In 2006, I’d been using Ebay for a while and obsessed with making money online, when I saw someone selling a digital product called “Watch TV on PC” for 99p. Naturally, being caught on by the idea of watching my favourite shows on tv, I bought it but I realised it was just a bunch of links to online streams which while worked, wasn’t quite what I was expecting, yet because of the cost, people didn’t care enough to leave negative reviews or really do anything about it, aside from the odd comment that was actually happy with the service.
I decided to create my own, similar product, there were a lot of these sellers out there and I bought all of them, 99p a pop it wasn’t that expensive, spent hours weeding out the bad ones, and created a “master list” of basically good streaming sites, which were few and far between back then, advertised it as such and started selling it on eBay – the one thing I did differently than others was I targeted multiple other countries, I’d list my product on eBay USA, Canada, Australia in addition to the one UK, and I was the first one to do so.
I spent hours researching the right category to put this product into, categories like digital tv tuners or graphics cards ensured that the people viewing my item ad are likely to be interested in what I have to sell, and I paid extra to ensure I was at the top of those categories.
It was quite successful, for an 18 year old I was making hundreds of pounds a day, more money each day than ever had in my bank account until then in my whole life and many multiples of what a minimum wage job during the summer would have made me, coupled with very little competition I thought I had it made.
I felt like a genius, marvelling at how resourceful I was by having automated payment and delivery for my digital system and all I had to do was check my Paypal balance every few days, I would tell everyone who would listen how great things were going and how easy it was to make money online! That was my first taste of passive income.
My joy was shortlived however, as within months multiple copycats selling the same digital product cropped up on eBay and the market was saturated really fucking quickly. At one point, having gotten complacent and spending my time playing PC games, I hadn’t check my eBay and PayPal accounts for a couple of weeks, and it turned out the £500 a week I was spending on item listing on eBay had failed to turn any profit and I’d lost over £1000 in advertising fees in just one week!
I decided that eBay’s time had come, but created a website selling the same product, it took me weeks to learn web design after school, there were no online tutorials back in the day, I checked out books from the library, the most helpful one being “Microsoft frontpage 2000”, and spent my time struggling with sites and hosting.
Hosting a site on a place like geocities (remember that) just wouldn’t do, and I had to learn about domain name purchases, website hosting and how to advertise your website.
After weeks I was finally read, this time directly advertising my website and product via google Adwords, this too started off amazing, I was ranked number 1 for my keyword because I was willing to pay 50p a click (now selling my product for £9.95 a pop) but I was making enough sales to cover these costs and turn a very nice profit. But shock, fucking horror, within weeks this time there were a lot of other websites cropping up, advertising on google, cannabilizing my business as well as driving up my cost per click to the point that this thriving profitable revenue stream soon started making me a loss.
I was outraged, these fucking jackasses were copying me, the fact that my product was a direct copy of someone else’s is besides the point. I wouldn’t understand it then but the barrier for entry to my “Business” was way too low, and what happens then is that you spend your time searching for the next “niche” before the market becomes too saturated, its just another version of the rat race at work, because if the end goal is making money, which it obviously is, being passionate about it isn’t going to help with the burnout
Things are very different these days and if you want to earn money online, you better know terms like backlinking, SEO and analytics, domain authority, HVR and the like, but the draw for passive income brings in millions every year, and with everyone cooped up inside due to the pandemic, it’s never been a better time to start your own passive income stream, no matter what it may be, to complement your journey to Retiring decades early.