I’m Better Than You?
Dear Loser, (just kidding)
I’d like to share my story here.
This is where I come from, and what I went through, including all of the juicy details… and some of it ain’t pretty.
Including how I grew up dirt poor, ended up as a pretty successful actor in Hollywood, and how I threw it all away and eventually created an 8 figure online empire called “The Rich Jerk”, and made tens of millions of dollars in the process. (and then wasted it)
This is as transparent as it gets…
October 24, 2014:
For the past 10+ years, I’ve tried my best to remain a mysterious, behind-the-scenes, Internet marketer. Throughout that decade I’ve had several six, seven and even eight figure businesses.
During that time, I created an Internet marketing company called “The Rich Jerk”, which sold the # 1 eBook on Clickbank.com for several years. It was a great experience overall, and I learned so many lessons about running a big business. I was also fortunate enough to meet a lot of interesting people, many of whom I’m still friends with today.
But to understand how and why I’ve achieved such great success online, I think it’s important to start from the beginning and mention a few personal things that I’ve rarely shared with anyone…
Okay, here goes…
First of all, I grew up on a farm in a very small town called “Roy”, about 100 miles outside of Seattle, Washington. We had a mule, a horse, 2 donkeys, a miniature bull (only 32 inches tall), a llama, a goat, geese, peacocks, pigs, and chickens. I made money as a child by selling eggs to the local town folk. A dollar a dozen!
My dad was a parts manager at a Chrysler dealership and my mom was a print model and actress in commercials (I always got a kick out of seeing her on TV). To this day I have no idea what the purpose of our farm was, or why my parents purchased it, but we had one nonetheless. If that weren’t strange enough, we also lived amongst many wild deer…and they would follow me home when I got off of the school bus, and I would feed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my backyard right out of my hand – I kid you not.
Anyway, enough about the farm…
At the time (1987), my mom was always good about buying me the latest Nintendo game when I got straight A’s in school. I turned this into my first business venture. I made money as my elementary schools’ lone entrepreneur; I had the Nintendo games that other kids’ parents wouldn’t buy for them. Then I would rent my games out to the kids for $1/day. I basically ran my own Blockbuster inside the school!
When I was 10 years old, I used my first computer. It was 1988. I was in a gifted program in my school with one other kid named Chris Meyers. We both apparently did well on an IQ test. So once a week, the two of us were bussed to a larger school about 30 miles away. I always felt a bit strange about having a whole bus for just us.
At the gifted school, we were surrounded by the smartest kids from every school in the district, and to me it was a bit intimidating. I felt smart, but these kids were exceptional.
There were around 20 of us or so. We would come up with inventions, advertising campaigns for fictional companies, play quiz games, solve puzzles, etc . We also had access to a few Apple 2E computers and IBM PS2’s. The whole situation was like a playground for brainiacs. The teacher used to tease me because I was never really interested in anything in the class except the computers. I always had to be pried away from them.
One day we were asked to write a letter to someone influential in the world. I wrote to Bill Gates. I thought he was the coolest guy in the world because I was obsessed with computers. Being a bit precocious, I warned him to watch out because I had plans to take over his company someday. I never got a reply, but my mother still has a copy of the letter and I get a laugh out of reading it every now and then.
Back on the farm, things began to go downhill, and eventually I found myself in the midst of a nasty divorce/custody battle. I recall several visits to a mental institute to see my mother in a straight jacket. She was not coping well with the situation, to say the least. That was rough. But over time she got the help she needed. And eventually she met someone else. And when she did, I had to make a choice of who I wanted to live with – my alcoholic father, or my mother and her new husband who were being relocated to a place I’d never heard of – Mobile, Alabama.
I chose Alabama, and unfortunately I’ve only spoken to my father a handful of times since then.
I was a teenager now, and down south I quickly learned that being a “white boy” was going to cause me a lot of problems. In order to get by, I did a complete 180. The straight-A student became a rebellious, fight for my life kind of kid, frequently having issues with violence, drugs, and the police. I went from farm living to having guns pulled on me a few times. And I was no stranger to juvenile hall. I think the 7th time was finally my last. I still often wonder how I made it through those years alive.
