How Did You Discover Online Marketing? (I’ll Go First)

It’s funny… You’re here reading this post on my website right now.

You live in a different neighborhood in a different city in a different state and possibly even in a different country…

But we meet right here, on this screen, today.

There’s about a pretty good chance that you’re here because you share my interest in using the Internet to make money, so let’s talk about that…

How did we get here?


A Quick Version of My Story

The first time I ever got on a computer and took a good look at the Internet, I tilted my head to the side like a curious puppy and thought to myself “There’s a way to make money with this thing…

As a complete novice, with absolutely no idea what I was doing I started researching how it could be done.

My search turned up a company that promised they would pay you hundreds of dollars a week to install a plugin on your browser that displayed a new advertisement every time you went to a new page. Every time a new ad showed, you got paid.

I got really excited about the opportunity. Getting paid to browse the web sounded like a great idea.

My First “Internet Business”

I installed the plugin on my own computer first and then realized I could make more money if I installed it on more computers. Soon, every computer I had access to had the advertisements running on it.

If someone asked what it was, I told them I was “testing something” and to browse the web normally. Then, I sat back and waited for the money to start rolling in.


My little computer farm browsed the web for 2 weeks and during that time managed to pull down earnings of a few tenths of a cent. I was no math genius but even I could tell that this idea wasn’t going to work.

I decided that making money online was impossible and decided instead to use my very limited Photoshop skills to start making graphics and small websites for friends and local businesses, for few hundred bucks at a time.

I was using the computer to make a little bit of actual money, and that would do for now.

How To Make It In The Music Business Money Online

Several years later I was a member of a “How to Make It In The Music Business” email newsletter. Industry pros emailed out advice to independent artists on how to tour, promote and get major label record deals.

One day they sent out an email about a free 30-day course on making money online. I was definitely interested. I signed up for the free course and started working on it every day.

Losing Touch With The Outside World

I worked every waking hour. I stopped going out. I stopped hanging out with all my friends. I became wrapped in an obsession so great that it took me over absolutely.

I had always known there was a way to use the internet to make money. The first time I saw the internet I saw the opportunity. And now I was going to make it work.

I worked at a frantic pace, disregarding sleep, food and sex. I worked whenever I could and was loving every minute of it.

After many weeks of impossibly hard work and countless hours invested, I woke up one morning to find I had made my first commission…

For $27.

Now if you understand basic math and run the numbers on 60 -80 hours a week for almost 2 months you’ll see that at this point it was not a high-paying job.

Over the course of that initial 2 month period I was earning about .04 cents per hour. It was nothing… But for me, that first commission was a life-changing event.

The Peanut Gallery

When I tried to share my success with others, I was met with laughter, smug remarks and critiques. The peanut gallery told me I was crazy to “waste” so much time doing something that only paid out at .04 cents an hour. They said it was a scam, or a pyramid scheme and it was never going to work.

But I knew they were all dead wrong. I had seen something. I had seen the future and I was racing towards it, at .04 cents an hour… as fast as I could.

Remember this: "If everyone you know is saying that you've lost your mind, you're probably doing something right"

Climbing The Mountain

I continued doing (what turned out to be) SEO campaigns on the side and at night for a few years. At it’s height it was making $2-$3k a month. Still not a major windfall, but enough for me to get by and a substantial pay raise from my original rate of .04 cents per hour.

During that time I didn’t spend the money. I saved as much of it as I could and let it pile up in an account. Then, when the time was right, I used almost all of it to take a shot at my first paid campaign.

The initial results on that first campaign were awful, I lost every dollar I spent while I tried to figure it out. Then, after losing about half of my savings I hit my first big win.

Once I realized the campaign’s potential I switched into high gear.

That’s when things exploded out from under me, skyrocketed me into another dimension and changed my life forever.

I had climbed the mountain. I had won.

This is the short-version of what happened. Some day I’m going to write the whole story of my journey in detail and post it here on the site. It was an insanely fun, wild ride.

