Don Crowther who originally came from corporate America just like me (in his case, he was brand manager at Con Agra and SC Johnson & Wax.)
It should be an interesting experiment!