Exactly How I Made $46,305.38 in My First Full Year Online

Get Free or Die Tryin'(Please note that this post was written in February 2011, so while some of the information is dated, a lot of it is not. I recommend you read the article and then read the more updated articles.)

Two years ago I sat on this exact black, office chair. I was doing something I no longer liked, and I dreaded every hour of it.

I was playing online poker, and I craved to do something else.

I had the desire to write, but I didn’t believe in myself, and the idea of continuing with my website education hadn’t occurred to me yet.

It all started back in 2007, when I signed up for SBI (or sitesell) and created my first website. I worked hard, and I hoped for the best, but it didn’t turn out well.

I lived in la-la land. I overlooked proper research, and I thought sheer passion was going to cut it, but it wasn’t.

It wasn’t until one day, sitting on this black office chair of mine, I started my second SBI site. I got serious about following the instructions.

I learned how to really find a niche, the right keywords, and make sure it had a good chance of being profitable.

It’s 2011 and I cannot do anything but look in the rearview mirror with my eyes wide-open and my jaw hanging loose, because in 2010 I did what I loved, and I made $46,305.38.

Now, that number is probably a little bit higher in reality, but it’s still very accurate. This is gross income, so before expenses and taxes.

My goal is not to brag here, but to show you that this is possible. It takes work, and it took me several years but I got there.

Setting the Record Straight

I’m sure you’re eager to get started, but before you read further, I just want to make something clear.

Most of the income that I made in 2010 did not come from this blog. In fact, this blog contributed a very small amount to the overall pie (a bit over 10% if I remember correctly).

That will most likely change in the future because right now I’m not concerned about aggressively monetizing Wake Up Cloud.

I will go through the breakdown of each of my income streams later in this article, but for now, just keep that in mind as you read and enjoy the content.

I’ve never been someone who’ve said that you have to blog about making money. In fact, the Wake Up Cloud is the only website/blog that even comes close to that topic.

Luck Vs. Hard Work

“You’re lucky to have the talent for poker” was something I heard frequently in the five years I was a professional online poker player.

And it has just kept going as I’ve built up my online income through websites and blogs. It seems like a perfectly plausible explanation for why I can do this, but you can’t, right?

I feel a bit sad whenever someone tells me I’m lucky, because I know the truth, but I also know that they won’t believe anything I have to say. It is something each one of us has to discover.

It’s an excuse that lets you dwell in mediocrity. Maybe you’re not good enough to do this. Perhaps you should just stay at your 9-to-5 job, because that’s where you belong.

That’s bullshit. It’s just an excuse. It’s a figment of your imagination.

That is something you create, and if you choose to believe it, then that’s cool, but most people want something better, and I think you do too.

I worked hard to learn poker, and I’ve wasted many hours and over $8,000 learning how to make money online.

Ever since I was 18, I’ve gone after what I was passionate about. At one point I was passionate about poker. Now I am passionate about websites, blogging, and writing.

It fascinates me, it energizes me, and it brings joy to my life.

This positive energy keeps me going when the going gets rough.

How I Reached This Point

After my first failed SBI website in 2007, I came back with a vengeance in 2009 after receiving some feedback in the SBI forums.

I wanted to make this work, and I was determined to succeed. I knew others were doing this, so I knew I could do it too.

There had to be a way.

And there was.

There always is for those willing to go the extra mile.

I decided to start another website after I received the death sentence on my first website. I got in touch with a mentor who nudged me in the right direction, and I read the instructions without getting distracted by the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side thinking.

I soon realized that my first website was a learning experience. It was where I honed my chops. I learned how I failed and what I had to change.

My First Successful Niche Website

Building a money-making website is simple, but it’s all too easy to get distracted, overwhelmed, and frustrated, which will happen if you’re new.

It’s easy for me to say that it’s simple, because I have been through the process multiple times, and I have the experience of knowing what works in real life.

But truth of the matters is that beginners tend to overcomplicate everything. It can feel uncomfortable committing yourself to a “system” and following the instructions.

However, that is the easiest way to success when you’re new at something. I’ve applied this way of thinking in many different fields, and it works.

It allows your mind to release the thought of trying to find something better, and it gives you the opportunity to focus on taking massive action.

It gives you the space to ask “what do I do now?”

