How I Made My First Dollar Online

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For many of us, making a dollar online doesn’t seem like a big win. But to the millions of people out there starting new blogs and online businesses the idea of earning that first buck is a very hot topic.

I will never forget the feeling of making my first dollar online and how it changed my life forever.

That simple act caused me to drop out of college (sorry mom!), travel the world, and work full-time from home for almost a decade without needing to get a “real” job.

I have been so lucky and I am forever grateful for the opportunity that blogging has given this dumb, lazy kid.

In this post I want to share that story with you in case it helps someone out there who is just getting started and wants to know that it is actually possible to build a new life online.

This is the first post in a 3-part series. Next I’ll be sharing how I made my first $1,000 online and then we’ll take a look at getting to the $10,000 mark. Make sure you’re on the mailing list so you don’t miss it! I’m really hoping it’s going to be useful.

A lazy college kid with no idea what to do…

I was one of those kids who never knew what they wanted to do for a job. I knew it was important, but I always found satisfaction from other areas of life and so never really placed much importance on career plans.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in college studying a degree that I think is a total waste of time and I’m getting very, very bored.

make money online blogging

The building containing the computer rooms where I started blogging.

Every day I’d catch the bus to class and then after a few moments I’d get up and leave and go to the computer rooms (this was before everyone had laptops!). It was a pretty pathetic attempt at getting a degree and, looking back, I wish I’d put in some more effort.

But as I sat on those computers something interesting happened.

That boredom started to turn in to some weird type of lazy-kid creativity.

My head was filled with business and marketing concepts from my degree, and as I sat there staring at the screen I started playing around with the idea of building something of my own.

Maybe a web business…?

It was perhaps naive and silly, but my brain was constantly motivated by the thought of, “How can I get out of this darn course?

And then it happened…

Making money online from a lucky hobby blog

At this point in my online “career” I had only really dabbled with a few free blog sites like blogger before realizing how much better it was getting a self-hosted blogging platform.

So I started researching how to get a blog on WordPress to document all the crazy training that I was doing at the time as I was absolutely obsessed with martial arts, soccer and bodybuilding.

For whatever reason – and way before it was commonplace – I got lucky and started writing really long articles with a lot of detailed information and dot-pointed notes about my routines, progress and other stuff I’d be totally embarrassed about now.

This was well before long form blogging became popular and I had just chanced on the fact that people might enjoy it because it was how I like to blog – I just liked writing more.

And this meant that a steady trickle of Google traffic started heading my way that made me think that some income might be possible.

Like most new bloggers, I was trying to think about how to make money online at the end instead of at the beginning – a big mistake that we’re going to explore a lot more later in this series.

One day down the track I stumble across a series about how you can make money online by putting ads on your blog by a little site called ProBlogger and it changed everything.

make money online problogger

The design of Problogger back in 2004.

I applied for AdSense and started sticking ads on my blog.

Back then we were all trying to essentially “trick” readers in to clicking ads by matching the AdSense ad units to our blog posts by making the colors of the links and titles the same as those that appeared on our blog. Google didn’t like this and started to crack down on it, but it was a lot easier to make money back then.

I remember logging in the next day and seeing my AdSense balance sitting at $2 from 3-4 clicks…

It’s a little embarrassing now, but my heart started beating out of my chest as I got so worked up thinking about how this tiny little ad unit under my blog post headers might mean that I could make enough money online to drop out of my college degree.

Unfortunately that would take me a little longer to achieve, but the ball was rolling.

The big lesson from this stage

One of the most important things that happened to me during this time was learning the importance of tinkering.

Take a look at almost anyone who is making money online and almost all of them are compulsive experimenters. They are people who research, read, play around with ideas, and break things until they work.

They are not afraid to take calculated risks.

If you are thinking about starting a blog or online business because you want to make a bit of extra income I think one of the most important things you can do is start tinkering around and learning as early as possible.

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will be. It’s so important to recognize that many of the knowledge that you get about running a business comes from actually running a business.

But what happened next..?

The timelines around all this are getting a little fuzzy, but from then I was able to turn those few ads clicks into a blog that was making a decent, livable wage, and then eventually into a long term, successful company.

It was around this time that I started to learn the power of blogging for making money online, and I decided to really give it a shot so that I might be able to avoid an office job and build a business of my own.

I am so intensely grateful for the impact that Darren Rowse and sites like WordPress have had on my life and I genuinely feel that if a dumb, lazy kid like myself can make it happen then almost anyone can.

As we go further along in this 3-part series I hope to give you enough encouragement and more detailed information that you might be able to start making money online in order to support your family or build a new career at a time when traditional jobs are changing forever.

How did you make your first dollar?

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56 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Tony Omary

    Hey Ramsey,

    I made my first dollar through affiliate marketing.

