The following post is a part of the weekly interview series with various full time internet entrepreneurs. If you’d like to be interviewed please contact me here.
Where are you from? How old are you? Any other personal details you’d like to share with us?
I’m a guy in his mid-twenties, and I’m from central Europe where the whole “online business” thing hasn’t caught on as much as it has in the States. Well, at least not yet. But I’m really glad to be born at the exact right time to be given this incredible opportunity to run my own online business from anywhere in the world, while traveling around, doing what I love and spending quality time with the ones I care about. I’ve been in the online business for 3 or 4 years now, I started fiddling around with it very early in my college years, and I just became a Bachelor of Computer Science. And maybe just because of this I consider myself more of a “science” guy than a “marketing” guy.
How did you get started making money online? When did you realize the full potential of owning and operating an online business?
Well, it all started in 2006 when I figured out that in my country there’s no decent website for guitar players where they could find everything they need. Being an enthusiastic guitar player myself, I quickly set one up, and I also learned a lot about web development creating that website. It was quite advanced – it had thousands of local songs with chords, users could upload videos of themselves playing, they could rate songs and other guitarists, create songbooks, use forums, use the auto-scroller and chord-preview options etc. Because of its popularity I created its “global” twin-brother shortly afterwards – it’s called YourChords.com and it’s been my first real success. The YourChords.com website now reaches 800’000 unique music lovers per month, and we serve close to 3 million page views per month. When did I realize the full potential of the online business? When I received my first AdSense check. 🙂
What type of online business model do you currently run? (i.e. websites, blogs, membership sites, product creation, web services, affiliate marketing, etc.)
Apart from the YourChords.com website that’s still my favorite project to mess with in my free time, I figured out that I have a significant advantage over a large majority of other internet marketers – I have 4 years of experience in the software development area. And during these 4 years, I’ve been pretty much obsessed with programming. I read books about it, watched online tutorials, wrote TONS of code, and as a result I can basically create anything I find interesting.
So, naturally I needed to find a way to build lots of backlinks to the YourChords.com website. I simply decided to create my own article distribution system, and to create the best one there is. This is how the SpinDistribute.com happened. It takes your article, creates 1000s of unique versions of it, and sends these unique articles to 1000s of relevant websites. This way you get 1000s of links from relevant websites, and Google loves you. 🙂
After I had achieved some really awesome SEO results with it, I decided to offer it to other marketers as a paid online service, and it’s been my second big success. So, currently I’m focused on creating useful and affordable online services for internet marketers, because this way I know exactly what I need to create (because I need these tools myself!) and this enables me to actually do a good job.
Do you have any employees or business partners? If so, how many do you have and what do they accomplish in your business?
I had no problems running the YourChords.com website on my own, but the SpinDistribute.com project is quite a bit more complex. We need to review the submitted articles, handle article writing orders, constantly update our distribution network of article directories etc. Because of this I employ 4 part-time editors, and I cooperate really closely with another software developer. I’m also extremely lucky to be good friends with one of the best web designers I know, and we help each other out.
What markets / niches would you like to expand into in the near future? Why?
As I already mentioned, I’m totally focused on providing high quality online tools for internet marketers now. Right now we’re in the final stages of creating a great new set of tools, called SmileySEO. These tools help you take care of your online business(es). For instance, if there is something wrong with any of your websites, our system will immediately send you an email about it. If you exchange links with someone, our system will monitor your partner to make sure the links to your website are still published. You can track your position in search engines, or create an analysis of your own website, or your competitor’s website. You can find the best keywords to expand your business. The project is technically finished and we’re about to start a marketing campaign for it. So far it’s been a lot of fun creating these tools, and I hope people will love them as much as we do. 🙂
What online promotional methods do you currently use? Any favorites?
I’m a bit ashamed to say this, but apart from SEO and word-of-mouth marketing we haven’t really used many promotional methods so far. I’m just about to dive into the challenging world of AdWords and Facebook Ads, and I hope all goes well. But so far, my favorite method has most certainly been the word-of-mouth marketing. It’s so amazing to see people love our services, and recommend them to their friends – and this is actually how we get most of our business! Well, having a great affiliate program with each of our services helps as well, I guess. 🙂
Do you perform any offline promotional efforts for your business?
Nope, being the “science” guy that I am I love to be able to track all of my marketing efforts, and I just don’t feel I’d be able to do that with traditional “offline” promotional efforts. Plus, our target audience is probably too narrow for something like that. Or maybe not. As I said, I have zero experience in this field, and we all know that “assumption is the mother of all f#&$-ups.” 🙂
How do you adapt to the constantly changing online marketplace? Any advice?
Honestly said, I don’t really have the feeling that the online marketplace is changing any more than any other marketplace. While we’re on this subject I’d really like to give an advice to everyone who’s just starting out. You’ll never know everything about the online business – but once you’ve read a couple of books and spent a couple of weeks on the Warrior Forum and other similar websites, you know enough. You know more than 95% of other people out there. So, at that point you need to take action! That’s really the big secret – you need to put yourself out there, and do something. You’ll learn as you go, and only this way you’ll be able to actually get somewhere!
