One of the most interesting success stories I’ve ever come across on the Internet is YoungPrePro, the website of Bamidele Onibalusi. He’s an 18-year-old blogger in Nigeria.
You read that right. Eighteen. Nigeria.
You think you’ve got problems finding good-paying blogging clients? Oni is just going into college and lives in a country with sporadic electricity, little infrastructure, and no PayPal access. The name of his country is synonymous with “scam,” yet he’s gotten blog clients to trust him and pay him real rates.
Now he makes over $5,000 a month from his online blogging, which where he lives is a small fortune. (He also has an Alexa ranking for his blog that makes this blog’s look like a tiny little nothing. Seriously. Check it out.)
I learned about him the way most people do — through his prolific guest posts on major blogs.
I’ve always wanted to find out more about how he became a successful paid blogger, and I recently cornered him (virtually) for a quick interview. Enjoy:
CT: How old were you when you got started blogging and how did you discover it? What are your main earning methods on your site?
BO: I first discovered blogging when I was 16, in late December 2009. I have always been interested in ways to make money without working for others from a very young age. The first article that introduced me to blogging was written by Steve Pavlina, and it helped me realize the importance of giving value first to an audience before expecting something in return. I started YoungPrePro four months later, in April 2010.
The main way my blog makes me money is by helping clients discover me. I haven’t really gone out to market myself to clients. They all come to me, thanks to my blog!
Here’s an analysis of the techniques I use to make money from my blog at the moment:
Freelancing: I’ve been writing and guest blogging online for a few years now, and I like to think I’ve learned a lot in the process. I currently have four blogging clients. I help two of them market their websites by helping them write guest posts that get published on other blogs and I help the other two as a regular paid contributor on their blogs. Most of these clients discovered me after reading my guest posts on top blogs, and the one that I contacted personally hired me because I included a link to one of my guest posts published on Problogger. Freelancing currently constitutes over 95% of my income from blogging.
Partnership: I did this for a while in 2011, and it is something I plan to do a lot more of in the future. I once partnered with an email list plugin developer and we sold a few copies of the product to my audience.
Affiliate Marketing: I promote a few products every once in a while and the results vary depending on the product I promote. Affiliate marketing is something I plan to invest a lot more effort into this year.
CT: How do you technically do this from your locale? How did you get your website up initially?
BO: This was the real challenge. It still surprises me how I was able to overcome it.
When I was just starting out, I didn’t have the money to afford quality internet service and I also didn’t have enough money to run a generator [to compensate for the] poor electricity service in my country. What I did was to partner with a café owner in my locale. I was even able to crack the network of some of my providers to get free access to the Internet, so I helped the café owner get free internet to offer to his customers, while I got a free pass to use an internet-enabled computer in the café whenever I want.
I didn’t know whether it was legal or not when I did it – I was a really determined 16-year-old-kid who spent 20 hours at a stretch learning to create my first website. I was determined to do anything to make my blog a success.
Things are better now. I now make money from my efforts and I’m able to run on a generator, and I can also pay my monthly Internet expenses. As to my equipment, I have two laptops, a mobile dongle, a headset and three cameras. I use my two laptops almost every day, mostly for my writing. I used free themes when I was just starting out, but I changed them a lot, and I now have two designers who help me with web and graphics design.
Infrastructure in Nigeria is still very bad, but it won’t stop me from achieving my dreams if I’m really determined.
CT: How did you get people to trust you and hire you as a paid blogger when you’re a teen from Nigeria? Also, how do you take payments since you can’t use Paypal?
BO: It surprises me myself, but I guess the truth will always prevail. When I wanted to start blogging, I knew the challenges that came with being a Nigerian online and I contemplated using a name that doesn’t make me seem Nigerian. As someone who had great visions for my blog that might eventually require me to be physically present with people, I decided to stick to who I am.
One thing that really helped me was borrowing the brand and reputation of successful bloggers online, by guest blogging. Even as a Nigerian, when most people see me on blogs like Problogger, DailyBlogTips, ReadWriteWeb and Business Insider, they will eventually want to know what I’m doing. My readers were able to trust me due to the value I provide in my articles, and also because they keep on seeing my work on some of the biggest blogs online.
