I wake up this morning in Zagreb, Croatia at 10:18am.  Damn!  I missed the free breakfast that went until 10.  Ugh, that will be the worst part of the day.  Guess I’ll meander down to the main common room of the hostel and check some lazy emails.

25 new emails!  Hope nothing too important happened while I was sleeping!

Whats this? “Notice of Termination due to New California Law“  Sent from Amazon?

Hello,

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of California. If you are not currently a resident of California, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents and will not affect your ability to purchase from Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com.

We have enjoyed working with you and other California-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to California residents. As mentioned before, we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.

Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

Snap.  I had just spent a lot of time and money implementing the Amazon feed, and Amazon was responsible for nearly $100 of revenue a day for me.  I’ll also have to find out which other retailers will stop working with me because of Jerry Brown.

Leaving California is my ONLY option.

I’ll have to re-incorporate my California business in another state now.  That is the only way to survive.  Maybe Nevada? Delaware? A different country?  I can’t call Amazon (and all the other affiliate programs that might nix me) and say “please please let me work with you!”.  I can’t call Jerry Brown and say “please please please learn how the internet works!”.

I hope you are happy, California lawmakers.  I was paying California income tax but now I will pay zero California income tax.  I’m not sure how you intend to fix the budget when you are driving tax-paying businesses out of your state.

Would Meg Whitman Have Done It?

No!  Former CEO of eBay?  Are you serious?  She understands how the internet works.  Jerry Brown does not.  It is totally not fair for these dinosaur lawmakers in California to pass a budget when they have no idea what it even means.  Try to get each lawmaker to explain what this bill does exactly.

I’m In a Blind Rage.

I thought I had a lot of stuff to take care of when I returned to the states.  Selling the RV, buying a car, finding a place, selling off my websites, developing the new version and optimizing my main site, closing out a few other projects, and somehow fixing my shoulder/wrist injuries.  Now I have to move my entire business to another state.  Change my address for everything: affiliate programs, taxes, payroll, banks, etc.  All because Jerry Brown ignorantly decided that he didn’t want my tax dollars anymore.

Thanks, California.  We had a good run.

 

Currently the top two auctions on Flippa’s Most Active list are my auctions.  ClassicBodybuilders.com and PureHonda.com.  A few early bidding wars helped me climb the ladder.  I have a total of 5 auctions that are currently on the most active list.

I didn’t realize that watching these auctions would be so exciting.  It’s fun to see the bidding wars while watching the time tick away.

I’ve got a handful of more profitable sites that will be listed soon.  I’m confident those will be even more exciting than the current auctions!

 

Diversifying my Investments

Here is a house our LLC currently has for sale.

As I have mentioned several times before, I’m in the process of reducing my website inventory down to 1.  Not only will this help clear my mind, reduce my responsibilities, and free up some time, but it will also put a heap of cash in my pocket.  I had been investing aggressively in websites over the last few years, spending a lot of money on acquisitions.  I will get everything back and then some by the time I get everything sold.

Currently, the only other investments I have are my IRA (all in the stock market) and about a 1/4 ownership in an LLC that purchases foreclosures from the courthouse steps and flips them in ~90 days.  Our first flip was a great success, and we are in the process of selling our second flip.  I literally do zero work for this.  We have partner running the whole show, he has his money invested alongside us, but also gets a bonus for doing all the work.

I’m currently trying to figure out where to place another sizable investment or two.  I like the idea of start-ups, I like the idea of green energy/positive social change, and I like the idea of investing internationally.

Where to start?  I don’t know.  I Googled “Venture Capital” the other evening and read the Wikipedia article on it.  Guess I need to do some more research in the field…

#####

Left Sweden on Monday and flew into Amsterdam, then took the train to Belgium on Thursday, and then the bus to Paris on Saturday.  Will be here for a few days, and then head south towards Spain eventually.

 

If you have ever seen “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”, the name of the electronics store is actually called “Going Out Of Business”.

Being on the road for so long has forced me to re-work my business model.  Previously, my plan was to acquire as many “set and forget” sites as possible, ideally creating a vast empire of sites that would generate me constant passive income.  I acquired 50 or so sites, however my flagship site still accounts for nearly 80% of my revenue.

I’ve since realized that no website is truly 100% “Set and Forget”.  Every site needs some level of attention, and I simply no longer have the capacity to babysit so many different web-properties.  I spread myself too thin, and simply don’t have the time to properly manage each site.

