March

March (Photo credit: flavijus)

Some of you have been waiting for it, and here it is! I left a sinking ship a couple of months ago, and I have been sailing away in my own direction since then. Has it been easy? Nope. Has it been challenging? Yep. Has it been fun? Hell yes! That’s not to say that it hasn’t had its ups and its downs. The month of March in particular has been an emotional roller coaster for me. I ran into quite a few frustrating events. Just a friendly warning: I get quite deep and personal in this post, so if you have no interest for that sort of stuff, I recommend that you stop reading now.

I believe in getting the bad stuff out of the way, so first, let’s talk about all of the things that went wrong. Then I’ll get to the good stuff. :) When you’re working for yourself, everything is amplified, both the ups and the downs. I would be lying to you if I said it was all rainbows and butterflies, and you wouldn’t understand me if I didn’t share at least some of my personal thoughts and experiences.

Here we go, into the tunnel of darkness…

Entering the tunnel of darkness


Taking a sucker punch to the face
A boxer is knocked down and receives the 10 count.

A boxer is knocked down and receives the 10 count. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February was mainly smooth sailing, as I was working on my apps and I had website revenue to keep me fed and comfortable, if not as comfortable as a full-time salary. In March, things started to get more turbulent. I took a punch right in the face from a big giant. This caused my website income to plummet down to near nothing. This happened around the same time that my girlfriend was preparing to go to Nigeria on business, so there was a lot to distract me at that time, but once she was gone it really started to sink in.

Website revenue down to about 20% or less of what it was before. Not much revenue coming in from other sources. I still had gas in the tank, but now I had a big hill to climb, and I had no idea how far away the next gas station would be. How was I going to pay my bills this month? How much would I have to take out of my savings?

Alone in the dark

Then my girlfriend left on her business trip to Nigeria, leaving me all alone back in the condo. She’s still there now, but she is thankfully coming back earlier than expected. In the beginning I had to worry about her on top of my own things, but thankfully things turned out to be run pretty well over there, and her location was pretty safe. She was telling me how they are continually stopped by armed guards with military rifles (they even have those inside the hotel!), and it was quite intimidating, but at least it also provided some security. She was also there with other coworkers, and for me that was the most important part: that she wasn’t there by herself.

Before she left, she had been stressed out at work, causing all kinds of symptoms to show up and scaring the both of us into thinking that she was seriously ill, even though all of her tests were coming back clean. That seems like it’s improved a lot now that she’s overseas and able to focus on one mission; she loves her job, but sometimes I think she takes on far too much!

So, we’ve been keeping in touch through Skype, but otherwise I’m at home by myself. It’s one thing to work at home when you have others at home with you, but it’s another thing to work at home when you’re the only one there, day after day. You can turn on the radio, but it does get quite empty and lonely at times. I would compensate for this by heading more often to the library or meeting up with friends. Sometimes it was good to get away from the condo, just to get some fresh air, especially in that week when we had really warm weather.

My bike gets stolen

My emotions were already taking a toll from the impact of getting sucker-punched in terms of lost revenue and having my girlfriend leave for nearly a month, when I took another one on the chin. I was feeling a bit better when the warm weather came around, until I wanted to enjoy it with a bike ride. I wasn’t too happy to find my lock destroyed and my bike stolen!

I went to the police station and filed a report, but I doubt I’ll ever see my bike again. Insurance is no help since the value and my deductible are the same!

An expensive month

I finally went ahead and incorporated as a corporation under Canadian federal law. Why? Well, one reason is that the provincial bureaucracy is a joke (as of this writing, they never sent out the documents for my sole proprietorship and they haven’t even registered my corporation which I had to pay several hundred dollars to file. I wonder how many times I’m going to need to follow up with them to at least get that done, though as I am registered federally, I don’t depend on them to the same extent). The Canadian system, on the other hand, was just great: Submit online and get your documents online the next day!

The second reason is that corporations get taken more seriously. Whether it’s opening bank accounts or what not, just having an “Inc.” to your name automatically gets you more respect. Unfortunately the respect costs a few hundred dollars.

I also had to change my tires, front brakes, and rear suspension after five years of driving. I guess that is normal, but paying another $1300 still hurts, especially when you have little income. With an income of about $1000 for the month and expenses totalling about $3000, that puts me $2000 in the hole for the month of March.

