Welcome to the Investing for Life Podcast where we bring you inspiring and educational messages about entrepreneurship investing and intentional lifestyle design. Take the next steps to create your most abundant life today. Here’s your host, Tamar Mar.
Tamar: What’s up everyone, Tamar Mar here. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Investing for Life. Today we have a cool speaker with us, Chris Parker, created whatismyipaddress.com. He did this as a way to help one of his employers, but then later on rolled it into a business of his own that is now supporting him more than amply enough and enables him and his wife to travel around the world.One of the things that I like is we focus a lot about real estate investing, but I’m always curious about what other people are doing in entrepreneurship to create the type of lifestyle that they really want to, and this is just one of the other ways that you can do it, so we’re going to dig into that with Chris. Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Thank you for having me on.
Tamar: Absolutely. Wow, I think it’s so fascinating that something that was going to be a solution for your employer at the time, was literally to find his IP address which sounds so boring and weird when you think of it, and it turned into this crazy business for you. Tell us how that even started.
Chris: This was back in early 2000, the almost pre internet days, definitely the dinosaur days of the internet, which anyone younger than us doesn’t recognize what happened before 2000 on the internet. We are having a technical issue at the office and I needed to know what the internet connection’s IP address was, it’s not the sort of thing that, in the most, cases you can actually figure out from inside your network, these are the resource outside your network to figure out what that is.I was searching AltaVista and Lycos, this is preGoogle. It really wasn’t easy to find a site that could answer that for me. Being the geek that I was and having some computer equipment at home, I figured like, “I can setup a really simple website at home that will do this.” That’s how it started, there was no business intent behind it, there wasn’t even a side hustle intent behind it. It was just a simple, “This is a solution to a problem that I was having. I might as well make it available for other people.”
Tamar: Kind of like Craigslist, it’s the same thing, but you know what I’m saying. Craigslist started as just some person that was trying to solve a problem, but then later on down the road it turned into a viable business.
Chris: Yup, that’s exactly what happened with me.
Tamar: Wasn’t it like 15 years or close to 15 years before you actually started working on this full time?
Chris: Yeah, I started working on it full time a little bit less than five years ago so about 15 years. The first probably four or five years, there was no income, no thought of this being a business, and then it was like, “Hey, I could monetize this, make a little bit of passive income on the side.” It was a fun side hustle and eventually it turned into, “I could quit my day job.” There was a nice transition that allowed that to happen conveniently, but it was like, “This is now my full time gig, I don’t have to work 48 hours a week if I don’t want to. This is really a great deal.”
Tamar: Let’s dig into the nuts and bolts a little bit here, how were you able to start? What were some of the things that you were thinking about monetizing the website? When you’re about five years into it, I think you said, you must have known enough just from looking at other sites or something that there were some particular things that you did. What were those things?
Chris: Around that time was when Google launched AdSense, for those who don’t know, it’s this totally phenomenal do it yourself, set it and forget it display advertising solution for your own site. That allows you to put a very small bit of code on your site and banner ads show up in places that you designate. You don’t have to worry about trying to find 100,000 advertisers, you don’t have to worry about insertion orders, you don’t have to worry about negotiating rates, Google handles all of that and just sends you a check or a wire transfer at the end of the month. That’s how I began with it.There are also a few affiliate products, affiliate relationships where you recommend a product, your service and then someone buys it, you get paid a commission. One of the first ones I did was GoToMyPC which is a remote access program, it was not directly related to IP addresses, but it was in that same geeky technical thing. If someone is trying to find out their IP address, maybe they’re actually trying to connect to their machine because they want to work on it while they’re away from home or they’re trying to get to their office machine while they’re at home. That was a very good vertical for me to get into, that’s the starter like, “Wow, I could make some money at this.”
Tamar: Then that was just rolling in. What actually changed for you to take this full time, did you get laid off? Did I read that correctly?
