The True Story Of My Overnight Success

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Michael Dunlop
    Topics: Make Money Online     More posts about: Blog Creation

The True Story Of My “Overnight Success” as a Blogger

Blogging Overnight Success?

It is time to put the record straight.

The story of how I created is well documented but I have been thinking recently that what is not so well known is all the things I tried and ‘failed’ at before

I was thinking this in particular because I have had a few emails from people that 1) Assume I am some sort of overnight success and 2) people who had become disillusioned with their lack of online success.

So in this post I am going to discuss some of my earlier online endeavors (and ‘failures’) and what I learned from them.

Of course my definition of “Failure” may well be different to most people. You see, I see failure as nothing more than a learning experience — and if you have always learned something, how can it really be failing?

If you Google “overnight success’ it will turn up some interesting quotes such as this one by Monty Hall:

Actually, I’m an overnight success. But it took twenty years

Or this one by Diana Rankin

Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success

The good news is it doesn’t have to take 20 years any longer – technology has sorted that out for many of us younger entrepreneurs, but the fact remains – all reasonable and sustainable Success is dependant of Work (often hard work) and diligent application.

If you are going to give up at at the first hurdle or when your first blog doesn’t turn out as you hoped then you may as well not start in the first place.

In this post I hope you will see that I am anything but an ‘overnight success” as I explain just a few of the online efforts I ‘failed’ at before launching You may also discover somethings about me that I am no longer that proud of.

eBay Business

Yes, my first online business was an Ebay one. A simple strategy – buy low and sell high and I sold pretty much anything I could get my hands on.

Ebay really started to go somewhere for me when I played an online fighting game called Runescape. (I am sure some of you have heard of it)

On Ebay I noticed there was a market for Runescape Gold (The better the player you were the more Gold you earned in the games — and the more Gold you had the more difficult it was to beat you – the better you could Arm / Protect yourself in the game) Because of this a market existed on Ebay for “Runescape Gold”

Not being modest — I was GOOD, so I started playing Runescape more in the evenings, winning lots of battles and earning more gold. Then in the morning I listed what I had won the night before, on eBay. Usually you would get around £40 per 1 million gold, usually breaking it up into smaller deals like 100,000 gold for £7. One guy I played with was quitting because he was going off to university and wanted the extra cash, so after some negotiations, he let me buy his account for $200. To most that would probably sound like a lot of money and a silly thing to do but when I tell you that he had around 400 million gold and the account was actually one of the best in the game you will now be thinking, WOW what a deal. I managed to in the end break down the gold into small portions and probably sell it for over £2000. (about $3200) Not a bad return for a $200 investment.

I decided to keep doing this with other people who were quitting the game for various reasons but after a while Runescape clamped down on this trade (as IP owner) and it was no longer allowed to sell Runescape Gold on Ebay.

Not so proud of it now — but that didn’t really stop me, indeed I got banned a total of 5 times before realising enough was enough.

After Runescape i sold all sorts of stuff, including wrist bands, remote control cars and Lacoste Polo shirts. After doing a few transactions here and there, I got a phone call from a friend who was selling on eBay, he told me he was getting out of the business and wanted to sell his stock. He had several hundred items, mainly Lacoste and Abrocrombie and Fitch. I paid him £2000 ($3200). I was foolish not to go through the stock before I bought it. I had presumed that because he was a family friend that it would be all great quality. Turned out around 30% was unsellable because it was factory seconds. Also most of it was silly sizes like extra larger and extra extra large but in the end this actually worked to my advantage because it seemed larger sized people went online to buy instead of going to shops.

The main downside of this business was that I had to constantly be packaging products and going to the post office, it was also more responsibly then I wanted as I had to make sure it got into the post right away. Often I would forget or leave it for days and end up sending two products for the price of one to make it up to the buyer.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Customers want it now and if that doesn’t work well with your work hours, then you will disappoint and they will leave negative feedback. I also found that there was a lot of things I could do to improve the result of auction, for example if I ended the auction at the busiest time of day in terms of Ebay traffic, I would likely make a lot more money from the sale then if I did it at say 10am.

Once I got out of the eBay business I decided that I should learn more about Web Design and found myself on a design forum called GameRenders. The forum had a great model, every time you posted on the forum you get a point and there was a market place where you could buy, sell and trade with your points. I loved the model and without knowing the meaning of GFX, I registered the domain to go in direct competition with that forum and 100s of others.

I didn’t know much about web design, nothing about graphics, couldn’t even think about installing forum software but I managed to get my forum online and customized. I created friendships with the top users on the forum and other great designers and managed to convince them to join my forum and help build the community. In 6 short months, ShoutGFX had around 70,000 posts and 2,000 members. I remember I was running when I first met Yanik Silver back in 2006.

