Benny Hsu is an entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster. He has a successful app portfolio, sells items through a number of online stores and inspires people on a daily basis through his website, Get Busy Living.
What’s a day in your life like?
I’m in e-commerce. That sums up what I do. I mainly sell through a Shopify store. I import products from overseas and sell them directly to my customers. I also have an Etsy store, and I sell on various print on demand platforms such as Gearbubble and Amazon Merch.
I believe in diversifying my income. I don’t just want to rely on one source. With the world changing so fast and especially with technology, it’s very easy for one way to dry up really fast or become obsolete.
A day in my life involves a variety of tasks like checking my Facebook ads reports, creating new t-shirt designs, researching new ideas, or attending to customer support problems that my support team tags me in.
I also have a podcast and a blog. I do those more for fun because I’m not making money from them. It’s just something I really enjoy doing to help people who feel stuck in life like I was.
What path did you take to get started?
It was a long journey to get to where I am now. For a long time, I never thought I would be able to do work that I love and get paid for it.
Right out of college I started working in the family restaurant business. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I just started working there to make money while I tried to figure it out.
I ended up working in the restaurant for almost 10 years. It was much longer than I hoped. I just didn’t know what else to do and I felt stuck.
I thought about different careers that I might enjoy. I thought about going back to school. I looked online for what jobs were available and if anything interested me. None did.
I’ve always been interested in the internet. For fun, I ran a sports blog for a couple years in my 20’s. I even had advertisers who bought link ads for a year. I made enough money to pay for my hosting which was great.
I remember when I discovered how some people were making six figures a year writing for a blog. I felt that’s what I wanted to do. I thought about different topics to blog about that would make money, but each time I started a blog I gave up.
I thought about typical 9 to 5 jobs. I tried a couple part time jobs, but they were short lived because I just grew tired of them.
In 2007 I remember reading the 4 Hour Work Week and wanting to have a job that gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. So I turned my attention back to doing something online. I dabbled in different ways, but they all ended in failure because I lacked patience. When I didn’t see results right away, I gave up.
I hit rock bottom in late 2010. It was a huge turning point for me. I got tired of always being unhappy. Tired of not doing anything and always complaining. Tired of still working the same restaurant job that I had wanted to quit for 5 years. I came home from work one night and typed a letter to myself because I needed a new approach. I needed to change if I wanted to be successful.
I began changing my habits, my routines and what I read. I began exercising. I sold my video game system so I would have more free time and not be distracted.
In January 2011, I started my blog Get Busy Living because I needed a creative outlet. Growing up, I did a lot of creative hobbies like drawing, photography and making model airplanes and cars. But while I was working at the restaurant, I stopped doing all that. A blog would allow me to write and be creative again. My goal wasn’t to make money. It was just to do something positive in my free time.
In the same month, I began development on an app idea I’d had for a while. I thought you needed to know how to code to get an app. I tried to teach myself to code and quickly realized it was hard and that I didn’t have the patience or the desire to learn. Then I realized that I could hire other people to build my app for me. So in January I posted an ad on elance.com and hired a company out in Ukraine to build my app for $1,900.
8 months later it was done. I didn’t know what to expect once it was released. I certainly hoped it would make me a little bit of money every day.
I was in for a huge surprise because in the first 30 days my app was featured by Apple as “App of the Week.” That led to a huge spike in sales and I earned $30,000 that first month.
I thought this was finally the business that would allow me to be my own boss. But, I didn’t quit my job right away. I wanted to be sure income was steady before I quit. As I expected, the sales dropped after being featured. Nevertheless, I kept spending money on updates to the app to improve sales. I was also spending money on developing new apps.
It didn’t go as planned. I wasn’t making money overall. I was bleeding money because the new apps I created failed to take off. I realized that some of the apps I spent money on would never make that money back. So, after a couple years of trying, I gave up on developing apps.
In early 2013 I also decided to quit my job.
The perfect scenario was to have my online income match my monthly income from the restaurant so that I could quit my job and not be struggling financially. But I couldn’t spend another year working at the restaurant. I needed to quit.
It was scary because the next few months I was living off savings, selling stocks and anything else around the house just to be able to pay the bills.
I stopped focusing on my original app ideas and worked on making simple iPhone games. Now that I had so much more free time, I put everything I had into it. The first day my first game went live, I made less than a dollar. It wasn’t much, but it was exciting to see the potential.