And that is how progress is made.

How I Found A Profitable Niche

Since becoming a member of SBI in 2007, I’ve used their keyword tool almost exclusively because of its sheer simplicity.

You can also use the free Google Keyword Planner if you don’t have SBI, or don’t like their tool.

I started by thinking about what topics I was interested in. Where was my passion? What would I want to write about for years to come?

This doesn’t have to be your absolute passion, as long as it is something that you’re okay writing about the topic.

From there on I drilled down and looked at specific niches. I looked at the keywords, the profitability, and the opportunities that existed.

I like to aim for at least 100 good keywords in any niche before I start. I enjoy building large websites instead of smaller ones.

What I mean by good keywords is high demand, low competition, and high profitability.

My Keyword Blueprint Process

Once I had a niche and my keywords, I created a site blueprint out of those keywords, organizing them into a three tiered structure, like this (using muscle building as an example):

So I knew what I was going to write and where it was supposed to go. This is a fantastic way to build websites, and if you’re building a normal website, then this is the way to go.

However, if you’re building a blog, you can be a bit looser as to how you do this, but the important parts are the links and how they flow throughout your blog.

How I Wrote Content

Writing an article around a keyword is not just about filling the page with text, at least not for me.

I think about what the person using that keyword is thinking about. I consider what they’re searching for, what would make them happy, and how I can over-deliver.

That is what builds loyal readers.

Let’s say someone is searching for “fastest way to build muscle.”

That’s a pretty easy one, isn’t it?

They’re looking for a shortcut to building muscle, which means you should focus on one thing and one thing only, which in this case would be diet.

Everyone who knows how to build muscle knows that a well-chiseled body is built in the kitchen. Sure you need to lift stuff, but it is secondary to the nutrition.

All in all, the keywords serve as a signpost pointing me in the right direction. I probably won’t nail every keyword with every visitor, but that’s okay.

How I Acquired Links

When I have about 30-50 articles up, I start building links.

The reason I wait until I have 30-50 pages of content up is because I do not want people to come to my site and think that it’s still under construction.

With a few articles up, it looks like a solid site that’s ready to roll and serve. As I build links, I also keep adding more and more content.

k like a solid site that’s ready to roll. As I build links, I also keep writing content.

The links I start with are:

  • Paid directory links (3-5 strongest directories)
  • Article marketing (5-10 top article directories)
  • Web 2.0 (HubPages, Squidoo etc…)
  • Commenting (just here and there)
  • Guest posts (this is where the gold is at)
  • YouTube (if you’re into making videos)
  • Ask (simple, boring, yet oddly powerful)

When you build links, remember to use proper anchor text when you link back to your site. This is what tells Google what your site is all about.

If your site is about building muscle, and your keyword is “building muscle”, make sure you use it with slight variations.

Why slight variations?

Because it’s natural, and it will happen in time as you start getting more and more links naturally, but until then, vary your anchor text a bit.

A good measure to go by is 80% building muscle and 20% variations, such as how to build muscle, gaining muscle, and so on.

How I Started Making Money

As I wrote more content, and got more links: more and more people found my site, which lead to more links and even more traffic.

I’ve received many questions about how long it takes to build a money-making website, and I honestly can’t answer that.

It depends on the niche and keywords you choose, and how hard you work.

You can conquer a competitive niche, but it will take more time than if you went after an easier-to-win niche. If you’re passionate, it shouldn’t be a problem, unless you go into one of the impossible markets (like poker, gambling, supplements).

Once I had my content in place, and I’d started building links, I didn’t monetize right away. I like to wait until I have somewhere between 200-500 visitors per day, because anything earlier won’t make me much and it will be harder to get links.

Once I reached that threshold, I put up AdSense, and I went through affiliate offers and found something that I could put my reputation behind.

I worked on this website full-time for 3-4 months in early 2009. I then left it on its own and it grew from a humble 500 visitors a day to over 2,500 at the moment of writing this. It earns close to $2,000/month and keeps on earning.

That’s the magic of doing things right. Many bloggers shun SEO, but it’s a way to get traffic coming to your website so you don’t become a slave to posting forever.

I won’t reveal what site this is publicly, so don’t ask.

Article Marketing

Once my niche site was making money and growing on its own, I became interested in article marketing.

