5 Lessons From A Guy Who Made The Internet His Workplace
Taking advantage of the Internet for the bustling marketplace it is seems quite logical. My dating life is pretty much on there – why not work? It’s not just about being a freelancer or Digital Nomad either – you can be a business owner and still take advantage of a working life that’s completely online.
In her book The Shift: The Future Of Work Is Already Here, Professor of Management, Lynda Grattan, describes how technology and the Internet see “billions of hours per day devoted to participation, as people from across the globe combine their skills and ideas.” Yet the reality of logging onto laptops from trendy cafés or the middle of a rainforest to earn bank still seems optimistic and a possibility for ‘one day’.
Enter Alexander Allen. Two years after his foray into online business, at just 23 years old, he had a major Australian company offer him $10,000 to make some animated videos. The videos would explain products that the company sold. Alex said yes. Because $10,000.
One thing we should mention is that Alex knew nothing about making animated videos. He still doesn’t.
Alex is a broker, someone who arranges or negotiates services or assets for others. He knows people who need their ideas explained through animated videos, and he knows people who are good at explaining things through animated videos. The buyers and sellers never actually meet: Alex manages the negotiations at all ends.
So how do you do this?
#1 Get educated and start with an achievable goal
Disillusioned with typical, 9-to-5 work after seeing his parents struggle financially, Alex thought there must be a different way to make money and live well. He started by aiming to make just $1 online.
To become an online entrepreneur, Alex studied business courses at university, did an online course in Internet business, and tonnes of other reading. When he started his company in 2012, he invested a little under $1000 in setting it up, along with a website.
Grattan argues that people who think they can be successful by knowing a little bit of everything, are competing with the likes of Wikipedia and Google: two accessible places where you can get basic information about everything. It’s David versus Googliath. Just don’t.
Grattan believes the key to future-proofing your career is to embrace an area you are passionate about, and become super specialised. In a way, Alex has done this. Rather than trying to learn script writing, editing, story-boarding, animation and video capture, he learned how to advertise and get contracts. He leaves the other skills to highly trained professionals around the world.
#3 Sell something you can’t touch
The low cost of setting up was no accident. By selling an online, video product, he would not have to pay for any physical inputs. Why animated videos in particular? Alex saw they were being advertised.
“If someone is advertising the product you are interested in selling, and they are doing it consistently (maybe over a month or two) it’s safe to assume they are making money from it. If they are making money from it, there’s probably a market share you can get.”
When he investigated the costs for advertising animated videos, costs for getting an ad on google were very low – another signal that the market for animated videos was not very competitive.
#4 Learn from your mistakes, and learn fast
At the peak of his online entrepreneurship, Alex was making AUD$10,000 a month. However, it has not all been a smooth ride on a bullet train made of money. In fact, when Alex was doing his $10,000 job with the aforementioned major Australian company, they asked for assurance that his animator would be able to meet the first deadline – which was just three days later.
When Alex contacted his animator in the Ukraine, the animator was going on holiday. No amount of money would bring him back. Alex had three days to find a new animator, and get a sample video completed for his client.
After trawling through the web for two days, Alex finally found someone suitable. But the person he found sensed the urgency of the situation, and demanded more money. The project was completed, but Alex only made about AUD$2000 for four months of work.
Obviously, there’s a lot he could learn from this. “I became more confident managing client expectations… The Internet is great, but for a project like that, three days is unreasonable. I also realised I should have just offered more money to people I’d previously worked with to do the job.”
#5 Have a #squad
In the night sky of the Internet, how do you find the sweet little work team that will make a constellation of awesome? Alex uses various sites to post jobs, and then uses a vetting process to test if people can deliver. He gives prospective partners low paid tasks – maybe the first 10 seconds of a video. If they do well, he will offer them the job.
This works both ways. Animators use watermarks to protect their content before they are paid. Having done several projects with the same people for years, Alex now has a small, rag-tag team of writers, editors, animators and others who he works well with. They are spread across the globe, and, he says, “I love working with them.”