    In fact, it was the time that I was about to call it all quits to blogging and affiliate marketing.

    I received an email from Clickbank that my Check was expiring in like two months.

    That was my turn around that made me know affiliate marketing and blogging can make one have enough money to support yourself and live the life sooner that one could possibly imagine.
    (Hint:Still a college student in Kenya, you can imagine)


    1. Ramsay

      Nice work! Congratulations on an early start.


    2. Tony Omary

      You are an inspiration.

      I also mention you in my latest blog update on Affiliate marketing for dummies.(How you sold one of your blog for $20,000 while still in college)

      Cheers!


      1. Ramsay

        Thank you. That means a lot.


  • Bill

    I just began blogging in 2017 and my first dollar was also from affiliate marketing. But the more experience I get, the more I’m realizing that long-term success probably won’t come from looking for products to promote, and then finding an audience – but rather finding problems to solve, building and serving an audience, and only then, promoting my own or others products that fit. There may be shortcuts, but I’m not sure how sustainable they are?


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Bill.

      You’ve summed it up really well. The next couple of emails I’m putting out are going to cover this in a deep way.


    2. Jennifer Waddle

      I think you are right, Bill, and that is my ultimate blogging goal as well.


  • Scotty B

    I remember making my first dollar actually selling retro video games on my Shopify store a few years ago. I’ve since shut it down, but it was a fantastic feeling waking up and seeing that money in my e-mail and PayPal accounts.


    1. Ramsay

      It’s a fun feeling!


  • Freddy G. Cabrera

    Hey Ramsay!

    Inspiring story man!

    I remember my first dollar online. It was from affiliate marketing. Similar to your story, I started playing around with a free blogging platform. One of my very first blogs was on blogger. It was in the Dating Niche.

    That failed.

    Then I built another blog, this time I was learning about WordPress (fell in love with the platform) and built a self-hosted blog in the Memory Improvement Niche. This blog did well for a little while. This is when I earned my first Clickbank Commission.

    I lost interest in that niche as time continued. But, I already had some experience with blogging and affiliate marketing. At this point, I had the idea to start an internet marketing blog where I could teach others how to make money online. Not that I was making thousands online at that moment, but I had already experience affiliate sales thanks to the power of the internet.

    I have a passion for helping people. And I wanted to help the newbie get that amazing feeling of making their first few dollars online with their blog. Amazing shit man! .. (am I allowed to curse here?? haha)

    Thank you for sharing your story man. I look forward to the next one!

    Let’s keep on blogging brotha!

    Best regards! 😀


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for sharing! It’s really cool seeing how other people got their start online.


  • Anand

    Hi Ram,

    Very Inspiring story,

    Though I am blogging for 2 years & my intention was not making money from blog directly. I started that with the purpose to document my learning. Still 80% of the blogging activities I do for the same reason.

    I realised the power of blogging when started getting consultation job, which I do, after a regular job. I make a tiny amount of money from consultation which is just because of my blog, To be very fair it was totally unexpected.

    Second My company CEO knows me because of my blog and since a year I considered as an expert of Digital Marketing at the workplace. That is quite satisfying.

    So, In my view, the success of blogging is not just making money online or being famous to the world. Many time we get a small positive boost in many forms.

    That is the reason though many people are saying that creating a successful blog is super tough nowadays (& It is true too) but we should reconsider the definition of success in prevailing wisdom terms like making money through Adsense or Affiliates or Sponsored post.

    Regards
    Anand


    1. Ramsay

      That is SUCH a good point. A lot of the benefits of blogging come from all the other opportunities it creates. Well said!


  • Mike

    This looks like being a very valuable series of posts Ramsay, I am going to make sure to follow it.
    I have undergone a lot of changes and my attitude towards being online has developed, in particular over the last 5 years.
    I have a daring, new project which I am hoping will enable me to build a substantial community and provide lots of help and direction for distinctive types of people.
    Thanks Ramsay, I lurk somewhat on your blog, but I sense we share many things in common-I bet you are an INFJ, or similar?


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Mike.

      I have no idea whether I am an INFJ. I’ve never done one of those tests. Do you think it is worthwhile?


      1. Mike

        I think that anything that can provide insight, and further information about ourselves is valuable. I think Carl Jung was a very clever, wise man -he was certainly a physician and explorer into the human condition. So yes, MBTI is a valid human metrics project. Myers Briggs offers us the means to discover our personality type-but as Jung said, we should never be too absolute about personality, it is never a static matter.


        1. Ramsay

          Interesting! I’m going to look in to it.


  • Swadhin Agrawal

    Hi Ramsay,

    Thanks for this inspiring piece, got quite a bit time reflecting on mine as well!

