David Riklan is the founder of selfgrowth.com, one of the top self-improvement websites. Now I'm going to have to dispute that a little bit. I probably would say it's THE top self-improvement website on the Internet. Selfgrowth.com has received over 100 million, that's with a million, unique visitors since he launched the website. In addition, David has published over 10 books on self-improvement, natural health, sales and marketing.
NOTE: Complete transcript available at the bottom of the page.
Screw The Commute Podcast Show Notes Episode 030
Wake 'em Up Video Professional Speaking System – https://www.antion.com/speakervideo.htm
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Higher Education Webinar – It's the second webinar on the page: https://screwthecommute.com/webinars[01:38] Tom's introduction to David Riklan [02:24] What David does for a living [05:35] The turning point to going in business [08:15] Tips for those thinking about being self-employed [13:13] Ways to benefit from David's website [15:54] Screwed in business multiple times [19:47] Best and worst of working for yourself (other than getting screwed) [20:57] How to take advantage of what David offers [23:15] Sponsor message [24:20] What a typical day for David is like [28:29] How he stays motivated [29:37] Parting thoughts for us Screwballs
Higher Education Webinar – It's the second webinar on the page: https://screwthecommute.com/webinars
Screw The Commute – https://screwthecommute.com/
Self Growth website – http://www.selfgrowth.com/
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wake 'em Up Video Professional Speaking System – https://www.antion.com/speakervideo.htm
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Top Ten Ways to Make Money Speaking – https://screwthecommute.com/episodes/7-top-ten-ways-to-make-money-speaking/
Charmaine Hammond – https://screwthecommute.com/episodes/29-shes-a-collaboration-and-sponsorship-expert-out-of-canada-tom-interviews-charmaine-hammond/
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Episode 030 – David Riklan
[00:00:08] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.
[00:00:27] Hello everybody. It's episode 30 of screw the commute. We've got a great guest today that guy's been on. Oh wow. He's been in the Internet game about as long as I have and so he's going to really tell you he's went a little different route than I've taken. But there's plenty routes out there and that's why we do have all these great guest on make sure you go back and listen to episode number 29. We had Charmaine Hammond here and she was so great on Telling us about collaboration and sponsorship. She's an expert on that out of Canada. Sponsor for today's episode is the wake 'em up video professional speaking system. I know. most of you hate public speaking but there's way more ways that you can make money running your mouth and just being on stage and if you don't believe me listen the episode 007 I was 007 for 1 hour or for 30 minutes where I showed you the Top Ten Ways to Make Money speaking. Or you can check out the system directly at antion.com/speakervideo.htm and we'll have that in the show notes.
[00:01:39] Now let's get to the main event. David Riklan is the founder of selfgrowth.com. one of the top self-improvement websites. Now I'm going to have to dispute that a little bit. I probably would say it's the top self-improvement website on the Internet. Selfgrowth.com has received over 100 million. That's with a million unique visitors since he launched the website. In addition David has published over 10 books on self-improvement Natural Health sales and marketing. David are you ready to screw.
[00:02:16] I'm absolutely ready to screw the commute I was ready many many years ago actually.
[00:02:21] I know you were tell them about it tell about what you do.
[00:02:25] The best way of describing what I do is I look at us as self-improvement publishers. We publish self-improvement personal growth and natural health information over the Web. And I've been doing this for years with a very simple goal to provide a wide range of information for people to improve their lives. And that's really what selfgrowth.com is about. We're almost an aggregator where I go out and I collect quality information to help people improve their lives and we show it through selfgrowth.com through e-mails through social media any way we can get the word out for people to improve their lives.
[00:03:01] And what year did this start?
[00:03:03] I bought the domain and I'm wondering if I'd been a little longer than you. I actually bought selfgrowth.com in 1995.
[00:03:12] I started in 1994 so we're right there at the beginning that was the beginning of the commercial Internet the Internet existed before that but nobody like us could use it. You had to be a super geek even access it. So you bought the domain in 95 and then when was when did you get rolling.
