I frequently discuss my business on my blog here, and I absolutely love my business. But the truth is, that I'm a family man to the core.
If you've read my About Me page, you've probably picked up on that fact. You see, I've been married for just over 11 years to an amazingly beautiful, witty, and frugal woman. We have 3 children ages 10, 8, and 5. And wait for it….we are about to have our 4th child in a couple of days! (We are scheduled to go into the hospital on April 2nd).
I really enjoy spending time with my family, and the biggest reason I strive to succeed in business is to provide for my wife and children.
In addition to being a father of 3 (soon to be 4!), I've also completely bootstrapped my own business. In fact, I set a goal early on in my business to never go into business debt. So, everything I've done has been funded by my own savings or business earnings.[Update: Baby #4 is here! My wife and I had a beautiful baby boy on April 2nd and he's healthy and happy 🙂 ]
I know its a little different, but today I want to simply share how I've been able to build a full-time business and still have time for my family…all while self-funding my ventures. Perhaps my story can give a little bit of hope for others out there that are married with children and wondering if its even possible to fulfill their bootstrap business dreams. It most certainly is!
Raising Children and a Business
I got married in 2002, and had we had our first child in 2004. I had just graduated in business finance and was working at Merrill Lynch. I was already dreaming of business ventures at this point and had a notebook full of small business ideas that I would constantly dream about.
At this point, I wasn't really spending much time working on any business ideas, mostly just dreaming and talking. I was just focused on working my day job and keeping my family happy.
However, somewhere along the way I decided to try buying used books from thrift stores and then re-selling them on eBay. I actually managed to sell a couple dozen books, but the time and effort required was not worth the measly profit.
However, I believe selling these books on eBay was my first online venture and is likely what lead me to eventually creating my first website.
In 2005, I accepted a job in Arizona with Wells Fargo bank and worked at the bank until 2011. I also created my first website at the end of 2005. I also started the MBA program at Arizona State University in 2005 (classes taken in evening after full-time job). We also had our 2nd child at the end of 2005!
So even though I created my first website then, you can see why I didn't have any success (no time!) for a few years after that. It wasn't until about 2009 that I created my first successful “niche” website.
If we quickly fast forward my story, by 2011 I had many successful niche websites and was making over $10k/month from these sites. I quit my job in March 2011 (just over 3 years ago…woohoo!).
So, how was I able to raise 3 children, and still build a successful business? The answer is setting time priorities.
You see, after getting my MBA, I was used to coming home and spending a couple of hours with my family, putting the kids to bed, and then studying. Now that I didn't have classes, I had more time to spend with my wife and kids, but I still set aside a couple hours each night after everyone was in bed to work on my websites.
I always tried to stick with my schedule, so that I could still hang out with the kids; but still had time to work on my business when no one was awake. You will be surprised what you can accomplish in 2 to 3 hours a day when you FOCUS!
By clearly dividing family time from business time; I was able to keep both growing and happy.
“Its About WHAT you know NOT who you Know”
One of the phrases that I absolutely detest is this: “Its not about what you know, its about who you know.” Not only do I hate that phrase with a passion, but I've also proven it wrong in my own business!
I'm a fairly reserved person by nature. I'm not the type to go out of my way to meet new people or to be extremely social. I'm the same way online, I'm not real big into social media, and I usually don't go out of my way to connect with others on a regular basis.
This is evidenced by the fact I don't do much on my Facebook Page or Twitter account. As you know, others are very concerned with having a large following on Facebook and Twitter or other social media sites.
Because I firmly believe that What you know is MUCH more important than who you know. Get smart. Learn on your own or from others. And then go out and make something happen with the knowledge that you've gained.
When I got started online, I didn't know anyone. I had never met anyone in real life that actually made money online! But I dove in, learned the process and built sites without any big connections to bloggers or others.
I also created Long Tail Pro without any connections to further my business. I dug in, learned the process of hiring software programmers and have slowly learned how to market it properly.
