It may seem a joke, but it isn't. Oni, as he is known in the blogosphere, is an old soul who, at the age of only 18, managed to build a solid reputation as a trusted internet entrepreneur, writer and blogger. When you come from a country like Nigeria, which is synonymous with online scam, where electricity and a reasonable internet connection are a luxury, and have zero funds, it seems nearly impossible to build a successful career online. But he did it. And not without efforts.
Digital Journal didn’t want to miss out on a story of such significance and profound inspiration, and interviewed Oni to discuss how he became a successful paid blogger and how he founded youngprepro.com, a blog numerous writers and bloggers visit to reach for advice and tips on how to grow their writing business from Oni himself.
Tell me about your online beginnings. What compelled you to start an online business, and who inspired you back then?
It all started in 2009, when I first heard about the concept of making money online. I was a big Bill Gates fan then, due to the fact that he was the richest man in the world and his success was largely due to working with computers. I wanted to be like him; I wanted to be rich, to have the kind of lifestyle I want without working for anybody, so I was so excited when I first heard about the concept of making money online.
I never intended to be a writer or blogger then, I just wanted to make money online, and I was ready to give my best effort to become a success. I spent around 20 hours at a stretch creating my first website, and I was so excited about what I just discovered that I was ready to give it my all. After around three months of working hard online, building my first website but not getting results, I decided something was wrong with my approach and wanted to try something new.
So, I started reading various blogs and articles about how to make money online, and it was then when I discovered an article by Steve Pavlina, an article that changed everything. The article made me realize how blogging works, and, most importantly, it also made me realize the importance of giving free value without expecting anything in return. That was when I discovered blogging and writing online, and that was when everything changed.
Bill Gates was a big inspiration in terms of mentality, but Steve Pavlina gave me the kick I needed to get started.
What challenges did you have to overcome as a Nigerian newbie blogger?
I had to overcome a lot of challenges, especially due to the nature of my country. Some of the major challenges were:
1. No electricity and good internet connection: I overcame this by partnering with a cafe owner in my area, so getting access to the computer and internet no longer became a problem.
2. Lack of funds: My mother is a widow with 6 children, so burdening her with a "new" business that I'm the only one who believes will work won't cut it. I was a little bit familiar with how computers work then, and I was into hacking and networking, so I started offering my skills as a freelancer locally, and to individuals that needed help with their computers; this made it easy for me to get money for hosting and maintaining my blog. I also participated in a few online contests to fund my business.
3. Getting people to trust me: Coming from Nigeria this was a problem for me. In fact, I've gotten an email or two from people asking me why they should trust me when I'm from Nigeria. I solved this problem by being consistent in the value I offer, and by leveraging the brand and platform of other successful bloggers to grow my business.
4. Marketing: This is a major problem everybody face, but I was able to overcome it by writing guest posts for popular blogs in my niche.
Could you elaborate a bit on the marketing aspect of your beginnings? How many guest posts have you written until your business really started to take off?
Guest blogging is really instrumental to my success; in fact, I must say that at least 70% of what my online business is won't be without guest blogging. I wrote around 270 guest posts before my business began to take off; it was around then that I got my first client, and that I started to notice significant increase in my traffic. The problem with my approach then was that my guest posts were focused mostly on smaller blogs, and I had little to no SEO knowledge so I didn't maximize my guest posts.
How much of a boost was guest blogging for your own traffic?
It has contributed to around 60% of my overall traffic, both directly and indirectly, so it is something I recommend to everyone who plans to make it as a writer online.
What guest blogging tips could you share with us?
Only write for the best and the biggest blogs in your niche. Also, don't just direct traffic to your homepage, but to a landing page; if you want to sell a copy of your ebook, link to your sales page. If you want to get clients, link to your portfolio. If you want people to subscribe to your list, link to your landing page.
Finally, don't give up; you will definitely be rejected several times, and you might not even get your desired results after your first few guest posts. Don't give up then, but keep working hard until you get what you want.
What popular blogs did you write for? How did you connect with the biggest names of the blogosphere?
I've written for a lot of popular blogs including Business Insider, ReadWriteWeb, Problogger
; I don't have any special relationship with any of these blogs, other than writing guest posts for their blog.
I was able to connect with them by providing them with quality content; bloggers have a lot of challenges, and one of these challenges is creating quality content on a consistent basis. If you're able to offer a blogger content that he loves, and content that his readers love, then you won't have a problem with getting published.