I didn’t realize it at the time but we lived in poverty. It was the early 1990’s and our house cost $20k. Dirt roads and dirt yards. I worked at least 20 different jobs throughout high school – Kmart, carpet cleaning, making bagels, washing cars, pumping gas, fast food, etc. But none lasted very long, as I had developed a problem with authority.
When I was 16, I remember purchasing the only infomercial product I’ve ever ordered – by Don Lapre. He claimed to “make millions using tiny little classified ads.”
Here’s the commercial that convinced me to buy:
I eventually returned the program and got my money back, but it did spark an idea. I owned a book about how to make a cable tv descrambler (which would get you free cable), using a few supplies that could be purchased at Radio Shack. I re-wrote it into a short manual with pictures, had some printed up, and sold the plans in the local newspaper using my own little classified ads. I ended up breaking even and eventually gave up, but I was amazed that someone had actually mailed me a money order.
Around that time, my stepdad was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately there’s no cure for this disease, and it’s very painful. Surgery after surgery, and more pills than anyone would ever want to take in a day. We had some good times watching his favorite football team, the 49ers, but they became few and far in between as his condition worsened.
One night I came home and found him very drunk & angry, stumbling around yelling. This was an often occurrence, as alcohol was his only escape from the pain. But this time was different. He was an ex-cop, and this time he had his 9 millimeter Beretta in his hand, and he put it to the back of my head. I instantly ran as fast as I could to my room, slammed the door in his face and locked it. I called 911 as he banged on my door. Seconds later I heard a shot. I slowly crept out of my room to find my mother crying on the floor and my stepdad laying there lifeless. He had taken his own life. I remember it like it was yesterday.
You may be wondering why I’m mentioning some of these things. I don’t bring them up for sympathy, or to show you how hard I had it. This isn’t a pity party. I realize many people have had it much, much worse. But I think it’s important for you to see where I came from, and to see where I’m at now…because basically anything is possible. As cliché as it sounds…it’s true.
Fast forward a few years to age 19. I was going to college at the University of South Alabama, majoring in computer science, and failing miserably. When I was supposed to be learning C++ code and Novell Networking, I tended to play around with Windows 3.1 and get online to explore the coolest thing I’d ever seen – the Internet. It was 1997 and it was the first I’d ever seen of it. Writing 12 pages of C++ code that would calculate a phone bill didn’t seem very interesting to me. Why not just use a calculator? But I always wanted to be around computers. They fascinated me. The only PC I had ever owned was my stepdad’s old IBM PS1, circa 1984. It had 256kb of RAM. All I could do was run DOS, play the text-based game, “Escape from the Titanic”, and eventually upgrade to 512kb so that I could play “King’s Quest”, which came on 5 ¼ “ floppies!
At around this time, the strangest thing began to happen – as I continually accessed the Internet during classes, my perspective began to change. I realized there was this huge world out there that I knew nothing about. All of these websites from all over the world, and I was talking to people on IRC (internet relay chat) from the U.S. to China. I began to feel like I was possibly meant for bigger things than small town Alabama had to offer. Absolutely none of my friends had any real interest in ever leaving. It seemed their highest aspirations were to work at the local paper mill, or the Pepsi distributor, or in construction. I found that so odd. At the same time, I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do – I just wanted a REASON to leave. And just about any reason would suffice.
So this is what happened:
I’m 20 years old. I’m sitting at home watching “Dawson’s Creek”. And I had a huge crush on Katie Holmes. I wondered how I could meet her…until…voila! It came to me – I needed to get on that show.
I Needed to Meet Katie Holmes
Now I had never been an actor. Never considered it. Nothing. But I instantly wanted to be an actor…so I could meet Katie Holmes. Makes sense right?
The next day I called u-Haul and soon I was headed to Los Angeles – la la land. I didn’t know anyone there, or what the future had in store. But I had a u-Haul with all my earthly possessions, a 92 Toyota Celica in tow, and $5,000 in my pocket, which my mother gave me as a parting gift. I’m only guessing, but I’m pretty sure it was everything she had.