Nearly KO’ed

The final emotional blow to happen this month was when I learned that my mother had gone through a major illness, and I wanted to get in touch and wish her well. For the whole story, see “nature versus nurture“. I learned that things haven’t changed — she’s happy with her husband and daughter, their family is perfect, her daughter is smart and in private school (i.e. “better than you will ever be”), and she couldn’t care less about me and has no desire to reconnect. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — some things just don’t change.

Thankfully, this story isn’t all gloom & doom! I just wanted to give you a picture of what I’ve been feeling inside. This month has had its ups and downs, and things amplify off of each other. Sometimes everything just seems to be working against you. How familiar does this story sound to some? You lose your income, you have bills to pay, and things in your personal life just don’t seem to be working out right. Each event colours the event that comes after it.

So much in life is about our state of mind and our beliefs and emotional moods, and this is more true than ever when you’re depending entirely on yourself to succeed. Not only that, but I know that I’m certainly not alone; people everywhere go through all kinds of crap, whether it be a nasty breakup, a close family member dying, or getting fired from a job after being there for a long time. If I can help anyone else by showing that these kind of events don’t have to hold you down, then it’s worth it. Life throws a lot of punches at us… but it’s the spirit to survive that carries us through to the light.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the Tunnel. Source: http://imsovintage.blogspot.ca/2012/02/patience-is.html

Light at the end of the Tunnel. Source: Living the Simple Vintage Life

The first is that I found out my girlfriend’s coming back early! If we are really lucky, she might even get a mission to somewhere a bit closer and I’ll come join her. :) I got sick more than once, I had fears, I had doubts, I had moments where I wondered if I had not made a huge mistake. However, many good things happened during this period of time, too. I told you that this story wasn’t all going to be doom & gloom. A lot of good things also happened during March; things I can be proud of and things I can look forward to.

I signed a book contract

I can’t talk too much about it until the book is published, but I’m going to be writing a technical book related to my field, with a draft ready hopefully in six months time. This is very cool! This could allow me to branch out into many areas and help solidify my position as an expert in Android development. Maybe this leads to consulting or other gigs down the road. I don’t know, and sometimes I have doubts about pulling it off, but I’m excited at the same time!

My first app launch has been going really well

You guys must be getting annoyed about hearing about this by now. However, the launch has been going really well, and it’s one of my major sources of optimism. If I can pull this off, there will be no need to be begging for a job in a few months from now. ;)

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Free version has recently surpassed 17,000 total downloads, with a retention rate of more than 2/3rds and a current download rate of 700+ daily. Things will be really great if this continues following the growth curve I have plotted out in Open Office.
  • Paid version launched and getting great reviews as well!

This is really great news. It is usually very tough to get a foothold in the market, especially with literally hundreds of thousands of apps out there. How do you get yourself recognized and known?

My philosophy has always been to deliver great value and earn the user’s respect. I could have gone the same route as many other developers, and slapped a bunch of ads in the product right away and maybe be earning $5 a day now from ads or something like that. However, if I had done that, would I have differentiated myself enough? Would users be happy? Would my ratings be as high? I strongly believe that a big part of the success here is due to taking a different approach and placing a proper value on the long run. It’s not so dissimilar to how the Yakezie works, is it?

I know that you can’t have all of your eggs in one basket, and I’m already working on apps #2 and #3.

Turning around the websites

I also have good news to report on the website front. I’m reaching and surpassing 50,000 page views a month across my sites (I know this is nothing for some of the big guys out there, but it’s a milestone for me), and Geoff from Don’t Do It Yourself had some really awesome advice that pushed me to make some great and seriously needed changes to Invest It Wisely. Amongst some of the changes:

  • I switched to showing excerpts only, including for the first post. This helps with readability and load times, and encourages readers to visit and comment on the articles they actually want to read.
  • I switched to using LinkWithin, which puts these nice images at the end of the post for readers to click on and visit your other posts.
  • I have added a call to action for users to subscribe at the end of the post. Less intrusive than a pop-up!

I have already noticed an improvement in bounce rates, and personally, I feel that these changes do result in a better user experience. Please let me know what you personally think as I welcome all advice and feedback.

My tips for surviving the first couple months of entrepreneurship

I’d like to close by sharing some of my own personal tips, which I have learned from my own battles on the seas. Shawanda has some more awesome tips in her “20 rules to follow after quitting your job“.

