Don't Miss A Single Step!

Discover the exact Steps I took to make a full time Income... Starting from ZERO

20 Days into the 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

Fiverr Gigs Getting Traction... But What I'm DOING is Learning What People Want

Hello Steppers!

Today’s post: an update on where I am in the latest 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge.

Toward the end of 2014, I sent out a series of emails and a coupla blog posts saying that I would again take a  Challenge to start a side business with NO CAPITAL… then grow it into a side income yielding $1,000 monthly…. and do it in 30 Days or less.

I started January 1st.

Today I get you caught up.

My Fledgling “Funnel Creation” Business: Day 20

For this 30 Day Challenge, YOU picked the market and the type of business.

Last time I did a 30DC  ( check out WE MADE it! 30 Day, 1000 Bucks Challenge) I decided everything on my own.

Back then I picked a local, service business… used weekends and took my teenager along for the ride, and made $1195

At first we used signs to advertise. Now Google serves up customers without charge---NICE!

At first we used signs to advertise. Now Google serves up customers without charge—NICE!

profit in 30 days. We offered screen repair services to my local area of Colorado Springs.

An interesting side effect of that project was that I learned how to hack  Google SEO for  local results!

We started out using roadside signs for advertising, but later by measuring results of free versus paid advertising… we decided to focus on honing those methods.

Now as a result of that experience I don’t pay ANYthing to advertise my martial arts studio or my screen repair biz.

You can read about how to hack local search results here: 7 Ways to Hack Local Seo For a FREE Front Page Listing

SO back to THIS particular 30 Day Challenge:

This time, instead of picking out everything myself I put it to a SurveyMonkey test.

My esteemed Readers said, “go global”… make it a service biz again… serving middle class clients.

So the first hurdle to leap for me was to decide what kind of service I can offer that I don’t need to be physically present for.

Formula for Starting a Business. FIRST, Solve Your OWN Problem. THEN Offer the Solution to Others

Formula for Starting a Business. FIRST, Solve Your OWN Problem. THEN Offer the Solution to Others!

I thought, “I’ve solved my OWN problem a couple of times in the category of writing ad copy and cobbling together marketing funnels… why not offer those skills as my service?”

Now, I want to remind everyone that I have three successful businesses in place right now.

Plus I’m a Dad, a Grandpa, and a friend.

SO I’m generally busier than a one-legged feller in a butt kickin’ contest…

…but the purpose of the Challenge to to encourage people that despite crushing schedules, zero experience, and other obstacles, it’s more than possible to create a business out of thin air.

Rather than quitting everything and focusing 24/7 on making my new copywriting and marketing funnel biz sing, I’ve kept up my usual schedule.

But I’m following a proven path: the Shoestring101 Principles.

Principle One: Get OFF Your ASS

But enough about me... let's talk about what YOU think of me.

But enough about me… let’s talk about what YOU think of me.

Just like a lot of my Viewers and Readers, I don’t have a lot of time to spare. But I’m set to prove that with a little hustle, you can make a good income on the side. YOU can start a business without risking your life savings, taking on partners or taking out loans.

Ya just gotta start.

SO day one… I put out my shingle on Fiverr, the number one platform for promoting a service biz

Zombie Kurt. A Fiverr Account is a Dangerous Thing...

Zombie Kurt. A Fiverr Account is a Dangerous Thing…

that can be done from anywhere in the world.

I already had a Fiverr account that I use for validating business ideas (and to waste money, $5 at a time on silly things like Zombie-ifying my picture 8-) )

Now, Getting Off Your Ass may be the first Step to success in the Shoestring101 universe… indeed

in every endeavor…

but it always comes with a little resistance.

F’reaxmple, let me clue you in on some of the trials I’ve dealt with since starting this little business.


First, I determined that I was going to use a brand spanking new Fiverr account.

This is so that no one could call foul:

“Well you already had a Fiverr account in place… so that step was already done BEFORE you started the 30 days!”

I wanted to show everyone a start from scratch. So I did.

I set up a new username called, “Funnelvision” (get it? ‘coz I make marketing funnels ;-) )

That’s all I could really do for the first day.

The next day I added a “gig”… a service offered for sale for five bucks.

The next day I added another.

When Something Sounds too Good to Be True, We-e-e-ell…

Now, realize that I’ve never used a Fiverr account to make serious profits.. only to do market research and get paid for it.

So to help me grow quickly, I was using a PDF somebody sent me called “Fiverr Boss”  to learn “How to Easily Make $4,000 Your First Month”.

Fiverr Boss. Disappeared like a Boss.

Fiverr Boss. Disappeared like a Boss.


So after trying to put in place some of the strategies this guy was talking about, it was evident that I needed a little help.

I tried writing him at the support email…

…tried pinging him on Twitter…

…tried going to the website…

…and the Facebook support page…


The guy is just plain GONE.

Now, I wasn’t sure if there were some legal ramifications to this, but as I dove deeper into the book, I discovered that:
1) having multiple Fiverr accounts
2) joining a group of Fiverr-ers that leave each other a pile of positive reviews, and 3) taking on lots of work that is then outsourced to other service providers

…were all SERIOUS no-no’s in the world of Fiverr.

In fact, I could get BOTH of my accounts suspended.

SO rather than risk that, I took down the “Funnelvision” account, did my best to copy the gigs from there to my other account, confessed my sins to Fiverr central, and prayed for a couple of days.

A few days afterward, The Powers That Be granted me a second chance. I licked my wounds and went back to my shoestring101 account. Since then I’ve generated a whopping $15 in sales with my gigs related to this 30 Day Challenge.

But hang on. It was looking bad, but it gets better. And better. I’m still optimistic.

Second Principle: Find Out The W’s

Now hopefully you realize that I have no aspirations to be a Fiverr Super Seller.  Nor do I want to use black-hat techniques to try and stretch what Fiverr can do for me and you. I’ll be honest… I don’t think that Fiverr is where I’ll earn $1,000 this month, or any month.

But it’s an EXCELLENT place to conduct market research. There at Fiverr I’ve been Finding Out the W’s- Who Wants

Getting PAID to Learn How   Your Target Market Works... WOW.

Getting PAID to Learn How Your Target Market Works… WOW.

What, and Where and hoW to find them.

See, Fiverr is not just a platform to make little chunks of money at a time and hope it adds up to a lot… it’s a place to hone your skills while also learning your target market.

You may have seen a little post of mine on this principle called,

How to Use Fiverr to Validate Your Business Idea.

So many times, people miss out on this. Not just with Fiverr but with any “starter” platform … they look at how much they are making per hour instead of what the experience is bringing them.

Tell me, what college do you know of that will teach you a marketable skill… and pay YOU a nominal amount while you are learning?

Some folks want to go to school to learn marketing. I’d rather take my piddly per-hour PAYCHECK for launching my knowledge base… instead of drowning in student loans. :-)

That brings us to the Third Principle of Shoestring101…

Third Principle: Learn to Create Value

Y’know, that per-hour idea really sticks in some people’s craw and they can’t seem to remove it.

Interesting… in my first 30 Day Thousand Dollar Challenge I didn’t give daily updates. In THIS one I offered to give daily updates, but only to Subscribers that wrote me and said, “Put me in the list, Kurt”.

You're making two bucks an hour? You're WORTHLESS and WEAK!

“You’re making two bucks an hour? You’re WORTHLESS and WEAK!” Sigh. Read on, dude. It isn’t about the money… yet.

I have had more people unsubscribe in the last two weeks than ever before. Seems most folks want the dazzling numbers… they want to see me making a hundred bucks a day with a 1/2 hour effort when in fact I’ve put in two, three hours a day and so far I’ve made just over a hundred bucks with my copywriting and sales funnel designs.

Fiverr took its commish for the gigs it’s given me, so right meow we’re at $112. Figure it’s been 2.5 hours or so per day, times 20 days… well, YOU do the math. I’ve been gettin’ just over two bucks an hour.


The Amount is Not the Point; the STEPS Are

I like to point out that when you sell a used bike on Craigslist or in a garage sale… that’s a business transaction.

But! DO the steps that it takes to get bikes for cheap and get ‘em to bike buyers for less cheap…

… and record those Steps so you can do them over and over again..

…now that’s a business system.

Learn What Customers WANT. Then Provide That.

Learn What Customers WANT. Then Provide That. DUH.

Once the system is in place, you can start to bring up your hourly rate big time.

So I’m not concerned at all with the amount of cash coming in for this side venture; soon it will be more bizness than I can handle.

Because I’ve been learning the system… for marketing MY particular copywriting and funnel creation skills to the particular peeps that need them.

It’s all in how your market perceives the value you create for them.

And for the last twenty days I’ve been cracking the code of how to best communicate that perception in a way that makes folks get out their wallets.

For example, my

I Will Write High Converting Copy For Your Website For $5


I Will Design A High Converting Sales Funnel For $5“…

…fell flat on their faces.

So I took a stroll around Fiverr itself and noticed that a LOT of these (actual!) kind of gigs getting boo-koo attention:

“I Will Evaluate Your Website as a 1st Impression Viewer for $5″

“I Will Analyze Your Website and Blog for $5″

“I Will Give You My Professional Opinion Of Your New Business Idea for $5″

“I Will Read Your Stories and Tell You What I Think for $5″

Hey… do YOU see a pattern forming here? Opinion, evaluate, tell ya what I think…

Seems that more than anything,  small biz owners running websites want feedback. Honest feedback about how to improve.

I have to say that I’m in the EXACT same boat; it’s downright EASY for me to detect errors and things to improve in the websites and the small biz ventures of others. I can  see the forest because I’m not stuck in their particular trees.

But when it comes to my own websites and businesses… I need an unbiased, outside opinion to really get the scoop.

Creating Value For Customers

So, first thing I did on Fiverr (once I extricated myself from the multiple-account fracas) was to update the kinds of gigs I was offering.

Now I’m STILL offering to improve people’s web copy and tweak their sales funnels.


The element of  “provide my opinion”, “analyze”, “evaluate” has been added.

Creating Value with the Title

Instead of

“I Will Write High Converting Copy For Your Website For $5″


“I Will Analyze Your Web Copy and Improve it For $5″

Creating Value with the Images

Is Your Sales Funnel Clogged? Click This Image to Go See the Gig!

Is Your Sales Funnel Clogged? Click This Image to Go See the Gig!

One of my FAVORITE tools to mess around with images is PicMonkey. Here for free, or for $4.99 a month for premium features, you can add frames, effects, text, or other pics to your pics.

Check out my value-adding, attention-grabbing cover images, added in the last few days:

Is Your Web Copy Converting? Click HERE to Increase it Big Time

Is Your Web Copy Converting? Click HERE to Increase it Big Time

Creating Value With Video

Also, it’s been said that gigs with accompanying videos sell 220% more than those without.

So yesterday I put the following descriptive vids on Fiverr, and also on YouTube:

Creating Value for Myself

Now here’s a layered approach to driving traffic to my gigs:

The YouTube vids are easily shareable, and the links back to the actual Fiverr gigs are in the description so that adds another way for folks to find my solution to their problem.

