The Ugly Truth about Achieving Your Goals

Balloons, like your business, soaring upwards. When I first got into Internet Marketing I struggled. A lot.

But being up against it forces you to review your values, your priorities and what it is you’re really trying to achieve in life.

I’m glad, now, that I struggled but I’m much more glad that I didn’t join the 95% of people who try to make money online and walk away empty handed.

Just being here today, with all my income coming from my work online, gives me a great sense of achievement.

Back then, as I was struggling through the process of getting everything going, I wrote a lot of articles that focused on what I thought you needed to do to be successful.

Most of those articles described my thoughts, feelings and resolutions at the time as I wrestled my way through, and many of them struck a chord with others judging by some of the comments that were left.

I was reviewing them earlier today and I recognized that, having achieved the goal I set myself back then, I owed it to the people who left those comments to offer some thoughts from ‘the other side’.

Most of us who were interacting back then were in similar positions: fighting to get an online business working to the point where it could constitute our full time income.

I know, from the broken links that I’m alerted to on this site, that many of those people gave up and moved on to something else.

Every time one of their sites closes I’m alerted to a new broken link. And, inevitably, it’s the link in a comment someone left back then, but which now returns a ‘site not found’ error.

How Did I Make it Through

So, for those who are in a similar position today to the one I was in then, and to any of those friends from back then who still happen to drop in here from time to time, here are some reflections on why I think I managed to make it through, and how I approach my business today.

Attitude – How I got through

Attitude is a seriously over-used expression which devalues its importance. In my case ‘desperation’ would be a better term.

Back then I was in my early 50’s, saddled with a ton of debt, living in Hong Kong (an expensive place to live) without any great savings and a couple of pensions that had been wiped out.

Furthermore we have no social security system here to speak of. If you don’t earn, you don’t eat.

After the transition from British to Chinese rule (in 1997) there was an inevitable process of localization which meant that jobs and career opportunities for ex-pats were disappearing. Fast.

So I needed my own business that would support me for the next 30 years or so (life expectancy here is in the mid 80’s) and it needed to be independent of local Hong Kong businesses.

Without that my prospects were, frankly, scary.

Desperation driven by circumstances like those focuses the mind, and that was what kept me going through the frustrations and set-backs of those times.

So whether you call it attitude, desperation or anything else, your mind must remain totally focused on what you’re going for. Lose your focus and you lose the plot.

Knowledge – How I develop new revenue streams

One of the things that I had always lacked during my corporate career was a specific, marketable skill.

I could talk business processes, corporate plans and annual budgets until the cows came home and I was a dab hand with MS Project.

But so could a gazillion other people, and they were local.

So I set out to develop my skills in building websites, SEO and marketing online to the point where I could sell them with a straight face.

Today I’m heavily focused on WordPress and Thesis and, using those tools as the platform, I earn a good chunk of income building and maintaining WordPress based websites for both businesses and individuals.

Without those skills I’d be living off bread and water.

So develop your knowledge as far and as deep as you can.

Develop a wide understanding and awareness of working online but focus on some specific area and get to know it sufficiently well that you become an expert in it.

Value – how I grow business and get new referral business

Value is another term that’s so over-used it’s lost its impact.

For me it’s about making sure I over-deliver wherever I can. And I actively look for ways to over-deliver.

So in all the contracts I sign with people (or businesses) to set up and maintain their websites, I offer Service Level Agreements that are better than what they’re currently getting.

And then I make sure I beat those SLA’s every single month.

I also look for ways I can help to grow their business for them.

For example, I have a client who runs a bar and when holidays or special occasions are approaching I contact them and suggest promotions that could be put up on the site.

Nothing too pushy, but just letting them know I’m aware of their business and keen to help them do well.

Another example: I recently signed a contract to do a course on Adwords and set up the first campaign for a local company.

But they had a lot of business decisions they needed to take before an effective Adwords campaign could be set up, so I acted as a pure management consultant for a while to help them through those decisions, and then did the Adwords campaign.

All included in the original price.

Look for ways you can over-deliver to your clients – the extra business you get through recommendations will more than compensate for the extra time you put in.

Experience – how I grow business and get new referral business

I also earn a steady income from my Internet Marketing activities and I focus on growing this area.

This wraps in a whole bunch of skill sets:

This is important because it enables me to deliver good, relevant and current advice to my consulting clients – something that can’t always be said for consultants (in any field).

And that gets me both repeat business and referral business.

So make sure you keep abreast of new developments, so that you’re introducing new ideas to your clients, not the other way around.


Let me promise you this: it ain’t easy, so please don’t fall for those scammers and spammers who say it is.

But anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Acquiring the knowledge I referred to above meant that most days I started work at 6:00 in the morning and eventually finished at around 1:00 the following morning (I still had my day job in those days).

My relationships suffered. My health even suffered, because I wasn’t getting out and hiking on the weekends, something I’d done for years.

But I’ve restored the balance to my life now and I can honestly tell you that I’m happier and more relaxed than I’ve been for a very long time.

