Made my first dollar on the internet when I was 13 hustling with affiliate marketing.
Made my first SaaS dollar this week.
Warning: long story incoming. Buckle up for noob affiliate marketing around ~2007 & a look into my nerdy childhood.
Ahh yes — the good ol' days. I don't remember how I found Runescape, but I do remember playing it a lot. I'm sure my friends and family will back me up on this one.
The game was great and mostly free. The point of Runescape is that it was social — you played with friends in a massive open world. Some of my (real and internet) friends started getting memberships and I started getting left out. Areas of the map were members only (looking back, this marketing strategy is insanely good. the original FOMO).
My parents wouldn't pay for an online membership. It was only $5/mo, but they didn't trust Jagex with their credit card (pretty reasonable honestly). Since the parents said no, I had to come up with the online money myself.
I made money mowing lawns, but had no clue how to get my money from a bank account in McCook, NE (where my dad worked) to "the world wide web".
I spent some time going through all the ways an unskilled teenager could make money on the internet:
- Filling out surveys
- AdSense click scam networks
- Automating Bing Rewards
I only needed to scrape together five dollars a month, so I thought it would be easy. WRONG. Here's what the process looked like:
- Join program
- Rack up $5 in credits
- Realize there's a $50 or $100 minimum to cash out
- Start looking for new programs with a lower cash out
Then I realized that all of these different websites were sourcing their ads and surveys from the same networks. I wondered if I could make more if I went to the source (the answer to this question is almost always yes).
I signed up on a bunch of Cost Per Action (CPA) sites and one accepted me: BLAM Ads (yes, they're out of business now & yes they stopped paying me near when they went out of business).
So now that I was accepted, I needed to find a way to make money.
One option that BLAM Ads supported was content blocking. You've encountered one of these in the wild (and hated it).
It works like this: show some content, wait a few seconds, and then pop up a blocker that won't let you scroll or view anything. Yes, it's annoying. Yes, very few people complete those surveys. Yes, I did this. Yes, I’m sorry. Had to do what I had to do for that sweet, sweet Runescape membership.
What content was valuable enough that people were willing to do my surveys? Video game cheats/hacks. I'd find cheats on forums, put them on a blogger site, and throw up a content blocker. Create a YouTube video promoting your cheat, link to your site in the description, and you're off to the races.
It's a slow process — but once you rank in either YouTube or Google, you're set. The commissions were normally small, 15 cents here or 85 cents there. But I remember waking up one morning and realizing I had made $22.00 over night. I was ecstatic. From here on out I was convinced making a living online was the way to do it. Get paid while you sleep.
That first summer I didn't make a ton of money — 40 or 50 bucks every month. It wasn't much, but it was enough to pay for Runescape 😎
Unrelated: I took some of that extra money and bought gold with it — a chill few million gold. I was livin large on Runescape.
That was my first internet money and it was awesome (though, a bit scammy)
This week I made my first SaaS money, which feels a lot better than my scammy BLAM Ads money.
Money earned from SaaS feels a lot more like the money I made from mowing lawns as a kid:
- It's hard work, especially when getting started
- It's always awkward asking to be paid for your services
- Finding new customers is probably the most important part
Honestly the mowing business has tons of great parallels to running a SaaS. Might have to write about that more soon.
There's something satisfying about solving a problem with hard work and then getting paid for it. The bright side is, this time the hard work scales a lot better.
I made my first sale while in a meeting at my day job. While it's not exactly the same "making money while sleeping" (re: earlier Runescape story), it still feels great to make a dollar while your attention and energy is elsewhere.
Topics for another blog post: Runescape was great for me. Got me interested in marketing, tried to write my own bots & learned a bit of programming, got me aquatinted with market prices, bartering, and scamming.
PlzDM.me still needs to be officially launched (though you can buy it right now) which is happening this week. I'm wrapping up some lifecycle emails (doing a write up on this next week), writing two blog posts, and creating an evergreen email signup flow.
After this week I'll be taking two weeks off from side projects except writing (Wedding time!!🤵♂️👰♀️💒).
Then I'll be focusing on my B2B SaaS, FitVitals.dev.
See you on the other side,