843 days to online success: The ultimate newbie’s guide [Part 1]


They like to say, “If it was so easy, then the whole world would be doing it.” 

I like to say, “If it was as easy as, ‘Build it and they’d come’, then anybody who builds a shitty, free blog would be in business. If it was easy as simply being taught, then everybody can quit their shitty jobs in a month, enrol in some course, and then be in business. If it was easy as simply having a great idea, then we might as well all be dreamers”.

Okay straight up: This is a guide on how to start gaining online success, and that includes making money online. I’ll let you all in on my journey of going online and starting a blog. With that, I’ll cover what I think are the foundations necessary to create a legitimate business online.

Who is this guide for? 

This is for newbies, people who don’t know shit and are just starting out. This is for those struggling online, people who feel lost and are constantly unsure of what to do next.

This is NOT for those who are looking to make a quick buck online. Creating a business online is not easy. If you’re thinking that the internet is amazing and that it is your golden ticket to a life of freedom, sorry, you’re on the wrong page. Get out, for you will not find what you want here. Or, stay on and let me try to convince you.

And you don’t have to be an aspiring blogger or even a writer to feel what I’m going to be talking about here. Even if you’re a photographer, poet, singer, random doodling artist guy or whatever, I’m extremely confident this guide can inspire you to start creating something bigger than you can ever imagine.

Who am I? This is my story

Hey, I’m Alden Tan. I started this blog back in 2011, on my birthday. I literally jumped in and did the whole “Quit my job to follow a dream” thing. I love to write and wanted in on the craze of “internet marketing”. I wanted to make money online, work from home every day, be my own boss, do what I love to the point that I can’t call it work and eventually make so much money that I’d be travelling the world and work at random coffee houses and stuff. The whole deal!

I knew it was going to be a huge endeavour and that it wasn’t going to be easy. Yet, I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?”

I was wrong on every level. I was wrong on many things.

I can honestly say to this day, like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’m still struggling.

Going full circle with my writing-

Lost phase-1: When I started out, I didn’t know a damn thing about blogging. I only knew I loved to write and I thought I would just write my heart out, get a bunch of traffic to the blog and then see what happens. I did this for 8 months. I felt lost, even though I was writing a lot.

Lost phase-2: Then I paid for a coaching session with a well-known blogger/marketer who taught me the importance of gaining subscribers i.e. people who give you their name and email in exchange for something. This is also known as building an email list. I also bought his online course on guest posting.

I wrote A LOT of guest posts then. I currently have over 50 guest posts published across the web, including on popular blogs like Pick The Brain, ProBlogger and Tiny Buddha. I also learnt how to do swaps, where two email lists owners would email out each other’s opt-in gifts to their respective lists, thus gaining a bunch of subscribers easily.

I’ve about 9,000 subscribers on my list now.

Lost phase-3: I wanted to make money. I started recommending a bunch of affiliate products i.e. sending other entrepreneurs’ online products via your unique link, and whoever buys through your link, you get a commission.

It barely worked. I must have recommended about 15 products total. Some made me zero dollars. Some made me zero dollars AND very harsh feedback from readers. Some made me money, even up to $300 in a day once. But I knew it was dumb luck. I didn’t feel good or confident about it.

I also created my own eBooks for sale. They make me some consistent money, but not that much really.

Clarity phase-4, circle is completed: This was around November 2013. I was so tired of listening to others and also doing a bunch of business-y things. I wasn’t having fun any more. I wrote a lot less. I was very unhappy.

I literally thought to myself, “Okay, fuck this shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit” and went back to what I love most: Writing.

I write a lot more today. I also read a lot.

I’m now seeing better results. And I’m a lot happier and more confident in what I do.

See how I went full circle? That’s my story.

There’re many hidden subtleties in my story, which I’ll explain in the following two sections. So do take note of how I’m constantly referring back to my story.

Okay, are you ready for the how-tos and the guide to online success? Here we go.

Disclaimer: You are not going to find a bunch of shady tactics that are going to make you money or let you see results instantly. This is not one of those.

How to prep yourself for online succes: The mindset stuff

Oh don’t worry. I’m not going to regale you with cliché bullshit like, “Don’t give up” here. You also won’t find goal setting or other dorky stuff.

1) There is a need for that convergence with your passion and doing business

There’s a whole craze of, “Doing what you love”, “Following your heart” and “Follow your passion” today. There’re even courses for it. The folly is that people are advocating the idea that as long as you do any of that, everything else will take care of itself.

That’s only true to a certain extent.

