Launching a blog to make money.

This is it – the most interesting experiment I think I have ever done on the internet.

Can you really earn money from full-time writing?

This is the first post documenting my journey into yet another personal side hustle. I have a full time job that’s pretty great. I like working with people and don’t like the idea of working alone so this journey is not about escaping the grind at all. I’m better working with the team I work with now. 

I’ve just never not had a side hustle, so I don’t see any reason to change that now. I’m not good at just sitting on the couch at night watching TV or reading books. I do know with this side hustle I don’t want anything too high maintenance or distracting.

My confession is that I’m already a few months in so I will back date the posts to show what I did and when, and what I earned each month from Amazon Affiliates and Adsense so far.

Man on hammock on beach living the entrepreneur's dream.
I think this is what a side hustle lifestyle is meant to look like. Right? Holidays, working on beaches in exotic countries. It’s not realistic for everyone, including me.

The side hustle goal

Create a side hustle income through a niche website, or sites, that achieves $250K in revenue per year in less than 5 years. Either through affiliate marketing, advertising or training tools and subscription programs.

If you’re starting this journey with me it seems important to give you some background on why you might find it interesting to follow me on this journey. This isn’t my first ride down Side Hustle Avenue, so I’m hoping you get value from joining me as I make it happen – whether it succeeds or fails.

My history

1: I know digital business like Gin knows Tonic. I’ve been doing this digital marketing / eCommerce stuff for almost 20 years and know the deep internals of what it takes to be successful online. You won’t see me pretending to work in Thailand doing selfie videos about how you can be ‘successful’ online if you follow my amazing ‘free’ guide.

2: I’m not going to have to learn my way through this. I know what I need to do to be successful, the tools required and each step I need to take – I just need to do it. That’s my current confidence level anyway…we’ll see how long that lasts…

3: I have worked with and built digital and eCommerce businesses for some of the largest brands in the world. Connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like.

4: I have been in digital everything this since about 2001. SEO, SEM, Affiliates, eCommerce, Website Development (Drupal/Wordpress/Shopify), email Marketing (mailchimp, mailerlite, campaign monitor, aweber, constant contact and more), Social Media Marketing, CRO and all the other things. 

4: I’ve managed digital teams in over 10 including Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and more.

But, this isn’t a job interview or a ‘wahoo me’ so I won’t focus anymore on my ‘real job’ history through this.

Previous Side Hustles

I have had a few mostly-successful side hustles in the past. I call them successful as they provided more than $500 per month in revenue with one up to $5,000 a month. 

Those previous side hustles were:

1: eBay side business buying things like Sony cameras from a wholesaler (imagine someone like IngramMicro) but only purchased stock as I sold things on eBay.

2: 2012 Olympic Games Private Home Rentals – a site where you list your home for rent during the 2012 London Olympic Games. Imagine as an early version of Airbnb. The listing fee was about £29.00. It ended when the Olympics ended and the next Olympics was Sochi and Rio – in a foreign language so I gave that up.

3: A voucher/coupon code and deals affiliate website that ran for about 5 years and employed 3 part-time writers. The first Google May Day (May 1, 2010) update crushed that, while the content was unique it was a little thing and I didn’t have the energy to restart it up. 

4: A premium headphones website in Canada that sold high-end headphones B to C. Part drop ship, part warehoused my own stock in a Toronto fulfilment centre. Didn’t get a handle on fraud so sold stock up after about 4 years and was moving country.

5: A kids balance bike/run bike company that drop shipped balance bikes in Canada (the little bikes with no-pedals). Was going fine but the market wasn’t huge so profits weren’t that great so I sold it to my accountant, who was a great accountant I should add – if you need a recommendation in Vancouver. The side benefit of this hustle was buying stock on my credit card, accruing RBC Credit Card points and buying holidays.

In the first year, the Bikes and Headphones sold over $250K. I tried to get a retro report to show you that but the Stripe and PayPal accounts went with the bike business I sold. 

The only site I ‘exited’ on was the Balance Bikes site. 

I have also hand-built what I would estimate is +40 websites in Drupal, WordPress and more.

What’s the goal of this Side Hustle and why am I not doing an eCommerce Business?

I’m not doing eCommerce because it’s hard work. If you’re starting an eCommerce side hustle then let me know if I can help with some free advice. 

Here are some of the reasons I’m not doing an eCommerce business:

1: If you do Dropship? It’s quite a full industry. Lot’s of opportunity but I’m not sure where to start for products these days. A problem with drop ship is you can’t control the customer experience – you can’t always control shipping times and returns in the same way you can with owned stock.

2: If you don’t drop ship you need to have stock. This takes money to set up. I don’t like spending money on stock without any sales. I’ve never invested in stock before a sale. I think it’s because I’m never sure something will be successful. I need to prove it first before I invest.

3: eCommerce means customer service. Customers want to know where their order is, how something works, what discount you can give etc.

4: eCommerce has returns – you have to be prepared to manage returns and refund to keep customers happy.

5: Fraud – make sure you’re using a good payment gateway like Stripe that helps you create rules to manage fraud. Platforms like Shopify will also help you here with basic fraud assessments, but it’s not always 100%. I could do a separate blog post on this if it’s helpful for someone.

6: eCommerce is 24/7. You have customers that expect a response. If you’re shipping your own stock you are constantly at the post office shipping stuff.

7: Labour – if you’re shipping products you need to package it. Boxes, tape and labels. 

8: If your shipping globally, or ordering stock in globally there are tax, duties and customs charges.

9: Even though my bikes and headphones site sold over 250K in its first year, there was a very small amount of profit left. 

Be wary of ‘internet gurus’ that boast about epic sales without sharing their actual net profit after costs.

Does this mean eCommerce sucks?

Not at all. I flipping love it but my real job keeps me busy there so I can’t handle 2 eCommerce endeavours. 

Every side hustle I’ve been successful at required 0 investment. I funded each with great deal of my personal time building sites etc plus some experience and I drop shipped the first 1-2 sales to find the next stock purchase.

I will be transparent through this journey

I’ll tell you what I spend and what I earn each month. I’ll tell you what I did and what I didn’t do that I probably should have – maybe even what I did do that I shouldn’t have. Confused? Me too!

So what is the Side Hustle going to be?

I’m going for content. Blogging. Publishing. It’s not exactly a tight niche site, and it’s in a very competitive space, but it’s content I know a lot about so I’ll see how it goes. If I need to pivot you’ll be with me when I do.

I’m going to use WordPress with a bunch of plugins I talk through as we go. I love Drupal but there is too much time needed in themeing these days and I’m tired of programming. 

I’m open to questions at any stage. If I can help you, I will. If you have a tip for me, I’ll listen. You can never stop learning.

So here we go… Quarter Million Dollar Side Hustle.

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