Making money online is something many people dream about. However, not many people actually realize the long backstory, failures, stress, time and effort that go into actually finding starting a business. However, it really isn’t their fault. We are all often blinded by the glaring lights of fame and success others have portrayed online… whether it be through pictures with big checks, flashy cars or simply living a ‘laptop lifestyle”.
At the same time, it’s quite an opportunity if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Whether you have an expertise you can turn into a service business, or even getting started with a blog, it’s all about making that first dollar and getting the inspiration to keep scaling and growing your business into something much more!
To help bring some realization and inspiration to everyone’s entrepreneur journey or even just to make a few dollars online, I wanted to get some personal success stories for other bloggers, entrepreneurs, and experts within our industry.
We asked 63 entrepreneurs… “How did you make your first dollar online?”
My first two or three websites never made any money. Not a coincidence, cause they were terrible! I created all HTML myself, so imagine that. On my fourth attempt or so I discovered WordPress, and things started to flow much more efficiently (I guess because now I had time to actually produce content, instead of keep wrestling with the HTML and site files!). After a while the site was attracting 1000 visitors per day or so, and I decided to try Google AdSense. I believe I made $30 on the first month, which was very exciting! So much that I never stopped.
—The year was 2009 and I was studying Music Technology at college.
One of my lecturers mentioned how he started his own underground record label. He explained how easy it was. It sounded insanely simple. Even getting music registered for the charts in the UK (ha).
I was producing electronic music at the time. As were a few of my friends.
So I started up my own online record label and some friends – together we’d release our music under this new record label. The vision I had for this venture was incredibly un-realistic.
Mainly because I had no business experience, no marketing experience and, limited web design experience. I made a few HTML sites when I was 12 but that was about it. None of them ever went live.
I dug in, started doing the research and getting a plan together. I made a few website designs in HTML and found an online platform (Juno) that would enable me to sell music & give me access to their built-in audience.
Finally, the website went live and so did our music – hurray!
Here’s what happened:
After a few months, we made around £15. Ok, at least it was something right?!
Not exactly. We got paid, then the money went straight back out into hosting costs.
My immediate reaction was that I’d completely failed & I should just knock the project on it’s head and move on.
But, I thought about it some more. I’d already bought a bunch of artists together and I still wanted to share this music with the world.
After some researching I discovered the ‘net audio’ movement. It’s sort of like open source software, but for music instead. Artists releasing music for free, simply for the love of music.
The other artists saw merit in this idea, and I did too.
So we released all of our music for free. I continued researching and learning as much as I could about marketing.
What was the result?
I turned 3 sales into over 100,000 album/single downloads after around 6 months.
We went on to release over 60 albums/singles from a global community of super-talented artists.
And while we shut down the record label several years ago – every release is still available and we’ve clocked close to 3 million downloads.
I’ll leave you with this…
I could have thrown in the towel straight away.
But if I didn’t, then I’d not be writing this for you now. I probably wouldn’t have my own business either.
The reality is that this experience taught me the power of free content. And started me on the path to start my own business.
And I view failure in a completely different light. It’s not the end – it’s a learning process that can often signify the beginning of something that will change your life forever.
I used what I learned through this experience to start my next project which actually earned money (my first cheque from Clickbank of $200). And while that project didn’t last long either, it taught me enough to land a job as a marketing executive at a small marketing agency.
You have to keep learning, and pushing yourself to take things to the next level. Things won’t always go right, but that’s part of the journey – it’s what you do with the experience that counts.
Looking back, I can count on one hand, the events that have helped me get to where I am today. I talk about most of them in this post – I hope you’ll give it a read and share your experience in the comments below the post 🙂
—I made my first dollar online by buying / selling domain names. I would buy domain packages where the owner wasn’t planning on using them, and these domains were going to expire in 3 – 6 months period. I would then turn around and individually sell them to prospective buyers. From there, I went on to turn several of those domains into websites that earned me money through affiliate marketing.
—The first dollar I made online was through Amazon Associates. I’d written a review for a backpack I’d been using while I was traveling and it became one of the most popular posts on my blog. I hadn’t even considered using an affiliate link for the review as I was new to blogging and barely anyone read my posts. But I added in a link and within a month someone had used it and bought the £150 backpack! That was nearly seven years ago and that backpack review still performs well on my blog and leads to a couple of hundred pounds in affiliate sales each month.
—The date was January 12th, 2013.
I’d been rocking EOFire DAILY for almost 3 months, and not a dollar had come in the door.
I was growing a small email list, and one day I wrote an email chronicling my journey thus far, highlighting both the struggles and mini wins…
I received a reply from a listener sharing how he had enjoyed how I’d written the email in such a personal way, and he had a question of his own.
I wrote a DETAILED response to his question, and hit send.
An hour later he replied how BLOWN AWAY he was at the detail of my response, and although there were many more experienced Podcast Mentors out there, he knew I was the one to guide him.
