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EFP 73: From Crushing It To Getting Crushed (With Josh Escusa)

Justin Cooke December 6, 2013

We’ve all heard the interesting story of the entrepreneurial hero’s journey. From zero to hero. The overnight success who is now driving a nice Ferrari around town because, hey, why not?

Introducing Josh Escusa of Form Your Future

Today we’ve got an interesting interview that looks into the story of someone who saw exponential growth but ran into some bad luck along the way. This isn’t your ordinary hero’s journey folks. There’s a series of ups, ups, and more ups, with one tragic down with effects still being felt today.

Josh EscusaI interviewed Josh Escusa from and listened to his stories along with the lessons learned in the past several months. Josh was a great guest and you’re going to find a lot of value in it. You may find yourself relating with a lot of his struggles.

I’m feeling really good about this one and I’d even say this is our greatest guest interview ever. It’s powerful and worth the 40 minutes of listening.

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Josh Escusa from joins us this week.
  • Story of a guy who went from $100 to $200 to $3,000, and even $5,000 a month to losing it all.
  • The biggest mistake Josh made looking back at his successes and failures.
  • Difficulties found in almost any business partnership.
  • Burning out and hitting a wall.
  • “I have to go get a job now.” Enough said.
  • The value of working for a large corporation vs. the stresses of entrepreneurship.



  • “There’s definitely value to working for a corporation and not having to worry about everything.” – Justin – Tweet This!
  • “Don’t be afraid to fail. Start taking those little steps. Even if you fail keep moving forward.” – Josh – Tweet This!

Did Josh’s story speak to you? Did it inspire you and teach you some valuable lessons? As always, reach out on by leaving us a message on SpeakPipe or commenting below. Let’s start a great discussion.


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Intro:                                     Welcome to the Empire Flippers podcast. Are you sick and tired of gurus who have plenty of ideas but are short on substance? Worried that ebook you bought for $17.95 won’t bring you the personal and financial freedom you long for?

                                                Hey, you’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of niche profits without the bullshit. Straight from your hosts Justin and Joe, from Empire Flippers.

Justin Cooke:                     Welcome to episode 73 of the Empire Flippers podcast. I’m your host Justin Cooke and I’m here with my business partner extraordinaire Joe ‘Hot Money’ Magnotti. What’s going on brother?

Joe Magnotti:                    What’s up everybody? Recording from my hot suite here at this nice luxurious hotel.

Justin Cooke:                     Hot Money’s got a hot suite, buddy. Yeah you’re out of town, man. When will we get you back to Davao? You’re coming back for Christmas, right?

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I’ll be back in the next couple of days and yeah it’s been a great couple of days, got to meet a millionaire and he took me on his boat for a spin in [inaudible 00:00:57] bay, so that was pretty cool.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah so you leave me back here, working my butt off with the crew while you’re off cruisin’ around yachts with millionaires? Dude, that is, that’s sketch, buddy. That’s sketch.

                                                I’m coming next time, you’re not leaving me out. I’m kind of joking but I’m kinda not right now, I’m be perfectly honest with you.

                                                 Dude, we’ve got a fantastic episode. You missed this but I did a recording, or I did an episode with Josh from formerly Basically it’s a great story because it’s not, it’s like the opposite of a heroes journey. You know? Basically him and his business partner were building up this business, they had some great momentum, they were on a great trajectory and basically lost everything overnight … and the partner problems that came with that and all the struggles that they had, it’s a really interesting story and so I’m really glad to share it with our listeners today.

                                                Before we do that let’s do some updates, news and info, buddy. So you’ve been doing a little bit of traveling. You’re coming back in a couple of days.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, I’m here with Dan Andrews and you know, we’re doing a little work, a little partying and we’re putting together some stuff that I think we’re going to announce next week … but yeah, you know. It’s great to get out of Davao once in a while but I also miss some home cookin, so.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah buddy, we’re going to have some … a fantastic dinner.

                                                Yeah next point we wanna bring up is we’ve got a remarketing campaign we’re looking at doing. Basically, what remarketing and retargeting is, is it takes the people that have been to your site previously and you know, cookies them, and then will show them ads. So if they go on Facebook later they may see something showing up as Empire Flippers. We thought this was a great idea for people that were looking for sites to purchase, maybe they didn’t find one they liked and then we can target them a couple of weeks later. Potentially bring them back to the market place. So that’s something we’re going to be rolling out probably in January or February. Really excited to see how it works out.

                                                The good thing about it is it makes us really break down our numbers as far as what’s an email subscriber worth to us? What’s a site buyer worth to us? So it’s making us dig into our numbers a bit more and really get that down to make sure we’re getting, you know, a positive ROI and, you know, good spend on our dollars there.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I’m really excited about this as well, definitely think this could squeeze some more sales out of our existing customer base and hopefully, help people make their decision. You know, maybe they … that’s the whole thing with retargeting, remarketing, right? Is that people come to your site they don’t buy but they forget about it and then if they get reminded, you know, they can come back and make their decision to buy.