Furthermore, my time is much better spent on my flagship site.  I hired a guy to help me implement the Amazon product feed into my flagship site, and this project has increased site earnings about 8%.  While this 8% doesn’t seem like much, it is more than twice what I make from my 2nd most profitable site.  There is a clear advantage to leveraging my time by focusing on what is already making me the most money.

I’ve made the executive decision to reduce my inventory to one website.  Way fewer responsibilities, and only a slight decrease in pay.

I will be selling each through Flippa.  I’m flattered that several of my readers are interested in buying sites from me, but I can’t sell anything off Flippa as I could end up leaving a lot of money on the table.

Here are my current listings to give you an idea of what I’m getting rid of:

Dr-Gott.com: https://flippa.com/134142-4-Year-Old-Established-Money-Making-Zero-Work-NO-RESERVE

ClassicBodybuilders.com: https://flippa.com/134141-9-Year-Old-Established-TrafficRevenue-Zero-Hours-of-Work-NO-RESERVE

CashCreditAndLoans.com: https://flippa.com/134138-2-Year-Old-site-in-profitable-Finance-nich-needs-new-owner–NO-RESERVE

DietFoodDeliveryServices.com: https://flippa.com/133871-4-5-Year-Old-38-RevMo-NO-WORK—NO-RESERVE

HandModels.net: https://flippa.com/133838-HandModels-net-Established-Hand-Model-site—100-listings-Massive-Potential-NR

RealEstateListingReviews.com: https://flippa.com/133836-RealEstateListingReviews-com-Lots-of-Potential-in-Highly-Profitable-Niche-NR

Yes, I am starting each listing at $1 with No Reserve.  This is because I am serious about letting each site go.

 

A typical view on my street, Toorak Rd in South Yarra – seeing all the wankers in fancy cars gives me that much more motivation.

These questions are going to be a little more technical in nature, so if you aren’t interested in earning an income online, you probably won’t want to read this post.

How many websites do you own?

40+.  Most of which were purchased.  The top 7 make up 90% of my income.  I’m currently selling off sites to downsize to a more manageable level.

Do you make money from your blog?

If you mean TomsAdventure.com, then no.  Some believe that you can make a fortune blogging.  I see it just as another avenue to publish your writing, so unless you are an amazing writer, you probably won’t make much from a personal blog.  I just keep this blog as a hobby; to keep a journal and share my thoughts/adventures, and to reassure my mom that I haven’t been kidnapped by crazy Bogan Australians.

How much money do you make?

Considerably more than I was at my desk job fresh out of college.  I’m satisfied with my decision to pursue this career.  I just watched the movie “The Butterfly Effect” so I can’t really say with 100% certainty.  But I can say that I wouldn’t go back in time to change the past, given the opportunity.  (Unless, of course, I could place strategic bets in the stock market, but that is really not the point I am trying to illustrate here).

How many visits does your site get each month?

Over 1.5 million visits in March between all websites.  In comparison, Rebecca Black’s Friday video has nearly 120 million views since coming out two months ago.

What do you look for when buying a website?

My strategy has been to buy aged sites with timeless content that receive most of their traffic through lots of different keywords organically.  To break it down:

1.  Aged: Google seems to like older sites better.  Also, one thing you can never artificially do is increase your site age, unless you are buying an aged domain.  That helps lower the competition.

2.  Timeless Content:  A site that gets traffic from people searching about Rebecca Black’s new Friday video isn’t very sustainable.  People searching for information on classic Jeep engines is going to be just as popular in years to come.

3.  Organic traffic through many keywords: Organic search traffic means free traffic from Google.  You want your site to be ranking for hundreds of different terms, rather than relying on one keyword to bring in all of your traffic.

Should I focus on creating multiple websites or growing one or two?

My advice would be to focus on one (or two).  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to really get a site going, and once you have it going, you can leverage the success of that site when you work on it.

For example, if you build a website that Google just loves, you might get your new content indexed quickly and immediately start ranking for new keywords related to that new content.  However, if you have a bunch of sites that Google finds just OK, your new content won’t be indexed or ranking as quickly.

I’m completely new to this.  What should I do first?

If you have the money, buy a website.  Just a couple hundred could get your foot in the door.

1.  You can enjoy immediate cash flow.  Websites sometimes take several months to start ranking in Google and producing an income.  This period of hard work and no results can easily kill your motivation.

