Dave, welcome to Sidepreneur Magazine! Please share a little about who you are and how you became an entrepreneur.
Until I started my business my life had been typical. I went to high school. I got a college degree and joined the US military—a stable job. Throughout my military career, I was always away from my family. I was either deployed or I was sent on orders that didn’t allow me to bring them along. When I received my last set of orders I realized this was not the life I wanted to live.
There’s nothing wrong with being in the military. I loved it, but I missed out on too much of my family life. I missed out on key moments: a child’s first steps; learning to ride a bike. That broke me up inside. I finally said to myself, “If I am going to succeed in the military, I will have to sacrifice even more.”
What changed in your thinking that let you create a business and not stay an employee?
You can’t do the normal nine-to-five and become an admiral in the military. You need to be content with other people’s leftovers. You take the job nobody wants, away from family. When this dawned on me, I knew I needed a career change.
My wife was supportive. She grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so she encouraged me to become an entrepreneur. I got started marketing during a two-year stint in Korea. Away from family, I used my free time to find a way I could make money. It wasn’t all about money. I wanted to create a new lifestyle, one that would let me be home with my family. After a long search of how to make money online, I finally figured out my way. I started building niche websites and self-publishing books.
Did you feel fear as you started your business? Was fear a good or a bad thing?
When I realized I could make money online and that it would let me be home with my kids, I didn’t have much fear. I hadn’t committed to anything. I hadn’t quit my job. I had found a side income. I could be a sidepreneur, keep my main job, build it up into a business.
In about a year, I will be out of the military. Then my online business will be my only source of income, and I’ll admit that’s scary. Based on my success so far, I shouldn’t be too worried. I’ve built up enough knowledge in online marketing that I think I can adapt to market conditions. Even with that confidence, I still need to swallow my fear from time to time.
As a husband and a father, my number one priority is to provide for my kids. I want to create a stable source of income that allows me to be home every day. I want to take my kids o school and to pick them up. That’s priceless. For my family and for me that life is worth the risk. I think we’ll adapt.
My wife’s support lets me push past the fear and to move forward on this dream. Without the support of your spouse, you’re almost doomed for failure. As an entrepreneur, you will face challenges. You’re going to face tension. If your spouse doesn’t support your sidepreneur life, you will stress your marriage. The support of your spouse is the most important thing an entrepreneur can have.
Where should aspiring entrepreneurs look to find others who will champion their dream?
As a sidepreneur, it’s important to surround yourself with the right people. I have spent many years online. Only recently, I have learned the importance of talking to others going through the same things as you. Believe me, other entrepreneurs also experience fear.
Talking with like-minded entrepreneurs about our struggles and accomplishments is great for my business. About six months ago I joined a Mastermind group. In that Mastermind group, I hear people discuss problems that I’ve already experienced. It gives me strength. It lets me know that I am on the right path. Make sure you have the support of your spouse and surround yourself with the right people.
What habits have you created that help you succeed in business?
When I started, it was just me. I would wake up in the morning, I’d go to work. I’d come back at 5:00, throw a pizza in the oven, jump right on the computer, and start working. When I finished that tour in Korea, I had to reintegrate into the family. My three kids hadn’t really seen their father at all. I spent a significant amount of time reintroducing myself to my family.
When I say developing the right habits and creating a structure is important, I really mean it. I realized that I could no longer work during the day or when I get home. Instead, that was family time. To keep up a sidepreneur business and to grow, I needed a schedule and habits that would help me be efficient and effective. Now I work on the business before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. Being a husband, I need to connect with my wife after the kids go to bed. That leaves the morning for my business. Before the kids wake up is my time.
I wake up at 3:30 in the morning. I know, that sounds crazy, right? I get myself a nice coffee, Bulletproof coffee, my favorite. Then I sit down to a predetermined schedule of what I’m going to do before the kids wake up. When they start their day, I go to my normal day job. If I had not created a schedule or a set of habits, I would not be where I am in my business. Make sure you look at your schedule and your priorities. Think about your priorities as you start to create your own set of habits.
I also invest in myself. When I started an online marketing project, I told my wife I’d like our family to invest in me. To start the business I needed training and there would be a few startup costs. I phrased it as investing in our future. Starting a business was one of the best investments we could have made. We could have invested in stocks, but learning search engine optimization, website development, niche marketing, and self-publishing was critical to the success of my business.
Even if I lost my job now, I would be able to continue bringing in cash. My college degree wouldn’t do that for me. My experience as a submariner and a nuclear engineer wouldn’t do it for me. With those qualifications, I’d have to search for a job. But with my online marketing skills, I can jump on my computer and start bringing in cash.
I explained this to my wife and she saw that it was an investment. We gave ourselves a budget. Every month I would receive five hundred dollars. That might be a little steep for others, but we were doing well with cash so we could swing it. I wasted a lot of money terrible training, and I should have done more research. My family invested in me, and that was important not only for the business but also for our psyche as a family.
