Escaping the Hamster Wheel: How Rob Walling Found Freedom in Startups
When Rob Walling found himself in what he calls the “hamster wheel” of consulting and salaried work, he decided to break out of the cage and into the startup world. And, good thing he did. The solo entrepreneur, as he calls himself, has created hittail.com, a website that guarantees to increase your organic search traffic, and founded The Microprenuer Academy, to help other launch successful software products.
So how did Rob find success beyond the wheel? With realizing the three most important components in his life, Freedom, Purpose and Relationships, and working hard to achieve them.
“For years, I was just seeking freedom. Freedom from clients, freedom from bosses”
When Rob found himself on the phone with a disgruntled, screaming client on Christmas day with his family, he knew enough was enough. He thought, “Why am I putting up with this? I’m better than this.” A breaking point we’ve all felt to some degree in our careers, no doubt.
So what did Rob do to find career freedom?
“I always had the entrepreneurial bug and I knew that I wanted to do something excited that was bigger then salaried work. It was less of a choice and it’s more of this thing I called my divine restlessness”
He started to educate himself on new marketing approaches to better market his existing software products. Once he started earning 70% of what he needed to live on from sales, (he doesn’t see himself as a “super risky entrepreneur,” after all, he had a family and mortgage to think about), he said goodbye to consulting work and hello to “being your own boss” freedom:
“I remember specifically going to Borders and just having a cup of coffee, and kind of reading some books and realizing this is what I would do if I had ten million dollars in the bank. I wouldn’t change this.”
Though freedom, says Rob, can get boring. Which is how he discovered his second most important life component…
“I find purpose from building new businesses and working with other entrepreneurs.”
After several failed product launches in 1999 (for example, smartguy.net), tireless hours coding in the middle of the night (a skill he had to learn on his own back then), and many years later, he realized a very important lesson:
“I learned that marketing is hard and I need to get a smaller niche and know how to reach the customers instead of going door to door”
This lesson helped fine-tune Rob’s marketing skills, and, after almost 10 years of product launch misfires, led to the very successful creation of hittail.com, where he helps other web entrepreneurs find their own successes through driving targeted search visitors to their websites through focused organic keywords.
Rob’s freedom led him to fulfil his career purpose and focus on the third most important component in his life…
Certainly, there are many relationships (be it personal or professional) that are sacrificed on the road to entrepreneurial success. But, the relationships that drive us in the first place make the struggles and the challenges all worth it. For Rob, his family was behind his purpose for success. He promised his risk-adverse wife that he would not quit his job until he found success with his software product ventures, telling her:
“If I can make it work, we can have a good life and this will make me happy in the long run.”
Check out Rob’s full audio interview here to learn more about his journey from hamster wheel to freedom-driven, purpose-finding and relationship-building startup success.