If you know anything about making money online, you’ll know there are no real shortcuts to the process.
But there are some things you can do NOW that will go a long ways to helping you succeed with your online business to the point you may be able to quite your job and become self employed.
In this article, reflecting back on nearly six years of going strong, I’m going to give my honest advice on how to really make it in this business — how to really quit your job and really find the success you are seeking.
I’ve been doing this make a full time income online thing for a few years now — just clocking in around six years now.
Making enough money to quite my job by creating websites was never something I planned on years ago, back when I finally finished my long stint at university with bright eyed dreams of doing the normal career thing and slogging it away in some corporate cubicle box.
It’s been an often rewarded and sometimes devastating path.
And by most measures I’ve been successful at it — I’ve quite my job years ago, I’m living in Thailand in a tropical paradise, I work when I want, whenever I want, and make passive income all the while. In the six years I’ve been doing this since I quite my job back in 2010, I’ve made nearly 20,000 USD a month at my high and less than $2,000 a month at my low — and I’ve had to rebuild from scratch nearly twice now.
It’s an awesome life, but it’s not easy to achieve. I want to tell you how it really is because the truth is that MOST people who try to make money online completely fail.
For every Pat Flynn sort of story about some average Joe guy who makes five or six figures a month, there’s tens of thousands of ‘bloggers’ who don’t even make enough to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks each month.
Behind every online ‘millionaire’ blogger, there’s a million poor bloggers who would just be happy to make $100 bucks a month.
Everyone is chasing success which is why it’s not easy.
If you are willing to put the work in and perhaps even fail and fail till you succeed, then you might just make it.
Having said that, there are a few things — 20 to be precise — that can save you a LOT of wasted time chasing the wind and help direct your efforts towards success.
I will tell you if you apply some of these strategies, you will eventually find success — or at least you are far morel likely to.
1. Work Harder Than You Do At Your Day Job
If you want to make a full time income online, it’s a lot of work.
Like really a lot of fucking work.
Let me use myself as an example.
Technically, I’m living the life. I live in Thailand, I enjoy nice beaches, cheap, amazing food, and can work whenever I choose to. Some days, I will work and other days (when I don’t have something I NEED to do online), I won’t.
But when you average out how much work I put into my online business, I PUT IN SOME SERIOUS TIME.
I would like to put forth an awesome image here of me just laying around on the beach, drinking cheap beer and dangling my feet in the waves, but that’s not my usual daily reality. The reality is, running an online empire, even from a place like Thailand, is a lot of fucking work.
A LOT of my time is directly spent in creating awesome content myself (though I do outsource quite a bit of it — I STILL find for those WOW posts, I have to do them myself) such as newsletter and major posts, managing my existing sites (adding posts, dealing with plugins, security issues, hosting issues, etc), managing coders who are working on some of my sites, optimizing existing sites (looking at the traffic stats, optimizing the layouts, titles, etc), starting new websites and setting them up, managing outsourcers for some of the content, etc, link outreach/promotion/networking in niches.And this is not even covering the time required to create and set up a digital product
When I first started five years ago, I was probably putting in 12 hours a day, six days a week at least. Now, I lucked out back then and took advantage of a Google loophole with web 2.0 properties (hubpages and ezinearticles to be precises) then exact match domains and mini sites (you can go read about it on my decommissioned blog, authorityincome.com) . This was pretty much a guaranteed way to make money since it was basically just a matter of doing the work and scaling it (I didn’t have enough money at the time to outsource the process).
Now, however, such tactics don’t yield results anymore. Instead, you’ve got to go about creating websites the old fashioned way. That is, create some real value for the reader with awesome content and work your ass off on it for a long long time before you see results.
No matter what sort of shortcuts you take, it will STILL take you months and months before you make money. These days, with the Google Sandbox lasting 6 months to a year, it may take you a year to really get any sort of traffic traction from the search engines and maybe a couple years before you can make some real money with a site, if you work your ass off.
These days, I probably put in anywhere from 0 hours to 10 hours a day, depending on what I’m trying to get done. If I don’t have anything specific to do during the day, I usually spend it working.
The the moral of the story here is that don’t discount HOW MUCH WORK you will have to put into your online empire to make it succeed. IF you are fortunate enough to make enough to quite your full time job, then be prepared, at least initially and likely for a long while to come, to spend FAR MORE time working on your online business than you ever did at your 9-5.
If you have dreams of just sitting back on a beach and just checking how many zeros you’ve made for the day and thinking about how to spend it, then you are in the wrong line of work. Anything of value takes an equal amount of work to achieve. The rewards are there at the end of the rainbow, but you’ve got to do the work to get there first.