I still can’t figure out why Paypal isn’t ready to support a country of 150 million people and millions of internet users… but I’ve been able to get help from clients and friends. Every client I work with respects me, as most of them came to me through my guest posts on big blogs. They want the same results I’m getting, so they are happy to pay directly to my bank account [also known as automatic bank transfer or ACH]. For the clients that don’t pay directly to my account, I ask them to send the money via Paypal to my other clients for me to receive, or to help me make some purchases online.
CT: How did you get started guest blogging on big sites? What was the first big guest post you had? How many guest posts have you done – any idea? Talk about what that has done for your own traffic.
BO: Guest blogging on big sites wasn’t easy at first, especially considering my background and my use of the English language when I was just starting out. I remember sending out a crap guest post to Copyblogger around two years ago when I was just getting started, which was rejected. I still look at that guest post today and laugh at myself for sending out such crap to a blog like Copyblogger.
My first big guest post was on Maxblogpress’s Maxblogger almost two years ago, and it sent me around 1,000 visitors when it first went live. I have also written for blogs like Problogger and DailyBlogTips, and I have gotten anything from around 300 – 1,500 visitors from my guest posts on most big blogs.
I can’t remember exactly how many guest posts I have written, but I’m sure I’ve written over 600 guest posts for my blog alone, around 300 of which I wrote in just 8 months. To say guest blogging has contributed to my blog will be an understatement — guest blogging is the foundation of my blog.
CT: Any guest-blogging tips for us? What do you think has made you so successful?
BO: Here are some of my top guest blogging tips.
Be determined: My first guest post for most big blogs was rejected, but I didn’t give up. I have published around six guest posts apiece on DailyBlogTips, Problogger, and MaxBlogpress, a guest post on ReadWriteWeb, a guest post on Business Insider, and a guest post on JohnChow.com. Most of these blogs rejected my first pitch, my use of English was poor when I tried submitting to them, but I didn’t give up. I was determined to get published, and I got what I wanted. My first idea now gets published on most of the above blogs because I took the advice of the editor to heart, I took some time to understand the audience, and I never took any rejection personally — and you will get a lot of rejections if you are to really succeed as a guest blogger.
Give your best: Look at the most recent guest posts on your favorite blogs, look at what they have in common that relates to the blog they are published on, and then use that to develop a unique post that relates to that blog.
Be smart: Most blogs will not send you any traffic, but that doesn’t mean you should stop guest blogging altogether. Guest blogging can be very good for SEO, and writing for blogs without traffic can benefit you on the long run if you know what you’re doing. I currently average 800 visitors from Google alone every day, and this was as a result of 31 guest posts I published in one week a few months ago. I was getting around 200 – 300 visitors on average then, but 31 guest posts in one week added 500 daily visitors to my blog over the span of a few months. No single blog I have written for have ever sent that much traffic, but I guess they did. I wrote an article about the challenge that outlines my process a few months ago.
CT: What are your 2012 goals for your business — what will you do next?
BO: Aha, they are so big that thinking about them sometimes makes my heart leap. For this very purpose, I have worked on my home office for months now and it is finally ready.
I have several big goals for this year, and some of them are:
- Make my blog the very best this year by improving the quality and practicality of my articles (check out his new design!)
- Write a minimum of 30 guest posts on big blogs and a minimum of 30 guest posts on small blogs every month. These guest posts will lead to a funnel on my blog. The posts on the big blogs will lead to my home page which will soon be turned to a “Copyblogger-like” squeeze page, and the guest posts on the smaller blogs will link to individual articles on my blog for SEO purposes. I know I only have so much time to achieve this, but I will be cutting down on client work significantly this year, and even though it will really affect my income, I think it is a short-term sacrifice for a great future. I can work for blogging clients to make what I need to cover my basic expenses for the mean time and then focus my time on growing my business.
- Increase engagement and value among my readers by creating a “reader challenge” towards the middle of this year, and then use it as a way to make them trust me even more.
- Focus a lot more on building my list. I’m working on gaining at least 10,000 more subscribers this year.
- Partner with other writers and influencers in my field.
CT: Are there any mentors you had who helped you? Who have you learned from?
BO: It’s funny, I don’t have a mentor yet. I’m kind of a guy who loves to walk it all alone, but I’m changing over time as I’m starting to realize the importance of relationships to living an effective life. I do respect some guys online, though, and the two on top of my list are Glen Allsopp from Viperchill.com and Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com. Those two guys rock and their content have always been a guide and inspiration to me.
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