I often get people telling me that I’m “living the dream”, and to some extent I am. At least, I’m living my dream.
What I do and where I live and how I live is my dream but for you it may not be. But HOW I got to where I am could still be a path that you could follow to achieve your dream.
At the end of each section I will share with you a lesson that I have learned that you could also use to help you achieve your dream. These will be in italics and coloured red - just like this!
I live in a finca (think Spanish villa) in Mallorca with my wife and two young children. The mother in law comes to stay for a month at a time but other than that it’s all good. 300 days of sunshine a year, beautiful countryside, a pool to cool off in in summer, amazing food and wine, a group of good friends nearby, the nearest town is only 5 minutes away and is a world heritage site, we have a choice of beaches close by, and I work for myself from home online.
This is the view from my office:
Now please don’t think I’m trying to show off, because I’m not - the house is rented, I work a lot of hours, the kids play up sometimes, the electricity goes off when there is a storm, the water we use is from a well and there is a risk of it running out every year etc. Basically same shit, different location. Did I mention the mother in law?
But for me this is a dream, and one that I genuinely never thought I would achieve. I’m just not that guy. At least I never was. So if I can create this amazing lifestyle for myself, I’m pretty sure that most people can create their dream too.
Freedom - that was my dream. Freedom to live where I want, freedom to not have a boss, freedom from money worries, freedom to not have to work every day, freedom to do things that add value to my life, freedom to be in a position to give something back to society, freedom to push causes that are important to me.
So out of that dream of freedom I can tick most of the boxes - a couple of them need a bit of extra work but within a few months I should be able to say I have fulfilled them all.
1. Least Likely To Succeed
Let me give you some background about me first (I’ll try not to let this become a biography!) because I want you to see that I’m not someone who would ever have been considered a high achiever. We never did the “Person Most Likely To Succeed” thing at school, but if we had I wouldn’t be anywhere near to the top of the list.
Qualifications wise I got three decent A Levels, tried University but didn’t like it. My jobs have included:
Diplomatic Service Officer for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Team Leader for a subsidiary of British Airways
Assistant Vice President for a large American Bank
Global Quality Manager for a tobacco company
Do you notice anything about those jobs? You can’t tell from the job title what any of them actually entail (looking back at them I can’t actually remember a lot of the detail myself, and I did them!).
Obviously there was specific work involved. I enjoyed all of them apart from the American Bank - it had a terrible work culture where fear was used to motivate staff. It was whilst working here that I started to look at making money online as a way of escape. I ended up resigning and trying to work full time online.
With every job you have, try and take something from it that will help you when you are a self employed entrepreneur. Look at what works in your work environment, learn as much as you can. This will make things a lot easier when you go it alone.
2. How I Got Started….Sort Of
I had seen a review for the Tim Ferris book “4 Hour Work Week”, bought the book, liked the bit about dropshipping so started doing that.
Built two online stores (one selling football gifts, the other clothes) which did ok but not great. I found that I was having to learn new skills to do everything - website building, ecommerce, search engine optimisation etc. I was becoming jack of all trades and master of none.
I then discovered affiliate marketing, and tried that. Building websites stuffed with keywords to try and sell crappy health products that I didn’t believe in. Again, did ok but not great, and nowhere near enough to pay the bills (during this time I had got married and bought an apartment, so had serious commitments).
I ended up going back to work for a large tobacco company, and actually really enjoyed it. I got to work in Switzerland, Russia and Malaysia regularly, and most importantly became responsible for analysing and improving processes in the finance and accounting departments (more on why this was important later).
Throughout this time I had pretty much given up on working for myself online, and just assumed that the rest of my life would be like the opening words from Trainspotting Choose Life:
I don’t know if that resonates with you at all - deep down I knew that this wasn’t the life that I wanted. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
1.If you fail online, that’s ok. Take a learning from it and move on. I got lucky - I have pretty much given up on going it alone
2.As much as you use your dream to motivate you (expensive car, ability to travel), you can also use the alternative to motivate you - I was scared that I would live my whole life settling for second best, and that scared me enough to do something about it
3. How To Create The Change You Need To Become What You Want To Be
What I mean by that sub-headline is - to achieve your dreams, carrying on the same path is often not an option - big change is needed. But how do you create that change?
