A lot of my email subscribers have written in asking about how to make money online. Some of you are trying out affiliate marketing, others are interested in Shopify, and others don’t know where to start but want to do something digital.
This is surprising because I talk mainly about self improvement rather than online business.
Having said that, it may not seem this way since I rarely talk about it but I’m actually quite experienced in this area. I’m an information junkie so I’ve been exposed to almost every big name in the industry of “teaching people to make money online” and have consumed almost all of their free content (even though they have hundreds of podcasts, articles, and videos).
The industry is vast. There are over a hundred gurus out there teaching everything from how to make money from info products, Amazon FBA, eCommerce, Alibaba, online courses, webinars, your own physical products, affiliates, Kindle eBooks, online coaching, sponsorships, and so on. There’s Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Derek Halpern, Chris Ducker, Ryan Lee, Jeff Walker, Ramit Sethi, Navid Moazzez, Frank Kern, Ryan Deiss, Jaime Masters, Amy Porterfield, Kimra Luna, Amy Schmittauer, Tim Schmoyer, Derral Eves, Sue B. Zimmerman, Gary Vaynerchuk, Bryan Harris, Brian Dean, Grant Cardone, Tai Lopez, Marie Forleo, Melanie Duncan, Rick Mulready, Jon Morrow, Jon Loomer, Roberto Blake, Stefan James (who I wrote a guest post for), Steve Chou, and more.
Some focus on a specific part of the process (traffic generation via search engine optimization or social media traffic). Others cover a wider range but add their own personal spin (like a sassy female personality).
Many of you are also suspicious. You don’t know who to trust because you’re scared of getting scammed or you’ve been burned already. Rightfully so.
The internet marketing world has many new and young people emerging onto the scene to sell their scams. Almost every day, I see a new Facebook Ad from someone I’ve never seen bragging about how rich he or she is and how you can do the same with their “Get Rich Quick” product.
If you’re familiar with any of my content, you should know that honesty and ethics is infused into the theme of everything I put out. It’s one of the main guiding posts that lead to Warren Buffett’s wealth and its something few people do in this industry. There are even people who will steal from others and try to make money off you even though they’re broke.
So who do you trust? How do you tell they’re trustworthy? Let me break it down…
A Good Benchmark to Identify Scams
Ramit Sethi, who has been in this industry for a while and is quite successful, gives a few great red flags to look for that make a lot of sense. Watch his video below:
For me, I look for a few things that cut through the B.S.:
- How long have they been in the industry? The longer they have, the more likely they’re trustworthy since an honest reputation is hard to maintain over the years when you’re scamming people — bad reviews and testimonials get out. There are plenty of relatively new entrants, including people like Tai Lopez and young people like Caleb Maddix and Sam Ovens. I just can’t trust them since they literally just started a couple years ago. But Ryan Lee has helped thousands of fitness entrepreneurs and has been in the online marketing world for 17 years. You can’t lie about a reputation like that, especially when he has so many old and new success stories.
- What’s their reputation like? Similar to the above, hearing a large sample size of past customer’s opinions on the success of their produces and services is a great reference. They’re not going to lie about it — customers can be brutally honest sometimes.
- What’s the quality and quantity of their success stories? Do they keep referencing one or two success stories they lean on? Can they even verify these people are real individuals who actually said this? Or do they have hundreds of raving customers who will jump on the phone with you to happily prove they loved the product?
- Has any of their free advice actually worked when you tried it out? Self-explanatory. If their free content sucks or doesn’t work, that’s not a good sign.
My Own Experience In This World
I think I can provide some honest experience and advice based on what I’ve gone through.
First off, it’s not as easy as it looks and it can take a while depending on what you choose to do. The gurus will tell you that it’s possible and give you success stories to inspire you but that’s really to get you to buy their courses. While people do succeed with it, it’s also a competitive environment. If it was super easy, everyone would be doing it.
Take Instagram as an example. With so much incredible content on there, you really need to do something different to stand out and that’s hard to do.
