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Oh, The Strange Places You’ll Go – From Oil Grunt to Full Time Writer

Greg Elfrink Updated on February 29, 2020


I remember in elementary school, around fourth grade, my teacher having us write poetry.

I wrote a piece, which she asked my permission to read in front of the whole class. She said that if I didn’t give her permission, she would give me a detention.

As the words fell from her lips, I saw my peers’ faces transform into expressions of awe at what I had made. While I can’t be certain, I believe this is the moment I decided that my dream was to be a writer — as vague a profession as that is.

Given my childhood dreams, it makes sense that I am what I am today — a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur with a highly eclectic skill set. As I’m now coming up to my fifth month of living my dream, I thought my story could inspire readers out there, who have the skills but may not have “made it” yet in their business or life goals.

A lot of the readers of the Empire Flippers blog want to be a writer, a traveler, or a digital nomad. Helping people grasp this dream is part of what Empire Flippers does.

Our brokerage has literally helped people achieve amazing things through buying or selling a business with us. We have helped people adopt babies and buy houses. Some of our deals have launched people into the wealthiest top ten percent in certain Southeast Asian countries. We have helped others build entire portfolios of income-producing sites, which allowed them to quit their jobs and spend their lives with their families instead of in their cubicles.

While we try not to overdo it with inspirational rhetoric on our blog, I think every now and then it is important to remind ourselves that we really are doing some pretty amazing stuff over here.

We’re working on a pretty awesome testimonial page to highlight more of these accomplishments. It should be available soon. In the mean time, you can a few of the testimonials on our new About Us page.

Before I came out here, my life had led me to a very different place than the world of words. I was in the oil fields of Alaska, or, as I liked to call it, the Crude God’s temple.

I was working 84 to 110 hours a week, out in remote islands off the north coast of Alaska. I had worked other fields too, from Gulf of Mexico to the Bakkens of North Dakota. I’d been everywhere.

Towards the end of six years, I was thoroughly burnt out.

But the Crude God is a hard thing to escape, or at least it was for me — the money was good enough to keep me in “golden handcuffs.” It kept me tied to the field, and it made it hard for me to develop other skills.

The Power of Small Things

By the start of 2016, I had spent literally years jumping around. I would read authority blogs in all kinds of niches, all of them doing different things. I’d buy info courses on random prospects that might make money and end up just dipping my feet into the waters of various online business models.

By the start of 2016 I had finally become too burnt out to continue in the oil field.

At this time in my career, I was working back in my hometown of Anchorage, but still rarely saw family or friends. I was working 12 hours a day from noon to midnight, then 12 hours a day from midnight to noon the second week, getting seven days off or so before coming back for two more weeks of the grind.

I decided to write anyhow, so I added another ten to twenty hours a week to my schedule and started freelance writing in earnest. Honestly, I was just writing PBN content for $5-6 per 500 words for a long time. Luckily, I happen to be a fast writer, so, with some pretty fast fingers, I was able to get this up to about $30-40 an hour on average.

I remember one client of mine telling me that he would be just too burnt out to keep doing what I was doing. My response to him was, “Well, yeah, I am burnt out, but I don’t have many other choices.”

It wasn’t long before I had a giant portfolio of writing samples, which actually led me to bigger clients outside of PBN content. Soon I was writing epic posts for people’s blogs, some of them for pretty big marketers. I even ended up ghostwriting an entire ebook on copywriting for a women’s entrepreneur group.

The snowball effect had set in.

The power of small actions, small things, led me towards a singular, life-changing event.

From Email Subscriber to Content Marketer

I have known about Empire Flippers since back when their brand was still Adsense Flippers. I had signed up to their email list, thinking I could start building my own niche sites with the same gritty determination that I was using to write all of those PBN articles.

Instead of selling a website though, I saw an email from Justin about a content manager position opening up with Empire Flippers.

I applied with a “What the hell” attitude, and threw my hat into the ring. “Let’s see what happens,” I thought.

In the video I made for them, I brought up that the job listing mentioned how sometimes you might have to work a 12-hour day. I told them that sounded fantastic, it was about six hours less per day than some of my previous oil jobs, especially in North Dakota, where I walked around the prairies of North America deconstructing oil rigs while daydreaming of writing.

