How I turn bad habits into big business

Today is a special anniversary for me that I’d like to share.

It really started more than a year ago though. Not last May, but in the previous October.

I was doing the “Octsober” challenge where, once a year, borderline alcoholics try to convince themselves that they don’t have a problem.

I prefer it to the Dry January challenge where Christmas shopaholics also try to convince themselves they haven’t screwed up their finances once again and they’re just doing it “for their health”.

There’s a bit more cash swilling about in the October version, and that’s where our story starts.

If you’re going to make a sacrifice, like quitting alcohol, it helps to reward yourself as you go along.

Some people will do it with clothes, or new electronic gadgets.

I’m a marketing geek though, so I rewarded myself with a Facebook ad campaign.

I’d been slowly building up some organic traffic for a new offer.

(It’s not in a marketing niche. It’s a set of productivity tools and practices that I’ll talk about some other time.)

A bottle of wine each night, 2 trips to the pub on the weekend, and the odd bottle of scotch as a nightcap, will give you at least a £10 a day budget to play with.

It’s quite frightening how the cost of your bad habits adds up when you’re honest about it.

But it’s also really motivating when you realise you can divert that stream of money into something more productive.

For me, that was a small Facebook campaign.

Now, spending ad dollars has a mental effect that nobody really talks about.

It’ll sharpen your thinking about a campaign in a way that “free” traffic never does.

Double sharpened. Once by removing the hangover, second by a spike of fear that that money will go down the drain.

I’ve been doing paid ads since you could buy Google Adwords clicks for 1 cent, but I still get the same flash of fear each time I launch.

The fear is that my funnel isn’t perfect. It’s an incredible driver to look at your pages and emails with a more critical eye.

I hope I never get complacent about it.

Anyway, I launched the funnel and the ad campaign.

The first week was fairly disappointing, losing money, but I had a couple of sales, so it wasn’t a complete dud.

I tightened up the follow-up, and in another week I was getting leads for under $1 and converting them just about well enough on a small product to break even.

I now had leads who I knew would spend money, growing in my email list.

By the end of the month, I’d clawed back most of the loss I’d made in the first weeks, and had a process that I could pour money in one end and get customers out of the other.

The campaign didn’t need any more of my beer fund so I celebrated my win and promptly fell off the wagon.


The whole experience gnawed away at me though.

First, there was just how bloody hard it had been to stay away from drinking.

(I’d chosen an October with 5 weekends in it, but still. That’s not a good sign.)

Second, it made me stop and really think about the pro’s and cons of my bad habits.

I’d started a whole new side-business in a month with the energy and cash that quitting drinking gave me.

I started telling a few friends about the story and one of them told me about another former rowing crew-mate who had quit a couple of years ago.

Just knowing someone else had been down the same path was enough.

On May 28th 2019, I decided I wasn’t going to have a drink that day, I wasn’t going to plan on having one the next day, and I’d see how it went from there.

Here I am, a year down the line. Still not having a drink today, still not planning on having one any time soon.

I’ve built my own little investment bank from the money I’ve saved (I call it the Woodford Reserve, get it?).

It’s now funded businesses in 3 separate niches.

I’m also 20 pounds lighter, almost definitely a longer life expectancy, and I have an ad budget of a few hundred dollars each month to experiment with.

That’s it for today.

No pitch today, just something to think about if you’ve been scared of starting a small ad campaign to test your offer.

Maybe the money you were spending on fuel or train fares to work could do the same for you?

Stephen Pratley
Copy & Conversion Consultant
The Conversion Co.

PS. I should probably cut down on the biscuits next.

c/o The Conversion Co., 2a The High Street, Thames Ditton, KT7 0RY, United Kingdom
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