How I Made My First Five Dollars Online

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years doing what some people refer to as “mental masturbation”.  This means that I have wasted an incredible amount of time thinking, dreaming, and imagining the wild success of my online business – but without actually taking consistent, thoughtful action that would get me anywhere near those fantasies.

Yes, I made some serious effort on occasion.  For example, I do have a budding YouTube channel and some faithful fans.  That said, I haven’t been able to monetize those efforts, the traffic to those videos, or to the website associated with them.  Basically, I did the consistent action, but it wasn’t thoughtful.  I let my horse out of the gate without any plan on where to go!  It turns out that dreams don’t equal success if you don’t work the steps between the start and the finish.

Finally, over the past few months, I think I’ve hit on something that might bring me a taste of what I’ve been searching for all this time.  I’ll tell you about how I made my first – and hopefully not my last – five dollars.

Here’s What I Did

A few months back, I was really frustrated about my main website and how I was getting only trickles of traffic from YouTube, and making no sales.  I knew that one of my mistakes was that I had tried to enter a really crowded, super competitive market with lots of free solutions available.   I tried to narrow my niche a bit, and I did see more traction with my idea, but still.. NO SALES.

This had happened to me in the past, but I had never give it so much of my time and effort.  What was I doing wrong!?

It turns out that there was what I still think is a big opportunity right there in front of me.  Over the past year I had also taken on a new hobby and joined some Facebook groups that pertained to this hobby.  I had become really knowledgeable on this subject and found that I was spending lots of time answering people’s questions on those online groups.

During a moment of extreme doubt and frustration about my website, it occurred to me that I should check into how much money was being spent on that new hobby of mine every year.  It turns out that it is a freaking huge industry, and it’s one of the most popular things that people do online.  I had no idea!

The first thing that I did was do some general industry research, just to get an idea of market size.  Then, I tried to find a niche in the market for me.  What kind of value could I add to this market, with the idea that I could eventually get a small piece of that giant pie?

Once I settled on a specific niche in that very general industry – one that I felt I was very familiar with and could really passionately spend a lot of time on – I picked out a name for my domain, and got a fresh, crisp version of WordPress installed on my website.  (It’s super easy with Host Gator, they have the 1-Click install!)

It was then time to start writing.  I used both Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to pick topics and to name my articles.  This is KEY.  I had tried to leverage content for SEO in the past, but the honest truth is that I wrote about what I wanted to write about.  I thought if I threw enough spaghetti on that proverbial wall, the internet traffic would come to me.  It did, but man was it sloooow!

This time, I used those tools that I mentioned to see what people actually wanted to read.  I found trending search terms with high monthly search volumes that I could address on my site.  This is also KEY.  On my old website, I did have articles and videos about popular topics, but I wasn’t adding anything valuable to the conversation.  In fact, there were many people doing similar videos and probably doing a better job than I was.  This doesn’t mean that I was never going to “make it” with that site, but I was taking the long road.

With this exact strategy, I was able to start getting my first Google search traffic within 3-4 days of my domain being registered.  People started sharing my articles on Facebook with a week or two of the inception of the site.  To me, this was an incredible sight to see.  I was doing something that I really enjoyed, and people were really finding value in it right from the start.

I also knew that I needed to have a clear monetization strategy immediately.  The idea was that I would have three ways that I would earn money from this website, and basically get paid to do something that I love to do, and something that I had been doing for free anyway on those social media groups.

The way that I decided I will make money from that website?

  • Google Adsense (or other advertisement placements, eventually)
  • Affiliate links
  • Sales of information products

After I saw that I was getting organic search traffic almost immediately, I decided that I should go ahead and produce my first information product (an e-book guide) on my topic.  I did so, and posted it for sale.

Still waiting for those miraculous book sales, I wrote a few more articles.  Probably 2-3 a week.  Traffic kept increasing!  Wow.  But still no book sales.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and activate those Google Adsense ads that I had been planning on putting on the site.  I don’t know why I didn’t do it immediately, as I kind of like how tasteful placement of ads look on a website.  To me, since most ads are really well-done, it kind of adds to the aesthetics of a website.