I’ll share the videos myself on Twitter and Facebook. Those vids may also get passed around.

The links lead ‘em back to Fiverr. Fiverr makes them customers. Then I get more work and more testimonials, like these:

Above and Beyond. I didn't write the whole page, but check out the sales letter for Social Sinergy

Above and Beyond“. I didn’t write the whole page, but click to check out the sales letter for Social Sinergy.

What’s happening here is NOT me building a thousand-buck-a-month side gig on Fiverr. It’s me discovering what works… building a system… and fleshing it out.

WITHOUT hiring a coder to make me a killer website for $1500, then thrashing about in the dark trying to find out what works.

By getting my sea legs here on Fiverr, I’m finding out what kinds of words, what kinds of images, and what other factors create the response I’m looking for… the buying kind.

Especially among competition.

I’m learning the hopes, fears, and needs of my target market.

Couldn't Ask For More. Watch this space-- I'll be Linking to this little lady's Product Launch soon.

Couldn’t Ask For More“. Watch this space– I’ll be linking to this little lady’s Product Launch soon.

I’m gaining a reputation, and garnering testimonials.

Testimonials that I can use later in the marketing of my skills and the skills of others

…yes, WHY should I keep all the glory (and the WORK!) for myself?

No, if I can cobble together a system for grabbing customers that need web copy written and sales funnels designed, it only makes  sense to begin referring work to others more talented than myself.


Right now, we’re looking at $112 profit on day 20 of this particular 30 Day Challenge.

But I’m thinking it might just be the start of something much bigger.

If I’m wrong, well! Instead of gambling borrowed money away… like a lot of folks do when they start a business venture…

…I will have gotten paid $112 to find out it’s not worth the time.

Beats the living snot out of debt and heartache, doesn’t it?

That’s the Shoestring101 way.

Okay Steppers! Sound off below. If you think I’m wasting my time with this month’s challenge say so. Or if’n ya think I might be onto something I’d love to hear that too! I’ve been getting equal parts “feedback” (like Subscribers quitting) and encouragement (we’re pulling for you Kurt!) and to tell you the truth, BOTH are helpful.

Put YOUR two cents in the bottom line.

Keep Stepping,


Use Fiverr to Validate Your Small Business Idea

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a fortune, five dollars at a time.

This just in: “market research” shows that Readers of Shoestring 101 are more intelligent and overall attractive.



Validate Your Business Idea: WHY and HOW

Today’s post is about how to throw your idea out there for an internet biz, then “VALIDATE” it to see if it has real merit. Also, an update on the 30DC (30 Day, $1,000 Challenge) so you can see how I’m doing on Day Three.

Other posts on this site about validating business:

How to Validate Your Small Business Idea With Craigslist

Validate Your Business Idea With the 3 Most Overlooked Social Media Sites

What is validation, you might ask? One of the obstacles to small business startups has always been tainted data from your friends and relatives, even well-meaning business contacts. Because of their prior relationship with you, the feedback that they give about your “great new idea” is totally unreliable.

Jealous, close-minded friends or relatives may shoot down your perfectly good business idea.

And just as bad… maybe even WORSE… they might nod their heads vigorously saying, “Oh, YEAH… DO that… What a GREAT IDEA… I think it’ll sell oodles and oodles.”

Even when the idea is a complete FLOP.

I actually believe that this false encouragement is worse than naysaying. ‘Cause I almost NEVER pay any attention to naysayers anyway. If anything, it spurs me on to a greater endeavor when somebody says I can’t do something.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6

Of course, it does make sense to get feedback about your product or service. But even “market research” has proven to be flawed. Remember those guys that would stop you in the mall and offer you $5 for your opinion about something? I do:

An attractive young lady with a clipboard would have you try these new flavors of Skittles, then those. You were supposed to try one, eat a cracker in between, then try the other. Then give your “honest opinion” as  a consumer as to which of the two you might buy.

Know why this form of market research is flawed? Because young guys like me would be thinking which of the Skittle choices would be more likely to get me the girl’s phone number ;-)

Use Fiverr to see if what you've got is worth buying

Use Fiverr to see if what you’ve got is worth buying

A better way to get the right numbers for your market research would be to do some actual selling of your product. I’ve done this for dozens of business ideas. Most recently -the newest 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge is testing its legs first on Fiverr.

The Most Reliable Form of Market Research

Here’s how to really, for real do effective research for fun and profit:

Don’t ask your friends, “do you think people might buy this?”

Instead, ask them TO buy it.

Then ask strangers TO buy it also.

When the strangers (that don’t owe you a dang thang)… buy your product or service with their own dollars… then you’ll know that you have a real shot with your business.

And you can then begin to scale it and later, automate it.

If they don’t buy… then rejoice! You’ve been saved from a monumental heartbreak, hours of wasted time, oodles of startup capital.

Then you can say, “Whew. Close one. Okay, NEXT!”

So Tell Me About This Fiverr Thing

In case you haven’t heard about Fiverr, it’s time to catch you up a little bit.

fiverr can help you grow your businessFiverr is only the 64th most popular website in the U.S., haven’t you heard? And it’s the number ONE platform anywhere for marketing services to and from people all over the world… all for just a “Fiver“, or $5.

Now, if you haven’t seen what you can get done on it’s quite a treat. Best way is to send you there!

If you haven’t been, I recommend highly that you go to and browse through all the categories. Fiverr has been a Godsend to me as a busy marketer and producer of books and blogs.

At Fiverr I got the cover design of my Kindle Book Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Business Startup to be Profitable from Day ONE… done for only five smackaroos.

Someone in Bangladesh formatted that same book (about 40,000 words, plus charts and pictures!) for Kindle for just five clams.

Oh, and I was able to write said Kindle book by “speaking” a lot of the book into a microphone… which a lady from the Philippines transcribed into an editable Word doc for me for guess how much. Mmm-hmm. Fi’ dollah.

(Y’know? Editing about 25,000 already-captured  words and expanding on it is a helluva quicker process for writing a book than staring at a blank screen. I found that writing sucks! But it’s easy to simply edit your already-in-print thoughts… and clean ‘em up. If you’re a writer the transcription gigs are worth their weight in fine chocolate.)

Anyhoo, the point is that I’m very familiar with the buying side of Fiverr, having gone there for a number of tasks that I was either not talented enough or had the time to do.

But on Fiverr You Only Make Chump Change..?

Aggh. Aww, Lordy Pete. You’re missing the point.

I’m not on Fiverr to become some kind low-pay lackey… making less than it takes to buy a good latte… and having to wait two weeks to get it.

(Fiverr takes one dollarr of your fiverr as commish, then escrows it for two weeks to avoid online scams)

No, I’m using Fiverr to see if the service(s) I come up with are worth paying anything for.

See, Fiverr will validate my biz idea(s) as well as the ad copy that I write for them by seeing if someone will actually fork over real cash for ‘em.


We’re deep in Shoestring Step TWO: Find Out the W’s. What people Want, Who they are, Where to find them, hoW to solve their problems.

This sets us up to reach more and more of the same kind of customer, while getting paid to do it.

Most of any legit business’ income comes from repeat biz or referrals. I’ll bet you MORE than five bucks that this platform is the same. And while some tasks take some time to perform, others can be outsourced or even automated. So one five-dollar order may turn into ten, fifteen… even hundreds of dollars of revenue.

ALSO! Bonus:

Though Fiverr prohibits sellers from contacting buyers directly, or even making one’s email address available… I know that I’VE personally tracked down folks that have done services there and asked them to do similar things that they don’t have listed for sale.

F’rexample, say I audit someone’s sales copy for a Fiverr… that customer just might track me down later on to do some actual copywriting.

And for that I’ll charge more than one portrait of Honest Abe Lincoln. ;-)

So while the plan is NOT to break any rules, I’m on Fiverr to get paid to get leads for my business. Read about that principle here:

Reversing the Traditonal Marketing Model: Get PAID per Lead Instead of the Other Way Around

Turns Out I’m Not the Only Fiverr Fan

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a fortune, five dollars at a time.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a small fortune, five dollars at a time.

I just read an article by Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation in which Nick used Fiverr to earn $920 in a ten day period. NOICE, Nick! If you want to check out a site that’s similar in its theme and mission to Shoestring101, go on over to Nick’s blog and start with his Fiverr post. Oh, and WHILE you’re there, consider leaving a thoughtful comment at the bottom of the page. We bloggers LOVE to hear from our esteemed Readers and Nick is no exception.

My First Fiverr Gig in the 30 Day Challenge

SO the niche I’m serving is folks that need help with marketing funnels.

This niche is one in which the customers can grow along with me; I help a newbie to internet marketing to make some actual bank, then I offer him more and more similar gigs from my handful of profitable, yet quick and easy-to-do services.

My EVIL marketing plans are taking shape…

Okay Steppers! Day THREE of this particular 30 day, $1,000 Challenge. I know you’re rooting for me. See you out there, and

Keep Stepping!


Today’s The DAY! New 30-Day, $1,000 Challenge

To my faithful Shoestring Steppers:
Hey gang! ’bout 500 words in today’s post. Take exactly 2 minutes to see what the next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge is about.

I’m not gonna get craaaazy today trying to make particular post super SEO-friendly, or chock full of pictures. Just the facts, ma’am.

Side Money Blueprint: Generate a Healthy Side Income Without Leaving Your Job (Yet)

SO, today is where I put it on the line again. You mighta been watching over my shoulder for the last Shoestring101 Challenge.

Starting with $62.66,  we patched together a local service business (window screen and screen door repair).

In 30 days, my teenage son and I used weekends, the Shoestring Steps, and a little elbow grease to come out on the other end with $1195 profit!

If you’re new to Shoestring101 check out the story here:

We MADE It! 30 Days, $1,000 Challenge

Since then I’ve used the Steps to convert this little  screen repair side venture into a bona fide, full-time business.

Most folks could live pretty well off of what the screen repair company makes…

…but it started with just a Challenge to prove (again) that the Steps actually work in real life.

You can read more about how we scaled up this local service based business from a “side hustle” to a real live company here:

Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures

What’s the Challenge ‘Bout This Time?

TODAY, I’m starting a whole new biz and doing it according to YOUR choices. Using the same Shoestring Steps as before, the Challenge is to (this time) make a $1,000 per month business starting with ZERO dollars.

Plus, it has to fit the following criteria that you gave me with the Survey Monkey result:

  1. Service Business
  2. Online or otherwise Global
  3. Market to Middle Class
  4. Must be duplicatable and scalable.

30 Days, part time effort, thousand bucks profit.

Perfect way to promote my newest project, the Side Money Blueprint. The SMB will be available soon, and include not only the time-tested principles from my book, “Get Paid TODAY”, but also the results of this month’s Challenge to get to $1,000 starting with nothing.

But enough talking big… the clock starts NOW. Actually, it technically started at midnight last night, but I’m rolling with it today at 0930.