2. Be Prepared to Work for a Couple Years Before You Can Quit Your Job
It’s the Rabbit That Wins, Not the Snail (AKA, it’s not sprint, it’s a marathon)
Making Money Online is a niche that lends itself to dramatic claims.
If you can claim some easy trick to make easy money, you can in fact make easy money on the people who buy into your bullshit. Some of the online gurus have known this from the beginning and have made a lot of money on the backs of poor sods who buy into their make money programs, thinking they too can make money. But they don’t, because there is nothing that will substitute for plain hard work and a lot of long term effort.
You know, I really love those feel good podcast stories posted by some of the bigger bloggers. You know, the catchy click bait titles like ‘How I Made $20,000 in 7 Days’ or ‘Genius Blogger Makes 100k in Three Months And How You Can To’
I’m not saying this isn’t possible, if you have exactly the right niche, a great idea, a digital product/service at hand you can sell to your audience, and…LUCK.
However, what’s often left out in those make-money-quick claims (provided they are legit) is the months or years of work and planning that’s gone into building up the readership, traffic, know-how, and products before said webtrepreneur blogger is able to make large cash grab in such a short period of time.
A blogger with a 20,000 strong email list might be able to cook up a digital product in a week or month and promote it to their list and generate thousands of dollars ‘in a day’. But how long did it take to build that list of 20,000 strong? How many posts did that blogger/marketer have to write? I can tell you it was probably months to years and not days!
But let me tell you that for every superstar blogger who has made 20k in a week via some ‘secrete social media technique’, there’s millions who are not making 20 bucks a week despite having sunk hundreds or thousands of hours into their projects.
Just keeping it real here.
You certainly CAN make a lot of money online and quite your job (I have, technically), but let’s not kid ourselves with outlandish claims that you can do so in only a few months (or a year) after starting your first website while making a five or six figure salary from it. There may be a few very luck individuals that find a loophole to make it quickly, but for the rest of us, it’s all a lot of hard work and a lot of time.
3. Let Your Passion Guide You
Don’t just create a bunch of websites about topics you have zero passion about.
I know a little about this because I did this myself at first: I created hundreds of sites about stuff I knew very little about and cared even less for. The result was a mess of shitty mini sites with absolutely no quality content with no way I could actually provide any real effort on each of them (nor did I even want to, even if I had the time).
Because you are going to have to invest hundreds, even thousands of hours into a website to make it successful, are you going to be motivated to continually write content and promote your site when you are not interested in it?
The answer is…probably not. And certainly not until you are making enough money to feel the effort is worth it. And to get to that point where you make enough money to feel the time investment is worth, you have to invest the time first.
Get where I’m going with this? It’s a cycle.
Yes, if a site makes real money then you can do the work even if the topic doesn’t interest you, but it’s ALWAYS much easier to continually work on a site based on a topic you actually really have an interest in.
Your readers, when they come, will also sense this. People know when you are writing bullshit and when you actually really know about the topic. If you write mediocre content that’s every other site in your niche produces, readers will NOT value your advice over the established sites in your niche.
People can sense your passion. HAVING a real passion for a topic you are writing about will make a very tangible difference in your ultimate success.
4.Focus On One Thing At a Time
Trust me, it’s easy to keep hopping on the the next best thing, the next big idea, and fail to stick with one thing (one project, one website, one goal, etc) until we bring it to maturity.
The curse of the entrepreneur is that we love to start new projects and dream of new things but grow tired of sticking what we’ve already established and hunt for new pastures. By moving on to the new best thing instead of building up what you already have going on, you really can undercut your potential.
I’m particularly guilty of this myself, being a dreamer who always has a new idea that I want to pursue. I often abandon current projects that could very well be successful if I stick to them and put some long term effort into making them work.
Looking at my own portfolio of sites — the few winners out of the hundreds of losers — those were the websites I fully committed to over the years, putting my time and efforts to try and bring them to the next level.
If you really want to find success and make money from a website you need to stick to one or a couple and regularly put some serious effort into it. IF YOU DO, there is a good chance you can bring that website to the next level, reach thousands of people a day, and capture a regular audience who are interested in what you have to say, ultimately become a branded authority in the niche.
But you can’t reach this level if you don’t fucking stick to a single website and put the required work into it. That work includes writing LOTS of awesome content, networking with other blogs in the niche, doing link outreach, promoting the hell out of your site, and seriously busting some ass working on your site.
If you are putting minimal amounts of time into your site or you spread yourself too thin by creating too many sites, you probably won’t ever get your site to the next level and you won’t be making a full time income.
So focus, focus, focus and channel your energy into only a couple manageable projects at once.
