In this market, some people think we’re supposed to have magical powers. Some kind of rags to riches story where I discovered some “secret” and today I’m making millions.
That’s the guru story pattern, but unfortunately I’d be bullshitting you if I tried to walk you down that road.
The typical story pattern would have you believe that everything I did was strategic. That it happened in some kind of order. Nice and linear – and all based on some magical power to grow blogs into big businesses.
But, those linear storylines are usually grade-A bullshit.
My story isn’t one of magical powers, but one of tenacity. It isn’t about rags-to-riches… it is just an average American kid who takes an untraditional path to making a living.
I’m not boasting big houses. I’m not driving some $75K car. I’m an average dude who decided I didn’t want to go down the path most traveled. My choice of college degree would have me sitting in some cubicle somewhere if I chose to follow it. But, THAT PATH WAS UNACCEPTABLE to me.
That’s all there is to it.
I’m a guy who makes a living online. I am married and have two beautiful kids. We live in a decent Florida-style home. We own a 36-foot motorhome and one of my favorite things to do is to go camping and travel the country. I drive a Honda CR-V because I can tow it behind the RV. My office is wherever I decide to plant my laptop, whether it be in my home office, a coffee shop, my back porch, or out in a local campground.
Dressing up for me is putting on pants, since I’m usually wearing a t-shirt and cargo shorts and sandals.
That’s my life. That’s who I am.
I love the flexibility of my life. I love that I can do things during the “work week” without asking for permission. I love that I can go camping like it's my job and not have to count vacation days. I also love that when I go on those long trips, my business goes with me and I can run it from anywhere.
But, there is a backstory. And there was some kind of path that took me to where I am.
It isn't a rags-to-riches thing. Just... being disagreeable. Disagreeing with the template that my life is "supposed" to take.
My First Jobs... And That Magazine Article That
Changed It All...
My first job was as janitor to a hydraulics shop, cleaning everything from the kitchen to the toilets. I even had to clean the metal shavings from all the hydraulic machines. Then, I “upgraded” to a job at McDonalds. Yeah, I was the guy who took your hamburger order.
In school, I was basically a loner. You know, the “smart kid” who had no fashion sense whatsoever (technically, I still don't). Once I graduated, I guess I came out of my shell and came to be comfortable with people. I had always had a love of computers – perhaps partly out of a discomfort with people.
That hobby intersected with a twist of fate when I read an article in Yahoo Internet Life about how to build a website in 20 minutes or less. Before long, I was a webmaster of a beautifully horrible little website, complete with blinking text and animated icons. As crappy as that little website was, however, I had no idea it would be the beginning of what would end up being my life’s work.
Funny how it is often the small things which end up defining you.
College. Beer. Pool.
I went to college and got a degree in Information Systems Management from the University of South Florida. During this time, I worked a college job at Sam’s Club. I started out as the “cart jockey”. You know, the dude who goes out into the parking lot to fetch your cart and bring it back into the store. Lovely, I must say.
Eventually, I moved “up” to cashier, then supervisor. During this whole time, I was working on my online business. I had started PCMech, a hobbyist technology site, and had managed to get it up to a point where it was actually making me some side money. So, college, for me, was basically being a mediocre student, working at Sam’s, and shooting a lot of pool with my buddies and drinking beer by the pitcher.
I actually got to be pretty good at the game of billiards. Of all things.
By 2001, it was coming time to graduate and get started with a real life. I was making enough money online to make Sam’s Club seem like a colossal waste of time. I had stayed with it for the social life, but eventually grew a brain, put in my two weeks notice, and quit.
I have not had a “real job” since.
I graduated college with zero student debt, mainly because I was able to write checks for tuition due to my online business. That's something I'm proud of.
5 Random Facts About David
I haven’t worn real shoes in months. I wear sandals pretty much all the time. And cargo shorts.
My family and I spend roughly 3 months out of every year in our RV.
When I was a kid, I decided I didn't like grits. And I never did change my mind about that.
Readers who have met me in real life often say I'm taller than they thought. I'm 6'2".
In college, I played a lot of billiards. I actually got pretty good and was even invited to play tournament.
No Job? But, Can This Blogging
Thing Actually Pay My Bills?
That’s the question I was asking myself in August 2001 as I graduated from USF.
Most people I knew were looking for jobs. And, my degree would have had me being some kind of IT administrator, a coder or a database nerd. Probably sitting in a cubicle all day every day. Thing is, my friends were actively LOOKING for this because… well, looking for a job was what people were supposed to do when they graduated.
But, I didn’t want to sit in a freakin’ cubicle. And I was seeing some success with this side hobby of mine – blogging about tech. The question was… could it make me enough to live on?
I decided not to look for a job. I decided to pursue online business full-time. Of course, it helped that I could live in my parents’ house a little while longer. (See, I told you my story wasn’t exactly the usual guru story.)
21-Year-Old Kid Sees Million-Dollar Pay Day. But...
Now, imagine this. I’m still living in my parents’ house and I’m running this blog. Then, all of a sudden, I got an offer to BUY my tech site for a sum of a little over a million bucks.
This was in the midst of the dot-com boom and people thought that anything you did online was a pile of gold. And this company wanted to buy me out. Oh, HELL yah! So, I signed. You float a 7-figure number in front of a 21-year old kid and shit happens.
And… shit did happen. And it was called reality.
