7 Reasons My First Business Failed

epic business failure

When I was 16 years old, I decided I was going to try to find a job because I needed money. The only way I knew how to do so was by searching job boards like Monster. While I was searching Monster I noticed a small link at the bottom of their website, which was a link to their stock quote.

At first I thought Monster was just another .com company that was making a few million dollars, but after analyzing their income statement, I realized that I was wrong. The company was actually earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

It was at this moment that I was inspired to create my first .com company. And naturally it ended up being a job board called Advice Monkey (I no longer own AdviceMonkey.com). My reasoning behind creating a job board was that if I could make 1% of Monster’s revenue I would be a rich kid. Sadly Advice Monkey never made any money and within two years I closed it down. Here is why it failed:

Download this bite sized cheat sheet of 7 lessons you can learn from the failure of my first business.

Solve a unique problem

The concept behind Advice Monkey was to help people find jobs through the web. Sites like Monster, Career Builder, and Hot Jobs solved that problem years ago. So why would anyone visit my website? Honestly, there was no reason.

Make sure your company is solving a unique problem that others haven’t solved yet. You may make some money creating another me too company, but your chances are slim to none.

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t enter a saturated market. You just have to find out what problems exist in that market and figure out how to solve them.

Be scrappy

I only had a few thousands dollars when I started the company, but that didn’t stop me from getting what I wanted. I posted a few messages on some popular web forums and convinced a developer to build me a website that was similar to Monster.com.

Although I may have seemed to be a scrappy guy, I wasn’t. If I was slick, I would have been able to get the website built for FREE. I could have pitched my vision to a developer and convince him to build the website in exchange for some equity in the company.

If you don’t have much money, don’t worry; you can still start a company. You just have to be scrappy and convince others to help you out for free. You will be surprised on how many people will trade their time for equity in your company.

Don’t get too comfortable

Getting your website up and running is the easy part. After it is up, you have to continually maintain and improve it. I did very little maintaining of Advice Monkey and it didn’t change with the times. This caused visitors to visit my website once and never come back again.

The web is evolving everyday. If you don’t evolve with it, you will not survive. Sooner or later your competition is going to make the necessary changes to evolve with the times.

A good way to evolve your website is to get feedback from your visitors. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you want, it’s all about what your visitors want.

Have a marketing plan

I know this sounds dumb, but a lot of people don’t think about driving traffic to their website until they launch it. When I launched Advice Monkey, within the first few months, no more than a 1000 visitors came to the website. To solve this problem I hired a few Internet marketing firms, and most of them didn’t drive more traffic, all they did was take my money and run.

Before you launch your company, have a marketing plan. Figure out how you are going to create buzz right when you launch your company and how you are going to continually grow it. Most importantly don’t take the easy way out by paying a good Internet marketing company, do the marketing yourself. You can do this by:

  1. Optimizing your website for search engines.
  2. Creating a viral website.
  3. Asking bloggers to blog about your website.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

To compete with my competition I added all of the features they had plus more. I thought if I had more features, sooner or later people would start using Advice Monkey. The features made the site complicated and hard to use, which caused my traffic to drop.

Features can be great, but only add them to your website if they really help your visitors. There is nothing wrong with being the most simplistic and easy to use website on the web. Some of the most popular websites, such as Google, succeeded because they were the simpler solution.

Don’t be afraid of your competitors

The easiest way you can grow your website is by leveraging your competitors’ traffic and data. I leveraged other job boards by importing their job openings into my website. I also got them to add Advice Monkey on their partner’s page, which helped drive traffic.

The key with partnerships is that they have to be mutually beneficial. You want to reciprocate the same amount of value that you are receiving, if not more.

I didn’t start embracing my competitors until a year into the business. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to partner up with as many related websites as you can from day 1.


Although I made a lot of mistakes with Advice Monkey, it still could have succeeded. The problem was, I didn’t learn from my mistakes. If I realized them when Advice Monkey was still around, I could have made the necessary changes to improve upon it.

Hopefully you won’t do the same. ;-)

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  1. Your first entreprenurial adventure went a lot better than mine.

    When I was five I took all of my parents old newspapers they were keeping, so they could take them back to the recycling center, and bundled them up so I could sell them door to door. Anybody see the problem with this? I think I had to shut down my venture after a couple days when sales came in way behind projections.

    Thanks for sharing your story Neil!

  2. And ironically…it was a great success in that it taught you all these lessons, and made you next company that much more successful :_) Great story Neil!

  3. Neil,

    This is an awesome post! I often think that a great business idea is something that will just “occur” in your mind. I do agree with the fact that you have to find the “blue ocean” in your chosen business segment. I guess my biggest problem is finding out what that segment might be. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I need specific advice and I believe you nailed this one.

    In the future, it would be good to hear about your thoughts on actually uncovering the company that will enable you to fulfill yours dreams. Thanks again for your excellent information!

    • You should go into a market that you love. You will do better if you are putting your time and effort into something you care about compared to something that you think will make you rich.

      • Isn’t that the truth. To build a business, it takes time, and if you’re not into, really passionate about that business, it makes it really hard to do what it takes to turn business into a successful one.

