The dream of becoming my own boss
I never really had a thing for school so I decided to chase the dream of becoming my own boss.
I’ve been running online businesses for more than a decade, and love everything that has to do with online marketing.
Not only because it allows me to live a certain lifestyle, but also because it’s limitless and just fun. Numbers, systems, and scalability has always been my thing.
It took a while to get here though. And in retrospect, I can see that I took some detours here and there.
Don’t get me wrong.. I’m not complaining, the ride has been fun and my life is absolutely magical today.
But if someone asked me if I would do something different, I’d give a strong yes. I could definitely have achieved the same thing in 5 years instead of 15 – if I had someone guiding the way.
I want to help you achieve the same success without all the detours.
I’m going to tell you how it all started and how I began my entrepreneurship journey.
There’s nothing spectacular about it, and it’s definitely not an overnight success story.
But it is my real story, and I’m happy I had my success come very gradually to me, as it allowed me to enjoy it more.
Let’s begin with the full story (in a short format) from day one – not only the success but also the failures so that you get the full picture.
Where it started
The story of my entrepreneurial journey began when I was 16 years old and living in my mom’s apartment in Tyresö, a small city outside the capital of Sweden, Stockholm.
During my years in high school and college, I could feel a restless energy grow stronger every year.
I wasn’t very good in school, and had no idea what I wanted out of life, professionally or otherwise. In fact, at one point, I was failing 9 out of my 10 classes.
I wasn’t very mature, intelligent or aware of who I was or wanted to become.
All I knew is that I wanted more in life, and that I couldn’t stand the thought of living a normal life.
I think what ignited me in the first place is not an inspiring vision of becoming an entrepreneur and providing value to the world, but rather realizing that I could not find myself in a 9-5 and spending my days executing tasks like a trained monkey.
You could say that what really lit the fire was my hate towards mediocrity. And I was forced to find myself another path.
Make money while you sleep? What?
Somehow I bumped into the topic of passive income. It seemed pretty exciting, although, I was extremely skeptical.
If it was really possible to make money online, why wouldn’t everyone do this and skip the rat race?
But I was also eager to try anything. I was quick to open up a few websites and applied for Google Adsense (basically getting paid when visitors click on my ads). For the record, the websites were complete failures. Made close to 0$.
But I kept reading about it, and the more I learned, the more I realized there is real potential.
This could be the way out, I thought..
It wasn’t until a year or so later that I actually started to make my first “real” bucks. When I say real bucks, I mean $10-20 per month.
Believe it or not, that was motivation enough for me to decide to never, ever quit.
Because if I could make $10 per month, I could make $1000 per month if I did the job 100 times.
That was my logic back then.
Of course, the math for scalability doesn’t work exactly like that.
But one of the few good things about me is that I’ve always been a stubborn donkey, and have a unique ability to see the long-term potential in stuff.
I made a decision that I’m going to see this through and work as much as needed to make $1000 (which was an enormous amount for me) per month.
The first sale
I opened up tons of new websites. I had gotten my eyes on affiliate marketing and decided to focus on that rather than the CPC game.
Success came, but very slowly. It’s tougher to get people to buy your products rather than having them click on your ads.
But eventually, one day, I logged into my affiliate networks, and saw something different than the usual “$0” in balance.
I remember the feeling of seeing the first sale in my account, which was a hefty $60 for selling a web hosting package.
I still remember that specific evening. I mean, I had made money before, but only peanuts from clicks. Now I made $60 in one day! If I could make that amount every day, I’d be making $1800 per month.
I told everyone around me.
I explained to my mom that I no longer had to attend school, because I had created my own profession.
I declared that I was going to become rich and that it was only a matter of time.
Let’s say that there was a bit of skepticism around this.
But I was lucky, because while my parents weren’t thrilled, they were always supportive and encouraged me to keep working on my own projects.
Thanks to my mom, I managed to finish school (albeit with an 85% absence last year, but all approved grades).
By the time I had finished school (around 18), I had upped my income to an astonishing $500.
It was around this time I started contemplating what I actually wanted to do with my life, would I have financial freedom. I felt like I wanted to escape from things.
Not that I had a bad life, but let’s just say that I wasn’t in a very inspiring environment.
I started thinking about moving away from my hometown. Italy, France, Spain. There were many options. Problem was, you don’t get far with $500 per month, so I had put off my dreams, for a while.
But thanks to this goal, I became very eager to increase my income.
Things started to look up, more money came in.
To celebrate my success, I booked an holiday to Malta (first ticket I ever bought myself), since I’ve heard of some entrepreneurs living there. Had a fantastic timeduring this trip, and met a ton of interesting people living on the island who was doing way better than me.
I’d like to believe that this trip alone increased my income indirectly from being so inspired by people. I saw that it was indeed possible to achieve, and I saw that it was a great lifestyle. All I needed was a bit more money to make it happen.
Something inside told me that good things would come from making this change. I made a decision to move the next year.
Time went by, I had just turned 19, and I was working my ass off in order to increase my income. While the income from affiliate marketing was still a bit too low, I had started to take SEO clients, which actually gave me a total revenue of around $1000 per month.