He PayPaled me $1800 for a 3-month coaching session, and my first dollar had officially come in the door.
How you communicate is how you will WIN Fire Nation.
I knew from that day I had to continuously improve my communication skills, both written and verbal, and it’s been my mission ever since 🙂
—“Order by May 3, 1999 and receive 25% off the cover price and shipping for just $3.00 in the USA!”
That was my first attempt at creating urgency.
In 1999, online trading was just getting started and I was able to capitalize on it. I had been trading with one of the first online brokers for about 6 months and a few buddies asked me how I was doing it. So, I wrote up a few pages in a Word doc and sent it over to them.
Being the capitalist that I am, as I was writing it, I realized that this book might be the first thing I could try selling online. And when I say selling online, I mean that there was a web page promoting it, but you had to mail me a check. Like, literally get their checkbook out and mail a check to my house.
I put up this web page and waited to see what happened:
The first check arrived three days later. Then another, then 3 in one day. Pretty soon I was selling 40-100 copies per day at $24.95. I still had a day job so I would print the books at night and my wife, who was six months pregnant, would use a binding machine to bind them up, package them and take them to the post office to mail. We went through about 10 black and white laser printers in 6 months. We used them so much they burned out quickly and our entire house smelled like toner all the time.
I paid off all my debt, bought a condo and realized that the Internet could provide a lifetime of income for me and my family.
Eventually, I learned about merchant accounts and created a crude online order form. I would then manually type in the credit card number into the machine. Oh yes, it was old school.
I quit my day job about a year later and have worked for myself ever since.
When that first check arrived in the mailbox, I took it out of my mailbox and stared at it for about 30 seconds straight. A total stranger had sent me money in exchange for content. It was the best $24.95 I’d ever made and it made me realize I could be in control of my financial future from that point on.
—I first started making money online back in the mid-90s, and when I think back… it was such a fun and exciting time! Back then I knew there was a way to make money with the internet, I just had to figure out how. It’s hard for me to remember the very first dollar I made because I tried so many different things (like AllAdvantage’s “surf the internet to get paid”), but I can tell you a story about how I got my first ‘physical’ dollar in the mail.
Back before blogging and affiliate marketing, I used to have a couple hobby websites where I was just really putting up anything I wanted and just creating a site. At the same time, I was also designing banners for my site as well (468×60 banners for AdExchange). I was also active in the AOL chat room called “The Web Diner”, where other site owners would chat.
Some of the people saw the banners I made and wanted one of their own. I told them I could make it for a dollar, and they would have to send it to me in the mail (remember, this was years before anything like paypal was around). Long story short, I got a bunch of $1 bills in the mail… and the rest is history!
—Way back before I became a digital marketing consultant or taught my first course, I was an acupuncturist with an informational website (Pulsemed) for people interested in alternative health. I actually enjoyed writing about it more than practicing it. I put Google Adsense on my website and made about $1,200 that first month. This sudden windfall perked me up, so I started analyzing my website’s SEO, PageRank, etc. and the keyword opportunities available to me. The next month, after writing more articles that yielded more traffic, I made close to $5,000 from AdSense. Then I developed my own keyword analysis equation, better than the industry standard at the time (KEI) and identified 1,000 keywords I wanted to write articles on, but I realized I couldn’t write all those articles. So, I used another keyword-based article to attract freelance writers. I teamed with 10 writers to put over 1,000 articles onto my site in just 6 weeks. There were two months in a row where we brought in over $20,000 checks from AdSense. But soon after, my site lost most of its rankings and traffic. I believe this may have been because our site had diverged from its health-only focus, and the SEO algorithms changed. That was a big SEO lesson for me! And so I learned AdWords and shifted into client services, because the Internet Marketing bug had bitten me, and I was finding it much more interesting than acupuncture. That was the beginning of my career in digital marketing.
—Before NinjaOutreach, I started my own travel blog. I was traveling around the world with my girlfriend at the time, so we documented this and earned ads from that site. I also had a business blog, selfmadebusinessman around that same time, where I earned from ads and affiliate programs.
—So I signed up to a CPM network that was incredibly popular with bloggers. The beauty of the network was that it wasn’t IP restricted, so you could in theory visit a site 1,000 times from one location and it’d still be valid. So, one summer, I built a portal which included the adverts and put it on my family’s computer. It added value, as it included links to Hotmail and Myspace and Yahoo! at the time, but also served up the ads. I kept it up over a summer, just enough to reach the minimum payout.
I still have the cheque for $13 somewhere.
—Since I’m an online publisher my first “online” business was being asked to write an expert article for AMEX OpenForum. There’s nothing more thrilling than to be acknowledged by a big brand for having a specific point of view and sharing it with others.
—There’s a reason the “starving writer” trope exists: most bloggers take on too much work.