I had the taste of success in my mouth.

I knew what I needed to do. I knew the power of massive action coupled with a powerful program.

I bumped into a testimonial from a guy in England who went from living in a caravan and being dead-broke to earning thousands each month in passive income.

I think of myself as an open-minded skeptic, so I was weary of if this was true, but since this testimonial was on a third-party newsletter and from someone who had no affiliation with the training program itself, I was intrigued.

So I thought why not.

I joined, the program looked good, so I decided to commit 100% and start taking massive action. I followed the instructions and I wrote up to 20 articles a day.

The program went out on writing articles for mainly EzineArticles, sending that traffic to a single-page presell that then linked to the affiliate program we were promoting.

I liked the sheer simplicity of it. I got my first sale within a week because I wrote so much, and once I started making a few hundred dollars a month, I started reinvest that money into writers.

In May of 2010 I stopped writing, because I had other projects I wanted to work on, and my income has grown over 50% since then, because the company I am promoting has high-quality products and runs a lifetime affiliate program.

If you want to learn more about this, you may be interested in reading how my girlfriend makes $300/month writing articles.

Reviving My “Unsuccessful” Website

After years of leaving my first SBI site in the dust, I realized that I could sell direct advertising on it.

This meant getting in touch with companies that were interested in increasing their exposure. Luckily, most of them found me once I put up a contact form.

Since then, I’ve made a solid few hundred dollars a month from it. It’s nothing big, but it helps keep the site alive and make me a small income.

Freelance Writing

I write, a lot.

I’m not going to turn down a freelance writing gig (if it pays enough), since I write all day long anyway.

I didn’t make a lot of money writing for others this year, but it definitely showed me that it’s possible to make a living writing on a per article basis if you want to.

In fact, it’s a great way to get started online, because you can literally get a solid part-time income up and running almost overnight.

However, like with anything else, it takes work to get to higher rates, so don’t go dreaming about quick riches, okay? ;)

Creating My Own Products and Consulting

And finally, with the Wake Up Cloud, I started creating my own products and offering mentoring.

I had never done that before, because it scared the living daylights out of me, but I now see that it’s an extremely valuable skill to have.

Creating your own products and services is an amazing way to monetize niche websites, and it’s something most people don’t have the guts to do.

There’s always that fear there of “am I good enough?” and “will anyone buy this?”

But they are largely unfounded, and they can be overcome if you build up a readership and ask them what their problems are.

Income Breakdown for 2010

Now that we’ve gone through how I got here, I’m sure you’re eager to find out what the income breakdown for 2010 looks like.

I was surprised to see the results myself.

In 2011, I’m sure my affiliate marketing income will keep growing, but I wouldn’t discount Adsense, as it works well in many niches.

Here we go:

  • Google AdSense: $11,127.61
  • Affiliate: $25,380.07
  • Advertising: $6,171.16
  • Own Products+Consulting: $2,726.21
  • Freelance Writing: $900.33
  • Total Gross Income: $46,305.38

The Truth About Earning Money Online (Without Selling Your Soul)

With each passing day, I become more and more humble, because creating anything online – or offline – takes a lot of time, and it excites me in a way, because it completely takes the pressure off.

I know that creating a successful online business isn’t going to happen fast. It might, but it probably won’t. You will have to spend at least a year doing this, probably more, and you have to love or at least like what you’re doing.

There will be obstacles thrown at you, and you will have to overcome them.

You will feel like you cannot go another day. You will feel angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, and you will feel like there is no hope.

But there is, and it’s usually just around the corner.

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Comments

  1. Hey Henri,
    Wow man that is impressive, and thank you for breaking it down so clearly in this post.

    One thing that just stands out for me is that you work ridiculously hard. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen after 2 weeks of work.

    You prove that with hard work and persistence you can make very decent money ($46k is no joke) and also the fact that you’re not a native English speaker makes it more impressive.

    Congrats on the success man, I hope to do a post 6 months from now where I can show others what I’ve done, but first I’m going to put in a ridiculous amount of work:)

    Cheers brother!
    Diggy

    • You work hard and you’re a smart guy, Diggy, so I have no doubt that you’ll reach whatever goals you set.

      Keep on rocking!