5. Put Your Readers First
Your readers should be first, from the design of your site to the very content that makes up your site. Focusing on my readers first has never lead me wrong. And by focus I mean focus on giving the READER what they are looking for in the best method you possibly can.
No bullshit, no tricks, just awesome content (or a service) that delivers MORE than your readers want.
Putting the reader first can includes the following:
Serve The Readers First Then Yourself
Creating Seriously Awesome Content
Create Content Worth Sharing
Make It Easy for Readers to Navigate Your Site
When I first started trying to make a passive income with websites, I focused on making money first with no thought given to what the readers wanted. I created hundreds of websites that existed only to funnel the reader to an crappy affiliate offer or to an ad click but provided no real value to the reader or developed any sort of lasting relationship with an audience.
I was out only to make money without providing value. There was only one exception: a site I created (many years ago) about a topic I actually was really passionate about that offered a lot of real value to the readers in the form of quality information with my passion very much present everywhere on the site.
And guess what site is one of my best performing site and the one site that remained rock steady throughout all the google updates penalizing SEO’ed sites? My passion site that put readers first not last. This website ended up becoming one of my best sites and kept me self employed even through the bad times when I lost most of my other earning websites to google penalties.
Having said that keep in mind that your end goal is to make money and you need to build your website and your brand towards this goal, even at the very beginning. Put your reader first, but also keep in mind you need to make money too. If you don’t plan for this and set up your website, your research, and your overall efforts towards this over the long term, you may find, after it’s too late and years of effort, that your site niche is simply not one that lends itself to making a lot of money from and you’ll have to start something else in another niche to make an income from.
6. Focus on Becoming THE Authority in Your Niche
Every niche has an authority (and if it doesn’t, then there is a market opportunity for you to jump in, if you are willing to work for it). If you want to stand out from what everyone else is doing, you really need to BECOME the expert that everyone goes to.
If you can make your content so outstanding that it tops all the other stuff out there, then you’ve created something you can be proud of — something that other people will see the value in and maybe just share it.
I’m not talking about making yet another old blog about something everyone else is already doing the same thing. You need to stand out and be unique. If you can’t, then don’t bother — this is the only way you are going to be able to go up against the established authorities in your niche, gain a following, and become a unique authority yourself.
Let’s use the travel niche as an example.
If you just cough up another generic ‘10 Things to do in Rome‘ type article, why per-say would any reader take your advice (or even see it) over some of the authoritative, established websites like NomadicMatt.com or Rough Guides or Lonely Planet?
Which is why if you want to be successful in competitive niches like this, you need to do something different, come up with a unique angle, or specialize in a type of sub niche (solo travel, travelling as a woman, traveling with kids, minimalism travel, travelling ultra budget, travelling as a backpack), or a specific region, city, or country that you really know and are a legit authority on.
If you are not coming off as an authority on the topic and writing detailed stuff that you can’t find (or easily find) elsewhere the established sites, then don’t fucking bother because other people won’t fucking bother with what you have to say either.
You can’t really expect to write a unique and highly informative complete guide to travelling to India if you’ve only ever spent seven days there. Someone who wants some real information about India travel would read and follow a blogger who’s an expert about India with some real time spent there.
So here’s a thought. If you want to become a legit authority in a niche, maybe you need to actually be a real world authority on that topic (or if you’re not, learn).
Readers can tell if you know your topic. If you don’t, say goodbye to a real audience. You’ll get one off visitors who will come to your site then LEAVE.
Look, I’m not saying you can’t fake it till you make it in some niches. But there are certain niches where your expertise simply can’t be faked or regurgitated from elsewhere. At a certain point and certain level, you’ve got to produce compelling, unique, and interesting stuff ON YOUR OWN, in your own voice, from your own knowledge of the topic.
Readers know if you know what you are really talking about. And if you do and can write about it in an interesting way, then you are at least on the right path and you might just end up somewhere good and become a legit authority in the niche with a returning audience who want hear what you have to say (and an audience you can make money from because they trust you).
8. Follow the 80/20 Rule (Find the 20 percent that works and focus on that)
I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule (Parteto Principle) — that old axiom that says ‘for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes’.
I’ve seen this law at play at pretty much every stage of my online business.
It follows then that when you have more than one thing going on and you start to see success from one or more of these projects, you spend 80 percent of your time focusing on that 20 percent that’s yielding the results. You’ll often find it is 20 percent that’s making you 80 percent of your money.
This 80/20 rule is more of a guiding principal to follow, but it’s very accurate I found, and if you live by it, you’re productivity and your results will skyrocket over time.
Personally, had I followed this rule to the letter, I would have made a LOT more money online than I am making now and I would have saved years of wasted effort and dallying around.
