My name is Ryan. I'm a NYC based 'digital marketing solopreneur' that makes a 6-figure passive income online.
How it's done
The brunt of this income currently comes from a general product/service review site that I've scaled up to about a million words, ranking for over 165,000 keywords (according to Ahrefs.com).
It's primarily an SEO-play, meaning that it gets free, organic traffic. I've done minimal link building (I hate doing it) and only automated social media.
Success has boiled down to high-quality keyword research and high-quality content that I semi-automate using Virtual Assistants and writers, but a majority of which, to this day, I both hand-write and transcribe. I don't say that to brag- just to help qualify my own thoughts and insights regarding building an online business.
Because my main site assesses so many different products and services- I'm uniquely qualified to comment on the viability of certain niches because I'm currently in them.
While that site is my biggest success, I'm not purely wedded to SEO. My interests are necessarily diverse. Meaning- if you don't diversify your online income and revenue sources, you're tremendously exposed to the whims of Google, or Instagram, or Facebook, etc.
Proof Of Income
*These are only the electronic disbursements I've received- I get other payments by check.
**Recent declines in affiliate payments reflect seasonality (Christmas shopping) and a reduction of my primary affiliate network's commission rate.
About This Site
With this site, I'm aiming to solve both my problem and yours.
Since the success of my affiliate site, I've struggled to discover a new niche I could be passionate about.
Indeed, if you're at all interested in building an online business, whether it be a lifestyle business, or something that becomes a huge brand, choosing a niche can be dauntingly difficult, especially if you're new to internet marketing. I finally decided to go really meta.
This site researches niches and shows you interesting opportunities you can undertake, whether you are new or experienced.
Many of these niches I've thought long and hard about entering, so they're the product of my own research and validation. I lay out what I think is interesting about them- what the opportunity is, how to get traffic, and how to make money.
These niche writeups aren't exhaustive- you'll have to figure out a lot for yourself. But that's the fun part!
I graduated from New York University in 2013 with a Masters Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. The program was not a passion. But I thought it was a prudent degree to get considering that at the time the median salary was $89,000.
I spent a couple frustrating years during and after graduate school going on interviews, on the phone with recruiters, swinging from internship to internship, contract job to contract job, begging to get hired full-time by some prestigious company.
At my last contract job, in 2013, I was working at Bloomberg as a Management Analyst. After that contract ended, I was struggling to find another position.
Weeks began stretching into months...
I would go through rounds of interviews that I agonized preparing for. Oftentimes, I'd get close to getting hired, but ultimately written a form rejection letter. It was brutal.
There were many late nights spent bulk-applying on CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, Monster, CyberCoder, etc.
Next morning, I'd get spam calls for commissions sales positions as I eyeballed my inbox for an email response from some blue-chip company. My cynical dream was that one day I would make a $100,000 doing 60 hours of work in midtown Manhattan.
I say 'cynical' because I knew I didn't want it- but I just didn't know what other alternative I had. After the Bloomberg contract ended, I thought I would be golden. Surely I could leverage its brand name into something decent! Not so much...
My resume was still pretty skant, the competition was fierce, and I didn't even like what I was applying for. An inauspicious combination, to be sure...
Near the end of my rope and financial means, I got a call from the CEO of a startup. He was building a career and organizational coaching business.
The original description was for a part-time, paid, marketing internship- which was somewhat galling to me. I was 30- but at that point I was just looking for some money just to get by as I kept going on interviews for full-time positions at companies like Mercer, Towers Watson, McKinsey, etc.
I ended up getting hired by this CEO at the rate of $20/hour for 2-3 days a week of work at a startup work-space in Union Square, Manhattan.
Initially I was entrusted with editing/writing responsibilities and catchall admin work. The CEO was a seasoned executive who had spent the bulk of his career in upper management for a large car company.
He was, in a word, a winner. Shrewd, focused, and fiercely intelligent.
My Workstation For 3 years
As a first hire, he and I spent an enormous amount of time together. His approach began to rub off on me. Not a touch-feely guy by any stretch, I learned by example.
