This episode is not going to be that techy, I promise. The cool thing is that when I was talking to Chris, I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I’ve actually sent over 10,000 people to your website from inside of my free web design training to go find out their IP address so that they can enter into the website security plugin I recommended in the training and whitelist it so that they don’t get blocked from doing certain administrative things.”
Shannon: Hey there, Shannon Mattern here and welcome to Pep Talks for Side Hustlers where I share tips, motivation, and actionable advice to help you grow your side hustle. Welcome to Episode 242 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers all about evolving your side hustle to seven figures.
My guest today is Chris Parker, creator of whatismyipaddress.com, which a website that helps internet users with privacy and security. What so cool to me about having Chris on the show is that I’ve literally used his website for my entire professional career.
Before I quit my day job to take my web design training business full-time, I worked in marketing in IT for non-profit and for the IT part of my job, I would go to his site all the time to grab our IP address for vendors, for troubleshooting, for all kinds of things. Yes, I am a secret nerd. I was accused to that at a graduation party that I went to over the […] that cracked me up.
But in case you’re wondering what the heck an IP address is, it’s a nine-digit number that identifies whatever network or Wi-Fi your computer or phone is connected to. The router you got from your cable company has an IP address and anything you do from your home online is attached to that IP address traffic. It’s routed through that back and forth from your computer. When you connect to Wi-Fi at Starbucks, anything you do there is attached to their IP address and all that.
This episode is not going to be that techy, I promise. The cool thing is that when I was talking to Chris, I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I’ve actually sent over 10,000 people to your website from inside of my free web design training to go find out their IP address so that they can enter into the website security plugin I recommended in the training and whitelist it so that they don’t get blocked from doing certain administrative things.”
I just thought the connection was really cool because I don’t ever think about the people behind those sites. Because it’s not like his site isn’t what I teach people inside my web design training to do. He is not the personality on that site. Whereas for me and for almost all the people that I’ve interviewed on this podcast—you go to our site, you see our face, you hear our story, all that stuff—Chris’ site is completely different and yet it’s still super successful. It’s like I go there and I don’t even think like, “Oh wait. There is a person behind this who manages this tool, and put all this content together, and all of that stuff.” That’s what we’re talking about in this episode today.
We’re not talking about the tech. We’re talking about the person behind the tech and how a simple website that solved a simple problem, has evolved into a seven figure business. Today, Chris and I are talking about how whatismyipaddress.com was never even intended to be a side hustle and how it evolved over time. We’ll talk about how Chris earns income from providing a free service. We’ll talk about online ads and how much traffic you actually need to be able to make a significant amount of money from putting ads on your site.
We’ll talk about how Chris discovered affiliate marketing and his best advice for finding an affiliate program for your niche and things to avoid when working with affiliate programs. We’ll talk about how he and his wife made the decision to put all their eggs in the business basket, take the business full-time, and how he has strategized to meet his three-, six-, and nine-month revenue goals once he took his side hustle full-time.
I ask him what his typical work day looks like as a seven figure business owner, we talk about how to be more productive, and we talk about the one belief that Chris had to change about himself to get where he is today. So let’s go ahead and dive into my interview with Chris Parker about whatismyipaddress.com.Chris, thank you so much for being here today on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. Can you share a little bit with our listeners about your story and how whatismyipaddress.com came to be?
Chris: Sure, it’s a fun story. It was originally a solution to a technical problem I’m always having at a company I worked at, almost 20 years ago now. We’re having a problem with our internet connection and some vendor that we are trying to connect or integrate with them and we couldn’t connect to their system and they asked us, “Well what’s your IP address we want to make sure we allow you at our firewall?” and we’re like, “I don’t know” where do we even figure that out. We’re going online and using AltaVista […] myself.
Shannon: That’s back in my day, too.
Chris: Lycos and Alta Vista. For those listening, this is all pre-Google days.
Shannon: Right. I was still on dial-up, AOL, when I went to college.
Chris: I know the feeling. So, it was really born out of a need for a solution. Once we figure out the answer, I was like, “Wow. I’ve got an always-on internet connection at home and a whole half of megabit. I could build a website that would do this. Just […] a good old server and put up a bare bones website that when you went to whatismyipaddress.com, it just showed you your IP address. No content, no information, no ads, just 8-point font on the upper left hand corner, here’s your IP address.”
I went on to do a bunch of other things, worked for a number of companies over the years, and I came back at one point my server was bugging me saying, “Hey you’re almost out of drive space,” and I was like, “How could the machine be out of drive space?” It turned out it was all the logs from the people visiting the website. That went to, “Well, let me find out what other questions people have,” so I add a little, “Hey, you have a question? Email me.”
So I started getting home from work, coming home and responding to people’s emails, and that coming to, “Gosh, I don’t like sitting around answering the same question over and over,” so at some point, I’m just copying and pasting answers to most of the questions. I’m like, “Why should I be doing that? I should be posting the answers to the questions actually on the website so that nobody had to email me at all.” So, I put a frequently asked questions up on the website and I think in 2003, 2006 this great invention called Google AdSense came out and I started putting small ads on the site, later affiliate ads on the site. It was actually able to start making some money from that.
