In this episode you will learn how I got started and how I learned to work with clients from all around the world.
From humble beginnings in South Africa, Burhaan was desperate to make a living from the internet. He talks about his journey to create freedom in his life personally, to earning 6 figures in a year in 2019.
This episode was originally published as a Facebook live video.
Burhaan Pattel (00:05):
And I think we're live.
Burhaan Pattel (00:08):
Hey, welcome to today's video. And I wanted to share my origin story, how I actually got started as a digital marketer, how all of this came to be. So I'm going to start with a background. And I was back in South Africa, I was recently divorced and I was trying to find, I've always been, trying to find a way to, you know, work on my own terms, work, where I wanted to work, not have a boss, not, not be sort of stuck in that nine to five. I'd done the nine to five as a corporate consultant as an IT audit manager, actually at one of the big four audit firms. And I had just gotten to a point where I was, I was feeling stuck. And as a young kid, I also knew that I wanted to be entrepreneurial. My dad had businesses in the past, and he was in business all his life and I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to create my own free will.
Burhaan Pattel (01:04):
And so, around 2016 or so, you know, Facebook started. And this thing, this, this online world, I got introduced to the online world through Facebook and through sort of interacting with people and connecting with friends that I hadn't seen in school from school days. Right? So this was ages ago and, and I realized that people were using the internet to actually sell things. And so I had a couple of things laying around at my house, you know, a TV and just a few odds and ends. And I decided one weekend, to actually go over to one of the big, big stores, buy a few TVs on a credit card, buy a few common GPS's. Those days commons was, was a thing that we used to navigate. This was pre, pre iPhone and pre smartphones, pre GPS in your phones. We had to buy common GPS to get directions.
Burhaan Pattel (02:00):
And so I went to buy a couple of these, garments and a TV and maxed out my credit cards. And forget that if I could get these at a deal, and try to find a way to sell them that I would do so. And so I started posting on Facebook and there was a website called Gumtree. And I think that still exists today, where I was posting sort of these things I had for sale. And within a week, or within a couple of days, I had a few buyers. I had a few people that, sent me messages that were like, "Oh, that's a really good price" And actually there was one woman that I shipped all four garments to. Cause she, maybe she was reselling them or maybe she was buying them for a family or whatever. And she was in a remote part of the country where garments were just not available I guess. And so I shipped all of them over to her, which basically gave me enough profit to have my own garment for free.
Burhaan Pattel (02:50):
And, uh, and then from there, I, you know, I figured out so, I was always into carpentry and I wanted to do carpentry again and make custom furniture. And so again, as I was trying to figure out what, how am I going to start this carpentry business? I posted, sort of my, my services again on Facebook and other online forums. And people started calling me, people started asking me like to come over to their house, to come check out their furniture, to make something custom for them. And that's how I started sort of selling on the internet, so to speak. I wasn't actually like transacting on the internet, people wouldn't pay me any money on the internet, but the leads were coming through the internet. And fast forward a couple of years, I got into MLM and that didn't quite work out the way that I wanted to. But I learned a few more skills in terms of working on Facebook ads and doing Google ads and how to do email marketing and doing all of these things.
Burhaan Pattel (03:48):
And I realized that, Hey, this could actually be a service. This could actually be something that more and more, more and more people are looking for. And so I decided to create a service as a freelancer, that time, you know, the word freelancer was new to me. So I found this website, a friend of mine actually told me about this website called Upwork and I registered, an account. And I posted a profile and I, and I got my first gig, as a digital marketer, as a sort of somebody who was offering digital marketing services, online. And, and I got my first client who was actually American, in Costa Rica. And so I started sort of, you know, working on this business.
Burhaan Pattel (04:37):
The, one of the things that I always had struggled with, despite the fact that I had clients was, I knew I wanted to create my own business. I knew I needed to get more leads and it was doing everything manually. And I didn't have a budget for advertising. I didn't have much money to even put up a website of my own. I didn't have like, Upwork was the only thing. It was a free account. I didn't have to do much. I didn't have to post anything on social. I didn't have to do anything. And so that was really, really easy. The other thing that there was a real sort of external struggle that I had was back in South Africa, where I lived, and I was born, the internet used to go out every, every so often. So, you know, two days, three days in the week, the internet would just cut out to just stop working, maybe the telephone lines or maybe some area in the network.
Burhaan Pattel (05:27):
And so I had to drive to a McDonald's sometimes at one or two in the morning to meet my clients, to actually have these conversations, to get on, Skype calls. And back then zoom wasn't even a thing. And so that was a real struggle and it used to be, one, dangerous because of Africa is not, is not necessarily a safe place to stay. And also I was working out of home and if the internet at home wasn't working, I didn't really have anywhere else to go to, to connect, to earn a living. Then so I had other struggles like, well, how am I going to actually serve my clients? Before I got that first client, I was like, well, I'm South African. I don't ever have solid internet connection. I don't look that presentable on camera. I was using a, an old, old ish laptop to basically transact.
