Success Harbor: Hi everyone. This is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Dave Schneider with me. Dave is with acoupletravelers.com, a website dedicated to documenting Dave and Vicky’s journey – Vicky Schneider I believe – their journey throughout the world basically. Welcome.
Dave Schneider: Hey George, thank you for inviting me.
Success Harbor: Thank you, thank you Dave. In September of 2012 you took off on a journey across Asia and Europe. What were your goals then and you were with Vicky, who is Vicky? Can you tell our audience?
Dave Schneider: Sure, Vicky is my girlfriend.
Success Harbor: Okay. So the two of you took off and what were your goals back then?
Dave Schneider: Sure, we had a few things in mind. The first was that, obviously we just wanted to do some travelling, you know we had been doing kind of vacationing, a little bit every year and we just felt, you know, we want to go do some long term travel – really kind of immerse ourselves in some different countries. But I think we were also hoping to transition into maybe a different kind of lifestyle and we didn’t have exactly the idea of what we were going to do then, whether we were going to work online or try to start a business, or maybe just transition to business school, but essentially we were looking to change our current life and that’s kind of what we’ve done.
Success Harbor: Okay, and what were you doing before when you took your travel? I mean did you quit your job pretty much and if you did what were you doing before you quit?
Dave Schneider: Right, so Vicky and I were living in DC, we had graduated college back in 2010 and we had worked two years. I was working at a financial services company as a business analyst, so I was doing some marketing analytics, and Vicky was an accountant in the city and you know we had nice comfortable jobs and we were doing well, but we didn’t really see a future there in terms of you know, to make a career out of it. So that’s kind of when we thought now, well we should make a change sooner than later and find ourselves ten years on, you know, stuck in the same job.
Success Harbor: So when you took off on your journey back in 2012, why did you want to document your journey? Was it just for personal reasons or did you think that maybe it was a beginning of a profitable business?
Dave Schneider: There was definitely a couple of things, it wasn’t just personal, but on a personal level we definitely wanted to, you know, have the memories, have sort of the online diary, and keep your friends and family, you know, in touch with what’s going on. So there is definitely that aspect but we were also thinking, you know, is there a possibility of trying to earn a little bit of money online. We saw other people who were running travel blogs and we knew that they were getting sponsored trips, and they were working with companies and were probably getting discounts, and so there’s a nice thing to pad your budget, and then the last part of it is I personally cannot just travel. I always feel like I need to be productive in something, so it was a project.
Success Harbor: Okay, so it gave you something to do while you were travelling. So I’ll talk about maybe the first one year’s challenges so both as travellers and also as trying to run your blog. What were some of the biggest challenges?
Dave Schneider: Sure, well, there were definitely a lot because both of these were very new to us. We didn’t really – I mean we had never done long term travel before, we didn’t know what that was going to be like, and we had never really done anything online before and we, you know, didn’t know anything about blogging. So in terms of travelling, a lot of the difficulty is – well, I mean, there’s a lot of logistical difficulty just getting around and how to get from A to Z. We started off in Asia, in Japan, and then we went to Korea and China, and we had never been to Asia and you know, if you’ve never travelled in Japan, Korea or China, the English isn’t very good; obviously the signage is very difficult, the alphabet is foreign. It was a very difficult place to get around so imagine doing that with 20kg backpacks and you start to be given an idea of the kind of daily frustrations of a backpacker and trying to live on a budget because we had a budget and you know we didn’t want to go over that. So you know, that was a tough couple of first months but you eventually do start to get the hang of it, and you realise, you know, you start to get kind of that checklist in your head like ‘okay, we’ve just arrived in a new town, is there a tourist centre, can we get a map, do we have a phone that works’. You just kind of get this XYZ checklist to kind of go through and it does start to get better and then we started to move into places where there were more travellers in South East Asia and stuff and you know nowadays, I would say we have a good kind of handle on what we’re doing day to day. I was an entrepreneur – yeah, it almost when can you call yourself an entrepreneur and I’m not sure I’m 100% comfortable calling myself it now, and I definitely wouldn’t have been then, but you know we had, we were – the sort of making money online kind of happened to us, in that we were blogging for several months and we eventually started to get contacted by companies who were, you know, interested in buying space on the blog, buying contextual links in the sidebar and banners and things like that, so the idea kind of fell in our lap and once we kind of started to catch onto that it was just a matter of how else can we do this? How can we grow?
