I like to share with you a candid conversation with Marv de Leon on the Freelance Blend Podcast.
You are listening to the Freelance Blend Podcast Episode #4
Welcome to the Freelance Blend Podcast. Where we entertain, educate and engage freelancers from the Philippines and across the globe. And now, here’s your host, Marv De Leon.
Marv: Hello everyone and welcome to Freelance Blend. Happy New Year to all of you and this is our first episode for 2014. Thank you for continuing to support us and we’ll make sure to keep you entertained for the rest of the year and the years to come.
So speaking of New Years, meron ba kayong New Year’s resolution for this… for this year? For myself, meron din akong New Year’s resolution and that is to work out or exercise at least 10 minutes every single day. So tama yung narinig niyo, it’s 10 minutes of exercise every single day so good luck to me, I hope I keep my promise, my resolution and I will also be posting a blog about this so watch out for that.
Now, I am so excited to present our very first interviewee for 2014. He is one of the most popular bloggers in the Philippines right now. He is a food and travel blogger. His blog is called ourawesomeplanet.com and it receives about 1 million hits a month. Yes, imagine 1 million hits! I hope our website will also hit 1 million. Anyway, his advocacy is to promote Philippine tourism by sharing the food and travel secrets in the Philippines. And also to inspire Filipinos that living in the Philippines is truly awesome. So makabayan talaga tong ating guest. He is also recognized by Go Negosyo as an inspiring young Filipino entrepreneur last 2010. He is also known for being the co – founder of successful weekend markets na I’m sure alam na alam niyo yung Mercato Centrale, Mezza Norte, Cucina Andare, Cucina Centrale, and Fiesta Bahia and a lot more. So without further ado, we have non other than, Mr. Anton Diaz!
Anton: Thank you for having me here.
Marv: You are welcome. Thank you rin, thank you talaga sa pagpaunlak mo sa amin.
Anton: oo, yes..
Anton: I’d be glad to help so…yeah!
Marv: Thank you! Yeah. So our first, usually ang first question na tinatanong ko sa mga guests is, of course, talk more about yourself and how did you get into blogging and, yon, how did you think of blogging especially you started blogging 2005 so wala pang, siguro by that time wala pa talagang masyadong may alam about blogging. So, how did you get into that world?
Anton: Yeah. So officially siguro I started mga January rin around 2005, so mga almost nine (9) years na akong online. I started my blog nine (9) years ago and I was working for a multinational company, the name is P&G. I was working for 12 years there and I was kasi in IT and as part of my IT job din, was to look for parang the next generation IT marketing that could help the company. And at that time, there were blogging…you know you could already see na yung blogging would be a big hit in the Philippines because siguro internationally, the blogging really took off, mga 2007 pa e. But there were a lot of people already at that time blogging. And in 2005, maraming mga tech bloggers it started of course with the tech industry and the food and travel siguro, the lifestyle, mga 2007 pa e. So I was, you know since I was the parang the IT head, so I needed to start a blog so I was blogging, at the start nga puro mga IT stuff, ganyan, and then on the side I would write about the restaurants we would visit and ganon, ganon lang nagstart and yung mga sinusulat ko about IT, walang nagbabasa ang binabasa nila yung mga food and travel. So after 2 years, you know the blogging became popular for the food and travel so I concentrated on the food and travel piece so until now. So I went full time in blogging around 2008, meaning I quit my day job in 2008 in P&G because I had to choose noh, ano ba, I’ll stay with P&G, do a regional role, or you know medyo promising kasi really yung blogging e, it was a calculated risk in 2008, so but… the parang the commerce of blogging and you know the advertising money came in a year later pa e, mga 2009, and until now. So ayun, it was a scary beginning but it was also very exciting.
Marv: Okay, when you started blogging, at that time ano yung available na blogging software or website? Meron na bang Blogspot at that time?
