Belinda: Hello, everyone! Welcome to Work From Your Happy Place, I’m Belinda Ellsworth, and we have a great guest for you today: Chris Parker. He is the founder and CEO of What Is My IP Address, 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 of 2000, and for the very first five years, his revenue didn’t even cover his internet bill. In 2005, Chris made $30 from display ads and he knew he couldn’t give it up. In 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 his site to generate just under seven figures a year in revenue, with no employees, no office, and no inventory. whatismyipddress.com has granted Chris and his wife time and financial freedom that they use to travel the world and raise their mini schnauzer, Bailey. Welcome, Chris!
Chris: Thanks, Belinda! It’s great to be here.
Belinda: Oh, it’s great having you! That was a fun little story, so you kinda gave us a good overview of your journey there. But maybe you just wanna give us a few more details, and just give us a little bit more idea of exactly what it is that you do.
Chris: Sure! I think I’ve always wanted to own my own business. As a kid, I started out delivering newspapers, as probably fewer and fewer boys do, and definitely these days, I don’t think anyone delivers newspapers. I’ve had a number of failed businesses. I tried to compete with Amazon.com briefly in selling books online, and have had a fun experience doing that and learned that packaging and shipping products is a really difficult thing to do, it’s very time consuming, and switched that over to the affiliate market, so I was basically telling people where to buy their books, and getting a little cut from that. That was kind of my, like, epiphany moment, of “Hey, there’s really a way to make money online without having to actually have a physical brick and mortar presence.” That’s a part of my growth of my business, is really splitting away from brick and mortar and being able to figure out how do I help people and deal with people purely online.
Belinda: Well, that is great. Tell us a little bit more then about your business today, and then how’s it shaped your lifestyle today?
Chris: Yeah, so currently, the business helps people find their IP address, which is very, very kind of a surface level. These days a lot more people are trying to find out, “Who’s coming to my website? Who’s commenting on my blog? Is this person that I’m dealing with online, met on the
popular dating site, are they really who they claim to be or are they some scammer halfway around the world?” and that’s a lot of where my business has migrated into, is tools, the services to really help people identify, get a better idea who they’re communicating with, and educating people to watch out for the scammers.
Unfortunately, there are a ton of people out there just trying to scam hardworking people out of their money, and the more education people have, the more awareness that they have of what these scams are, what they look like, can really prevent them from losing money, whether it’s a business or an individual. Unfortunately, with the growth of the internet, becoming a worldwide phenomena, we get scammers from all over the world now. Helping combat that is part of what I do, and trying to help educate people is another big chunk of what I do.
Belinda: That is great. Six million visitors every month, that’s incredible.
Chris: Yes, it is. It was actually really quite surprising when I first started out. It it wasn’t intentionally a business. It was a resolution to a problem that I was having at the employer that I was working at, and I just needed a tool outside of our office to tell me what the IP address of the office was, and I kind of put it up, and made it online, and submitted it to—I think it was Altavista search engine at that time—and just kind of let things go.
It was a number of years until I realized, “There’s a lot of people using this tool!” I can start interacting with them, people started asking me questions, and started building up content around the questions that people were having and providing them tools so that it wouldn’t take me doing all the dirty work myself. It’s really been pretty neat to see that grow, and the consistent effort that has paid off, and a tremendous amount of traffic.
Belinda: Wow, that is fantastic. What would you say then the two of your greatest skill sets are, that have helped you in succeeding and owning your own business?
Chris: I think it’s a skill set, but it’s a skill set of knowing what I don’t have the skills to do, and what the balance is of the certain things that I can learn myself to get products done, to get things done. There’s other places where, “I’ve gotta get someone else to come in and do this.” It’s just not my skill set, no matter how much time I put into it, I’m just never gonna get very good at it. There’s some amazing people out there that just have amazing talents, and it just comes so naturally to them, and I’d love to be able to leverage what they’re great at in areas that I’m not good at.
I think one thing that’s definitely paid off for me is patience in really being able to play the long game in my business. Get lots of people wanted to advertise, or being partners, or like, “hey we can generate this, hey if you put if you put forty-five pop-ups on your site, you’re gonna make a lot of money.”
Chris: If that might be good for about three days, but all my visitors are gonna get mad at me, and they’re gonna go, “Wait, that’s not in the long term interest of the people using my site, that’s not in my long term interest.” It’s really trying to find that balance. Anything that I do, it’s gotta work for, first and foremost, it has to work for the visitors of my site. If I offend them, if I say horrible things, if there’s too many ads in front of their face, they’re gonna go away, they’re gonna go find somewhere else. Information is almost a commodity these days. But I also need to balance that with, “I’ve got bills to pay. I’ve got a lifestyle I want to live,” and really trying to balance those two, to make this work for the long haul, not just get some money and get out.
