Jim: Hello, everybody. This is Captain Jim Palmer, the Dream Business Coach, Welcome to another great interview. I’m really excited to interview Chris Parker, I’m going to read his bio, and we’re going to jump right in. Super excited.
Chris Parker is the founder and CEO of whatismyipaddress.com—that’s a mouthful right there. The number one website in the world for finding your IP address. According to the Alexa Ranking, Chris’ website is one of the top 3000 websites in the United States with over six million visitors a month. Chris started the website on January 4th in the year 2000. For the first five years, his revenue didn’t even cover his internet. In 2005, Chris made $30, a whopping $30 from display ads, and that was his sign, that he knew he shouldn’t give up.
Fast forward to 2014, Chris was laid off from his corporate job and was faced with the scary opportunity to make his website a full-time business. Since then, he’s aggressively grown the site to generate just under seven figures in revenue, with no employees, no office, and no inventory. Chris, I’m the Dream Business Coach, man, you got the dream business. That’s outstanding. Whatismyipaddress.com has granted Chris and his wife time and the financial freedom to travel the world and raise their mini Schnauzer Bailey. How cool is that? Chris, welcome to the program.
Chris: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Jim: Are you a first-generation entrepreneur? Do you have parents or grandparents or are you the first one to really get the entrepreneurial gene going?
Chris: I am definitely the first person in my extended family to have the entrepreneurial gene.
Jim: When you started whatismyipaddress.com, a lot of people think the internet websites but I don’t know how many people actually know what IP even is. How did you come up with that?
Chris: I was at my day job, and for some reason, I needed to know my IP address of the internet connection of our office because we were having some technical difficulties. I went to, oh gosh, it was probably Altavista, at the time, to search for a website that would tell me that and I couldn’t easily find one. I thought, “I could put together a website that does that.”
Jim: Now, are you a technical guy? An engineering background? That is the technical side of it, right?
Chris: I’m definitely a geek by heredity and by practice. That’s where I was able to have the tools to actually be able to put that together in the early days of the internet.
Jim: That really is the early days–Altavista, wow! That really goes back. It’s probably scary to know how many websites there were in 2000. Compared to today, it’s got to be tens of thousands times. I don’t even know what the multiple is. It’s got to be astronomical.
Chris: Millions and millions of websites now, I’m sure.
Jim: How in that world does that work? Is everybody automatically assigned? Is it always your IP address? Does it change by location? Let’s get a little geeky for a moment.
Chris: That works for me. Anytime that you connect up to the internet, you have an IP address. When you’re on your boat out in the Atlantic Ocean, your internet service provider has assigned an IP address to your connection. For most people, if it’s your home, that IP address stays the same unless you power off your devices for overnight or something like that. When you come back to a website, they’re seeing you come back from that same IP address that you did last week, last month and it gives them an idea where you are.
Jim: God, they know everything. That is so scary. I saw this report—slightly off topic—but I saw this report where this news guy got this two phones, one was an android, one was an iPhone. He had them on airplane mode and it didn’t the little chip card there. He went on this six-mile excursion around Washington, DC, stopped at different places. He was able to plug in some device that some tech company gave him. When he plugged them in, even though they didn’t have the sim card and they weren’t turned on, those started spitting out the information. They knew, down to the second, when he went to this building and that building and all over the place–it tracked every single step. I’m like, “That’s scary.”
Chris: There are some amazing databases that companies use that basically, know where all the WiFi hotspots are. They know if you can see this Starbucks hotspot, and you can see that grocery store, and all the signal strengths. They can triangulate you down to a pretty darn good location even if you don’t have the GPS chip in your phone or your device.
Jim: How different did your first website looked to the one that you have now? I’m looking at it, and I can obviously, see that you’ve got a good amount of ad revenue going.
Chris: The very first website, it told you your IP address, and that’s it. There was no content, there were no banners, there was no additional information. There wasn’t even a, “Welcome to the website.” It was just that string of digits, and that was it.
Jim: Wow. No wonder you didn’t make $30 or something.
