Note from G: Gentlemen, not long ago now I received an email from Greg over at Empire Flippers, a website I mentioned in my article on making money through blogging. Greg and I exchanged a few email and discovered we have walked an extremely similar path, at least in this stage of our lives.
We both worked in the oilfields and despite making lots of money, craved for a lifestyle better suited to our personalities and dreams. We both discovered writing and how to make a living online to allow us to live our dreams. Greg is now the content manager at Empire Flippers and he’s the author of this post.
So, without further ado, I introduce Greg. I hope you enjoy his post as much as I did!
First off, I wanted to say thanks to Gavin for letting me tell my story to his audience. I think it will be valuable to anyone who is frustrated, lost, and wishing for a way out of their current situation.
Gavin and I share a common background; we were both oil field workers who ended up in some pretty dangerous places.I worked six years in the field, from North Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska.
I tried to escape that life for a long time. After info-courses, seminars, webinars, and thousands of dollars spent learning internet marketing, I still had very little to show for it. Part of me started thinking that maybe I was one of those people that you always hear about in the failure rates — a person who would just never succeed.
Near the end of my oil career, I really began to submit to this idea.
I was burnt out, desperate, and certain there was nothing I could do. After all, I had tried everything, right? I was almost resigned to staying in the oil industry.
Then I remembered that there was one way to make money that had worked for me before. It was something that anyone could do.
If you’re in a position similar to the one I’ve just described, you should consider giving it a try.
Just a warning, though, you’re probably going to hate it.
How I Made $37 an Hour Working for Pennies
My dream since I was a kid was to be a traveler, a writer, and an entrepreneur of some sort.
As most people who share this dream know, it isn’t easy to achieve, and it didn’t happen for me for sixteen years.
Instead, I worked 84-100 hours a week in the oil field. I didn’t even have enough time to see family and friends, even when I eventually ended up working in my home town! Needless to say, I was doing zero traveling and almost no writing.
Luckily, along the way I had dabbled in a bit of everything. Without these experiences, I would never have come across a very specific niche that I could target and start making money.
You see, I knew that people in the SEO game have a very frustrating problem, which they deal with on an almost daily basis: they almost all hate writing content.
With this in mind, I decided to market myself as a content writer.
Because I felt so burnt out, I didn’t even try to go for big, high paying contracts. Instead, I trolled Facebook groups like Local Client Takeover and the Proper Private Blog Network (PBN) Group looking for SEO marketers complaining about how they couldn’t find good content writers for their sites.
I ended up writing PBN articles. For those who are unfamiliar with what a PBN is, it’s basically a bunch of “zombie” sites that link back to an actual money-making site. The accumulated visits and links from all these zombie sites push up the main site’s Google search rankings for its profitable keywords.
Despite being zombies, these sites still need good content in order to pass Google’s quality test.
By connecting with marketers on freelancing sites online, I was able to make $0.015 per word, writing 500-700 word PBN articles. However, I only ever charged for 500 words.
Unlike the majority of content writers working at this rate, I was a fluent English speaker, born and raised in the good ol’ US of A, and I actually like to think I’m pretty good at writing.
Even back then, when I had all that self-doubt, I was still pretty confident in my ability to write something halfway decent.
I’ve always been blessed to be a fast writer, probably because I write something almost every day, and have done so since I was in the fourth grade. Thus, it was not uncommon that I would write five to eight of these PBN articles in an hour.
At $7.50 per article, I earned about $37 an hour at times, when I was in the thick of it and pumping out content.
For someone just starting out with something like this, I imagine you could write enough to secure a solid $15 per hour wage.
My clients loved me, and they kept referring more and more work to me. They even referred me to their competitors, other people running affiliate sites, and SEO agencies that needed content.
I followed the demand for niche content and stretched my limits to meet the need. I got pretty damn creative writing about plumbing, as apparently there is a whole cabal of SEO agency owners absolutely in love with the plumbing niche.
