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Since I no longer write monthly updates, I don’t really have a section here where I get to share the personal goings on in my life. Whilst thinking about this, I realised that unless you’ve purchased a product from me, you have no idea what I did to get to where I am today.
The bullet points on my about page tell a little bit about my story, but they definitely don’t give you the full picture. I decided that now would be a good a time as any to share my journey in the hope that it will inspire, motivate, and show you what is possible when you really want to succeed in this industry badly enough.
The Lycos Tripod Site Builder was where my journey began. I had just witnessed a friend building a website on the computers at school, and thought that the whole process looked pretty cool. I’ve always been creative and self-motivated, so I instantly thought about how I could build websites and potentially make some money.
After some brainstorming, Tech-uk4u.tripod.com (awesome name, right?) was born. As soon as I set-up the site, I just knew it was going to make me a millionaire. I was totally nerdy and into computers at the time, so I created a site offering tips on how to fix various computer issues. Jammed printers? Covered. Slow computers? Covered. The “genius” part of this operation was when I decided to put a Paypal button on all of the articles.
I would give people the first paragraph of the solution, then insert the Paypal button, and they would have to pay $1 in order to get access to the rest of the article. How could the idea not make me a millionaire?
That’s easy. I didn’t get a single visitor to my site. Apparently traffic is pretty important if you want to make money from websites ;]. I had assumed that once my website was up, I would start getting flooded with traffic. As you can expect, I didn’t make a penny from the site, and my hopes were shattered.
This was 2005, and I was 15 years old. Though the site was a failure, the “bug” had been placed.
Since I failed with my mission to build a website around technology, I decided to focus on an offline hobby for a while instead. I had always loved messing around with music, so I decided to take up DJ’ing as my next big project.
For the next year I spent most of my online time on a DJ forum known as DJ Source. It ran vBulletin and was the most popular DJ’ing forum online. I have no idea why I spent so many hours on the site, as at the time I didn’t actually DJ. Maybe I just loved all of the arguments there with a user called “Benny” who, incidentally, kept threatening to kill me.
In the process of spending so much time on this site, I did end up convincing my parents to let me buy some turntables, and I also started a website, DJ Scene. It was a forum for DJ’s, running phpBB, and it was actually fairly popular. I had built up enough of a reputation on DJSource to get 200 or so members to join me and continue the discussions on my own site.
Running the site was an absolute nightmare, but I learned a lot. Users kept requesting features I would try to implement, but implementing new features in phpBB, when you know nothing about PHP, is like trying to read a book in Braille without anyone telling you which bumps correspond to which letters. Every week the header of the website outputted some ugly PHP errors, and I had to beg anybody I could find to help me clean up the mess.
Usually it was a guy named Steven, who was trying to build a popular hosting company. I would be really curious to know what he’s doing these days, now that I think about it. I owe him some link juice.
After a few months of running the forum I saw a post on DJ Source from a guy called Dean. He had just built a website called My DJ Space and was asking members what they thought of it. Since MySpace was the biggest thing online at the time, I thought the idea behind MyDJSpace was amazing. I told Dean that I would send all of my members his way if he split the ownership of the website with me. Dean agreed, and thus my next project was born.
For the next two years I built a completely new version of MyDJSpace, which ran the social networking software phpFox, and did everything I could to market the website. I had learned from TechUK-4U that I couldn’t just build a site and expect people to use it; we had to get the word out there.
MyDJSpace became a place where DJ’s from around the world could upload their mixes, chat with other DJ’s and learn about equipment. If you were into DJ’ing, then it was pretty much everything you could need in a website.
That’s probably why it exploded, as we quickly had 10,000 members, top rankings in Google, and we were featured in the book DJ’ing for Dummies. I bought two copies of the book, simply because I was so proud of my achievements. (Side note: I saw a copy of the book in a bookstore last month and was disappointed to see they have taken out mentions of me in version two. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since MyDJSpace has been dead for a long time).
I was putting so much work into MyDJSpace that I started failing in most areas of my life in dramatic fashion. I would work on the site until 4am pretty much every day, skip my first few lessons of high school (and later, college), go to one or two classes, and then come home to work on the site again. I managed to do this for about a year before my parents noticed. My college attendance report came back with a nice shock for them: my attendance rate was 40%.
Meaning, for every two classes I was supposed to go to, I turned up to less than one.
I wasn’t making that much money with the site, since we wanted to grow the community rather than overly monetise it, so I had to get a job in a clothes store making about $7 per hour if I wanted a steady income. For two years I would work there every single weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and dreaded each time another weekend approached.
