- From Philadelphia, USA
Owner of Ace Media LLC
- Business Model: Authority
- $35,000monthly revenue
- $12,000monthly profit
- All info self-reported by interviewee
- Published January 30, 2020
- Reviewed and edited by Rita Epps
Who are you and how do you make money online?
My name is Matt Giovanisci and I’m half Italian.
In 2006, I started a website called SwimUniversity.com. It’s about taking care of swimming pools and hot tubs. That’s the biz I was in since I was 13 years old. At 25, I took my expertise online.
Swim University makes money with Amazon Associates and selling my own digital info products. Mainly a pool care eBook and video course, and the same for hot tub care.
With about $23,000 in expenses (including my own salary), the business profits roughly $12,000 a month.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I wake up every day whenever I want.
Usually when the sun comes up. For me, that’s around 8am. Then, I putz around on my phone in bed for about an hour. Watch YouTube videos, read email, check Twitter, read a little, etc.
Then I make breakfast for my girlfriend and I. Then we drink coffee in the living room. Then, I get to work around 10-11am.
From there, I know exactly what I have to do because we run a tight ship. Everything is tasked out in Asana. The entire business runs that way.
And each day is a bit different – I don’t like repetition.
I might write some content for Money Lab. Code up some stuff for any of my websites. Write some emails. Do some marketing stuff. Tweet. Whatever really.
My team is the one who creates consistent content including articles, videos, and graphics. I mainly do CEO stuff now.
But that wasn’t always the case.
In the beginning, I did everything.
Coding, design, writing, videos, podcasting, you name it. But now I just focus on growth and general management stuff.
I work about 30-40 hours a week. I love working.
I love being productive. I can sit at the computer for 24 hours straight if you let me (and depending on what I’m working on).
But I don’t do that. I shut down around 6 or 7pm.
I take time off on the weekends. But even on the weekends, I like to be productive.
I’m a homebrewer, so I’ll usually brew about 5-10 gallons of beer every 1-2 weeks. Brewing one batch of beer is an all-day project for me. Plus, I gotta keg or can it later and clean everything.
So it’s not just a weekend thing. In fact, right before I sat down to write this interview, I installed my new kegging system in my kitchen.
All the work we do can be done online.
I like it that way. Everything is run with Asana and Google Drive.
No matter where I am – as long as there’s an internet connection – I can do any kind of work that needs to be done.
A 365-day look at my monotonous life as a self-employed online entrepreneur who works alone from home:
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’ve been working in the pool industry since I was 13.
I had a summer job at a local pool supply store stocking shelves, ringing up customers, and testing pool water. I did that until I was 16. Then, I got a job at another local pool store and worked my way up to assistant manager.
I graduated from high school, but dropped out of college.
I tried going to community college for two weeks…twice.
But it didn’t work out for me. Plus, I had a job I liked.
Later, I got poached to work at another local pool store as the manager. I did that for a year and completely changed their entire business.
They actually profited the year I was the manager…
…because I developed a system for buying merchandise for the store and set them up on a whole new accounting platform that limited theft.
Then, I got poached to work back at the pool store I left. It was during this time that I learned how to design and code websites. I was in a band and we needed a website but couldn’t afford it.
My boss at the time caught me working on the site at the store…
Instead of firing me, he hired me to design the company’s website. This was in the middle of the winter – there were no customers anyway.
I got good at building websites and decided to try that as my new career.
I got a job at a web design firm for 6 months. And then I got hired back by the same company I left, but this time, I was promoted to the Marketing Director of the entire company.
I got to work in the corporate office and oversee marketing for 4 retail stores – one of which I helped open.
I had a sweet job making good money. But I had to fuck it all up by trying to start my own business on the side.
This was the time I started SwimUniversity.com. A few years later, my boss fired me because of it.
He thought it was a conflict of interest. It wasn’t, but fine.
Long story short, it worked out for me in the end.
But it took me about 7 years after starting the site to actually make a decent living from it.
I made a lot of mistakes.
Focused on the wrong things.
Didn’t validate shit.
All I knew is that people needed help taking care of their pool, and I was going to help them with my articles and videos.