Once, when a client found I was working 84-100 hours a week in the oil field on top of all the article writing I was doing, he messaged me saying, “Man, if I was doing what you were doing, I would be burnt out.”
I didn’t care how I felt anymore, and decided to keep pumping out these articles with the gritty determination of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.
Fortunately, this attitude allowed me to excavate a tunnel of hope through my mountain of self-doubt.
The Snowball Effect of Persistent Work
I wrote more and more of these PBN articles. Eventually, this led me to bigger clients, and my previous clients started hiring me at a higher wage to write for their actual money sites.
My wage doubled almost immediately, though the hours stayed the same, as the articles were a bit more involved.
But hey, it beat the hell out of writing about plumbing over and over again for someone’s 100 site PBN!
This gave me enough hope to start looking at bigger jobs on freelancing sites. I saw one where a life coach wanted a book ghostwritten for her network of women entrepreneurs. I knew quite a bit about copywriting, since I had bought so many courses and used to read books on it for fun.
I applied, lowballed everyone else, and got the contract.
I wrote an ebook she absolutely loved, and I got paid far more than my PBN articles.
I began to use this ebook along with samples of my PBN and money site articles as part of my portfolio. This allowed me to secure jobs with some pretty big names in the online marketing space, where I ghostwrote blog posts for them, some of which were 11,000 words long on topics they wanted to cover for their audience.
I used those blog posts as part of my portfolio to win new clients, too.
Then the ultimate job came to me in a most interesting way.
From Email Subscriber to Full Fledged Content Marketer
I had a series of affiliate sites I was working on, in addition to the 10-20 hours a week of freelance writing, which I continued to do alongside my busy oil field job.
My plan was to build out these sites and sell one a year in the Empire Flippers Marketplace.
If I could sell a site a year for $25k, then I would be able to pay off all my debt, my house, and eventually quit the oil field completely. Since they sold these sites for between 20-30x of their monthly net profit, I only had to get one to $1,250 a month. I knew this would take serious work, but it would be worth it.
I felt this was a good conservative annual plan, until an email changed my entire course of action — completely.
Empire Flippers sent out an email saying: “We’re hiring!”
They were looking for a content marketing pro to take over all of the content production for their business, including business outreach, guest posts, lining up new podcast guests, and doing seller interviews for people who want to sell on their marketplace and get listed.
I applied with a “What the hell” attitude. Remember, I was still in my mountain of self-doubt. I figured I didn’t stand a chance.
Why would a company that has done millions in sales hire a guy that only a few months ago was writing PBN articles for $7.50 a pop?
Well, I applied and I got it.
Two grueling interviews later, I was told to buy my ticket for Asia. I sold all my things, and rented out my house to a few friends.
Now, I travel the world.
In the last five months I have lived and worked in Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand. I can tell you firsthand, the experience is completely different to my existence working on the howling tundras of Alaska’s wintry oil fields.
How You Can Level Up Your Life?
There’s a lot of struggling going on out there. Sometimes, seeing case studies of success after success can make you feel like you’re all alone — that maybe you ARE part of the huge demographic of failures listed in economic statistics.
Maybe you are, but you don’t have to remain there. People who remain in that demographic are usually the ones who have given up.
There many ways for you to start getting out of that demographic yourself.
Start Off Small
The fastest and easiest way to make money online is to sell a valuable service. My service happened to be content writing as a solution for SEO marketers.
When you start, present yourself as a bonafide professional.
Even at $0.015 per a word, I responded to emails quickly, and I had an average turnaround of 24 hours — and although that’s what I quoted, often I returned their articles within a couple hours of receiving the message, if I wasn’t working in the fields.
This made me stand out big time. Most writers working at this rate of pay are just not reliable. They disappear all the time, and my content was pretty dependable, considering other writers would go off into the great unknown — perhaps with the PBN article order only half-finished.