Success Harbor: So when did that happen? Was that just a couple of months into it or at what point did people actually – because I mean people get contacted by these weird people who just want a stupid link, you know, nothing even related to your site or all that – but how long did that happen, how long into your journey did it happen?
Dave Schneider: Sure, so we had started the blog back in around February / March-ish of 2012. That was actually before we started travelling, we were, you know, we were building up this site, trying to build up an audience, getting ready for, you know, the launch. We actually started travelling in September and I would say that was when our first legitimate offers came.
Success Harbor: Oh okay. Now were you watching traffic initially or it didn’t really matter to you or were not concerned with that at all?
Dave Schneider: We were watching traffic a little bit just because I think, you know, like many people I think it’s kind of fun to watch your traffic when you kind of look at Google Analytics, you know, you see how things are going and you know, and I started to notice that the more than maybe just your parents and your friends who are watching. But you know it wasn’t necessarily like there was a major kind of traffic goal that we were trying to hit or that we had any real perception of what the traffic meant because a lot of people don’t really talk about it and again we don’t have any idea about anything at this point, we don’t know SEO, we don’t know WordPress so we’re starting from scratch here.
Success Harbor: Okay and were you doing anything to promote your blog? Did you go to other bloggers or other sites and say ‘hey, here we are, notice us’?
Dave Schneider: Yeah, sure, I mean when we first started we were doing a lot of guest posting, you know, we tried to kind of – it’s easy to kind of identify the popular blogs in your niche and really understand these people know what they’re doing, I need to connect with them, I need to get noticed by them. Maybe I can write a guest post for their blog that gets more traffic. So we were doing things like that – we found out where our niche was hanging out. There were a couple of Facebook groups that were pretty large, there were like ‘Travel Blog Chronicles’ where people post their stories and the business of blogging and you know we started to kind of find that the little communities to interact with people. And then obviously when we were planning out our trip, you know, you run into other people who are doing travel blogging and stuff like that so, you know, eventually, we just started to try and network a little bit and make some friends.
Success Harbor: Can you give us an idea in terms of the guest posting – how many guest posts were you able to write let’s say in a month, just so we get an idea, was it ten or was it a hundred, is it five hundred? I mean, what did you have to do in those early days?
Dave Schneider: You know, it all depends on what your goal is and everything like that and I was kind of – I recommend the 80:20 rule which is, try to do, you know it’s always that 80% of the results will come from 20% of the effort, right, so instead of necessarily trying to guest post ten times a month, I would try to guest post twice a month on some really quality blogs. For example there was one blog called Why Travel Blog and it’s probably one of the top travel blogs out there, and I was lucky to get a guest post on that and I believe that sent a decent amount of traffic. So we tried to do a guest maybe two or three, maybe a guest post and an interview or something like that.
Success Harbor: So you currently earn a full time income that supports you so how do you make money – what are your sources of revenue right now?
Dave Schneider: Sure, so, well we’ve kind of transitioned in and out of a lot of different things at this point and you know it’s a long story from what is gone on from that kind of original month in September 2012. But essentially back in September 2012 we started to get some advertisers and they would pay us to earn a spot on our blog and you know, we started earning maybe a couple of hundred bucks a month, just working with a few people.
Success Harbor: And what were you thinking about that? What were you thinking about earning $200, did you think it was a big accomplishment or were you patient with that or did you think you were a loser because you weren’t making a hundred thousand dollars a month? What were your thoughts back then?
Dave Schneider: Actually we were really pretty pleased for a lot of reasons. So first of all that we had very low expectations for the blog, you know, to get into specifics we had about $50,000 or $45,000 to $50,000 saved to go travel for two years for two people and we kind of thought if we could just earn five grand in two years from our blog that would give us maybe an extra couple of months of travel and just really, you know, seal the deal. So our goal was probably to earn about five grand on the blog in two years. When we got our first, sort of, money coming in, in September, it was only maybe $300 in that month but that $300 came from one client and it came from really what was not a lot of work. You know, somebody wanted to buy a link or something to that effect. So it made me think like, wow, you know, there’s probably something here. It wasn’t that – the important thing was not that we had only earned $300 that month, but it was the amount that somebody was willing to pay for what we were providing and I thought if we could get ten of these people, it would be $3,000 a month and now you start to kind of really have an earning and then – and that’s essentially how it worked. We said, well, we had this one person, how do we get ten of these people? And we started to kind of seek out how do we get more of these people and we asked other people who they had worked with and we started trading names and reaching out to them and we started to grow, kind of, how much we were earning on our one blog.
