A few days before Christmas 2018 the US government began a partial shutdown and in the weeks that followed nearly 800,000 workers helped to confirm an alarming statistic, that nearly 4 out of 5 American workers live paycheck to paycheck.
To make matters worse, 70% of them claim to be in debt.
It’s no surprise then that so many people are looking online for a second income, and as a result, the online money-making industry has become flooded with get-rich-quick schemes and scams.
So, as a cautionary tale, this is more than a story of what it's like to earn your first $1000 online. It's a true story of mistakes and what NOT to do along the way.
Of course, making MORE than $1000 is probably what you want and this story will take you there. But for now, let's begin with your first $1000.
One thousand dollars won’t change your life but it could take a little pressure off, right?
You may have bills to catch up on and a thousand bucks could go a long way. It might even stop a bill collector from calling.
You could fill your kitchen with groceries or buy music lessons for your kids. It may not be life-changing for you, but it could be life-changing for them.
You could also blow $1000 on having fun. A weekend away or a new TV. A night out with friends or a loved one.
And, here's the best part. If you can make $1000 online, then you can make $2000 online (or more).
But, while the “gurus” talk about $10K, $100K, or more…
… it’s easy to forget just how much you can do with an extra $1000.
Let’s go one step further…
Imagine what you could do with $1000 per month.
You could drive a new BMW off the lot and not worry about payments. You could afford to live in a different neighborhood, upgrade your education, or start a home business.
It all begins with that FIRST $1000, and as great as that is, making your first $1000 online might not be what you expect.
What Most Gurus Won’t Tell You
If you’ve been searching for ways to make money online, you’ve probably run into the “guru” systems where they show you “proof” of their six and seven-figure incomes online.
As you know, things are rarely what they seem. What they’re not showing you are the thousands of dollars they’ve spent on paid traffic (ads), the years they’ve spent building their email lists, and the times they lost money.
Some of them may be making millions today, but let’s take a step backward.
Long before you can make millions, you need to make your first $1000, and for anyone starting out, that’s a far more important story.
I’m going to share with you a real example of what that journey looks like. My journey…
In May of 2017, I made my first $1000 online. It feels like a lifetime ago now.
What you’re not seeing in this screenshot though, is the date my journey started. If I told you it began in December 2016 (as shown in the screenshot), it would seem plausible, right?
October of 2016 was nine months prior when I joined the program that taught me how to make money online.
However, we can go back another year and a half to the summer of 2015 when I actually started to learn the skills that eventually allowed me to make that $1000 online.
For anyone trying to tell you that making money online is quick or easy, the truth is not what they want you to know. And I get it — the last thing I want to do is discourage you.
The point of this article is to show you that despite the challenges you’ll face and how long it may take, you can still do it.
For those who are truly committed, who NOT only want to escape the rat race but absolutely NEED TO escape it, you’ll have a far greater chance of success knowing the full truth, which is this…
What looks like an easy few months (from the screenshot I showed you above), is actually a two-year adventure and a lot more work than “gurus” might suggest.
And even after two years, my journey had only begun.
IMPORTANT NOTE > It does NOT take two years to make your first $1000 (or to learn the necessary skills), but depending on your situation (full-time job, children, financial obligations, family obligations, etc.), it can… and that's fine.
Why My First $1000 Almost Destroyed Me
It would be easy to imagine I was excited about the money I had made but as I mentioned earlier, things are not always as they seem.
You may have noticed in that previous screenshot (above) why I was not excited by my first $1000, but just in case, here it is again (below).
This time I'll point at something different — the number of sales.
When you look at the actual sales numbers (not dollars), which led to my online income, they are from January, February, and March.
April and May were complete failures.
The only income I really had coming in were recurring sales from previous months which carried on for much of 2017, along with a random sale here and there, so with my first $1000 in the bank, I was the exact opposite of excited.
Even though I still made a few bucks that year, whatever I did to make it during those first few months of 2017 turned out be a mystery.
And my financial situation only got worse.
By mid-April I realized whatever I did in the month before was no longer working, I panicked. Afraid of losing momentum I started buying more courses, tools, and gimmicks.
Not only was I barely making any money, but I was also burning through piles of it.
As you can see below, my online income in 2017 was not what dreams are made of.
A year after joining this particular program, and despite my early success, I was back where I started. Zero sales (and my income dwindled to zero the following year as well).
By the end of 2017, I had spent far more money than I’m willing to admit — many thousands. In addition to the courses, push-button systems, tools, and gimmicks, I also spent a ton of money on paid traffic.
