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 2-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.
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.
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?