I’ve been in online business for over 15 years. I absolutely adored my business. And now, for the last year or so, I haven’t done any work.
Before I continue, here’s a video of me explaining in slightly more detail what’s in this article. If you prefer to listen and watch rather than read, this is for you:
Originally, I was doing freelance design for clients. My blog increased in popularity in the late aughts (2000s) so I pivoted to sell digital products, mostly online courses, as that was making more money passively.
I did this all while I was living in London, and, in 2014, I decided to swap expensive, cold, miserable London for cheap, hot, beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand. Everything went well in Thailand.
I met some awesome people and business was good. However, my dad died in 2015 which meant I had to return and spend time in the UK with my mum. The combination of moving abroad along with the extra travelling meant I had less time. But the business was making money passively and, even though I was doing slightly less, the money kept coming in …
What was I doing before?
I used to do a lot. Most weeks I would write a 1000-word blog post, make a YouTube video, reply to multiple customer emails and messages, as well as oversee a multitude of freelancers working on various projects.
Added to that, I would publish video courses and books. I wrote about 8 books and created over 20 video courses. I used to try to complete a book or a video course in under a month.
And, if that wasn’t enough, I had also added new businesses (Amazon FBA, Amazon Merch and PoD, low content book publishing, etc.) to my core business of creating video courses for aspiring online entrepreneurs.
Looking back, that was a lot of work.
What am I doing now?
Nothing. Or, very little.
How did that happen?
Slowly at first, and then all at once…
I last published an online course back in 2018. After that, I didn’t make a conscious decision to take my foot off the gas. It just … happened. So, the truth is, I’m writing about a stage in my life that I don’t understand fully anyway.
But there are a number of factors that led me to spend less time on my business. And, as I have tried in the past to share entrepreneurial experiences with others, I will do so again. Maybe it will help you.
As I’ve already said, I used to do a lot. I was a content machine … regularly publishing blog posts, making YouTube videos, creating online courses, writing books, responding to readers’ comments, and managing multiple social media channels.
I loved it. It was my passion, my life. I loved helping people with their online businesses.
However, my online business brand was … me. I was the face behind the business and its main contributor. So, if I couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work, the business suffered. I never thought this would be a problem but it became one.
Too many businesses
The core of the business was my online courses that taught WordPress website design, web design business, email marketing, SEO, cyber security, etc. Selling courses made more money than anything else. I’d been making courses for over a decade. But I’m easily bored and I was so enthralled the opportunities online business offered that I wanted to try more and more businesses.
So, when I started to take my foot off the gas four years ago, the obvious and sensible thing to do would be to forget about the new businesses and double-down on the core business. But I didn’t do it. Why? Well, I didn’t want to let go of anything. I wanted it all!
This was a big mistake. Once I sensed problems were coming, it would have been sensible to hone down on Just One Thing.
Lisa Irby is an online entrepreneur with a large following. I, for one, have been following her for well over a decade. She had been successful in the fields of web design, web hosting, WordPress, affiliate marketing and Youtube. And then, a few years ago, she ditched it all and concentrated on Print On Demand.
That was sensible. She had a lot of things going on. But, because she’d done everything the right way (she had an email list and had been blogging and Youtubing for years), she could successfully pivot and take most of her existing audience with her.
I should have been like Lisa. However, I was more like Rob. I tried to keep all my plates spinning. I said to myself, “I’ll sort it out. I’ll think of something.” I didn’t. Once one plate smashes, they all do. Watch the ego.
Wanting to be a “guru”
I have an ego, we all do. Half the pleasure of being successful is the recognition you get from it. It boosts your ego to hear people saying that you’ve done well.
This affects all of us. We all love a pat on the back and the feeling that we’ve done something people like. However, even that can be like a drug.
So, I wasn’t content with being a blogger who created content about online business. I wanted to be the next Pat Flynn! That was a dumb thing to aspire to. There’s no way I have the sort of character to do that. I was better off concentrating on my core subject.
But, my ego got the better of me.
I’ve actually never had a problem with social media. Other people have much worse experiences with trolls, etc. But I never really liked social media. I never ‘got it’. Also, remember I started blogging in 2005/6 before social media took off.
However, as a blogger and someone who sells digital products online I, of course, have to engage with social media.
Sometimes I enjoyed it. When I went to Jaipur, India, on holiday before the days of COVID and shared on Facebook that I was there, I was immediately contacted by two Jaipur locals – people I’d known through Udemy.
However, I became too self-conscious to share every trip I was making, every meal I was eating, or everything I was doing. It’s fine that other people want to do that, but it’s just not me. And now I hardly ever post on social media.
I’m 53. Before my 50s, I had the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me and energy to hustle on and make a dent in the universe. Now you could say that I have more of my life behind me than ahead of me. And this fact changes your view of the world.
So, at least, I know that I’m going through something similar to what other people have gone through.
But I don’t seem to be conforming to the stereo-typed menopausal male. I don’t have any plans to buy a Ferrari and drive it top-down with the trophy model girlfriend. (At least, not yet!)
However, I do seem to have hit a wall of uncertainty. I’m uncertain about what I want to do which is a new feeling.
I’m uncertain about advising about web design as it’s been a long time since I did web design for clients. I’m uncertain about advising about running a web design business as I’m sure the methods I used to get clients are out-of-date now. I’m now uncertain about the PoD business as I haven’t even created a product in a year now. I haven’t created an online course in nearly 4 years!
You ask a young man what should be done about the pandemic, politics, the economy, US-China relations, etc., and you’ll get answers. Ask me about anything and I’ll say “I don’t know”.
So, now what?
Now, I have invested in property and other assets which gives me a “runway” or a period of time where I can reflect on what’s happened and where I want to go. I’m so lucky that I have this opportunity to take a bit of time to work out my future direction.
I’m actually happy. I’m incredibly grateful that I have this opportunity to recharge and re-pivot and I appreciate that not many people are as lucky as I am.
But, what do you think? Is any of this resonating with you? Do you have any suggestions for me? I would love to hear what you think in the comments.