Chris: Ultimately, I did get laid off, but there are a couple of things that happened before that, that really made the transition almost easier in a sense. My wife decided while she was working a full time job that she was going to go back to school and do an evening accelerated master’s course. Over 18 months, she decided to get a master’s in management which basically meant she was working her 40-hour a week job and then going to school, doing homework, then probably close to another 40 hours a week on top of that, maybe 30 hours a week.That turned out to be really good for me and my side gig at the time was while my wife is busy, she wants to work on homework, she’s in class, let me work on my business and invest those evenings and weekends into growing my business. We don’t have kids, so it was a way for me to work on the business without taking away from time with my wife. Normally before and after that, we want to go out and do stuff on the weekends and she doesn’t me up in my office while she’s home like, “This is boring.” It really helped me to be able to jumpstart, and get a lot of work for my business done, and start figuring out ways that I can make a little bit more money, start creating more content, start creating more tools.In hindsight, I had the benefit of my former employer struggling financially. At one point they came into me and say, “We can’t afford to keep you on the payroll, can we have you work 20 hours a week contract work. We’re sorry, we can’t give you more than that.” But to me that was like, “This is great, I now have the stability of a 20-hour a week gig with the company that I know and trust. That gives me another 20 hours a week of my own that I can work and grow my business.”Eventually they had some ups and downs and eventually they had to lay me off. That was the time that my wife and I looked at it said, “Well, should I transition to this becoming my full time gig or do I go out and get another job and try to keep balancing two things at a time?” We talked about it, prayed about it, setup some milestones like, “If I can grow the business by focusing on it 40 hours a week, can I grow the business x dollars a month in revenue over the course of three months, six months in a year?”We setup these three milestones because wanted to be realistic about it like, if me spending 40 hours a week on the business can’t significantly increase the revenue—not that I shouldn’t be running the business—but I shouldn’t be spending 40 hours a week. If I can get a full time job and make more than what I would do trying to grow the business, then the full time job is the place to go. Fortunately I hit all three milestones, and now, four years later, it’s a blast working from home and kind of watching my internet debut become a teenager or young adult.
Tamar: So many years later. Isn’t that fun watching something that brain child come to fruition? I think that’s one of the most exciting things about entrepreneurship, is having this idea that you pulled out of somewhere and saying, “I can do this.” Then you take what’s in your head and you usually, put it on paper and start brainstorming, then you take it from the paper and then you start working on it. Then you start seeing things happening, it’s like, “Holy moly, that’s amazing.”
Chris: It is so funny because there are a number of side businesses that I came up with like, “Let me market this product or sell this product.” I ran an online bookstore for a while, competing against Amazon. That flopped. I was an Amazon affiliate until they got rid of all their California affiliates many years ago. It’s funny that the things that I initially started out as business endeavors failed, but the one thing that I started out as just a side gig, as a hobby, never planning to monetize is the one thing that now has actually been a successful business.
Tamar: Very cool. I want to dig a little bit more into the business itself. When you talk about monetizing traffic to the website, we talked about affiliate marketing. That affiliate marketing is something that quite a lot of people do through either their podcasts or their blogs or whatever other websites they have. When I was starting my podcast, I went through Pat Flynn’s course. Pat Flynn talks a lot about how you can actually make affiliate marketing work. What are some of the steps that you took to find the actual products that you would want to stand behind? Did you have to have conversations with those providers, those vendors?
Chris: There are a number of tools that you can use, I guess they’re considered affiliate networks where they host a variety of offers. You can go to those sites, there’s Commission Junction, ShareASale, Impact Radius and a few other ones, Clickbank, that aggregate a bunch of these offers. They get a percentage of it obviously because they’re working to bring that offer to you, but it gives you an idea of what verticals have offers and which ones don’t. The way I’ve looked at it is, “What’s tangentially related to IP addresses?” That has really involved what has worked out really well in reference that is privacy- and security-related products.That was not initially my focus, I think it definitely become more and more important over the last couple of years, but there are a lot of vendors in that vertical. Some of them I have direct relationships where they’ve come to me or I have gone directly to them and said, “Your traffic has a great reputation, I’d like to be able to work something out where I could make a little bit of money whenever we have a sale.” Sometimes they have come to me and said, “Your site has a good reputation, we’d like you to market our product.”There’s ones where I looked at their product and I’m like, “I don’t want to touch your product.” I don’t say this to them, but, “I don’t want to touch your product with […].” Your company is pretty sketchy.” I had one company that was based out of the Middle East, they decided to use Disney characters all over their website. I’m like, “Can you show me your contract with Disney allowing you to use their trademarks?” They’re like, “Oh, we don’t have one.” I’m like, “I can’t talk to you. I can’t promote a product where it’s copyright infringement, trademark infringement left and right.” “We don’t understand why.” I’m like, “Because I’m in the US and they’re going to come after me.”
