The following stats apply across a portfolio of blogs which are inter-related in the ‘make money’ niche. The highest volume of traffic for these currently comes through relationships with ClickBank affiliates. Some of these are joint ventures with my son.
Name: Rob Palmer Website: Gofreelance.com Niche: Online business/freelancing Annual Revenue: $100,000 + Employees: A team of 10 remote workers/freelancers Traffic: 100,000+ Visitors Per Month / 200,000+ Page Views per Month Email List Size: 150,000+
How did you get started in blogging and what is your blog about?
I was a freelance professional copywriter in the 90s, working with major corporations such as Apple, IBM and Microsoft. Whilst working with a UK telecoms company, I got involved in a project in which we created (probably) the world’s first blog in 1993. More info on that here:
That experience got me interested in the potential of the Internet as a business opportunity. I started making money with affiliate programs in the late 90s, and have been making a full-time living online since 2001.
I have blogged on a range of topics from business opportunities to bodybuilding. But my most successful projects are related to freelancing/working online. I was a founder merchant with CJ Affiliate (then Commission Junction), marketing a website membership.
This project took off very quickly, enabling me and my family to swap the rain and grey skies of London for the sunny beaches of Sydney, Australia.
How did you choose the niche you’re in?
Having been a freelancer for many years, I have lots of insights and ideas to share about finding work, etc. Consequently, the freelance/make-money niche has worked well for me, and I have developed a number of websites around this topic.
Describe the process of launching your blog/site and getting it off the ground.
Every blog is different, and has different objectives. If we are aiming to drive traffic by recruiting affiliates, then the focus has to be on creating a high-converting offer that generates high earnings per click right out of the gate.
If it’s more a of a blogging project, then the focus is on SEO and content marketing. The basic strategy is to create the best content for any particular search query, then work to get links from high-authority pages.
How long did it take before you starting making money?
My first year of online marketing involved a lot of experimentation with various sites. The Internet was much more primitive in those days, and there wasn’t much information to work from. You had to guess and test out ideas to see what worked.
The big game changer for me was when I woke up one morning and discovered I had earned $211 in affiliate income while I was sleeping (eWork affiliate program). This inspired to work harder at making my online projects a success.
When the dot com crash happened in 2001, affiliate income dried up for a while. So I switched my website to a membership model, and that’s when revenue really took off. Within six months, I had replaced my freelance income, and was able to run my online business full time.
How do you monetize your blog/site?
I prefer digital products as a revenue model. This may be high-value courses or membership sites with a recurring income. This way I have total control over the revenue, and don’t have to worry about being scammed by merchants who shave their affiliates, etc.
Another advantage of having your own products is that you can recruit affiliates to sell for you. This is a great way of driving traffic and additional sales, adding up to millions of dollars over the years.
Having said that, affiliate income is great as a secondary source of income. Affiliate programs offer a great way to monetize your list with a range of different offers.
I don’t use an ad revenue model, unless I have a blog that I am really struggling to monetize. Occasionally, I get some revenue from sponsored posts, but it’s not something I actively seek out.
I do not sell any kind of physical products, or do any kind of ecommerce work.
Currently how do you drive traffic to your blog/website?
Most of the sites in our network are in the ClickBank marketplace. Affiliates drive the vast majority of traffic. We use Facebook ads mainly for retargeting. We have also had some success with native advertising with selected products.
However, I am currently moving back into SEO and content marketing, as I now see a huge opportunity to win big with this model. Tools such as Ahrefs provide a vast amount of valuable data that you can use to develop your SEO strategy.
If I was only allowed to use one tool, it would definitely be Ahrefs. I also use Ninja Outreach and Streak CRM to manage outreach. I am using LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LinkedHelper to develop relationships with journalists and influencers.
BuzzSumo is very useful for analyzing what is popular, and SEMRush is also a great SEO research tool.
What strategies have you used to build your email list?
I focus on driving traffic first. When we get to around 1000 visitors a day, I invest more effort in building the list.
My favorite tool for this right now is Convert Box. It has lots of cool features and options to help you maximize opt-ins. I use ConvertKit to manage the mailing list, because of the sophisticated automation and tagging options.
How do you come up with content ideas?
Content ideas nearly always start with keyword research. As always, Ahrefs is great for this, but I also do quick keyword research using the Keywords Everywhere chrome extension – a quick and easy way to get keyword info.
I write the cornerstone articles that I really want to rank well for, but hire writers to create additional content. I use the main freelance marketplaces to find writers (Upwork, etc.) and I am prepared to pay a decent rate for a good writer.
We create longer, more detailed posts that average at least 2000 words in length. The aim is always to create the best piece of content for the search query (not necessarily the longest).
What obstacles have you had to overcome to start and grow your business?
Online marketing is an ever-changing environment, and you have to keep adapting to the changes. SEO, in particular, has been through multiple generations of change since I started. You have to keep adapting to what is working now.
