Daniel DiPiazza, CEO, Rich20Something
Daniel DiPiazza: An Entrepreneur for His Generation
Daniel DiPiazza has gained a reputation in a short time as the young person’s business guru. He’s the CEO of Rich20Something, an online platform that provides tools and guidance for young people who want to break out of the 9-to-5 lifestyle, and has had his work published in Time, Fortune, Forbes, and Entrepreneur.
This May, DiPiazza will release his first book, Rich20Something, the culmination of his lengthy journey navigating the intricacies of the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
But he wasn’t always so successful. In fact, he very nearly started his career as a zombie.
No really, he tried to be a literal, shambling, drooling, zombie. In Atlanta, he auditioned for a role as a roaming flesh eater in AMC’s The Walking Dead. He recalls the producers not quite buying his take on the shuffling gait of the undead.
If that gives you any clue, yes, DiPiazza was like many others in his generation, a bit adrift in his early career.
DiPiazza started out on the traditional route to success, working hard and finishing a college degree. He studied communications and got good grades. “I was only in college for two and a half years,” he says. “I graduated early.” He believed that after graduating, the next step was a lucrative career. Except that it wasn’t. Like many graduates, his degree didn’t get him any closer to his idea of success.
Like just about so many in his generation, DiPiazza’s career meandered. He would shuffle zombie-like from one job to another, and saw that was how most young people around him were handling their careers. No plan or prospects, just an aimless, staggering army of millennials.
“All of a sudden, I was in my 20s. I thought, okay I’m supposed to do something now.” He describes working regular jobs, restaurants and the like, that paid an hourly rate. “I didn’t have a plan, which I’m now realizing is a very common experience with our generation.”
He makes a valid point.
Look around and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a golden age of entrepreneurism. And there’s some truth to that. Think Elon Musk. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Sir Richard Branson. These are figures we’ve enshrined and entrusted with godlike status.
Despite that, millennials talk about starting businesses far more than they act on those impulses. Is it because we’re risk averse or drowning in high levels of student debt? Add to that rising property prices and a declining number of jobs, and the picture of the young entrepreneur seems to cloud over.
A recent New York Times article about struggling young entrepreneurs cites a Kauffman Foundation study that found the share of new entrepreneurs in the 20- to 34-year-old age group fell to 25 percent in 2014, down from nearly 35 percent in 1996. This coincided with a rise in student debt. And according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data, the number of people under 30 who own businesses is currently at a 30-year low.
“That surprises me,” DiPiazza says, “and doesn’t ring true of my community.” He muses on this for a moment. “Sure, people started more businesses in the 1990s, but with that came a different set of cultural circumstances. The economic situation was different. With that, there was more optimism. There’s still a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of competition now.”
He’s right. Products and services that used to be provided by constellations of businesses are now provided by a handful of multinational giants. That means there are fewer companies, with market share concentrating into the hands of the few.
And with declining housing affordability and more millennials moving back in with their parents, many young people just want to get regular jobs and support themselves. “I see that all the time. That doesn’t mean the desire to start a business isn’t there,” DiPiazza says. “But I think there is a great deal more confusion about what you should be doing, and real economic issues that make it a little harder. You just need more patience and diligence to overcome.”
Hailing from a middle-class family in Detroit, DiPiazza has seen the traditional economic system fail an entire city. Unlike some of his peers, he learned quickly that you can’t depend on a big company to take care of you in the same way it might have done for our parents and grandparents.
Still, leading a traditional career is exactly what DiPiazza’s parents had in mind for him. “The way my parents saw the world was, you go to school, then do more school, then more school, then get a job and be the best you can be in your field.”
Lost in his 20s, DiPiazza continued job-hopping with a growing sense of dissatisfaction. “I was never unhappy, but I was never consistently excited about my life. I was just going through the motions.”
Until one day, when he decided to stop. He describes his Road to Damascus moment occurring while working at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta. “It got to this point where I showed up at work one day and I was intensely irritated.” Nothing specific happened that day to cause his mood, rather it was a culmination of years of treading water.
“I thought, I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being back here scooping butter. I was supposed to be this really smart kid in high school. I got high grades and graduated school early. People had a lot of faith in me, and I thought, I’m still doing this. What am I doing? I made a decision that day that I was going to make a change.” He was 23.
In the flexible work economy, when a full-time job is becoming increasingly rare, you have to make your own opportunities. DiPiazza did just that, starting out as a college exam tutor, then moving on to freelancing on online platforms like Upwork (formerly Elance). “That was my first taste of freedom,” he says. “And I turned it into this self-perpetuating engine that brought me here, to owning this company now.”
During the time he spent in these various career experiments, he maintained meticulous notes in the form of a blog. The habit of writing everything down on his journey to success turned out to be his saving grace. The blog grew in popularity.
“I thought that on leaving the typical work world, I was going to just hustle forever and be a freelancer. I thought I would just take little part-time things here and there. But now, I’ve built a history of learning how to hustle into an actual career, where I run a business teaching people how to break out.”
DiPiazza recognized that the post-graduation myth of the stable job and career that’s sold to high school and university grads is largely without substance. For a large number of them, there is no job waiting.
“We can’t go to school, get a bachelor’s degree, and find a nice job to stay at for 40 years right out of college that allows us to buy a house and support a family. Many young people would love that, but it’s just not an option.”
Breaking the Mold
Whether deliberate or not, Daniel DiPiazza is tapping into a widespread sense that the traditional modes of education are unreliable, and are out of date in equipping young people for success.
“It needs a complete overhaul to match where society is. You can’t depend on old systems of thinking that haven’t changed in over a hundred years.” He argues there’s room for disruption and room for young people to step into industries still forming. “The economy is changing. We’re still transitioning out of the idea of traditional work and moving into whatever the next phase is going to be.”
