How Switching To The Authority Site Model Allowed Perrin To Build a Stable $7,504/Month Income

Gael’s Notes: If you have been following us for a while, you may have noticed Perrin has been authoring most of the blog posts for a few months but hasn’t had a proper introduction.

He has been helping on the blog side while I have been focusing on growing the Business and member area side of Authority Hacker and growing our other authority sites.

I am far from giving up on blogging though and hope to have more time for it next year (I am still on the podcast though)

If you followed Niche Pursuits in the past, you’ve probably heard of Perrin, but if you have not, here is a quick introduction of how he went from someone just “dreaming” of making money online to making some, to losing everything and to rebuilding it all the right way.

Perrin’s one of those people who constantly innovates on ‘classic’ marketing tactics, which has made it really fun to work with him–and in many cases to coach him–as we grow our sites alongside each other, swapping strategies and creating new techniques along the way.

I’m happy to say his authority site is doing well and he is writing for us by choice and not because he needs the money anymore (not that we don’t pay him!).

He now makes around $8,000/month from a site he started just 20 months ago.

Perrin's Earnings Overview

Sit back and enjoy his story!

$97… that’s all I got for it.

It was basically my only form of entertainment: my Xbox 360.

But I needed a job. Bad. The problem was that my wardrobe was 100% t-shirts and jeans. I needed a job, but before I could even book interviews, I need something to wear.

And I was dead broke…

So I did the only thing I could: I sold my Xbox to a goofy 10-year-old kid on craigslist. It was my only option. I had $35 in my bank account, there was no way to pay rent next month, and I absolutely needed to buy a suit for job interviews.

I sold my baby for $97, took the bus downtown, walked two more miles to H&M, and bought the cheapest suit I could find.

Hi. I’m Perrin. It’s 2012, and I’ve just finished a graduate degree in perhaps the single most useless academic field: poetry.

I’ve been tossed into the real world, and I have no idea what I’m doing. I have a bit of writing experience, but that’s pretty much it.

And I’m embarrassed by how naive I’ve been, realizing now companies aren’t exactly rushing to hire poets.

Money’s getting tight.

I sell my Xbox 360 to buy a crappy suit for job interviews.

And then I start pounding pavement–sending out resumes by the dozen, applying to jobs for which I’m not even remotely qualified.

One of the few places to even call me back is a big, global consulting firm.

One interview. Two interviews. Five interviews and one massive writing test later…

…and I miraculously have a job. And not just any job.

A “good” job: something other than a barista. I’m a communications and change management consultant. I’ve got a salary. I’ve got benefits. I get to go on business trips. My clients are Fortune 500 companies.

Everyone is proud of me. My mom, meaning well but eternally tactless said, “I never thought you’d land such a good job!

I even remember getting stoked about staying in a fancy hotel on my first business trip.

Perrin FB post

I really should have been happy.

But I wasn’t.

It took about three months of trying to convince myself my job was awesome to realize that I needed to get out of there. Pronto.

I just… hated it.

I hated the “game” of corporate culture. I hated kissing ass. I hated pointless meetings. I hated crazy, out-of-touch, super-rich executive clients. I hated trying to figure out who was throwing me under the bus.

And it certainly didn’t help that most of the time the person throwing me under the bus was my boss.

If you’ve seen the devil wears Prada, she’s that kind of person.

We had this one client (I can’t share the company, but you’ve heard of them; they’re a Fortune 500 company and a major brand in the states). I spent months creating a presentation for their employees. I absolutely perfected it. It was simple, clear, elegant, professional. And it did exactly what they wanted.

I handed it in to my boss, and she transformed it into the biggest, most convoluted, typo-riddled, grammatically incorrect turd of a PowerPoint I’d ever seen go out the door.

I had a brief, shining moment of satisfaction when the clients edits came back: they took out everything she’d done and asked for the version I’d created.

That lasted about 30 seconds…

…before I was accidentally copied on an email from my boss to the client that said, “Sorry about that. Perrin wrote the parts you didn’t like, and he’s new here.”

In that moment, I realized why corporate culture was so toxic: people didn’t own their jobs, so to keep their jobs, folks who might have otherwise been nice behaved like complete sociopaths. I hated it.

Most of all, though, I hated having no stake in what I was creating.

So three months in, I started planning my escape.

I used my lunch breaks and commutes to pound through business books. I devoured everything I could on entrepreneurship. I was reading multiple books a week.


When I ran out of books (at some point, you realize lots of the business books out there say pretty much the same stuff), I turned to blogs. And podcasts. And YouTube channels.

Somewhere along the way, I came across this funny little acronym: SEO.

Seeing the Power of SEO…

Up until then, I’d been thinking about entrepreneurship like a job. A better job–one that would give me the freedom to more or less do what I wanted instead of busting my ass to make faceless corporate executives even richer–but a job nonetheless.

The people who were winning at SEO, however, had something I’d honestly thought was a mirage: passive income.

And, really, when you stumble across the likes of, say, Pat Flynn’s (mostly passive) income reports when you’re grinding through 12 soul-sucking hours in a cubicle every day, it’s hard not to be intoxicated.

I was hooked.

So I narrowed my obsession for entrepreneurship into an obsession for SEO. I wanted to chase the unicorn of passive income.

Of course, I had no idea what I was doing.

So I failed pretty spectacularly.

Falling in Love with Failure…

I think I created four different websites over the course of about a year: a gaming website, a poetry website, a one-page dating website, and a nursing certification website.

I had no real direction. My sites were just a hodgepodge of different tactics I was reading about.

