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In recent years, the laptop lifestyle has enchanted entrepreneurs far and wide. Creative and ambitious individuals are making money online from anywhere they can get a WiFi signal. Everybody wants to invent the million-dollar app, build a profitable hands-free business, or make fortunes in a get-rich-quick venture.
Although I can’t promise that any of those things will happen for you, I can show you the road to lead you there. The problem is that for most people, the laptop lifestyle is just a dream and nothing more. However, if you’re willing to take action and put in the work, you’ll be well on your way to earning to a location-independent income and designing your dream life.
Identify Your Passion
This is a crucial step in building your online business. If you’re working on or selling something that you have no interest in, I can almost guarantee that you will hate every second of it. Maybe you’re passionate about sports, or music, or blogging, or knitting, or anything at all for that matter.
No matter what your passion is, there is always a way to monetize it online. For some people, your passion may be “making money” or “building businesses” and that is completely fine!
Let’s Get Started!
THERE IS A LOT OF INFORMATION IN THIS POST. BOOK THIS PAGE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE!
The first step in this process is to set up your own site. Owning your site gives you complete control over marketing, pricing, brand appeal, and so much more! I know that building your first online business can be daunting, but once you’ve built your first website, each additional website gets incrementally easier to create. At this point, I could put together a decent website within an hour or two (but only from hundreds of hours of grueling trial and error).
Ready? Let’s get started.
Step 1: Buy a Domain Name
For website domains, my favorite option is Namecheap.
Cost: $12.88 per year
First, let’s check if your domain if available on Namecheap. If it is, great! If not, back to the drawing board. Although there are .com, .co, .us, .org, .net, and many others, I’d suggest sticking with a .com website. These websites perform best for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Next, we click ‘Add to Cart’ which brings us to the checkout page. The default settings are fine.
Domain Registration = 1 Year (aka how long you’ll own that website name for…don’t worry you can renew before it expires).
WhoisGuard = ‘Enable” (Free privacy protection from Namecheap)
Premium DNS = ‘DON’T Enable’ (Only necessary for large businesses and extremely popular websites…you can always enable this later if needed)
Confirm your order, create your account, and you’re all set!
Important Note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use Namecheap for hosting. ONLY use this sites to purchase your domain name (e.g. buying www.cooldomaintest.com). I made this grave mistake on one of my first websites and had to completely redo the whole site once I switched to a reliable host. If Namecheap recommends a free “Website Builder”, DON’T DO IT!
We will get to hosting and website building shortly.
Step 2: Choose a Web host
In my opinion, the best option for hosting is SiteGround. I have had absolutely no problems with my website and they provide excellent customer support and great pricing!
Cost: StartUp Package ($3.95 per month), GoBig Package ($5.95 per month), and GoGeek Package ($11.95 per month).
I personally have the GoGeek Package since I have several sites, but for someone new, I’d recommend the GoBig Package. If you’re 100% positive that you’ll never build more than 1 website, then the StartUp Package could work as well.
Once you set up your Siteground account, you can connect the domain name you just bought.
Step 3: Point Your Domain to Your Web Host
On the ‘My Accounts’ page, click on ‘Go To cPanel’.
After arriving on the page pictured below, you’ll see your SiteGround ‘Nameservers’ at the top left. Keep this tab open.
Next, open up a new tab and head back to Namecheap.
Log in and click on ‘Account’ –> ‘Domain List’.
Find your website and click ‘Manage’.
Scroll down to ‘Nameservers’ and select ‘Custom DNS’. Now enter the two SiteGround nameservers into Namecheap.
Make sure to click ‘Save Changes’.
Step 4: Set Up Your Domain on SiteGround
Log in and click on ‘My Accounts’.
In the top-left of the screen, you’ll see ‘Go to cPanel’. Click it.
Select ‘Addon Domains’ and fill in the fields pictured below.
In the ‘New Domain Name’ box, enter your website without the HTTP part. The rest of the values should auto-populate. Lastly, create a password and click ‘Add Domain’.
Step 5: Install WordPress
Unless you’re an expert coder and know how to build and edit websites from scratch, you’ll want to use WordPress to edit your site.
Okay, back to SiteGround.
Go back to cPanel and scroll down until you see ‘WordPress Tools’ in a gray banner.
