From Cubicle to Freedom

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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Story time with Uncle Ryu!
Here's the story of my rise and fall and rise and fall and final rise again:

Discovering Internet Marketing
About 20 years ago I started my first websites. One was a business site for my own project and one was a forum for people in that industry that wanted to talk about it. I didn't set out to do it as an SEO or anything of that nature, but I was monetizing both by selling my own products. Ended up selling internationally, ending up in the local newspaper, etc.

A few years later I quit all that due to college. Then I graduated college and went through a couple day jobs. During the 2nd job I started thinking about internet marketing more in the form you see me now, being intent about it with the main goal being income, not income in support of other dreams.

Getting Serious about SEO
Within a couple years I had built up a few sites to replace my day job income. These were all in the rehab niche for addiction and monetized by Adsense.

My girlfriend at the time had just gotten her master's degree and accepted a job in a city an hour's drive away, so we said "screw it" and packed up. I quit my job and we moved.

Going Full Time & an Immediate Crash
Two weeks later, Penguin was released by Google. This was April 24, 2012 according to Moz. I went from "hell yeah, I'm full time at home with the same income" to "oh hell, I have zero income now" in the span of two weeks.

My "Burn Your Boat" Resurrection
I took my last $800 and poured every single penny into a service based project. I made my initial investment back and then some. I actually was breaking my annual income records.

At the same time I started a new project, meant to be an authority site right before people started talking about them as such, plus two other SEO projects. These were once again rehab and mental health sites, mainly powered by Adsense.

Fast forward a couple years and some of my clients did some dumb things and the whole project came to a shrieking halt. I was back to zero income again but this time I had built up a nest egg. I also had all 3 of my new projects penalized due to using PBNs.

Getting Smart & Playing it Safe
At this point I was done for again. I refunded a all of the most recent orders and went back in time as far as I could afford to refund anyone I could. Everyone else was told "we all knew the risk", and they agreed.

What I had was enough money to live for a couple years at my normal expenses, three decent but penalized websites, and an online buddy that was telling me "Dude, start another site in the niche of your initial high school business." I took his advice and that's what led to my next and final rise, in which I'm confident there won't be any more crashes.

Panda Tries to Get Me!
This was about 8 years ago (wow, time flies) that I started the new site. I chronicled the creation of this new site here in the Surrender & Supremacy thread. It's going great and then all of the sudden I'm hitting a road block where my traffic plateau'd and I couldn't break out of it.

In this down period, I decide to get my three most-recent rehab / mental health sites unpenalized. I journaled that process here in the Enhance & Flip thread. I got them unpenalized, Adsense started earning again, and I added pay-per-call lead generation. Started closing $315 leads multiple times a day/week and quickly sold them off for like $35k and walked with $29.5k. This was a nice cash injection while my main project was plateau'd.

I'm beating my head against the wall with my main site for like 2 years, assuming it's some standard SEO nonsense and I need more content and links. Eventually I discovered a problem with my robots.txt file blocking the crawling of some noindex pages. They weren't being noindex'd because Google couldn't crawl them to find that code.

So what had happened was I had ~800 pages blank pages in the index for like 2 years hurting my sitewide quality score. I set out to fix that and anything else I could improve so when I eventually popped out of what I determined was a Panda problem, I'd explode. That happened many months later. I was back!

But during that 3-4 month wait period I built 2 new projects just in case. One I abandoned immediately, and the 2nd is growing here in The Eternal Grind thread. I have a handful of projects now plus a couple other businesses I do on the side. I'm breaking annual income records again and everything is going great.

And that brings us to the present.

The main lesson to learn is that even when you go full time, your journey may just be beginning. In this game, don't make SEO complicated. It's very simple. The more complicated you act like it is, the more likely you're going to tinker and make mistakes. Keep it simple, learn on-page very well, publish a ton, learn how to be a marketer to get good links, and don't mess with crap like mass spam and PBN links. Stay out of your own way and everything will be fine. Took me a while to learn that. Learn from my experience and mistakes so you don't flail around for a decade or more.