9. Build Relationships (with Bloggers in Your Niche)
There’s a phrase ‘No Man is an Island’ that applies to websites as well. We are all part of a social community of information.
One of the best things you can do to make your site successful is to develop meaningful relationships with other websites in your niche. This can mean visiting their sites and leaving quality comments, hitting them up on email or social media, shouting out their sites from your blog, etc.
Building a framework of connections can really transform your site from just another blog to ‘one of THE blogs’ in the niche. Like any relationship, this can take time and effort, but the benefits are worth it.
If you develop a product, for example, you can leverage your blogging relationships to help promote your product. You can trade guests posts, acquire links, etc.
It goes without saying that your contacts need to like you AND you need to offer something of value back in your own way.
But man, if you can get this strategy down pat and work at it, this is often the only sort of promotion you will ever need to do for your site — building relationships. The links will come naturally as other blogs you network with link to your content and you.
10. Promote The Hell Out of Your Content
Creating awesome content is important, but just as important (some would argue, more important) is promoting that content. If you spend 90 percent of your time creating awesome content, you’re going to be very disappointed with the end result because no one is going to know about that awesome content — not unless you hustle and promote the hell out of it (and by promoting, I mean getting natural links from outreach efforts).
I’ll be straight up here and say I don’t like promoting and doing link outreach. It’s tedious, time consuming, boring, and sometimes you feel borderline sleazy doing it.
BUT, it’s what makes you money and often and is often what makes the difference between a broke blogger from a balling one.
I personally don’t spend nearly enough time promoting my content. But, it’s that chore that everyone who wants to make it online has to do.
If you can get your website to the point where it gets enough links, natural traffic, and authority where you don’t need to manually bust your ass anymore, where you write a post and the entire niche takes note without you having to promote it, then you can focus exclusively on creating the best content. If you take a look at any of the established websites in a niche, you’ll see they don’t need to bust ass to build links — they simply write some compelling content (usually compelling, but even subar content can still get traction if the site is considered an authority by people) and that content is flooded with links and comments.
But, it takes a while before you get to that point. I have one website where this is the case. I can write a quality post and get anywhere from 200 to 5000 facebook links on it, depending (usually it’s around 1k likes) and thousands of visitors from facebook, stumble upon, reddit, twitter, and so on.
But it wasn’t always like this.
For this website, I never did any manual link outreaching, but focused on creating outstanding content and a strong facebook page presence. The first size 6 or 7 months, however, with no link promotion got us pretty much NO traffic from google. The site, despite having something like 30 or 40 outstanding posts (each around 4000-5000 words) was getting precisely 5-20 visitors a day. It’s brutalizing putting so much work into something for so little return, even if that return is simply the kuddos you give yourself for having some regular readers who find your site.
If you really want to make a full time income online, especially at the beginning, you can’t ignore the importance of promotion. You should be spending 40-60 percent of your time promoting your site and your posts and the rest creating outstanding content.
Keep in mind that for best results with your content promotion, you like need great content to gain traction. Try promoting a website that looks like shit with shit, thin content. If you can successfully hit up quality sites and get them to link to your site and post, then my hat goes off to you — in fact, you should be the one writing these posts, not me then.
I’m not saying doing put time into writing outstanding content — content is key. But don’t ignore the power and importance of promoting your site and your content to get real links. Your promotion will pay back dividends over the long run and, if you keep at it for a year or two, eventually bring thousands of people a day to your website.
11. SEO Your Site (But Utilize Only Whitehat SEO techniques)
Search Engine Optimization is STILL important, even in 2015, despite the greater and greater push to make social signals more important. You still need to practice good on page SEO techniques to maximize your traffic. And for external SEO factors (linkbuilding), linkinbuilding its still a vital part of getting your website ranked in Google. However, you are far better off using the slower (but far more effective) whitehat link building strategies.
I’ve talked a lot about this on other posts but Blackhat methods are just not work it over the long term. Even gray hat methods are not usually worth the risk.
I’ve lost thousands of dollars per month because I’ve used shady link building SEO methods in the past. That’s thousands of hours of my time flushed down the toilet.
Gone are the days where you spend a couple hours creating a site, setting up some basic content, and watching the money roll in. About a year ago, there were some people still doing this sort of niche website strategy utilizing blog networks.
Marketers were setting up larger versions of the old mini site with 10-15 posts then utilizing Private Blog Networks (PBN’s) to rank these. While this might have worked last year and the years before that, this strategy almost always ends with google finding the popular PBN people are finding success with, then penalizing every single site those PBN blogs are linking to.