Kurt Frankenberg, How Will You Start a Business With ZERO Dollars?

In the last Challenge, you saw that I took an investment of $62.66 and put it into signs that could be seen from the road. We later used some profits to buy even MORE signs, which helped us score more business, and so on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But starting with NO ad budget? How on Earth can we go from zero dollars to a $1,000 per month income?

Simple. I’m going to start offering services on Fiverr.

I did some market research yesterday (hey, YESTERDAY. You’re not going to sweat me starting a day early… I wasn’t actually trying to sell anything… but did look at what people are buying) and found that the services in greatest demand that I also am willing and able to do.

Now, would it be CHEATING for me to ask you to go buy something from me there? Some folks would say yes. So I won’t ask.

What I am going to do is tell you how I’ll begin today.

After pressing “send” on this blog post, I’m opening a new PayPal Account and a grabbing a username on Fiverr to associate with it. There are a couple of simple services I can offer that relate to copywriting, advertising, and marketing. I’ll throw up a couple of “Gigs”… see what sticks… and begin using the Shoestring Steps to bring the heat.

Think I can do it?

Think I’m crazy?

Either way, love to hear from you in the comments.

Wish me well. Til then,

Keep Stepping!


P.S. I’m putting together a special group



Help Shoestring101 Choose the Next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge!

$1,000 a month side hustle... starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

Greetings, Steppers!

Today’s exciting post is about YOU… picking out the next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge for yours truly.

The idea of the 30/1000 challenge is to start with less capital than you might take out of the first hour of a garage sale… and with part-time effort make it into $1,000 in 30 days or less.

I did this challenge with my 14 year old son and we managed a $1195 profit while you were looking over our shoulders.

Check out the deets on how we made $1,000 on the side in my landmark post, “We MADE It[30-Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge]!

After making $1195 in 30 days on the side, the most logical thing to do would be to continue, right? Heh… this business later became a REAL mover when we ended up having a few +$500 profit DAYS. For the follow up read  “Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures a Month“.

Ready for Another 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

If you’ve been following Shoestring101 for any length of time you know that I make a RIDICULOUS claim here… that all you really need to be in business are two things:

  1. Access to a thing of value and
  2. A way to communicate with folks that value that thing!

…that’s all.

$1,000 a month side hustle... starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

$1,000 a month side hustle… starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

True to the thought of “self-funding”… the principle that The Lean Startup and other similar movements profess… we’ve been able to start dozens of successful, but very different businesses.

Right now I’m running:

  • a local martial arts studio (a “sticks and bricks” location)
  • a global information product (internet- makes sales in 38 countries)
  • the screen repair biz I started as a 30/1000 Challenge (service biz, also local)

All of these businesses were started with less capital than you could take out of a garage sale. Using a Step-by-Step SYSTEM that’s simple to follow and succeed.

I’m kind of an addict… maybe need a 12-step program to quit starting businesses ;-)

But until a cure is found..! YOU can help me pick the next venue to demonstrate these principles again.

Announcing the Side Money Blueprint

My next project is “Side Money Blueprint“. This is a video course to help budding entrepreneurs get a good, solid side income while they’re doing other things… like:

a job

getting a college education

being a single parent

building a ministry

or even just growing up.

My 14 year old, for example, learned entrepreneurship principles hands-on… because he was too young to work for “the Man”.


Anyway, the Side Money Blueprint project is under way now. And what we need for it is a coupla case studies, including another real-time Challenge.

Use Surveys to Know Your Customers’ Needs

I’ve built a number of small bizzes. This time I wanted to leave it up to you.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking the reason you follow Shoestring101 is to get insights on starting and/or marketing your business idea. Without risking a lot of money.

SO I figured if YOU have biz ideas of your own… maybe I oughtta start a similar one (not in direct competition, mind you…) but to demonstrate the SS101 ideas and thought processes in real time.

So in my last post about business systems and automation, I posted a quick and dirty SurveyMonkey link. Also emailed my list and put the survey out on Twitter.

The results that have come back so far have been as surprising as they’ve been enlightening.

Here are the results so far…

What Kind Of Business Would You Like Shoestring101 to Start Next?

The first question in the survey was what kind of biz should this next startup be. “Service” product just barely edged out “Physical” product. There was a pretty big amount of folks that wanted a physical product though, so I figure we should do one of those later on.

"Service" product barely edged out "Physical" product. We'll do both at one point or other, but start with "Service".

“Service” product barely edged out “Physical” product. We’ll do both at one point or other, but start with “Service”.

The next Q was, “Who should this business serve?” By that we meant where they are located physically. Only 22% said Local geographical area, where the rest either said Global area or “doesn’t matter”.

Your choice for the 30 day, $1,000 Challenge So far we're up to "Service Biz" and "Global".

Your choice for the 30 day, $1,000 Challenge. So far we’re up to “Service Biz” and “Global”.

And since we’ve already showed how a local service business could be started locally in one of the 30 Day, $1000 Challenges with a screen repair company. So Global wins.

Next up: “Can you think of a niche for this business?” Middle Class won out, BIG TIME.

Overwhelmingly, you chose Middle Class as the Target market. But there were other insights in the "Specific Group" category that I may yet use.

Overwhelmingly, you chose Middle Class as the Target market. But there were other insights in the “Specific Group” category that I may yet use.

Narrowing it down now. I’m going to definitely target Middle Class clients for my Global, Service oriented biz.

LOTS of rich input in the "Specific Group" category... I may yet use one of these

LOTS of rich input in the “Specific Group” category… I may yet use one of these

But the Specific Group category came in a very close second place… and there were a NUMBER of insightful ideas for who group this should be, including:

Dog Trainers

Hair Stylists

Massage Therapists

Jewelry Makers

Visually Impaired People

Urban Farmers (people with small pieces of land who have beekeeping equipment, a few chickens, a goat or two, etc.)

The ol’ gears are turning in my brain right now…

…but here’s where the rubber truly meets the road.

I’m NOT doing this next 30Day, $1,000 Challenge just to show that I can do it… but rather to add to the roadmap that the Side Money Blueprint is intended to provide for its users.

SO THIS question is the one that will ultimately make the most difference:

If I Make $1,000 in a Month Using an Idea YOU Provide, Would You Copy the Steps For Yourself?

This Challenge wil be more than an exercise. I want it to provide a checklist for YOU to follow.

This Challenge wil be more than an exercise. I want it to provide a checklist for YOU to follow.

The most important outcome that this Challenge could have is that it’s USEFUL and ACTIONABLE.

If you would genuinely be interested to follow the Steps I lay out, this Challenge will be meaningful to YOU.

If not, I’m just showing off.

And that just isn’t very interesting, is it?

Help Us Narrow it DOWN, Reader!

So far, it looks like a 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge that will serve the most “Steppers”… Shoestring101 Readers… will be:

  1. A Service business that’s
  2. Global,
  3. Serves the Middle Class niche, and is
  4. USEFUL  for YOU to follow if you wanted to go out and grab the same results or better.

We on track so far? GOOD…

SO this is what I could use next from you, dear Reader:

Some input on what specific service to offer my globally located, middle class clients.

I have a couple of ideas. For example, I know how to:

  • Write ad copy
  • Write blog posts
  • Construct sales funnels
  • Make simple videos to teach subjects online
  • Help with local search and SEO

… and a few other things that folks might find useful.

Maybe YOU can suggest a niche as well?

If you figure out something I haven’t thought of, you could win $101. I’m going to send $101 to a randomly chosen participant in my survey above already, but another $101 is up for grabs if’n you think of a specific profitable service (that I’m capable of rendering, or that I can find someone that is).

Put your suggestions and your reason for suggesting it in the comments below!

The 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge will commence on January 1, 2015. I’ll keep ya posted along the way, and 30 days later expect to report an income of $1,000 or more to ya!

Remember to put your service suggestion in the comments. Think of something that YOU need, and that you wish someone else could just do FOR ya that you’d be willing to pay for. If I can make a business out of it, I’ll not only render the service for you free, but pay you $101 to boot.

Keep Stepping,


Business Automation: Use Checklists and Procedures to Replace Yourself

Hello, Steppers!

Today: How to effectively replace yourself (read: have more free time to work ON your business instead of IN your business)… and a chance for YOU to win $101 in the next 30 day, $1,000 challenge.

First off, a quick apology: in my last post here “The Most Awesome Paradox… Doing LESS Can Accomplish MORE” I said to watch this space because  I was going to re-introduce efficient business systems to my three businesses, and keep you up to date, week by week.


Ana Hoffman asked me... nicely...  to guest post on here site. YES, ma'am.

Ana Hoffman asked me… nicely… to guest post on her site.  (gulp) I said “YES, ma’am.”

I got asked by Ana Hoffman, the undisputed Queen of Traffic, to guest post on her site about how one of my posts from here, “7 Ways to Hack Google for a Free Front Page Listing” got on the front page of Google for some very competitive keywords.

And what the Queen wants, the Queen gets.

Especially since I’m pretty sure Angelina Jolie’s Russian spy character from Salt… and Ana Hoffman… are the same person. Question: have you ever A.J. and A.H., both in the same room at the same time?


Proof positive, I tell ya.


Srsly, though… you need to see my guest post on Ana Hoffman’s site if you have a desire to get on the front page of Google for local OR global search results. It’s all her fault (that I got #1) and I give seven of her best posts to follow directions and get your blog some TRAFFIC, baby!

Makes sense with a site called Traffic Generation Cafe.

Okay now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: how to automate & delegate aspects of your business in order to free yourself up to lead it properly.

Delegating Duties is NOT Laziness; It’s Your JOB

Somehow or other, I’ve allowed myself to get in my own way by micro-managing several aspects that should be left to others in the form of simple checklists.

Result of working harder?

LESS getting done, or getting done properly, because I’m trying to do too much myself.

SO I decided to go back to earning more, while doing a better job for my customers… by doing less.

Checklists Help You… or Others… Get it Right Every Time

My resolution to get more done by doing less is already under way. Starting with my martial arts studio first I’ve been following Shoestring Step FIVE: Now Write Everything Down.

Writing it Down #1: I had an apprentice/employee (my right hand man, named Dillon) write down the 17-step cleaning process we use to get the studio “spic and span” before classes begin.

Either Dillon or I would be responsible to get the studio into shape before classes. But that is a poor use of our time because we are qualified Black Belt instructors.

NOT that being a Black Belt makes you any “better” of a person… I believe that all work is honorable. It’s just that there are more folks qualified to clean mats and toilets than are qualified to train a cagefighter.

Or to do something REALLY hard… like teach a three year old how to sit still and listen ;-)

SO now, Dillon and I have handed off our responsibility to a new hire. The new guy follows the checklist, and at a much lower level of compensation than Dillon or I need to command for what we do. Delegating this task has left us fresher to and better able to serve the Student body at the top of our game.

So everyone wins.

I work less, Dillon gets to do more of what he’s best trained and suited to do, and another job gets created. Our Students get served better. Everyone wins.