Justin Cooke:                     Last point I wanted to talk about is, we’ve got a … there’s a blog post from Andrew Henderson over at and he’s talking about the top five cities or locations for bootstrapping entrepreneurs, and I was a little surprised and pretty happy to see Davao at number one. So he mentions a few other cities but has Davao at number one for a couple of reasons, including us being down here and a great support network and you know, cost of living of course. And then I was actually emailing back and for with him, I was on his podcast a couple weeks ago, we’re emailing back and forth. He’s actually coming down for Christmas, so we’re gonna get to hang out with Andrew a bit, you know, have him around for Christmas. He wanted to do the Christmas gift giving project that we’re doing right before Christmas this year so, it’ll be fun having him down here, hosting him in Davao and showing him around the town.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, I haven’t read the article yet but I did see the email and I’m interested in meeting him and talking to him because I agree, I think Davao is a great place. Every time I travel like this I do miss it if just for the fact that it’s cheap, it’s safe and it definitely feels like home.

Justin Cooke:                     Alright if you wanna check out that article make sure to check the show notes, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

                                                Let’s get right into the heart of this week’s episode.

Intro:                                     This is the Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin Cooke:                     So everyone talks about the heroes journey, you know the position from, ‘I was sleeping on my mother’s couch to building a hundred million dollar start up.’ The sleazy internet marketing entrepreneur that was sleeping on the streets, and now he is next to the Ferrari and, ‘You can do it, too,’ stuff. But, that doesn’t, you know, that’s typically not how real businesses work. I mean, you have much larger ups and downs, much larger swings and sometimes it’s not all positive. It’s not the heroes journey and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

                                                What would you do if you had a fantastic trajectory? If you had a great business that looked like you could take over the world, and all the sudden it came crashing down around you. How would you react? And I think, you know, Josh is an excellent story of that. You know, he was a partner at a company called Him and his partner were … they started out with something else and eventually switched into building niche sites, had a ton of success and were really working their way up and they took a huge hit and then he was able to bounce back from that.

                                                So, I’m really excited to have Josh on the program today. Josh what’s going on, buddy?

Josh:                                      Hey, Justin. Glad to be here.

Justin Cooke:                     Cool man, so we’re going to get right in to it.

                                                When you started off WSO Testers, you had a partner named Trevor. What were your reasons for getting started with your own business?

Josh:                                      Yeah so, to actually, the way it started was actually before WSO Testers … a lot of people don’t know this but I actually started off building websites and selling them on Flippa. I stared these brand spanking new websites which I would sell these back linking services or article writing services, you know, I saw some people were doing it online and it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. So essentially, I took my first site, built it from scratch and sold it for $200, the very first site I ever built and that was kind of my link to really starting something online … to actually see that there’s actually money to be made. I was lucky that my first site actually sold.

Justin Cooke:                     That first bit of cash is exciting, right? You saw the site on Flippa and you’re like ‘Oh, people are buying stuff, and they’re willing to pay me money for profitable sites I build.’

                                                How did you, so you were doing that, you’d built a few sites and you were selling them and starting to realize the value. How did you and your partner, Trevor, hook up? Tell me kinda how that played out.

Josh:                                      Yeah, so initially he actually introduced me into online marketing and this was through some guru that he had joined one of his big sessions and paid a good amount of money to go into it and the guy showed him how to make all this money and then Trevor essentially relayed that to me, and then that’s how I started building sites to begin with. But then, he actually wasn’t able to be successful with that at first and then later on he came asking me how I ended up doing that and so, eventually we ended up partnering back up.

                                                So that was kind of our thing … was how we started off.

Justin Cooke:                     So he was on a different kind of internet marketing journey through a guru, through one of those conference type of things-

Josh:                                      Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     And you’d built some profitable net sites and you’re not crushin’ it but you’d made a little bit of money and he said,’ Wow, you know, I’m kinda suckin’ at this. I like the niche site, you know, building profitable-ness, that kind of works.’

                                                So why did you guys come up with WSO Testers? What was that? Why were you thinking about testing out?

                                                And for anyone listening that doesn’t know, a WSO is a Warrior Special Offer on the warrior forum. It’s a place where people can list, generally info products … and your plan was to test those out?

Josh:                                      Yeah, initially that was the goal. When I created WSO Testers, I was thinking that we were just going to test a bunch of these WSO’s, and hopefully come up with a method that was actually making a decent amount of money. And then we stumbled across sites like Niche Pursuits with Spencer Haws, and then we stumbled across your site and then we decided to move in that direction.

Justin Cooke:                     Okay so, you guys decided to pivot, get away from WSO’s testing and go to the niche sites.

                                                When you and Trevor started out, did you have an agreement with your partnership? Like, what happens if you guys are wildly successful, if things don’t work out … what’s your exit plan?

                                                Joe and I talk a lot about partnerships because, you know obviously, we’re in one but we’ve struggled with that and, some of these things we didn’t have clear when we started.

                                                What was your plan? How did you have that structured?

Josh:                                      You know the crazy part about when I started, it was my first business that I had been in so, our partnership set up was actually pretty lackluster. We didn’t, we had some … the basic formal documents like, ‘Oh, you know, he gets this much and I get this much and if it all fall through then, you know, we’re percentages are split this way and that way.’

                                                But in the end, we actually didn’t have a whole lot set up in that aspect.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, I think that’s pretty typical. So, people start their business like, ‘Hey man, let’s do this.’ ‘Yeah, sounds good,’ and when you don’t have much of a business it doesn’t matter all that much cause you’re just starting off, right and-

Josh:                                      Exactly.

Justin Cooke:                     And then it starts to grow into something and you’re like, ‘Okay well maybe we should kind of get this cleared up.’

                                                So you start off and together you guys are building niche sites, were you doing it yourselves to start?