A number of years later when my now former employer was having financial problems, they weren’t able to pay me full-time. I was able to work a little bit more on my—at the time—a side hustle, business now. Also had the same opportunity when my wife went to a master’s program. She’s busy on the nights and weekends so I get to invest in my business. Eventually, when my employer went out of business, it was a great opportunity for me to either jump ship and make my side hustle a full-time gig or find some other line of work and I chose to jump in and it’s been a fun ride ever since.
Shannon: I love that story and like I mentioned in the introduction, I teach people how to build a website with WordPress inside my Free 5 Day Website Challenge. That’s what I do when I’m not podcasting. One of the tools that I always send them to in day two when we’re setting up our Wordfence security plugin and they need to whitelist their own IP address so that they don’t get blocked from doing all the stuff they need to do, I send them to whatismyipaddress.com.
When your podcast booking agent reached out to me and said, “Hey you want to have Chris on your show?” I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I used his tools, I’ve recommended over 10,000 people to go to your site and find out what their IP address is.” I’ve sent a lot of traffic over the years […] and my professional life just the same, if this vendor needs to know our IP address, I’ve definitely use your tool.
The funny thing is it’s like I never think about there’s a person behind this website. I’m like, “Sweet. Someone made a tool,” like you don’t even think that someone made a tool. You’re like, “Google, okay got the answer.” Like go on, but there are people behind these tools. Keeping them running, maintaining those things for people like us to get stuff done.
I just love that I’m able to have a conversation with the real person behind the tool that actually took this idea to kind of—I don’t know—I feel like it’s almost like giving back to the internet somehow and created this tool that is super helpful in a variety of areas. It’s great to have you on the show in that regard.
Chris: I’m glad to be here.
Shannon: I want to ask you a few more questions about transitioning from your employer went out of business and you decided to make whatismyipaddress.com your full-time gig. Is that the only way you make money or do you have other consulting that you do? How did you grow this business to where it could support you?
Chris: It’s by far the largest amount of revenue I have, I do some consulting gigs. I actually, about a year ago, I was hired as an expert witness to testify on a jury trial. I did a bunch of research for the company up until it just about went to trial. I assume they settled because it was, “Thank you very much. We don’t need your services anymore.” It was fun to be able to use some of my accrued skillset to be able to do that.
A couple of little miscellaneous projects here and there. I’ve had a number of other websites which were good ideas at the time but turned out to be dismal failures. I know that I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m working on to diversify and be not just in a side niche, but entirely different industries.
Shannon: How do you monetize your site? For those people who are listening that maybe are like, “Google AdSense. What is this,” can you just give a very basic breakdown of how this works? How you’re actually able to make money from a site that tells people their IP address?
Chris: There’s two primary ways that I earn revenue. One is display ads. When you go to any news site, if you go on any ‘gotcha’ content with a salacious story or the tantalizing storylines that, when you get to it you’re like, “Well, they didn’t deliver,” those sites are all filled with display ads for products, services. Those ads are either shown to you based on your geography, based on your previous interest of other websites that you’ve been to or based on the content from the website that you’re currently on.
So, if you’re on a website about cameras, there’s a good likelihood that those lots of ads on that website display pictures for cameras and camera-related products. But if you’ve also been shopping for the latest set of Nike, and you go on to my site, you might actually see an ad for Nike because you’ve expressed an interest to Nike. That’s the overview of display advertising.
The industry has gotten very technical over the last couple of years, there’s really neat technologies that are just emerging, but for most website operators something like Google AdSense is an awesome product. Once you’re approved for the program it’s just a few lines of code on your website and they populate it with ads. You don’t have to try to sell the ads, you don’t have to deal with billing, you don’t have to deal with vendor relations and all that stuff. It’s just all done for you. Of course, Google makes a fee off of that.
The second one is through affiliate relationships. These are where I’m promoting a particular product or service and in exchange for every sale or lead that my website generates, I get a little piece of the pie either as a one-time commission or what they call is a rev share which is the ongoing revenue stream. If a person stays a client paying monthly for the next five years, I get some percentage of that revenue for the next five years. Those are the two primary ways I earn from the website.
Shannon: I know we have a lot of bloggers listening to the show and I know that one of the ways that they always want to start off monetizing is display ads and ads on their site. Can you share a little bit more about how much traffic you need to get to your blogger website to really make a significant amount of money from display advertising?
Chris: It’s really going to depend on the industry that you’re blogging about. When I first started doing ads on whatismyipaddress.com it’s not like there’s a whole lot of people advertising competing sites or other websites about IP addresses, so my earnings for display ads in general are considerably lower than someone else’s website. If you have a website about cameras and all your articles are about how to decide which camera you’re going to buy before you buy it, your ads are probably going to do a lot better because there’s a lot more intent behind why the person’s there. They’re shopping for a higher ticket, so there’s going to be more revenue available for the vendor to split with you and they make you willing to pay more for the ads.
