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December 6th, 2012
5 min read
Anybody who makes it seem like the growth of their business was nice, linear, and strategic… is lying. It rarely goes that smoothly. And, we all make mistakes.
Today’s reader question of the day comes from Jason Ulsrud, from The RSC Project. He asked:
“Looking back when you started your online business, what 3 things did you do that ended up being a huge waste of time and money?”
Really, good question. It really got me thinking about the early days of my business and really thinking about what was it that I did that wasn’t so smart, in retrospect.
#1: Trying to save money by self-hosting my email list
I am a big proponent of Aweber. Aweber is a great company, there are other great companies for emails as well and I’m actually giving some thought to Office Auto Pilot right now, but you know – those are third-party things. You have a separate monthly bill associated with using any of these things.
Now, in the early days, like a lot of you guys, probably… I was trying to save money by not getting an account with Aweber or any of these other companies because – yes, it costs money! I didn’t want to do it. So, I actually was using my own software that I personally created at one point to send out mass email. And that was a HUMONGOUS mistake because what happened was that, my software was not properly programmed to handle the bounces. So, I had a lot of dud emails on the list that were not being cleaned off properly because my software wasn’t equipped to deal with it. It was sending the emails and that was it. So, that was a big problem.
Then I went and bought a piece of software and still had the emails on my server but basically using this paid piece of software that I only had to pay for one time (it was a PHP script) . That was an improvement because at least it was handling bounces, but at the same time was still sending out that email from my own server and that is a problem.
Now, these days there are alternatives where you can actually rent or pay a small or monthly fee for SMTP. It’s basically a way where you can send your emails from your own server but via another server. Now, one of the solutions for that would be a company called SendGrid. So, you might want to check out SendGrid. You can actually host your list on your server using a third party script and then you could send your email via a company like SendGrid so they take care of the sending. That will alleviate some of the problems. But you still have to maintain everything yourself.
For more info, check out: How To Send Mass Email Without Subscribing To The Likes of Aweber of Mailchimp.
So, that led me into Aweber and obviously, it’s their job to make sure everything goes right and I think that is money very, very well spent. So that was definitely something I wasted a lot of time on the beginning
#2: Making My Own Content Management System
Now, I’m not thinking that this is something you guys are probably going to do. I come from a programming and tech background and I’m actually a fairly decent programmer. So at the time, this seemed like a good idea and I knew how to do it.
So, I created this thing called Miraserver. Basically in order to power my own website at PCMech.com. It was decent software but then, there’s WordPress out there and WordPress was free and it was growing like crazy. You can see what WordPress does now. It’s just an incredible piece of software and the fact that it’s free just blows my mind!
So, here I was with Miraserver where I was the only guy in the entire world that knew how that thing worked. This means that I’m the only guy that can fix anything or add any capability to it. Versus WordPress which I had to pay nothing for, it’s community supported, it has about a billion and one plug-ins for it. I was kinda stupid to try and make my own software.
For you moving forward, whenever possible, outsource to solutions where somebody else maintains it. Allow them – the people that are good at it – to do what they’re good at and you focus on the things that you’re good at. I shouldn’t have done that. I should’ve worked with WordPress right from the beginning.
#3: Not Growing Smartly
Now, when I put that as my third answer, I was thinking specifically of the time that I went out and rented out an outside office and I actually had 2 employees in there at the time, besides myself. So, the business had a bigger footprint.
But I realized I did not need any of it. So, basically I was in the section of the Tampa Bay area called Ybor City and the rent was not cheap. It’s right there on 7th avenue. And then I had 2 employees in it, so the overhead was a lot higher and I realized I didn’t need any of it.
Ultimately what ended up happening was I decided to ditch the office and go back to my home office and that’s where I’m at right now and I had one of those employees for quite a while longer.
Today, I have just people who are paid on project basis or virtual assistance and that’s all I’ve got. I probably will not hire actual employees again. It’s nothing against it, but let’s face it, it is quite a bit more expensive to hire that way and I think when we’re starting on smaller, online businesses or we’re trying to expand, hiring independent contractors is a much smarter way to go. So, that was one of my big mistakes… growing beyond what was needed and not doing it in a very smart way.
If you would like to send a question that I can answer in the same format, then, fill in this brief form to send in your question.