2.  You’ll be forced into a fast-track learning experience.  If you win an auction (I recommend looking through Flippa.com) you’ll be forced to take over the website whether you think you are ready or not.  You’ll be forced to set up your hosting, transfer the site and get everything set up.  The seller will probably have some experience and will be able to hold your hand through the process.

3.  Searching through website auctions will give you specific examples of how people built, marketed and monetized their websites.  If you try to learn about websites through forums, most people won’t tell you what sites they own, or how much they make from their site.  Website auctions are completely different.  They are putting it all on the table for anyone to see.

How should I get more traffic to my site?

I find this the most difficult part of building a site.  Continue promoting at all angles. Onsite and offsite. Onsite promotion would include creating more content so that you rank for more keywords, and offsite would be any type of link building, social media marketing, article writing, guest blog posting, etc.

Do you use any SEO tools?

Just SEMRush, Compete.com, Quantcast.com, Alexa, Way Back Machine, Snapnames.

Any small changes create big earnings increases?

Adsense ad sizes and placements can really help increase earnings.  Going from a 250×250 to a 300×250 helps tremendously, because more advertisers target the latter.

Can you build/design a website for me?

No.

How do you build content for your websites?

I really hate writing unless it is something I really want to talk about.  So I get content for my sites in 3 ways that don’t require me to write against my will.

1.  Leverage your users to post content for you.  This could be in terms of reviews, articles, questions/answers, comments, discussion, anything.  This way you are getting it for free.

2.  Buy websites with original content already written on it.

3.  Hire a writer to create unique content for your sites (I don’t do this much).

What strategies do you use to build backlinks and PR?

When I first started, I was really trying anything I could to do get every single backlink  possible. I used some reciprocal linking software, hired people on DigitalPoint to do different submission packages, used online services to do submissions, plastered my link on different forums, hired people to post on forums with my link, etc.

What I found was that doing anything but authentic link-building was a waste of time. Google doesn’t care if you have a link on 1,000 spammy directories. In fact, this probably doesn’t look good in their eyes.

Your focus should be on creating some content that REAL HUMANS will actually read and link to. You can jump start that process by submitting to social bookmarking sites, contacting other webmasters with related sites, and dropping your link on comments for RELATED topics on various places on the net.

Lastly, I really stopped caring about PR years ago. Hasn’t hurt my bottom line.

How much tax do you pay on your income?

Too much.  I think I am at a 35% marginal rate.  I just send everything off to my accountant, and he figures it all out.  I’m set up as a California S-Corp which saves me a little bit on Social Security and Medicare.

I do all my own books because its a breeze when you just import your banking/paypal history with quickbooks.  Hiring an accountant to my taxes was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.  I think I’d be in a mental institution if I had to do my taxes manually one more year.

Do you host all your sites on one hosting account?

I did for a little bit until I outgrew my “unlimited” shared hosting account.  Yes, “unlimited” shared hosting packages are not truly “unlimited”.  I currently have 5 shared hosting accounts and one dedicated server.  This keeps things safer, so if one site gets a surge of traffic and the hosting account is suspended, not all of my sites are taken down with it.

How many hours a week do you work?

Probably average 35-45 hours per week, however it fluctuates a lot. Some weeks less than 20, other weeks more than 50.

What sort of SEO work do you do?

Other than the basic keyword placement (in title tags, header tags, meta, url structure, etc), I really don’t do much SEO.  There are tons of SEO tactics out there which attempt to take advantage of Google’s logarithm to rank better.

Google is constantly telling website owners to focus on creating quality, unique content.  LISTEN TO THEM.  Google is always improving the way they rank websites, and if your interests are in creating quality, unique content, then your interests will be perfectly aligned with their logarithm changes.

If you are using loop-hole round-about methods to rank better in Google, you will likely be constantly fighting an uphill battle.

Are you going to try and invest in offline business?

Yes.  Currently investing in foreclosures in Livermore with a group of other investors.  We are on our second property after a successful first flip.  I’d like to eventually purchase rental property as well.

 

Outsourcing to Leverage my Time

I finally selected the contractor to do the entire re-build of SupplementReviews.com.  It took me almost all week, but I finally officially hired the contractor last night.

