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Editor: This time we’re chatting with an entrepreneur who’s an ex factory worker. He left all that behind to become one of the UK’s leading online expert. He’s also one of the most down to earth entrepreneurs that you’re ever likely to meet.
He originally hails from the Northeast of England. So John Thornhill is a true British success story, but how did it get started and what challenges did he face along the way? Let’s find out. John, it’s great to meet you.
John Thornhill: Hi, thanks for having me. I feel honoured to have been asked to do this, so I’m looking forward to it.
Editor: Well, it’s great to have you. Now a little bird told me that you started out online selling on eBay. Is that right?
John Thornhill: That is right. I try and keep it short because it’s quite important that I tell people this. I started looking to make money online around 2000 and tried some crazy, crazy things.
And it was around 2002 I discovered eBay. And I was fascinated by the fact you could take literally anything and sell it and make money.
But what got me I’ve got my attention was I saw a lot of people were selling, they were selling eBooks but not in digital format. They were selling them on a CD-ROM.
I don’t know if you remember back in the day you would, you would burn files to a CD. And then I basically bought this CD-ROM off someone, it had about 25,000 eBooks on with resale rights. And I paid around 50, $60 for this.
Now when it arrived, I thought to myself, “Wow, this person spent around maybe five, $6 to get this to me, including postage. I’m going to do the same.”
Because everything had resale rights. So I copied the disc as you do and put it on eBay and for a little while it was doing okay. The problem was lots and lots of people were doing the exact same thing. One thing just to sidetrack, one thing about eBay is you can see what’s selling, you can see what’s not selling and you can see how much people make.
So I was watching people who were doing okay, but then slowly but surely the earnings were dropping, the prices were dropping. So I had this idea that I would take individually books, so the best ones from the collection and just sell them on their own for anything between $1 and maybe $10.
And it flew, it took off. So originally, I was literally selling a zip file or sometimes I would send the ebook as an attachment.
That’s how I would deliver it. But over the course of around six months, I developed a system where small commitment on eBay, they would spend one or $2 or maybe a little more sometimes. I would deliver the ebook automatically. I would leave feedback automatically, basically everything got automated.
And I got to a stage where I was selling around a hundred or 150 eBooks per day. So, I was doing okay, I was doing three, $400 gross per day. Now this is what I want to mention my breakthrough came, now I was doing okay. My breakthrough came when I decided to put a course together to show people how to do this.
So, I would supply everything they needed, I would supply the listing material. I would show them how to automate the process, and I put a product together that sold for $97 and what happened it just took off.
I was selling at least five to 10 copies per day. So I went from doing maybe a couple of hundred dollars per day to sometimes over a thousand dollars in a day. And this is what I want to mention here. I figured a way to make money on eBay and I was doing okay. But when I started to teach others how I was doing it, it exploded. And that was when I realised that people they’re prepared to pay to learn how to do things whatever it may be, build a list, get traffic, whatever it may be and that’s when it started to take off.
And this was around, I don’t know… I started off on eBay around 2002, I started doing this around 2004 and by 2005 I was generating much, much more than I was working in a car plant where I used to work. And then I finally plucked up the courage to quit my job which was on June the 3rd, 2006 at 12 noon, I remember like it was yesterday. So that’s basically how I got started and since then I’ve developed many programmes, software tools, things like that can help people online.
Editor: And it just goes to show that from small acorns, mighty oaks can grow. And for those people that haven’t come across you before John, maybe I could ask a little bit more about your background. You mentioned you worked in a car plant, you’re an ex-factory worker.
Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about your background and how that led you into finding eBay and then your own online business.
John Thornhill: Well, to be honest, I hated my job. I was a human robot. If you can picture a production line, especially in a car plant, I was doing the same thing every 90 seconds or so and I did that for around 15 years.
And the money was okay, especially for just a manual skilled labour job but I had to get out and I started to look online.
Like I say it was around the year 2000 I was starting to look, I basically got a computer and almost straight away I was looking at ways to make money online.
But it took me a couple of years of literally trying some crazy, crazy things. I remember buying into this programme which said if you leave your computer switched on you will make money.
So I was like, “Oh wow, this sounds good.” I paid $20 or something like that. And it was just throwing ads at you and getting you to click links.
But for people who have tried things and believe me I’ve tried literally everything, and it was almost by fluke I discovered eBay.
I can’t even remember how I discovered it.
Obviously, it’s a big site and I’m pretty sure everyone’s aware of it.
But back in 2002 I just stumbled across it was fascinated by the way everything worked, and luckily I stumbled onto someone selling ebooks and that’s where it all took off.
Editor: Wow. And when you stepped away from working in the car plant, that must’ve been quite a worrying thing. Because a lot of people, I believe think that, “Will this last. I’ve gone into the online world but is it going to be almost like a job for life.”
John Thornhill: Yeah. I probably could have quit about a year earlier than I did. Picture this I’m going and doing a night shift, some 10 and a half hours night shift. And I would sometimes get home and I’ve earned a month’s wages online and I haven’t done anything if you know what I mean, while I’ve been at work.
And I was thinking, “Wow, this is unbelievable this is taking off. This is big.” But still I had a secure job, a steady job it paid decent money I got by and it was a big, big step. Because obviously when you go it alone it’s down to you.
But I think with what’s been happening recently in the last 12 months or so, I think a lot of people have realised even people who maybe had secure jobs and maybe realising that’s maybe not the thing now.
I personally don’t think there’s many secure jobs out there, anyone could lose their job tomorrow. So I actually think I’m in a better position now that it’s down to me. I’m in control and I’m not relying on a company telling me I’ve got a job. I work for myself and I’m in control.
Editor: And you’re also responsible for the amount that you earn as well because of that. You can decide if you want to do a promotion for another product or launch a new product yourself. Whereas if you’re working in a 9:00 to 5:00 job, then you’re pretty much dictated to what you will earn each year, so there’s an attraction there as well.
John Thornhill: Of course. If you’ve got a job and you want to earn more money, you’ve got probably two choices and that’s to get a second job or work a lot of overtime.
Believe me where I worked there was people who were tied into mortgages and things like that, and they literally had to work overtime every weekend and that’s not a good life, is it?
Editor: That’s right. That’s right. So, what made you want to get into the online space in the first place?
Was it just that desire to make more money.
Note from the editor:
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