This too happened to me about 4 years ago. As a result of using Build My Rank links way back then, I literally destroyed all but one of my best sites when google penalized them. It took me years to rebuild from this, making a fraction of what I had been before the penalties were handed out.
You might think you are saving time by using private blog networks and other shady tactics, but what you are really doing is trading long term sustainability for quick term results.
12. Use Social Media to Boost Authority
In 2015, this is an absolute given.
I fully confess to having been slow jumping on the facebook and twitter bandwagon as I felt this sort of traffic was inferior to search engine traffic.
And in my experience, at least when trying to directly convert to CPC clicks with something like Adsense, it usually is if you are trying to pursue the niche website model.
However, social media can be invaluable for helping to build up your brand and promote your content to targeted readers and get your content noticed by the RIGHT sites. If you have a big enough facebook page presence, for example, your can grab thousands of facebook visitors every time you share your content on the facebook page. And you can get your content picked up and shared by other websites because of this, which translate to natural links.
If you want to stand out from the noise, however, you need to know exactly how to utilize social media to get those links. Just putting up some content and clicking your facebook share button won’t do shit for most people.
But if you know how to utilize social media to get lots of views quickly and you have the right type of content ready at hand, it can be a powerful tool for sharing your content with the right audience which can lead to natural links.
One of my biggest, most successful websites (in terms of social authority and ranking) become an authority because of a Facebook strategy my brother and I pursued. We utilized Facebook to promote our website (which had awesome, killer content) exactly in the manner mentioned above. As a result, we were able (and are able) to get regular links to our content from the top sites in the niche.
This would have been impossible without our social media strategy (and Facebook) — so I can directly attribute our site becoming a real authority in the niche because of social media.
We’ll outline some specific social media strategies we’ve used to create authority websites in the future.
13. Work On More Than One Site (But Put Most Effort on the Most Productive Site)
Everyone will tell you the best way to make an income online is to pick one niche/site, buckle down, and put all your effort into that one site until you make it happen.
And I won’t argue with this. As someone who’s BOTH had hundreds of sites and hundreds of web 2.0 properties, with each of them (mostly) bringing in trickle traffic from google (5-20 people a day) and single websites that bring in nearly 10,000 visitors a day, I can tell you it’s a lot better to have one website that brings in a lot of traffic than hundreds of websites that bring in tiny amounts.
If you can build a high traffic websites, you’ve already to some degree established yourself as an authority in the niche — or if not, with some effort on your part you can become an authority. You can more easily monetize that website and continue to build that site up into a real money making business over time.
You can’t do this if your time and efforts (and your web traffic) is spread around between a lot of different sites.
So putting MOST of your time into single big website projects is a good idea. In time, if you make the website successful, you can reap huge rewards.
But there’s also something to be said when it comes to having OTHER websites you are building up. Don’t ever put all your eggs into one basket is the phrase — and as I’ve experienced, you can pay a big price if that basket drops.
By creating a handful of different sites in different niches (again, for best results, about topics you have a personal interest in, or are an expert about). You may not have to put the majority of time into these sites, but you will still need to develop content and do link outreach for each site. You can reduce the burden significantly by outsourcing the content. The link building, however, you are going to have to do yourself.
There are some advantages to having multiple websites:
Multiple Sites Allow You To Leverage Existing Authority into New Markets
You can use them (provided it’s natural) to boost other related sites you have. This is a huge advantage to lever your existing authority and readers into another website and can really be a huge boost. You can directly LINK out from one of your sites to another of your site or you can directly try and leverage readers and authority from one site to a new website.
Now, this really only works if you are have an existing authority website with readers and traffic. If you go into a new, semi-related niche, you can link to the second website as a Sister website and give it a much needed boost by encouraging readers to checkout the new site, linking both of the sites together. You’ll often see this done with big companies that own multiple web properties. This ‘sister’ properties become part of the ‘network’ of sites owned by the same company and funnel traffic and authority to each other.
You can’t do this unless you already have at least one website with real authority. If you have multiple websites with authority even better. There’s a reason why it’s a HELL of a lot easier to start a new website project if you’ve got a number of other websites to jump start that project.
Personally, I can recall a number of well known make money bloggers who used one website to leverage another new website property to some success.
Darren Ross of ProBlogger did this with his Digital Camera Website.
Patt Flynn with his SmartPassiveIncome did this with his public website projects (which I’m going to argue probably would not have been successful without the backing of his main smartpassiveincome blog)
Various tech websites/news platforms do this when they own different web properties
I’m sure you can come up with dozens of other examples easily enough. So the short of it is, leveraging existing website authority to help you take down new niches is a tried and true tactic that works.
Multiple Sites Allow You to Test Different Markets
All markets are not created equal. 1000 visitors a day in one niche might make you pennies a day while in another niche, 1000 visitors a day will be a full time income.