Burhaan Pattel (06:19):
And anytime anybody wanted a video call, I used to make excuses that I couldn't be on video because it was too late. It was dark. I didn't have lighting. And I had a lot of internal struggles about just not being good enough, about not actually being able to do the work for them that they were asking, but I was fortunate. I was fortunate. So before I get into the, into the fortune side, you know, the wall came where, you know, a lot of people asking me, well, how are you actually doing this? Like, how are you earning money? I wasn't making a lot of money, but I was trying to just getting, getting by. I was starting to get off the peanut butter sandwiches, uh, that I used to basically had to eat.
Burhaan Pattel (06:57):
There were days where I didn't have enough money to put fuel in the car to take my wife to work or to bring her back. She used to sometimes put petrol in the car so that she could get to work. Like that was how, how it was. And I didn't have have money to support the family. I didn't have money to support my kids from my ex ex wife. And I was in debt. I was, I was struggling. I wasn't really making, I wasn't even making ends meet. And so these, these external struggles and this sort of wall that I had, where I couldn't get in on the online often enough, I couldn't transaction my clients. I couldn't talk to them like at a convenient time. I was working through the nights and then the internet would go down. It would be frustrating.
Burhaan Pattel (07:40):
And so I came across a book by Tim Ferriss, which you probably are familiar with, called the four hour workweek. And in the book, he talks about how you can actually, as long as you have an internet connection, you could live in any part of the world. And you could basically, I wouldn't say pretend, but you would, you know.
Burhaan Pattel (08:01):
As long as you don't tell your clients where you are on a specific day, as long as they're getting the work done, as long as they get the result that they want, that you could, that I could actually be anywhere. And obviously Upwork pays to a specific bank account, or you connect it to a bank account that you're, you know, you're using. Back then I was using PayPal. And so from a money point of view, getting a deposit into a physical bank or not, it wasn't necessary anymore. And so I decided to take the plunge, buy a one-way ticket to Thailand, and, and do this nomadic lifestyle to, to actually figure out how to live freely away. And, and the goal was to get better internet connection, live in a safer environment, meet a few new people, see new places in the world and, and basically figure it out.
Burhaan Pattel (08:47):
And that was where the epiphany was, where I was like, Oh, this is actually possible. And I started really researching other places in the world that, you know, cost of living. And like, how much is a loaf of bread, or how much is breakfast? How much is coffee? How much is rent? How much is telephone? Like all of these major expenses that we have. I started researching and, and luckily there were websites and there were blogs and there were people talking about, well, they lived in this city and they lived in this city and they lived in the city. And, and, and they basically, uh, told me, or there was information about this stuff online. There was also a website called nomad list. The IO, I believe it's still available, which shows you all the cost of livings and people have posted reviews about a specific place. And what, how fast is the internet connection? You know, good, good places to stay, all of those type of things. And I use that website quite a bit to figure out where it is that I wanted to go.
Burhaan Pattel (09:44):
And I gave myself 100 days. I gave myself 100 days to figure this out, to, to get my business to a point where I was earning enough, one, to pay for the plane ticket and, actually the plane ticket I booked on a credit card, but, I was making enough to basically just cover those expenses that that website, was mentioning that people have said certain studies, it costs to live. And at that point, I think i was making like a thousand, $1,200 a month, like working 80 hours, 90 hours a week. I was, I was making about a thousand dollars a month. So I was working my butt off. But, you know, just trying to figure out a way to, to overcome this thing. And so I, I made this plan within the a hundred days to get my plane ticket, to sell all my stuff, to land in Thailand and to set myself up where I can manage my expenses.
Burhaan Pattel (10:38):
I can pay off my, start paying off my debts in South Africa and, you know, work a little better, work a little bit more efficiently. And I started finding ways to automate my client systems. I found ways to connect tools, to build marketing funnels, to build systems that would actually benefit my, my clients, because what I realized is people want to save their time. They're paying money so that they can get one, get the convenience factor of having somebody else do the work, somebody else dependable to do the work and that they were available to do, do other things. And so with a combination of that, I figured, well, if I can find more clients, start increasing my rates a little bit, then, then I would be able to make a go of this. But I had a conflict because my children were back in South Africa.
Burhaan Pattel (11:29):
I was feeling sort of lost in the sense that I was in this world where I wasn't familiar. I wasn't really trying. I wasn't really sure whether this would work. I knew that I wasn't going to go back to South Africa, but I was, I was still conflicted in terms of who I am and what I, what I'm about. And, and, and how I was going to make this all work. And as I started researching, and as I started overcoming these little hurdles and, and started to find clients outside of Upwork and interacting and having more conversations. And because the internet connection was good, I was able to have proper video calls. You know, I had, I had upgraded my laptop because the old laptop basically died. And I had to, I had to find my way to, to just deliver a better quality service. And so.