Examples of Checklists for Business Automation

Writing it Down #2: I personally had to put this checklist together: my weekly inventory and supplies checklist.

As you might know, with a name like Shoestring101 I hate carrying inventory.

Inventory takes up space.

It freezes up capital.

It collects dust.

I hate dust.


Sometimes it does make sense to simply have something on hand to sell rather than making the customer wait for delivery.

And the sales you will make outweigh the above crap that you put up with.

Knowing What YOU Do Helps You Train Others

IN the case of my martial arts studio, watching the numbers over the years gives me an idea of what to expect and how to plan for it, so the inventory checklist is an indispensable part of the business.

Only NOW… I’ve handed it over to someone else to do.

By making the checklist silly-simple, it’s easy to train someone else to do this important, but time-consuming task.

I know from past patterns that as many as 5 small humans, aged 3-5 might join my school in any given week.

So it doesn’t make sense for me to carry any more than five uniforms for tiny rugrats, does it?

Especially since I’ve put in place a policy to order new uniforms every week on a set day.

Here’s what I did to make this weekly inventory-and-order task automatic:

  1. Make a list of EVERYTHING necessary at any given time for Students’ apparel and equipment needs
  2. Pare it down to the most common items broken down by size
  3. Track the numbers to reveal how much of each item needs to be in stock
  4. Make a commitment to use the list weekly and to make tweaks along the way

Business Systems Make it Simple

My weekly inventory checklist now gets done every Wednesday. Orders placed Wednesday night are delivered to the studio by the following Monday morning so  we begin the week fully stocked.

By tracking the numbers I know roughly how much of each item to stock.

For example, 5 “size 00″ black uniforms.

The checklist says 5… there’s a space to enter the actual amount in inventory, say 3… and another space for the difference. - 3 = .

Output: order 2 “size00″ black uniforms.


The most difficult part about this process was actually handing it off.

It’s HARD to admit sometimes as a business owner that someone else can do as good or (gulp!) a BETTER job than you at any aspect of your business.

But unless you want to end up doing EVERYthing… at one point or another you’ll need to pass that torch.

But, Kurt. What Will I Do with All the TIME I’ll Save?

Ahh. Now therein lies the rub.

SOME of us entrepreneurs (ahem. AHEM! …not ME. But some people) tend to be workaholics.

SO we genuinely hold our businesses back in order to stay involved with them.

When they would do better, even THRIVE if we would just give ‘em room to grow.

Which is what I’m documenting here for you. I’m showing you by example the final Step in the Shoestring101 process: Now Write Everything Down. This one Step frees you up to do other things with your time… than chase around putting out fires.

Aere’s what I plan to do with the time I save over the next three weeks:

Shoestring101′s NEXT 30 Day, $1,000 CHALLENGE

You may have been watching when I started a business with $62.66 and blew it up into $1195 profit in 30 days. Even went on to make it a bigger enterprise in “Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures”.

It’s gotten to where my five-step system is gaining more than a little notoriety. In fact, I’m getting a little cocky… claiming that I can start a biz for less than $101 dollars and make a $1,000 profit with it in 30 days or less.

Heh… ‘Cause I can.

And more importantly, so can YOU.

All you need is two things to be business, remember?

  1. Access to a thing of value
  2. A way to communicate with folks that value that thing

So now I’m looking to you for a little guidance. I sent out a survey to my mailing list and it’s gotten a few answers so far. I’d love for you to help steer me further.

Could ya take a couple of minutes and fill out this quick survey below? The email address of everyone that gives me input will be saved and I’ll send $101 to a randomly selected voter.

Also, if I happen to use YOUR idea to make a profitable biz in 30 days I’ll send ya your choice of $101 or a “Side Business Blueprint” to walk you through the exact process.

Okay, dear Reader! Thanks for helping me to start out the New Year right with another 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge. Gimme your two cents below!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Thanks for making to the bottom, and especially  for taking the survey.

Keep Stepping,


The Most AWESOME Paradox… Doing Less Can Accomplish MORE

The Most Awesome Paradix is that you can Work LESS to Earn More!

The Most Awesome Paradox is that with business systems you can Work LESS to Earn More!

Howdy Steppers!
A paradox of work, time, and money is that by working too much, you often actually profit less.
In today’s post: how to make more money by working less (whew!), and working on the right things.

The MAGIC of Shoestring Step Five: Now WRITE Everything DOWN

All I have to say to Tim Ferris is, “Four-Hour Workweek? Dude, I call B.S.!!”


Entrepreneurs work harder and longer hours than anyone I know. Even His Tim-ness.

Of course, it IS truly possible on occasion to cut back your workweek to four hours or even less when YOU own your business(es) instead of them owning YOU.

This is the magic of Shoestring Step FIVE: Now WRITE Everything DOWN.

Paradox: Work TOO Hard, Make Less Profits

As you know, on this blog and in my books I’ve made the claim that I’ve started dozens of businesses… and that three of them have reached the level of five figures per month profit.

I’ve further bragged that these three businesses are in no way related to each other:

  • one is a sticks-and-bricks physical location,
  • one is international info product sales,
  • one is a service biz where the workers come to the customers.

Trouble is, I can’t help but feel a little disingenuous since at THIS time (November 17th, 2014) not one of those businesses is generating five figures all by itself.

I mean, between the three I still do VERY well… but while at one point or other each of them was generating at least $10,000 per month in profit individually, and right now none of them are.

So I’ll be bumping them all back up into the five-figure zone. ONE at a time. And I’m inviting YOU to watch over my shoulder as that’s done.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be documenting the Steps I’m taking to work a little LESS… but boost the profits in each of them.

The secret is the same as it’s always been: get out of your own dang way.

Business Systems: Real Ownership, True Freedom

A Pair O' Docs (snark, snark)... You can make more money by working LESS

My favorite Pair O’ Docs (snark, snark)… Ahem, PARADOX: You can make more money by working LESS

Q: Why is the “Five Steps to Five Figures”, you-can-start-a-business-on-a-shoestring “GURU”  complaining about working too hard for too little?

A: Recently, I’ve been running WAY too hard trying to handle every aspect of all three businesses. I’ve been emphasizing Shoestring Steps One through Four but forgetting the most important Step of all… Shoestring Step FIVE: Now WRITE Everything DOWN.

There’s a very real phenom called “decision fatigue”; it seems that each time you make a decision it takes a little out of ya.

And too many decisions is too many decisions.

Business legend Peter Drucker observed that after making a decision or solving any problem, the best business managers do this:

They make a rule, a policy, a written procedure or a checklist.

So that when they are faced with that same situation again, they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”

More importantly: with proper documentation about every process in your business… you can now hand that rule, policy, written procedure or checklist over  to someone else… so that someone else is empowered. and doing the job instead of you.


Oh… and this is important! They’re also NOT bugging you every five minutes to answer the same questions over and over again.


Good ol’ Michael Gerber of “E-Myth” fame established the same fact:

By systematizing your business, by working on your business instead of always working in it… you are able to free yourself up and, ironically, produce MORE. For yourself, your employees, and your customers.

The Coolest Paradox: Work Less, Earn More

The 1st time one of my businesses broke the $10K profits per month mark was about six months after I read the E-Myth.

You’d think that I busted five figures per month profit with some gargantuan effort, but that wasn’t the case. Believe it or not, I was on my first vacation in six years when it happened.

After spending some six months writing out procedures, making checklists, making systems for each aspect of my martial arts business… I took my family on a drive to see the relatives in Texas. The fam and I were planning on spending Thanksgiving.

And the most qualified full-time employee I had at the time was a nineteen-year-old kid named Jason.


It was very, VERY tough to let go of the apron strings. But after spending six months on refining checklists and procedures I bit my tongue…  Held my breath… went on vaca… and came back over $10K richer!

Make Good Business Systems, then Hand Them Off

With good business systems in place, and good people there to implement them, you don’t just free yourself up. You create value for your employees and for your customers as well.

Here’s what happened while I was away: Nineteen-year-old Jason received an info call and followed my telephone script to a “T”.

He invited the caller to come in for an introductory program.

When they came for their first visit, he followed the “white belt 1st and 2nd class” procedure.

After two classes the whole family wanted to join. Jason explained that he was new to the sales process and to be patient with him… then he actually read the sales script I left with him, word for word off the printed page.  Then he shut up and let the family decide whether to join.

They did.

Afterwards he went down the checklist and outfitted everyone with the properly-sized safety equipment and gave ordered replacement items for the pro shop in our studio.


  • I didn’t have to shut down my lead generation programs for two weeks… just left them in place.
  • Jason… armed with procedures… handled calls,
  • set appointments,
  • got Students enrolled,
  • taught their classes,
  • ordered replacement items to restore inventory,
  • deposited checks,
  • basically ALL of the day-to-day operations I would normally be doing.

At the time we had two payment options: pay monthly or pay yearly with a 16% discount. The family chose the yearly route and wrote out a check for over four thousand dollars.

That $4K, added to the $9K that I had already built the school to in monthly revenue, tipped the scale to where I had my first five-figure month.

WHILE I was on vacation.

Great things happen when you get the hell out of your own way.

What to Expect While Documenting Your Business Processes

It’s a natural law that what you sow, you will reap in due time.

If you want peas, what do you plant? PEAS, duh.

So if you want to reap time, what should you plant? Right again. You plant time.

Take the time to write down every process that it takes for you to do business. Not just the broad strokes like how to bake the pumpkin bread if you run a bakery… do the step-by-step of how employees should sterilize their hands and the work area… sift the flour… suggest extra items or gift wrapping when the customer checks out.

It’ll take time to do this. But here are five benefits, including two unexpected ones:

  1. You’ll pinpoint exactly where you and/or your current employees are wasting time with that “reinventing” thing.
  2. You’ll be surprised at how much less time it takes to make decisions and get things done.
  3. Your employees… and if you don’t have them, YOU will be blessed with clear direction on what to do moment to moment.
  4. Everyone will be clear on what their job is, and your product/service will be duplicated… reliably… the way you want.
  5. You’ll wonder why on Earth you didn’t document before.
  6. (Bonus unexpected benefit) You’ll start making extra money, almost immediately, while working LESS.
  7. (Bonus unexpected benefit) You’ll be surprised at your new reserves of energy,  excitement, joyful anticipation and wonder about your small business.

Why You Should Follow SS101 in the Next Four Weeks

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, none of my three “bigger” businesses are performing the way they did at their peak.

The answer is not working harder… it’s actually working less.

I’ve allowed myself to micromanage (read: jump in the middle and try to do everything myself) rather than let systems do what they’re supposed to do.

Proper biz systems empower those that help you… to do their freakin JOB… which in turn frees YOU up to do YOURS.

Which is steering the company as a whole toward its ideals, serving both the customers and employees with a better life.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll keep you posted about each thing I’m doing… one step at a time… to restore each of my three businesses to the five-figure-per-month level.

Whether your biggest concern right now in your own business is capturing leads… increasing sales and conversions… retaining and/or upgrading customers… or even producing a better product, I think you’ll get a lot out of it. This is what I’ll be engaged in over the next four weeks and I’m inviting you along for the ride.