It wasn’t exactly financial freedom, but I decided to make the move.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Personally and business-wise.
I came to Malta in January 2012, and as I had instinctively somehow known, my life would change for the better after arriving here.
Malta is a highly densely populated island that offers amazing tax incentives, which attracts a ton of entrepreneurs from all over the world.
Almost on a daily, I was spending time around people either on my level or above me. People who were going in the same direction and had lots of insights on how to get where I wanted to go.
I had heard people saying that you become the average of the people you spend the most time with many times. But I didn’t understand it until then.
It’s really true. You will to a large extent turn into the people you spend time with. And luckily for me, I spent time with smart, growth-minded, successful entrepreneurs for the 5 years to come.
After my relocation, I started to do things differently in my business.
First, I didn’t want clients anymore. Clients equaled headaches, and delivering a product that was costing my time proportionally, thus can’t be scaled, just didn’t sit right with me.
I decided to go all-in on affiliate marketing and say bye to my clients.
I opened up literally hundreds of websites in all kinds of niches. Might sound a bit exaggerated, and I would definitely not recommend you to go with this approach today.
But in my case, it brought some good, because when you use the shotgun approach, most bullets will miss, but some will still hit the target.
Most of those websites were complete failures, however, there were a few ones that started to generate decent revenue with almost no energy invested into them.
So I just started to double down on those, and that led me to a breakthrough that bumped up my revenue to a respectable amount (now we’re talking over $5000).
I got an office. I hired a few people. I did the 9-5 with my employees bundled with the looking-over-the-shoulder-management-style.
It sucked. We hated each other. Mostly because I was a bad leader and didn’t like having to manage people.
I knew that this just wasn’t my thing. I didn’t even want to be a “large corporation”, but rather create passive income to allow a lifestyle of location and time freedom.
Being stuck in an office with people I didn’t like and who didn’t perform wasn’t really going to help create that lifestyle.
So I started considering to let go of my employees and go for a 6 month trip around the globe, just to change things up and actually live the life I actually wanted to live, which looked something like this:
But it felt like going backwards. How could I give up what I worked so hard building for?
Luckily, I had a mentor (80 year old dude) who talked some sense into me.
His exact words were: “When you get to be my age and look back on your life, what do you think you’ll regret? Traveling around the world, or being an office rat?”
I bought a one-way ticket and went for it. Completely scaled down and decided that I must rebuild my business and rethink everything.
Because I no longer had any employees, and really had no time to maintain 400 websites on my own, I was forced to come up with more efficient ways to do things.
First of all, I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. But I didn’t want to have “regular employees” either.
So I came up with something truly amazing approach to building a team, that I still use to this day, and that I can honestly say played the biggest role in my success.
The intrepreneurship model.
The model that changed everything
Rather than looking for qualified employees to execute tasks, I started looking for growth-minded people who wanted to REALLY help me grow my business.
No more over-the-shoulder-management, no more being police about their hours.
Instead of paying them a fixed salary, I came up with a new model that would create the necessary incentives for people to actually want to grow my business.
Performance-based incentives, such as pay per task, profit share, and loyalty bonuses. I don’t know where I came up with this, but I’m happy I did.
Turns out people perform 10 times better when they get paid to perform better. Duhhhh.
All my eggs in one basket, but watching the basket carefully
The second thing I did was to stop spreading my focus thin.
At this point, I had 400 websites that I had struggled to maintain.
While I had systems and processes in place to make it “work”, it was impossible to give them enough love for them to really provide some kind of value.
I had a gut feeling that this wouldn’t be sustainable. Plus, it wasn’t fun.
I wanted to focus down and do something great instead of doing 400 things with mediocrity (at best).
So here’s the next best thing I ever did.
I created a global brand in the personal finance niche and completely shifted focus.
Now I put all my energy on my one project, that quickly became my baby, compared to the other sites, which were more like far-distant-relatives.
When you have a baby, you care for it and give it love every day. You constantly think about it, you give it food and you want it to thrive.
And this is where real value is generated.
The final breakthrough
I used all the money generated from the other projects to bootstrap my newborn baby.
Although we didn’t really have much success in the beginning (almost $0 coming in for over a year), I knew that this was the right project for me, and that it would eventually take off.
I decided to really push, and we expanded to several new markets.
Things were really, really slow.
It wasn’t until year 3 that we really started to make a good amount of money.
Once we actually started to make money, it was 10x from the previous year.
And the year after that was another 10x.
The thing was skyrocketing and we hit more than a million monthly visitors from organic search alone.
All thanks to a focused effort and not spreading our energy thin.
And this is where I learned an important lesson. You want to put your everything into one thing, and make that into a real masterpiece. That CAN be scaled. Because if you scale up a masterpiece, you’ll generate value on a completely different level.
Eventually, we scaled up to 26 markets. And this is where we are today.. a team of 52 brilliant intrapreneurs working from all over the world doing one thing great.
Thank you for reading
I hope my story will inspire you to do something meaningful with your time, to innovate yourself out of conventional thinking, and most of all, to keep going with the going gets tough.