Freud

The unconscious mind has aggressive needs.

Capitalism forces the aggressive unconscious mind to use that aggression in a productive manner. Although, we’ve learnt to deal with our aggression in a manner that’s not straight harmful, we’re still just giving in to the aggression.

On the contrary, we could try and completely suppress the aggressive unconsciousness. However, that would mean we’ve to direct the aggression inwards instead of outwards which could lead to anxiety.

Outward controlled aggression through capitalism could make you rich but it could also make you egoistic, selfish and unempathetic.

In order to be more empathetic you would have to suppress your desires, aggress inwardly, and feel the imbalance inside.

It’s easier to create imbalance in the world.

It’s harder to create that within yourself.

Abundance & Patience

Over the last few years, I transitioned into an investing career. I decided to invest in people that could deliver instead of doing everything myself. I had read tons of content on how the investing is the real way to build wealth. That time is limited and the real progress is made when you use your wealth to make wealth.

But it hasn’t worked out that well so far.

I also read and believed that abundance mindset is the way to go. Resources aren’t limited. Love isn’t limited. Kindness isn’t limited. Making money isn’t a zero sum game. Someone else’s success isn’t your failure. That you need to be happy for success of other people instead of showing resentment. That you need to share more of what you have.

I believed that if I helped more people, I’ll eventually find people worth investing in and so having an abundance mindset will eventually make my investing career a success.

This didn’t work out so well either.

The problems with failures in return of the acts of kindness is that you lose your faith more quickly and start doubting your actions faster.

You are led to believe by your own experiences that investing and abundance is a lie. That things do not work like that in the real world.

At this point you could scrap your learnings about investing and abundance based on your little experiences. Or you could continue to hold them close based on the experiences of many other people who you consider wiser than yourself.

To do the latter, you will need to be patient. Investing, however, has always been a game meant for the patient.

Getting A Massive Payout For the Simple Skills [Part 2]

I wrote this a few weeks ago. This is another post on a similar theme. I recently spoke with two sellers on fiverr that are doing really large volume per month ($10K+) and so I thought to write a bit more on this.

One of the sellers sells graphic design services. Most people think that the graphic design industry especially on fiverr is a $5-$10 space and this discourages them to take this as an opportunity worth exploring. The person I spoke with, however, specializes in box designs and so he has a much higher order value than someone making birthday cards for example.

There are many reasons why he has a higher order value but it could simply be because his customers are businesses and not people. His customers are likely in the e-commerce space which is why they are hiring box design services on the internet. E-commerce is going through forced adoption and insane growth right now so his business could be blowing because of that too.

The takeaway here is that the problem is not being a graphic designer on fiverr. The problem is what you decide to do with your simple skills. If you’ve decided to do what everyone else does with photoshop, sure your chances are bleak. You’re likely in a high competition low average order value business. But it really is your choice what you make out of your skills or what service do you offer in the graphic design space. Or how rich your average customer is. Or how big a problem you’ve decided to solve with your graphics. It’s really you who choose.

The other person I spoke with is in the video editing space. Because of COVID-19, the over-all video-editing work is down. Lesser ads are being made. Lesser people are doing events. And so the post-production work is on the decline for him. But the gaming industry is booming through the COVID-19. There are more and more people playing and streaming games as well as more viewers than ever who are watching these live streams. Gamers are making a killing right now, and so this video editor is offering gaming highlights editing service. Not only he found customers in these circumstances, he found customers that are paying top dollar right now and so his average order value is much higher than his previous gig.

It’s really not about the skills you have. It’s about what you do with them.

Will A Robot Replace You?

It was father’s day yesterday. I sat down with my father and spoke for a few hours on various subjects. We briefly discussed a topic that reminded me of something I learnt way back in college. It’s a concept from physics. I was actually quite awful at physics so I apologize in advance if my interpretation is incorrect. But here it goes anyway.

In physics, “work” happens when a force is applied to an object such that it moves from A to B. If you exert the force, but the object doesn’t move, the work done is zero.

In regular life, we don’t think of work the same way. But I think we should. If our actions aren’t bringing about a change or a result, I’d like to think that the work done is zero. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, or how many hours you put in, because as long as you couldn’t move the needle, the work comes down to zero.

