Monetizing your own websites is a great way to ease into early retirement. It’s also so difficult to make significantly profitable sites that the vast majority of people will fail to ever recover their minimal hosting costs.
At the time I’m writing this article, I have already posted a dozen lengthy articles on my new site: sleepwalkawake.com. I have been working on this site for about two months. Looking at my website statistics, I can easily see that exactly no one other than myself has ever visited it. If this is your experience as well then remember that this is “normal”.
First, it takes an impressive amount of work before you will see regular visitors. Second, to get those visitors to click on an ad or buy something is even harder. If you place ads on your site, you should expect around 1% of people to actually click the ad. That means unless you’re getting hundreds of visitors a day you will see effectively no income from displaying ads.
A better way to make money from your website is with affiliates. You can see much higher returns with fewer visitors. Almost every place on the internet where you can buy something will also let you be an affiliate, that means if you send people from your site to your affiliate’s site you will get a cut of the profit. For example, on this article I could make an affiliation with a SEO (search engine optimization) firm who you can pay money to to in exchange for help in sending more visitors to your site. I would put a special link to their home page then whenever you click on it and spend money on their site I would get a (very) small percentage of the profit.
Affiliate are great, but you’ll often have to jump through hoops to sign up for them. There are places like Commission Junction where you can sign up for multiple affiliates in the same place that all use the same interface. Unfortunately, my experience is that even if your website is well made and directly related to the affiliate you are trying to sign with they will reject your application out of hand and you will have to send them a message to ask for approval (which they will likely ignore for weeks/months). Keep persistent and your new affiliate relationships can be very profitable.
Picking a specific niche for your site is also important. If you, like everyone else, wants to start a blog about gaming: don’t. There are already so many out there that no one will ever look at it. Please don’t add yours to the pile. If you really want to make money you need to make a site about something people want to spend money on. I have another website about hotels that generates decent money because it specializes in specific types of hotels that people search for. You will never be able to make a site that competes with Expedia or Booking.com. It’s better instead to work with them as an affiliate.
The best way to make a profitable website is to make quality content. I spent years working on my most profitable site before it began to make real money. Even now that it’s mostly passive income, if I were to divide the amount of money it is generating by the number of hours I spent working on it I would be making far below minimum wage. Yet I still think it’s worth it because I worked hard on a project that belongs only to me. I did the work only because I wanted to and not because my boss ordered me to. That’s what early retirement is all about. You have time to work on what you want and it doesn’t matter that you make less money from it.
If you want to make money with your own websites, then I urge you to get into it. Just don’t expect to get rich overnight, or even after years of hard work. Do it because it’s something you’re interested in and the few extra bucks you can make here and there are an added bonus.