My journey as a blogger has taken me from failure (after failure) all the way to a six-figure income as a full-time blogger. Here's my story.
How I got started blogging
Since way back in 1999 I had dabbled in making money online. Back then, I made a few bucks with some pay-per-click and pay-per-email companies. I also built a bunch of small websites and even wrote a weight loss ebook.
Everything was a total failure, of course. But it did make me realize you can make money from home and avoid the whole 9-to-5 rat race.
By 2004 I knew that if I wanted to earn a living online, I had to figure out this whole "making money online" thing, so I got serious about it.
I researched how to make online and discovered a new type of website called a "blog". Blogs had just begun to take off, as just a year earlier WordPress had launched.
I kept reading about all these people earning six figures online and I was hooked.
I looked at studied the blogs of people claiming to make a lot of money blogging and frankly, I wasn't impressed.
I saw exactly what they were doing and said to myself: I can do this wayyy better.
From then, it was game on.
My backup plan
Backup? I never had one. I don't believe in backup plans.
When you give yourself multiple choices you are programming in the variable of failure.
Since I had no backup plan, I had to make it work. In other words, I was going to make it work.
There wasn't even a thought that I would not make it. The beauty of this is that fear never entered my mind, not one time. I was that convinced I would succeed.
Keep in mind, this doesn't mean I didn't first have money saved up and a solid game plan. I was prepared, I had done my homework (and I had that Mamba Mentality). That's why I wasn't scared.
My first year of blogging
I started with no blogging experience and only a vision of my future self. And in that vision, I was rich. That vision of my future self was my motivating factor.
I just acted as if I had already made it. If I wanted to be a winner I figured I'd pretend to be one.
I started with a personal finance blog (Cash The Checks) because of the many different ways I could monetize it.
That first year, I put my head down and got to work, publishing multiple articles per week. I was a content-generating machine.
I also put up a bunch of ads and affiliate links and waited for the money to roll in!
The result? I made a grand total of $0 in my first year blogging.
My first year of blogging was an absolute disaster. I made NOTHING for a whole year and just lived off the savings I had (which was quickly running out).
In short, I did the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do.
Mistakes I made with my first blog
My focus in the first year of blogging was to build, build, and build some more. I thought I could win with an overwhelming amount of content since my competition had more posts than I did.
One year in, I had made every mistake you could possibly make blogging.
I thought I had to keep up with a blogging schedule so I wrote lots of short blog posts at the expense of quality.
My content was beyond basic. I never mentioned the pain and the struggle of money issues. I just spit out facts like a robot. Because of that, I wasn't able to build up an audience.
Rather than listen to specific questions my ideal reader was having, I wrote whatever I wanted to write. Including personal updates on my finances. Cringe!
This was an even worse idea. I went to Fiverr.com and purchased content at $5 a pop. Boy, I thought I was bad, this content was barely readable. And of course, I published every word of it.
I never built an audience so I didn't have any way to reach someone after they landed on my blog. When I finally did start an email list, it was a box that just said: "subscribe for updates".
Once I had a list of poor unfortunate souls who somehow signed up, I only emailed them my new articles as I published them, you know, so they wouldn't have to come to my blog to read them.
What a great way of ensuring you don't get traffic.
I wasn't interested in building an audience. I just wanted to make a quick buck so I plastered ads all over my blog. But with little traffic, that was beyond pointless.
I can't tell you the number of wasted hours (weeks!) as I kept "upgrading" the look of my blog. What a waste of time that was.
Re-designing your blog is good if you're trying to improve conversions. But if you don't have any conversions (sales), it makes little sense to waste time with this.
I thought I could make it work on my own. It wasn't until I had clearly failed that I realized I didn't know WTF I was doing.
If it was free, I was using it. My blog theme was free (now I use Thrive Theme Builder). I didn't use a social media scheduler because there were no free ones (I use Tailwind now). I used Mailchimp to send emails for free (now I use ConvertKit). My opt-in form was a generic one in the sidebar (now I use Thrive Leads).
I learned about blogging from anyone and everyone, as long as it was free. Most of the stuff I was learning was outdated or just plain didn't work. I should have invested in a blogging course or two.
The issue wasn't that there wasn't information out there. The issue was that there was too much information out there.
I should have just chosen one person (or two) and learned directly from them.
How I made my first $1 blogging
When you have no traffic, it makes no sense trying to monetize. This was the valuable lesson I learned during my first year blogging. I spent a long time on optimization and not on traffic.
So I put the focus on trying to get traffic. My thought was: where do people hang out online? Back then, popular sources of traffic were Google search, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Squidoo.
So, off I went to try and learn each traffic source. I did pretty well and finally had traffic.
Once I had traffic, I put my optimization skills to good use.
I finally made my first dollar with Google Adsense.
