Could you tell us a little about yourself how you ended up starting an online business?
I first started making money online back in the mid-to-late 90s, while I was still in high school. My first dollar was actually by creating graphic banners for people in the AOL Web Diner chat room and they would have to actually send me a physical dollar in the mail. This was years before Paypal or anything like that was around.
After that I found myself working on my own sites (for fun), but then came across web hosting affiliate programs and the Amazon affiliate program. Long story short, I built out my own celebrity directory sites and was sending Amazon six figures a year while still in high school.
All of this lead to me learning more about the world of online / affiliate marketing and this was my main focus for the next several years (building out my own sites and ad campaigns).
In 2007 I decided to launch my own blog and brand at ZacJohnson.com, which would allow me to share my story and teach others how to make money online in the process. Since launching the blog I’ve been able to help my audience and advertisers generate several millions of dollars by following my simple tutorials and guides on how to get started with blogging, affiliate marketing and product creation.
The launch of ZacJohnson.com was important because it took me from being “just an affiliate” to then becoming a well known and established brand — which has brought in some amazing opportunities I would have never had otherwise.
Do you still have a “day job” or is this your main source of income?
I can fortunately say that I’ve never had a “real job”. As mentioned earlier, I started all of this nearly 20 years ago when I was a Sophomore in high school and never looked back.
While many of our readers are probably familiar with you, how would you describe your job, in your own words? Basically, for the layman, what do you do?
While it’s better to be a “master of one” then a “jack of all trades”, I can say that I am well versed in pretty much every aspect of online marketing — which lead me to where I am today.
If you wanted a 10 second elevator pitch, I would say — “I make money online by delivering high quality leads and customers to brands”.
These days I am usually focusing my efforts on building out my own brand and web site properties, in addition to running my
Rise of the Entrepreneur podcast — where I interview other industry experts and entrepreneurs to inspire others.
The goal today is to make everything I do online tie back to my personal brand and grow it in every aspect. This could be through content creation, social media, speaking at conferences, creating online training courses or even just increasing my reach in the process. All of this brings in more business and opportunities, while building the brand in the process.
So what, exactly, is a day in your life?
I don’t have a set schedule, but I still work 40-60+ hours a week. As often as you hear or think online entrepreneurs live a life of luxury and travel the world and just make money without doing anything — that isn’t the case at all. At least for the majority of us.
The answer to this question ties into the previous question as well. I spend a lot of time on my outreach, building out my handful of site properties and just running the day to day operations.
If you had to pick the top three reasons for your success what would they be?
Dedication – Everyone “wants” to make money online or be their own boss, but very few people have the dedication to make it happen.
It’s in my DNA – Even before the internet came around, I always knew I wanted to have a business of my own. When I was a kid in elementary school, I was selling Marvel cards and cans of soda to kids at lunch and making a few dollars per week. The internet started flourishing right around the best time while I was in high school and still had options.
I Control My Own Success / Failures – Being your own boss is tough… damn tough, but I would never want to spend my time working to grow someone else’s business. With all of the success and failures, I know each of them are my own and I can look back and say I did it my way.
If you had to pick the top three things people do wrong, the things holding them back from success, what would those be?
Lack of Interest / Dedication – The biggest reason why people fail is they think this is easy. It’s not. For every success story you see online, there are thousands of failures that you never hear about.
No Business Plan – Without a clear plan for success, how are you supposed to start a business in the first place. This is something we commonly see in the world of blogging. Everyone “has an idea”, they register a domain name and just start writing content and expect to have a successful blog business. This may have been the case a decade ago, but now it’s all about walking through a blog business beforehand and having a set monetization plan in place. This is something I cover in detail in my make money blogging guide.
Shiny Object Syndrome – Another problem that people have is “Shiny Object Syndrome”, which is jumping from project to project and never having a clear focus on what they are trying to accomplish. I write about this in detail here, and it’s one of the biggest problems for people trying to start a successful blog or business online.
Do you have any advice for novices starting their own websites?
Starting a blog is easy. Making a successful and profitable blog is not.
Here’s a quick walk through of what needs to be done.
- Find a niche that you can make money with.
- Niche down again even further.
- Create content that provides value and solves a problem.
- Give your audience a call-to-action at the end of each post.
- Promote your content and increase backlinks to your site.
No matter what your business model or niche is, this simple 5-step formula works every time. Too many people quick too soon.
What mistakes should new bloggers really focus on avoiding?
Too many bloggers are focusing on just “content creation” and not “content promotion”. With over 300 million blogs in the world, you need to compete and stand out from the crowd.
A great inspiration for all bloggers out there, is to look at these 15 successful bloggers and how they built their brands and businesses to what they are today.
If you want to build a successful blog, you need to rank higher in the search results, be the authority within your niche and build up your mailing list along the way.
Which social media sites do you consider the most important?
I personally like/use Twitter and Facebook the most — I really don’t use any of the others.
Twitter is great for getting my content out there and building my following, while Facebook helps build the engagement for my brand through Pages and Private Groups.
How much time is too much time on social media? 🙂
I like to automate Twitter where possible. One such tool I use is called MeetEdgar. You can listen to my interview with Laura Roeder (the founder), where we talk about the best social networks to use and how to automate and scale your social growth over time.
To answer the question, the least time I can spend on social media the better — simply because it’s such a gateway to getting sucked into other areas, losing focus and wasting time when other things can be getting done. However, if you have what it takes to go on social media and strictly work — all the better!
Let’s assume we’re not omniscient . . . what’s the one question you have an awesome answer for, but we didn’t think to ask?
I covered blogging and how to make money/become an authority… so I will go with a basic, yet important question — “Is it easy to make money online?”
The answer is absolutely not, and it’s not going to get any easier in time and more countries become more tech savvy and people come into the online marketing space.
Can money still be made, most definitely — but not for those who are lazy or try to scam the system. Money will always be made in many different ways, but the real brands, solutions and businesses are the ones that stand the test of time.
In short, treat this like a real business and you might actually end up with one.
We like to wrap up with a bit of fun . . . Anyone out there you’d like to give a shout out to? A friend, a great resource, your mom?
My wife Reena, our dog Foxy, my Mom, Dad and Sister — they’ve all been an amazing part of the journey that’s lead me to where I am today.
I still remember vividly when my Dad and I flew across the country to attend Commission Junction University 2000 and I took a week off of school. It was a life changing event. Even still today I will take my Dad to various conferences. I even interviewed him on episode 50 of my podcast.
If you could get a guest post from anyone, living, dead, or mythological, who would you tap for it?
A guest post from God / Jesus would be pretty cool… but I think I might have to die to get it 🙂
Photos ©: Zac Johnson