Burhaan Pattel (12:20):
What I, what I, what I realized was that, as you up your quality, as you up your presentation, as you up your physical appearance. Not necessarily looking prettier, but just in terms of background or video quality, or just figuring out how, what, what the things are that people resonate with and what they like to see online, whether it'd be in a recorded video, whether it'd be in live video, whether it be meeting them at certain times of the day, whether it be certain language that they like to hear when you're on a call. Like these are all sales tools and all marketing tactics to get people, to buy, to get people to close, for you to close, for me to close people.
Burhaan Pattel (13:04):
I started learning these skills and I started overcoming these, these external, struggles of saying to myself that I wasn't good enough. And saying to myself, that I wasn't capable because it was spending, I was spending copious amounts of time studying and learning. And I got to a point of achievement where, you know, clients were being referred to me. It's been, a long time since I had a quiet day or a quiet week. And, you know, I started putting in systems in my own business as I was working in systems for my clients, I was putting systems in place for myself. A hiring process to find good people to do work for me, a system, to filter out. Clients that are not, were not so good for me. I didn't really quite fit my operating model. I started working on frameworks and, and structure to, to, to get work done faster and to do more, you know, better quality work.
Burhaan Pattel (14:01):
And I figured out how to actually build rapport with people, how to close on sort of 80, 70, 80% of the calls that I was doing with my clients with just certain language. Not necessarily using techno babble or, or using, you know, fancy words to tell them that I know how to do what I'm doing, what I do, or to provide the service that they were looking for. But just giving that level of trust to figure out what the sales, I figured out, what the sales process needs to be, and I'm still working on it, but that was kind of the, the, the achievement in terms of working online. And so I'm at a position right now where a hundred percent of my income comes from clients who I've actually never physically met.
Burhaan Pattel (14:47):
There's maybe one person who I have met, and he's actually a friend. He became a friend first, and then I started helping him in his business. But all the other clients I have not physically met them. Most of them are, I meet them either, via email. And then we get on a zoom call or, you know, in the past it was over Skype. And so a lot of my interaction has been in this way, either to a camera or live on person, or maybe through a LinkedIn post. Or, you know, maybe some interaction, in comment sections, referrals from other clients, recommendations from other clients testimonials it's on my website. And I figured out how to actually leverage all of these assets, leverage video, leverage meetings, you know. Figure out all the nuances that go into creating an online business. And the transformation for me was where, you know, I basically transformed myself into this person who wanted the freedom who wanted the, the, the, the, the, the time in the space who wanted my own business, who was dreaming of that lifestyle.
Burhaan Pattel (16:02):
And I transformed who I was from an arrogant, angry, depressed, a broke kid, seven or eight years ago into who I am now. I'm a lot calmer. I speak to my kids everyday. I've transformed myself through understanding how to run my business, but also how to interact with people and how to connect with them on a, on a deeper level where it's not just about the money transaction that's happening. It's not just about the hourly rate. It's, it's more about the connection. It's more about how we can actually serve people. And that's when I really realized is when you trying to serve other people, you actually end up serving yourself. And I know this is cliche and there's, lots of quotes. I think it was Zig Ziglar who said, if you can help enough people with their problems, you end up solving your own problems, or if you help enough, people get, make money or get rich, you get rich yourself.
Burhaan Pattel (17:05):
And I'm not at a point of richness, but I think I'm at a point of wealth where my lifestyle right now is very comfortable, even though it's, you know, pandemic era, it's, COVID going around the world. It's elections, it's, you know, protest in the street in Thailand. Like there's lots of stuff going on in the world, but I can say that because of the plan that I had, because of the, vision that I had for my life, I transformed my life into, into a position where I'm a lot calmer and I'm a lot more free with my time and with my interactions with people, and then meeting people from all over the world without actually having physically met them. And I think that that's, for me, just looking back on my life and telling you this story, it's, it's, it's something that I'm really proud of.
Burhaan Pattel (17:57):
It's something that I'm loving life, despite all the, all the horrific stories that are, that are going on around, in the world today. So I wanted to share that story for you because, I, I haven't really spoken openly about this to any particular platform or to any particular person. Certain people that know me well, know the story, or have heard the story a couple of times from me, but I wanted to actually put it out there on my Facebook page, because I think it's important for people to understand how I actually got to this point of putting my business online and how I'm able to get clients online and how I am able to help those clients get their clients online. It's one of those inception things, but yeah, I just wanted to share that story. If you want to comment on your own story, let me know in the comments below, you know, follow my page. If you want us to hear more stories, and I'd love to hear from you, you know, DM me, if you're, if you're curious, and, hope to see you on the next video. Thank you so much. Take care. Bye bye for now.