Preparing For the Future: Building A Successful Online Business


In the my last post, I talked about the very probable likelihood that I will be walking away from my engineering job sometime in the near future. As a person who has spent a great deal of time trying to plan for early FI and the future, you could say that I’ve put a lot of thought into thinking about prospective post-engineering careers.

Tentatively speaking, I would love to give real estate a shot! Right now, my plans are to hit the books hard and get my real estate salesperson license later this year. Currently, I’m studying a little bit everyday, and I’m pacing myself to complete about 1 unit/day.

I was in my accountant’s office going over taxes today, and oddly enough, he mentioned to me out of the blue that he used to work as a realtor back in the day. Not so subtly, I asked him on the spot, “Is being a real estate agent a viable career? For the Average Joe, how much should you expect to earn?

My accountant stared at me briefly… I wasn’t sure what he was going to say, until he finally muttered out, “Oh, man, you can make good, good money doing real estate! Especially in the Bay Area… I’d say that hitting $150,000/year is very possible, and if you can somehow manage to become an elite player in this game, I’ve seen clients raking in more than $700,000/year.

Interesting datapoint. Personally, I’m not going to put too much weight into what my accountant told me, but I’ll just say he isn’t the first person I’ve talked to tell me about the seemingly limitless possibilities made possible by pursuing a career in real estate.

At some point in the future, yes, I would very much like to give it a shot!

This Blog

Having said all that, the main theme of today’s post is to shed light with readers my thoughts on another very viable future career — building an online business.

That’s a rather vague way of putting it, no? Truth be told, I haven’t given this idea too much thought, but for starters, this blog is an “online business”.

Actually, up to this point, I would classify this blog more as a hobby, but since it does earn a tiny bit of revenue, I guess technically you could refer to it as a business. 😉

In case you were wondering (since I’ve never disclosed this information publicly before), this blog generates just about a hair below $100/month in online revenue. If that comes as a shocker to you, let me explain…

I suck at marketing. Period.

By trade, I’m an engineer. By personality, I’m an engineer as well. I’m the type of guy who will sit in front of a computer and spend hours (or days) working on a piece of code that will never be seen by a user, or appreciated by anyone else… except maybe myself. For whatever reason, I’ve always gotten great joy and satisfaction just simply chasing challenging problems. I remember a few years back when a co-worker who was working beside me remarked, “Man, you look so damn focus on that screen… What are you working on, exactly?” After I told him that I was trying to optimize code to enhance reusability, he laughed, and replied, “Seriously? Dude, stop wasting your time… At least go on Facebook or something. If you’re going to waste your time, do it right…

With this blog, I would say that I’ve treated it no differently than many of the other projects I’ve worked on in my life. From Day 1, I’ve always tried to focus on adding value for readers. Whether it be in the form of:

The purpose of this blog has been to document one person’s journey to early financial independence. I can’t say that I’ve always made the right moves along the way, but in any event, I’ve always done my best to be upfront with everything that I’ve done. I never wanted to be that guy who became successful at something and then tried to “educate” others later without ever revealing what exactly it was that I did to become so successful in the first place!

In my own case, so far, I’ve built most of my wealth through real estate, and if you dig deep enough into the archives, you can find out exactly when it was that I purchased Rental Property #1… Boy, have we come a long ways since then!

Anyway, my point is that up until now, my sole focus has been on producing content for this blog, not on monetization. If you really want to break it down, let’s say that on average I write 12 blog posts per month. Since the site generates ~$100/month, this computes out to $8.33/article. If it takes me 1 hour to write an article, well, I make just close to minimum wage!

As a side hobby, I definitely appreciate any little bit of income that comes my way. From a business owner’s perspective, however, I should have been fired a long time ago for my inept marketing abilities. Or as we used to say in the semiconductor field, “It doesn’t matter how great your circuit design is, if you can’t use it in a real product that generates revenue, it’s useless.

Clearly, I’ve got ways to go and a ton to learn about marketing! Social media, networking, and all those other skills that engineers usually lack (and don’t care about). 😉

It’s Possible…

For me, writing is not only fun, but also therapeutic. The best part is I get to connect with so many other like-minded individuals; this has not only inspired me to keep going full force on the journey to early FI, but it has helped me forge friendships. Because of this blog, I’ve had the privilege to share this awesome journey with others, instead of hacking away at it alone.

So, you can’t put a pricetag on any of that! You don’t have to make money to have a smashing good time doing something. 🙂

And thanks to early FI/pretirement, money will never be a sticking point that prevents me from writing. I’d blog for free (or minimum wage!), regardless…

As I peer off into the future, though, I’ll freely admit that it would be even more AWESOME if I can somehow figure out a way to make a decent income doing the very thing that I love so much.

There are many successful online bloggers/writers out there. Jason, over at Dividend Mantra, has inspired me greatly, especially after he made the bold move to quit his job at the car dealership so that he could pursue his true passion (writing and teaching) full-time.

Joe, over at Retire by 40, was one of my first blogger heroes, and a huge source of motivation for myself when I first got started. After all, he was another fellow engineer, so he knows my pain all too well!

J$ over at Budgets Are Sexy, has showed me that you can take a very serious (and dry) topic like finance and put your own unique little twist on it to make it more fun. He’s also a creative guy, and his side hustles (I probably stole that term from him), such as Rockstar Finance, and it’s wonderful Blogger Net Worth Tracker are simply genius!

Sam, over at Financial Samurai, is another brilliant blogger who first got me hooked up with the awesome online blogging community through Yakezie.

Michelle, over at Making Sense of Cents, was one of the first people who opened my eyes to even the thought of writing full time… I had no idea you could make enough money blogging to walk away from the 9-5!