        • Yep, if you aren’t into a business you will get burned out really fast.

          • You should be having fun in anything you do. Once you are having fun, you do not feel the 12-14 hour days that you are putting in the business.

            • That is true, but if you are working that many hours for a year or two, with no pay, it won’t be fun. You can get burned out no matter what.

              • I understand you need money to survive but if that is the sole reason you are doing it, you are in the wrong business or profession.

              • Yeah you should learn to have fun in life and enjoy what you have, but without some passion for it you will lose motivation.

                I read an article a couple of years back that said that the average person changes their profession 7 times. Not just jobs, but their career. That means there is a world full of people just waiting to find something that they love to do.

              • Vik, you never want to do things for money as you already stated.

                Kenny, I think most people don’t ever get to do what they love.

              • You’re totally right. I don’t think so either. Somewhere along the line they either give up, put it off for to long, get frustrated…and etc.

                It’s sad that most people will never know what it’s like to live out or even come close to realizing their dreams. I would like to see this change.

              • It is, but if everyone followed their dreams it would be harder for people like you and I to be successful. We need 9 to 5 employees that are just willing to do the job for a paycheck.

        • Yea, I don’t really see a point to getting into a business you don’t like, I think if you do that, you’ll end up giving up before it gets anywhere.

      • I understand that but what if that market the profit margins are not that great but in other market it is? Any suggestions Neil?

        • Then figure out unique ways to make the profit margin higher. I know this isn’t easy, but it is possible.

          If that doesn’t work for you, find something else you love.

          • I agree I have seen businesses find extra ways to make the profit margin higher in ways that the customer felt like they were getting a lot more but the business increased the profit for example from $2 to $5 which is large if you are selling hundreds of product daily.

      • This is a great point! Especially since, when you don’t see profits coming in, you’ll be eager to quit if it’s not something you love. It’s great to dedicate yourself to something you enjoy and will show the enthusiasm to pursue fully!

    • I hear you on trying to find what your segment should be. Honestly though, even when I find a niche it’s still hard to get your name out. It shows how important marketing is.

  4. I think the domain name was a reason you failed too. Advice monkey comes off like an information service instead of a job board to me. But for me the reason i failed is that i never got started to begin with. I am just afraid to dive in and get started .

  5. Failures are great learning points. Micheal Jordan’s biography “Can’t Accept Not Trying” http://www.amazon.com/Cant-Accept-Not-Trying-Excellence/dp/0062511904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232954361&sr=1-1 emphasizes this. You grow by taking risks and certain % of those risks will fail.

  6. Just to play devil’s advocate, isn’t there a danger with these sorts of posts Neil that you only end up describing one vision of reality, because that was the outcome in this instance? (I appreciate you’re positioning them as insights rather than ‘rules’)

    e.g. Facebook launched after Friendster (me-too products), and Intel says “only the paranoid survive” (competitors). I’m sure you could think of loads more.

    This isn’t to decry the post, which has already got me thinking… just another perspective.

    What works one time may be the reason for failure the next. “History is written by the victors” as they say.

  7. could you be more spesific on the marketing plan ? thx :)

  8. LOL…. U were trying 2 mke money at the age of 5. nt bad actually :D

  9. “You should go into a market that you love. You will do better if you are putting your time and effort into something you care about compared to something that you think will make you rich.”

    As you said, the stupidest thing you did was you copied instead of innovating. You did not BELIEVE in your product, infact you had no idea what you were selling, how to sell it etc.

    I cant believe you had a thousand dollars to do that. The max you need is around a hundred which should have lasted you a few months.

  10. TRUE.
    Everybody wishes easy way to find accurate results in shorter span of time and thats what makes a website grow or become HIT but what about blog ?

  11. I too am a serial entrepreneur of sorts. Many years ago, I was told that all businesses must go through four primary stages and then the fourth one repeated ad-infinitum. Investigate, invest, implement and innovate. The fourth never stops and gets renewing the business on an ongoing basis. The problem is in following this very sand advise!

  12. The first time I read the post I thought it said you were 6 – I was thinking – you knew about Monster when you were 6?
    I think there is still plenty of opportunity in that space. I don’t think Monster or Career Builder have the area covered. Could go on and on about why.
    I like that you included Don’t get comfortable, and Have a marketing plan. Just putting up a website and waiting isn’t going to drive traffic; and just because you love cats and love to draw cats doesn’t mean people are going to know that you do and will just magically flock to your site to buy your drawings.

    • There is, but people like Simply Hired are already trying to innovate in those spaces. If you can come up with something new, the possibilities are endless… but you have to spend time to innovate.

  13. If you ask me, Neil, having the guts to try to compete (even at a smaller level) with Monster.com in the first place was very important. Many would never have. I think that’s the beginning of your guts that obviously helped you to start your other successful ventures. Somehow, if you hadn’t failed and learned from your first failure, who knows – you might not have made the progress you have made today.

    • The thing is, when you are young you forget about the small details. It wasn’t that I had the guts to compete with Monster.com, I just never thought about it.

      • Ha ha ha, that’s somewhat true. If you really knew the magnitude of what it would have taken, it might have scared you away from even trying. That’s why it’s said that we should think and behave like children if we want to succeed in life – throw away every inhibition and fear and believe we can do anything and succeed.

