Is It Wise To Quit Your Day Job And Depend On Your Website For Income?

by golbguru on June 22, 2007

I recently received an email from a reader with this question:

I am thinking of running a website in order to generate income and quit the rat race; can you tell me from your personal experience, is it a wise decision?

There are a few reasons why this question bothers me:

  • “thinking of running a website” doesn’t sound very confident and is indicative of the fact that you probably don’t have one yet.
  • “quit the rat race” sounds more like you are fed up of your day job - but it doesn’t show any love for developing (or maintaining) websites. In that case you should probably look for all possible alternate sources of income (for example, selling stuff on eBay, working at a different job, etc.), don’t just stick to starting a website.
  • Many people mislead themselves into believing that blogs/websites can make a ton of money without requiring a lot of work. I am getting the vibes that the author of this question perhaps belongs to that category. A general observation is that most people have a tendency to grossly underestimate the efforts that go into starting and maintaining a good website.

For a moment let us assume that the question was asked in great earnestness and none of the above reasons are valid - that sort of puts us in position where we can actually start discussing the issue.

Let me list some facts/issues to be considered before you even start thinking about whether it’s wise or unwise to quit your day job.

  1. Websites don’t make money instantly. Generally, the income from a website depends on it’s popularity and popularity does not come overnight. People need to trust (or enjoy) your content (if you are blogging) or your product (if you are selling a product) before you start becoming popular and that takes time and a lot of efforts.
  2. With all your sincere efforts, dedication (before and after launching your website) and average growth in popularity, it may take anywhere between several months to a couple of years before you start making even nominal amounts of money. By “nominal” amounts, I mean a few hundred dollars a month.
  3. In most cases, websites generate incomes that are proportional to the number of visitors and hence are generally at Google’s mercy (contextual pay-per-click ads like Google AdSense). Such type of income is not “guaranteed”. One unfavorable tweak in Google’s search algorithm and a significant portion of your income can vanish in thin air overnight. You need to acknowledge this and chalk out contingency plans for such situations. You need to think about how to diversify your income in order to minimize the pain in such cases. For example, you could probably sell a service or a product - or do something else that doesn’t depend too much on search engine results.
  4. You have to take care of your own retirement benefits and health insurance and you don’t get any paid holidays. Obviously, your website income needs to exceed your day job income if you are thinking of quiting the day job.
  5. There are many things beyond your control that can screw up your website (and hence your income). For example, your website hosting company might kill your website for a technical reason, you could screw it up while editing stuff, or someone can hack into it ~ again you need to think of backup plans for all such situations before you start relying on your website income.

Now, let us look at some specific issues.

  • First ask yourself: exactly what amount of website income am I looking to generate? If you are earning $100,000 a year and want to replace that with your website income, all I have to say is “good luck to you sir (add a chuckle if you want)”. It’s not that people don’t earn $100,000 through websites - it’s that it doesn’t happen very often and takes enormous amounts of professional efforts (and probably a lot of leverage) to get there.
  • By the way, the median household income in US is about $46,000. Assuming that your household makes median income and that you contribute half of it (and your spouse contributes the other half), you are still looking at $23,000 a year just to match your day job income (read point #4 above). Approach your website ambitions with these numbers in mind - if you are planning on quitting your day job.
  • For higher income generation (of the order of $10,000~$15,000/yr or more), you need to look beyond blogging. You will probably need some brilliant new website idea for a service or a product that people are going to like. In this case, you should be handling your ideas in a highly professional manner; treat it like a serious startup company instead of an amateur website. The planning an coordination in such an effort might be more intensive than an average day job - so quitting your day job might be the only way to pursue such a venture. However, you got to have a high level of confidence in your product/service and a strong support (in terms of man power and money) to attempt something like this.
  • For lower income generation (few thousand dollars a year), you could probably start and maintain a very good blog. Focus on generating good content - this is the world’s most cliched statement ever, but it makes sense. Contradictory as it may seem, you should stop blogging for money if you want to make money. Blog for generating good content if you want to make serious money. You should also keep in mind that even with great content, it is not guaranteed that a good blog will earn a lot of money - it depends on how successfully you monetize a good blog (interestingly, it is guaranteed that bad blogs will never earn good money).
  • Believe me, blogging for a few thousand dollars a year is a very tall order (although very much achievable) and will not come without persistent hard work and great content. If you follow this approach, the safest thing to do is keep your day job and blog alongside; wait for a couple of years and see where things are heading - if you have not made much headway with your blog income till that point - quitting your day job is probably not going to work for you.
  • By the way, don’t get too optimistic after reading about extremely high income numbers from Google AdSense or other advertising programs, unless they come from a popular and trusted blog - there is a general tendency to showoff inflated advertising revenue numbers.

