I created this site with one single goal in mind: To help families earn enough income to allow them to focus on what matters most–family!  Internet marketing and blogging just so happens to be an AMAZING way to do it!

So let’s get started…

There are many different approaches to online business and countless choices in the technology of how you will run your website. I don’t pretend my approach to internet marketing is the only approach, but I want you to get started on your site immediately, so there is no time to waste.

This is my 10-step recipe for building a successful blog.  If you aren’t starting from scratch, just click the link to the step you’re working on now to get started at that part of the tutorial.

Niche Site School
This 10-step tutorial is a free guide.  If you feel like you need more direction on how to build your site, create good content, and direct traffic to your site so that you can start earning an income, then please look at our niche site consultation and course.

We spent a considerable amount of time developing our recipe for a successful niche site and this comes as the culmination of several years of success and failure building, buying, and selling niche sites.

Niche Site Consultation + School

Launch a site – Build a following – Earn a living

  1. Answer one simple question: What is one way I can be helpful by sharing information on a website?  (Answer this, and you already have the idea for your site).
  2. Create a wordpress site (I’ll walk you step-by-step through this one.  No technical experience necessary, but it will cost you about $100 to start).
  3. Make your site surprisingly helpful.
  4. Make the site looked lived in (This is a VERY important step!)
  5. Stop returning traffic to sender.
  6. Open the floodgates.  Learn how I built an audience and the quickest way for you to do it as well.
  7. Be so friendly to your subscribers that they become fans.  Reply to EVERY comment on your blog, EVERY email, EVERY Facebook post.  In this step you need to grow a core group of loyal fans
  8. Develop a publishing routine.
  9. Monetize your site.
  10. Refresh your Paypal account 500 times per day to see the money roll in.  (I have this habit and still can’t quite break it.  It’s just too much fun!  Six years in, and I still am amazed to see how I can earn a living online).

Creating a successful blog does not happen overnight, but if you build it… dead baseball players will soon appear in your backyard corn field.  (Sorry, if you didn’t catch the movie reference, just pretend this sentence never happened).

You are almost ready to start your business, but you are likely to have a few questions before you begin.  Let’s knock those out right now:

How much will it cost me to start my online business?

I started my business with a $4.95/month website hosting plan from Bluehost, and nothing else.  If you’re eating cold fish sticks right now, it is possible to succeed without significant resources and I will show you how.

If you can invest a tiny bit of money to start, I’ll also show you a path that costs about $200 but will get you a significant jumpstart over the way I did it.  This added money will help you get a really nice wordpress theme and a killer logo so the site looks professional from day one.

But $100-$200 is really all it takes, and you have SO much to gain!  Do WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO to get started.  Sell something to get the $100, do some side work, eat top ramen for a month, etc.  It’ll be worth it if you put in the work over the next few months to build a good site.

What if I have no clue what my site should be about?

Most people spend 2 months over-analyzing this question and then they give up.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Just pick a topic and start your website before you go to bed tonight.

I’ll help you pick a topic for your site, but really all you need to do is answer one simple question: What is one way I could be helpful to people by sharing information on a website?

If you’re stuck on this step, read this article with 50 website ideas ripe for the taking, and also consider doing a niche site idea consultation with me (you fill out a survey and tell us about you, and Ricky or I personally read your survey info and record a 10 minute audio file talking through some ideas for you.  I email you the audio file with my feedback).  But that’s an added expense.  You probably don’t even need to do that, but I just wanted to let you know it was available.

What if I don’t have expertise in anything?

Neither did I!  When I started my photography blog (where most of my income comes from), I was interested in photography but FAR from an expert.  I simply started my site by telling visitors that I was a hobbyist photographer who loved photography, and I would share blog posts with them of the things I learn along the way.  My audience appreciated the down-to-earth approach and that took all the pressure off me.  In fact, some of the more experienced readers of my site were really helpful and shared cool new photography tips with me that helped me to improve.

If you aren’t quite sure what I mean by being honest about your knowledge of the subject matter, watch this youtube video.  This is by a guy named Dave Dugdale.  I have never met him, but he is a perfect example of how this works.  He wanted to learn videography so he created a Youtube channel explaining the things he learned each day.  People loved it and he now is very successful with his videography business.

 How do you actually earn money by creating a blog?

I’ll walk you through lots of different methods for making money from your blog, but for me, about 30% of my money comes from creating and selling online courses, 30% from linking people to Amazon and getting a commission on what they buy from Amazon,  30% from selling digital products like eBooks, and the rest from advertising.  For now, just trust me with this: If you can get people to your site, you can make money.  Making money off website traffic is the EASY part.  It’s getting the traffic that requires hard work.