My plan was to have a library of games that made a little bit of money for me, so I continued to make more games. By December of that year, I had broken the five figure mark in sales for my games. It felt rewarding to know I started from the bottom and reached that level.
But I started to lose interest in the process. Luckily that’s when I discovered selling t-shirts online.
It wasn’t until I became successful selling t-shirts online in 2014 that I was able to truly feel like I had succeeded in my goal of having an online business and being my own boss.
Since then I’ve been selling items like t-shirts, mugs and necklaces online using a mix of different print on demand platforms.
In September 2016 I started a Shopify store so I could build a brand and sell products that I buy from overseas.
What is your background?
I grew up thinking that I would know what I would do for the rest of my life. I thought I would just figure it out. When we’re in school, we’re told what to do. We go to class, do homework, take exams, then graduate. When I was in college, I didn’t know what to major in. I had no idea until I was forced to declare a major. After looking at all the available majors, I decided on sports management, mainly because it sounded interesting. I love sports and working in some capacity in sports seemed cool.
After college, I tried to find a job locally, but sports jobs are very limited where I live. I didn’t know what else to do so I decided to start working in the family restaurant.
I grew up in the restaurant business. My brother, sister and I would spend time there because both my parents would work. The first restaurant they opened, they eventually sold. Then later they opened another one. We spent a lot of time there after school and in the evenings. We would help out when needed and during summer break.
I never thought I’d go into the restaurant business. It was never a dream of mine. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t excite me.
However, I did enjoy working. I liked going and liked being around the people I worked with. I became a manager for one of the restaurants my mom opened. The employees there were younger so I enjoyed hanging out with them after work.
About five years in, things changed. I just grew tired of the same thing over and over. It was frustrating because that I still had no idea what else I wanted to do. I thought if I just knew what it was, I would put everything I had into it to be successful. But I didn’t know what to do.
By then I had a house so I had a mortgage every month. I needed a job that would pay enough so I could maintain my monthly bills. That wasn’t easy to find.
So, as you can see my background isn’t directly related to what I’m doing now.
It’s completely fine to do work in a different area than your major in college. I remember being interviewed for a podcast and the host studied architecture in college. After college, she moved to New York City and got a job for an architecture company. Then she realized she didn’t want to do that for the rest of her life. She had already spent 4 years studying architecture in college and a few years after college in the architecture field. So, she became a successful online entrepreneur. I believe she makes more money now and also she enjoys it much more than architecture.
Some people feel that if they change their job, they will have wasted the years they’ve spent studying and working. So they keep working in a field they hate so they won’t feel like they wasted time or money they’ve already invested.
To me that way of thinking is crazy.
What resources would you recommend for others looking to do something similar?
Anything we want to learn, we can find. Start by finding a book on what you want to do. There are a lot of great books written by people who share their experience and advice.
I would also suggest reading personal development books. If you want any success, you have to first change on the inside. If your mindset and beliefs are negative, you will never achieve what you want in life.
If you want to make money online but don’t know what exactly to do, visit Nick Loper’s site www.sidehustlenation.com. I’ve been fortunate to have been on Nick’s podcast a couple times. He interviews all kinds of people who are making money online. It’s a great way to hear their stories and learn from them. You may hear about a way to make money that you had no idea was possible.
That’s how I got started selling t-shirts online. I was listening to a video interview on another website and the guy being interviewed was making six figures a month selling t-shirts without needing to buy inventory. I thought that was amazing. I had always wanted to sell shirts, but I didn’t want to print the shirts myself, nor did I want to order boxes of shirts just hoping they would sell. This new model of companies handling the printing and shipping of my shirts to my customers sounded great to me. So after that interview, I began learning how to sell online and advertising my shirts through Facebook ads. It was a rough start with a lot of failures, but I kept at it and kept learning and in the first five months, I had profited $100,000. That was the most money I had ever made in my life in such a short period of time.
Search Youtube for anything you want to learn more about as well. Lots of people sharing their advice there.
Everything I learned to get started I found either in books or online. Don’t let a lack of knowledge hold you back. It’s a poor excuse to not get started. Everything we want to learn is on the internet.
Finally, join Facebook groups related to what you’re interested in. It’s a great and easy way to join like-minded people no matter where you live in the world.
“Putting yourself in a positive mental state helps with all areas of your life. You’ll feel better. You’ll get better ideas. And who knows what may come from it.”
Do you have any tips or insight to share with someone looking to get started?
One thing that I would tell myself if I could go back in time is to be patient and don’t chase money.