This ability to stand out is what will allow you to move from working for pennies into a potentially lucrative career.
Leverage Your Network
As you gain clients, ask yourself who these people know.
Perhaps one of your clients happens to know the owner of a huge manufacturing company that needs an array of copywriting projects completed. This company may be willing to hire you, based on the recommendation of your previously happy client.
Freelancing sites are also a great place to look, and the typical career path of those who use it demonstrates this principle.
You will start off working for pennies, but as you gather those five-star reviews, there is an entirely “hidden” marketplace within freelancing sites of people who are willing to pay top dollar to get a project done right.
Think of your small service as a seed that germinates into much, much bigger things.
If you see a job related to your service but more advanced than what you currently do, Google how to do that job. Train yourself. Become your own info course and teacher.
I did this to learn how to write for several projects. Before I submitted a proposal, I would Google how to do what they wanted and write a sample in that vein. It won me several jobs, great feedback, and more referrals.
The fact is, you’re going to learn more about what it takes to win in this game by actually husting than from feel-good courses that may or may not teach you outdated methods.
The biggest lesson, though: if you want to succeed, work your ass off.
I hustle all day. At the start of all this, when I was burnt out and disappointed in myself, I added an extra 10-20 hours a week on top of my normal working hours, which were already pretty aggressive.
Working your ass off in the right direction can pay you large dividends — as I’m sure Gavin would tell you as well.
The biggest thing is getting over the initial hump. At the start, there will be plenty of days that you just don’t want to do anything. You want to lie in bed, read a book, play a video game — basically just give up.
You have to fight through those feelings. Approach your work with an unstoppable determinism. Grind out the hours that are needed to turn you into a bonafide professional.
It sounds like a lot (and it is), but the reward at the end of the day is totally worth it.
Use Affiliate Sites
As you get better at whatever skill or small service you started selling (wordpress, graphic design, content writing etc.), you should look into increasing your ROI by leveraging affiliate sites.
You can slowly use the money from your services to fund your affiliate business and ultimately move away from it, as your affiliate sites begin to produce more income than your services. This was my initial plan, and it is a still good one. In fact, I still build affiliate sites as a “weekend warrior” kind of project.
A good place to begin is Amazon. It is super easy to understand, and it is a brand everyone trusts. This means you have to do minimal trust building with the people who visit your website. (For those brand new to this concept, my article explaining the Amazon affiliate business model might help.)
This kind of website is pretty simple to create. The entire business model can be based off writing content — reviews, buyer guides, etc., the entirety of which can be completely outsourced. For instance, you could use your profits from the small service to order content for an affiliate site, instead of writing it yourself.
Whether You Build or Buy — Work Hard
Since working with Empire Flippers, I’ve seen people buy and sell an incredible number of online businesses. I’ve interacted with a few of our customers who managed to replace their entire income by purchasing websites off our marketplace.
Buying a website cuts out a lot of the initial hurdles that building one from scratch entails.
Regardless of whether you stick with services, roll that money into building an affiliate site, or save up money to purchase one that is already making money, there is still one thing you have got to do.
You’ve got to work HARD!
I still work 10-12 hours a day, very often, but the difference is that I love it.
That’s coming from someone who can tell you with a straight face that I’m living the dream.
You can too, you’ve just got to work for it.
Remember the Power of Small Things
Small things can lead to huge things.
If you want to succeed and have a full time online career which allows you to become geographically free, start small. If you’re feeling stuck where you’re at, stick to completing those little tasks and don’t give up.
There are big digital entrepreneurs looking to train people as highly skilled workers for them, and they can teach you a ton through an apprentice-type program. You just need to find out who they are.
Leverage the connections you have, or make new ones by selling your small services.
Once the snowball gets going (which is the hardest part, by the way), don’t stop. Keep going until the thing turns into an avalanche — even if you had to start off with small projects that pay very little.
Those small things might just change your life.