This is a tricky one because it is different for each person - what would motivate or shock you into taking a potential life changing decision? Because often that is what is needed to get you to commit to working your arse off or taking a calculated risk or leap of faith to actually DO something.
For me two events happened at around the same time that led me living a life in the sunshine and beauty of a Mediterranean island.
My mum, uncle and grandma all died within a few months of each other - my mum and uncle unexpectedly. Obviously this was incredibly distressing, but coming out the other side I realised that whilst it is a cliché, life is too short to put up with just getting by. I only get one life, and I want to live it as best I can.
The second thing that pushed down the path I am now on is that my wife was starting her maternity leave after the birth of our second child, and didn’t want to go back to her previous job as this would have meant a long commute and not seeing the children at all on weekday evenings. I wanted a way for her to be able to not go back to work, or at least get a lower paid job near where we lived.
Now I’m not saying that you should get someone pregnant / get pregnant and hope that all your relatives pass away, but try making a mental leap of faith and see where it gets you.
Around this time, I received an email from Ryan Grant, an American Amazon selling “guru”. I must have been on his email list from years back when I was trying affiliate marketing. I don’t remember what his email said, but I do know that it got me looking into selling on Amazon, as I thought it could be a way to generate extra income so that my wife didn’t have to go back to work.
I initially looked at private label, and even got as far as getting samples and negotiating a price with a Chinese supplier, but at the last-minute thought I’d try a bit of retail arbitrage to get a feel for things.
This was January 2016.
Within 3 months I was selling on Amazon in the UK and the US, using prep centres to do the shipping etc. as I still had a full-time job. I had a couple of Virtual Assistants to help with the product sourcing and had begun to realise that this was a real, feasible, income generating business.
It was hard work, as I could only work on the Amazon side of things on an evening after the kids had gone to bed, so it meant a lot of late nights. During my lunch break at work I would go product sourcing in local stores to top up the online arbitrage.
Lessons Learned For Becoming A Successful Amazon Seller:
The advice I would give to others either wanting to get started on Amazon or wanting to succeed on Amazon would be this:
1.Take action - do as much RA as you can. Experiment with different online stores to find the types of products that work for you
2.Don’t be afraid to make mistakes - not everything will make you money. Be prepared to lose money until you refine your process and build up your skills
3.Join Amazon related Facebook groups and watch what other people are asking. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions. There are some super knowledgeable people out there - take advantage of their knowledge and experience and add it to your own
4. Back To My Story
Fast forward to October 2016 and I’m in Mallorca on holiday with my family for the second time that year. We’ve gone past the usual conversation that you have when you are on vacation of “Wouldn’t it be nice to live somewhere like this?” and have somehow ended up at “Let’s move here”.
It wasn’t sudden, but the seed had been planted when we were in Mallorca in May earlier in the year, and I had been making subtle and not so subtle hints that maybe it was something we could do.
On the last day of our holiday we got an estate agent to show us a rental house near the beach. We didn’t end up there, but the decision had been taken.
Back in the UK things started moving fast. House went up for sale and sold within a couple of weeks. I pushed my employer to offer me voluntary redundancy which they conveniently did.
By Christmas I had handed over the Amazon selling business to my wife whilst I worked on my website, blogging, developing Amazon related products and courses etc.
Three months after we decided to move to Mallorca, our plane landed at Palma airport and the removals van trundled across the continent bringing the possessions that we decided we could live without.
Try not to be afraid - if you want something, go for it. The people who don’t get their dream are the ones who were scared to take the leap. Ask yourself: “What would happen if I didn’t do this?” - the answer is usually nothing. Ask yourself: “What would happen if I succeeded at this?” - the answer is usually pretty awesome!
5. First Year Living & Working The Dream
My wife and I set up our home office (pic below) and started working together. Friends had been concerned that this might not work out, after all we were suddenly spending 90% of our time together, compared to probably 30% beforehand.