Success Harbor: Do you remember who that first person was that paid you to advertise?
Dave Schneider: Yes I do. You know, it’s just I don’t know her personally and I can’t really remember what company she’s from, but she was a client, she worked for an SEO agency and was promoting one of her Travel Clients and we worked with her several more times over the last few years for our site and other sites, so yeah.
Success Harbor: Okay, so you started out with people paying for a link or something along those lines, advertisers? And you mentioned that there were some transitions there so how long did that go on and then what happened after?
Dave Schneider: Well essentially we had the one basic model, which was we had the one blog and we were trying to work with as many advertisers as we could, every month and every month we had to find new advertisers because, for various reasons, but mostly it was because you would work with somebody once and then that would be kind of it. They weren’t like a repeat client, and we started doing that and we were making maybe one, two, three grand a month, and we thought wow this is really great. This is more than we ever imagined we’d be making, but eventually you start to get it into you and you think ‘well, why am I so satisfied right now? What can I do to make more?’ and so that was what we were thinking. So we kind of looked at it, and said what are the things that people are paying us for, what are the things that are driving income and it was you know, a couple of different things, it was like how many websites were blogs we had access to, it was how many advertisers we knew, it was how many posts or links or advertisements we could put up in a month, and we started to think about all the ways we could grow those different things, and we started buying websites. So we said if we had two websites we’d be making twice as much, so why don’t we try to buy some, and then we started working with people on their websites.
Success Harbor: Then how did that turn out when you bought some websites?
Dave Schneider: It turned out really well. Essentially we knew of people who are out there, and they know a little bit about buying websites, they know about Flipper which is a marketplace for buying websites, and the one thing I always tell people about Flipper – I’m not a buying website expert by any means but I always say when you’re trying to buy something you should look for something in which you have kind of a competitive advantage. Meaning that you know something about this asset that the seller or the other buyers do not, and that will allow you to essentially buy it at a price that’s lower than what you feel it is worth, and that was kind of our thing so people were selling, you know, travel websites and blogs, and things like that. But we knew advertisers, we knew people who were interested in these types of things or we knew what to do with it, so it allowed us to kind of buy them at a fairly low price and then make a lot more money on them, so all of that went really well because we had a good plan.
Success Harbor: Can you give me an idea of how much you paid for that site which you first bought?
Dave Schneider: Sure, the first site we paid for, we paid about $650. There’s a first travel blog I ever bought on Flipper.
Success Harbor: And was it making money already?
Dave Schneider: No it wasn’t making any money, which again was kind of the beauty of the strategy. We knew how to make money with it but most people did not, when you go to buy a site if the site isn’t making much money, it doesn’t sell for much, right, so we were getting them for $650 and then the lifetime earning of that site is around $10,000.
Success Harbor: Oh, that’s very nice. So basically some people either don’t know what they have or just don’t what to do with what they have, right?
Dave Schneider: Right, it’s like a Yard Sale and finding like a Babe Ruth baseball card.
Success Harbor: So can you replicate that? How many times were you able to do that or are you still doing that?
Dave Schneider: We did replicate that quite a lot, probably like twenty or so times, and I regret not doing it more it was just maybe a lack of confidence or a lack of time. Remember during all this we’re busy travelling and backpacking and seeing sights, so it wasn’t like we were working full time on the internet. We were probably working four hours a day at most, so we replicated that, yeah, you know, at least 20 times and we started to think about other ways that we could do it, that weren’t just on Flipper because, you know, that was – there was a limited supply that was available, it wasn’t like you could just go on and buy a website every time you wanted one, you had to find the right thing. There was something we were looking for and we started to learn how to kind of build them ourselves and where else we could get them, we connected with some sellers, sort of directly so we didn’t need to go through the marketplace and you know we pretty much built up a mini empire of those types of sites.