    My first dollar or say first $0.86 came from selling a Stephen King book from my blog that made me feel at the top of the world.

    I somehow knew the buyer (she tweeted letting thanking me for referring such an amazing book “On Writing”) that I thanked her numerous times on Twitter.

    What’s funnier is that, I’ve not yet received this commission (which was 4 years back) from Amazon because I’ve simply not passed the threshold limit for payment. 😀

    Her one tweet, shifted my strategy and I thought of selling things not for selling things, but for solving problems. I’m since then into affiliate marketing and though I make much more than what was my first income, it still is special and second to none.

    -Swadhin


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Swadhin.

      May I ask why you think you haven’t passed the threshold? Is it traffic?


  • Matt Zi

    I just made my first online dollar today (well South Africa Rand actually, but you get it)! I’m an artist whose been working for commissions for years (a good idea if you want to be steadily paid), but now I want to do my own work. I barely started my online promotional mission and I’ve just had a sale of a print of my work almost by accident. Gives me a lot of encouragement that I’m going in the right direction.

    I’ve read a lot of your posts Ramsay. Your stuff is gold. I’m definitely adding valuable long form content on my site soon. Thanks for putting all this out there. I’ll keep following your series for sure.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks so much, Matt. That means a lot. Hope this is the first of many!


  • Sonja

    I loved reading your input on this topic. I have only been blogging for a short while now, less than a month, and haven’t actually launched my blog yet because I’m scared what I write about is just going to be stupid and unhelpful to the readers. I’m hoping to gain more confidence and knowledge through reading other blogs and continued work on mine! Thanks for this post/series of posts!


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Sonja.

      What do you think it would take to get your confidence levels up enough to take the leap?


      1. Sonja

        I’m thinking maybe having someone look at it before I actually launch it to get tips/pointers. I’m meeting up with a friend tomorrow for different reasons so maybe I’ll have him take a look at it. I feel that the blog is pretty bland right now, I need to find a way to add my sizzle!


        1. Ramsay

          Drop a link here. We will give feedback! 🙂


          1. Sonja

            Thanks! My blog is at: workingonperfect.com and I had my sister give me some suggestions and then integrated those, and would LOVE all the feedback I can get!


        2. Bill

          Nice job Sonja! the toughest part is just getting started. I liked your post on step-parenting, you had a lot of great points in there. Good luck with everything!


  • jasmine mehta

    Hi Ramsay,
    Knowing more about you is fun. Earing the first dollar is important for all. Looking forward to linking you to my latest post.
    keep up the good work.
    Have a good week ahead.


    1. Ramsay

      Glad you liked it!


  • Karim Toulba

    Such an inspiring post. I’m can’t wait to hear about the rest of the story. Thanks for sharing! All what you do in here is really inspiring.

    I remember earning my first few dollars online affiliating for a decent product. I have been blogging for a few years now. Made a few thousands in affiliate commissions so far.

    While being very interesting and inspiring along the way, blogging is yet tough and requires hard work to get it paying off the way you want.

    Overall, I love your articles. And I agree with the fact that we bloggers are always trying to find problems to solve!

    All the best from Sunny Egypt!


    1. Ramsay

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the first part. Hopefully it gets better as we go.


  • Liton Biswas

    Hi Ramsay,

    Inspiring post for anyone who wants to make money blogging.

    I started my first blog in 2008 for the purpose of keeping my civil engineering notes in one online place.

    I just put some adsense ads on that blog in 2011 and forgot about the thing.

    In 2012, I got an email from google that they deposited 100$ in my bank account.

    From that time, I believe that make money blogging is really possible.

    But it takes times and need to do some works at the beginning.

    However, thanks for sharing your personal experiences.

    Liton


    1. Ramsay

      Great story! What will you do for the next steps?


  • Slavko

    Enjoyed reading! As anyone else here I’m so grateful to you for sharing this. Being in the industry for years, we still need the reassuring tap on the shoulder every now and then.

    Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the story.

    This reminds me of my early days as well. I started blogging with a friend, and both of us were fascinated by Darren as well. Everything looked possible back then.

    I was returning home from the states (being in Hawaii on a work and travel visa), and transferred to another college. But thinking about online businesses consumed me completely, and I forgot about the studies all together.

    Less than a year after setting up the blog, we started earning from Amazon and I dropped out of college. It was around then when I stumbled on Blog Tyrant, I think. So you, too, are one of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing.

    Since then, blogging allowed me to earn for a living, travel a bit, and marry the love of my life.

    Reflecting on the beginning and why I did what I did, gives me courage to continue with my journey today. Thanks for reminding us!

    Have a lovely day under the sun, that beach looks fantastic!


    1. Ramsay

      Man that means a lot to me. Thanks for sharing.


