The Surprising Problem With Earning Big Money In Online Marketing

Rob Rawson says don’t do what he did.

Rob earned hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for several years using AdWords, affiliate programs, and SEO strategies. In this interview, you’ll hear him explain how he did it — and why he says you shouldn’t copy his approach. You’ll also hear about the outsourcing business he launched, how he travels the world while working remotely, and about Time Doctor, his upcoming time management software.

Rob Rawson

Rob Rawson

Time Doctor

Rob Rawson is the CEO of Time Doctor, time management software that helps ensure your staff is working.



Full Interview Transcript

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Andrew: Hi, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of, home of the ambitious upstart. Today’s guest is a successful entrepreneur, who says do not do what he did. Rob Rawson earned hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for several years using AdWords, affiliate programs, and SEO strategies. I’ll ask him to tell us how he did it, and why he doesn’t think that you should copy him. I’ll also ask him about the outsourcing business he launched, and about how he travels the world while working remotely, and about, his upcoming time management software. Rob, welcome to Mixergy.

Rob: Hi, nice to chat with you.

Andrew: First question is, how many hundreds of thousands did you earn per year?

Rob: Previously, I was earning around $700,000, some year’s profit. It went up and down a bit, but mostly that was from AdSense and affiliate programs. Google AdSense has actually made quite a lot of people some good money.

Andrew: So, $700,000 a year, give or take, in sales. What was the high in revenue?

Rob: The highest that I had in revenue per year? I don’t know, but it was over seven figures.

Andrew: Over seven? Really? Highest in revenue was over seven figures. What about profit? What was the high in profit?

Rob: I don’t know if I want to say my highest in profit, but I had several years that were almost seven figures profit or over seven figures profit.

Andrew: Really? So, you still tell people, and you’ve told me this before we even started the interview, that this isn’t going to be an interview where I say, “I did it. Everyone else should jump in and go do it too.” Why not? Why shouldn’t I just stop this interview right here, turn off the recorder, and go out there and do what you’re about to tell us to do?

Rob: Well, there’s a number of strategies that I was successful with, and I think a lot of them are a bit more short-term, in that I wasn’t really building a brand. I was really focusing on Google Ad Sense and arbitrage strategies and some other affiliate strategies.

They were quite successful, and I think there are still people doing it now, but it just becomes more and more competitive. It’s sort of like the stock market in the beginning, when there’s a new market that opens up. You have all of these opportunities, and then ten years down the track, there’s still people making money, but they have incredible systems that are really hard to compete with. Personally, I’m not competing in the spaces where I was making a lot of money anymore, because it is too competitive, and I guess the margins are not there. Google is really replacing a lot of the things that were previously making money there. That’s the reason why.

Also, in general, I think people do say it’s better to build a brand, and it’s better to have your own product. I think, in general, that’s true. That’s what I’m doing now. That’s what I’m focusing on now. But that’s not to say, if you can find your niche, there’s always ways to make money in all sorts of different ways. I can’t say totally not to do it. I think for the beginners, who are really just starting in Internet marketing, there’s a lot of opportunities to make websites and put some affiliate programs on there, and put some Ad Sense on there, and maybe make $2,000 a month, or if you’re really good, make $10,000 a month. But to make $100,000 a month with that, you’ve really got to be very good. It’s very difficult.

Andrew: You were very, very good for how many years? How many years did this streak go?

Rob: I was making reasonable money for about five or six years.

Andrew: Five or six years.

Rob: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s talk about how you got here. What were you doing just before you started?

Rob: Before I started doing Internet business, I was actually a medical doctor.

Andrew: Really? What kind?

Rob: I know. It’s pretty strange, because people ask me, “Why did you stop doing medicine?” Medicine’s actually amazing. I can’t say that it’s a bad profession. It’s just amazing, but I’ve always had this entrepreneurial bug that I wanted to try businesses. Then when I was successful in business, I kind of let medicine go. You can’t be a part-time doctor. I did that for two years, and then I went on to doing business stuff.

Andrew: What I find is that a lot of doctors seem to want into business. They want to invest in companies. They want to grow the money that they’re making, and there’s not that much room, usually, it seems, to reinvest in their own medical practice. True?

Rob: I think that’s probably true. I think that doctors are renown for being really bad at making investments. I think they’re also renown for not being particularly good at business, but wanting to do something in business. Most doctors that I speak to are kind of like, “I’d love to do what you’re doing. I’d love to start a business.” But they don’t usually do it. Before that, even whilst I was studying medicine, I started a number of businesses that were mostly failures.

Andrew: I want to hear about that, because if all I hear is about the one success, I think I get a wrong impression of what it takes to build what you’re about to tell us. So, tell me about one or two of the failed businesses that you launched before this.

Rob: Well, probably some crazy things that I did, I actually took a year off medicine to start a marketing consulting business. That was really a little ridiculous, but it was just my enthusiasm. I wanted to do something in business. I was really excited about it. I read all this stuff from Jay Abraham. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of him, this marketing guru. I thought, oh, wow. This is really fantastic, all this marketing guru stuff. I’m going to go out and implement this in businesses and charge people for it. And so I did that, but I wasn’t really good at selling my services, so I didn’t succeed.

