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Online Business Time Machine

by Matt Giovanisci | Updated: February 1, 2021 | Article

If I could tell myself in 2004 what I know now in 2021, I would’ve avoided burnout and built a successful, six-figure online business in half time it actually took.

So as a secret side project, I built a time machine. I used old computer parts, an inflatable doll, and a deep understanding of string theory.

My first trip was to give my past-self a plan for my future business. And warn myself before all my crucial mistakes. First stop, 2004.

Online Business Time Travel

2004: The Idea

I appeared on my parent’s lawn in South Jersey. I jumped out of the machine, ran into the house, and down to their basement.

There he was. Me. Sitting in front of the Dell about to buy the domain SwimUniversity.com. This was the perfect moment! I had to give him the plan.

“Hey, buddy,” I said calmly.

“What the shit?! Wait, are you…me? How is this happening?”

He was asking a lot of questions. That was understandable. He was looking at himself.

“I’m YOU from the future. The year 2021.”

“Ok, I have a lot of questions. First, what’s with the blow-up doll? I mean…”

“There’s no time to explain! I’m here to talk business. Listen, you’ll be successful in the future. But I want to make sure I…I mean…you’re even more successful sooner.”

“Sounds far out, daddy-o!” He replied.

“What? Whatever. Look, here’s the plan. You’re gonna buy this domain, but you won’t do jack shit with it. Then you’ll have to re-buy it for a higher price in a few years. So buy the domain and use it ASAP. Build the site using WordPress. Keep the design clean and make sure it loads really fast.

“Then I’ll start making money?” he asked.

“Fuck, dude, you gotta learn to be patient! It’s gonna take years before you can quit your job. Just do what I told you and you’ll be well on your way. Capeesh?”

He nodded, dumbfounded. And with that, I ran out of the house, jumped in the time machine, and blasted off to 2009. I had to stop myself from getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.

Matt Giovanisci 2004 Online Business

2009: The Blackhat SEO Phase

This time, I arrived in the parking lot of my condo. There 2009 Matt was about to sign up for an online community to help get more traffic to Swim University.

I quietly opened the front door and tiptoed into the office. He heard me.

“Oh, hey!” He remembered.

“Dude, I’m here to warn you about this online community you’re about to join.”

“Whoa, heinous! So, what’s with the doll…”

“There’s no time for that! Listen, you’re thinking this online community will help you gain more traffic. But it’s not gonna work! In fact, Google is gonna penalize you. All they’re gonna teach you is a bunch of blackhat SEO tricks like spinning articles and building link farms.”

“What’s blackhat SEO?”

“It just means bad SEO. Don’t waste time building shitty backlinks to your shitty articles and don’t use anything called Unique Article Wizard. All you have to do is write the best articles on pool care and publish them consistently.

“But I suck at writing! I got kicked out of college for telling off our English teacher, remember?”

I forgot. 2009 Matt didn’t think he could write.

“You’ll get better, trust me. But start now and you’ll be unstoppable in the future. Plus, it’ll bring quality traffic without begging for backlinks. And no more submitting articles to EzineArticles.com like you’re doing now.”

“Ok, I get it. But you gotta see this awesome mug EzineArticles sent me!”

Matt 2009 Ezine Articles Mug

I slapped the mug right off the desk. “The mug is fucking meaningless! Promise me you’ll teach yourself how to write. Use short sentences. Focus on publishing high-quality articles every week!”

He held his hand up and promised. So I jumped back into the time machine. I had more stops to make to fix a lot of mistakes.

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2011: The First YouTube Video

I appeared right back in the parking lot of my condo. But this time, 2011 Matt has just been laid off from his day job. He was collecting unemployment and focused on building Swim University.

Traffic was flooding into Swim University, but 2011 Matt was getting bored and wanted to start making videos. This was a great idea, but I knew he was gonna start only to give up soon.

“Hey, buddy. I’m back from the future. 2021 again.”

“Still with the blow-up…”

“We don’t have time to get into that! Look, I came back because I know you just made your first YouTube video. I’m glad to see you’re sticking to writing articles consistently. And you have to do the same thing with video.”

“Okay, okay,” he said. “But check out my first video!”

“Oh boy. Um…it’s…it’s…good. But listen, I know you’re gonna burn out soon with video. I’m here to tell you not to do that! YouTube is going to pay off big time in the future.”

“So what should I do?”

You need to make at least one video a week. Publish consistently. Try different video styles. You don’t need to be near a pool. Plus, in Colorado and no one owns a pool anyway.

“I’m moving to Colorado?! Totally tubular, dude!”

“Sure. Tubular. But listen, keep making videos. And do the same keyword research you’re doing for articles and you’ll start ranking in Google. Plus, you get an award when you reach 100,000 subscribers. Your girlfriend will help you out, too.”

“Girlfriend? Who?! Is it Jenny? Oh god. Is it the doll?”

“Um…no. Gotta go. Don’t give up on YouTube. Every week. Remember!

Now that YouTube was getting started, I had to warn myself not to focus too much on podcasting in a few years. It’s not gonna go as well as he thinks.

Matt 2011 First YouTube Video

2013: The Podcast

There wasn’t a lot of room to park my time machine here. 2013 Matt had moved out of his condo and into his brother’s townhome. I blasted through the front door and ran into the office, scaring the shit out of him.