[00:03:31] So shortly after I bought the domain name I started working it as a hobby for a while. And I was looking at it long term play I was trying to figure out how I want to do this. I ran it as a hobby for a while then a very nice side business for a number of years. And I didn't go full time with it till 2003.
[00:03:50] Well what were you doing in the meantime?
[00:03:52] I've been in corporate America for years.
[00:03:56] Oh my God you were not a screw the commuter.
[00:03:58] A long time many many years. I started working I don't even want to date myself but I started working many many years ago for Hewlett Packard and that's about as corporate as you could go. So I was working for Hewlett Packard and I was in computer sales I was sales and marketing high technology. Hewlett-Packard also worked at one point for John Wiley and Sons big publisher always selling computers computer technology databases. Always loved technology and early on one of the interesting things that happen to me is Hewlett Packard sent me to a Dale Carnegie Training program called Effective speaking and human relations and I fell in love with this concept that after you finish your official education whether it be high school or college whatever it is that you can continue to learn and to grow it can be a lifelong experience. And when I was there I decided early on that somehow some way I was going to have some sort of self-improvement business. And I kept that in the back of my mind up till I ran into the Internet in the 90s and said This is the way to go. And then ran hard with it.
[00:05:07] A really old coal miner friend of mine when I was in West Virginia told me you know Tom the schoolhouse door is always open and that's the way you know I know you've lived your life and the people that visit your site are living that dream too. Now you said you transitioned to the site taking over. Was there a turning point. When was that moment that you said you know what corporate life is done self growth is the way I'm going from now on.
[00:05:38] There are two things that intersected that made it ideal for me. So the first thing that happened was that the Web site as a side business was generating good income. So it wasn't quite enough income to completely replace my current job and position because I had a Nice corporate job and the company car and all that stuff but the income was there and my company came to me. They were making some changes at the company and they said look we're going to be phasing out this division this area and this position. We can either do one or two things either we can give you a severance package or we can find another position in the company and at that point it said the gods are speaking to me. It's time they're offered me a severance package. Let's run with it and run hard. In 2003 I said I'm leaving let's go. Let's run hard.
[00:06:26] Now you were married at the time.
[00:06:28] Yes I was married at the time. And if you want to look at your back is to the wall and pressure. I'm going to paint a picture for you. So my wife and I had recently moved into a new house you know we had a smaller apartment that we all knew moving to the newer bigger house. We had two kids at the time and my wife was pregnant with number three. So we had two very young kids at the time.
[00:06:54] So like a 3 year old a one year old and we're pregnant you know. So it was ready for number three and I remember talking just saying you know that job that I used to have in that small business I want to start well I want to get rid of the job and run hard with this small business.
[00:07:09] Yeah I want to make sure I have no security left for these three kids.
[00:07:12] Exactly. I want to get rid of the health insurance I want to get rid of the company car get rid of everything. I said that the website's been gone well we've been growing consistently. I think I can do it. And now we have a little time with the severance package. I want to run hard. I think she was holding her breath at that time and I ran and I haven't looked back.
[00:07:34] Wow. That's great. Was she supportive at the time or scared to death or both.
[00:07:39] I think she was very focused on the kids and being pregnant she had a lot of stuff going on. So we have three kids very close in age. And to give you a sense of how far we've come now the kids are 9th 10th and 12th grade. So I've been doing this for a long time. I'm still alive and their still alive and everybody's still alive.
[00:08:02] Good for you. Now what advice would you give to people that are sitting in that cubicle now and thinking. Man I want to live that life I want to have a business. What are some tips you would give them if they want to make that transition.