If you’re only getting 500 people a month I probably won’t even worry about 10,000 people a month I probably wouldn’t worry about it. I’d worry more about building your brand, building that loyalty, building your voice then trying to get that extra $5, $10, or $20 a month that you might get from something like that.
Shannon: So it really depends on how focused your niche is and how the intent of the consumer if they’re coming to that site to research a purchase and they’re likely to click on an ad that they would see on that site.
Chris: Websites that have likely buyers are, in general, going to earn more revenue than sites with recipes, let’s say.
Shannon: Sure. I love that for those of you that are listening, that you have a hobby that you’re totally into and you are the expert, all your friends ask you about all the gear, what they should buy, and what your thoughts are because they know you’ve researched the crap out of everything, and built the blog around that. Then, like Chris is saying, you can become the go-to, or one of the go-to places because people do research on a lot of different websites when they’re shopping for stuff like that. You can become part of that conversation and get part of that revenue.
You mentioned affiliate marketing. The bulk of my revenue comes from affiliate marketing. We were talking a little bit before we hit record on this podcast, just about how we give away a lot of value for free. The way that I’m able to do that is because the companies that I partner with pay me a commission for recommending their products and services. I not only recommend them, I teach people how to use them. I’m almost like customer support for some of them at times because I’m the face of the person that introduced you to this.
Tell me a little bit about how you discovered affiliate marketing was even a thing. I didn’t know it until I heard about it on a podcast five years ago. I was like, “Oh, this is a game changer.” Can you share a little bit about your experience with affiliate marketing and integrating that into what you do?
Chris: It was interesting. My first exposure to affiliate marketing was back with that same employer almost 20 years ago, when they were just launching their website back when people didn’t go online and then they were online. They actually were a mail order computer company. Went from mail order to primarily online. So, we ran an affiliate program for trying to get people do drive traffic to our site, to buy a product from us. We would pay them a couple percent of the value. So, I was involved a little bit in dealing with the affiliate program doing some anti-fraud work for them and whatnot.
At one point was working for a life insurance broker. That was how we generate all of our leads for the sales people. We have an affiliate program and it was send your people to us that are interested in life insurance and when they complete this lead gen form, we’ll pay you this amount of money, or if they complete a longer form with more information, we’ll give you more money. We would do that to generate traffic from the sales people.
Most of my experience was initially from the vendor side of an affiliate program. It took me awhile to find affiliate programs that actually worked for whatismyipaddress.com. One of the old ones that used to work really well was pcAnywhere or GoToMyPC, which are tools that allow you to access your home computer, your office computer when you’re out.
What’s working well for me now is programs that support privacy and online safety things like that. VPNs that allow you to be travelling in countries that may have more restrictive internet access, but you can still get the things that you need to get or for people who are outside the US who want to watch US Netflix and things like that, they can do that by using a VPN.
Shannon: What would your advice be to someone listening who’s thinking, “Wow. That’s a wide range of companies that offer affiliate programs from life insurance to software tools and different things like that.” What advice do you have for people to find affiliate programs that would be in alignment with their brand or their niche?
Chris: For one thing you could probably just google whatever your niche space affiliate program and you’ll probably find a bunch of that way. You could also look at what other people in your industry are doing. If you see people pitching products, you can usually look at the link and see does it go through some other system before it hits the destination website. You can google the names of those products with partner program, affiliate program and usually there’s quite a few techniques like that. You could also just go to some of these companies which aggregate affiliate programs like Commission Junction, ShareASale, RevenueWire, a number of places where these programs are all marketed.
Shannon: What are some common mistakes you’ve seen other people make with affiliate programs or maybe mistakes that you’ve made yourself that you would hope to help our listeners avoid? I can share some of my own, too.
Chris: First of all, you have to make sure that you’re not promoting products or services that aren’t in alignment with your brand. I’m a tech person. If I’m trying to tell people why they should buy this make up, there’s a massive disconnect, that my audience is going to be like, “Why are you talking to me about this? This is obviously self-promotional or something like that.”
The other thing is just promoting products or services that are just poor quality because that reflects on who you are as your own brand. If you are saying, “Hey this is the best product, this is amazing,” and then people use it, it doesn’t work 50% of the time. You go on Trustpilot, they are one out of five star rated, every review you can find on the website is people ranting about them, except for the fact that the pay really high commission.
You have to look at that stuff because in some sense you’re standing behind the product. If they had a bad experience with the product, that means they’re going to have a bad experience with you. You need to make sure you’re maintaining your brand, your identity, and you’re not referring people to things that you wouldn’t use or you haven’t used. You don’t want to obviously lie about products or services and I’ve definitely seen people do that. That’s just plain unethical and at some point that’s going to come back to bite you.
What else to avoid? I’ve had lots of companies approach me saying, “Hey, we want you to promote this product or service.” I’ve either run or maybe I tried a similar product or service for an affiliate program in the past. I imagine you probably do really well promoting, hosting because you talk about, “Here’s how to set up your website, here’s how to configure WordPress.”