Yes, on a grand cosmic level where karma is on your side, when you do what you love, life can pretty much take care of itself. But when you do what you love and want to start making money from it, then you need to take note of the subtleties and apply them; apply yourself.

You need to find out what is it you love to do in life, and from there, how people can pay you for that. That effectively means people parting their precious money for your passion, but of course, they would want something valuable in return.

Think about it: If your passion is specifically watching TV and eating M&Ms at the same time (or if you’re one of those weirdos whose passion is ‘sleeping’), would it really make sense for people to want to pay you to do any of that? Both you and I know no one would be dumb enough to do that.

Thus, you absolutely need to find that convergence: Do what you love, but how is it from this love can you add value to people’s lives, so much so they’re willing to pay you for that?

This was the flaw I had in my mind when I started out. I was all like, “I love to write! I will just keep writing and then see what happens when traffic comes”. See? No direction, and expected things to magically work out on its own.

2) You have to add value

You heard that two words before. Adding value.

Simply put, in my opinion, adding value can come in two forms:

– Entertaining and inspiring people.

– Helping people solve a particular problem.

Others will have their opinion on what adding value entails, but I leave it as these only for the sake of simplicity. I love simplicity.

Now, adding value sounds like a complete no-brainer. You probably learnt it elsewhere before. But the difference is whether you’re thinking about adding value in every action you take in your business.

Again, my newbie’s mindset flaw back then, “I’ll just keep writing and see who likes it”. I was probably entertaining and solving a problem or two here and there, but without me knowing a thing about adding value, it really didn’t help me much at all.

Every action you take, whether you’re creating new content, shelling out a new product, doing a launch, tweaking copy or whatever, you need to ask yourself, “How is this going to impact somebody?”

3) “This is your art”

This is where I’m going to eliminate words like “content”, “product” , “niche” even “business”.

Last year, I emailed this guy, Anthony Mychal, owner of fitness blog for skinny-fat people. I emailed him cause I thought he looked like a pretty cool dude. Plus I thought I needed to “network”.

My blog was a mess back then. I was barely writing for myself. I was just trying to know people and gain subscribers for the faint hope of making money through them. Then Anthony told me I was “positioning” myself wrong. He actually thought I should be teaching guest posting, since I did so many of them. I was like, “What? No way. That’s not about what I’m about! I write about motivation”.

Then he said something that kind of blew my mind. He said something along the lines of how people come to you and your blog to see what you’re all about and how you’re different from the rest of the world. And he added, “This is your art”.

And I strongly agree with him.

Everything you do in your line, your business, your platform, your way of adding value, you’re constantly creating art. And there’s no better way to create than from following your passion.

Read on. You’ll see why your art is so important.

4) Your art is what makes you different. It is your voice.

A newbie entrepreneur is very vulnerable in becoming a sheep. At least I was. I was always very keen to follow what others were doing to be “safe”.

And on some level, you can’t really be blamed to have this mentality. You’re young, new and totally lost. You also have business textbooks, blogs and various how-to guides that tell you “must” or at least ought to to do things a certain way.

Textbooks and stuff can only teach you so much. They can only teach you the basics.

The rest… is entirely up to you. You need to start creating (from the heart). That’s how you become unique. That’s how you can effectively create your USP and craft your positioning in whatever niche or field you are in.

I know, I know, you were taught that since everybody else was doing the same thing, it means there’s competition, and that means there’s a market for it.

Yes, this is all true, but you eventually need to stand out. No one is going to give a shit about you, a total newcomer when there’s already an existing, better thing out there.

Whoa whoa Alden! All this talk on art sounds like it’s all about creating content only! Why is it then that there’re so many successful entrepreneurs out there who only do launches, create products and polish it all up with advertising? They’re making a ton of money! How are they even creating when they outsource everything?

Then whatever they do is their art! They love to do launches, create products, tweak copy, track the numbers and generally oversee everything! They know they’re good at it and they enjoy it. It obviously makes sense for them to keep doing it.

I hate everything they do. I only love to write. I’m good at it, and I’m sticking to it. But note, this isn’t a “Me against them” competition. This is not where you should listen to others just because they’re seeing success. This is also not where you should tell others what you think is right. Everyone has their art. Leave that as it is.

That is the whole idea of having your own art. Find out what you’re good at. Keep at it and grow.

Don’t make the mistake I did. I spent a lot of time figuring out all the stuff others enjoyed. I barely had any results. I could have definitely done a lot more if I concentrated on my writing.

5) Your art is what should propel you to do your best work

Okay, I hope that by now you’re getting on the idea that your art is what you should focus on only.