So, finally, is it wise to quit your day job and depend on your website for income?

If you are an average person, just looking for a break from the boring day job routine, my honest answer is - No, it’s not a wise thing to do. You can work hard on a website and really make a lot of progress in a few years, but till that time don’t even think of leaving your day job.

If you are really passionate about blogging or love working with websites or have a brilliant idea for a product (or a service), then you probably have a better chance at making it big sooner - but even in this case, make sure you consider all the issues raised above before you call it quits.

The wisest thing you can do is to make an informed and well calculated decision (either for or against your day job), and work hard and excel at whatever you ultimately decide to do. :)

To end this, I will once again make the message very clear - it is foolish to assume that you can make a ton of money just by creating a website, without putting in a lot of hard work and dedication into it.

Although, in this write-up, my thoughts were specifically directed towards someone wanting to start a website to make quick bucks, you could easily generalize them to any other entrepreneurial foray. There is no such thing as easy money.

Feel free to share any additional comments you may have on this issue.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Moneymonk 06.22.07 at 8:12 am

That would be the good life, hanging around watching your website generate income. But in the real world, most people see a website as just another income stream not as a main source of income. The few that have a website that generate major income. It could have took them 3 or more years. Nothing happens overnight.

2 plonkee 06.22.07 at 8:20 am

To me, the amount of time that would is required to run a relatively unsuccessful blog like mine (together with its related activities) means that running a website doesn’t really mean quitting the rat race, in fact, its probably out of the frying pan and into the fire.

3 Zachary Scheidt 06.22.07 at 8:23 am

great post! I talk to a lot of people who find out what I do and want to quit their jobs and trade futures or options or forex for a living. Usually they fall into 2 categories - 1)want to get rich quick, or 2)don’t want to work. I often tell them the rewards can be tremendous, but they won’t happen without extremely hard work and a disciplined tested plan. It goes back to what you were saying. If you don’t have true passion for what you are starting, there’s no way it will be completely successful.

4 J2R 06.22.07 at 8:51 am

Preach on!!!!

My blog is a hobby for me. There’s one spot for google adsense, but I’m not expecting it to to generate $5/month anytime soon.
I’m actually conflicted on blogging lately, because a lot of the content out there are just rehashes. I’m still doing some internalization and will probably blog about it after I organize my thoughts.

The thing is, I didn’t start my blog planning on making money. I’m actually bleeding money. I pay for my own hosting and spend $1 on each image. I really started as a hobby because I knew it would be really, really hard to generate a substantial income from it.

All I care is to build a community where I can discuss some ideas.

5 MoneyNing 06.22.07 at 10:46 am

Good article that many of us can relate to. As someone who owns a blog, spending an enormous amount of time (especially at the beginning) tweaking and adding things would be an understatment.

It takes a tremendous amount of will and consistent effort to market a website to increase visitors, so it’s not the easy life that people think it is.

Whatever the work is (start up company, blog writer, engineering, lawyer, etc), it is easy if you have passion for it. Without passion, the work could be satisfying but never rewarding.

Good luck (for those that are trying to start something new, website or others).

6 Super Saver 06.22.07 at 6:17 pm

Golbguru,

Great article.

The first build I have is that to regularly make lots of money in anything (job, investing,real estate. internet,) will likely require hard work and investment of time.

There are not a lot of easy money jobs. Even the ones that look easy, aren’t likely easy when one tries them:-)

The second build is if one is serious about going into business, one should develop a business plan, with start up capitalization since it will take time to generate revenue.

7 ibrahim 06.23.07 at 1:40 am

Some really good points there. I think probably the best way to approach a money-earning blog is to not try and earn money at the start, just try and raise awareness, and then as the awareness is raised, and provided the content is smooth, the money should start rolling in. But for me really its just a place to meet people more knowledgeable than me, and join a community.