Chris: Exactly. It took me a number of years to realize that, “Gosh, there’s a lot of people that are actually going to this website.”
Jim: What were you doing in your corporate job before you were, ceremoniously, no longer there?
Chris: My history is actually quite a bit in e-commerce. I worked for a Club Mac around the time that the internet came around, I was a part of their e-commerce group and building out the website. That company got bought out, I transitioned into building a website for an online life insurance broker, so helping them sell life insurance.
Chris: I was there for about 8 ½ years.
Jim: When that job was gone—when you were laid off—you probably weren’t ready to retire, your website wasn’t generating that much money. You really had to have a little meeting with yourself, “Am I going to go get another salary position with direct deposit insurance and paid vacation or am I going to try and build this website?” Is that the conversation you had with yourself?
Chris: That was the conversation that my wife and I sat down and had. We talked about, “How long can I afford to not have the day job? How long are we going to try this out and see if it works?” Part of it was trying to find out because I was running the website and working a day job at the same time, so it was two incomes, kind of the big question was, “If I stopped with the day job and the website becomes my day job, can it offset the revenue? Can I actually roll the business enough to make up the difference or does it just make sense for me to have two jobs?”
Jim: I want to ask you a little bit about that as we roll forward but, how did you come to that decision? How long did you think it was going to take you?
Chris: We made the decision pretty quick because it was a–you get laid off, it’s not like, “Let me think about this before you lay me off.” We have no kids. She is working a full-time job. We had a cushion of money in the bank. The business was doing decent, at the time, but it wasn’t what it is today. But there was enough money coming in that we wouldn’t be starving within a couple of weeks or anything like that. What we decided was, we’re going to give it a year and see how I liked, for one, going from working in an office to working at home by myself, and to see if, “Can I actually start growing the revenue enough to offset that job that I lost?”
Jim: How do you like working at home?
Chris: There are days that I totally enjoy it and there are definitely, days that I miss the interactions with people; that you would normally have in the office. I’ve had to try to figure out how to offset that with making sure that I’m out and about on the evenings, in the weekends, and that I’m calling people I know, and staying connected.
Jim: I think Bill Glazer, I don’t if Glazer or Kennedy, but Bill Glazer said that “Being an entrepreneur is the loneliest job on the planet.”
Chris: It can definitely be that way.
Jim: Yeah. How did you go in 2000, in 2005 to barely making enough money to pay your internet bill, to generating six million consistent visitors per month? Do you advertise it? Do you promote it? I don’t know if people are searching, “Hey, what’s my IP address?” and you’re coming up.
Chris: There’s a couple of things that happened. Obviously, with the growth of the internet, there’s just more people on the internet and that has helped buoy the website with people just trying to figure out how to get places, how to get online, tech support department saying, “Oh, you can’t visit our website, tell me what your IP address is.” “I don’t know.” And the tech support person says, “Go to whatismyipaddress.com.” We get a lot of traffic from random tech support departments all around the world. Another portion of it was because I did have a day job when I started growing the business, the vast majority of the revenue went back into advertising the business.
Jim: Okay. I’m curious what those ads look like, again, most people don’t know what IP address even stands for, but how did you promote that? What’s the benefit of somebody wanting to know that?
Chris: The benefit for some people is the position of, “I need to make sure that I’m connecting to my office network so that I can access the office files,” or print something that prints in the office, they need to connect up with their VPN. They’ll start up their computer, check their IP addresses, say, “Okay. The map on the website shows that I’m in my hometown. Let me start up my VPN. Connect up to my corporate office which is on the other side of the country. Okay, I’m on the network now. I’m ready to go.”
Jim: It sounds like there’s much more of a corporate need than just your average Joe wanting to know what his IP address is.
Chris: That’s a lot of where it started was corporate people, with the advent of VPNs, people just wanted to confirm, “Is the VPN I’m using working?” with more concerns about privacy and safety, “Am I really connected to the Starbucks Wifi or am I connected to somebody’s laptop called Starbucks Wifi?