So let me just re-phrase those things that contributed to me actually getting through to the goal I’d set myself:

  • Desperation (attitude)
  • Feverish learning (knowledge)
  • Over-delivering (value)
  • Constantly learning and gaining experience (staying current)

And, of course, as I said in a lot of those early articles, you first have to have a properly funded plan for your business. That’s always the starting point.


Martin Malden

Wealthy Affiliate will teach you how to build a long term business

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karin H 18 November, 2010, 11:04 pm

    “But anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    Amen to that, Martin. And sometimes, when you think it does “hurt” too much and you’re not strong enough – you’ll have to remember all the times you thought this thought before but still hold on. And it got better – or at least, not worse.

    It can hurt – your wallet, your feelings, your self-believe – but not many things “hurt” that much or that long it will kill you and indeed, you come out stronger at the other side of the “dip”.

    We’re still here too – started in a mini recession in 2003, after being made redundant and loosing money in the process – still going strong, well at least not weaker, during this long and hard recession. Slowly getting there, one day – one step at the time.

    Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

    • Martin 19 November, 2010, 7:28 am

      Hi Karin,

      I love watching your updates come through Facebook – you guys just seem to get stronger and stronger!

      No question, though, that starting during a recession is the best time. Tough, sure, but get things right during a recession and you’re well placed when the economy picks up.



  • Rick 19 November, 2010, 4:16 am

    Nice article Martin. Anyone who starts a business goes through many of the same experiences, I know I have. I traveled a very similar path as you and other than PPC, which I don’t even attempt to learn, we probably have the same skill sets.

    I appreciate the struggle that I have endured to learn what I know today. It allows me to help others learn from my mistakes. Another benefit is that as I outsource work to others I understand what is required and the approximate time it takes to complete a task. This saves me money and holds my VA’s accountable.

    I wish to thank you for putting your story out there. Many people like to hide behind their successes rather than be “real” and let people know that they have struggled too. I still struggle in areas but as I said, I actually enjoy the struggle as I know in the end I will end up better for it.

    Good luck with everything you do, my friend.


    • Martin 19 November, 2010, 7:25 am

      Thanks Rick!

      I hope I didn’t give the impression that it’s all plain sailing for me now – it’s definitely not and I know there’ll always be areas where I struggle.

      The rate at which new tools and techniques come out mean that you’re constantly having to learn new stuff – it’s exciting but challenging at the same time. (Especially if customers ask you about something before you know about it..!!)

      But I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for the world. 🙂



  • Fran Civile 23 November, 2010, 9:39 am

    Hi Martin, Thank you for sharing your story … I really enjoyed getting to know more about you … I’ve often wondered when I’m on your site about you living in a place that sounds exotic to me and how you came to be there … your use of the word expat tells me that you were not born there and you don’t seem to be British, at least no me, I imagine you to be American …
    You do have interesting week-ends!

    I agree with “The rate at which new tools and techniques come out mean that you’re constantly having to learn new stuff – it’s exciting but challenging at the same time.”

    I never get tired of learning!

    Fran 🙂

    • Martin 23 November, 2010, 10:15 am

      Hi Fran,

      No – sorry – not American..! 🙂

      My parents were Brits but moved to Africa (Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe), which is where I grew up. I came to Hong Kong 15 years ago for a 3 month project and I’m still here (some project, huh..!?).

      Yes – this last weekend was great!



  • Goodluck 7 December, 2010, 6:56 pm

    Hi Martin,
    Good to hear your story. I can relate with it as I had a tough time making my first dollar online despite years of trying. Now though things have become easier, I make good money both online and offline building websites, blogs, forums, CMS etc. I am electing to become your disciple to learn at your feet just as I am setting up my first internet marketing membership site.

    I hope you will take me on board.
    Keep up the good work.


    • Martin 7 December, 2010, 8:01 pm

      You’re welcome and I’m happy to be able to help.

      Good luck with your new membership site – it’s a great online business model because of the recurring income it generates.

      See you around..!


  • JAWAR 8 December, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Martin, this was an easy and straightforward read. Thank you for posting and sticking around to see your smart and hard work payoff. Continued Success!


    • Martin 8 December, 2010, 3:35 pm

      Thanks Jawar – glad you liked it 🙂

      Still lots of hard work ahead, though..!



  • Jay 14 December, 2010, 2:17 pm

    Great post constantly learning and bringing a lot of value to my blog readers is my main keys to success. You have to know what your talking about for people to actually listen to your advice.

    Building a strong mailing list is another key to sustainable longevity online also.

    Oh! And a strong work ethic doesn’t hurt either!

  • Ryan 23 December, 2010, 10:29 am

    I would also add that you should be prepared to stick with it for a time period measured in years. Persistence seems to be the key for every internet marketer I meet and most seem to take about 5-7 years before they feel comfortable enough to walk away from their jobs. However, that’s not bad considering it would take 6 years to go to undergrad and graduate school to finally be making that much money as well, and also be stuck with debt. The time put in is definitely worth it in the long run.

    • Martin 23 December, 2010, 7:55 pm

      Hi Ryan,

      Great analogy – and yes, I’d agree with the ‘years’ timeline.