I started the 3Kin2 challenge because I wanted to prove to myself that I am able to make $3000 in 2 months in a self-directed way.
I failed to make $3000 in 2 months (my initial most important goal). In fact I didn’t earn a single $.
The idea of focusing on making a certain amount of money quickly probably makes sense if you want to prove the viability of a product or service early on (to determine if it makes sense to continue it).
In my case the most important goal was actually to prove to myself that I am able to make $3000 in 2 months on purpose – simply to prove myself that I am able to do it and to improve my self-confidence with regard to that.
The idea of making $3000 in 2 months in fact vanished very quickly (within the first week), because I quickly started to focus on a certain target group early on (as suggested by Arvid Kahl & Rob Fitzpatrick).
I started to build and wanted to sell a product immediately (instead of starting with a service, which would have helped to learn about the customers needs etc.). Building a product early on may be okay, if you really focus on sales & super valuable offers (as for example described by Alex Hormozi in $100M Offers – I actually like the idea of testing offers that way & maybe I’ll do something with that & a very limited time-frame (which will help to iterate & test different niches quickly) in the future).
Thus I quickly started to do all my actions as if I was working on a long-term project, rather then focusing on making reasonable money in a pre-defined timeframe (which was the actual goal).
Actually I think that it’s a good thing to focus on projects long-term. But if you do that, you should be sure that you really want to focus on that target group. And it certainly helps if you have at least some results (aka. paying custumers) early on.
Besides I quickly started to focus on building websites as the only way for me to make the $3000 for the challenge. That was simply the most straightforward way for me, because that’s how I already earned some money over the past years. Hence building basic WordPress websites is probably one of the most valuable technical skills which I currently have.
So I started by interviewing people in a certain target group individually through cold calls & quickly focused on those who didn’t have a website yet. I conciously didn’t target clients who already had websites. After the first few days I actively disregarded those who already had websites and focused on those which don’t have one yet, because I thought that I could get them started with my system way more seemlessly, compared to those who already have websites.
Those who already have websites, are already inside a certain framework (certain WordPress theme, website builder or even completely different technology). Since I didn’t want to deal with new frameworks, builders or programming languages, I found it reasonable to focus on selling websites to people who don’t have a website yet.
Besides I found that those who already have websites oftentimes already have someone who takes care of it. This on the contrary also means that people seem to be faithful to their web designers.
Documentation & Environment
During the whole challenge I tried to surround myself with people who had the same goal. I did it by trying to get some people into the dedicated Discord server who would also do the challenge.
Although surrounding yourself with like-minded people probably makes sense, surrounding yourself with other people who are similarly unsuccessful like you doesn’t make that much sense. We certainly had some fruitful conversations, which helped me to focus on the next actions.
But in hindsight, I’m pretty sure that I foremost spent way too much time documenting my ideas, progress and plans, instead of just doing things. So I wrote a lot in the Discord, because I hoped to keep others engaged that way.
Besides I initially spend a lot of time promoting the challenge itself on all my social media channels (which didn’t result in an unexpected break through because I simply don’t have that many followers). So most people came from subreddits to which I (cross)posted the 3Kin2 challenge.
Long story short:
- execution beats documentation (& extensive thinking)
- surrounding yourself with people who are (at least a few steps) ahead beats surrounding yourself with other indifferent people
Achievements & Lessons Learned
I learned how to start & manage a basic discord server. Eventually I got 16 people into the server (Caution: vanity metric!). Although only 2 have actually been more or less active for some time.
Although I procrastinated a lot, I actually also did a lot by actually going out, calling people, building connections, learning about their needs & community etc. I only just didn’t make money.😅
At the end of the challenge (after I actually already abandoned the project) I started to learn about making valuable offers by reading Alex Hormozi’s $100M Offers. But I didn’t apply this knowledge anymore, since already gave up before.
During the first few weeks I’ve build a crude framework for more or less effective cold calling & documentation of the calls. This worked for me so far to get in touch with the first few potential clients & multipliers systematically(!), while calming my fear of accidentally calling people twice or completely losing the plot.
