The response on the last interview was phenomenal with over 600+ social shares and a lot of great feedback – thank you so much for that! This time, I have interviewed Josh MacDonald, a young software entrepreneur and a popular name on Black Hat World. We talked a bit about how he is balancing running his businesses with college, about his current projects such as SerpClix and a lot more. I hope you’ll like it!
Who are you? Could you tell us about your background?
I’m Josh. I’m a full time student at the University of Toronto, studying for computer science. Some people wonder why I opt for a degree when I don’t necessarily need one, but I do plan on working for others in my first few years. I’d love to bounce around on 3-12 month internships and just learn from smart people, friends or whatever. Not really a money thing, but more to gain experience and knowledge.
Eventually, I’ll be self-employed full time, but for the time being, I build software on the side, and am trying to finish school. I started internet marketing and SEO back in 2009. Over the past 7 years, I’ve probably learned 250 different ways to make a dollar online. In 2010, I sold micro niche sites on Black Hat World. I was the first to do so and the rules back then were way different. There were no keyword tools that really impressed me at the time, so I decided to make Keyword Scout. I did really good with that in 2011-2012. From 2013 to 2015, I was doing a lot of learning and reflecting. I started university and was really learning a lot of programming languages and techniques. Now I’ve settled and I’m working full time on my service, SerpClix. That really keeps me busy.
What made you want to start your own business?
I can’t think of a turning point, but I can tell you a bit about my day-to-day thoughts. For example, today I was sitting around with my girlfriend’s aunts and uncles, and they were all talking about how many vacation weeks they get and how long they’ve worked for the company. One worked for a bank, another was a nurse and the other one worked for a big manufacturer of household cleaning supplies. One gets 4 weeks of vacation time, while the others got 5 and 7 weeks. They’ve been working for their employers for 20-30 years. I was so frightened by what they were saying.
One had to leave because he had to be out the door by 6:15 the next morning. Everything about this whole picture just had me thinking… I never want to do that. I want to build cool shit, and work on stuff that I wouldn’t even consider work.
How do you balance university and running multiple online businesses?
Not very well. I always put my businesses at high priority, and I sometime regret it. Lately I’ve been learning to value my time properly. Half my problem is someone will wave a $500 job in front of my face, and even though I’m up to my eyeballs in work and homework, I’ll take the job. So, now I’m really working on valuing my time properly and that’s something most people struggle with online. You look on Black Hat World and you see people from the USA that are coming in and selling expired domain names for $15 or less. I won’t even get out of my chair for $15. I had 2 friends approach me on the weekend about client work. One was a friend in the beer store, who wanted me to do SEO for his mom’s site. I said I’m really pricey because I’m good and I’m not sure if your mom wants someone as pricey as me. The other was at a party and she said she was telling her hair dresser about me. Her hair dresser needs an inventory management software. I told both of them that I literally charge thousands of dollars. When I say that online, people expect me to compete with foreign people, but I’m not about that life. I am $60 per hour. It’s expensive but there are many big players who can afford that, and will happily pay that.
While this all may seem a little off track, the lesson here is learning to value your time. Work less and earn more money by learning what to charge. You’re a highly skilled individual, bill yourself as so.
The same goes for university. It’s a numbers game. If you have a midterm in one class for 30%, and a couple weekly quizes for 1%, or even sometimes less, you’re best off to not hand in those weekly quizes and go 100% on that midterm. University is all about prioritizing. You have to learn that it’s okay to not turn in some stuff, if it’s worth little and you have higher percentage stuff due. It’s okay to take a zero on some stuff, if it means you’ll get a better mark on the stuff that really matters.
What excites you the most about your online ventures?
That’s tough to answer. I don’t even know what excites me about them. I just love building cool shit, and beating out competitors. Building a software business is like a puzzle. There are so many pieces to it, and you can cut the pieces to fit however you’d like. No one tells me what to do and I get paid for it.
What has made you successful?