Click ‘WordPress Installer’.
Select ‘Install’ and select your website in the ‘Choose Domain’ drop-down box.
Fill out your Site Name (e.g. “Fly to FI”) and Site Description (e.g. A blog about financial independence). Don’t ‘Enable Multisite’.
Next, create a username and password for your WordPress site. MAKE YOUR PASSWORD SECURE! If someone gains control of this password they will have full access to your WordPress site. Add an ‘Admin Email’ (the email to control your site) and leave everything else as default.
Click ‘Install’ at the bottom. Then, wait a few minutes and you’re done!
Pro Tip: Wait a Little Bit!
If you’re freaking out because your site isn’t up yet, that’s perfectly normal. In my experience, it usually takes a few hours before the domain has transferred and you are able to edit your site on WordPress.
After you’ve waited a few hours, you can access the back end of your site through WordPress by visiting http://mydomain.com/wp-admin (‘mydomain’ = whatever your site name is). There you’ll enter your newly generated WordPress username and password and you’re in!
Start Making Money
The part you’ve all been waiting for! I’ll do more of a high-level overview here so I don’t end up writing a novella. There are SO many different ways to make money with your online business.
Although ads are not my favorite, they are certainly a viable option to make money on your website. There are three main types of advertisements to place on your site.
Cost-per-click (CPC) advertisers pay based on how many users click on their links on your site. Usually, there are algorithms to determine the user’s preferences (e.g. You probably won’t find a hamburger advertisement on vegan.com). Some of the most popular CPC providers are Google AdSense and Infolinks.
Cost-per-mile (CPM) advertisers pay based on how many people see their ad, or in other words how far the ad reaches (hence the mile). For a new site, BuySellAds is a great option because they have no minimum website traffic requirements. However, they take 25% of your ad revenue in exchange for their service.
Fixed-Price advertising is when a flat fee is paid for an ad, regardless of clicks or traffic. This is usually done by smaller companies with a lower budget. For example, if you have a blog about animals, the local veterinarian office might pay you $XXX to place an ad in the banner of your site.
Personally, this is my favorite way to monetize my website. I can promote the services and products that I use and enjoy while making a bit of money! Basically, you just include the service or product link on your site and if someone clicks on it and buys or signs up for something, you earn a commission!
Don’t be someone who promotes terrible products just to make money … those are the worst type of people on the internet.
Lucky for you, there are companies that aggregate hundreds or thousands of affiliate programs through their platform. That way it’s easy to apply to new programs and keep track of earnings. Here are some of my personal favorites (click links below to sign up and start making money)!
Unlike my first two monetization examples, this can be done through an existing platform or through your own site. There are two main types of products to sell: Digital Products and Physical Products.
My personal favorite online store provider is a WordPress plugin called WooCommerce. The basic version of the plugin is free so you can get started right away. The paid WooCommerce extensions are definitely useful, but probably not necessary right out the gate.
In addition to scoring regular sales, you can actually create an affiliate program for your product. Even though you’ll be sharing sales with your affiliate partners, this can be HUGE for product reach! Think about Joe Schmoe earning a commission every time he sold your product to one of his friends or followers… and then multiply Joe by 100+!
My favorite program is ShareASale. Here are some other programs that I’m familiar with: LeadDyno, Clickbank, Refersion, and AffiliateWP. Your product and audience dictate what the best affiliate program is for you. Do some research and figure out what works best.
Digital products are great because they don’t require you to physically create or ship anything. Some digital product ideas include eBooks, software, video, audio, music, photos, graphic design, documents, courses, and so much more!
Check out this awesome tutorial on how to set up your Digital/Downloadable product on your WooCommerce site.
I’ll admit, physical products are definitely more difficult than any of the monetization techniques mentioned before, especially if you manufacture the product from scratch. However, in my experience, these products have higher margins so if you’re able to scale your business, you can make serious money.
Here’s another great tutorial on how to set up your WooCommerce store.
This blog post could expand into an entire book, but for the sake of your time, I addressed this topic from a bird’s eye view. Are you ready to take the steps necessary to build your online business and earn more income? I’ll admit, the first year or two are certainly the most difficult. You’ll feel self-doubt, lack of motivation, and maybe a loss of purpose.
