5 min read
A few days ago I tweeted:
This received quite a bit of attention, so I decided to create a post that answers several questions around how I grew my online income to $3k per month along with how I plan on growing it to $10k per month in under three years.
Let’s jump in!
How do I make money online?
There are tons of ways to make money online, but the way that I personally earn income is through building and monetizing websites.
Specifically, I create websites around topics that interest me and then I monetize the content on those websites in the following ways:
- Selling my own digital products
- Selling digital courses
- Sponsored posts
- Affiliate links
How long did it take to reach an income of $3k/month?
I first started dabbling in making money online at the beginning of 2017. In the 2+ years since then, I’ve grown my monthly online income from $0 to about $3k per month.
The following chart shows the path I took to get here:
So, it took me a little over two and a half years to reach $3k per month.
Since I typically spend around $2,000 – $2,500 per month, I recently decided to quit my day job as a data scientist around the time when my monthly online income surpassed this point.
Related: Check out this guide I created for a step-by-step process of how you can start your own website in under 30 minutes.
How many websites do I own?
I currently own four different websites:
1. Four Pillar Freedom – A personal finance site.
This is my largest site and the first one I ever started. It’s almost three years old and is monetized in a variety of ways: advertisements through Mediavine, affiliate links, my own digital products, and an online SEO course.
2. Collecting Wisdom – A site that curates the best personal finance articles from around the web.
This site is about a year old and is currently monetized with Mediavine ads.
3. Statology – A educational site that makes it easy to learn basic statistics.
This site is also about a year old and is currently monetized with Ezoic ads. However, I also plan on creating paid courses for this site to increase income.
4. Wander Cincinnati – A site that acts as a guide to my home city of Cincinnati.
This site is only one month old at the time of this writing. I plan on eventually monetizing it with ads and sponsored posts.
UPDATE: I recently bought my first website ever, which brought my total portfolio to five websites.
Why do I own multiple websites instead of just one?
There might be an advantage to owning just one website and focusing 100% of my energy on growing it. However, there are two reasons that I have chosen to own and operate multiple sites:
1. It’s fun to own sites in different niches.
I love geeking out about personal finance and writing articles on the topic, but I also have several other interests.
For example, I started my Sunday is for Sharing weekly series on Four Pillar Freedom because I enjoy featuring the work of other finance writers on the internet. So, I started Collecting Wisdom as a way to do even more of that – each Monday through Friday I get to feature three awesome finance articles from around the web.
Statology has a similar story – I enjoy the field of statistics and I saw a need for a site that explains statistics concepts in easily digestible tutorials, so I created one.
And my most recent project, Wander Cincinnati, is an excuse for me to get out and discover the coolest parts of my city and to share my findings with others.
It’s possible that I could earn more income by focusing completely on Four Pillar Freedom, but I find it fun to have several websites to work on whenever I feel like it.
2. Through the power of SEO, it’s possible to create several passive websites that don’t require your constant attention.
When most people hear that I own four websites, they initially think that I must be working around the clock to keep them all up and running. However, that’s not the case because the majority of the traffic for each of my sites comes through organic search traffic.
The way that I’m able to bring in organic search traffic to each of my sites is through writing articles that rank on the front page of Google.
For example, there are dozens of people that search for the financial term “coastfire” in Google every day. At the time of this writing, I have an SEO-optimized article that ranks as the first search result for this keyword:
I have hundreds of other articles that also rank on the front page of Google for various search phrases, which means that I don’t have to constantly write new articles to generate traffic to my website each day.
I can simply sit back as people around the world search for various phrases on Google and land on my website when they find my articles near the top of the search rankings.
Related: I created an entire course that explains how I use SEO to write articles that rank on the front page of Google. Register for the course here.
This simple concept explains why I can run more than one website without adding to my daily workload. By relying mostly on organic search traffic, I can build up a portfolio of sites that earn passive income for me.
Is it better to buy or build websites?
I have personally built* all of the websites I currently own, but I would not be opposed to buying a website. The massive advantage of buying a site is that you don’t have to wade through the initial 6-12 months of slow growth that come with starting a new site.
*I say “built,” but I haven’t actually created my sites from the ground up using HTML. Instead, I use free WordPress themes.
The main reason I haven’t bought a site yet is because I simply haven’t found one in my budget that looks like it would be a good fit for me.
I actually nearly bought a new site last month in the food & cooking space, but I decided not to because most of the traffic came from Pinterest, which is an area that I know nothing about.
How do I plan on eventually reaching $10k in monthly income?
I plan on following a simple formula to eventually reach a monthly online income of $10k:
- Continue to add SEO-optimized articles to each of my existing websites to increase total traffic to each site.
- Create paid courses to sell on Statology.
- Eventually puts ads on Wander Cincinnati and also start writing sponsored posts.
- Continue to curate three articles per day (Monday through Friday) on Collecting Wisdom and steadily grow the community larger.
It’s hard to predict exactly when I’ll cross the $10k monthly income threshold, but I feel that a three-year time horizon is reasonable.
It took me just under three years to achieve a monthly income of $3k, but knowing what I know now about website traffic and monetization, I feel confident that I can grow each of my sites much faster than I did during my first couple years of earning money online.
Related: Unfortunately I don’t have the time to provide in-depth responses to every Twitter DM or email message I receive regarding online income, but I do offer one-on-one consultations for anyone interested in creating and monetizing their own website. Register for a consultation here.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.