The actual methods you use to earn money from your site may vary, but don’t be too concerned with that now.  Baby steps (another reference to a favorite movie).  For now, just focus all of your attention on the red button below.  Click it, and I’ll help you start your business with step 1 of the recipe.

Start Step 1


  1. Thanks for the tips – I found you through your RV YouTube channel (which is also a great way to build and audience and monetize.)

  2. I’ve just purchased your podcast advance and the link doesn’t take me to the information I paid for. I attempted many of times. I would
    Like the info I paid for or a refund please.
    The link no longer works being that I attempted to retrieve the information three times.

  3. Is it absolutely necessary to include your product name in your domain name? If yes, why?

    1. Absolutely necessary? No. I mean, what does etsy even mean? But, for niche websites it’s beneficial to have the primary keyword for your topic in the domain name. It helps establish some authority of the subject. For example, if I see two articles at the top of my google search results for the search “which dog treats are best for my golden retriever” and one site is called “goldenretrieverguru.com” and the other is called “samsblog.com” then which one am I likely to click on?

      It can also help with SEO to some extent, but I can’t say for certain how much of an impact it truly has on search rankings.

  4. Hi Ricky / Jim

    For quite some time now, I’ve been keen on kicking off some niche sites. I live in South Africa and even a total of $1000pm would do wonders for my bank account.

    Question I have is: Will your “recipe” be as useful to a South African citizen as it is for a person in the USA? Because apparently all South Africans are good for is living with wild lions and monkeys :/


    1. This process will absolutely work for South African citizens. That’s what’s amazing about the global internet. About half of our students live outside the U.S.

  5. So bummed you guys ignored my question when I filled out this form a couple of weeks ago. I was looking to purchase your course but the lack of response to my question has made me decide to look elsewhere for coaching and training on starting my blog. So disappointing because you guys come across as really helpful in your YouTube videos.

    1. Hi Joe,

      I actually did respond to your question a few days after you posted it. You’ll see it on the page where you posted your comment.

      We do get a lot of spam on our comment forms and in general aren’t able to respond to everything. But we do try, and in your case we succeeded… That said, we try to dedicate most of our time to helping our clients which is why we miss some questions that appear as comments on our site.

      1. HI Ricky,

        I’m completely red in the face…I had no idea that I posted my question on another page within your website. Please accept my apologies and thank you for pointing me to the page where you answered my question (and where I asked it). I could have sworn I asked my question on this page, as I wasn’t aware that there were other pages where I could post a comment or ask a question.

        Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly answer my question. I fully understand and appreciate that the majority of your time needs to be spent on helping your clients, and I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.

        Again, thank you and please accept my sincerest apologies for not realizing that my question was asked and answered on a different page. You guys do, in fact, rock after all! 🙂

        All the best,

        1. LOL, it’s no problem Joe. We do miss comments sometimes and it can be frustrating when you reach out to someone about their product and you don’t hear back. We’re happy to help where we can. And whether you ever purchase Niche Site School or not, I hope our content on our site and on YouTube will help you build a successful niche website if that’s your goal!

  6. Hi there, after paying for the course, what is the true cost needed to start building up a website? I thought it was just the annual web hosting and a premium WordPress theme, but after some searching does that also include the $240+ for the WordPress business upgrade too which only has the install plugins options? Thanks so much 🙂

    1. Hi Jo,
      Annual web hosting, $12 annual domain registration, and premium theme ($60 one-time if you go with X Theme). That’s really all you need. There are other options you can buy. Domain privacy is a nice one but it’s only a few dollars per year. If you decide to buy stock images that adds to your cost. But the actual cost of running a website if you stick with the Bluehost Plus plan is pretty minimal.

    2. Jo, if I understand correctly – you’re referring to WordPress.com and not WordPress.org?

      Bottom line: You should be using WordPress.org! 🙂

  7. I love your blog and have been following behind the scenes for a bit. I want to start an affiliate site but my real interest are 2 things 1) fitness and 2) travel since I travel for work. My fear is that I really like fitness but it seems everyone says its saturated and I am thinking it will be difficult to make any money.

    Do you have any thoughts about that niche?

    1. Hi Scott,

      We have seen the same thing in the fitness niche. It’s really crowded which makes it extremely difficult to cut through the noise. That results in a ton of work only to struggle to get enough traffic to earn any income. I wish I had better news for you.

  8. Been following along for a while now. Still considering to start up or not. Honestly guys. There’s one thing missing on your site here. After seeing your videos and reading the site, all i really need is to see your stuff in action.
    Where are the links for your sites where you run affiliates etc.? I’d really like to see some of them.