To be successful, you need skills that you currently can’t learn in school, he argues. “You have to learn by doing, and most people don’t want to do that. It’s easier to just daydream or theorize.” For DiPiazza, learning theory misses the critical element. “Theory doesn’t expose you to risk; risk forces you to learn, and to internalize knowledge when the stakes are high.”
Now, he’s helped thousands of people to start their own business journeys.
The biggest challenge he’s seen for people going into business? “Hubris,” he says. “Ego. Pride. That leads to a lack of patience. Making money isn’t the same as running a business. Young people underestimate how hard it’s going to be, and overestimate their own abilities. It’s hard, you need to get your hands dirty and you need to be in it for the long game. You need patience to play the long game and you need to enjoy the process.”
Given the chance, he wouldn’t do any of it differently. “I definitely wouldn’t go back to do an MBA. I think I’m better at practical business than I am at theoretical business. Everyone runs their own race, and I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been through what I have.” In retrospect, it’s lucky the AMC producers thought his zombie shuffle was no good. He might have avoided playing a zombie on screen, but even more importantly, he avoided making one out of his career.
BUILD YOUR BUSINESS
DANIEL DIPIAZZA’S CRASH COURSE ON STARTING OUT
Building a business isn’t for everyone, but if you want to make it happen, DiPiazza believes there are a few steps you need to take:
- Build a skill
You don’t get paid just because you want to start a business. You need to have a skill and a service and a product you provide someone. A business is just a vehicle to deliver a product or service. You want to start a business. What can you do? What can you provide? If you’re unsure, look at places you’ve worked in the past. A lot of times, jobs hire you because either you already have a skill or you develop a skill there.
- Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset
That means learning to love hard work without any glamour. Don’t confuse entrepreneurship with celebrity. Just because Kylie Jenner has a line of lipstick, doesn’t make her an entrepreneur. Having Instagram followers isn’t the same as having a functioning business.
- Find your target customer
Use this to validate your business. Who already has your target customer? Go there. Don’t blanket the areas with flyers. Don’t put ads on Craigslist. These are the things people try, and then when they don’t work, they say the business doesn’t work.
- Build your network
Start meeting people and you’ll see how far you’ll go. All the success I’ve had in the past few years—including making millions of dollars, getting a book deal—I can trace back to maybe five or seven key connections that have led to everything else. Without those, I wouldn’t have had some of the huge wins I’ve had. If you’re going to focus on one thing outside of actually building the business, focus on that.
- The best content marketing tactics to use to promote yourself
- How to never run out of clients as a freelancer
- Where to go to start skilling yourself up as an entrepreneur
- How to come up with and validate your business ideas with a few simple steps
- Strategies to build up your personal brand and influence
Full Transcript of Podcast with Daniel DiPiazza
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode. My name is Nathan Chan. I’m the CEO and publisher of “Founder Magazine” and I’m coming to you live from my hometown Melbourne,Australia. I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate your attention and sharing your earbuds with me. I know you’re going to love this episode. You’re in for an absolute treat.
Today’s guest, his name is Daniel DiPiazza. And this is a really interesting one and it was a ton of fun. You can see that me and Daniel vibe really well and get along really well because we’re really, really great friends. I know this might sound a little bit corny, but he’s probably one of my best friends that I’ve met online. Because I’m out of, you know, Melbourne, Australia because most of the people we interview are in the States because that’s where our biggest customer base is, our biggest audience base, that’s where it’s all happening, I tend to find myself on Skype late nights, early mornings, always speaking to people, networking, learning, connecting and really understand, you know, what it takes to build and grow successful business.
And part of that is, you know, reaching out to people and that’s something that I’m quite aggressive on. And I’ve been lucky enough to, you know, not only interview all these amazing guests you get to hear on the podcast, but also just connect and really just talk shop and learn from other really smart founders and entrepreneurs, and Daniel is one of them you know.
When I first launched the magazine, I remember I actually reached out to hi. He runs a company and a blog called rich20something.com, and I reached out to him and we’ve become great friends since. So that was in the first couple of months I started “Foundr.” It’s been awesome to see his growth and progression over a long period of time. You know, because we’ve been doing Founder for four years now, so it feels like we’re getting old. But anyways that’s enough about how Daniel and I know each other. So this is a really great interview.
If you ever wanted to know how to get into industry publications, not if you’re in the entrepreneurship startup space you run a SaaS company or whatever, but, you know, you run in a health-based business, so you run a, you know, physical product based business, and you sell tea, or whatever. Whatever you sell you know getting PR, getting to be able to contribute to guest publications is really, really key, and this is something Daniel’s a master of.
So we really, really delved deep, very, very deep on that. He actually also has launched a new book called actually the name of his company called “Rich 20-Something.” I highly encourage you to go check it out and go to rich20something.com/book. And we talk about life, we talk about business, we talk about hiring, you know, you name it. It’s a really great conversation and I know you’re going to enjoy it.
Before we jump into the show though, I just want to let you know, if you have been following along, we are very, very close to launch one of our new courses, products, initiatives and this is going to be the future of “Foundr.” If you’re listening to this, you know, two years from the past I can’t wait to see what the “Foundr” platform looks like. I anticipate we will have maybe 100 courses taught by influencers. We’ll see how we go, but that’s the path we’re going. It really, really excites me. So we’re producing content at scale, free content, and premium content at scale.
The premium content is the courses and we produce courses from surveys from surveying you guys, finding out what your biggest problems are and where we can help. And then we find an influencer that’s a master of that problem whether it’s hiring, whether it’s, you know, growing your email list, whether it’s Facebook ads or paid traffic, whether it’s how to start an online e-commerce business which is the course that we’re working on. It’s the first one.
If you wanna know how to do that, you want to sell physical products, and you want to learn from someone that’s a master, then make sure you sign up. Go to foundrmag.com, foundrmag.com/ecommerce, and you can sign up to the whitelist and you will be notified when that course goes live.