Josh:                                      Yeah, initially we started off doing our own. So, we started off with our first, I think, 30 sites so after watching … after seeing your website we said, ‘You know, if we’re going to do this we better go all out and start making a ton of sites,’ and then by doing lots of sites we’d be able to test on all of them at the same time and that way we find something that works hopefully.-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      But yeah.-

Justin Cooke:                     Okay so you started off, you were doing 30 sites yourselves to kind of give it a test. Now normally it takes a few months for those sites to kinda start coming around.

                                                At what point did you realize that you were on to something that you might wanna, you might have something here?

Josh:                                      Sure yeah, actually it only took about one or two months before our first site started making money and we had a pretty good winter, I believe right off the bat. So out of those 30 sites I think within the first two months we were seeing close to two hundred dollars show up just from those sites.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      And then in our mind we were thinking, ‘Oh, you know, we can sell any one of these sites for a good multiple of its monthly value.’

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah which, yeah we definitely realized too.

                                                We were probably about four months in and about $10,000 invested in the project before it started to turn around a little bit. We started to-

Josh:                                      Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     Pull out a profit.

                                                How far in were you guys as far as like, investing, purchasing sites and paying for the content and stuff, before it started to turn around? Was it when you started selling the sites?

Josh:                                      Yeah, well actually it wasn’t when we started selling the sites. We didn’t start selling right away. We had a decent amount of money invested into it, you know, when we initially started … mostly into tools and what not. We probably spent, you know, a couple grand into tools and buying domains and then doing a little bit of back linking to it. But then, I think, we just … we were on a really quick upward trajectory, our first month was only a couple hundred but then the next month after that was significantly better. And then the next one after that was significantly better so, we were ready seeing the value right from the start. 

Justin Cooke:                     So at this time, Josh, there were a bunch of other people talking about niche sites and kind of their journey.

                                                What do you think about WSO Testers, you guys building this out, resonated with people as opposed to other people that were telling their journey and getting no visits, no traffic, no interest? Why you?

Josh:                                      You know, I actually don’t know why people chose to follow us. I think it just sort of happened, we didn’t really have any expectations when I actually, initially when I started wanting to build out these sites I didn’t expect anyone to follow my stuff. I just thought I saw you guys, people like your sites, AdSense Flippers at that time and also you know, Spencer Haws. I was looking at their sites and saw that they were building a blog and I thought, ‘Hey, you know, why don’t I do the same thing?’ So, I didn’t expect anything to really come out of the blog itself, I just thought was a fun avenue of sharing some information.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah we were the same thing where it didn’t matter to us cause we had our other business, kind of, paying the bills and we said, ‘You know, why not just give this a shot? If we build this up and it gets big, fantastic but,’ yeah, I wasn’t really sure that would happen. You know, our outsourcing blog we had done previously didn’t really get much traction, we didn’t really put ourselves into it but it didn’t get much traction. I just thought, ‘Ah maybe that’s not really something we do, but I’ll document it anyway and we’ll see what happens,’ and had a very similar story.

                                                But, at what point did you realize, ‘Okay, we’re starting to crush it? Let’s talk time frames, when did you guys get started? What was the month and year?

Josh:                                      With actually building the niche sites, I believe we started around February and then kind of like I said-

Justin Cooke:                     This is 2011?

Josh:                                      2012, sorry.

Justin Cooke:                     2012, okay. February 2012 you guys got started. And you started making a bit of cash, you started realizing it might be working a couple months later? Maybe April 2012?

Josh:                                      Yeah in April we started making our couple hundred dollars and so we thought, ‘Okay, you know, so some sites are starting to work so let’s focus on what’s working, let’s amplify what’s working,’ and so we kind of stuck with that and then the next month, I believe we actually jumped from $200 to well over $1,000 on our … the month right after that. So we were on a incredible spike as far as our monthly income from the sites went.

Justin Cooke:                     So, at that point you’re like, ‘Wow, this is exciting. We’re starting to do really well.’ And I think it continued from there. So, you continued on for months … did you, were you building the sites yourselves? At what point did you decide to add people to help out with the site creation?

Josh:                                      Sure yeah, after we did our first few sites we realized that we might be able to really leverage other people, so I think … actually to be honest, I can’t remember off the top of my head what month we started leveraging that help. But I know that once we did it took a big load off our shoulders and then we were able to focus on some of the other aspects of our business.

Justin Cooke:                     Did you work with VA’s or were you working with assistants or how did that play out?

Josh:                                      Yeah we worked with VA’s that we hired, actually on Odesk at that time.

Justin Cooke:                     Okay so you’re looking for VA’s, found a few VA’s and you start adding them, you know, integrating them into your business and they start helping you build these sites. You get to the point where you guys started to crush it. I mean, you were starting to sell a bunch of sites you had a good amount of traffic to Things were going really well.

                                                What time frame was that and how did that … how were you feeling about your business?

Josh:                                      Oh we were feeling awesome. Like I said, the speed in which we were accelerating was insane. We started off that first month two hundred, the next month was a thousand, the next month, I believe we jumped to over three thousand and then the month after that was over five thousand. So, we realized that we were really starting to crush it right away.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah-

Josh:                                      And especially when we took our, you know, our income and we thought, ‘Oh, you know, we’re making this much at Ad Sense, if we start selling these sites, you know, we could really make a killing.’

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah selling sites, doubling down, really growing it out. Did you have any plans at that point for tools and were you kind of thinking ahead down the road six months, one year, two years on what you’d be able to do?