Sound off, Steppers! What do you think about using systems to take pressure off of yourself moment-to-moment… and automate most of the processes in your business?

Put it in the comments below.

Til then… Keep Stepping,


How to Validate Your Business Idea on Craiglist

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer's list using Craigslist!

Making money on Craigslist. Yes it does take hustle, but as I tell folks here on my blog, it ONLY takes two other things to be in business:

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer's list using Craigslist!

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer’s list using Craigslist!

1) access to a thing (or thingS) of value and
2) a way to communicate to people that value that thing.

And Craigslist can provide you with both.


Now after having a single TRANSACTION… you find out how to lather, rinse repeat… and now you have a bona fide business.

Selling a Product on Craigslist

My teenage son really appreciates paintball.

Recently, he was able to pick up a screamin’ deal on a paintball gun on eBay.

But then a friend offered to buy it from him for more than we he had in it and an idea struck me.

“Son, list that gun for sale on Craigslist.”

“DAAAaaaad… I can’t. I promised it to my friend Christian.”

Use Craigslist to See if Your Business Idea is a Winner

Use Craigslist to See if Your Business Idea is a Winner

Sigh. Explaining the deep intricacies of small business validation to a teen seems like a daunting task. But since you’re a follower of my blog (RIGHT? ;-) ) I’ll spell it out for you.

I didn’t want Pierce to actually SELL his gun to a stranger. I just wanted him to LIST it for sale.

Why? Well, to see if there was a potential there for a small business! They call it “validation” when you actually make a sale or two at a profit. After validating a business idea with a few transactions, you can then make the steps you took to make those few sales into a system. Then you have a business.

Now back to the paintball gun. Pierce didn’t want me to sell it out from under his friend. But that was never the plan; I simply wanted him to list it. Then when the calls came in… if indeed they did… he could very honestly say, “Sorry but that gun is sold. But I know where to get more like it for cheap. WHAT KINDS OF PAINTBALL GUNS DO YOU LIKE? WOULD YOU LIKE FOR ME TO KEEP YOU IN MIND WHEN I SEE ONE OF THOSE?”

Heh-heh. Sorry to yell at you. I just wanted to make sure you saw those two key sentences.

I learned this trick while working a real estate investor that was a GENIUS at marketing. Richard would intentionally allow a newspaper ad for a home to go on for two or three weeks AFTER he sold it. In Colorado Springs, that’s saying something because the local paper gets confiscatory prices for little-bitty ads. One day I asked him about all the money he was “wasting” not only on ads, but on me, his telephone assistant to field all the calls that were coming in on a home that was already sold.

“I’m not wasting money Kurt,” he said. “I’m doing market research.”

Then I remembered my phone script: “No, I’m sorry that home is sold. What kind of home are you looking for? What area of town?”

Richard didn’t want me gathering that information just to sell another home in his inventory as I had previously thought. He wanted to know so that’s where he would focus his future buying efforts.

Last I looked, Richard had a database of literally hundreds of people looking for a specific kind of home. Then he would put out his feelers for and find that kind of home, BUY it, and THEN he would have me start making calls.

Okay, side trip into real estate. Now back to Craigslist.

Whatever you are selling… paintball guns, cars, washer/dryers… Step One is to place an ad. Even if you don’t really have something for sale (yet)!

Step TWO is to take calls and gather as much information from your prospective buyers as they are comfortable divulging.

“Thanks for calling about my widget for sale. DO you have other widgets? Do you collect them? Should I call you if I get another widget at a comparable price? What kind of widgets do you like?”

You get the idea.

A Marketer’s Most Valuable Asset

 Hey, if you’re not careful… by following the steps above  you might end up pulling together a buyer’s list… one of the most valuable

A Buyer's List is YOUR Key to Lasting Business Success.

A Buyer’s List is YOUR Key to Lasting Business Success.

assets you can possibly have as a marketer.

So many folks go about marketing the wrong way: first they make a product, or buy one… WASTING capital by acquiring unnecessary inventory and incurring expenses for storage… and THEN they go about trying to sell it.

That’s bass-ackwards! Getting all the trappings of a small business (business cards, a website, logo) is just “playing business”. Making sales is what business is all about.  So it makes sense to make the sales first, then fill in all the blanks later.

It may seem a bit surreal to make sales when you don’t even have something to sell. But as I’ve said here before, Just Because You don’t Own Something Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Sell It.

The best way to find an opportunity is to hang up a shingle… which you can do for FREE by the way on Craigslist… and see what comes back.

Keep a record of everyone that calls you, and for what. See if you can find a few products in great demand that you may also find cheaply.

Selling a Service on Craigslist

Here’s a podcast by a fella that figured this out; he discovered a Craigslist arbitrage niche. Literally overnight he established a business that pays him full-time profits. By buying used washers and dryers for cheap and selling them for a bit more, LaJuan Stoxstill-Diggs helped folks on BOTH sides of the equation.

The sellers might be moving, or getting a newer piece of equipment, and are faced with the problem of how to get rid of their appliance.

The buyers might be a new couple starting out, or a college student needing an affordable alternative to a brand new washer/dryer.

Along comes LaJuan and solves BOTH of their problems… and pocketing a nice profit.

Folks have even offered HIM money on the acquisition side… “How much do you charge to haul this dryer away?”


Check out LaJuan’s story on my twitter pal George Meszaros’ site! This podcast is just an illustration of how ridiculously easy it is to put together a small business without any starting capital:

The Shoestring Steps, 2) Find out the W’s and 5) Now Write Everything Down are hard at work here.

 Validation: The Key to Establishing Your Small Business

Before I ever heard this technique called, “validation”, I was using it to test markets… before putting all my eggs into a basket with holes in it.

For example, waaaay before Craigslist I used The Thrifty Nickel, a newspaper filled with nothing but classified ads. The Thrifty Nickel made piles of money for me as a 19-year old… but more importantly it SAVED me money when I used it to determine if an idea was NOT in great demand. My lawn aeration biz was a screamin’ item; my apartment referral service and gift bag delivery ideas not so much.

“Validation” simply means this: BEFORE overcommitting to all the bells and whistles and trappings that normally go with running a business, try and make a few sales.  Duh. If people call to inquire, or better yet place an order, you’ve got a winner.

Sidgl Custom Computer Bags by Ben Trissel... check Facebook and now Etsy

Sidgl Custom Computer Bags by Ben Trissel… check Facebook and now Etsy

Social media is wonderful for this; a childhood friend of mine recently set up a facebook fan page on my advice to sell his custom handmade computer bags. He’s off to the races having orders come in faster than he can fill them.

But get this: before he read my book he HAD been saying, “I need to maybe get a loan… or use my savings… to buy a bunch of leather and get a machine and make a whole buncha bags…”

WHOA! Hold up there, Ben. Here’s an important question to settle first: Do your bags suck? Will anyone actually fork over enough money to buy them… and (this is kinda important) at a profit?”

Look, as a prospective small business owner you WILL have problems. Which problem would you rather have:

  1. Sitting on a huge pile of “frozen money”… inventory that you can’t even seem to give away, or
  2. Sitting on a huge pile of orders… being barely (or just NOT) able to keep up with all the orders coming in?

Sign me up for door #2, please ;-)

Beyond Craigslist: Other Social Media Selling

Craigslist's Tips against getting scammed- We get it, C-list. Go local or go home.

Craigslist’s Tips against getting scammed- We get it, C-list. Go local or go home.

Craigslist is good for validating and selling both products and services. The problem with it is that most folks trust local sellers, and with good reason. In their safety guide, Craigslist warns users off of buying stuff that’s not from your own ‘hood.

But there are other ways to test your biz opp for free.

Getting the word out by way of Twitter and Facebook makes sense, especially for services and information products.

You could use Etsy or eBay for physical products.

Same goes for Fiverr for services.

When you use social media to test your business idea, it makes sense to go to the ones where you already have a network. But don’t stop there. In my recent post, Validate Your Business Idea with the 3 Most Overlooked Social Media Sites I pointed out that not all social media is advertiser-unfriendly. In fact, visitors to Fiverr, eBay, and Amazon expect to be marketed to and they’re often in the mood to buy! If you don’t think of these sites as social media, check out that post and see if you agree.

Action Steps for Validating Your Business Idea

If you intend to offer your goods or services locally, Craigslist is a good start. But don’t overlook Yext, Yelp, Google+ Local, Thumbtack, and the plethora of other free and fee-based local directory ads. If your product or service is info-product, service-oriented and global in nature, try Fiverr and Amazon. But don’t overlook using LeadPages and Facebook to target customers to a squeeze page.

Here’s how to go about validating your business idea:
(translation.. here’s how you can know if you have a WINNER!)…

  1. Solve your OWN problem first.
  2. Write a short description of your solution that’s about your customer, not you.
  3. Post that baby on anything that sits still, with a way to get in contact with you.
  4. Ask every question you can think of your prospective buyers
  5. Maybe sell ‘em something! See IF and WHAT people will actually pay for your solution.
  6. Do some math. See if you can get your product at a lower price, or deliver it with less time commitment.
  7. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sell one used exercise bike on Craigslist, that’s a business transaction. But set up a system to find multiple buyers and deliver multiple exercise bikes (Craigslist or no), and that’s a real live business.

I’ll go over all seven of these steps in future posts… or maybe an information product (wink, wink) in the near future. But for starters let’s look at step ONE: Solve your OWN problem first.

Free Traffic Generation Strategies

Ana Hoffman’s Traffic Generation Cafe: Tips and Tricks equal HUGE amounts of traffic to your website!

My friend Ana Hoffman founded the extremely popular site, Traffic Generation Cafe by solving her own problem: she had another website that needed traffic. What she found out… and continued finding out… about how to generate free web traffic to a blog became the basis for a blog as well!

Ana’s tips and tricks for generating free traffic have led to her site having an estimated value of over a million dollars in about four years. I personally happen to think that’s undervaluing the help she has made available to bloggers and content marketers, but hey.

Check her out for yourself.

My point is this: validation is important before you invest four years of your life into something. Ana knew she had a winner early on… or she would be blogging about something else.

So validate your OWN business idea before you go getting fancy.

Okay, Steppers! Do me a favor: if you do go ahead and try using that seven-step system above to validate your business idea of Craigslist, or other free sites… and you get some valuable market intelligence that helps you make some real ca$h… rather than sending me half of your profits ;-) just leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Keep Stepping,


Validate Your Business Idea With the 3 Most Overlooked Social Media Sites

"Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

Dear Reader:

Be careful, because two and a half minutes into reading this post… you’re going to have a REVOLUTIONARY change in the way you think about social media; what “social media” really is, why it works… and most importantly! How YOU should use the 3 social media networks (that NOBODY thinks of as social media networks) to test your business ideas cheaply. Maybe even super-profitably.

How’s THAT for an introduction? ;-)

What We THINK of as Social Networks

So, The Social Network.