8 Shannon 06.23.07 at 3:26 am

Good points from you and from all of the other commenters. I agree that it’s not the smartest of ideas to up and quit your day job thinking that the money from your website will cover it.
However, I do think that it’s a good idea to save up enough money to live off of for a year (or more), then quit your job and give whatever your passion is a go.
That’s what my husband and I did and while starting our own business is a bit slow-going, I believe that it was well worth it.
I’d also suggest that to the reader that he/she start the blog or website now while they are working. Then it’s more likely to be making even a little bit of money when you finally do get ready to quit.
My blog is new (I started it right when I quit my job because I realized how lucky I was to be in this position and wanted to share with others how to do it), but I have another website that I write that is starting to make a bit of money. And by a bit, I really do mean just a bit. But it’s a lot further along than when I started it last September.
Love,
Shannon

9 MillionDollarJourney.com 06.23.07 at 4:35 am

This is what I tell my readers who ask me about my starting their own blog to make money: Content (consistent and valuable) = traffic = advertising dollars. In that order.

Great article.

10 sfordinarygirl 06.23.07 at 2:16 pm

That was a very well-thought out post and specific.

Making money from a website or a blog isn’t going to be instant. It takes long term dedication and commitment.

I think the guy from kink.com started out making money running porn or soft-core porn on his website when he was in grad school. I read in the NY Times magazine a few weeks ago … not that I’m suggesting that reader try it. But just wanted to point out an example of something that did work.

11 ispf 06.23.07 at 6:48 pm

Very well-written post!

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to quit their day job and expect to earn anything decent from a website, unless the website is already quite established and has a lot of visitors. That said, start a blog/website anyway (while keeping your day job). You never know how good you are at something or how successful you can be unless you give it a shot.

12 Kalpesh 06.23.07 at 8:12 pm

very well authoured. I guess leaving day job and plunging into internet would not be a wise decision. It’s too risky unless a person has very very good product in hand and willingness to survive on loaf of bread.

13 golbguru 06.23.07 at 9:52 pm

I want to address every comment here, so please bear with the length of the response here:

Moneymonk: “That would be the good life, hanging around watching your website generate income.” …well, that happens, but like you said it - it doesn’t happen overnight. Also, if you stop putting efforts after the website starts generating income - the income earning capacity goes down.

Plonkee: “..relatively unsuccessful blog like mine..” - small correction; your blog is NOT unsuccessful, it’s just new. Keep working hard and you will get your due dividends in time to come.

Zachary Scheidt: “Usually they fall into 2 categories - 1)want to get rich quick, or 2)don’t want to work.” - that is exactly right. I am more inclined to believe in the latter - many people just want to earn without working.

J2R: “All I care is to build a community where I can discuss some ideas.” - that’s a noble thought. You should look towards blogs like I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and Get Rich Slowly as ideals.

MoneyNing: “It takes a tremendous amount of will and consistent effort to market a website to increase visitors, so it’s not the easy life that people think it is.” - it really takes a long time for people to understand this. Probably they think that all it takes is a few clicks. :)

Super Saver: “…one should develop a business plan, with start up capitalization since it will take time to generate revenue.” - that’s what I call *professional* approach. That’s a absolutely essential - unless you are blogging for a hobby (but they you should forget about leaving your day job). :)

Ibrahim: “…provided the content is smooth, the money should start rolling in.” - that happens for good bloggers over time. However, most enthusiastic starters never reach that stage.

Shannon: Glad to hear from an experienced entrepreneur. Although you saved enough for a year and then quit, I am sure you had a backup plan. Care to share more of your experience with us?

MillionDollarJourney: “Content (consistent and valuable) = traffic = advertising dollars. In that order.” - yep, that’s how it goes. Of course, there are some marketing aspects involved, but without good content it becomes might difficult to market your blog.

sfordinarygal: “I think the guy from kink.com started out making money running porn or soft-core porn on his website when he was in grad school.” - people do make money from porn; however, there are a lot of ethical and legal issues to tackle. I am sure he must have thought of some escape route if things got heavy on him with the sleazy business. So even there it must have taken some planning and hard work.

ispf: “..unless the website is already quite established and has a lot of visitors. ” - and that takes time and patience and that’s where things start to fall apart. ;)

Kalpesh: Taking risks for starting something new is perfectly OK as long as they are calculated risks. But, there is a fine line between calculated risks and sheer foolishness. Without good planning and forethought, that line becomes blurred and that’s where problems start.

