My Journey: How I went from a Highschool Graduate to a Five Figures Monthly Earner
Instead of writing some general “welcome post” as the first post, I thought that I would share something really valuable with you – my journey through a timeline manner.
I will hold nothing back, not only showing you the successes that I’ve achieved but also the challenges and obstacles that I’ve to face and overcome.
You might be thinking, “Why should I even care?”
First of all, I think it’s really important that you know what to expect in terms of earning potential as well as the amount of efforts needed to grow an online business and I believe that my experience will give you some good insights to them.
You will see later down in the article that it does take some upfront work to put the right systems in place. However, once they are all set up, these systems will make you a ton of money down the road without having you to do anything.
I was in high school back then and SPM (it’s something like A-Levels but for highschool students) was right around the corner. While I was busy preparing for the exam, I asked myself, “why am I studying so hard?”. It’s not just hard actually, it’s insane. I spent close to 6-8 hours a day just so that I could score outstanding results to be entitled to a full scholarship abroad.
I need the scholarship so I can probably get a good job and have bright career advancement opportunities. To cut it short, I needed a good income.
Just like most of you, I began googling for ways I could make money off the internet a.k.a “make money online”.
I tried a bunch of stupid ways including filling up survey forms, clicking on ads, forex (foreign exchange speculation), MLM (multilevel marketing) and a few others.
Obviously, these methods didn’t work well for me. I did make a few bucks here and there but it’s just not worth the time. I couldn’t see any opportunities for scaling and even if you could make some good money, it’s not passive at all – which defeats the purpose of making money online.
One day, I was lucky enough (or maybe unlucky, I will explain why later) to stumble upon a paid course which talks about affiliate marketing. I didn’t manage to dig through the course because SPM was really close.
So I left it aside and focused on SPM instead.
SPM ended in late November. Normally, I will start playing computer games (Dota in particular) all day long. However, I didn’t. I could still recall, right on that day itself, I started going through the course.
I was really new to the concept of affiliate marketing back then. However, the concept of promoting other people’s products or services in exchange for an agreed amount of commission really hooked me up.
First of all, I didn’t need to create any kind of products or services. It’s a big plus for me since I didn’t have the resources and budgets to do so.
Secondly, I didn’t have to sell products individually. Once targeted traffic flows in, the whole sales process takes place by itself. Traffic basically means users that visit your website.
I quickly went through the course and took action. Taking action is really important if you want to be successful in any business but we will save that for another day.
I did the necessary research as taught, built up a website and filled it with 3 pieces of articles. I was so confident with the idea that I shared it with my family members and friends. I even mentioned the income potential of this business model.
Surely, no one trusted me. It’s too hard to believe that such business models even exist. Most of them brushed it off as scams and told me to be careful.
Although no one trusted me, I was pretty confident that it will work because the business model sounds logical. I understand why companies like Amazon will be willing to pay us commission – because we are actually increasing their revenues.
So did I make money out of my first website?
Sadly, no. After operating that website for around 1 month+, it’s not making me any money neither it’s showing any positive signals. It’s nowhere to be found in Google – the main traffic source I used for this website.
Clearly, I have no idea what to do. Honestly, I’ve thought of giving up since I wasn’t seeing any tangible results at all. I could have played Dota instead, right?
Fortunately, I didn’t. I tried searching for whatever information available out there to see if I could make it work. While I was digging through a ton of information, I realized that I’ve made a lot of mistakes on my first website even though I followed the course mentioned above closely. LOL?
Remember that I mentioned purchasing this particular course (I don’t want to call out names) was actually unlucky as well?
The bright side is that this course introduced me to the online world and specifically, affiliate marketing.
However, the information taught in this course just wasn’t good enough to make it work. To make it worse, it’s conveying all the wrong information.
Best part of all? It’s a paid course.
To simplify, here are a few problems with my first website.
1. I didn’t do keyword research the right way so I picked keywords that are extremely difficult to compete for. Keyword research is the process of picking the right keywords to target and hopefully rank for in the search engine.
2. I didn’t target the right set of keywords. It’s a little too long to explain about keyword intent here but basically, it’s choosing keywords that people are prepared to spend money. For example, someone searching for “buy women boots online” has a high chance of purchasing whereas someone searching for “how to clean my boots” just want to look for ways to clean their boots.
You might be laughing now but I honestly didn’t understand keyword intent properly back then.
3. I didn’t know any advance ranking strategy that I could use to rank my site in Google. Just think about it, there are only 10 spots on the first page and there are so many people out there competing for these spots. If you don’t do anything special, you will never reach the first page of Google.
My decision at that point was to give up on that site and start a new one. Just understand that you can’t tell if a website is successful or not within two months. The only reason I’ve decided to give up was due to the fact that there were many obvious problems with it.
Sometimes, you could do everything right but might not see anything within two months. It’s just a preventive measure Google applies to prevent spammers from spamming the results. Once Google trusts your site, your traffic will explode exponentially on the ground that you’ve done everything right.
It only applies if you are using Google as the primary source of traffic, which in this case, I was.
I started building up a completely new website. This time around, I had a much better game plan in mind.
I did thorough keyword research to make sure that I wasn’t going for highly competitive keywords. I didn’t really care about the income potential as I just want to confirm that it’s actually possible to make money online. (This is a very big mistake. Yes, I made some good money out of it but the earning potential is very low).
I actually wrote all the articles myself since I was operating on a limited budget. I aimed to have around 40+ articles but in the end, I only managed to put up around 15 articles.
I was burned out after 2 weeks of writing spree.
It’s really frustrating when you are working all day long but you are not being paid at all.
