How I Make My Living Online

by Cristina Ansbjerg | Follow Cristina on Twitter

Today I’m going to share some details about how I make my living online. It’s something that I don’t usually do but I think it’s time to recap all the projects that I’ve started, finished, succeeded on and failed too.

whats next 300x200 How I Make My Living Online

This post is not going to be chronological because most of the time I’ve run several projects at the same time. I am some kind of multipotentialite -I still don’t know how to pronounce that word. That means that I can’t focus on only one thing for the rest of my life. Instead I spread my attention in two or three things at the same time. This has some disadvantages:

1. I have to be very careful and disciplined to avoid Shiny Object Syndrome. If I spread myself too much I won’t accomplish anything at all

2. All my projects grow slowly because I don’t spend 100% of my time focused on any of them

During the first few months I struggled to focus on 1 single thing. I gave up when I understood that it was impossible. Then I found this blog, Puttylike, and I felt like I had arrived home. I’m not the only person in the world who can’t focus on one thing. So I gave up battling and learned how to handle several projects at a time without spreading myself too much.

I warn you, this is a long post because I’ve done many things. It is only 2011 and the first 4 months of 2012.

Enough of that. Let’s start with the meat and potatoes.

Niche Sites and First Steps With SEO

When I first started working online I built a few small niche sites. The plan was one site for one product and then work hard on SEO.

You can tell how naive I was.

I thought it was a matter of working very hard. I’ve never been afraid of that. It turned out to be more complicated than just that.

I spent months learning how to build backlinks, optimize your site for SEO, white hat, grey hat and a little bit of black hat, keyword research, etc. You know, the usual.

I got tired very quickly and I realized a couple critical things:

1. SEO is the most boring and unrewarding task I can spend my days on. 

Writing low quality articles, spinning them or hiring someone to do it for you, linkbuilding, article directories, link networks… BORING. Besides, they say SEO is a free way to drive traffic but it’s not true. Add up all the tools you need to make your job bearable and you’ll see that it’s actually very expensive.

2. I don’t want to promote products I don’t believe in

I’ve never promoted unethical products. Actually I found terribly difficult to find products to promote at Clickbank. At some point I had to lower the bar and choose products that were potentially profitable even tough I didn’t believe in them. If other people can do it, I can too… that’s what I thought. I was wrong.

I consider these projects a failure but the truth is I never tried long or hard enough to make them successful. I learned a lot but I also got discouraged.

Spanish Blog

Before entering the SEO game I had started a blog in Spanish. It was my very first online adventure and I was convinced I couldn’t write a blog in English because it wasn’t my first language. Not only it is not true but that fear was limiting me big time.

Luckily there was a fire inside me that was pushing me once and again to improve. A blog in Spanish was ok, but it wasn’t what I wanted. It would take me 4 months to finally take the plunge and start a blog in English. This blog, Optima-Lifestyle.

I have to say that, despite all, I was very happy with my Spanish blog. My purpose was to help people -I didn’t monetize it- by sharing with them what I learned from my first entrepreneurial experience, a translation company.

I haven’t added fresh content in almost a year -except for a guest post a few weeks ago. However the blog keeps growing… and my email list. It makes me very happy because it means that people find it genuinely useful. I’m asked very often why I don’t go on with that blog. The answer is, because I don’t have time. Yes, the excuse I forbid myself to use. But in this case it’s true. You’ll see why when you read the rest of this post.

Blogging in English

You know how this blog was born. I wanted to replicate what I did in my Spanish blog with a stronger focus on online businesses. The main goal was still help entrepreneurs to stay motivated and overcome their fears and self-limiting beliefs.

I have wide experience in those topics because my education and background were opposed to the entrepreneurial mindset, which means I have spent an incredible amount of energy learning how to fight my ghosts. Also because I’m an introvert, which doesn’t help much to establish relationships with other entrepreneurs.

You might be wondering: if it was so difficult for you, why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I think I enjoy making my life difficult. Otherwise I get bored.

When I was a kid I was afraid of people in general. I was very shy. Yet I always volunteered for diverse school plays. Same in high-school. If speaking in public was tough, imagine singing… well, I did both. I run for member of the student board -I was eventually elected- and I participated in a Rock-Opera. Something like Glee but without all the glamour. We were just a bunch of kids who didn’t know anything about music.

I always wanted to give up and I kept wondering “why do I do this to myself? I could be at home relaxing and watching TV instead of being in front of this crowd trying to stop shaking”.

Now, putting those experiences in perspective, I don’t have any doubt. Exposing myself and accepting those challenges were the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I’m still shy and introverted but I manage social situations very well and I trust myself, I’m confident and I know I can beat my limitations. It’s not easy, it usually takes time. But I know that sooner or later I will do it.

Like entrepreneurship. It’s a challenge. There are so many fears that keep holding me back… If you read my posts from  November / December 2011 you’ll see how my personal life interfered severely in my business making everything even more difficult.

But guess what?

Today I’m less scared than one year ago. And much less than two years ago. All because I keep working on my fears. I keep pushing even when I feel like giving up.

 Email Marketing

While I was in Spain at the end of 2011, due to some situations I had some troubles to get online. Hence, I decided to keep working offline. I built an email marketing course heavily focused on conversions. I had been learning a lot about email marketing in the previous months and then I put my knowledge into practice by selling this course.

