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Making money online is often not very easy. Unlike what the gurus say, it can be difficult to start an online side hustle that is actually profitable.

There are so many different ideas, tools, and “experts” sharing information that it can be hard to take action. I certainly felt this when I started and it took me years to figure out how to successfully make money online.

The good news is that there are plenty of proven methods that you can use. For me, my first $100 ended up being selling a website to a local business.

Here is how I turned my first hundred failures into a hundred dollar bill. And kept it growing since then.

Deciding to Make Money Online

When I was in college in 2007, I stumbled across a few websites that described making money strictly online. As I looked into it more, there were people claiming I could make thousands of dollars a month by signing up for their program.

Luckily for me, I was a broke college student and didn’t fall for paying $1,000 to make $100,000.

However, I quickly became fascinated with the idea of not needing to work an in-person job to get paid. It was very intriguing to think that it was possible to earn some extra cash while sitting in my boxers.

At that point, I decided to learn as much as I could so that I could start earning money online.

I should say that I had a tendency to latch onto a new money-making idea and then tested it out. If it didn’t work, I would quickly move onto the next one. While this made it hard for me to focus on one project, it did help me to not get stuck on something that wasn’t working.

Failing to Succeed

For over a year, I did nothing but read about different ideas of how to make money online. I would then test them out and try to do it myself.

In every case, I failed. For a variety of reasons, I just wasn’t able to make any significant amount of money. Sure, I made a few dollars here and there, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference.

Looking back, I think most of my failures were because I didn’t commit to one idea long enough. I would get shiny object syndrome and want to try a new idea that I had just found.

At the same time, a lot of the information I read was misleading and only had partial information. There were plenty of “gurus” selling ideas on how to make money, but many of them had no idea how to do it themselves.

The one good thing was that I never gave up on trying to make money. In between working as a Resident Assistant and going to class, I kept trying to make money.

Early Attempts at Making Money

Over that period of time, I tried a range of different tactics at making money with just my laptop.

  • Taking paid surveys for around $0.10 each. Quickly realized that making $1 or $2 per hour wasn’t going to be enough to be worth my time.
  • Trying to build and rank a long-tail keyword Blogger site. I was successful at getting it ranked but the organic traffic was too low to make much money through Google Adsense.
  • Learned about affiliate marketing and how to promote affiliate links through email and websites.
  • Tried traffic arbitrage by buying cheap website traffic and sending it to a website with Adsense. Got banned when the traffic turned out to be fake bots.
  • Created eBooks to sell online but didn’t get the sales funnel right to be able to sell very many.
  • Made a Warrior Special Offer (WSO) on the Warrior Forum selling a very simple software program generating leads.

Could each of these have made more money? Yes, I’m sure that I could have made some significant money if I had really focused on one of these and perfected it.

Learning to Build Websites

The good thing from this experience was that I learned a wide range of skills applicable for making money online. This included SEO, marketing, advertising, graphic design, and building websites.

As it turned out, building and selling websites ended up being my most lucrative way to make money on the side.

To do this, I progressed through a variety of ways to create a website. My first website was a simple Blogger site that used a standard template and a few small articles. It didn’t even have a custom domain name and just used the URL.

From there, I found WordPress. This proved to be a great platform for building websites and has plenty of options to cover all of my needs. The challenge with WordPress was find the right combination of themes and plugins to use for each situation. At times, there were also limitations on how much I could customize the layout.

To get around this, I started to teach myself how to code. I started with HTML and learned how websites are generally built. This quickly branched out into learning CSS and basic PHP to be able to effectively edit most website templates. I built several sites using Bootstrap templates to speed the development process.

Selling Local Business Websites

As I got more comfortable with the technical aspects of building websites, I started to think about how to make money from it. One of the models I had researched as selling websites to local small businesses that don’t currently have an online presence.

This made sense to me as a viable business model. Plenty of companies don’t have websites, or they are too far outdated to be useful. It didn’t seem to hard to be able to sell website design to local businesses.

I started to reach out to a few businesses in my area that didn’t have websites. Tey were easy to find using Google and YellowPages, and then I searched for their email addresses. I probably sent out around 25 cold emails to those businesses and got a handful of responses.

Of those, I was able to get a physical therapist to meet with me. Even though I was nervous, I set up a meeting to discuss how I could built him a website. 45 minutes later, I had my first verbal agreement to build a website for $100.

Scaling Services

Over the next couple of days, I set up a WordPress website, created a logo, and added basic information about the physical therapist. After a few iterations, I had my first happy client and $100 in my PayPal account.

I continued to build and sell websites to local businesses as a way to make some extra money. However, I realized that I had way undervalued my services and needed to increase my prices.

For a few years, I felt comfortable charging around $500 for a website to stay competitive. I now believe that I could easily charge $2,000 or more for a website that helps the business get more leads and sales.

Besides just building websites, I also started to offer additional services, such as:

  • Hosting is necessary for all sites, so it was an easy upsell to either charge a monthly fee or have them sign up through an affiliate link.
  • Social media account setup, such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • On-page and off-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
  • Graphic design and premium logos

I also realized that I didn’t need to do everything myself. While I could create a decent logo, I could also outsource it for a few dollars to get a better one with less effort. Outsourcing certain aspects of building websites helped to make it easier and quicker than if I did everything myself.

Lessons Learned

Making money online doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. There is value in doing research and learning new skills that you may use in the future.

Once you understand the basics, focus on one area that can make money for you. Stay committed to that system and keep working to get better at it. Once you determine what works, continue to build on your success and learn how to scale it.

Earning my first $100 online was one of the most satisfying days of my career. Even though it was a small amount, it was a great feeling to know that I had created it from nothing.

If you are looking to make money online, don’t hesitate to try and fail. Once you start to figure out what might work for you, keep at it until you have a specific plan to generate consistent money.

Over time, your side hustle could grow to replace your full-time income!

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