Having figured out the monetization aspect of digital publishing very early in my life, I should have done well soon after I discovered it but that didn’t happen. For the next many years since 2004, all I did was make pocket change every few months. In hindsight, I think here’s what happened.
It wasn’t until 2009 that I realized the true potential of the internet and what the internet economy was going to be like in the future. You see, until that time I hadn’t met or known or heard of anyone in Pakistan who had made a full-time career (or even pocket change) by running his business exclusively on the internet. It was January of 2009 when I finally read a report about a couple of teenagers in Pakistan making north of $5000 a month by writing blogs. After reverse engineering those blogs, I had finally learnt that it is possible to scale my business beyond $20 per quarter. All I needed was a proof of concept.
My other big mistake was not moving early on to a paid domain and hosting plan after I had received my first check. It was only after I studied their blogs, I realized the importance of having a proper Top Level Domain in order to run a full time internet business, without which my websites were as good as they are on the dark web where you could only access a website by knowing the exact URL. All these years, I had completely missed out on understanding that without having my websites ranking in search engines which wasn’t possible without a TLD, I was never going to be able to drive enough audience to consider this a career. Without having a proper TLD, I was never going to have serious ad networks like Adsense approve me.
Six days after the proof of concept, I bought my first .com domain.
By 2004, I was running three websites. My personal homepage, a Pakistani music blog and a web forum. All on the free domains with .TK extension provided by the government of Tokelau an island in the south pacific with a population of 1500 people. The goal of the government of Tokelau was to create awareness about their country in the world in order to raise money to fund education, medical & development of the 1500 residents of the island.
Around the same time, I learnt about the commercial aspect of the internet. While I wasn’t eligible to sign up on the mainstream programs like Adsense for not having a .com domain extension, I quickly found an alternative program called MarketBanker, later rebranded as AdBrite. After serving ads for 10 months, MarketBanker sent me the first pay-check. My mother found it lying around in the lawn outside our house. It took 8 weeks to arrive, 6 weeks to cash and 20% of the money was lost to bank fees and commissions.
Although the check was only for $22.08 and it took 10 months in order to make this money, I was very excited as I realized this was going to be much bigger than just a pastime hobby.
When I look back today, it is nothing short of a miracle that I ended up becoming an internet marketer. The way these events unfolded almost feels like it was written in the stone. It was 2002, I had only just become a teen and was browsing on a dial up internet in Islamabad, Pakistan.
It was a privilege to have internet in Pakistan back then. In fact I think it was a privilege to have a computer at all. I don’t think we could afford it either. Not easily at least. It’s just that my father was really passionate about technology. So much that he decided to spend a big chunk of his savings to buy a computer.
I was trying to download a piece of software that would tell me in real-time the download and upload speed of my internet. As soon as I clicked on the hyperlink, I got a message notifying me that the site had run out of bandwidth. A message by Brinkster, a web hosting company. Except that I didn’t know what the bandwidth meant or what the web hosting means or what the heck was Brinkster. It certainly was not the name of the software I was trying to download.
On the page I saw a sign up button. I thought may be I need to sign up here in order to get the software. A few minutes later, I had signed up for brinkster’s web hosting service giving me a whopping 30 MBs of free hosting space but I still didn’t have my software, and I still had no clue what I signed up for.
Feeling confused, I called my father and made him look into whatever I was doing. After researching on it for a couple of hours, he explained to me what a web hosting means, what I signed up for and what can I do with it now. In the next couple of days, I built my first home page and hosted it on Brinkster. It is how I took my first step towards what I was going to be doing for the next decade and a half.
This is my second time starting a personal blog. I started the first one a few years ago and wrote only a few posts in the entirety of its existence. Last year when I looked back at my posts, I disagreed with many of my own opinions and so I decided to delete the blog. Today, I think that was a mistake. I think it is incredibly important for everyone to put their views out in the public.