Josh:                                      Oh yeah, I was thinking, you know, one- two years we were, we would be set.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      I was thinking by one or two years, you know, both me and Trevor were thinking, ‘Oh we’ll be making good five figures by that time. We could, you know, really just hit the ball out of the park and just do whatever we wanted to do, as far as a business goes, we could take it whatever direction we wanted to.’

Justin Cooke:                     You guys were definitely on a path and we were watching you, and it was awesome to see actually cause we saw when you started out.

                                                What was the turning point for you? What hurt cha?

Josh:                                      That would be the EMD update, when that came around October.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, so yeah we talked about this too. We did a public blog post about it. You guys publicly talked about it.

                                                Tell me about exactly what happened that day, that 48, that 72 hour period? What was going on in your guys business?

Josh:                                      Yeah so, that month in itself was set to be another absolute record month. I believe that it would have been the first month that we were gonna break five figures. We were looking at already about thirteen thousand, I think, that month and then what happened was, you know, the EMD update hit. I woke up that next morning to see that, you know, my AdSense had dropped significantly and it was heartbreaking, man … to see all that dropping overnight, but I think I was somewhat mentally prepared for it.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, you know and we’ve talked about this on previous podcast but there’s a bit of … and this happens I think all the time but there’s a bit of a imposter syndrome or a question of when this is going to come crashing down around your head. I mean, I think all entrepreneurs go through that and especially when you’re just starting off, its especially true because, you know, when you’re starting to find some success you’re like, ‘Uh when’s the other shoe gonna drop? When are we going to take a hit on this?’

                                                So you guys did take a hit, I mean, you took a big hit and you openly shared that information. You know, exactly the kind of hit you took, what you’re looking at.

                                                What was going on behind the scenes? What was going on with you and Trevor? What were you thinking? What were your plans to correct the ship at this point?

Josh:                                      Well, it was a really stressful time at that time and I don’t think either of us really knew what direction we were going to take it. We made some mistakes as far as not really following, or not really keeping track of all the little aspects of our business. I think that was one of the biggest mistake was not really tracking our back linking, we didn’t really track how it was coming in so when … by the time the EMD update hit, we had no idea what it hit so, we had very little opportunity to adjust at that point in time and of course we had bills and all sorts of stuff coming in so the stress started rising at that point.

Justin Cooke:                     What do you think it was that caused the hit? I mean it’s really hard to say exactly but looking back what do you think you could’ve done differently regarding the EMD update that might have helped your sites?

Josh:                                      Sure, I think for sure it was Anchor Text. Looking back on it, the type of back links that I was using we had the same Anchor Text throughout pretty much all of them and as we know that was a major thing that was hit during that time, probably along with the lack of content on the sites. So actually, I don’t even think the lack of contents was that big of a deal when I think back at it and when I look at the market today I don’t think that was too big of a deal.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      As far as the content, as far as that goes.

Justin Cooke:                     I get the Anchor Text thing, I think that definitely hurt a bunch of us. We took a big hit on that as well and we talked about it.

                                                So this is happened, its been a few days … maybe a few weeks and you realize that, you know, this isn’t a temporary thing. You’re taking a hit and, you know, on the back you said that you and Trevor were really stressed with bills. You know, how did it effect the partnership? Did that change a little? You know it’s easy in a partnership when things are going great, when things aren’t going as well, you know, things start to change. How did that change in the partnership?

Josh:                                      Yeah well we had, you know, really partner specific roles. I was [inaudible 00:20:07] on WSO Testers, I was really working on the website itself. I pretty much made most all the posts on the website and Trevor was working a lot on building the sites. So when it hit, you know, Trevor was kind of like at the point where one of us had to figure out what to do and he was the one that was kind of working a lot on with them, and I was doing some research on the backend but neither of us could figure out what to change. So, it put a lot of strain on our partnership, for sure, and we knew that if we couldn’t figure out an answer quickly then we would have to … we might just need to break the whole thing.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah that’s … ah man, I’m feeling ya. I know that’s a really painful thing to have to go through.

                                                Tell me about kind of your disaster recovery plans. What things did you try? So did you try to fix the sites? Did you guys try to head in a different direction? When did you realize that, you know, we’re going to have to just cut this?

Josh:                                      You know, we did try a little bit to fix the sites but ultimately I think at the same time I had a lot of personal stuff going on and I was sort of hitting my limit, as far as, I think I put too much on myself to try to build the sites, to try to do all this research, and I think with the business I was just getting, you know, that burnout that everyone talks about?

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      Yeah I was really hitting that point by that time so that’s why I also said emotionally I was kind of already prepared for something to happened and I already sort of created back up plans even before the update ever hit. So-

Justin Cooke:                     So you’re going through this, you know, partnership was a bit of a mess.

                                                What kind of personal things did you have going on with your business?

Josh:                                      Yeah, I think it was a big partnership thing. Me and Trevor, we were great friends but as far as keeping everything going as a partnership with the business, we had different ideas as of when to buy or when to sell a site or when to keep it. So we were already starting to see some difficulties as far as were to agree on stuff, so I think that added strain kind of led to the businesses downfall in the end.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      Since we didn’t know. When the EMD update, like you said, when everything was going well there was not a whole lot of stress but when the EMD update hit we we’re both looking to each other, ‘Hey, what are you going to do next?,’ and then he’s like, ‘Well, what are you going to do next?’

