I have been making money online doing affiliate marketing for about 5 years now (edit: at time of writing, now actually more than 9 years).
This post will cover the story (at least beginning of it) of how I started to make money online: from living at my mum's in Sweden at 17 years old, making $0, kind of miserable – to living in my dream house in an island in Mediterranean, building a company that made almost $2M last year, and the most amazing team of 45 people to work with.
What you will learn reading my story (from 2015):
- My success story from day 1 on how I built a monstrous income with affiliate marketing.
- I didn't spice it up or exaggerated any events or numbers. It's not the most mind baffling story you'll ever hear, but it is my real story.
- Some of my mistakes and failures.
- Success didn't come fast, but it is still sustainable 10 years later. You need time and patience.
- How you can start making money online yourself without paying too much.
I had no idea I was going to make this massive amount of money and be THIS successful when I first started being an affiliate. I thought that only happened to a few lucky ones.
But it did take some time.
Today I'm living my dreams and I'm really happy I didn't give up. It's been a fun ride.
If you came to this post with hopes to start making money online NOW, let me save you the time.
Let me share my story with you (a bit summarized to not bore you with too many details), and hopefully that will help you understand how to start making money online and one day get the same success.
How did I start making money online? My journey
Being 18 years old, I officially opened up my company November 2010. I even started a bit before, but it was just a hobby. But as a hobby it began, so let me start from there.
A year before, I experimented with Google Adsense a bit, and started opening up a couple of low quality websites. Managed to work up a $50 monthly income after a few months. At the moment, that was just pure happiness, and enough fuel for me to keep going.
Time passed, and business was slow, but I was still working hard. I wasn't sure how much money you could get out of being an affiliate. So it was still just for fun.
I continued working month after month, and got up to about $400 month income after about 6 months or so. Hired a Freelancer to do some writing for me.
Starting to think this was actually a possibility. Thought a bit bigger, got some faith in being able to make a living out of it, but I wasn't convinced..
I was really happy though.
You're account is inactivated – Start over again from 0 income
Adsense was fun.. until I got my Adsense account banned. Reason still not known today, but I've got some tips for you here if you wanna avoid it.
If you're not sure what that means, your money gets frozen, your websites forever blacklisted and you're not allowed to create another Google Adsense account. Not exciting stuff when you're just starting out.
It hurt really badly after all those months of struggling, trying to work up a good income, and feeling so happy that it actually was a possibility to earn money online.
Had to start from scratch again. It might not seem like a big deal, but back then, it was everything I had going into my bank account. And I did a lot of hard work.
That didn't stop me though. Created a couple of new websites, managed to get a new Adsense account (technically you're not allowed) and started the hussle all over again.
This time, because of all the skills and knowledge I gathered in the past, I managed to work up the same income in just a matter of months. Back to feeling like a boss.
However, it felt like I should change my business model to something more solid. Knowing that Google could cut me out any day was making me feel wobbly.
Diving into affiliate marketing
Year is 2010, and at this point I knew that I really wanted to build up an online revenue, it seemed like the perfect lifestyle. Still didn't make actual money though after being cut out from the Adsense program.
I opened up my company officially now. Took it a bit more serious.
I really loved making money online, so I started to look for some other options. I dived into affiliate marketing. It seemed a bit more stable, because you are relying on multiple sources of commissions (different networks, partners etc).
Affiliate was a bit more convoluted than the good old pay earn per click model I had been focusing on before. Didn't make much money for some time. It's harder to get a sale than to get a click.
Not much happening affiliate wise, I felt more security was needed if I was going to invest all this time and energy in my company and just forget about school.
I decide to look around for clients interested in my SEO skills. I did have a bit of experience, operating my own websites and all.
I got a couple of first clients that made me some extra.
Even though it was good money and I kind of enjoyed working for clients at that particular time, I still knew it wasn't what I wanted to do for long..
I even became part time employed at a SEO company, for about 6 months, to get more involved in the business and build up some capital. Good choice.