Belinda: I think that’s so important, and that actually is staying true to your customer, right, and I have to do that constantly. I’m always asked, “Oh, do you wanna do this affiliate? We could do this for you, you could generate another whole stream of income.” and it’s like, “Well, I’m okay with the income I’m generating.” “But you could make more.” “But at the expense of what? And, at the expense of making my client list upset,” or…
Belinda: …or not having a really great experience that I want them to have, so I know I have to try to stay true. I love it that you said, “What is it serving my customer base well?” and if you would always go back to that, you know what I mean? I always say the downfall of most people is greed, because…
Belinda: …they lose sight of, “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Who is my customer? Is this in their best interest, not just what’s in my best interest?”
Chris: There’s definitely times where that, what I call them, the green-headed beast, or whatever, you know, rears its ugly head and I’m like, “I could make this much more money, and I could do this, and I could do that,” and “No, wait, wait, wait, wait, it’s not gonna work out in the long run.” I really gotta keep that in check and really do what’s best and maintain my integrity.
Chris: What people think about me, if I throw away my integrity, what do you have left?
Belinda: Exactly. What do you think one of your most outstanding accomplishments have been, or what’s something that’s super meaningful for you?
Chris: I think the growth of the site, in and itself, is an outstanding accomplishment. I’m not sure though. I don’t know that I could necessarily say, “Hey, this is all me. I’m amazing, it’s all because of me.” I think there’s a tremendous amount of good fortune, of being in the right place at the right time. Doing some of the good blocking and tackling type of things, it’s just good business practices, you know. We’re talking about patience, playing the long game.
But I think one of things that’s been really meaningful for me is, over the last couple of years, I’ve taken this from being just me, on my laptop, on nights, on weekends, to it’s become my full-time job, and I have a number of consultants, and contractors that I work with. I kinda find it—maybe it’s corny—but I kinda find a lot of meaning and pleasure out of, I’m helping other people achieve their life goals.
My graphic artist, I’m continuing to allow him to pursue his business of being a graphic artist. My content writer, you know, he works for himself, and working for me helped him to be able to contribute to his family, and kind of being able to say, “Hey, look, I’m contributing to the well-being of other people.” I like that, it’s something that means, it makes sense to me. Maybe other people don’t care about that, but to me, I like that because of my business other people are able to have a living.
Belinda: Oh, gosh. I don’t think that’s corny at all. I think that for me, that’s a driving force. I always, whenever I’m thinking about what I need to do here, I think about my employees and how it’s gonna affect them, and you know, I don’t look at them as just like my employees. I look at them as, they’re helping me do what I’m doing, and also, in part of that, is paying people well, and sharing, and knowing, and getting satisfaction that you’re helping that individual to earn a living—and a good living, and a fair living, I guess, for the work that they’re doing. I think that’s not corny in the least. I think it’s a huge driving force.
My last guest really talked about work environment, and that 90% of burnout comes from your work environment. But if you have somebody, and you create a workspace and a work environment where people feel valued, people feel like their job matters, that they’re contributing to an overall bigger picture that just themselves: that’s what causes people to want to stay instead of feeling burned out, that they don’t matter.
Chris: Yep. One of the things that I’ve been talking about with my business coach is that the concept of really being able to grant people the ability to come up with outcomes, that you have a goal to achieve. It’s not, “Here’s three tasks that I need you to do, but I want you to grow this. Make this better,” and let them figure out how to do it, and empower them to kind of take ownership of something, rather than it just be, “Hey, just do this checklist for me.”
Belinda: Right. That’s a good way to look at it, absolutely. What would you say then, the opposite of that, what has been one of your greatest challenges, or obstacles that you faced, and then how did you work through that?
Chris: I think that one challenge, one obstacle, one thing that happened to me that really, it actually kind of caught me off guard because I’ve been in this space of watching out for scams, helping educate people about being safe online, is that I had someone representing themselves as being an advertiser, and it looked like a good deal, I recognized the name of the advertiser, “Okay, yeah. Let’s do business together.” and a month later, things just started to seem a little bit squirrely and this guy just disappeared.