I don’t even know how I’d define successful in the first place. I’m so far off from where I want to be. A major factor that has got me here is I’m not a coward. The definition of a coward is: a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things. This is a very large majority of people. No one likes to talk about building a big new idea and then going home to get started on it right away. A lot of people are just talking. They talk at parties and bars and this and that about their big idea. They sit on Skype on day, or forums, but never take action. They talk like they are some big shot online, but really don’t do anything but talk. I am a firm believer of taking action and improving every aspect of my life where and as needed. My income is growing. My Jeep is sweet. My girlfriend is hot. My dirt bike is fast.
If any aspect of my life wasn’t where I wanted it, I wouldn’t be a coward and sit back and talk and think about changing it, I’d just do it. I’d make it happen, and I’d make it happen right away.
If you were to give someone who’s thinking of starting a internet company a tip, what would that be?
Get started now, stop fucking planning. Seriously. Just take action and make it happen. Fail as fast as you can, so you can get to the point of success faster.
What do you consider your biggest weakness?
My procrastination is pretty bad, but I combat it with some strategies. I think it’s my attention span. I find it hard to concentrate on one idea at a time. I’m always changing focuses, as many young people are. This is just a problem with young people. My older friends don’t have this problem. I have methods of coping with this. For example, I lower the amount of time it takes to bring a product to life by outsourcing large chunks of it. Just because I can write code, doesn’t mean I will.
I enjoy hiring it out because I stay focused longer and it gets done faster. My biggest successes have been projects that I don’t code. Lack of focus is my biggest weakness.
Where do you find yourself most productive? Why?
I’m pretty strong in building and selling software. There are hundreds of ways that I’ve made money online. I’ve proven so many methods work. However, I’m really good at building software and selling it, and because of that, I’m writing a book on it.
It’ll be released in paperback on Amazon in a couple of months.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working pretty steadily on SerpClix. I have another 10 projects that I have money invested in each. I may pay a couple of coders to wrap up some of the projects, or bring on partners, I don’t know. I have a lot of profitable projects on the go, and they’ve all been validated for interest. Most of them have buyers bugging me to finish up. However, I’m focusing mainly on SerpClix.
SerpClix is a click exchange platform that sends clicks to Google search results, for a given keyword. This increases the SERP CTR for your website and SERP CTR has been proven to be a major ranking factor on the first page of Google. I’ve been toying with SERP CTR since 2014. I first tested it with proxies but I couldn’t get movement, so I decided to do it with real clicks. I pay people small amounts to Google a keyword and click a website. Webmasters pay me to organize all this and I’ve had some solid success, as I just started accepting beta customers in June. Now, I have a couple time agencies on board.
What is your goal? And how are you going to get there?
My life is a series of goals, so it depends what goal you’re talking about. For SerpClix, I’d like to get it to a 5-figures of net profit company per month.
Financially, I’d like to own a big farm with a lot of land within the next 10 years, travel some more so I can network more, and I’d like to buy my own plane so I don’t have to rent anymore.
Who should I interview next?
Ilan Nass and Jacob Hagberg come to mind. They each own agencies. Thomas Smale would be good. He loves interviews and brokers a ton of websites.
Those are 3 guys that started on BHW but have split and went for the white-hat business route. They all know me. I don’t know if they have time, but you can ask them if they have time.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Keep reading books. I’m a big time reader. Now, while I buy about 3 books a week and only read about one a month, I continue to stock up and recommend books on my Snapchat and Twitter. The key is to find your weaknesses. I have many of them. Then I start digging around on Amazon and I look for books with at least 4.0 stars, and then I read the review marked “the worst, yet most helpful” and that helps me decide if the book is complex enough for me. My Amazon wishlist is about 122 books long right now and my bookshelf is getting massive.
Secondly, improve your connections. Find out who are the most successful people you know, and surround yourself with them. Don’t hang with dumb people. Hang out with successful people and it’ll rub off. Remember, networking is not just a numbers game. You can have 1000 friends, but still be lonely. The key is to find a single connection with the right person, and form a partnership. Find out say 5 people who are much better off and more experienced than you. If you met them online, plan to meet them sometime. Solidify the connection.
That’s enough ranting for one interview. If anyone has any further questions, feel free to send me a tweet. That’s the best way to get ahold of me for free advice. Thanks for inviting me Hektor.
Josh’s twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshMacDonald19
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