[00:08:17] There's a few things that come to mind. And the first one is really have a clear vision a kind of picture in your head of what you want to do. And I think this is very important and I had this early on for me and I probably first tapped into it when I took that Dale Carnegie course years ago and that concept for me was creating a resource where people can find self-improvement personal growth information all in one spot. That was the vision that was the idea that I had at the time and I never let go of that idea I had that idea clearly in my head and that was driving me and my first recommendation is have a picture in your head. Figure out what it is that you want to do and you want to be emotionally attached to it. The more emotionally attached you are to this vision that you have to what you want the more likely you'll be able to accomplish it because you're going to hit roadblocks there's plenty of roadblocks along the way and the clearer this picture is in your head and the clearer this desire you have The more likely you'll be able to get back to your mission whenever you hit one of these stumbling blocks so that's probably the first thing make sure you have a clear vision. And for me one of the things that's helped a lot is this whole concept of what people call modeling and modeling's a very simple concept it's the concept of finding someone else that's successful and modeling or copying what they're doing. Obviously in many cases you need to modify it a little bit. You know I can't go out and do what Bill Gates did in 1980 to create the next Microsoft. But you can use a lot of the techniques and ideas and kind of models. A big believer have the vision and then model other successful people what they're doing.
[00:10:00] And finally one of the biggest things for me was knowing that you need help and being prepared to get help when you needed it. And those are two very different things. So you really need to be ready to get help and then you need to go and get it. And I started early with this. So remember we both started you were and you mentioned 94 I was in 95 so 95 I was able to figure out how to get a domain name but I had no idea how to build a Web site.
[00:10:31] You couldn't. There wasn't any easy stuff to do it back then until 97 when front page came along. I mean we were stuck. You had to write HTML or forget it.
[00:10:42] I didn't know how to write HTML. I learned a little bit about it. So I went out and I found myself a local high school student who knew more about Web sites than anybody I know. So I hired this kid it must have been eight dollars an hour. And he helped create the first selfgrowth.com and it was HTML pages and we just ran with it. But I was willing to go get help and that's an important thing. Whether it's back then or now you need to know what you're capable of and you need to be willing to go get the help you need for the things that either you don't know how to do or it's not the best use of your time.
[00:11:23] Yeah a lot of people their ego gets in the way and they don't do that. And it's too late all of a sudden they're upside down and there's no cash flow. So yeah that's an important point. Now you went a different direction than I did. You built up a massive site where I went in a direction where I made bunches of small sites. How did you come up with that idea as opposed to the way I went.
[00:11:48] The reason I was doing this and the reason I went with this approach is that I always had this picture and I still do of a one stop shop for all self-improvement information. And I knew that I couldn't create it alone and that the only way to do this was really to aggregate or collect all the information that's out there. It's interesting how I did it at the beginning. If you go back to 95 if you wanted to search for something Yahoo was king so you either searched on AOL America Online or you searched on Yahoo. And you did searches on Yahoo whether it be for public speaking or stress management or speed reading that the results that came out weren't particularly good. So what we started we created an organized directory based on topic category. We sat down and said All right what are the best speed reading websites. What are the best public speaking websites. What are the best nutrition websites and it was an organized directory. And the goal for me was to help people figure out the best information for them. And I did this really by collecting information and we did that with Web sites. Then we started publishing articles and then providing information about experts. But it was always about providing a starting point for people to gather the information they need.
[00:13:04] And give everybody some ways they could benefit from your site. And I know that you can register there. And there's all kinds of opportunities there what are some of the things they can do at your site.
[00:13:15] We really have two audiences so give us some stuff for each of the two audiences the first audience that we target are consumers looking to improve their health their finances relationships mental health spirituality happiness things along those lines. So if you're a consumer and looking for articles the best websites the best products best services. Just go to selfgrowth.com use some searches wander around you'll find good resources. We're also looking and we partner with experts authors experts coaches and speakers and we provide an opportunity for them to put their information on our website.
[00:13:52] So if you're an author expert coach or speaker you can publish your articles on selfgrowth.com for free. If you have a Web site you want to add to a directory you can add your information for free. If you want to create a profile about yourself you can create an expert page for free. So really this two groups that we're targeting almost look at what we do with them. I'm a matchmaker. I'm bringing together people like you Tom who have information for other people to improve the lives and the people who are looking to improve their lives. We bring everybody together in this one resource called self growth. If you're a consumer you come in. You create a personal account. If you're a professional you come in and you create a professional account.
