I’ve been hustling on side projects outside of my day job since 2004, and the things I’ve worked on since then have pretty much run the gamut. I started out trading stocks, and unfortunately, I had a string of beginners luck that made me feel like I was a trading god and that I’d be a millionaire in a year or two. I don’t have to explain what happened (you can probably guess correctly), but it didn’t last long.
My next big idea was building websites. I wasn’t aware of WordPress at that time, so I was learning how to hand code and building static sites for every niche I could think of. It was fun, but I quickly learned that I just didn’t have enough time in the day to keep everything manually updated.
Frustrated with the hassles of being a web developer, I started to tinker with stock photography and illustration in early 2006, and ultimately, it became my biggest side-hustle success ever. I made over $100,000 selling stock photos and illustrations over the next four years, and I’m not going to lie when I say that I felt on top of the world at that point. I was hating my six-figure corporate job with a passion, and selling stock photography was something I was passionate enough about to consider going all in and doing full time. Luckily, the market for stock photos and illustrations started to become oversaturated before I quit my day job, and my monthly income from that venture was drying up fast no matter how much effort I was putting into it to keep it alive. At least I had my day job to fall back on.
By late 2010, I knew I had to find something else. I can’t recall the exact reason why I wanted to go back to building websites, but I started falling in love with WordPress and realized how easy it would be to maintain and scale a lot of the web projects I had built in the past. The content management system (CMS) was exactly what I needed to take my website ideas to the next level, so I just started building.
One by one, I started building my web empire. I have a lot of passions in life (as well as a really short attention span), so it wasn’t hard for me to create all the content for these sites on my own. My only goal at the time was to build them all up to levels where they would be driving enough traffic every day to be able to earn enough income from advertising mechanisms (such as Adsense). I was happy to work on these websites in my spare time, building and creating content as time allowed.
Despite how much time and effort I was putting into my web empire, I never really considered it to be the road to financial independence. It was just something I did to take my mind off some of the bigger project ideas I had. My secret hope was that maybe, if I was lucky, one of those sites would blow up and I’d be rich and famous from it – but I honestly wasn’t expecting that to happen. Making a little bit of cash from advertising was all I really expected but it was fun to create content nonetheless.
From 2011 until today (April 2017), I’ve been struggling to come up with that one big idea that would allow me to quit my corporate day job for good. There’s been a lot of thinking, analyzing, and struggling to come up with that killer project or product that I could hit it big with, and I’ve yet to find it. I’m still thinking about it every day, always churning new ideas in my mind, and the unfortunate thing is that it’s been so mentally draining that I’m getting tired of it.
“Six years of spinning my wheels with nothing to show for it”. That’s what I had been thinking up until just a few weeks ago. But then I took a giant step back and took an honest look at what I’ve accomplished during that time. And you know what? I’m actually making pretty good progress as a blogger and content creator – a lot more than I had realized. For example, I had 16,000 unique visitors to my websites in December 2016. Sixteen thousand unique visitors, which was all organic search engine traffic. Of course that 16,000 represents all traffic from all 9 of my websites, but still – I’m very pleased with that.
Perhaps blogging is the business for me
I have had very little luck trying to build actual businesses which sell tangible objects or services. Nothing I have been trying has worked. Stock photography worked very well, but it didn’t last very long and I haven’t been able to replace that income with anything else since then. But I’m getting a decent amount of traffic across all my blogs at the moment, and the wheels are starting to spin in my head.
At this point I think I may be giving up trying to come up that one “killer idea” that will allow me to quit my corporate day job and send me down the road to financial independence. Blogging is working for me, and perhaps my time would be better spent experimenting with ways to monetize some of that traffic. After all, building an audience is by far the hardest part about blogging – and it’s something that has been naturally happening for me even though I wasn’t so focused on doing that.
I will write more on this later. But from what I can see, my dream of building a profitable website empire may be closer than I think.