  • Break early, and break often. Your productivity depends on it. If you start to feel that you’re losing focus, and catch yourself drifting to Facebook or chatting, you need to get away from the computer and move around for a bit.
  • No multi-tasking. It might offend some people, but when you’re working, you’re working. It’s not time for “let’s gossip about our weekend on Facebook”. You can save that stuff for when you’re walking around outside or taking your downtime. ;)
  • Plan what you want to do in the day, then do it. If you wanted to write two blog posts and get some coding done, then write it down and get it done. You also need to set limits: If you’re losing inspiration and it’s taking you hours to get a post done, stop, and move onto something else. This also goes for email: I have wasted a lot of hours going through emails, and then oh, 5 new emails appeared, let’s check those too, and before I know it I just spent two hours just dealing with my emails. This is a big time waster, and the way to deal with it is by allocating a set amount of time. Still have emails? Unless it’s urgent, they can wait until later.

Most importantly, never give up hope. Everything is exaggerated when we work for ourselves, because there is truly no cop-out. We can’t take a “sick day”, there are no vacation days, and we can’t blame anything on our coworkers or bosses. Everything comes down to us. Whether we succeed or fail, we bear the ultimate responsibility for making it happen.

Sometimes this means us feel excessive doubts and worry when it’s not warranted. There’s no need for this. The worst that can happen is that you lose some money, but there are so many intangible benefits that you gain at the same time. Self-employment is not a final decision: it is part of your career. Treat it as seriously and as professionally as you would any job, be proud of your successes, and accept that sometimes, things just happen. Sometimes you get punched in the face, but you have to get back up and keep fighting. You know the sayings: There’s light at the end of every tunnel, and it’s darkest just before dawn. Every failure is a valuable lesson to learn, and makes you stronger for the future. Never give up hope!

Dear reader, have you recently switched jobs, whether to work at a new company or for yourself? I’d love to hear your stories. 

 

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About

Kevin has left the office, and he is currently fighting the rat race by working on his own business. He enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

65 Comments Kevin on Apr 2nd 2012

65 Responses to “Two Months of Entrepreneurship: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s the old saying: we learn from our mistakes.
    It was James Joyce who said: Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
    It is so true! If you make a mistake, LEARN FROM IT and better yourself. Don’t berate yourself over it. There is not one great person in the world that did not make many mistakes before their one success.

    • Kevin says:

      I like that quote. :) An important related point is to realize when you have made a mistake! Sometimes that holds us back as well.

  2. Sailing on your own is not supposed to be easy, people underestimate what it really takes particularly on the emotional level. As long as you keep realistic expectations in terms of time to get there and put in the required effort, your chances are as good as anyone who made it!

    Keep going Kevin!

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks, Mich! I think the emotional plane is one of the most important if not the most important. As you don’t need a lot of capital to do things online, it really comes down to dealing with the initial loss of income, delayed results, and uncertainty.

  3. Sorry that life is raining on you now, but I think you have what it takes to emerge from this stronger. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey Kevin!

    Glad to hear that the light is shining bright at the end of the tunnel!!

    • Kevin says:

      Yep, I am feeling better this month! Now if only the temperatures outside would warm up a bit… I loved that strange heat wave! :)

  5. Kevin,
    great to hear about success of your first app. 17000+ downloads is pretty cool. You are going through tough times. But you are talented, hardworking and optimistic. You are going to make through it

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks, Karunesh! If people are interested, I’ll keep you guys up to date with the progress there and lessons I learn along the way.

  6. You’ve had some pretty hard hits in March, and your story is painful to read. Entrepreneurship is one of the most difficult feats that anyone could undertake, and when you’re doing it alone, it can be frightening as hell.

    Now, the rain clouds have cleared, and the sun is out. Things have finally turned around for you, and I love it. It comes to show that “tough things don’t last, tough people do”.

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks for the good wishes, Anthony. Doing it alone is not easy for sure. Another bright event for the month is that a good friend of mine has joined in the adventure. I’ll let him announce officially on his own terms, but it’s great to bounce ideas off of and share plans with someone who’s sharing in the same travels as you!

      P.S. Love the website!

  7. Wow, still, so impressed you were able to make that leap! How do you factor in exercise? Do you use that as one of your prescribed breaks?

    • Kevin says:

      Great point! I think exercise is very important, especially if you’re in front of a computer all day, like I am. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’ll try to get my exercise down outside at a nearby park, three times a week, so I get some fresh air at the same time. I’ll take 45 mins or so out of my day for that. :)

  8. ShortRoadTo says:

    Keep on down the path and you will be very successful. It’s great that you have a few different sources of income.