A buddy named Dennis L’Orange rode with me. Actually he drove most of the way while I slept. And when we finally arrived, there was a problem. You see, I had used “ye olde” Internet to rent an apartment in Los Angeles, sight unseen.
What I failed to realize was what part of town the apartment was in. It was $500/month, which was 3 times the cost of an apartment in Alabama, so I assumed it would be nice. But as I walked up to the building and brushed my way through a gang of unsavory characters to get inside, I felt sensory overload. The smell was almost unbearable. The “manager”, who was apparently drunk, led me up to my new apartment. I didn’t even get inside. The door next to mine was open, and the resident was repeatedly punching his female companion in the face while he screamed obscenities. That was enough for me. I quickly exited and found a cheap motel an hour outside of LA. My friend decided to take a bus back to Alabama the next day. He had had enough.
That night I felt the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life. I was a young kid in Los Angeles and didn’t know a soul. I had no clue what I was doing. I remember listening to “Mayonnaise” by the Smashing Pumpkins on repeat as I cried myself to sleep.
Over the next month I stayed at the Wilshire Motel in West LA until I found an apartment I could afford that was livable. On move-in day a really nice guy saw me trying to lift my refrigerator up the stairs and offered to help. If not for him I probably would’ve had major back problems my whole life! His name is Fernley Phillips. He went on to write several movies in Hollywood, including “The Number 23”, starring Jim Carrey. We still talk every now and then. I’m so proud of him and his success. We used to go to McDonalds together on 25 cent hamburger Tuesdays and load up. We were so broke. We also frequently snuck into theaters for double features.
Fernley introduced me to a woman named K Callan, a famous Hollywood writer/actress, who then introduced me to her acting agent Martin Gage. Martin signed me on as a client for the following reason: He was openly gay and thought I was cute! LOL. Hey, whatever works – as long as I wasn’t required to, ehem…do anything in return. Now I was one step closer to Katie Holmes!
I started going to Santa Monica College and taking acting classes, because I figured if I was going to be auditioning for TV and movies, I should probably know a little bit about acting right? I also started taking HTML classes as well because I still had a burning desire to understand how websites were made. I was majoring in theater with a minor in computer science. Interesting combination?
Over the next few months I crashed and burned dozens of auditions for shows like Gilmore Girls, Touched by an Angel, That 70’s Show, the movie “Dude Where’s my Car?”, etc. I was going up against guys who had done this their whole lives, understood the industry, and had booked major roles before. I was very intimidated, and I actually developed an anxiety disorder. I would throw up before every audition…
Then one day I got the call – I was officially auditioning for Dawson’s Creek! How crazy is that? Less than a year prior I was sitting at my house in Alabama watching the show, and now here was my chance to meet Katie!
Now I’d love to say that I got the part and my dreams came true, but… in reality I was a terrible actor. I had no idea what I was doing, and the casting director didn’t hesitate to remind me of that fact. Sufficed to say, no Katie for me.
Now with my dreams a bit dashed, I went on to stink up another 50 auditions or so for various shows/movies such as the lead role in Spider Man (Tobey McGuire’s part), the lead role in Star Wars (Annakin Skywalker), and many other roles I had no business competing for. I’ve gotta say, my agent, Martin, was really awesome. He got a complete unknown into all of these huge opportunities. I think I got around 60 “no’s” before Martin finally sent me packing. No hard feelings, I just wasn’t making him look good, OR making him any money. After all, it’s a business.
Now I didn’t know what to do. I landed an administrative job at a small investment banking firm because acting wasn’t paying the bills, and my $5k from mom was long gone. My job was basically to set up the faxing software to spam fax businesses all night, every night, promising to take their private company public for $100k via a reverse merger into a public shell, helping them raise capital, blah blah blah (we would later be investigated by the SEC). This glamorous job also included perks like cleaning the owner’s house, his car, doing his dry-cleaning…that sort of thing.
But one day while I was dropping off some things at his house, I noticed something. His tax return was laying out on the kitchen counter. I admit it, I looked. And my jaw dropped. He had made $374,000 in the last year. It was amazing to me because I obviously knew people made that kind of money, but this time it was up close and personal, and I could see it and touch it.