All right, guys that’s it from me now let’s jump to the show.
So the first question I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Daniel: Do I have a job?
Nathan: Yeah, if you want to call it that.
Daniel: I guess. You know, it’s interesting, man. For a while, I thought that I didn’t want a job. And then I realized that jobs are okay there’s nothing wrong with it. I just want a job that I love. And so the job that I have now as CEO of Rich20Something is different than what I thought it would be. I thought that leaving like the typical work world, I was gonna just hustle forever and be a, you know, a freelancer or just take little part-time things here and there just to not have to have a schedule.
But now I’ve kind of built that whole history of learning how to hustle into an actual career where I run a business teaching people how to break out. So I don’t think that there was, like, one specific thing that led me to be the head of this company but it is a culmination of a lot of different experiences.
Nathan: Yeah. Can you tell us about those experiences so how do you…tell us about, you know, how you find yourself doing the work you’re doing today. Give us a background and if you can go deep and even tell great, like, you know stories of those moments, that’ll be great as well.
Daniel: Yeah, man. It all started at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. No, look it all started you know, I was talking about this with a friend the other day and I grew up in a very, very middle-class family like I would say middle of the middle-class. So not lower middle class, not upper-middle class, just straight middle-class. Like, had enough for what I needed, didn’t suffer but we didn’t have that much stuff. And, you know, what I think? I think that that’s surprisingly one of the more dangerous positions to be in because when you’re in a very solid middle-class bracket, the number one thing that you feel is comfort.
Everything is taken care of for the most part, you don’t have everything that you want, but you’re comfortable. And because of that comfort and because, like, you know, my family was relatively comfortable it doesn’t really encourage you to reach for much more, because to reach for more would you know cause struggle and that sucks. I think that there are even some cases where being born at a disadvantage, having less money, like, being really poor can actually encourage you to work harder. Whereas if you’re right in the middle, sometimes you’re not encouraged.
So for me, I almost had no plan rolling into adult life, you know. I went to a great high school and I took really hard classes. So I graduated college early. I graduated college at 20 after traveling for a bit, studying abroad, and then I just kind of all of a sudden was, in my 20s, I thought, “Okay, well I’m supposed to do something now.” So I just started working regular jobs that paid me an hourly rate. And I didn’t even have much more of a plan in front of me than six months ahead, which I’m now realizing, is a very common experience with millennials and with our generation.
And then there was this growing sense of dissatisfaction as I went from job to job. I worked a bunch of different jobs. Man, I worked as a like a retail clerk at a museum at a science museum. I worked at UPS delivering packages with those short brown shorts and a very and a very cute button-up shirt. I was from sexy, man. I’ll hopped in and out of that truck, I had boots it was great. I worked at a multiple different restaurants.
I did all this different stuff and I was never unhappy, but I was never consistently excited about my life. I was kind of just going through the motions and, kind of, collecting money and paying for whatever bills I needed. And then it got to this point, I was working on a restaurant, I was working at LongHorn Steakhouse in Atlanta, and I got to this point, where I was just I you know, I showed up at work one day and I was just intensely irritated and it was anything specifically that happened that day but it was just a culmination of a few years of just doing things that’s just very annoying.
I made a decision that day that I was gonna make a change. I was gonna try to figure out this whole money thing. I don’t even know what I thought that meant, at the time, but I’m like you know what I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being back here scooping butter, you know, I I was supposed to be this really smart kid in high school. I got all these you know great classes and I graduated school early and people have a lot of faith in me and I’m still doing this. Like, “What am i doing?”
At the time I was 22, 23, still very young. And I decided, you know, I’m gonna try to figure things out. So from that point on, it didn’t necessarily get easier, but the mindset shift that I had was what allowed me to do the next step. So I didn’t actually gain any more skills but the changing the mindset helped. And then from there, I started rather than looking at things that were holding me back, I started looking at opportunities. Okay, what what can I do? If I don’t want to do these these nine-to-five jobs, like, what are my options?
Well, first option, I can do, like, I can try to go really big in a corporate job. Like, if I want to make more money and have more opportunities, I could just try to get a six-figure job. And I thought about that. I’m like, “Oh, man, you know, my friends are doing that.” There’s nothing that really appeals to me there. I can’t think of anything I’d like to do there. I thought, “Well, you know, I could go back to school and try to get…maybe I could be a lawyer? That’s an option. I’m good at writing can. I can argue pretty well. Maybe I’m a lawyer. Maybe that’s what I am. Maybe am a lawyer. I got lawyers in my family. Maybe that’s what I am.”
Oh, man, I don’t want to I want to go into debt for that. I just can’t see sitting in more school, plus, honestly, law school sounds boring, so, you know. So then I was, kind of, stuck. I thought, “Alright, well, maybe maybe I can do something on the side for myself to make money and see if that works. Maybe I can just, kind of, like, gradually, like, stick my toe on the water and then my whole foot and see what happens.” And so that’s why I started doing. I started off freelancing by teaching college test prep SAT, ACT and gradually. it started working and you know we can talk about the whole progression from there to now, but that was my first taste of freedom. And I, kind of, turned it into this self-perpetuating engine that brought me to, you know, owning a company now.
Nathan: Yeah I see and when it comes to you know that first idea that you had around the test-prep because you said you’ve graduated college early, so what we’re studying?
Daniel: I was so in communication which is basically nothing. To be honest, it’s nothing.
Nathan: Gotcha. So how did you come up with the test prep idea? Because, I think, people really appreciate, you know, how you came up with the idea and what process and steps you went through to validate it?
Daniel: Well, so a few things, and this is one thing I tell people in my book, in my class is a one place you can look for ideas about what you can do for yourself is just places you’ve worked at in the past. A lot of times, jobs hire you because either you already have a skill or they hire you and then you develop a skill there. And the skill is what’s worth money.