    1. We really should post an article with our other sites and their performance. Here are a few to look at.

      Knifeup.com (owned by Jim)
      PontoonGuide.com (created by Jim, sold in the last year)

      We’re in the process of starting several more and potentially acquiring some as well.

  9. I am Unfamiliar with blogs in general .
    The best way to get started is choose a theme .
    And post this or is a website neccesary.
    Sorry i am familiar with videos on youtube mostly

  10. I was just curious as to what material I might be able to write about for income school?

    1. On the Income School website, we write about social media marketing, earning affiliate commissions, blogging in general, those types of topics. But, we have other niche websites too that we write on with topics ranging from home security to soundproofing to outdoors.

  11. I got the podcast the other day and haven’t seen anything yet

  12. I have just come across your site and I have to admit, I am hooked. The information you have shared is extremely useful. I own an online learning platform and I am based in Tanzania ( East Africa), I would love to get some advise on creating a niche and expanding online business. I know the questions would be useful to others too. Many thanks,

  13. Pingback: 50 Side Income Ideas You Can Start Today (From home!) - Income School

    1. Hi Franzine,

      I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I just sent you an email. You’re welcome to ask us anything you like about Niche Site School.

  14. AM chioma from Nigera, I will be very glad to be a part of this wonderful organization but I’d like to know if its applicable to people from other countries like Nigeria? Thank u.

    1. We have helped several people in countries outside of the US. The beautiful thing about the internet is that it is global. You can do this from anywhere, including Nigeria!

  15. I want to get started, I’m a mom with two kids… I’d like it to be about how to survive two under two… as they only are 1 year 1 month apart… but I’m kind of overwhelmed with all the information… I’ll make the Website today. And I’ll take baby steps as you say

    1. As an expecting mom with a 7 month old I’d read your blog everyday! 🙂

  16. Frist time visitor and got my primary attention on your domain name, it’s catchy and spent some good time with your blog post, and multiple ways found new methods to make money online which i don’t know. According to my opinion blogging is best and can earn different ways with a single blog (AdSense, affiliate marketing, selling products, etc..) but must aware how a blog works and what kind of traffic is important to monetize. Thanks for sharing will catch you in your next post.

  17. Pingback: 11 Ways Moms Can Earn a Legitimate Side Income From Home

  18. Hello, I was very inspired by the post, 11 Things Moms Can do Today to Start Earning a Side Income from Home. I am a stay at home mom with three kids under 5 years old and a 4th coming in the spring! My husband is a public school teacher and an added income source would definitely be helpful. So, even though its a bit against my nature, I jumped in with two feet and started a blog: thesunshinemaker.com. It is dedicated to supporting new/young moms through all the ups and downs of toddlerhood. Something I have become well acquainted with the past few years.

    I have been trying to follow all of your guidelines as best I can. I am not tech savvy so I have been fumbling through all the setup lingo; trying to really give 100% effort to this endeavor. As far as monetizing my blog, I have just started Amazon Associates program. I haven’t made anything yet but my blog has only been up for about 10 days.

    Just really wanted to say thanks for all of you tips. They have been very helpful so far and I greatly appreciate all the information.

  19. Jim,
    A friend shared your youtube video with us about making money out on the road. We are in the process of selling our house and going full time RVing. My husband has already been working on a new blog but it isn’t live just yet. Once that one is up and running, I’ll start one of my own. I’m thinking of doing reviews on every restaurant, theme park, RV park, state park, campground…basically every place we go. I would love to build an app to go along with it. Any suggestions on a catchy name? Thanks in advance. Love this program by the way. I was worried about not having enough income on the road…I don’t think that will be a problem.

  20. Pingback: 11 Ways Moms Can Earn a Legitimate Side Income From Home

  21. Pingback: 11 Things Moms Can Do Today to Start Earning a Side Income From Home - Income School

  22. Jim, I have been blogging every day for a little over a month, starting to get pretty good traffic (over 13,000 views and 300+ following my blog) http://www.JewelryMonk.com
    My next step is to start a podcast, (I have been doing another podcast for over a year and a half) Would it be better to write an e-book or have an online training course ready before I launch my podcast, or launch my podcast and build an audience before releasing my training course and e-book?
    Thanks for all you do

  23. Hi Jim, I just learned about your site from BuzzBlogger and have only had time to browse through some of your articles. I like the concept but have a different opinion on some subjects. To be more specific, free websites may not be bad. I believe some people would find a free website quite useful. I would love to discuss with you in private before submitting a comment, but I can’t find any other ways to contact you. Hope you send me an email so I can tell you more.

