How I Made My First $100k In Online BusinessFeb 07, 2022
The number one question people ask me when they find out I quit my job to become a full-time creator is how I make my money.
Some people blurt it out shamelessly and others try to slip the question in under a mask of politeness. My gut wants to tell people to mind their own business but when I was at the start, I loved understanding how other people grew too.
Yet I still think people ask me the wrong question. What they should ask is how do I create value online? The money doesn’t magically appear, people need to think you are worth their time first.
Making the first $100k is the hardest as you’re unproven and have no reputation. I passed the milestone a while ago and my strategy is now completely different because I can build on what I already have.
Today, I want to share my story and the reality behind making money online. I’ve broken down my first $100k by where it was earned then at the end of this article, I’ll let you in on my plans for the future.
Blogging ~ 50%
Multiple online platforms
This is where it all started. I made a New Year’s resolution to start writing thinking no one would ever care. My first real article made over $2500 by itself which blew away my expectations. I won’t lie to you and pretend it’s replicable as it was part dumb luck.
Yet what came next was the drought. It took me 5 months to have another four-figure article. By then I had come to peace with the idea of being just a one-hit-wonder. If I’d have given up during this period, I’d have missed out on so many of the great moments I’ve had in the last year.
But I wasn’t sitting around and waiting on luck. This is where the skill comes in because I devoured everything I could on how to add more value to my readers. Hopefully, if you’ve read my work before you recognize my style and at least somewhat like it.
Then came a purple patch that made me believe in myself enough to quit my job just 15 months after writing my first article. I’ve written on multiple platforms and I can simply post the same article in several places.
Today, this is much less than 50% because I’ve been distracted by all the other income streams growing. I know some people start writing online with the intention of becoming insta-famous but I still consider it mad that people care what I have to say.
Takeaway: Like me, you have no reason to feel entitled to other people caring what you have to say. Learn as much as you can so you can add as much value to your audience as possible. You’ll never know what impact you could have on people unless you put your ideas out there.
Services ~ 20%
Coaching, guesting, editing, marketing, project management
I’ve signed way more NDAs in the last year than I ever thought I’d have to. The language in them scares me so I won’t name any of the people who pay me here.
This side of the business started because I was asked to do a few interviews about my writing “success”. My eyes opened to the possibility of making real friends from this unexpected following I had attracted.
I’m different from the stereotypical online writers because I’m more extroverted and enjoy lots of human interaction. It drives me crazy sitting in my room all day and writing. This trait is a massive advantage because I put myself out there and created human bonds rather than try to use people.
I never asked for any of the roles I took on during my first $100k. I simply treated people like a human rather than a wallet and they thought of me when they wanted someone to help them.
A pet peeve of mine is when people talk about how their network is their net worth. I enjoy chatting to people for the sake of conversation. When someone treats me as a way to help them make money then they should be prepared to pay for that.
Takeaway: Use content as a way to show other people you know what you’re talking about. When you interact with those who are further ahead than you, engage with them on a human level. No one likes it when someone asks to “pick their brain”.
Let them talk about their struggles and they might realize you’re perfect to help them. If they don’t then you still won because you had a good conversation!
25+ clients including unicorns and creators with millions of followers
This is the obvious natural step for someone who’s got a clear history of writing in a style people resonate with.
I’m fortunate to have a nerdy background. I studied Economics and worked at the Bank of England for a year then had seven years working in tech consulting. This makes me a startup’s dream ghostwriter because I can connect with audiences but understand the technical side too.
I honestly had no idea how to value myself at the start. I still undercharge clients because they are too fast to agree to my prices. The fact it seems such a no-brainer to them makes me think I’m doing something wrong!
This is a major area I want to grow in the future because this is fascinating for me as well as providing a service I know few can match. It took me a long time to gain confidence in my abilities but now I know I can deliver, I’m open to more clients.
Takeaway: It’s intimidating to take on your first client but it gets easier trust me. By the time, I started freelancing, I already had a huge body of work online but I wouldn’t suggest you to wait as long as I did. You can go to Upwork or Fiverr and get a client today.
Charge low prices so there’s less pressure as you might mess up your first few assignments. The secret is everyone sucks at the beginning but you will find your bearings and improve.
Digital products ~ 10%
Multiple courses and a paid newsletter
I could have made treble the money I’ve made so far if I was more comfortable selling. There are people with a fraction of my audience and expertise who sell courses for high prices and their customers are happy. It baffles me.
All my digital products so far have been about how to become a better writer. I have made a Skillshare course, a Teachable course, and a paid Substack newsletter. They all earned several thousand dollars each but none of them were a runaway success.
I used them as ways to learn the process of making a course and I’m confident when I create a new course, it will earn at least 5 figures.
Takeaway: If you want to make your first $100k quicker than I did, it’s worth becoming comfortable selling. Start creating courses early so you can understand how it all works. It’s not important whether anyone buys it or not. Later on, when your brand is stronger, you can relaunch courses at a premium price point because of the early experience.
Affiliates ~ 2%
In my weekly newsletter, I always share one book I recommend for that week. I sometimes share curated courses where I believe they can make a difference to my audience. I turn down more requests than I accept because I don’t want to lose subscribers. If I lose people’s trust then I can’t help them.
This is a nice little earner but will never be a major income driver.
Takeaway: Affiliate sales only work if you have a strong niche and product fit with your audience. Though this then begs the question of why are you not creating your own product rather than selling someone else’s?
Beware of what damage you can cause by pushing products too hard at your audience. It might be better to save their patience for when you have your own products you want to sell.
How this breakdown will look in the future
As I’ve alluded to how I made my first 100k isn’t how I’m orientating my business in the future. I found relying on platforms for 50% of my income as a full-time creator stressful. Too stressful.
The first $100k didn’t even include podcast sponsorship and I’ve now recorded over 50 episodes across Mindful & Driven and Entrepreneur’s Handbook. I’m going to be interviewing the Co-Founder of Netflix next week!
Here’s my future model:
- Products (Courses + books): 40%
- Ghostwriting: 25%
- Services: 15%
- Sponsorships: 10%
- Platforms: 10%
My focus is on scalable income where after the initial work, the potential profit is only limited by the size of my niche. If I can create high-quality products that people continue to recommend, the growth potential is exponential. I’ve built up a strong enough reputation to do this.
Ghostwriting is an area I’ve realized I enjoy as I have had the pleasure of working with many brilliant founders. It’s a great crossover for my skills and I know I can deliver results for clients.
I still want to make money through platforms. The smaller proportion of income reflects how I think the other areas will grow faster rather than my platform income shrinking. One of the traps of online business is how you can make fast money at the start isn’t always something that can continue to grow.
I hope this was useful for you and I appreciate everyone who’s supported me along the way.