It is interesting that my original goal was to build niche sites and sell them, considering that I now write about the entire process for a huge community of people doing just that.

My first interview was intense, and I was pretty surprised when I got a call back the second time around. I stayed up after my 12-hour shift, got onto a Skype call with Justin and Joe, and talked it over. We hashed out a few things and, well, I was finally able to escape the Crude God.

Escape from the Crude God and into the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

I sold everything I owned (minus my house back in Alaska, which I rented out to a few friends), and left just over a month after the date I was hired as an apprentice for Empire Flippers. For the first few weeks at the new job, to be honest, I felt like I couldn’t leave my work that I was doing for them for any reason. No breaks, nothing.

A week after landing in Vietnam, I was still trying to catch my bearings. After all, it wasn’t long ago I was in a dark room with a pump slamming so loud that double hearing protection wasn’t enough to mute the sound. It wasn’t long ago I had to ask someone permission to even leave to go to the bathroom.

The bright lights of Saigon amazed me. The motorbikes moving like a terrestrial school of fish, swimming around me, as I walked through the streets and over the surreal sidewalks that seem to have no rhyme or reason as to how they are constructed. I’ve since learned these sidewalks are more for mopeds to park on than for walking.

Speaking of surreal, it is strange that just a few months ago I was locked up in a windowless darkened room spending all my time monitoring rigs around the world, while wondering what the world was like.

Now, here I am.

Five months later I have been to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. I’ve enjoyed some amazing beaches, done some island hopping, and awkwardly rode an undersized pony up a volcano

Plus, our marketing coordinator Mike Swig and I experienced an epic Spaghetti Challenge in the Philippines where we tasted every fast food spaghetti dish we could find (apparently, spaghetti is really big in the Philippines at Mcdonalds, Wendys, KFC and their home grown fast food chain Jolibees)


Still feel bad for this poor pony, but wouldn’t had made it without her!

During this time, I have met a huge network of people. Because of this apprenticeship position I’ve been able to connect with people and learn things that ensure I never have to go back to the oil fields.

I have met people whose blogs I was reading with envy just months before, in between throwing sacks of chemicals around while covered head to toe in mud and ice.

If you’re out there right now wondering if you could buy a site from us and make it work or build a site of your own to sell, my belief is that you can. You might have to learn a thing or two, but it is all very possible if you dedicate yourself to it. Just like an apprentice position, it takes time to grow and to garner the skill sets needed for success.

My story is a great example of that.

Of course, I would recommend reading our post on the 11 most popular online business models first to see which resonate with you.

What is It Like to Be an Apprentice?

Every apprentice position is a bit different. There is a lot to do. From writing and content management, to marketing and sales, development and designer positions, the list of roles out there for an apprentice is almost endless.

It can be incredibly difficult, exciting, and easy all at once.

Easy because I love the job. I don’t mind working long hours, coming up with new ideas, and of course growing my knowledge and skills. If you plan on being an apprentice, get ready to do some serious growth.

In order to hit the ground running and provide actual valuable content to our audience, I had to learn about buying and selling online businesses and how a brokerage functions at lightning speed.

Depending on your life circumstances, an apprenticeship may simply not be doable for you.

If you have children, a wife or husband, or something else seriously tying you down, it might be a lot harder to drop everything and fly out to a foreign country and start the digital nomad apprenticeship life. Luckily, I didn’t have these things in my life so I was able to take the risk.

Make no mistake, there are serious risks involved in taking a position like this.

You might fly out, and — a couple months down the road — the person that hired you realizes you’re just simply not good enough. It might be a crappy thing, you might be friends with the guy, but, hey, at the end of the day, it is still a business that needs to make money, right?

That goes back to why growth is so important: you need to be obsessed with getting better and delivering higher quality work all the time. You have to make the investment in you worthwhile for your employer and yourself.

All that being said, the title is still “Apprentice.”

So don’t have too much self-doubt. You’re not being hired as a Grandmaster or something like that, or even a journeyman, you’re still learning and it is okay if you have a lot left to learn. Don’t let lack of knowledge keep you from applying for a position that sounds awesome — just become even more obsessed with filling that knowledge gap.