I can speak with some personal authority regrading this. I have some websites that garner thousands of visitors a day and make a couple dollars at most with CPC Ads and other websites that get only 1000 or so visitors a day and can make 100-200 dollars a day.
You don’t want to lock yourself into one single niche you are passionate about, spend years building up an authority site and find that even with lots of traffic, you can’t make any money. The chances of this can be drastically reduced with proper keyword research and (if you are willing to put some money in as a test), paying for an adwords PPC campaign to test a niche’s money making potential out.
And of course, by starting more than one website in more than one niche.
I do not advocate starting hundreds of websites, just a handful about topics/niches you are willing to put time and effort into for a few years. I recommend having between 2 and 10 websites. If you have a few of these that really start to pick up, you can focus most of your efforts on those handful.
But at the end of the day, having a couple different websites in different niches that are doing very well means you are in a far better situation than just having a single website.
14. Start a Email List Right Away
Sadly, this is something I myself didn’t bother with until recently. And what a mistake. With good reason, most successful website owners will tell you starting a list is one of the most and beneficial things you can do for your website.
And I completely agree.
Your search engine rankings may change, depending on the vagaries of Google. Your Facebook page and twitter posts may be shown to less and less people unless you pay (in fact, if you have a successful Facebook page, you’ll now notice that your posts are only usually only shown to between 1-5 percent of your likers).
But your email list is forever.
Well not forever (your open rate will fall if you don’t keep a current newsletter going on every couple monhts) but with email newsletter open rates between 20 and 70 percent (depending on how good your stuff is of course), you can bet that most of your readers will see your newsletter.
Getting readers to sign up for your newsletter is one of the best ways to ‘capture’ readers who come to your website. Think about this: most visitors who come to your site then leave will never come back. If you can convince a fraction of your new visitors to sign up for your newsletter, you ‘retain’ that visitor and now have a direct line to them.
Newsletter subscribers are also some of the highest converting leads out there, should you market something to them. You are essentially marketing to a captive audience who are directly interested in what you have to say; they’ve signed up and they’ve confirmed through an email link. It doesn’t get any better than this.
And even if you don’t promote products or offers to your list, you can at the very least get them coming back to your website.
Bottom line: there is no reason why you shouldn’t create a newsletter. And it should be one of the first things you do when creating a new site; do NOT wait till your site gets traction as you are losing opportunities by waiting.
I’ll talk specifically about building a list, increasing lead rates, and converting subscribers in the future.
15. Diversify Revenue Streams
Never rely solely on one income stream — it can dry up overnight.
I know because it has happened to me, multiple times: I’ve lost two adsense accounts, been banned from more than one of my top affiliate programs. At the time, these were my primary income sources.
I used to make most of my money from Adsense, but that ended a couple years ago when I found they had banned both of my accounts. I had to come up with different revenue sources to replace Adsense.
In this business, you really want more than one type of revenue:
Affiliate Marketing (CPA, CPS)
CPC Ads (Adsense, Chitka, etc)
Your Own Product/s
I will say that Adsense, at least initially, can be the easiest way to make money online IF you have steady search traffic and the right niche. But it’s also the least efficient (you leave money on the table since you drive your readers to another website which will offer a solution).
Affiliate Marketing is a good, hand free alternative, but you have to find the right offer AND you are leaving money on the table because someone else is providing a solution.
The best way to make money is to really come up with your own product. You are building your brand and coming up with something YOU can offer to your readers. And you can make a lot of money because your product can scale.
No matter what becomes your main bread winner, always have a couple different earning options open (and TEST THEM). You put yourself in a better, more secure position by having those options.
And you might find one type of revenue model earns a lot more than others — something you won’t ever know unless you test different types of revenue streams to find out where they lead.
Ideally, if you have more than one website, you may be able to focus each site on one revenue model — one site might do well with affiliate CPA offers, another might make a killing with Amazon Associates, another may do great with Adsense, and still another may have your own product that’s being sold.
So keep exploring and building as many different revenue sources as possible from different places.
16. Have Idea How You Can Make Money With Your Site (And Work Towards It)
If you intend to create a website that will provide you with a sustainable income, you have to start thinking of it as a business. And that means how to make money from your readers. And this also means testing revenue streams once you get some decent traffic.
It’s great to offer outstanding content to your readers, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed or shy about angling the site to try and make money either.
If you are too concerned about preserving a sense of artistic integrity to market something to your readers (affiliate offers, ads, a digital product, a store, etc), then you are going to keep your artistic integrity, and keep your 9 to 5 job too.
