Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Niall Doherty and I started a website called eBizFacts.com, where I try to help people make money online.
I mainly do that by reviewing products and services related to building an online business. I recommend the best resources I find and warn people of the stuff that seems like a waste of time or money.
The business earns revenue via affiliate marketing, and via a few generous supporters on Patreon.
I try to set eBiz Facts apart from other review sites by doing super in-depth reviews – my longest so far took 150 hours to research and write, resulting in more than 20,000 words and 300+ images – and by being brutally honest, even if that means screwing myself out of affiliate commissions.
I'm in this for the long run, and I figure the business will grow steadily so long as I always look out for my readers' best interests instead of trying to make a quick buck off them.
So far, it seems to be working, if this graph of my affiliate income is any indication.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I'm from Ireland but worked my last 9-to-5 job in the United States.
I quit that job in 2010 and have been working for myself online ever since, mostly earning a living as a freelance web developer.
Lots of people dive straight into something like e-commerce or affiliate marketing, but those are much more complex business models that are very hard to succeed to start earning a living online.
Working online has enabled me to travel the world and given me tremendous freedom. This video I made a few years ago was an attempt to illustrate that. It has racked up more than 1 million views on Facebook.
I started eBiz Facts at the end of 2018 after being inspired by a friend who had built his own affiliate website to $40,000 per month.
More impressive to me than his earnings was how he described his typical workday: he would basically spend a few hours each day creating the most helpful content he could, publish it for free, and point his readers towards useful products and services where appropriate.
His website had incredibly helpful and high-quality content, and I was struck by how he'd managed to achieve the "holy trinity" of business:
- He was doing work he found truly fulfilling.
- He was making life easier for tens of thousands of people each month.
- And he was earning good money in the process.
My friend encouraged me to do something similar in the niche I'd long been interested in, which is the "make money online" niche. It's a niche notorious for misleading claims and empty promises, and I liked the idea of leveling the playing field for the consumer.
I should note: by this time, I already had quite a bit of experience with online business and digital marketing. Not only had I been earning a full-time living via the internet for nearly a decade, but I had made money online in a variety of ways, and had developed a good sense of what was real and what was bunk.
At the same time, I'd never really "struck it rich" as an online entrepreneur. I'd been able to earn a consistent, comfortable living, but $3000-5000 was a typical month for me, and I only had about $15,000 to my name when I decided to start eBiz Facts.
Before jumping in with both feet, I spoke to two other friends who had built successful affiliate websites. Both were earning more than $10k/month from their sites consistently. I asked if they could think of a good reason why I shouldn't try similar in my niche.
When they both failed to come up with a good excuse, I decided to go for it.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I spent the first month in my new business doing a bunch of research and rebranding my existing website.
Using Ahrefs, I researched my niche deeply and made a big list of keywords I wanted to target. The trick was to find keywords with high-income potential but low competition. Theoretically, solid content created around those keywords would bring quality traffic to my site, which I could then monetize via affiliate offers.
Before long I had a list of almost 100 keywords I intended to create content around.
I then got to work transforming my personal blog – where I wrote about anything and everything, from personal development to travel to public speaking – into a website wholly devoted to helping people make money online.
I was lucky in that my site had been around for more than ten years and had built up quite a few backlinks, so it had a good reputation in Google's eyes. That gave me a nice head start. However, it also meant I had tons of old irrelevant content on my site that needed to be dealt with.
I rewrote some of that content to be aligned with my new focus, moved chunks to another domain, and deleted 100+ articles that were no longer relevant.
After all that I was ready to create my first "product," which was several pieces of content focused on some overlapping keywords I'd discovered during the research phase.
The juiciest of those keywords were "tai lopez scam."
Tai Lopez is a controversial entrepreneur and influencer who sells a bunch of online courses related to business and finance. According to my research, someone in the world asks Google if he's a scammer every 3 minutes or so.
I decided to go deep and research Tai and his courses better than anyone ever had, then publish my findings. My hope was that I'd find his courses to be legit and could then genuinely recommend them to people visiting my site and hopefully earn some affiliate commissions.