The job pays you based on the skill. And obviously some skills are worth more than others but when I was in college I taught SAT and ACT test prep because that was just something I’m good at. I’ve always been good at taking standardized tests. If you give me a test I can get a very good score even if I’m not 100% sure about what’s on the test because I know how to take tests well. I’m good at like eliminating bad answers and just finding the right ones. And so I taught that in college I kind of worked for a company called Kaplan which does this test prep until I realized okay that’s a skill that I have.
When I was in college it paid me maybe 15, 20 bucks an hour which was a lot of money at the time for me, but I realized man if I can do this for myself, I can probably make much more because I know Kaplan is charging these families $80 to $100 now for me to be at their house teaching them and I’m only getting you know $18 to $20 of that. So if I can charge the 80 to 100, I can cut out the middleman. So you can start looking at jobs that you’re already doing, and a lot of times, you’ll find skills just based on things you’ve done the past.
Nathan: I see. So you had this test prep idea. How did you start?
Daniel: So the first thing I did was I thought okay well there are a couple ways I can go about this. The first way is I can, say, you know, I’ll put ads out on Craigslist or I’ll go to the grocery store and I’ll put a flyer up. You know, these are all the things that people try and then they don’t work and they say business doesn’t work. Or they’ll do, like, you know, how they…I don’t know if they do this in Australia, but they’ll put like flyers on under the windshield wipers on cars like that type of BS. And you never look at that you’re always like, “Ah, get this off my car.”
I don’t know, it’s like, it’s wet in the rain so it sticks on to your car. This whole marketing, you know. In my apartment complex, there’s a cleaning service that literally litters the ground with their flyers and, like, this is the antithesis of cleaning. You’re not proving your point here. You’re littering.
Anyway, I don’t wanna do any the methods. Those never worked in my eyes and I never responded to those in my personal life. So I thought, okay, I’m not gonna do that. So I thought okay well what’s the easiest way for me to get clients if I don’t have any? And I realize there are a lot of people who already had my ideal customer. They were serving them in a different way and if we partnered up we could both help them and we could both help ourselves.
So I thought about it. All right, well, first of all, this is something that you can do with yourself if you want to validate your business. You say. “Okay. Who already has my target customer?” So, first of all, think of your target customer. My target customer, not the children, not the students, but the parents. Parents are the ones paying, right?
So I thought, all right, well, where are parents already going to get advice and information about, you know, graduation, about college admissions. And I realized that there are lots of private admissions coaches and admissions counselors out there that help families to package their kids to get them into school. This is a very common practice thing especially if the kids want to go to more elite schools, which is good because usually they have some more money. Not all the time but usually.
So I started looking up the different consultants who helped these these kids get into school, these different kids get into admissions councils and stuff. And what these consultants do is they’ll help package you but they don’t teach you test prep. They usually send you to an outside company and they say, “Listen, in order to get you into the school, we’re going to need you to get your scores up so go to Kaplan or go to Princeton Review,” or there’s other places that teach the test prep.
So what I said was guys you know I would approach them and say, “Listen, rather than you outsourcing the stuff and sending it to other, you know, other agencies, I’ll come into your business and I’ll kind of like be your in-house test prep guy. You just pass off your clients to me, I’ll pay you 50% of the commission,” which is a very high commission.”And not only will you make money, but you’ll get to look awesome because your business will now have somebody that does this in-house, and we can share my heads that way.”
And so instantly overnight I found just two people who were doing this, these private admissions consultants. I pitched them. I wasn’t very good at pitching because I didn’t have any experience but they kind of…like, I, kind of, like, fumbled out my word, and kinda, like, “Well, maybe you could do the…” but they understood the idea that I was talking about. They’re like, “It’s a pretty good idea. Let’s try it.” They sent me some clients. It worked we built them there.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really, really smart. And you did this all while you were still working at Longhorn?
Daniel: Yeah, I was. Yes, so it was a very there was a very short overlap because I did it while I was still working and I remember having the idea to leave the restaurant sometime in, like, April or May. And then I started to started to work sometime around June of that year. And I definitely hadn’t…I don’t think I’d proven the model yet but I’d started to get some initial results so I quit immediately from Longhorn. Like I’m going full-time, full-time, which wasn’t something I would recommend now, but yeah.
Nathan: Yeah, wow, interesting. And when you say wasn’t something you recommend now, what do you recommend for someone that wants to start a business, doesn’t know where to start during the idea validation stage or just idea conceptualization coming up with ideas? At what point do you leave, when do you know to leave, you still gotta you know pay the bills, rent, etc.?
Daniel: So that’s a really good question and people ask this question a lot because, I think, that it makes you nervous. This is, kind of, like, a question I used to ask myself when I first started working out at the gym, and you know this because you’re training at the gym all the time now.
Nathan: I’m trying, man.
Daniel: One question I always…trying. Yeah, me, too, man. I’ve been so busy. I’ve been not going as much as I usually do. But what one one thing that I was always unsure about when I first started lifting weights was like, “Okay, when do I know that it’s safe to add more weight on the exercise, you know?” Because I didn’t want to hurt myself. Before, I, like, kind of, understood weightlifting, I thought if I put too much weight on, I might die, so I need to be careful. So I never knew when it was okay for me to increase the weight and so it was always a very weird, like, transition.
It’s kind of the same thing with entrepreneurship. When you’re first starting off and you’re inexperienced, you don’t really know when it’s the right time to transition. And as you get a little bit more experienced, you’ll have a better feel for it. You’re not always going to be right, but you’ll have a better idea. So now, you know, if I’m working on a business and it’s starting to blow up, I have a better idea when it’s time to make the leap, but at that point, I didn’t.
