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In a world where everybody else seems to be finding massive success with their online entrepreneurial ventures… I’m here to expose the cold hard truth about my personal experience.
I subscribe to various podcasts, and I still read blogs in the ‘internet marketing’ space – and I see the success stories ALL the time. They are very motivating, indeed – and publications like these are part of what fuels me and keeps me going on my own entrepreneurial journey.
But – I’ve got to be completely honest here and tell you the 100% truth. I feel like an absolute failure when it comes to my attempts to ‘make money online.’ I’ve been at this thing for over a decade, and currently, my online passive income is pretty much ZERO!
A Few Successes (that didn’t last)
To be clear, I have had some success along the way. I started this blog in 2012, pretty much as a way to document my journey to passive income riches. At the time, I was focused on blogging and niche websites.
Keyword Research Packages
As I dug into strategies for success with content websites, I learned a thing or two about keyword research for SEO. One of my biggest successful ventures around that time came in 2013 when I started offering a keyword research service. I was creating keyword research packages based on various (random) niches, and people were buying those keyword research packages from me!
During that year (2013), I had one of my best months ever as far as income earned online. I brought in a little over $3,000 in one month, which still stands (10 years later!) as one of the best months I’ve ever had.
The problem was… that income was not passive and was also not sustainable. I needed to spend time creating the keyword research packages. If I didn’t create, there was nothing to sell. That business soon dissipated and withered away.
I tried my hand at many different niche websites – none of which I would consider to be massive success stories. All of my niche website efforts focused on SEO for traffic, and most of the topics I chose to build websites around were based solely on my analysis of the keyword research data and whether I thought I could get “free” traffic from search engines (mostly Google).
I still own my very first niche website, which is a fairly simple site that teaches people how to use borax to kill ants. I dominated the search results page for several years for search terms related to using borax to kill ants. During peak summer months, I was getting thousands of visitors per month and earning a few hundred dollars each month. But, over time, Google algorithms changed, and traffic to the site dropped off, as did its earnings.
The story is pretty much the same for almost every niche site that I’ve tried. I get excited and work on it for a while – but never really see it through to massive success. Google changes the algorithm. Traffic takes a hit. Matt loses motivation and moves on to something else.
I did have one niche website that was somewhat of a success. For a couple of years, I worked on a site based around the topic of essential oils. I ended up selling that site for $11,000 in 2017. My main problem with that niche was that I really had no interest or passion for essential oils. I even used a fake (female) persona to build out that site’s audience and email list! Lol.
AmaLinks Pro (WordPress Plugin)
In 2018, I co-founded AmaLinks Pro – a WordPress plugin for Amazon affiliates. I teamed up with a WordPress developer, and we built out what we thought was the best damn Amazon affiliate WordPress plugin that ever existed.
We were really proud of the product that we created, and it was selling reasonably well – on a yearly recurring payment model. After expenses, we were able to give ourselves profit payouts most months – but not every month. The money was okay… but nowhere near life-changing like we were hoping for.
In June of 2022, we sold AmaLinks Pro for an undisclosed amount (low 6-figures) because both of us had circumstances in our personal lives that didn’t allow us to continue to serve our AmaLinks Pro customers as well as we would have liked.
The low 6-figure payout that we split 50/50, was nice – but again, nowhere near as life-changing as we had hoped. That chapter of our internet marketing journey, as a partnership that built out a sweet software company, had come to an end.
It’s the Economy, Stupid!
2022 was going great for me on a personal level as far as income. The economy had not yet come to a halt, and I was working 11 to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, driving a truck for FedEx. I was on track to have my first ever 6-figure year just from my W-2 income from FedEx, in addition to the payout I received when I sold AmaLinks Pro.
But then, the economy took a dump in mid to late summer of 2022. How do I know? Because I’m a trucker and I move freight, and levels of freight movement are one of the most clear-cut indicators of how well or how bad the economy is doing.