There’s a fine balance between being to salesy and coming off as sleazy and giving everything away pro bono to your readers without trying to make money. If you’ve got a great website that offers real value, you are up front and honest with your readers, and you’ve established a good reputation, most of your readers will support your efforts. Just don’t go overboard with your site with trying to promote a product or service and you should be ok.
As SOON as you create a website, you should have a solid idea how you can make money from the readers and the various monetary opportunities available in your niche (affiliate programs, ad possibilities, ecommerce opportunities, etc). If you’ve done your keyword research and your competition analysis right, then you should have only picked a niche that has money making opportunity.
IF you picked the wrong niche, well, you’re fucked.
17. Outsource What You Can, Where You Can, When You Can
I know when you first start out, you likely don’t have the extra money lying around. But IF it means investing into your business and getting things done sooner than later, you should consider outsourcing important.
It goes without saying that if you are working with content-based sites, with content marketing your model, then you need to come up with that content.
If you can do it yourself, awesome. But you will reach some point (especially if you are trying to build multiple sites at the same time) that you simply don’t have enough time or energy to create the content yourself unless you cut corners on the quality.
This is where outsourcing can save your bacon in a big way. But you’ll need to invest time in finding quality writers you can trust and build up a relationship with.
If your idea of ‘content’ is to hire a cheap content-mill writer who re-writes articles, you won’t be getting any WOW content out of that. And don’t think your readers won’t notice your crappy content either.
As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. It’s more important to pay a fair wage for content (even a little more) and get AWESOME quality content that can build your brand.
You can outsource MORE than just your content though. If you have a lot of mundane repetitive tasks, consider hiring a Virtual Assistant. When you are starting out, this is not a possibility, but once you reach a certain level, a VA can automate some of your more mundane yet essential tasks (such as link outreaching, posting content, inserting images into content, etc).
I personally use a VA I’ve trained and it’s really allowed me to focus on stuff that makes me money and not on some of the more boring repetitive work required to do this.
18. Prettify Your Site
I don’t know if this is said enough, but gone are those days of crappy layouts and shitty looking sites.
Your site really needs to LOOK like it’s an authority. People make snap judgements about the quality of your site solely on how it looks. And this means you really should opt for a custom theme or a premium theme that’s all prettied up with custom graphics.
It should go without saying, any website design you have should be responsive, since a significant portion of your traffic is likely to be mobile.
I’m not a designer here, but your site should have the following at least:
a premium theme that looks money (and responsive)
a custom logo (99designs.com)
custom graphics (sidebar, banner graphics, post graphics etc)
If you are a cheap Charley and have shitty design skills, you really hurt your ability to become an authority. For one, shitty website layouts have a higher bounce rate and lower time on site values — values that do affect google rankings. And if you think about it, there’s logic to this. People who visit your site and see an ugly design are likely to quickly leave your site without giving your content a chance. It’s 2015 and there are certain aesthetic expectations people have.
If you can’t afford spending $199 on a professional logo at 99 Designs, then make one yourself with logo software or higher someone at fiver.com to create a decent looking logo and custom graphics for your site. And buying a premium wordpress theme can go a long way to helping your site look good.
Basically, if you are too lazy or cheap to invest in making your site look at least as good as your competition, you don’t deserve to be an authority in that niche.
So don’t be.
19. Keyword Research BEFORE STARTING
This means you absolutely need to thoroughly Keyword Research, Determine Commercial Intent and do Competition Analysis to see how hard it is to rank.
You can save yourself a lot of pain by doing this SEO research stuff BEFORE investing heavily into a niche. If your content is amazing and you have a unique angle, you can make a name for yourself. BUT, in some niches it’s way the fuck easier to do than others.
Mortgage Loans, for example. There’s a lot of money there, but if you seriously want to make an authoritative site in this niche, you are talking YEARs of effort and some serious investment of time and money. And that might not even be enough.
Follow your passion, yes, but also be smart about how you go about it. If your passion is really mortgage loans, well, sometimes NOT following your passion is the right choice.
You can save yourself a lot of wasted time and money by getting your keyword research done. I’ll have some big articles about how to do keyword research, do commercial intent, and competition analysis in the future.
20. A/B Split Test Everything and Optimize
If you’ve come out of SEO, you are probably used to the whole getting traffic thing from google. However, SEO people tend to be like really bad at optimizing from existing traffic because we focus on getting the traffic and finding the simplest means of converting SOME of that traffic.
But often, if you pay attention to the details and really try to squeeze out every cent possible from your current traffic, you can see huge improvements in conversions.
Doing this successfully is a WHOLE different skill set then just getting search traffic and slapping on adsense or an affiliate offer.