What would happen if...
I remember thinking, a couple months in, 'I wonder what would happen if I tried my hardest every single day at work to exceed his expectations?' I was really into human-performance podcasts and talks- particularly Jim Rohn and I decided to follow their advice. Put forth my best effort in everything I did.
I dedicated myself to the work. I over-produced, over-exerted, trying as hard as I could to become the best employee that I could. While not explicitly acknowledged, he began to expand my role.
My digital marketing responsibilities increased.
I began managing the AdWords and Bing Ads accounts. Soon I was running all of the email marketing- using AWeber, MailChimp and even Marketo, an enterprise-level email automation solution.
Then I began working with the remote Magento developer defining product requirements and coordinating our product development sprints.
Soon thereafter, I built and maintained a CRM (customer relationship management) sales flow for our leads, did all customer service, did all the recruiting for the company, ran SEO campaigns, managed PPC, and was responsible for all analytics & reporting.
In short order, I had gone from a guy with zero functional experience and a fancy-sounding degree, to someone with a robust digital-marketing and product management skill-set.
Then it failed...
I spent 3 years at this startup, eventually going full-time. It was a self-funded startup. The CEO participated in a Californian accelerator (500 Startups) and when that didn't result in funding, it disbanded in 2016.
Figuring out next steps
At this point, I had some cash reserves. I had begun building my own websites and was also applying for full-time positions. The sites themselves were pretty bad- offered no value, just trying to rank for isolated product terms. It was part of a learning experience. I was making less than a $100 a month- but I was addicted.
Because I was a bit of a gray-hat SEO at this point, and a relative noob, my sites ended up getting penalized.
This caused me to reevaluate my approach. I doubled down on white-hat SEO- unique, high-value content with a focus on user experience.
I listened to every podcast, read hundreds of blog articles on SEO and passive income. I started a general product/service review site- knowing that it would give me wide latitude to play in any vertical. I also was working on a medical site- specifically, chronic pain.
My revenue began creeping up, month on month.
The medical site never gained much traction- the content wasn't good enough to outrank trusted resources like WebMD and Mayo Clinic.
Plus, chronic pain is inherently 'intractable', so not really a good play for affiliate 'solutions'. As well, it was pretty depressing. Lesson learned.
Increments Of Success
The product/service review site, on the other hand, went nuts...
I remember thinking at the time, 'I'd love to be able to pay my phone bill with a site'.
Then it was, 'Man, a $1,000 a month- that would be insane!'.
Then, after I surpassed a $1,000, it was 'Wow, if I ever pay my rent with site income- that's all I could ever ask for.'
Then it became- 'Wow...I could actually match my previous $4,000 monthly salary at the startup...'
And then, in December of 2016, it became: 'I...made more this month than I did the prior fiscal year!'
Given my training at the startup, I treated the site like a professional business. I developed a semi-automated content creation process using UpWork writers and Virtual Assistants to streamline the workflow and publish high-quality content at 'semi-scale'.
Some lessons I learned:
- There are no shortcuts
- Persist past mistakes
- Love the process
- Delight the user
That brings me to now...I had been struggling for awhile to come up with a new idea.
On the money and traffic side, I wanted diversification to secure myself against Google algorithm updates, build an email list, and play in affiliate spaces outside of the physical-product stuff I was doing with Amazon, Walmart, Jet and Wayfair.
I also wanted to produce original content I was passionate about that would provide amazing value to an audience.
In the internet marketing world, the process looks like this:
- Make money online yourself
- Make money online by teaching others how to make money online
Unfortunately, many people bypass the first step and skip right into teaching others to make money online, having never made a substantive living themselves from the internet. As a consequence, the make money online niche is incredibly saturated.
There are tons of lucrative affiliate programs you can join- whether it be for hosting services, SEO software or email-marketing tools.
My approach joining the ranks of 'make money online' sites is to leverage the experience and knowledge I've gained creating a 6 figure affiliate business to help others discover opportunities online to do the same. Read my niche reports to figure out how you too can taste internet marketing success. Shoot me an email if you have any questions.