In the long run a customer relationship management (CRM) solution could eventually be useful to document interactions with prospects, multipliers, experts & other people from target communities. On the other hand this may already break a fly on a wheel.🤔
Maybe it can also serve as an indicator: If you need a CRM during validation, you are procrastinating.😅
Documenting everything, everyday extensively is huge procrastination in the first place.
Doing has way more value than sharing what you want to do, what you did or what you are planning to do (although sharing parts of journey may probably help) – especially in the beginning, when you are supposed to act quickly, test & (in)validate early.
Being able to read my thoughts from the past (for example from the beginning of the 3Kin2 challenge) however helps me to see at which stage I’ve been back then & what I could have improved. Currently reading Nicholas Thaleb’s The Black Swan, in my book club, I also observe that from my current perspective I could say that everything I did back that was stupid & I should have known better. But in fact the decision I made back then, have been based on the information which have been available to me at that time.
Therefore documentation is a great tool to track your progress & evaluate your actions in restrospect. Documentation (through blogging so far) helps me to come up with even more ideas to improve my strategy, offer and other approaches by being able to combine past ideas & thoughts with new insights.
- don’t lose yourself in excessive documentation!
- develop a way to track progress & decisions (including reasons) effectively & efficiently!
So that you can use these information to make better decisions in the future.
What intuitively comes to my mind here is Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup approach to validate MVP’s early on. This can be done in build-measure-learn product development cycles:
- make assumption(s)
- develop solution(s)
- measure results
- start new product development cycle quickly
These product development cycles should be documented effectively & efficiently too. So working & documenting in lean build-measure-learn product development cycles is probably super useful.
Another thing I learned during this challenge was building & running a webcrawler to collect real, useful data (basically for free) to be used in real world project. Thus I improved my Python & Linux skills.
No WordPress/Divi, please!🙏😫
I just realized that I initially didn’t aim to build WordPress websites during the challenge. On the contrary – I actually wanted to build plain & beautiful, standardized static portfolio websites… until I realized that many people at least want to be able to adjust certain parts of their website by themselves occasionally. And they of course don’t want to pay a developer to change some text on their website.
I still believe that most self-employed people don’t make any significant adjustments on their websites over a period of several years.
But after I also realized that you can actually implement WordPress without having to deal with cookies and user data, I thought that WordPress in combination with Divi is actually a reasonably easy to implement & use solution.
It certainly is if you build a super basic template website which works on all devices, while not confusing their owners when they want to make adjustments in the builder.
But honestly: WordPress itself is already super confusing for non-techies. And having the Divi Builder on top makes it easier once you understand it. But again: For non-techies this is quite a lot to learn.
Don’t want to become WordPress expert
I don’t want to become an expert in building WordPress/Divi websites. And especially I don’t want to become GDPR expert or any other law expert (which is basically the requirement of building websites for clients who can’t afford a lawyer).
I simply don’t see building WordPress as a valuable skill or something scalable in the long run. Instead you could focus on learning to program or handle any kind of online ads (Google, Facebook, Tiktok) or you could learn plenty other skills.
Actually I am not sure if this is just an excuse. Because on the other hand one could say that building basic WordPress websites using Divi will help me to practice working with clients & maybe eventually lead to clients for whom I can build more sophisticated websites.
Currenty I doubt that this is the right way for me, because I didn’t want to use Divi/WordPress anymore anyway for quite some time before.
But somehow I slided into it again, after I started the challenge & probably thought something like: You should use the skills which you already have & start from there.
Main Challenge: Reaching Prospects
Eventually I learned that my real problem for this time period was probably not how I could eventually implement the solution for potential clients/customers.
Instead my main challenge turned out to be reaching prospects & getting paying customers rather then developing the perfect solution upfront. If you don’t even reach prospects it’s hard to sell anything.
In the next step (after reaching prospects) the offer would have been crucial. Once I know where to find my customers and how to reach them, I should have made them an offer they couldn’t refuse (à la Alex Hormozi).
