Case Study: What it’s like to start your internet business as a complete BEGINNER


Each month Teen Entrepreneurs showcases a Case Study from Reddit.

This month’s Case Study is from the SumoMe team and it’s about a young beginner.

SumoMe points out how hard it really is to become successful but as you’ll see, their Reddit post gets a lot of push back from other Entrepreneurs.

Some of whom make a good point that when you don’t offer true value to your customers, it will always be hard to squeeze out an online dollar.

Reddit: Original Reddit
Sub Reddit: r/Entrepreneur
Author: SumoMe


I’m tired of outlandish claims of ‘success’. Here’s a realistic real-life case study on how to start your internet business as a complete BEGINNER. Results in 6 months: 1000 email subscribers, 30K visits, $736 (affiliate), and most importantly… KNOWLEDGE + EXPERIENCE

I’m tired of all the click-bait success stories in many marketing guides, stuff like this:

Unrealistic claims


Very unrealistic claims

If it were as easy as those guides claim, we’d all be millionaires by now.

These so-called success stories are normally created by people who are either already marketing experts, or have a pre-existing audience.

That’s because if you already have 100,000 monthly visitors, it’s relatively easy to obtain an extra 1000 users.

That’s why I want to share with you a case study on Niklas Goeke (click here for his Linkedin).

Niklas graduated university in 2014 and wanted to learn online marketing.

He realized that the best way to learn something, is to actually do it.

It took him 6 months to acquire his first 1000 users.

But by applying his lessons learned, it only took Niklas 3 months to get the next 1000.

Here’s the proof:

Email subscribers


He did this by creating an affiliate marketing website (selling books) and drove traffic to it by creating an efficient content creation framework.

By doing so, he was able to create content every single day (~4 hours/day).

Since he created so much content, he was able to rank for specific keywords and would also promote the content like crazy.

Want to do the same thing?

I’ll be honest with you, even if you work hard and apply the lessons learned in this guide, success isn’t guaranteed.

That’s why if you’re a beginner, I recommend you approach this with a goal to learn and to gain experience.

Step 1: Figure out your why –> crunch the numbers to meet the goal –> validate

Niklas’ goal was $1000/month in passive income and to meet it, he decided to pursue affiliate marketing.

He would sell books and make a commission for each one he sold.

Validating which books to promote/sell is tricky. To choose the best books to sell, he used two methods:

Method 1

Using a tool called NerdyData, he could see a list of other affiliate marketers promoting his product.

He would then look for the affiliate marketers who pay to promote (e.g. banner ads) the affiliate product.

By searching for the banner’s web archives, he could see how long the banner ads were up.

If the banner ads are up for a few months, it must be selling enough to justify the banner ad costs.

For example, Mike Vardy had this banner ad for the same affiliate product up for several months:

Competitor banner ad validation

Method 2

Told his friends about the product, and for the friends who were interested, he’d send them the affiliate link.

He made 3 sales by doing this, which was enough to validate.

Once it was validated, he now spent the time to build a website and drive traffic to it.

Step 2: Build a content log and streamline SEO, email collection and your promotion process.

To sell his affiliate book products, Niklas created a site that would provide short book summaries and reviews.

There were four parts to it:

Part 1: Content Creation

Niklas wanted to publish content everyday to promote his affiliate books.

To do so, he’d limit each article to 1000 words by following a framework:

Content framework


Part 2: SEO

Since he was creating a piece of content each day (30/month), he started to rank for certain keywords by using Google’s Keyword Planner.

He would then add targeted keywords into his content headlines.

Keyword research

He would then make sure the keyword were in the meta descriptions, url slug, and inside the body of the content.

Keyword input strategy

Part 3: Email Collection

Niklas was now creating a bunch of content, and several of the content pieces started to rank in the first page of google on popular keywords.

He was starting to see quite a bit of traffic going to the website.

He would make the most of the website visitors by collecting emails using SumoMe.

Email collection

Part 4: Promotion

Every day, Niklas would spend ~1.5 hours writing the content piece, and another 90 minutes promoting it.

He would distribute his content via:

  1. StumbleUpon (now called Mix)
  2. Hacker News
  3. Slack Groups
  4. Email
  5. Twitter
  6. Answering Quora Questions

Step 3: Publish every day until you hit your goal.

Create content every single day.

By doing so, eventually you’ll have several articles that start to rank high in google.

Create a content creation structure so you publish at the same time everyday.

And that’s how Niklas eventually achieved his first 1000 email subscribers and $736.

Feedback from Redditors about this Case Study:

P: (P: = a Redditor)
If you want to make real money in entrepreneurship you need to create value.

I see nothing of value here and so it will always be an active effort to scrape any sort of income out of this.
The above comment should be higher and probably posted on most of the threads I see in this sub.
Most of this r/enerepreneur is just ‘how to create internet trash that technically makes money.’

I just don’t feel like low volume reselling and/or gaming search engines is creating value.
The same principles still hold up.

I’ve been working on a board game website since about October, and I’m seeing similar results.

I just got married and had to take a month and a half hiatus (ouch), but in leaving the site completely dead for a month and a half, I averaged 200-300 Google search visits every day, and that number never went down.

I’m finally working on it again, and the numbers are going straight back up.

I’ve made decent affiliate revenue (I mean, for a site this age; like others have pointed out, the pay is garbage if you’re looking at it from a $/hour perspective rather than a long-term one), and my content is loved across the board, and things are only looking up for the site.

Now, regarding content quality, my intent from the beginning was to make good content that people want.

I had entered the hobby not long before making the site, and it was actually my own frustration in finding good content that prompted me to make the site.

My articles are massive (when appropriate), detailed, and directly aim to deliver a high quality experience for the readers with journalistic integrity.