[00:14:34] Now I know a lot of people are wondering well if all this stuff is free how do you ever make any money out of how you making a live how you pay for these three kids and a wife. What are revenue models in a site like this.
[00:14:46] So we have several revenue models. You mentioned a lot of stuff we have for free but if you want premium exposure there's additional cost for that.
[00:14:54] You mean for a business person wants to be at the top of the list.
[00:14:58] Exactly. So for business people you want to be the number one stress management guru or you want to be the number one massage guru. Extra ways to promote yourself. So that's one of the ways we generate income. We also have very large e-mail lists of subscribers so we can promote you and get you in front of our audiences. Additional costs to do that. So that's another revenue generator. Another one is over the course of the years we've created courses for people to learn how to do what we've been doing. How do you do email marketing. How do you create and market ebooks. I've also published a number of print books over the years in e-book so we've really tapped into this multiple streams of Internet income to build the income and income and revenue model for the business.
[00:15:44] You're introducing yourself with all the free stuff and you're helping people like crazy and then they reciprocate by taking advantage of the paid stuff. Have you ever been screwed in business.
[00:15:56] I have been screwed in business multiple times and sometimes just things happen. I'll give you an example of one of the more painful ones. This goes back probably 10 plus years suddenly we're getting a lot of e-mails that were in German that were sent to me. So just to give you a sense of how this works and you're familiar Tom and anybody who does e-mail marketing you know we have an e-mail newsletter that goes out to a whole bunch of people and it's signed David Riklan yeah I have a self-improvement newsletter and it's signed David Riklan founder of selfgrowth.com and it comes from email@example.com. So someone decided to steal my identity. So they decided they were going to be David Riklan and they were going to have a reply email that went back to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:16:52] And here's where the trouble started it was coming from a company in Eastern Europe that was promoting German porn. So they were sending out e-mails from Eastern Europe in German saying oh this is the greatest website for women for nude women you can see this and that and they saying all these things and then are sending people to a link Of German pornography. But here's a challenge. If you hit reply to the e-mail it came back to me and my signature was at the bottom of all the e-mails. So there are literally millions of e-mails going out from David Riklan in German. To all these people in Germany.
[00:17:37] So I wasn't sure what was happening because we're getting these e-mails back in German and we started getting a whole bunch of these e-mails back and we didn't know what to do so I started translating. I had somebody translate a lot of the e-mails and some of them. Occasionally they were very thankful that the Web site. Great stuff but the vast majority of them were very angry German e-mails telling me take me off this list stop. What are you doing this is horrible this is illegal. So we're getting inundated by this and it wasn't sure what to do. How do you stop this. It's an Eastern European company that's sending e-mails to Germany about some German porn company. So I contacted a local attorney who said he'd have to contact an attorney in Eastern Europe it was a whole to do. And he recommended just waiting it out and we're getting hundreds perhaps thousands of these e-mails and knock on wood. I waited it out and they stopped they went on they started using another e-mail return address.
[00:18:43] Probably mine! Don't send it here anymore send it to Antion.
[00:18:58] But it was very painful at the time. And the scary thing is I had you know people checking it for me so there's a woman who has worked with me getting these nasty e-mails back like oh my god what am I going to do about it.
[00:19:09] It's lucky it's not now with this GDPR thing. The whole European Union would come after you.
[00:19:17] Exactly. You got to be careful. And this is one of the one of the many stumbling blocks that you hit along the way. If You're an entrepreneur. You're going to have problems and going back to if you have this vision in your mind of what you want to do you're going to march to the problems. You can either figure it out yourself. You're going to find someone else to figure it out or you're going to get help.
[00:19:38] That's right. So what do you like best about working for yourself. Besides probably get commissions off the German porn site.
