This is a guest post from Michael-John Wolfe, an actor turned blogger who shares with us a very inspiring story about his journey towards legitimate, residual income sources. You can read more about Michael-John Wolfe on his blog at Residuals and Royalties. Enjoy!
The year was 2003 and I was living in my hometown of Wallingford, Connecticut. I was working full time for my cousin’s janitorial company. This job pretty much consisted of cleaning toilets and mopping floors at local medical facilities. Needless to say, I was not where I wanted to be in life at age 31. My one bright spot in life was a girl that I was dating, the only bad thing about dating her was the fact that I rarely had any cash to take her out. In fact, most of the time she was the one who wound up paying for the cost of our dates.
One day I stopped by her apartment and she told me it was over – she simply could not date someone who never had any money. Devastated, I called my friend to meet me for a beer. Over drinks, my best friend gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. You see, for years I had been talking about moving to L.A. to try and become an actor. This always seemed like more of a dream than something that I would actually pursue. My friend said to me “Why don’t you go to L.A. to do acting? You are always talking about it. At this point, what have you got to lose?” He was right. I had a shitty job (literally!), no girl, no money and I was going nowhere fast. It was that night with my friend that I decided to “go for it” and pursue my long time dream of becoming a working actor.
Within two weeks I made the trip to Los Angeles. I had only $1,600 to my name and most of this money was basically a line of credit on a Visa card. I subletted an apartment the size of a large closet and I hit the pavement running. I was going to get acting work. I had to get acting work, because if I didn’t – I would soon be on the street.
Day after day I had the same routine. Get up, submit myself to the Breakdowns (casting calls), mail twenty headshot mailers to agents, register with the background casting agencies, spend two hours on my acting skills, read every acting book I could, go out and knock on doors. My routine was like clockwork. Day in and day out I did everything possible to try and get paid acting work.
At first, I was booking roles as a non-union background actor and I was earning a nominal $54 for 8 hours of work. After a while, I started to get commercial non-union background work that paid $125 for 10 hours of work. One night, while on the set of the Tom Cruise movie Collateral, I caught the break I was looking for. Michael Mann instructed me to say a line and I was literally standing across from Tom Cruise. I mustered up the confidence, said my line and before I knew it I was being whisked away to a production trailer to sign my first SAG day player contract. Although my line did not make the final cut of the movie, I did make the final credits and I earned a good day’s pay and some great residual income.
This was the big break that I needed. From this small role I was able to join the Screen Actor’s Guild, I got signed with a Hollywood agent and the work just started to flow. I went on to work on tons of commercials, films and television shows. I never landed any huge roles, but I became a full time working actor. My goal was never to become a “movie star” – I just wanted to be a working actor and I loved spending my days on set. Even when things were going great, I never stopped my consistent pursuit of acting work. Like always, I spent each day submitting myself to the casting directors and honing my craft. Things started looking up, I began dating a girl who would soon become my wife and I was able to support the two of us from my acting earnings alone.
I caught another break when I booked a principal role on a Barclay’s bank commercial and this was to be my first SAG national commercial. I was on set for only one day and my scene in the commercial is literally about 3 seconds long. The commercial is called “Invisible Building” and you can see it here. (I am one of the businessmen sitting in the boardroom while the lady looks at the helicopter.)
A few months after the Barclay’s Bank shoot, my wife and I were heading out to dinner one night and I stopped at my mailbox to get the mail. I was surprised to find 17 checks awaiting me in the mailbox. I came back out to the car and my wife and I took turns opening up these checks. We were hysterical with laughter as we opened each check for random amounts. One check would be for $2,000 and the next would be for $600 – these were the residuals from my Barclay’s commercial. All in all, we opened about $6,000 worth of checks that day. This commercial ran for two years and every three months I would go to my mailbox and come home with another batch of checks. I was amazed that I was getting paid over and over again for a day of work that I completed months ago. This was when I fell in love with the idea of residual income.
Flash forward to 2010 – my wife and I have since moved to suburban Colorado to provide a better place than L.A. to raise our two sons. I still pursue acting, but it is more of a hobby than a career. During my time in L.A. I was able to earn between $80,000 and $110,000 a year from my acting earnings alone for five years straight. The fact is, my unwavering determination and the continuous pursuit of acting work is what made me a success.
Before we left L.A., I decided to start a blog called Residuals and Royalties. I am still addicted to finding legitimate ways to create residual income, just like the money I made from acting. I wanted to blog about all of the possible ways to create residual income or earn royalties. But my blog started out very different than my acting career. At first, I had good intentions – I was posting almost daily and eager to watch my blog grow. Most of the time I was too busy checking my Google analytics numbers and looking at my measly Adsense earnings to even bother focusing on making my blog better. Needless to say, after a few months my initial eagerness had worn off. I started posting much less often and the blog soon sat stagnant collecting dust. For months I gave my blog very little attention and I even considered taking it offline.
Then one day, I was online looking at all of the successful bloggers – Darren Rowse, John Chow, Shoemoney and of course Pat Flynn – I realized that I too could get to this level of success. I just needed one thing – consistency. Why hadn’t I put the same amount of time and effort into my blog as I did my pursuit of paid acting work? Surely, becoming a successful blogger can’t be as hard as becoming a working actor. I read on Yahoo last week that almost 500,000 bloggers are now making their primary living from their blogs!
Why couldn’t this be me? From that moment forward – it was ON! I have begun posting 5 to 7 times a week, I am researching my blog postings in greater depth, I am responding in a timely manner to every comment I receive, I am writing monthly earnings reports and I am consistently coming up with new ideas to help my blog succeed. In one month my blog’s Alexa ranking climbed from 860,000 to 169,000. I even had 1,012 unique visitors in one day this month. I learned that just like becoming a working actor, becoming a successful blogger is all about consistency, quality and determination. So let it be said – my blog WILL succeed and I will become one of the top bloggers. If it takes me one year or five years, I will be unwavering in my goal.
If you have started a blog, project, business, class or any new endeavor – consider learning from my mistakes. Persistence and commitment almost always payoff no matter what you are pursuing. I wish I had someone to teach me this lesson when I first started my blog – who knows, I may have already reached my goal of having one of the top blogs in my niche. I think deep down, each and everyone knows what it takes to succeed – we just have to apply what we already know to our everyday lives.
I’d like to thank Micheal-John once again for this awesome, inspiring story. For more information about Michael-John Wolfe, I recommend visiting his blog at Residuals and Royalties. Cheers!