OK, Now It’s Your Turn

What about you how did you? How did you discover online marketing and how in the hell did you end up here?

Did you actively seek it out?
Did it find you by accident?
Saw something online?

Share your story and let’s talk about it in the comments below.

P.S. If you’re here for something other than online marketing, I want to know how you got here too. – Malan

  • Luis Barrios

    Well, i saw and ad in Google Adwords i think that said “make money online without selling nothing” was a CPA course and it was not cheap $499 (5 years ago) but in my second week i made my first dollar with MaxBounty.

    PD: thanks for the info you share, kindly

    • Malan Darras

      nice Luis, wrong with buying a product as long as you put it to you. Most people buy it and forget it. good on you.

  • Mike MRK

    I saw a website about how to make money online -> It had a 200page ebook ( about $15 ) about how to make money online -> the guy talked about making money with adsense or creating own product or affiliate marketing -> I started several projects but procrastinated on almost all of them-> Eventually I decided to try affiliate marketing ( SEO traffic ) -> a couple of months later I had the first money from Affiliate Marketing in my hands -> Abandoned SEO project (idiot) and decided to go PAID traffic -> Fail -> Now I’m getting back into SEO and after this I will go back to paid.

    • Malan Darras

      that’s a wild ride Mike. what year did you buy the ebook?

  • Dan Castro

    I got dropped from the record label I was with and all my management/gigs and releases were dropped, so I had to think of something on my feet to survive and earn some cash! I started reading BHW (cliche, I know!) and built out my first site which did me well for a few months (ran via blackhat of course!) and I went from there. I then built a small software business and sold that last year (Ran legitimately with paid search and SEO).. Right now I am back in the corporate world (Thankfully as a digital marketer), so the fuel to get out and get my freedom back is now really driving me – I will do anything!

    I have had an interest in affiliate marketing for a fair while now and next month I will have accrued enough of a small buffer to give it a blast! (Finally!) 🙂

    • Malan Darras

      thanks Dan, good idea to get a gig doing digital marketing. that way you can build your chops on their dime… then come out and do it on your own with all that experience. good luck.

  • John Marino

    A friend back in college showed me a check he made for $850. His profit was probably $100, but I didn’t think about that or even care. That was enough for me to invest 40 hrs a week to figure out how to make money online (while still attending a few classes). Made my first profit with EWA (RIP) and my second with Neverblue.

    • Malan Darras

      cool man, here’s to your third.

  • Stan Oleynik

    My first affiliate marketing “Aha!” moment came in 2010 when I got paid $50 from HostGator for referring a customer to them (I too was a web designer before I started doing AM full time)

    After that, about a year later, some guy who I didn’t personally know but was my friend on FB was inviting people to watch a webinar where he would teach us how to make $$$ on FB and I decided to watch it… to make a long story short, he was charging something like $800 for the full product and I of course thought it was a rip-off, but what I did was I watched the webinar again, took screenshots, researched everything I saw on the screen, connected the dots and basically reverse-engineered what he was doing and had my first profitable campaign a few days later and never looked back after that 🙂

    God is good.


    • Malan Darras

      nice. that’s a great way to do it if you’re strapped for cash. I did the same thing, took all the free info I could get and just made it work.

      • Stan Oleynik

        Awesome, that’s definitely the best and fastest way to learn because instead of relying on somebody to spoon-feed you, you figure stuff out yourself and make sh*t happen…

        Understanding the process is the key to success in this business, imho.

  • Ben O

    I started out in 2006/2007. I was working for a Bank at the time working on CDOs. ie structured finance. That blew up in 2008 and I went full time on AM. One of my friends from high school was working for Tatto Media. She told me about the success of multiple people she worked with. I got interested, she introduced me to a couple affiliates/advertisers who I’m still close friends with. My first big hit campaign I made $1,000 in 8 hours with a 500% ROI. That trend continued and i kept learning and implementing new strategies and campaigns. It wasnt easy and it was at times very hard but so far its been quite the journey. Seems like it was yesterday.