I loved that movie based on the launch of Facebook. Though it wasn’t accurate in every respect, it did contain a lot of truth.

"Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

“Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

ONE truth that stands out in particular is the fact that most folks going to most social media sites find monetization and marketing a bit off-putting.

This results in a bit of a love-hate relationship both on the part of Marketers and the “Marketed-TO”.

The Marketers:

  1. LOVE having a targeted list of people to which they may hawk their wares… but they
  2. HATE having to pay per click, per view or per action
    and they
  3. HATE having to sell… without appearing to be  selling.

On the other hand,  the “Marketed-TO”:

  1. LOVE finding out about things when there is a good chance that they already will like it, based on their stated interests, likes, and dislikes.
  2. LOVE knowing what their friends and peers are already doing, trying, and buying…  but!
    They absolutely…
  3. …HATE, hate, hate the cheesiness of having commercial advertisements interrupt their social time.

Love and hate aside, learning to market using social media is not only smart.. in time it will be downright required of all business owners large and small. But for those of us that haven’t learned (or just plain hate) to “send 90% engaging content and 10% promotional” or “to succeed on social media you need cocktail party skills”…

There ARE some social networks you can go to where everyone expects, even welcomes being marketed to and sold. Because right now, even NOW, there exists a triad of well-known social media sites… where none of the hate and all of the love reside.

Three Social Networks Where People EXPECT to Buy and Sell

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube.

Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr.

These are what we THINK about when we hear the term, social media.

 When I typed, “What is a social network?” into Google, this is the first thing that came up:social network

Now here’s a question for ya… didja ever think of eBay as a social network? How about Amazon? Or the newcomer, Fiverr?

No one gets “put off” because they are being sold to on these sites. In fact, visitors to these sites come LOOKING for something to buy… or bookmark to maybe buy later. You have a free license to sell, sell, sell and no one thinks, “He/She is just a self-promoting jerk.”

Yet according to the definition above..! eBay, Amazon, Fiverr, and the other platforms belonging to this family are social networks. Why of course. Aren’t they “dedicated websites… [that] enable users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, etc.”

WHOA. Social media is older than we think, isn’t it? There were a number of selling platforms waaaay back in the beginning of the internet, but few have done better than eBay and Amazon. Why is that?

I happen to believe it’s the social aspect of these monolithic platforms that is the key to their success. These sites have always placed a good deal of emphasis on communication between their users. eBay provided social accountability and proof through its feedback (mine’s still at 100% BTW :-) ). Amazon has their reviews and recommendations. Now Fiverr uses both.

Marketing Consultant, Blogger, Speaker, Trainer, Author, Social Media Marketing Expert. Get Your Free Whatsit at my Site,  #nottryingtosellyouanything #noreallyniceimaguy #butseriouslybuystufffromme

Marketing Consultant, Blogger, Speaker, Trainer, Author, Social Media Marketing Expert. Get Your Free Whatsit at my Site,

Yes… so while YOU were thinking of sneaky/snarky ways to talk about your products and services on Twitter and

Facebook… without talking about your products and services on Twitter and Facebook… I was writing a catchy headline on Fiverr. So far,  nobody I’m aware of has thought of me as some cheesy salesman.

Check out the following tips on how to sell, while meaning to sell. You can build your social platform later on when you’re profitable!

Using the Top Selling Platforms as Social Media, and Vice Versa

As I’ve asserted here as a basic tenet of Shoestring101… you only need two things to be in business:

  1. Access to a thing of value
  2. A way to communicate with people that value that thing..!

Another insight that I’ve posted is that when you sell your old exercise bike on Craigslist, that’s a business transaction… but when you lather, rinse, repeat the cycle and sell another bike… and then another and another… that’s when your side project actually becomes a small business.

It’s the systematic selling that turns a single transaction into a repeatable flow of income. And while a lot of us are trying to learn to market on what MOST folks think of as social media…

… I’M-a gonna point out that it’s much easier to break through the noise and actually sell something on a site where people go to buy stuff.

Oh, so I should first use the social media that's BASED around selling stuff to sell MY stuff?

Oh, so I should first use the social media that’s BASED around selling stuff to sell MY stuff?

Say it, Neo.


Let’s take a look at your small business idea:

Like to make stuff? Say you want to sell custom bags for laptop computers. SO the first thing you do is make a pile of it, then hire a “web guy” to build out a site. Then you go all SEO ninja on it and build a buttload of links.

NAW, silly. Make only a little inventory. Post a few pics on eBay or Etsy first and see if your stuff sells.

And at what price.

AFTER validating that people will actually fork over cash for your stuff (by actually making some sales, duh) THEN you can get fancy. You can probably scale up the price too, but not until after you’re making sales.

Hey, do you know stuff? Are you good at a thing or two and think you can slap together an information product? Why, shoot… go on Twitter and Google+ and Facebook and beat yer hairy chest (ladies… not for you. I hope ;-) ). Tell the world something snarky and funny in 140 characters or less at least three times a day, then let ‘em know you consult on the side or have an information product. That’ll make you welcome in anyone’s feed.

You know I’m being sarcastic, right? C’mon, track with me here… you know doing the above will just make you part of the noise. You COULD try to be snarkier and funnier than the rest of the crowd,

write meowOR..! Instead you could write a short book to sell on Amazon Kindle. It looks pretty official, and actually establishes you as an expert. If your ideas are good enough to sell, you can put in a lead capture device (come to my site for a free gift!) and actually be getting paid per lead instead of the other way around.

Right now my book, Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Small Business to be Profitable from Day ONE is making okay sales, but the REAL gravy is when I get emails and calls from readers for consulting. I charge $1.01 to take a phone call, then $101 for a Personalized Side Money Blueprint. The Unique Selling Proposition is that the $101 is payable when and only when my Personalized Side Money Blueprint helps your biz idea make you $1000 or more!

It’s hard to say no to personalized attention from the author of a book on small business startup marketing when you’re starting up a small business.  The point is this: rather than beating my chest on Twitter saying, “I can get you sales!” and becoming one voice among a million or mare saying the same thing… Amazon puts me in your living room where I get to prove it. And the book is just the beginning of a relationship; one good sale leads to another, bigger one.

SO if it’s an information product you want to sell, I recommend getting on Amazon right meow!

Now, if you don’t make stuff or think you know stuff, don’t despair…

I’ll bet you can do stuff. If service is your biz, list it on Craiglist for local. Go with Fiverr for global.

I’ve used Craigslist as well as Thumbtack, Fixr, and Yelp to market my local businesses. It’s free and yes, it’s social media because you get to share information with other users including reviews and such. If you have a local business, it’s paramount to use these free services.

But what if you want to go global? And not leave your kitchen table or yer fave coffee shop (like yers truly)? Put out a shingle on Fiverr.

See if you can’t get paid five bucks to do what you do best. If not, you may want to tweak your title and description (heh… you can probably find someone on Fiverr that’ll do that for ya!) and try some more. Or try a unique twist to your service.

Remember, it’s not the AMOUNT that we are concerned with right now. It’s whether or not you can sell what you have to offer. Later on, you will make repeat customers of these folks… you’ll be able to survey them to find out more of what they want… you’ll be come up with more and unique ways to be of service. And you can then charge more. But your point of contact where you actually exchange money for services is key… not the amount.

I have offered and gotten money for three things on Fiverr:

  1. A short video and explanation of how to increase the number of pushups you can do in a minute.
  2. Copywriting services
  3. A PDF of an article that you’ve read here: 7 Ways to Hack Google and Get Your Local Biz a Front Page Listing Free

Check it: there were a number of gigs that I offered that did NOT generate sales. But it didn’t cost me a blooming thing to try. However, the above three things I DID get paid on encouraged me to look into them further. Por exemplar…

Coming Soon: How to Do 100 Pushups in a Row

Coming Soon: How to Do 100 Pushups in a Row

The pushup thing is going to become an info product. Look for it soon at

The copywriting service has put me in touch with a boatload of entrepreneurs and helped me sharpen the saw with my own marketing and copywriting skills. Get this: the Side Money Blueprints I put together for clients are being outlined as I’m getting paid to do learn more about my target market: entrepreneurs that need to market cheaply.

The last gig is just simple. Someone searches Fiverr for a way to get more local SEO, they see my gig and click on it.  I actually CHARGE ‘em five bucks to  send them a PDF of my article of the same name. Takes me two minutes.

Get this: after they’ve used the principles for themselves, these Fiverr clients of mine often become subscribers to this very blog. But think about it… I didn’t pay for the traffic. I got paid.

BTW, if you happen to be one of my wonderful Fiverr clients… THANK YOU for finding Shoestring101. I’ll continue doing my durnedest to give you cheap and effective ways to market your small business.

Conclusion: Learn Sell On Social Media the Easy Way

SO whether you have a physical product, an information product, or a service to sell… quit trying to flesh out your Google+ page until you’ve already made a sale or two. Instead, focus on the social media where your hawking your wares is not only expected… it’s welcomed.

Now, I’m not saying you should abandon your “real” social media marketing efforts. Yes, people do business with those that they know, like, and trust… so making friends and establishing contacts on traditional social media is still a must.

But..! I will tell you that I’ve made a number of friends out of paying customers, so it works the other way around, too.

SO sound off please dear reader! What do you think of using social media that’s intended for selling to sell your goods? Agree, disagree, “Hey, that’s bogus” or if you just had an”Aha!” moment… I would love to hear from You.

Until then,

Keep Stepping!


Get PAID per Lead: Reversing the Traditional Internet Marketing Model

kim and kurt vid

Today’s post is for: Intermediate to Advanced Marketers, but only the ones that want to get PAID per lead instead of the other way around.

Ahem… that’s YOU :-)

How to Get Paid Per Lead Instead of PayING for Leads

With a blog named Shoestring101, you can believe I like to deliver my readers cheap and simple ways to market their businesses.

Whether your biz is strictly online, or offline, or a mix of BOTH… of course it’s valuable to know how to get new customers for cheap.

But what about if there was a way… or several ways… to actually get PAID to get new business?

Up to now, how many customers you could acquire was limited by your ad budget. But with a principle like getting PAID per lead… there is no limit to how many customers you can acquire except how many you are set up to handle at one time.

Welcome to the “holy” GRAIL of marketing, dear Reader ;-)

These principles will work for any kind of business. Whether yours is internet marketing… a “sticks and bricks” local store… a service business… or other…  you’ll want to pay attention. Read on for a mental blast of money-making awesomeness!

How I Got Paid $270 to Market My Local Business

The first time I realized I had used one of the principles laid out for you in this post was a couple years ago.

My sticks-and-bricks business, The Freedom School of Martial Arts is mainly composed of kids aged 4-12. Now, we are a serious martial arts outfit, training adults in the art of self-defense as well as entering Mixed Martial Arts (MMA-cagefighting) competitions. But the majority of our Students are children.

So how many four-year-olds do you know that manage household expenses? Ha. Of course. My “target market” Student is widdle bitty… so my actual CUSTOMER is Mom.

