This is part 2 of the ‘Genesis’ story that lead me to affiliate marketing.
I was living at mom’s house without a job. I had discovered the internet and had a feeling that I could figure out how to make money with it.
In the meantime, my little brother, who had learned how to use Photoshop to make graphics and HTML to make websites, showed me the basics and we started making stuff.
I really like making websites and started building stuff right away.
I ended up making a really bad website for my music. I built it on a free webspace provider, something like malanmusic.freewebspace.com.
It was awful, but I thought it was amazing – so I started showing it to people. Everyone thought it was pretty cool.
Around this time I started realizing that my vision was blurry at night.
The signs on the road were hard to read, the letters blurred out, especially at night.
I had no cash for an exam, but my little sister was working at an eye doctor at the time so we scheduled a time for me to get checked out for free.
The doctor told me I was as blind as a bat.
“You drive a CAR AT NIGHT with these eyes?”. He was surprised I hadn’t had an accident. My left eye had a severe astigmatism and he suggested I get glasses right away.
“How much do glasses cost?” I asked.
“It’ll be about $200 – $400.” he said.
I was crushed. I had no way of coming up with that much cash.
Then we came up with an idea.
He said “I hear you make websites.”
“Oh.. yes I do!” I replied.
“Well, we need a website, would you make us one in exchange for glasses?” He said.
“HELL YES!” I shouted.
And that was it. I had just made my first money online. I wasn’t getting cash but I was getting a pair of frames and lenses worth about $250 and that was fine with me.
“Holy crap…” I said to myself. “What else could I get with this computer thing?”
I started telling everyone I knew that I would make websites for either cash or trade.
Within a few weeks I had lined up a another website job, this time for a friend.
He paid me $50 to make a website for his small business. I did the job and when he handed me the money – I almost passed out.
In the past, I had to clean floors and do manual labor for money. This guy just handed me $50 for something I made on the computer.
I couldn’t believe it.
A Computer And A Desk
A few weeks later I was chatting with a friend on instant messenger.
He asked me what I was up to and I showed him some of the websites that I’d been making.
“Cool!” He said “Maybe you could work here…”
He worked at a computer store and it dawned on me that he was chatting with me from work.
“You get to use the internet AT WORK?” I asked.
“Yeah” he said. “I do sales, so I have a desk on the sales floor that I use while no one’s here.”
I couldn’t believe it. He was chatting with me and getting PAID. I couldn’t believe it.
“That’s awesome!” I said. “I would love to be able to do that…”
“Well, maybe you can work here.” He replied.
We talked about it for a while and decided that maybe I could work in the Internet department doing tech support calls and repairing computers.
I had no experience doing either thing but he knew I was smart enough to figure it out and they did websites from time to time for local businesses and I did have experience there.
So he got me an interview with the manager.
I went in for the interview and answered a bunch of questions as best as I could. I was worried that my jail time would ruin my chance of getting hired, but the manager knew my family and understood that I wasn’t a bad guy – so it wasn’t a problem.
At the end of the interview he looked at me and said:
“You’ve got the job… but are you willing to work for minimum wage?”
“HELL YEAH!!” I said.
You see – every job I’d ever had paid minimum wage. And these were restaurant and gas station jobs where I was making sandwiches, burning my hands on ovens and cleaning bathrooms.
With this job I was getting a desk and a computer. I felt like an executive… It was the best thing that had ever happened in my life!
I felt like this was a great first step on my journey to make money online – now I was on my way.
The Launching Pad
The first few days working at the computer store were pretty overwhelming.
The store had two sides. One side was a computer sales floor and the other was an ISP (internet service provider).
I worked for the ISP as a tech support / repair guy.
The guys on the team showed me the ropes, gave me some books to read and helped me get on my feet. I had very little experience so they had to drag me along a bit, and I’ll always thank them for that.
After a week or so on the job I felt like I had it down pretty well. I knew how to help customers get online and could do some very basic computer repair.
During the slow times at work, I continued to research ways to make money online. I was being paid to sit on the internet and wait for calls to come in so I figured I’d make good use of my time.
First Pennies Made Online
If you’ve ever Googled “Make Money Online” than you can understand the ocean of scams and garbage I had to go through. It was a nightmare.
But I finally came across a few things that seemed legit.
The first thing I found were these weird little ads about “Free laptops” and “free phones” if you filled out surveys. I couldn’t figure out how they were making money and it looked really stupid to me, so I passed on that idea.
(A decade later I would meet the accountant for one of these free phone offer guys… he told me his client was making eight figures per year… oops)
The next thing I found was an Ad Toolbar company.
They paid you to install a tool bar on your browser that displayed ads while you surfed the web. Every time you opened a new page, the ad bar changed and a new ad was shown.
The payout was something like .0000000000002 cents per ad shown.
It made sense and seemed easy enough, so I decided to give it a shot.
I installed the toolbar, surfed to a few different web pages and sure enough… it was making money! The toolbar had a little box with numbers that showed how much I was making.
Every time I went to a new page, the numbers went up a tiny bit.
I freaked out!
I spent most of my day at work just browsing to websites and making a fraction of a penny each time. After several days of this I was exhausted by it, but I wanted to make it work.
So I Googled “automate web browsing”.
I came across a little browser plugin that would automate the process of surfing the web. This tiny application would automatically go to a new page every few seconds, without me having to touch it.
I installed the toolbar and sure enough, it worked just as expected.
Now I could “surf the web” and earn money 24 hours a day! I thought I was going to be rich!
A few days later my numbers were still way too low. I was on track to earn about 10 cents a month.
That sucked, but I felt like I had something, so I decided to attempt to scale it to see how much I could make.
I convinced a coworker to let me install the browser plugin and toolbar on a his computer and told him to turn it on whenever he wasn’t there. He ran it for me for 1/2 the day and all through the night.
Now I had two machines going – so I was making twice as much money.
Soon, I had managed to install the plugin and toolbar on almost all of the computers in the office, and they were all browsing the web making me money day and night.
**I was so excited.**
- I had found a way to make money
- Then I automated it
- Then I scaled it
(I had no idea how valuable this learning experience would be in the future.)
After several weeks of running the computer farm I checked my earnings. I had made .04 cents.
“Dammit!” I whispered to myself. “That didn’t work.”
But I was getting closer…
So I kept looking.
Hehe, the toolbars, been there done that 🙂
Screw online marketing content… can we just have fulltime Malan stories instead?
Eli Cohen says
Awesome man, many great people have humble beginnings. I also saw the internet as a “gateway to freedom” in a way and I’m still trying to make it work. Really enjoying the new blog. Keep the content coming!
Ohh, I want to know more. Although much of the history is already ajaj
ahhhh i was so entertained reading this story when suddely cuts up and i was left hanging lol
your story reminds me so much of what i’ve going thru. Keep ’em coming!