He’d basically bought out a large amount of advertising space on the website, and it turned out that this guy was a scammer. He used the name of a reputable company, put up a website that looked exactly like theirs, just switched it from the .com to the .net, changed the phone number to his phone number, and it totally caught me off guard. I realized, “Man, I need to have some extra practices in place, and processes that will just kind of go that extra mile to make sure that everything is above board.”
Part of me was like, “I’m gonna go to war. I’m gonna hire the best lawyers I can. I’ve got experience in finding people when they’re trying to hide online. I’m gonna make this guy’s life miserable.” But I’m like, that’s an awful lot of energy to spend on something that’s really not gonna get me anything, so, it really helped me to kinda turn around my thinking and go, “Okay, I just need to have processes in place. I need to help other people have processes in place to prevent these sort of things from happening.”
Someone that I work with has a good story. His accountant got an email that looked like it came from him. They had his exact signature on it, the same fonts, the same styling, and it just basically said “Hey, I’m on a call with a client right now, but I’m gonna be on the call for the next hour or two. I can’t talk to you, but I need you to wire $5000 to this new vendor of ours. Here’s the account number. Just take care of it.” and to the accountant, it looked perfectly legit.
She started to do it because, oh, he, I know he’s on the phone with clients all day long, no big deal. The only thing that saved them was she didn’t know which account to send the money from. She replied, “Well, which account should I send money from?” and the answer didn’t come back the way it should have been, so she started to look, and went over to the CEO’s office, and she’s like, “Can I come in? Can I interrupt? And yeah, ask you about that $5000?” and he’s like, “What $5000?”
Belinda: It’s crazy. I had a very similar situation, and it makes you feel very violated. But they had sent it to my bookkeeper, and said, “Hey, can you wire this money?” It was from me. “Hey, can you wire this money to this vendor?” and it had my signature on it, and it was from my address, and she assumed it was me, but she sent me the notice, and just if I hadn’t been sitting at my computer at that very minute, which a lot of times I’m not. I’m on this call, like, I’ll be on here with you for probably forty minutes or more. I just happened to be sitting at my computer at the exact moment, and thank goodness she was really good about that. She was always very good about soon as she did something, sending me an email telling me it had been done.
Belinda: So she sent me an email and said, “Hey, I wired that $15000 over, like you requested.” And…
Chris: And you’re like, “What?”
Belinda: What? And I jumped on the phone quickly, and do you know we were able to get it reversed? But only because we had called within a thirty minute window.
Chris: I did that, I hear that story, unfortunately, over and over and over. Of: “I sent the money, I sent it with Western Union, I’d sent whatever”, and now it’s gone and there’s nothing I could do about it.
Chris: It’s scary.
Belinda: It is. So you’re right, I put a process in place that said, if anyone ever asks you, I don’t generally transfer or do wire transfers. If anybody were to get one of those, guaranteed it’s not from me. You double check it’s from me before it’s sent out. Of which I didn’t have in place before, so you are right, some of the things you don’t expect people to be at their worst, and…
Belinda: …and so you don’t plan for the worst, but that’s good that you’re doing that, and really, that would have been a lot of energy to expend on how you can, you can actually most of the time make up money that you’ve lost quicker if you’d just put it into positive energy versus negative energy.
Chris: Yep, it’s… let me just work harder, and that’ll, it’ll cover the difference really quick.
Belinda: Yup. So what’s working from your happy place mean to you?
Chris: I think for me, it’s a good work-life balance that I, you know, can work hard, I can play hard, but that’s not 90 hours a week being consumed with work and giving my family leftovers. And also not the opposite. I know some people like, it’s all about what they can do on their time, and you know, they come into work hungover, or whatever, but I really like that balance of, “I’m gonna work hard, I’m gonna do my best, I’m really gonna give the best that I can to my customers, work well with my contractors, my consultants, my partners. But when I go on vacation, I’m gonna have fun. I’m gonna enjoy myself.” and really trying to find that.
I think, for different people that balance is maybe, they wanna work a little bit more. Maybe they wanna play a little bit more. But having that kind of opportunity where I can let that ebb and flow. I get to work from home, so my mini schnauzer here is sleeping, snoring on the pillow right next to me. My wife and I don’t have kids, so like, hearing my dog’s snores, it just makes me happy.
Chris: That I can, “you know I’m having a tough day, I’m just gonna go out and take my dog for a walk.” You know when you’re in somebody else’s office, you just don’t have that kind of freedom to sometimes be able to say, “You know what, I need some me time. I need some space today.”