Watch this one:

My wife and I put up an Events page on Facebook. The event was titled, “Fight Like A Girl: a Self-Defense Class for Busy Ladies”.

kim and kurt vid<== watch me get my butt kicked on YouTube We included a few pics of me dressed like a thug, getting my @ss whomped by women. One of those women was my friend Kim Lyons, who you might recognize from Seasons 3 and 4 of “Biggest Loser”. This was Great stuff for “liking” and “sharing”.

Anyhoo, the Event page spelled out the particulars: $45 per person for a three-hour clinic in self defense that guaranteed you would actually be fighting by the end.

We posted pics for friends to like and share in our regular timelines, with a link back to the events page. We also updated the Event Page several times to create buzz and excitement about the upcoming class. We mentioned that if you bring a FRIEND, your entry was free. That way we could nearly double attendance to the event.

Some folks took us up on that; others just paid for themselves. We ended up with over a dozen Students for the Fight Like A Girl class, but only 12 paid full price so it was $270 in revenue. Not a bad way to start, but wait!

It gets better.

After an empowering three hours (and a teeny amount of bruises on yers truly, even though I literally had a bulletproof vest on ;-) ), we had a wonderful group of ladies that had PROOF of how confident and positive one can be with a little martial arts training.

And some of those ladies were moms.

See where this is going?

“Hey ladies, if you thought it was empowering to learn to defend yourself… just think how this training could help a CHILD to grow up confident and strong. We’re having an enrollment special this week if you’d like to schedule and intro class for your little ones.”

Bada boom.

I don’t like to speak about my Students in terms of just dollars and cents… the relationship we have with our Students over years, even decades amounts to more than just money… but in strictly business terms I’ll spell out that the combined tuition of new enrollments from that one event have so far totaled in the thousands, with several hundred per month, every month still set to come in over the next several years.

Cost of putting a Facebook page together: $0 Updating and posting pics to like and share:$0 Having a happy roomful of your target market together at once: PRICELESS.

This is one example of getting paid per lead.

Four Powerful Ways to Get Paid Per Lead, Instead of Paying for Leads

When I first got involved in internet marketing in 2002, I learned quickly that I could do very well by reverse-engineering my marketing funnel.

That is, by keeping and analyzing metrics for my online biz:

  • How many buyers per webinar attendee…
  • how many webinar attendees per email…
  • how many email subscribers per click to my squeeze page…
  • how many clicks per dollar(s) I spent on pay-per-click..!

…by doing the math I could come up with a pretty reliable figure of what I would need to spend on advertising in order to get $1,000, $10,000, or $50,000 in sales.

This information helped me to “roll out” products with very little risk. For example, in 2008 I re-launched an information product that netted over $57,800 in about six weeks, and went on to make over a million more (you can get the detailed the report on that by leaving a thoughtful comment today) but I wouldn’t have sunk any time, effort, or money into it if I didn’t already have a proven winner.

By starting out small and tweaking the marketing funnel first so that you know that X amount of pay-per-click will result in Y amount of sales, you get to the place where you can set up a self-funding loop for your marketing.

But that is SOOOO last decade.


What I’m talking about today is instead of buying leads… you should be getting paid to get leads.


Yesterday my wife and I got new phones, with a special plan. The young gal selling us the phones said that as a part of a new promotion, we could listen to music “unlimitedly”, with none of it being counted against our data usage.

Heh… I don’t know if “unlimitedly” is a real word, but if it is then it’s my new very favorite adverb. “Unlimitedly” describes the Because if I’m getting PAID per lead instead of the other way around, that makes b00-koo sense. There is no limit to the amount of business you or I can attract with a setup like that.

Here are the powerful “Four Horsemen” of getting leads for your offline OR online business, “UNLIMITEDLY”:

The Power of Leverage: Increasing Returns I’ve recently been using Fiverr in my quest to prove that business opportunities ABOUND. The main, most important thing that I use Fiverr for is to “validate”; that is, you can use Fiverr (or eBay, or Craiglist, or any number of other cheap or free platforms) to TEST whether or not there is actually anyone out there that will pay for your services. It’s not the amount that matters; yes, it appears that you can only earn one “Fiverr” at a time, but that is only the beginning. And remember that we are learning to get PAID to get leads for our business. So I put up a couple of “gigs”, jobs that pay a Fiverr, or $5 a pop. One was for copywriting services, the other promised that I would teach them 7 hacks to get on the front page of local Google results for free. This last is essentially a PDF of my post on this blog, Seven Ways to Hack Local SEO for a Free Front Page Listing. In the last two months I’ve gotten scads of $5 copywriting jobs for all kinds of people and companies. Here’s the ticket: rather than shrugging and saying, “Ah, it’s only $5. I’ll give ‘em a minimal effort”… INSTEAD I pulled out all the stops and over-delivered. Essentially, I treated $5 jobs like they were $50 jobs, or $500 jobs. Napoleon Hill called this the principle of increasing returns. He said that if you consistently give more and better service than is expected, you will set in motion a principle that absolutely guarantees you a promotion in life. So some of what I did was piddly-widdly, like improving a leadpages ad for a total newbie at internet marketing, or tweaking a multi-level marketing page for a distributor of nutritional supplements. for these I earned EVERY PENNY of my $5 and worked my butt off like it was nobody’s business. And I may never hear from some of those guys again. But along the way, I also got:

  • A public speaker that asked me to do all of her PR work
  • A company that custom-designs computer apps that made me their lead copywriter
  • A travel firm that has me write all of their promotions now
  • A contact in India that makes amazing sites and programs and, like “Joe”, has given me loads of other contacts
  • A business consulting firm that again, has made me their lead copywriter and given me piles of high paying projects
  • A writer and lecturer in the Netherlands that paid me mucho cashola to help her rewrite huge sections of her website

…and a whole lot more. I should mention that I broke the Fiverr rules for NONE of these contacts; each of them sought me out by my Twitter handle @shoestring101 or they found my email by coming to my blog. They all started paying me directly for services related to what they found me for on Fiverr, but Fiverr is none the worse for it. Again, rather than PAYING for these leads, they paid ME. $5 a pop, or $4 if you count Fiverr’s commish. So that is another way of getting paid per lead: offer your own services cheaply and let that be the front door to your other paid projects.

The Power of Partnering

It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.

Oftentimes there are people in your life that are “connectors”… folks that will shout your name from the rooftops given the chance.

One such connector is my blogging friend, Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe. Ana has an enormous following that digs in weekly to her “Marketing Skinny” emails and blog posts, as well as THE authoritative manual (that she gives away FREE) on generating free traffic to websites.

Besides being herself an expert on marketing, Ana brings in specialists to help her audience. One such specialist recently was Ryan Levesque, an expert on using surveys to radically multiply sales and conversions.

Get this:

I was on a webinar with Ana and Ryan where the latter was explaining how his “survey sales funnel” approach has gotten 175,000 customers (no, I didn’t say leads, or even dollars… that’s 175K paying customers, HELLO…) across 17 different markets in only 23 months. Whew!

During the webinar Ryan wryly answered an objection to an attendee’s question: “If you are doing so well with this ‘survey funnel’ thing, why are you selling the training for only $XXX dollars?”

Pay attention to this reply…

“Heh…” Ryan wryly answers, “I’ll tell you a secret. MOST folks will just buy the training and learn to set up a survey sales funnel for themselves. But a good number of people that know how effective this method is will be happier to have me set it up for them… and for that I charge a lot.”

Woo-hoo. The power of partnering: Ana invites her audience of dedicated followers that know her as a go-to gal for marketing. She hosts a program for Ryan to strut his stuff… gets paid I’m sure in the form of affiliate commish… but!

Ryan does VERY well because not only does he sell a boatload of courses… but those that want the benefit of a survey funnel but NOT the work, hire him to do the work. Win-win-win; Ana, Ryan, and their customers all do well from this arrangement.

What is Ryan’s biz? Setting up survey funnels. But by offering to share his training and share commissions Ryan is able to prospect for customers that want his services, while getting paid.

Getting paid per lead instead of the other way around. Well done, Ryan and Ana.

The Power of the Back End

My book, Get Paid TODAY! How to Structure Your Small Business Startup to be Profitable from Day ONE is also a get-paid-per-lead tool.

Folks that buy the book are paying for the info about how to properly “bootstrap”; that is, to take a business idea and get paid from the beginning.

But sprinkled all throughout the book are assignments and freebies that I give to folks that complete them.

A LOT of these assignments have resulted in people starting their own businesses and becoming their own boss… some on a small scale, some larger. But once a fella or a lady has begun to put simple marketing principles to work and seen them put real, actual, SPENDABLE CASH in their pockets…

…guess who they come to for advice on improving or expanding their already-profitable business?

Yup. Yers truly ;-)

One fella was able (and just in time, too!) to completely replace his income by becoming his own boss weeks after getting laid off. He asked me how to bump up his income, which I told him I would do and he could pay my consulting fee of $101 AFTER he had upped his income by a thousand bucks per month.

Now let’s examine what has happened here: my book, Get Paid TODAY! is sold on Amazon for about six bucks. Of that, I see about $4, or a little less if somebody borrows it or reads it as part of their Kindle Unlimited plan.

(which I recommend, BTW– I’ve been able to fully round out my collection of Steve Scott books and a few other guys and gals that I follow with Kindle Unlimited)

So I get paid $4… then I get a new follower on my blog and email list… that also wants advice on quickly expanding his fledgling biz… that I earn another $101 for doing.

If you were to get paid $4 to tell someone about your consulting biz and pull in another $101 wouldja do it? All together now, say it with me:

“Yeah! Every day and twice on Sunday.”


The Power of Giving it Away

Finally, one of the best ways that I’ve found to Get PAID for getting leads instead of the other way around is to simply give away things for free.

Before you discount the validity of giving things away free and eventually getting paid… think of some of the biggest success stories in the world.

Microsoft… gave away hotmail, free. Ever hear of ‘em?

Lifechurch, a ministry based in Edmond, OK grows quickly to 25 locations after developing and giving away “YouVersion” Bible app, as well as complete teaching resources for pastors. Free.

Google is based on making scads and scads and SCADS of useful programs, apps, and information available to everyone FREE… and now they are the second biggest company in North America, tipping the scales at $400 BILLION.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube. All grew by giving away a free, useful service.

Try this: give away something genuinely useful, and do it in a way that doesn’t add “strings” or “conditions”.

Eventually, someone is going to actually ASK to pay you for more… no kidding.

That’s the way one the most successful information products I’ve ever put together got started.

I was giving away free info on a new way of stock and options trading that I had developed, when I did a particularly cool move on EBAY that put money in my pocket, but allowed me to stay in a stock without risk of losing, even if the sotck’s price went down.

One of my free subscribers wrote in saying, “That’s probably the coolest thing I have ever seen. Have you written a book? I would buy that book.”


Again, I would LOVE to give you a PDF that tells my story on that. It’s the story of how giving something away FREE got leveraged into an information product that has grossed nearly $2 million in sales and related subscriptions.

