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Phlearn Turns Two Years Old We’re Only Getting Started: Come Join The Fun

Mar 20

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Phlearn turns 2 years old today.

These last two years have been the most important years of my life. I have learned more than I ever thought and I have failed at almost everything I have tried. I even failed at giving up, and that is the only reason you are reading this right now.

I know that a lot of you are either running your own business or contemplating becoming a photographer and working for yourself. I want to share with you some of the things I have learned over the last couple of years of building Phlearn from day one when we had 4 visitors to where we are now.

Over 250,000 unique visitors a month, 50,000+ Facebook fans, over 18,000 PRO Tutorials sold and over 450 FREE videos on Photoshop and photography. We have a staff of 9 amazing people, we just built out an amazing new studio in Chicago and we are growing at 20% a month.

None of this came easy. In fact it has been the hardest two years of my life. I did nothing magical. There was not one single action that sparked success. There was no ad campaign or video going viral that resulted in our success.

Here is the key to success in this industry. Follow your heart and do what you know is right, then do it over and over again.

Starting a business is like trying to cut down a redwood tree. The first thing you are going to need is the right tool for the job. You can work very hard trying to cut down a redwood with a gummy bear but you would be much better off using an axe. Once you have the right tool you can’t take one swing and expect the tree to fall. It is going to take hitting your axe against wood many times.

Finding the right tool isn’t usually that hard when it comes to business. Following your gut is important. You have probably had tons of great ideas that could change the world. The key is to trust yourself and believe that your ideas will work.

The hard part is swinging the axe at the tree over and over again. The first couple of strikes are fun, the next few are ok, but by the time you have tried hundreds of times you start to wonder if you will ever succeed. This is when most people give up.

They were doing the right thing. They just didn’t do it for long enough.

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Here is the secret about chopping down a giant tree, you don’t have to get all the way through it. If you can get about half way through chopping eventually the weight of the tree will do the rest of the work for you.

Building a business works in the same way. In the beginning you are going to work incredibly hard and you will see almost no return. As you keep going you will question if you are even doing the right thing because your efforts are not paying off. If you keep on going beyond that step then the chopping will get a bit easier. Then all of the sudden one day you are going to see that all of that effort is starting to pay off. Then comes the boom. Everything you have worked for is now working for you. The business powers forth and you are just trying to steer it. The tree falling from it’s own weight is like the momentum you have put into your business.

The last part sounds great, but unfortunately you can’t get to the last step without going through the ones before it. Let me tell you, cutting down a redwood by hand is not easy.

When I founded Phlearn and started making daily videos we made no money. In fact I was loosing money at a rapid rate. After a year of making free videos I had lost about $40,000 of my personal money. Did I think about giving up then? Every day. Every damn day. My life had become one big existential crisis and I felt like I was drowning. Literally the only thing keeping me going were self help books and my mother.

I was working 16+ hour days 7 days a week and going through the emotional turmoil of a 14 yr old girl whose mother won’t let her go to a party. When I say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, this is by no exaggeration.

How did I get out of it? I kept chopping. I had to believe that if I kept chopping eventually the tree would come down. There are no guarantees out there so if you are uncomfortable with risk you will need to face that fear early on. You have to believe that if you keep chopping, eventually you can cut down the largest tree in the forest.

Phlearn turns two years old today. I have been chopping non-stop for 730 days. I wake up every day and grab my axe and chop my ass off.

Guess what. The tree is starting to creak. Soon this mother is going to fall down. I will be the proudest man on earth.

When all the dust settles and the celebrations are over I grab my axe, find a bigger tree and start chopping. This next one is coming down in half the time.

Make sure to become part of the Phlearn Family on Facebook, conversate with us on Twitter, and #hashtag your Phlearn inspirations on Instagram. We want to know what the Phlearn community social chatter is about, and who is sharing it. You all keep us motivated to do our best.

  • Samten Norbù

    Your “Hey guys” gonna be famous ;)

    I’ve discover Phlearn only a couple of month ago and it already has change a lot in my global approach of my business ! ( end I event don’t talk about the increase of my photoshop skills ! )
    Now , even if i know that my town is way to small to be able to run my business, i try to do the maximum in creating connections, networking, sharing knowledge with peoples.
    My next plane is to move abroad .. maybe i’ll come visit you guy in Chicago ;) or maybe Australia … just need to enlarge my horizons and getting in a place where i could do what i can do the best and where i can have a continuous motivation to progress.
    Thank you for your help in what you are doing for a lot of people, including me !
    Soon we want to ear you scream “TIIIMBEEEER” ;)

  • Kevin Vlot

    happy 2nd bday
    just bought the second Phlearn Pro and love it!!
    have a nice one!
    Greetings from Holland

  • arrowlili

    Aw happy birthday Aaron and all at team PHlearn and… well, to all the PHamily in general! Respect to you for sticking to your guns and I’m glad it is going as well as it is!

  • ShadeK

    I was watching some TED Talks right before reading this post, and as I was reading it I came to a conclusion, you definitely should be a TED speaker!!!