My job consisted of putting clothes on rails, working on the fitting rooms, and scanning literally thousands of items with some nifty device to see if the price of it needed to be reduced. If it did, I would put a little red label over the price tag. I can’t put into words how much enthusiasm for life the job took out of me. If I think about it now I just feel depressed. Every single shift was spent dreaming of the day when I didn’t have to work there anymore.
I was making a good amount of money online, sometimes as much as $5,000 in a single month, but my problem was that the income just wasn’t consistent. I could make $9,000 in two months, and then $1,000 in total for the next six. I hadn’t found a strategy that would work consistently.
Working on MyDJSpace was more of an on-off thing, rather than something I constantly focused on. In the space of four years, I focused on a number of different projects online. Both successfully and unsuccessfully.
Here’s a few:
I could go on but the list is huge. To say I’ve tried everything is an understatement. Link selling, ad promotions, random niche websites that I didn’t care about and even the odd blackhat tactics. Not all things that I’m proud of but all of the testing taught me a lot in a small period of time.
The highlight of all of this was probably a writing competition that I won online, on EarnersForum.com. I won a brand new PC running Windows Vista for my winning entry on marketing. This wasn’t a highlight because I got a new PC, but because I finally had something physical to show for the thousands of hours I had spent trying to make money on the internet.
Ironically, it actually exploded when I tried to use it for the first time. I hadn’t changed the setting on the back which adjusts the power voltage between UK and USA standards.
In the midst of my success with ViperChill and the marketing forums I was running, I was also active on a few other sites. I would often come across a member of an SEO forum on my journey to become better at SEO (let’s call him John) and to say he was an SEO genius is an understatement. I contributed to the site with posts about my success getting on the homepage of Digg and getting tons of traffic from Fark, but I had no idea those posts would lead to what they did.
One day I received a random friend request on MSN. It was from John’s boss, pitching me about the idea of coming to Cape Town to head up their new Social Media department. I would get to train the team, work with big companies, and see another side of the world. I still had a year left of college, so I politely declined but assured him I would speak to him in a year after I had finished college if the job was still available.
I went on with my day as usual, spending time with my cousins. My mom came home from work later in the day and I laughed as I told her about the offer. “This crazy guy in South Africa wants me to go and work there” I said. She was surprised I had said no, and urged me to rethink it. “You don’t enjoy college, you hate your job, and this is what you want to do when you finish college anyway.” She was right.
Within 30 seconds I had decided that was it. I was going to leave England and go and work in South Africa. I didn’t know one single person in the country, and all I read online talked about how bad crime there (here) was. Yet, the chance to work on my dream projects was enough to lure me away from everything and everyone I knew.
My Dad is a fairly serious man, so I was totally shocked when he laughed out loud when I phoned him about the news. I guess it’s hard to take any phone call which begins with “Dad, I’m moving to South Africa” very seriously. I did have the full support of my family though (I was just 18 at the time) and a few weeks later, I touched down at Cape Town International.
In South Africa, I learned a lot about myself as a person, matured a lot, and had a chance to put my many marketing ideas into practice. When working with Hewlett Packard, I was competing with big marketing teams from all over the world, representing the HP brand in their specific countries. Though I was working on my own, I sent more targeted traffic to the HP website than any of the other marketing firms. Combined.
I helped one British newspaper hit the Digg homepage over 40 times, and when working with Bacardi on a unique project I actually took down their servers. Ironically, because I sent them so much traffic and took their website offline, they didn’t see a good conversion rate and stopped working with us. Some companies will just never get it.
Besides doing well for the company and our clients, I had a lot of success on my own. In the two years I spent working in South Africa, I built a large number of very profitable and very successful affiliate websites. Once I found a unique niche angle that was working well, I then used that idea across a number of industries, and started making a lot of money.
I also started PluginID, a personal development blog that documented my journey in South Africa and the things I learned about spirituality, motivation and productivity along the way. I came to the point where in January 2009, I was making more money in just a few hours per week with affiliate marketing than I was at the marketing company full-time, so I decided now was a good time to leave.
As much as I enjoyed the job, there’s nothing that compares to being able to work for yourself and on projects which totally excite you. I returned to England where I continued to focus on my affiliate sites and PluginID. PluginID reached 75,000 visitors per month and had over 7,000 RSS subscribers. I ended up selling the website for a mid-five figure fee.
I knew that I was going to miss having an audience online, so it made perfect sense to resurrect the ViperChill brand at the same time I sold my personal development blog. In the last 14 months I’ve helped spend over $200,000 on websites, sold 95% of my online properties, and continued to try and make ViperChill the number one marketing blog in the world.
I have some huge goals ahead of me, so trust me when I say that this is just the beginning. Thank you for being part of the story…