These are just the highlights. I didn't get from there to here with 7 sites. I've built 100's now and gotten into all kinds of shenanigans. Some fun stories I'll tell sometime is how the SEC now runs one of my old websites (and is among their best earning) and how I ended up in the National News during the initial Obamacare fiasco, before the mass public had really heard about SEO.
 

bernard

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I've only worked 6 months at a cubicle job in my life. I absolutely cannot do it.
 
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Starting building sites at Uni, realised you could make money, no more part time job needed.
Graduated, started working in office, sites start making more money than my job.
Quit job after 1 year, worked on sites full time.
Lost focus after several years, back to professional career and rebuilding sites in spare time.
4-5 years later, sites killing it again, stop working full time in office.
Present day: consultant in professional career field, otherwise on my own with my sites.
 
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To keep up my professional education and skills if I need to go back for whatever reason. I have a family and kids and like the security. Plus it means I interact with intelligent people daily and I like that too. 80% of my time is spent on my own sites.
 
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To keep up my professional education and skills if I need to go back for whatever reason. I have a family and kids and like the security. Plus it means I interact with intelligent people daily and I like that too. 80% of my time is spent on my own sites.
Yep, very good points. I'm soon to go on a 6 month career from my professional role break to put everything into developing my website. A colleague asked me if I'd consider doing consulting work - I said a hard no. You've made me rethink that.

Does it annoy you to be beholden to other peoples' deadlines?
 
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I left school at 14 years of age, hated it, that was in the UK, at what used to be called a grammar school.
That was more years ago than I care to count!
Never looked back.
Anything I ever want to learn, I can teach myself/ask questions etc.
Taken a few crazy chances over the years, got lucky a couple of times.
I couldn't work for anybody, never mind in a cubicle.
I'm basically unemployable, so being busy on the interwebs suits me just fine.
 
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My "Burn Your Boat" Resurrection
I took my last $800 and poured every single penny into a service based project. I made my initial investment back and then some. I actually was breaking my annual income records.

At the same time I started a new project, meant to be an authority site right before people started talking about them as such, plus two other SEO projects. These were once again rehab and mental health sites, mainly powered by Adsense.

Fast forward a couple years and some of my clients did some dumb things and the whole project came to a shrieking halt. I was back to zero income again but this time I had built up a nest egg. I also had all 3 of my new projects penalized due to using PBNs.

I want to dig a bit deeper into your Burn the Boat move.

Were those your actual last $800?

You mentioned that after that you managed to have a couple years of living expenses.

But does this mean that before that when you invested your last $800 you had no money set aside?
 

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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I want to dig a bit deeper into your Burn the Boat move.

Were those your actual last $800?

You mentioned that after that you managed to have a couple years of living expenses.

But does this mean that before that when you invested your last $800 you had no money set aside?
Yes. I graduated college with a nuclear engineering degree and worked in that industry for a short period before I realized it wasn't for me. I was in a cubicle, driving 1.5 hours to get to the work site and 1.5 hours to get back home. I had my own office before it was all over, but eventually I did the math and realized I could earn the close enough to the same money doing manual labor in a local factory, if you added in the drive time and gas costs. This all was ushered on by an existential and anxiety crisis from messing with psychedelics. I needed to recede from responsibility for a while. I didn't have a good upbringing and I was at that age when it was all beginning to manifest. At this factory job I was already thinking about SEO and studying some more.

Eventually I went back to college for a different degree and didn't even finish it before I was already working in that industry. It was a wild ride. I would live on the job for 3.5 days and 4 nights out of the week. I spent more time there than I did at home. It was here that I got serious about SEO and began actually working towards freedom. I'd like to see a future (from afar) where I stayed at this job though. I was climbing the ladder like crazy and they were all about hiring from within. This is the job I was able to quit when I replaced my income from my websites.