Some other challenges have included being hacked by bitcoin miners who racked up a $30,000 bill on our Amazon AWS account…ouch! Fortunately, Amazon agreed to cancel the payment.
When running an affiliate program, affiliate fraud is another issue that you have to stay on top of. This is a particular problem if you are paying for leads. Some scammers are fiendishly clever and very difficult to spot. You have to learn how they work and develop systems to keep them at bay.
What mistakes did you make as you built your business?
If I was starting again, I would focus on one project and work on building that into a major success story. Like most online marketers, I suffer from Internet ADD – flitting from one shiny object to the next.
It’s very tempting to do, but you make a lot more money if you focus and get very good at one thing.
What mistakes have you seen other bloggers make?
Everybody wants to take shortcuts. From buying links to skimping on content quality, bloggers often expect to put a little in and get a lot out. The truth is that quality will always win out in the end.
Focus on creating great products and great content, and promote them in the most professional way. Bloggers who do that will make millions, while those looking for a quick and easy solution will go broke.
If you use affiliate marketing, what are some of your favorite affiliate programs to promote?
I have never been a big fan of Amazon Associates, and after the recent changes, I wouldn’t touch the program with the proverbial barge pole. I prefer to market digital products, such as the better products on ClickBank.
Where possible, I also look for affiliate programs with recurring payouts, such as SEMRush and ClickFunnels. Hosting affiliate programs are also great in the ‘make money online’ niche.
I find I get the best conversions when promoting products that I actively use and love, such as ConvertKit and WPX Hosting. A detailed personal recommendation makes a big difference.
If you use ad networks on your blog/site, which ad networks do you use?
I generally avoid ad network revenue, but I have used Ezoic successfully on blogs that were hard to monetize in other ways.
The best way to increase your earnings is to stop running ads and do something more profitable instead!
If you have your own digital products such as courses, ebooks etc., how do you use these to produce revenue?
The vast majority of my revenue comes from digital products – well over 80% in total. These include courses, software products and other information products. In recent years, a lot of this revenue has come through ClickBank, but the percentage of direct sales will increase from here on.
I use Thrive Apprentice for creating online courses. We have a full-time programmer to work on software development, and hire in other expertise as needed.
I would recommend going for high-value courses that deliver real transformation in people’s lives – such as helping them find a partner, start a business or solve health problems. This allows you to charge higher prices.
It’s almost a hard to sell a $100 product as a $1000 one. So create real value and go for the higher price point. This makes it much easier to come out ahead when advertising on platforms like Facebook.
What tools do you use to help you run your business?
I build WordPress blogs hosted on WPX Hosting, using Thrive Architect to create content and Thrive Apprentice to build courses. I also use:
ThriveCart is a a great shopping cart that is designed to maximize your revenue through bumps, 1-click upsells, dunning for recurring payments and much more.
Do you have any tips and tricks you used to help your blog/site to grow?
Think of this as a long-term plan. You are building an asset that can create income for many years to come. So be prepared to put in the hard work to do things professionally.
Find a niche where your expertise, your passions and demand from customers intersect – that’s where the money is!
Did you take a course to learn how to succeed in blogging?
The course I would recommend right now is Ryan Robinsons’ Built to Blog. Ryan is an exceptionally good content marketer, and his course is worth every cent.
Was there an event you attended that change the trajectory of your business?
The ClickBank Platinum Summit events are amazing. My son and I have attended many between us, and we have always met some incredible business partners, as well as having a ball:
Many multi-million dollar deals are done at these events every year!
Who has had the greatest impact on your decision to become an entrepreneur?
There are almost no entrepreneurs in my family background – everybody has a boring, steady job! But I knew from a young age that I didn’t want to follow that route. Becoming an entrepreneur was something I had to figure out on my own, as I had no role models to follow.
Thankfully, my children have inherited my mindset. All four have grown up to be independent-minded adults who love to travel and do things their own way. Two are digital nomads already, I hope the other two will join us soon!
Are there any books that you have read that have helped you on your journey as an entrepreneur?
I would recommend reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and The One Thing by Gary Keller. Follow their advice and you will become much more productive and get so much more done.
Do you have any words of advice for people thinking of getting into blogging and build niche sites?
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s too late to start. As Jeff Bezos says, we are still at ‘Day One’ of the Internet. There has never been a better time to start an online business – the tools are amazing, the information is abundant. Just do it!
What is the one thing every blogger/niche marketer needs to know above all else?
There is always opportunity. Whether the economy is good or bad, or whatever is happening in the world, someone is leveraging the chance to make lots of money. You can, too.
What would you like to leave us with?
After 20 years of full-time online marketing, I still love the business as much as ever. I get up every morning excited about the day ahead, and am so glad I discovered this lifestyle.
I get the chance to travel the world, working wherever and whenever I want. I can spend time with my family and friends, wherever they may be around the globe. And I can make great money at the same time. What more could you want?
For anyone considering quitting their day job and starting a blogging business, I recommend starting asap. The sooner you start, the sooner you reap all the benefits!