When the economy is booming – more freight is being moved. When the economy slows down, less freight moves across the country. I’ve been in the freight business for over 20 years and this indicator has held true every single time.
So… as the economy slowed, so did my hours at FedEx. In September of 2022, I started a new schedule at FedEx where I work only 4 days pers week. I still work 10 to 12 hours per day – but now I only work 4 days instead of 5. This means WAY less day job income (losing 10 to 12 hours of overtime each week), but one full day of freedom to work on another online venture to try to create those elusive riches that I’ve never been able to achieve.
Back to Square One – Blogging
With all of my extra time and nothing else going on as far as internet income… I decided to go all in again with this blog – The Dumb Passive Income blog. I had some new keyword research methods and strategies. I had a good (and expensive) writer, and I still had my VA, who was willing to keep working for me.
I had a renewed attitude, and I was extremely motivated to make it work. I started publishing content regularly on this blog again – but this time, it was all SEO-focused content on general ‘passive income’ topics.
The plan was the same as always: to publish lots of content, get traffic from Google, build out my audience, and start building up my email list again. Eventually, I would start to earn money from ads on the website and from promoting affiliate products.
Then, in January of 2023, I heard this guy named Scott DeLong on a podcast, and I looked him up. He started a challenge where he set a goal of turning $20k into $500k within one year. He had some massive successes in the past, and he knew he could repeat his success with a brand-new venture. That motivated me even more, which led me to my own challenge…
$5k/month by Labor Day 2023
On January 25, 2023 – I published this tweet, where I declared my own challenge to get my internet income up to $5k/month by Labor Day 2023 (September 4th, 2023). I read ALL of Scott’s emails within just a few days, and I decided to try his strategy. I started implementing my own plan to build out the audience for Dumb Passive Income via a Facebook page and using FB ads to get people to ‘Like’ the page.
I was trying to follow Scott’s strategies to a tee. My VA was helping me publish daily content on the FB page, and I was doing my best to keep the audience engaged. There was just one problem… Facebook wasn’t feeding my content to my audience. I spent $325 on FB ads to build my page followers up to over 2,000, but hardly anybody was seeing the daily content that I was publishing due to the way that the FB algorithms are set up.
In other words… I was spending money to grow my FB page following, but that money spent was not translating into blog visitors or email subscribers at all.
I also started publishing a daily email newsletter that featured some pretty cool content geared toward people who are trying to create passive income and people who just generally want to become rich. I was sending the daily email newsletter to my existing list of subscribers for this blog – but no new subscribers were signing up. Furthermore – nobody was buying any of the affiliate products that I was promoting.
I wasn’t growing my audience and I wasn’t earning any money. I didn’t stick with it for very long – and I quickly lost motivation. I didn’t see a clear path forward to earning significant money with the Dumb Passive Income blog.
To be honest… I wasn’t somebody who was earning any passive income at all – so why should anybody pay attention to me as I try to show others how to earn passive income? I was a failure and I felt like a fraud. So I just quit.
The hardest thing I’ve had to do
I had to fire my virtual assistant (VA), who had been working for me almost since the very beginning. I think I originally hired him in 2012, and he had been phenomenal to work with. I also had to fire my writer. I simply couldn’t afford to keep paying people to work for me when I wasn’t earning any money online.
I stopped publishing content on the FB page. I stopped the daily email newsletter. And, I stopped publishing content on the blog.
I still have this goal to be earning at least $5k/month online by Labor Day 2023. It’s a lingering goal. It’s out there. I just don’t have anything going right now that will get me there.
I Can Still Make Money Online (not passive though)
One cool thing about familiarizing myself with WordPress and building all of these websites over the years is that I have a skill that people are willing to pay money for. I can build websites!
I’ve built out a few client websites over the past several years – pretty much just for some family and friends who run local small businesses, and they needed websites. I didn’t charge them very much, but they do pay me yearly to keep their websites updated and running.
More recently, I got hooked up with another local medium-sized business that needed a website. I charged a more than fair price to build a fairly simple site for this business, and they are as happy as can be!