  2. Thanks for this post. Seriously, this is a blueprint of exactly how to get a niche site off the ground and generating revenue. I’m in the process of getting a site of my own up so this is a huge help.

    Following for sure.

  3. Michael Ashcroft says:

    Hey Henri,

    I love net transparency, thanks for sharing all this. One question though: do you think you’d have been able to do all this around a full time job? I want to be able to work in a ‘career’ job (for many reasons other than fear of not doing it, believe me!) but I also want to be able to build passive income like this, and give myself an excuse to learn and write. What do you think – is it possible with a job?

    Cheers,

    Michael

    • Yes, it is definitely possible with a job.

      You just have to adapt to your circumstances. Even with a job you can find 1-2 hours to work on your online projects. If you then eliminate all distractions; two hours of highly focused work is more than most people get done (even those that do this full-time).

      You also have income, which you can use for outsourcing, so anything is possible. It all comes down to your creativity and the limits you put upon yourself.

      Cheerio!

  4. Michael Ashcroft says:

    Excellent, just what I needed to hear, thank you.

    Though, I just closed my adsense account with £35 over three years (the first site) – even with 250 unique hits per day, my topic of interest just doesn’t result in attractive ads! As you’ve shown, there are other ways though.

    Michael

  5. As usual, you transparency here kicks a$$! Thank you for empowering others Henri!

  6. Bryan Thompson says:

    Henri, I love this: “There always is for those willing to go the extra mile.”

    So very true. I learned a lot from this post – to be honest, I had the intention to get my blog out there and get a little traffic, but had no CLUE I could make money with it. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve come to a crossroads where it LITERALLY is taking on a life of its own and it requires actual maintenance and strategic planning to keep it evolving into something that helps people. And I really believe I can earn income off of it to keep it doing that. I will save this article and read it again. There’s a lot of deep info here that should take some time to digest. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  7. Dude, you’re awesome, you know? :)

    I want to have a solid business by the end of this year, and your help is astonishing. I know this can be done thanks to your teachings, so, this is the way to go.

    Keep rocking!!!

  8. Henri, I enjoy all of your writing, but enjoyed this particularly. An excellent primer in the power of persistence. You deserve all your success, past and future.

  9. Marta DeGraw says:

    Hi Henri,

    Thanks so much for your transparency. In mid-2009, I purchased 2 SBI sites (during a buy-on-get-one deal), and like you, I left the first SBI site in the dust. I, too, learned a LOT about what NOT to do through that process. I’ve recently been lacking motivation to keep working on the second site. In this post, you’ve helped me see (once again!) the possibilities for a passive income…it’s also a good reminder that the site doesn’t need to be the “be all, end all,” “perfect” site. It simply needs some of my time, focus, and energy to give it a chance to stand on its own.

    Thanks for the nudge!!

    Marta

    • Thank you for reading, Marta!

      Perfection is our enemy. I have seen many sites (even SBI) that have plenty of grammar mistakes, are poorly structured and what not, but they make the owner a full-time living because they have persisted in taking consistent action on a regular basis.

      Once you realize this, all there is to do is move forward, one step at a time.

  10. Inspiring as always my friend!

    Makes me think of getting SBI… But I’m keeping chipping at my old project. :)

    Andrew

    • Make one project work and then move on. That’s what I’ve found to work.

      Hope all is well, Andrew!

      • Yes, as ADD as I can be at times I really do find that approach works. I have to thank you for the inspiration to do that, as I’ve been using it in my life recently to great effect.

        All is well, I hope the same for you! :)

  11. Hey Henri!

    For anybody reading this I really want to second the part about doing research on your niche.

    Before I knew anything about keyword research, SEO, backlinking, etc., I spent about 2000USD creating a product that I’m really proud of but that’s not making nearly what it could be if I had researched the niche more thoroughly and built the product around the demand rather than what I *thought* the demand was.

    That’s why I feel that affiliate marketing is a great place to start for anybody looking to make money online. There’s very little up front investment and you simply won’t make money unless you do your homework and put in the hours like you’ve done, Henri. The lessons you learn from affiliate marketing will give you a solid foundation for creating your own products in the future as well.

    I’m glad you’re doing well, Henri, you certainly deserve it!