I started a few other businesses, like a coaching business, coaching in mass [sounds like]. I even wrote a book on how to save money on tax, which was a ridiculous idea. I had a lot of ridiculous ideas. Even in the last six years, I can’t count the exact number, but it’s dozens of failures, a lot of different websites that I’ve launched that didn’t work. They were maybe good ideas. I didn’t execute them properly. They were maybe bad ideas. I tried a lot of things.

Andrew: Okay. You try all these things, and suddenly, this whole affiliate SEO AdWords business takes off. How did you start in it?

Rob: I basically read a course online more than eight years ago. I think it was from the guy from SiteSell. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him.

Andrew: SiteSell?

Rob: Yes. SiteSell. He has some kind of content building website software. He was actually a medical doctor as well, strangely enough. I read his course about how to make money online, and then I started trying some different ideas, doing websites, putting affiliate programs on them. At that time, I have to say, honestly, it seems like it was easier than it is today. It’s probably not what you want to actually hear, but I did some very simple things that made a lot of money.

For example, I built one website on satellite TV, which was comparing satellite TV systems, Dish Network and DIRECTV, and I outsourced it to a university student to write it. I just put some links up, put affiliate programs on, and that website was making $10,000 a month, hands free passive income without much effort.

Andrew: How long did that website take to get to $10,000 a month?

Rob: I think it was about four or five months, maybe a bit more. Maybe six or seven months. Something like that.

Andrew: It cost you nothing to build it, pretty much, nothing to build it and to host it. Within a few months, it brought in $10,000 a month. How did you get traffic to the site?

Rob: It was all SEO traffic, basically.

Andrew: What year was this?

Rob: That was eight years ago.

Andrew: Okay. Around 2002.

Rob: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. What was SEO like at the time? What kind of search engine optimization did you have to do?

Rob: It was fairly easy, and, actually, I think it’s not too different than how it is today, in that you would do things like, basically, get a listing on DMOZ, which is a really fantastic directory if you can get a listing on it. That website actually dropped out of the rankings when it lost its listing on DMOZ. It was earning a lot of money, and then as soon as it dropped that listing, it dropped out. I don’t know. Maybe it was partly luck, as well, that I just got accepted into DMOZ. Not just luck. I really did read a lot and I learned a lot about SEO.

Andrew: If it wasn’t luck, what did you do to make it happen? What did you do, if it was luck, to prod luck along, and to get it in there? What did you do?

Rob: I would say overall, it’s definitely not luck, because, like I said, I tried so many different businesses. What did I do to prod luck along? I had a really clear goal of what I wanted to achieve financially. In my business, I wanted to be able to travel around the world and work from anywhere with my laptop computer and live in any country. That was my goal.

I had an income goal as well, and I really stuck to that, year after year. I didn’t make it, actually, at first. I was a long way away from it. After a while, I started to get closer and started to notice the difference between a dream and just sort of pretending to want to achieve something versus actually doing what it takes to achieve it. I think I’ve gotten better and better at that over the years.

Andrew: I’m going to bring my mic on camera, just to get it out of the way of the computer, because the computer’s been making a little more noise than usual today. I’ll get back to the income goal and how you changed your outlook overall to help you build your business. But, I was curious specifically, about that one incident. How did you get into DMOZ, into that directory of websites? If that’s the key, I want to know how you got that, how you made it happen.

Rob: I can’t give you a replicable answer to that, because DMOZ are very flaky when it comes to listing websites. When you want to list your website, you just apply to have it listed. Basically, if your website looks very informational, I think at the time, I actually got it listed when I didn’t have advertising on the site, so that actually is an advantage. That’s one thing. If you try and list it when you don’t have a lot of advertising and you don’t have AdSense on it, and then get it listed, that’s a great way to go, but it’s not a guarantee.

I think it’s the more information you have. If you have a website out there that has better information than any of the other websites and better content, then really they should list you. It doesn’t mean they will, but they should list you if you’re better than the other websites out there.

Andrew: Okay. Was this the first site that you did, that hit?

Rob: It’s the first site that made good money. Yes.

Andrew: Wow. How did you feel at that point? Take me back to that day when you’re looking in at your stats, and you’re realizing, “Yes. This one’s on track after all of those past failures. This one’s going to make it.”

Rob: In the beginning, I had what I think some Internet entrepreneurs and affiliate marketers have, which is statistic addiction. You look at your computer and you get these e-mails. “Oh, I’ve made $50. I’ve made $50. I’ve made $50.” So, you get all these e-mails coming in that say that. Eventually I filtered the e-mails, so I didn’t receive the notifications anymore.

Also, I had a crazy incident where I had a bunch of checks on my bedroom table. It was about 20 or 30 checks. Because I’m from Australia, it’s difficult to deposit these checks, because they are U.S. checks. A friend of mine had just come in and saw all these checks, and he was just like, “What are all these checks? What are you doing with these checks?”

It was quite funny in the beginning, the way that it was. It’s a fun process. I still, even though I think it’s more difficult and more competitive nowadays, I still definitely recommend for beginners to get involved in some simple websites. Get it optimized for the search engines, put affiliate programs on there, and get advertising from other websites. It’s a really basic business model, but it definitely still works if you get the right niche and if you do it well.