I tried sales funnels, dropshipping on Shopify, e-books, social media marketing, and blogging. After countless hours of trying to make money online, aside from my earlier success —I pretty much made nadda.
To say I was depressed and frustrated is an understatement. I can’t even count the failures.
Way back in March when it appeared my online career was about to take off, I had my dream life mapped out. For a brief moment, it felt real, but then it was gone and the letdown was far worse than it would have been if I hadn’t made anything at all.
It seemed my first $1000 online was just luck.
If You Think it Gets Better From Here, You’re Wrong!
Have you ever felt like you’re being kicked when you’re already down? Of course, who hasn’t right?
In my case, the same month I ran out of money, the company I worked for finished their biggest project and I was laid off.
How awesome is that?
Look, I admire people who can comfortably talk about their rock bottoms… but I’m not one of them.
What I can tell you is this. Starting over in your 40’s is not fun. It’s as if everything you’ve worked for up until that point had been erased.
Of course, that’s not entirely true, but it feels that way.
You can treat it like a downward spiral or a hard reset. One an empty pit of despair, and the other an awakening. I chose the latter.
There were no illusions here. It wasn’t bad luck that led me here, or a universe out to get me. It was 100% my own fault.
In gambling terms, I went all in and came up short. C’est la vie.
Now, I’m not saying your journey will look like mine and you do NOT have to “start over”. In fact, the reason I’m writing this is so you can learn from my experience and not make the same mistakes.
But chances are if you embark on a similar journey, it’s going to be tougher than you expect. If you truly want to succeed, then remember — it’s not your problems that hold you back, it’s how you deal with them.
When You’re in Deep, The Best Thing To Do is Dig Deeper
As I said, starting over feels like everything you’ve worked for is being erased, but the truth is, situations like these are a gold mine.
I was reminded of a quote I read more than 20 years ago from Napolean Hill…
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
To be clear, that doesn’t mean an equal or greater benefit is going to jump right out at you. But if you think back to your challenging moments you may find that what seemed like a setback at the time was instead a path to something better.
Sometimes you have to dig deeper because the equal or greater benefit is less obvious.
In my case, I didn’t have to dig too far to find a treasure trove.
- First, I had acquired an education that few people will ever get.
Many try to make money online, but few get the opportunity to learn from countless failures of their own. Few get to experience what it’s like going broke in the process.
As crazy as it sounds, if I had to do it over again, I’d probably do the same thing because I wouldn’t know half of what I know now about making money online if not for that experience.
- Second, I discovered just how awesome my family is. They knew I was working hard towards building a better life for all of us, and my wife had my back.
- Third, I learned I could be just as happy, even more, without all the “stuff” I had desperately tried to hold onto. Aside from the obvious necessities like food, shelter, and ice cream 😀 … I learned that a comfortable place to sit, my laptop, and coffee was all I really needed (although there is one thing I really miss).
No… not my daughters. I mean, I miss them when they’re not with me (like right now) but for the purpose of this article, I’m talking about my car. I really miss my car and a new one just like this is at the top of my shopping list 🙂
Update: I did buy a new one… well, “new to me”. I had been searching for some time and finally found what I was looking for (below)…
As you can see, my youngest daughter sitting in the driver's seat is a few years older than she was in the first picture.
I also want to emphasize what I said above. This is a “new to me” car. I did not buy it fresh off the lot with stacks of cash and it's also nothing special (although it is to me).
There are enough “gurus” out there driving around in $300,000 rented Ferraris and Lamborghinis and claiming you can have one too. A few might actually own one. I'm not one of them.
Why Your Only Choice is Failure
How do you approach failure? Are you afraid of it? Do you welcome it?
Whatever you think of failure, there’s one thing you should never do.
Never let a good failure go to waste. A failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it and wow, I learned a lot.
I’m as dumb as a stump about many things, but one thing I do know is that you will never get what you want in life if you ignore your failures or play the victim.
And that’s for those who are at least playing the game. Most people don’t even try, they tippy-toe through life avoiding failure.
Your only choice if you want a better life is to get in the arena, play the game, and fail. Fail as many times as it takes and learn everything you can.
With no money left, my only option was to go back over everything I had tried, all my failures, and everything I had learned to figure out how to make this work.
If you’ve been trying to make money online, then you already know that traffic is what you need.
If you haven't tried to make money online, let me tell you…
… traffic is what you need. It's not the only thing you need, but without it, nothing happens.
And, since I was broke, buying it was out of the question.