Tamar: You’re maintaining the integrity of your business, it’s so important when deciding what companies that you want to affiliate yourself with.
Chris: In a sense, it’s my reputation that’s on the line. If I’m recommending a product or a service, heaven forbid that something turns out to be a scam, that comes back on me and how people view of me. I want to make sure that I’m recommending products and services and working with vendors that are upright, reliable, responsible, could take care of their customers. That’s one of the things that I work with them on is, I want to make sure I have a channel that if one of my users have a problem with your product, I want to have a way of getting a hold of sympathy inside of your company to resolve this particular person’s issue expeditiously. I don’t want them going into a black hole on your organization. I want to make sure I take care of the people who use my site.
Tamar: Absolutely. Tell me about some of the things that might keep you up at night when you’re running this business.
Chris: Because my website is high-profile and techy.
Tamar: What do you mean by high-profile?
Chris: I get about six million people a month visiting the website, that’s a lot of international traffic. It’s one of the top couple thousand websites in the world, people are using it. It’s a well-known website in the tech space. If you ask your IT guy, “Have you heard of it?” He goes, “Yeah, I probably use that site last week.” Unfortunately, it occasionally draws unwanted people from people that just like to cause mischief, the people are constantly trying to hack into my website to do things.I’ve also seen a number of very large denial of service attacks against my website where someone with control over thousands and thousands of compromised machines, they start sending tons and tons of data at my website, and it’s so much volume that all the real users get lost in the noise. The servers bogged down and can’t respond to requests and consequently, there’s no advertising going on, my machines are all locked up. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.I think previously it’s been, “What if a hard drive fails? What if I lose a couple of vendors?” I think that’s part of trying to diversify the people that I work with, that if someone has a bad month, they go out of business, that is not my sole source of revenue. It is something that I struggle with in terms of the business as a whole or most of the income comes from whatismyipaddress.com. If something were to happen to that site, Google gives me a big slap. That can keep me up at night.I’m working to try to build new websites, have other passive income sources. That way, if one thing does go down or one thing does no longer become a thing, all my income doesn’t dry up overnight. I think that diversification of income is important for me. I try to do that within my vendors as well, and not just recommend one vendor in a niche because occasionally decide, “We’re exiting the vertical. We don’t want to support this product anymore.” I don’t want to get caught trying to find a new replacement vendor with zero days’ notice.
Tamar: Absolutely. Call me naïve because I am not a tech geek, but why would somebody take the time to send all that data, like bombard your site? Is that because somebody wants to take away your business and just wants to shut you down? I don’t know.
Chris: In reality, I don’t think that they’re thinking, “I’m trying to take away this person’s livelihood or this person’s source of income.” I think it’s just people being mischievous, “Let me see if I can.” It’s kind of bragging rights, “Hey, look, I took down this website because I was able to send so much traffic at it.” I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think it’s one of my competitors trying to take me out. Those are some things that you just can’t do a whole lot about unless you can find a paper trail.But there are things that you can setup, like I moved my site behind a platform that’s called Cloudflare. They are a distributed content delivery network. They do a couple of different things, they move your content geographically closer to your users. If someone in Asia wants to visit your website which is hosted in the US, they have servers in Asia. The request just goes to Asia and back, and doesn’t have to travel halfway around the world and things like that. They also provide protection against denial of service attacks, they provide some protection against people trying to hack your WordPress site and things like that.One of the other things that they do that works well with WordPress sites is that for some reason your website does go down, they host a backup to it. Even though the user can’t get directly to your website, you might lose some functionality. The person visiting your homepage was still seeing your homepage, maybe the ‘Contact Us’ form doesn’t work, but at least they can at least navigate your website and do most things even if your website is down.
