A typical view on my street, Toorak Rd in South Yarra – seeing all the wankers in fancy cars gives me that much more motivation.

These questions are going to be a little more technical in nature, so if you aren’t interested in earning an income online, you probably won’t want to read this post.

How many websites do you own?

40+.  Most of which were purchased.  The top 7 make up 90% of my income.  I’m currently selling off sites to downsize to a more manageable level.

Do you make money from your blog?

If you mean TomsAdventure.com, then no.  Some believe that you can make a fortune blogging.  I see it just as another avenue to publish your writing, so unless you are an amazing writer, you probably won’t make much from a personal blog.  I just keep this blog as a hobby; to keep a journal and share my thoughts/adventures, and to reassure my mom that I haven’t been kidnapped by crazy Bogan Australians.

How much money do you make?

Considerably more than I was at my desk job fresh out of college.  I’m satisfied with my decision to pursue this career.  I just watched the movie “The Butterfly Effect” so I can’t really say with 100% certainty.  But I can say that I wouldn’t go back in time to change the past, given the opportunity.  (Unless, of course, I could place strategic bets in the stock market, but that is really not the point I am trying to illustrate here).

How many visits does your site get each month?

Over 1.5 million visits in March between all websites.  In comparison, Rebecca Black’s Friday video has nearly 120 million views since coming out two months ago.

What do you look for when buying a website?

My strategy has been to buy aged sites with timeless content that receive most of their traffic through lots of different keywords organically.  To break it down:

1.  Aged: Google seems to like older sites better.  Also, one thing you can never artificially do is increase your site age, unless you are buying an aged domain.  That helps lower the competition.

2.  Timeless Content:  A site that gets traffic from people searching about Rebecca Black’s new Friday video isn’t very sustainable.  People searching for information on classic Jeep engines is going to be just as popular in years to come.

3.  Organic traffic through many keywords: Organic search traffic means free traffic from Google.  You want your site to be ranking for hundreds of different terms, rather than relying on one keyword to bring in all of your traffic.

Should I focus on creating multiple websites or growing one or two?

My advice would be to focus on one (or two).  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to really get a site going, and once you have it going, you can leverage the success of that site when you work on it.

For example, if you build a website that Google just loves, you might get your new content indexed quickly and immediately start ranking for new keywords related to that new content.  However, if you have a bunch of sites that Google finds just OK, your new content won’t be indexed or ranking as quickly.

I’m completely new to this.  What should I do first?

If you have the money, buy a website.  Just a couple hundred could get your foot in the door.

1.  You can enjoy immediate cash flow.  Websites sometimes take several months to start ranking in Google and producing an income.  This period of hard work and no results can easily kill your motivation.

2.  You’ll be forced into a fast-track learning experience.  If you win an auction (I recommend looking through Flippa.com) you’ll be forced to take over the website whether you think you are ready or not.  You’ll be forced to set up your hosting, transfer the site and get everything set up.  The seller will probably have some experience and will be able to hold your hand through the process.

3.  Searching through website auctions will give you specific examples of how people built, marketed and monetized their websites.  If you try to learn about websites through forums, most people won’t tell you what sites they own, or how much they make from their site.  Website auctions are completely different.  They are putting it all on the table for anyone to see.

How should I get more traffic to my site?

I find this the most difficult part of building a site.  Continue promoting at all angles. Onsite and offsite. Onsite promotion would include creating more content so that you rank for more keywords, and offsite would be any type of link building, social media marketing, article writing, guest blog posting, etc.

Do you use any SEO tools?

Just SEMRush, Compete.com, Quantcast.com, Alexa, Way Back Machine, Snapnames.

Any small changes create big earnings increases?

Adsense ad sizes and placements can really help increase earnings.  Going from a 250×250 to a 300×250 helps tremendously, because more advertisers target the latter.

Can you build/design a website for me?

No.

How do you build content for your websites?

I really hate writing unless it is something I really want to talk about.  So I get content for my sites in 3 ways that don’t require me to write against my will.

1.  Leverage your users to post content for you.  This could be in terms of reviews, articles, questions/answers, comments, discussion, anything.  This way you are getting it for free.

2.  Buy websites with original content already written on it.

3.  Hire a writer to create unique content for your sites (I don’t do this much).

What strategies do you use to build backlinks and PR?

When I first started, I was really trying anything I could to do get every single backlink  possible. I used some reciprocal linking software, hired people on DigitalPoint to do different submission packages, used online services to do submissions, plastered my link on different forums, hired people to post on forums with my link, etc.

What I found was that doing anything but authentic link-building was a waste of time. Google doesn’t care if you have a link on 1,000 spammy directories. In fact, this probably doesn’t look good in their eyes.