I have published around 1,000 YouTube videos to the YouTube channel tied to this blog and it still only makes me a few dollars a month from the video ads that play before the video. Considering the time put into making the videos, that’s not worth it from a return on investment perspective. I’m better off working at a fast food chain.
You have to keep in mind that for every success story, there is a bunch of failures that aren’t shown.
And whether others will admit it or not, there is luck involved. When I was in middle school, my blog and YouTube channel on an online game called Club Penguin took off. Hard, consistent work and luck in choosing the right niche paid off. It eventually obtained millions of visits and hundreds of users on at the same time.
But it still took a long time to grow and it’s harder now. When I started, I launched the site and waited. After a week, I found out that the only visits were from myself (when I refreshed the site).
I stopped working on those in the middle of high school because I lost my passion for it and didn’t realize at the time that it could be turned into something that makes any substantial money.
With this blog, I’ve probably written 50,000 words on here already but I still get around a few hundred visitors a day, which is decent but not much compared to most sites. (Having said that, I am thankful for each reader and that includes you).
Some experts are more honest and will acknowledge that results are not guaranteed. Tim Schmoyer is a YouTube expert and one of these people. I spent over a thousand dollar on his courses and eBooks. I’ve also spent just as much, if not more, money on VidSummit, which is Derral Eves’s YouTube creators annual conference.
Since then, I’ve started a few other YouTube channels, including a gaming channel and anime/manga channel with little success (in terms of views).
I’m not trying to discourage you. I simply want to tell the truth that no one else will talk about.
This current blog, with its YouTube and podcast, came out of my passion for self improvement. I didn’t start with any intention to make money and I created it because of my love for the topic. After a few hundred videos, I wanted to see if I could make money from this too while delivering value to my audience because financial independence was one of my goals and I saw a lot of others living their dreams and making a lot from social media.
Note: I talked to one of my subscribers, Patrick, on the phone. He said he follows me because I’m an average person just like him (rather than some un-relatable successful person like Tai Lopez) and he likes that I tell the truth and am not influenced by sponsorships. I love this and I will definitely make sure to remain true to this moving forward.
Since then, I’ve been building my email following and experimenting with a couple strategies to make money while still maintaining my honest message. Nothing has been controllable or reliable to the degree I want yet. This is mainly because you can’t predict or control how much search traffic a blog post will get. Plus, replicating a success is hard.
One tactic I’ve tried is affiliate marketing. This is when you recommend other company’s products online. If they purchase through your link, you get a commission. Pat Flynn of smartpassiveincome.com is the best person I’ve ever seen at this. He makes tens of thousands of dollars per month recommending Blue Host as a web hosting service.
I mainly follow Pat’s advice for this because I like his philosophy. He’s successful because he is honest and transparent. He reveals the good and bad about the product. He only recommends products he uses himself. He will recommend the product that offers the lower payout if he thinks it’s really the better option. And he will be upfront and tell you that he’s getting a commission.
I think this amount of trust builds up and that’s why he earns so much. Plus, he’s a hard worker too — he has released hundreds of videos, podcast episodes, and articles for free to help his audience and build goodwill.
As of this writing, this blog is a little over a year old. I’ve made enough from affiliate marketing in the lifespan of this project to buy a few good dinners at restaurants, nothing more. I use Amazon’s Affiliate program and I recommend any books I think are most impactful to readers. I also have affiliate links for Blinkist, a book summary app, and Tai Lopez’s programs. For these, I don’t hold back. In fact, I say more things I don’t like about them than things I like.
I care more about speaking the truth than making a quick buck. Therefore, I don’t want to keep writing posts about these topics in an attempt to get more affiliate earnings because I don’t think more content on these would be helpful to you guys.
The Truth and Problem with Making Money Online
I’m all for being patient and putting in the work to reap results rather than trying to “get rich quick” using short-term tactics. But it’s been a year and a half since I started this site and much longer since I started my YouTube channel. And I’ve made peanuts in that time.
If you factor in the costs for the video cameras, audio equipment, editing software, eBooks, summits, and courses I’ve bought, I’m technically in the negative. Therefore, I would label what I’ve done a hobby or an attempted-but-unsuccessful-so-far hustle rather than a real business.