I made my first dollar online (and every dollar since then) because of specialization. While common sense suggested that I should take every job that came my way, I turned down more work than I ever accepted. Why? Because it didn’t fit my specialism.
When I first started blogging, I chose a single niche for myself – health and fitness – and refused to deviate from it. Work was slow in the beginning, but with every job I eventually secured, I developed relevant experience, great case studies and in-depth knowledge that “generalized” writers couldn’t match.
Over time, I became known as the go-to health and fitness blogger. I developed a great customer base of health and fitness clients; they’d refer me to their own networks, and I’d build my specialism even further. The more specialized I became, the less competition I had – and the more I could charge.
This works in any industry, and any walk of life: if you want to succeed, carve out a niche and become the go-to expert.
—The first dollar I actually made was through Google Adsense. It was on one of my coloring book sites and I had no idea how to monetize my content at the time, so I threw Adsense up on the site and let Google do the work for me. This was before we starting launching our own physical books on Amazon. Let me tell you… while the first dollar I made from Google was exciting, the first book sale on Amazon was a thousand times cooler!
—The first dollar I made online was through my e-book sale. I had priced the e-book at $5 and I got $4+something after Paypal’s cut.
The e-book was a pretty simple piece of product where I just packaged a small series of blog posts together into an e-book. There was no fancy cover, no cutting-edge marketing strategy to promote the product, or anything else like that.
So it was pretty amazing and surprising that I still made that sale.
Even though the amount I received was close to nothing ($4+) it felt so great. I felt so proud to having made that sale!
—Sometimes I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have started my activities on the internet in the year 1997… it makes me look so old!
In any case, my first steps were the creation of several websites of different themes where I was able to earn my first money in online activities by selling banners and sponsorships. I still remember I used Front Page from Microsoft to create those websites! And really, the design was, to put it in kind words, unfortunate.
I soon realized that SEO was one of the most beneficial activities to increase visits to a website. For this reason, I quickly specialized in this field, and I have set up an SEO agency that could offer my services to other clients. This was the way to live exclusively from my online income. In fact, before the crisis of early 2010, we were earning almost 2 million euros per year and had more than 30 employees, but that is another story…
—I made my first dollar online by creating a band website generator after I got out of college. I must say the first time you make money online is a thrill and is addictive. While the band website generator would never be a huge success it did prepare me for my business SeedProd.com which builds plugins for WordPress. And did I mention it only took me 10 years to be what I consider a success to myself. I say that jokingly because while making money online comes easily to some for me it was a journey of many failures. So don’t ever give up and keep learning and trying things. Repetition is the mother of skill.
—It was in the very early 2000’s and I’m pretty sure it was £3 something…
I was lucky to run a very early fashion blog and the first sale was via affiliate marketing. I managed to turn the site into a decent little business and eventually sell it on. Affiliate marketing was a big part of that success but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.
Unless you can offer a service that the original seller can’t there’s not much point of affiliate marketing. Even with banners on blog posts, you need many tens of thousands of hits and clicks to make a proper living.
The best way to make money online now is to sell a service or product. Build your expertise and authority using your blog and then create a knockout product. It could be an ebook or in my case online marketing training.
I started small and £3 wasn’t a lot of money but it bought more then than it does now 🙂
—My very first major business online didn’t make any money online until a tragedy struck the world. Let me explain. Launched at the end 1999, I built a site called UCanBuyArt.com. It was a web site for selling art online. It was not the greatest of ideas because selling original artwork online is incredibly difficult. Fortunately, I had excellent SEO skills and was able to drive about 3000 visitors per day to the site by the beginning of 2001. Yet, even with the huge traffic the site wasn’t generating any sales. The site made money but only through charging subscriptions to the artists, but I needed sales. In September of 2001 the Internet and world changed as a result of a single event, the attacks on the World Trade Center. Most people didn’t realize this but the phone hubs went through the towers as well so the telephone system in the US had been weakened. The tragedy caused a mass outcry of support, where people tried to donate to the Red Cross. The Red Cross’s phone system also weakened couldn’t handle the influx of telephone calls. To handle the demand, they told people to donate via their web site. The media reinforced that online payments were safe and secure. As a result, people who had been wary of using credit cards online began to feel comfortable with the process. This changed the Internet. Suddenly people weren’t afraid to buy online and the Internet had finally come into it’s own. My art site experienced sales everyday until Christmas that year. This is how I made my first dollar online. It wasn’t necessarily the way I would have liked to have made it, but it represents a small silver lining to the story of 911.
—I made my first dollar online with an eCommerce store selling MMA gear. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing and put all of my money into computer equipment and having a nice website designed. After realizing that I needed to drive traffic, I slowly learned SEO and grew the website to making $10,000 a year before realizing it was not realistic to warehouse product at my parent’s house or dropship. In hindsight, I should have built a basic eCommerce store on Shopify or Volusion, using one of their free templates and dedicated all of my finances to driving traffic through digital marketing to sell a product that an order fulfillment center can ship.