And the list goes on, and on, and on… These pioneers, and many, many others, have shown that it is indeed possible to run a successful online business (that also happens to pay more than minimum wage).

At some point, I will need to reach out and learn from the best in the business!

Future Prospects

They say having a plan is half the battle… Right now, I don’t even have that, but by writing this post, I am conveying to readers (and to the universe), that building a successful online business is something that is definitely on my mind these days!

And that’s a start in itself…

As a person who is just beginning, I’ll acknowledge that I need to first learn how to crawl before I can attempt to walk. I don’t need to set the online world ablaze after I FI/RE, but here’s an initial goal of mine:

To generate $1,000/month in online income by the end of 2016.

Bam! There it is… That will be my very first significant milestone. Coming from $100/month, that’s an ENORMOUS 10x increase! Can you imagine the look on your boss’s face if you were to walk up to their office and ask for a 10x merit increase!?! For many bloggers, that might sound like chump change, but as I learned through my journey of investing for cash flow and net worth, the first step is always the hardest!

Things usually get easier over time, but you gotta keep working and hustling. Building an online business will be uncharted territory for me. And I need to be humble as I attack this next great challenge in my life.

But that’s part of the fun and excitement! Similar to my desire to become a real estate agent, I want to continue to evolve and grow as a person. New things are always going to be scary and nerve-racking at first… If you don’t try, you’ll never know what you’re capable of!

I’ve got a few new goals on my plate, with the online business and real estate agent path. Over the months, I’ll be sure to share more of the plan as it unfolds. It’s going to take a few years to learn the ropes, most definitely, but man, I’m excited to start!

First things first — Let’s keep studying hard so that we can get that real estate license, pronto!


Fight On!

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Dividend Hustler
5 years ago

Awesome article FIF. I wish you the best and hopefully you can get this blog to 1000 per month. Do it up with the real estate license. Why not? Im sure you’ll do well. If all else fells you have your engineering job to fall back on. No big deal. I would like to start earning some online income as well. That’ll be,so sweet. Take care bud.

Budget Nerd
5 years ago

Great outlook, and something I’d definitely be interested in tackling some day. You’re lucky that you can do the online courses in California. For me in Arizona, I would have to drive an hour and a half to take the courses AND exam. Bummer. I’ve been in the same dilemma for a while now; do I focus on my career and eventually get into upper management? Or do I focus on finance and real estate (while still working) and veer off into other ventures that highly interest me? Is there a way to do both, since I actually enjoy my… Read more »

5 years ago

I thought about becoming a realtor part time so I could retire and still have some income. When I told my realtor that he reminded me that you aren’t as flexible as you think because if your client wants to see places every weekend for a month, you won’t be traveling to Afghanistan for a desert oasis vacation. If you are OK being tied down periodically and a slave to someone else(client), then that could work. Or, you could be an investing consultant/realtor and make it clear that you will point people in the right direction and close the deal,… Read more »

5 years ago

Love this post and thanks for the mention. I hope you are able to reach your goal of $1,000 a month. I’m sure you will be able to do that with no problem.

5 years ago

That’s awesome FI! I think that’s a great plan to pursue both RE and the online business. The really good thing about RE is that one you’re passionate about it and two you get to work your own hours essentially. At least it’s not a traditional 9-5 M-F. I’m pretty disappointed with my own online income but it’s better than nothing. That’s pretty good though that you’re able to generate $100 per month without really even trying. Any thoughts on whether you’re going to pursue mainly advertising income or will you also throw in some product/ebook materials? Best of luck… Read more »

Dave @ The New York Budget

Great goal! Given your coding skillset, maybe SaaS makes sense for you. I have heard a lot about a program called The Foundation ( I haven’t tried it myself, but I have heard one of its founders, Dane Maxwell on a ton of podcasts (and it looks like they have their own podcast now). Might be worth looking into.

But either way, best of luck!

Dividend Mantra
5 years ago

FI Fighter,

Sounds like a plan! Wish you the best. $1,000/month would probably cover a good chunk of your expenses already. Factor in the dividend income and RE income and you’d be sitting pretty! 🙂

Thanks for the mention.

Best regards.

5 years ago

That is a very ambitious goal but I think you can do it with your strong determination to achieve the milestones. Keep up the great work.


Gen Y Finance Guy
5 years ago

Hey FI Fighter,

Great post! If you are interested in starting up a mastermind group Brian from Debtless in Texas and I meet once a month on Skype sharing whats working and whats not as we grow our blogs and build a business around it.

Would be really cool to get a couple more bloggers involved to share ideas and hold each other accountable.

Shoot me an email if you are interested.



[…] two articles, I addressed my plans for future career development (being a real estate agent and growing an online business) as ways to earn extra income in early FI/pretirement. But as we all know, it can’t always […]


[…] avenues for growth that I’m going to attack with all my might– For starters, I want to build an online business and become a real estate agent. I also want to indulge in wanderlust. Quite frankly, I really just […]

Financial Samurai
5 years ago

I think you could monetize this site pretty well! Shoot for 2-3 cents a pageview instead, and see what that brings. And if you build the momentum, you can get to 5+ cents a pageview. Generate 500,000 pageviews a month and that’s $10,000 – $50,000 a month!

Given your site is real estate heavy, look into great mortgage refinance affiliate offers that help lower the cost for readers.

5 years ago

I have always been interested in real estate as well, I just love looking at houses. Good luck on improving you online income I think that is a fantastic goal.

Kathy @ Rental Realities

I’m sure it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. With things like this, you come up with a plan of 10 new things to try and even if 5 fail horribly you’ve made progress. 🙂

Best of luck!