    • Malan Darras

      nice Ben. I always try to tell people the importance of getting that first big hit. the $1k in 8 hours campaigns are out there if they keep at it. and 500% roi never hurts 🙂

  • Cali818

    I used to run a Hydroponic store which sold gardening products to, ahem, “indoor gardeners”. I decided to make a website for it using ZenCart and added about 2,000 products. I started using adwords and adding the link to my site on various growing forums. Within a few months, I grossed $60,000 in 1 month. Back then, Google Shopping was free and you didn’t have to pay per click like you do now. Also, I got many huge orders from the forums I was spamming, I mean linking on. I was basically acting like I was a customer who found a great deal.

    Anyway, I kept having to research all this stuff using Google and I ran into BlackHatWorld over and over. Eventually, I joined. I learned about SEO and outsourcing and started a business offering SEO and Rep. Management to small businesses. At this point, I sold the Hydroponic store because I only wanted internet money.

    I met someone on one of these blackhat forums and he convinced me to try paid traffic AM instead. Thank God for that guy. He showed me StackThatMoney and told me to start PPV. I did PPV for 2-3 months but I hated it and switched to mobile. Mobile has been great for me. I still do SEO/SEM for small businesses but I am a few months away from retiring from that and becoming a full time affiliate.

    • Malan Darras

      great story. i spent some time on BHW… man that was ages ago.

    • Paul J

      Entertaining story, I recently left the SEO space (always changing, always frustrating space) I am in a similar stage and focusing on mobile, I happen to aslo be an STM member, hit me up handle is sanjeevan

      • Cali818

        Cool man. Sending you a PM now.

  • Ting

    I’m started seeking out new ways to make money after rich dad. Then I start searching online. Initially I got scammed quite a bit, paid dropshipping forum, iPhone wholesale, u name it, I tried it. But I nv give up.. Eventually I found an ebook course on how to sell on eBay. It did work for awhile but I get scammed by suppliers and even buyers sometimes. Around 2010, I heard about affiliate marketing, click bank. Try to sign up and use but it was too conplicated for me. And couldn’t find more info. Or there will be very expensive courses to teach you these stuff.I was overwhelm and worried to be scammed again so I told myself, maybe when I have more money then I explore this. In the mean time I keep reading and learning small skills like building simple sites and photoshop. I told myself. Who knows I will need it one day. So the day came 3months ago. I accidentally found affiliate forums and one thing lead to another, I finally understood how it works and jump into this.

    • Malan Darras

      nice Tine, good luck

  • Edgar Ochoa

    I got into Internet Marketing “by accident”… When I graduated from the University 2012, I started creating websites for fun… as a way to keep me busy. In learning something new.

    I started building websites in Joomla, then finally found out about WordPress… so the more I got involved in web development, the more I started to see the potential. My first idea was to start a web design/web development company… This turned out to be a nice learning experience in that I don’t want to “ever” deal with customers that don’t appreciate my time. What I had expected to take a few days of work, it would turn into weeks of work for a mere $400-$600…. I have to agree it was also my fault for saying no to the customer and not having a contract in place and place a limit on the number of updates to their website…

    Trying to get away from dealing with clients, I started looking for other ways to make moeny online. And so I came across SEO and affiliate marketing… I launched a site in Spanish promoting an ebook, did some SEO and finally made my first online sale. $27.50. I remember feeling amazing! So I continued pushing for more weeks, doing just SEO and then I got hit by the by G’s algorithm… all my hard work down the drain…

    Anyways, to make long story short… last year in November I launched a local lead-gen website. My goal was to launch it, not depend on SEO and run Adwords traffic — so I could learn the Adwords system…. I must say that it has been great. I’m not making a ton of money, but the earnings are covering the ad expense and the rest is I’m saving to expand into other areas. Right now I’m focusing on local lead-gen and PayPerCall…

    Later I want to test CPA offers…

    Most definitely PPC is where I feel I must focus all my energy. I enjoy PPC because the traffic is consistent and you don’t have to worry about any algorithm changes….