This simple event re-invigorated me with the desire to get out there and put a lot more effort into the things I was passionate about, because I wanted to be as successful as my boss. You’d think I would just decide to be an investment banker and follow in his footsteps to get rich. But I just wasn’t passionate about investment banking. I was passionate about 2 things – acting and websites. And I would no longer settle for half-assing either of them.
This was a major turning point in my life, and what I was about to learn over the course of the next year has shaped my professional and personal life ever since.
The first thing I decided to do was figure out the best possible way to gain an unfair advantage over other actors. They obviously had several advantages over me – whether it was more experience, a better resume, a better look, more confidence, more connections, etc.
So what could I do to figure out EXACTLY how to book auditions over them?
I needed to get direct access to the people who were the decision makers for every acting job – the casting directors.
Almost every actor tries to get an “in” with casting directors, but they do it by sending gifts, or postcards informing them of a show they just booked, or by sending pictures with clever packaging. But since everyone was doing it, and only a few were successful, I was suspicious of those tactics.
Then it hit me – I needed to be in the room during auditions, not as an actor, but on the other side of the camera as the casting director’s assistant. That way I could get raw feedback about what other actors did in the audition room, and perhaps more importantly, what the casting director says about them after they’ve left the room.
However, I quickly found out that casting assistant jobs weren’t exactly easy to attain. First you have to intern as an office “gopher”, basically getting treated like garbage while you tend to each person’s personal needs. Then you work your way up slowly over time. So it would take a major time commitment, and I would have to be willing to work for free.
But I was willing to make the commitment in order to get the answers that I needed. And, I figured that even spending time as a gopher would probably allow me to chat with the casting directors occasionally, or overhear their conversations from time to time. I needed to get inside their heads any way I could.
After applying at several offices, I finally got “hired” as an intern at the office of Victoria Burrows, who had been the casting director for The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, MacGyver and about 100 other shows/movies. I was stoked to be in the company of such a legitimate casting office!
Long story short, I didn’t stay employed long enough to become a full fledged assistant because I couldn’t handle being berated every day by the other assistants. BUT, I did stay long enough to get the feedback I needed. You see, occasionally the assistants would be busy, or unavailable, and the casting director would need someone to “read” with the actors who came in.
A reader simply reads the lines of the other characters in the script that the actor is supposed to be talking to. This was EXACTLY what I wanted, and I was more than willing to be a reader anytime they needed it. I actually got to read with many people who I recognized from other shows. They weren’t big-time A-listers, but they were “working” actors. Guys like Peter Graves, who has done tons of movies, and Kristoff St. John, who has done 700+ episodes of the Young & the Restless.
Actors would come and go, and some would really be great, and others not so great. And to my surprise, the best actor in my opinion almost NEVER got the job. After they left, Victoria would say things like “ Wow he seems like such a nice guy”, or “That guy reminds me of my father”, or “Wow that woman really seemed like she was having a bad day”.
It finally became clear to me what they were looking for. They weren’t looking for good actors. They were looking for someone who already “was” the character.
In other words, they don’t want to see someone come in and “turn-on” their acting ability. They want to see the character come through the door. If they want to cast a bratty kid, they want to see a bratty kid come through the door, and when they inevitably talk to him and ask him questions before the audition even starts, he should answer like a bratty kid would. So ultimately when he leaves the room, they would be thinking, “Wow, what a brat!”… “He’s perfect.”
Once I realized this, I quit the job and sought out another agent. I ended up signing with an agent named J Michael Bloom, who was pretty well known. I just sent in my picture, got a call, went in for a meet and great, and he said “What the heck, I’ll give you a try.” I felt pretty lucky.
In any event, now I was ready to audition with my new found knowledge.
I booked my first 6 auditions. I did a national Hot Pockets commercial, 5 episodes of a show on MTV called “Undressed”, small parts on shows like Young & the Restless, 7th Heaven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Power Rangers, and a few other shows on the Sci-Fi channel. I felt like the king of the world.