14 mbhunter 06.24.07 at 6:19 pm

Yes, yes, yes.

Keep the day job and work on the website in your “spare time.” It’s not likely going to be one website, and it’s not likely going to be your first one.

15 Dan at Everydayfinance 06.25.07 at 4:40 am

Thanks for putting this into perspective. There aren’t a lot of resources out there articulating what a blogger should realistically expect in terms of revenue, especially starting out. I’ve seen real ups and downs since I started and can’t rely on any trend in income generation. Some days, it exceeds expectations, other days I’m disappointed. My struggle has been spreading my efforts between building a better site/interface vs. generating quality content. I spent a good part of Sunday on a rant about Michael Moore’s sicko and its impact to our economy if adopted. It wouldn’t surprise me if I check out Adsense tonight and the revenue hasn’t budged - Will have worked for like a couple bucks an hour. It’s only now that I get some emails of support for the site, months after starting. But still a long way to go. Thanks again for putting in perspective.

Dan at everydayfinance.

16 KMull 06.25.07 at 8:52 am

I wish it were that easy! Making money online takes a long time, or a very ‘hot’ idea. Unfortunately if the idea is hot, there is probably competition.

Maybe one day we will all be there, making our millions blogging?

17 Shannon 06.25.07 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for calling me an experienced entrepreneur, but I don’t know if I’d consider myself that…yet. ;-)
When my husband (then boyfriend) said that he wanted to live in the States, I said that I didn’t want a “real job”. That was my condition. And we started saving from there.
We’ve only been trying this for about 3 months now. In retrospect, we probably should have saved more money than we did. I just picked a number ($30,000) because I had previously lived quite comfortably on that salary. I didn’t quite factor in the fact that I’d no longer be sharing rent with a roommate, wouldn’t have health insurance provided, was moving across an ocean with literally only a suitcase and my computer (had to buy furniture, which, even used, starts to add up) and so on. Plus there are many costs associated with starting a business (legal fees, bus registration fees, etc.).
However, I don’t think we are doing too bad. Our main business is a travel business. But I also have my websites to bring in income (very low now…but growing). And I took on some work editing a book. And I’m trying to convince my husband to look into affiliate marketing (we could do this in Japan where there is very little competition right now). So yes, we have some backup plans.
Of course, there’s always the J-O-B backup plan if the money runs out. ;-) Then we’ll just save and start all over again.
But we’re in a good place now because we’ve been preparing for it. Use your free time wisely to start building your website(s), or research business, etc.

18 sfordinarygirl 06.26.07 at 12:09 am

You’re right on the legality issues - especially with first amendment, smut and obscenity. Kink.com has run into those issues .

I hope my comment didn’t come across as advocating that particular reader run porn videos on his site to make money. Just wanted to point out an interesting example. Lord knows I don’t want to necessarily be promoting those kinds of business ideas. heh.

19 golbguru 06.26.07 at 1:09 pm

mbhunter: Yep, probably will never be the first one. Will need the second one to avoid all the mistakes committed with the first one. :)

Dan: “Some days, it exceeds expectations, other days I’m disappointed.” - that has been my story too - so far. But you are on the right track - keep churning out good content and money will eventually start flowing in.

KMull: “Maybe one day we will all be there, making our millions blogging?” - Yeah, I wish; ideally I would have wanted that as my retirement dream. :)

Shannon: Thanks for sharing your insight. One characteristic that you share with good entrepreneurs is the diversification (or call it backup plans) - you are not relying on just one website to get your money and diversification requires some amount of planning. It’s good to hear about this from someone who has been there and done that.

sfordinarygirl: Nah.. don’t worry about it. You were discussing it… not promoting. I think we had a good business point with that too - even porn doesn’t get you easy money.

20 glblguy 07.12.07 at 10:41 am

Great write up, having a fairly new blog and watching my stats daily (ok…I’ll confess hourly…ok ok, every minute…there,) just writing good content requires a lot, not to mention the hours spent setting up the site, tweaking the theme, installing the plug-ins, reading other blogs, commenting, etc, etc.

I had done a lot of reading before I started and knew it was something I wanted to do and that I was passionate about. Even though I knew beforehand it was a lot of work, it was more than I even anticipated.