        • To some extent I agree. At the age of 23 I would have never gone into business if I didn’t start one before. I guess as we grow older we tend to take safer bets.

          • I agree I am just now starting to really plan my businesses better but I think it is not so much my young age anymore but that I have started 4-5 businesses that I learned from. When I first started I look back at my mistakes and think of how dumb they were. Business is a learning process because rarely does someones first business they start do well.

  14. You don’t really need a unique problem, just a unique answer to the problem.
    What did you mean by don’t get too comfortable, would be adding new products and giving coupons to former customers be a good change or are you talking more about changing up the look of the web-page itself.

    • Can’t speak for Neil, but I would say adding new products, and yes coupons to existing clients is certainly something that will give people a reason to come back to your site and keep it from becoming stale. A stale site, w/ stale selection will lose its appeal to customers who have already seen all your product. New trends are always cropping up and you have to adapt to continue success.

      I don’t know if I would do major web page look changes unless you really think the currently layout is lacking in some features / design.

      Not trying to plug my site, but to use an example: I haven’t updated or added new product to my site since about August when I added some hand drawn designs. I also think the site could have a much better layout – updating / changing the look for the second generation will be major, but after that I expect changes to be minor.

      The site as it stands now is stale. Anyone who has gone to the site wouldn’t have a reason to re-visit it unless they remembered where they found that awesome shirt. Will it continue to produce like it has? probably not. Just putting up a website and publicizing it will only get you so far.

      There are a ton of things I could do to the site to increase its appeal and possibly drive more sales. Like a weekly or daily update on a new design or a design from another shop, a much cleaner layout, etc.

      I have built some prettier sites since that one first went up, and am still learning more code, so a major rework is in the works.

    • I meant that you can add new products or change the web page itself. You just need to constantly be making changes and tweaking things to increase your conversions.

    • I like that. “Unique ANSWER to the problem”. Since the problems are usually the same all over the world, what we always need is a better and unique answer to the problem. That’s a good one. Interesting indeed.

  15. Lot’s of great info – I have been running a successful business, solely by word of mouth for almost 10 years. This have been great until about 1.5 years ago – Then a competitor came along with something new that “evolved with the times” and I’ve been slow to counter punch and now I’ve lost many loyal customers to their product. We now have a similar product but it’s very tough to win them back.

    • Start improving your product. Keep on trying new things and never give up. Remember, you have been in business longer than them. You have a solid brand behind you.

  16. great article Neil! I totally agree with you that you often overlook the importance of simplicity. The Internet is so complex itself that visitors are overwhelmed by all the information and that’s why you need to keep it simple!

  17. good advice about partnering up withe competitors. what type of incentives did you give your competitors to promote you?

  18. I really like the caption in the photo. I think trying and learning from your mistakes is better than success without knowing the reasons behind your success.

    Your comment on being scrappy is priceless in my opinion. You don’t have to raise tons of money and pay an arm and a leg to get things developed. If you have a vision, and others see it, it’s not hard to get people to join you.

    But, just a thing on equity vs cash on the development side. I am doing equity with a developer (who is awesome), and when I add the cost of sourcing a lawyer, actual project/business cost is higher (than free). Just a thought.

    • Glad to see you being scrappy. The thing with convincing others is that you truly have to believe in the vision first. A lot of people try to convince me on partnering up with them, when they don’t believe in the idea themselves.

  19. Great post Neil. I think it was Dan Kennedy that said something like you have to find your core USP (unique selling position) and market that message like a crazy man. I have never forgot that. You want to be unique or be perceived as being a unique problem solver, “pain reliever”, in your niche.

    On my small business marketing blog, I say that you are not in the business you think you are; you’re in the business of marketing that business, or you won’t have one.

    Meaning, if your business is selling ice cream, you are not in the ice cream business, you’re in the business of marketing ice cream. It’s a different way of looking at things.

    Because if you only think of yourself as being in the ice cream business, then you will spend ALL your time with “busy” work, the “keeping your hands moving” syndrome, and not enough time getting more tongues in the door licking on your ice cream.

    Trust me! If you build it…they won’t come, But if you market it, they will.

    I love this post.

    • Once you find your unique selling position, you have to figure out how you can convey that message to others. Things like website copy are VERY important on conveying your message.

  20. Neil recommends “Solve a Unique Problem” . . . or . . . solve a problem in a unique way . . . either way, solve a problem that people are willing to pay for. Your marketing plan must include a pricing plan (profit plan) based on a compelling value proposition that you communicate very, very well.

    Most businesses fail because they run out of money, and they run out of money because they don’t generate income, and they don’t generate income because people aren’t willing to pay for their offering.

    Two reasons you have complete control over:

    (1) you didn’t get unbiased feedback on the true value of your offering and confirm a realistic revenue projection of the market’s willingness to pay for that value

    (2) you haven’t done an excellent job at communicating the value of your offering in terms your prospects can relate to their wants and needs

    There is a big difference between creating cool, beautiful and handy solutions versus creating cool, beautiful and handy solutions that people value enough to pay a price that generates profits. Be honest with yourself, is it a hobby or a business.

