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How to Make Money From Your Website

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I make my living from the Internet. Specifically, my wife and I own a business that makes 90% of its income from the website you're reading right now: www.mediacollege.com. I'm often asked exactly how this works and if it's possible for other people to do the same thing.

Short answer: Yes, you can legitimately make money by running your own website but it usually takes a lot of effort to get to the profitable stage. It can be good money, just not easy money. There are exceptions, for example you might come up with a brilliant unique idea to attract millions of visitors without much effort, but that's very rare. For most of us it's all about long hours of hard work.

How it works

These are the most common ways to generate income from a website—I'll cover them in more detail below:


Ad-supported

Place ads on your website. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use an affiliate program such as Google Adsense. They do all the hard work finding clients and placing the ads but you only get a small cut of the revenue.
  2. Find advertisers yourself. Much more work but you get to keep all the money.

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Donations

Set up a donation button and invite people to help fund your website. You can do this through PayPal or some other providers.

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Subscriptions (paywall)

You can charge people to access content within the website. A common way to do this is to offer some content for free but charge for the good stuff, or charge people to see more than a certain number of pages. This is the business model used by a number of news websites, as well as tutorial websites such as lynda.com.

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Sell something

If subscriptions don't work for you or if you have something else of value that you can sell, a traditional vendor model might work best. You can either set up your own shopping cart or use a third-party solution such as PayPal or Google Wallet.

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Sell something via affiliate programs

Rather than selling products directly yourself, you can sign up for an affiliate program such as Commission Junction or Amazon Associates. You place a variety of ads and purchase options on your website and sell things on behalf of other suppliers. In most cases the final transaction is between the customer and the supplier, with you getting a commission afterwards.

There are many different types of affiliate relationships—from simple advertisements on your website through to complete shop-fronts with your own branding. You can see an example right here in our own Amazon shop.

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Blackhat techniques

"Blackhat" means anything dodgy or outright illegal. Some people do manage to make money this way but most people who try it don't. In most cases it backfires. Anyway, it doesn't really matter because it's wrong.

Summary: Don't do it.


Conclusion

There is no "right" or "best" way to make money on the Internet. Things that work well for some websites fail on others. Your strategy will also be influenced by the type of workflow and lifestyle you want.

For example, I have made a life choice that I want to be completely free with my time and accountable to no one. I want to go on holiday whenever I like and be free to spend time with my kids as I see fit. For my lifestyle it makes sense to avoid having to ship goods, deal with customer support issues, or be at the beck and call of sponsors. If on the other hand you're quite happy to work day and night and spend time wooing clients, your choices will be very different to mine.

Whichever path you choose, it's important to realize that you need to work long hours. This isn't likely to be a get-rich-quick scheme. If you're happy with a build-passive-income-slowly scheme, then get stuck in. It might be hard work but it is fun and very rewarding.

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