That left me only one option, free traffic, and since my first $1000 was made with free traffic it was obvious what I had to do.
I had to go back to what worked the first time which led me to my first mentor, an online entrepreneur from Victoria, British Columbia.
His diagnosis was quick and spot on.
I lacked patience, I was looking for shortcuts, I was focusing on money rather than learning new skills and getting good at them— in other words, I had a condition called Shiny Object Syndrome.
You’ve probably heard of it. You may even have it, and while I’m not a doctor, my suggestion (as it was prescribed to me) is patience.
Like learning to play the guitar or earning a black belt in Karate, making money online doesn't happen overnight, and that was my biggest mistake.
I had made money online but instead of getting better at what I was doing, I quit and tried something else. When that didn’t work, I moved on to another thing, and then another, and another…
To use the martial arts analogy again; it’s like winning a Karate tournament and thinking you're the next Chuck Norris… then getting your ass kicked and switching to Jujitsu.
When a few months go by and you’re not a Jujitsu master, you quit again to try Kung Fu.
And when that doesn’t work, well… you get the point.
Everyone wants to be great at something but few have the patience to let it happen.
Yes, I said let it happen.
An Olympic swimmer doesn’t think of every stride. A Formula One driver doesn't pause to figure out every gear change.
A successful online marketer already knows what to do next.
It's through practice, repetition, and continual improvement that they get better.
Why Being Smart is Really Stupid
In addition to having patience, another critical step on your journey to greatness is accepting you have more to learn. Or, to put it another way, admitting you’re not as smart as you think you are.
And I thought I was smart.
I had spent so much money, taken so many courses, and tried so many strategies. How could I not be an expert, right?
I had even made money online before, so what was my problem?
As it turns out, my arrogance was the problem. I didn’t know jacksh*t!
You probably have one or two things you think you’re really good at. I thought mine was understanding people.
With nearly 20 years of sales and management experience, there’s one thing I was certain of. I knew people and I knew what they wanted.
So, every time I read or listened to an expert say,
“You must understand your audience and know what they want”, I thought to myself, “yeah-yeah-yeah, I know that already. Now get to the good stuff. ”
I was too arrogant to realize THAT WAS the good stuff.
Know your audience.
What I thought I was good at turned out to be what I was horrible at.
If someone told you that you sucked at whatever it is you think you're good at, would you believe them?
Of course not. It's your thing, right?
It’s almost impossible to imagine you could suck at it because the thing (you think) you’re good at is part of your identity.
To witness this in action, try telling someone you know who loves driving they're a terrible driver. It doesn't matter if they suck behind the wheel, they believe they're a good driver.
Humble pie is tough to swallow.
I can’t put my finger on the exact moment I realized I sucked at the thing I thought I was good at, but it was true, and I spent a long time playing out past situations in this new light.
When it came to making money online though, the reason was now obvious.
I wasn’t giving my audience what they wanted.
I didn’t even know what they wanted because I didn’t understand them. And, I didn’t even try to understand them because I assumed I already did.
It was one of my strengths after all (or so I thought).
As I said, you can follow the steps and go through the motions but certain things only become apparent once after you've been doing it long enough that it's part of you.
A guitarist will never be good if they have to stop and think about every note and chord they play.
Likewise, if you’re still trying to earn your first $1000 online it’s NOT because you can’t, it’s because you haven’t acquired (and absorbed) all of the skills and knowledge you need to do it.
Give it time and have patience. Practice, screw up, and practice some more…
Your “blindspot” or challenge may be different than mine, but either way, you need to keep moving forward, learn from your failures, and let your process of discovery play out.
So, Was My First $1000 Online Really Just Luck?
Yes and no.
I was lucky when I first earned money online because the campaign I was running turned out to be exactly what my audience wanted.
But matching the perfect audience to the perfect product was a complete fluke.
I just happened to stumble upon a good keyword that people were searching for and I used it to drive traffic to the exact thing they wanted.
This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. It's not just matching the perfect audience to the perfect product. Your audience must also be ready to buy.
Most audiences don't even know what they want yet. Others are still kicking the tires.
Timing is everything.
Marketers and copywriters spend years getting good at doing this deliberately. I did it accidentally and had no idea what I had done.
Or how to do it again.
I knew it worked because I started making money, but I had no idea why it worked and what’s worse, I couldn’t replicate it.
So, the fact that it worked was not lucky. Blindly stumbling onto it was lucky.