The dating website actually made $18.50 from two eBook sales, but everything else? Zero.

A year’s worth of work for a big fat donut.

zero results try again

In traditional terms, that’s a fairly significant negative ROI. I’d essentially put in hundreds (maybe even thousands) of hours of work for no compensation.


…without tooting my own horn, here’s what I think sets me apart from a lot of people, and I’ve seen this quality in the best entrepreneurs I’ve come to call friends over the years: I just… love failing.

I have friends who hate it. Some of the most talented people I know hold themselves back because they can’t stand not succeeding.

For whatever reason, my brain operates differently.

In my head, if I know there are 100 possible ways to reach some goal, every failure represents a step closer to the finish line. In other words, if I try something and it doesn’t work, I now have only 99 steps to go instead of 100.

It’s not a strike against my character. It’s an investment.

So there I was, slave to my cubicle, happily throwing all kinds of sh*t at the proverbial wall, checking off the stuff that didn’t work, inch-by-inch digging my way toward something that would stick.

And I probably would have done that for another 5 years if I hadn’t met Spencer Haws.

The Multiplying Power of a Mentor…

Back in 2013, I was reading a bunch of blogs, but one of my favorites was Niche Pursuits, which was run by Spencer Haws, and one of the things that really drew me to Niche Pursuits was that Spencer was doing 100% transparent case studies.

He was starting sites from scratch, building them until they were profitable, and showing exactly what he was doing along the way.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this…

Niche Pursuit Student Application

I was so stoked. I applied immediately.

And through a combination of sheer luck and the will of the masses, I was chosen as the student for Spencer’s Niche Site Project #2.

Over the next couple of months, Spencer helped me build a site and corrected a lot of the little stuff I was doing wrong. The difference in learning speed between trial-and-error and having an actual mentor look over your shoulder and guide you through the process was… insane.

I ended up creating, a site that reviewed shaving gear.

A Penny Shaved screenshot

I wrote most of the content myself, and we used something that was all the rage back then: Private Blog Networks (PBNs).

PBNs, if you don’t know, are a way to trick Google. Instead of going out and actually marketing your site to other bloggers, you buy expired domains (sites that used to be alive and active), set up fake sites, and link back to your “money” site. It simulates popularity. It simulates marketing. And in the eyes of Google, it’s a gigantic no-no.

Of course, at that point, I was just learning, so I didn’t really understand the risk.

But honestly, it was easy. The site only had about 30 articles on it, and I didn’t do any link building. I just ordered links from a service that owned a massive PBN.

Learning SEO is pretty difficult, but with the basics under my belt, building the site really did seem rather… easy (…if this reminds you of some heavy-handed foreshadowing in a horror novel, you’re not imagining it).

Not too long after that, I earned what I consider to be my first real dollar online.

I really can’t explain the absolute emotional rollercoaster of owning a site that was finally making money after over a year and hundreds of hours of failing.

Traffic just kept going up…

Built A Website Earned A Dollar

The next month, I broke $100. Then $600. Then I made something like $1,300 around Christmas time. Before I knew it, my dinky little shaving site was making $4,000+ per month.

Little did I know… it wouldn’t last for long…

How Grey Hat Techniques Cost Me My Business…

When I was building aPennyShaved, I really didn’t know how much I didn’t know.

I don’t really even think I knew I was a “grey hat.” All the “SEOs” I knew back then–and I mean everyone--were using PBNs. Of course, there was a whole community out there doing amazing white hat SEO (these guys have been around as long as the black hats and the grey hats).

But I wasn’t rubbing elbows with those folks and their tactics seemed to only work for big brands with large budgets and a household name.

Everyone in my circles was using PBNs. They were easy. They were links on demand. Google will never find them if you just hide them properly, bro. White hat is hard anyway. It’s not worth the time.

If you poke around the blog posts from Niche Site Project 2, you can even see me defending PBNs in a couple of places.

But when I woke up on the morning of September 18, 2014, I had to eat my words…

PBN site traffic after Penguin update

And mine wasn’t the only site that went down. Spencer and I had been building and buying a bunch of sites. I was managing a portfolio of web properties that was approaching the 5-figure/mo mark.

They were all using PBNs, so all of them tanked. Not just one, but two businesses destroyed overnight. Here’s Spencer’s epic rage-post about it.

I was devastated.

I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep.

If making progress feels incredible, losing what you built feels 10x worst than that.​

The next few months are a bit of a blur. I tried to get the penalty removed. Didn’t work. I tried to buy a site in the beauty niche for $500 because the thought of rebuilding was just… painful. I figured if I bought an aged domain and added onto it, I could skip the whole building links thing.

But that didn’t work either. I honestly don’t know why it didn’t work. I bought an established site with what looked like a “clean” link profile and started adding great content targeting easy keywords.

And… nada. That’s what was so frustrating. You just never know what’s been done to a site and/or what Google thinks of it.

I was in limbo…

It was around that time I started really becoming friends with Gael, who, in no uncertain terms (you know what I mean if you know him), encouraged me to grow a pair and start a new site. And by that, I mean he saw how frustrated I was and just started listing off niches.


Hey that didn’t sound half bad. In fact, I’d just gotten my very first dog. I could get into that.

Eventually, around the end of the year, I decided it was time to build something new. Only this time, I was going to do it the right way.

Because here’s the thing…

No matter how successful you are in the short-term, restarting from scratch sucks. I realized that if i hadn’t have had to waste all this time restarting, I’d be about $24,000 richer ($4,000/mo x 6 months).

I was ready to go.