The thing is, in business, there’s a crapload of things to learn. That’s a given. Yeah, you do have to learn it all, but what you concentrate and focus on the most is what makes or break your business; is what gives you success.

I personally think that one should concentrate on his art to shell out his best work, THEN apply what other little things to see how it can all fit for business success.

E.g. I hate to track. I hate dealing with numbers and I certainly hate testing a bunch of stuff.

Because I kept listening to others, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to tweak copy, push traffic and split-testing, amongst other things. I did not enjoy any of it. I also saw barely any results.

I do however, enjoy, what? Writing, of course. The following are my best articles to date:

How to dominate post-breakup trauma

How to find relationships in the right places so you don’t end up with bitches and douchebags

19 Pictures with Scream No Excuses

Interview with God: The almighty on Facebook who actually saves lives

I enjoyed writing and creating them immensely, which in turn resonated with others, because people can tell. Then I added a little affiliate product recommendation at the end of each post. I also installed, an network which makes me money based on the number of impressions a page gets.

See how it worked out for me? It’s practically 90% my art and 10% other shit which were easily applied after learning. I’ve made the most money with these posts and yeah, on some level, it felt like no work at all. I literally saw the money come in.

So yes. Focus on your art, whatever that may be. That is how it should work. If you don’t want focus on your art, you are going produce lousy results (again, because people can tell) and you are not going to enjoy it.

Also, remember, your art is unique to you. Just because others are having success with something doesn’t mean it can work for you. They do their art, you do yours.

6) You need to constantly step it up with your art and produce your best shit ever

Okay, your art is unique, and it’s from your heart. But that doesn’t mean hard work is not involved. You need to always step it up.

What do I mean by step it up? Oh boy… you better be ready to push yourself.

Art and mere effort isn’t just about doing something for the sake of doing something. YOU NEED TO MOTHERFUCKING PUSH YOURSELF ALL THE WAY.

Do you love to write? You better start writing well-thought out, controversial articles that both inspire and entertain people with never-before-seen insights. Back it up with real research even! One of my favourites is Mark Manson’s travel piece to India. He called the country a shithole.

Do you want to take photos? Don’t just snap away with your iPhone. Do what it takes to capture beautiful moments.

Do you want to make funny Vine videos? You better be daring enough to do funny shit on the streets to the point that you may be arrested for being a public nuisance (Disclaimer: I’ll not be held responsible for any stupid shit you do)

Do you want to teach guys how to meet ladies? You better be willing to take videos of yourself approaching ladies on the streets and asking them to kiss you for no reason whatsoever.

You better be fucking epic, or super duper helpful.

The minute you find yourself thinking like, “Oh you know… I’ll write out a list post, because they’re popular” or “Oh I’ll just make some video I guess. Video is popular nowadays”, you will be in for a huge disappointment. You are not going to get results because nobody is going to care about a mediocre piece of shit. You are not trying hard enough. You need to go beyond what textbooks, guides, blog articles or videos have taught you.

Art is what makes you unique. But you only stand out when you’re the best.

What’s that you say? You don’t dare to do any of the above? Get out of your comfort zone! Duh! Don’t dare to get out of your comfort zone? Then business is not for you, because trust me, there’s going to be a lot of it.

7) Get over the fact that selling is a bad thing

Selling is not a bad thing. It really isn’t. It doesn’t make you scammy, spammy, annoying or whatever.

Think of it this way. A local, internet marketer taught me this: If you know your product or service can definitely help someone, then it is your job to go all out and make sure they get it.

Also, you’re definitely making the world a better place that way. If your sale to a single person changed his or her life, but pissed off five others, it’s all good. Those five people need time to grow and not be so unhappy with the idea of being sold to. It’s their problem, not yours.

8) You need EVERYTHING for your art to converge with business

Holding dear to your art is one thing, but guess what? You need everything else to work for you in the business world.

To put it straight, a lot of newbies, like me back then, have this mentality whereby they think as long they do one thing right, it is enough.

No, it is not enough. It doesn’t work that way.

E.g. Ever found yourself thinking, “I don’t need a good product. I just need to have some really sick copy and it will definitely sell!” or conversely, “My product is really awesome. It should sell itself”?

No! You need everything for business success! This is a major flaw in most newbies. When they concentrate on one thing, it goes totally off balance and sooner or later, things will fall apart.

No one is going to buy your awesome product, however awesome it may be if your marketing sucks. And even if you managed to make money off your shitty product with really good copy, people are just going to complain and steer clear of you.

A real, successful business is well balanced in everything. It’s like a diet. You don’t eat nothing and starve to lose weight. You eat a balanced-diet.