Why You DON’T Need Money to Make Money
So, you thought this would just be a simple story about making your first $1000 online, eh?
I’m sure there are many thousands who have made their first $1000 online and never looked back, but obviously, I’m not one of them.
Your story will likely have ups and downs of its own, and hopefully, you can avoid the same mistakes I made. The more important lesson here is that even if it takes longer than you want it to, and it probably will, there’s no reason to give up.
Not even if you’re broke.
Remember, this wasn't my finest moment financially.
You don’t need a ton of money to make money. In fact, running out of money turned out to be a benefit, not a burden, and here’s why…
Why Quitting was The Best Decision I Made
Throughout 2017 I tried so many ways to make money online and all of them, except for one, failed.
If you’ve tried and failed multiple times too, I don’t need to explain how exhausting it is. By the time 2018 rolled around, depressed and broke, I decided to quit.
I didn’t have it in me anymore. I wasn’t going to create another funnel and have it fail again. Not another eBook, no more Facebook Ads, pop-ups, email opt-ins, or offers of any kind.
I was done.
At least, I was done trying to make money.
I was NOT done with online marketing and blogging though. Not even close. In fact, armed with this new perspective I was never more serious.
The problem with most people trying to make money online (myself included) is that we’re connecting the thing we’re doing directly with the money we hope to make.
It doesn’t work that way.
We’re like med students on day one asking our prof how long it’ll take to make money.
Who knows? Maybe never if we quit after a few months because “this medical school scam just isn't working.”
Seriously, I once had someone who just signed up for an online coaching program ask me, “How do I connect my bank account to start receiving money”.
That was their question, minutes after signing up. Not “how do I do it?” or “Where do I start?”
Nope… “How do I connect my bank account to start receiving money” was their first question.
I get it, we all want money but if that's all you want, forget it. It's not happening. You won't have the resolve to learn and do what it takes.
Like any career, there are things you need to learn and accomplish before you can make money.
So I stopped worrying about it and accepted what the journey is really about. Learning, gaining experience, and improving your skills.
That doesn't mean money isn't important or that it's not the ultimate goal. But if it's your only measure of success, you're in for a frustrating adventure.
I decided to set non-monetary goals instead, like building traffic.
Being broke, I focused on free traffic through SEO (search engine optimization) and social media, and since money was no longer my distraction (because I didn't have any), I was able to get laser-focused on that goal.
This is what happened in 2018 and 2019 (Jan in the screenshot represents 2019 and to be clear, this is traffic, NOT income. Which wouldn't come until later)…
Now, if you’re just getting started I know you want to make money fast, but if you look closely, this was not overnight. This screenshot represents a full year of effort going back to May of 2018.
And, it was another full year prior to this (April of 2017) that my brief moment of success had collapsed.
I know these traffic numbers won’t knock most bloggers' socks off, many have millions of visitors every month, but I’m happy with them. These numbers are a lot better than zero which is what they would have been if I had quit and spent my spare time watching Netflix.
So after all of this, did the results ever come?
They did, yes. In part two of this article (below), I'll share what it's like to earn your second $1000.
Why My Second $1000 Was Better Than My First $1000
Two years, many thousands of dollars, and countless failures later I made my second $1000. I was expecting to crash and burn like the last time, but that's not what happened.
My third $1000 was close behind, followed by my fourth, and so on…
This time I knew what I was doing. Well, that’s not entirely true…
I had a better idea of what I was doing which was just enough to start getting traction. I’m still learning, testing, and racking up my failures.
But rather than making money, simply learning and getting better is still my goal, and making money is just a byproduct of that goal.
I also learned along the way that even audiences with similar problems are usually interested in different solutions, so it’s a good idea to diversify and provide more than one.
In fact, diversifying my income was a game-changer.
As my traffic grew and the calendar rolled into 2019 all of my time and effort started to pay off. The following screenshots are from various sources.
The first is an affiliate program that provides tools, training, and one-on-one coaching for aspiring online entrepreneurs.
This is affiliate income and if you've ever wanted to make money online, affiliate marketing is how you want to do it.
Hundreds of thousands of companies from Apple and Amazon to small independents who create digital products like apps and production software have affiliate programs that pay commissions when someone buys something based on your recommendation.
You never touch the product and you're not buying or selling it. You're also not shipping or receiving it.
Everything is handled by the vendor and you're simply collecting a commission.
This next screenshot shows income from CPA offers which stand for cost per action.
CPA is a form of lead generation where companies pay you for someone performing a specific action, which may include anything from downloading and trying out a program to filling out an application or submitting an email.