Because we don’t often work on the same thing together we actually do our own thing, although we have a weekly meeting to discuss where we are up to with our various projects, finances etc. We also motivate each other, share new knowledge gained etc. I know everyone doesn’t have the option to work with someone close to them, but even developing a relationship and working with someone you have met via a Facebook group can really help. At the very least I would recommend teaming up with a friend who is interested in what you are doing and giving them regular updates.
It has been tough - we haven’t hit the financial targets we’ve set to pay the bills every month, but we are effectively still setting up and developing our businesses. Within a month or two of writing this blog post we should be exceeding the minimum targets consistently, with money going into savings and being reinvested.
It has been surprisingly easy not to be distracted working from home. The TV never goes on during the day, and rarely on an evening, because we are working. We’re at the point now where we take one or two nights off a week (in addition to working during the day of course), but for a long time were working 5 days and 7 nights per week.
We’ve made friends very quickly, and the kids love it as they are outside all the time.
We’ve gone from living in a big city to living in beautiful countryside which is uplifting for the soul on a daily basis.
The difference a blue sky for 300 days of the year cannot be underestimated.
We discovered that our productivity and creativity significantly dropped during the summer when it was 40 degrees, and will do something about that this year (e.g. go back to England for a month).
1.If you have the opportunity to work with someone else take it. You don’t need to be partners, but being able to bounce ideas of each other, share your successes, failures, doubts etc. can be incredibly beneficial.
2.Set targets (financial, sales, profit etc.) and monitor your progress against them. Be realistic but also be challenging to yourself
6. A Typical Day
Less than 18 months ago when I had a full time job in finance my typical day was like this:
Up at 6.10am
Leave for work at 7.00am for a commute that would take between 1 and 1.5 hours
Work (meetings, phone calls, emails, emails, emails, emails)
Lunch break - do some retail arbitrage
Work (maybe some more emails if I’m lucky)
Leave at 4.00pm to pick my son up from nursery
Dinner, kids to bed, work again from 8.00pm - 11.00pm or later
Now my day looks like this:
Get up at 7.30am, kids breakfast, school run
Start work in home office by 9.30am
Finish work to pick up kids about 3.30pm
Do something - go to the beach for a picnic, play outside in the garden
Work again 8.00pm - 10.00pm
I’m spending a huge amount of extra time with my family, but it’s not all bad (joke). Just removing the 2.5 hour round trip commute has improved my life considerably.
We probably spend 80% of our free time outside, including eating our meals, whether sitting on the terrace or playing with the kids. It’s a nice, relaxed way of living. This also helps counter any stress that our work might give us.
This is a tricky one - it’s having a work life balance. It’s tricky because if you work for yourself, you often need or want to work every spare minute you have. That’s been OK for me for short periods of time, but downtime is important. Maintaining positive relationships with your partner, family or friends can sometimes feel like it is interrupting or getting in the way of your work, but in the long term it pays off, as relationship and friendships contribute significantly to your state of mind. Obviously a positive state of mind means you are more likely to be positive and succeed in your business.
7. How We Earn Our Money
My wife runs our Amazon business, I am only involved in about 10% of it.
My wife also has her own stand alone website that she created which sells unique kids toys and gifts - https://www.tillydude.com/
She is also in the process of setting up a subscription box based business and expects to launch this in the next couple of months.
We both have an Amazon Merch account, but haven’t done much with either yet. On the to do list for 2018.
I run a daily product sourcing list service - https://www.expertarbitrage.com/
I have also created and sell a Virtual Assistant training course -
https://ww w.virtualonlinearbitrage.com/ and have created and sold some tools such as Chrome Extensions to help people source and sell on Amazon.
I earn a few hundred dollars of affiliate commission per month through promoting Amazon related products that I use myself.
The above generates enough income to cover our bills, and 2018 will see us hopefully hit some stretching financial targets that will take us to the next level.