Success Harbor: So approximately how many websites do you have now?
Dave Schneider: I mean nowadays we probably have thirty but you know, some of them have come and gone, and Google updates have kind of knocked a few of them out and things like that and you know, if I’m being honest, it isn’t the same business that it used to be.
Success Harbor: Why is that? Is it because of the Google updates or-?
Dave Schneider: Yeah, you know, there were some different – yeah, there were always Google Updates and those kind of, would take you out and bring fear, but there was some recent, and this is kind of purely conjecture but there was some recent penalties that got dished out to some big travel brands for example, you might recall back in January, Expedia got hit with a big Google penalty as well and lost a significant amount of their Google Search Traffic because they were, it was found out that they were buying links basically and were trying to gain the search engines. And you know when a client as big as Expedia gets hit, it sends ripples to a lot of other people in the industry so it’s really kind of brought the demand down for this kind of stuff.
Success Harbor: Okay. Now I read somewhere that last November your blog had grossed over $20,000 – is that pretty much an average or is that more than average? Or how is your revenue right now?
Dave Schneider: The blog, well, it again it’s not exactly the blog acoupletravelers, that would be really misleading to say that was the sole source of the income, you know, at this point again we had twenty, thirty websites and we were kind of working across all of them. At one point you know, we had in January of early this year and that was the last time I reported income in, and that’s the last income that I referenced openly and we had made about $20,000 in profit across all of our websites. In that month.
Success Harbor: Yeah, because I read that nowadays you make about $4,000 working with other bloggers and you took in about $250,000 this year from this work and about a third of that was profit, is that correct?
Dave Schneider: I always shy away from discussing numbers exactly, you know, I think that – I’m trying to think of what you’re referencing here and you know we had what was called the Blogging Partnership and that was working with other Bloggers to sell advertising on their sites, so these were sites that we did not own. So that kind of side business had a revenue of about $150,000 or so and about a third of that went to us last year so there was revenue from our own network and our own sites. So yes.
Success Harbor: So can you talk about how you developed that Blogging Partnership programme? Because maybe that’s something that our audience could do in their own specific niche.
Dave Schneider: It’s also about just where the idea comes from, that might be helpful and you know if you’re looking for a way to monetise, a way to make money online, there’s a million and one ways to do so but one thing that people might say is look at what people are asking you and then see if you can monetise that. For example if people are asking you, oh how do you have so many Facebook likes, or how do you have so many Twitter followers, maybe you’re a good person for a course on you know social media growth, just for example. For us, we were doing the monthly income reports and we were earning a decent living on our websites and people were taking notice, and travelers in the niche were taking notice and they were asking us, well how are you guys making money? And that was an opportunity for us and we said, well, again it was they had an asset, a website or a blog, that we knew was worth more than what they were getting from it. So we said, why don’t we teach them how to do it, we will connect them with the advertisers that we know, and we will take a commission on the sale, it’s kind of win-win for everybody because it’s no upfront cost for the other person. So we decided to kind of build this out, and we first did it in March or so of last year, 2013, we had four people who were you know interested in you know, kind of being a part of this within five months we probably had, you know, twenty people that we were working with and we really kind of built that up to like a successful side business. But again nowadays we have kind of; we have essentially stopped doing that, for you know, reasons.
Success Harbor: And why did you stop doing that?
Dave Schneider: Well, there are a couple of different things but like we said, for one thing the demand is not as high as it used to be for that type of money-making. Which meant that it was – the amount of effort that we were putting in wasn’t making as much money and you know, it is like having clients really, because you’re working with other people and you have to answer to them, so it could be a bit of a headache in that respect. Also we just felt that at the end of the day it was easier and more profitable simply to own our own sites and this when I started buying websites, and I know we kind of talked about this backwards but the Blogging Partnership came first and then kind of the buying side came next, so I kind of transitioned on that.
Success Harbor: Okay, so that makes sense. You just have more control that way, was that the reason?
Dave Schneider: Yeah, that’s exactly it.
Success Harbor: Yeah, okay. Now I read somewhere that you have about 20,000 visitors per month. Does that include your network of websites or is it just your acoupletravelers blog?
Dave Schneider: That’s probably just about acoupletravelers but, you know, to be honest, that represents the bulk of the traffic and any other traffic websites that we have.