    • I say solve a unique problem. Solving a problem in a unique way doesn’t matter if it is already solved. The goal is the solve a pain, and pains exist when problems haven’t been solved yet.

      • If, as you say, “solving a problem in a unique way doesn’t matter” . . . then we would have a market full of monopolies and no competition.

        Owners of BMW’s are glad BMW solved more than just the problem of getting from point A to point B and did so uniquely compared to Ford or Toyota or Lexus or Mercedes. Examples abound where segmentation of markets highlights the opportunities to solve problems in unique ways.

        The key is finding upfront what uniqueness matters to the customer, are they willing to pay for it, and if so, can you deliver this cosistently.

        This is dfferntiating your offering and communicatinng your competitive advantage, it is what determines market leaders . . . it is not getting caught up in what you think the customer values . . . rather what you know they value enough to pay for.

        • Interesting point. I think Neil has a good point, but I understand where you’re coming from Chris.

          Uniqueness matters, but only if you solve a pain. And it’s not just uniqueness, but your Irrresistable Offer.

          BMWs solve the “pain” of getting from Point A to Point B …but In Style and comfort and with reliability.

          Every luxury car has a different type of style, and it is that pain that they are solving. To the customer each car is solving a different problem… but how do you decide which one you go with?

          …the one that has the best Irresistible Offer. And this is what as Chris says: “differentiating your offering and communicating your competitive advantage”…

        • BMW’s goal wasn’t to solve the A to B problem. Instead they focused on a niche… people who are passionate about driving and want to get to point A to point B fast and in style.

  21. My first online blog went down the pan when I didn’t have enough time to research the subject. I dove straight in without realising how much work it really involved.

    Now I currently run 3 small sites that I am not trying too hard to build up too quickly. I am starting small and hoping it grows steadily and allows me to keep up.

  22. In times of success, no one wants to hear about failures (losers). In times of failures, we want to hear about failures as positives experiences to move forward. Guy Kawasaki says: “Failure is the new success” based on this video from Honda : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiaPNlR5A4I
    It’s good to see positive thinking. We all need it!

  23. you passed much troubles Neil before you reach this place you are , i think it need a book or more to tell us . really i’m proud it be here and read what you sharing us .

    about your article :

    i think that i should stop or refer to 2 points , marketing and the other about competitors
    marketing is the hardest step in building a company ” any niche ” driving traffic is not easy specially if we talk about targeted traffic , much of us fail to get the customers by normal way ” s you said if you buy traffic you only pay them your money and nothing ” but better you use the long term plan ” SEO” for best results and it will last for long time .
    second point is competitors , first you must know the best niche you able to be number 1 or at least on the focus , also you must like it then you start to build your company ” website ” then you can get the best results because you will have the best chance to get into this biz , also low competition mean you will not suffer in marketing . because in high competition you have to start strong ” costive” and maybe you don’t succeed , but it low competition you will have a good chance .

  24. I just read this in a book by Robert Kiyosaki – Cashflow Quardrant and had to share it with you, Neil. This helps to buttress the fact that failure is part of success.

    Here goes…

    “When I was in high school, my rich dad told his son and me that he had lost a company when he was in his 20s. “That was the best and worst experience of my life,” he said. “As much as I hated it, I learned more by repairing it and eventually turning it into a huge success.” Knowing I was contemplating starting my own company, rich dad said to me, “You may lose two or three companies before you build a successful one that lasts.”

    So, Neil, it’s a good thing that your first business failed. That’s what was needed to enable you learn from it to build other successful ones that last (as you are doing now).

  25. “Failure is success if we learn from it.”

    Malcolm S. Forbes

    on the somewhat contrary…but so true

    “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”

    Mark Twain

    Great post Neil.

  26. You had me with “Solve a Unique Problem”. I work at an internet marketing company and deal with so many “Me Too!” businesses. They all say exactly what you did: “All we want is 1% of what so-and-so makes”. They’re like a grain of sand diving into a beach and hoping to be discovered. This ties in with “Have a Marketing Plan”. None of them do. Their marketing plan is “If we build it they will come”. As you know, that’s no way to build a business. Seems logical but I see it EVERY day.

  27. I share the idea that the life is a learning process in which mistakes are quite necessary attributes.

  28. Hey Neil! I have to agree that leveraging partnerships is the best way to launch a new site/service. With many niches I work on my clients’ behalf, we’re contacting super small bloggers with <1,000 readers. It’s perfect – they are already trusted ‘sources’ for our niche and are usually ecstatic that someone is contacting them for THEIR opinion/time/advertising/etc. We’ve leveraged partnerships where bloggers have written/endorsed a service for $10 a month with this tactic!!! It’s an amazing ROI and helps to build a strong niche presence super fast.

    Also, I started my first business in 7th grade – designing websites for local businesses. It was 1997 so they were full of animated gifs, frames, and many other things that make me shudder now!!!! Thank goodness they’re no longer up…

  29. Good post Neil. Simplicity is what I contribute through my company LotusBoost. I help other companies with a simple easy to use website that would be a thrill to use for their customers.

  30. you are right in your choice. Simplicity is the main merit in hard times. Generaly speaking it is of genious.

