Meet Justin Cooke, Adsense Flipper: Work & Travel Series

One of the most common questions I get from readers is “How do you do it?,” meaning how can I afford to travel and live abroad continuously with no 9-5 job.

Before I left for my trip to Latin America in February of 2010, I went back to Tampa for a bit to regroup and figure out how I could keep the dream alive. Going back to the US to work and save just wasn’t an option for me. I had to figure out how to make money from my laptop, regardless of where I was in the world.

I’ve hit a lot of bumps in the road, but it’s been worth it. My income now is actually higher than it was working a 9-5 in my past life, and I think making six figures a year from my computer is very possible.

There are hundreds of ways to earn a living while traveling. It’s even possible for you, too. That’s why I am launching this work and travel series. Over the next several months, I will interview different people who are making money online, traveling, and living the way they want.

Some ideas will resonate with you. Some won’t. Just know that it is possible for YOU to work and travel, too.

First, we’ll start with Justin Cooke, a guy who makes his money creating small niche websites and earning cash from Adsense. Here’s how he does it.

Adsense Flippers - Work & Travel Series

1. Tell us about yourselves. Who are you and how do you make money online?

My business partner and I both worked for a mid-sized company in the US.  We ended up helping them setup an offshore company in the Philippines to help their business scale and ultimately “outsourced ourselves” along the way.  While we run the company from Davao City, Philippines, we’re best known on the internet for our work with AdSense Flippers.

We’d lost a major client with our company and we were looking for a project we could have our agents work on until we could re-assign them to another customer.  We decided to create niche websites, monetized with Google AdSense, and began the process of testing through it, training them on how to build the sites, etc.  Because this was a side-project for us, we weren’t as protective of the business methodologies as we have been in the past and decided to detail our journey on a blog.

This turned out to be a great move on our part…our story really resonated with others and we quickly found a fairly massive audience for the blog, podcast, etc.  We found that we could get the sites earning and we had a hungry audience looking to purchase niche sites that were earning money so that they could expand those sites even further into full-blown websites.

I think there’s been a backlash against those who are secretive about their business or those who put their best information behind a paywall.  We wanted to disrupt the MMO (make money online) community by instead offering our best information for free.  This simple project has significantly changed the way we view our approach to marketing, business, etc. and has provided a great model for us moving forward.

2. What inspired you to start your online business?

AdSense Flippers was born out of necessity…we had trustworthy, trained staff that we didn’t want to have to let go.  Still…we knew we couldn’t keep them on payroll if they weren’t earning enough money for it to make sense.

Plenty of people were talking about how niche sites and AdSense were horrible business models when we started, but we were able to cut through the noise and find those who were having some success.  (Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, Spencer from Niche Pursuits, etc.)  With our access to low-cost labor, we knew that if we could find a model that works we could scale it profitably through them.

3. You both enjoy travel. Is it difficult to work while you’re on the road and/or living overseas?

I know that working on the beach with a  cold drink in your hand is the lifestyle design crowd’s dream but, if I’m being honest, I’ve done that and it kind of sucks!  You end up with sand in your laptop, tons of distractions, a nagging feeling you should be playing and not working, etc.

I was on Khao San Road in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, trying to write a blog post from a cafe there.  I was able to finish and publish the post, but I ended up rushing it and wasn’t as happy with how it came out as I might have otherwise been.  Ultimately, I prefer a “home base” of sorts that allows me to buckle down and get my work done.  I’m still in SE Asia and can explore every couple of months, but the home base allows me to settle in and get to work in a comfortable setting when I need to. (For a great post on working from coffee shops, check out this article.)

4. Is your line of work something that someone new to working online could do?

For someone just getting started online, I think creating niche sites is probably the BEST way to learn and get your feet wet.  You learn the fundamentals (niche selection, keyword research, WordPress and site setup, etc.) that will allow you to make a bit of money and eventually find your way.  It’s not a great investment in your $ per hour to start, necessarily…but the skills you’ll learn will carry with you into almost every area of online earnings and internet marketing.  No sales pitch here…we walk you through our exact process for free on the blog.

I should also mention that building/selling niche websites on its own is not necessarily a real “business”.  You can definitely and easily get up to earning a few hundred a month within a few months and maybe a few thousand within 9-12 months, but the real business behind what we do is based on building our audience, expanding our focus, etc.  We spent around $10K before we started to turn a profit and that seems to be typical for successful businesses based around niche sites.  This isn’t the fastest road to success by any means, but it can and does work.

5. What advice do you have for someone who wants to quit his or her job and learn to make money while traveling?

Making money online is tied directly to the value you provide to others.  Too many get started thinking about their own needs and not the needs of others, which can get them into trouble.  Make ME an extra $5,000 in profit per month and I’ll gladly share the spoils with you as a happy customer of yours!  It’s much easier to leverage other successful, established businesses than it is to start your own from scratch.  Build your business around providing more value to those businesses and you’ll be better set for success.

Keep in mind the “1,000 day rule” as coined by the guys at the LifestyleBusinessPodcast.  You’re going to go through some struggles in your first three years of business.  If you simply can’t stay in your job any longer, consider cutting down your expenses significantly so that your new business will be able to make it through the dip.  This is one of the reasons you see so many entrepreneurs moving to SE Asia to get their businesses off the ground…the cost of living allows for more runway in getting your business off the ground.

A GREAT way to get started is to look for Internship opportunities with those you respect and would like to emulate.  We’ve brought an Intern out to the Philippines and he’s done wonders for building our business…we’re planning on bringing out more through 2013.  Others are finding success with this model as well.  You’re delaying your own entrepreneurial pursuits, but you’re leveraging and learning from guys/gals that are further along than you and it turns out to be a great experience for everyone.  I love this presentation from Charlie Hoehn about a “new way to work”.  This method works when applying for internships, looking for new clients, etc…it’s fantastic.

6. Where can my readers learn more about what you do and how they can do it themselves?

You can check out our blog at AdSenseFlippers.com, listen to the AdSense Flippers Podcast on iTunes, or give us a shout on Twitter.  We’re great about responding to emails, blog comments, etc. so don’t be shy…we’d love to hear from you!

  • JustinWCooke

    Thank you so much for interviewing us, Jasmine! Awesome you included Charlie’s presentation video…I got a ton of value out of that when I first came across it.

  • I think my readers will get a ton of value out of your interview as well. Thanks again for participating Justin!

  • David D Poet

    Thanks for sharing. I don’t know the first thing about how you’re making money but I plan to read your site to find out more.

  • Hi David,
    I make money in a few different ways, including through advertising on my websites as well as working in SEO and social media. You can find out more here: http://dev.jasminewanders.com/work-and-travel/

  • TheFather

    Great interview and information about the digital nomad dream, Jas. I enjoyed the Ted video too!

  • Thanks :)

  • Wow you just keep on innovating! I’m super stoked about your new series, please keep us posted.

  • I’m glad you’re enjoying the new series James :)

  • frugalexpat

    Hi

    It is my first time to visit your blog. I really enjoyed reading your posts but this is the one that I like most. I look forward to reading more interviews.

    Cheers!