    Best Regards


  24. Hey Jim,

    I’ve enjoyed the Improve Photography website for a while now, and I’m looking forward to implementing the things I learn here on Income School. I work for a band that has several million followers on FB, and I’ve been able to start to build a following by posting photos and interacting with their fans on my own Facebook photography page. I’ve been wondering how to take this to the next level, so your new site/podcast has me fired up. Thanks for the great info!

      1. Thanks! Quick question: I’ve got two directions I feel strongly about (music – I’ve played/taught guitar for 30 years and currently tour worldwide as a guitar tech, and photography). Approach them as separate blog entities or somehow combine them? Thanks!

        1. Author

          @John Zocco – I think both could be good, but do NOT do two at once. Pick one and go with it.

          If you chose to do something like concert photography, you’d kind of get a little bit of both, though.

          Since I’m wanting to learn the guitar, though, I’d love to see a good website on that.

          1. Very cool. Thanks! I actually just emailed you before I saw this. I suppose I need to give it some thought and decide on a direction.

  25. Jim,

    I was wondering if you could recommend a good way to get a logo designed. I like your simple logo for improvephotography.com. Any advice? Are stock sites a good place to start?

    Thanks for the info!

    1. Author

      @Doug Napier – Cool site! You REALLY REALLY have to implement my Pinterest strategy. I bet it would kick butt with the jewelry making niche. I’ll work on getting a podcast dedicated to Pinterest, but I do talk about it in the episode about getting traffic to new websites.

      1. Thank you so much! Another question if you don’t mind, what kind of business do you suggest should I create? LLC, sole proprietorship, inc?

        1. Author

          @Doug – That’s a HUGE question and really depends on your personal situation. Would you be interested in doing a call with me that I could record as part of a podcast episode and I’ll coach you through this decision? I think this conversation could be helpful to the community at large, and you’ll get some free coaching out of it. Email me at jim@incomeschool.wpengine.com and we’ll set it up.

          1. Jim,
            Sorry I missed your reply, I will get with you via email.

  26. G’day Jim

    Loving this new project of yours. Perfect timing for me as I’ve been building my blog/ideas for a couple of months and have more plans. Definitely need to up my ‘hussle’ to get more followers. Anyway after speaking with potential advertisers and guest bloggers etc. One thought I’ve had is around surveys. Super simple ones like one questions ones. The purpose is simple to build a profile of the people visiting the blog, this helps me determine what they are interested in and potential topics and help build business cases for advertisers/sponsors. Also makes the blog more interactive, people seem to like funny interesting info graphics for example, and it’s just more content. Any thoughts on quick surveys. Sorry if your intending to cover this in a future podcast/post.

    1. Author

      Good question, Josh. You reminded me that I used to have a 1 question survey in the footer of my website for a long long time. I’d ask different questions to get to know my audience and would change it as soon as I got a clear picture of how my audience felt about each question.

  27. Jim,
    It’s been a while man. Love the new info. I have a question. I already have a fully functioning site through Squarespace. Can I do all of this through Squarespace or should I switch to wordpress? And if I have to switch how do I move all of my info to WordPress including my blogs and domain name? Thanks!
    Ps we should try to shoot again on a trip soon.

    1. Author

      Hey David! Glad to hear from you.

      Squarespace is a good option for photographers who don’t plan on earning a living directly from their site, but if you’re serious about the website becoming the business, then there is no question that a switch to WordPress is in order. Running a blogging business from Squarespace would be incredibly limiting down the road.


      1. Jim, as another David with a SqSp site, can you elaborate a bit on why you think it is more limiting from a blogging business standpoint than WP? My wife is establishing a Virtual Assistant business using a WP theme; I’m looking to start a side business doing photography, and have already invested a some time/money into SqSp, so I’m a bit reluctant to abandon it. If you were trying to persuade me to jump ship, how would you do so?

        Also, I noticed that since this original May posting, you’ve got Squarespace as one of your advertisers…does this represent a shift in opinion? Frankly, they both seem better options than Blogger (where I have version 2.0 of my site).

        Love both your sites and podcasts. Really appreciate the info delivered on each.

        Dave in Germany

  28. First of all, love the blog Jim. Secondly, was the first blog you created in law school your current Improve Photography blog? Also, enjoyed the Field of Dreams and What About Bob? references.

    1. Author

      @Kevin – It was the first one I did seriously. During undergrad I started some other ones for school projects and such, but it was the first one I created and put real effort into.

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