—I made my first dollar something like 12 years ago.
I was 16, and sports betting was one of the most important things in the world for me at the time. I was pretty good at it, so I decided to share that ‘knowledge’ with the world – for a price (of course).
I was in the entrepreneur mode, so I went to GoDaddy (I’m not 100% sure, though) and registered my first domain – Tips1x2.net.
I didn’t know a thing about CMS’s, design, marketing, etc. All I knew was that I want to make some money!
I got the site up and running using Joomla, set up a paid section for subscribers, created a couple of packages, linked everything together and I was ready to hit the trenches.
It went pretty well, considering that I was completely clueless about the marketing part. But it was definitely an awesome learning experience, and I like to think that that was the main reason why I never lost focus and continued to learn and evolve into the person I am now.
—The first dollar I made was actually through Fiverr, when I was doing freelance work in the design and content writing space. Once I discovered how much money was being made in the content marketing industry, I quickly put my efforts and expertise with my own site. The benefit here was that I was able to see both sides of the spectrum and see how content creators, brands and freelancers are all actively making money at the same time. Making that first dollar through Fiverr was a huge inspiration for where I am today.
—It was so long ago that I’m not sure if this story is about the first one. But I guess my first money made online was from writing product reviews (fake ones to be honest) about 14-15 years ago. It allowed me to buy few games for PlayStation so I was quite happy at that time 🙂
—Remembering and talking about how I made my first dollar online makes me feel really… old! Despite the fact that — to be accurate — I was still a teenager back when that happened. My story predates Google. I was promoting online gambling websites as an affiliate and reached the top rankings in those pre-historic search engines. Their commission model was one of the best I have ever encountered online (too bad they are no longer operating). I received my first and generous check after a while and I had that foolish (and mind-boggling, at the same time) feeling that I could take on the World!
—How I made my first dollar online… The story starts back in 2007. My husband told me to generate some leads for the business. There may or may not have been a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning, but it felt that it happened. I did a lot of searching and found a lot of spammy sites, and it was browsing an email that I found a site called BT Tradespace (now closed). I decided to take a look and in setting up my profile it advised me to podcast or blog. Blogging? Hell no! That’s writing and I can’t do that… Podcasting? Speaking? Let me take a look at blogging again… Here I blogged three times a week as instructed. The first post was precisely 50 words, and it took 2.5 hours to write. I may or may not have used punctuation. Within 6 weeks the phone was ringing and we were making sales. I learned that to make money online you had to have a product. No product = no money. The first sale was £60. Within 3 years we had that up to 7 figures. And I had my 7 figure blog posts. What was I blogging about? Transport. Boring, reliable, transport and delivery services. I read a lot of people talk about starting out as a delivery guy and then moving into something else and making 7 figures. We were the delivery guys, and we didn’t have to move to make the money. I now write about blogging and marketing for entrepreneurs and coaches who are not frightened to work in order to achieve their dreams.
—I read somewhere one the most important proverbs of online marketing that says “the money is in the list” and, since everyone was telling me I should build an email list right from the get-go, I decided I should give a try. It took me a while to understand how everything was meant to work but I guess I was able to figure it out fairly well.
A few months and a lot of trial-and-error experiments later (that included starting over at least twice), I received the good news! I checked my inbox and found an email message whose subject line read “Congratulations! You’ve Made a Sale”. One of my subscribers had just bought something I recommended and I had made my very first few bucks online.
—I am a travel blogger because I love… (you’ve guessed it! :P) traveling and writing about my traveling experiences. I found out that I was always having a great pleasure in describing the best places to visit in every location I paid a visit to. So one day, I decided to write and launch my first travel guide. It was a three-page pdf guide on the best spots to check out in Lisbon that I made available for free to my newsletter subscribers. It made really proud to read their comments and reviews after I officially announced it. The most surprising of them came from a lady who was actually visiting Portugal on the exact same week I gave away my free guide. She and her husband downloaded the pdf and visited every one of my suggestions. They loved them so much they even took pictures in those places and sent them to me with a note saying they would pay a really nice amount for more of my guides. That idea came to life three months later and just one hour after announcing my new guide someone bought it! I had made money online for the first time and that’s when it all started for me!
—The first time I started making money online was with my first business, about 10 years ago. I was looking for a way to make more money and work for myself, so that I could have more time to spend with my daughter.
So, I set up my own online business and started selling e-books at $50 and a toolkit for women who wanted to set up their own Virtual Assistant business, which sold for $200.
—The story around the first dollar I ever made online is quite funny, because it actually has nothing to do with my current business or internet marketing. We’ve all seen those offers for completing surveys and getting paid for it… well, I wanted to see if it actually worked. This was several years ago. I went through a long and tedious process to create an account, fill in all of my personal details and then complete several surveys on electronics, product launches and even entertainment. Some of them were fun, but it was mostly a drag. The end result? I got a sweet check in the mail for $7.23!
