Two years ago today, I received the most important call of my career.
I always dreamed of starting my own business. But there were far too many reasons not to do it. I had three kids and the security of a job. A wife who didn’t bring in an income. Far too much risk.
But on August 18, 2011, the first step was taken that would lead me here: The security of a job was taken away from me.
I was laid off.
It would be fun to tell you that I immediately started a new business that day. That I incorporated, put together a business plan and got rolling.
But I was far from confident in starting my own business. As a result, I didn’t. I focused instead on finding another job.
That job search was sabotaged from the beginning. I did not want another “job.” I did not want to fight traffic. I did not want to lose the flexibility to coach my sons’ teams.
It was fighting through this lack of confidence and scores of irrational fears that eventually let me to where I am today.
But it absolutely didn’t happen overnight. It was a process of experiments, failures and doing uncomfortable things that I had never done before.
Throughout this post, I want to map out the stages of my business to help you understand where I’ve been during the past two years. I also want to provide a few important tips along the way to help you avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered.
The hope is that, if you’re facing a similar climb, you’ll find some inspiration or learn from the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
The Stages of My Business
Looking back on the past two years, this business has pretty clearly fallen into six different stages:
Aug 18 – Dec 19, 2011: “I Have No Freaking Clue What I’m Doing”
This is the stage that caused my wife the greatest worry. I shielded myself by not paying the bills. My wife saw just how scary it was.
When I was laid off, one of the first things I did was bought a domain. This domain.
I then started JonLoomer.com on August 29, 2011 with this post.
Reading that post is somewhat painful now. I even had a different writing style then, focusing on longer paragraphs.
I know now that short paragraphs are better!
As you can see from that post, my focus then was on getting hired. I started this website as a virtual résumé to showcase what I could do and have done in the past.
In the meantime, I sent countless applications that either went ignored or were rejected. I went to job fairs and met with recruiters.
However, like I said, I feel like I had a lot to do with where I was going. I really didn’t want any of these jobs. So I did the bare minimum to apply.
On September 7, 2011, I started a contest to #GetLoomerAJob. Seriously. I wouldn’t say it worked.
I wrote when I was inspired. I lacked a strategy. And I saw a huge spike in traffic when I wrote about a Facebook hoax. As a result, this would lead me to chasing traffic by writing about that topic for a while.
I was a mess, and this site lacked direction. The only money I made was as a result of consulting, and those gigs were few and far between.
Dec 20, 2011 – Feb 28, 2012: “Figuring it Out”
Maybe it was the urgency of having been four months since my layoff. Maybe it was my wife breathing down my neck as bills needed to be paid.
Or, more likely, maybe it was the realization that I wanted to do something on my own. Beginning December 20, 2011, this website took on far more focus.
It was on that day in December that I launched my first eBook.
It was called “How to Run a Facebook Page that Rocks.” Painful, I know. I designed the cover myself. And I released it as a PDF.
I couldn’t tell you how many people requested it. I didn’t even have it connected to list building strategies. But the point is that I was going outside of my comfort zone and experimenting.
The New Year brought a clean slate. And writing Out With the Old, In With the Awesome was therapeutic for me.
I started writing. A lot. Nearly every day. Focused on marketing topics, generally, and more and more about Facebook marketing, specifically.
On February 2, 2012, I finally started my newsletter. I really had no clue what I was doing, but that didn’t matter.
Once again, I was doing something that made me uncomfortable. I was trying something new. And I was pushing forward.
At this point, I had yet to make a dime from my website itself. But the building blocks were falling into place.
Feb 29, 2012 – Sep 19, 2012: “Building Authority”
February 29, 2012 was a big day for me. It was the day Facebook Timeline for Pages was announced, and the day I started obsessively writing about Facebook marketing.
It was also around the time I started investing in building my brand.
On March 23, 2012, I announced a new logo (with your help). It’s the same logo that graces these pages today.
On March 27, 2012, I moved to the new Timeline. I had swapped services with a photographer, getting a professionally done headshot and cover photo in the deal. I was finally “looking legit.”
And to be clear, I didn’t look legit before this. While I had gone through one website redesign by then, my Facebook Page looked as amateur as it could get. Everything was done with my own hands, which was not a good thing.
On April 26, 2012, I launched a redesign of JonLoomer.com. With a new logo and a solid theme, I was finally putting on the face of someone who was serious.
This was certainly a period of experimentation and doing new things. On May 16, I wrote a post asking for questions for my first ever podcast (inspired by Marcus Sheridan).
I have no idea how many people would listen to my podcast in those early days. But again, it didn’t matter so much. The most important part was the experimentation.
On May 18, 2012, I launched my second eBook, The 6 Secrets to Facebook Marketing Success. This edition would be offered in exchange for an email address (I learned from my earlier mistakes).
There was a much clearer strategy and focus. As of June 19, 2012, I had reached the 500,000 page view milestone, which seems so minuscule now (currently approaching 3 Million)!
This was also the stage when I started to get noticed. Big guns like Mari Smith and Amy Porterfield began referencing me. There is possibly no bigger development than this in terms of broader acceptance.