Jim: Right, right. Your business right now, I presume, is the ad revenue. I’m looking at a bunch of ads that are getting popped-up and populate. That’s, by and large, is how you make a living, is the ad revenue from the six million visitors, right?
Chris: There is a significant portion of the revenue that comes from the advertising and standard display ads. I’ve learned the hard way that, back in the days of pop-ups and pop-unders and exotic ad types, that consumers don’t like those and so I, for the most part, stayed away from the exotic stuff. I need to play the long game on how people want to use my website for years not just, “Oh, gosh, this is horrible. Let me find a new website.”
One of the things that I’ve really started to do, in recent years, is to find affiliate programs; products and services that fit within the content of the site and what the users might be there for? With privacy and safety being so much more of a concern these days, net neutrality, the personal VPN service has really exploded with people wanting to be able to access the internet without their internet service providers knowing what websites they’re going to or people in countries with more oppressive governments, they want to be able to get online and access content that they can’t get in their own country.
Jim: Wow. The things I’m looking at on the left-hand banner, I don’t know if they’re ads or features of the website, IP Lookup, Hide My IP, Blacklist Check, Speed Test, things like that, are those affiliates or are those part of your business model?
Chris: Those are all part of the business model. They are free tools that I’ve built up over the years to be able to provide more information to people and not just be, “Here’s my IP address, one page. Goodbye. See you later.”
Jim: You really are a geek with this stuff, in a complementary way. That’s pretty cool stuff. I mean, who doesn’t want to know their speed test? You’ve got the tools. I can see you’ve got articles up there. It’s really a good looking site. Tell me about this site compared to even five years ago. When did you start recognizing that you have to have more than just the functionality of, “Okay, here’s my IP address, see yah.”
Chris: Once I realized there was actually a fair amount of traffic coming to the site, that was when I started to write very simple articles on, “What is an IP address? What does it mean? What can you do with it?” I left it that way for actually quite a few years thinking, that’s enough. Over time realized that I had put a Ask Me A Question box and people were asking lots of, what I thought were particularly odd questions that ultimately, turned out to be things about online scams. “Hey, this person that I met online, they say they’ve got $1 million for me and also, all I have to do is pay a transaction fee. Do you think it’s real?” “Oh, my gosh, no. Don’t ever give them money.”
A lot of content just through interactions with people about online safety, scams, phishing, all those malware pop-ups you get, hacking and then within the last couple of years, it’s a lot more of the privacy and safety content that I’ve worked with a number of writers to build and add to the site.
Jim: I’m curious what the transition was like from working in the corporate world where you may have had, I don’t know, an assistant, a staff, a team and probably had a boss and all of sudden, you’re the chief, cook, and bottle washer for this enterprise.
Chris: It’s definitely been a transition. As much as you may or may not like your boss, there’s something nice about having a boss who—they’re taking the risk and they’re providing you the direction. If the plan that you’re implementing doesn’t work, it’s the boss’ fault because it was their idea. There’s a lot more personal ownership when you’re the boss. It’s your business, and you’ve got to figure out the ideas, and you’ve got to make them happy. In the last year or so, I’ve learned that I don’t know everything. Gosh, that’s unfortunate.
Jim: You just found that out.
Chris: Yeah. I really wanted to grow my business, so I hired a business coach who specializes in SEO. I have been working, really diligently, to do things that I haven’t done before, implement things in ways that I haven’t done before, and do things that are not ethically, but problematically uncomfortable for me—things that I haven’t done before that, gosh, that makes me nervous. “Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to spend the time and effort to do something that I have no experience of doing?” Hoping to have someone to push me along in directions, and poke me and prod me a little bit, has been very helpful.
Jim: I’m wondering—and again, this may be an intrusive question—do you think about, what’s next? Obviously, this is something that you can ride for quite a while. You’ve got a home based business model. You’re generating a healthy income. Traveling the world with your Bailey Schnauzer. Is this something you think you can ride for a while or are you thinking of something next? What’s the next great thing?
