Confessions of a Failed Internet Hustler – Part 1

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Before continuing the RV Saga, I thought it would be nice to explain what I was doing with all my time besides the RV in the past 2 years

I was a hustler, an internet hustler. Or, I’m the one that got hustled. For over two years, I learned all the ways to make money on the internet. I know both the ways of the “whitehat” and “blackhat” wizards. I can explain the legitimate way to monetize a blog or start an online shop. I also know the ways of the online hustlers including the spam emails, porn websites, and those free iPad surveys. If you had asked me five years ago, there’s no way I would have endorsed any of this. Back then, I was clean, straight as an arrow. In the beginning, it started off with good intentions. I just wanted to make a profitable online store. But the dream of fast money quickly hooked me in to darker methods. This is my confessions of a failed internet hustler.

Academia's Best Looking Ivory Tower

Academia’s Best Looking Ivory Tower

The Problem

It started in the midst of an identity crisis at the beginning of my graduate program. I went into academia to become a professor so that I could enlighten young minds to think for themselves. I was inspired by my past teachers and mentors who had done the same for me. Once in graduate school though, I immediately felt out of place. I kept reassuring myself that I just needed more time, that I would adapt. It’s the same way that beaten wives tell themselves it’s their own fault for being hit. Of course, a lot of graduate students feel like a fraud starting off, but I wasn’t even interested in the content. I remember asking my professor what the hell is this Reason with a capital R that everyone is talking about? He asked me what I thought it meant… Another professor I could not respect at all and openly challenged him in class. I ended up getting a B in that class which is really a D in graduate school. After months of agony, I submitted to the fact that I wasn’t cut out to be a humanities professor. This academic life wasn’t for me, at least not in this field. I felt horrible and anxious. I had spent the past two years to go to graduate school and now I felt like it was all for nothing. I spent the next year redefining myself in the opposite direction.

The Gateway Drug

The Gateway Drug

The Gateway Drug

One of my biggest changes was a growing interest in business and entrepreneurship. In the beginning, I picked up Seth Godin’s “All Marketers Are Liars” from the college library based on its interesting title. The book challenged my rational way of looking at business, products, and the world. People don’t think rationally. We buy into stories. We choose and buy things that make us feel good. It’s why inferior products, leaders, and life decisions often win over the better options. [On a side note, Seth Godin is a great writer, I’ve read almost all his books and his blog. Highly recommended.] Later, I read 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. The book’s thesis is that anyone can join the new rich by quickly starting an online business that once established will generate profit automatically with minimum work by you. It was a revelation; my gateway drug. I was hooked. I wanted to find and make an online business to replace my day job and allow me to live the adventuresome, world traveling life I knew I deserved and wanted.

A growing market

A growing market

My First “Business”

My first business idea was a Korean clothing, online shop. At the time, there was only one serious website where you could purchase Korean clothing. The only other competitors were on ebay or had horrible websites. I could make a better website, have better prices, and offer an American presence. I was so excited and certain that this was a sure hit. I told everyone about it. Even my parents were excited.

Who wouldn't pay $55 for this?

Who wouldn’t pay $55 for this?

I spent my entire Spring break just doing research. There were so many questions. How do you process credit cards? Well, you could do Paypal, Google, or any one of dozens of credit card processors. How do I even make a shop? Well, there’s free ecart software like Magento or even shop hosting companies like Shopify. What about custom fees for shipping Korean clothing to America? Well, technically, the custom fee must be declared and paid by the buyer. But if you ship the box as a “gift” then no one pays anything unless your package is randomly inspected. Of course, under the new Korea – United States Free Trade Agreement, these tariffs will soon be eliminated.

In the end, the shop was dead before it ever got of the ground. My brother in Korea wasn’t very excited about the idea. More importantly, I couldn’t figure out how to get around the international, high shipping cost. It was a catch-22. To get reduced shipping costs, you needed more volume. So, I gave up on it and moved onto to faster, darker paths…

In the next post, I’ll talk about the various methods I learned about and some that I tried including my full time Philippines worker. Also, how to protect yourself from them.

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