Andrew: What you did was, you signed up for affiliate programs. You were going to make money off of all the offers that you had on the page, and you ranked them, just to make it look like content, make the list of ads, essentially look like content. Then you submitted them to the search engine, DMOZ listed you, people who were looking for cable or satellite ended up on your website. They clicked over on one of the options that you profiled. They bought. You got a check, and more checks, and more checks, and before long, you were on your way. What was the next business? What was the next site?

Rob: The thing that I made some good income from was really more from AdWords, basically buying a lot of AdWords, and then promoting affiliate programs, and also really optimizing a system for buying AdWords. That was another strategy altogether, because it’s very different to search engine optimization.

Andrew: Take me through the first time that you did that, and then I’d like to hear how it looked when it was optimized. But I’m curious about the first time. What was that like?

Rob: The first time that I did AdWords, I was actually promoting some specific affiliate programs. I had an idea, kind of had this clever idea of how to do it. At that time, you were able to do campaigns, where you could have hundreds and hundreds of keyword ideas.

In this case, I did one campaign, which was promoting ringtones So, you’d have someone searching for Britney Spears, and then you’d have an ad for a Britney Spears ringtone, and then you’d get a commission every time somebody downloads the Britney Spears ringtone It’s kind of a very simple strategy, but very, very effective because the amount of traffic that you can get on Google is just phenomenal.

Andrew: I see. So, you were buying ads on Google, sending people to this offer. Every time they accepted the offer, you made money. Did I get that right?

Rob: Yes. That’s correct.

Andrew: Were they buying the ringtone, or were they essentially getting that ringtone for free, but signing up for future payments, future bills on their phone statement?

Rob: It depends on the sites. Some of the times they would buy the ringtone. Other times they would actually sign up for a subscription service. After that, I actually started my own ring tone mobile business. That’s one of the businesses that I started that didn’t succeed. I basically tried to get into that whole area where I would have my own subscription service, my own paid, on your mobile, kind of paid billing on your mobile services. I partnered with some other companies for that, but that was basically a failure.

Andrew: What was the challenge there?

Rob: The challenge, I think, is a few things. One is, to be honest, not adding enough value. For me, where I’m at now is I want to do stuff that really adds tremendous value to people, and that when they get the service, they’re getting it because they really want it. It’s phenomenal, and the money that you make is kind of a byproduct.

Andrew: None of those ringtone companies were really adding that much value. What did you do different from them? What did they do different from you?

Rob: I think that they had more ability to, they were just better at executing than me, honestly.

Andrew: Executing was the challenge? What was the tough part of executing it?

Rob: I think part of it was timing, because part of it’s riding the wave of the timing. Part of it was the stuff that I had, but I think a lot of it for me was the attention devoted. I was doing this, and I was also doing this other stuff. I was doing five different things. This is not something that you can easily do whilst doing five things.

Plus, I was riding the wave after the wave had already . . . these people were very successful in this, and there were businesses making $20 million a month in this sort of business. It was ridiculous. I came in when I saw all of that happening, and I thought, oh wow, I’m going to get into this business. I didn’t really have a passion for it. Plus, I was in the tail end of the wave.

Andrew: Okay. We talked about the first time that you did AdWords. Let’s talk about the time when you got it right, when the system was like a machine, everything was in place to make you money and to build your business. What did that look like?

Rob: The thing that was different, I think, is that I was getting better and better with my technical capabilities. When I started out, I was basically a medical doctor. I had no idea about programming, anything really to do with the Internet. What I came to realize is that when you’re programming on the Internet, you can really do anything that you want. This is the thing that I love about programming.

You just have a concept. Okay. I’m going to automate this. I’m going to automate that. Whatever you can think of, you can automate it. The more and more you can automate things, the faster you can make it happen. I got better programmers. Actually, the programmers that I had were all from the Philippines, from a team in the Philippines. I was basically working with those guys, and they really automated everything and made it a lot faster and a lot better.

The other thing is I thought in a really big way. I think this is probably a difference between myself and some other people, who maybe didn’t make as much money from the same strategies. I thought, okay, one person might think, we’ll do 20 keywords. I thought, let’s do every keyword. I really thought about it to just maximize it as much as possible.

Andrew: How do you do that? Let’s suppose that I was someone, at the time, who was doing just 20 keywords, and I wanted to think bigger and get more in. Maybe it would occur to me to get every keyword, but I wouldn’t know what to do. What did you do? How did you get every keyword, or as close to every keyword as possible? What’d you do?

Rob: I went through different systems, such as Word Tracker, and also on the Google AdWord Keyword Tool. They have a list of keywords, so you enter a keyword, and then you can see what the related keywords are. I still use that system today, where I actually just try and maximize each keyword in a particular niche that I’m looking for. I just kept going and kept looking for more and more niches and areas and keywords to work with. That’s basically it.

Andrew: How did you automate that?

Robert: It’s difficult to go into the details of that, because I don’t know the precise details that are applicable, but I can say the general details, which apply to automating anything, is just think about the product in a grand fashion, so think about taking massive action, rather than a little bit of action.