It was worth it though, having a blast writing content, sharing ideas with others, and just plain learning.

21 Firdaus Aris 07.13.07 at 5:21 pm

It takes a lot of work to make money online or , for your site to be profitable, u got to have a lot of traffic and that would not come easily if you designed your site to primarily to make money. You have to give some something in order to get.

p/s: great post, I will surely subscribe to your blog

22 Howard 08.09.07 at 3:40 pm

I always find it funny how people think that putting something online has some magical effect. The Internet is a great medium of communication, but other than that, the rules of other business still apply. I’ve also found it funny how if you own a store, people don’t call it a “building business.” The business is defined by the product or service. But when you start a business online, they call it an “Internet business.” This is very misleading and drives people into forgetting that the key factor is still having a great product or service and simply using the Internet as a method of communication about that. The Internet may be magical in its ability to magnify things by broadening the number of people who can find you, but other than that the same principles apply. And furthermore, as the Internet grows, things even out since everyone else is competing in that bigger market, as well.

23 InvestEveryMonth.com 08.11.07 at 7:20 am

My wife has a good job so we decided that I should stay home and work on creating internet businesses. Our goal is to have automated mobile income allowing us to be financially independent with the ability to travel.

We now have 17 sites and they are all growing, but the learning curve has been steep.

One thing to realize is that the technology keeps getting better. In the early days, my lack of technical skills hurt my sites, but now I can plug my domain names into hosted applications to create good sites.

My job now is to build content and community on my sites while figuring out the best way to monetize the traffic.

It has been difficult, but I know it will be worth it long-term because the internet keeps getting better. Whenever I start to get frustrated, I’ll see an older person laboring in some job and remember my goal of automated mobile income and how it will drastically change our lives as our sites grow and begin producing more fruit.

Think of a website like a farm. You have a lot of work to do before the first crops start to come up.

24 John Applegate 10.25.07 at 4:32 pm

I actually know a website that works. You will actually be able to quit your day job. I was making more then my regular day job using then within several weeks. You can find this e-book at dayjobkiller.tk

25 Llama Money 11.03.07 at 6:43 am

Investeverymonth:
I have to give it up - you sound like you’ve done well. Fortunately you were in a good position to be able to quit your dayjob and focus on your business. Having low debt, low expenses, and a spouse with a well-paying job are really huge keys to success here. Going at it alone, and just quitting with the hopes of making it big is a terrible idea.

Online business is no different than regular business - it takes a business plan, hard work, and preparation.

26 Tina Smith 06.06.08 at 6:37 am

I really enjoyed your write up on blogging and the fact that it is hard work. My husband is a mechanic, and we live in Michigan. He is highly motivated to diversify. In his quest he discovered an Online “opportunity”. Mind you, he knows nothing about working with computers, that is my department as an executive assistant in my former life.

Anyway, they convinced him that he would have two websites, they would train him, and he would be making money in a matter of weeks. Didn’t they hear the part where he barely knows how to turn on the computer? So, based on their advice, he bit the financial bullet. What a disaster!

Here we are eight months later, two extra “training” sessions under our belts, and a heaping debt that we didn’t have before. To this day we have not made one penny. Did anyone notice how I went from “him” to “we”? Well, now it’s just, “I”. He got SO frustrated that he just threw in the towel and was ready to chalk up our multiple thousands of dollars of new debt as a very costly learning experience. I decided to work through my negative emotions and make lemons into lemonade.

My last “training” ended last week. I was still left feeling helpless and clueless. Then, I found out that one of my fellow homeschooling moms taught herself how to earn money blogging, and she is actually earning money. So, she agreed to take me under her wing. I have been dedicated to building up my blog for one week, and I have made more progress in that time than the entire previous eight months.

I still have two websites, and another blog that need my attention. First things first! This is VERY HARD work, period! It is time consuming, and will never be insant, secure income. I really enjoyed reading your write up. It is a great reality check, for sure.

27 AVP 06.10.08 at 5:45 am

Doing your own stuff be it business or online blogs/websites needs you to have a good sense of judgement and ability to grasp new stuff quickly to maximise your revenue.
This certainly makes the effort worth it instead of a steady job (if there is such a thing nowadays)because you are constanty aware that things you do will help or hurt you directly not a team or a manager,just you which makes it fun.

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