Hey freedom fighters! I’ve got a guest post today from Brent Truitt, a full time internet marketer and part time blogger. Brent blogs over at DebtFiles.com, where he shares the stories of real people and their struggles with debt. Brent has a very entertaining writing style, (trust me, you won’t be bored!) so when I had the chance to host him on this site, I jumped at it.
One of my goals in the coming year is to help readers figure out ways to build additional streams of income, in a way that fits with their lifestyle. In this post, Brent explains how he and his wife built an online business, were able to leave the 9-5, get out of debt and find financial freedom. Enjoy! – MMM
Ah yes, my favorite subject. I don’t get to talk about Internet marketing and online income very often. I still passionately believe it’s the best way to make money, and I think everyone should jump in with both feet, but it makes most people puke when go on and on about it.
When I first started my online business back in 2003, they couldn’t shut me up. I was so excited about being my own boss and making a full time living from the comfort of our home. I would rattle on about it like a strung out meth-head, and my family thought I was out of my mind.
And they were right.
Out Of My Mind
I was surely out of my mind. I was no longer thinking about the normal problems and issues a typical human being deals with. I had the horse blinders on and I was going to make it or die trying. Every morning I leapt out of bed to get back on the computer. I didn’t have time for bitching, moaning, gossiping, or worrying. I had a dream and there wasn’t a chance I was going to let that dream go.
My coworkers already knew that I was a “little off my rocker” in the first place, so they chalked it up as just another fantasy I was going on about. It was good back then, because at least they didn’t think I was bragging. I hadn’t made a penny from the Internet yet (poet), so I wasn’t looked upon as a douche (well…I hope not). No right-minded Canadian wants to be a braggart, or thought of as a braggart.
Humility is in the water up here.
But that all changed. Three years later my wife and I were making double the income of the highest paid pilots in Air Canada (the company my wife I both worked for). Even worse (better), we were making that kind of money from our house, with no boss, no jobs, no schedules, no hassles, and no headaches (I’ll explain exactly how we did that below).
My coworkers and family saw me quit my job as an aircraft mechanic, and give up sixteen years seniority. Two years later my wife gave up her job as a flight attendant. Some folks still think we’re both bat-shit crazy for giving up the security, benefits, flight privileges, and pension.
Success feels great, but I miss rambling on about the magic of online income. I don’t bring up our work, or my dream of doing nothing anymore (we’ll get into the irony of that Office Space quote a little further down). As soon as everyone realized we were living the dream, I couldn’t talk about it anymore. Almost everyone saw it as bragging.
Bragging? Not Bragging?
But damn it! I didn’t think I was bragging! I was trying get them all “into it”. I was building their first websites for them. I was showing them how to get traffic. I was showing them HTML and basic web design. I was showing them how they could be free of their jobs if they didn’t like “working for the man” anymore. And I wouldn’t just force the subject in conversation either. I would wait until they started complaining about their jobs first. THEN I would introduce them to the idea.
The odd person would accept my help and go on to make a full time living online, and some just created an extra monthly income from their websites. But the vast majority published a few pieces of decent content and quit (not for everyone).
So I learned to shut up about it.
Welcome To The Milk Bar
But once again the magic of the Internet saves the day. I can write a post like this, and if you’re not interested in making money online (or think it’s some kind of scam and nobody really makes a full time living doing it) you don’t have to wait for dinner to be over to get rid of me – you can just hit the back button.
But for those of you who go to the same milk bar as I do, and dream like my droogs do, you will either learn something you didn’t know, or at the very least be entertained a wee bit (here’s hoping).
Anyone Can Do It
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to making money online, but there’s once falsehood that grinds my gears (yep…Peter Griffin) more than any. The lie that it’s not real. Some people fervently believe that making a full time living from the comfort of your own home is just a pipe dream – a sordid scam sold by snake oil salesmen at the County fair.
Then there’s lie told by marketers trying to convince you that you need their “special one time, time sensitive offer” to succeed. And some people claim you need to be a tech wiz kid to succeed, or that you need to be an amazing writer.
It’s all baloney. Green and quivering-in-the-back-of-the-old-fridge baloney.