I became good friends with them and actually enjoyed working side by side with people, and again, got more certainty that it was possible to make money online – because others were doing it.
Learned a lot from these guys, and we ended up collaborating a lot later.
First and last time being employed this life time though, not because of the company, just because I really felt that building up things for someone else was tough for me.
At this time, I had a couple of websites monetized with affiliate products like web hosting, clothes and jewelry up and running, generating a total of $0. Affiliate was hard stuff. It felt a bit hopeless working month after month and not getting paid.
But I didn't really realize that I was planting seeds for the future.
You see, affiliate marketing (as with many things) is all about planting seeds, because there comes a day when you harvest all the seeds you once planted.
Years later, actually earlier this year 2015, I sold one of those very first websites I made for about $40 000. You never know where things leads. That's why it's better doing stuff, than thinking about doing stuff.
The first affiliate sale – Enough fuel to build momentum
Not much luck being an affiliate so far. I kept at it though (gotta admire that persistence).
One day, I logged into the affiliate network as usual. This time I noticed..
Managed to get my first sale.
That was a really happy moment for me. I remember even telling people about it. “Mum, I made a sale today, got a $75 commission“. Mum replying: “That's great son, but don't you have homework?”. Guess if it was school or affiliate marketing that got most of my attention then.
That one sale gave me a lot of fuel to continue trying to make money online.
Even though I didn't make a lot of money , I was still really excited about earning money online through affiliate marketing.
It felt more steady and I also saw bigger potential in it. If I could make this much money with the amount of work I put in so far, what if I just do the work 50 times?
I developed quicker and became more sophisticated in working with this stuff, and started to create more money generating websites. Wow, the hype was real.
2011 – actually starting to make a living from my online business
Now we're talking about 2011, and things are really starting to take off. Making some bucks, realizing even more that the potential to earn money online was there. I kept working a lot, reinvested every penny I made, and didn't attend school much at all anymore.
I had long dreamt of moving to warm place with blue water. I knew some successful affiliate people living in an island called Malta. Booked a trip there, had a great time and loved the place. A few weeks later, I decided that I want to move to Malta at the beginning of 2012.
I was making money, but not a lot. Maybe at most $1000 monthly, and that wasn't really enough to move to a new country, open up a company and rent an apartment.
But I still believed it could happen. I knew I could reach an income level that was enough to support me, if I worked really hard throughout the year.
I had this picture in my head, that if I could reach that point, I'd be the guy with all the freedom in the world, working by the beach, sipping a coconut. My wildest dreams back then. Today, my everyday life.
With some willpower and many long nights of work, I was making almost $2000 monthly in the beginning of 2012. I bought a one way ticket to Malta the 26th of January 2012. Best decision of my life.
The income was steady, and everything was working out smoothly for me. I wasn't even close to being rich, but I loved the freedom, and excited about being in Malta, still working hard, but with a better environment.
Had a great time, and meet a lot of like minded entrepreneurs. I got surrounded by people sharing the same vision, and we helped each other becoming more successful. Thinking back on that today, I believe that played a big role in my success later on.
Next level – time to scale
Months pasted by and the business was still growing, not too rapidly, but increasing steadily every month.
I was still working alone, sitting in my underwear in my apartment though. I started to feel like I wanted to get to the next level. It wasn't long until I realized I'll need people to help me if I wanted to scale this thing up.
I hired my first employee July 2013, and that was quite exciting. I was living in a huge house so I used the upper floor as an office for us. A step everyone should take as soon as they can, because you learn so much from it.
A while later I employed another person. We moved to a real office. Now we're 3 people in the business, and also a couple of freelancers working remotely.
Things are happening. I had great visions, and I was planning to keep employing people as the income increased.
The good days were here for sure, but at the same time, I got a taste of doing things a real CEO does and some of the responsibilities that comes with it. Like getting in early to the office, or making sure we had coffee filters. I realized I was a 9-5 rat, and couldn't enjoy my freedom.
