How I Started A $12K/Month Digital Marketing Agency While Traveling Around The World
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Michael Gardiner, and I am a 20 years old digital nomad and serial entrepreneur born in Stuart, Florida. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 15 when I started my first business.
My main business is called Nomads with Solutions and it is a digital marketing agency specializing in Facebook lead generation. Our customers pay us to find them qualified leads that in turn make them more money.
I have been able to leverage this business to meet incredibly successful people, travel full time to over 20 countries (+10~ independent territories) by the age of 20, and build myself a multiyear safety net. I can safely say, starting young in business was the best decision of my life.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was 15 I was a sophomore in high school and primarily interested in normal kid things, including basketball, track, skateboarding, video games, hanging with friends, etc.. I happened to get injured playing basketball and in my free time applied for a job at a local pharmacy store. I had a really terrible interview process where the person interviewing me took very little interest in me and I thought to myself that I wanted to make money on my own terms.
Although my family has no entrepreneurs, nor did I know any, I got an idea for my first potential income stream. I had always followed themed accounts (nice cars, luxury houses, travel) on Instagram and figured I could build a big page to make money with eventually (and show off to my friends). Short story, I ended up growing a network of Instagram accounts to over 1,000,000 followers within a year and sold the network and used that money to fund my other ventures (of which most failed).
During that time period, I had the advantage of having two great loving parents who provided all I needed, so I could put all my money I wanted into business, for this, I am really grateful. During that time I also worked some jobs, including working for a library, elementary school, and a rehab center.
Out of all the businesses I started with that money, the one that consistently did the best was my agency, Nomads with Solutions. Since then I have started 20+ businesses, and have had most fail, some do ok and a few do good, but Nomads with Solutions has always been the leader.
I would recommend choosing 1 or 2 skills that can transfer between businesses and getting really good at them.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Nomads with Solutions has done a large amount of work in the digital marketing space, however, we have three main services that make up the majority of our revenue:
- Facebook advertising
- Google advertising
- Social media marketing and management
One of the things that gave me an advantage against other marketing agencies that were also new when starting Nomads with Solutions is that I truly had the experience. Many people start a marketing agency, yet have never managed business social media pages or run Facebook ads.
From my experience with growing my Instagram network, I was already an expert at social media marketing and management which helped build trust in potential customers. The majority of the other businesses I have started had also run at least some paid advertisements so I was able to get experience from that as well.
From learning with my own businesses, mixed with a lot of courses, books, YouTube videos, podcasts (the list goes on) I was able to be confident from the start for my clients which they appreciated and trusted.
Also, from “learning how to learn” I felt like I could figure anything out with the help of YouTube, Facebook groups, Reddit, and Google search, which was a huge advantage. This skill came from figuring out almost everything for my initial businesses on my own, which was very tedious, but turned out to be worthwhile considering how much I learned.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Nomads with Solutions never truly had an official launch. Actually, when I first started Nomads with Solutions did not even have a name, website, or even a business card. I was simply just doing marketing for people who needed marketing. Over time I picked up the name “MG Social Marketing” short for Michael Gardiner Social Marketing (really creative right?), but I still did not have anything except a business card for quite a while.
It was not until late June 2019 that the name Nomads with Solutions even was officially chosen. Before then I did eventually have a website (and legally registered business), but no real branding. My website was just something I had in case someone asked. However, in June 2019 I met up with two of my company's team members, Andrew Hightower and Philip Toussaint and we spent 3 or 4 days working through all of the branding, service offerings, and details needed to truly make Nomads with Solutions.
If it wasn’t for that short retreat with those two guys Nomads with Solutions would certainly not be where it is today. The decisions we made then may have seemed small and insignificant, but those decisions laid the groundwork for a great company and without that intensive “work retreat” I am not sure if Nomads with Solutions would be where it is today.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think one of the main areas people struggle with when starting any type of service-based agency is client acquisition. As tacky as it sounds, one of the main issues I see is people not having an abundance mindset.
I personally believe that happiness is far more important than success, fame, or anything else. For myself, I would rather make less money with more freedom to travel than make more money with less freedom to travel.
An abundance mindset in the context of client acquisition simply means that you have the belief that there are unlimited potential clients for you, hence if you don’t land a client after a sales call, or have a hard time finding leads, it doesn't mean there are no clients for you, it just means the client you were talking to is the wrong one, or you need to change something in your approach.
I am known for my unconventional approach to client acquisition, and I could easily write a whole essay on the topic, but I want to share a few tips that I think could be very beneficial:
Grow a personal brand. Having a personal brand brings so much credibility when approaching new clients and also is a great way to find new clients. My personal brand has made a huge impact on my success as an agency owner. For example, check out my Instagram or TikTok: @michaelrgardiner. I have also started a professional website for my personal brand which I share with potential clients: michaelrgardiner.com. A website like this is not too expensive or difficult to make, and I think every agency owner should have one.
Using custom videos in any form of outreach (email, LinkedIn, social, etc..) work really well as they show the potential customer that you actually took the time to put something together for them, as opposed to copy and paste messaging thousands of people.
