I met Connor Grooms at a startup mixer in Gainesville, Florida a year ago. Our initial conversation touched on travel, entrepreneurship and minimalistic lifestyle approach, and he got me to agree to meet up with him to share how I built my businesses.
I’ve always enjoyed sharing my experiences and knowledge with those who share my drive and motivation. I expected this meeting to be just another day to share my wisdom with a young entrepreneur. But when I sat down with this young man, I was immediately intrigued. He talked about ideas, goals and challenges foreign to most 18 year olds. Who the hell was this kid? We connected immediately and I now consider him one of my closest friends.
What stuck out most from his personality was his methodical approach to deconstructing problems and his uncanny ability to take immediate action in tackling those problems. He reminds me of a younger version of Tim Ferriss.
At only 19, Connor took a leap of faith, dropping out of college to travel and build an online business. Every other month, he travels to a new country to learn a new skill. He shares his highly actionable insights and experiences on his blog, One Month Master.
Connor’s story reflects the doers in the world – the individuals who take action and make things happen. The ones that create meaningful experiences from nothing. The ones that push the boundaries of experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity to get to know this guy, take a moment subscribe to his blog. Send him a quick note and introduce yourself. Definitely a cool guy to get to know and hell, you can even meet up with him on one of his adventures!
1. Tell us a bit about your background. What got you into traveling?
I traveled a lot with my family as a kid. When I was ten, my family backpacked around the world for a year. We went to 27 countries, stopping four times for my parents to homeschool my sister and I in Cape Town, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Surfer’s Paradise Australia. We spent around three months in southern Africa, a month in India, five months in Southeast Asia, a month in China and Japan, and two months in Australia before heading home. You could say I was corrupted at an early age. We did a few shorter summer trips in the following years, but nothing like the Trip.
Both of my parents are also entrepreneurs; my mom has been a family photographer for over twenty years, and my dad is a Wharton grad and serial entrepreneur who is now an executive at a rum company in Key West. Combine that with all the traveling we did, and it’s not exactly shocking that I’ve ended up where I am.
2. You are a talented designer. Could you talk a little bit about how you got started, and how you turned that skill into revenue?
I started building websites in 2005 when I was ten. My first website was an atrocity I built in Dreamweaver that was only a few words on a blue background and some stock navigation buttons that didn’t do anything. The next one, built later that year, was all Flash. Each page was a keyframe, and I simply linked different elements to different keyframes. This site was much better because Flash was easier to use than HTML, but it still sucked pretty bad. I didn’t build any more sites for awhile, but I spent a fair amount of time in Photoshop, which I’ve always had on my computer.
I think it was the summer before 11th grade in high school that I started getting into marketing and started actually doing some design mockups in Photoshop (which were pretty terrible in the beginning). I don’t have any formal design training, or informal for that matter, I just sort of figured things out. If you use the web as much as I do, you know what looks good and what is easy to use. The mechanics of Photoshop that I use are very simple and easy to learn since I don’t do any skeudomorphic bullshit. Once I started combining my new marketing and psychology knowledge to design, I started to get good.
I taught myself WordPress and a framework called Headway (which I could not operate without) senior year and started actually building some of my designs. Each website was a little bit better than the last. Helping people with their websites was a serious accelerator in building relationships with other entrepreneurs.
Most of my revenue is from pure UI design work, which is what I’m best at. I did free work for well connected people and got paid gigs from their referrals and recommendations.
3. What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your business? Please be as specific as you can.
This past March, I landed a $12,000 design project to design a backend system for a company in Miami. I’d been aching to drop out of college all year, as I was learning way more on my own and wanted to travel. This contract gave me enough runway to drop out, travel, and do something better than school.
There’s a little bit of a lesson in how I landed this gig. I’m sure your readers are familiar with Charlie Hoehn’s concept of free work. When I arrived in Gainesville last summer, I did a lot of free work. I helped individuals, startups, non-profits, you name it – anyone in the startup community. One of the people I worked with was a great guy named Eric Pheterson (who now works at Apple). I designed the backend for his automated pet feeder startup. The startup’s developer, Mark, saw the design and thought it was really good. Mark was about to get a contract developing a backend system for a company in Miami. Guess who he brought on board as the designer? It pays to do free work.
4. I’m intrigued by your blog’s model. Could you explain what One Month Master is about?
One Month Master is about having the freedom to travel and learn new skills at whim, and how to go about learning those skills faster than normal. Every other month, I attempt to master a new skill. I cram one year of learning into one month. I travel around a lot as I’m doing this, usually staying in a place for a month at a time.
Usually, the skill has something to do with the country or region I’m in; for instance, I’ll be learning Jiu Jitsu in Brazil next year. I then write about the skill and how I went about learning it quickly, noting techniques that readers can use to learn any other skill.
Knowing how to learn a new skill in a month isn’t very useful if you don’t have a month of free time to dedicate, so the other half of the blog focuses on the freedom side of the equation. A lot of people read the 4-Hour Workweek and think that you must have a passive income business to live like I do. The reality is that building a passive income source is really fucking hard and takes a long time. The fastest, easiest, and most teachable way to become location independent is to become a web designer. After the initial learning curve, you can make $1-2k in a few days, and most of the work is finding clients. And since you only need $1000 (or less) per month to live in Southeast Asia, doing one or two websites (a maximum of a week of work) buys you a month of free time to learn new skills or work on building a more passive income source.
6. What’s your favorite inspirational quote?
“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” – Ben Franklin.
5) What are your favorite online resources as an online business owner?
Hands down, Headway. It’s a theme framework for WordPress that makes it stupid easy to build websites. Being a designer, I could never stand using pre-made themes, which were always impossible to customize. With Headway, I can design something in Photoshop and then have it built and live in a few hours. I actually did a full narrated screen recording where I built my blog from scratch in two hours using Headway. I use it on every single website I build. It’s fucking fantastic.
6) Finally, where can people find you online?
The best place to find me is on my blog, One Month Master. Subscribers get a free 30 minute one-on-one call with me to discuss their business, personal development, design, travel, or anything else. Subscribe and get your call here.