And here’s what I figured out since then…because obviously I took a risk early and it paid off. I took a gamble, but I I don’t recommend that now. What I recommend now, is you start off…whatever your business is you start off as a side business to whatever your regular job is, and then when you can make about 60%…60% to 70% of your income on your side business that you do with your regular job consistently for a few months, then you know it’s safe to switch.
And you know that that extra four 30% to 40% is just something that’s missing because you can’t put the time in. And if you can replace the time that you’re working at your regular job and put that into the business, then you can probably make not just a 100% but 120, 130% that you’re making a trailer job because you need all those hours back you know.
Nathan: Yeah I love that analogy as well about the gym and not knowing when to put on more weight. You just don’t but you just…you know, that’s awesome. And I like about minimizing risk, you know. I was talking to one of my mentors literally last night and, you know, I was giving him a situation and he said, you know, “Number one rule, always minimize risk as much as possible.” And he actually showed me a book that he highlighted, “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris and it talks about, you know, all these, you know, billionaires like Richard Branson and Ray Dalio and stuff. You know, Tony Robbins said to Tim that all they focus on is minimizing risk as much as possible.
Daniel: Yeah, I think, that that perspective is a result of having taken a lot of calculated risks in those particular cases. They like calculated risk meaning they do minimize downside, but. I think, that now because they’ve those people you’ve named Ferris, Robbins, Dalio have already achieved so much they have nothing to gain from getting from making huge risks. Whereas there are some instances whereas a beginner you’re gonna have to take a bigger risk that does have some downside but sometimes you need that big burst in order to make a change, where whereas when you already have a billion dollars, the only thing you can do is lose money pretty much.
Nathan: That’s a good point too, yes. Yea, I agree, I agree but you are still minimizing your risk.
Nathan: Yeah, you didn’t go yet you didn’t go all in straight away.
Daniel: Well, I did but I don’t recommend that.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha.
Daniel: It happened to work out for me, but I also think that there’s a lot to be said for, like, timing and there is…when you put in effort, the amount of effort you put in plus the timing, there is some luck involved. Doesn’t mean that I’m like more lucky than other people or luckier than other people, everyone has a bit of luck, but I don’t discount the fact that it…there was definitely some luck involved. I got some good clients in the beginning, which gave me some breathing room, and then I got to get going but not everyone has that. And so, minimize the risk.
Nathan: Yeah, no. I love that. Awesome. Okay, so let’s switch gears and talk about…you did the test prep, and then eventually along the way, you started Rich20Something. And tell us about how that came about, tell us about your book, and some other cool stuff your work here, man.
Daniel: Yeah, man. Okay so this is how this is how I see it. You know, the test prep, kind of, just confirmed the fact that I can do things on my own. I don’t need someone to pay me. I can pay it myself or I can figure out how to pay myself. And then I progressed to a point where, like, “Okay, well, great. I’m doing this by myself. I don’t need a need, like, a boss. I can figure this out.” But I thought, “You know what? I want some more flexibility.”
So then I started to work with some things online and I thought…I started to basically just freelance but online. So I started to do web design and different, like…just different online jobs using places like Upwork, used to be Elance now it’s Upwork, and a bunch of other places. And and just as like a side project, as a hobby, I started writing about the things I was doing because I’ve always loved writing. I didn’t expect to make any money with writing. I just wanted to document what I was doing. So I started writing about different little ideas and insights that I’ve gotten. And then eventually the writing just did well enough to where people start paying attention.
I got featured on like “Huffington Post” and “Under30CEO” and just because I was writing. and that built a small audience around me and I realized that people wanted to know more about how I was doing what I was doing. And then I started to think, “Well, maybe there’s an actual business in teaching people how to do what I’ve done.” Like, maybe instead of being a freelancer, there’s actually value in teaching other people how to become this. But I’ve done it, I’ve done it first. It wasn’t just I didn’t just come up with the idea to teach freelancers without having done it. I thought maybe there’s value in teaching this stuff.
So Rich20 was born in November 2012. And, I mean, literally, I just bought the domain in November 2012. Maybe I’ve got one post, but really it started going pretty hardcore in ’13. And over the last four years now, I’ve just been working on building my audience and finding things that will help them along the way. I’m a much different person now at 28, almost 29. I’ll be 29 in about a month and a half here. Well, I’m a much different person now than I was then but it it kind of all stems from the ability to wanting to help people.
Nathan: A lot of things. I took a lot of notes. I have quite a few things I want to ask you, but just on that last one you said you’re quite a different person, how so? What’s changed?
Daniel: Yeah, I think, right around 28, or maybe 27 and a half, is where I started to feel like a real adult, if that makes sense. I started to feel like like I was building a career because, I think, that up until really, like, middle 2015, I wasn’t really sure if Rich20Something was the thing that I was just doing until it was the next thing. Or if it was, like, a real thing that I was going to continue with and, like, build it up and sell it, or have some sort of part two to it.
And then once I got the this book based on all the writing I’ve done and the audience I built and social media, which I have a lot to thank for you for that, and email list, and once I built this community around this idea, it didn’t make ogical sense for me to just kill it because it’s, like, this thing of its own now. So and then I thought, “Oh, I didn’t mean to do this, but I inadvertently built a career for myself, but I’m happy to be here. So now I’ve had to show up a lot more as…take a little bit more seriously, or actually a lot more seriously.”
And, I think, that it’s only been in the past maybe about two years that I really started to… maybe 18 months, that I’ve really started to realize that. And it’s changed the way that I approached business and its made me a lot more of a careful student not just of, you know, becoming popular online but really, like, how does a business work? What are the proper ways to run things? And so now I am really enjoying, learning how to CEO, which is something that I didn’t think I was ever interested in before.