The delivery (aka. implementation), would have been the last step – after actually getting paying customers.
But I actually didn’t even reach a single customer directly. I didn’t talk to anyone who’d be interested right now. So in fact I wouldn’t even have needed to think about the implementation at all.
Now this is a bit simplified. Of course it makes sense to think about the workability of a potential implementation & be able to calculate the cost for it. And this is actually what I did.
I’ve still spent quite some time developing a prototype. But for my standards I focused quite on the essentials of the prototype. Instead I actually focused mainly on outreach/sales.
Having a super valuable offer could certainly have helped. And I definitely have some ideas for valuable offers. So I could definitely go on in this field if I am motivated.
But actually it’s just really hard to depict the value of a portfolio website in terms of saving time or money or even making money, if a reasonable alternative for many prospects would simply be no website at all.
In fact I believe that most locally self-employed people simply don’t need a portfolio website. And that most of them would be far better off by building local relationships & partnerships (with other business owners, institutions).
Maybe I get proved wrong about this in the future (when I learn more about the reality of small businesses).
But in fact you wouldn’t even need to build a website for them – instead you could just run TikTok ads for them – to get clients for them for the same money & they’d profit even more – so what you can do is that you build them a website for free + run tiktok/facebook ads for free & tell them that they only need to cover the ad-spend & if you fulfill your guarantee of X paying customers, they commit to paying you to run their ads for another 3 months (in which they still cover the adspend, but get more money from clients then they spend on ads) – otherwise (if you don’t get them the promised amount of clients) you run ads for them another month for free (while they still cover the adspend) – so worst case for them (if they want) 1-2 months of adspend for nothing)
However it’s hard ot make offers to people whom I don’t even reach (because after some time I figured out that it’s hard to find webdesign prospects… if they don’t have websites yet😅)
Embedded Entrepreneurship: Pros & Cons
If you follow a long-term, community-embedded & needs-finding approach (as per Arvid Kahl & Rob Fitzpatrick), it makes sense to learn a lot about your potential customers & to focus on a certain solution for a certain community long-term.
But, as I learned during my interview with Arvid, you also want to be sure that people already have crude solutions in place or that they are discussing about potential solutions internally, which basically proves that there’s a clear need for a more sophisticated solution.
Although this approach may not be 1-on-1 transferable to building websites for people, looking at it from that perspective at least shows me that people in my the community aren’t really talking about wanting to get any kind of websites (at least in the communities which I found).
Moreover embedding yourself in a community is a long-term strategy. The embedded entrepreneur approach is maybe not fundamentally incompatible with making money early (to prove the demand). But it’s at least something to keep in mind: Embedding yourself in a community is rather a long-term strategy of building businesses.
But I actually had a valuable insight for myself by trying to embed myself inside this community:
I probably don’t want to work for that particular community in the long-run. I wouldn’t enjoy to serve & help them, hence surround myself with this kind of people, for the next 5 years.
Embedded entrepreneurship maybe makes sense to avoid getting stuck in single idea or project and ro test new ones instead, so that you learn more about yourself, potential approaches, target groups, technologies & strategies more quickly – until you eventually find a business(execution) which sticks (because you are able to prove its value & demand quickly & you enjoy working with that kind of community).
Website builders of big hosting companies have high monthly costs (which people don’t like & even complain about when they think about their websites) compared to plain self-hosted (WordPress) websites (which self-employed people don’t regard as alternative, because too complicated).
On the other hand these website builders have a very low entry barrier (because of low or even no big one-time payment), which is a super convincing offer for people who just start their self-employment & have a very small budget.
Thus many self-employed people seem to use these website builders by big hosting companies (because of convenience & low initial price).
But eventually, when they think about it rationally (& once they have a business which actually pays the website), they realize that the cost of switching to another platform is probably not worth it anymore (time investment (learn new environment, get familiar with new design etc.) & financial investment).
And to be honest: I probably don’t have a better solution for them… so far.
After a single week I actually already abandoned my original goal, which was making $3000 in 2 months.