—My first dollar came from selling my design services online and that came through blogging and sharing my design process online. I’m still doing that today!
—The first dollar I made online was from our PR mastermind group. After spending several years building an engaged community around the Spin Sucks blog, we knew we had an opportunity to move part of our business online. The PR mastermind group was our first online product, and earned $36,000 in its first year. I was thrilled that through harnessing technology—and the power of our online tools—I could bring the PESO model and ethical, results-driven PR methodology to so many more people than I could through our traditional agency services. Now, we’re applying what we’ve learned from that launch to bringing more professional development and training opportunities to PR professionals around the globe.
—I created a digital course called Effortless Email that helped people save time and be more effective with email. I sold it online and did a big product launch to introduce it to the market. It was successful and I learned more in 6 months than I ever did after years in the corporate world.
—My first dollar came when I was doing freelancing work for outsourcing clients way back in 2011. Article writers back then were getting paid at around $1 or $2 for every 500-word article (regardless of the topic). From humble beginnings, I was able to generate more revenue from freelancing by learning about different skillsets (search engine optimization, social media, virtual assistance, etc..). Then started my own agency which is now catering to five-figure dollar clients.
–One of the reasons I moved to a self-hosted site was so I could start monetizing my blog. I soon started a blog coaching service.
I had a reader who had a friend who kept pestering him to improve his blog, so he hired me for blog coaching!
It was really rather funny. Instead of telling me what he wanted help with, he had his friend tell me what aspects of his blog to help him improve, so it was a three-way arrangement. That reader became a good friend of mine. He has since passed away, but I will never forget he was my first paid client.
—My foray into making money online kind of happened by accident, in that it wasn’t something I was consciously working towards or even really had thought a possibility. After my father had died, I found writing to be therapeutic. At this time, those ezine-type sites where anyone could submit content were popular, and I would write articles about my travels and personal development. I remember thinking how cool it would be to get paid to write and be able to make money working from home. But again, I wasn’t particularly attached this happening.
Then one day, I had a random nudge to visit the site Backpage.com, which I had never visited before, that lists all sorts of classifieds and work opportunities. I saw a listing for a company that was looking for writers to produce web content on a variety of topics. I filled out the application, sent in my sample and a few days later I was accepted. I worked with this company for over two years, and it opened the door to my current lifestyle of being able to travel and earn money at the same time.
—I didn’t get to keep the first dollar I earned from My Five Acres. At the time, I’d never even considered that I could make money from blogging.
But one day, while cycling through Cambodia, we met a man who ran a small charity building wells for rural families. He drove us out to the site of their newest well project. It was two men, hand-digging a well that would serve dozens of people in a small rural community. We were so moved by the experience, that we decided to ask our readers to help us build more wells in the area.
In about two weeks we had earned enough money to build 10 more wells! Aside from the glow of helping so many people, the experience also caused a major shift in our mindset. It was the first time we understood what it means to have an audience who are engaged, interested and responsive. It was the first time we realised that making money from a blog was possible.
—I probably have more than one story to tell.
The first ever dollar I’ve made online, as an SEO, was actually from the first job I took with an Australian-based SEO agency (as a remote SEO specialist) back in February 2010. Only lasted for a couple of months – as I was laid off when the client I was handling fired the agency.
Decided to start my own blog in June 2010, and I was able to get a few client inquiries (for freelance SEO work) a week after I’ve published my first case study. And I closed two consulting clients in the same month (which I consider my first ever dollar earned online).
Then I received my first payment from Google Adsense 4 months after (not that much, but certainly something that made me realize that there’s money in what I was doing).
—If I recall this correctly – the first dollar I made came from a satellite TV retailer (via Commission Junction) named All Sat. That first sale came in about 9 months after I built my first affiliate site in 2005.
Everything moved slower and harder 12 years ago – Paypal payment was never an option in Malaysia.
I had to wait two months for the sale to be approved, one month to get the check delivered to my mail box, and then roughly another month for the check money to be credited into my bank account. But still, that first paycheck from Commission Junction was like steroid to me. It motivated me to keep working hard and eventually quitted my day job and went full time as an affiliate marketer.
—I was still an everyday blogger (so to speak), back when I first fell in love with the online world — before I really started blogging for a living and became an online marketer, per se. I read a blog post which mentioned that people could use their blogs as a way to make money online. That discovery caught my attention because I wasn’t really doing it for the money. In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind up until that day. I searched around a bit and learned that people could earn a few dollars just by showing Google AdSense ads on their blogs. I asked a friend for help to place the ads on my blog and the very next day I found out that I had earned my first dollar and 15 cents online.
