How to Make Money With a Website
An Interview with Steve Gillman
By Vincent Dali
Steve Gillman knows how to make money with a website. He is
a netprenuer - someone who risks starting his own online business
venture. Netpreneurs are like any other entrepreneurs. The only
difference is that as the name suggests they have a specialty:
Making money online.
Gillman makes money with his web sites and to do this he does
not need to be a geek. Some basic technical skills are required
of course, but that's all. Steve Gillman has a big plus, he is
not only an online business guy, he is a writer, and as we will
see in the interview below that is the direction his business
venture took on the new frontier: the cyberspace.
How did you decide to become a netprenuer
and make money with a web site?
I had brothers who did business online, but I had no interest
in selling and shipping things, so I knew I wouldn't be following
their examples. Then I ordered a CD off a late night infomercial
about making and selling e-books online. That got me motivated,
although I ended up going in other directions at first.
My wife and I wanted a business which we could take with us
wherever we moved (and we moved ten times in the first eight
years of our marriage), so as much as I hated using computers
(I really didn't like them at all), we decided that an internet
business made sense. We started with a very basic computer, a
phone-line internet connection, and no knowledge of either HTML
or internet marketing.
How long have you been involved with
publishing and marketing online?
We started in 2004.
How did you made your first 20 dollars
Using pay-per-click advertisements. Those are ads you can
place on your site which pay you a percentage of the revenue
when people click on them. It probably took us a month or two
to make that first $20. There are a few good programs that offer
these, but Google still seems to be the best.
Was there an "ah ha" moment
that made you believed you were on the right track and doing
the right thing to get your sites to make money? Tell us about
It was probably when I discovered article marketing - the
use of articles to promote websites. We were making about $5
per day six months into the business, having just moved from
Michigan to a studio apartment in Tucson, Arizona. My wife found
a part-time job, but we were still tapping into our savings a
Then I read about distributing articles through free directories.
Essentially you submit your articles and allow others to take
them from the directories to use on their own websites - as long
as they leave the link active in the "about the author"
area. It's a way to quickly generate a lot of links leading to
Almost immediately we started to see our revenue grow. At
that point - which would have been about February or March of
2005 - I knew that I could just keep cranking out the articles
and we would make a lot more money. By the end of that summer
we were making a living from the internet. By the following year
our income doubled from that, and kept growing.
Would you say that your writing skills
have been an incredible advantage for developing your sites and
could somebody with no writing skills still make money with a
My writing skills helped, but really they developed because
of all the articles I was writing. I wrote hundreds of short
articles that first year alone. But you don't have to write to
make money online. For starters, there are other business models
besides the basic informational and educational websites we make.
In addition, there are writers who will do pages and articles
for you for anywhere from $5 to $40 each.
Do you have sites that did not work
out? How many of your sites are making more than $100 a month?
Three out of four of our first sites are doing well now, but
of the forty or so we have, only ten do over $100 per month.
It's is a bit unpredictable to say the least. For example, HowToRemoveCarpetStains.com
is a site that I put little work into, yet it makes over $10,000
per year now. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time and effort on
TheMountainHikingSite.com and SelfImprovementNow.com and they
do perhaps $30 per month. I suppose the lesson is to keep building
sites until one catches on, but there is a danger in spreading
yourself too thin too. We have a lot of sites to maintain now,
and even if one makes just $85 per month I hate to lose the extra
$1,000 annually, so I update almost twenty sites on a regular
Do you do all your work yourself?
Do you have employees? Do you outsource?
My wife and I handle it all without employees, but we have
begun to outsource work more. It helps that I enjoy building
efficient systems, to make the updating of sites and such much
easier. Also, all but one of the dozen email newsletters I offer
are not true newsletters, but are sent out automatically in order
weekly once a person subscribes. I just create fifty issues,
say, then set up the subscription forms and I'm essentially done
other than tweeking it over the years. My wife handles the artistic
and technical challenges - logos, installing programs and so
on - and I write and work on systematizing the business. Lately
I've been paying a rabbi/freelance writer in Israel to write
pages for me, but I enjoy writing, so I still do hundreds of
pages and articles myself each year.
Knowing what you know about the online
world, could you tell us some specific ways on how to make money
with a website?
Perhaps the easiest way is to provide great content, learn
how to market in order to get the traffic to your site, and then
monetize the traffic with pay-per-click ads. We also make about
$800 monthly selling my e-books. Affiliate products - products
you promote and get paid a commission on - make us another $500
monthly, but there are many people who make thousands of dollars
monthly as affiliates. One advantage of selling things for others
is that you don't have to create a product, so you can start
faster. I like it when we sell meditation CDs, for example, and
make a $42 commission per sale.
Those are some of the ways how to make money with a website
that I am most familiar with from experience, but there are many
others. You can sell things that you ship, you can drop ship,
meaning sell things that are shipped to your customers for you,
and you can use pay-per-action programs where you get paid if
a visitor takes a certain action like, for example, filling out
a loan application you link to. You can use your site to sell
services you offer offline, or to sell your own paper books,
or even to sell an email newsletter. The list goes on...
Finally, for someone that is just
starting this venture, what are the things you suggest not to
do based in your experience on making money with a website?
Don't spend a lot of money on anything at first. You'll be
tempted to buy expensive courses, fancy website servers, hot
domain names, advertising and more. There is a place for these
things, but you first need time online. You need to learn the
basics of putting up a site and promoting it using free methods.
I have read many stories of people paying for advertising campaigns
that cost thousands of dollars before they had any idea how to
even figure the "conversion rate" or "value per
visitor" on their sites. If you spend a dollar for each
of thousands of visitors when they are only bringing you an average
of 10-cents in revenue, you go broke. There are good ways to
spend money to promote a site, but you should wait until you
know what to do with the traffic and how much it is worth, and
so on before you invest much.
We spend more on our business each month now than we made
in the first six months in revenue, but we started out investing
just a few hundred dollars, and spending less than ten dollars
monthly in advertising and promotion. Building your business
from your profits may sound slow, but you need that time to know
what you are doing before you grow.
Other things to avoid? We probably waited too long to start
outsourcing. Don't keep doing the things you aren't good at when
there is relatively cheap help available. Finally, I would say
- after trying to bring websites back from the dead a dozen times
- it is probably better to let failing sites fail and focus on
the ones that seem to be working.