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Seth Williams: Redefining Real Estate Entrepreneurship
Written by: Carolyn Young
Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
Published on November 22, 2023
Updated on December 1, 2023
Embarking on a transformative journey from commercial banking to becoming a real estate entrepreneur, Seth Williams epitomizes the spirit of modern entrepreneurship. After graduating in 2006, Seth’s career began in the banking industry, providing a stable yet unfulfilling path. His true calling emerged with land investing, a venture that combined low risk with substantial returns, aligning seamlessly with his aspirations for financial autonomy.
In 2012, inspired by Pat Flynn’s SmartPassiveIncome.com, Seth launched REtipster.com, a platform dedicated to sharing valuable real estate knowledge and creative monetization techniques. His journey is a rich narrative of overcoming challenges, embracing creativity, and persistently pursuing passion.
This interview delves into Seth’s daily life as an entrepreneur, his strategic approach to time management, and his insights for those starting in real estate investment. Additionally, we explore the crucial role of his YouTube channel and digital tools in business growth and how he navigates the ever-changing landscape of content creation. Seth’s story is not just about financial success; it’s a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and continuous learning in the entrepreneurial world.
The Genesis of Retipster.com
SBS – Can you share the story of how your business journey began? What inspired you to start it?
Seth – When I graduated college in 2006, I got married and started a new career in the commercial banking industry. It was a decent way to make a living (as far as W2 jobs go), but it wasn’t my real passion, and I wanted something with more freedom and autonomy.
After spending over a year trying to buy houses to flip or rent out (and failing at every attempt), I discovered the niche of land investing. I was able to buy land at 10–30% of its market value from owners who no longer wanted their properties and sell those same properties for 50%–100% of their market value. It was low-risk, didn’t require much startup capital, and didn’t require improvements or dealing with tenants or contractors. It was a great business that I was able to excel at in my spare time and generate a great income from!
Fast forward to 2012, when I discovered Pat Flynn and his website SmartPassiveIncome.com. After seeing the amazing work he was doing for his community, I decided to launch my own blog at REtipster.com so that I could share my best real estate knowledge with the world for free and find creative ways to monetize this kind of online community. As I started creating content, I discovered it was a huge passion of mine, and I genuinely enjoyed the experience. This journey also opened doors to new collaborations and business ventures with other people in this space.
Naming the Website/YouTube Channel
SBS – How did you come up with the name for your website/YouTube channel?
Seth – Back when I started my blog, I had made a BIG list of possible names, with the goal of keeping the name short and memorable, with something in the name to indicate “real estate,” and it also needed to be available as a .com domain. After showing all of my ideas to my wife and a few close friends, everyone agreed that “REtipster” was the winner!
The funny thing is, even though I tried to make it short and memorable, people mess up the name all the time. I often hear people saying “REI tipster” (an understandable mistake because many people associate “REI” with real estate investing), and people often pronounce it as “reeeeeee tipster” instead of “R.E.Tipster”). If I could do it over again today, I would use Chat GPT to help me come up with some better name ideas, haha.
A Day in the Life of an Entrepreneur
SBS – As an entrepreneur, what does a typical day look like for you?
Seth – I get to the office around 8am, and I work until around 5pm, and every day is an adventure. Even on the hardest days running my business, it is 10 times more rewarding, fun, and fulfilling than any other job I’ve had in the past. Working for myself gives me a whole new level of energy for what I’m doing.
I get to spend all day working on creating awesome things. Some days, it’s a video; other days, it’s a blog post or podcast episode. Sometimes, I’m building a new calculator or adding a new section to our website. All of it is fun, and my work is my happy place. When I lay in bed on Sunday night, I cannot wait for Monday morning to arrive because when I get to my office, I’m happy as a kid running through the gates of Disney World!
Balancing Business and Life
SBS – Balancing a new real estate venture with an already busy life can be challenging. How do you personally manage your time, and what tools or systems do you recommend for efficiency?
Seth – It’s not easy, I can say that much.
In order to get the most important things done, I have to say “no” to a lot of great opportunities I’d love to say “yes” to. It must be done because if I don’t carefully prioritize things, the quality of all my commitments will get much lower.
My system isn’t perfect, but I try to block off large chunks of time on my calendar so I can get big tasks done without interruptions. Between that and the Reminders app on my phone, I’m able to prompt myself to get things done on time, so I can keep being productive throughout the week and hit most of my goals.
Starting Strategies for Real Estate Investment Beginners
SBS – For someone just starting in real estate investment, which one of your strategies would you suggest they explore first and why?
Seth – I suggest land flipping to people with limited money, a limited schedule, and a low-risk tolerance. When I started, I didn’t have much time or money, and the idea of investing a lot of money into any one thing scared me. Luckily, land flipping was a strategy that allowed me to find and buy off-market properties that nobody else knew about, I could pay ridiculously low prices for them without taking out loans, and I was able to do all of it in my spare time. I explain the nuts and bolts of how to do it in this blog post.
Investing in Real Estate with Limited Funds
SBS – You mention that you’ve built your real estate business without significant cash reserves. What are some key tactics for individuals who want to start investing in real estate but don’t have substantial savings?
Seth – You could start by looking for some of the ultra-cheap vacant lots for sale at a tax sale, or you could do what I did: find property owners who owed back due property taxes and make offers on their properties (more on that here). This was how I bought my first property for $331 and sold it 11 days later on Craigslist for $1,900.