Tamar: Gotcha. I love talking about marketing, that’s one of the biggest ways that we, as entrepreneurs, can grow our businesses, having a very cohesive marketing strategy and
rolling that out. What are some of the things that you’ve done from a marketing/advertising standpoint to grow your business?
Chris: It’s actually kind of interesting, I’m potentially in a somewhat unique position.
Tamar: […] tell me you’ve never done any marketing.
Chris: No, I’ve done a lot of marketing, and almost all of it has lost me money.
Chris: It’s like, “Well, she has a successful website? Why is that the case?” Because I make very, very little money from each individual person visiting the website. I make money in aggregate. If I’m spending $0.50 or $1 to get someone to my website, I’m not making $0.50 or $1 off of that person. I’ve generally, taken a more branding aspect to what I’m doing from my advertising, that I’m trying to get my brand in front of people, unrelated websites, and a Google Search, but I’m doing it at a very low cost and low threshold. Sure, I can spend $10,000, $20,000 a month in advertising, but it’s not gonna get me $10,000 or $20,000 a month in revenue as a result of that.
Tamar: Isn’t it the more people you have to your website, you said you have upwards of six million people monthly at your website, it’s directly correlated to the amount of revenue you’d receive from your affiliate marketers or something, right?
Chris: In some sense, yes. What ultimately ends up happening is that only about 30% of my traffic coming to my website is people in the United States. If you look about, where the money is where people can actually afford to buy products, it’s US, UK, Canada, Europe, maybe you could do Australia and New Zealand, maybe combined, that’s about 50% of my traffic. The users in India and Bangladesh and China and Russia are not necessarily resulting an income for me. It’s a little bit of a cat-mouse game. There are things that I’ve been working on over the last year. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Ryan Levac, has created a program called Ask. We used a number of his techniques to find out why a certain segment of people are visiting our website, and figuring out the terminology that they’re using when they’re talking about why they visit our website. A lot of that revolves around, like I was talking about, for the privacy and safety products and learning how they talk about them.We’ve ended up building a process which has resulted in better conversions around product privacy and safety products based off of what we’ve learned about people using that Ask method of surveying people, and talking to them, and finding out what their pain points are, and why they do things, and how they talk about the things that they do.
Tamar: Is this a switch that you’re making in your business or rounding the corner a little bit on implementing some of those products related to online privacy and security?
Chris: Yeah, that’s definitely something that I’ve started to do in the last couple of years. I think it’s gotten a lot more profile in the news with people being worried about. People are worried about Facebook knowing what they’re doing, but I think that’s brought privacy concerns to the forefront of people’s minds is, “Gosh, Facebook knows all the stuff about me, and they’re selling it to everybody on the planet, maybe I’m not so comfortable with that.”Trump’s FCC took away Net Neutrality Protections, so ISPs are starting to do things like, “How can we monetize our customers better? Let’s sell advertisers information about the websites that they’re visiting.” Do you really want other people knowing what websites you’re visiting? To me it’s not that important, but a lot of people are just like, “It just doesn’t feel right to me.”
Tamar: It’s just weird. You’re visiting a site and then five minutes later you’re being marketed to about those jeans you were looking at online. It just feels icky. I don’t think anybody likes it.
Chris: No. Some of it is just an issue of transparency that when people find out, “Oh, my ISP is doing that to me? I thought it was just the website that I was going to, but now my ISP is doing that? That doesn’t feel good.” What people are afraid of is, “If you want to be able to stream Netflix, you need to pay us for the Netflix access. Otherwise, we’re going to slow down your Netflix access and they get look grainy and stuff like that.” People are worried about people getting in between them and the things that they want to do online. That’s where, what we talked about the privacy and safety, virtual private network products fall into places, “I’m going to route my traffic through somebody who I know what their business model is and I trust what they’re doing versus my ISP who’s the monopoly wherever I am.” All ISPs have the worst customer service ratings on the planet.