What would you have to do in order to do a hundred times more volume than what you’re currently doing? For example, if somebody has a website on X and they have a certain process, how could you change the process so that you could do it a hundred times faster, not two or three times faster, a hundred times faster? Think of every element in the process that you can automate. Automate those one at a time, and then just keep going until it’s basically all automated, the entire process.

Andrew: Okay. For example, if you were doing ringtones, we talked about Britney Spears being a very hot ringtone You want to get all of the ring tones, so you might sit down one evening, maybe with a drink or a cup of coffee, and say, “I’m going to find all the hot bands. I’ll go look at who the Top 40 musicians are, and I’ll get their keywords.”

Rob: Right. So, Top 40 is one thing, and that’s great. Instead of getting the Top 40, what I actually did was get the top 20,000 musicians. I went to a website that has all the musicians, get the programmer to get all of the info from the website. Then bam, I’ve got a list of 20,000 musicians. Then I automatically combine those keywords with the other words, and then I’ve just got hundreds of thousands of keywords, which I can use to promote in Google AdWords

Andrew: I see. So you go to your programmer, and you say . . . sorry. Go ahead.

Rob: I’m saying, it’s now only partly applicable now, because you can’t use those strategies on Google AdWords anymore, but you can in your own niche, and you can, to some extent, do it. You can use the general concept of trying to automate. You can still use that, definitely.

Andrew: Okay. I’ve got to tell you that we’re not selling any kind of get rich quick system, or even a get rich slow system here. My goal is for people to take these ideas and use them in business, but if all they hear is your story, and they don’t do anything with it immediately, but it just sits there in the back of their heads, I know they’ll be able to use it. We don’t even have to sweat giving people useful advice that they can go and copy tomorrow. We just need to tell them your story, and I know when they hear it, they’ll benefit from it.

Okay. So, you had all these different keywords, and you were selling ringtones. What other products were you selling? What other products were you promoting?

Rob: I went into everything.

Andrew: Tell me. Tell me some of those examples.

Rob: Well, the same sort of concept. I’d basically get these affiliate programs, and I’d look at promoting every single affiliate program that I could find. Each one would only make maybe a small amount of money, but in addition, they’d make a large amount of money. So, literally, every single product that you can imagine, I’ve tried promoting it at one stage. Sofas, anything.

Andrew: How do you tie back, or how did you back then, tie back the orders and the revenue that you received to the keyword that you bid on, to know whether you should continue to bid on that keyword and how much to bid on it?

Rob: Our systems weren’t as good as they could have been, to be honest. We should have done that, and I think, actually, some of the people that are still around doing it now, probably have better systems than I do, where their automated system could track things very easily. But I most of the time just had spreadsheets, where I just tracked it on spreadsheets. I didn’t have that part as automated as it should have been.

Andrew: I see. You might have been going based on . .. tell me if you were doing this. Did you just say, “The average bid that I have on a keyword that’s related to ringtones is about a quarter. The average revenue I’m making is about a buck, converting at about one out of three people, basically I’m doing okay.’ You might have missed the outliers, but the average was all working out okay.

Rob: Yes.

Andrew: I see. Okay.

Rob: Yes, and the other thing is that we were going for very low value clicks on Google. At that time, it was really two or three cent clicks on Google. At that value, you can really make money on anything as long as you can get clicks. You can’t get many clicks, so you just have to do it with a lot of areas. That’s the other part of the key.

That’s how it was working, and as I mentioned, I kind of feel like, I’m telling people that, and people are going to go, “Oh, I’m going to try this strategy.” But I really don’t think it works very much nowadays, because it’s not working for me. It’s kind of an interesting story, but that’s what I was doing, and it’s kind of the evolution, I guess, in my business.

The next thing that I moved into was I did some outsourcing. I’m still doing outsourcing nowadays, so I have a team of 45 people around the world, but mostly in the Philippines. That’s really a fantastic strategy, especially now that I have everybody working from home, because previously I had an office. Then I moved out of the office, because it was costing me $10,000 a month, and it’s just a lot of hassle. It’s kind of keeping me fixed in that location, and now . . .

Andrew: Hold on. I have a whole hour to fill. Let’s go through the whole story here as it happened.

Rob: Sure.

Andrew: I’ve got to go back and ask about this question. Here’s a question I’ve asked a lot of past entrepreneurs who I’ve interviewed. What was that first million dollars in profit like for you to earn? What did it feel like? Do you remember that day?

Rob: Yes. I don’t remember the exact day, but I remember the feeling, because, actually, I had a goal to make a million dollars. After I did, it was a bit disappointing, honestly.

Andrew: Why?

Rob: Because, I think, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit money focused. I had this goal, and maybe, even though people say that money doesn’t make you happy and all that sort of stuff, in the back of my mind, maybe, I thought maybe I’d feel something. But actually, money really doesn’t make you happier at all.

Andrew: Really? You got to that point. It was a million in profit, and you said, “Is that all there is?” You didn’t even take some time to say, “Yes! I’m on top of the world today!” and then maybe a week later it sunk in that its just all . . .