The dot-com bubble burst. The company that bought my site started to fold up and get into all kinds of hanky panky. They weren’t paying me what was contractually obligated and things basically… sucked.
But… I still controlled my site (even though I didn’t technically own it). So, I had a bright idea…
What if I sold something on this site?
I got my site back from the grips of this sinking company, learned a lesson about buy-outs (hint: stock options aren’t worth shit from a non-public company), then proceeded to expand my business once more.
Only this time... I started to approach it like a real business.
Tech Site Turns Into A Real Business... Leading Me
In A New Direction
Like any business owner, I wanted to make more money. And, like a lot of people, this eventually led me into the world of internet marketing. I started learning the art and practice of online marketing. What makes people tick. Conversions. Copywriting. All the things which bloggers usually don’t pay attention to.
… and I applied that stuff to my technology blog.
Rather than depend exclusively on advertising, I started to introduce products to my site, starting with that first CD-ROM.
I bought a ton of internet marketing training. And I applied it. And I saw results. It wasn’t million-dollar results, but it was results. Eventually, this little tech blog I was still running from a bedroom in my house was generating a six figure income all by itself.
While it would have been fun to see that million dollar payday, I'm really thankful it all fell apart. Because it taught me some hard lessons that put me onto a much more sustainable path today.
As some more years running this tech blog went by, I started to have a desire to scratch a new itch.
I had come to find online business and marketing to be fascinating. I was a student of it myself. I applied it. I went through a whole lot of trial and error. And I felt I had something to offer to the world of blogging (which still seemed stuck mostly in the world of banner ads as the main source of revenue).
So, in 2008, I pivoted.
5 (More) Random Facts About David
I used to own a little Mazda Miata as a second car just for fun. And since I'm so tall, my head was literally taller than the windshield.
I'm a certified SCUBA diver, however I'm pretty rusty now as it's been several years since I've had a tank on my back.
When I was younger, I played the saxophone. I owned a tenor and an alto. I stopped playing as I got older mainly because unless you're in a band it can be a tad boring.
I've owned 7 cars and 2 RVs in my life. The cars were a pickup, an Explorer, a Honda Accord, a Miata, an Acura TL, a Prius, and now a CR-V (because I can tow it behind the RV on all 4 wheels).
I collect shot glasses from the destinations I travel to. I've got a ton of them now from various parts of the U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean, Italy, and Russia.
Time To Grow Up.
Through all of this time, I was expanding on other fronts as well.
I met my wife, Malika, on EHarmony.com (we still have yet to be contacted for that commercial, guys). We got married in 2007 and had our first child by the end of that year.
The birth of my daughter, Elyana, was a major turning point for me. See, I had already proven that blogging could sustain MY life, but now I had a family. So, my next trick: Could blogging sustain an entire family?
So, I turned that new itch into a new website. It came to be known as DavidRisley.com. I began actively blogging about blogging and internet marketing. Only, this time, I applied all of my lessons learned from 10 years of running a tech site into this new site. I did things right from the get-go. And the site grew a lot faster.
I also immediately went into product creation mode. After all, blogs don’t make money – businesses do.
I launched 3DayMoney, Blog Masters Club, Master Your List, the Inner Circle, and Time Master Formula. It didn’t take long for this side of my business to overtake my tech blogging financially, even with less traffic than my tech site.
The Blog Marketing Academy - And Today
In 2012, I re-branded DavidRisley.com as the Blog Marketing Academy. I did this primarily to allow for expansion. I wasn’t interested, necessarily, in building up all this stuff around me and my name. I’m just a guy who decided to make a living in a non-traditional way – and I don’t proclaim to be any more than that.
My skill is communication and teaching. I’m good at putting things into “plain-English” and wading through complexity to find the big picture. This is a skill that I bring to the world of teaching online business.
I'm also pretty decent with the tech stuff. Years of running a tech blog and doing a lot of web development made be fairly adept.
Today, the Blog Marketing Academy is my life's work. Always changing and improving and seeking to help others do the same. The fact that the learning never stops is why I call our training and community platform THE LAB. Because we're always test.... always experimenting... always learning.
Aside from that, my life kind of looks like this:
It comes down to this…
Back in college, I decided that the 9-5 and the life in a cubicle wasn’t for me. Not everybody is cut out for it. There are people in this world who want to make the world better by fulfilling their own passions and following their own rules.
I’m here for those people. Blog Marketing Academy is here for those people. And to the extent that people choose the particular path that I have, that’s my mission.
I’m glad you’re here, and I look forward to traveling the road ahead along with you.
5 (More) Insanely Random Facts About David
One of my favorite foods out there is sushi. In fact, sometimes I roll my own sushi at home. Once, I even made sushi while I was out camping in the RV. Now, that's roughin' it!
I suck at dancing. Like, seriously bad at it. So, it's just my luck that I went off a married a girl who likes to dance. What was I thinking?!
I like to smoke the occasional cigar. I'm not loyal to any particular brand. In fact, I can barely tell the difference between a cheap one and an expensive one.
When I was in high school. I used to wear the stupidest looking green flannel, long-sleeve shirt over top a t-shirt. And I wore that almost every day. Man, I was weird.
I used to like sleeping with a fan on. That "white noise" would help cover up the little odd sounds in the room. With the birth of my daughter, I got used to ear plugs. Today, I still use them.