You could also make offers on more expensive properties and then get the help of a private money lender to pay for the acquisition. With this approach, you can get some input from a more experienced land investor to make sure you’re making a good decision. The biggest drawback is that when the property eventually sells, you’ll likely have to split your profit with them 50/50, so you’ll lose a lot of your profit… but on the same coin, if you’re starting with no money or experience, it’s actually a pretty good deal if it allows you to get started.
Debt Management in Real Estate
SBS – On your blog, you discuss the importance of avoiding unnecessary debt. What are your top tips for managing or mitigating financial risk when starting in real estate investing?
Seth – I do it by buying properties at a DEEP discount. Ideally, I try to buy them for 30–40% of their market value (preferably, even lower if I can swing it). When you buy properties this way, they are worth FAR more than you paid for them on the day you take ownership, even if you don’t lift a finger to make any improvements. It’s like the seller is giving you a bunch of free money in the form of real estate equity, which you can realize when you sell the property at a price closer to its true market value.
Achieving Full-Time Income on a Part-Time Basis in Real Estate
SBS – You’ve managed to generate a full-time income on a part-time basis with real estate. How did you structure your business to allow for this kind of flexibility?
Seth – I spent my limited time pursuing properties and opportunities that would pay me a lot for my time. Some deals will pay $50 per hour, some will pay $500 per hour, and some will pay $5,000 per hour (sometimes even more, if you’re lucky). Whenever I can control it, I try to spend my time on the deals that pay a lot more per hour.
Essential Digital Tools for Real Estate Success
SBS – What digital tools or platforms have you found indispensable (website, CRMs, analytical tools, project management, etc.)?
Seth – For land investing, I use Google Earth, DataTree, Land ID, Zillow, and a lot of others I mention here.
For building an online audience, I use WordPress, Slack, and most social media platforms. Chat GPT and other AI tools are also becoming very useful.
Leveraging YouTube for Business Growth in Real Estate
SBS – How has having a YouTube channel contributed to your business growth, and what advice would you give to someone wanting to utilize YouTube as part of their real estate investment strategy?
Seth – A lot of people discover REtipster through YouTube. I recognized early that a good video is extremely effective at educating and building credibility at the same time. I also recognized that most people don’t have the skill set required to make a good video. It takes a lot of work to craft a good message that delivers value, entertains, and isn’t boring (truth be told, I still have a hard time pulling it off)! There are many other real estate investors with more knowledge and experience than I have, but that knowledge and experience is only useful to other people if they understand how to create a well-made piece of content, and many of them either can’t or don’t want to spend their time that way. There is actually a very small pool of people who have a decent amount of knowledge AND are willing and able to make great content.
I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours making videos, and I wouldn’t even say I’m amazing at them (considering how long I’ve worked at the craft, our subscriber count isn’t nearly as high as others who have been in this game as long as we have). However, all of that experience has made me pretty credible and effective as an educator and communicator. The videos I’ve made have been a very important medium that has contributed to our growth over the years.
Tips for Aspiring Real Estate Bloggers and YouTubers
SBS – For someone considering starting a blog or a YouTube channel about real estate investing, what would be the first piece of advice you’d give them?
Seth – I started by answering and demystifying some of the most confusing and frustrating things in my business, and I explained how to make some of the difficult things much easier. I did it by recording my computer screen with a video recording/editing software called Camtasia (which I still use to this day). Don’t worry about making a video that goes viral. Even if it only gets 5 views, don’t worry about it. If you keep at it, and if you make videos that are legitimately helpful, you will eventually see a snowball effect, and your videos and channel will pick up steam… but the key is, you have to keep at it.
For me, the only reason I’ve been able to keep at it after all these years is because I love the work. This passion enables me to keep going even with it feels like nobody cares and nobody is watching. If the work was miserable and I didn’t truly enjoy it, there is no way I would have lasted this long. Make sure you enjoy the work, and your business will withstand the test of time too.
Navigating Challenges as a Content Creator
SBS – As a successful content creator, could you share some of the challenges you’ve faced with your blog and YouTube channel and how you’ve overcome them?
Seth – We’ve seen several waves of algorithm changes from Google, YouTube, and every social media platform over the years. I remember one day in 2019 when the traffic to our website dropped by 40%, and it never rebounded. I’ve also seen certain videos that used to rank #1 on YouTube, and now it’s hard to find those videos at all. The one guarantee in this business is that things are going to change. You can’t get lethargic in your content creation. Even if you create a piece of content that does really well, it does not mean it will continue doing well a year or even a month from now. You must always be scanning the horizon and thinking about how you can improve your message, reach new people, and change with the times. It can be exhausting at times, but it’s also a fun challenge to stay on top of.
SBS – Finally, what are some of the podcasts or resources that you regularly follow for inspiration, education, or market news in the real estate space?
- FilmBooth has some amazing tips for making great YouTube videos
- The Hustle is a great example of how to make an engaging newsletter that millions of people want to receive in their inbox
- Vinh Giang has the best videos I’ve seen about how to be an engaging public speaker and communicator
- Alex Hormozi is an all-around genius and has a ton of fascinating ideas and perspectives to share about business
- Think Media is another channel with a ton of great insights about how to make great videos
- The REtipster Facebook Group is filled with other active investors who are sharing their wins and struggles and helping each other out
Seth Williams: Redefining Real Estate Entrepreneurship
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