Rob: Well, yeah. At first, I was like buzzing. At first. At first you’re like, “Oh yeah! This is amazing!” It’s like a dream come true. But I’m kind of thinking a little bit after that, just starting to not feel . . . I’m being very honest about it. I’m coming from being a doctor, and this is the profession where you’re supposed to save people’s lives, and I’m not really saving people’s lives doing what I’m doing. I think that it is in my heart, and my intention to do something that makes a difference in the world. And I guess I felt like a bit of a dichotomy at that point. I feel much more congruous now with what I’m doing.

Andrew: Why?

Rob: Because I like the concept of what I’m doing, and I like the outcome. I enjoy the business that I’m doing. I think it’s the right stage.

Andrew: You mean the outsourcing business? Running a company that outsources for others?

Rob: The outsourcing business, and the time management software that I’m building. I think maybe I’m more at peace with myself. I’ve done maybe more work on myself as well, probably.

Andrew: How? What kind of work did you do on yourself to get to this place?

Rob: Being more at peace?

Andrew: Yeah.

Rob: Yeah. Two things that were really very effective. One is that I actually meditated for almost two years continuously. What I mean by that is that I actually was trying to notice my breath. For a while, I was noticing my breath, and then I actually was noticing my finger, or my toes, 24 hours a day whilst working, whilst talking to people, whilst walking around. It was very intense. It wasn’t possible to go 24 hours a day, but it just made me more at peace and more aware of my thoughts.

Andrew: Here. Let me try it now. You tell me. You’re sitting here at your computer, the way I’m sitting here in front of my computer. And instead of just paying attention to 3hen am I getting to the next question, when am I going to get him tell me about who he shared, who he talked to about that first million, I need to just sit here and focus on my breath, and keep talking, and focus on my breath, and keep working. Then focus on my fingertips. How does that help me? So far, I’m not helped. Right now, I’m a little more aggravated.

Rob: The way that it helps me is to be really hyper-aware of my own emotions and my own self and my own thoughts, to the point where my thoughts don’t just run away from me and escape me. I don’t go on this whole basic mission with my thoughts, where they go in all of these directions, and usually negative directions. So that doesn’t happen.

Andrew: What kind of negative directions did your head go to before?

Rob: Well, it wasn’t so much related to business. It was more related to other areas of my life, actually. When I started doing the meditation, I was actually at a low point in my life. I wasn’t really happy with my life and relationship. Also, one thing I was feeling was isolated, because I was working by myself on my computer, and I wasn’t really around other people. It was a combination of these factors, and I wasn’t feeling really good about myself. And then I did this technique, and the other thing I did was actually Byron Katie, the is really fantastic.

Those two things actually totally transformed my state of mind to where I’m just very much at peace. I was always reasonably happy, except for that time when I wasn’t happy. But most of my life, I’ve been a very happy person.

Andrew: I was going through something similar, too. I needed to get away. I couldn’t sit and do it at my desk, but I went on a meditation retreat and I disappeared from the world for a little bit. For me, what happened was, I’d sit there at my desk sometimes, and maybe I’d watch a “Friends” episode in the background while I did some busy work at night.

Someone would laugh at Ross for only having gone out with four girls that year. It’s like, “Come on. You’ve gotta get out there. Four girls isn’t enough.” And I was sitting there, going, “Four girls? I went out with, like, one in the last year. None, maybe. What the hell is wrong with me? I am now a big freaking’ loser. I thought I climbed to the mountain top over here, because I made money, but what the hell? The mountain top is supposed to have the hot chick at the top, right? Isn’t that what all the video games have? Super Mario Brothers, the guy finally gets to the end and the little cartoon girl comes out and they get to hug. What the hell am I doing?”

I was just sitting there, and little things like that would just set me off, until I finally said, “I’ve got to go and take a break. I need to go out there and explore that part of my life.” What was it for you? Are you laughing at me, or are you laughing because you recognize this? Because I see your smile all of a sudden.

Rob: I like your story.

Andrew: It’s okay. The audience is laughing at me right now.

Rob: Yeah. Well . . .

Andrew: What was it for you?

Rob: The low point? Yeah. It was also about relationships as well, that I wasn’t really happy with my relationship, and a level of confusion about relationships, and also feeling like I wasn’t a success in my relationships. Being in my thirties, not really having a girlfriend I wanted to get married to.

Andrew: But you were in a relationship at the time?

Rob: I was, but we’d broken up.

Andrew: Okay. So, the break-up is what made you reevaluate the life that you had made for yourself?

Rob: Yeah, and also being isolated. I think, from my own personality, I can be really obsessed, and what drove me previously was success in business, trying to be a successful person, and I kind of, maybe, was a bit obsessed by it, honestly, to the degree where I didn’t have success in other areas of my life, because I was really focused on that. I think that, I feel that I have more balance in my life now. It doesn’t sound like an advertisement for entrepreneurship, does it?

Andrew: You know, we have to talk about it as it really is. The thing that I love about this, is that we’re not trying to sell people on some kind of get rich quick system, so we don’t have to sell a lifestyle. We just have to have a real conversation, and then they can pick whatever is relevant to them from this conversation. It may not even be relevant to them right now. Maybe ten years from now, they’re going to think back, and say, “Oh. Andrew interviewed that Rob Rawson something, and that story sounded ridiculous what he said about being isolated, but now it’s actually feeling true. He did something. I’ll go do something like what he did. Maybe I’ll try breathing all day. Maybe I’ll try finding something else.”