I’ve tried affiliate program for hosting and the conversion rates for me were absolutely dismal because that’s not what my audience is looking for. You have to be smart about what’s my audience’s intent, what’s the arc of their story, where are they at the process of their life, and what programs or opportunities are in that arc of their life. If they’re not looking for hosting, it doesn’t matter how great the hosting program is that you have to offer or how much commission you get on it. They’re not going to buy it because that’s not part of their story arc.
Shannon: I love that you brought up their story arc or what is your customer’s journey, what’s your ideal reader’s or client’s journey when they come to you. How can you curate the best resources for them and then be able to put the time into curating that information because you’re earning money from the companies for your time, and be able to provide that value to your listeners or to your readers or visitors for free?
I do really well with web hosting and some of the mistakes that I have made in the past, kind of been my journey, is just like what you said, I get approached all the time by companies who are like, “I can offer you a better commission than this other company. You should partner with us, we want to get in front of your audience,” and I’m like, “I’ll explore that and then what I’ll end up doing is I’ll end up giving my audience too many choices.” I’m teaching them how to build a website that’s like, “Well you can choose option A, B, C, or D,” and then they’re like, “I came to you because I want your recommendation as someone I can trust. I don’t want you to give me the five different affiliate programs that your part of that you’re going to make money regardless of which one I pick. I want you to give me your honest opinion of which one you would use.”
That’s something that you have to when you’re doing what we’re doing, which is generating revenue through educating people online and curating resources for them, putting them first. When you put them first, you’re always going to win on the back end for sure.
Chris: I had […] did a great presentation of the Traffic and Conversion Summit in San Diego—it was earlier this year—about looking at the success journey of your client. What are they doing before they come to you? What are they doing after they leave you? What you talk about is a great example of what they need to have hosting, they need to have this. Well, what other plugins do they need? Okay, now get you to set-up with affiliate programs and when you onboard, I get a piece of that.
Shannon: I just think that whenever you can be customer-focused, it’s going to be so much easier to create content. It’s going to be so much easier to figure out where you ideal client is hanging out so you can get in front of them. There’s so many different benefits of being customer-focused and a lot of times I know my listeners and the people inside my 5 Day Website Challenge community are all about how can people find me online? How can I set myself apart from everybody else?
They’re very focused on themselves which I get it because you’re trying to make your way in this entrepreneurial space, it’s very crowded online, you’re trying to stand out, but the way to standout is to just be insanely focused on your customer, like you said, their story, their journey, and how you can be a part of getting them from where they are now and where they want to be.
Chris: You’re the guide to their story. You’re not the hero of their story.
Shannon: Absolutely. When your company shut down and you were at this crossroad, why didn’t you just go get another job?
Chris: I thought about it, actually. At the time that that happened, I was actually probably making more from my site than my day job. Actually most people think well, why wouldn’t you leave your day job and go to work totally for yourself?
Shannon: That’s the dream, right?
Chris: That’s the dream. I’m a really pragmatic person. My wife and I were both pretty risk-averse. The question that we had to ask ourselves was, can I increase the revenue of the company to be more than what my day job was earning by me not working the day job? Will that extra 20, 30, 40 hours a week investing to business be able to recover that loss of income, benefits, and things like that.
It wasn’t just a, “Hey, do I have something that I can jump in and do?” That was almost a fallback position. Well, I have the side gig that I can fallback to and invest in that, but I really need to figure out will investing more time with my side gig actually result in me making more money?
We set up a 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month goals of, “Okay, can I grow the revenue by this much over this period of time? Okay, get that milestone. Okay, six months out don’t hit that milestone. One year out hit that milestone, okay.” Does this makes sense to me to continue investing all my time in this rather than it being a side gig?
Shannon: I have a couple of questions about that. How did you strategize about how to grow the revenue? What were some of the specific things that you put into place that maybe you weren’t doing before or that you scaled when it was a side gig to meet those 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month goals?
Chris: I looked at what are some of the tools that my competitors have, what tools don’t they have or don’t I have that makes sense to be on my site, because now I have more time. I’m a programmer by background. I have actually gobs of time now to invest in programming rather than just maintenance, and that would allow me to, “Okay, these are things that could be stepping stones to be silos to revenue generation, as well as I could spend more time working on content development.
I’m not a very good writer and I’ve got to work with people to have content written trying to do that night weekends, lunch breaks wasn’t really an efficient way to go about doing that. It made that process a little bit difficult. But if I’m in a fixed location, access to email, and I can actually have a reasonable workflow with other people, then that process of getting content built would make more sense. Process of making the site looked better would now make sense.
Shannon: So you’re creating content to attract more visitors, right? The more content you have out there for people to consume, search, and find on Google, and all of that stuff, the more traffic you’re getting back to your website, the more ad revenue you’re getting, the more eyeballs you’re getting on your affiliate stuff. It’s no longer just the one page whatismyipaddress.com found that, got it. Now you have this whole ecosystem of helping people with all of the things that you have some expertise in or they might come to you for.
Chris: Went from just showing people their IP address and now talking about online privacy, safety, scams, and technical issues. They’re all related to IP address in some fashion or another, but so it’s all supporting the underlying theme of the company.