    And I really mean it, not only because you’re such a brilliant artist, which of course you are, but because you a source of immense inspiration in every sense, finding someone successful who talks openly and honestly about their own success,work,live,etc is not very usual but is much more useful and refreshing to see…
    In this two years, we’ve seen the develop and evolution of Phlearn, not only from the outside as viewers, but also you invited us to peek inside and go along the way with you…

    So, yes, you’re an amazing artist, and my personal favorite for years (hope that didn’t sound too creepy!), everything we’ve learn here, all the beautiful art we create, share and enjoy together are great, but there’s something even more special that i like to take with me, the passion, effort, love and inspiration we get from you and how it bounces and connects everyone here.

    Cheers for those two years and many more to come, in Phlearn and any project you embark on, count on our support!

  • Keegan Evans

    Congrats Aaron! You are the man! And a true inspiration!

  • Rajesh

    Hi Aaron, well done dude. I may have been one of those 4 guys that was watching you in the beginning. I remember the first episodes when you did neat colour swaps and adding flare. I loved the ones where you did 5 phlearns in a row on building your own website. I thought it was big of you man when you ditched the mustang too. I thought it was big of you when let you heart out to us when you broke up with your ex. Who cares what people think man. Be you. I loved it when you pretty much dedicated a whole show informing people that you’lll be swearing much more often now loI. And now I’ve recently watched your slots on CreativeLIVE and thought you owned the show.

    I’ve hardly commented on your site over the 2 years but believe me I’ve probably checked in every god damn day. I don’t even do that with facebook! I wish you every success in Chicago and one day I’ll buy you a cold beer in Seattle when maybe you teach a 2-3 workshop. Keep hustling, stay hungry. You’re an inspiration through your hard work… and no I’m not writing this to get a free phlearn tutorial. Truth! ;)


  • disqus_aX0HIB5dqI

    Just finished reading your latest newsletter and congrats on Phlearns 2nd birthday. I have to say, that was one of the most inspirational stories I have ever read. Keep it up Aaron, you are truly inspirational yourself. and I know that you’ll keep talking to us all even when you’re even more rich and famous;-)

  • Bob Bell

    Good on you Aaron. All the best for you and Phlearn for the future, which I’m sure will be very bright. Seriously one of the best resources around and always fun. Top bookmark material ;)

  • Vishal Diwan

    Awesome Aaron and Team…. Many Many Congratulations for completing 2 years of Phlearn. Your video’s are superb. I began with Phlearn recently and now i am addicted to your stuff… You are surely an inspiration… Cheers and Enjoy :-) :-)

  • Brian Poon

    Great work, Phlearn! You guys are such a valuable resource for learning photoshop. Aaron, your hustle is truly inspiring and I love the way you teach. Keep the momentum!


    I subscribed to a number of photography training websites in the past, and can honestly say that none have come close to your pro tutorials, I also learn so much from your daily free episodes too.
    The first thing I do when I switch my computer on, is to watch your free episode.

    I look forward to the pro tutorial every month they are amazing.
    So glad I found your website on the net Aaron, keep up the great work and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!.
    Jerry from England UK.

  • Joefry Gonzaga

    Hey Aaron. thanks for keeping us inspired and Happy 2nd year Anniversary. PHLearn really helps me to move into a right direction in my photography. I just follow you not so long ago but i tell you when i saw you episodes i got hook up. i watch you daily videos once my PC is On and also before a Go to sleep. I AM PHLEARN ADDICT NOW. =)

  • claude laramee

    Been following u since the days of the red shirt … But honestly you make learning so much fun and inspiring ! I learn the most from you and so glad that you are succeeding in spite of the highly competitive
    online photography world/industry. Cheers to another many years ! Thanks also to the many talents that joined your team.

  • Julie Kjærgaard


  • Steve Staffan

    Great write up, and awesome words. Thanks a ton for teaching me things that have took me to the next level, and continue to push me everyday. Not too sure where I would be in photography if I wouldn’t have been introduced to Phlearn.

  • Tim Shahady

    Congratulations on the birthday! It has been a pleasure watching the episodes and getting to hang in Chicago, a bit. I’m sure you have great things in store for us all and I’ll be here watching each time!

  • Mark ODonnell

    Dude this is awesome and one of the main reasons I keep chopping is Phlearn. I have been here since the beginning and I tell everyone about your site, your company, and your phenomenal success story. Being on this side of the computer screen looking in it’s almost surreal and unbelievable to watch the progression from simple video edits to the full production company Phlearn it is today. It still amazes and inspires me. I hope to meet you in person some day. Chop Chop…

  • Ray McClure

    Happy birthday! You are awesome and you are my inspiration. Keep being you!

  • Jay Cole

    Aaron, I’m proud of you. It’s been my pleasure to watch your dream change and grow. Can’t wait to see this next year :)

  • Mike Levad

    Aaron, I have watched some of those early phlearn vids and the content was great but the production was a bit well let’s just say less than awesome. What you are doing today is amazing considering it has been such a short time. I would not be able to do some of the work I am doing without your great teaching style. So, thanks and congratulations!

  • oliviabossert

    Aaron, I’m so incredibly proud of what Phlearn has become. I’ve been with you since day one (literally) so I’ve seen Phlearn grow every week. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next 10 years!
    x, Olivia

  • Bashar Al-Ba’noon

    Very inspiring story, keep the good work up ^

  • Natasha Desai

    what a lovely and inspiring story :)
    you guys do awesome work!

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