I am interested in how you cope with uncertainty. Share a story about a decision you had to make “in the dark.” How did you go ahead? Did it take faith to make that decision?
Being an entrepreneur is the definition of uncertainty. I’m not saying that it’s high risk, but every day the market changes. We have to stay on our toes and be ready to adapt to those changes. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.
About two years ago, Amazon pulled my best-selling book for copyright infringement. That book was bringing in over $1,700 a month. This was mind-blowing and soul crushing. I have never been the law-breaking kind. I am not a criminal. I never expected to be sued, but someone was claiming I had copied them, which I had not.
I was so scared and so distraught about it, I lost over fifteen pounds in a week or two. I looked ghostly. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I felt absolutely terrible. Finally, after a long time of internal reflection I said, “No. I created this book, and this person is trying to ruin that.” I got my lawyer to respond, and immediately the other person backed off.
In this adversity, I learned so many incredible things. First, I learned about the Amazon legal system and how they respond. It’s something a lot of people struggle with. Second, I found my next book idea. Third, I also realized nothing cannot be overcome. I really leaned on my wife, my rock, and foundation. I also relied on God by praying.
Here I was at my weakest and my worst moment thinking I was going to be sued, lose my job, and all sorts of terrible things were going to happen to me. Then I stopped what I was doing and put my trust in God. It was then my faith was needed most. After putting my faith in God, I was able to recover. I was able to investigate what I could do to fix the problem. I’m ten times stronger because of it, and I have an experience that resonates with a lot of people.
What is one mistake most new business owners make, and how can we avoid it?
The number one reason sidepreneurs fail is because they never define their goals. They don’t define what success means to them. Most sidepreneurs go into business to get extra cash. That’s a weak reason. You don’t succeed, you don’t spend time and exert yourself, just to get a little extra cash. You will succeed only when everything is on the line. You succeed because you have to.
I didn’t need money to keep my family from starvation. I needed to succeed because of my pride. When I started doing all my marketing, I told my friends and co-workers I was going to do this. Most of them thought it was a scam. They said, “You can’t make money online. What are you talking about? Just stick to the Navy. Work your way up and become an admiral or something.”
Other people thought I a naive kid who thought he could make money, retire, and live the good life. I wanted to show them I could do it. When times got tough, I would roll up my sleeves, I would get up earlier, I would do whatever it took, but I’d get it done.
People will say pride is a bad thing. I agree that bragging and showing off because of pride is bad. But if it’s your pride that will not let you stop even when things get tough, it’s a powerful emotion to harness. My sense of pride has helped me push through difficulty and get things done.
People fail because they don’t define their success. They don’t define their goals. If your goal is to become a millionaire, then great. Do that. Congratulations. If your goal is time with your family and your business is taking time from your family, you’re failing. Even if the business takes off and you make lots of money, you’re going to fail.
To some, Elon Musk is one of the greatest examples of success. He makes millions and millions of dollars, and he’s changing the world. But what about his family life? The divorces? The fact that he’s never home? I’m not saying he’s not successful but based on my definition of success I wouldn’t want his life. Every entrepreneur should define success before they get into a business. It helps you to figure out when you need to push forward and when you need to stop.
What book have you read that will best help a prospective business owner, and why?
It’s hard to recommend a book because everybody is at a different stage in their business. When I started, I read how-to books because I needed the knowledge. Later, I realized my project management was cluttered, I was wasting time, and I couldn’t get a grip. Then, I needed books to help me figure out how to focus. I wondered, “How do I define my priorities and move forward in an effective and efficient way?”
The most important thing anybody can do is always invest time into reading. Take one day a week to open a book instead of working in your business. Read a book recommended to you by your mastermind group or friends that have been in the same situation as you. Consider what the book says and ask how you can apply it. Maybe this months book isn’t the one that’s going to help you, but maybe next month it will. In six months, maybe you’ll remember a book you’ve read and it will be a critical help at that time. The key is to invest time to read and to develop as an entrepreneur.
What are you doing now, and how can sidepreneurs connect with you?
My online business has consisted of thirty-four websites, five ebooks, and many other products. Most of those didn’t have my name at the forefront. About a year ago, I started Kindlepreneur.com. It is my first foray into being an online person instead of somebody who works behind the curtain. This is a big step for me and my business. I wanted to help people in self-publishing. There are a lot of self-publishers who think, “If you write it they will come.” You can’t just write a book, throw it on Amazon, and make money. Maybe it used to be that way, but it’s not anymore.
Using my online background, knowledge, SEO, and some crazy tactics nobody talks about, I put my heart and soul into Kindlepreneur.com. I love talking to people. If you are thinking about writing your first book and becoming a published author, I built it for you. Connect with me. I love responding, and I’ll make sure to get back to you.