Let’s get real here, too. The income goal, that you told me about earlier, is what drove you and what made you to get more out of yourself than those other people who didn’t set those kind of goals for themselves. Once you drop that goal setting, once you drop the obsession, once you start opening yourself up to other aspects of life, don’t you reduce your effectiveness? Aren’t you less hungry, less strong, less able to conquer?

Rob: For me, the skills that I’ve learned over the last ten years in business are enough for me to continue to be successful, even if I have less drive. I think that’s one thing. Secondly, I think if you’re a more stable person, you actually are more successful. That kind of just being obsessed is not a sustainable way of being. It’s not a happy way of being. I think it’s good to have a certain amount of balance.

Andrew: The only yardstick that I really know in business, that could apply across several businesses, is revenue and profits. Would you say, today, with this new understanding, more maturity, more well roundedness, that you’re bringing in more of a profit than you were back in the obsessive days?

Rob: Not right now, but there’s a bit of a time lag. I think that what I’m doing now is a more sustainable long term, better business. Where I’m actually making money right now is from real estate investments in the United States, because there’s really good opportunities at the moment. There’s really fantastic real estate deals. My Internet businesses are making a smaller amount of money at the moment.

Andrew: I see. What kind of real estate are you into?

Rob: I’m doing flips in Florida and also in Las Vegas. What I did, basically, is I went online to this site, LoopNet, which is this place where people look at multi-family residential and commercial real estate, and then I advertised there. I’d got like 300 different people contacting me to say, hey, I’ve got this deal or I’ve got this deal. Then, out of that 300, I whittled it down to five partners. So, I’m working with five guys, and there’s some really amazing stuff that they’re doing. One guy, he bought a property for $195,000, and he’s listing it, after about $100,000 of work, he’s listing it for $795,000, really upside potential.

Andrew: When was this? I thought that this whole flipping thing died back when the whole mortgage crisis hit.

Rob: No. I think it just depends on the person, whether you can be successful at flipping. But I’m doing some holds as well. I’m also buying mortgage notes as well. So, just a few different strategies.

Andrew: What’s a hold?

Rob: I think there’s a lot of opportunities now, probably a lot more than before, because nobody’s got the cash to buy.

Andrew: What’s a hold? You said hold earlier. What is that?

Rob: Buy and hold.

Andrew: Oh. Buy and hold. So, you’re doing some buy and hold, some flipping, and some, what was it with the mortgage notes?

Rob: Mortgage notes. Actually, that one’s in Detroit, probably the worst city in America. Basically, I buy properties there, and it’s almost like a lease deal. We’re leasing it to the person. But they’re buying it off of you.

Andrew: I see. And the flipping, are you buying these places yourself, or are you investing in apartments?

Rob: No. I’m investing with other investors.

Andrew: I see. Those guys go out there. They find the building. You put the money up. They put in the work, and then you guys flip it, and you make the money.

Rob: Yes.

Andrew: I see. All right. That’s a big part of where your revenue’s coming from. The other part of your business that’s going on today is outsourcing. When did you get into that?

Rob: I’ve been doing outsourcing for about six years. Maybe five years, actually. I went to the Philippines about five years ago.

Andrew: You moved to the Philippines to start this?

Rob: Yeah. I just turned up, actually, in Manila, because I heard about outsourcing to the Philippines, and actually, I met one guy who’d had a team in the Philippines. So I thought, I’m just going do it. I turned up in Manila in a hotel, and I just started it. It was quite a funny story, actually.

Andrew: Was this because you wanted to get outsourcers for the AdWords affiliate SEO business?

Rob: It’s a combination of wanting people to help with the programming and other aspects of that business. I wanted to learn what it was like to have a team of people. I just thought the opportunities in building a team in the Philippines was just phenomenal, because there’s a really great, talented workforce, and I just knew about those opportunities, and the ability to outsource for other companies as well. I just thought it was a good area to get into, and I just wanted to try it.

Andrew: Okay. Wow. How long were you living in the Philippines?

Rob: Three and a half years.

Andrew: Wow. Doesn’t that make you feel even more isolated? Here you are, a Westerner in the Philippines You don’t look like the locals. Did you speak the language? What was it? Do they speak Dhali there?

Rob: They speak Tagalog.

Andrew: Tagalog. What am I saying, Dhali. Dhali’s a . . .

Rob: They mostly speak English, actually. That’s the reason why [inaudible 46:45] in the Philippines, because everyone speaks English.

Andrew: I see. Okay. Did you feel like an outsider, though? Did you feel isolated?

Rob: Yes. I definitely felt isolated. I wasn’t really happy. I didn’t have a great social life. I was basically working and just focused on working.

Andrew: I see. This was still through your period of obsession. The obsession ended when you were in the Philippines

Rob: My obsession ended . . . when did my obsession end? I don’t think my obsession is totally ended, but I think my isolation probably ended about a year ago. Yeah, that’s it.

Andrew: Really? Is that when you met whoever’s sitting next to you, who you keep looking at?