So I bought Tai's two most popular courses and went through them with a fine-tooth comb. That, combined with researching a bunch of other things related to Tai Lopez and writing up all my findings, took me six weeks of solid work and resulted in 8 articles and 25,000 words, give or take.
I also produced this video as a summary of my research:
Unfortunately, one of Tai's courses that I reviewed proved very disappointing, so my review for it was quite negative.
Luckily, I found another of his courses to be a pretty good value for money – though only if bought on sale – and I rated it 4-out-of-5 stars.
Before publishing all that content, I remember thinking about how it was my first true "swing of the bat" with this new business. I also remember telling friends that I wasn't sure if I'd ever make any money from that particular series, as I pulled no punches and ended up exposing many of Tai's questionable marketing tactics.
In short, my content didn't exactly make Tai Lopez look good, and I was doubtful that anyone visiting my site would click on my affiliate links and then buy something from Tai, thus earning me a commission.
But there was only one way to find out for sure...
Regarding affiliate marketing specifically, don't believe anyone who tells you it's easy. The people who do are usually trying to sell you a course.
Describe the process of launching the business.
So I pushed publish on all that content one Friday morning.
That evening, I checked my affiliate dashboard and saw I'd already logged an affiliate commission of $14.50.
It wasn't a lot of money – by comparison, my rate as a freelance web developer was $80/hour, and I was rarely short of work – but it felt amazing nonetheless.
That early success gave me the confidence to push ahead, review more courses, and publish more content.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
My business is all about trust.
I try to research products and services better than anyone else and publish my findings with complete transparency. I let the reader know how much time I've invested in the research, and I share with them my review process.
I'm also a strong believer that no product or service is perfect for everyone, so I always tell the reader why it might not be a good fit for them and try to suggest alternatives. Oftentimes I'll steer them away from something I could earn a commission from and towards a free resource if I'm convinced it will serve them better.
For example, I spent some time reviewing a bunch of survey sites. Lots of reviews of survey sites exaggerate how much money you can earn from them. I found one popular blogger suggesting it was easy to earn $500 in gift cards from a site called Swagbucks. But my research revealed that it would take about three months of mind-numbing 40-hour workweeks to earn $500 via that site. Therefore, it's not a good site to use if your goal is to earn more than a few bucks a week.
I believe people should have this kind of information up-front, before investing any significant time or money. That way, they can make smarter decisions and reach their goals faster.
This approach seems to have worked well for me. People have come to trust my site and my recommendations, knowing that my priority is to provide accurate information rather than maximize profit.
Sadly, this appears to be a rare thing in the "make money online" niche, as a recent email from one of my subscribers attests to…
That email was in response to my weekly newsletter, which has also been a big factor in growing my audience and building trust.
Every Friday for 70 weeks now I've sent out an email packed full of tips, insights, and opportunities to help my subscribers make money online.
As of this writing, the site gets about 1,000 unique visitors per day. 77% of traffic is organic, 11% direct, 7% social.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
18 months after starting eBiz Facts, the site is now earning $4,000 per month consistently.
Averages for the past six months:
- $4,199 revenue
- $1,491 expenses
- $2,708 profit
95% of revenue comes from affiliate marketing, but my favorite source of revenue is via a small group of kind supporters on Patreon.
My biggest expense each month is usually contractors. I have a few helping me with research, admin tasks, programming, and occasionally writing.
Other numbers that might be of interest:
- 4,731 email subscribers
- 30% open rate for weekly newsletter
- 1% conversion rate of site visitors to email subscribers
- 1:51 average time on site
- 34% of site visitors from the US
- 77% of email subscribers from the US
My long-term vision for the site is to make it the ultimate gateway for anyone looking to build an online business. There is so much conflicting advice out there about the "best" way to make money online – as if there is one such way for everyone 🙄 – that it can feel confusing and overwhelming, especially for newbies.