Anyhow, within a couple of hours of activating the ads, I started making money.  Now, we aren’t talking about enough to retire on, yet, but this is how I made my first five dollars on my website.  I had 19 articles posted when I activated the ads.

What’s Next?

Maybe you’ve heard about how it is the hardest to make the first dollar in a business.  If you can make one dollar, the assumption is that you can make two.  If you can make five dollars, you should be able to repeat those steps to make ten.  It’s a long-term domino effect.  I’m walking up the stairs, if you will.  One dollar at a time.

Now that I am making a tiny amount of money, seeing good traffic, and see that people enjoy my content, I can spend some time trying to optimize the sales page for my book.  I have had dozens of people visit the sales page, but have not had anyone take the plunge.  Over the next couple of months, I plan to experiment with the placement of the widget on my sidebar, design of the sales page, and of course the price of the book.

Anyhow, that’s where I am right now.  I’ll let you know how things go.  Thanks for stopping by!

(Note:  I don’t count the sales of my softcover and e-books in the Amazon store as part of my first sales online.  I’ve been earning money through those online sales since 2014, and I am planning to wrote some about that at some point depending on interest.  I also had a small e-commerce site about five years ago, and I sold those products both online and in person.  And of course, who hasn’t sold something on Ebay or done gigs on Fiverr!?  Lol.)

How to Find Niche Website Ideas and Launch Your Site

This post should help point you in the right direction as far as choosing an idea for your niche website.  Your revenue model, or business model, for your niche website can vary, but choosing your website’s focus (or niche!) is a very important first step.

I own a few niche websites, but I’m starting up a new one that I’ve been thinking about for a while.  This post walks you through the thought process and steps that I took to get my website launched from start to “finish”.

(I put “finish” in quotations because truthfully, once you get your site launched, the work has just begun in earnest.)

Have You Heard These Three Items of Advice?

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that you should follow your heart or your passion when you are starting a business, whether it be an online or brick and mortar business. But what if you are passionate about the history of ballpoint pens?  You probably won’t be able to put your kids through college writing about that!

Then, if you’ve been kicking around in the business world a while, you probably have had other people tell you that you need to find a pain and make the pain go away.  If you build a beautiful niche website, but it doesn’t help anyone with anything, or nobody is looking for that information or product, then you have not solved a pain.

Finally, you might have also had someone explain to you that you need to solve the pain for A LOT of people in order to make a decent living.  For example, if you make a website that specializes in selling Buffalo Nickles, you might sell a few nickles at high prices, but you might not retire any sooner than you would have at your corporate job.

So How Do You Choose an Idea for a Niche Site

All of the advice above is great, and it’s all true.  The sweet spot for a niche site is to find:

  • Something that you like
  • Something that a lot of people want to buy/know about

The goal is to find a place where those two bullet points intersect.

Step One

Make a list of all of the things that you know how to do well, know a lot about, or are really interested in knowing about or doing

For the new niche website that I launched, I realized that I have a hobby.   It wasn’t something that I really realized until the past few months.  I’ve been spending 5-10 hours a week doing this thing online (not that, get your mind out of the gutter, please! Haha.)

It turns out that lots of people do this same hobby, too!  In addition, I really enjoy it.  I can also talk and write about it so easily that it probably drives people around me crazy.

Did you make your list?  If so, move on to step two.

Step Two

Visit Google Trends to check out how popular your general topic is.  You can also use Google Trends to search for topics that are popular, but I prefer to use my interests as a starting point.  Have you ever tried to write about or sell an item or product that you hate or have no interest in?  It’s a tough thing to do.  If you are trying to design this great life for yourself, why pick a topic that you don’t love?

On Google Trends, there is a search bar on the top of the page.  Just type in your interest, such as “Comics”.  Usually start with a broad topic, and then you will see related topics come up.  A topic that catches my eye, a subtopic of comics, is fan conventions.  As a person who has attended Dragon Con more than once, I am willing to bet that, if you were interested, you could make a successful website that only deals with comic fan conventions.

Basically, you want to choose a topic that has lots of related, popular subtopics.