Unfortunately because of my great success, came jealous competition that hacked my site and destroyed it. I knew the old owner of GameRenders and asked that he took a look, fix it and let me know how it was done. He let me know who the Hacker was (someone we both knew). It may have been something to do with the maturity of the audience but when I brought this up on the forums no one seemed to really care – so I tried to fix the site and carry on.

Later I discovered that two admins on my forum wanted to delete my site because they had just launched their own site and it would be easy to poach my users if my site was no longer online. In the end, I lost the site due to not having a decent backup.

Nasty — But I learned a lot. Mainly the experience made me more mature and of course I learned that what goes around, comes around.

Biggest Lesson Learned: Keep backups of your website, you never know when you will need it!


ShoutGFX Design We Were Working On Before We Got Hacked

Webdesigndev V.1

A web design site seemed a nature transition from a design forum, I already knew quite a lot about the niche and wanted to give a website a try. I was using a forum called Pixel2Life at the time where I found a young programmer aged 13. At first I agreed to pay him $30 to code my design and as we started talking I found out that he knew a lot about programming and we added really cool things such as a CMS to easily add content (basically like WordPress but nowhere near as good), a custom Newsletter (not compliant with spam laws) and a bunch of other cool ideas I had.

When I launched the site I added Adsense to the sidebar of the site and above each tutorial, I saw that I was earning around $5 – $10 a day and was mildly impressed with myself but knew I had to do more so I could make more money to expand my business. I researched how others in my niche were making money and they were all using Adsense as well but the difference is, they placed images next to each Adsense text listing – in a similar way to how they also listed their Tutorials / main content. This made readers think the adverts were real content.


First Version of

So I did the same as these other sites and in no time at all my earnings with Adsense jumped from $5 – $10 per day TO $50 per day

I should point out this ‘trick’ is no longer allowed by Google but it was at the time. I didn’t feel bad about it at the time because the advertisers were getting targeted traffic from me – It was just one of the Tricks that online entrepreneurs were using just a few years ago. That said, it does not make it right and I am glad that Google clamped down on it.

After that I still thought I could do better, I went to my good friend, eBay, and bought around 2000 website templates for £5 which included resell rights. I wrote some sales copy (words that sell) so I could sell them on. I created an advert to drive traffic to the page on my site where I was selling the templates and managed to increase my daily earnings to over $200 with the help of advertising. grew to over 100 tutorials and 200,000 monthly visitors in weeks and I was managing $1000 advertising deals – all at the age of 16.

It didn’t last long though, first came the bad news from my host, having a 13 year old program your site meant that he may know a lot about programming, but didn’t actually mean his code worked well. They told me it was badly programmed which caused huge issues with my server and finally they shut us down. After moving to a new host, I found I still had the same problem and shortly after that I got contacted by Adsense, telling me that the site was banned from the program. (poor quality traffic apparently). Then there was a decline of interest in the template pack so in the end I decided to shut down the site down and begin on my next project.

Biggest Lesson Learned: It is well worth the money hiring a professional. I decided to hire a 13 year old programmer who was cheap but lacked the skills to create a robust website that could handle a lot of traffic. In the end this ‘cheap option’ cost me a lot more then what a good programmer would have.

From building ShoutGFX I knew quite a bit about running a forum and promoting it. I decided to give it another try in a similar but more mature market. The site went well but never picked up like ShoutGFX and I decided to sell it on SitePoint for around $1500 a few months later.

Biggest Lesson Learned: It’s not always the best choice to spend your whole budget on building a site, promoting it can be far better use of funds. I spent $650 to buy the domain from a Domainer – which may sound a lot of money but at the time I had big dreams for the site and if it worked out, the price would of been well worth it.

Retireat21 was born out of an idea I got at the Underground Online Seminar that Yanik Silver held in the UK in 2006

I had noticed that there weren’t very many young people in the Internet Marketing business – so I wanted to connect those who did and inspire those who were not yet involved in Internet Marketing.


First Version of

My original idea for Retireat21 was some sort of social site and in fact at the beginning it went really well. Each user had a profile page, could leave comments, vote up and down young entrepreneurs and we also had a big contest. Along with that I added pages about creating your own website and business and a bunch of other cool options. Although we had a great start, we still ended up with the same issue as last time, bad coding (didn’t learn the first time).

The most exciting day was when I release my young entrepreneur rich list and received over 50,000 visitors in one day and I was mentioned in news papers around the world and was mentioned in AOL and Yahoo news along with 1000 of other sites. I even ended up appearing in a leading Brazilian Newspaper.

Over the years we have worked hard to restructure the site and in 2010 do plan to make the move to a new design and to use WordPress for all of the site – not just the Young Entrepreneurs Blog

Biggest Lesson Learned: Content is king, once I learned that I started to get a sold following.

