11 Lessons Learned from 2.5 Years of Being an Unsuccessful Internet Entrepreneur

556397_138080613020671_91916664_nJust another boring theory-based list post?


This one is completely different.

It’s based on my 2.5-year experience of being an unsuccessful internet entrepreneur.

People often say: learn from your mistakes. And it’s true!

I started my first online business on July 2010 and it’s been 2.5 years. Time goes by so fast!

But what I got? Almost nothing except from a pile of untested theories about internet marketing.

Honestly, I have some successes but I still call my 2.5 years unsuccessful.. but not worthless… instead.. I learned a lot along the way and not regret the past.

Today, I’ll be looking back and listing out 11 lessons that i learned in order to somehow help you eliminate and avoid mistakes from the beginning.

1. Taking action is the most important!

I am 100% sure that this is the most common obstacle every entrepreneur encounters.

As human beings, we procrastinate. We all do it, so let there be no guilt about it. I have to admit that I’m even the best procrastinator in the world. Don’t believe me?

It takes me 6 days to register the domain name, another 7 days to setup the blog, more 4 days to complete the design and an additional 5 days to write the first words of this article.

And I’m still fighting with it everyday. My solution? Simple.

Take small actions at a time.

Just do the first step. And you will gain traction to do more.

I’m not planning to preach about personal development here in this article and I’m no expert at that, so here are some great resources which really helped me:

2. Find a Coach/Mentor

Everyone needs a teacher.

Having a mentor or a coach will definitely help you achieve more successes while saving a lot of time and money.

The good thing is: they are everywhere. You can look for them in internet marketing forums like: Warrior Forum, Black Hat World… or contact them directly via their blog.

Don’t be afraid of being refused.

Just be honest and don’t stop looking. Successful people are always willing to help other people to become successful.

But you should have something to give back to develop a longterm relationship with them.

One of the good ways is to enroll in their premium membership or training program (most of internet marketers have one) and do everything you can to get the most of it.

3. Create or Join a Mastermind Group

This is my new discovery in 2013. And to be honest:

Joining a mastermind group is the best decision I’ve ever made!

I’ve read about the term “mastermind group” on “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill but finally giving it a try after reading this post on Smart Passive Income : How to Find a Mastermind Group. Thank Pat Flynn a lot for that!

I’m in 2 groups now, both contain no more than 5 people. We host weekly meeting, help and motivate each other to get closer to our goal.

You should have one too. Definitely!

4.Master the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule, originally stated by Vilfredo Pareto, says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. Put it simply, you achieve success when you laser-focus on the techniques that actually work. Apply this to an Internet business by concentrating on the:

– Top sources of web traffic.

– Specific web pages which convert traffic into leads and sales.

– Types of blog posts that readers love

– Resources that help you improve knowledge.

Following the 80/20 rule means you focus on what’s working for your business and avoid all others small stuff that wont work.

5. Focus on a single online business

This one is critical and the biggest lesson as well.

One mistake I made in the past is to work on multiple businesses at the same time. You can’t achieve success when you’re trying to be everything to everyone.

The better solution is to find that one thing that works and stick to it.

But what about “Dont put all your eggs in one basket”?

I had that question when I first started as well. So I jumped from method after method, made a little money with each method and moved on to the next.

But I was wrong.

That saying isn’t wrong but the way I applied it to my online business was dead wrong.

So stick with just ONE online business idea that works for at least 6 month or until you have developed a sustainable business before moving on to the next.

It’s a far better approach than to diversify your online income.

Part of the reason people feel overwhelmed is that they’re constantly bombarded by offers after offers for the latest “can’t fail business idea”. To be successful online, you have to ignore these offers. Unsubscribe from all mailing list that promote WSO offers. Maybe they’re great. But don’t allow them to distract you. Only pay attention to the information that has a direct impact on what you’re currently doing.


Like many people, I struggled online at first. In my first year, I hardly made any money. Eventually I achieved a few small breakthroughs with affiliate marketing through writing reviews for WordPress related products. So what did I do? I broke down my strategy into 2 repeatable steps:

  1. Write in-depth and converting reviews
  2. Get targeted traffic to these articles.

My income took off! That’s all. Nothing complicated.