Here are some of my gigs (I wasn’t the greatest, but I knew how to get hired!):
But what I also realized was that although I enjoyed getting the parts, actually working as an actor wasn’t my cup of tea. 6am call times and 12 hours of sitting in a trailer waiting to say 5 lines was miserable to me. And I felt like I never got to do the part how I thought it should be done. Directors will have you do it their way, and the version that actually airs may be one that you absolutely hated, weirdly enough. The whole thing just wasn’t fun for me. I only enjoyed booking the part, and getting the satisfaction of being the one they picked, not doing the job itself.
During my hot streak I was up for a major role on a soap opera called One Life to Live. It was down to me and 2 other guys, and they wanted to fly me to New York to “test” for it. Testing is when you actually go on the set and film a real scene, so they can see exactly how you would come across. It paid $2k a week, which might as well have been a million dollars to me at the time.
At exactly this same time, I had done something equally amazing to me – I had my first website making money – $300/month. And I’ll tell you exactly how I did that in a moment. But because I was succeeding online (even on a small scale), and because I was quickly losing my interest in acting, I decided to turn down the soap opera. I also called my agent, thanked him from the bottom of my heart, and let him know I was quitting the business altogether.
My heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and the website was much more exciting to me. And Katie Holmes was engaged or something anyway.
So here is how I created my first profitable website:
After I made the decision to deeply investigate how to become a working actor, and I began to see success, I decided to try the same thing with websites. In other words, I would create a website about something I was passionate about, but also look much deeper, in order to get the raw feedback and knowledge necessary to set myself apart from the rest, just like I had done with acting.
At the time, one of the greatest struggles in my life was bad credit. I had several maxed out credit cards that I couldn’t pay back. Many had already been “charged off”, which means the credit card company wrote it off as a loss, and subsequently reported that on my credit report. A charge-off is terrible for your credit score, and I had several of them. And according to my credit report, they would remain there for 7 years, making it nearly impossible for me to get any other credit card, loan, etc. during that time.
I had FINALLY gotten my own computer, so I was able to spend a countless amount of time online. And I typically found myself looking for a solution to my bad credit. I had heard of credit repair, but didn’t really know what it was exactly. So I investigated everything I could find on the subject.
Most websites simply made claims of what they could do. For example they would say they could remove a charge off for $500. But I wanted to know HOW they removed it. It seemed like a closely guarded secret.
I finally came across the most pathetic looking website I had ever seen. It was completely amateur, and was selling an e-book on how to repair credit yourself. This was the first time I had ever heard the term “e-book”.
The one vital thing about this website that struck me as odd was that the bottom of the site had a visitor counter that said there had been 70,000 visitors to the site. This completely blew my mind. I started doing the math. In my opinion this guy HAD to be making a decent amount of money. (Keep in mind that this was before I knew counters could be faked, etc., so I believed what I saw.)
It was shocking to realize that a website so pathetic looking could get so many visitors and possibly be making money selling a do-it-yourself credit repair e-book. I bought the book and it basically told people to write letters to the credit reporting agencies denying/disputing everything. Not exactly great content, but he was probably making money nonetheless.
After taking a few HTML classes, I was sure that I could make a website that at least looked a little better than this one. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to be able to create a REAL do-it-yourself credit repair guide, with REAL examples and step by step instructions. And I wanted them to be backed up by PROOF.
So what better way to do this than to use myself as an example?
And instead of relying on the countless ebooks and services out there, I decided to go straight to the source – The Fair Credit Reporting Act itself. (FCRA)
I wanted to read the actual law, and see exactly what was true & false.
The document was over 100 pages, and I read the entire thing. While reading it, for some reason I got the feeling that very few people had done this. In any event, I narrowed my focus down to 2 sections – both regarding how & when negative items must be removed from a credit report.
Without going into too much of the boring legal details, let’s just say I discovered a loophole.
So here’s what I did:
I disputed all of my debts – all 11 of them – credit cards, phone bills, etc., anything that was on my credit report as having had a late payment.
They all came back as “verified”.
