This article may contain affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more info.
I would imagine this headline will turn off some readers.
After all, why read this when you could read how to make millions and quit your job in the next 30 days?
But I’d rather give you the truth about making money online.
Table of Contents
In March of 2011 I started www.ask-curtis.com.
As a pharmacist I was constantly getting asked questions about drugs. I thought if one person is asking me this question I bet there a lot of other people online searching for the same question.
It was a simple idea – which is usually the best kind. So I started taking immediate action.
Each day I wrote down every question I got into an article file on my computer. Every morning – weekends included – I’d get up early, pick an article idea and start writing.
Most days I’d get an article written and posted on the website.
Because many of the questions I got were pretty specific they weren’t extremely long articles – which people said you had to have to rank on Google. That was bad advice then. And bad advice now.
I know because for over 6 years I had articles outrank much larger sites with paid writers (WebMD, The Mayo Clinic, etc.). Only recently, with the ‘Medic Update’ did those rankings go away.
My point is simple: if you want your content to rank well you have to help people by solving a problem or entertaining them.
You need to do this consistently over a long period of time. That’s the formula.
If that only takes 600 words then write 600 words. If it takes 6,000 words then do that.
Here’s my publishing activity from October 1st, 2011 to April 30th, 2012:
- October 11: 31 articles published
- November 11: 24 articles
- December 11: 24
- January 12: 21
- February 12: 21
- March 12: 19
- April 12: 14
- May 12: none published
I won’t include May in my breakdown because I didn’t actually publish any articles (I’ll explain WHY another time) but in the 7 months from October to April I published 154 articles out of 210 total days. At an average of 600 words per article that works out to roughly 90,000 words during that time.
Here’s a screenshot of my traffic growth during that same period:
My point is that building an online income of any sort isn’t sexy. It involves grinding it out everyday and trying to produce content that actually helps people solve a problem they might be having.
I didn’t do any SEO. I used Twitter and Facebook for social media – but they were probably 5-10% of my focus.
Almost all my efforts were in trying to write answer to problems people were having about drugs. I just tried to help people.
I also need to point out that during the first six months of the site I published a bit more but saw less income. This is because traffic just doesn’t magically show up after you write something. You have to build up a reputation of sorts in Google’s eyes. There are other factors involved. But if you put in the effort I’ve found that it takes at least six months to really start reaping the rewards.
Here’s What You’re Looking For: Money
As you can see in October I started putting simple advertisements on my site (Google Adsense). At the time Adsense was a pretty good option for website owners to make completely passive income. Nowadays Adsense produces a fraction of the income it once did.
You can see that by the first of the year I was starting to routinely break the $10 per day mark. A month or two later I was routinely getting over $15 a day.
I should also point out that Adsense was my primary source of income.
Looking back that was a mistake. I was using affiliate income – but it wasn’t my focus. Generally speaking, affiliate revenue can perform pretty well in the health market.
Needless to say my affiliate income was around $100 to $150 per month.
The point is I got started and kept going. Eventually the traffic – and residual income – started coming in.
Bottom Line: by the one year mark I was approaching a $20 per day average residual income online. Roughly $600 per month.
That may not sound like a lot of income, but I’d encourage you to think about it another way.
Your Website Is A Valuable Asset
How much money would you need to have in the bank to make $600 residual per month? That depends on the interest rate you’d be getting.
At $600 per month that equals $7,200 per year of residual income.
- At 8% interest you would need $90,000 in the bank to produce the same amount of residual income.
- At 5% interest you would need $144,000 in the bank to make that amount.
- If your interest rate was only 3% you would need $240,000 in the bank.
My point is that a website can do a number of things for you:
- Build your brand
- Bring consulting and coaching opportunities your way
- Make you money
But it can also become a valuable asset for you if you are willing to put in the time and energy over the long haul. When the time is right and if you’ve set it up correctly, you could sell your website for a good amount of money.
I would never be able to do that because the website has my name on it which makes it essentially worthless to an outside buyer unless I agreed to stay on and continue to write.
But, many people do sell their websites. Most estimates have the sale price of a good authority site at roughly twice annual earnings.
Finally, you have so much more control.
If you have your money in a 401K you’re essentially locked in. You can’t make more unless you switch to another fund inside the 401K which I’ve found is pretty limiting and – ultimately – not all that effective.
But with your own website you can start adding in affiliate links for products your personally like and recommend. You can create your own products with much higher profit margins. You can start coaching and consulting.
Granted, that’s not passive but the point is what I’ve shown you is a very basic revenue model that could certainly be optimized. But only because you have a lot more options and the ability to say yes or no to any of them.
One of the things that goes unmentioned is the valuable skills you can develop when you take on projects like this.
- Content marketing
- Social media
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – I know … I said I didn’t do any SEO. What I mean is that I didn’t go out searching for just the right keywords to write about. But I did do basic optimization on my site and articles that allowed me to rank higher than some of my much larger competitors.