- execution beats thinking
2 Month: Long & Short
During this 2 months challenge I also learned a lot about myself.
And I learned that 2 months can feel very long! They can even feel short & long at the same time.
- if you just want to validate something quickly: 2 months = long
- if you want to build a sustainable business: 2 months = super short!
Especially I learned that my interest & focus seemed to decrease drastically after 1-1.5 months (maybe also due to end of year, Christmas etc.)
This makes me even more consider working in 1-month validation cycles for future projects. And that’s where effective planning, documentation & execution (by the help of build-measure-learn product development cycles) come in again.
Validation & actually running a business are two different stages of the same thing. And I actually like the idea of quick validation, because ideas/problems are less scarce than (my) time.
The Perfect Business❗❗❗
The way to go:
- quick (in)validation through lean build-measure-learn product development cycles & quick iterations over different solutions for existing problems (1-2 month cycles)
- quick (& potentially even dirty) MVP’s (or even just indeclinable offers à la Alex Hormozi)
- get paying customers/clients
- if works: focus on improvement & implementation long-term (like Pieter Levels: 12 startups in 12 months)
- Embedded Entrepreneurship (Arvid Kahl & Rob Fitzpatrick): deep dive into community & become supportive part of it to improve & grow business gradually, long-term
Since week 5 or 6 of the 3kin2 challenge I didn’t really work focused anymore, because I kind of knew that I’d ditch the target group after the end of the 3 months.
Furthermore I thought that many people would start their Christmas holidays soon anyway. So I didn’t want to make asymetrically high efforts for comparatively low anticipated results.
Besides my body hurts. I have pain in the fingers of both hands, right wrist, arm & shoulder like crazy(!!!!!!!) – from pain caused by years of long & onesided hours of computer work.
During calls with educational institutions, I’ve agreed upon giving presentations about building websites at two different institutions in January 2023. If they circle back, I’ll consider doing giving the talks. Maybe I’ll even think of an indeclinable offer (which the participants can’t ignore – even if they don’t even need a website themselves yet).
Anyway, I’d like to summarize the essentials of Alex Hormozi’s $100M Offers & Josh Kaufman‘s The Personal MBA. And then I’d love to combine all the strategies which make a perfect offer/sale! So that I’m able to create perfect offers & make the most valuable sales for any given product (which is actually valuable).💪
Time will show if my lessons learned will help me to execute effectively in the long run.
Currently I mostly feel that I am documenting way too much & way to randomly.
So basically I have no clue what comes next.
I’ll take several weeks for myself & focus on the basics:
- heal body (from pain caused by years of long & onesided hours of computer work)
- spend as little time as possible sitting at computer (which is super hard, because my whole life happened at the computer for the past 2 years & I got used to thinking by writing😣)
- eat healthy
- re-realize current position, goals, needs, wants & opportunities – to start fresh, energized & focused again
Social Media Detox
I plan to consume & engage way less on social media. Actually I’d just like to use it to invite interview guests for the NeverEmployed Chat & to promote the episodes.
In fact I deleted all my social media accounts when I was 15 or 16. After a year of unprecedented social media consumption & engagement, I again know for a fact why I did this.
Over the past year I’ve felt regret for not having taken advantage of the millionaire breeding opportunities on social media sooner. But actually I am super proud of my younger self for being so self-aware to realize the impact of social media on my behavior and for the decision to abandon this threat (as a consumer) from my life early on – while most of my peers lived huge parts of their lives only consuming social media like zombies.
Take Targeted Action
Eventually I want to learn to focus & truly execute what really matters:
- help/serve people: deliver great results, improve life, save time, save money, make money (instead of focusing on vanity metrics (followers, likes, …))
- learn to take action purposefully & persistently (instead of mostly ideating, documenting, discussing, or trying to grow big quickly)
Until then I will only record, edit & publish new NeverEmployed Chat episodes for the coming weeks. And eventually I’ll try to automate as much as possible of it. So that I can continue the interviews infinitely with almost no time investment, but huge value – consistently…🔁
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