I feel that in normal life work should be measured as Force x Displacement and we should move away from our current definition of work as only force. In addition, we should make our best effort in order to have maximum displacement for the force we put in. If employee A works longer hours than employee B, but delivers the same value in the end, it may seem that A worked more, but in my opinion, they worked just as much as they pushed the object just as much. Here’s an interesting case-study.

Savannah Sanchez, a Facebook marketer, did an interesting video that I don’t completely agree with, but I find it interesting to share here today. Her thesis is that Facebook’s AI has gotten so advanced, that a human marketer working over 10 hours a week on an ad account was able to deliver just about the same ROAS that another ad account delivered which wasn’t touched at all during same period and was only optimized by Facebook’s algorithm. If you want to watch the video at the exact time, you can do so here. Or you could watch the full video below

The reason why I shared this here is because when a robot can deliver the same value, your working hours i-e force is worthless. It’s the displacement that counts, and if a robot can do that better than you, you’ll be replaced. Although, I don’t think that time has come yet but I know it isn’t far.

I’ve used Facebook as a marketing tool for about 10 years now, and to think that there’s no more human tweaking possible on Facebook any longer is an alien concept to me. 10 years ago, you could do a thousand tweaks and the system would play along. Now, it’s increasingly harder but I feel expert marketers i-e a small percentage of all marketers could still do better than the system. In a few more years though, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number shrinks to a mere fraction.

We Are The Cockroaches

I’ve spent a significant part of my life running content sites that capitalized on catchy (click-bait) titles like the one above so I’ve old habits of using them time and again. The reason, however, why I chose this title for this blog is because there’s a myth that cockroaches can survive the nuclear apocalypse.

After reading about the studies that were conducted, I found out that while cockroaches can’t survive the apocalypse, just as no other biological creature can, they are 10 times more resilient against the radiations in comparison to humans. They also breed fast, so it’s a lot more likely for their generations to live despite the nukes.

I think thats us. The entrepreneurs of Pakistan. Or people of Pakistan in general. Allow me to explain please.

I’ve ranted enough times here on this blog about the lack of basic digital infra access. We don’t have PayPal for collecting small/medium international payments. We don’t have Stripe or other payment gateways, so we can’t collect payments from the credit & debit cards of the customers. We can’t sell on Amazon as a seller either. We’re not eligible for Facebook monetization programs such as Ad-Breaks / In-stream ads etc.

I can’t think of many businesses that can exist without the ability to accept payments. So, in summary, we’re in a pretty fucked up situation.

In comparison, PayPal is available in 200 countries. Stripe is available in 40 countries. Residents from over 100 countries can sell on Amazon US. Facebook monetization tools are available in over 50 countries. All the services described above are available in India & Bangladesh.

Despite that, one of the top ten largest sellers on Amazon US that is doing over $50 million dollars in monthly revenue is a Pakistan-origin company. There are thousands of sellers from Pakistan who sell on Amazon US by setting foreign companies.

The top 5 Facebook ad-breaks / in-stream publishers are Pakistan-origin companies doing millions of dollars in monthly revenue.

Pakistan also has the 4th highest number of freelancers in the world.

These people were banned from participating in this global trade. They were not given an equal playing field. They were born in poverty. There was a systemic racism in place.

While the west focused on “solving problems for others” that could make them billionaires, these people focused on solving their own problems. Problems originating from hunger. Problems originating from lack of education. Problems as basic as access to electricity. Even the middle class & upper middle class struggled with problems as little as the inability to afford air conditioning in scorching heat.

Because they were so tied up with solving problems so basic, I couldn’t and wouldn’t expect them to come up with the Googles and the Amazons of the world. I wouldn’t have even expected them to be top sellers on the marketplaces where they weren’t even welcome. But they are. Because they are resilient. If they have come this far, they will go farther too.

And so, I don’t have any doubts any longer, that Pakistani entrepreneurs will win, whether they get an equal playing field or not.

Systemic Racism & Entrepreneurs of Pakistan

In the past few weeks, I came across many videos that highlighted the systemic or institutional racism in the US. They highlighted how the opportunities are blocked for the people of color right from the start which result in the eventual 700% difference in the wealth between whites and people of color especially black.

systemic racism starts right from when you can’t go to the same schools as your white counterparts.