However, if you stick with your business through the ups and downs and constantly aim to improve, your chances of success will increase exponentially. Nothing great comes easy. Good luck with your online ventures and I hope that this step-by-step guide can help you on your journey to financial independence!
If this content helped you, please share! Website traffic helps to keep the lights on and allows me to keep producing helpful content.
19 thoughts on “How to Start a Website and Make Money”
Awesome tips Cody! This is literally a road map. Anyone, anywhere can apply these to get started. I’m definitely going to be sharing this. Hopefully people read this and take action.
Thanks TJ! I spent a lot of time working on this to make sure I covered all the bases. I hope that this step-by-step guide can help bloggers and entrepreneurs monetize their websites and get compensated for all the time they put in!
Wow Cody! This is an all-encompassing post that is incredibly helpful and useful. I am definitely going to bookmark this page for my own use when (or if) I decided to aggressively monetize! Thank you! 🙂
Thanks Doc! Glad you found this post useful. Hopefully, if/when you monetize you can use this as a guide. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Hi Cody, do you use all four of those affiliate platforms? Or which one is your favorite? I recently starting making a few bucks on FlexOffers but don’t know if I should use the other ones as well.
Hey Scott! Yes I do use all four of those affiliate programs. All of the products / services that I recommend are ones I’ve used and liked.
ShareASale and FlexOffers are my favorites, followed by CJ affiliates and Acclaim Network. There are some products that are exclusive to certain affiliate programs (hence why I use all four).
Hope this helps and thank you for supporting the blog!
Awesome, I’ll have to check out the other ones!
Awesome post. I first heard of you when I attended the second week of Camp FI Southeast this year. I also heard that you won the pull-up competition. I won the second’s week pull-up competition so maybe we’ll get to go head to head at some point in the future 🙂
I listened to your Choose FI interview and was excited to hear you had started a blog! Your progress reports have inspired me to take my blog more seriously. A few days ago, I applied to the Credit-Land affiliate program through the Acclaim Network. Do you remember how long it took for them to approve you? My application has been “pending” for a while so I’m starting to get impatient. Appreciate any insight. Thanks!
It’s awesome to know that I was topic at week two of Camp FI! I really wish I could have gone the second week also and met a lot of new, amazing people. I’m always up for some healthy competition! Maybe if you decide to attend FinCon or some other FI meetup we can battle it out on the chinup bar.
I checked your site and noticed that you don’t have the SSL certificate (fancy terms for https://). I think this might be what is holding you up from getting approved for Credit-Land. I think my application took 3-5 business days to process before I could start using them to promote awesome credit cards for travel rewards. Hope this helps!
Thank you for the quick reply, Cody!
As it turns out, I got a FinCon scholarship for this year so I will see you in Orlando! I better start training a little because I’m pretty sure you would destroy me if the pull-up competition were to happen today.
I just got approved for Credit-Land so it was probably just me being impatient 🙂 I’ve noticed some FIRE blogs have started adding the SSL certificate. In your opinion, how difficult is it to get? Is it worth it for somebody who is not collecting credit card info and other sensitive information?
No problem, Juan! Look forward to meeting you in person. You’ll have to participate in LiftCon with some of the other workout-inclined bloggers.
Awesome news about Credit-Land! I think it’s worth getting the SSL certificate. It’s an easy process if you just type it into Google. There should definitely be a tutorial for whatever hosting service you’re using.
Very helpful blog for startup and entrepreneur, I highly recommend your blog those people who looking grow our business in this marketing industries. Thanks for posting this informative blog !!
Thanks for reading! Woocommerce has been great for my disc golf business and I highly recommend it to any aspiring entrepreneurs looking to sell products or services on their site.
I am bookmarking this bad boy! I have a website already fro my blog, but I’m not particularly happy with the way WordPress is holding me hostage. They want me to pay $23.97 per month just so I can use plugins?! That’s cold!
Hey Captain DIY! Glad you found this article helpful. Wow, I’d definitely get out of WordPress hosting if you can… that sounded ridiculous. Siteground actually has a dedicated team to transfer sites over from different hosts if you want to try that out. Good luck man!
Good to know, thanks for the tip!
No problem! Thanks again for reading.
Great Research Done Cody!!!, Thanks For Tips.
Thank you! More than happy to help out aspiring online entrepreneurs.