Before I hit my rock bottom, I lacked patience. I wanted everything to happen quickly.
I also was chasing money. Being at a job I hated, making money was my number one goal. So that’s what I searched for online. That led me to courses that promised easy money with a little bit of work. Not only did I lack patience, but turns out they would require much more work than I thought so I quit.
When I started my blog, Get Busy Living, I wasn’t chasing money. I was just doing something I enjoyed. That put me in a good mood. That allowed me to do something productive with my free time.
I would encourage anyone who’s stuck in life and don’t know what they want to do to look at activities or hobbies that you would enjoy doing. Spend time doing that because putting yourself in a positive mental state helps with all areas of your life. You’ll feel better. You’ll get better ideas. And who knows what may come from it.
Though my blog hasn’t generated much money, it has brought so many opportunities, interviews, and new friends from it. I love writing for it so that’s what keeps me going.
When I started developing my first app, I didn’t say to myself I’m going to get rich with this. That wasn’t my goal. I didn’t put all my hopes and dreams into it. I just wanted to get an app developed. I had an idea for an app and just wanted to make it a reality. I told myself after the app was done and before it was in the App Store that if I didn’t make a single penny from it, I would still be happy because I actually achieved a goal. I took an idea that I had, did something I had never done before and now had an actual app that could be downloaded. Even if no one else downloaded it, I would be happy to use it.
When you have the mindset of needing money, you’re not going to be patient. You will also be drawn towards business ideas not because you like it, but because of the promise of quick money.
Any business takes time to build. If you didn’t know my story, you would have thought that making $30,000 in the first 30 days my app went live was a get rich quick overnight success story.
When I made $100,000 profit in my first five months of selling t-shirts, it seemed like it came easy to me.
But it didn’t come easy. My first 21 shirt designs failed. After the first month of selling, I broke even with the money I spent on ads and my shirt sales.
The first app I developed was a hit. The following apps I released all were failures. I quit making apps because I realized I wasn’t that good at it.
I know if it wasn’t for my previous experiences, I would not have had the patience or the mindset to push through after my failed t-shirt designs.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, share or elaborate on?
The path that I took to get to where I am now wasn’t typical. After my many years of failures and being stuck, I had to take a different approach.
That’s how you have to see it as well. It’s hard to just sit around and think about what it is you want to do and wait for that perfect idea and know it feels right.
If you’re waiting for the perfect idea that feels right, you’ll be waiting your whole life for it.
I get a lot of emails from people who are stuck in their life that dream about starting an online business. Years have passed and they hadn’t done anything but dream. Why? Because they keep waiting for that perfect idea. They want to be the person that has never swung a baseball bat before and on their first swing hit a home run.
Because of their desperation, they’re afraid of wasting time on something that turns out to be a failure. In my mind, doing absolutely nothing is the biggest failure.
You’ll only know if it’s right for you when you try it out. Luckily, with an online business, you don’t have to invest a lot of money to start something. If you invest time and money into it, it’s never a failure. You will learn something that could be used for whatever you try next. Also, you will learn what you don’t like to do, which is helpful with the process of finding what you do like to do.
I’ve had so many ideas in my mind that seemed good and seemed like something that I wanted to do, but once I did it, it wasn’t as great. But I’m glad I tried so I knew it wasn’t for me and could move on to the next idea.
Even now I wouldn’t say what I do is what I’ll do forever. I just know that I’m enjoying it now, but also keeping my eyes open for new opportunities.
I didn’t know what I wanted to in life, but what has gotten me to this point has always been just following what I was interested in doing.
I started my blog because I was interested in it. The same with my app. When I started selling t-shirts, it brought back old memories of wanting to sell t-shirts before but thought it was a costly upfront investment in equipment. Now I could sell shirts without inventory or equipment because a company would print and ship all orders for me. I wanted to try. I started my podcast because I was interested in having one.
That’s how I guide what I do. I don’t do it to chase money. Of course, I’d love to make money from whatever I do, but if I’m only chasing money, then I’ll get into businesses that I have no interest it and won’t give the time and attention that it needs.
To truly be successful and make money, you have to enjoy the process. My first month of selling t-shirts was rough. I had failure after failure, despite the fact that I really enjoyed the process. I found myself trying over and over again.
Don’t be afraid to explore different avenues, even if they’re outside of your background.
Be creative. If something doesn’t work, find another way to accomplish it.
Remember that it’s not an overnight process.