The Simple Formula for Making Money on the Internet
Remember these five numbers: 20–20–10–10–40
I never intended to make money on the internet. I had an idea for an online bookstore in the late ’90s, but Jeff Bezos beat me to it with Amazon. Shit happens.
Five years ago, I started writing on the internet. I’m not sure why this happened if the truth be told. But it did. Maybe it was an escape or a brilliant idea, and I guess we’ll never know because those memories got copied over.
Today, a bank deposit hit my bank account for more than $30,000, made through the internet, and received in one lump sum. There must be something I can teach from this experience. I’m sure of it.
[Grabs a cup of coffee, pops on the t-shirt with the “F-Yeah” slogan, and starts typing.]
Seriously, if a dude from Australia with a music degree figured this out, it can’t be that hard. My IQ has to be low, although I’ve never measured it — maybe I’m too dumb to even do the test.
That $30,000 bank deposit has value for you, and I’m going to explain how looking back on the process revealed what actually happened and the process that created this outcome.
There is a formula I’m going to use to make things easy. Here it is:
- 20% preparation
- 20% working in the evening
- 10% books
- 10% working in the morning
- 40% weekends
Part 1: Preparation (20%)
I spent several years making no money and simply preparing. I was too dumb at the time to understand that what I was doing was preparing. At the time, it seemed as though I was writing because there wasn’t much else to do.
My recommendation is that you spend some time preparing. How much time depends on your situation. For me, I’m a slow learner when it comes to making money from something. (Side note: Preparation only receives 20% of the focus because otherwise, you can get stuck in overthinking mode and never actually take any action.)
The preparation I did was to decide where on the internet I would pitch my tent and make a home, what categories were most aligned with a feeling that can only be described as joy, and researching who was already doing what I set out to do.
The original intent of showing up on the internet wasn’t really money for me — but knowing that upfront is certainly helpful in speeding up the process.
If I had a gun to my head and had to remove one step from the process and still produce the same outcome, it would be preparation. Good preparation is helpful, although you can do zero and still win because you executed instead of procrastinated.
Part Two: Working in the Evening (20%)
When I started, my day job was to work in a bank and sell a simple product called a ‘bank account.’
The training required for this job was minimal. You’d say to a client, “Here’s a bank account, you put money in it, move money around, and if you save up those pennies, Sonny Jim, then one day you might be richer than you ever thought.”
It was a job and it bought me milkshakes. Can’t complain.
Each night when I came home from work, I’d switch on the old PowerMac G5 and punch out a few words of an article. Some nights I wrote a lot and other nights I produced hardly anything.
Working on my craft each night allowed me to build up a habit and find like-minded people on the internet. Call it creating an audience, building a mailing list, chasing ‘likes,’ or whatever fancy label you can attach to it.
What was important was that I didn’t come home and jerk off and watch Netflix.
I came home and did work that wasn’t my day job and had a single aim of attempting to be helpful.
Part Three: Books (10%)
There were a few books that planted the idea in my head that you could make money on the internet.
It still seemed impossible that I ever would, but the fact that I stayed curious caused me to embrace dumb luck and read a few books on the topic.
The three books I would recommend reading are:
- “The 4-Hour Workweek” (Running a business and being productive.)
- “Ego Is The Enemy” (It will teach you how to attract people rather than repel them with your big-shot ego.)
- “Thank You Economy” (A lesson in how to talk to people on the internet and tell stories that have value.)
As you can see, there was a mixture of soft skills, skills you wouldn’t think you need, and the obvious lessons in running something online that might be called a business. (The cool kids call them startups.)
Part Four: Working in the Morning (10%)
Working in the morning carries less weight because unless you wake up at freaking 3 a.m., there’s not enough runaway to get a whole lot done.
This has its advantages, though. The deadline of a morning commute, a school kid drop off (high-five to the parents), and a designated start time to clock into your day job and say hi to your keeper of chains, forces you to get your shit together. You work faster and smarter during this time on the thing that’s going to make you the money.
The mornings for me were spent doing quick tasks like editing, finding photos, replying to emails, and composing short social media posts.
Part Five: Weekends (40%)
Weekends are the most significant part of the process because they’re where you make one decision:
“Are you serious about this or is it just a fantasy for you that will happen one day?”
It’s not what you do, but rather it’s the decision you make to give up a little Playstation time or a few hours of your favorite TV show to build the rest of your life. Weekends give you the longest stretches of time where you can be uninterrupted by your job and the expectations of your colleagues, and you can just sit down and do more of the thing.
There were so many temptations in my journey to not write on the weekends and do dumb stuff. Every weekend I had to show up and decide what would take preference.
Here’s the part you might have missed: I still enjoyed my weekend and got blind freaking drunk. All that was different is the order was switched.
I did the work first and then did the partying bit after doing the work, which gave me something to look forward to.
You’d stab me in the back with a pitchfork if I didn’t go here. The money from the internet came from the following buckets:
- Articles written for money
- Coaching people one on one
- Speaking at a few events
- Consulting to companies about storytelling and social media
- Online courses
- Affiliate links (recommending a book or a snorkel set on Amazon)
- Books/Ebooks (this one is coming soon)
“You Left Out a Bunch of Parts”
I know what you’re thinking: Where are all the steps in-between?
Well, there were lots and they don’t matter. You know why? Because the steps are different for everyone to make money on the internet. What stays the same is the following:
- Did you make the decision to do the thing?
- Did you put in regular daily effort even if the time spent was only a few minutes?
- Did you build the habits that will lead you to make money on the internet?
- Do you know how to communicate with the people that have the money you’ll earn?
- Do you understand the sort of human being you have to become to make a crapload of cashola on the internet?
That last point is crucial.
I had to become a different person to have the mindset, work ethic, determination, and humility to make money on the internet.
Many people get lost in the how-to part of making money, thinking that it’s what platform you use, or how many affiliate links you have, or how good your website is, or how different your idea is, or how many influencers you are friends with, or where you live, or how fast your computer is, or how much money you started with, or when you got connected to the internet — there’s so many pointless steps.
Nothing in this list of excuses, disguised as how-to steps, holds weight. Come on, what else you got?
As cheesy as it sounds, there’s no way to avoid doing the work. You can’t outsource, opt-out, skip ahead, or cheat your way there. Whatever you do on the internet is going to take a large chunk of effort. This article, upon reflection and reading back over it, says that 70% of my process was effort.
Now if I had known that in the beginning, perhaps the outcome would have been predictable. It was a low IQ and having no freaking idea that made me come up with the strategy of effort because there was no other action I could take. There were no other tips, ideas, or strategies. No magic mentor blessed me with holy water or told me it was all going to be okay.
What made that $30,000 hit my bank account was the exact process above. There was a regular habit, a few books, a stupid number of hours invested in the process, and a sense of joy that came from blogging.
You, too, can make money on the internet with enough effort.