I used to think that creating a good income outside of getting a traditional job was easy. And that anyone who put in enough time and effort would make it.

All of my friends who have quit (or never got) jobs and decided to do their own thing have succeeded. Every single one. And I personally have managed to create profitable businesses in a few completely unrelated fields: sporting goods, blogging, gambling, coffee, finance.

It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. If only all these people who are much more intelligent than me but are stuck working in some horrendous cubicle could see how easy it is they’d jump ship too.

But for the last year I have been traveling the world and actively seeking out people who have made that move. I expected to bump into lots of millionaires, making a killing from their internet-era businesses. But the reality was very different. Most people were working insane hours ‘hustling’ and are barely scraping by.

I’m still trying to get my head round it. It’s not that they don’t have enough information – they all follow the same blogs and podcasts as me. And it’s not that they aren’t working hard enough – almost without exception they are working harder than me.

We’ve all heard the quote:

Work smart not hard

Well these people are working both hard and smart.

I have been thinking about this for a while, and I think I’ve finally worked out where they are going wrong.

They are treating starting their own business like it’s a regular job.

Let me explain. Everyone who I know who has started their own successful business didn’t follow any set rules. They had an idea, had more ideas on how to implement it. Gave it a go, failed at certain things, innovated at others and generally thrashed around until they worked it out.

But what a lot of the people I meet are doing is treating business like there is a right or wrong way to do it. And treating gurus, mentors, and coaches like a boss. Someone to tell them the rules and how to start and run their business. Which means that thousands of people are building the exact same carbon copy businesses and using the exact same techniques to promote them.

They are neglecting the creative out-of-the-box thinking that is needed for their business to be different enough to succeed.

It’s a problem I am starting to get into myself. I am so plugged into the online business community that I am finding myself copying what other people are doing rather than coming up with my own ideas and following my own path. I originally started listening to podcasts and reading blogs to help learn the mechanics of how particular things work. How do you import, what are the options for warehousing, how do Facebook ads work. But ended up staying for the ideas and the ‘secrets’.

I think my businesses have suffered as a result. They are becoming more narrow and more cliche. Something I really don’t want. I know the solution for me – spend less time listening to ‘experts’ and more time listening to myself. But where does that leave this blog?

My writing has become more and more guruy over time. I started off just talking about random ideas and telling you about my businesses. But my most popular articles by far are the ones where I lay out in a step-by-step way how I started a certain business. The easier the process is to replicate the more popular the article is. So I have been writing more and more of them.

I still think they are useful. My post on starting an Amazon FBA business gets the most views out of any of my articles. And I believe rightfully so. It is in-depth and includes a lot of complicated mechanics – finding a factory, product development, importing, warehousing and marketing. But when reading it you need to keep in mind that it isn’t a recipe.

To create a good Amazon FBA business, you need to take those mechanics, throw out the stuff you have better ideas for, and heap on top a generous dollop of your own creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

In my future posts, I am going to try and highlight that as much as possible. Here is how I did it. You should take the best parts and do it differently and better. But if you catch me being too guruy or preachy, please call me out!