About The Project

Since the beginning, I have done just about 100% of the programming for SR.  It was alright in the beginning, but as the years passed, the site got more and more complicated.  I’ve done so many updates and added so many features over the years, that the whole programming side of it has gone over my head.  Furthermore, I’m colorblind without much of an eye for design, so I could really use the skills of an experienced designer to make the site look stellar.

I spent several days going through the site and creating a Detailed Project Scope.  This scope turned out to be 19 pages long (mostly bullet points) and describes exactly what I want the new site to look like.  While writing this scope, I kept thinking “Wow, I’m so glad I don’t have to program that!”.

I had several interviews with many different projects, and ultimately decided on one because the had a few MASSIVE sites in their portfolio which appeared to be pretty closely related to mine.  The new site should be live in 4 months, so August, which seems really far from now.

Changing the Way I Run the Business

For the most part, I have done all work on my business by myself.  I’ve outsourced a few things to professionals (hosting, taxes, logo designs, some writing, etc).  I have been doing this for 2 reasons:

Keep my business expenses extremely low.

When I first quit my full-time corporate job to pursue  my dream of owning my own business, I was only making a few thousand a month.  In October of 2008, my first month of working full-time for myself, I made $2,458.59 in revenue.  All my living expenses had to come out of this, so there really wasn’t much left over for hiring.

After a few years of hard work, the business is generating more revenue.  I have enough to pay myself, and now I have enough to pay for some help.  It is still tough because the expenses come straight out of my bottom line.

I’m afraid to relinquish control of many tasks.

I have always thought that nobody could do my business tasks as well as I could.  I’m now trying to change that mindset.

Obviously, my CPA is much better at doing taxes than I am.  I have a basic understanding of taxes, but it would never be worth my while to learn as much as he does.

The contractor I just hired to re-do SR knows way more about programming and website development than I do.  While I know more about the site functions, I’d bet a lot of money that he knows how to program them much better than I can.

Realizing that Hiring is a Skill that can be Learned

Just because you hire a few people that turn out to be morons, doesn’t mean that hiring people is a bad idea.  I need to understand that hiring is a skill that I need to invest in.  I will make mistakes, lose money, become frustrated, etc.  I just need to stay focused on finding talented people that I can work with.  Once I build a team and find a few contractors I can rely on, I will be able to keep this team in place, and get a lot more done than if I jut go at it alone.

 

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  It suggests that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort.  I’ve been noticing this in my business, big time.

I currently own 50 websites which are supposed to be earning revenue for the business.  I noticed that 76% of my revenue is being generated by one site.  However, I have been spending 25% of my time on that site.  A very close example of the 80/20 rule.

I’ve decided to start selling off the sites that take up the most time with the least amount of revenue.  Here are the links to my current auctions:

https://flippa.com/128481-AbroadReviews-com-Established-Abroad-Program-Reviews-Site

https://flippa.com/128455-RealEstateListingReviews-com-Lots-of-Potential-in-Highly-Profitable-Niche

https://flippa.com/128452-CyclingTops-com-2yo-PR3

https://flippa.com/128387-EssayJudge-com-Established-Peer-Essay-Review-site-with-lots-of-potential

https://flippa.com/128386-HandModels-net-Established-Hand-Model-site—100-listings-Massive-Potential

It is a little sad to say goodbye to these projects I started years ago.  I’m also losing a small percentage of my income.  However the peace of mind of having less to think about is priceless.   I’ve always felt a bit guilty about not putting more time into these sites, and now I am no longer burdened by this guilt.

This reminds me a lot of the feeling I got when I went semi-minimalist so that I could move into my small RV.  Making the decision to abandon something is tough, but once you have made the decision to depart with it, you feel get a renewed sense of freedom.

A few days after listing these sites, the freedom really set in and I was jumping up and down with excitement.  The goodbye was difficult, but the freedom was well worth it.

I might sell off some more sites in the near future, depending on how this set of sales goes.

 

Many are inspired to start their own online business after hearing about the success of mine.  While the business is doing great, I’d like to again reinforce that this path is not for everyone; it required years of work without any guarantee of a reward.

One of the biggest questions people have is how I figured all this stuff out.  Google is my best friend.  If there is something I want more information on, I’ll just Google it.  If you have any questions or want more info on anything, I highly recommend Googling it, and you will find your answer!

If you would still like to venture into the online world of business, I’ll break down the main three strategies I have used.

