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? What’s your blog address and Twitter account? Any other personal details you’d like to share with us?
How did you get started making money online? When did you realize the full potential of owning and operating an online business?
I first became interested in making money online while in college in 2006. A guy I knew from school was being talked about because he had signed up half the state to the infamous ponzi scheme 12dailypro and made a million bucks. I thought to myself, “There has to be a legitimate way to make money online”. From there I discovered Clickbank and PPC marketing. I had a successful campaign out of nowhere, which fizzled out eventually and left me in the hole. From then I knew that it was possible and decided to focus all of my free time chasing the dream. I realized big things were possible if I could get a site to rank for high traffic search naturally, and I wouldn’t have to worry about spending any money once the site got there.
What type of online business model do you currently run? (i.e. websites, blogs, membership sites, product creation, web services, affiliate marketing, etc.)
I currently run the affiliate model. I have dabbled in the subscription model some with a website I launched for my father. He is a guitar teacher, and his local business was slipping. We came up with a unique idea to offer guitar lessons online. He currently has over 350 students online and is down to working only 2 days per week at the local shop. I’ve since parted ways with the project, but it continues to grow at a steady rate.
Mainly though I don’t have any products to offer so I stick to promoting someone else’s.
Do you have any employees or business partners? If so, how many do you have and what do they accomplish in your business?
I employ a few part time writers. My sister is one of them, and she has been vital to me moving forward. She has a master’s degree in professional writing, so I guess you can say it was meant to be.
What markets / niches would you like to expand into in the near future? Why?
I would like to expand into the finance niche. I think there is a good opportunity to launch a brand in that space that can not only help people, but make money as well. Like poker, there is a ton of noise in the market, and I think with some great information that is not designed to rip people off with some type of scam could do well.
What online promotional methods do you currently use? Any favorites?
Currently I count on organic seo. I don’t do much else. Everything is geared towards bringing in visitors, and by putting out some great content you can do a lot on the web.
Do you perform any offline promotional efforts for your business?
No, everything I do is online. Offline stuff just doesn’t scale.
How do you adapt to the constantly changing online marketplace? Any advice?
Lately the poker industry has been crazy. Between poker rooms closing and player CPA requirements increasing I have seen a lot of affiliates transition into other markets. I guess I say jump on the “diversify” bandwagon.
What was your biggest business success and what did you learn from it?
My biggest success was building a website about online slots with another affiliate. It may seem silly, but we spent over a year building it out on a nice brandable domain until it was a major player in that niche. It had over 600 pages and was an absolute nightmare to update with all the casinos and promotions and whatnot. I can tell you anything you want to know about slot machines. We lived and breathed it. We ended up selling the site for 3 ½ years revenue, which was huge.
I learned that a lot is possible online. I built the site with someone that I had never even met in person (we met on a forum). We chatted on IM. I don’t think we ever even spoke on the phone. We made thousands of dollars together and I’ve never even met her. Kinda crazy.
I’ve also learned that persistence is key, and that money talks and bullshit walks. Everything has a price; it’s just a matter of negotiating with a person the right way. I’ve also learned that working hard and building something of value has a much larger payday at the end than building your standard affiliate site.
What was your biggest business failure and what did you learn from it?
My biggest failure was when I decided to be like everyone else in the poker space and buy a ton of links. The site never ranked for anything, and I pumped a bunch of money into it. Needless to say I’ve learned that while some grey hat seo tactics may work, there is no guarantee. I’ve stuck to the white hat approach since then.
What’s your favorite thing about running an online business?
The freedom. The hours. Being able to travel freely. Not having a boss to answer to.
What’s your least favorite thing about running an online business?
Sitting in my home office all day with little human interaction.
How many hours do you spend per week working? What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
It depends. On normal days I will work around 3-4 hours in the morning and a few hours at night. When I have a lot of stuff to do I’ll sit and bang out work for five hours at a time. For fun I’ll ride my Harley, play with my dog, Drive RC cars up and down the street. These activities are usually done during the day in between working. Occasionally I’ll ride my dirtbike around the neighborhood and annoy the neighbors. Taking frequent breaks is key. On the weekends I’ll try to go ride some moto or go out with friends.
What do your neighbors think of your activities?
I’m sure they think that I am some kind of trust fund baby that never works… either that or a drug dealer. Whenever they see me I’m doing some type of leisure activity. My friends and I have this running joke about “being a man of leisure” and doing “leisurely activities”. Isn’t that what making money on the internet is all about? Having the time to do whatever you want whenever you want to?
How long do you vacation for each year? Any amazing places you’d recommend people to visit?
At least a few weeks each year. As far as places to visit I would say Key West during the mini lobster season. You go out on a boat and scuba dive and catch lobster for two days. You eat a lobster feast at night then go out on Duval Street and party all night. There is also a wildlife preserve/reef called Looe Key that is amazing to dive and snorkel at. We swam with sea turtles, barracudas and sharks.
What is your favorite conference to attend and why? If you don’t attend any why not?
For partying I would say the gambling affiliate conference in London in January. There is always a new online poker room that believes sponsoring an elaborate party will bring them affiliates. I remember a party last year that was roman themed. There was a play going happening on a stage with naked girls that ran through the crowd and there was a snake and I think a pig at some point.
For business I’d say the Elite Retreat events have been pretty amazing. I’ve met a lot of great people at small conferences, like you Chris. I’ll also be attending BlueGlass Florida, which should be fun.
If you weren’t in this business what would you prefer to be doing?
Probably something having to do with dirt bikes. I’ve got a few friends that ride professionally and it seems like a good time, although it would take years to get to their level.
What else do you want to accomplish with your business? Any long term goals?
I’d like to build something worthwhile that can help people. It’s one thing to promote all the scam rebills or gambling sites, but at the end of the day I’d like to help people in some way. It is kind of what I am going for with my site. To educate people on how to play poker so they can enjoy the game and not lose money every time they play. That’s what it’s all about.
What is a current project you’re working on that you can share with us?
I’ve been working on OnlinePoker.org for the past year or so. It’s been a huge undertaking to actually build something that provides value in the poker space. When people think about poker they think spam. I’m looking to build a brand that’s not all about spamming up the search results.
What is some parting advice that you can give to someone that’s just starting out online?
Persistence is key. It’s hard to keep working on a website or campaign or whatever when everyone around you secretly wants you to fail. When they see you fail it reassures them that what they are doing is ok (working a lame job, taking the easy way out). We all know that route is not for us. They might seem encouraging but deep down inside they want to see you give up. You can’t give up. Don’t be afraid to spend your extra cash and free time working on something that might make you money. You never know when all that hard work will start to pay off.
Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview John!