There are plenty of people making tons of money online as an influencer or owner of a business. Just keep in mind that they are in the .01%. Don’t forget about the masses that are still trying.
But I haven’t given up and never will.
My Next Experiment (which is What I Recommend For You) and Why I Chose This
Steve Chou of mywifequitherjob.com said something in a podcast interview that really struck a chord for me. He basically said that a personal branded business takes much longer to build (years) but it ultimately make more money, last longer, and have a more durable advantage. But if you want to make money sooner, he recommends an online store.
Rather than an online store, I want to try out a side hustle called “Selling on Amazon.”
This is when you go to the Clearance sections of big chain stores, like Walmart, scan items with your phone, do the math in an app to see if you can make a profit, buy the items that work, ship them to Amazon’s warehouse, and let Amazon do the rest of the work.
Why did I choose this?
- The cost to entry is low. You can get started with just $200.
- You can expect more consistent earnings for the work you put in.
- You can get the earnings fairly quickly (within a couple weeks) from your initial work.
- You get motivated and excited to do more from the fast, noticeable earnings you see before you (unlike blogging or personal branding, which can take years before you can start earning $100 or $1000 or any money).
- By trying this side hustle, I can inspire you all by showing you something that actually works by documenting my own results. You asked for help on how to make money online. I’m here to deliver.
- An extra $100 or $1000 a month can be impactful and go a long way for many of you since you are young Millennials. This could mean a new pair of shoes or a car of your own. Seeing that money in your hands will inspire you like nothing else to believe it’s possible.
Small wins and tangible results are critical for my personality type (and likely for most of you too). Not everyone can keep doing something when they’re barely seeing any traction for years. By spending just a couple hours doing this and seeing the pay off fairly quickly, it brings proof and hope that it’s possible, which gets you motivated to work even more, which brings in more money — and it just snowballs from there.
I intend to use this as a side hustle rather than a main focus for the long term because I still intend to make this personal development blog the main anchor for my personal brand, even if it doesn’t make much money any time soon.
My main long-term goal is still to become so great and respected at my craft that the money becomes a natural outflow of that. Examples of people who have done this include Jim Kwik, Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Ferriss, and Tony Robbins.
I’m doing this to help my audience with their problems, inspire, show it’s possible, get you to actually get started with this yourself, and expose the truth behind this. But it’s also for me too because that extra money means a lot for me right now too.
But what about not doing things for just the money?
Alex Ikonn, a successful 7-figure entrepreneur, has done many great podcasts as a guest where he talked about not starting a business for just the money. He claims you will still be depressed after getting rich. Many other wealthy people have come out with their own stories.
I agree but let’s not be so black and white. The world is a bit more complex than that. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in human history and a champion of the “follow your passion” philosophy had a wide range of strange side hustles growing up.
He resold soda, scavenged golf balls, operated a pinball business, worked at a clothing store, and delivered newspapers. These hustles have little in common with each other. The theme that tied all of them together was that Warren Buffett was passionate about making more money.
If you study other entrepreneurs that started with nothing and hustled their way up, like Gary Vaynerchuk, they did what they had to. Gary bought and sold baseball cards and wine. He went to garage sales and flipped what he bought onto Ebay. It wasn’t the most glamorous business and maybe he didn’t love it the most, but he did what he had to to get going and make some money.
There will be a time to switch into something more passionate, but as Gary says, if you’re complaining about wanting more money, then, do the work. If you’re fine with where you’re at and your lifestyle, then Mazel Tov.
This is a great way to get off the ground and actually start seeing some actual money rather than just sitting on your butt at home wishing. The downside to this hustle is that it’s simply a glorified job and built entirely off Amazon. It could end if Amazon decides to change its policies or terminate you (which is unlikely). You don’t have a true business you own and control so that you can expand on your competitive advantage to stick around.
But maybe that’s okay for now. Franchises operate in similar ways and enough people make a good living off of them. All I’m saying here is that if you’re really aching for some extra side income, don’t fret because it’s not “completely your passion” for now. This will get you the money you need and you can move on from there to better things if you want. Plus, it will give you good experience you can apply elsewhere (or put on your resume) and some extra funds to put into bigger ventures later on. You may even like it so much that it becomes your passion.