[00:19:53] The best for me is the independence. That's probably the number one thing. And I had some independence. I was in sales and marketing and sales. It's probably one of the most independent jobs if you're doing well you know if you're selling something you're doing well people people tend to leave you alone if you have your own business you have more control. You have ownership control and independence and those are really big for me because you have ownership over your success and it's because it's your business. And that is a very big thing for me. I was never a big fan at these big companies. There was huge bureaucracy I had to deal with. You have your own company you have control you can make decisions and just run things. It's a very exciting way to be.
[00:20:38] I always used to tease about in a big company it takes a two week committee meeting to take a leak.
[00:20:44] Yes it sure felt like that many many times.
[00:20:49] So what can people take advantage of on your site. What should they do with their expert. What are they supposed to do. And if they are a consumer what should they do.
[00:20:58] We'll start with the expert. If you're an expert go to selfgrowth.com and create a professional account. If you have a Web site of any sort but I recommend going in for your particular topic category let's say you do stress management and you can submit your website will happily link back to you and hopefully the goal is to drive traffic to your website. No cost. So put it in we have a team that vets all that stuff but submit the website with a description of it we'll submit it. that can be a first start a second start might be if you've written any articles that you published either on your own blog or in your newsletter or in a book you can republish those articles on selfgrowth.com And if you're publishing those articles on our website make sure to include your bio. Once again with the link back to your Web site we also have a LinkedIn style Networking for Professionals so you can create an expert profile. Those are really the three big things. So create an expert profile upload your pictures and some information about you and people will find you find what you're doing go to your website. Contact you through that professional start with that links articles and a professional profile. If you are a consumer the first thing I recommend is create a free consumer account and we have a whole bunch of freebies that you get so there are downloads on goal setting. I had a chance to interview people like Jack Canfield. You'll get a number of different audios you get Brian Tracy stuff you get a lot of free material. We have a great 501 inspirational quote ebook that we have. So go in there create a free account download a lot of these goodies for yourself and then think yourself what do I want to learn about what expertise what areas do I want to improve and do some searches and start by finding good experts good articles good websites.
[00:22:49] We're going to have all these instructions for you in the show notes folks so you don't have to worry about absorbing at all this moment you just go to screwthecommute.com and we'll have all the stuff that you can click on and go right to David's site and take care of it.
[00:23:03] So we need to break for a quick message from our sponsor which is me. And when we come back David is going to tell you what a typical day looks like for him and how he stays motivated.
[00:23:17] Now let me ask you folks do you think it sounds like BS if I tell you you could earn a hundred thousand dollars in one speech. I admit on face value it's sounds like BS to me too. But here's the reality when there's at least 200 people in the crowd I haven't pulled in less than that in any speech I've made in the last 16 years sometimes as much as 250,000 many of you listening to this would be happy with a 100 times less than that for a speech. I know it. Now if you have the right topic the right thing for the audience members the by and the right training. This is not B.S. This can be your reality check out the wake 'em up video professional speaking system where along with this course I include one on one consultations to customize the program to you check out all the details at Antion.com/speakervideo.htm and we'll have that in the show notes. Now back to our superstar David what's a typical day look like for you.
[00:24:21] The best thing for me about being an entrepreneur and a business owner is I don't necessarily have a typical day but I'll give you some examples of my day generally starts the night before where I map out I take a look who is on my schedule what am I doing. And there's quite a few things and it depends on what product or service we're focusing on right now.
[00:24:43] So I take a look at what kind of calls that I've set up I take a look at a particular day and might make some customer calls I might do some consulting some coaching I might work on a particular product that might do an interview like we're doing today I might do some email marketing and write some copy on a particular day I might reach out to someone as a potential joint venture partner. We're doing a lot of social media work right now so I might do some work on social media whether that be Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter we might be building a new Web site. So there's really a wide variety of things and that's really the best part for me of my particular business. There's so many things that I'm working on that I can kind of pick and choose what I want to focus on and a particular week or month to grow my business. And it really gives me a lot of flexibility. And that's one of the more exciting things about what I'm doing. It's not getting up and doing the same thing day in and day out week after week after week. I get to bring in some creativity in terms of what I'm doing.