Here are some of the videos that I saw: 1 | 2 | 3

If you can see such contrast in citizens of the same country, how do you expect the same opportunities to be ever available to people of Pakistan? I received the following comment on a thread in one of the Facebook ads group, and it made me think about it (again).

If people of color struggle in the US, as a Pakistani entrepreneur, with limited access to quality education, lack of access to community, nearly no access to funding, not even access to the same softwares, or banking, how do you ever expect to achieve the same things that are achieved by the people of similar intellect in the US? The short is answer is that you can’t.

However, despite making the above statement, I’m extremely optimistic about the people of Pakistan and their future. The reason for that is that I’ve seen them rise up and stay resilient. Sure, they aren’t building any Amazon or Google, but they are doing much better than anyone could have expected given all the odds against them.

I want to write about this resilience in tomorrow’s blog.

Last Mover Advantage

The first mover advantage is talked about a lot. The first mover advantage is often quite great but not necessarily game-changer. First mover advantage is both for businesses and early users of the businesses. For example, Amazon has the first mover advantage in the e-commerce space. The early sellers of Amazon also enjoyed first-mover advantage on the platform by monopolizing competitive niches. All early users of social networks that eventually go big have a huge first-mover advantage in influencer marketing.

But the last mover advantage is not frequently talked about. The last mover advantage is that you look at everyone’s mistakes, let them take risks, and you only launch a product after learning at their expense. This isn’t talked about a lot probably because it’s not fancy to talk about it and that not everyone can enjoy the last mover advantage. Often but not always, you need to be at a place of influence to enjoy the last mover advantage.

On Amazon, as a seller, you often prefer going after products that others have tried and tested for months, you learn from their experience by studying the listings, and launch in the end so you have absolutely no risk of dead or wasted inventory etc.

In a similar manner, as a seller, Amazon enjoys the true last mover advantage. After all sellers are done testing, trying, risking, & iterating, Amazon comes right in the end with their own private label product often under the brand name of Amazon Basics. Because they enjoy a position of having everyone’s data, they truly love having the last mover advantage.

Riding Along The Wave

Forbes is double-dipping in ad-revenue by publishing about Kylie Jenner. First they made the entire world read the headlines that Kylie is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Months later they published that Kylie and her family lied about her billionaire status and that she is not yet a billionaire. Instead, she’s worth only 900 million.

I don’t know about you, but I see no difference in being a billionaire or being worth 900 million. If she’s worth 900 million, she will be a billionaire in 1 or 2 years.

Instead I thought of something else when I read the news. I thought that an instagram influencer is (nearly) worth a billion dollars. She’s built this empire using Instagram, a Shopify store, and by private labeling products.

I also thought that Facebook only paid a billion dollars for Instagram while today an Instagram influencer is worth a billion dollars.

I also thought about TikTok posting 17 billion dollars in revenue in 2019 and over 3 billion dollars in profits. And the fact that they have over 1.5 billion monthly active users, more than Instagram as well as Snapchat.

I thought about gaming influencers/streamers who are making tens of millions of dollars per month using Twitch, YouTube, etc.

I thought about influencer marketing. I thought about riding along the wave of a powerful platform such as TikTok.

And I thought how being early in riding that wave can make you a millionaire or even a billionaire.

I have known, met or spoken to 100s of influencers till date who were early in riding the wave on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok etc. I know a large majority of them are worth at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you saw a platform taking off, figured it early, and cringed instead of taking advantage, it was your loss and it will continue to be.

The Online Courses Industry That Is Filled With Junk

The online courses industry collectively stands at 100s of billions of dollars per year. It is a fact that most of these courses are junk. The ‘fake gurus’ sell you a ‘dream lifestyle’ that can be seen in the backdrops of their videos. Of course, the gurus spent some money to lease that Lamborghini or to fly to the Fiji islands but the lifestyle that they have built is often coming out of your pockets.

My friend Faisal Khan, shared this video that you might find interesting.

Most of my working career, I haven’t touched a course with a 10 foot pole. Because there’s so much junk on the internet, it’s rather difficult to find real value from the junk.

The first course I bought was in 2013. It was a scam. The founder of the course has lost the case against the FTC and is paying $17 million dollars in fines. Hopefully I’ll get some of the funds back.

The second course I bought was in 2020. I found a lot of value in it. I recouped my investment within 10 days of buying it. One of the reasons why I chose that one was because it was for professional marketers, there was a long interview process and they didn’t accept everyone.

