Be honest with me.
Have you ever had the thought that you wanted to start your own business but didn't know how? Do you have it frequently?
I'm here to relieve you of the mental anguish.
Whatever you're thinking of building, just do it already.
What's the worst that can happen? You start off at square one. At least now you know. No regrets.
What's the best that can happen? Ask Nathan Chan.
Nathan's an Australian entrepreneur who's quickly hacked his way into interviewing some of the most influential entrepreneurs on the planet, all while building a business that he absolutely loves.
Foundr Mag is a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs created by young entrepreneurs.
Names like Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, and Tim Ferriss are just some amongst the treasure trove of influencers Nathan's pinned down.
You know how he did it? Not by debating internally the pros and cons of starting. Not by building extravagant business models. Not by asking some distant rich uncle for startup capital. He did it by devising a goal and showing up every day.
With an email list of over 100,000 subscribers and an Instagram following of more than 400,000 amassed over one year (WHAT!)--Foundr is proving itself a major force to be reckoned with...and Nathan the very sort of influencer he's forever admired.
"I just had to launch. That's all there is to it."
You don't have to understand everything you're doing. You don't even have to do it well. You just have to DO IT.
Need proof? Nathan launched Foundr in the fall of 2013 with nothing more than a laptop and a few bucks--defying reason and so-called "market trends."
"I was working in a really crappy job at the time and had nothing left but to keep trying. 'I have to make this work' kept going through my head. 'I really have no choice. There's no way I'm going back.'"
Don't get me wrong. Starting a business is hard. REALLY HARD. There's no cheat guide or step-by-step action plan. You pretty much have to figure it out by yourself. That's why it's so scary. That's why you have to be fearless.
Nathan isn't super-human and his story isn't particularly unique. But it IS proof to show that any "ordinary" person can do extraordinary things.
At university he failed most of his classes. Some years later he wanted to get his act together and thought completing a Masters of marketing would do the trick. Nope. Sorry.
He couldn't get a proper corporate job. No one would hire him, not even with the qualification.
"I was working in IT at a travel company, doing IT support. Fixing computers, crawling under desks. To me, it was humiliating."
Most people crawl back to safety--in Nathan's case, under the desk, rewiring another old computer. Doing the 'same old' to pay the bills...barely scraping by...letting life float by like some abstract concept...reading stories about 'exceptional' people.
But that's where the generic story ends. That's where Nathan leaves the rest of us behind.
After reading the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and watching a close friend launch and sell an online business for six figures, the idea had been planted.
And then, like a leech, it kept tunneling deeper in his head. Day after day. It wouldn't die. So he did all he could do: he got to work.
First, he identified his unique passion--the thing that separates him from anyone else (each and every one of us has this, by the way...). He combined his love of entrepreneurism with his interest in digital marketing.
"I thought to myself, why not just speak to successful entrepreneurs and showcase my findings. The magazine is a reflection of my findings. In that regard it's like art."
Then, he identified an opportunity. He noticed that there didn't exist a publication for young aspiring entrepreneurs created BY young entrepreneurs.
Anyone he asked told him that print and long-form content was dying, that he'd never be able to compete with the big boys.
"I didn't pay attention to that. I thought it was a cool idea."
That's lesson 1: Combine your ideas/hobbies/skills to find something you care about and figure out how that unique position can be used to solve other people's problems. In Nathan's case, he was responding to his own needs.
Lesson 2: Set a deadline and BUILD IT!
He set a date, marked it on his calendar and promised himself it'd happen.
"I just had to launch."
Every day was one step closer to achieving his goal of launching Issue #1. All Nathan had to do was launch. There was no rhyme or reason WHY...he just knew he had no choice. There was no alternative because he didn't allow for one.
He and his friends put together some writing, trolled eLance for weeks to find the perfect digital designer, and put out Issue #1 to an audience of...wait for it...TWO SUBSCRIBERS!
Whereas most people would faint from embarrassment, or throw in the towel after an 'honest attempt', Nathan felt a weight of responsibility.
"I just hate letting anyone down."
Now he had to deliver Issue # 2! And he did. And #3...and #4...and so on, building upon what worked at each step and improving what didn't.
It took about 6 months of slow growth for things to get going.
"The more and more wins you get, the more confident you feel."
What about when he was sued by a large competitor for having a similar name...did that stop him? Nope. Fundamentally, he knew he could make it work--even though "it" was still a bit nebulous. So he began to work smarter.
Here's Nathan's formula:
1. Hack the system
He knew he had to be strategic in his pursuits for interviews. Rather than go straight to the source--in many cases, a hard reach--instead, he'd search for the person's gatekeeper. This allowed him to sidestep the politics of media and gain traction quickly.
Build relationships by serving first and asking later. Strategically for Nathan, placement in Foundr would benefit everyone he asked to interview. Mutual reciprocity and mutual benefits. Smart.
"This was the biggest thing for me. Hang out and speak to as many successful entrepreneurs as you can. It's not a matter of 'if' it's a matter of 'when.'"
3. Monopolize one social media platform
When things got stagnant, and Foundr was hovering around 10,000 subscribers without much growth, Nathan studied the landscape. He noticed that Instagram was converting at the highest rate of all social media outlets. So he threw all of his energy and resources into Instagram and the rest speaks for itself.
"The coolest thing about instagram is that you can drive tons of traffic and pay $0. For bootstrapping a company, it's an incredible customer acquisition source."
Within about a year, Nathan was able to quit his day job. Now, two years later, he's got himself a thriving six-figure business with a whole team working below him.
Once upon a time, Foundr was just a business magazine with a few hundred readers. Now it's a multi-faceted digital media business spreading the love of entrepreneurship through its podcast, magazine and training platform.
For Nathan, nothing's changed. He just keeps showing up every day.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
If you're curious to know how I got started, and how you can begin your own journey to self- employment, you should enroll in my free mini-course on making more money. It'll take you step-by-step through the process of creating a new business using skills you already have.