I’m sure you will have heard people stress the importance of having multiple income streams, and I’m going to join them. It’s a cliche but it’s true that you shouldn’t have all of your eggs in one basket. Becoming a successful Amazon seller allowed me to see opportunities that would benefit other Amazon sellers - Chrome Extensions, courses, services etc. Also being exposed to the world of making money online creates other opportunities that are not Amazon related. It is important to focus on one thing and get that working for you before you branch out, but after that I would recommend looking for additional opportunities.
8. How We Became Successful Online Business Owners
This is important. It’s not just a question of doing, it’s a question of planning and setting goals and targets. It might sound boring but we are running real businesses and they should be run as such.
I mentioned earlier that my last “real” job involved me looking a processes and making them more efficient and effective. The skills that I learned doing that have been applied to our own online businesses.
I will write another blog post about how we have done that, why it is important and how it works, but setting up standardised processes have helped us get the work that needs doing done in a consistent efficient manner.
One of the things I disliked when I worked for a large corporations was the routine - doing the same kind of thing at the same time every day did not motivate me. I was lucky to have some roles where each day was different, but generally this was not the case.
And something that attracted me to working for myself was the thought that I didn’t need routine anymore - I could do what I wanted when I wanted.
It’s fair to say that I have had something of a turnaround in this area - I am now confident to say that routine works.
I have several tasks that need doing every day. If I do them at the same time, following the same process, not only do they get done but they get done more efficiently than if I just made it up as I went along or left them until the last minute.
3. Meetings / talking
My wife and I have a meeting in a cafe in our local town every Monday morning where we review what we did the previous week and plan the current week’s activities, as well as carrying out some longer term planning. This gives us accountability and structure. It also gives us opportunities to push and motivate each other.
4. Invest time in self development
Over the past year or so both my wife and I have completed several online courses - some on specific skills such as Facebook Ads, some on more generic skills like brain training. I also try and read a book for self development as often as time allows.
My wife pays for the services of a business coach who she has a Skype call with every month and that has seen her push herself to the next level.
I know someone who used to be the CEO of a huge British / French energy company which he turned around from loss making to highly profitable, with tens of thousands of employees. He still has a coach who he meets with once a month to help him develop. Learning and development never really stop.
5. Use our new life as motivation
We need to work hard each month to pay the bills and start saving and investing our money. The motivation to do that is all around us - the beautiful countryside, the blue sky and turquoise sea, our everyday lifestyle.
The achievement of one goal doesn’t mean we sit back and think “we’ve made it now”. It means we want to keep making it, and to take it to the next level.
6. Set ambitious targets
Settling for earning just enough money to get by doesn’t work. All that will happen is that you might earn enough to get by.
If you think more positively (I want to be a millionaire, I want to stop working at 40, I want a Bugatti in 5 years etc.) there is much more chance of this happening. Even if you don’t quite hit your target, you will certainly get a lot further than just getting by. Aim for the stars.
7. Work smart as well as hard
I’ve already mentioned about being organised and having processes. But working for yourself can be difficult at times. So the way you work is very important. A methodology that has worked well for me over the last year is the Pomodoro Technique (you can read the full Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique):
“There are six steps in the original technique:
1.Decide on the task to be done.
2.Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
3.Work on the task.
4.End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
5.If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
6.After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.”
I use the free version of the Focus Booster app (can find it here: https://www.focusboosterapp.com/) on my laptop. I have found that I have been able to be more productive since using this technique.
I’ve also recently started listening to https://www1.brain.fm/ - it’s early days but I do think it’s working. I’ve typed most of this blog post whilst listening to it.
I hope it’s clear that the purpose of this blog post isn’t one of those “Look at me and my cool new car/boat/girlfriend” moments. I’m not rich but I would consider myself successful. I’m not motivated by material things but I like a good quality of life and a nice place to live.
I know many people want to escape their current job, or they want to have the freedom to make their own decisions in life without being fenced in. I wanted to walk through how I have managed to achieve that, and share some of the lessons that I have learned and am continuing to learn along the way.
If you can take something from that then I will be absolutely delighted. I’m also very pleased that you’ve made it this far, as the post is a lot longer than I had originally intended!
So thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. You can also contact me privately through the Contact page should you wish to do so.
Think about where you want your destination to be, then take the first few steps that will lead you there today.