Unfortunately, that’s the way it works. You don’t see an immediate return on your effort since you are not working for a salary.
You are building up a passive income. This means that you have to put in the initial effort needed to generate passive income down the road.
Sadly, at that time, no one was there to guide me. And I am telling you this now so you know what to expect. Don’t give up too soon because it does require some time before things start to kick in.
Anyways, I stopped writing and did some basic optimization instead. I promoted the new website on forums, left comments on other blogs with a link back to the website, and did a few other things. (These techniques hardly work anymore post 2017. Follow my free course to learn strategies that are actually working).
I didn’t really do much to the website except for monitoring the daily traffic and checking the affiliate account to see if any sales were made. I was always seeing the same old “0”.
Until one day, I made my very first sale!
Although the commission was just $2, I felt really, really excited. I was literally jumping up and down the entire day.
It’s passive income in action.
People started coming to my blog via Google and bought items on Amazon recommended on my blog.
I don’t have to personally sell anything to them.
This got me really motivated and pumped up to work on the blog again.
But before I could do it, SPM results were out and I was really busy applying for scholarships. I had a ton of things to do – prepare and submit relevant documents, prepare for upcoming interviews, go through online assessments, and a whole bunch of other things.
Of course, I was still checking on the earnings and to my surprise, earnings were going up and up. I made around $150~$250 (RM 600 – RM 1000) a month without having to do anything.
It felt really awesome. Sure, it wasn’t a lot of money, but the point is that I wasn’t actually doing anything to get it.
I got a scholarship from the government and started my A-Levels in July. Aside from focusing on the subjects taught, I have to join a ton of extra-curricular activities. These left me with no time at all to run my business.
We are asked to run various events and are given extremely short deadlines. There are approximately 4 meetings every week. This gets worse as the event date is approaching.
Plus, since most of us are scholarship holders, everyone seemed to be super committed and will do their best to make these events a success.
Well, we had no choice. We need to make sure that we are active in these activities to gain “competitive advantage” just so we stand a higher chance of entering top universities in the world. Most of us need to make into the top 20 universities in the world to do our degree to be eligible for the scholarship continuation.
The point is that, do you really need to join these activities to gain competitive advantage?
It’s not true. I’ve been running online businesses since 2014 and I can guarantee that you will learn so much more running your own business compared to joining these activities.
You learn practical stuff that is sought after by many employers. (A company in the US offered me a basic salary of $4000/month before adding commissions and I don’t even have a degree certificate).
Honestly, it’s just a waste of time if you think about it from an ROI (Return On Investment) perspective. After investing hours and hours of your time, all you get is something you could add on to your CV? It’s insane.
Anyways, sometime in September, I’ve decided to stop joining these activities and spend that extra time on growing my passive income instead.
The current website that I had just doesn’t have the potential to hit four figures, let alone five figures.
That’s when I have decided to create a new authority website targeting the whole outdoor industry. Since it covers so many different topics, it’s impossible for me to do everything myself.
Having that said, I wrote the first 20000 words just to get a feel of the industry. These days, I actually suggest that you pick niches where you are passionate about. I picked the outdoor industry solely based on the income potential.
I started to invest my monthly earnings from the first website into hiring freelancers for content creation and link building.
My job is to make sure that they are actually doing their job, delivering results.
Fast forward 6 months and that website alone broke $2500 in March. That’s a big milestone for me since it’s around RM 10000 after currency conversion.
My first five-figure month.
All I did after this was pretty much repeating the same process, scaling up by growing existing sites and building up new sites.
Along the way, I also ventured into other business models leveraging the existing resources that I already had. (I can’t possibly go into all of them in this post).
Did I make $2500 every month?
While there is an upwards progression in my passive income, it’s not always going up.
There are times when your income will dip due to various factors.
These could be:
1) You are in a seasonal niche.
2) Your rankings drop in Google
3) Facebook changes their algorithm
4) Monetization partner changes their policy (I was affected by this one in March 2017)
5) Many other possible problems ALL business owners face.
As you may or may not know, I mainly monetized (monetize means how you make money) my websites via Amazon Affiliate Program in the past.
From all of my websites, I was doing around $5-7k per month at the end of 2016.
However, Amazon changed their fee policy and my income was reduced by approximately 50%. To make the situation worse, the economy in the US wasn’t doing well in the early of 2017.
There are months when I made only around $2k in 2017.
Of course, that’s just from affiliate commissions. I’ve other online businesses like e-commerce stores, consulting agency and JVs with my friends and students.
Ever since then, I diversified and used other affiliate programs alongside Amazon Affiliate Program. These days, Amazon Affiliate Program contributes less than 50% of my overall affiliate commissions. In fact, it’s getting lesser and lesser because other affiliate programs have proven to work better.
Anyways, here is a screenshot of the income generated from Amazon as of September 2017.
Important lessons you can take away
I am sharing my story with you today to inspire you to take action and understand that making a decent amount of money online is more than possible.
Also, as you can see from my timeline, it took me about 1 year before I started making good money from my online ventures.
It’s not that you will need 1 year before seeing any results. I wasted a lot of time on unnecessary matters – applying for scholarships, joining clubs, dreaming, etc.
If all I did was growing my passive income, it will probably take me around 3 months to see some success.
Also, I wasn’t sure what to do back then. There are a lot of contradicting information out there on the Internet and it’s hard to weed out the gold from the garbages.
To make sure that you don’t face the same problem like I do, I actually created a free course designed to help you make your very first 100 dollars online. Besides teaching you the basics and getting you started in the online world, it gives you the confidence that it’s actually possible to make money online (which many people are skeptical of).
If you haven’t taken that course already, I highly recommend that you give it a go.