Shannon: I love how you mentioned that you and your wife are very pragmatic, and even though you had this side gig that was bringing in more income than your day job it’s still wasn’t just like, “Oh, of course I’m quitting.” We have all of these things that we need to take into consideration.
I asked everybody, “What was that transition like for you?” Some people are just like, “I had it one day, I quit my job, and I all figured it out.” That’s definitely not me. I side hustled for three years to the point where I hit the amount that I needed to hit to pay myself the same amount, pay my taxes, pay my benefits, pay my business expenses.
Once I hit that amount twice, then I put in a seven month notice at my job. You and I are very similar. I tried to think of what’s the difference between someone like me, someone like you, and other people. It’s just like where were at in our lives. Some of the people that are like, “I just said screw it and I quit and I figured it out.” A lot of these people were single or maybe early in their college days.
I have—it sounds like you do, too—we have spouses, I have a mortgage, I have bills, I have a real life to take care of, so it can be done. I guess that’s what I want everybody listening to know is that you can, outside of your 9–5, find those pockets a time to replace your day job income and then son. You have the freedom to make that decision.
Chris: To me, it was more about we make enough money that my wife doesn’t need to work. It wasn’t that I don’t want her to work because I know that’s important to her, she is a very driven person, and wants to be involved into stuff, she would never do well sitting around at home all day long. But I want to be able to give her that opportunity of you don’t need to work, I don’t need to have a day job, maybe we make less money if we don’t have those things, but at least it gives us opportunities. If we want to do something different, we have that flexibility in there.
Shannon: That’s great and that’s what drove me anyway, the freedom and the flexibility of being my own boss. It was really scary leaving that paycheck behind, that 401(k) behind, and that health insurance.
Chris: I still occasionally have that fear that at some point Google could just slap me and my revenue could be cratered overnight and it’s something that is entirely out of my control. It’s one thing maybe if you have a brick-and-mortar business, that maybe things that are so out of sight that your control that overnight can crater you. Whereas when you’re online if all your traffic is organic and it’s coming from this one source, if that source doesn’t want to give it to you anymore, you’re in trouble.
Shannon: Or if WordPress becomes not the premier way to build a website anymore, or affiliate marketing changes happen in that industry and that affect us. Government regulations or could be even more. There are so many things that could affect us and that’s one of the risks that we take as an entrepreneur. But I love what you said earlier. You said, “The bulk of my money comes from this, but I’m diversifying,” to make sure that you have different streams of revenue coming in to protect that, too.
I do the same thing. I do one-on-one web design for clients. While I would love to make all my money from affiliate marketing in online courses, I do feel the need to have this other wing of my business just in case. What are some other things that you’re working on outside of all the success that you’ve had with What Is My IP Address, the monetization, and all of that?
Chris: I’m working with some former people in the life insurance industry for an insurance-related website based on the experience that each of us have learned from decades of the industry. All of the things that we’ve learned of, what failed at my previous employer, how do you avoid some of these gotchas, how do we outsource certain things, how do we keep our expenses absolutely minimal, and all of those other things going on. We don’t have to invest all of our time in this. It’s something that we can organically help grow and help it to become something. The insurance industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. We’ll just take a little piece of that and we’ll be happy.
Shannon: It’s a side hustle to your former side hustle you were just addicted to side hustles.
Chris: It’s a side hustle to my side hustle. Yes.
Shannon: It’s fascinating that’s in a completely different niche, but I’m sure the things that are going to make it successful are going to be the same that drive the success with whatismyipaddress.com. All of the strategies and principles are the same, right?
Chris: Each of us bring in some particular industry experience of things that we’ve learned that have helped us succeed somewhere else, that we think if we bring each of us together into this particularly new niche, that we’ll have some great success.
Shannon: What are some of the marketing tactics that you have found most effective in your 20 years of really marketing online?
Chris: Marketing for my website has actually been particularly difficult. Let’s say you have a $10,000—your coaching a program—big ticket item. You can afford to spend an awful lot of money to get one person into your coaching program. They’re usually pretty high margin and you’re tracking high-level people.
Shannon: You can pay a lot for Facebook ads, Google ads, or retargeting ads and you can spend a lot to get one person through the door.
Chris: Because one sale is a fairly significant revenue. For me, my one sales are very small ticket items, my commissions are very small, the amount of revenue that I make in display advertising revenue from any one visitor to the website is extremely small. It’s one of those that I’m fortunate that I have a tremendous amount of traffic coming to the site, so it’s scales. But any one particular visitor—not to say that I don’t want them to come to the website—is a very, very small drop in the bucket. So, paying people to come to my website is extremely problematic.
I’ve run what I would consider more of like branding ads, awareness type of ads where I’m losing money, but hopefully not too much. I know lots of people in the VPN niche its really competitive right now, and you’ve got people that are AdWords experts, and Facebook ads experts that are spending millions of dollars a month. I’m not sure they’re making it all back. To me that’s not a game that I want to be in. I always joked that I’d be happy if I could find a program where I could spend $100 make $110 back at revenue, I can scale that up get lots of frequent flyer points or something like that.
