A few years back, I had an unusual kind of success.
One that almost ruined my career before it had barely begun.
As an entrepreneur, you may have experienced this sort of success yourself:
When you get a great result, but at the expense of something…
Perhaps a relationship, money, your reputation… even your sanity.
How can this happen?
Often because, at some point leading up to the success, you went against your principles.
And you thought it wouldn’t matter.
Because sometimes, picturing ourselves as risk-takin’, street-hustlin’ entrepreneurs, we get all ballsy and ignore our internal warning systems…
And we take a bite of the apple, ’cause a snake told us to.
We ignore our own internal warnings…
You know: the twisting, churning sensation in your gut, all-but-yelling “THIS IS WRONG – DON’T DO IT!”
As an entrepreneur, you’re used to relying on your instincts… so when something feels wrong, you really feel it.
But you dismiss your Gut Gremlin and his grouchy protestations – you don’t want him screwing things up.
There’s money on the line… or advancement of some other, attractive-looking kind.
So you tell yourself “don’t be too choosy – this could work”… and, “everybody should take a risk now and then, right?”
You self-justify like a pro.
Still, your Gut Gremlin keeps on nagging at you – even when you get rewarded with success.
But sometimes, success has a price to pay…
And when it does, you often don’t notice you’ve paid that price until it’s too late.
Still, all is not lost.
You can turn the ‘disaster of success’ into a learning experience – and become even stronger as an entrepreneur.
Here’s how something like that happened to me:
Back when I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie copywriter, I landed this sales letter job.
After several collaborative efforts while I learned the ropes from my mentors, it was my first proper solo gig.
I was fired up, and determined to make the most of it.
Now, this was back in ‘the bad old ClickBank days’…
When regulation was soft on info-marketers who didn’t want to reveal much about what their product actually was…
They just wanted to focus their advertising on what it could do for the potential customer.
And that’s pretty much what this gig was about.
You know the kind of sales letter I mean…
Hype & holler – and that’s what my client wanted… demanded, even.
It’s what had worked for them in the past, and they wanted more of the same… only BIGGER. And LOUDER.
Basically, we’re talking Biz Opp City.
Now, even as a rookie, this felt all wrong to me…
The client had very sketchy details about what their product actually did, and it seemed like ‘just another IM launch’ in a crowded, noisy IM marketplace.
Not my kinda thing at all.
But the trouble was, even though my Gut Gremlin was doing his freakin’ nut down there, yelling “WALK AWAY – THIS FEELS WRONG!”
…I took the job, because I told myself I “needed the experience”.
(Not to mention the pay check.)
So, wide-eyed and slightly north of clueless, I hunkered down and got to work on my first solo sales letter…
I gave that damn biz-opp-y promo my all, and threw everything I had it.
And when the icky, clammy feeling of working on something that felt a little spammy to me rose up…
I told myself “hey, even Carlton and Halbert started somewhere”.
Even as the scope of the job got bigger and bigger, due to my less-than-honed project management skillz, and the sales letter became a sales letter AND video script…
I was working crazy hours and taking calls from my client at hours that didn’t suit me…
But I pressed on, too far in to get out.
I felt manipulated and stressed to the max. But I figured I only had myself to blame – which was true, as it turned out.
Anyway, eventually my job was finished and soon it was launch time…
I handed over my sales copy. It ran, almost unedited.
Imagine my surprise when, shortly after, this damn thing hits the top spot on the ClickBank charts in its category.
Number. Funkin’. One.
I’d hit the jackpot with my first real sales letter!
The client was happy, and presumably bathing in cash…
I got virtual (even a couple of actual) backslaps from my copywriter buds…
Of course, there’s a whole bunch of factors that make a successful product launch, but I knew how important copy was…
Still, I couldn’t quite believe it.
This was pretty unusual for a rookie writer like me, and I got a bit of a kick from it, I admit.
But the high didn’t last long…
When I went to sleep at night, I still felt… wrong about all this.
See, I knew in my heart of hearts that this wasn’t for me.
I don’t mean the writing – I figured I could still do that, and do it well in more worthwhile markets.
I mean the bullshit.
The profit-at-all-costs mentality of ‘product’ launches that offer little value to the buyer, to the market, to the world at large.
Cheap crap that doesn’t really help people.
(I know, great time to grow a conscience, right? But this feeling was with me from the start. It only grew as time went on.)
So I politely declined to work on a follow-up for the client.
I didn’t want to be ‘typecast’ as the go-to guy for low-fee, big-hype IM launches.
I didn’t fancy another round of getting my ass kicked by unreasonable deadlines, and the awful feeling of selling out.
I wanted to feel pride in my work, whoever I was working with: entrepreneurs, startups or big brands, it didn’t matter – as long as we did things the right way.
So I made a vow that day:
Actually, I made a few…
No more writing copy for sub-par, copycat info-products.
No more working for shady folks who act like they’d sell their grannies for cash (or for a subscriber-swap with ‘Johnny Big-List’).
No more devaluing the importance of persuasive copy by accepting bargain-basement fees and near-impossible deadlines.
No more (delayed) pay checks from short-termists who don’t respect their market, just want to make a fast buck faster, and who I’d probably want nothing to do with if I saw them in a bar.
The best lesson I learned from all this?
Sometimes you have to go through the superficial ‘successes’ to get to the pain. The heartache.
And that’s where you learn what’s important to you, and to your biz…
So set yourself rules.
Then, stick to them.
That’s why I’ve turned down a heap of suss-sounding jobs since…
Probably missed out on a few ‘quick highs’, a few sticky-sweet successes too…
And it feels great because I’m doing business on my own terms.
I work with ace clients who all have something to offer, who want to improve people’s lives with technology, information, products or consulting.
Ethical, smart people who care about more than just what’s in their pockets. I love ’em.
(If that sounds like you, and you want help making sure others understand you and your awesome biz, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.)
In biz, you don’t have to act against your instincts when they tell you something’s fishy. You wouldn’t do that in any other area of your life, so why should you do it here?
As an entrepreneur, WHO you are is so much a part of WHAT you do…
It’s an essential part of what you contribute to your clients. So why compromise?
Instead, make your own personal values a part of your offer… a part of your brand.
Set yourself apart. Take a stand.
If you’re choosy, be choosy.
Choose to only work with clients who share your values, or even your interests if you want.
Do your homework on them before money’s mentioned.
(And if they don’t do their homework on you, ask yourself: “why?”)
So maybe that instantly shrinks your prospect pool by 90%…
Ok, but we’re always told to pick a niche, right? To get specific and serve a target market?
Well, just remember that you get to aim that target yourself…
So next time you’re tempted to widen the target and your Gut Gremlin starts acting up, pay attention…
Trust your instincts.
Life is too short to do business that leaves a bad taste in your mouth…
Even if it tastes like success at first.