PPC (Pay Per Click) Affiliate Marketing

  • Months before turning a profit: 1 to 2
  • Capital investment: ~$500
  • Profit potential: You can make or lose lots of money
  • Sustainability: Low

Buying Traffic

There are two types of listings that appear when you do a Google search.  Paid and unpaid.  The paid listings are at the top, right and bottom under the title “Sponsored”.  If you click one of these “Sponsored” listings, Google charges the advertiser a few cents for sending them a visitor.

Anyone can sign up and start advertising on Google with a Google Adwords account.  You will pick the keywords you want to target, create a little ad, and pay google for any clicks they send you.  Buying visitors on Adwords is about one hundred times more complicated than I just made it out to be, so just search Google for more info on how to use Adwords.

If you are going to sign up to Google Adwords, make sure you Google the term “Adwords Credit” and you will find a coupon code to get up to $100 worth of free Google advertising.

You can also run ads like this on Yahoo Search Marketing, Facebook and MSN.

Selling Traffic

You are basically running ads for someone else’s business.  You will get paid every time you send this 3rd party a “lead”, or a visitor that signs up to their service or completes some sort of transaction.

As an example, we will use the site “Fitness-Singles.com”.  For everyone I send to their site through my unique tracking link (http://www.myaffiliateprogram.com/u/fit4it/b.asp?id=3622&img=250×250_fitness-pic.jpg) who signs up for a free profile, I get paid $3.00.

So, I’ll advertise on Google for search terms such as “Fit Singles”, “Buff Dating”, etc. I’ll pay Google $0.25 per visitor they send to me.  1 in 10 of these visitors will sign up to the offer, and earn me $3.0o.  In the end, I’m paying $2.50 to get $3.00, creating a profit for my efforts.

Anyone can sign up to these “Affiliate Programs” and can start advertising other people’s stuff and start making money.  Here are a few programs you can check out right now:

  • Commission Junction: http://www.cj.com
  • Azoogle: http://www.Azoogle.com
  • NeverBlue Ads: http://www.NeverBlue.com

There are literally hundreds of these programs, and anyone can sign up for free with no strings attached.

PPC Affiliate Marketing Pros

Using this model, you can turn a profit pretty quickly.  You can set up your first campaign and be in the black that night.

Google Adwords also has a million controls, so you can set daily spending limits, track keyword performance, test different ads, etc.  You can also see what is making you money and then easily scale up from there.

PPC Affiliate Marketing Cons

Although also a pro, the complexity of Adwords can be extremely frustrating.  It is a very powerful program, and can be difficult for the newbie to figure out what they are doing.

While you can  make a lot of money quickly, you can also lose a lot of money quickly.  In the real world, you won’t be paying $0.25 for each click like in the example above.  You will likely be paying over a buck a click, and losing $7 for every lead you send Fitness-Singles.com.

You will spend lots of hours tweaking ads and keywords, testing offers, and ultimately finding what works by finding a hundred configurations that don’t work.  Once you do find something that is working for you, one little change can push you into the red.

Why I Don’t Use This Method

While I have had success with this method in the past, I have entirely stopped pursuing it because of the instability, and the potential for losing a good deal of money.  I have also shifted my efforts away because I personally find it boring, and I don’t feel as though I am creating any value to anyone other than myself.  The only thing I find rewarding about it is the profit.

Building Content-Based Websites

  • Months before turning a profit: 4+
  • Capital investment: <$100
  • Profit potential: You will probably make a few bucks.
  • Sustainability: Moderate

Building Your Website

First, you are going to want to pick some sort of niche that people use the internet to find out more about.  This can be pretty much anything from dog training to weight loss supplements.

Building a website is easier than you think.  You can get a domain for under $10 a year and host as many sites as you want for a total of $7 per month.  Visit GoDaddy.com or BlueHost.com for more info.

If you have never built a website before, I would recommend using Wordpress (free) so that you don’t have to learn any HTML or web programming.  Wordpress is a very powerful tool, so expect to spend a while learning about it before you become a master.  This blog is actually built on Wordpress.

If you have some cash to spend, or just want to get more ideas on what websites to build, you can check out established websites for sale on Flippa.com.  Flippa is basically the eBay for websites.  You can learn a lot by browsing the listings, because sellers will often disclose exactly how much they make, and how they went about starting and marketing the site.