    All the best to you Malan, and to all of you. We’re all together in this exciting game…!

    • Malan Darras

      yeah Edgar, SEO can get wiped out at any time, PPC isn’t going anywhere. As long as you don’t do anything too crazy Google is happy to take your money.

      and man… when you said “Trying to get away from dealing with clients” I understand. When I hit my first big campaign I refunded all of the web design clients that I had and told them to never call me again. It was a great day. haha

  • Iliyan Deyanov Tsonev

    Well Hi guys! My name is Iliyan Tsonev from Bulgaria 27y. I start creating wordpress sites before 5 years and i was doing a SEO for them and monetizing with adsense. I make about 30$ daily and i use to have a 9-5 job. Before 2 years i quit my job and i decide that i will never go back to work from 9-5 and will do everything to make money online!Before exactly 1 year one of my friends told me there is a new social network and there is an automated software for posting (the social network was Pinterest) and it drives a huge amount of traffic,demographic – women from US. I bought this bot and start using it! I start monetizing with adsense because i knew that it is working and it is fine. I start researching for people doing the same scheme and some cool guys show me that there is a better way to monetize this traffic, and they show me clickbank! I start selling some affiliate products and have some stable income. My goal was $2000k in one day selling “The VENUS FACTOR”(a women weight loss product) most of the days i made between $300 and $500 and it was just a profit because it was a traffic which i didn’t pay for it 🙂 About 2 months later Pinterest update their spam algo and i got susspended with all of my accounts. Anyway now i still doing this scheme but monetizing with adsense again. I find out that affiliate marketing is way better that adsense so try different ways to get sales. I found a course for SEO + AFFILIATE and make some sales with it. Now i really don’t want to be the next person hitted by Google penguin/panda so i want to paid for the traffic and make campaigns. I try some POF and Facebook campaigns, i made some CPA conversions but not a lot. I really know how to build a good landing page and have some LP that have over 60% people going to the offer true them.But i really didn’t have a huge success with paid traffic(looking for some online course or somebody to teach me or just exchange experince-that’s how i found Malan’s blog). I really believe that i will climb the mountain very soon. This is the moment i want to ask you Malan, do you ever think to create a forum where we can share info-just a small closed group for your readers?Have you ever thought to create a webinar showing us how you are creating a campaign(not in the main source of traffic you use of course-maybe POF or FB) Thank you guys reading my story!

  • Nikola Sarac

    Well, I am a geek and tech junkie (as a matter of fact I have multiple Cisco, Microsoft and Linux certificates – just to prove how big geek I am) and after using the Internet for long time and various purposes I knew there is money to be made online. Long story short, I did a research and I will never forget my first “make money online course”. I admit, I downloaded it and didn’t pay for it. Because, as a beginner I hadn’t knew is it something legit or not, and we are surrounded by so called Gurus. It was Google Sniper by George Brown. That product was so scammy and spammy that I knew right from get go I am not going to do any of those practices. I can’t position myself as an authority in niches I don’t know anything about. And he taught us exactly that. Nevertheless, I have to thank him for introducing me to Internet Marketing. I learned something new and heard for the first time terms like SEO, niches sites, keywords, article marketing… And that was just my beginning…

    • Malan Darras

      Cool story Nikola. I think many of us got “initiated” into online marketing by buying some scammy product. Luckily I didn’t but I know several guys who did. Even though the book didn’t make them instantly rich, they (like you) took the knowledge and made it work later on. Good on you man!

  • Desmond

    I started with Pay-to-click sites and made $2 in my first month. Awesome…

    Then I learned photoshop and html/css in 2 weeks and immediately started offering web design service – made around $250 then lost interest because I was in Asia and paypal couldn’t send it to my bank account. I asked a friend in Denmark to transfer the money to his account and then transfer it to my account. I lost 70% of the money in tax and transactions 🙂 whole process took 3-4 months.

