I've seen many people succeed and fail at making money online.
This article tells you the un-glamorous story of how it really works, and what you should expect.
(This article specifically relates to making money solely online. If you have a real-life business, you just need to set up a basic website, and maybe advertise, and you'll get a fair amount of value out of your site. It will help you sell to your existing customers, and will also get you a few new ones. This article doesn't really apply to you.)
Forget about getting rich. Creating a website or blog that generates a liveable wage ($500+ a week) is a massive, life-changing achievement. It means you don't need to do any other work. This should be your goal. Anything extra is a bonus.
Getting to this stage is really not easy. It requires a moderate amount of intelligence, and a huge amount of perseverance. Most people don't have what it takes to succeed.
The Internet isn't some kind of Wild West.
There are no short-cuts or tricks. You can't just slap any old rubbish on the Internet, and expect to make a quick buck. It doesn't work that way.
Anyone who tells you there's easy money to be made is wrong, or far more likely, is trying to sell you something. Sadly, many visitors to this site have already spent significant amounts of money on books or programs that promise such wealth.
You succeed and make money on the Internet the same way you do in real life. You succeed by making something that's really great. This can be anything – a saleable product, a service, an information source, or any other website, blog, or offering that's just really good. It can be funny, comprehensive, inspirational, or just extremely useful. It doesn't have to start out good, but you do have to keep improving it until it is good. It doesn't have to be new or brilliant, for you to succeed. It just has to be high quality.
You also need to make your site as large as possible, by constantly writing new material.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but you need to stop thinking about making money, and start thinking about making a really great site.
A great site will be linked to by lots of other websites. People will recommend it to their friends. It will rank highly in Google. Lots of people will come to see it.
Once you have a serious number of people coming to your website, it's very easy to turn that visitor stream into money. The hard part is getting those visitors.
Unless you have products to sell or promote, you'll make your money the same way most websites and blogs do – by displaying advertising. Either way, you still need to make a high-quality site, in order to attract visitors.
The path to success is a very slow upward curve. Success is the result of a long period of small improvements.
I know you want real numbers and exact times and amounts of work. The following scenario is what I've experienced, and what I've observed among friends and colleagues who've endeavoured to make money on the Internet. Note that this scenario is for someone who puts in serious effort, not just a weekend here and there.
The first month: You're excited about creating your website. It's new and interesting. You work hard, creating the basic pages of the site, and writing your first articles.
No one comes to your site, but that doesn't bother you.
1m – 6m ("Website Winter"): The initial rush of enthusiasm has worn off. You've put in a lot of work, but you're still getting almost no visitors. A few random people are coming in through obscure Google searches, and through the few links you have. You're making 0-50c a day from a few clicks on your advertising, or maybe you've sold one product.
Website Winter is the most common stage at which websites die. Not knowing what's ahead, many webmasters become despondent at this point, and give up.
Regardless of not getting any worthwhile results, you stick with it anyway.
6m – 12m: You write lots more content for your website, and the size and quality of your site improves significantly. You start to get a few good links from other sites, and you show up on Google for some low-traffic searches. You break through the 100-visitors-a-day mark. The first trickle of money has started coming in. It's under $10 a day, but it's something you can see, and can improve.
1y – 3y: Your website is now a serious resource, with a significant amount of high-quality information. You've had a small but tangible stream of income for a while now, and you begin to make your site more efficient. You start marketing your products better, or maybe you get better at deploying advertising on your site. You test new sources of revenue. Your profit starts to multiply.
You break through the 1,000 visitors a day mark, and your site churns out $100+ a week.
You know how it all works now, and you can see that your $100 a week could soon turn into a liveable wage.
You keep working on your site, and your income eventually hits the point at which you can live off it.
3y – 5y and beyond: Having succeeded at making money online, many of the people who get to this stage actually stop here. They just sit back, and live off their website. It's been hard work, and they've already reached the most important milestone. You can't blame them.
If you choose to continue here, you find it becomes easier and easier to make money. You've become very adept at marketing, Internet commerce, and website technology. With your comprehensive knowledge of your field, you can see new and greater opportunities, or new websites or ventures.
You become one of the very small number of people to achieve serious wealth online.
This might all sound very easy, but the reality is that most people want money immediately, and can't motivate themselves to get past Website Winter. Some give up after a week, or never even start. Others just don't have what it takes to make a great site.
There's no magical trick to making money online. Your success is entirely dependent on your skill and perseverance.