Simply said, I was selling an email marketing course delivered via email and proving my points on the way. If something didn’t work as expected I tweaked the lessons to adapt the course to my experience.

I warn you: this is not the way to do things. Because of the rather obscure nature of this project I did it under a pen-name. It’s the first time I disclose this. I made easy money but I wasn’t proud of it, so I decided to give up.

It was the kind of business model where you sell shovels to gold miners. I mean, you teach people how to sell products to other people trying to sell the same products. It’s a never-ending chain… or pyramid.

Another reason to give up is that I didn’t like what I saw in that niche (call it Make Money Online, IM or whatever). It’s a market where you are either a shark or a small fish. If you’re naive and trust people you’ll be a small fish forever. You will convince yourself that you can grow and become a big sturgeon but it rarely happens. The sharks and the stream won’t allow it.

It’s a fictitious niche and it’s temporary. It’s like a Gold Rush.

I insist, I’m not proud of what I did. The course was good, it delivered results to my customers and to me. But I hadn’t tested previously any of the techniques I was teaching.

From this “failure” I learned 2 positive lessons:

1. There is a hungry and desperate market where you can sell almost anything if you know how. But I can’t just skip my ethics. I felt like a fraud.

2. I learned a lot about email marketing and Sales Funnels. This time I experienced it, not only read about it.

Second Chance to SEO

After the initial contact with SEO I knew for sure I didn’t want to do it ever again… until I joined Joseph Archibald, an expert in SEO in a Joint Venture. The site had potential and he would take care of the boring part (because for him, SEO is exciting).

My part was providing the content, since it was legal stuff, and I also helped our SEO efforts by pushing our social media activity. I wrote a post about it here: How Twitter can help you rank your site.

After 3 months we discovered that the site was absolutely not viable. The problem? We had paid a technical writer (she was a lawyer) a generous fee for all the articles but most of them turned out to be duplicated content.

I know, it’s a rookie mistake. It was a misunderstanding between Joseph and me. I thought that he was copyscaping the articles when using BMR (Build My Rank). Back then I didn’t know exactly how BMR worked. He also thought I was copyscaping them (I should have).

We didn’t find out the dupe content until we decided to sell the site on Flippa. Of course we had to suspend the auction immediately.

I’m glad we decided to give up instead of trying to “clean” the content. There’s no way that site would have survived the Penguin Update.

I learned valuable lessons in business partnership -there has to be more communication- and outsourcing.

However I am still very disappointed in Odesk. I hired the writer through them. My job posting said very clearly (twice actually) that I wanted 100% original content. It’s also included in their terms of service that the content provided by the writers has to be original. We paid more than the standard fee to make sure the writer delivered quality. Yet we ended up with nothing but partly plagiarized articles.

When I complained to Odesk they didn’t do anything. Even worse, this happened 6 months ago and I still haven’t got a reply from Odesk (despite I insisted a few times).

Offline Business

Besides my personal business, I’ve been running my sister’s blog behind the scenes. She writes and I do the technical stuff, marketing and translate the content into Spanish (because it’s a bilingual blog).

She brings the meat and I cook it.

My sister is a very talented woman in her field. The plan is to develop an offline business based on that -again, with my help. The blog has been just a first step to create a brand and a community. There’s a ton of work ahead.

So far the results have been amazing.

Other stuff

As you can see I’ve done many things in the last year. I may be more or less effective, but nobody can deny I am productive.

Besides the blogs, sites and offline business I’ve mentioned above, I also do many other things:

– I read blogs regularly. I was one of the few people who knew Blog Tyrant’s real identity before his official announcement at Viperchill, I participate almost daily in the long conversations that take place at JosephArchibald.com, etc.

– I’ve recently interviewed Sean King, Tom Ewer, Rob Cornish -who had previously interviewed me for his podcast (that was another challenge for me).

– I have built other sites where I’m experimenting with different strategies. For example, Curated Content. I want to write a complete guide about content curation because  it’s an amazing way to create high quality content very quickly -if you do it right- and drive traffic to your site without depending on Google. However, this time I want to do things right. I won’t sell the guide until I get some results myself. For the reasons I explained above, I can’t recommend any tactic or tool that I haven’t tested first successfully.

– I’ve done consulting for a few small businesses (sometimes free, sometimes paid)

– I’ve sold some gigs as website designer (installing, designing or tweaking themes, headers, opt-in boxes, plugins, squeeze pages, etc)

– I read business books, listen to podcasts, attend webinars, participate in Mastermind groups, etc.

Do you really want to know why, despite all the road blocks, I love being an entrepreneur?

Because in the last 18 months I’ve failed, I’ve succeeded, I’ve made money, I’ve learned new skills, I’ve met people, I’ve challenged myself, I’ve overcome important fears, I’ve written more than in the previous 31 years, I’ve helped people, I’ve felt discouraged, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, etc., etc…

…but I HAVE NEVER EVER FELT BORED.

Now it’s time to use all the things I’ve learned and do something really good about it. Optima-Lifestyle has to evolve the same way I’ve evolved since I created it.

It’s time for new things: New focus, new style and better content.

It’s also time to bet ALL OR NOTHING. Let’s go big or let’s go home.

 How I Make My Living OnlineAbout

I'm Cristina. I am a 33 year-old entrepreneur. In the last few years I've learned that in order to build a successful business and make money first you have to conquer your own mind. Follow me on Twitter

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photo by: Crystl