Before I was interested in like internet popularity and getting likes and building up an email list. But I didn’t really equate that to running a business. I didn’t think of it like that, but now I’m like, “Oh, CEO isn’t just a title.” Like, I think, a lot of people in the fantasy of entrepreneurship say they wanna be a CEO and they think about that as like being like a miniature king of some sort. “I am the CEO. I’m very important. I make all the important decisions and the buck stops with me.” You know, like, it’s just like this thing. It’s like saying, “I’m a dentist.” “Oh, I’m a CEO.”
But it’s a real job and and there are skills you have to learn. It’s not just making…it’s not like calling the shots, “I come in whatever time I want because I’m the CEO.” Like, that’s completely not what do it. Like, there’s all these things you have to learn. So now I’m enjoying learning how to fulfill a role that I never thought I’d even want to fulfill before, and that’s changed my outlook as an adult.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s amazing, man. And I was gonna say it’s been amazing to watch you grow because we, kind of, started at the same time. You were one of my first online friends. Never forget our emails in Under30CEO and I followed you. And I was like, “Oh, this guy seems really cool.” And I never forget I emailed you and it’s like, “Oh, man, you know, let’s catch up. Let’s catch for a Skype call.” And you said, “What exactly did you want to catch up on?”
Nathan: In inverted commas, like, “What did you actually wanna catch up about exactly?”
Daniel: I don’t know, man.
Nathan: I was like, “Man, we’re just doing some similar stuff. Let’s get online.” And then, yeah, we became friends which is really cool. So it’s been awesome to watch each other grow and we’ve come a long way, hey?
Daniel: Totally. Yeah, it’s been interesting, for sure.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s a really good realization you’ve had. Can you tell me about the publication’s piece because this is something, I think, you’re very, very masterful at that our audience can definitely learn about, and you still need to tell us about the book. What you’re working on with the book. So I’d love to hear some strategy and thought process because you’ve got some big goals and ambitions for that book, and, I think, people really get a lot of value from understanding that.
So let’s talk about the publications piece first because this is something you’re extremely masterful at. You’ve been featured “Time,” “Fortune,” every single in a big publication in your market, our market, how can this be applied for someone that wants to be featured in big publications in any market? What are some strategies, maybe top three that people can take away?
Daniel: Okay, so, first of all, I wanna make you guys aware of something. There are two benefits…well, there are several benefits but there are two main benefits to getting featured in these big magazines. So, like, Nathan said, I’ve been in pretty much every publication, “Inc.,” “Fortune,” “Forbes,” “Time,” all those places some of them by accident, some of them on purpose.
And the first benefit is obvious. There’s definitely a benefit for the ego. It feels really good to see your name up there. I mean, no, it’s true. It just feels good. Even if it drives no traffic. It just makes you just oh so good. I don’t know how gross I can be on your podcast but it just gives me a great feeling. So, you know, it makes me feel really good to see your name up there. And then you can put the logos on your website, and you’re, like, “I’m a badass.” You know, I’m really good. And that’s great and it’s impressive to a certain extent.
And it does drive traffic back to your website which is great. So all of that is good. It will help you to improve your authority. You can add it to your pitch when you consult people and all that stuff and when people search for your name and it comes up. It just looks good. All that is great.
But what most people don’t consider is that these syndications, when you get your work published in these these syndications, it can do the same for you that Facebook would do for you if you spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising.
So a good example of this is “Business Insider.” There is one article that I wrote for “Business Insider” called “Hacking Elance.” And this wasn’t something that I wrote originally for them it was… and I think the title of it is officially, like, “How I Made $24,000 while I was Freelancing” This is an article that wrote back in 2013, okay? It’s 2017 as you’re listening to this. I gave them a re-purposed copy of this article that I wrote four years ago, and they are continuing to run this article on “Business Insider,” on Business Insider’s social media channels.
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Daniel: Okay? In 2015. So they’ve been running it for two years straight and every time they run that article, even though I mentioned Elance in the article, Elance no longer exists called Upwork now, hey still run this article on “Business Insider” at least three or four times a year on their Facebook, and every time they run it, it gets, like, several thousand shares. It gets like hundreds and hundreds of comments. And I’ve probably gotten 15,000 email subscribers from them.
We’ve made tens of thousands of dollars off of that one article to keep sharing and that would have cost us a lot of money to run those ads, but when you syndicate your content, meaning you take your content and you give it to another bigger service provider or another bigger platform, when they share that stuff, it’s the same effect as you paying to get it boosted, paying if you want ad to it. I read an article on “Entrepreneur” last year, they got 81.2 thousand shares. That cost money on Facebook. That costs money. So that’s the thing. Not only is it good for your ego, good for your credibility, great to raise your rates and prove that you’re worth something, it makes you money.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. So, bro, top three steps on how people can replicate that?
Daniel: First thing is you got to know which one you want to pitch first because there’s, like, a hierarchy, like, how these publications work. So the first thing is you want identify what are, kind of, like, the lower tier publications in your market. So I’m gonna talk about entrepreneurship and that market, the business market, but do your own research and figure out where these apply in your market.
The first thing is figure out like the bottom step of the ladder. So for us that’s probably, like, “Huffington Post.” The reason why I say “Huffington Post,” or maybe even Elite Daily or “Thought Catalog.” These are kind of like more tangential things. The reason why I put them at the bottom is because although they have a wide, like, a well-thought-out brand name, people know who they are, they’re not particularly hard to get into, but they still get some respect. For a beginner writer being published in “Huffington Post” is very exciting. And people recognize the name and it will increase your search visibility.
So you start with these these smaller…I call them “tier one publication.” Then you can do that just by google searching. You can type in “how to contribute to HuffPo?” And it will give you an email address that you email. And there are people that check that email address and you can submit your articles there. And you’re not gonna get every article that you that you submit put in. And sometimes you’re going to feel, like, they’re ignoring you, so you can keep emailing them, eventually they’ll get back to you.