The point I’m trying to make is I found something that worked and replicated this process over and over. Rinse and repeat.

So my advice is to focus on whatever works best for you and ditch everything else.

6. Embrace Your Core Genius

There’s a great quote in my favorite book The Success Principles by Jack Canfield:

I believe you have inside you a core genius… some one thing that you love to do, and do so well, that you hardly feel like doing anything else. It’s effortless for you and a whole lot of fun. And if you could make money doing it, you’d make it your lifetime’s work.

In most cases, your Core Genius is directly tied to your passions and life-purpose.

Successful people believe this, too. That’s why they put their core genius first. They focus on it—and delegate everything else to other people on their team.

It’s an excellent point! There are a few things that you can do best for your business. There are activities that can’t be outsourced or eliminated. They are critical factors that help you achieve success.

So focus your time on these core genius activities.

For me, my core genius lies in sharing, helping and marketing. I love to do it! So I focus on writing epic blog posts, helping other people and driving traffic.

Your core genius will be different from mine. So think carefully about your core genius. Finding that one thing you do well that helps turn your business activities into passion.

7. Keep track of your financials and learn money management

You’re doing business. So keeping track of your business financials is very important task.

First thing is to separate your personal and business financials. Open a new bank and PayPal account for your business. It’s what I have done recently.

Learn basic accounting yourself or hire an accountant or a bookkeeper. My online business is still small so I do it myself. You can use basic and free solutions like Excel and Outright.

Knowing where your money goes and comes from really helps you control the cash flow of your business.

8. Be Productive.

As internet entrepreneurs, we don’t have a boss telling us what to do on a daily basis. No one forces us to work more.

The “Internet Lifestyle” seems like the perfect dream and a lot of people believe in the stupid mindset that you can work just few hours a week and the rest of the time you sit on a warm beach sipping margaritas thanks to “the 4 hour work week” by Tim Ferris.

Dont get me wrong! I am not against Tim or that mindset. It can be but not at the beginning. You have to work hard in order to achieve success in online business.

But you can also learn how to be productive and be laser-focused to get more business activities done in less time. So you can spend the rest of the time with your families, traveling or anything else.

Again, I’m no expert at this and I am still trying my best to learn, here are a few resources which may help you:

9. Start a blog

A blog is one of the most powerful weapons for internet entrepreneurs. Here are few things a blog can do for us :

  • Help you target potential clients. That means more leads and sales.
  • Establish you as an industry expert. You’re the go-to person which people seek for advice.
  • Create a community that support your business.
  • Give you a valuable person-to-person connection.

If you want to start a blog and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend taking the course Start a blog that matters by Corbett Bar. Actually I have been a member of this course and it’s amazing!

10. Build an email list

You might or might not have heard about this quote: Money is in the list.

This is what I regret not doing when I first started.

Derek Halpern wrote an outstanding article about Why You MUST Build Your Email List—And How To Get Started so I don’t have to explain again. Check that article!

[quote name=”Derek Halpern, Social Triggers”]If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot! [/quote]

11.Adapt or die

Here comes the lesson I learned last year.

One of the drawbacks to the Internet lifestyle is things always change. What worked 2 years ago, often doesn’t work now.

I have been pretty good at SEO and in March 2012, I managed to rank first page for some highly competitive keywords and banked in $100 per day easily. Few months later and Google released Panda updates, all my keywords went nowhere in the SERPs.

After that I decided to postpone my online business activities for over 6 months to focus on preparing for my university entrance exam. When I came back, I invested heavily on creating micro niche sites using the exact backlink strategy that worked very well before Panda.

After the EMD update, all my sites were gone. Again! I was shocked for a week and looked back on what i have done wrong and figured out why my first attempt after coming back was a failure. It was simple: I was not yet able to adapt to the latest trend and still use the old method of SEO.

This lesson costs me thousands of dollars but it was well worth it.

Remember to keep yourself updated and adaptive with the latest trends.


If you are new to online business, I hope this article will help you to have a good start.