—About three or so years ago, I and friend ventured into an Amazon FBA business together. There wasn’t much information lying around like there is now so this new kind of business was undoubtedly uncharted territory for the both of us. After a few misses and a bunch of money thrown down the drain, we were forced to rethink our strategy. We spoke to an acquaintance of ours that was seeing much success from his tactics and followed his advice. First we redid our research, then we focused on a single product and bet all our chips in. The good news arrived on a Saturday morning: we were making some serious money with our Amazon FBA biz. It’s not easy, I don’t recommend it to everyone because of that, but it’s totally rewarding once you learn what you are doing and start seeing results.
—I’m not shy to admit that the first dollar I made online was through eBay and spamming people in niche forums.
I was selling things on eBay and was promoting my links on forums since social media wasn’t popular back then. Most of my posts got flagged, but it did help me make my first dollar. In fact, I made my first $100 this way. I continued because it worked.
I did realize that this method wasn’t going to work in the long run since I wasn’t always getting hate messages. I knew there had to be a better way. I refocused, read countless blogs and worked on a new strategy. I started a blog. I never looked back since.
—I made my first dollar online almost 20 years ago as a teenager. I had made some websites about computer games which led to people asking me to design websites for them. This was before PayPal so that first dollar came in an envelope from thousands of miles away in the form of an international money order. It wasn’t much but it seemed like a lot to me as a kid and the realization that I could make money with my computer was huge. I haven’t stopped exploring ways to earn money online since then. It was a real blessing to have that opportunity early on as a teenager.
—When I was 20 or so I was into online gaming. But back then, on dial-up modems, it kind of sucked. So we started to organise LAN parties. We did this on open gaming forums. Recruiting our online friends. Getting them into halls we could hire. And charging a small fee for doing so. It was hard work. Not what you would call hugely profitable. But, it was fun. And we got paid. After that I sold ringtones and then sold my skills as an SEO consultant. And now I make all my money online.
—I’ve been freelancing for many years, but the first dollar I made through online efforts was actually by blogging for a local tourism agency. I was a current follower on Twitter, and just randomly happened to see a tweet encouraging interested writers to get in touch with the editor about blogging for them. I pitched myself, a beat (budget living), and shared my blog (hyper-relevant to the area), and the rest was history. I was hired immediately, and they’re still among one of my best clients! I think the lesson here is that not all amazing jobs exist on job boards – whether or not someone explicitly asks for help, sometimes you’ve got to make your own opportunities. I’ve successfully taken that lesson with me to grow my brand (and income!).
—I won’t include the time I sold a bike when I was 12 years old on Craigslist. The year was probably 2005-2006 and I was really working on making some affiliate marketing offers convert. I was focusing on promoting the “No No Hair removal tool” and I was running it through Maxbounty, who is a great affiliate company by the way. I was running the offer 2 ways: I had a network of landing pages that were ranking in Google, using information I obtained on the No No hair removal tool. Once people found their answer, they would click on the link and convert. I also tried my luck at running paid traffic to some of my pages. This allowed me to test segmented markets to see how real traffic would convert. I will never forget the first night that a conversion happened. It was like I struck gold. I knew that if I could sell one of these things, I could sell a million. And so I did, I spend the next 2 years writing copy, content, making ads, and buying domains. The offer ended up going south, but I ventured into other industries promoting whatever I could.
—First dollar online would have been affiliate income from sharing online surveys 11+ years ago.
—The first dollar I earned online was the gateway drug to the wild west of marketing.
I got my first rush when I sold a pair of Nike shoes in just five days on eBay for $120. Oddly enough, I sold these shoes sight unseen (for those more internet savvy, they call this “drop shipping”). And without paying a penny to start my business, I was off to the races, and never looked back.
—After one year of blogging without earning more than a few bucks I received my first payment of $350 for publishing paid reviews on my green blog in 2012. At that time I was thinking about quitting blogging but one day, without any invite, a company offered me to publish series of their paid posts on my blog. They promised to pay me once all of their posts are published. So taking a big risk, I published the posts and got my payment without any delay.
In 1990’s I had a fan website for my favorite rock band Metallica. This project helped me learn a lot about html, web development, content creation, online marketing and so much more, but it also introduced me to affiliate marketing. With few links inserted into my content I was referring users to buy Metallica music, merchandise, and other products. This was how I made my first dollar online. It was a great feeling and the income helped me expand my Metallica collection.
Back when the country was in a financial crisis many homeowners were being foreclosed on by their lender. One of the solutions for homeowners to get out of a tough financial spot was to short sale their property. In a short sale the lender accepts less than what is owed. Short sales became very popular back ten plus years ago. Seeing an opportunity, I started to write about short sales. I would explain how to do a short sale and what sellers needed to know about the process. These articles were very well received but many of the people reading were from other parts of the country that I did not service.