Getting Organic (Free) Google Traffic to your Site

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the term used for making your site rank higher on the search engines.  It basically involves placing your target keywords (eg. Dog Training) in various locations that help search engines know that your site is about Dog Training.  It also involves getting people to link to your site so that search engines know that you’re site is something worth looking at.

I could write you a book on SEO, but I don’t have the time or desire.  There is TONS of info on the web about how to do SEO, so just use Google and you will find plenty of reading material.

One of the biggest factors of getting ranked on Google is time.  You won’t start appearing at the top of the search results overnight.  You really have to wait several months before Google starts sending you any traffic.

Another factor is having high quality, unique content.  You will be the writer, so make sure that you have quality info, and ideally this will be your best bet to attract visitors.

Turning Traffic into Money

The easiest way to turn your visitors into money in your pocket is through Google Adsense.  This is a free account that anyone with a website can sign up for.  Google gives you a piece of code that you insert into your web pages, and it automatically reads the content and then displays ads related to your site.  Every time a visitor clicks one of these ads, you get paid a few cents.

The payout really depends on your niche.  If you have a site relating to some general interest topic like jokes or cats, you shouldn’t expect more than $0.05 to $0.10 per click.  If you have a site relating to foreclosures, mortgages, cash advances, loan consolidation, DUI attorneys, or anything expensive like that, you can expect over a dollar per click.

Content-Based Website Pros

Because you aren’t paying for advertising, this method has minimal monetary risk.  If your websites don’t succeed, you aren’t really out much money.  Also, all your work is done up front, and once the site is established, it basically generates residual income for you with no continued effort.

Content-Based Website Cons

The scalability of this business model isn’t great.  If you have the patience to create two sites a day for a year straight, you could be making decent money.  Otherwise, you might not be making much more than a couple hundred a month.

Why I Use this Method to Diversify

I don’t invest all of my effort into building sites like these because I would be bored to tears.  I’ve bought a number of established websites just to help diversify my earnings.

Creating Communities Online

  • Months before turning a profit: 5+
  • Capital investment: <$200
  • Profit potential: With enough persistence, skill and luck, you could make lots.
  • Sustainability: Decent

Building a Content-Based Website on Steroids

The idea is basically the same as building a content based site, but focus more on user interactivity.  In the model listed above, you are doing all the writing for the entire site.  In this model, your users are creating all of the content for you.  Because your users are constantly writing content for your site, your site continually grows and does better in the search engines.

The difficulty lies in getting the community started and keeping the community going.  A few examples of my community-based sites are: SupplementReviews.com and MotoredBikes.com.  Trying to attract new members when the site was just starting proved to be very difficult.  Keeping things running smoothly when members create drama between one-another is also a constant challenge.

Turning Traffic into Money

Turning traffic into money is pretty much the same as content-based sites.  Using Google Adsense is a pretty simple solution, but with a big enough site, you can test out other avenues.

You can sell advertising directly to a sponsor, or sign up to other advertising opportunities that can prove to be more profitable than Google Adsense.

You can also test affiliate offers on your site; getting paid every time a visitor clicks an ad and completes a transaction.  It is often tough to find products that your visitors will be interested in.

Community-Based Website Pros

Community sites often seem to be more helpful for individuals than basic content sites.  Your members will be making friends with each other and providing personalized help to your visitors.

I have been personally thanked dozens of times for creating these communities.  I feel good intrinsically when I know that I am actually helping people and providing something of value to the internet.

Content-Based Website Cons

The obvious hurdle is getting the site started, but the not-so-obvious hurdle is continuing to keep the place running smoothly.  There numerous battles all the time, from members not playing nice to members promoting their own business on your site.  The way you handle these issues ultimately determines the success of your community.

Why I This is my Favorite Method

This is my favorite method because it allows me to be very proud of my work.  It is also the most enjoyable to work on.  I am working with people most of the time, rather than doing monotonous writing or tweaking of ads and keywords.

Because my community-based sites are much larger, I end up doing a much more diverse set of tasks to keep them running smoothly.  I’ll do everything from establishing advertising relationships to running contests to mailing out free stickers to designing t-shirts.

I also feel very important knowing that I created these sites and I am in charge of keeping them running smoothly.  It is fun getting to call the shots and being the leader of the group.

Where to Start?

If you really want to start making money online, I would recommend jumping in head first and just starting a website.  You will have tons of questions, but you will learn tons by finding the answers to your questions online.  Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly; just focus on getting it done.