If you are doing online business for sometime, let me ask you:

What are the lessons you have learned during your entrepreneurial career? 

Leave the answer in the comment below. I highly appreciate it!

Tung Tran

Tung Tran is the founder of CloudLiving.com.
  • Giang Dinh says:

    Whoaa! Great tips for me. Thanks Tung Tran!

    • I am also struggling with Online business. . You have written here a great inspiration post for blogger like me. and it would be helpful. .

  • Thanks Tung,

    I just had my 2 year anniversary trying to create online income. You drove home a few points for me..

    • Hi Darren,

      Thanks for dropping by 🙂 Checking your blog now 😀


    • Hey Darren
      I wanted to ask you….It’s been 2 years, since those 2 years….How are things going for you and your business?
      Thank you in advance

  • Hey Trung,

    Accidentally found you on Spencer’s blog, and I really love this post too much because I’m in all kinds of your points mentioned above.

    Greeting from Cambodia.


    • Hi LA,

      Thanks for your kind word 🙂

      PS: I’m Tung, not Trung 😀

  • Tung Tran, thank you for article really valuable!
    You have to motivate me, This is really your strengths and I believe you are on the right way.

    See you success!
    Thong Huu

  • You nailed it man.

    One of the best post I have read in last 15 days. I am also caught with procrastination and information overload.

    Going to bookmark this article so that I can have a look on it again.

  • I agree with your review about the failure of the internet marketer. I also have experienced what you are experiencing. About the ups and downs, including the Google update. But, the wise man said that the failure is a very valuable lesson for us who just entered the business. Surely this is not a true failure, but the trigger for us to succeed. The trick is to do what you suggest in 11 lessons for people who failed in online business.

  • Hey Tung,

    I just found your blog from Spencer’s nichepursuits.com. Great work! I just started my first niche project on May 7th and I will share my learning experience later as well.

    Congrats on your success!


  • Tung..

    Honestly it seems like my own story, the same mistakes I did last 3 year of my online workouts.

    Even I started the same year of 2010.. But I never say I had a little success in that last 3 years.

    BTW, This post help me to find my mistakes again that I never do.

    Thanks Tung.

    • Great :D… Learning from mistakes is always a great thing. Keep it up buddy!

  • When do you give up on something. I have been working on a site for a couple of months and it seems to go no where. I already asked some advice from some people who are around for a long time but they really couldn’t give me any great idea’s what was wrong.

    When is the time to just try something else. I just registered another domain which I think has a bigger chance of becoming a winner, even in a short amount of time.

    • If the a website doesn’t rank in a period of 3 month with high quality content and links, I will throw it away. 3 month is enough to analyze almost everything

  • Hi Tung , Great stuff . Thank you so much . Please keep em coming .

  • Another good post Tung. I’m really enjoying your blog.

    Who or what premium course would you recommend for finding a mentor?

    I’ve never joined a ‘mastermind group’ but it might be a good idea.


      • Thanks. That forever affiliate looks terrible so it will be interesting to hear how it works out for you!

        I’ve heard good things about How to Start a Blog that Matters though! I’ve been looking at that but not signed up yet.

        • No it’s not terrible at all =). It’s by far the best affiliate coaching program I have ever bought. Actually I found the golden keyword for the dumbbell site using the information I learned from the course 😉

          • I read the bit about making sites that ‘spit out $3000 a month’ and I closed the window!

            What does he cover that is different, say from Spencer’s course or his site?

            Good luck!

          • It’s completely different than Spencer’s course. The focus is on affiliate marketing only. He’s my trusted marketer :). $3000 out of one website is possible and I truly believe that he can do that

  • Sounds good then. I know thin sites can make over $3,000 a month, just dubious of people who overstate how ‘easy’ it is.

    You should do a review of the course, would be an interesting read.

    • It takes him so many years to learn and master the skill. It’s not a get rich quick scheme. But you can learn from his many-year experience. so Why not giving it a try? 😀 ok maybe I will write a review about this course

  • Yisroel Reiss says:

    Wow…this is unbelievable…If you are not a coach already, you should become one!