Leverage testimonials and case studies as much as possible. While it is understandable you might not have these available to you at the beginning of your agency, as soon as you work with your first client you should have a video testimonial and case study. Attach these with every form of outreach you do.
If you want to hear more about my client acquisition approach check out this interview I did with Iman Gadzhi:
I am also in the process of recording some client acquisition videos to add on my YouTube channel.
As far as retaining customers, for a marketing agency the strategy is simple (although the implementation is not). Simply get your clients good results. I have never had a client who I have made say $3,000-$6,000 per month in profit refuse to pay me $1,000 or $2,000 in a monthly service fee. If you can make your client money, and bring them value, they will be a lifelong customer.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As I am writing this (4/28/2020) the whole world is dealing with the coronavirus. If I rewind a couple of months my business was growing very rapidly and on track to hit a new record of monthly revenue and profit, however, the coronavirus has changed that a bit, although temporarily.
Most of my clients are local businesses, for example, gyms, lawyers, home service companies, etc… Many of these companies are not essential and no longer able to operate. I decided to pause all of my contracts with businesses that can no longer operate with no penalty. This will result in a lot of lost income for my agency, but I think it is the moral thing to do, and luckily due to Nomads with Solutions success, and always running the business very lean, I have a large cash supply so paying my team will not be an issue.
As of now, I am focusing on client acquisition aimed at businesses that can still advertise such as coaches, info products, personal brands, eCommerce businesses, and really anyone still in business.
I actually see this as an opportunity, while my revenue may be down, as soon as this is over my contracts will resume, and with the revenue, I have gained working with clients in businesses new to me, I will have more monthly profit and revenue than ever. In addition, I will have experience working with even more types of businesses. My team has also been absolutely perfecting our systems with all of our extra time so we can be even more efficient and effective when things are back to normal.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing that I think is really important for entrepreneurs that are often overlooked is not only focusing on business but focusing on bettering yourself. A lot of entrepreneurs like to ignore their health, wellbeing, and happiness and just focus on business when in actuality you and your business are directly connected. Very rarely does a sad, unhealthy, and unwell person have a successful business (especially a sustainable one).
My businesses really started to take off when I started to focus on building myself as well as my business. I have done this in many ways, but to name a few:
- Reading 1 book per week
- Working out daily
- Keeping a clean diet with intermittent fasting
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep
One of my favorite sayings that I truly live by is “1% better every day”. It can be really difficult to see changes in yourself and your business, this is often because change happens little by little, and can be easy to miss, however, if you look back 6 months, 1 year, maybe even 5 years you can see astronomical change.
I believe this change is best created by consistently doing small actions that will improve yourself and your business. Little things for yourself like reading, meditating, thinking positive thoughts… Little things for your business like personally thanking your customers, building a personal brand, and doing daily outreach. All of these actions will compound and change your life.
Lastly, I think one of the most overlooked and also powerful things in life and business is happiness. I personally believe that happiness is far more important than success, fame, or anything else. For myself, I would rather make less money with more freedom to travel than make more money with less freedom to travel, simply because travel makes me happy. I have identified one of the key things making me happy (there are many) and I have built my life and business around it, not the other way around. I encourage anyone reading to make a list of what makes them happy, and when planning your life and your business consider those things that make you happy as the most important.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I have used quite a large amount of different tools with my business, however here are some that are my absolute favorite:
- Trello for my personal calendar, business to-do-list and even as a CRM
- D7 Lead Finder for locating leads for my business
- Unsplash and Pexels for free stock images
- Veed for editing Instagram videos
- Reddit and Facebook groups for networking and meeting more people
- LinkTree for maximizing your social links
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One thing I have started doing this year (2020) is reading 1 book every week. As of (4/27/2020) I am almost finished with my 21st book. I think reading is one of the best things you can do to not only become a better entrepreneur but an overall better and wiser person. Some of the books that I have enjoyed the most are:
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris - A book everyone should read at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey (especially anyone interested in travel).
The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau - A great book discussing unconventional approaches to life and happiness.
The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone - The best motivational business book I have ever read.
On my Instagram story highlights, I have been featuring every book I am reading along with some notes, to keep up make sure you follow on Instagram.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
One piece of advice I would give to entrepreneurs who are just starting is to focus on 1-2 businesses at a time. At some points when I was a “new” entrepreneur, I would try to work on 5 or 6 businesses at the same time, and while I learned a lot from doing this, I made only a small amount of progress on each business.
Currently, I have 3 main businesses and I feel like I progress so much farther on a monthly basis than when I had 5+ at the same time. I also was doing everything alone where now I have partners, employees, contractors and so many other people making my life easier.
I would also recommend choosing 1 or 2 skills that can transfer between businesses and getting really good at them. For example Facebook ads, cold emailing, sales, etc.. I think it is important to not only have general business skills but also to have some expertise that can be of value (this is especially good when looking for business partners).
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, I don’t have any employee openings, however, we have been looking to hire contractors skilled in YouTube growth, cold emails, Facebook ads, and cold calling.
If you were interested in seeing if these are still needs, message me on Instagram @michaelrgardiner.
Where can we go to learn more?
Nomads with Solutions:
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Nomads with Solutions has provided an update on their business!
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Nomads with Solutions to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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