Anton: Ah yeah at that time, marami na ring mga nag, there was a lot of services, blogging services, I was offered diba Blogger ganyan, WordPress but I decided to go with Typepad. I use Typepad. It is a paid blogging service platform. Kasi mas better yung mga templates niya at the same time, some of the top bloggers at that time were using it. I think Set Go din still use Typepad. So I wanted to use it, para rin, para let’s say pag lumakas yung traffic ko, I don’t have to change to other hosting. Kasi yun yung mga malaking problem e, pag lumaki yung traffic mo e. So now, I still go with Typepad, and it was a good strategic choice kasi you know, I’m tracking to get about mga a million hits in a month. And I’m just paying the same thing with Typepad, which is their parang their highest paid service kasi is mga $30 per month. So you know, it is a pretty good deal. So yun lang yung ginamit ko at that time.
Marv: So up to now you use Typepad?
Anton: Typepad. I have been using Typepad platform, yeah
Marv: And at that time, did you already buy the domain yung ourawesomeplanet.com?
Anton: At that time, yung Typepad, the Typepad guys kasi have the domain blogs.com, so I started with anton.blogs.com. So siguro mga after a few years, they have a custom domain ability na… na they were able to offer that parang to use a custom URL pero nagchachange yung permalink meaning pwede mo pa ring ma-access yung dating post with anton.blogs.com or the new permalink which is Our Awesome Planet. Siguro I did that mga 2 years after din, mga 2 years after.
Marv: And then at that time, you mentioned after that you bought the domain for Our Awesome Planet. So because right now, when you hear mga popular bloggers or, yeah yung mga bloggers, they tell you or they teach that to niche, and niche and niche pa rin to a captured market, with yourself, food and travel is actually a very big niche, parang ang laki pa niya, so did you not encounter difficulty?
Anton: No, actually that’s a biggest siguro na mistake some of the people starting online. Kasi you know, if you select a very small niche, medyo mahirap e. So you know a food and travel… you always have to think about it in terms of the global space e. and ever since at the start, when I look at the internet, it’s global. And when you look at niches, it would be global niches. So if you look at food and travel in the Philippines, it is a small niche, techinically. You know if you look you know the U.S., Europe market, ano ba yung food and travel ng Philippines? Kasi, you know, if you segment it pa to let’s say food and travel ng Baguio lang, or a certain city, masyadong maliit e, you won’t be able to get… you know the business online kasi is all about eyeballs, is all about page fuse, so the bigger the niche, is better for us, so that’s why food and travel Philippines. So like for example, in your case, kung freelance, if you zoom in into a particular freelance lang, let’s say virtual assistance, call center or in the Philippines lang, medyo maliit yung niche e, so it needs to be on a parang global scale. Dapat yung niche, malaki pa rin in a sense diba, to your point. Parang food and travel to your point, is malaki kasi you wanted to get the right page views pa rin diba? Kailangan nagrogrow.. may way to grow ka pa rin. But at the same time, it’s a niche pa rin kasi if you look at it on a global scale, you know, Filipino food is a niche in itself diba?
Marv: Well actually, I attended a blog academy, it’s for myself to gain more knowledge on blogging and yun yong advice sa akin ng mga mentors is my niche is too big daw if it’s just freelancers in the Philippines and Filipinos abroad so..pero ako personally, I think, yun nga, what you mentioned is that kung liitan ko pa, parang mangyayari is, yon, konti rin yung eyeballs. Yeah that’s why what you mentioned now, parang, how’d you called this, now navalidate din yung understanding ko na, I think I’m going the correct route.
Anton: Oo. Kasi you know, if they’re not in the Philippines… iba kasi yung concept nila ng niche e. siyempre if you are coming from the US or other country, iba yung concept nila ng niche. And then hindi ka pwede din naman mag niche ng sobrang liit, wala nang magbabasa. I mean, kasi by the mere fact na you segment it as Filipino, it’s a niche itself e. Not unless na sabihin mo lang freelance, online, malaki talga yun. Pero the mere fact na you already said Filipino..or let’s say Filipino, then, that by itself is a niche. Kasi for you to make an impact, you need to make an impact on that, you know, Filipino freelancer niche.
Marv: Okay. Understood, understood. Now, enough about me, back to Anton Diaz. So, I’ll rewind a bit on what you mentioned earlier, yung when you quit your, I’m sure very high paying job and as I saw in your about page nga, you were already the CTO of Procter and Gamble which is one of the top companies in the world diba? And to be able to reach that, I would say , yun na yung dream ng most people is going up the corporate ladder and…take us to that time na you were deciding to leave that very lucrative career towards a career na yun nga, it’s still parang you’re, you don’t know if it will be successful..