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      And so, yeah.-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah. Joe and I had a third partner and when that went south it was emotionally trying, it was psychologically trying, it was draining. I mean, it was very, very difficult on our business so our business definitely took a toll. And we have that now where Joe and I have major disagreements and stuff, you know, our business can suffer for it.

                                                When you realized it was over there must have been something that clicked in your mind. What was your first reaction? Where you said, ‘Okay, I gotta do something else. What am I going to do?’

Josh:                                      Yeah I had already been looking into going back to school which is kind of a funny thing. I had been looking at doing some stuff in Software Engineering and so kind of towards the end my mind was already not into the business even though … it was crazy cause we were doing really awesome, right? But as I was doing it, and as I was hitting that burnout, my mind started falling elsewhere so I was looking to going back to school and then maybe just trying to just pick up the business again later on.

Justin Cooke:                     So I remember for me specifically when it crossed my mind that I’m going to have to go get a job, right? This is after our Real Estate, our mortgage business had failed and I said, ‘God, I’m going to have to go get a job, you know.’

                                                You originally, or you finally came to that conclusion-

Josh:                                      Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     That must have been frustrating.

Josh:                                      Yeah that was definitely frustrating for me because not only that but to think that, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to get a job and I’m going to have to get a job that paid me much less than what this job was doing for me.’ So that was-

Justin Cooke:                     So you go back to the job market, you’re looking for a job and you find a job and … did you feel a sense of relief in that, you know, you’re no longer responsible for everything? You now have an area responsibility but all of the pressures of having your own business are lifted.

                                                Was there a sense of relief for you?

Josh:                                      Oh yeah, it’s amazing that … how much work actually goes into a business. It’s super mentally draining so by the time that I actually started working and having someone tell me what to do versus me having to come up with what to do all the time? It was actually a huge relief, I almost felt like I was on vacation.

Justin Cooke:                     You’re like, ‘Oh God, finally I can take some of the burden off and just focus on my one thing.’

                                                What are you doing right now, Josh? What’s your job right now?

Josh:                                      Yeah, I actually do online marketing for auto dealerships.

Justin Cooke:                     Okay cool, so you got that job and you felt the relief and then something was itching in you. Something wasn’t sitting exactly right, I mean, were you happy with your job? I mean, was that working out? Were you happy with what you were doing?

Josh:                                      Yeah, I felt like I was on vacation. I still, like even to this day, whenever I’m at my job sitting there and I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is so much easier. You know, I could just do this. This is … I don’t have to deal with the mental stress, I don’t have to think that, you know, each and everyday is a battle for me to provide for a family.’-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      So it’s a lot easier when you have someone just telling you, ‘Hey, you can do this.’ A lot of people think that that’s hard to have someone tell them what to do, and I can understand that, there’s portions of it, you know, having to bite down and listen to people. But, having to decide your future and make tough decisions everyday is also a, you know, it’s [crosstalk 00:25:48].

Justin Cooke:                     It’s easy to say, ‘Ah I don’t want to have to work for someone else and follow their rules.’ But, I remember feeling, you know … first off, when I took that job I didn’t feel like it was just a job I felt like I could make a real difference and I think that’s the entrepreneur in us where we hop into something and we go, ‘Okay, well I’m going to take this on like it’s mine, right? I’m going to pretend that this is mine and I’m going to own it, right? I’m going to take responsibility for it and drive it.’

                                                And so, I felt that, you know, I didn’t feel like I was giving up everything. You know, all the freedom I had, and that’s just a horrible thing and actually it wasn’t a bad thing. And I hear a lot of brand new, you know, let’s say early twenties entrepreneurs that go, ‘Ah, I’m not going to work for anybody, I’m going to start my own business.’

                                                But, there’s some value you find working in working inside of a larger organization where you’re not responsible for everything but you can really focus in on that one thing. So I’m not sure that, you know, not working in Corporate America is necessarily a benefit, I think there’s some value you get in that.

Josh:                                      Oh yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     How long did it take you to kind of recover from the you know, psychological and emotional struggles from the business and start to get that itch that you wanted to start something new?

Josh:                                      Yeah, so the big thing that was really bothering me before was that I was spending, I was literally working that 16, 18 hour day where I felt like I had to read everything. I felt like I had to read every blog post or everything that everyone put out so once I started working back in the working world or whatever, I started kind of getting the feel that if I wanted to start a business again I can’t be doing that. I can’t be spending 16 hours, if I just … if I can organize my time better, if I cannot let the business take over my life then I’d be able to actually achieve something. And once I realized that then the magic of thinking that I can own a business again started to really gain its appeal.

Justin Cooke:                     Josh, I think that’s common where, you know, the business can take you over if you let it. And so, I’ve struggled with that, I know other entrepreneurs have too and they’re so deeply focused on making their business work that they don’t realize, you know, the damage that it can potentially do to their relationship and-

Josh:                                      Oh yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     And ultimately hurt your role in the business. It can hurt the business because you’re too focused on it, I think. It’s like a, you know, a needy or clingy relationship, right? You’re having one with your business.

Josh:                                      Yeah I was failing hardcore at that 80/20 rule.

Justin Cooke:                     So okay, so you’ve done that and then you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do something new. I’m going to get,’ you know, you had this failure this psychological trauma … maybe that’s a bit of a overstatement but, you know, okay and then you say, ‘Oh you know what, I’m gonna put myself through this pain again.’ Why? Why’d you wanna do that?