Rob: It’s a bit more complicated than that. I can’t really talk about that right now, but I can say it’s more to do with my inner state of mind, rather than who I was with. My inner state of mind before was just creating isolation, whereas now, I create connection. Even though I do spend a lot of time on my computer, I enjoy that, and then I also go out and meet people.

Andrew: Did you find some kind of religion in the last year or so? Is that what it is? Did you find a religion?

Rob: I found many religions over the years. No.

Andrew: No. It’s not that. Because I’ve got to tell you. If I was starting a cult, if I was starting a new religion, I’d want you in it, because you’re a nice guy. You’re easy to talk to. You’re doing well for yourself. That means you could contribute to the organization and contribute financially. You can inspire other people, and you’re in a state where you might be open minded to it.

Rob: If you’re planning to start a cult, I’ll be your first member.

Andrew: That’s it. Mixergeology. That’s too much. You see? You’ve got to come up with a good name. Imagine if Christianity had a bad name. Do you think it’d spread as fast? Maybe. I don’t know.

All right. So you start that business, and then at some point, you decide that you’re going to leave. What do you do with the company when you decide that you’re going to go travel the world?

Rob: I was already traveling the world for four or five months, so I was kind of managing it remotely. But I had an office, and I had systems and so on for that office. I would just have certain ways of managing that team. When I really left, it was when I actually got rid of the office. That was when I started traveling full time, one month at a time, different locations.

Andrew: Where are you now?

Rob: I’m actually in Ukraine. Last year I went to Italy for a month. I went to France for a month. I was in the U.S. for two months. Japan, Colombia, all over the place.

Andrew: Wow.

Rob: Sort of the Timothy Ferriss four-hour work week lifestyle, in some ways.

Andrew: Yeah. It seems like you’re not taking to heart the four hour part, but the traveling part you’ve accepted.

Rob: Yeah. I probably haven’t taken into account his philosophy fully, in that I’m still working quite hard, as I do that. Even while I’m traveling, I sort of stick in a location, get the Internet, get my computer, and then just go out at nighttime and work during the day.

Andrew: Okay. We’re talking to you now at your place, where I guess you work. Right? You work from your apartment in the Ukraine?

Rob: Yes.

Andrew: What are you guys doing tonight? You and whoever is there or not there?

Rob: Nothing special, just talking to you.

Andrew: Okay. I’ve got to tell you. I’m so dying to find out who’s there and what the story is. I can’t believe you’re willing to tell me how much money you made, why it didn’t work, where you are in the world, but that’s the one thing that you’re not comfortable saying. This has got to be some story.

Rob: Well, she’s a really special girl. She’s beautiful.

Andrew: All right.

Rob: Yeah. That’s all I can say.

Andrew: That’s all you can say?

Rob: Yes.

Andrew: Even to me? To Andrew? We’ve bonded over here. I told you about how I was a big loser who was dating less than Ross from “Friends.” I told you I was a big loser who was watching Ross from “Friends” and envying his lifestyle. But it’s all right.

Rob: Well, I think for me, the thing that, in my relationships, the thing that has changed in my life is that I’m more with other people, and it actually comes back to the meditation that I do. Before, I was actually a very vague person, so if I was talking to you, I’d just have a thought, and then I’d just go off with the theories. You know what I mean? And I wouldn’t really be present when somebody was there. I wouldn’t necessarily greet them, because I was just lost in my own thoughts.

Since I did that really intense meditation, it actually has changed the way that my mind works, such that I am a lot more focused and with other people and living in the moment thing, basically. I’m not really worried about the future so much, just living in the moment, being present. That’s really helped me to be more happy in my relationship.

Andrew: Give me some advice. How do I do this properly, because I’ve got to tell you, I will sit and answer e-mail, and suddenly, I’ll go, “What’s going on on Hacker News? What is the top story right now? I’ve got to go check it out, but I promise I’ll be right back to e-mail.” But, I need to know what’s going on, because it’s in my industry, so I click over to Hacker News. I’m on Hacker News, and I click over to one of the stories there. That story seems important, because it’s related to my business. It’s someone who I might interview in the future. I go over to their website, and then I say, “Huh. I wonder who owns this website. Let’s go to” And I’ll click and see who owns the website to see what kind of business he’s doing. Well, then do you know what I’m also curious about? Are they getting more traffic than me? Let’s go to, and plug that in.

Do you see how my head’s going in this loopy, nutsy, unproductive way? It’s been happening to me lately. You don’t seem to have it. How do you do it?

Rob: I know exactly what you’re talking about, because I’ve had exactly the same problem and sometimes I still do. It’s just this kind of Internet schizophrenia. You’re going from one website to another website and your brain’s all over the place, right?

There’s multiple things that help with it, but I think the number one thing for me is having a list of your top tasks for the day, and you just start at number one. I use my software, Time Doctor. It actually makes it really evident that that’s what you’re working on at that time, and you just go from number one, and then you go to task number two, and then you go to task number three, and you just really focus on that sequence and not getting distracted by all of the things that come up.

Andrew: Time Doctor. That’s your new software to help people manage their time. The idea is that they can see where there time is being spent, and they can see where their employees’ time is being spent, so that they can make sure that they’re not getting distracted the way that I just described. You said that it makes it very evident what you’re working on at any given time. How does it do that?

