At the age of 15, Zac Johnson began making money online designing web site banners for $1 each. A self taught entrepreneur, Zac’s been making money online for nearly 20 years and has been involved in nearly every facet of affiliate and online marketing. One of Zac’s many successes includes his story of “How I Made $860,538.38 Profit in 4 Months!” from one web site, which can be read at his blog at ZacJohnson.com.
Zac continues to focus on his blog, where he provides readers with firsthand accounts of his experiences, successes and failures. In addition to his own success stories, Zac reviews affiliate networks and informs readers how & where they should be making new money.
Zac’s social reach and site traffic is now over 100,000 strong and has referred over $5,000,000 in new business to his advertisers and network partners. You can also listen to Zac’s new podcast “Rise of the Entrepreneur” on iTunes and connect with Zac through his new online training community at Blogging.org.
More from Zac Johnson
As hard as it is to imagine, the past 10+ years have flown by fast… So fast, it brings me back and reminds me how I first started making money online and how I was always fascinated with the many different ways for people to generate money.
When I was younger I would always ask my father questions like “How much do you think it costs to advertise on that billboard?” or “How many people actually buy a car after seeing a superbowl commercial?”. It wasn’t so much that I was looking for answers, but everything about advertising was so interesting to me. As I grew older, my interest in business/money only increased.
My First Successful Business
What do most people remember about school? Probably hanging out with friends, horrible teachers and maybe even rooting for your school sports teams. What I remember and value most was all of my business experience. Instead of carrying books and pencil in my backpack, I would carry around comic cards and later soda cans.
During fourth grade, Marvel Comic Cards were big in my school. What I would do is buys packs of cards for $1 each (with 12 cards per pack). I would then bring them to school and sell them at lunch for around .25 per card. Other kids would buy the cards with their leftover lunch money.
Later on in intermediate school, the real money was in soda! You’d be amazed how many kids would prefer soda over the school’s selection of Snapple/Milk or Water. Of course as we are getting older, kids are having a little more money to spend. Buying a 12 pack of sodas for a couple bucks then selling them for .75 a can is a great profit. This may seem funny or odd to some of you, but this is business at it’s best… nothing beats being a kid with a little extra cash!
Here Comes the Internet
It wasn’t till early high school that I first experienced the internet. At first it was mainly just fooling around and making some funny pictures pages and sports team pages. I would say I didn’t realize the power of the internet and it’s ability till later on. Spending lots of time working on my little fun pages and chatting with other web designers in the now defunct “AOL Web Diner” was super fun, but also paving the way for my future working online.
Send a Click, Earn a Penny
I believe the first affiliate program I had joined was the Pacific Coast Feather Company banner click program. They would pay you .01 per click for everyone you sent to their web site, through one of their 468×60 banners you placed on your site. Unfortunately payment was sent at $100. A bunch of my webmaster friends thought it was the coolest thing to start getting paid just for sending traffic to a web site. At this time .01 per click was a decent amount, though no one I knew ever got a check, since you had to send them 10,000 clicks to meet the $100 threshold.
Rise of the Affiliate Networks
Though the Pacific Coast cpc banner program did not bring in any money, it did bring in a lot of opportunity and knowledge for me to invest time into. I would then move on to find eAds (old defunct banner network), AllAdvantage (refer users to make money to surf the web) and Amazon.com. I started to make money online with all of these new companies! After even more experimenting I found the Free Stuff market. I was amazed at the thought of offering free offers and surveys to people and getting paid for it! My best (in the beginning) and first experience with this type of marketing was through WebSponsors (now owned by ValueClick). WebSponsors was offering a commission to affiliates every time someone had completed a form or signed up for an offer.
The MoneyReign Network
I guess it was around 1998 now and many new networks were popping up a some new revenue paths were as well. By now I had a network of free stuff and entertainment sites. I was heavily pushing Amazon.com content for search engine placement, while making money off the incoming search traffic. After several attempts to become a “list owner” with PostMasterDirect.com, I was finally accepted around nine months later. (PostMasterDirect is a double opt-in confirmed email marketing company, which sends targetted email to its subscribers based on their interests. To this day PMD has been one of my best money makers) I already had the network of traffic going through my sites and now with a partnership with PostMasterDirect.com, I could start sending them confirmed newsletter subscriptions.
The free stuff and entertainment sites were doing well, but I felt there was room to grow. I came across some survey/sweepstakes type web sites and decided that I should try and get into this market as well. I was able to bring in new traffic and push data/leads to other companies as well. Finally I made the next step, which was to become a merchant. I would soon have my own affiliate programs spread across Commission Junction, WebSponsors, ShareaSale, DirectLeads, FineClicks and a few others. Through these affiliate programs I would go on to pay over ONE MILLION in commissions to affiliates. This was all started and running while I was still in high school.
There are very few things that will make a massive change in your life and your future business, but this was one of them. As mentioned earlier, I was already running my affiliate programs through Commission Junction and most of my volume was through them. I noticed they had an event called CJU 2000, which they had in Santa Barbara, CA and all of their merchants/affiliates were invited. The ticket to attend was a few hundred bucks, and a six hour flight across the country for me! I hadn’t made any plans to attend the event, but my dad and I were talking and business was going pretty well at this point. Nearly the week of the event we decided to go!
Once arriving, this was the coolest thing ever. I had never been to an internet conference or event. I couldn’t believe it, the first day when we went to see the speakers, I was in the middle of hundreds of huge company names. I remember distinctly that Jackpot.com was sitting next to me and I would later meet up with NeoPets.com. It was so cool, I was around 18 or 19 at the time and I was talking with all these huge multi-million dollar companies. And that’s not all…
Networking is EVERYTHING
I am not the most outgoing guy in the world, so in most cases, networking and going up to people I don’t know isn’t one of my favorite things to do…especially being younger and at such a huge event like CJU. Later on in the show I would meet up with many attendees and speakers and become good friends with them.
After attending one of the speakers presentations, I decided to go up and talk with him and tell him about what I have been doing online and any ideas he might have. His name was Ola Edvardsson. Ola went out of his way to take the time and talk with me and show interest. After talking for a bit, I found out that he lived in NY and we would meet up several times over the next few years. The point of this story is that connections are EVERYTHING. My business and success would never have been the same if I did not attend CJU. You would be amazed at how much just one thing can change everything. I can map out almost everything I have done and some way or another it comes back to who I have met in the beginning and/or what/who I was working with at this time.