Tamar: We won’t tell them that though, will we?
Chris: I think they know that.
Tamar: What are some of the biggest security and privacy concerns right now besides Facebook knowing everything about your whole entire life?
Chris: I think one of the things that’s happening, and again, it’s becoming more and more at the forefront, is some of these data breaches that are happening are just massive. A few years ago it was disclosed, Yahoo, half a billion email addresses and password combinations got out.
Tamar: That’s a lot.
Chris: You kind of have to think of like or have it in your mind that, “Whatever I’ve provided them, it could potentially become public or someone could access does information.” The necessity for every website you go to having a unique password because you don’t someone who, “There’s this blog I followed and I setup an account there and that username and password got compromised, now they have access to my bank or my Amazon account or my investment portfolio.”We’ve got to have every place that we have a password has to be unique, having things in mind like, “If it does get compromised, what’s my process to make sure people aren’t getting into my account?” Enabling two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is that really annoying thing that when you want to log into your bank, they SMS you a number and you’ve got to enter that to get in. It’s that secondary level of even if someone does get your password, there’s at least one more hurdle they’ve got to jump through to get into your account.SMS two-factor authentication isn’t perfect, there are some loopholes in that, but for most of us, if we’re not the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, no one is intentionally trying to hack into anyone specific person’s identity or their accounts. They’re just doing it in bulk of like whoever’s account I can get to, I’m going to get into. Two-factor authentication works really well to protect the vast majority of us even if our password gets compromised, at least there’s one left, one more layer of security keeping people out of our accounts.
Tamar: Regarding different passwords on every single place you log into, that’s a lot of passwords. Do you have any resources that you suggest for people to store all of those
that would not get hacked into?
Chris: My suggestion is people use what’s called a password manager, 1Password, Dashlane, LastPass, these applications will create unique passwords for any site that you visit and they remember them for you. You only have one password that you need to remember to unlock the application on your computer and depending on what plans on how you use it, that information is only stored on your computer and it’s stored encrypted.Those may not ultimately be perfect, again, it’s that thing where it’s now even if someone does compromise that blog password, they only have access to that blog, they don’t have access to everything else because everything is unique. If people want to scare themselves, we actually just launched a new tool on the website that you type in your email address and it will tell you all the big breaches that your email address has been evolved in.
Tamar: That sounds riveting. I’m going to sign up for that right now.
Chris: It’s perfectly free. It’s based on a service that Troy Hunt calls Have I Been Pwned. You’ll just enter your email address and you can see, “This email address was involved in the LinkedIn breach in 2014. It was involved in the Yahoo breach of 2003,” whatever. I think it really helps educate people to realize, “Wow, there are places where accounts have been compromised, places that have been compromised where I do have accounts. I really need to think about using a password manager.” At some point we just have to assume that every account that you have, at some point, may be compromised.
Tamar: Are most of those subscription based, those password manager?
Chris: Most of them offer a free end user service, it’s when you start wanting to sync it across multiple devices or using it for your business to allow employees to access stuff that you don’t want to give them the password, but you want them to be able to log into accounts, those start costing money. For the insurance aspect of it, they’re really, really cheap. They’re are $10, $20, $30 a year. There’s no reason that anyone shouldn’t be using one.
Tamar: Fantastic. I’m wondering, Chris what do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Chris: What I actually love about it is that I’m entirely in-charge of my own schedule. I don’t necessarily mind working for somebody but I like the fact that, “It’s sunny today. I want to go out and take my dog for a walk.” Unless, I have scheduled something during that window, I can do that. If I want to do the grocery shopping at 3:00 in a Tuesday afternoon, that way my wife and I don’t have to do it around the weekend, I can do that. Having that flexibility of being able to do the things that I want to do, when I want to do them, I really enjoy that and it makes me happy. I do like travelling.
Tamar: You guys travel a lot, don’t you?
Chris: We try to. We don’t have kids, so we don’t have school schedules to worry about and because I work for myself, we only have her work schedule to work around. She’s been at her company five or six years now, so she gets three or four weeks a year so any opportunity that have that we can take off and hit out of the country, we go ahead and do that.
