John Crestani was sitting on a beach in Thailand, poor and lost in his life when he opened a book that helped transform him from a job drifter to a successful internet entrepreneur.
It was 2009 and Crestani, then 21, had fled to Thailand after dropping out of college. He was bumming around the country on a small loan from his family and trying to “find” himself. To that end, he brought along spiritual works like The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture). But his saving grace turned out to be a business book: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, the now-classic manual for breaking free of the nine-to-five by building an online business.
Ferriss’s key tenet in the book is to stop trading time for money and build businesses that can, eventually, operate almost entirely on their own after you set them up: passive income.
“I was at a point in my life where I had very little direction, didn’t know where I was going, and had this void,” says Crestani. “I thought ‘This sounds freaking awesome and I want to do it.’”
And he did. Crestani used his own hustle and Ferriss’s tips to build an affiliate marketing network that currently generates $250,000 to $500,000 per month, enables him to travel the world, and scales on-demand.
While plenty of people aspire to join other followers of Tim Ferriss’s lifestyle design, Crestani is its high prophet. But he didn’t get there overnight.
Years of Failure Before 4 Hours of Work
It took Crestani years of false starts and experimentation before he finally hit upon a winning, profitable business.
His first shot at entrepreneurship was selling products on eBay. That venture brought him $1,000 to $2,000 per month, and a call from PayPal’s security team. There was a problem with the business model: Crestani was selling products PayPal didn’t approve of. His PayPal account was shut down and that business shuttered.
So he re-enrolled in school and attempted to strike it rich catering to the needs of his fellow students. Exposed to computers before he reached double digits, Crestani used his technical know-how to acquire the test answers to every online course for every major from his university—and he used those answers just as you might expect.
Despite the failures, Crestani never lost sight of the ultimate goal. “The 4-Hour Workweek kept hustle on my mind. It planted the seed, the idea that you don’t need to trade time for money.”
Ironically, he was just around the corner from the success the book preaches. All it would take was Crestani getting fired from a nine-to-five job.
From Hired to Fired
At 22-years-old, Crestani got a “real job” working for a marketing firm in Los Angeles. The firm specialized in pay-per-click advertising on search engines. Crestani taught himself the trade and was soon running more than 20 client accounts, drafting compelling ads, and smart bidding strategies to drive sales.
He got so good at paid advertising that he multiplied a client’s business by 40X. His firm’s boss was bringing in more than $110,000 per month of extra business from the account. And Crestani was now an online advertising star within the company.
So he did what any self-respecting professional would do: he politely asked for a raise. “My boss looked at me across the table when I asked for the raise and said, ‘Or what?’” recalls Crestani.
Instead of appreciating his value to the company, his boss taunted him and told him to get back to work. Crestani was flabbergasted.
Crestani mentally checked out of the job from that point on and eventually got fired. But he’d been hustling on the side to get clients for himself to keep him afloat while he pursued the real dream: build a multi-million-dollar business where he’d never have a boss again.
Crestani had shown he was a pro at online advertising. He knew he wanted to travel the world. And he desired independence from the traditional shackles of corporate life.
He hit upon the idea of promoting products developed by other companies, rather than spending massive amounts of time and money creating and promoting his own. He learned that homeopathic products through a select set of providers gave him the greatest margins, so he deployed his advertising knowledge to generate sales for these wares.
Every customer Crestani convinces to buy generates a significant cut for his company. In one example, he says he receives $40 for every sale of a $90 product. Crestani’s firm Nutryst Nalso recruits and teaches other affiliates to sell these products for them, creating a network effect that generates massive revenue well into the six figures every month.
But his secret sauce is canning and cloning himself: he screen-records the ad campaigns he creates step-by-step (his present focus is on Facebook advertising) on his laptop and sends it to his team so they can duplicate his results. That’s been a huge piece to Crestani’s success. “Every million-dollar ad campaign I launch, I record myself obsessively on my computer in the creation process. I pass the modules along to my team and make sure they can do a job just as good as I can.”
The result is a business that scales whenever he needs it to. All Crestani and his team of ten need to do is up their ad spend in the right areas and watch profits swell accordingly.
That passion and the profits it generates allow him to travel the world at will. He’s worked extremely hard to develop a lifestyle that isn’t beholden to bosses or showing up in an office. And the rewards, while lucrative, are about way more than money.
Crestani says he was a loner growing up, obsessed with computer games and ignorant of what things like world travel could offer. Now, the 28-year-old freshly married millionaire is planning his next global adventure while propelling his firm to even greater heights.
“I wanted to open myself up to new experiences,” he says of his leap into entrepreneurship.
“Sitting in my room playing Diablo II didn’t seem like a good future. So I changed it.”