Anton: I was already part of the management team, and it was very clear siguro in 2008 that I had to choose. It was not an option to do it part time. Because the blog then was a bit popular already and you know, in the corporate world, pag nagbloblog ka, if you’re not into the let’s say, the tech companies, parang it’s frowned upon e, parang sasabihin, anong ginagawa mo diyan? Diba parang pag di mo nagawa toh, e dahil nagbloblog ka kasi, ganyan ganyan. So it was very clear that it has becoming a conflict of interest na if I were to choose to proceed with my career, I have to lay low on the blogging. Or you know, I have to choose another option, to join another company nga at that time. And also, in mga January 2005, that’s when my first son, Aden was born. A lot of the internet entrepreneurs naman the aspiration is really to have freedom in terms of time, and to spend more time with the family. Ayun to have more time with kids, to have more time. So, I was weighing it na whether I’ll go down this path, which is the comfortable path, hindi kasi biro rin yung mga benefits at that time dahil you know P&G is the biggest company here, and the biggest paying, may pakotse pa, lahat, so wala na akong propreoblemahin diba? But it was a point in time na if you were to start a business, you have to establish it when your 30s e, usually. And habang hindi pa…you know my first son Aidan was born then, and if I were to risk it, that’s the perfect time to do it it and the blogging trend is still coming noh, so parang pa boom pa lang siya, so it’s a perfect timing. And then I consulted a friend, si Yugatech, Abe of Yugatech who was the first one to go full time. And I consulted him then sabi niya: “Ano ba ‘to? Meron bang pera talaga dito pag nag resign ako?” Ganyan. Sabi niya okay naman, ganyan, the prospects were very good at that time, kasi may proof of concepts na e. I was earning a lot on the ads but on the IT side. So, it was a bit of a calculated risk. And looking back, it was very good kasi a lot of my projects wouldn’t have come true if not for that decision. Yung pinaka clincher pala with the decision was that I attended this Kerygma conference by Bo Sanchez, and during one of the sessions there parang he was very clear na parang nakikita kong vision by the Holy Spirit na you know, I have to choose this because I will be touching a lot of people. So parang ganon, that also gave me the courage to pursue this path, which is the right path, you know, looking back.
Marv: at that time, were you already earning enough from the ads?
Anton: hindi pa. siguro mga 2009, I resigned kasi 2008 so the ads came in mga 2009. Marv: So 2008, totally what? 0 earnings from ads? Or minimal?
Anton: Hindi naman pero hindi lang stable na earnings. Mga 2009 talaga yung ano mga regular na advertising. So in 2008 I was living off the savings e. and of course I had a lot of mga projects so we did initially mga food tours, and then I started to teach internet marketing, and then but continuing to focus on the blog as well to building the page first, ganon.
Marv: So it was really a leap of faith for you kasi some bloggers like si Fitz Villafuerte, he knew that he will go.. na magfufull time siya once he realize na yung earnings niya from ads, or from the blog is equal to his earnings as an employee. So for him, more of financial, na parang o kaya ko na kasi pareho naman yung…even yung si Marge Aberasturi who was also in a corporate career tapos she went into freelancing, she became a transcriptionist and a virtual assistant, ganon din yung sa kanya na nageequal na yung freelancing salary niya with her corporate salary. So for you, it’s really a leap of faith, kasi yun nga, it’s not really financial more of spiritual pa yung naging talagang nagpush sayo.