That was new for me, and I didn't like it too much. I wanted to go travel spontaneously every now and then, but it seemed it wasn't a good idea with people being dependent on me. After all, I had worked very hard to get to where I was, and I didn't want to lose the momentum.
But it did feel a bit like my freedom was taken away from me.
Being 100% free was always important. That was one of the biggest reasons why I pursued the dream, and it was the vision I've always had in my mind of being successful.
2015 – The new approach to hiring
One of my employees quit, and I fired the other one a time later. Going back to being just me and a couple of freelancers. Even though it was a bit like I was going backwards, it still felt liberating to have that freedom again.
So now I was out traveling the world. But I still realized I couldn't do everything by my own. So the last 6 months I've been out traveling, I focused a lot on finding smart people to help me grow larger and faster.
Freelancing people who can work flexible, getting paid per task, and seeing the beauty of having the freedom to work from wherever they want.
Now when I'm writing this blog post (2015), I'm still out traveling and building up a work force remotely is still working great. Today my team consists of about 15 people working on creating great comparison services with more value.
Someday, when I feel like freedom isn't as important to me, I might go back to employing people in-house. Despite the extra weight, there's many benefits to it.
That's the end of my story.
2019 – brief update about today
I originally wrote this story 2015. I wanted to give you some quick bullet points on how things evolved and are today, as of 30th August 2019.
- We're operating one of the largest financial comparison websites, Financer.com.
- The team expanded to 45 people, where 40 are working remotely.
- We have an office in Cyprus with 5 people.
- The team consists of intrapreneurs who's having part ownership of their markets.
- During 2018, our revenue grew from €0.4M to €1.7M.
- It took 10 years to get here.
So how do you start making money online? Quick practical summary
Many people have asked me for advice on what the first steps should be when building affiliate websites.
There's no such thing as first steps, actually taking any step is the most important.
To give you something practical, I've made a quick summary on my own process of starting to make money online:
- Get your head right from the start. Have realistic expectations and time frames.
- Choose a niche, buy a domain, and setup the site.
- Write content, build links, and market the site on social media.
- Keep improving the site everyday, make sure it provides value, reinvest everything you make into your business.
- Get a developer early on. Create something unique that beats the competitors.
- Scale your business.
Learn more in my affiliate course.
I'll go through some common Q & A here.
Can you make money online without paying anything or investing?
Yes, technically you can. There's free web hosting and you can use sub-domains for a start. But I don't recommend it, I honestly would say that it's better to invest up to 50 bucks.
Can you make money online as a teenager?
Yea, you definitely can. In fact, my sister made her first sales when she was 12 (read story here). Age isn't any limit at all. Even if you're older, don't feel defeated by too much technicals – there's always people you can hire to help you with that if really needed.
Can you start making money online fast?
Short answer, no. Long answer: depends what you mean with fast. If you're lucky and work very hard, you might pull it off in 3 months. Most generally, I'd say that a year is sufficient to create a significant income.
Is there any way at all to start making money now?
Technically you can make money instantly, using services where you have to do actions or sign up to websites to get paid. Nothing wrong with this, however cannot create wealth like this and you'll be better off getting a full time job.
It's going to take time to build up a substantial income and it's better that you prepare for a long journey rather than hoping for overnight success.
Thanks for reading
I just wanted to share my story, hope it inspires you to keep working on your projects, and realize how much difference it can make to not give up, just because things doesn't give you immediate results.
Affiliate marketing or building up a passive income online is not a sport for people who wants to get paid immediately for their work. It takes time. Took me 5 years to get to where I am today.
But on the flip side, you can reap the benefits from the work you have done in the past, once you succeeded. That's what I'm doing today. Traveling around the world, earning more money faster than I can spend it, just because of all the hard work I once put in.
I guess I'll move on to something more serious in due time though. Maybe even a real office again.