[00:25:45] And I guess activities with the kids and things like that if you need to go you can go right who's going to stop you.
[00:25:51] Exactly. And what's interesting I know the whole focus is screw the commute. And I started my business out of my home. I was definitely working from my home. And sometime into it I started bringing on employees and I said you know what time to move out of the house but my commute was literally five minutes it was like five to ten minute commute. And I live about an hour outside Manhattan an hour and 15 outside Manhattan. And I know a lot of people that are getting up early in the morning doing the hour 15 hour and a half commute to the city. Taking the bus or the train and then coming back so there's a lot of people in my area that do that. And sometimes I complained to them that my five minute commute I get backed up with traffic I pass the high school and sometimes it takes 10 or 11 minutes. They're not particularly sympathetic with the challenge of my 11 minute commute.
[00:26:46] When do you make that decision. How long did you work out of your home before you made that decision.
[00:26:51] I was working part time out of the home for a couple of years and then shortly after going full time I said I want to bring on employees and I literally got a one room that was maybe a mile from my house above a chiropractic office. But it was a mile from my house relatively inexpensive. It gave me some quiet space and keep in mind at the time I had three young kids. So I needed to have some quiet space so that helped for me and for people looking to start a home business or starting out of your home. It's very easy you can start out of your home. I had a room dedicated to it. But eventually I got a very small office to get started. And as I grew I got more space.
[00:27:30] Yeah yeah I mean you can start at home. But sometimes it just doesn't work for people. Now with me I Went to the nth degree. I bought a big multimillion dollar estate and got my own studio. And the people actually live in the house with me and people say Well are you crazy for that. But you know I carry a gun. Have protection dogs and nobody messes with me. It's also way if you want a bigger home and you actually use it as part of your business. You can make it legitimately tax deductible. So that's the route I took. It's funny because David went out of his house and went to an office to a smaller place. And then when he made his website he made it gigantic and I made little ones. I got this super big house only one in it except when guests are here. So what do you do to stay motivated with all this stuff you got.
[00:28:30] Going back to what I said earlier. I keep that vision in my mind that picture that I have. It's the same core vision and that vision is very simple. It's to provide people information to help them improve their lives. And that's not going away. That's still my core vision to help people improve their lives in whatever particular area and it's been my vision. It's been my passion and it continues to be and it's always a matter of what's the best techniques what are the best systems and how to go about doing it.
[00:29:05] Does your wife work in the business at all.
[00:29:07] She had launched her own business. She does basically resume writing career counseling career coaching and training.
[00:29:15] Does she get business from self growth.
[00:29:18] We've done some stuff in the past I've recommended her to folks and she's done some training based on people that I've worked with so there's definitely some synergy that we've had over the years.
[00:29:33] So what parting thoughts do you have for all our screwballs out there.
[00:29:39] I'm going to give everybody a couple of thoughts. The first one it's very exciting to have your own business if you're looking to get a picture in your mind find something that excites you and figure out start working on your plan. Start working on your plan to do it and to be ready in business be prepared for those stumbling blocks are wrong along the way and make sure you have something to hold on to this picture. This vision whatever it's going to drive you to get you over the stumbling blocks so you can continue on your path.
[00:30:10] Great great great. Well said. So how do people reach you if they have questions or want to get involved.
[00:30:17] The easiest start is just to go to selfgrowth.com you go to the bottom there's ways to contact us. I'll give you an email as well. You can always email us at email@example.com that will get to my team if you want them to forward it to me but firstname.lastname@example.org and just the websites are a good start.
[00:30:39] Gee whiz thank you so much David for taking the time out today and by the way. David is so important. He has an online scheduler that I had to go through to get on this guy's calendar but he's organized and worked out perfect so thanks so much. This was episode 30 with David Riklan. Make sure you check out all the stuff he's got enormous amounts of stuff available that will help you and that's Like he said that's his vision and mission. Check it out in the show notes at screwthecommute.com. In the next episode I'm going to be talking to a super safety guy who's living the dream and screwing the commute. Catch ya next time.
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