I haven’t published nearly as much content as in this example, but when I do put content out (3-4 times a week when I’m doing it every day), it’s good content, which makes it easy to share with Reddit (a very picky community), Facebook, and so on.

I understand that a lot of people sell these pitches with trash content, but the same principles apply if you’re making a website that’s actually wanted/needed.

You are the difference between creating value and creating trash that picks up pennies in the street.
Really good points! I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m a normal guy with entrepreneurial tendencies.

I don’t want to have my own company right now, maybe never.

I just want to make enough money to be able to keep doing what I love, without needing to rely on a day job.

When I surveyed my email list regarding value, the agreed consensus was that this is something they can use to get a first contact with a book, in order to decide whether to read the whole thing or not.

Plus also a fun way to pass their commute.

I have no intention of turning this into a $10k/month business, just want to do something I love and make enough money from it to pay the bills!
Jesus, I have to agree with you.

$736 in 6 months of publishing daily posts? I would shoot myself.

By the 6 month mark I was doing $30,000. Per Month!

These SumoMe folks seem to be allergic to making money.
Do you make 30k per month without a pre-existing email list or community?

What type of business is it?
Well it’s more than that now. Oh it’s a lawn care service:

I wrote up all our internet steps from start to finish.

See, SumoMe’s example doesn’t even come close to achieving his $1000 per month goal.

He busted his ass for 6 months and made $700.

The real problem is what happens when he stops working?

See, passive is exactly that…passive. Meaning no more work to generate income (or practically little amounts).

I kept seeing how much work he put in each day (and yes, this is obviously required to do at the beginning) but what is important for the state goal, is how much will he continue to get if he no longer works?

While yeah, it was a great learning experience but for 6 months of effort?

I’m pretty sure you could make more, even at a regular job, and invest the amount you save each month into something to make a better ROI.

Good info though. Thanks for share.

Thanks for the critique, let me try to clarify how much of what I’m doing is passive and what’s not and how the timelines work out, I think there might be some confusion around those.

The first 6 months I spent getting my first 1,000 subscribers was for my personal blog (not Four Minute Books).

Four Minute Books I launched Jan 11th this year, with only a few days worth of content in it.

I published every day, took me around 2 hours initially, right until March 14th, got sick for 10 days where I didn’t publish – but the commissions kept coming in.

In fact, I didn’t make any money from freelancing (as you said, that’s not passive), but this kept making me $100+ that week.

Still not much, but opposed to my ‘regular job’ it made money while I was coughing my lungs out.

Then I went back to daily publishing, and it keeps growing.

The curve is exponential. Of course the return is miserably initially, but as I’m writing this commissions have already grown to $1500+, so right now I’m sitting at $500/month.

I spent 250 hours total on the site so far, but if you’re trying to calculate an hourly rate for this stuff, you’ll never get it to work.

If you calculate your success in dollars per hour, you’re doing the wrong project anyway.

It’s supposed to help you make money doing something fun.

My plan is to continue this all year and hopefully break $1k/month and then I’ll likely let it sit for a while and see what happens.

SEO rankings increase daily as well, so it’s long not done growing.

Also have a couple bigger SEO hits planned for later this year, still in the building stages.

I made $700 after 2 months and $1500 after 3, so I’m up to $500/month after 3 months actually.

The traffic from SEO and referrals keeps growing, I expect it to sit at a nice level once I take a longer break at the end of the year, especially if I land 2-3 bigger SEO hits later (currently in the works).

So yes, I’m still very active with it and in the beginning stages, but it also is making money passively already in case I stop working on it.

Plus it keeps growing. Wouldn’t trade this for any regular job, but excited to hear your thoughts!

As a test, for a side business I wanted to do – I reached 900 subscribers in 24 hours. I can show you the results, it wasn’t tough.

Here is exactly what I did:

1) Found a niche [goalkeeping gloves in my case].

2) Posted a giveaway into appropriate Facebook Groups/Reddit

3) Sat back and watch.

Within 48 hours I had 900 emails.

The problem is though: Even though those 900 emails were interested in my product, they were not ‘buyers’.

We only sold 4 gloves on opening day.

In fact, we got more sales from a small youtube channel than this email acquisition.

Emails are very much quality over quantity.


Comments (1)

  1. As you can see, SumoMe’s post got a lot of push back from other Solopreneurs.

    Some of whom make a good point.

    When you don’t offer true value to your customers, it will always be hard to squeeze out an online dollar.

    From our point of view at I Heart Making Money Online?

    Any experience trying to make money online = priceless knowledge and experience.

    Marketing tactics used by a beginner solopreneur are not too different than those used by enterprise businesses.

    The key difference is in the sophistication of their business models.

    The natural learning curve for any Solopreneur is upwards.

    That’s why many Solopreneurs start out small and then evolve orgnically into more sophisticated enterprises.

    There is nothing at all wrong with an affiliate model (especially one that makes money!)

    But most affiliates will move into more complex business models.

    Affiliate marketing can be very labour intensive.

    Once you have the volume of customers to make affiliate marketing worth your time then you might as well use that audience in a more efficient and profitable way.

    Such as providing them with your own products and services.

    In general, the affiliate business model gets a lot of grief on r/entrepreneur from Redditors.

    These Redditors believe it is not really ‘entrepreneurship’ so it shouldn’t be in this subreddit.

    I agree that it is more suited to the affiliate marketing subs. But they tend to be poorly populated by Redditors.

    SumoMe have posted in r/entrepreneur because they themselves are marketing their products/services to entrepreneurs.

    In effect this Reddit post is a great example of a piece of content marketing from SumoMe that sells to customers but which still offers great value to readers.

Comments are closed.