To me, throwing that much money, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands dollars a month at a particular product and having a 2% profit margin is just utterly scary. I’d rather just work with organic traffic, and that’s predominantly what I’ve done. It’s been organic and trying to figure how to get more links, and how to build that trust and those relationships to people, as opposed to ‘here’s an ad to tell you what your IP address is.’ It doesn’t work really well in my industry.
Shannon: Your take on advertising is very interesting. I have a similar view point of it. I’ve had a few Facebook ads experts on the show and I feel like there are pros and cons to it. My opinion is that unless you know how to get organic traffic, you’re consistently getting organic traffic, you’re doing great with organic traffic, and it makes sense for you to put money into scale, that’s when I feel like some investing in Facebook ads is worth it. Or if you just have money sitting around that you want to play with and test and see if you might hit the Facebook ads jackpot, then that’s great too.
Not a lot of side hustlers out there are in that position, but I totally agree with you. I read blogpost or hear podcast episodes where you see the big launches of so and so. They made so much money in their first product launch, but they never tell you how much they spent to do it. That’s why on this podcast I’m committed to doing a monthly income report.
Some of my favorite people that I learned from, Pat Flynn and everybody, they do this monthly income reports. I share my expenses, too. I want you guys to see, “Here’s how much it costs me to run this business.” That’s very important when you’re looking at how you’re going to get traffic whether you paid for it or whether it’s organic. You’re spending time or you’re spending money, what’s the return on your time or your money?
That’s a really interesting take. Probably too risk-averse people sitting here are going to have that very similar opinion. Ask someone that’ll be like, “Sure, I’ll quit my job for a side hustle. I’ll see if this investment in Facebook ads pays off.” That might be you, go for it, and I’ll talk to you about it on the podcast when you are a success.
Chris: I can also see the flip side, at least with Facebook. If you know exactly who your customer is in terms of your high value type of customer, my target audience is a dentist who’s been in practice for 20 years, who is over 50 years old. Whatever all these other little criteria are, you can target those people on Facebook. If you know how to convert a very specific audience, Facebook targeting can be that jackpot for you of, “Okay, my ad is only going to be shown to my exact demographic where I can convert and I know I can do my metrics.” You have to be careful that that number is not 4 people or 400,000 people.
For some people, if you can dial-in that sweet spot of who your client―your ideal customer―is and you’ve got a high enough ticket product that you can support a fairly significant ad spend, I’m sure it can be very successful. The success stories I’ve heard, I see in the net numbers, are generally more in lines of that. They’re not in the, “Yeah, we’re promoting a $2 program,” or something where they get a couple bucks back. Or, they’re just looking to, “If I can just cover my customer acquisition cost, then I’m growing a mailing list, and I can market the products to them. They can scale at the backend.” But you’ve got to be willing to outlay a lot of money in the frontend to test and figure out how that actually works, to see if you can actually market stuff on the backend to people.
Shannon: Definitely. I want to switch gears here a little bit and ask you, what are the typical day look like for you when you were side hustling? What is a typical day look like for you now that you are your own boss?
Chris: I could tell you all the wrong things to do when you’re side hustling.
Shannon: I’m sure I did them all.
Chris: I’ll circle back to that. Before the side hustle, before going in to work, it was usually making sure everything’s working, responding to emails. At lunch, responding to emails and making a few phone calls if I could possibly squeeze them in. And the same thing in the evening, getting work done, doing some programming, wrestling to figure out if my wife’s busy, she’s not busy, do I have the time tonight to do it? Or not have the time? What obligations do I have?
Then, weekends being the same way. How can I speak? Yey, my wife wants to go out with some of her friends. Great. That gives me a couple of hour block where I can do stuff or her and I arranging. I’m going to work for a couple of hours this morning and then we’ll go off and do something later on the day together.
It was really trying to figure out how to piece that around other things in my life, but not so much that I was, “No, nothing else matters. I’m going to do my 40-hour a week. I’m not going to have any friends. I’m not going to have any life.” I didn’t want to lose balance. I still wanted to have relationships. I still wanted to enjoy my life and not be working 120 hours a week to make some monetary goal that if you have the money, but you don’t have any friends or people to do it with, what’s the point of having the money? That wasn’t worth it to me. I wanted to maintain quality of life in the process.
Shortly after making the transition, I kept the same tactics, but just squished into the 9–5, in the sense that I was still, “Okay. Start with my email, phone calls,” just dealing with stuff as it came up. That worked okay for a while. I had to figure out how to change that in order to make my life more effective or make more effective use of time.
I hired a business coach about two years ago. In part of our discovery call, let’s call that, he’s asking questions about the business. “How are you doing this?” “How are you doing that?” “Who’s doing your accounting for you?” I’m all, “I do it all. I do everything myself.” He goes, “How much do you pay your accountant?” I’m like, “I just told you that I’m doing it. I’m not paying anything for my accountant.” He’s like, “Yeah, you are. You’re spending time doing it. Let’s look at how much you’re making a year, divided by the number of hours you’re actually working, that’s how much you’re paying your accountant. That’s awesome. You’re paying for a CPA.”
