My 10-Year Entrepreneurship Journey
Today marks year 10 of my entrepreneurship journey.
10 years ago, today, I quit my job.
With a leap of faith, I jumped into entrepreneurship world without a proper “parachute”.
My journey starts with BANG… at the wrong end
The first 2 years is a real struggle as I scramble at the every opportunities to make enough money to survive, and keep my dream alive.
Needless to say – most of my attempts failed.
In overall, I made not more than $30k (MYR) in those 2 years.
Obviously, it wasn’t enough to survive – so I relied on credit cards a lot.
In the end, I accumulated over $20k (MYR) of credit card debts (which I spent the next 5 years struggling to paying it off).
But, because of this struggle, I decided to re-learn coding from scratch, and started to develop my first WordPress theme.
I said "re-learn", not "learn". I do have a degree in software engineering, but after graduated, I didn't pursuit a career in tech industry. Over time, I've forgotten everything I have learned during my 3 years of higher level education. At that point, I only remember what is String, Array, forEach, and loop. So much so for spending 3 years to learn something you could learn in less than 30 minutes ¯\(ツ)/¯
1st Turning Point of My Journey
At the end of 2012, I launched my first premium WordPress theme, made over $340 (USD) during the first week of the launch.
While the figure wasn’t big, but it was a HUGE turning point.
Not only that I know I have enough money to survive for another month, but also I have just invented a career for myself as a WordPress Developer selling themes and plugins online.
Which also made me realized the importance of:
Lesson #1: Having The Ability to Make Money at Will
If you can’t make money at will for your business, you don’t have a business – you have a hope.
We can’t buy food with hope!
Therefore, as an entrepreneur, it’s SUPER important to master the skills of making money at will.
The basis of a business is to provide enough value for a target audience in exchange for money.
But, to do that, we must first put ourselves in their shoe – understand their problems, their pains, their needs & wants.
As Seth Godin said it best:
Understanding someone else’s story is hard, a job that’s never complete, but it’s worth the effort.
It’s all about being empathetic with your target audience, earn their attention & trust, sell them your solution, and make a profit in between.
Fast forward to beginning of 2016, after developing & selling a dozens of WordPress plugins, I made over tens of millions…
Well – I wish that did happened ?
Yes – I do made over 5-figure income on certain months (but not every month)
Yes – I do made roughly around 4K (MYR) in less than 10 days (but that only happens once in a blue moon)
Yes – I do made over 1k (MYR) in one day – but not (I think you get the point) everyday.
The truth is I made only about 85k (MYR) combined within those 3 years (start of 2013 until end of 2015).
It’s easy to make projection on things like “When I’m 35 years old, I would become a millionaire”, or “I would take my company public in the next X years”.
But, the reality is often far away from dreams.
Lesson #2: This is an Infinite Game with no clear winner or loser
It’s easy to see some famous people succeed at the young age, and compare them to ourselves, and see how much of a failure we are.
I believe the word “Success” has been overrated & corrupted by our culture.
Is Bill Gates “Successful”?
Is the single mother who raised 8 children by herself considered “Successful”?
In both cases, most people would say “Yes”
Yet, the scale used to measure the “successfulness” of both Bill Gates & the single mother is totally different.
One measured by the amount of wealth he gave away – the other measured by the amount of love she gave to her children.
Lucky for us, in this infinite game called “Life”, we can dictate our own rules, and define our own meaning of success.
The famous Henry Ford quote:
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right
In another word: Whether you think you’re successful right now, or you think you’re failure – you’re both right.
It’s up to us to determine the meaning of “success”.
2nd Turning Point of My Journey
As I realized selling WordPress plugins might not be the path for long term sustainability, I started to divert my focus on freelancing projects – especially the local one.
At this point of my journey (mid 2016), other than a few customization projects I did for my plugin customers, I never really done a lot of freelancing projects.
It was a HUGE step for me
As I don’t really know what I’m doing – not to mention, the constant thought of self-doubt and fear that I might crashed and burned.
It also doesn’t help that there are tons of stories of freelancers get bullied and cheated by bad client floating around the Internet.
For the longest time, I believe the best way of avoiding bad clients is not doing freelancing at all. DUH!
I held to that “belief” for quite long – which is why I never do any freelancing projects prior to mid 2016.
Everything changed when I was offered a rare opportunity by a MNC company to work on a their CSR project.
At the beginning, I was thinking for rejecting it (courtesy to my negative belief in freelancing).
But, I realized that if I want to make real changes to my life, I had to jump in with a leap of faith.
This turns out to be the BEST decision I ever made – as It basically changed my whole career.
Lesson #3: Sometimes you just have to jump, and build a parachute on the way down.
In business & life, we can’t calculate all the pros & cons, and then only made the decision.
Sometimes we just have to trust ourselves, and believe in our own ability to figure things out.
Now – I’m not saying I didn’t get any bad clients at all – I have my fair share of that.
But I learned that bad clients is just part of the process of finding great clients.
Every experience we accumulate, good or bad, will only make us stronger.
One of the amazing quotes by Tony Robbins:
I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent.
If we want to achieve greatness in life, we must expect to face the same level of challenges.
3rd Turning Point of My Journey
February of last year (2019), out of a normal Wednesday evening, I stumble upon this book called “Company of One” (by Paul Jarvis) in a local bookstore.
This book changed my perceptive on the nature of a company and business.
I realized that I don’t have to grow for the sake of growth, and it’s ok to stay small.
Because of the inspiration from the book, I decided to build my business around my life, and not the other way around.
That’s how the idea of “One Coder Agency” is born.
(I done a presentation about this back in WordCamp Kuala Lumper 2019 – you can view it here)
I started to focus on serving my best clients, and reject those who I think doesn’t worth my time.
I also decided what I want to do, and what I don’t want to do, who should I give my promises to, who shouldn’t.
Lesson #4: Keeping Promises is the highest value any businesses can provide to their clients, or customers
If you worked with me before, you know that my promise worth gold. Whenever I made a promise, I always deliver it.
We live in the world of businesses that full of broken promises.
Company that promise privacy end up selling your data to the highest bidder.
Company that set unrealistic expectations to their product end up under-deliver what they promised.
Some say making promise is a dangerous game for any businesses.
But, for me, if you can keep your promises, and over-deliver, you have a client, or customer for life.
That’s how Zappos fight their way through a red ocean of selling shoe online.
As the former CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh said it best:
We’re not trying to maximize each and every transaction. Instead, we’re trying to build a lifelong relationship with each customer, one phone call at a time.
(Rest in peace, Tony, and thanks for the wisdom and legacy you left behind)
Honestly, when I decided to jump through the hula hoop of entrepreneurship 10 years ago, I didn’t expect I would be where I am today.
I seriously thought I would become a millionaire by now.
Funny enough, becoming a millionaire wasn’t even my target now.
After being inspired by Seth Godin and Tony Hsieh, leaving a legacy, and making changes & impact to others would be my only long-term goal for now.
Which is also one of the reasons why I started this blog, started to teach coding, sharing my knowledge in various aspect, and many more.
So – for the next 10 years, I hope that I would make enough impact that I can write about it in 2030.