  31. Hey what’s up Neil… I was just coming by to say GO CARDINALS… lol. Hope you’re having a great weekend. I am about to start gettin’ my grub on (that’s eating…lol) and a few tasty beverages.

  32. In my life When I was failed my first business. My age was 20 years old. Many Older persons are told me the when you get the lost in first business or job. In future you never lost in any business and job. In India it’s one type of Gujarati Proverb.

  33. The interested part for me is that as a Child in Puerto Rico I always did have money… selling and delivery newspapers, painting other people’s front gate and helping cutting the yard or washing cars… my problem is today is hard for me to make some extra money… not easy.

  34. hey Neil have u tried comment numbering plugin for wordpress … this plugin shows the numbering of comments posted and i think it would look gr8 here as the comments out here are gr8 going

    (not my site)

  35. I think mainly 3 reason 4 failure in business.
    1 Lack of market research when entering new markets, resulting in poor sales and return on investment.
    2 Overspending. Or spending too much on frivolous luxuries instead of products and services that improve the bottom line.
    3 Poor cash flow control: paying creditors to early, buying too much stock or giving customers payment terms that are too long, late payments and bad debts. These can all lead to a lack of working capital and cash flow problems.

  36. Think of all the lessons you learned in that venture and how that’s paid off later on! Without that experience, you probably would’ve made even larger mistakes later on.

  37. I think mistakes are the Stepping stones for success, It has placed you where you are now. I think there is a lot to learn from you for young aspiring kids who want to be like you. Congrats :-)

  38. In most cases, first business will always fail. We don’t learn anything if we don’t fail. Maybe, this is your first stepping stone to where you are now.

  39. Might as well fail and learn why you failed when you’re a small business. Rather than get big and fail, and loose a lot.

    I learned this AFTER I wasted $350 worth of Google Adwords vouchers. Not to mention I learned that Google Adwords SUCKS for certain types of websites (sites that need a LOT of incoming traffic and don’t sell anything) they should stick to advertising on blogs who ask for a monthly tenant purchase.

    Well, now I know. So one day when I create an ad network that rivals Google’s (Oh just wait and see what I’ve got planned) I’ll know what to do (not suck like Google Adwords) and what not to do (suck like Google Adwords).

    Or I can always go back to working on my Dooms Day Device…

    â–ˆ Kris Tian â–ˆ

  40. It happens. We learn from our failures and we can learn from others failuers too. I tried to make money via chain marketing. Needless to say I failed to make money and ended up wasting some money in trying to make money.

  41. I have started two businesses, and in both of them, I got failure. I think the main reason behind it is I didn’t have patience to wait for success. And, now I am in the field of SEO, but I am now more determined and patient to wait for success. I think the most important thing to be successful in business is ” To make mistakes, Learn from them and don’t allow it to happen again”.

    • If you are in the SEO business make sure you are only taking on clients you feel you can really help. Most SEO companies just take on clients because of the money and not based on the results they can provide.

  42. Do you believe, I love my competitors.
    Competitors are the biggest inspiration of my success.

  43. Thanks Neil, (Off Topic)How does a tag line of a business can help to be a brand? I’ll appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • It lets people know what your business is about. It is all about messaging. If people don’t know what you are about, then why will they care to get to know your business.

  44. Niel, at what point did you give-up on Advice Monkey?

  45. I have launched several businesses and I think there is one thing that goes above all. And that is persistence, realize that your blog/company won’t grow overnight and that it takes time. Especially with Internet Marketing. Be satisfied even with only 1000 visitors per month, usually we tend to forget what a large number that actually is. Imagine a hall where you preach to 1000 people. Now that puts things a little bit more in perspective doesn’t it. I have to say that I absolutely love your post and learning from your mistakes is definitely the key to success.

    • That’s right, you have to be persistent and patient. Don’t expect your growth to expload over night. For example Wine Library TV does really well, but Gary put in tons of time into it before people started paying attention.

  46. How’s this for a sad business story?

    After buying and selling relatively expensive and small items on eBay [making roughly $5-$12/hr] I decided to spend around $200 on Blue Host for 2 years hosting services, after which I realized how impossible it was to sell stuff, even at razor thin profit margins, due to the fact that I simply didn’t have enough inventory [or the money for more] to pull off making my store trustworthy [even though I intended on providing the best customer service humanly possible].

    The moral: DO NOT SPEND $200 ON HOSTING if you do not have around 100 or more items.

  47. Well.. maybe 50 or more items would be enough, but I definitely fell short of that and realized it a few weeks into run out of things to fine tune on the site.

  48. So I read over the comments and now I am convinced that you own the site and not just this article. So, now I guess I’ll ask what I’d ask anyone else who ends up in the first 10 results of a popular search query in Google… How the heck did you pull that off?

    I know about making search engine friendly pages and about content [I made a comment about how I didn’t have enough]. I also have plans for quantity and quality of material as well as a constant flow of new material, but it leaves me hanging, because the last website should have shown up in the first several hundred search results [I actually typed in the tag line word for word and it didn’t show the site!]. The only way I could get it to show up was typing in the actual domain name.