What I did was add information in every article I was writing on how I could refer them to a short sale real estate agent in their area. This idea allowed me to make between $30,000-$50,000 a year from my real estate blog. With just a phone call to another agent I would be receiving referral checks.
I was an early user of the Internet in collage and decided to start a hosting company back in 1995. We were getting companies online creating websites and I remember we did some of the first database driven websites based on Cold Fusion. We later became an ISP and sold the company to a bigger ISP a few years later. I remember back then going into meeting with businesses and you always had to explain what the Internet was to one person in the room. It was very early days but it was a lot of fun.
Way back when Palm Pilots were all the rage, I decided that I was going to learn how to write Palm Pilot applications, so I created a simple Palm Pilot application which tracked your life totals for a trading card game–which still happens to be popular today–called Magic the Gathering.
I would bring this application to tournaments and people would always ask me where they could get it and how much it cost.
So, I decided to make a version of it that I could sell.
I created a pretty simple website and built a version of the application to sell on the website along with a very primitive registration system which gave a registration code to unlock the app after they purchased it.
In those days you had to manually integrate with PayPal, so I found some Perl code that I could copy and modify and in a few weeks I had my site and payments system up and running and started selling the application for $10.
I reached out to a popular Magic the Gathering website and magazine and told them about the application and that was enough to start getting sales.
It wasn’t a large amount of money by any means, but it was so exciting to be making dollars while I was sleeping.
I made my first paycheck online by writing content. One of my sisters worked for a real estate company and one of their stunning listings just wasn’t selling. She has casually mentioned to her coworkers that she has a sister (me) who worked for a newspaper (at the time), and that perhaps we need to revamp the content for this home. She emailed me photos of the exterior and interior of the home and asked me to write captions for each picture. I did so, and sent my input back.
They were impressed, and I remember my sister’s boss saying that what really sealed the deal for her was my ability to put myself in a homebuyer’s shoes (despite me being a freshman in college then) –I had taken a photo of a simple ceiling and transformed it into something meaningful with so much potential– It was a photo of wooden beams that ran across the ceiling of the living room, but I had described them as “A decorator’s or entertainer’s dream: An ideal place to hang garland during the holidays or streamers during children’s birthday parties. They updated their content to what I wrote for this home on their site. It sold not too long after, and I became their go-to for updating listings that weren’t selling as quickly as they could be.
Now I am a content writer for numerous companies across varying industries and one of the blogs I manage and am the sole writer of pulls in $30,000+ monthly.
Once upon a time, when I was a year into the blogging game, I offered my first 60-minute coaching sessions and featured my illustration prominently via the portfolio tab in the navigation bar. A few weeks later, I attracted my first coaching client from South Africa and my first illustration client from Australia. I earned my first hundreds of dollars, which seems petty now but was a big moment in my online life. That ‘historic’ week taught me that constantly live-testing new features on the site mattered more than overthinking and planning.
The beginning of my conversion rate optimization agency was the first dollar I made online. It started off as just a design agency and I found someone on craigslist that needed a startup presentation made, emailed them, and got my first deal. From there I pivoted to web design and ultimately conversion optimization. We still get leads from emailing online businesses, particular ecommerce sites, but also from content marketing and blogging. When I got my first organic search lead, that was pretty amazing as well. We had a blog post on landing page optimization rank on page 2 for a particular keyword and had a real estate business reach out to us about it.
Long, long before my current job, I worked as a websites salesman. During the conversations with my customers, I noticed how much they feel the need to promote their businesses on the Internet, often wanting to combine the purchase of the website with its appropriate positioning. And I felt that Google was dealing the cards. I began to read and browse through blogs and forums where various SEO practitioners exchange information. I’ve never taken any training; I simply began to test what I had read. First, I got familiar with the so-called white SEO; then I started to explore the Black SEO. Soon, however, it occurred to me that the world of Black SEO is not for me 🙂
I remember my first customer very well. It was a local company, trading in cleaning supplies within my region. I remember how happy I was (and also a little surprised) when the company quickly and efficiently achieved TOP 3 for all keywords that we settled. When I earned my first money from my online activities, I realized that SEO was for me.
Today, I try to share my reflections (which sometimes may be slightly far-fetched) and often publish them on our blog, take a look: here
—Back at the very end of 2007, feeling miserable in my day job, I launched a diet/weight-loss blog with lots of grand ambitions about bringing in lots of money from ads and similar. In January 2008, that blog led me to write a guest post for a much larger diet-related blog. The editor liked the post, and asked if I’d be interested in becoming a regular, paid writer for his blog.
Until that point, I honestly had no idea that freelance blogging even existed! That was my first $1 (actually, my first $20) from blogging: nine years on, I’ve not had a day job for eight and a half years, and I still blog for pay … but I’ve also written ebooks (one of them, The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing, is all about paid blogging!), run ecourses, have a thriving membership site, have completed an MA in Creative Writing, have published two novels and a heck of a lot more. It all started with that one blogging gig.