So I went down to small claims court, paid $20 per case, and filed a lawsuit against all 11 of them for violating federal law.
9 of them caved and sent me apology letters, deleted my bad credit, and some even sent me a check for “damages”.
The other 2 met me in court, and I destroyed them.
I was 11 for 11. I found a loophole and exploited it to my advantage, all while acting in accordance with the law. It was an exhausting, frustrating experience, but I had prevailed.
Now I had “the goods”. I had 11 case studies showing that my methods clearly worked, and I had more than enough knowledge to write a competent e-book about it. I also had the ability to create a decent looking website to promote it, since I had taken a few HTML classes.
I hope you can see the two parallels of what I did in both acting and with websites; I went deeper than the rest of the crowd and got real-life, raw feedback, and used it to my advantage.
I wrote my entire story into Microsoft Word, including a step by step guide. I then converted it into a PDF file, and now I had my first ebook. I was officially a published author… well at least self-published.
I made my first website at http://www.CreditProvide.com using a very basic WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder that came with my hosting plan.
You can check http://www.archive.org to see how it looked in 2001. I wasn’t exactly an award winning graphic designer.
But what I did was learn “enough” to make it look decent.
I wasn’t the greatest copywriter in the world either. But again I did “enough” to make it compelling and different from the rest.
When I’m working on a project, I’m a firm believer in being able to do at least one thing great, and being “good enough” at everything else required to complete it. In this case, I had a great product (the ebook), and very mediocre programming/designing skills, copywriting skills, and marketing skills.
I think it’s important to note that I also didn’t hire one single person. No outsourcing at all.
I had been reading WarriorForum.com for months (this was 2001). I learned how things worked -how to sell the book through a merchant account and how to promote it using Google Adwords. That was about the extent of my knowledge at this point. I wasn’t anywhere near being ready to tackle SEO, affiliates, banners, etc.
I started off slow, simply using Google Adwords to target cheap long-tail keywords related to credit repair, and I began spending $300/month, which resulted in $600 in revenue. A profit of $300/month. I was absolutely ecstatic. It was working. People were buying my stuff because it was flat out different than everything else. I answered every email inquiry myself and was genuinely glad I was helping so many people in financial trouble. I received so many emails from people thanking me. It felt great.
After a few months I had gotten up to profiting $600/month. And that was exactly equal to my rent. I now had an online business on autopilot paying for my living expenses. That was so amazing to me. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the cash flow to go bigger yet, and I also didn’t realize how much bigger I could go, if at all. I was actually pretty satisfied at $600/month. But that was all about to change very soon.
One fateful day:
I checked my inbox one morning and I had received an email from a company called Virtumundo. They had seen my site and said they were interested in sending an email out about it to their list of subscribers. In exchange we would share the sales 50/50. I had no knowledge of this type of thing but they were willing to do everything, so I said sure! I asked how many people they would be sending it to. They said 12 million… and I couldn’t believe it.
The next day:
I knew that the email had gone out. I went about my day and in the evening I checked sales, hoping to see a spike. What I saw still sends chills down my spine.
Total sales for the day: $90,000.
I was floored. If my math was correct, this 21 year old kid had just made $45,000 in one day. I really can’t describe that feeling and do it justice.
From $600/month to $45k profit in one day. I instantly knew online marketing was the life for me!
Virtumundo would go on to promote several more times over the next few months, and I felt like a very, very rich young man.
Now that I knew this was possible, I scoured the internet looking for other companies with lists to market to. I made a few more deals with similar companies and before I knew it, I had a $250k company on my hands. I bought my first brand new car – an Audi A4, and a 1 bedroom, 600 square foot condo in Tarzana, CA for $78,000.
I had received a lobotomy in marketing. I now realized how much money was out there for the taking – and all the while I was helping people who were desperate. It was win/win situation, and it became addictive. I wanted more.
Now I wanted to learn SEO and get my site ranked highly for more traffic. More, more, more.