But again… building websites for local small businesses is NOT passive income, and it’s not going to get me to $5k/month in sustainable online income by Labor Day 2023.
What About an E-commerce Store…?
Oh! I almost forgot to mention the e-commerce store that I started with my son – Running It™ Disc Golf. We got really excited about starting our own disc golf brand because we are obsessed with the sport of disc golf. But… again, I don’t see a clear path to earning $5k/month selling print-on-demand clothing.
Disc golf is something we are passionate about, and we’re eager to share our brand with other disc golfers. However, profit margins for physical products are a limiting factor, and growing our brand awareness and customer base is proving to be a slow and tedious process.
As it turns out… we’re going to keep the disc golf gear e-commerce thing going as sort of a fun project. In fact, my son Ethan is currently working on starting his own disc golf YouTube channel and he plans to promote our brand that way. But… it’s not the thing that is going to get old dad (me) to $5k/month by Labor Day 2023.
The Path to $5k/month by Labor Day 2023
I only have just over 4 months to get there, and I am pretty much starting from scratch at this point. I have lots of experience and tons of different skills related to internet marketing.
So… what the hell am I going to do? How in the world am I going to hit this goal in just over 4 months, starting from square one?
SEO is not my friend
SEO will not be a factor in my strategy at all. For one… I kind of suck at SEO. I don’t have time for SEO. And SEO simply doesn’t stick. After all these years, it’s fair to say that I’m fed up with SEO and I don’t really want anything to do with it for whatever my next project will be.
I need to own my audience
100% – I MUST own my audience. Meaning… I can’t rely on other platforms to grow and manage my audience. I’m not going to try to grow a massive social media following. That might be part of it – but my #1 goal will be collecting email addresses.
I will have to pay money to build my email list
Since I won’t be using SEO and I need this to happen quickly – I know that I will need to pay to build my email list. This will likely be with Facebook ads. I don’t love this strategy without knowing 100% for sure that I will be able to turn subscribers into customers. But, this is something I will have to figure out before I spend too much money on FB ads.
As long as I can prove to myself that I can get a positive ROI on FB ad spending in a relatively short amount of time – then I’ll have no problem spending money on FB ads.
$5k/month – you do the math…
I’ve been listening to the Flipped Lifestyle podcast recently, where they often mention this simple math… All you need to do is find 100 people to pay you $50 per month to hit $5,000 per month.
I’m thinking just a little bit differently. What if I can find 1,000 people to pay me just $5/month! Same result with a lower monthly payment threshold for subscribers – I just need to find more of them, which should be easy with FB ads.
Who is going to pay me, and for what?
Well… that is the part I am still trying to figure out. I’m likely moving towards some sort of membership or Patreon style community. With SEO slowly going away to make way for who knows what will happen with artificial intelligence (AI) – building a community is going to be key. A community on my own platform that I have complete control over.
Pat Flynn, over at Smart Passive Income, has been talking about the importance of community quite a bit lately. I’ve been educating myself by listening to some of his podcasts, in addition to the Flipped Lifestyle content that I’ve been digging into.
I do have several great ideas for the direction I’m planning to go. I’m going to save the specifics for my next update. The niche I choose is still undecided at this point… but it’s definitely going to be something evergreen that I have a passion or interest in.
As I learned from the Flipped Lifestyle people… it will have something to do with my God-given talents or experiences that I’ve had in life. I have knowledge and information that I can share and that I can build a community around.
The topic is NOT going to be passive income and the audience will not be this blog audience. But, I do plan to keep publishing updates like this on The Dumb Passive Income blog because I enjoy writing these types of update posts. After all – posts like this are how and WHY I originally started this blog. So… look at it like I’m going back to my roots.
Wish me luck! I’ll see you in the next update post where I plan to reveal the niche that I will be building my new venture around.
1 thought on “The REAL Truth About My Passive Income Journey – I’m a Failure”
Keep it up and keep it real. Looking forward to hearing your revelation!!
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