- Sales skills from being asked to consult on projects
- Improved communication skills
- Marketing strategy
These are just the big ones.
You need to remember that moving forward college is becoming outdated expect in specific cases (doctor, engineer, etc.).
The currency of the future will be the skills you develop.
And it doesn’t matter what age you are.
Just get started.
Speaking of which …
How To Get Started
As you can probably see by now there is no secret to starting your own website and making money.
But let me give you a simple, step-by-step breakdown on how I’m doing it now:
1) Have a valuable message. This is what stops a lot of people from even starting because they don’t really think they have anything of value to share.
You’re probably wrong.
Look at your unique talents, skills and abilities? What have you done in your life? What would you like to do? All your experiences and passions are fodder for helping someone else online.
Don’t go niche like I did.
Go broad. Be a real person. Talk about everything that you’re interested in and know about. That variety is what keeps things real, interesting and ultimately allows you to build long term.
While I continued to try to only do niche sites I couldn’t stick with them long enough to see the fruits of my labor because I’m a real person.
I have lots of different interests which means I’ve learned stuff about different subjects.
For example, most of the internet marketing guru’s will tell you I should start a health site because I’m a pharmacist but I can’t talk about parenting, writing, making money, getting out of debt or even selling homes without a realtor.
But I’m into all those other things. I have information that can help people solve problems in those areas because I’ve done them in real life.
And I’m not the only one who has started to figure this out.
There are plenty of other folks out there with successful businesses sharing valuable information in a lot of different ‘niches’.
2) Get started. Maybe your writing sucks. No matter. Get started. Keep going.
I still struggle with this now because I essentially stopped writing for years after my experience with ask-curtis.com. So I have to build my ‘writing muscle’ back up.
3) If you continue to struggle with writing think about another medium. Find writing to be a struggle? No problem. If you’re good in front of a camera how about video? Or, if you have a great voice and a not so great face maybe podcasting is for you?
The key is no matter what your medium is make sure that YOU control YOUR PLATFORM.
Don’t just do YouTube videos and keep everything there. If you piss YouTube off your audience is gone because it’s their platform.
Leverage other people’s platform – OWN YOURS.
That way you can never lose it.
4) Register your domain name. Don’t overthink this. You are a real person. You can search for domains here. I’d encourage you to use your real name as your domain. You could also opt for a more brandable name. But as your first option I’d still use your name.
Cost: about $15/year.
5) Hosting. Getting your domain name is like having an address for your house. It’s where you live.
But if you actually want to move into the house you have to pay rent. That’s what hosting means for websites. These companies have servers where your website lives and gets shown online. Without hosting you don’t have an active website.
Over the years I’ve used three different hosting companies. They are all fine starting out and will get the job done so don’t overthink it. Here they are along with my quick thoughts and recommendations.
Host Gator: this was the first hosting company I used. They’re solid. It’s what I used on Ask-Curtis. They worked fine.
Blue Host: If you read any sort of ‘how to make money online’ article you’ll see people pushing Blue Host because they have a high-paying affiliate program.
I know people making $30,000+ per month just recommending Blue Host. So it gets flogged a lot because people want to make money. I have no issue with that as long as it’s a good product.
Which I happen to know it is.
My wife uses them for her website. She likes them and so do I. Their customer service seems to be a bit better and I find it easier to use than Host Gator.
Siteground: This is the host I use for this website. Why? I was told they were faster. Not Usain Bolt vs. George Castanza faster – but they’re known for their speed. And the speed at which your site loads and operates is important. People today have the attention span of a gnat.
So far I’ve been very happy with them and have found them to be a bit faster.
For hosting I’d recommend Siteground > Blue Host > Host Gator.
Cost: $10 per month or less if you are willing to pay upfront for a yearly plan. If you’re serious about building an actual platform go yearly.
6) Design. Don’t get too hung up here. Keep it simple and clean. The focus should be on your content – not all the fancy bells and whistles.
Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can use a free theme if you want.
I’m currently using the free version of GeneratePress. It hits all the points above. Plus, because it’s a ‘light’ theme it doesn’t have a lot of the bloat that other themes do.
That means it loads fast. As you can see I’m serious about the speed thing.
The one thing you definitely want to do is make sure that your theme is mobile responsive.
That means that if someone is searching on their smartphone your website automatically adjusts to the size of their screen and makes viewing your website easy.
Most people use their mobile devices to search on Google nowadays. My traffic numbers back these estimates up. So whatever design you use make sure it’s responsive.
Focus On Doing The Basics Well Over The Long Haul
Like I said at the beginning – there’s nothing particularly ‘sexy’ about my example because it doesn’t involved massive financial numbers.
I could have done a lot better if I had been a little smarter. But the point is that if you simply get started, share valuable content and continue to grind you can surprise yourself.