Issue #252

Sent to members on February 15, 2019

How long it took ME to make a living online (reader question)

How Long Did It Take Me To Make A Living Online?

In my recent Edge issue where I talked about people replying and talking back, one lady did. 🙂 And she proceeded to ask a TON of questions as potential fodder for future issues of The Edge.

Now, before I continue, just a reminder you can do the same thing. 🙂 (a) You can hit reply on any issue of The Edge and it comes to us and we read everything. (b) You can ask questions that might just show up as a future issue. 🙂

OK, movin’ on…

She asked me how long it took me personally to begin making enough money online to live off of. So, I figured I’d answer it. 🙂 Here we go…

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Like most things in life, there are a lot of factors on play here. What constitutes a full-time income always requires two sides: income and expenses. If you have lower expenses, then the income you need to be “full time” is less. Makes sense, right?

Well, I got started online pretty young. By the time I had graduated high school, I was already making an income with my technology blog. Most of that income was by way of advertising revenue. I don’t remember exact figures, but it was pretty damn good money for a high school student. It would never fund my current life, however.

As I went into college, I was still living with my parents. Obviously, this means lower expenses. I was funding my own college by just writing checks for tuition. My parents didn’t fund it and I never got a student loan. I paid for it with my internet income. But, I did have that luxury of having no living expenses since I was livin’ with mom. 🙂

When it came time to graduate college, this was probably 5-6 years after I had started dabbling around with the internet and making my own website. It started out as a hobby and a geek messin’ around… and 5-6 years later I was graduating college. I was making money from my technology blog while simultaneously working at Sam’s Club. The funny thing is that I was making more money online than I did at Sam’s. For the last couple of years I worked at that job, I did so because I liked having a source of dependable money that didn’t feel so “fly by night”. Plus, I had friends there so there was a strong social life with my co-workers.

But, facing graduation, I was left with that decision: Go get a job? Or not?

I chose not to. By this time, I was making enough money online that I figured, with my full focus and no more distractions from school, I could totally make it work as my primary source of living.

And I did.

Now, for a few years there, I also supplemented my blog income by doing some web development work for clients. I still make more money with my blog, but I guess I still had that little thing in me where I wanted something else going on, too. In case it ever dried up. So, between development clients and my tech blog, I was making enough money to buy my first home, have some fun on the side, and have 2 cars in my own personal garage.

I wasn’t rich, but it was a full-time income with room to spare. My living expenses weren’t particularly high because I was single and my house wasn’t a mansion.

Alright, so to return to the original question: How long did it take?

I guess the answer is about 6 years to a full time income.

Now, I want to emphasize here that this isn’t because that’s just how long this takes. I was a freakin’ kid, man. I was in college. I was goofin’ off working at Sam’s Club, drinking beer and playing a lot of pool. I was also supplementing income, first through Sam’s and second by taking on web development clients. But, the blog was making good money most of this time. It was more of my own lack of confidence that kept me having these other things going on.

Any “guru” who makes it seem like everything they did online was part of some system, or that it goes in a nice, linear path… is bullshittin’ you. It never looks like that.

I learned a TON of hard business lessons with that tech blog. If I didn’t have that school of hard knocks, I don’t think I’d be sitting here talking to you today. I’d just be some other screwball talking about making money blogging but has never done anything except talk about that.

No, I learned in the trenches and did this stuff for over 10 years before I ever wrote my first blog post for other bloggers.

And it wasn’t nice and linear. It was me screwing up, getting some things wrong while other things right. It was me having some side income streams there for a little while. And I’m not going to sit here and say there wasn’t a bit of lucky timing involved with it, too. I did all this with a technology blog… and I honestly don’t think I could spin up a tech blog today and do the same thing. It is a VERY different world online today than it was then.

Here’s what I know…

If you want to make a full time income online, the first step is to get real about what “full time” really means. And realize that you can control that line with your choices of expenses. If you live cheap, it is a lot easier to sustain yourself solely from the internet.

So, evaluate those expenses and see what you can do there. And determine what that magic amount is that you need each month to live.

Next, you find out what you can do OF VALUE to others and how you can serve them in exchange for money. Make yourself valuable. Solve their problems. Get paid.

And you can supplement by having a few things going on at once. For awhile there, I held a job while running my business. It was a college job, but a job nonetheless. Then, when I was solo, I took on clients. But, I had a skill there of handling the tech side of the web and I charged for it.

And with my blog, I learned early on never to depend on ad revenue. I got into direct sales early on because I had my ass handed to me in the dot-com bubble burst. I’m so glad I did because that was one hell of a valuable lesson. 🙂

OK, my friends. Hope you found that interesting. 🙂

Got any questions?

– David

Tech Talk

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