  • great sharing Tung!
    is it possible to create an online mastermind group?
    I want to create one,for me create a niche site is the first time and it cost alot money,so i dont want to be failed.I need this group to be successful!

    • I wanted to check in an see if you managed to get the mastermind group started.
      I would love to hear more.
      Thank you in advance

  • Another post with great content.

    Congrats Tung.

    Greetings from Brasil.

  • Nice lessons! “4 hour a week” that’s just lol. I am a beginner but I can not even expect that :/

  • I am also struggling with Online business. . You have written here a great inspiration post for blogger like me. and it would be helpful. .

  • Hi, I recently signed up to your newsletter and have enjoyed reading your niche site posts. It highlighted your success as your other posts mentioned that you were ontrack for $1000/month earnings.

    This is a great post about the effort involved. Too many success stories mention the beginning and the successful ending and tend to leave out the trials and tribulations in the middle. So it’s great to see the true learning curve and not just be shown another success story.

  • Hi Tung Tran.

    Thank you for the 5th lession. I’m having a lot of websites, so I don’t have enough time to focus on anything. Maybe, I must spend more time to examine my strategy.

  • Any writer that takes the time to research a subject as thoroughly as you have deserves to be commended. This article is appealing and very well-written. The first two sentences encouraged me to read more.

    Thanks a lot for this useful article.

  • Went all the way back to check out your first article. All the best for your journey.

  • Very good lessons. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Tung, I’m reading your lessons. It’s awesome to see how much you have accomplished in 2013.

      Keep up your great work!

  • Awesome article Tung, but don’t be hard on yourself saying you are unsuccessful – you’ve learnt a tremendous amount over those past two years, which I would say was a massive success.

    Just a small housekeeping note, the quotes in points 6 and 10 seem to be a little messed up, I think your shorttag got buggered up at some point.

    Kindest Regards,

  • Win Nguyen says:

    Hey dude. Masterminding and trusting the mentors are my top 2 this past 6 months. I see people doubting the course/the landing page/the teacher still. Used to be one myself. Sat on the sideline criticizing or doubting whether all this stuff works for real. For wayyy too long.

    Favorite motto of all times is this. Secrets to Unlimited Success: Figure out where you want to go. Find people who are ahead of you (Masterminding). Ask them to help you. Follow their advice (Trusting).

    Rinse and repeat!

  • Thanks Tung for your honesty; for myself I have had 3.5 years of frustration, had sites at no 1 but made zero. Now because of physical and financial setbacks I have started a local seo and web design business – after all, who better to help companies and businesses than me? This is to create a cash flow so that I can get back to internet marketing; it`s a bit of a drug!
    Starting a blog is great advice; have been contemplating it. Don`t be so hard on yourself; you`re only a failure if you quit.

  • you opened my eyes. first one is the most important.
    I am a web developer. I will post progress.

  • blog and leads are next important

    • Tung Tran says:

      Mone Vinode…Njanum oru Malayaliyado…Ee seoum onum valya cash kittuna paripadiyalado.

    • I dont fully understand what you say. I am not malayalee.

  • Thanks Tung! I subscribed to you newsletter because you post such an encouraging articles.

  • Thanks Tung, this is the best article I’ve read in a long while!
    I’m glad I found you, see you in the DynamiteCircle community 🙂

  • Tung PLEASE can you start mentoring? I will happily sign up and pay!

  • You are just Great. I learned a lot from your blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Great post. My goal is to transition out of my FT job in the next 18-24 months. My goal is 10K a month and this post was timely. There is so much fodder around getting started that its hard to actually “get started”! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  • HI,

    2 same problem
    1-still didn’t take any action
    2-information overload, multi tasking,

    you clear all the major problems that we bloggers are facing.


  • Hey Tung,

    This was written 2013. It has been 3 years and it is still applicable!
    In the span of 3 years, look what you have done. You have made so much success.
    Wishing you more success.
    By the way, I’m from Southeast Asia too. 🙂

  • Very helpful…. Thank you so much. I especially love the focus in one business… And that’s what I’ll be employing in 2017..

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