At the time, getting a link back to your site that was from a PR9 (PageRank 9) website was like the holy grail. It was almost impossible because only a handful of sites had that status. Sites like Yahoo.com & Microsoft.com. And good luck getting a text link from them! It was nearly impossible. They just didn’t offer it. But if I could find a way, I knew it would instantly make my site a PR8. And as a PR8, I was almost a lock to be # 1 for my most coveted keyphrase, “bad credit”. There were over 100 million competing websites.
One day I was reverse engineering another website that ranked # 1 for a credit related term. Their Google PR was 8. I researched where they were getting links from and found out that one was from FoxNews.com, which was a PR9. And low and behold FoxNews.com had 8 text links on their home page. I immediately inquired with their advertising department and they told me one of the 8 spots was coming available soon for $2,000 / month. At that price I only had one question – “Can I send you the money today?”.
That was an unbelievably low price for a PR9 link. I immediately negotiated a one-year contract with the option to renew, and locked in my spot for a year.
30 days later, I was # 1 in the world on Google.com for “bad credit”. This resulted in revenues on average of $20,000 per month. I can only imagine what the revenue would have been if I really knew how to monetize my site better!
Over the next 3 years I remained # 1. I was on top of the world. I left that site on autopilot and created about a dozen other websites that sold various ebooks about anything I was interested in. I learned about www.Clickbank.com, getting affiliates, and how to do better at Google Adwords.
I built these sites up to maximum profitability and anytime the sales started to slip due to competition, I would sell the sites on eBay.
One of my sites was ForeignPharmaciesOnline.com (which no longer exists). I had been taking anxiety medication ever since my auditioning days, and it was expensive, even with insurance. So I researched foreign pharmacies that would provide medicine to people in the USA without a prescription.
I scoured forums, chat rooms, etc. where people would report on the legitimate companies that would not only send them the meds (more than half just took your money and sent you nothing), but also those that actually sent you REAL meds – meaning they were still in the original manufacturer’s packaging, not a zip lock bag filled with God only knows what.
I bought from several of them myself. And those that turned out to be legit, I asked if they would be interested in letting me be an affiliate. To my surprise, several of them were willing to give me 25% of all sales referred.
Not only that, but I realized that a list of legit, SAFE overseas pharmacies would be worth money itself.
So I made my website a members only site where you had to pay $19.95 for access to my updated list of overseas pharmacies. Now I had a front end (membership sales), and a back-end (commissions from people buying the medicines).
I advertised again soley on Adwords. The first month revenues were $180,000 and I spent around $90,000 in advertising. Another big winner.
Unfortunately I got into the game too late though, and only enjoyed this run for 4 or 5 months. It was 2004 and the government began cracking down on sites that had anything to do with getting medicine without a prescription, even though all I was providing was information – I wasn’t actually selling pharmaceuticals.
The U.S. pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like when people can get their stuff overseas for 10 bucks, when they can charge $100 for it in America. So they lobby to the government, and somebody important finds extra money in their pockets. And the next thing you know I’m being strong-armed by the government to take my site down. They kept shutting down my hosting accounts, merchant accounts, sending threatening letters, etc. Even though I wasn’t breaking any law whatsoever.
And they had gotten to Google too. No more ads about foreign pharmacies were allowed.
So once I’d had enough, I sold the site to someone for $100,000. It still had value because it had some good organic rankings in Google, and that was still allowed. It also had value because a new owner could re-incorporate the company/website in a country like Gibraltar and not be exposed to U.S. government pressure.
I sold the site on eBay and openly told prospective buyers of the risks. Oddly enough, someone who lived 2 blocks away from me ended up buying it. His name was Ryan Kaltman – and that’s how I met the guy who would later become my right hand man at the Rich Jerk company. Ryan later told me that he made his money back on the site, but ultimately gave up on it because he was getting threatening faxes, and he was becoming very paranoid anytime he saw a black towncar drive by his house! LOL.
Another site I had around the same time had made about $900,000 in the past year. And once the sales started slipping due to increased competition, I sold it on eBay for $379,000. That was in 2005, and the sale generated a lot of buzz in marketing forums. Everyone tried to figure out what the site was and who owned it (I had kept the URL private during the sale and only shared it with the buyer). The site was www.TopSiteReviews.com (it doesn’t exist anymore but again you can check it out on archive.org to see what it looked like).
