In this interview he talks about how he got started, challenges he faced, and major breakthroughs that led to his current level of success, allowing him total freedom of time and location, and the ability to travel the world.
Johnny FD is an author, a digital nomad and an entrepreneur.
He is also a Muay Thai fighter, scuba diver instructor, e-commerce, and online marketing specialist. He is the host of Travel Like a Boss Podcast and host at the Digital Nomad Summit held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Johnny loves ChangMai because he believes it has a mixture of community, infrastructure, and ease of life. He wrote a popular book called, “12 weeks in Thailand: The good life on the cheap“, where he shows you how to live there and work on the side.
At the start, Johnny FD was inspired by the book “4-hour work week” by Tim Ferris.
Johnny took the first step: Travel…
He decided to move to Thailand, and live cheaper. Then, he took the second step: Automate Everything.
Johnny started following his passions in Thailand. He started scuba diving and fighting Muay Thai. He worked as a dive master and scuba guide, and he was able to not only dive for free but also get paid for it.
After doing too much scuba diving and kickboxing, he decided to publish a Kindle book, “12 weeks in Thailand, the good life on the cheap”. This book is Johnny’s life summary, on how he dealt with rejection, setbacks, difficulties and how he ended up living the good lifestyle.
Tell us about yourself and your journey. How did you get to where you are today? What’s your online business all about (what are you focused on today)
My story started like a lot of other people, I was stuck in a job that I wasn’t passionate about and was inspired by the 4-hour workweek. The difference however, was I didn’t just read the book and daydream about the lifestyle; instead, I decided to risk it all, sell all of my stuff and move from my comfortable life in Los Angeles, quit my job and move to Thailand to give it a go.
It wasn’t easy, and I went broke twice during the trip, each time draining my savings down to empty and once even without a plane ticket home.
I discovered that I could do things I loved as a way to make money while living cheaply abroad, and learned how to make enough money updating my travel blog, taking people scuba diving, and even writing reviews of Muay Thai gyms.
But today, my life is completely different. My normal mundane life back home was the equivalent of reading a single drawn out chapter over and over again. Chapter two of my life began when I took the leap of faith and moved to Thailand. Now I’m writing the latest chapter of my life by finally figuring out how to build a legitimate online business and truly get paid U.S. dollars while living the great life overseas.
What has been your greatest success so far with your business?
It took me almost four years of trying to figure out the whole online business thing to start making real money online. My first steady source is income is when I monetized my Muay Thai travel blog by using it as a platform to write Thailand Travel Book. The first month I made $600 USD in profit from launching the book and it has become a decent source of truly passive income ever since.
However, it wasn’t until I met a guy named Anton and learned from him how to build a eCommerce store using the drop ship method that I started making real money.
I was running out of savings, and was down to less than $200 in my bank account, but having met Anton in person and seeing how successful he was, made me know for sure that if I put in the effort and followed his instructions it would work. So I spent the next two months building my first eCommerce store and once the first sale came in, I realized that I had finally discovered something that works.
The first month I sold $18,000 worth of product, and by the very next month it grew to $20,000 in revenue. Best of all, I spent the next few months figuring out how to tweak prices to really make it profitable, as well as how to outsource day to day customer service calls to truly make it automated.
Best of all isn’t just the fact that I completely replaced my normal 9-5 income after 2 months, but that I’m able to manage the store from anywhere in the world and usually only spend about an hour a day answering emails and fulfilling orders, which frees my time to travel and pursue other income sources. I realized after building my first successful store how easy it is to replicate the model into other niches, potentially doubling or tripling my income or using that base to get into importing my own products for higher margins.
My lifestyle went from trying to live as cheaply as possible, hoping my savings wouldn’t run out, to eating at nice restaurants, renting out hotel suites, and having the freedom to fly anywhere in the world my friends are in just a few short months of hard work.
The craziest thing is that I used to check my book sales everyday hoping to make another $20 or so, but now it’s such a small portion of my income that months will go by without me even logging in. Best of all, it’s a true passive form of income and is less than 5% of my total online income now instead of being the entire thing.
That story is incredible, and really shows how hard work and persistence really does pay off. What’s the most challenging part of starting and operating a successful e-commerce site? Is it all about niche selection? Or is your success more reliant upon how you promote the store?
The hardest part was keeping motivated during the first two months where I was putting in countless hours and not making any sales yet. There’s always a small voice in the back of your head making you think your niche sucks or your store will never work.
My suggestion is to surround yourself with motivating, successful people, make a game plan and follow it without question until you hit your goal. Promoting the store is easy with paid ads, but you’ll eventually want to get away from it to make higher margins. In the start, you just want that first sale so get it away way you can.
Whenever you feel like you’re not making progress, listen to podcasts, meet up with people who have made it, ask for feedback on your store, and keep motivated. Also don’t skip steps or take shortcuts. I didn’t want to have a phone number on my site because I was in Thailand at the time and had an 18 hour time difference, but as soon as I put it on, I got two sales that very next day.
Ask yourself how badly you want it to succeed and how much time and effort you are willing to put towards your goals. Join a mastermind group, and keep positive because life is absolutely worth it when you start making enough money while retaining your freedom of time and location.
Even the most successful people stumble along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure with respect to your online business, and what did you learn from it?
I used to think that my biggest failure was wasting four years traveling around, blogging and doing other things that didn’t make big money online. I taught scuba diving for a year, pursued Muay Thai for another and was living as cheap as possible and even ran out of money a few times.
But now looking back, even though I’m making really good money online and would have loved to have been making this for the past four years, I had some really good experiences living cheap and being broke abroad as well.
My biggest regret is not quitting my job even sooner. Every business failure I’ve had has cost me less than $1,000 and I’ve learned a ton from each one. So at the end of the day, it’s all been an investment in my education.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at building an online business. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
My advice to anyone who wants to start making money online is to start with drop shipping, learn eCommerce, scale the business, automate it, then let it run in the background while you use your new found free time to pursue bigger and better things, or just sip a coconut on the beach like I do.
What are your favorite online resources?
The best investment I’ve ever made was paying $250 and following a step by step course from a guy that has actually done it and knows how to teach it step by step. Before taking Anton’s course I knew nothing about drop shipping or eCommerce and within 2 months of starting his program, I replaced my entire normal 9-5 income while being able to work wherever in the world I wanted from my laptop.
Now that my first eCommerce store is up and running and completely automated I have the freedom to replicate my store in different niches as well. Just today I got four sales from two different stores I have up which more than paid for the money I initially invested.
Anton’s course can be found at AntonMethod.com and is the only online resource I have used that actually works and the only one that I continue to recommend to both my friends and my family members.
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog or business online, what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
I would immediately surround yourself with people more successful than you, who have legitimate online businesses that make money. I would listen to podcasts and interviews with successful entrepreneurs and I would dedicate to putting in time and effort and not look for shortcuts.
My best advice is to find something that actually works, and follow it wholeheartedly without trying to take shortcuts.
Finally, where can people find you online?
I would start by listening to my podcast at www.TravelLikeaBossPodcast.com or check out my blog at www.JohnnyFD.com – I’m very transparent with everything I do online and regularly post screen shots of my online sales and profits as I know it’s something that would have been really motivating to me when I was getting started.
Best of luck to everyone in your own journeys. Leave a comment on my blog with any questions you might have and I’m happy to get back to you.
Thanks, Johnny FD!
Want to know more about him?
His two podcasts are “Travel Like a Boss” where he interviews digital nomads from around the world. And also “Investing like a boss“, where he talks about finance.
You can also learn from him through his blog johnnyfd.com and if you want to meet him in person, go to the Nomad Summit.