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 started out using Homestead and Frontpage to make up small websites for local businesses, charging a small monthly fee rather than a large up-front fee, the idea was to try and grow a passive income early which has always been my goal but not always as easy as I thought it would be.
What type of online business model do you currently run? (i.e. websites, blogs, membership sites, product creation, web services, affiliate marketing, etc.)
I run a wide spread of models, over the last 4 years if I have learnt anything it’s to diversify, I used to rely on one large adsense site which was great until it died a death ranking wise so I dusted myself down and started again with a plan to spread the risk. I am 100% organic when it comes to traffic, I still earn a fair bit monthly from Adsense but also now do affiliate sale, membership subscriptions, electronic product sales and lead generation CPA deals.
I also own and buy some domain names as investments and managed to sell a couple this year for a fair profit, I stick to what I know/understand so mainly UK domains (.co.uk) In 2007 I bought TVs.co.uk for $1500 which sold in June for around $75,000 – the odd sale like that will always be welcome!
Ed Note: Here’s more info on the sale of that domain name via his blog post
Do you have any employees or business partners? If so, how many do you have and what do they accomplish in your business?
I have always been a one man band, my wife occasionally helps out but it’s mainly just me, more recently I agreed to do a couple of joint ventures with a friend doing finance CPA stuff as he has the industry contacts to sell the leads and works on the rankings & SEO – I did the research and negotiations buying the domains and I think we have almost 10 finance names now so a lot of potential on that side line.
Outside of that I started a company with my best friend about 2 years ago, it was started purely to find & buy zero maintenance sites and all profits get reinvested to buy more sites as a pension fund for both of us, it’s mainly adsense sites and some affiliate stuff but it’s all hands off which is nice, at the start out first site did $15 per day and now that business is doing around $200 per day
What markets / niches would you like to expand into in the near future? Why?
Finance is a big one as mentioned earlier that I am getting into, getting leads to put on and get a good %age of the commission appeals, I am used to sites that get thousands of daily visitors but earn little from Adsense, the finance sites can get 100 targeted visitors per day and earn 5 figures a month, that’s something I wish to get involved in.
What online promotional methods do you currently use? Any favorites?
It’s all organic rankings for me and always has been.
Do you perform any offline promotional efforts for your business?
How do you adapt to the constantly changing online marketplace? Any advice?
Through my own trials, there is no substitute for practical experience, so much noise gets spread online, take for example expired domains – do they hold pagerank? are they wiped clean after expiring? You can read a bunch of lies but only by testing it did I find that if you can get the old site and put it up you can get all the old rankings back and have a site with thousands of daily visitors within a week of putting it together and make some nice income from a name that cost very little.
What was your biggest business success and what did you learn from it?
2 main one’s stand out, I won an award in one of our National newspapers from Sir Alan Sugar now Lord Sugar (Amstrad) and had a half page feature in the paper with free advertising for my website design & hosting for a monthly fee, before it featured I thought I may have to take on staff and get offices when it went to print, but it was in early 2000 and even though the paper had over 1 million of a circulation I think my site got 300 visitors that day, the world wasn’t ready.
The other main success would be selling TVs.co.uk for $75,000 after buying it for $1500 2 years prior, that taught me that while I was late to the domain party it’s never too late, there are always opportunities to buy from owners at a good price that leaves plenty room to make a profit, it’s a numbers game.
What was your biggest business failure and what did you learn from it?
My main site crashing in Google and going from earning 6 figures a year to a fraction of that, I didn’t plan for failure so wasn’t best prepared. It certainly makes you feel human, I’m a lot wiser now and plan ahead better spreading risk and diversifying.
What’s your favorite thing about running an online business?
Quality of life, I work when I want to and not because I have too, I am here when my son goes to school and when he gets home. I would class myself as semi-retired but there’s still plenty work to be done to make sure I’m not relying on Google, my businesses still rely on organic traffic.
What’s your least favorite thing about running an online business?
Working online from home can be a pain, especially during school holidays, everyone you know also thinks your free/available anytime just because you work from home. The other main disadvantage of working online is the necessity for a good internet connection which is fine when it works. A couple of years ago a young driver crashed his car at the top of our road, taking out the phone line & telegraph pole, that left me with no decent connection for 4 weeks.
How many hours do you spend per week working? What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Hard to say, I don’t keep a timesheet and most of it doesn’t feel like work, I can spend full days at the computer but only need to spend a half hour per day to keep things ticking over. So probably more than 40 hours per week doing research & reading and sending emails but I don’t see it as work.
How long do you vacation for each year? Any amazing places you’d recommend people to visit?
Short weekend breaks mostly as I have a young daughter so usually around Scotland, log cabin by the loch with all the luxuries works for me, next year maybe a cruise again – nice to get in a few countries when I do go away as it doesn’t happen that much. I don’t go away much as I have a good quality of life at home with plenty of space & toys so kind of negates the need for getting away.
What is your favorite conference to attend and why? If you don’t attend any why not?
Generally I don’t bother too much, I like to learn new things through my own discovery and its already fairly clear there is no manual to the jobs we do and the rules change, ThinkVisibility in the UK is one I have attended and is good for networking and the social side of it more than anything else, forums, blogs and conferences can only scratch the surface of what you really need to know.
If you weren’t in this business what would you prefer to be doing?
I have been self-employed since I was in my early 20’s so would try anything, running some sort of business from home likely, always fancied buying a large container or two of catalogue returns and flip the stuff on Ebay.
What else do you want to accomplish with your business? Any long term goals?
Stability, I am looking to maintain my current lifestyle and build a pension.
What is a current project you’re working on that you can share with us?
Can’t share what I am working on, there are some domain deals that could pay off in a big way but can’t go into detail, I have been browsing and email site owners buying sites and one of them looks to be agreed, it’s a big authority site for $90,000 with lots of potential, but the deal isn’t done, should be in Escrow within a month though.
What is some parting advice that you can give to someone that’s just starting out online?
Don’t spend all your time reading forums & blogs, don’t waste too much cash on new domain registrations and don’t believe the hype. When it comes to buying domains there are still opportunities to make 4 figures starting with a few hundred, there are also thousands of websites neglected and forgotten about that get traffic and could earn a good income, finds ways to find them!
Ed Note: Thanks again for taking the time to provide some insight into your business Scott!