    So… how do I make it so that my site shows up 100 results from the first result. I’d at least feel like something went right if I could manage to get that far. Anyway, I don’t mean to sound depressing, but it is disheartening. I thought I did a pretty good job on the last site and it makes me reluctant to try it again.

  49. It more than 200 comments right now so maybe I’m copying someones idea.

    Well, we have another conclusion that combining simplicity and a niche will give you success.

    What about shares in the project? How would you share with a programmer?

  50. Neil,
    You mention that you hired marketing companies and all they did was take your money and run. I am very curious on what exactly they actually did? Any market research? Any suggestions that they made? I work for a marketing company (of sorts)that doesn’t do internet marketing. Not that I am taking offense to this comment,but I hear this a lot. I for one work my ass off for my clients and wonder what hell these other companies are doing. Obviously this is a problem that could use a solution.

  51. yeah this mistakes should be fix with our lesson.this is can be a good lesson for me.thank you neil

  52. The KISS method of keeping things simple is one that I have really embraced over the last year, especially during the development of my current .com company I am working on.

    I have even stripped down a lot of ‘features’ before even launching the beta, and will use user feedback to determine which ones to add in later, and the right time to add them in.

    I almost got a little ‘heartbroken’ when I decided to deactivate a lot of the extra features, but I am now feelin’ real good about the simpler version ;)

    Also, you make a very strong point for getting started with the marketing and doing it yourself.

    This approach has worked well for me also, and I have already built a nice list of site users for the first beta test.

    The advice you gave in your other post about not getting caught up in getting everything ‘perfect’ (if there is such a thing as perfect) will save a lot of entrepreneurs the traumatic experience of NEVER launching lol!

  53. Neil, you’ve inspired me to make my own company (I’m 15) – I mean, I currently own a few websites making me $X,XXX a year but I don’t have anything that could make me some big money, so hopefully I can learn from your mistakes and be successfull

  54. Hey Neil,

    Your story was cool…I thought I would make some money by selling crayons..but those would be not just normal crayons but crayons with multi-colors and above it scented ones…I use to mix different types of crayons to 1 crayon and then put some Agarbati (joss sticks)…However I found only 2 of my friends who use to trade them with me …and that too for free…Until I moved to higher standards where we started using water colors…


  55. This is great. Once again, hearing things that caused you to fail can help us all learn from your mistakes. Thanks for sharing these!

  56. Stupid but funny to me.

    My first business was a lemonade stand in my neighborhood.

    The problem was there wasn’t enough traffic and I drank all my product while waiting for non existent traffic.

  57. Great tips as always. Even though you don’t post daily like many I think this blog is probably one of the top as far as really giving advice people can use.

  58. thanks for your honesty. I belive understanding and admitting your mistakes is the first step for success.


  59. You say:
    “I would have been able to get the website built for FREE. I could have pitched my vision to a developer and convince him to build the website in exchange for some equity in the company.
    If you don’t have much money, don’t worry; you can still start a company. You will be surprised on how many people will trade their time for equity in your company.”

    I don’t think this can be done. Can you find one person that will accept this deal? Because I couldn’t find anybody!

    • Just keep on calling developers. Or try to meet them at local meetups. Sooner or later you will find someone.

      If you can’t, it could be the pitch or that they don’t believe that your idea won’t succeed.

  60. Thank you for sharing Neil. Hopefully I won’t do the same. Sure each person had experienced failure in business. But this is a process that must do.

  61. Steven Ahmad :

    One of craziest things about you, Neil, is that even with failed business after failed business, you were still being hired as an internet marketing consultant.

    You’ve got to love the fact that even if we fail in personal endeavors, we can flip those failures into consulting gigs.

    There is nothing better than to find a client making the same mistakes I have made. This way I can say “nooooo don’t do that!” Lol. I’ve had a handful of clients that said “it’s easy for you to tell me x, y, z, because you’re succssful. First off, it’s not true. Second, the internet was easier to deal with in the 1990’s. I still make mistakes and find myself to be better at sizing other people’s business’ up. It’s been easier for me to consult for others than it is for to utilize a lot of my own advice.

    Another thing I’d like to point out in terms of the person who said their first businss failure was at age 5, or even you, at age 16, is that you’re destined to succeed. Think about it, although at five years old, that child didn’t realize that the newspaper is obsolete after it’s print date, his/her mindset still understood that people buy and sell stuff. That was still a business minded move, too bad the recycling industry wasn’t as lucritive as it is now. I think anyone who wants to start a business while still under the umbrella of care of their parents, is destined to succeed, even after a few failures.

  62. Neil,

    I make fortune cookies for a living and wish I could go back and change some things also. Failure is what makes us smarter!

  63. Interview Questions :

    Thanks for sharing your story Neil :) Its a refreshing change to hear somebody talk about failures and not just their successes! great post!

  64. These are some good tips to do. I do think solving a unique problem is a big thing. Many people try to make companies that are exact copies of other companies and it doesn’t work out well. I’ve never heard of being scrappy, but then again, I know how to develop websites myself so I always just did that.

  65. Bearing failure not only affects specific Aim, it can cause entire facilities to grind to a halt. Don’t address the immediate problem by simply installing a new bearing; investigate the cause of bearing failure. You may be able to prolong bearing life, improve productivity by identifying and resolving issues.