Here are some links to help you come up with ideas and get your business started:

 

One of the most common questions I get is: “How are you going to pay for this trip?”.

The number one assumption is that I have saved up a bunch of money and I’m taking some time off work, and the number two assumption is that I just graduated college, couldn’t find a job and my parents let me borrow their RV.

Neither of these two assumptions is correct.  I’m not taking time off work, and my parents don’t have an RV.  (If they did, I can’t imagine that they would let me borrow it or that I would want to borrow it).

Here is what I tell people:

How are you going to pay for this trip?

I have an Internet company.

What does your Internet company do?

I sell advertising online.

These are the short answers I use when I don’t feel like explaining myself, or don’t have a solid ten uninterrupted minutes to explain how everything works and how I got there.

For anyone who has received the short version, I’ll go into a little more detail in case you want a better understanding of how I magically turned my laptop into an ATM.

As I typed up this post, I realized it was extremely long, so I broke it up into a few parts:

If you don’t feel like reading all that, here is the super-short abbreviated version:

How I Started

I consider myself to have always been an entrepreneur.  After numerous random failed business attempts throughout my life, I started my successful online business as a sophomore in college.

After graduating, I got a full time job only to quit 3 weeks into it so that I could focus all my energy on building my online business.  I took a huge pay cut, but it was an investment I was willing to make for the business.

Over the next year and a half, I worked full-time on growing the business.  I set it so that it would basically run itself.  In 2010, I finally grew the business to a point where I wanted to cut my hours and focus on growing as a person.

How it Works

I own a bunch of random websites.  Some of which I started on my own, some of which I bought from other people.  These websites are just content sites, and receive a lot of traffic from people searching on google for various terms such as “Supplement Reviews”, “Motorized Bikes”, “Toyota Celicas”, “MLA Works Cited”, etc.

I don’t really spend a penny on advertising, and I receive a grand total of nearly a million visitors a month across all my sites, pretty much for free.

Since I own and control these web properties, I can sell advertising on my sites.  Depending on the site and the ad, sometimes I’ll get paid every time a person views the ad, or every time a visitor clicks the ad, or every time the visitor clicks the ad and then buys something from the advertiser’s site or signs up for something.

Since the sites are already established, I don’t really have to do much to maintain them, and they generate income ’round the clock.

How You Can Do It Too!

It is harder than most people think.  There is a lot of competition and you really need to be able to work for free for hours on end with no guarantee of a paycheck.

There are dozens of ways to make money online, but here is a starting point for learning how to do it the way I do it:

  1. Learn how to make a website.  It is way easier than you might think.  Find a niche that interests you, and make your site about it.  Get a domain with your subject in it.  If your site is on dog training, a good domain would obviously be “DogTraining.com”, but its probably taken.
  2. Learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  Just Google SEO and read up on the various ways to set up your site so that it does well on the search engines.
  3. Install Adsense on your site, so that you can generate revenue every time someone clicks an ad.  Just Google “Adsense” and you can you will find plenty of info on the topic.
  4. Stick with it.  You won’t be rich overnight.  Keep learning, making websites, writing content, marketing and you will eventually start to generate a buck.
 

I get lots of questions about how long I have had my internet company, how I started it, how long it took, why I started it, etc.  Hopefully I’ll address most of those questions by sharing my story.

The Early Years

It was 1998 and I was in 7th grade.  The internet was still a fresh new concept that Al Gore had recently invented.  My friend mentioned he had a secret get rich quick scheme.  This scheme was the “Get Paid to Surf” fad. It basically involved getting paid about $0.50 per hour to have an ad run on your desktop while you work on your computer.

The catch was that it had a multi-tier referral system which made it seem extremely easy to make thousands of dollars an hour, just be getting a few referrals.  I see this type of structure in manyMLM (Multi-Level-Marketing) scams today.

As a 12 year-old, I was convinced that this was my ticket to getting rich at a very young age.  Over the next few years, I spent my free time trying to gain referrals and reach my dream of earning thousands of dollars an hour by surfin’ the net.

I tried teaming up with friends, going solo, building websites, advertising in internet chat rooms, and pretty much anything that would get me referrals to this “Get Paid to Surf” scam.

Needless to say, I never made a single dollar on any of these scams.  It was only a few years before every one of these “Get Paid to Surf” companies went belly-up.