    If you wind up bumping into Swedish compatriot blogger Nikko Kemmpe, say “hi” for me. :-)

    Best Wishes,
    Vic

    • Research is definitely huge, but it can be hard when you’re just starting out. Just knowing that though does help a lot.

      I’ll see if I bump into Nikko!

  12. Very impressive Henri!

    I love the progression that is visible here – you started out as niche site building, which evolved into blogging, product creation and finally coaching / service offerings.

    It is definitely a path I want to follow as well :)

  13. Wow, this is great! I’ve been toying with niche websites, but it always fizzles out (usually when I realize that I know nothing and don’t even care about my niche). You’ve outlined a great blueprint, and I’ve bookmarked this post for when I need inspiration. :)

    Matt

    • Yeah, I can’t create websites about patent attorneys unless I outsource it, but I’d much rather pick something that I care about (even a little), because it makes the process so much easier.

  14. PEOPLE! Follow this article and YOU’LL MAKE money. Nicest post about making money. Henri, why dont you create a product about it?

    • To be honest, I don’t have the time right now to create a product about it, although I do mentoring on the side for those who are interested.

      Thanks for stopping by, Paulo!

  15. That’s incredible work there. I’m hoping to start earning some money in 2011 from my online endeavours. I have been reading blogs like yours and learning a lot on how to do things, but now I need to start doing them.

    I look forward to reading your posts in the coming year and hope you can continue having some great success.

  16. Henri,

    I really enjoy your posts! I was wondering, though, if you could gives us the URL’s for your other websites so that we could look at them?

    Thanks!
    Dean

    • Sorry, Dean. I only disclose them to people that I personally mentor. I do have plans on disclosing a few in the future, but they are still works in progress. It’s coming though!

  17. Anass Farah says:

    Such an inspiring article, and I agree with you Henri, many people try to say that talent is what makes you great when in fact it’s the hard work you did after finishing the hard work you already did, failing is also important I think, because when you clearly see the successful people, you understand that they’ve failed more than anyone else :D and this is a crucial factor in their success.

    Hope the best for your blog and your online business Henri, keep going :D

    Anass Farah

  18. Man nothing but the truth here. I myself have been on the web for about 18 months now and I’ve been thru the same obstacles as you, you just have to jump over them and keep the eye on the prize.

    Good job and congrats on such a great year Henri!

  19. Hi Henri,

    Wow! I can’t believe I haven’t heard about your blog sooner. I’ve been online for about the same amount of time as you (though I didn’t even make half what you did on your first year).

    Anyway, good job with your success. You’ve just got a new reader :)

  20. Hey.

    That is a nice breakdown of actions. As I can see, when building a website, you were interested in quality links… however some people suggest the quantity is also important for google.

    Have you ever used paid directory submission service (or link building service with article spinning) to “kick-start” your new website?

    thanks:)

    • Hey Avo,

      I do agree that quantity is important, but most of the paid directory submission services and link builders out there are very spammy. However, that does not mean that you can’t find a solid link builder, because you can.

      Nowadays when I have more revenue coming in, I find myself outsourcing an aspect of link building.

  21. What is the benefit using SBI over creating my own website with wordpress? Will it get ranked easier?

  22. Hi Henri!
    Great work here..i must assert that this is indeed serving humanity ..for those out there starting out like myself truly treasure this .I found myself tied to this website with great and well written articles..i enjoy reading and one fact i like is that the design of writing .i like -especially the use of white-space on article.Keep em coming

    Have yourself a brilliant day ,wont you?

  23. Hi Henri,
    I loved this article and the one about your girlfriend making money with a web site. I have been working on my site and I wrote a book as well. I get so frustrated at times about how long things are taking however, I do work a full time job so all my site work is my second job. I can’t thank you enough for reinforcing my hope that the things I am doing to change my life will work out in the long run. You article explained some of the questions I have had about growing a site and when to monetize.
    Thanks again

    Terri

    • Glad I could help, Terri!

      As you keep going, you’ll realize more and more what needs tweaking, what works and what doesn’t, so keep taking action because that’s the only way to success :)

  24. Henri: There is so much value in this post I can hardly believe it! My mind is racing with ideas. Blogging has been personally rewarding for me, but so much financially. I think many of your ideas will be able to change that. Thanks again for writing this.

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