“How much experience do you have doing accounting? How long have you been a CPA?” I’m like, “I’m not a CPA.” “But you at least have an accounting degree, right?” “No.” “Well, taken some accounting classes?” “Yeah. I took one 20 years ago.” He’s like, “You’re paying as much or more than you would pay for a CPA for an entry level person.” That really helped me change the way that I look at how I’ve been investing my time. I realized, I still do all my accounting because I’m―some said―a control freak. I’ve compartmentalized it in a sense that I don’t do things as they happen. It’s okay. This Friday mornings for two hours or an hour, I do accounting, and I don’t touch it outside of that.
The other thing I fear I had to change is I had to stop letting systems and people dictate my schedule. Turning off all the notifications, social media apps, no notifications, nothing pinging me, bugging me, “Hey, look at this. How about that?” Turning off email which sounds like, “How are you supposed to do business if you turn off email?” Well, not that I don’t ever read email. I don’t get up for the morning and then jump straight into my email because then, other people are telling me what I need to do with my day. I need to decide what’s important for my day. Do that, and then check my email.
It’s funny even in some sense. If I’m in my email doing something and an email comes in, I usually actually time the response to be a couple of hours after I actually respond to it. I don’t want people in that mindset of, “If I email Chris, I’ll get a response back right away.” People that I work with on projects and stuff like that, I tried to be as responsive as I can. But if a vendor emails me, it’s not mission critical. I don’t need to drop everything I’m doing. I don’t need to break my train of thought and response to this email of, “Oh, yeah. We can make this tweak to this ad. We can tweak the way this was phrased.” It’s not important that I respond to that right away.
It’s taking control of those things. That’s really helped me have blocks of time where I can be more effective within those blocks of time. As a programmer, it probably applies to other industries as well. It takes 15 or 20 minutes of programming, then you’re in this groove where you’re particularly effective. Probably for graphic artists and designers, it’s the same way. Once you’re in this groove, you can crank for two hours and feel like you’ve got 10 hours of work done.
If someone taps you on the shoulder, your phone rings, it bumps you out of that groove, and it takes probably 20–30 minutes to get back into the groove. If that phone call wasn’t mission critical, then we should’ve had the distraction. To me, I’m learning how to manage those distractions, learning how to outsource pieces to people who can be trusted to do things. Even things I wasn’t doing before, outsourcing them, reducing them down to something I can respond to quicker and easier, that way I’m multiplying my time as opposed to trying to, “Well, I’ll just work more hours.” I try to work more effectively and have other people work hours instead of me.
Shannon: I feel like you just described my whole entire business career. From side hustle to transition to self employment to figuring out like, “Wait, I feel like this is even more busy than when I had two jobs,” to really figuring out exactly what you just said―not letting other people’s agenda. Like I always say, my email, my inbox is someone else’s to-do list for me today. It’s almost a bad habit. It’s like a bad habit that I have to break, to not pick up my phone first thing and see what’s in there, even just delete the junk that I don’t plan to read.
The past three weeks, I decided I’m going to check emails from one to two everyday. I can look at it, but I’m not allowed to touch it or respond to it. Then, from one to two everyday, I’ll go through, and I’ll delete everything. If there’s something that I need to do, but I can’t do right then, I’ll flag it “to-do.” If it’s something that my assistant can do, I’ll cut a label for her on it. Otherwise, I’ll delete it. We have a deal that she’ll go through my inbox at the end of everyday and do the same thing for me. She’ll just put “FYI,” for all the things I just need to see, to do all the things that I need to do, and shall respond to any emergencies.
I’m just like, “Oh my gosh, I finally feel like I can have this email thing under control and it’s not ruling my life.” Like you said, there’s customers and there’s money in there. There are opportunities in there. I don’t want to completely abandon it altogether, but it also can’t be the driving force for what I accomplish every single day. I’m glad I’m not alone in that sense. I haven’t always had the best priorities, but we’re still managing to get stuff done even as we’re evolving, learning, and growing throughout being our own boss.
On the flip side, it’s like when you do all your own administrative work and you divide how much money you make and all the hours, you’re like, “Wow, I pay my assistant really well.”
Chris: They need a pay cut.
Shannon: Right, exactly. I think that’s interesting. I actually started hiring out my accounting to a company called Bench because it was the bane of my existence dealing with that. That was one thing that I’m happy to outsource. It did not take twisting of my arm to give that up, that’s for sure.
Chris: Yeah. I still have to get over some of the personal hurdles of outsourcing. My wife, I get with it for the time being. Her […] is, “No, don’t you dare outsource your finances to somebody else. No.”
Chris: She’s like, “We know a couple of people who are in financing. If they’re interested in doing it, I’m perfectly good if you hire them, but I don’t want you hiring anyone you don’t know or you don’t super trust to do your financing.” I would feel better having a company doing it also. Then, you’re not at the risk of some individual deciding, “Well, I’m going to assume your identity,” or “I’m just not going to show up to work today.” If it’s a company, then there’s layers of redundancy there that you don’t have to worry about.