Anton: Well, yeah. Well aside from that, it was a point in time opportunity e. Meaning, it was very clear already at that time na blogging would be a big hit. So parang it’s not something that alam mo mangyayari e. parang ang tanong na lang is when. Diba? Parang it’s a question of time, is when. Now of course yung all the bloggers na let’s say yung mga minimention mo, ibang era na yung decision nila e. meaning nandiyan na yung blogging, I was in a unique point in time where parang wild wild west talaga ng online yun e. and then alam mo na maghihit big yung blogging but you don’t know when. Yeah, it’s exactly a leap of faith but at the same time, there are different ways kasi for you to, you know if you want to quit your day job parang… one strategy nga is dapat equal na yung ineearn mo versus sa current salary mo before you jump. The other ano naman, the other option is parang you create a treasure chest. So for example, some people would create a 18 months treasure chest. Meaning you can live for 12 -18 months kahit wala kang salary. Kahit 0 salary ka, you can live. So parang may pera kang naka set aside. And during that time, you have to give yourself that time to make it as being an entrepreneur. Kasi moving from a corporate to becoming an entrepreneur is a totally a different challenge e. Kasi iba rin yung if you go from a corporate job to for example, a virtual assistant. Iba rin yun kasi halos, if you think about it, it’s the same kasi hindi siya masyadong passive e. The virtual assistant is you need to this X amount of job, ganito yung..diba? It’s not very scaleable kasi you have to do it… not unless for example…
Marv: You have a blog also?
Anton: Hindi, or for example, let’s go to the virtual assistant, the only way you could scale it is you run a virtual assistant company, diba? People doing the virtual assistance for you. But if you’re the one doing it, let’s say you are a freelancer, kung ikaw pa rin ang gumagawa non, parang ikaw lang ang boss mo pero ganon pa din. Kung hindi..parang your output is as big as your input diba? So it’s the same. So medyo iba yung… I was really going for an entrepreneurial move and most people would have to…I find it effective strategy for most people if their back is behind the wall already diba parang if this does not work, walang mangyayari sayo so some people are really forced to do their best if your back is against the wall. I’m not saying mali yung strategy nung iba noh, im just saying that some strategies that work for other people. So for me, I had to really risk it, for…parang big risk, big reward din.
Marv: And then, along the way, you encounter like…failures, like for example, kasi from what you mentioned, your stories, that yung blog that you started, it immediately na talagang.. or it slowly but surely grew. But did you also try other niches or online businesses aside from your current blog?
Anton: Yeah, yeah. Siguro I started learning internet marketing in 2003. And you know, starting taking all these online courses, so I have been studying online marketing mga 10 years na e, mga different gurus in the U.S. so I started to do, you know, I teach online, yeah, I created some courses and stuff. So marami, I did a lot, I did mga food tours also, selling it online. All of those naman earn but later on, you will learn you need to choose the projects that are scalable kasi kung walang scalability yung mga projects, mahirap kasi parang you exert X effort, ang output mo X effort din diba? So you need to figure out a way na… dapat nga yung effort mo, kapag bumababa yung effort mo, dapat yung output mo lumalaki pa nga dapat e. So I was looking for those types of opportunities at some point
Marv: So yung mga sinubukan mong online stuff, were they all successful or meron bang… my point actually is because for example when people see like Anton Diaz they might think na parang ang dali sa kanya… he’s very successful and it was very easy for him to… you know he was very lucky that he started blogging early on tapos it became successful without him really doing much so..baka yun ang thinking ng mga tao na madali lang magblog and it’s easy to succeed pero ayun…
Anton: Ah ok. Of course I made a lot of mistakes and remember the blog siguro when I went full time in 2008, I was studying internet marketing as early as 2003, meaning I have been going out to the U.S. to attend some of the seminars, ang daming internet seminars during those time e. Mga internet marketing seminars with Rich Shefren,yung mga ibang mga gurus pa and I met some of the people in the internet marketing space. I was doing a lot of projects from 2003 up to 2008. I actually have a lot of blogs na..a lot of online projects, but once I’ve seen, you know, a winning site which is Our Awesome Planet, I started to shut down all the other sites e. Kasi you know the effort that you put in one site, is the same kahit maliit lang yung traffic nung ibang website, so I started shutting down some of those websites. Dati nga gumagawa pa ako ng website sa ibang tao but I started to shut down all of that and concentrate on Our Awesome Planet. Marami rin akong….mabilis kasi akong magimplement ng mga projects e and pag nagfail siya, sometimes we shut it down. Meron ring mga projects na nagfail because of time. For example, naisip na naming gumawa ng groupon before nagkaroon ng groupon craze but we delayed the idea until nagkasabaysabay na lang pumasok yung mga groupon sites dito sa Philippines. We had a project called awesome.ph and it did not work out well so… may mga ganon. And then maraming mga projects both online and offline kasi I really wanted to learn from different aspects. Like I’ve always wanted to get into an e-store platform so our first e-store was yung mga groupon sites nga, it did not work so this year we are going to another… hoping to launch another e-store project. So ganon, kasi ano naman e, online is really…ang key sa online is to be able to implement fast and then to learn whether kung magwowork or hindi. Kung hindi talaga magwowork, you shut it down and there’s no promise of scalability then you move forward. Ngayon, most people would remember your success, yun lang. so yung mga failures, di mo namemention.