Tamar: What’s the favorite place you’ve travelled to?
Chris: My wife is from Singapore. I love Singapore. I don’t like the weather, it’s 90 degrees and 99% humidity, 365 days a year.
Tamar: A little sticky.
Chris: A little sticky is an understatement. We’ve got family and friends there, the food there is fantastic, public transit is amazing. To us, it’s kind of like second home that we can just go. If we don’t have a whole lot of stuff on our schedule, we just go there and relax and just spend time wandering around the city and eating.
Tamar: I’ve heard there’s amazing food there. I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my list.
Chris: If you’re a foodie, Singapore should definitely be on your list.
Tamar: Excellent. The opposite of that question, if you could change anything about being an entrepreneur, what is the hardest thing for you?
Chris: I think the hardest thing is giving up control over certain aspects of my business. I heard a business coach about a year ago, and I’ve realized that I’ve got to start trusting other people to do things on my behalf, that I can’t be the person who writes all the content, who posts all the content, who pays all the bills, does all the accounting, does all the marketing, does all these things. In order for my business to grow, I’ve got to focus on what my unique skills are that I’m excellent at, and entrust people that they have excellent skills.I’m a horrible artist, so I have a graphic artist who does stuff for me because I’m not good at it and it takes me a long time to do it, it’s not a good use of my time, but it’s really hard to give up those pieces and make that transition. A lot of my business because I built it all myself, everything is very custom, everything is very uniquely suited to me. If I could go back and do it again, “Let me use platforms where I can assign access rights to other people so they can come in and do things.” It’s been difficult in the last year trying to undo what took 20 years to build and redesign some of the backend stuff to allow other people to do work on my business so that I’m not stuck doing stuff that’s just not a good use of my time.
Tamar: Where do you see yourself going in the next one to five years or so? What’s on the horizon for you?
Chris: My wife wasn’t really happy about this, but I read Tim Ferriss’ book, I think it was The 4-Hour Workweek, I think it was. I love to get to the point where my business could continue to operate, could continue to run, she wouldn’t be happy with me working four hours a week, but if I can get it done to the point where my involvement is 10 hours a week, that freeze me up to do other stuff with, whether it’s to start another business, to be more involved in the community. I really like to continue to whittle down the hours that I spend working and just have time to do other things, but not be a bum.
Tamar: And not be a bum. That means you have to give up more control and you have to be okay with that.
Chris: Yup, that’s what I’m working on. It seems like every month I’m making just a little bit more headway handing a few more things off and getting a few more things,designs , stuff that someone else can take over and not worry about it. It’s moving in the right direction, probably slower than my business coach will be happy about, but at least it’s moving in the right direction.
Tamar: I suppose it’s your life, not his.
Chris: Exactly. The good thing is, he understands that he’ll poke and prod me about it, but he’s not going to say, “I’m firing you as a client because you won’t take all my advice.”
Tamar: Of course, not. That’s not good for business.
Chris: Yeah, it’s not good for him, it’s not good for me.
Tamar: Chris, how can people find out more about you and what you’re doing over there at whatismyipaddress.com?
Chris: They can always visit my website, whatismyipaddress.com, but if they want to reach out to me personally, they can visit my website at cgparker.com. All my contact information is on there. If you’ve got questions, feel free to reach out to me. I do my best to get back to as many people as I can.
Tamar: Thank you so much for being a guest on the show today, Chris.
Chris: Thank you so much. I had a great time.
Tamar: I just want to say that this is another circumstance here where somebody decided to take a risk and follow something that wasn’t his own mind that he knew he could pursue and turn into something greater to ultimately create the lifestyle that he wanted for him and his wife. One of the things I love that Chris said was, “The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can control your own schedule.” We come up over that theme, time and time again with investors and entrepreneurs that it’s something everybody really look towards. I want to be able to walk their dog when they want to be able to walk their dog for instance or travel as much as they want. Controlling your own schedule is one of the major benefits of entrepreneurship. Hope you guys have a good one. Catch you next time.
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