Rob: It actually has an activity bar. So, if I look on my computer screen right now, it says “Call with Andrew.” It’s just there on my activity bar. It’s one factor, because there has to be multiple things. It’s also the fact that you’re really, consciously selecting, now I’m working on this task, now I’m working on this task, and those sorts of things. Also, when you go to Facebook, it pops up, and asks you, “Are you still working on this?” It actually knows those kind of distracting websites, and it pops up and asks if you’re still working on that same task.

Andrew: I see. You know what? I did something like that a while back, where the Mac comes with some kind of Post-It Note software, so I’d put up the Post-It note, and I’d say, “This is all I’m working on right now.” And if I got distracted, I’d know I’m clearly distracted. I can’t fool myself. I’m supposed to be doing e-mail, or I’m supposed to be building this page, but what it missed was what you’re talking about, which is, when I do start to get distracted, it’s not a clear decision. It’s not like I say to myself, “Let’s go and waste some time on Facebook.” I just stop paying attention to that little Post-It note, and I start drifting off to one page that is relevant to the work I’m doing, but then I drift from there to less relevant, and less relevant, and less relevant pages, and before long, I might end up on Digg, the least relevant page on the Internet, I bet. I see. So your software would snap me right back?

Rob: Yeah. It helps to do that. It’s obviously not 100%. It’s up to you, also, but it definitely is a guideline that kind of helps to get you on track.

Andrew: All right. So, the site is It’s in beta, or as you told me earlier, it’s in beta [ph]. Beta is the way that Europeans and Australians say it.

Rob: Yes. The Australian pronunciation.

Andrew: I’m going to have to take that Australian and European pronunciation. I think it would make me a little more impressive here. Imagine if I did all of this, with my stumbling, but I had a British accent. People would just think this is the most sophisticated show on the Internet. Forget Leo LaPorte.

Rob: Yeah. You would definitely sound more sophisticated if you had a British accent. I recommend you try it.

Andrew: Right. “Hello, Lovey. Governor. Welcome, Governor.” The problem with that is that the British people, they’re furious with me. They think that I’m a little too aggressive. They would have thought that me asking you about the personal stuff was maybe the worst thing on the Internet. They could take porn in their newspaper. They could deal with violence on TV, but if you ask someone, “How much money did you make ten years ago,” they hate you. That’s a little too far, bub. I’m not kidding. I’ve got e-mails from people like that.

I got on the phone with one woman. I said, “You’re complaining about me on Hacker News. You’re saying that I’m a little too rude. What do I do? I’m trying to be nice here. Give me feedback. I’ll accept it.” She said, “You know, probably it’s just a cultural thing. We just don’t deal well with that.”

Rob: Yeah. Definitely different attitudes, but I think it’s good to be honest and to be straightforward. I think that I try to live from a philosophy of radical honesty. I don’t live up to it, but that’s my goal.

Andrew: All right. Radical honesty. So, radical honesty? Will you turn your camera to the side?

Rob: No.

Andrew: All right. It’s radical honesty, not radical I’ll tell you everything you want to know. I understand. All right. Let’s end it this way. I want to go back and focus on the mission that I promised my audience I’d be focusing on. How about one piece of advice? Up until now, it’s been your story. Let’s just say to someone who’s heard you, who says, “Andrew, you fired me up. Rob, you gave me some insight. I want to go do something.” Rob, what something could they go do now?

Rob: The one piece of advice, to be successful, I would say is massive action. I kind of hinted to that already, in saying, for example, when doing keywords, don’t do 20 keywords, do 20,000. I use the same philosophy in many areas. For example, in the real estate deals, don’t interview ten people about being a potential real estate partner. Interview 300. I managed to be able to do that, because they just e-mailed me. I didn’t accept any calls. I just had e-mails, and 300 e-mails, you can deal with that. Then, if you’re hiring somebody, I recently hired a programmer. We literally interviewed dozens and dozens and dozens of people that all failed a very difficult test, and in the end, I think we found somebody phenomenal to work with. But if we had given up after interviewing 20 people, we probably wouldn’t have found that person. We might have settled for someone not quite as good.

So, that concept of taking massive action. How could you do ten times more action than you previously thought was possible? How can you automate things so that it is possible to take ten times more action? I think that one piece of advice is one of the most powerful things that people can implement in their own business.

Andrew: Take massive action. I love that. I’ll tell you what. If you’re up for it, if I haven’t turned you off completely to my work here, when Time Doctor comes out, if you’re up for coming back here and talking about how to take massive action and doing a whole program on and massive action, I’d love to have you back.

Rob: Sure.

Andrew: All right.

Rob: Yeah. That software is free at the moment, because it’s in beta, but, yeah. I’d love to come back. That would be great. It’s really interesting chatting with you. I’ve actually listened to a few of your interviews, and they’re really great interviews, really interesting stuff.

Andrew: Well, thank you. Thanks for the compliment. Thank you all for watching. I’m Andrew. Rob Rawson, great interview. Take massive action, and come back and tell me about it. Bye, everyone.

Rob: Okay. Bye.

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