What was your biggest business success and what did you learn from it?
Well, my biggest business success is certainly the lifestyle that my ventures enabled. I’m not saying that I have more money that I could spend, which most certainly isn’t the case – but being your own boss and doing what you love is worth more to me than anything else. Plus, if you ask me, there’s not that much difference between making $10,000 a month and making $100,000 a month. Once you can lead a comfortable life, that’s all you need.
What was your biggest business failure and what did you learn from it?
Once you decide to pursue your dream and run your own business, you need to accept the fact that there will be many many failures along the way. You’re responsible for everything and you make mistakes – “errare humanum est”. So far, I’ve been lucky enough that all my failures turned out to be wonderful lessons, and none of the failures have been big enough to actually make me regret anything.
What’s your favorite thing about running an online business?
It’s the freedom. No question about it. I love to travel and I’ve been traveling more during these last couple of years than I could have possibly imagined when I was younger and I watched my “investment banker” father work 70 hours a week.
What’s your least favorite thing about running an online business?
I love it so much that I can hardly find something to complain about. I guess it’s the responsibility. Everything about your business becomes quite “personal”. If someone complains about something, it hurts much more than if you’re just an employee at some company. If the server crashes and your websites are offline for 5 hours, you feel like it’s the end of the world, and you don’t go to bed until everything’s fixed, even if it’s 5 AM. Been there.
How many hours do you spend per week working? What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
It depends on so many factors. There are times when we’re adding new functionality to some existing service or maybe working on something completely new, and it can easily mean that I work 70+ hours a week. But ever since I have other people helping me out with the business, there are times when I just take a month off and work maybe 5 hours a month.
When I’m not working, I love to do all kinds of stuff. I’m a guitar enthusiast, and I also play basketball and football (err, soccer!) with my friends, sometimes we even race go-karts. I run a popular nationwide charity website, and I also think that nothing beats just spending quality time with your loved ones. Oh, and I often play tennis with my father – he’s been working abroad when I was 10-23 years old and we’ve grown apart a little, but tennis is a great way to bond and we really love it. 🙂
How long do you vacation for each year? Any amazing places you’d recommend people to visit?
I guess I could say that each year I vacation at least 10 times, for at least 2 weeks each time. I don’t have any small kids so I can afford to travel quite a bit, and I love it. I’ve been all over our lovely planet and I can’t wait to see some more of it.
For instance, less than a year ago I took a road-trip with some of my closest friends along the east coast of the US. We visited New York, went up to Boston, then Montreal and Toronto, Philadelphia, did some gambling in AC, then Washington, Orlando and Miami, even Key West … it was amazing and I loved the States so much. I’ll do a similar trip along the west coast next year, if all goes well.
Next Monday I’m leaving for 30 days, I’m road-tripping across Australia, and I hope it’s going to be a great experience.
What amazing place do I recommend? Well, since most of your readers are probably from the States, Chris, I’d like to recommend them a trip to Barcelona in June. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the greatest European city, and I’m sure they are going to love it. 🙂
If you weren’t in this business what would you prefer to be doing?
It’s a tricky question for me to answer, it really is. Being relatively young, I had the opportunity to start my own online business right away, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make a living with it even before I graduated. My only previous work experiences were, well, being a pizza-delivery guy, and being a bartender for 8 weekends or so. I must say I like the online business better. 🙂
What else do you want to accomplish with your business? Any long term goals?
My only long term goals are to continue doing what I love, to earn enough money to support my current lifestyle, to be able to support my family when the time comes, and to provide great services to my fellow online marketers. I’m certainly not looking to create an 8-figure business, because I believe the most sincere personal joy lies elsewhere.
What is a current project you’re working on that you can share with us?
As I mentioned before, we’ve just finished a set of amazing tools for internet marketers, called SmileySEO.com. We’re also working hard to improve our existing services and websites all the time, and we’ll continue doing just that in the future.
What is some parting advice that you can give to someone that’s just starting out online?
If you’re just starting out online, don’t get trapped into thinking “well, I don’t know enough about this business yet, I need to learn so much more before I can get started.” Yes, it’s certainly great to have some fundamental knowledge about this business, but the single most important thing is that you take action once you are familiar with the basic concepts. You’ll learn as you go, and only this way your online business will generate enough rewards along the path to keep you motivated. It’s a relatively tough business to make it through the first couple of months, but the benefits of being your own boss make up for that a thousand times over.
Try, and try hard – you won’t be sorry! 🙂
Ed Note: I met Aaron via email after he asked me about whether or not he should attend Elite Retreat, we got to talking and I thought he’d have a great unique story to share with us here so thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions Aaron!