July 8, 2020
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In 2015 my boss pulled me aside. He knew my little side project was failing harder than an Indian kid in gym class.
He saw what many of my friends saw: that it couldn’t even pay me $1k a month in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
He wanted to know why I hadn't quit and focused on my actual job a bit more.
I didn't have a good answer then. I do now.
Because Freedom is Worth It.
We started ZenMaid in 2013 after noticing no one was truly focused on serving maid services with great scheduling software.
Two guys in a house in Palo Alto (how cliche). We weren’t trying to change the world, just to make enough money to be our own bosses.
From 2013 - early 2015 ZenMaid consumed every hour of my life available outside of our day jobs and sleep.
During the week I'd wake up at 5 am PST to call maid service owners on the East Coast before commuting 1.5 hours to San Francisco for work. Every Saturday I would sigh, ask myself what my life had become, pop a modafinil and make sales calls for 8-10 hours.
~Kevin reviewed this article before publishing and left this comment on Google Docs~
After two years of hard work, we were barely making $5k a month and every penny we made went right back into the business.
Hell, we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves even a measly $1000 per month.
The only money we for ourselves during this time was to pay for 3 sushi dinners to celebrate small milestones, a tradition we continue to this day.
To understand why I persevered, we need to go back ~14 years. It's important to consider my motivation for starting ZenMaid in the first place -
To work: Where I want When I want With whom I want
At 18 I first read the 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW) by Tim Ferriss. It changed my life. It’s the first book I can remember reading that made me feel hopeful about what life could be for me personally.
This book popularized the concept of the 'digital nomad' and planted the idea in my head that I could ball out of control without being a baller.
It was a novel idea that I could travel the globe, work from a beach, have international friends, and be a man of the world. All without having to sacrifice my independence.
All you need is $2-3k per month as long as you earn on your own terms.
When I read the 4HWW I was playing online poker for money (the aptly named Chris Moneymaker had recently won the World Series of Poker). I had friends who had moved to Costa Rica, living like kings on a few grand a month exactly how Tim describes in the book.
I was still in high school, but I'd seen the dream. No 9-5 life for me, no siree.
If only it were that easy.
Over the following 9 years I tried everything I could to move towards freedom, usually ending in miserable failure:
Poker (lost 3 months rent in a single day, emotionally unstable)
Amway (a MLM where I lost money but did meet my future best man)
Micro-niche sites like BambooComforter.org (maxed out at $400/mo, never going to turn into a real business)
A maid service, Fast Friendly Spotless (horrible experience, I made so many mistakes - but it led me to ZenMaid)
I have most definitely forgotten or left off other embarrassing attempts at winning my freedom.
At some point after all of this I started ZenMaid and spent 2 years building it into a ‘real’ business.
My newfound success has me making a measly $1000 a month. Others saw a terrible ROI.
I saw the beginning of Freedom because I earned that money from anywhere. Every month.
I thought the 4HWW had taught me:
And that’s 100% true. But what it truly showed me was:
I didn't realize it until recently, but my greatest learning from the 4 Hour Work Week was patience/perseverance. I knew that no matter how long it took, I would continue down the path of achieving that lifestyle.
When my boss called me out, it didn’t feel good. I didn’t have a good answer, at least not one that I could vocalize, to his question.
I knew we had something real, but I couldn’t verbalize what the numbers weren’t showing.
The reason I stuck with ZenMaid when others saw little reason to is because they only evaluated the timeline (return on 4 years of time) and not at the long-term asset creation.
I never strongly considered quitting ZenMaid once we got to around $2k per month (meaning that 50 people had committed to our software). It started slow but the work we did compounded as we built more systems and gained more experience. I knew we were onto something.
We had over 50 maid service owners running their businesses daily using our program, and there were at least 100k more just like them. To me, it was only a matter of time before we went to 1000 customers, 10,000 customers, and beyond, if we wanted to.
We just have to find them.
And ultimately, that all translated to “If I find enough customers like these, Freedom will be mine”
That's what has kept me going through the toughest of times, and now it feels easier by the day (life flywheels, baby, a post for another day).
I recently posted on Twitter that ZenMaid broke that magical 1000 customer mark and a friend asked me what my motivation was to persevere in the early years.The times when it was all hard work and little to show for it.