  9. Holy cow, I don’t even know what to tell you. That’s a lot for one person to take on at once. Did everything have to go wrong within two months of your big decision? I’d be terrified if my wife went to Nigeria! But I’m glad you’re hanging in there! Don’t give up hope! And great job on the page views! I’m up to 2,000 per month and shooting fireworks over here!

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks, MMD! She’s on her way back as we speak, so I’m really happy about that. :) Congrats on the page views, I think it took me a long while just to get to 1000!

  10. I personally like it when blog owner blogs about their life once in a while.It show’s that there’s a human with emotions behind the blog :)
    I think LinkWithin is a definite must, really, while pop up is really a turn off :).
    The thing about switching jobs is that you got to swallow that ego when dealing with colleagues who knows the “system” (whatever that means) better because they have been there longer, even if you are more experienced, technically. Oh, and got to used to the “I look stupid” occassionally coz everyone is using terms which sound all Greek to you.
    This comes from someone who is into a new position for 7 months so far ;)

    • Kevin says:

      Oh I definitely know about the system. Eventually you get used to it, but it seems tat modus operandi at some companies is that seniority matters more than performance. I get that some loyalty is a nice bonus and something desired, but at the same time, and I guess it’s also the trap when you give people a lot of raises cause money is flowing in. It’s not very easy to reduce a salary when the money flows back out. ;)

  11. Evan says:

    Man did you have a rough month! I just read your Nurture vs Nature post – do you think you would be who you are today, so determined, so focused on thriving without the shitty family life that tried to hold you down?

    • Kevin says:

      I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t be going through cyclic episodes of anxiety / doubt if not for those events. On the other hand, would I be as driven? I don’t know. Even after 10 years sometimes it really hits me hard, especially when I don’t have much around to distract me, like I will once the GF is back home. Can’t wait! :)

  12. tabata says:

    Do you have a Facebook fan page for your site?

  13. Thanks for sharing Kevin. Look at it this way, things can only get better from here. I think you are doing great so far and I’m cheering for you.
    I’ll head over to read nature vs nurture.

  14. Oh man, what a rough and tumble ride. The one odd thing that stands out is your bike getting stolen. I had my carbon fiber full suspension get stolen when I went to the grocery store for just 35 minutes. I felt robbed, abused, threatened, etc, and I wanted to hunt that person down and hurt them bad.

    The other thing is your mom.. … what the heck? I don’t understand how she wouldn’t want to have a friendly conversation with you and connect. That is so messed up, I can’t imagine it since you are both adults now.

    How can I help promote the easy recording app? Do you want to write something on the app and your ups and downs creating this app, how to create an app etc on Yakezie.com? You are welcome to do so to help highlight the product.

    Sam

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Sam,

      I don’t know. After 10 years it still hits me hard. I saw your comment on Jana’s post, and sometimes, I wish I could reprogram my brain the way I can program a computer. Would make life much easier. :)

      Thanks for the invitation, I think that would be an awesome idea! It’s still a bit early but in 1-2 more months I will have a lot of great material to draw on and write up a great post for the site.

    • Kevin says:

      P.S. Ooooouuuch! I would have been really pissed at that situation, too! The worst is that mine was stolen the day I wanted to use it. It had been sitting inside all winter, and then when we get a nice day, that’s when the thieves come and bust up the locks. Sigh…

  15. Nunzio Bruno says:

    Wow that was an intense post. I follow most of our Yakezie community and am a little attached so my heart goes out to you for all that hardship you hit those months. Way to pull some positivity out of it. Great post and nice wrap up at the end – sometimes I think that I can multitask efficiently and it’s rarely works out lol

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks, Nunzio! I appreciate the support. Things are looking up. :) Gf’s coming back soon, and if she gets a mission in the Caribbean and I get to join her, that will be sweeeeet! Some things are just really sore spots, but the best way to counteract evil is by injecting more good into the world… or so I hope. :)

  16. Mike Holman says:

    Great update Kevin. I hope to read more in the future.

    What exactly does the app do? Record your phone conversation?

    I’d love to have something like that for my iPhone. Last time I checked (a long time ago), I couldn’t find anything.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Mike,

      Good to see you :) The app records everything in the external environment; it can even record phone calls on some phones using speakerphone. It doesn’t yet record phone calls directly because this is not supported on many devices (there is no physical connection from the modem to carry audio data back to the CPU), but if people really want it, I’ll put it in.

      I’m not on iPhone yet, but perhaps at some point in the future! I imagine that it might be hard to find an app because it goes against Apple’s TOS.