Chris: My wife and I talk about it on a regular basis. It’s great to have a site that’s popular today but as we know with the Internet, Google can change its mind and decide, “We don’t like Chris’ site anymore. Let’s set it all over to somebody else’s site.” One of the things that freaked me out a few years ago is, when you Google What Is My IP Address, Google would start answering that question. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is the death of my business. Overnight, Google could put me out of business–” was the realization.
I’m working on a Plan B or a Company B, as you may have it, trying to figure out that having all your eggs in one basket is probably not the best solution, definitely, don’t want to neglect the cash cow, so to speak, but also, don’t want to be so comfortable with that that I don’t prepare for what may or may not happen.
Jim: When you are doing affiliates and other things, in other words, working with other vendors, do you have a way to figure out if they’re trustworthy or if they’re on the [inaudible 00:18:29]? I mean, something on your site, totally unrelated to you, other than they pay to be there, could really damage your reputation as well. How do you figure that piece out?
Chris: I try to do a fair amount of due diligence of any entity that I work with. I’ve had my failures in not doing my due diligence. Way back when I started building up display ads, some company came to me, and I did a quick little, “Yeah, they’re a legitimate company.” I set them up. What should have been about $5000 or $10,000 of ad revenue for me, when it came time to get paid, they were gone.
Chris: It wasn’t that the entity that I thought I was dealing with was gone, this guy was the .net instead of the .com. This guy was a total scammer and I missed that he had .net on the end of his email address instead of the .com. I was dealing with someone that was pretending to be the entity that I thought I was dealing with.
Jim: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Chris: That was my expensive lesson to, “Okay, you verify every phone number. Do they have a name, an address, a phone number on their website? Is there any independent way to verify that this entity is who they claim to be? How long have they been in business?” I start to dig when I deal with people now.
Jim: It’s sad there are some people that want to do that. I had probably, about 8-10 years ago when I was originally known as the Newsletter Guru, created a couple of online newsletter businesses. I had this person on my team, at the time, that about once a month, they would just go on a Google search, because I was just busy doing other things, we actually found somebody else in the state of Virginia that basically copied my website, word for word, just changed some [inaudible 00:20:27], it was a her too, everything was exactly the same. They got one of those scary letters from my attorney after we took videos and pictures, and still shots because I came down immediately. It’s crazy what people will do. When you become complacent, that can be really dangerous.
Chris: Yup. I’ve run across the same issue where people have basically taken my template, taken my content, put it up on their variation of whatismyipaddress.com, and they’re running it as their content. You can’t just assume that everybody out there is nice.
Jim: If somebody wants to start a similar business to yours, I don’t know, yours is pretty specialized, but in internet-style business, do you think it pays to be tech-savvy, you’re a self-proclaimed geek in that area, or do you think it’s something you can figure out as you go?
Chris: I think these days it’s a lot easier to have an online presence without being tech-savvy. I think you still need to have some due diligence, in a sense. When I started out when you wanted to register a domain name, you couldn’t go to GoDaddy or 1&1–these companies just didn’t exist. You had to go to Network Solutions. It was $200 a year for a domain name. You had to build your own server to create stuff on your own.
It’s definitely not that way with WordPress and so many hosting companies out there–you can spin up a website for under $100 in a matter of minutes. But I think if you don’t have some technical acumen of realizing, “I need to keep things up-to-date. I need to keep the security on my WordPress site current. I can’t just let it sit.” you have to have some minimal amount of technical background. Or technical understanding of, “I need to watch stuff.” and not just assume it’s going to be okay.
Jim: Yeah. I’m curious what parts of your business are automated and what parts of your business require a lot of time and attention on a daily or weekly basis.
Chris: One of the things I’m learning to transition to is, to start offloading things to other people and trying to come up with a comfort level of a virtual assistant. I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, we’re probably, control freaks, and we don’t inherently want to let people have access to our stuff. It’s been a challenge to me. I’ve gotten my accounting to the point where I’m about ready to have someone take over my accounting. I’ve definitely worked with graphic artists now that I’m comfortable with people that are writing content for me, so I don’t have to write it.