Your focus should be on creating some content that REAL HUMANS will actually read and link to. You can jump start that process by submitting to social bookmarking sites, contacting other webmasters with related sites, and dropping your link on comments for RELATED topics on various places on the net.

Lastly, I really stopped caring about PR years ago. Hasn’t hurt my bottom line.

How much tax do you pay on your income?

Too much.  I think I am at a 35% marginal rate.  I just send everything off to my accountant, and he figures it all out.  I’m set up as a California S-Corp which saves me a little bit on Social Security and Medicare.

I do all my own books because its a breeze when you just import your banking/paypal history with quickbooks.  Hiring an accountant to my taxes was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.  I think I’d be in a mental institution if I had to do my taxes manually one more year.

Do you host all your sites on one hosting account?

I did for a little bit until I outgrew my “unlimited” shared hosting account.  Yes, “unlimited” shared hosting packages are not truly “unlimited”.  I currently have 5 shared hosting accounts and one dedicated server.  This keeps things safer, so if one site gets a surge of traffic and the hosting account is suspended, not all of my sites are taken down with it.

How many hours a week do you work?

Probably average 35-45 hours per week, however it fluctuates a lot. Some weeks less than 20, other weeks more than 50.

What sort of SEO work do you do?

Other than the basic keyword placement (in title tags, header tags, meta, url structure, etc), I really don’t do much SEO.  There are tons of SEO tactics out there which attempt to take advantage of Google’s logarithm to rank better.

Google is constantly telling website owners to focus on creating quality, unique content.  LISTEN TO THEM.  Google is always improving the way they rank websites, and if your interests are in creating quality, unique content, then your interests will be perfectly aligned with their logarithm changes.

If you are using loop-hole round-about methods to rank better in Google, you will likely be constantly fighting an uphill battle.

Are you going to try and invest in offline business?

Yes.  Currently investing in foreclosures in Livermore with a group of other investors.  We are on our second property after a successful first flip.  I’d like to eventually purchase rental property as well.

 

Due to my somewhat unusual lifestyle, I’m constantly getting questions/comments from curious individuals.  Here is a list of common questions, and my responses to them.

Note: I was going to do a single FAQ post, but decided to split it up into two posts: Lifestyle and Business.  This is the lifestyle part.

Must be nice not having to worry about income/job/boss/working/time/money/etc.

While there are heaps of perks doing what I do, it isn’t exactly this perfect lifestyle that some people perceive it as.  To dis-spell some common misconceptions, here are a few notes:

1.  I still put in close to 40 hours of work per week.  It is not 9-5 M-F, but I’m still putting the time in.  That whole 4-hour work week idea is crap if you ask me.

2.  While I don’t have a boss, I also don’t have co-workers who I can push responsibilities to if I want to take a 2-week vacation away from work.

3.  All my websites are NOT set-and-forget.  I do have to maintain everything, and if something goes wrong, I’m the only responsible for getting it fixed.

4.  There are risk factors beyond my control.  A recent Google logarithm update dropped the traffic in about 6 of my sites by 30%.  I can’t exactly get on the phone with Google and tell them to take it back.

Are you still looking for a place to “settle down”?

When I embarked on my first RV tour, a big justification in my head was that I wanted to check out other places in the country/world to see if I would ever want to “settle down” there.  At this point, I haven’t been thinking about settling down as much as I have about adventure.  Now that I’ve ventured outside the US, I’ve realized there is just so much to see.  I could spend a lifetime discovering new places.

Are you planning to do any more travel in the RV?

To be honest, I was a little tired of living in the RV when I returned from Boston in December.  I was in and out of the RV for my most recent stay home (Dec-Feb), and every time I returned to the RV, I realized I had missed it.

At this point, I am still enjoying the luxuries of living in a house, including:

1.  Hot water

2.  Unlimited electricity

3.  Oven/BBQ

4.  Roommates/ability to have multiple friends over

5.  Yard

6.  Telling people where I live without also having to explain that I’m not a rapist.

I guess we will see how I feel when I get back into the US, whenever that may be.  Just thinking about it right now, I realize that I do miss the RV lifestyle!

Is it harder to stay productive on the road?

Yes.  Constant change and lack of a consistent schedule do not create the best working conditions.  However, I am adapting, and learning to squeeze work in whenever I get a chance.

Your adventure sounds awesome.  I wish I could do that!

You can.  And you should.

The average Australian that I’ve met has traveled much more than the average American.  I’d estimate that Australians travel 5 times more than Americans.  Any excuse you can make is just that, its an excuse.

Job?  Take some time off.  Or save up some money and quit!  You’ll be able to find another one.