Shannon: Exactly and you’re not turning over every last piece of the puzzle to them too which is good. Considering that you’re in privacy and security, I can understand that that would be a concern there.
Just a couple more questions for you. This one is one that I ask every single person on the podcast. What belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?
Chris: Probably, it’s tied to what we are just talking about. I had this belief that it’s a side hustle. I have to do it all myself. I’ve learned that that really has hurt my company in a lot of ways. It’s a learning experience. There’s definitely a lot of opportunities I missed out on because I felt this need where I had to do it myself. Part of that is because this grew up as a hobby and it had something fun that I played with. I was not necessarily planning on it being a business.
I wasn’t doing things I hear referred to—I haven’t read it—called Built to Sell. It talks about when you’re doing things to your company with the goal of extracting yourself from it. Building the company up so that if you were to disappear, the company could continue to run and continue to operate because you’re not integral in the day-to-day moving widget from A to B in order to make it work.
So much of my stuff is custom-built that I’m the only person who can push out new content onto my website. When I was the only person doing it, that’s great, but now that I’ve got content writers, that’s not a good thing. When I want to go on vacation, that means I’ll have to work when I’m on vacation. That was fine then, but it’s not a scalable thing. I’ve had to change the way that I view the way that I do things. Not that it’s about me, but it’s something I should be doing and realizing I’ve got to give up a lot of these control aspects and let other people do stuff. The only way for the business to really grow beyond where it’s at is to be trusting other people and trusting other people with the ability to do things in my business.
Shannon: Yeah. I totally see that. I went through the same thing. For me, it was trust a lot too. Then, it was also like, “I felt so busy. How am I going to take the time to teach you how to do this? I don’t have the time to even do it myself, let alone teach you and help you fix it the first five times that you don’t do it right. It’s quicker for me to just do it myself.” That’s that mindset that I’ve had to work on so much. It might be quicker in the moment, but it’s not quicker in the long term.
I’ll definitely check out that book and link it up in the show notes. Another one that I read that was really good is The E-Myth. Same concept of figuring out all the roles that you assumed in your business, coming up with job descriptions with each of those, and you might be all of those employees. Just you are all of those people in your business. Figuring out what is that role, starting to find the perfect people to come in, and take those pieces off your plates so that just like you said, you’re no longer the thing that’s going to hold your business back from growing. That’s definitely something that I am nowhere close to figuring out by any stretch. Maybe someday, I don’t know. But I’m not anywhere close.
Chris: I’m not close too, yet. I just figured if I could make incremental improvements in one little area at a time, then that’s good enough. I don’t have to figure it all out tomorrow. The E-Myth is definitely on my to-read list. It’s been there for a while though.
Shannon: That is really good. I’ve got the audio book. I love to multitask and listen to things while I work, or walk the dog, or whatever. I used to listen on my way to and from work to all the podcasts and all the books while I was sitting in rush hour traffic, driving, going to my day job. Now, I have less time for that because I work from home.
Chris: The dog walking time is my primary audiobook time. […] likes to walk so it’s good for me.
Shannon: Awesome. Where can our listeners connect with you, find out more about you online, learn more about what you do as far as privacy, security, and all of that stuff?
Chris: Obviously, they can definitely go to whatismyipaddress.com and that’s the core of everything that we’re doing. We’ve got some new things that we’re launching later on this year and that would be available on the site. If they want to learn more about me, I’m the backend of things, of what I’m doing as an entrepreneur, they can go to cgparker.com.
Shannon: Very cool. I’ll link all of that up in the show notes. Definitely go check out both of those websites and get connected with Chris with the technical aspect and the business growth aspect. Thank you all so much for listening this week. I’ll see you right here in the podcast next week.
Chris: Thank you very much. I had a great time.
Shannon: I seriously could have talked to Chris for hours. In fact, I kept him on after we wrapped up the podcast to ask him a couple more questions. Then, I realized, it was 10 minutes past the end of our interview. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I’ll let you go.” I found what he had to share absolutely fascinating.
Definitely, go checkout all the things he has about privacy and security at whatismyipaddress.com. Go connect with him on his website which is cgparker.com. I will link up all the other places that you can connect to with Chris on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Everything that he has to share about internet privacy and security is super valuable.
If you need to build a website for your side hustle, you can take my free web design training called the 5 Day Website Challenge. You can sign up for that at www.peptalksforsidehustlers.com/5day. It’s a free training. It’s going to teach you how to build your whole entire website. In day two, we’ll have you setup the Wordfence security plugin. I have you head down over to whatismyipaddress.com so you can grab your IP address, copy-paste it into a little field in the training, save it, and you’ll never get locked out of your own site because the security plugin knows, “Oh, wait. We keep out traffic coming from this address. It’s all good and we’ll let them do whatever they want.”
Head on over to peptalksforsidehustlers.com/5day. You’ll learn everything there is to learn about WordPress and building a site that helps you market yourself. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you right here, next week. Bye.
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