Marv: Pero ikaw, you remember the failures because you learn from it
Anton: Yeah yeah, well I don’t particularly remember the failure, you remember the learnings, parang ano yung mga dapat gawin, ano yung hindi, ganon.
Marv: Okay. Now we could probably segue naman to your offline businesses naman. So how did you get into…how did your group conceptualize the weekend market idea.
Anton: Ah okay. So that one is an offshoot from Our Awesome Planet. Kasi I have this event called “The Ultimate Taste Test” where there was a point kasi may mga home based people na nagsesend ng mga samples to me and parang dumami na sila and one reader suggested: why not create an event. O invite mo lahat tong mga home based people, doon sila mag taste test and isama mo naman kami para itaste test, yung mga readers. So that’s how we started Ultimate Taste Test. On the 4th Ultimate Taste Test in NBC tent, one of my ka batchmates in De La Salle University at that time, attended the event and sila they wanted to do a weekend market. So nilapitan niya ako wow, sabi niya ang ganda nitong Ultimate Taste Test, pwede ba natin tong gawing weekly?” So apparently they were very serious about it. So siguro after mga after 6 months of meeting about it, we launched Mercato Centrale. So they are the winners from the Ultimate Taste Test. And then morning market muna then naging night market and then last year we were…we expanded all the weekend markets e. Siguro mga 8 markets na yun overall
Marv: How were you able to… for example yung mga trends, mga craze, how do you think you were able to spot like yung mga trends na ganyan like yun nga, blogging and yung Mercato.
Anton: I think yung…I recently shared nga The 11 Biggest Business trends in the Philippines, in my blog and just to share with a lot of people. Kasi I want a lot of more Filipinos to succeed and when I was speaking in one entrepreneurial seminar, I was sharing all my successes and failures; it was a conference about failures e. When I was sharing that, one audience member approached me, and she commented na one of the biggest parang common denominator among all my projects is detecting trends. Kasi if you are really going after an entrepreneurial effort, for you to succeed, kailangan macapitalize mo yung trend bago siya magboom. Pero hindi ka rin pwede masyadong maaga, kasi kung masyado kang maaga for your time, hindi ka rin magsusucceed. So parang tama tama lang , as the trend is about to boom. That’s actually a skill I learned in P&G and being in IT, being analytic, you know looking at data and stuff, so parang yun yung pinaka single biggest scale that really helped me in all my entrepreneurial projects. That’s why I actually shared the 11 biggest business trends to everybody who wants to read it, who appreciates it. So for example, one of the trend there, is that in the same way that blogging in 2005 was you know na, you know in 2005 nakita mo na na magsusucceed ang blogging, it will become big. This year, an e-store would really become big in the Philippines siguro mga by the end of the year or 2015.
Marv: Okay so that was Part 1 of our interview with Mr. Anton Diaz so I hope you listen to part 2 where he will talk about blogging and the biggest trends of 2014, his offline businesses and also his tips for bloggers and podcasters out there. So I hope you don’t miss it. And lastly I hope you continue to subscribe to Freelance Blend Podcast, it’s in iTunes, you just search Freelance Blend and then please leave your honest rating of the show if you think we deserve 5 stars, well please do so, please give us 5 stars if… it’s up to you. I just hope you enjoyed this episode and see you again next time and peace to everyone! Bye!
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Continue to listen to part #2: FBP 005: How to Capitalize on the Biggest Trends in Business by Top Food and Travel Blogger – Anton Diaz (Part 2)