And that first blog I launched? I stopped blogging there a year or so later (turns out, dieting is pretty boring to write about!) but it did eventually bring in some steady ad revenue for me over the course of several years after that. I sold it for $1,500 last year — having spent no more than a few minutes on it, here and there, in the past seven years. So in some ways, my initial ambitions did turn out to be well-founded … it just took a long time for the dollars to actually come in!
—My wife and I had just returned from an extended vacation in Thailand, and we decided – we’ve got to make this a long-term thing. We knew there were people making money online, so while she supported our family, I tried to figure out how to make it work. It took a lot of research and experimentation, but one day we made $0.40 online, and we were thrilled – not because $0.40 was going to make us rich, but because we knew that the internet is infinitely scalable. The next day, we turned that $0.40 into $400. That was more than 10 years ago, and we haven’t looked back since.
—I was 14 at the time when my eyes were opened to the possibility of making money online. I didn’t have any sort of allowance nor did I have a job, so I had to beg my grandmother to give me enough money to buy web hosting and a domain, and then again to use her credit card so I could actually pay for it.
That weekend I launched my first site – a simple tech blog with no real refined niche. I pumped out content like crazy because tech was something I was super passionate about at the time – then signed up for Google Adsense (under her name because I was under 18.)
3 days in I got my first click – around $1.50. It wasn’t much, but in that moment, everything I was told about making money online became real. I have no idea how different my life would be if I had not heard of Google Adsense all those years ago. And while I hardly use it as a revenue source anymore, it was the stepping stone onto my entrepreneurial path.
—I simply made an account on eBay and started selling my stuff that I did not need anymore to make some extra cash for the summer. I made around $4k in just one summer selling my stuff on eBay. I sold ridiculous things such as my table, guitar, and tons of polo T-shirts 😉
Rafi Chowdhury – Chowdhurysdigital.com
—Back in 2007, I started playing with Photoshop following tutorials online. After I learned the basics I wanted to try myself at freelancing. Not long after I was able to find a local business in Lithuania in need of an animated banner. I had no idea how to make an animated banner but took the job anyway. 2 days later, I delivered the banner and earned my first $5 dollars online.
The first dollar I earned online was affiliate selling an SEO e-book. I remember going to the pub with my business partner and coming home to find we’d earned a $39.99 commission from an email we’d sent earlier that day. This commission paid for our 2 beers and more. We were hooked.
Adam Franklin – Web Marketing That Works
—In 2011, after trying a few get rich quick schemes (which never worked), I stumbled on something called “freelance writing”.
Since I loved writing, I decided to learn more about it. I already had a blog, but with this discovery, the blog’s purpose became simple – to get clients.
Funny thing is my first client didn’t come from my blog, but my first high paying client did.
At that time, I read a bunch of articles on Copywriting and set out to test my knowledge. So I went to one of the popular online forums, wrote an ad in the form of a forum post, left my email address at the end of the ad and hit publish.
At first it was all crickets. Two days after publishing felt like I had been waiting for a decade. But in less than a week, I got an email from a prospect, we closed the deal and he became a client whom I worked with for several months. The money was way below standard, but as a newbie, I felt I had hit gold.
I have been asked this question several times already, and have contributed to two other round-up posts wherein I answered a similar question.
These two posts are:
- 1. 22 Lessons from Experienced Freelance Bloggers on How to Land Your First Client
- 2. Our First Freelance Writing Gig: 11 Experts Share Their Stories
I also wrote a blog post about how I earned my first dollar online, and the lessons I learned from working with that client: 10 Lessons Learned from My First Freelancing Client (who was both My Worst and Best Client).
Since earning my first few meager dollars (way back in 2013), I have increased my revenue streams almost tenfold! You can read about them in The Essence of Blogging (+ How to Earn Money Online).
Going from being an underpaid virtual assistant and freelancer who wrote only one blog post a month for Dear Blogger to earning a living by diversifying my income has been quite the exciting journey!
My next goal is to write more e-books and increase my passive income streams.
It’s great to be able to earn money by doing as little work as possible!
How to Make Your First Dollar with a Blog
For anyone reading this expert round up that still hasn’t made a single dollar online, right now is the best time to take action. As you’ve seen from each of the experts above, there are plenty of ways to make money online, and all it takes is that first commission, sale or payment to really put things into motion.
I still believe that blogging is one of the best ways to start a business online — especially for anyone that doesn’t have a lot of money to get started with. Anyone can go live with a site of their own for just a few dollars a month, and the content and outreach process is all something that can be done in your spare time.
To learn more about this process, be sure to check out our how to start a blog guide and make money blogging guide on how to break down a niche and make money with affiliate marketing or launching a product of your own. Both of these guides will prove you with step by step guidance on how to get started with a successful blog of your own.