Because I have a technical background, a lot of the things that I have to update on the website and manage on the website, as far as making sure databases are current and as new information becomes available, gets incorporated into the website. I’ve written a lot of scripts to take care of all those things. It triggers, depending on what the issue is, they trigger once a day, once a week, once a month to make sure the website is staying up-to-date. I don’t have have to connect it up to the database, download something, import it. I try to keep those things automated because that activity, in of itself, does not make me money, it’s not a good use of my time. I’m trying to focus my time and efforts on things where it gives my unique skill set benefits to the business.
Jim: That is a big hang up for a lot of entrepreneurs. It’s something I coach my clients on. Interestingly enough tonight, as you and I are recording, I do what’s called a Free Training Tools with my Dream Business Facebook group. One of the lessons I’m going teach tonight which the title of it goes back to one of my earlier books, and it clearly shows my age but it’s, “Stop licking your own stems—” which today is there’s no such thing as licking stems, “—but stop licking your own stems because if you really want to earn $1 million, you have to be doing work that’s valued at $400 an hour.” If you’re doing task-oriented things that you could hire somebody for $15, or even $25 an hour, you’d get a good quality work, hire a VA for $25 an hour then that’s what you’re worth and that’s such a hard concept for people to understand.
Chris: That was almost exactly the conversation that I had with my business coach, we were talking, at the very beginning he asked me, “How much are you paying your accountant?” and I very proudly said, “Nothing. I don’t have an accountant.” and he goes, “Well, how much do you make a year, divide that by 2000, and that’s how much an hour you’re paying your accountant. Could you hire an accountant for less than that?” I went, “Oh gosh. I’m paying my accountant a lot of money, and he’s not very good at it.”
Jim: Yup. He’s probably missing a lot of deductions.
Chris: Exactly. I’ve got my tax guy now, I don’t even try to deal with it, and it’s awesome because I don’t have to stress about my taxes anymore. I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it right or not or, “Oh my gosh. There’s just so much information. Am I up on tax law?” Let the tax guy deal with that. Whatever he charges, it’s cheaper than what my time is worth.
Jim: Absolutely. We’re just about to run out of time here, Chris. The last question I want to ask you real quick is, in your bio, it says you and your wife basically, travel the world. How often are you traveling? How often are you home? Is she still working?
Chris: She is still working. We’re not under the false assumption that my business will magically generate revenue for the rest of our lives. We don’t want to assume that and then quit our day jobs then run out of money—that seemed that was the big thing to have happened. She’s super motivated to work herself. We try travel according to her schedule and we try to travel internationally at least once a year, and domestically, a couple of times a year just so we can experience things in a different and a different country.
Jim: That’s kind of what we’re doing. I’ll be 60 in June and certainly not ready to retire, but we came to the conclusion, we don’t want to wait until we’re retired to start having some fun and experience and things like that. As I say, as long as I’ve got some sort of an internet and a phone connection, I can work in the boat when I need to. We travel around and we’ve seen the different part of the country that you don’t get to see from the expressway.
Chris: I’m the same way. As long as I’ve got an internet connection, I could run my business from pretty much anywhere in the world.
Jim: Well, that’s awesome. Chris, it’s been really great connecting with you. I think the URL is self-explanatory but tell them anyway how they can find it, and then if there’s a different place where they can connect with you, let us know that.
Chris: Sure. Anyone can visit whatismyipaddress.com to learn more about their IP address and online privacy and safety. I’ve got a free ebook on how to stay safe online if people are interested in that I made a special link for your listeners, it’s whatismyipaddress.com/dream.
Jim: Dream, I like that. Okay.
Chris: For everyone who wants to get ahold of me and has questions can email me at [email protected].
Jim: Very cool. Chris, thanks a lot. It’s been a lot of fun connecting with you.
Chris: It’s been great. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Jim: Hey, folks, that wraps up this very special interview with Chris Parker from whatismyipaddress.com. If you enjoyed this type of show and information about building your dream business, connect with me at my free Dream Business Facebook group, it’s Build Your Dream Business Now. The handy-dandy URL is dreambizgroup.com. Until next week, another great interview with Dream Business Enterprises. I am coach Jim Palmer. You take good care.
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