Now, I'm not saying be anti-social. I still do have my blog here, and I do interact with others via email and other places. But the point is, if you are limited in time (like I was), you don't need to spend your time socializing. Rather learn the essentials and then make your business happen.
You don't need to start with any connections to make your business a success.
“It Takes Money to Make Money”
Another phrase that I detest is this: “It takes money to make money”. This is simply not true. And if you need something in your business that does need money, go out and earn the money first, and then spend it.
Here's how I went from $0 a few years ago to a healthy five figures each month in income:
- 2002 – Got married, basically had nothing in the bank.
- 2003 – Got a job and saved a few bucks
- 2004 – 2007 – Kept working and saving, but only spent money on hosting and domains primarily (no outsourcing). Made a conscious decision to never borrow any money for my business.
- 2008 – Still almost no money in the bank, but had learned a TON over the previous few years about search engines, long tail keywords, niche sites, and more
- 2009 – Wanted to quit my job BAD. Told a friend I was thinking of building websites for others. Friend tells another friend that owns a local accounting firm. I build his website for $600. (I've never built a website for someone else since).
- 2009 – I have $600 in business account…woohoo! I proceed to start outsourcing some article writing and link building with this $600.
- 2009 – 2010. Niche websites start to rank well and earn hundreds each month! All the learning I was doing over the previous 4 years starts paying off! I reinvest every single penny into my business; I never spent any of this income on personal expenditures. I start to experience rapid growth as I outsource more and build more websites. This was key because I was working full-time, so I only had time to check work and research new keywords.
- 2010 – I find some amazing keywords and have a few sites making over $1,000 each month. I continue to reinvest all funds in my business.
- 2011 – By early 2011, I was making over $7,500/month from my niche websites. I tell my wife I'm going to quit my job…she says to go for it. However, I hold off until March in order to pad my savings account even more before I make the jump.
- March 11, 2011 – The day I quit my job. By this time, I had sites making a total of about $10,000/mth and had close to $30k in my business account.
- Early 2011 – Invest a large chunk of that business savings into creating Long Tail Pro. Start selling beta version of Long Tail Pro in mid-2011; full version out of beta in October 2011.
- 2012 – 2014 – Continue to reinvest business income into my business (after I pay myself a salary).
At present, my business is in a healthy position because I've never taken on any debt and I've learned to reinvest my business earnings into my business (rather than personal “things”). I have the freedom and ability to invest in new business ideas, like Vylo or invest in my existing businesses (like I've done by hiring Perrin full-time to help me build out more niche sites).
And at the end of the day, I've been able to stay true to my family man roots. Even though my business has grown, the amount of time I spend on my business has not. I've been able to outsource the right tasks and still be able to spend lots of time with my wife and kids.
The best part is that I no longer have to work on my business in the evening if I don't want to (usually)…because this IS my full-time job now!
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
Overall, how does a family man or woman bootstrap a business? First, you need to set strict time limits on what is business time and what is family time. Sure, you might grow a little bit slower by spending more time with your family than your business. But at the end of the day, your business doesn't have feelings, emotions, or eventually grow old and move away.
By setting boundaries, you can keep your wife and kids happy…which is really what matters at the end of the day. Oh and if you are single, it's probably STILL a good idea to set some time limits on your business and give yourself a balanced life by hanging out with friends, relatives, or enjoying other aspects of life.
I know in certain circles that getting venture capital funds or borrowing lots of money to grow a business as quickly as possible is encouraged. And for certain businesses a rapid start-up growth period is a good idea; but for the vast majority of businesses, the rapid growth or outside capital is simply not needed.
You can grow a very lucrative business by bootstrapping with your own funds and time. Sure, its a bit slower…but at the end of the day you own 100% of the business and your wife and kids are still happy!
So, as I prepare to welcome my 4th child into the world in a couple of days, I just wanted to share my thoughts on being an entrepreneur and raising a family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.
Oh, and don't be surprised if you don't see any more blog posts from me for a week or so…I'm going to be hanging out with my family! 🙂
Update: Baby #4 is here! My wife and I had a beautiful baby boy on April 2nd and he's healthy and happy 🙂