  • Slavko

    Hey mate, enjoyed reading this! Left a comment, and it’s not posting again. Hope you fix the issues, if any.

    Feel free to have this one deleted, if my first pops up.

    Thanks


  • Truston Ailende

    My first dollar online was made from selling books.

    I am Nigerian and you cannot imagine how hard it is to sell books and get the money in Nigeria.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    1. Ramsay

      What process do you use?


      1. Truston Ailende

        I create the books using Sigil. Then I upload them to Amazon. I have linked my Amazon account to Payoneer which helps me receive the money.

        Locally we have Payoneer exchanges where we exchange the money. It takes a lot of trust to exchange money but it works out all right.

        Every month, some money comes in as royalty.


  • Lisa

    Excellent post. As a new blogger researching all the ways to make my little corner of the web successful, I enjoy reading your origin stories.


    1. Ramsay

      I’m glad! Thanks for sharing.


  • Jennifer Waddle

    I made my first online dollars ($3.39) in January of 2015 after self-publishing my first book.

    My blog became a way of continuing the conversation started in that book.


    1. Ramsay

      Nice work! Thanks for sharing.


  • chris

    Adsense. Back when adsense was “the” way to make money on a web site. And then one day I created my own product and everything changed. 🙂


    1. Ramsay

      Ah the good old days. ha.


  • Chisom

    Reading this post has really encouraged me , I just started blogging about last three weeks . I like your advice


    1. Ramsay

      Hope it helps!


  • Waheeda

    Hi Ramsay,
    It is always inspiring and interesting for us new bloggers, to learn about how others made their first buck online. Thank you for this series.


  • Chisom

    What actually gives me a glimmer is whenever I check my site stat and I see at least one visitor


  • Vishal Ostwal

    Hi Ramsay,

    I was always curious to learn more about how your journey exactly took off.

    In fact, whenever I come across various bloggers, I wonder what lessons they’ve learned throughout their journey – as all perspectives are different.

    But they teach something.

    As for me, you were the first one to pay me. At that time, I had this vague goal that “one day I’ll earn my first salary … and it will be in dollars, not rupees.” Somehow, it came true.

    Also, at that time I was really a victim of self-doubt, as I thought I could never ‘make it happen’ as a writer.

    I had read an article on Forbes somewhere that said “you’re not a writer unless you get paid for writing.” That hurt.

    I desperately wanted to prove that person wrong. Some days later, I placed a gig on Fiverr which earned me my first $5 through writing.

    That little thing washed-off a lot of negative feelings. So every little step I took had pushed me further.

    Every bit of work I did, no matter how small, turned me into a better person.

    But all the while, I felt like the tiny bits of wisdom I got from people in the blogging community and you, helped me the most.

    I suppose we all have had certain moments we all can relate ourselves to. That feels great.

    BTW I have a quick question.

    “It’s so important to recognize that many of the knowledge that you get about running a business comes from actually running a business,” you said.

    I agree.

    Still, sometimes I wonder how much do qualifications and experience matter?

    For instance, I’m willing to create content strategies, or help small businesses set-up websites that suit their brands and goals. I think of creating media such as graphics and other content for them.

    Then I think “Am I really qualified enough to do this? Or is it too soon and I’m being a fraud?”

    I want to prosper while helping people, but not at the cost of quality and values.

    I get stuck when it comes to charging more, deciding my scope of work, and above all … evaluating my own value.

    So what the right way to go on and do bigger things?

    PS. Excited to listen to more stories from you. You haven’t revealed a lot on Blog Tyrant (as far as I know), so there’s probably a lot left to be revealed.


  • Nicolas Puegher

    Great story, Ramsay! It’s very nice to make money the very first time in the online world but the hard part is to keep doing money.

    If you did it, you can do it again! That’s the attitude everyone should have after getting results.

    Of course, there is no magic button to print money and there is hard work behind any kind of success. Many people don’t think about it and think things like “they were lucky”, “I can’t do it”, “I have tried many times”, etc.

    Who says they didn’t try many times? Who says they didn’t fail a few times?


    1. Ramsay

      Agreed. It sure took me a lot of failures to make it work consistently.


  • Nirodha Abayalath

    This inspired me. So, first thank for sharing your experience.

    I’m a newbie and I just started my blog. So, not making any money from it.

    Actually, I do not expect to monetize my blog until it reaches 150 posts. What do you think about that Ramsay?


  • Rosy

    HI,

    I also started my blog after the reading your 44 Checklist this awesome tips and now I am also earning a good income from my blog.


    1. Ramsay

      Congrats!


  • Manish Sharma

    hello Ramsay,
    Thank you, Ramsay, your blog is very informative and interesting thanks for sharing with us…


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