Belinda: Right. I know, for myself, and I’m sure there’s others out there listening that might completely get what you do. But for many of our listeners, they’re probably still not a hundred percent sure exactly, what it is that you do, and how you might be able to offer a service for them. What I want you to do is take us way down. Like, somebody listening, if they were to say, “Oh, he was very interesting to listen to, and he had some really great points, what does he do, I’m still not one hundred percent sure.” I’m going to make sure that before we end this interview, that our listeners have at least an idea of that, because I’m sure you bring great value. Do you wanna just take me through it a little bit more?
Chris: Sure. For a lot of people, what I do, honestly may have little value. But for some people, there’s some tremendous value to it. These days, with people being paranoid about their government spying on them, their ISPs filtering their traffic, worried about where they’re going online. A lot of people are starting to use what are called VPN services, allows you to be able to encrypt your internet traffic and route it through different locations. So maybe you’re working in Canada, but you want it to look like, online, that you’re in Southern California, you might use a service to do that. Or if you’re in a country like Iran where there governments monitor what you say, what you think, and what you can access online, you might be able to use a VPN to be able to access Western news media, and things like that.
A lot of those people would come to the website, my website, before they turn on their VPN, and confirm, “Okay, yes, I’m on my internet connection.” They’ll enable their VPN service and be able to confirm, “Okay, yes, I’m no longer in Iran, I’m no longer in Canada, I’m now, the internet thinks I’m in a different place.”
Well, that’s one chunk of things that people that we have coming to the site and just being able to confirm that their software’s configured and working properly. And we also have a lot of website owners coming to the site looking at, “Oh, gee. I just got the biggest e-commerce order of my life on my new business. I’d better do my due diligence to make sure it’s not fraud.”
That’s one of the things that happened to me way back when I was running my online bookstore. Someone defrauded me out of a couple thousand dollars worth of bibles, with a stolen credit card, when they placed their order from Nigeria. There’s things that you know, there’s some tools on the website that can help people track down, “is this order really where it’s coming from? Is this person really where they’re coming from?” They can be taught about people trying to find out if the people they’re meeting on dating websites are really where they claim to be.
That’s one of the things I’m really working on is really kind of building out that content to really help people who don’t want to become victims of scams. For entrepreneurs that want to have processes in place that will keep their computers safe. Some best practices to make sure that if someone breaks into your house, you don’t lose your entire business or something like that.
Belinda: Oh, perfect. Thank you so much. With that, what advice would you give to others who want to be entrepreneurs?
Chris: I think probably the biggest question you got to ask yourself first is, if the idea of skipping a paycheck freaks you out or not. If it utterly freaks you out to think you might miss a paycheck, you might not want to be an entrepreneur. There’s definitely days where you get really big paychecks, and there’s days where you get no paychecks. I think there’s, there can be a lot of uncertainty in that process of being an entrepreneur. Some people are wired for that, other people’s aren’t wired for that, and if you’re, if you have a significant other you need to work with your significant other on that as well.
I know my wife is definitely in the camp of, “I’d rather have a consistent paycheck, know that I’ve got a job to go to, I know that I’ve got that stability.” as opposed to some big finish down the line that may or may not happen. And so in the process of me, the company I worked for going out of business, and deciding, “Okay, do I go to work fully for myself, or do I get another job, and kind of try to do both at the same time?” We had to talk through that process of, well let’s give it six months and see how it goes, we’ve got cash reserves. I think, you’ve got to figure out, you know, what your tolerance for risk is, and kind of go from there. If you, if you’ve got the tolerance for risk, being an entrepreneur might be a great opportunity for you.
Belinda: Great! In closing, what are some exciting things that you’re working on you think our listeners might benefit from, and also, how can they find you?
Chris: Great! Yes. Actually, one of the things that I’ve been doing for my business, this is just for the entrepreneurs out there, the bonus tidbit. I started this program called the Ask Method by Ryan Levesque, and he’s got a book called Ask. It really helps you understand your current market, future market, your customers, really helps you ask them the right questions to help you understand more about them. It gives you the natural language in order for you to be able to communicate with them, and in an incredible way, help your conversion rates. That’s my free tidbit out there, something that I’m learning.
I’m continuing to build up my website. I’ve just completed these incredible interviews with about a dozen privacy experts. And for those that are interested in what they can do for their privacy and security, they can follow me on whatismyipaddress.com, as the content comes out there, and those interviews come out, they’ll be available via social media, and all the links are on whatismyipaddress.com.
Belinda: Okay, perfect. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This has been extremely delightful! I’ve enjoyed our conversation very much and I wish you great success with your business going forward.
Chris: Thank you, Belinda, I’ve had a great time myself.