And if they don’t, you find other contributors who have contributed to them and say, “Hey, who’s the editor like? Do you have it contact for editor?” And you’ll find one. It’s not hard. Places like “Huffington Post,” you have to remember they need content. They need you because they make money from content because their content attracts viewers, and the viewers create ad dollars. All these businesses, these content platforms, make money off of ad revenue. So they need your content probably more than you need them, honestly.
So you start off with these tier one…I just call them “tier one publications.” And these will give you an initial boost in credibility and show that you can write in a more public stage than just myawesomeblog.com, right? So you do that, and then after a while, after you’ve gotten a few of those, then you want to move up to tier two, and this is where it starts to get really fun.
So tier two, examples of tier two, in our space “Entrepreneur” is a great tier two so why is entrepreneur tier two? It’s tier two because it’s definitely a little bit harder to get into. You’re gonna have to find individual editors and there’s not going to be as much of a contribution, like, email address to send stuff to. So you got to find the editors which you can find them. They’re all over on Twitter, you can just look in the bio links of different writers and find the editors, they’re all over the place. And when you pitch to these outlets, unlike places like “Huffington Post,” which will honestly pretty much take anything though as long as it doesn’t have like porn in it. They’ll pretty much take anything that you want to give them, I mean, honestly, well, they we can literally take anything.
“Entrepreneur” is more selective and you’re going to need to impress the editors a bit, but once you get in “Entrepreneur,” and you, kind of, work your way up there, the cool thing about this level is, and this is tip 3, that you’re going start to have the opportunity to get the viral effect, because what most people don’t know is that the more you publish on these tier two places, like, I would say “Entrepreneur” is one, you know, “Forbes” is even consider like a tier two. It’s a similar format. This is when you get the opportunity to get syndicated into all these other, like, really, really high-level publications.
So “Entrepreneur” and places like them, you know, in different industries is a hub where other bigger publications steal content from basically. So “Time Magazine,” “Fortune Magazine,” some of these bigger publications that have a lot of credibility in respect will go to “Entrepreneur” and steal articles from “Entrepreneur,” or they have a partnership agreement. They’ll syndicate articles from “Entrepreneur,” and that’s how we ended up getting in these top tier magazines because what we did was we contributed every single week to “Entrepreneur.”
This is a key, you have to be consistent. We contributed every single week. And every time we contributed an article, it increased our odds of having one of our articles picked up by these bigger sources. And so what we did was we watched our Google Analytics because you never know when you’re gonna get shared by a big article or by a big website. But if you watch your Google Analytics, you can see every day where your traffic is coming from. And one day, I saw that traffic was coming from “Time Magazine.” I was like, “Holy crap. Do I have a link from Time?” And sure enough, they posted one of my articles from “Entrepreneur.”
So what I did from there was I looked for the editors for “Time Magazine,” and I’ll tell you how to do that in just a second, but I looked for editors for “Time Magazine,” and I emailed them and I said, “Hey guys, look, you’ve already published one of my articles from Entrepreneur so obviously you guys trust me. Would it be okay if we started a partnership where I submit a couple articles to you a month and you publish them?” And the editor said, “Sure we’ve already published you, why not?”
And that’s how you build a relationship with these other top-tier magazines because usually they don’t accept submissions. “Time Magazine” doesn’t accept submissions online. And the way that you can find these editors, there are a couple tools, one is called Clearbit, have you heard of it?
Nathan: Yea,h golden.
Daniel: Really, really good. And so you can type in the domain name, like, if you type in “foundr.com,” you’ll see Nathan and a bunch of other people who work at “Foundr.” Or if you type in “Time Magazine,” it will list employees that work there with their email addresses. And they have the position that’s right next to them. So you can find the editors at those different places. Or if you can’t find an editor on Clearbit, if they only have other positions, you can just email pretty much whoever you want from that list of people who work there and say, “Hey I’m looking for the contributing editor. Do you know who that might be?” And someone in the chain of command will forward you to that person.
Nathan: That’s crazy, man. This is really, really good stuff. So one question, before we move on to talking about your book, is in regards to writing, you know, like, what do you do there on that on that stage? Like, how do you become a great writer or write good enough stuff?
Daniel: I think that you just have to know who the audience is. So each audience has a different feel. So “Entrepreneur” tends to like more, I would say, more thought-provoking pieces, whereas “Business Insider” likes, “Here’s how I made X amount of dollars.” And “Time Magazine” likes more, like, productivity stuff. So you have to figure out who the unique audience is and then write stuff that they’re going to like. Because, honestly, it works better if you pitch them pieces that they’re already prone to like, you know.
With “Business Insider,” I’ve written probably 10 pieces that are like, “Here’s how I made X dollars in X Time.” They just happen to like that so study who the source is and write for that audience specifically.
And, man, I gotta be honest, like, consistency is going to make you a better writer just by writing everyday which is something that I do. But I consider myself an actual writer, not just a marketer. So I enjoy writing. There’s a lot of people who don’t enjoy writing, that’s fine, because, honestly, the writing on some of these outlets is not that great. I mean, it’s just pretty…like, even “Time Magazine” you’d think would be like the gold standard of writing and it’s just okay. Like, I think my writing is good but you don’t have to be an expert writer in order to get your articles in these places. They’re not expecting that.
Nathan: Okay, awesome. Because I know that something that people might be thinking. Now this makes a great transition towards a great, an amazing body of work that you’ve actually…I’ve been lucky enough to be featured in.
Daniel: Mm-hmm, first chapter.
Nathan: Yeah, first chapter “Rich20Something” the book. So talk to us about that how, where people go to find out more about it and strategies. I think people would like to know strategies around how you’re launching it, you have a goal to be a “New York Times” bestseller so…
Daniel: Number one”New York Times” bestseller.
Nathan: Number one “New York Times” bestseller, so tell us about that.