Say you get 1000 people from Google search through SEO efforts and make $20 bucks from that effort.
But what if you can look at your website stats, track what pages your visitors go to, optimize the layout, content, and monetization strategy to increase your conversions so that 1000 people a day bring you $40 bucks instead of $20 bucks.
It’s not all just about getting traffic, CONVERTING that traffic is just as important, and arguably more important at the end of the day. Unfortunetly, a lot of SEO types who’ve used their skill set to make a passive income through websites tend to be shit at really optimizing traffic for conversions.
One of the most effective ways to optimize pretty much every aspect of your website (traffic, conversions, time on site, etc) is to utilize A/B Split testing.
It’s a fancy word that pretty much just means doing two different things, tracking the performance of each given the same traffic, and choosing the one that does better. It’s a simply concept, but it’s actually quite complex to pull off and to do so effectively, you really need to get into the nitty gritty of your site traffic and look at all the traffic details like what your visitors are looking at, how long they look at it, how your monetization offers perform, the average time on site, various bounce rates, speed loading times THEN seek to improve these by changing things with your site and tracking how those changes effect those stats. Some of those stats, should you improve them, will directly effect how your visitors convert (clicking on more ads, higher CTR on affiliate offers, more product sales, etc).
As you can imagine, this also requires a lot of actual testing where you implement changes to some aspect of your site, meticulously tracking the results, finding what works (discarding what doesn’t) and optimize for that over and over.
If you can get good at this sort of thing, you can make more money from less traffic or a lot more money from the same traffic.
It’s a vital skill if you really want to maximize your revenue opportunities and one you should start improving right away, even it it’s a tedious job.
The more money you can make from your existing traffic, the closer you are to quitting your job and earning that full time income (or if you are already making a full time income, you can make even more money!)
21. Move Somewhere Cheap
My final rule of thumb for you guys. It’s probably one you’ve never considered, BUT if you want to quit your job and give yourself MORE time to devote to your websites (something that is needed — the more productive time you put in, them more likely you are to succeed), then quitting your job earlier than later can give you a massive productivity boost.
More productivity can mean more success with your websites and more money. It’s a cycle that feeds itself.
However, you need to be making enough money with your current portfolio of web properties and have some savings before you consider taking this step.
So why move somewhere cheap?
Well, if you are trying to make a go at it earning a full time income online, you might also want to look at your fixed costs living at home (likely somewhere in North America if you are reading this) vs. living somewhere much cheaper, like Asia or South East Asia (Thailand, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and so on).
If you have kids or are married, moving to somewhere like Thailand might not be so feasible to make this move as there are other considerations such as your kids’ education, visa issues for the family, etc.
Consider some place like Thailand, for example.
I know about living here while working online because I’ve been doing it for four years now. The internet is fast (I have fiber optic), the rent can be extremely cheap (my rent is 130 USD a month!) and food costs for eating out ranges between 1-3 dollars for street food meal, to $4-5 for a local style restaurant to $6-10 for a western meal.
All in all, you can live for $500 a month in a place like Thailand if you want to live local style, $700-$1000 for a month if you want to live comfortably with some amenities, and $1500 a month for a very comfortable lifestyle with western amenities thrown in regularly. Spend 2-3k a month and you can live like you are rich and if you spend 4k+, you can live like you are a king.
Basically, if you come to somewhere where it’s cheap to live, you can get a much better lifestyle for half the cost at least you pay back home. This means you can earn less and get by (something that may be the case when you first quite your job) or you can SAVE more.
Something to think about IF you seriously want to quite your job. Coming to somewhere like Thailand to live for a year or two while your build up your business may be something you want to think about.
If there is an interest, I can put together a guide on where to live abroad for digital nomads types who earn some money online want to quit their job.
The Final Word
It’s a big deal to start a website or ten and eventually make enough money to quit your 9 to 5 job. But it certainly is possible and, if you follow the points I’ve given above, you might just save a lot of wasted time.
BenK has been around blogging in the SEO/Internet Marketing sphere since 2010 when he quit his job to pursue a self employed career of making a crazy online income with the dream of doing absolutely nothing to make good money.However, he soon found that dream was a lie; making an online living took a lot of hard work -- more work than he spent at his 9 to 5.In the 5 years he's been an Internet Marketer, he's:*made a full time income at nearly 20k a month, lost it, then work his way back up
*been banned from adsense twice, regained it, then banned again
*had hundreds of sites deindexed
*rebuilt everything from scratch in two years
*moved to Thailand where he now lives on a beach, living off of websites and blogging about internet marketing the RIGHT way.AuthorityIncome.com is his new blog where he shares his strategies, thoughts, and opinions on making a LONG TERM income through websites.