Josh:                                      So I started realizing that that was the major flaw was my organization, right? And I started, I guess really looking back into your guys’ site and I listened to websites, I listened to [inaudible 00:28:44], and you know, of course, Spencer again. And then, I guess the whole [inaudible 00:28:51] thing just started creeping back up on me and I realized all the stuff that I did wrong the first time and that stuff that … all the weight that I put on myself by thinking that I had to do all, you know, listen to all these blog posts, keep updated with every single thing. And I started realizing that I could squeeze that time in and it just, I guess it just sort of clicked in my mind that I could actually really do this even while still working my full time job and it was a new challenge for me to see, could I actually make this same business even more profitable than it ever was before while having less time?

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah putting less time into it and investing less of your time into … I get that.

                                                Now, you know we talked about a big and fairly public crashing of WSO Testers but not everything was a failure in that business. What lessons do you think carry over into your new business that you learned from WSO Testers? What was working in that business that you think is likely to work well in this one as well?

Josh:                                      Sure yeah the biggest thing I learned was actually was how to really outsource my work. How to leverage other peoples work in order to help me with my time especially when I don’t have much of it. And so I learned how to do that with WSO Testers because at that time we were working with over 200 sites so my figured that if I could do at least a fraction of that and maybe build a few sites here and leverage the time of my VA’s again and do that properly then figured that I’d be able to recreate the success, so-

Justin Cooke:                     Cool.

Josh:                                      So I definitely learned a lot especially from the outsourcing sense.

Justin Cooke:                     So Joe and I have talked a bit about, you know, in a partnership … if you’re going to do a partnership it needs to be one plus one equals three or more, right? Because if you’re just putting your heads together and your coming up with double the effort, why are you not just doing it on your own?

                                                What was your reasoning for not having a partner in this business? Why are you going it alone? And how does it feel different?

Josh:                                      Yeah you just have more control over things, I think. Whenever I want to make any business shifts now I’m able to make that decision on my own. I think that partnerships are still good but you really just need a find somebody that thinks on the same level as you, someone that agrees with your business practices or someone, you know, if you wanna sell something and they wanna keep something then that really puts strain … if you gotta argue over every little thing, right?

Justin Cooke:                     Do you guys have the question about whether to sell sites or keep sites, was that a strain in your guys’ partnership back in the day?

Josh:                                      Oh yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     Joe and I did, we struggled with that so, which side were you on and, you know, what was that issue?

Josh:                                      I wanted to sell sites, I was a … I thought that, you know, that we could just … if we could get more income flowing in then we would have more money to invest and to bigger and better things or just even making even more sites in general.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, yeah.

Josh:                                      So I wanted to just, to sell much more of them than what we did.

Justin Cooke:                     Cash flow. Yeah, that was Joe’s position actually in our business that … well we actually came to it together but he didn’t want to put more money in and I wanted to put more money in and be a bit more risky with site creation so … yeah no I mean, if you don’t have cash flow in your business there’s not a lot of things you can do, it’s hard to improve, it’s hard to make your blog better, your podcast better.

                                                Listen to any of the top podcasters and they’ll tell you that, you know, when they started bringing in cash to their podcast they were able to make their show so much better and I think that’s true in any business, podcasting or otherwise.

                                                So what business lessons do you think you took away from WSO Testers that you, you know, are determined not to make again with Form Your Future? What do you want to make sure that you don’t do?

Josh:                                      I think the main thing is just properly leveraging my time, you know, the whole 80/20 rule, realizing what’s important in your business and focusing on that. Don’t get caught up on all the little details. I love listening to all the blogs out there, they’re super inspirational but if I spend all my time listening to those, if I spend all my time listening to podcasts, reading every blog post that comes out then I really have no time for my business. So, especially now when time is more limited for me that becomes an increasingly important for me to focus down and dial in on the stuff that is actually gonna progress my business forward and is going to, I guess, essentially going to make money in the end.

Justin Cooke:                     I like how you talk about, you know, the input versus output thing and you’re trying to balance that and I think you can kind of look at WSO Testers as a you know, it’s a learning experience but you were doing a lot of input at that time and hopefully you’ll be able to take some of that input you took then and, you know, that’s kind of sat up there and bounced around a bit and now you can apply some of those through more output with Form Your Future.

                                                To any of our listeners that are starting off and may have bought into the rags to riches, the you know, ‘I’m getting started, I’m going to work my way up and start crushing it,’ dream. What do you have to tell them? I mean, should they not buy into that? Should they be more cautious? What advice do you have for people just starting off that thinks that that’s their trajectory, too?

Josh:                                      Oh you definitely have to be more cautious. One of the big things that … when I follow people and they claim to have a transparent business typically you can see if they’re a transparent business. If you follow back to their old posts, kind of like one thing I noticed when I followed you guys back in the day, I went back to your very first post when you guys maybe it was eight dollars on your first month or so.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      And so seeing that and knowing that there was actually a start to this. You didn’t just come off from out of thin air and claim to make millions of dollars and everyone should follow you. No, you had a starting point, you had … you know, you’re like anyone else.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      The same thing with Spencer, I actually found his very first post when he was still trying to learn how to do stuff and now, you know, he’s doing great and so I guess, following that initial start up. Not trusting these people so easily event though they say that they’re making this much money or that much money, you really gotta do your due diligence.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah I think its, even people … and this is, I’ve wondered about this … people that are giving fairly good advice but they’re kind of lying about how they came to it or they’re not being completely honest about how they came to it. I think that’s, its not good. I mean, you should avoid that so when I find that someones not being honest about kind of where they came from or how they came up in the, you know, internet marketing community or whatever. I just I gotta discount everything they’re saying cause I just, I’m just not buying it and there’s enough other people out there that are legitimate.