I recommend signing up after your blog has been built and you have some content up.
While you won't make that much money with Adsense, it helps for motivation purposes to earn that first dollar.
How I made $100 per month blogging
In addition to using Google Adsense, I also had links to Amazon books in my blog posts.
Using Google Adsense for display ads and Amazon Associates I was able to start making $100 per month on the regular.
The beauty of Amazon affiliate links is that you get paid for everything in someone's cart, even if you didn't link to it. So, if I linked to a $10 book and they bought $50 in dog food and a $200 vacuum cleaner, I'd get a cut of the entire sale.
While I was happy to make consistent revenue, there were some mistakes along the way.
I tried to learn how to get traffic from multiple traffic sources at the same time. While I did get some traffic, I would have gotten much more had I mastered just one source.
Another mistake I made was chasing short-term traffic sources and not going all-in on Google search traffic.
How I made $1,000 per month blogging
I got an email out of the blue from a company wanting to pay me $125 to place an article on my blog.
I was like, uh, you want to pay me AND give me free content? Sure why not!
It felt so good to make my first dollar blogging. This was the proof I needed that blogging wasn't dead and I can make money with this.
I didn't know then, but this would be the first sponsored post opportunity of many more to come.
Seizing on this, I quickly put up a contact page (mentioning that I accept sponsored posts). This allowed advertisers to find me easier on Google.
To get more exposure to that page, I also linked to it from the main menu so other advertisers could easily get in touch with me.
After that, I listed my blog in advertiser marketplaces so other companies could also contact me. You can read my guide on how to get sponsored posts here.
An empire state of mind: becoming a six-figure blogger
So I did this once and it was great. But I thought - why not do it again (and again)?
I took everything I learned on my first blog and did it again (minus all the mistakes).
This time I was able to get a consistent $2,000 per month income on a second blog in just 6 months.
While I don't recommend you do this now (because it doesn't work as good as it used to), I ended up creating 20+ blogs all running on auto-pilot.
This has been a principle I have always followed: Find something that works and 10X it.
I had blogs in just about every niche: dating, weight loss, tech, travel, etc. Most didn't work out, but it at least taught me what works and what doesn't.
I later took this to another level though. Instead of building a blog from scratch, I would buy abandoned blogs on Flippa.com. With just a few tweaks of the design and content (plus adding some more backlinks), I was able to make money with these sites too.
Without knowing it then, what I had actually done was scale my business into a six-figure blogging empire.
Scaling down and starting Do Six Figures
Blogging has totally changed my life. But I didn't feel like I was actually making a difference in anybody else's life.
As a result of this blogging mid-life crisis, I started DoSixFigures.com. Its' aim? To help people start a blog, escape the 9-5 rat race and make serious money online - just like I did.
This blog is my passion project that has been 15 years in the making.
By now you might be wondering whether you can replicate my success and make money blogging. And if so, how do you do it.
I created a quick 4-day blogging bootcamp where you can see step by step the process of starting a profitable blog. Even if you're already making money blogging, there are some nuggets in there that will help you grow your blog.
I also have a blogging course where I. deep dive into exactly how I make money with my blogs. You can check it out here: Six Figure Bloggers Blueprint.
Is blogging the best way to make money online?
There are countless ways to earn money online.
You can try them all. But what is it going to get you? Lots of hard work and not too much money.
But a blog can turn into a vehicle that generates passive income while you sleep.
I'm confident in saying that there is no better way of making money online right now than by starting a blog.
But don't get it twisted, I don't really mean creating an online diary where you share your thoughts. No, the goal here is to create a thriving business that drives free traffic through content marketing.
How to make money blogging in 2020
Here's the process of making money with a blog.
This is a proven formula that has worked for not only me but countless others who earn a six-figure income blogging.
Lessons from a six-figure blogger
Here are the key takeaways from my journey to a six-figure income online.
You must evolve your strategies through the years. When I started, Facebook pages were hot and Pinterest was nothing more than recipes and gardening. Nothing lasts forever.
Keep changing and adapting with the times. You don't want to be the last person at the video rental store turning off the lights.
There is no elevator to success, just a ladder. I don't believe in "marketing hacks" or any gimmicks to making money online. If you want to see results, you have to put in the time.
No, it is never too late to start a blog. A blog is just a website that has updated content. If your content helps people, your blog will always be useful and profitable.
I'm still building blogs too. I started my latest one in 2020.
Perseverance is a pretty cool thing in my opinion. Because even if you're not that talented as others, you can win if you just keep working hard.
I've lost a lot. In fact, I'm fairly certain I'll lose again! But you've got to go head-first anyway and believe in yourself.
Failing, after all, isn't really failing. It's just learning the wrong way to do things.
If you haven't started a blog yet, see the newbies guide to starting a blog here.