    One of my clients asked me to build a little affiliate website and this is how I got acquanted with affiliate marketing.

    Somehow found CommissionBlueprint and downloaded it from one of the blackhat websites, went through the videos in 3-4 days.

    Then, I paid ~$7 for domain & hosting (which was free for 3 months with the domain), paid $5 to a guy from digitalpoint for $100 Google Adwords coupon and got started!

    Overall, cost was $15 and I made $250 from that campaign, that is why I don’t listen to guys telling “you gotta fail, lose thousands and strive to be profitable etc.” my first campaign was successful. I believe, if you do your homework right, you don’t have to fail to be successful. But again, it took me 4 months to get that money and again, I lost 70% of it due to tax and transactions.

    The next year I made a little over $100K with SEO.

    Then Google update killed everything and I never had the motivation and courage to start again, until April 2014 – at the moment, I am striving 😀

    • Malan Darras

      great story Desmond. that sucks about the 70% fees and taxes. you should look into some decent affiliate networks. Most will pay you via wire direct to your bank account. You lose a lot less $$ that way.

  • ahmed

    hi malan
    i’m a newbie, i’ve already made my first dollar by doing content locking and promoting throught youtube, the net month i made 12.80 dollars
    now i’m aiming for 100 $ and grow from there.
    can you give me some advice while i’m at this point
    i find it difficlt to constantly take action knowing that i’m more than able to make 1k $ per month at this point.

    • Malan Darras

      hey ahmed – here’s the thing. If you’ve made $12.80 you’re already ahead of 90% of the people that try online marketing. most people never make a cent and quit.

      you should feel good about what you’re doing and continue to progress. That $12.80 will turn into $12,800 if you keep at it.

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  • Jason

    I started with adsense sites about 4 years ago. Kept getting accounts banned because ctr was like ~30%. Google apparently does not like that… Ended up selling off all the sites on flippa.

    Now I own an agency. Service business has it’s challenges… Like to revist cpa/affiliate offers.

    • Malan Darras

      haha Jason, yeah I’m sure Google thought those 30% CTRs were a little suspicious. Smart move selling the sites, a lot of affiliates just let their domains expire.

  • astr0

    I’ll try to keep it short.
    Was good at programming since I remember myself (started to learn it when I was 10 years old).
    Dreamed of a business in university.
    Got 9-5 on 3rd year in university to learn the industry and get some money.
    Quit job and started outsourcing company with friends on 5th year. Got double income of my 9-5 in few months. In about a year was forced to leave because of different views: I wanted scale, stability and employees, they wanted freedom.
    Was doing some freelance jobs and got 9-5 again.
    Learned online poker for a while, in 3 months was doing my hourly rate in it. Never considered it #1 source of income so just quit after gaining some general skills.
    Got married.
    Quit job to do some gaming with a friend who had 80+ employees 3d design company. For complicated and long to explain reasons it failed in 10 months.
    Was doing some great rate freelance work mainly for friends and client of ex-company.
    Got good offer from ex-company and went back to 9-5.
    Build a house cause that matters when you’re married.
    Was searching for ways to test/fail faster with business ideas. Tested some ideas using learn startups methodology.
    Math told me that when making something in Ukraine I can’t get much more that my current salary in case of success so it’s not worth it.
    Got some ideas on Chinese online stores affiliate programs (basically SEO).
    Started research on marketing.
    Came to paid traffic online marketing.
    Came to Charles Ngo’s youtube channel and blog.
    Decided that it’s a thing.
    Read the whole Charles blog making lots of notes.
    Read a lot of other stuff that’s not that good but still something.
    Now I’m reading your blog and making some notes too.
    Made decent “do campaign” plan and a lot sorted stuff on details.
    Got some “how to start” plan with some ??? spots that I fill in while doing more research and reading (affiliate network, tracking, hosting, etc.).
    Haven’t started any campaign yet, but 5 days ago I pretty much didn’t knew that affiliate marketing exists so it’s fine.