Success Harbor: Okay, and tell me, you know, that’s a respectable number and you know there are a lot of sites that have more traffic but most sites don’t ever get to 20,000 visitors so tell me what was your strategy to get visitors? Initially you mentioned that guest posting was one thing but I don’t know if that’s the sole strategy to get visitors, are there any, were there any other things?
Dave Schneider: Ah, you know, there’s definitely a couple of things I think that contributed to it, and it’s difficult to necessarily it specifically which one did it. You know, we did keep up consistent guest posting, interviewing, probably around two to three a month, you know, even when we were travelling, you know, that was one of them. Two, we were consistently adding fresh content to the blog about new places we were going to which you know, kept people coming back. Number three was probably getting very involved in the niche. Like I said, we were a part of different communities and Facebook groups and things like that you know you start to network with the other travel bloggers and they start to answer questions – you know, do you have a post on Croatia, you know, they come over, they have a look, they share it, you know, different things like that you just start to get involved and number four would be like a big feature and we did have a big feature on Nomadic Matt, and he runs a very, very popular travel blog, probably the biggest that I can think of, and we were lucky enough to get interviewed on his website and that did send a lot of traffic and a lot of it stayed.
Success Harbor: And you mentioned networking has come up multiple times and you know, it sounds like a very important part of your success. What advice do you have for others to network? How do you make the most valuable connections? You know, anything you can share would be really helpful I think here.
Dave Schneider: Sure, I definitely think that networking should be a part of everybody’s strategy for a lot of reasons. It’s not just about trying to increase your numbers and more traffic and more revenue but it’s also about meeting nice people and kind of developing co-workers when you don’t go to the office. You know that one of the things I do miss about our prior work. In my opinion the best way to build a network is to try to provide value to people even in non-traditional ways. So for example let’s say I’m trying to network with Pat Flynn or something, you know, most people know Pat Flynn because of smart passive income, a lot of people I know myself would be like well what can I do to kind of get on Pat’s radar and how can I try to help him out. You know, what can I give to Pat when Pat is earning $80,000 a month and has a way bigger audience and things like that and you know, so I always try to think about non-traditional ways. You know, maybe Pat’s going over to the Philippines, well I know something about, maybe I know something about the Philippines because I’ve been there or I wrote a post on it or I know some people who are experts on the Philippines so I’ll try to make an introduction or send him something useful. So try to think about your own strengths and don’t focus necessarily on what the person does 90% of the time, maybe 90% of the time Pat’s all about smart passive income and internet marketing and things like that but maybe you can add diet to Pat’s other 10% which is when he’s going on Vacation or a hobby he has or something like that. And people start to take notice of the people who are givers and not takers because you know, the bigger you get the more emails you receive, that are essentially questions and can you help me out and can you do this for me and they start to notice when somebody starts to be more of a giver and I think that’s the best way to build a network.
Success Harbor: Okay, so be useful. So let’s talk about maybe the ups and downs, I’m sure that maybe – I mean you’ve been at this for a couple of years and I’m sure that you guys had success, right? But I’m sure there are some downs as well and some challenges, so how do you deal with that rollercoaster ride of being an entrepreneur?
Dave Schneider: It’s tough, I definitely do not have the answer – you know, the answer – sometimes I feel like maybe it requires five plus years to have seen how it turned out. I think that the best way to deal with you know the rollercoaster ride, which is things going up and going down, is to build a solid foundation and know that you’re making the right decisions. So for example, when in January we had kind of this what I mentioned happened with Expedia and it kind of got hit and sent the ripples and that definitely hurt our income. I’ll be honest, we weren’t making as much as we were in the prior months and we aren’t now making as much you know as we were then but you know, I feel confident that we’re building the right networks, so we’re meeting the right people and building that network and we’re making the right decisions in terms of how we run the business and what projects we go after, and how we prioritise them and finances are always important as well because it does require money off to grow a business. So we’re very careful with our spending to make sure we don’t overspend and things like that relative to our income. And I think, if you feel like you have the skills and you’re making the right decisions in the long run things will go well.
Success Harbor: So what would you say was the biggest mistake which you made in business that would serve as a good learning experience for all of us listening?