Webdesigndev V.2

With Retireat21 finally earning some money, I decided to go back and look at again. This was also just around the time of my “near death” experience in Ghana. (Not sure how many of my Appxanh readers know about this – but another life-changing experience)

I always enjoyed and knew it had great potential. So I decided to hire a designer and with in 1 hour had a design I liked and found a programmer to convert it from PSD to WordPress. I relaunched it using old tutorials and it quickly made its way up to around 35,000 monthly visitors but because I couldn’t bring anything new to the site, struggled to bring it any further. Another main concern was monetization, I was banned from Adsense and couldn’t get more then $300 – $500 for advertising on the site.


Second Version of

Biggest Lesson Learned: At the time of creating WebDesignDev V.2, I had all the same content on Retireat21 for at least a year and when I copied it and put it on the new site, WebDesignDev instantly out ranked Retireat21 in Google. I put down the success of WebDesignDev in the search engines to a great bit of software called: WORDPRESS!

With so many people asking me how I created and, I knew I had to create a great FREE guide. Add that to the demand for more interviews and lists in a broader niche then just young entrepreneurs, Appxanh was born.

To get the full scoop on how I created Appxanh and how you can create a similar blog, check out this post

Biggest Lesson Learned: Consistency is important for success! If you take your eye of the ball, your level of success will drop.

WebDesignDev V.3

Early in 2008 I went back to with a different approach – this time, not to deliver step by step tutorials but to give inspiration and showcase some of the best web design on the net. I was also fortunate to find a young writer who was interested in the web design niche and willing to write for a revenue share. This made a big difference and we were able to bring the site from 30,000 visitors monthly to 160,000. As some of you know – I sold last month for a nice $xx,xxx figure. Very pleased with that because just a year or so ago I was considering accepting an offer of $5000 for that site!

Biggest Lesson Learned: got me by far the most traffic of any of my sites but when all was said and done it earned me the least. I just did not have the time to take WebdesignDev to the next level which is why I sold the site. For me I find it better to concentrate on the sites that make me the most money right now – rather than distracting myself with lower earning sites. That is the case for me right now — I am not necessarily suggesting that will be the case for you.

My “Unfair” Advantage

I was fortunate enough to start my online business very young. I now realise I started my business with very little in the way of overheads – after-all I was still living at home with my parents. A significant advantage for sure but then I was no A Grade Student and I really struggled because of my dyslexia – so in many ways starting an online business was more difficult for me.

But I did have an “Unfair Advantage” — but it is perhaps not an obvious one if you don’t know my whole story. You see I was fortunate that early on in my online career I met and hung out with some of the most successful people online such as: Yanik Silver, James Schramko, Ryan Lee and Alex Jeffreys.

So many people get disillusioned when their first blog or online business does not work out as they expected – and make the fatal mistake of giving up.

Look, if it really was that easy, then everyone would be doing it.

Personally I don’t consider it very difficult – but it is vital to no under-estimate the amount of effort required.

As I have said in previous blog posts recently you have to be prepared to invest in yourself, educate yourself if you ever hope to move from being a Wannabe Blogger to an A List Blogger

Give yourself an unfair advantage – get yourself a coach, a mentor or join a Mastermind. That has been the single biggest influence on my own online success


I was looking for a story that might inspire those of you who are considering giving up or who are disillusioned and I came across this one:

Abraham Lincoln’s Incredible Journey To Become The 16th President Of The United States!

I think President Lincoln lived one of the most motivational and inspirational lives ever.

Think you have had it hard – look at this “Failure” time-line

* He had to work to support his family after they were forced out of their home. 1816
* His mother died. 1818
* Failed in business. 1831
* Was defeated for legislature. 1832
* Lost his job and couldn’t get into law school. 1832
* Declared bankruptcy, and spent the next 17 years of his life paying off the money
he borrowed from friends to start his business. 1833
* Was defeated for legislature again. 1834
* Was engaged to be married, but his sweetheart died and his heart was broken. 1835
* Had a nervous breakdown and spent the next six months in bed. 1836
* Was defeated in becoming the speaker of the state legislature. 1838
* Was defeated in becoming elector. 1840
* Was defeated for Congress 1843
* Was defeated for Congress. 1846
* Was defeated for Congress again. 1848
* Was rejected for the job of Land Officer in his home state. 1849
* Was defeated for Senate. 1854
* Was defeated for Vice-President — got less than 100 votes. 1856
* Was defeated for Senate for the third time. 1858
* Was elected President of the United States. 1860

I hope you enjoyed this post – I believe passionately in helping as many people as possible to succeed online.

As you can see, I did not always get it right – but you will also I hope note that I NEVER GAVE UP. Actually as I read it I actually impress myself – It makes me wonder just what could be possible to achieve in next 4 years – when I reach age 25.

I look forward to your comments.

To Our Success


PS: I just came across this great quote from that great Positive Thinker – Mr Jim Rohn. It seemed to fit in well with my strategy – hopefully it will inspire you also.

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. Team

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