With all the buzz, I wanted to parlay that into something. I was encouraged by many people to become a “make-money guru”, basically teaching people how I had been so successful online.
The only way I would agree was if I could somehow be completely different than everyone else, and I also wanted to keep my anonymity as much as possible.
I found all of the other gurus so funny – such as Tom Vu and Don Lapre – how they flaunted their success.
Check out an old infomercial from Tom Vu here:
So I decided to create a caracature of them, in an over the top, mean, Howard Stern-like character who shoved his success in your face and looked like Leisure Suit Larry.
His name: The Rich Jerk.
This “love him or hate him” character created a HUGE buzz because he was so unique. And the ebook was pure gold at the time, if I do say so myself, because I actually showed proof of my businesses and what I had done. The character may have been ridiculous, but the material was the real deal. And the earnings and testimonials were legit.
According to my research, one of the most respected online marketers was Yanik Silver. I sent him a copy of the ebook and asked him to look at the sales letter, and to consider giving it his stamp of approval. He replied that he didn’t think this thing would fly.
I was a bit deflated, but I went forward and approached another marketing guru – iconic marketing legend Gary Halbert. I spoke with Gary on the phone and told him my whole story. I was so nervous. Sure I had been successful, but this guy was a legend. And being judged by my peers was nerve wracking, especially after Yanik had already given it the thumbs down.
Gary not only liked the whole thing, but he also said he would give it the first and only G.H.S.O.A. (Gary Halbert Seal of Approval). You can see what he wrote here:
After Gary vouched for the me, the forums went nuts, tons of affiliates jumped on board, and sales went through the roof.
$10,000 a day in profit was a “bad” day, and I had another big winner on my hands. But this time, I wanted to take it to a whole new level. And over the years, through many joint ventures, it became a multi-million dollar behemoth.
Unfortunately though, after several successful years, the old cliche “more money, more problems” came around and bit me. I had broken a cardinal rule and brought on partners (family members). The situation became far from optimal. Unbearable really.
Fortunately there were people standing in line to buy the company when I put it up for sale.
I took a 7 figure cash buyout for my share, and I “retired” for a couple years.
I admit, running the Rich Jerk company, I actually became quite a jerk. I lost respect for money, people, customers, and even myself. I went on ridiculous spending sprees for things that don’t matter in life. I rented out the Playboy Mansion for $250k for one night, lived in ridiculous homes, had a garage full of ridiculous cars, and spent money like it was going out of style. And it was all just an ego trip.
I cared more about money and possessions than I did about the things that really matter, like the people who care about you no matter what. The people who stick by your side. Not even necessarily family, because some family members can flat out be no good for you. I’m talking about the people you would probably think about if you were taking your last breath on this earth.
When I finally couldn’t accept the person I had become, I made my great escape. I sold all of the fancy schmancy stuff, at HUGE losses, and licked my wounds.
I moved from Los Angeles down to a little beach town in San Diego called Encinitas.
But doing nothing got old.
So in 2010 I decided to “give it another go” at DOING and TEACHING online marketing. (I think it is important to do both in order to stay sharp and relevant)
And I ultimately created BringTheFresh.com. I’m proud to say that as of this writing we have over 20,000 members!
But now, it’s just me, doing my thing, trying to help others better their lives financially and creatively, so they can spend more time doing the things they love.
And I couldn’t be happier. I get testimonials every day from people who have gotten their first site to # 1 in Google, and received their first paycheck from it. People are digging in and changing their lives.
I’m just a normal dude who figures things out. And I’m teaching the simple stuff that works for me, the best way I know.
By the way, if you made it this far on the page, you are a true ROCKSTAR. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this entire post, and I hope that it has helped you or motivated you in some way.
Lastly, I’ve received so many great comments and direct messages from people who enjoyed this post, saying it really resonated with their own belief system. This has led to some great relationships. If you feel like this post resonates with you, and you’d like to find out more, then come on over and say Hello over at BringTheFresh.com.
P.S. Leave a comment below if you’d like!