                                                Speaking about Spencer, his original site wasn’t Niche Pursuits, it was some other site. It was still up and yeah, it was so funny to watch Spencer’s earlier posts and he was kind of less sure of himself and kind of figuring it out and yeah man.

                                                It’s great cause you can follow those real stories from people who are doing interesting stuff. And we talked, we did a podcast we called the Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster and it talks about kind of our odd trajectory, our entire business has been ups and downs. Legitimately, you know, down in the dumps and back up again and so we’re kind of used to the bouncing back and forth and it hasn’t been this crazy hockey stick, you know, growth curve, its been clawing our way up so I’m always skeptical of people that say, ‘Ah you know, let me just whip together this ten thousand dollar a month profit stream and I can just, I’ll just toss this out.’ And you hear that … whenever I hear that I’m like, ‘That is bullshit.’ I mean, maybe that happens for some people but you know, in the real world, the real entrepreneurs that I talk to that’s not realistic.

Josh:                                      Oh I think it’s just, it’s amazing how deeper you get into this game or the online space, the more you can actually just pick that out. You can just call B.S. on people-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Josh:                                      The moment that you see it. It’s like yeah, I’ve tried that, I know what happens with that.

Justin Cooke:                     So, where do you think you’re going to be taking Form Your Future in the future? Where do you think you’re taking this site? What do you want to see out of it over the next, let’s say, through 2014?

Josh:                                      You know, I’m just really going to take it a step at a time. Really what I wanna focus on right now is just doing niche sites. I kind of wanna dial in on a certain space, kind of like last year I did micro-niche sites but now I’m trying to build a little bit bigger sites with it  and I’m diving a little bit deeper into how I’m building my back links, paying a little bit more attention to it. So, paying a little bit more attention to every aspect of the sites that I build so that if something happens then I’m prepared to adjust to it a lot better than I did, you know, in 2012.

Justin Cooke:                     I love the fact that you’re doing the battle back and forth with Tongue Tran over at Cloud Living [crosstalk 00:37:43] which is now, I guess. I think that’s fantastic.

                                                You know, I got a chance to meet him in Bangkok, super nice guy-

Josh:                                      Yeah, awesome guy.

Justin Cooke:                     Just awesome, man. So yeah, I love what he’s doing over there.

                                                I’m really excited to watch your progress as well.

                                                Is there anything, you know, that I should’ve asked in this interview that you think would’ve been helpful for our listeners, for our readers? Anything you want … you wanna wrap up with?

Josh:                                      Yeah sure I think a lot of people talk about this but just don’t be afraid to fail cause you can kind of see what happened with us, you know, or with me. I failed big time, I failed a lot more than that in the past too, but I think there is a really good video out there, maybe it’s … I think it’s by Seth Godin where he just talks about, think of your failures as just methods of learning. You know, you miss a hundred percent of the shots that you never take. So just start taking those shots, start taking those little steps and moving forward and even if you fail you gotta pick yourself up and move forward.

Justin Cooke:                     Awesome, Josh. We’re going to put a link to that Seth Godin video in the show notes. I really appreciate having you on. I mean, it takes some courage to tell the story but also to get back on the horse man, after taking a bit of a public, online beating like that from Google. So anyway, really appreciate it. I’m sure that our listeners are going to get some value out of this.

                                                They should definitely check out your site over at I’m a fan I’m goin to continue to follow your blog and your goings on online so I really appreciate having you on the show, man.

Josh:                                      Yeah, thanks for having me, Justin.

Intro:                                     You’re listening to the Empire Fippers podcast with Justin and Joe.

Justin Cooke:                     Alright buddy, so let’s talk about some tips, tricks and plans for the future. So our tip for the week is actually What this is basically is a piece of software that allows you to do remarketing or retargeting and it allows you to do it on Facebook where apparently a lot of the people that will do that on Facebook require a very large spend and I guess the reason that they allow you to do it on Facebook with, you know, a lot smaller spend is because it’s automated. Now they do take a piece of your budget, I think it’s, you know ten percent or fifteen percent or something but it’s automated. It makes it really, really simple for you to do a remarketing, retargeting campaign so … if you’re interested in that, and you’re looking at that advertising route, I’d definitely check out They didn’t pay me to say it, but if they want to I’d be happy to take their money.

Joe Magnotti:                    Well I’m looking forward to getting this thing implemented and checking out too, cause there is definitely big value in this. I mean, this is what makes the internet advertising different than billboard advertising and if I could, you know, get a billboard back in my face a little bit further down my trip that I was interested in before of something to remind me of something that I might buy I mean that would work, right? So-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, I-

Joe Magnotti:                    Seems sort of concept.

Justin Cooke:                     I just love the fact that you’re basically targeting people that are already familiar with your brand and for us we don’t have this hardcore sales funnel so being able to kind of bring them back into our content and show them kind of what’s going on, I think will be great for us.

                                                Well that’s it for episode 73 of the Empire Flippers, thanks for being with us. Thanks for sitting through this interview, I think it was one of my best. I was really happy to do it Andrew Warner style and I really like to hear what you think about in the show notes, so definitely do let us know. Make sure to check us out on Twitter at and we’ll see you next week.

Joe Magnotti:                    Bye bye, everybody.

Intro:                                     You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers podcast with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up for more, that’s

                                                Thanks for listening.