Tell me about how you started youngprepro.com? Did you build it yourself or you collaborated with a web designer?
I built it myself, but it is what it is now thanks to the help of a designer. I didn't have enough funds when I started YoungPrePro, and my audience was still small, so there was nothing a designer could get by collaborating with me.
I sometimes changed my website theme around five times a month, because I had to rely on free themes as I didn't have enough to pay for premium design. Things have changed now, though, and my design is now a huge part of my blog so I invest a lot of time and money into it.
Do you think a writer who already has a blog can be more successful than, say, a writer who hasn't been writing for too long, yet has a writer web site with links to his portfolio?
I think it depends on the purpose of both writers; it depends on what both writers want to achieve. I believe in each case, there are a lot of factors that come into place, marketing being the most important one.
If the factor for determining success in this case is income and clients, with the same amount of marketing effort invested, then I think the writer with just the portfolio will be more successful. If, however, the main criteria for measuring success are popularity, audience, and traffic, then the writer with a blog will be more successful.
If you want just clients, go with a portfolio website. If you want traffic, expert status, and an audience, go with a blog!
How does a working day look like for you? Do you follow a certain routine or schedule?
I hate routines, and that has been a problem for me. I've tried it several times to create a schedule to follow, but it makes it impossible for me to get anything done. My typical day is so erratic, and I don't think I have a "working day". I can work for a whole week sometimes, and the next week might be spent watching movies.
Usually, I start my day by checking my emails, and I sometimes start the day by writing when I'm on a deadline. I spend an average of 40 hours working in a week, and it can be as much as 80 hours depending on my mood.
You're not just writing but you're also mentoring writers and bloggers through youngprepro.com where you've made available a comprehensive guide that you wrote: “The Writer’s Handbook: How to Write for Traffic and Money.“ Why is it available for free when you could charge for it?
I have a passion for helping people, and the majority of my income comes from client work. In fact, even when I sometimes mentor people offline I do it for free. I believe that the more you give, the more you get. Also, it is not that I have no plans to charge. Everything is a matter of time, and I believe now isn't the right time to charge; I'm still taking my time to understand the real problems writers face online, and I'll be happy to charge when I have something worth paying for.
Do people come back to you often after their business started rolling and the money coming in to thank you and tell you about how your work has helped them?
Yep, I've gotten quite a few emails from people who have successfully used my tips. Some people have landed repeat clients, and some people have gotten published on the blogs they wanted to get published on.
In your opinion, what are the most satisfying aspects of entrepreneurship?
The freedom; I hate following orders, and I hate being restricted in anyway. I want to do things how I want to, with the satisfaction that comes with it, whether I make $10 or a million. It's not about the money, it's about the freedom that comes with it; the fact that I can spend 25 hours watching movies at a stretch sometimes, and still have the confidence that my business is there when I come back to it.
What is your vision as an entrepreneur?
My vision is to change as many lives as possible; I want to empower people to stop depending on the government, corporations, formal education, or even their parents. I want to help people to build their dreams and careers with their own hands.
What are your future plans - both short and long term?
I'm more of a today person, and I know it sounds dangerous, but I really don't plan my future that much; the future will always change. My plan is to get the best of now
. My short-term plan is focused on my blog; I want to help as many people as possible, and of course reap the popularity that comes with it.
In the long term, I want to be a computer scientist. I'm making money writing right now, and I'm teaching people to do the same, but what I really want to do has a lot to do with computers.
What specifically would you like to do to become more popular and more of an influencer with youngprepro.com in 2012?
My focus right now is on content; the right content can quadruple your traffic overnight. One article I'm writing right now will take at least 30 hours to complete, and I type at around 70 words per minute; it's content like this that I want to focus on, and that I believe can impact my brand. I'm changing my approach from just teaching people, to giving them the solutions. This will be difficult, but figuring it out will be the key to my future success.
What advice can you give to newbies, as well as experienced writers who are good but still struggling?
Keep at it; I wrote 270 guest posts before getting my first client. Most of those guest posts were awful, but that didn't stop me. Perfection isn't achieved overnight, neither is success. Also, success is a journey, and you're successful no matter where you are; what matters most is where you will be, and for how long. My final advice is to never give up no matter what.
For more details on Bamidele Onibalusi's work visit his website