So yeah, I went from earning pretty decent wages to earning not so good wages but with more time and less expenses on my hands. I was fresh out of college with mental health problems and just trying to survive daily. I had spent all my nuclear money by then. The position I quit to go full time was a high school math teacher position in a residential treatment facility, before that I was basically a prison guard for nutcases like myself. You know how much teachers get paid, it wasn't a lot, and I wasn't challenged or rising to my full capabilities and my income reflected it.

So yeah, that was literally my last $800. I didn't even have it on hand. It was money from a Roth IRA I was getting from the factory job. I cashed it out, paid the penalties and taxes, and used it to start the service I mentioned (that I'm being vague about). By the time that year was over, and it wasn't even a full year, I broke my annual income records. Same with the next year. I turned $800 into probably $150 grand in a couple years. Nothing amazing but not bad for being fairly fresh to the game.

My engineering experience is very applicable to SEO. I figured Google and SEO was as involved as nuclear engineering and there were quantum secrets to crack open. I came from a world where I was doing Schrodinger's wave equations and Heisenberg's uncertainty principal calculations and reactor shielding crap, and I naively assumed everything was that complicated. This is what caused me to over-complicate things and caused me to type this final part of my post above.

Keep it simple, learn on-page very well, publish a ton, learn how to be a marketer to get good links, and don't mess with crap like mass spam and PBN links. Stay out of your own way and everything will be fine.
Then that service came crashing down too, but because I was used to spending very little money, splitting expenses with a girlfriend, and I understood what I was doing was volatile and likely to end, I was saving as much as possible. So by the time I broke up with this girl and moved back to where we came from, I was sitting on a decent nest egg.

I lived off of that money while building my next big project, which "soon" replaced my old income and surpassed it. I spent like 12-14 hours a day in the trenches, designing the site, writing content, building links, traffic leaking, all that, like it was my first rodeo again. Didn't outsource a thing for a couple years I think, just grinded while making sure my nest egg would last until I struck gold again. It did, thankfully.
 
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Currently have 1 site making about 2500 a month with amazon. Still working my outdoor labor job. This week I've started working on outsourcing writers and will have to figure out
1. how to increase this volume by a lot
2. keeping organized

I'm at the point where I dislike work so much that I'm willing to make good on my inital plan a few years ago. Anything over 10k in savings goes into the business. After this month I'll be sitting on 12, so it's game on from here.

Great forum and happy to be here.
 
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Currently have 1 site making about 2500 a month with amazon. Still working my outdoor labor job. This week I've started working on outsourcing writers and will have to figure out
1. how to increase this volume by a lot
2. keeping organized

I'm at the point where I dislike work so much that I'm willing to make good on my inital plan a few years ago. Anything over 10k in savings goes into the business. After this month I'll be sitting on 12, so it's game on from here.

Great forum and happy to be here.
Same here. Working late because I don't want to do my 9 to 5 anymore. Every single week I take a small amount of money from my check for bills and put everything else into what I'm working towards. I'll be around 12k too by the end of the month. I'm embarrassed I have so little, not for long.
 
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My story is just beginning so isn't terribly interesting just yet.

Worse than a cubical, I worked in an hyper-cool, modern open plan office for the past 14 years where you get zero privacy and almost constant interuptions.

Was one of only 3 people in an office of over 200 to be put on furlough. Used the time off to figure out some things about how broken the corporate world of work so saved every penny that I could. As furlough went hoped more and more for a pay off and started making plans based on this.

Get called back in 1st September and the first thing I'm told is the reason you're back is to cover for a manager who want's to put in 2 weeks holliday. Very quickly realise that payoff isn't going to happen, do some mental calculations, print out a templated resignation letter from Glassdoor and ask to speak to my boss. I always daydreamed about quitting in some heroic, dramatic style but in reality it was extremely civil, straightforward and done in 10 minutes.