Dave Schneider: Sure, I heard Warren Buffet say this once and I do really agree and I think some of the biggest mistakes in business are not necessarily the things we did but they’re the things that we didn’t do – mistakes of omission – and at least from a purely financial perspective although we did very well last year I know we could have done a lot better if we had been more aggressive and more confident. For example if we had bought more sites and we had learnt more about it and we had kind of attacked it earlier I easily think we could have made double what we made last year and I think the key is you should be aggressive especially relative to how things are going on. If you have responsibilities and bills to pay and debt maybe you don’t want to be too aggressive but we were young in our mid-twenties, we don’t have debt so I think we should have been more aggressive and we should have been more confident in that we knew what it took to make money on these things. Like I said we had turned one site which I spent $650 on, we turned that into $10,000 and we knew what we needed to be doing but I was just not aggressive enough to go out and get more of those types of things. I was happy to sit back on what we were currently making so be confident and be aggressive.
Success Harbor: I just have two more questions – we’re a little over thirty minutes, is that okay if I ask them of you?
Dave Schneider: That’s fine.
Success Harbor: Okay, so what do you think is the biggest timewaster for entrepreneurs? Maybe what was the biggest timewaster for you or what you see others make?
Dave Schneider: I think a lot of people will say something like email; you know sometimes people do spend a lot of time on email and things like that. I think it’s getting distracted on projects which maybe do not have big potential or maybe like a long term future. It’s very typical for entrepreneurs to take on half a dozen things because maybe you don’t know what’s going to be the real winner and you don’t know how, you like to have a lot of different things to work on. I really recommend trying to limit the amount of things you work on to one, two maybe three things if you feel it’s necessary. Find out what you think has the most potential and go for that one all the way.
Success Harbor: Okay, if someone came to you maybe a good friend, maybe someone in your family and they saw your success, and they say you know, I want to do something like you are, I just want to be an entrepreneur what would be the first thing that you would teach that person?
Dave Schneider: The first thing is, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to look at one person’s, to look at maybe what Vicky and I were doing with the Travel Blog and say I want to do that. You have to kind of understand what’s going on, you know, a lot of people probably looked at what Vicky and I were doing with the Travel Blogs and thought ‘Oh my God these people are earning $15,000 a month on just one Travel Blog, I could do that, I’m going to do that’ and they make travel blogs and nothing happens. You have to understand the whole picture of what we were trying to run behind the scenes and then everything we were doing, and what was really thriving the results and make sure you kind of have a good grasp of the situation so I think it’s – research, you know, research should be the start of everything.
Success Harbor: Okay. Where are you now, in the world right now?
Dave Schneider: Yeah right now we’re in Croatia, and we’ll be here for a few more days and then we’re going to head to Greece.
Success Harbor: So do you ever pinch yourself, the life you’re living?
Dave Schneider: No, I don’t, I mean it’s really, I’ve thrown around some big numbers with the earnings and you know, things like that but you know we are not like the rich and famous or anything like that, we have our daily struggles and we have our projects that we’re working on and we have our day-to-day battle with trying to earn a living which we’re comfortable with and you know, make sure that this long term is sustainable. We still feel like we have a long way to go before I could call it a success. I would say we had a successful year last year but I wouldn’t necessarily say that we are a success in the whole aspect of it so. I don’t know, maybe it’s the whole ‘grass is greener’, be happy with what you have, and I mean I should probably spend more time realising what we do have but I also still think there’s a lot of work to be done.
Success Harbor: So Dave thank you very much for sharing your story today, how can people connect with you or learn more about you?
Dave Schneider: Sure, well I know we’ve talked a lot about acoupletravelers but I would prefer to direct people to my newest site which is selfmadebusinessman.com. Over the last year, you know, I feel like I’ve had a lot of learning and I’ve tried to share those now in my own business and entrepreneurship website, so come over there, check that out and there’s a contact form on the page and you can send me, hit me up any time and I will always answer questions.
Success Harbor: So that’s selfmadebusinessman.com is that correct?
Dave Schneider: That’s right George.
Success Harbor: Okay, Dave, thank you and hopefully you can come back maybe next year and give us an update on how your businesses are going and your travels.
Dave Schneider: It would be a pleasure.
Dave Schneider: Thanks George.
Success Harbor: Thank you.