  17. Shilpan says:

    Kevin,

    This is very inspirational. I love this beautiful line — “So much in life is about our state of mind and our beliefs and emotional moods, and this is more true than ever when you’re depending entirely on yourself to succeed. ”

    I came to the States with $20 in my pocket and a dream; if I can achieve success then anyone can!

    Also, I like the way you deal with diversity. All of us go through sucker punch phase in life. Those who learn how to pick themselves and get up can overcome any adversity.

    I love my mother so I will pray God that your mother will realize that she has an incredibly talented and caring son. And you too can reconcile soon.

  18. I’m not quite there yet. I just started a side business that I hope to someday be able to leave my day job. Good luck with your adventure!

  19. You’ve had a quite a few rough months. You’re to be commended for making it through and being able to see the light at the end. Given what you’ve written here and in previous posts, you are definitely a survivor and I know that that will pay off for you in spades.

    Congrats on the eBook and the app!

  20. [...] Two Months of Entrepreneurship; The Good, the Bad, the Ugly at Invest it Wisely. My blogging colleague Kevin took the entrpreneurship plunge. Read about his volatile premier two months. I’m certain he’s destined for success! [...]

  21. Thanks so much for sharing your story Kevin! Oddly enough, what really hit me was when you said your bike was stolen. Its funny how something that might not seem like a major deal can actually be quite devastating. I had my bike stolen a few years ago, outside my office while I was at work one day. When I went outside and didn’t see it there anymore, I felt scared and alone, like a lost child. And then when the realization of what had happened hit me, I felt violated. That feeling stuck with me for days. I can’t imagine going through that at the same time as everything else you have gone through.
    I’m going to be working for myself starting in September and I’m equal parts excited, nervous and scared about it. Its the first time in my life I’ve ever not had something to lean on. So I thank you for your advice, it will come in handy when the time comes.

    • Kevin says:

      Good luck for when you make the jump! Losing the bike was a real pisser, but I guess things are relative. I learned a friend had her entire home robbed, and a coworker of my girlfriend was away on mission, to return to find her home burned to the ground. That truly makes me sad… and grateful for the good fortune that I do have.

  22. [...] It Wisely reflected on two months of entrepreneurship, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly.  On the good, or what I think is the great side, he has a cool app that recently surpassed 17,000 [...]

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  24. Big changes certainly can be rocky rollercoaster rides! Thanks for sharing the good the bad and the ugly! Awesome article, looking forward to reading more in the future

  25. [...] Invest it Wisely shares his two months experience with entrepreneurship and doesn’t hold back! [...]

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  28. Great post Kevin.

    Entrepreneurship is definitely a bumpy ride, but well worth it. I’m jealous of others who have the courage to take the leap. My job is so comfortable right now that I just have to cash the checks and feel blessed. If it ever changes, I may be in the same boat as you.

  29. Kevin, I doff my hat for you. You seem to have been to hell and back. With this experience behind you, you have become stronger and can face bigger challenges. Failure is part of the process. A very big congratulations. Keep on keeping on man!

    About Nigeria, I know the news is quite scary, but it is not that scary down south. I am a Nigerian and I have tons of expat friends who consider Nigeria their second home…

    Best wishes and Bon Voyage!

    • Kevin says:

      Interesting, indeed, my GF was scared at the beginning but things turned out alright in the end. Sure, seeing all those military guys with machine guns is intimidating, but it does help to keep things safer than they otherwise would be.

      Thanks for the comment!

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  32. [...] is back from Nigeria, and everything is just going well. Things are looking up since that punch to the face I took last month. Sure, my income hasn’t recovered, sure, I’m still out of a bike, but [...]

  33. eemusings says:

    When it rains it pours huh! Keep sticking it out.

    I’m still to find an iOS app for recording cell phone calls. I know why nobody makes them – but journalists have a legit reason for needing an app like that.

  34. [...] started the journey at the beginning of February, so I’m in the fifth month now. The first two to three months were quite brutal; I wasn’t making much money at all, and my girlfriend was gone overseas to Nigeria, so I was [...]

  35. [...] first couple of months were not that easy. Here are the main trends that I encountered during the first three months of [...]

  36. [...] Kevin at Invest It Wisely is working on his websites, a book, and an app. He didn’t start these entrepreneurial ventures after he quit his job. You can bet he was already working on them before he handed in his 2-week [...]

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  38. [...] time to nurture things and see them grow before I could really see the fruits of my labour. The first couple of months were quite tough, as I figuratively got punched in the stomach not long after taking the leap of [...]