Anyone can do it. Here is the list of reasons why I shouldn’t have succeeded, according to naysayers:
- I was too old – I was in my forties when I started and most believed I couldn’t compete with smart young “tech-savvy” entrepreneurs
- I had no experience – I only knew how to use email when I started (HTML….WTF!)
- I’m lazy – Just a month ago or so, one our dear friends said their family was having a big dinner and they all jokingly agreed I was the laziest person they know. In some ways they’re right. To this day, one of my favorite bits in a novel is the one from Catch-22 where the main character Yossarian is very proud of all the officer’s clubs built on American barracks during the Korean War. Proud because he had absolutely nothing to do with building them.
- I’m not very smart – Yep. To know me is to be frustrated. I was always one of the slowest kids in the class, and I’m still usually the slowest adult in the room. Trying to explain a new idea to me is a painful experience.
- I’m not patient – I hate waiting for anything
- It was too late – when I started there was a meme going around that the only people who can succeed online were those who started a long time ago when the Internet was young. The theory being that the competition wasn’t minimal in the past, and the competition NOW is untouchable
Okay. Enough truth talking. The list is actually longer, but I’m starting to bore you.
Let’s talk about you.
If you have the same dream, I am here to tell you that it can come true regardless of any impediments you have. Don’t believe me – say hello to Jon.
All you need to do is get in there and do it. Just like the annoying cliché the self-help gurus have been pounding into ours head for decades. I know it’s tired, we’re tired, and I know you might be thinking you don’t have the energy to take on such a “massive challenge”.
But you do.
How Did I (we) Do It
So now let’s get into the how. How did an old, lazy, potato head manage to become financially free from the comfort of his home?
I started by building my first website. I went to the public library and got some books on basic web design, and I used the Internet to download some basic HTML templates. It was all very crude, and it was 4 years before I was introduced to WordPress. That first hurdle of just building my first HTML page was brutal for me. I think it took me three weeks just to get a basic handle on how it all worked.
I didn’t take the snake oil salesman seriously and made a critical decision early on. I wasn’t going to get involved with any tricks and schemes designed to manipulate the search engines. It was a good call.
I never worried about inbound links, and fancy splash pages. I didn’t use software to manipulate Google or Yahoo. I focused on making sure my website was clean. No annoying popups, and clear text so visitors could click AdSense when their eyes came across an ad they were interested in (in those days AdSense was my only income stream).
Very basic. Like I said, I’m a slow learner. My first website was called Golf-Equipment-4u.com, and it’s long gone now. I got rid of the domain years later, but I shouldn’t have. They all make a trickle (insert light bulb here).
And It Didn’t Work
Nope. The only traffic I got was if I spelled something wrong on a page. Since my misspelling was “unique”, I would get the odd hit when someone using Google misspelled the golf equipment they were looking for.
So I started looking for ways to get paid traffic. I experimented with the idea by building a very crude website specifically for the purpose of selling motorcycle helmets. I placed my AdSense code on every page, and then I signed up for an advertiser account with Yahoo. I struggled to figure out their system. On my first tests I spent more money that what I made from AdSense.
But after a few tests it worked!
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when we started making $10 dollars a day. Then $50 dollars a day. In a year we were making as much as I made when I worked for the airlines. In 18 months I was making as much as my boss did at the airlines. Two years later I was making more than the captain of a 747 doing long-haul runs to South East Asia. Three years later it was double that.
The way we grew our income to that level was by building more websites, and buying more PPC advertising from Yahoo and other sources. My wife Betty took over all the PPC work so I could focus on building more websites. We had a few websites on motorcycle equipment, golf equipment, satellite TV installs, rider lawn mowers…you name it.
That was a great run we had.
But It Always Changes
That basic model sustained us for half a decade. What a life. We travelled a lot, bought a motorhome, started golfing, and paid off a ton of debt. Those were exciting times, but it all changed.
Our model was starting to make less profit each month, and I decided we had to start getting traffic to our websites organically. That really scared me because I didn’t think I could compete. I wasn’t sure I could write well enough to publish attractive content. Content that would be useful to people AND worthy of search engine ranking.