Am I contradicting myself, what with all the talk on focusing on your art only? No I am not.

Yes, your art should be what pushes you to do your best work. Concentrate and focus on it. Everything else… you can outsource, or ask for help with them. There’s no point trying so hard to do things you don’t like. That’s how mediocre work is made.

Like I said in the first point, there is a need for convergence with your art. After you find out how you can add value with your art, you need the other tools and stuff to get your art out there.

9) Nothing is ever a golden ticket

For the time I was trying too hard to make money online or gain a specific result, I always hoped that something or someone out there was going to help solve all my problems. If I found a new product/course that promised easy results, I thought that was going to turn my blog around. If I connected with blogger who said he would help, I thought I could take it easy and let him do everything.

None of it worked out at all of course. This is what they also like to call “Shiny Object Syndrome”, wherein you’re always attracted to the next big thing and then think it’s going to solve all your problems.

It won’t. It’s mostly bullshit and ultimately a huge distraction from your art. A newbie is extremely vulnerable to this.

I personally think it’s fine to keep looking for help, but it’s not fine to think that help equates to a overnight cure. It will never be. Marketing and business is an ongoing learning process.  If a course or product guarantees you something instantly, it’s probably bullshit. If someone out there promises you riches or whatever, he’s probably lying.

So stop looking for golden tickets. Life doesn’t work that way. There’ll always be challenges, and you got to be consistent. It’s your art. It’s unique to you. The reins are only in your hands.

Alright! That’s all for now.

If you want to start learning the practical stuff for online success, click here for part 2!

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  1. Wan Muhammad Zulfikri - January 20, 2014 1:12 pm

    This post is Online Success 101.

    I like how you describe what we are doing as an art. An art needs to be improved consistently.

    Honestly, I think your art in making this blog stands out due to you not giving a damn about political correctness and not giving a fuck of what people think.

    My only complaint is the post is too much to digest haha. I’ll take it step by step then and keep on writing, man.

    • alden - January 21, 2014 7:30 am

      Yep. Forge your own path to success. Everyone has their own methods 😉

  2. Bella Belle - January 20, 2014 6:47 pm

    This article finally clicked for me… Plain, sometimes colorful language that gets to the meat and bones. “follow your passion, do what you love” are good thoughts but without a common direction you stay at square one.

    Points well taken here… thanks for an excellent read!

    • alden - January 21, 2014 7:29 am

      Glad it helped. Go apply them shit!

  3. Jeremy - January 21, 2014 7:19 pm

    I love the hell out of this post! I agree with the commenter above that there is a lot here to digest. I’m going to have to read and reread this over the next few days.

    I want to apply all this to what I’m trying to do. This couldn’t be any better timed

    • alden - January 23, 2014 8:40 am

      Haha thanks dude. I just wanted to cover it all. Go for it. Create ART yo.

  4. Brian J McCarthy - January 22, 2014 11:54 pm

    I loved the blog, it’s eye opening. You get to the point. It all sounds good.

    • alden - January 23, 2014 8:40 am

      Thanks for dropping by man. Share it with your friends yea?

  5. Ramsay - January 23, 2014 2:31 am

    *clap clap clap*

    Well done bro.

    • alden - January 23, 2014 8:15 am

      Thanks for dropping by bro!

  6. Pingback: Success is Everywhere: February 2014 Best of the Web

  7. Gerry - August 12, 2014 6:08 pm

    Thanks! Very cool!

  8. Jeremy - November 12, 2014 12:54 pm

    Have you read Steven Pressfield’s The War Of Art? I got a feeling you’ll like it!

    I think the no.1 rule in business is to always be adding value. Sure, some people talk about the importance of being genuine, having a voice, authenticity / connecting with their audience. That is true, they are right. But that only comes hand in hand with adding value.

    I agree with Wan. I like your I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-what-other-people-think-about-me attitude. Great post! 🙂

    • alden - November 13, 2014 9:29 am

      Yes I have. I read it twice in fact. Ryan Holiday, this brilliant marketer recommended it to me. I had to re-read it cause the first time was so… spiritual.

  9. Aaron Tang - November 15, 2014 7:02 am

    Hi Alden,

    I stumbled upon one of your posts on Facebook last night, and spent some time going through your writings.

    As a relatively new writer myself, it’s very encouraging and inspiring to read about your story. Thank you also for the points in this post — very useful indeed.

    Wishing you the best ahead. Keep living the dream.

    • alden - November 15, 2014 7:27 am

      Thanks for dropping by. Hope it helps!


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