By 10th grade, I was done trying to make money online.  My focuses shifted away from making websites and towards chasing girls and getting into trouble.

Finding my Inner-Entrepreneur

I didn’t stop trying to make money by means other than a day job.  I continued trying to get rich by doing everything from selling stuff on eBay to buying and selling used cars.

One of my earliest entrepreneur memories was actually from when I was 5 years old; I made a sandwich stand out of a cardboard box in my backyard.

In late high school, my morals weren’t as developed as they are now, and I even ended up getting in trouble by blindly letting my profit seeking desires get the best of me.  Those were some moments that I’m not proud of, but at least they helped reinforce my passion for earning an honest buck.

The Start of the Real Deal

Flash-forward 4 years to my sophomore year of college.  A good friend of mine and a former business partner from the previous summer had just made a killing (300% profit) on the purchase and sale of used car.  My inner entrepreneur was inspired.  Since there wasn’t a great craigslist used car market in San Luis Obispo (where I went to school), I had to find some other way to start making money on my own.  This is where making websites came back into my business vision.

I had been using the site “PolyRatings.com” – a website with thousands of reviews on teachers at Cal Poly – and I was fascinated that it was so simple, yet so popular and helpful on the campus.

I had also been working out a lot, and taking various muscle supplements such as creatine and protein powders.  I was frustrated that there wasn’t a good source of supplement reviews online like there were teacher reviews on polyratings.com.

That is when it clicked.  I could dust off my old internet skills and create a website for supplement reviews.  Initially, I didn’t think it would make a ton of money, but I figured that I might at least be able to get some free supplements out of the deal.

I created SupplementReviews.com, a site that allowed users to post reviews on various bodybuilding and fitness supplements.  It was not an instant success.  I spent hundreds of hours designing and programming the site, and hundreds more marketing it and desperately trying to get users to post reviews.

All of this work was done on pure speculation.  There was no guarantee that I would make a dime from my efforts.  In fact, I invested nearly 500 hours and 8 months of my life before I saw my first penny.  Working on these terms requires nerves of steel.   Lots of people were telling me to give up after I had put in 6 months without any revenue.

Finally the site started making a few dollars a day.  This was hugely inspiring since my mindset was that if I can make one dollar, I can make two.  If I can make two, I can make four, and so on.

Over the next few years, I put lots of time into the site, upgrading the design, adding features, marketing and spreading the word.  Until early 2009, the site wasn’t generating more than beer money.

Going All-In

I played around with more ideas and started/acquired other websites for the next few years in college.  By the time I graduated, I had about a dozen websites all generating money, but not quite enough to live on.

After graduating I absolutely wanted to work on websites full-time, but I was too afraid, so I got a full-time job like everyone else in the real world.  I figured that I would just work on my websites after work and on the weekends, and eventually I could build them to the point where I could quit my day job.

Three weeks into my full-time job, I quit.  It took me that long to realize it was impossible for me to spend enough time on my websites while working 9 hour days and commuting.

Most people were shocked and told me not to do it.  I quit in October of 2008, right when the financial markets crashed and everyone was concerned with job security.  I soon found out that the branch I was working out of closed down soon after I quit, and I would have been laid off anyway.  (I always make the joke that I was the only one holding the company together).

I took a significant pay cut by quitting my full-time job, but it was well worth it.  I was much happier putting in 10 hours a day building my own business from home than I was sitting in an office, doing someone else’s work.

I worked on my business full time  for the next year and a half.  Things really started going well in the beginning of 2010, so I decided to shift my focus away from growing my business and towards growing as a person.

The Pay-Off

From the beginning, I spent lots of time ensuring my business is set up so it basically runs itself.  I don’t have to put in more than an hour or two a day, unless I really want to put more time in.  I am also not tied down to a physical office or location, so I can get my work done as long as I have an internet connection.

A lot of people are inspired to start their own internet business after getting a glimpse of my current lifestyle.  Hopefully my story will help them fully understand what they are getting themselves into, and they can decide if it is something they want to do or not.

The Future of the Business

I consider my business model highly sustainable, especially for being an internet based business.  I have lots of sites and sources of income, so I am well diversified, and my main sites have a large community following, and really create a  lot of value on the internet.

I am really proud of my work, not because of the lifestyle it affords me, but because I have created something out of nothing, I poured my heart into it, and my sites have turned into valuable resources of information for millions of internet users.