  66. Sportsbook Review :

    The tip on creating a viral site to start out with is a good one. It is important to never lose hope when starting a new business venture.

  67. Kampanye Damai :

    I usually have an pessimistic when one day my blog position and traffic is decrease. But that’s what we say an effort. Better effort you do, better result you get. Thanks for your info Neil :)

  68. LOL. getting too comfortable. This happens to all first timer entrepreneur. When the competition gets heavy then you know when you are slacking.

  69. cheap designer handbags :

    Robert Kiyosaki says they mostly fail because it’s the wrong offer for the market (no message to market match) but he also says “if 19 out of 20 businesses fail, you need to be ready to start 20 businesses”.

    Interesting advice, but with proper research you shouldn’t need to go through 19 other businesses.

  70. Great points on getting too comfortable. The rush of getting a new site launched then seeing traffic is great. After that initial rush its easy to just sit back and not promote anymore.

  71. The thing about the internet is its still evolving at a young stage for marketers and businesses online. There’s an open market out there you just need to find where they lie at. Websites developing templates for Myspace.com users is a excellent idea which was a huge niche. The only problem is some people didn’t have any Web Designing, HTML, PHP, CSS skills. So now here’s another niche for individuals to take in which was teaching computer language skills for people who want to create templates, websites, etc. It goes on and on. Excellent post Neil!

  72. I was reading about a young girl that makes money doing that too. I can’t remember her name, but she makes millions every year from creating templates for myspace, and facebook users. That’s cool!

  73. Well, I’m afraid that sometimes, in pursuit of perfection, I tend to make things way too complicated. I appreciate that you mentioned this point. It consumes a lot of time and effort, and it’s is often totally counterproductive.

  74. Here are some of the reasons why business my family have had failed.

    1) When we had a super market, employees stole from us alot.

    2) When we had a pizzeria, we didn’t investigate the pizzeria enough before buying it, and we had to pay back taxes from a previous owner, that really set us back in the hole before even starting the business. Not to mention that on our first day we were really busy, and 2 of the employees decided to quit on the first day, they no-showed which really screwed us over and lost alot of our business clients.

    Till then,


    • Ouch, that’s a bummer. Talk about bad luck. Unfortunately, employees do cause may challenges, but if you can find the right ones to mold and train, you’ll find yourself living a lot happier.

  75. thanks for sharing neil.. :)

    i remember my first venture when i was trying to sell gum at school(i was about10).. the uniqueness of my business model was the country i was attending school in banned chewing gum.(yea shocking) i got my “inventory” during weekly family visits to a neighbouring country. profits and margins were coz my sales were in a currency that was higher than the currency of my inventory.

    you must have guessed, mom caught me and that was the end of it.

    *hint: not many countries ban chewing gum :(

  76. Danail Donchev :

    Most people don’t think about driving traffic to their website until they launch it.But without it your website is nothing just another uselesss.com project.Find a niche before starting a project because the competition is huge in some niches.One more thing you must be realistic about your goals.If it is your first business online do not attempt to compete with the sharks like Neil did.
    Be unique.

  77. You never fail if you never give up if the website failed and you tried somthing new then you never did fail. You business may have not suceeded but you learned alot which means what you suceeded.

  78. Very interesting post here Neil. I will try and learn from your mistakes even though personal experience can be better than anything else!
    Thanks :)

    • Personal experiences are the best, so if you must, than please make as many mistakes as you can ;) If you can though, just learn from mine and save yourself the time.

  79. You have mentioned a very good saying:
    is solving a unique problem that others haven’t solved yet.
    When doing any site, i have to put that in mind, then i am sure it will help.

  80. I got what it takes to beat my competitors in my blog. I don’t mind whether they have a team of SEO or SEMs I can beat them using my dedication and heart.

  81. Thanks for sharing your story. My first adventure 5 years ago turned out to a disaster. I opened up my first website, an online shop for women’s fashion. I guess I knew what I was doing in terms of the industry and how to get people to buy my stuff/get traffic, but unfortunately I was too young and unconscious about the financial part and got stuck with too much of stock. One other fault was that I hired third parts for al lot of work, which made me pay a lot of money on things I could have made myself..

    Better luck this time!

  82. sell textbooks :

    This is a great post to help motivate people. You could not be more correct when you say no risk..No Reward!

  83. Hey Neil
    You mentioned not to pay internet marketing companies to do the marketing and also that some of those companies took your money without giving you much service if at all. But you have your own internet marketing company. So who do you expect as your customers?

    • I should have rephrased it. I don’t you should pay one if you are a small business. Once you are making a bit more money, you should hire one.

      All of the good ones that I know of are really expensive. :(

  84. Neil,

    I’ m japanese web-app developer trying start up in Japan. I found your this thougutful entry via Delicious, so I introduce it to my blog translating in Japanese on yesterday , soon it was picked up to one of the most popular japanese social bookmark service,HATENA bookmark. Many Japaese who involve in startup or web-app business probably do not make the same mistake you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  85. Well at least your story sounded interesting and was a real business. My first entrepreneurial venture happened at the age of 10 consisting of me letting kids in my neighborhood drive my RC Car in exchange for 1 pokemon card. It worked great until parents found out there kids were getting scammed. We only got 11 cards in.