While there’s no hard and fast rule on what to buy and what not to buy, I wanted to write a bit about the red-flags you should always watch out for. There can be real value in the courses, but it is a bit like finding needle in the haystack. Read below.

  1. If there are membership level upgrades, it’s a flag. It isn’t necessarily a scam but it could be. Most sellers whether in courses industry or not are trying to raise the average order value. In e-commerce we often do that by offering bundles and tiered discounts. But it’s a flag. So you can think of it as strike # 1 and drop it if you don’t find any other dirt.
  2. If you can’t upgrade membership levels, without skipping a level, it’s a big red flag. E.g if the coaching offered is gold, platinum, diamond and to buy diamond you first have to buy gold and platinum, you’re just setting yourself up for a big disaster.
  3. If the core niche of the trainer is that he makes money by telling people how to make money, get out. Don’t pay him anything. If he makes money by running X and Y businesses that you’ve real evidence of, but also does coaching on the side, then you should be safe.
  4. If you are encouraged to earn revenue by being an affiliate for his course after learning from his course, get out. It’s multi-level-marketing. You buy his course and to recoup your investment you sell his course to someone else and the loop goes on.
  5. If at any point during the sales pitch, he makes the business sound easy, quick or having a too good to be true returns, get out. What seems too good to be true is often too good to be true.
  6. A course with true value will have a trainer that has a proven record of maintaining a certain business, does coaching/course on the side to replace consulting in order to maximize return of his time. A true trainer never over-commits or over-promises. He paints a true picture of how the returns could look like. For example in the Facebook marketing industry, I’d go for trainers that teach 2-4X ROAS instead of the trainers that teach 10-30x ROAS. Real gurus will tell you it’s going to take time, blood and effort and despite that you have 70% chance to fail.

Remember, vultures capitalize on your insecurities. Real coaches don’t do that.

Market Inefficiencies & The Fuel Of The Internet

While you have to pay for most products or services in real life, most products and services that exist on the internet have continued to stay free. Since all internet companies have to make revenue, alternative options are looked into of which a large portion has been advertising.

As advertising became the main fuel of the internet, mega players jumped into the advertising industry to have power and control over the internet’s oil. To power effective advertising, data became even more valuable asset. But the internet advertising had and continue to have many many inefficiencies and over time, all markets try to remove inefficiencies to move towards higher profitability.

A major chunk of the advertising dollar has been going into the pockets of agencies, networks, exchanges, and other layers over layers of middle-men. I look at that as market inefficiency.

With influencer marketing, we saw the markets tried to get more efficient and remove the middle-men altogether. Everyone who explored this area, including us, saw over a 1000% higher ROAS compared to traditional advertising.

A large part of internet continues to stay free because one way or another commerce happens. Advertising is only the means. Facebook and Youtube videos continue to stay free because these companies make money with advertising and data.

However, advertising and data work because commerce happens. Everything else, including the advertising and data are also middle men. They are the inefficiencies that we need today, but hopefully the market will continue to find more efficient ways for higher profitability or cut-throat competition.

All websites and blogs that relied on advertising for years have been increasingly moving towards affiliate commissions to keep their businesses alive. As Amazon cuts affiliate rates, and others might follow, these content websites will need to find smarter ways to make their businesses work. What you could do before by just selling ads can only be done today by selling a product. Today, you can make it work by making a sale happen for someone else and getting an affiliate commission. Tomorrow, that may be seen as a market inefficiency and you may have to generate a sale for yourself either by selling products, or charging for your own product or service.

Youtubers today make up-to 80% of their income not by Youtube ads but by influencer marketing and brand deals. Youtubers and brands are cutting the very platform as the middleman that they host their content on.

We started Socialoholic with content and blogs. We relied on selling advertising in order monetize our network of websites. We drove traffic from the influencers to our content so we can sell ads and pocket the difference. We became content-arbitragers. So many middle-men while the true value was only created because someone somewhere bought something.

Years later, we found ourselves driving the same influencer traffic but instead of driving that to content we drove it to products. We removed the inefficiencies.

Over time, we have pivoted from content to focus on e-commerce as our core area of business because that is the real fuel of the internet. Everything else is only relevant because it assists e-commerce and when something more efficient pops up, it is replaced.