Step Three

Decide on your basic revenue model.  It’s not a business if it doesn’t earn you money.

Your niche site can earn you money in many different ways:

  • You can sell your own product (like actual things, or information in the form of an e-book, a course, or consulting)
  • You can sell the products of someone else (like an e-commerce site)
  • You can earn money through affiliate sales (you get paid a commission when someone clicks on a link from your site and buys something).
  • You can earn money through advertising, either using Google Adsense or similar, or by charging money yourself to place ads on your site
  • You can charge money to access premium content on your site
  • Your site can be a membership site
  • Your niche site can generate leads for other businesses, which you can then sell to them to earn money.

There are likely many more ways to earn money on your site, but these are the most common and most simple to set up on your site.

I don’t like to depend on just one way to earn money on my websites.  Typically, I’ll choose at least three revenue streams for each site.  Almost always will I have my own products for sale, affiliate links, and advertising on each of my sites.  This way, if something happens with one of my revenue streams, life will still go on for me until I can figure out how to recover.

Did you pick a few ways that you’ll earn money on your website?  If so, move on to step four.

Step Four

Register your domain name.  It should be something relatively short and catchy, and if you can, you should include a keyword in your domain name.  Just make sure it’s not too long!

I use Host Gator for all of my web hosting – I’ve got a special affiliate link here where you can use the code to get a discount on hosting and your domain:

Up to 60% OFF NEW Hosting + $4.99 on Select Domains with Promo Code Spring2017

Step Five

Get a hosting plan and install WordPress onto your domain.  I like Go Daddy and Host Gator, but whatever you like will work fine.  Most hosting companies offer a “one-click” WordPress installation service for free, so it is very easy to get started.

Don’t worry about buying a premium WordPress theme unless you have some very specific need or function for your site.  I plan on doing some articles here about how to set up the different types of websites that I mentioned.

You can do almost anything with WordPress, and if you can’t figure out how to do it yourself, you can always hire a WordPress developer to help you.  Getting the basics done, however, will save you some money.

Play around with your theme and set things up to a “minimum viable product” level.  Basically, a “good enough to start” level.  Perfectionists struggle to launch their businesses because they are always waiting for everything to be perfect.  Don’t be that person.  Get started, and adjust as needed.

Step six

Decide how you will drive traffic to your website.  My favorite way to start getting traffic is with organic search.  It doesn’t cost anything, and if you can deliver some good value to your website visitors, you will be rewarded by Google.

The way to get organic search traffic is by writing good quality blog posts on your website.  The biggest mistake that people make when starting off is writing about topics that people don’t care about.  How to find out what people care about?  I’m glad you asked.

Get a free Google Adwords account to access the free Google Keyword Planner tool.  Enter in your website information and you’ll get some keyword suggestions.  These keywords will help you understand exactly what people are typing into the search bar and wanting to know more about.  Can you help them?  If so, you will get some good organic traffic.  You can also use Google Trends for choosing topics to write about.

(Pro tip: Don’t choose the highest volume keywords to write about when you are just starting off.  You will have too much competition and won’t rank in search if you do.)

Set up all of your social media accounts that you plan to use, etc, but unless you are already super popular online, a social media following is off in the future somewhere.  I’m not saying that you should start building it, but just don’t be disappointed that people aren’t flooding your website from Twitter right off the bat.  It can happen, but it’s not a guarantee.

Think about some other ways that you can drive traffic.  Networking with other website owners, bloggers, forums, etc are also great ways to build your website’s reputation.

Step Seven

Set everything up for your revenue streams.  Get your Adsense account.  Write your e-book.  Join an affiliate network.  Do those things that you need to do.

Final thoughts

Once you get your site launched, the tough work begins.  It might take six months before you really see some traction on your work.  You have to set a schedule that you can stick to long-term.

But the work pays off!  Don’t let you talk yourself out of getting started today.  Six months will go by anyway, wouldn’t you rather have a nicely built-up website with some traffic, however little, in six months vs. no website and no traffic?  Imagine what you will have after a year, two years, or six!

Let me know what your plans are, I want to hear about them 🙂

Mercedes