My story is a leeedle bit long for a blog post, tipping the scales at 5000 words. So I want to give it away only to the folks that really, really wanna know how to get paid for what’s in their head. Just ask for it in the comments section (your email is automatically logged so I can send it to you) and you’ll get ‘er in the mail in two shakes!

Until then, dear Reader (you’re my favorite! ;-) )

Keep Stepping!


Inside the $2 Startup: Making a Real Business on a Shoestring In Two Hours

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity!

Hello, Steppers! IN today’s post I interview Dinesh Agarwal, the “Head Dude” and founder at Flippiness is dedicated to helping people make thousands of dollars every month in their spare time by “flipping”;  buying and selling used books.

Dinesh started Flippiness with a whopping, TWO dollar investment (gulp! that’s a LOT ;-) ) and only two hours of his time.

Two hours, two dollars, and a real business (with the potential to make it BIG) gets its start. It reminds me of the Startup Bus that the Startup Bros talk about, where groups of designers and coders get on a bus, drive around… and by the time the bus comes to a halt they have pieced together an app and already started to make money! Or my epic post about Noah Kagan, who made up his mind to start a non-tech biz and kick it off with over $1,000 in profits in 24 hours… and actually pulled it off.

Two Dollar Tech Startup; Dinesh Agarwal Began Flippiness in a Couple Hours with Almost NO Capital Investment

Two Dollar Tech Startup; Dinesh Agarwal Began Flippiness in a Couple Hours with Almost NO Capital Investment

I’ll get to today’s interview in a sec, but I want to make sure that everyone reading this knows that wherever you are in the world, whatever you have in terms of talent and resources… YOU have the ability to become an entrepreneur and make it big. Shoestring101 lives by this principle that I’ve been shouting from the rooftops… that you only need TWO things to start a profitable business:

  1. Access to a thing of value, and
  2. A way to communicate with people that value that thing!

You don’t even need to be physically present in the market that you serve. Dinesh Agarwal lives in India, yet he has made a viable business supporting American college students and stay-at-home moms that need extra cash. Recently I helped Dinesh with some copywriting projects, including all the sales copy on the landing page at Here’s an important principle: Dinesh was already making money from the site before I hiring me to add the  copy that’s there today. He didn’t hire me until he had already proven the concept and collected a few dollars. This principle of self-funding is crucial if you’re going to build your business on a Shoestring. Here’s some snippets of my conversation with Dinesh.


KURT: Dinesh, thanks for agreeing to talk with me today about how you started Flippiness on a Shoestring. What is Flippiness?

DINESH: Flippiness is a system that identifies inefficiencies in market and serves them to its users at whatever level they want to participate.

Flippiness scours the internet to identify books in great demand but selling at different prices

Flippiness scours the internet to identify books in great demand but selling at different prices. Clickez to enlargez-vous.

KURT: What is the product that Flippiness provides its subscribers?

DINESH:  Flippiness finds books that can be flipped to make quick bucks. We find two websites, one selling the book at a lower price and the other buying the book back at a higher price.

KURT: How much of a capital investment did you need to make personally to make Flippiness a reality?

DINESH: I believe in Lean startup methodology. When I started Flippiness I already had a book database from another startup. I wrote the code to find inefficiencies in two hours and launched it. If you really want the number, I spent $2 on the domain. I used the servers I already had to host it. Now that Flippiness is working fine and got some traction and paying users, I have 60 machines running 24X7 finding books that can be flipped so it is a bit expensive now.

KURT: Were there funds contributed by outside sources, including self-fundin (incoming customers finance the next level of services offered)?

DINESH: Most of the money that we spend on Flippiness today comes from the subscriptions. We also get decent affiliate income from websites that we redirect users to buy or sell books.

KURT: A byline of Shoestring101 is, “All you need to start a business is 1) access to a thing of value, and 2) a way to communicate with those that value that thing.” Do you agree with this? In what way has Flippiness given a thing of value to folks that value that thing?

DINESH: I totally agree with that. When I started Flippiness it looked like a beat up version of However, people looked past the design and paid us! Our target audience is smart people who know how to make a solid side income. These people continuously source good deals from Internet. We took the pain of finding something worthwhile and served it to them via our website and over email. It struck a chord with them.

KURT: That’s awesome. So, YOU provide your customers with moneymaking opportunities… that’s what THEY value. But on another level, your subscribers are doing the same thing; with your help they connect people that need books with people that want to sell their books. Another layer of “access to a thing of value and a way to communicate with those that value that thing.”

DINESH: Yes. Flippiness lines up perfectly with that saying. Our audience needs an easy way to make money with least amount of efforts. We provide exactly that. We have created Forum to let our subscribers interact with us and other Flippers to get their questions answered.

KURT: I like that you provide a platform for experienced subscribers to share their learned lessons. Let’s talk about the business of flipping books… How much money can a Flippiness subscriber hope to make in their first month? In 3 months? In a year?

DINESH: People are making from $600 (on free plan) to $2000 a month. In the first month one usually loses some time and even money at times by jumping on the deals that are not good. As they get more experience, they become smarter and start making bank. A free user can make about $1000 in first 3 months and over $7000 a year. A paid user can make about $3000 in first 3 months and over $24K in a year.

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity!

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity! (click to Embiggen)

KURT: Who is your biggest performer?

DINESH: To be honest I don’t know. Not everybody has given me their numbers. But I know a person who keeps Flippiness open whenever he is on his PC. He continuously refreshes the page to keep an eye on books that get added. I know for a fact that some people have made over $3000 a month.

KURT: What is the most important thing a Flipper should know to start off right?

DINESH: It’s all common sense, but still we all make mistakes. I always suggest them that if the deal is too good to be true one should make sure everything is in order. The book should not have heavy wear and tear. Sometimes sellers list a wrong book under wrong ISBN and hence a seller’s reputation is important to know if the deal is legit. Then there are all sorts of editions of a book – paperback instead of hardcover, international editions, instructors’ edition etc. While our system takes care of most of it, one should always look carefully into all these factors. We have a best practices guide on our website that I ask every flipper to read before they jump on it.

Flippiness has a tiered structure for its members; free, paid, and premium. I tried the FREE plan and made ten bucks in about five minutes.

Flippiness has a tiered structure for its members: free, paid, and premium. Tried the FREE plan, made 10 bucks in 5 minutes.

KURT: What would you advise someone to do that has an idea like Flippiness? Can you steer them from making mistakes, or overlooking opportunities?

DINESH: Start small and see if people pay for it. Even if you have to source the deals by hand, try it out. If people pay you for it, then you can put more resources into it.

KURT: I totally agree Dinesh. Noah Kagan calls this process “validation”. I always called it testing. In either case, it’s important to see if your opportunity is going to be viable by seeing if actual customers pay actual money first. THEN you can scale up. So, what’s next for Flippiness?

DINESH: We get emails from people that they want us to launch in their country. We are planning to expand Flippiness to multiple countries starting with UK and Germany.

try it now

Who doesn’t LOVE a brilliant call to action? ;-) Flippiness’ unbeatable proposition: try it free, make some green, then get a paid subscription and scale up!

KURT: So international expansion for Flippiness, the tech startup that you began with a two dollar investment and two hours of coding! No one can tell me that there isn’t opportunity in this world to make money. All you have to do is recognize that people want or need to buy things and other people want or need to sell things. It ain’t rocket science folks, just hustle a bit. Whew…. soapboxing, sorry. So, I know that Flippiness, though it has fantastic potential, is only a sideline business for you. What’s next for Dinesh Agarwal, a name we’ll all soon be familiar with? What other things are you involved with now?

DINESH: My full time business is Pro Start Me ( I work with people who have great ideas and build it with them for equity. I have built 10+ startups in the last year. Some of them did not make it while some are doing well. The ones that are doing well are:,, and of course Flippiness.

KURT: GREAT interview Dinesh. I would love to add to it in the future, perhaps by expanding on what Folwd and Fan Harvest are all about. For now though, what am I forgetting to ask about Flippiness?

DINESH: You might want to know what kind of customer service I provide to my customers. Recently I sent an email out about a one-day offer where we offered $50 off on first month of Flippiness Gold plan. One person emailed me telling me how he hated it. I can take criticism well. I apologized to that person and replied to his email immediately. In his next email he applauded the fact that I cared about my customers and apologized for his rude email. I also got an email recently where the lovely lady told me that my emails motivate her to achieve her goals. I usually try to answer emails immediately. More than money I want people to know that I stand behind my products. I prefer people saying “The product sucks but the guy is nice” than saying “The product is awesome but the guy sucks”.

KURT: That’s a sound principle; treat others how you want to be treated. And have a thick skin to deal with complaints without getting ruffled! Dinesh, thank you for the time here to discuss Flippiness. Not a lot of people know it, but billionaire Jeff Bezos started the giant company on the same principle: disparity in the prices of books. He bought and sold books online before expanding into other things. Best wishes to you and Flippiness, and thank you for hiring me to write some of our ad copy and autoresponder follow-up emails.

DINESH: I will continue to send others your way. You are my go-to guy for copywriting. Let us talk more and see if we can do something together.


There you have it, Steppers! Opportunity is everywhere. Dinesh started Flippiness, which I happen to think has a LOT of potential, in a few hours’ time and with only two dollars to secure the domain name. He started out dominating a tiny niche: helping college students that are looking for cheap used textbooks on one hand, helping students that need to dump their old textbooks on the other. Dinesh began by growing organically; no “seed money”, “angel investors”, no loans to pay back or partners to divvy up the profits with.

Now Flippiness is looking to grow internationally! By the way, if you want to pick up a few extra dollars by flipping books yourself, I know from experience that it works! I checked it out, both with Flippiness and even on eBay. My biggest book flip to date has been a $180 profit, no joke. Took me two short investments of ten minutes each. To get started flipping books part-time for fun and profit, or to ask any question of Dinesh: Head “Dude” at Flippiness, check the graphic below:

Dinesh Agarwal is available for serious questions about Flippiness. You can start a viable business just minutes after opening your free or paid account.

Dinesh Agarwal is available for serious questions about Flippiness. You can start a viable business just minutes after opening your free or paid account.

Here on I share practical Steps (the “Shoestring Steps”) for starting, marketing, and growing a business organically. Dinesh Agarwal is just one entrepreneur that’s been able to start businesses with a ridiculously low amount of capital and turn it into a working income stream.

For other posts on the subject of starting your own business on a Shoestring, check out:

We MADE It! Results of Our30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures

My Take on Noah Kagan’s 24 Hour Challenge: Sumo Jerky

Just Because You Don’t Own Something Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Sell It

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part ONE

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part TWO

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part THREE

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget: The World Domination from ZERO Strategy

Kurt Frankenberg blogs about and advises new business owners on how to start without gambling savings, taking out loans, or partnering with folks that may not share your vision. Shoestring101 is located in Colorado Springs, CO. To reach Kurt, use Twitter handle @shoestring101 or call  +1 719 360 9559.

Keep Stepping,