I want eBiz Facts to be the antidote to that, providing clear, research-based, no-nonsense guidance to anyone who needs it, thereby giving them a much better chance to earn a good living online.
I figure if I keep building towards that vision, revenue and profit should continue to increase steadily.
Going forward, I'd also like to create more video content. The setup I have now isn't ideal so I can't make video a priority. Later this year I should be settled in a better location, and then I'd like to start producing more videos like this consistently…
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I've learned a ton about online business, SEO, and affiliate marketing.
And I've learned a lot about patience – with this kind of business it's often months before you see the fruits of your efforts if you ever see them at all.
One thing I've learned this year is to stay focused on creating content but to not spend too long on any one thing.
6 weeks researching and reviewing Tai Lopez was probably too long, given the ROI. I also spent about 150 hours researching and reviewing Sam Ovens, which was way too much.
In contrast, content that I spend only 20-30 hours producing seems just as likely to do well.
In that sense, I tend to create more MVP-type articles nowadays, leave them for a few weeks/months, then go back and invest more time in them if they show promise (in terms of traffic or affiliate commissions).
Last thing here: having mentors is extremely helpful.
I mentioned earlier that I'm friends with several people who have built successful affiliate sites. They understand my vision and share my values. Being able to bounce ideas off them and have them tell me when I'm veering off course has saved me untold amounts of time and money while building this business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
eBizFacts.com is built on WordPress and Elementor. (I'd tell you which host I'm using but I'm not convinced they're worth the money yet.)
I keep things simple with my mailing list and use Sendy with AWS, which costs me about $5 per month.
I use Ahrefs for keyword research, an excellent tool.
Patreon for patrons and everyone who signs up to that at the $5/month tier gets access to a private Facebook group.
Teamwork for project management and time tracking.
Google Docs and Google Sheets extensively for many things, but especially for research notes and creating content.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I read about a book a week and have a list of best books for online entrepreneurs here.
My top 3:
- Deep Work by Cal Newport – How to develop the rare superpower of prolonged focus.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – The book that started the digital nomad revolution, packed with key principles and mindset shifts.
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco – Get rich quick does exist. Get rich easy does not.
Podcasts I find helpful:
- The Authority Hacker podcast – I listen to these guys first and foremost when it comes to building a successful affiliate site.
- How I Built This – Inspiring interviews with well-known founders.
- My First Million – Great for idea generation and getting your creative juices flowing.
For online courses, the one that I've learned the most from have been The Authority Site System by Authority Hacker. It's a course about building an affiliate website. I wrote an in-depth review of it here.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Generally speaking, if you want to start earning a living online, I highly recommend you find a remote job or start a freelance business.
Lots of people dive straight into something like eCommerce or affiliate marketing, but those are much more complex business models that are very hard to succeed with right out of the gate.
Getting a remote job or starting a freelance business is usually much easier. Lots of companies hire remote workers nowadays, often for entry-level positions. And most people who are computer-literate could be earning at least $20/hour freelancing within a month, using their existing expertise or by learning new skills on the fly.
The path that I see working best for most people looks like this:
- Get a remote job or start freelancing.
- Work hard, learn as much as you can, add tons of value.
- As you grow and improve, keep increasing your rate or asking for a raise.
- Get to a point where you're earning a full-time living working part-time hours. Or keep working full-time until you've saved up several months of living expenses.
At that point, you'll have earned the time/money freedom to build something like an eCommerce or affiliate marketing business without a ton of stress or desperation.
And even if your first attempts at those kinds of businesses fail, you'll have all your previous experience and earning power to fall back on.
Regarding affiliate marketing specifically, don't believe anyone who tells you it's easy. The people who do are usually trying to sell you a course.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I'm not actively looking right now, but I will be later this year if things continue to grow.
If you're awesome at research and/or writing and have a good eye for spotting bullshit, drop me a line.
Where can we go to learn more?
- You can sign up for my weekly newsletter here
- Finance reports – I've been tracking all my income and expenses and publishing these monthly reports since quitting my last "real job" in 2010.
- I check Facebook and Twitter a few times a week.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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