  86. You sure know how to run a small business. I mean, who else pays $50K for a forum website and then shuts it down months later after turning it into a massive failure?

  87. Hi Neil,

    Really I have no words to explain what I feel after read this post.

    Thanks for the motivation!!!

    Saurav Sharma

  88. Hey Neil, this is about Mark’s post (the t-shirt guy). He mentioned that he hadn’t updated his site in awhile and that he was still learning code at that time.

    Since the post was made in ’09, my humble advice to him would be that his initial effort with his site is pretty good. And that I think he needs a good WordPress theme, with which he could work wonders using his knowledge of code if he continued to learn code–and even with limited html skills.

    I’ve upgraded my own status from “newbie” to “a beginner” and as such, I go examining blogs/sites by first noticeing design and scrolling to the bottom to see exactly which one. I’m beginning to recognize certain ones on sight and I look first for “tight” or well-put-together sites.

    What do you think, Neil?

  89. I do agree with the fact that you have to find the “blue ocean” in your chosen business segment. I guess my biggest problem is finding out what that segment might be.

  90. I tried getting referrals, but after a couple of months I couldn’t pull myself to knock on one more door or ask for one more referral.

  91. This site/blog has been one if the most useful ones I’ve found I’ve been reading through all your posts on business advice for the past 3 hours. I’m at the starting point of my business (writing up a business plan) and the info you have here is so valuable for first time business entrepreneurs. Thank you for sharing your knowledge keep it up I will be back to learn more. At chance you may be in Sydney Australia to do forums or seminars?

    • Camielle, thanks for reading and I am glad we found each other. I really try to share my experience as best I can to help other people along the way. I have been traveling a lot lately so it’s not out of the question. I will surely announce it if I am :)

  92. hello

    searchinbg for a good business man,,how can i imporve my skills

  93. Hi Niel,

    I am a SEO- Executive in a company. Mujhe apki life ki ye biogarphy read karke bhut motivation mila h. Recentely my company ne 10 employees niklaal diye h “ye bolkar ki hum off-page task close kr rhe h”. Sabhi bhut depration me h. Maine apki ye biography unke sath share ki h..So they are motivated now.

    If you have any suggestion for us for the future planning. Please share with us.

    Kind Regards,
    Avtar Singh

  94. Hey Neil,
    I am really interested in SEO now, and I have been wracking my brain trying to apply to other opportunities. In my website above, I explain my motives, and I offer my services to practice, but I thought if I offered work for free, people would come running. Instead, it took me 2 days of internet research to find out that ‘free seo services’ gives nothing and another day to empty out ‘virtual volunteering’ (which was great in comparison), and another day to find “we will train you” but really nothing stands out for 3 12 hour days (36 hours!) of internet research except https://bigwing.com/jobs/seo-trainee/, and with the credentials so high of the CEO (former CEO of SEOMoz), it seems out of my reach as a beginner. (of course I applied anyways). I seem to just be building internet researching skills…which I already started developing with on-the-job performance when I was working for the Navy.

    Question is: do YOU know of anyone that needs SEO help and wouldn’t mind throwing a bone or too to let me try out? I could just sit and tinker by myself, but I need to get a feel for working with other people because this is never going to be a solo job. I’ve thought ‘franchise’, and I put in a few applications to the (only 2) companies that seem to do that.

    *DISCLAIMER: I have not gone past page 5 at any point this week for any one search*

    (the rest either market TO franchises, which is annoying to try to search for, OR they are offering seo training, which I can get for free anyways from somewhere else). I’ve thought startup, but, again, there is only 2 websites that seem to offer information on applying to startups, and one of them, startupsforhire, seems more like it took a plugin of aggregate information from another website instead of having original content.. Ultimately, the best match seems to be volunteerism; I won’t get paid, but there is a chance that some do not even have SEO optimization whatsoever so anything would be helpful. I could easily just apply myself to any volunteer organization; there is no lack of them. However, I want to have the training of someone who already ‘been there, done that’, so that I don’t just ‘do what works’ but instead I ‘do what’s best’. I read somewhere about doing some copy/paste from other successful websites, and that is a start, but I need to be able to know where to go from there. ‘unpaid’ keyword did not go anywhere.

    unpaid|free|volunteer|contract|freelance; seo; web/internet/online marketing; virtual. Did I miss anything? Phew, that was a lot of work! just to find out that walking into the front door of a marketing agency and saying ‘hi, my name is A, would you work with me to donate labor to a non-profit agency?’ HA, just while I was typing that idea popped up. answered my own question, in a way, but I have no car so I have to work virtually/telework.

    As for you yourself, do you see yourself as someone who could offer me some small projects to work on, and then you could grade my work? I am definitely willing to teach myself everything on my own.

  95. I agree 100% with you there, Niheel. I don’t think anyone ever truly succeeded without failing in the beginning.

  96. i think that it is about Business and things you should/shouldn’t do when you start it.

  97. No risk=no reward. So it’s wise to just fail forward fast.

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