Kids?  Bring ‘em along!  It will benefit them to see other parts of the country/world.

Do you miss your cat?

Yes, and I’m sure she misses me just as much, if she noticed I’m not there.

Are you still watching Sharks games?

Even better, I am listening to them!  Its like reading a book instead of watching a movie.  I get to imagine it all in my head.

Have you told anyone that you are an international spy yet?

Yes.  And they did not believe me.  So I spared their life.

Are you just making up questions?

Yes.  I thought I had more lifestyle questions to answer.

 

Last Week in Australia

My flight to Bali departs on Friday, April 29 at 1:00pm Melbourne time.  I’ve got one week left here.

It really doesn’t feel like it has been 2 months.  The time seems to have passed by quickly, but I have plenty of wonderful memories from my stay here.  I’m not quite ready to say goodbye, but winter is rolling in quickly, and I have so much more of the world to see.  I’ll have to come back for a full summer sometime.

Here are some more random pictures:

Yay, lets get close to the waves!

Too close.

At a “Footie” match at the MCG.

Animal-themed house party.  I dressed as an American…

Random shot of my bedroom.

 

Winter Wonderland?

I’ve always wanted to spend a winter in a place that snows.  Since I have no plans for this coming winter, I might as well start brainstorming ideas.

My conceptual plan is:

  1. Get a 6-month lease between October and April
  2. For a cabin/apartment/townhouse (depending on who’s in)
  3. In a place where it snows.  Ideally near Tahoe.  California would probably be easiest, but I’d be open to places further away.  (Utah? Canada?  Alps?)
  4. Season pass to a nearby resort.
  5. Snowboarding every day.
  6. High speed internet.
  7. Working some days.

Any advice?  Tips?  Want in?

 

Outsourcing to Leverage my Time

I finally selected the contractor to do the entire re-build of SupplementReviews.com.  It took me almost all week, but I finally officially hired the contractor last night.

About The Project

Since the beginning, I have done just about 100% of the programming for SR.  It was alright in the beginning, but as the years passed, the site got more and more complicated.  I’ve done so many updates and added so many features over the years, that the whole programming side of it has gone over my head.  Furthermore, I’m colorblind without much of an eye for design, so I could really use the skills of an experienced designer to make the site look stellar.

I spent several days going through the site and creating a Detailed Project Scope.  This scope turned out to be 19 pages long (mostly bullet points) and describes exactly what I want the new site to look like.  While writing this scope, I kept thinking “Wow, I’m so glad I don’t have to program that!”.

I had several interviews with many different projects, and ultimately decided on one because the had a few MASSIVE sites in their portfolio which appeared to be pretty closely related to mine.  The new site should be live in 4 months, so August, which seems really far from now.

Changing the Way I Run the Business

For the most part, I have done all work on my business by myself.  I’ve outsourced a few things to professionals (hosting, taxes, logo designs, some writing, etc).  I have been doing this for 2 reasons:

Keep my business expenses extremely low.

When I first quit my full-time corporate job to pursue  my dream of owning my own business, I was only making a few thousand a month.  In October of 2008, my first month of working full-time for myself, I made $2,458.59 in revenue.  All my living expenses had to come out of this, so there really wasn’t much left over for hiring.

After a few years of hard work, the business is generating more revenue.  I have enough to pay myself, and now I have enough to pay for some help.  It is still tough because the expenses come straight out of my bottom line.

I’m afraid to relinquish control of many tasks.

I have always thought that nobody could do my business tasks as well as I could.  I’m now trying to change that mindset.

Obviously, my CPA is much better at doing taxes than I am.  I have a basic understanding of taxes, but it would never be worth my while to learn as much as he does.

The contractor I just hired to re-do SR knows way more about programming and website development than I do.  While I know more about the site functions, I’d bet a lot of money that he knows how to program them much better than I can.

Realizing that Hiring is a Skill that can be Learned

Just because you hire a few people that turn out to be morons, doesn’t mean that hiring people is a bad idea.  I need to understand that hiring is a skill that I need to invest in.  I will make mistakes, lose money, become frustrated, etc.  I just need to stay focused on finding talented people that I can work with.  Once I build a team and find a few contractors I can rely on, I will be able to keep this team in place, and get a lot more done than if I jut go at it alone.

 

Australia Update

Still living in the land down under.  I’ve done tons of fun stuff down here, but getting ready for some new adventures.

Beautiful waterfall on the Great Ocean Road

Here’s the view from the top of the waterfall.

A Koala!

Kangroos!  Finally saw and ate them.

Inside a bar bathroom.  Became a competition.

Aussies just make up their own rules for football…

F1 came to Melbourne

The stray cat that always wanders into my “office”.