How to Make Money With a Website

An Interview with Steve Gillman

By Vincent Dali

Steve Gillman knows how to make money with a website. He is a netprenuer - someone who risks starting his own online business venture. Netpreneurs are like any other entrepreneurs. The only difference is that as the name suggests they have a specialty: Making money online.

Gillman makes money with his web sites and to do this he does not need to be a geek. Some basic technical skills are required of course, but that's all. Steve Gillman has a big plus, he is not only an online business guy, he is a writer, and as we will see in the interview below that is the direction his business venture took on the new frontier: the cyberspace.

How did you decide to become a netprenuer and make money with a web site?

I had brothers who did business online, but I had no interest in selling and shipping things, so I knew I wouldn't be following their examples. Then I ordered a CD off a late night infomercial about making and selling e-books online. That got me motivated, although I ended up going in other directions at first.

My wife and I wanted a business which we could take with us wherever we moved (and we moved ten times in the first eight years of our marriage), so as much as I hated using computers (I really didn't like them at all), we decided that an internet business made sense. We started with a very basic computer, a phone-line internet connection, and no knowledge of either HTML or internet marketing.

How long have you been involved with publishing and marketing online?

We started in 2004.

How did you made your first 20 dollars online?

Using pay-per-click advertisements. Those are ads you can place on your site which pay you a percentage of the revenue when people click on them. It probably took us a month or two to make that first $20. There are a few good programs that offer these, but Google still seems to be the best.

Was there an "ah ha" moment that made you believed you were on the right track and doing the right thing to get your sites to make money? Tell us about it...

It was probably when I discovered article marketing - the use of articles to promote websites. We were making about $5 per day six months into the business, having just moved from Michigan to a studio apartment in Tucson, Arizona. My wife found a part-time job, but we were still tapping into our savings a bit.

Then I read about distributing articles through free directories. Essentially you submit your articles and allow others to take them from the directories to use on their own websites - as long as they leave the link active in the "about the author" area. It's a way to quickly generate a lot of links leading to a website.

Almost immediately we started to see our revenue grow. At that point - which would have been about February or March of 2005 - I knew that I could just keep cranking out the articles and we would make a lot more money. By the end of that summer we were making a living from the internet. By the following year our income doubled from that, and kept growing.

Would you say that your writing skills have been an incredible advantage for developing your sites and could somebody with no writing skills still make money with a site?

My writing skills helped, but really they developed because of all the articles I was writing. I wrote hundreds of short articles that first year alone. But you don't have to write to make money online. For starters, there are other business models besides the basic informational and educational websites we make. In addition, there are writers who will do pages and articles for you for anywhere from $5 to $40 each.

Do you have sites that did not work out? How many of your sites are making more than $100 a month?

Three out of four of our first sites are doing well now, but of the forty or so we have, only ten do over $100 per month. It's is a bit unpredictable to say the least. For example, is a site that I put little work into, yet it makes over $10,000 per year now. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time and effort on and and they do perhaps $30 per month. I suppose the lesson is to keep building sites until one catches on, but there is a danger in spreading yourself too thin too. We have a lot of sites to maintain now, and even if one makes just $85 per month I hate to lose the extra $1,000 annually, so I update almost twenty sites on a regular basis.

Do you do all your work yourself? Do you have employees? Do you outsource?

My wife and I handle it all without employees, but we have begun to outsource work more. It helps that I enjoy building efficient systems, to make the updating of sites and such much easier. Also, all but one of the dozen email newsletters I offer are not true newsletters, but are sent out automatically in order weekly once a person subscribes. I just create fifty issues, say, then set up the subscription forms and I'm essentially done other than tweeking it over the years. My wife handles the artistic and technical challenges - logos, installing programs and so on - and I write and work on systematizing the business. Lately I've been paying a rabbi/freelance writer in Israel to write pages for me, but I enjoy writing, so I still do hundreds of pages and articles myself each year.

Knowing what you know about the online world, could you tell us some specific ways on how to make money with a website?

Perhaps the easiest way is to provide great content, learn how to market in order to get the traffic to your site, and then monetize the traffic with pay-per-click ads. We also make about $800 monthly selling my e-books. Affiliate products - products you promote and get paid a commission on - make us another $500 monthly, but there are many people who make thousands of dollars monthly as affiliates. One advantage of selling things for others is that you don't have to create a product, so you can start faster. I like it when we sell meditation CDs, for example, and make a $42 commission per sale.

Those are some of the ways how to make money with a website that I am most familiar with from experience, but there are many others. You can sell things that you ship, you can drop ship, meaning sell things that are shipped to your customers for you, and you can use pay-per-action programs where you get paid if a visitor takes a certain action like, for example, filling out a loan application you link to. You can use your site to sell services you offer offline, or to sell your own paper books, or even to sell an email newsletter. The list goes on...

Finally, for someone that is just starting this venture, what are the things you suggest not to do based in your experience on making money with a website?

Don't spend a lot of money on anything at first. You'll be tempted to buy expensive courses, fancy website servers, hot domain names, advertising and more. There is a place for these things, but you first need time online. You need to learn the basics of putting up a site and promoting it using free methods. I have read many stories of people paying for advertising campaigns that cost thousands of dollars before they had any idea how to even figure the "conversion rate" or "value per visitor" on their sites. If you spend a dollar for each of thousands of visitors when they are only bringing you an average of 10-cents in revenue, you go broke. There are good ways to spend money to promote a site, but you should wait until you know what to do with the traffic and how much it is worth, and so on before you invest much.

We spend more on our business each month now than we made in the first six months in revenue, but we started out investing just a few hundred dollars, and spending less than ten dollars monthly in advertising and promotion. Building your business from your profits may sound slow, but you need that time to know what you are doing before you grow.

Other things to avoid? We probably waited too long to start outsourcing. Don't keep doing the things you aren't good at when there is relatively cheap help available. Finally, I would say - after trying to bring websites back from the dead a dozen times - it is probably better to let failing sites fail and focus on the ones that seem to be working.

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