I signed up for this particular program in late January and started running full campaigns in February.
It started earning a little money right away and although I haven’t fully implemented it across my entire site, as you can see in the screenshot above, $4778.10 in the last few months is not too bad. Now, I’m not about to retire on this income but it wouldn't even exist if I hadn’t reached out to someone for help and advice.
How One Simple Question Turned Into $4,869.17
While we’re talking about mentors I should explain that a mentor doesn’t have to be someone you find locally and follow around 24 hours a day. A mentor can simply be someone you connect with online who is doing what you’re doing but is further along the journey.
They can point out things you may have missed and help you avoid potential roadblocks, which can all be done through things like email and social media groups. There’s no reason not to have a mentor (or several) and here's why…
I was unaware I was leaving money on the table.
The next screenshot is ad revenue for May, June, and July which totals $4,869.17.
I implemented ads earlier this year and total ad revenue is currently just shy of $7,000. It started out as a trickle and has grown since.
I know… you hate ads, right? I used to hate them too. But I have to be honest; $2000+ per month in passive income has given me a new perspective.
Again, this is not retirement money, but it’s a lot better than the pennies I was led to believe ads were worth.
It pays to ask someone who knows firsthand what they're doing instead of relying on information that's incomplete or handed down. Half the advice you read online is nothing more than uninformed opinions and hearsay.
This is thousands of dollars as a direct result of reaching out and asking another blogger (who also has ads on their site) just one simple question,
“Hey, is it worth it to have ads on your site?”
That one question is already worth thousands of dollars, and it'll be worth a lot more by the end of the year.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions.
How A Poor Attitude and Bad Memory Became A Great Surprise!
The best money you’ll make online is the kind that comes as a complete surprise.
I had applied to another affiliate program and like all of my attempts to make money with affiliate programs, this one seemed to be a dud too.
I checked the stats a few times in the first week or two and while it was getting a few clicks, there were zero sales. No surprise. I had gone down this road a hundred times before.
What’s another failure, right? Who cares.
With that attitude, I gave up on it and completely forgot I was still sending traffic to it from a post I wrote nearly a year ago. When I woke up on April 4th, I was reminded with an email…
A surprise $636.30 and this affiliate program continues to earn money every month. In addition to some other affiliate income and client services revenue, this journey, as difficult as it's been at times, turned into a full-time income.
Of course… if you follow the “make-money-online GURUS” out there, you may be disappointed what I’m showing you is not ‘Private Jet' and ‘Ferrari' money.
I don’t know what to tell you.
Maybe those gurus drive Ferraris because people like me keep giving them thousands of dollars for their push-button systems and secrets, but as I mentioned earlier, things are rarely what they seem.
In my opinion, a moderate-income you can earn from home (or wherever you want) with an internet connection and a laptop is still pretty good.
Of course, I won’t lie. I'd love to own a Ferrari and who knows, maybe one day I will (or maybe I'll stop with my next Mustang), but a Ferrari is no longer my goal. Learning and getting better at what I’m doing is my goal.
Now It’s Your Turn!
The best lessons are learned from experience, but that doesn’t mean you should torture yourself. You can (and should) learn from others’ experiences.
I mean, if you’re driving and the car in front of you hits a pothole, do you really need to hit it yourself to make sure it’s real?
Of course not.
My story is like that pothole.
If you’re trying to make money online, don’t panic if it’s not working. And, whatever you do, don’t start throwing money at the problem. Paid traffic is particularly dangerous by the way.
Treat your journey as you would if you were going to school or getting a black belt in Karate. Be patient and focus on the skills you’re learning, not the money you’re not yet making.
I get it. Most of us are here because we want a laptop lifestyle — to kick back on the beach while money pours into our bank accounts. And it’s possible, it just takes time to learn how. Give yourself the time you need because it’s worth it.
It only takes a few hundred bucks each month to move into a bigger home or a new neighborhood. Another few hundred bucks might pay for a new car so you no longer have to worry about fixing your old one.
You could put your kids in a better school, go back to school yourself, or put some extra money in the bank for peace of mind.
And you can do it all from home. If you’ve already started your journey to make money online, focus on the skills you’re learning. If you haven’t yet started, there’s no reason to wait.
Actually, scratch that! The last thing you want to learn is “exactly” how I did it. What you want, is to learn how I did it, minus the mistakes.
I’m going to give you a step-by-step beginner's guide to making money online along with a way you can connect with me personally if you have questions. Grab it for free HERE.