But I went ahead and launched my first WordPress blog. It was all about satellite TV installations. I was worried that I couldn’t come up with anything to write about. I mean there’s not much to it is there? You call up the provider, they come over in a van, and an hour later you’ve got more channels that you could count.
The Trick That Worked
Okay. You’ve probably been thinking, “Oh yeah, here we go again. The dude is going to string out a bunch of bullshit about his success, while promising to tell me exactly what his trick was, and then tell me it’s all about Social Media, blogging, networking (sucking up to gurus), and mastering SEO. And even more nauseating, he’s going to offer me his best-in-the-world-one-of-a-kind-time-sensitive eBook!”
So nope. Not gonna to tell you that.
In my attempt to create fresh new content for my affiliate and AdSense websites, I experimented with writing fictional accounts about people using the products or services I was promoting. All of these yarns, fables, and bedtime stories were pure fabrication. They almost always resulted in a happy ending, whereby my protagonist rides off into the sunset with their new satellite TV system, car loan, or home cleaning widget.
The experiment worked, and it still works today. The search engines have been changing of late, so it doesn’t work as well, but it’s still paying our bills (+ some). Three months of 2016 we made over $20k USD clear profit. These last few months we’re making less than half that. But we have no debt, and $280k in savings from the good years.
To do this we have over 50 websites on very specific niche products and services. We use affiliate links but we use almost everything under the sun for monetizing our pages.
So next time you’re looking to buy a rider lawn mower and you come across some simple WordPress blog (probably page 2 or 3 of the Google search results) and it has some cheesy yarns about how great Tom, Dick, or Harry’s experience was when they bought the latest and greatest Toro, it just might be me.
I have no idea if this will work in the future, or how well it will work if it does, but I’m being honest about why we’ve been successful making a full time living for over a decade.
Someone Has To Win
We’ve had a few big valleys in the past 14 years, but then all of sudden something changes and we’re tipping boat drinks again. All I can tell you is that someone has to win. As long as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, still include organic search results, we’ll be in the game. We might be sucking ass again some day, but I’ll never quit. There is no better lifestyle.
How much money do you need to make so that you can stay home, not deal with employees, management, lawyers, office staff, unions, and commuter traffic? That’s right. You need to be a multi-millionaire who has a staff of 100% honest underlings to keep business running smoothly and not rip you off.
But it’s going to take effort. What my friends don’t know is that when I do work, I work hard. I’ll do an 18 hour day just to finish off some new website or get off a decent post (like the one you’re reading right now). But tomorrow (and the next week) they may see me doing nothing again except swimming in our pool, and playing my guitar. They don’t see the effort.
It’s Out There Forever
And to close, I want to share my other love of the Internet.
It may seem like a lot of work to write a thousand coherent words (or so), but once you click publish, that juicy piece of content starts floating in cyberspace. And if you provide just ONE nugget of wisdom, that SOME people find valuable, you’re golden. That piece of content will keep floating, getting inbound links, likes, and all the other silly badges that can be bestowed upon a simple rambling.
And that piece of content will continue to grow for you on it’s own. All you have to do is rinse and repeat. Don’t worry about linking schemes, and silly software gadgets. It’s been over 8 years since I’ve even bothered creating inbound links to my new sites to kick them off. I just make sure they all have an XML sitemap submitted to the search engines and let them find it. Not many people want to link to a website about hot tub covers anyway – and Google knows that.
When it comes to search engine optimization someone has to win. No matter what the search engines change in their algorithms, someone has to win. If you ever see your traffic slipping because of an algorithm change, just look at the “new search results”, and see what kind of content is winning. Then you have a choice.
- change the content on your existing sites to be more like the new winners
- or start building new websites just like the new winners and leave your old ones alone
I always choose option #2 because the search engines often change their minds, and before you know it your old style content is winning again. And when you build enough pages (sites) in different ways, the more secure you’ll be because you should always have some favorable content floating around out there making you some hard cold cash.
I hope you found at least one nugget here today.
Brent Truitt is a full time Internet marketer and part time blogger who lives in Canada and the United States. You can connect with him on Twitter @IAmBrentTruitt or visit his personal finance blog DebtFiles.com