Photo Credit: Garry Knight – Flickr


  • NinthCrown says:

    I’ve been following Justin & Joe’s, Chris Guthrie’s, Spencer Haws’, and Pat Flynn’s PodCasts. And I just built my very first niche site. But I feel like I’m spinning my wheels on it all. I need anyones help.

    My question is super basic…

    • I’d like to know how I rank in Google. I know I may not rank at top 10. But I don’t even know where I am. What tool do I use to see where I rank on Google? Even if I rank at 5,012?

    Please help!
    -Esteban Nina

    • Try using Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics. Both are free tools. Long Tail Pro has a rank tracker, but you will need to know the keyword you are looking to rank for and need to be careful not to hit Google to hard or your IP could get banned.

      • NinthCrown says:

        WOW! THE actual “Hot Money” replied to my post! I’m star struck! I like you more than Justin (Don’t tell him, it may hurt his feelings). 🙂
        I’m about to marry a beautiful Filipina and move to the Philippenes next year (not a joke). I’d really like build a business following your methods. I’m a huge fan of Empire Flippers and I listen to your PodCasts and those you reccommend daily (no joke).
        Your suggestions on using WebMaster Tools and Google Analytics… I’ve tried them both. I guess I need to learn how to read them. I guess I will research on how to do this on my own. I know for a fact I’ve made a mistake on the root keyword. I chose one that has 0 traffic. Spencer Haws suggests on one of his blogs that a newbie should start with two or more sites. Since my first site looks doomed, should I move on to the next one? Or should I build pages adding content with high traffic keywords?
        I do plan to purchase your starter package, but I’d like to start from scratch first to learn how to do it all as you guys suggest.
        Whether or not you reply to this post, I want to thank you and Justin for sharing your awesome business with me.
        BTW: I’m gonna attach a photo of me and my hot future wife.

        • Justin Cooke says:

          DEFINITELY hurt my feelings, but I won’t hold it against ya! 🙂

          When you make it out to the Philippines you should come visit! We’ve got friends in town and we’re all heading out tonight, actually. We typically meet up every Thursday night for either a “social dinner” or a more business-focused dinner on the third Thursday of every month.

          If you’re focused on a keyword that doesn’t have any traffic due to a mistake, I’d definitely move on. The idea is to spend little on the first sites you setup and see how they’re progressing before investing any more money. That way, you can test out niches without spending too much to get started on each.

          • NinthCrown says:

            I have to tell Joe I like him better because he’s a boxer! I want to be on his good side. 🙂
            The plans are for us to live in Makati. But you guys will be the first on the list to visit.
            I think what you say is a good suggestion. I will move forward.
            I have a question that your newbie audience may not have asked. And if so, please point the way so I can listen to that PodCast… Let’s say I bought a domain name, example: “” (yes I know it’s Seth Godin’s site). This is a made up name that no one will go out of their way for unless it was marketed. So if I made a mistake on a domain name, technically I could market the domain name to pull traffic my way.
            Or… not market the domain name at all and build subdomains: “”. Now all I have to worry about is ranking my subdomains.
            Google looks to rank pages not sites. Am I right?

    • Nick says:

      Hi Esteban. I know this is a much older post (2 months ago!!). But thought this might help anyone reading this in the future (today):

      You can track your Google rank by using the free version of the SEO Powersuite software, in combination with Google Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics (as Joe Magnotti pointed out).

      This will give you an idea of your site’s rank for each keyword that you are targeting. Hope this helps.

      • NinthCrown says:

        Hi Nick, thank you for the reply. I’m working on a new website. I’ve downloaded SEO Power Suite. And will be playing around with it today.

  • That damn EMD update…I’d have my own Scrooge McDuck money bin by now if it hadn’t rolled out 😉

  • Great podcast guys – love it.

    Just shows that persistence is key, and you gotta keep pushing no matter what life throws at you.

  • Tung Tran says:

    Love this espisode guys.

    This also resonates with me because i also lost over $1,000 when the update came last year. Ironically, that was all i had at that time.

    I agree with Justin that we can get tons of value on working with large cooperations. Starting young like me has some advantages but the biggest downside is the lack of experience. I’m really struggling with project management at the moment so i know that pretty well.

    Anyway, I’m learning fast from successful entrepreneurs like you guys :d

  • sebi 20 says:

    I am in the same situation with Josh, in fact, right now I am investing over 3k in building 70 niche sites.

    Also, I want to know what is the best method free or paid to track backlinks?


    nice podcast that rezonates with me, Ive been making niche sites since february 2012 like him 🙂

  • Nick says:

    Brilliant episode, Justin and Joe, I’m a serious fan of your work and your podcast.

    Sweet interview, Justin, very well handled. Thank you. Somehow, I enjoyed have only Justin run the interview, then getting Joe back in at the end (I realise he was away…on a yacht). Nice work.

    I really enjoyed listening to Josh speak about his successes and failures. Lots of takeaways for me. I’m kind of the opinion that partnerships are great, but only if both partners are exactly on the same page. I prefer friendships, or collaborations (join ventures?) to partnerships. In Josh’s case, perhaps the difference in opinion with his partner, was part of the reason why he got exhausted on his first run.

    I’ve used WSO Testers before. Loved it. I know he will do excellently well in this new venture. Kudos, Josh!

  • Great interview, Guys.

    Josh, thanks for sharing your story…what a roller coaster!

    I really dig the way your site looks – it feels familiar. 🙂

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