On August 9, 2012, I wrote an introspective post that was a lot like this one. I reflected on the past year and my vision for the future began to come together.
Still no money flowing through these pages, though my consulting business was doing better. However, I knew that I didn’t want consulting to be my main source of revenue.
Sep 20, 2012 – Jan 27, 2013: First Stage of Monetization
I spent more than a year building traffic to this website. It wasn’t until September 20, 2012, when I opened up the sidebar to advertisers, that I truly started to monetize.
It was easier than I had expected. And it brought a nice, dependable flow of revenue. It was the first time that I could add something of substance to my consulting.
I would work with a couple of those early sponsors (first AgoraPulse and then ShortStack) on partnerships around Facebook contests in November and December.
Possibly the most important development, however, was when I launched my first online product, Facebook Page Strategic Review.
It was a primitive product. It didn’t scale. But it was the first time I’d sell anything on these pages, and it would do better than I had expected.
It was also another prime example of why you should stop stressing over details and just “do it.”
Of course, this would lead me to a Facebook Ad Review product that completely flopped. But the experience was worthwhile.
Up until this critical stage, it still wasn’t clear what was going to become of my career. I was still hemorrhaging money, having plowed through savings and dipping into credit card debt.
But now — finally — it appeared that what I was doing was going to bring a steady income that could potentially equal what I was making over a year prior.
This stage was littered with experimentation, and there was no better example of that than the start of my video blog.
Here is my first episode:
Just eight months later, it’s completely different. I’ve purchased two new cameras and an entire studio. But I needed to start somewhere in order to determine my direction.
Jan 28, 2013 – July 14, 2013: Recognition and Acceptance
This was when I knew there was no turning back. I had made this work.
The crowning moment was the morning of January 28, 2013, when I discovered that I was named to the Social Media Examiner Top 10 Social Media Blogs of 2013 list.
After more than a year after my last eBook, I’d partner with ShortStack on How the Pros Use Facebook Advertising in July.
I took another step towards monetization when I launched the FB Insights Exclusive Workshop. This was a small group experiment that I learned a lot from.
The main thing that I learned is that I wanted to create a training product that scaled. Instead of a workshop, I needed to create a self-serve product that any number of customers could buy and learn on their own time.
This was also when I hosted my first solo webinar. Repeatedly slowed by doing something I had never done before and the technical requirements to get something like this done, it was an accomplishment to pull it off.
July 15, 2013 – NOW: Level 2 Monetization
For months I had talked about redesigning my website. I liked the old design, but the biggest problem was that it was not mobile responsive.
So on July 15, I took care of that with another redesign.
But the biggest development in this stage — and possibly of my entire two years running my own business — was the day that I launched my first online training program.
I had talked about doing this for months. But if it wasn’t one thing slowing me down, it was another. Fears, discomfort doing things I had never done before, the enormity of the project and a whole lot more were preventing me from a launch.
Finally, I decided it didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it didn’t have to exist.
On July 23, I pre-launched FB Marketing Advanced University: Power Editor.
Not a lesson had been created. Only a landing page, some videos and a method for making payment.
I did this to get an idea of the interest before I invested time and money into creating the program. And boy was there interest!
This is the start of something big. Once the Power Editor program is complete, others will follow.
For the first time, my online revenue now exceeds my consulting revenue. And it’s not even close.
What I’ve Learned Along the Way
I’ve made so many mistakes. But that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Following are some of the key lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Just Create Something. The two examples that come to mind are my Power Editor Training Course and Facebook Page Strategic Review. I stopped obsessing over the details, and I just created something. And they worked!
2. Don’t Let Fear Paralyze You. It’s not going to be perfect. You’re going to screw something up. It’s okay. Accept it. Don’t let that fear stop you from doing.
3. Invest Early and Often. One reason I didn’t make a dime with this site early is because I barely spent a dime. It’s easier said than done, but I wish I had invested in the best systems from the start. Instead, I’m constantly upgrading.
4. Get Help. I’m not a designer. I’m not a photographer. I’m not a programmer. I’ve gotten help in all three places. I’m also getting help now with my podcast and hope to get help in more areas going forward. It’s the only way to grow!
5. Have a System. I know that I have to have a day-to-day routine since it’s a way to hold myself accountable for what I know needs to be done. Without a routine, there are no expectations for myself.
6. Get Uncomfortable. One big fear I’ve had to overcome is public speaking. I was nervous recording my first podcast. And my first video blogs. And I was a wreck preparing for my first webinar. But all have been successful, and fighting through that discomfort has been critical to my growth.
7. Try New Things. You can’t just do what you know how to do and expect to succeed. I’m constantly experimenting and trying new things. Some of them fail. Some don’t. But you’ll never know if something will or won’t work without trying it.
8. Network. The people I have met have been critical to my development. They’ve taught me new things. They’ve been important allies and partners. And they’ve helped me reach a whole new audience.
My Next 2 Years
What is awesome is that I now have the confidence to say that there will be a “next two years.”
My first year was touch and go. At around a year and a half, I began gaining confidence. And now, I know. This is my life. This is my future.
And it’s going to be awesome!
Thanks so much for being along for the ride. And I hope you’ll stick with me into the future!