I also knew I could make money with affiliate links and by selling advertising. But I didn’t have any real business plan.
I just focused on writing articles and building traffic through SEO.
Editor’s note: Matt’s Swim University is one of the websites on our list of affiliate marketing website examples.
How did you prepare to launch the business?
I already knew how to build a website.
I learned it from books and just Googling questions when I had them.
All trial and error.
However, I didn’t really know how to write.
I didn’t go to college, remember? And the reason I dropped out twice was actually because of English teachers.
They hated me because I was a shitty writer and didn’t take any assignment seriously. I just wrote to make myself laugh.
How much money did you have to spend to get started?
Basically nothing except the domain name and hosting.
I did everything myself in the beginning and liked it that way.
Funny story, when I first had the idea for Swim University, I immediately bought two domain names: SwimUniversity.com and SwimU.com for $10 each.
I procrastinated for two years before actually building the site…
… and lost both domain names.
Someone had bought SwimU.com and I had to buy it back for $100.
Talk us through your first few months (or first year) in business.
I had zero doubts it was going to work.
Call it blind confidence.
But I knew people owned pools and didn’t know how to take care of them.
So I was solving a problem for the readers.
I didn’t have any support.
It was a side project for about 7 years.
When I finally got laid off and decided to pursue it full time…
…my mom just kept asking me when I was going to get a real job.
I had to downgrade my life when I went working full-time on my own business.
I had to sell my BMW and rent out my house. I moved in with my younger brother and cut my monthly expenses by 75%.
For a full year, I was laser-focused on building SwimU to a reasonable salary. And in the first year, I got it up to $40,000 in revenue – which was all mine because I did everything!
How did you make your first $100 online?
Through Adsense. Not recommended.
I was getting decent traffic from Google and that was the quickest way to monetize at first.
How does the business make money today?
Today, I’m getting a bunch of qualified traffic through Google and Pinterest.
About 4-5 million visitors a year.
It took me a long time to get there, but obviously worth it.
All of that traffic was built by finding the keywords people were searching for – when taking care of their pool or hot tub – and writing awesome articles around that keyword.
I knew a lot about technical SEO and on-page SEO to increase my chances. Still works.
I was making money through advertising. I did AdSense and also sold banner ads directly to pool companies.
But eventually I gave that up because the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. Instead, I focused on building up my affiliate marketing efforts and selling my own digital products.
Editor’s note: if you’d like to learn more about affiliate marketing, we’ve rated and reviewed the most popular affiliate marketing courses here, including the best free training we’ve found online.
What are some of the challenges particular to this kind of online business?
It takes FOREVER to grow.
And it should.
Slow and steady wins the race and sets you up for the long term.
It’s also hard for me to make more money. Gotta create new products and constantly promote existing ones.
It’s a constant game of tweaking.
If you were starting the same business today, from scratch, how would you do it?
I would build the site in less than 24 hours.
Keep it stupid simple!
Then, I’d build a massive list of keywords to target using Ahrefs. And write my balls off every single day.
Publish as fast and feverish as possible while maintaining the epic quality of the content.
I’d create digital products from the get-go. Also, I’d automate all the marketing.
Build an email list up and market to them with automated sequences. And treat all my affiliate links like they were products I would sell in my retail store.
I do all of this now for the business…but I would do it all this way from the very beginning.
What books, podcasts, courses or other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Get your personal finances right. Read I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi and automate your savings right off the bat.
If I didn’t do that from day one, I would be broke today.
I was very shitty with money before starting my business. I had to get that right first or I would be more stressed.
And don’t read anything else! Just build a fucking business.
Stop consuming and start creating.
Consuming will only muck things up and make you crazy. Reading gives you ideas and sends you on paths you don’t really need to go down.
📚 Editor’s note: see our ultimate list of the best books for online entrepreneurs.
What are your top business tools?
- Asana. I run my entire business and life with Asana. If it’s not in Asana, it doesn’t get done.
- Google Drive.
- Ahrefs. If you want traffic from Google, well…
- Podia. Best move I ever made to sell my digital products. Dead simple.