Is it worth all the hard work, long nights, and struggle as you grow into the new position?

Well, for five months I’ve been having one of the best experiences of my working life, so yes.

Should You Seek an Apprenticeship to Escape a Job?

For me, it is simply what worked and gave me the opportunity and the chance to make a very different life than the one I was making on the howling tundras of Alaska. There’s not too much hyperbole in that statement. Those winds can be pretty fierce. I still remember seeing a 400 pound roughneck blown away by the wind, as he slipped on the ice while the wind dragged him around.

Located in the balmy climes of Southeast Asia, the apprenticeship program opened up awesome opportunities for me beyond just the job itself. I’ve made so many connections and learned so much that I am fairly confident I will never have to return to the oil fields.

The apprentice role is best for people who are obsessed with the work they are doing; it’s for people who actually care and are passionate. Good apprentices are not here to clock in and clock out, as even on the weekends you might find yourself working long hours. Granted, those weekend hours could be spent passionately talking about strategy with a few empty beers on a table surrounded by like-minded new friends.

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Where Can You Find An Apprenticeship Position?

There are a few places that actively promote apprenticeship positions. For example, Sean Ogle’s Location Rebel is a good place to start, where he periodically will email out apprenticeship positions that people are looking to fill. Another place is Taylor Pearson’s Get an Apprenticeship that might worthwhile to check out. Currently, our friend Karl at MonetizePros is also looking for an apprentice.

You could begin there, or you could simply create your own position. You could buy a niche site, or a few. In time, these might add up to enough income to quit your job, especially if you do some geographical leveraging. Living in Southeast Asia, the dollar can be stretched to afford a pretty good lifestyle.

If you’re interested, we have an entire marketplace dedicated to profit producing sites you can check out.

Or, you could build your own niche sites or online businesses and learn all the integral skills that come with that.

You can always look to us, too. From time to time Empire Flippers offers new positions. I have to say, we’re a pretty fun crowd to hang out with.

There is an almost overwhelming number of options out there for you.

Remember the power of small things. When you start going down this path, the smallest project can snowball into your biggest breakthrough.

I’m a living, breathing example of that.

I’ve gone from oil field grunt writing $5 articles, to full time writer, managing the content of the largest curated marketplace for online businesses, while traveling the world.

Enough small things might just change your life.

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  • Andrew Voda says:

    More than answered my question about how you went from the oil fields to writing! I could really picture you covered in crude oil clothes and safety gear cranking out $5 PBN articles. Good stuff.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Haha I am glad you were able to get a visceral image of my old career Andrew 🙂

      My current writing tasks are far more fun (and challenging) than the old $5 PBN articles. But the route I went is still really the route I recommend for anyone to work on their writing chops fast. Don’t get paid a lot, but you DO get fast and start seeing some of the finer ways of going about creating content. Plus, builds a huge portfolio super quick you can use to squeeze into bigger projects with clients.

  • brad swain says:

    Hi Greg
    a real inspiration I’ve spent 30 years at the mercy of the crude gods I am hoping to follow your lead great post.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Brad!

      Thank you so much man, that means a lot.

      The Crude God can be very unforgiving, and it can bind people to it. The golden handcuffs as they say.

      Sometimes you work so much that you just feel exhausted and burnt out and that you can’t even do another thing. It might take a while, but fight against that idea, take a course, learn some skills and apply that same grittiness that a roughneck has when they’re looking at a 12 hour tour of tripping wet pipe out of the hole.

      (Or go the extra length and envision yourself as the derrick man standing at the top of the drill rig having to rack back all that pipe during some arctic below freezing temps – that kind of grittiness will serve you well since it often takes 6-8 months before seeing any real fruit of your labors online).

      I believe in you buddy, looking forward to hearing your success story!

  • Karl Kangur says:

    Awesome stuff and truly inspiring story, Greg!

    Excited to see what you’re going to be doing a year or two from now 🙂

  • Great post Greg. It has been a wild ride and I am looking forward to conquering more mountainous volcanoes together, literal and figurative volcanoes that is!

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