Daniel: Man, where to start? You know, what interesting, man. So long, I’ve been either wanting to write a book, which is, you know, pretty much my whole life, or in the process of writing the book, or waiting to get the book. And now for a few weeks I’ve had a copy of the book and it feels really surreal to have a physical copy of something that was in your head for a few years. And it’s interesting as a creator to see something that you’ve done come to life. It’s like having a child, man. It’s like having a child, especially since, like, I wrote the whole thing. There was no ghostwriter I didn’t have any help. Like, I had editors, obviously, but it’s completely mine.
And so it’s very cool and very surreal and, you know, I think, like, the first thing that is gonna be a big help for us is that I spent the last few years building relationships, not with the intention of having those relationships helped me with the book, just doing it. I think, one, because that’s my personality. And, two, because I knew one day I might need help with something. And it just happens to turn out that, now, since I’ve been just making friends people online, in my community and, you know, whether they’re readers of my work, or other influencers in the space, after four or five years of building this up, there’s a good community of people around the world, literally around the world, who want to see this books be successful.
And I’m realizing now how many people it takes to have a successful book launch. It takes a lot of…I mean, you know this. You totally know this. It takes a lot…like, I have to I feel like I have to pick up the earth and move it over one inch, you know? Like, pick it up and set it down one inch to the right. That’s kind of what launching this book feels like, because it takes a lot of coordination with people. The writing of the book is the fun and the creative part where you get to indulge your struggle and say, “Ah, I’m an author. This is so hard.”
No, no, no. That was the easy part. The hard part is getting people to pay attention to it. Just like with any product. So some of the strategies we’re doing, the first thing is, we’re taking a multi-faceted approach to this. What most people don’t know is that, in order to get on the “New York Times” bestseller list, you can’t just sell a bunch of copies on Amazon. You have to distribute the the sales across multiple different sales channels and you have to have a varied approach.
So we have a whole list of podcasts that we’re either going to appear on or pitching. We have a whole list of influencers on social media that are gonna help us to put up images and pictures or social media posts about it. We have a whole group people who are going to email out about the book for us. We have a whole list of universities that we’re approaching that were up that I’m looking to speak at. We have other partnerships with organizations and all of this stuff took a lot of time.
And so what I’m doing now is I’m taking the last four or five years pretty much everyone that I’ve affected positively and saying, “Look, I have one thing to ask of you and it’s that you help me with this book.” And it’s taken a lot of time to get up the courage to start asking people, but now I’m starting to see that it’s been a good idea to build friendships over the years, because without those, I wouldn’t be able to do this.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. And would you be interested…and I’m putting you on the spot doing something awesome for our audience? Do you want to a giveaway, competition? I think that that would work well.
Daniel: Yeah, man. You know, there’s something actually we should do. What I’ll do is I’ll do…let’s make a web page I’m gonna make a special page. It’s rich20something.com/foundr, and what we’ll do is we’ll make a special giveaway for your audience. We’re giving away a bunch of cool things. So when you buy a book, we’re gonna automatically enter you into onto our bonus list. We’re giving away access to our courses, access to our flagship courses, which are all over a thousand dollars. We’re giving away MacBook Pros. We’re doing private masterminds with me around the country and around the world and a bunch of other prizes.
So go to rich20something.com/foundr to look at all the bonuses we got them all stacked up for you. You’re really gonna like that. And not only that, if you’re following Nathan’s stuff on Instagram, or, like, if you’re reading his email list, and you’re watching this type of stuff right now and you purchase the book, send me a screenshot of your purchase and I will increase the tickets that you have into the raffle and we’ll go from there.
Nathan: Awesome so it’s rich20.com/foundr, F-O-U-N-D-R, right?
Daniel: Yeah, rich20something.com/foundr.
Nathan: Yeah, rich20something.com/foundr. Awesome. Man, well, look, we work towards wrapping up. Man, this has been a great podcast, great conversation, ton of gold shared. If people want to find out more about you, where else can they go?
Daniel: Well, first place is rich20something.com/book that’s where you can get the book and when you send me a screenshot, I’ll enter you on the bonus list. And then just, look, rich20something.com and I wanted to leave you guys with something. I think that a lot of us who are listening to this right now especially in the beginning phases of our entrepreneurship and our journey, probably are unsure about how realistic it is that you’re gonna be successful. And I cannot stress enough how important it is to have other friends on this journey.
The way that, I think, about entrepreneurship, and I think I’ve shared this example with you before, it’s, kind of, like, high school classes. I would say every one to three years, there’s a new group of people who are beginning this journey in every different space. So for us we’re, kind of, in the education course and other type of space, but every industry has this.
It’s super important that you find out who else is doing what you’re doing around the same time that you’re starting because those are the people that you’re gonna come up with, and those are the people that are gonna help you connect you to other people who can spread the message. And this isn’t about competition guys. Like, there is certainly a competitive aspect entrepreneurship, but mostly the successful people are collaborators.
So don’t put a lot of thought into, like, how to hack into networks, just start actually meeting people, and you’ll see how far you’ll go. I can trace back to the successful battle in past few years making millions of bucks and having getting the book deal and having all these awesome experiences. I can trace back maybe five or seven key connections that have led to everything else. And without those, I wouldn’t have had some of the huge ones I’ve had. So if you’re going to focus on one thing outside of actually building a business, focus on that.
Nathan: Love it. Awesome, man. Well, look, thank you so much for your time. It’s been an awesome conversation. And like I said, it’s been amazing just being on this journey with you, man. So, yeah, we’ve become great friends and I look forward hanging out in LA in a couple of weeks. And thank you for your time, man
Daniel: You’re visiting on my podcast, man, in studio, in studio. That’s what I like. Thank you for your time, man. I appreciate it.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Daniel DiPiazza
- Learn more about Rich20Something
- Follow Daniel DiPiazza on Twitter
- Follow Rich20Something on Instagram
- Connect with Daniel DiPiazza on Linkedin