So that’s what I think will happen with this experiment. But I could be wrong. I could completely bomb and find out it’s a lot harder than it seems and lose money from this. And there’s the 1% chance I love it so much that I dive into it.
This will take more legwork since it’s not as virtual as other online businesses. You’re going to have to drive to the store and ship what you buy in boxes. Honestly, I’m scared of shipping stuff because I assume there’s so much hassle around it, so much so that I have skipped returning clothing and shoes I bought online that didn’t fit because I imagined the hassle of buying the boxes and items would be too much.
Yet I am willing to go through this because the draw of this side hustle is so great and to inspire you. I’m hoping that the actual effort of shipping the items I buy won’t be as much of a hassle than I think.
There are a few sites teaching people how to get started with this. I have heard about this method from a couple different sources online since I listen to many millionaire and entrepreneur-themed podcasts. The main ones I trust are those that are on Pat Flynn’s SPI podcast. Therefore, I will be following the guides and free articles from the guest on his most recent episode on this to learn how to do this. His site is onlinesellingexperiment.com.
I will update you on my progress (with pictures) and results in a future blog post(s). I intend to spend $100 or $200 and if I follow their instructions right, I should get that money back plus 30%.
If you’re interested in following along and/or doing this too, leave a comment saying “I’m in.” The best place to keep updated would be joining my email newsletter (which you can do by entering your email in any of the opt-in’s you see on this site).
Not Feeling It? Here’s What Else I Recommend
What if you aren’t feeling this Selling on Amazon hustle? Maybe, for whatever reason, you want to try blogging, affiliate marketing, or starting a long term personal brand business with Facebook Ads?
That’s completely fine. Different people have different interests and passions. There are many pathways to choose from in the online world. Just keep in mind what I said about how most of them take a lot longer and are a lot tougher than they look.
I only have two recommendations:
If you’re strapped on budget, Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com has you covered.
He’s got free content and podcast episodes on any question you can have. He addresses almost every type of online business model out there and how to get going. He also has paid courses you can go through if you want to take the extra step (but you don’t have to). Pat is a leader in the field because of his honesty online. He publishes monthly income reports which average in the six figures in net earnings.
If you have a bit of money to spend, Ryan Lee of Freedym.com is great.
Freedym is a membership site that costs a dollar a day. It has up-to-date content on any possible topic you can address on how to make money online with an online business and a heap of exclusive guest experts.
It’s updated daily with new stuff. There’s no fluff. There’s no ridiculous promises of success.
Ryan has been multiple 7 figure online businesses and two 8 figure online businesses so he knows what he’s talking about. He’s been in the game for almost two decades and he has a network of all the top online experts you won’t believe.
Go through this link to get a special offer of a $1 trial for the first month of Freedym. If you try it out through my link, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.
Both of these recommendations coincidentally happen to be to people who are the most ethical in this entire industry and offer affordable solutions. Their whole message and brand is centered around their ethics.
Notice how I didn’t recommend any courses or products that cost hundreds or thousands?
There are plenty of gurus with programs that cost thousands of dollars or more that I know of. There’s a time and place for expensive courses. The most expensive course I’ve paid for was thousands of dollars from one of these gurus, Ramit Sethi.
Sometimes, they’re overpriced scams. Sometimes, they’re genuinely worth their money. However, for the most part, they’re not worth your time. You can get everything from what I’ve covered here.
In summary, there are plenty of ways to make money online that actually work. Amazon has built a billion dollar business off of it. And travel bloggers, like The Blonde Abroad, Nomadic Matt, and Hey Nadine have built their lifestyles off of it as living proof.
These all revolve around selling products, services, or ads (like sponsorships) through directly pitching people or producing outstanding content to attract people. It’s not easy and you truly have to be the best of the best to even get going nowadays since you’re competing with the world.
I’ve been experimenting with this for years and it’s tough to get going.
Let me know if you have any questions too in the comments. Make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter for exclusive updates on this I share nowhere else.
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