“What the fuck, dude?!”

“Sorry, I have to stop you. You’re doing well with Swim University, so why are you thinking of starting a podcast that has nothing to do with pools?! You’re gonna burn out and quit anyway.”

“Ah, bogus!” You could tell he was disappointed.

“Yea, it’s a total bummer. Just keep writing articles and making videos. And stop making those infographics. They don’t work in the future.

“But what about podcasting? Could be pretty huge.” He had a good point. So I had to think long and hard about this.

“You’re right. Podcasting will be huge. Don’t worry, you’ll podcast later. It won’t be huge, but it’ll be rewarding. Just stay focused on what your business does well. Trust me!”

And as I was saying those final words, I ran out the door to travel forward to the next time I thought about starting a podcast. But it wasn’t the podcast I was worried about.

Matt 2013 Podcast Phase

2016: The Software Phase

I appeared poolside in the apartment complex that 2016 Matt was renting his first year in Colorado. I ran upstairs and knocked on the door.

“Oh, you again. What now?! Things are going well right now.”

“Dude, I know. But you’re about to build a software product and I’m here to stop you.”

“What? That’s crazy. I don’t even know how to code!”

“No shit! But you’re gonna try to teach yourself Ruby on Rails and build analytics software. And you’re gonna push yourself to do it in 60 days and burn the fuck out.”

“NO way!”

“Yes way, Matt. Software will NEVER be your thing. You’ll attempt to create and sell software over the next few years and fail every time. All of that time would be better spent working on Swim University. And now Roasty and Brew Cabin.

“Brew Cabin? What’s that?”

Oops. I forgot that Matt hadn’t created Brew Cabin yet. Which reminded me: I had to tell 2016 Matt about the future of Roasty.

“It’s a homebrewing website you’ll start. But you’re gonna sell Roasty to get out of debt. You’re gonna hire people and blow your budget. Sell Roasty now and focus on Swim University, Brew Cabin, and Money Lab. Those will all do well for you.”

I left in a hurry to get back to 2021. My mission was complete. It was now time to bask in the glory of my new success.

Matt Giovanisci 2016 Colorado

2017: The Airport

But the time machine glitched. Or something went sideways. Because I found myself at the Denver airport. “This can’t be 2021…” I muttered out loud. I asked a woman checking her watch. “What’s today’s date?!”

“February 23rd,” she replied.

“What year?”

“2017…?” She said, skeptically. “Is that a sex toy?!”

I rushed past her. Shit! I just remembered what happened here. So I ran down the terminal looking for a departing flight to Austin.

But I was too late.

There was 2017 Matt staring down at his phone on the verge of tears. He must’ve just read the Amazon email saying commissions were getting cut to the bone.

As I stared at panicky 2017 Matt, it didn’t make sense. I thought I’d gone back and changed everything! I shouldn’t be sad. I should be much more successful by now.

Something’s wrong.

Matt Giovanisci at the Denver Airport in 2017

Then it hit me. I forgot to warn myself about all the monetization stuff in the future. I had to go back to 2004!

2004: The Future

When I arrived, I ran into the basement again. And there I was, 2021 Matt talking to 2004 Matt. Shit, now there’s three of us.

“What the living fuck?!” We all said in unison.

“Look, I know the past/future version of me is here to tell you how to set up your website and to make it fast. But he forgot to tell you how you’re gonna make money.”

“I was just gonna ask that.”

“Bullshit! You were gonna ask when we’re gonna make money. That’s still gonna take years. You gotta build an audience first.”

He knew I was right.

“You’re gonna make money selling banner ads and putting affiliate links on your site.  But the most lucrative thing you’ll do is create and sell your own products.

“Like robotic pool cleaners?”

“No! In fact, DO NOT get into e-commerce! Stay in your wheelhouse. Write articles, produce videos and design graphics.

The past/future version of me agreed. Of course.

In 2013, you will create an e-book on how to take care of a hot tub. You won’t know it, but that’ll be the most important moment in your business.

“Does the e-book make money in the future?” He asked.

“It’ll be slow at first, but after a few years, it’ll become one of your primary sources of income. You’re gonna make great money with affiliate links too. But you can’t put all your eggs into that basket.”

“Why not?”

“Because in the future, Amazon’s gonna cut your affiliate commission by more than 50%. But thankfully, your products will bring in more income. It’s the key!”

“Wow, that’s hella bodacious! Is there anything else I need to know?”

“Hella…what? Look, just build your website on WordPress, make it load fast, do some keyword research, and publish articles and videos around them. Then, make a few digital products, like ebooks and video courses. Promote them on every page. Make this your focus and treat affiliate commissions as a bonus. If you do this consistently, you’ll be successful in about 4 years or less. Got it?”

I could tell he understood me. He could see it in my eyes and hear the passion in my voice.

“Got it. Thanks for telling me this. I think I needed to hear it. I just have one question. What’s with the blow-up doll?”

If you want to learn how to build a successful online business the way I would do it now in 2021 and beyond, then you should join Money Lab Pro. It includes all my online business video courses, my super fast WordPress theme, and a community of people all working towards the same goal.

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