How Long It REALLY Takes To Make Money Online

Last Update: June 22, 2018

Earning a full-time income online is a dream for so many people, but very few ever succeed at even making a single penny online. I'm not talking about selling an old table on eBay - I'm talking about a business. Something that grows into a legitimate, long-term, sustainable income, because that’s what you chose to do, deliberately.

Now, there are many ways to make money online. Can someone make money online in their first day? Sure, I suppose that’s possible. But let’s try to be a bit more realistic.

Setting The Right Expectations

Earning a full-time income is not quick, and it is not easy. Most of you already know this, but most people don't give a direct answer. I'm going to give you that. But before I do, let's put things into perspective first.

Think about any other small business you might want to start. For most small businesses, you need to take out substantial loans, put in your own life savings, quit your job, and risk just about everything. When do most small businesses start to profit? Around 2 or 3 years, if they even make it that far.

Now, let’s look at an affiliate marketing business. You can start a legitimate business part-time, work from anywhere, have flexible hours, you don’t have to risk your savings, you can keep your current job if you have one, learn as you go, you don’t have to go into debt, and you don’t need to hire any employees.

With all of those advantages in mind, how long should it take an affiliate marketing business to start profiting?

So many new affiliate marketers expect to start making money in just a few months, or even weeks! Having improper expectations of how long it will take to make money online is a recipe for failure. Once peoples financial expectations are not met, they give up and proclaim affiliate marketing doesn’t work.

So, how long does it REALLY take to earn a full-time living online?

I’ve been earning a full time income with affiliate marketing since 2011. While this is simply my own experience, it seems to be typical with other full-time affiliate marketers I know.

No matter what I’m really selling (with some exceptions), and assuming you follow the same methods I have (about 4 new high quality SEO & keyword focused articles per week - zero link building), this is what you can reasonably expect.

You will start having a chance at a sale after about 3 months. These will be random, sporadic, and will not provide you with a decent income, but it’s a start! These first sales are actually pretty exciting, because it will show you that this really IS possible. Now, this is not especially common. Most likely, after 3 months, you will still have no sales.

After about 6 months of consistent effort, the chance of earning $250+ per month greatly increases and things start to really pick up from here.

After about 12 months, a full time income fineally becomes POSSIBLE but a lot depends on your niche, how competitive your space is, the payout for your affiliate partnerships, keyword competition, content quality, additional traffic sources such as social media accounts, and a lot of other factors go into play. Most people at this point are not earning a full-time income yet, but commissions are increasing. After 12 months of consistent effort and adding high quality content to your site multiple times per week, you realistically have a chance of earning $1,000+ per month.

Things continue to snowball from there. The 12 to 18 month mark is a pretty important timeframe. This is when traffic and income can really start to snowball. Time to kick it into high gear and make that push for full-time income. Even if your site isn’t making money at this point, it’s still time to really hammer down. By now, you should have a lot of content, and your site starts to get authoritative.

From 18 to 24 months, you have a real shot at earning $3k+ per month.

Keep in mind, my site didn't start making money for 3 years! So if you're beyond these timeframes and you're still not making money, that doesn't mean you've failed. Even though it took that site so long to start making money, I earn a full time income from just that site alone now (psst! I monetize it with the WA affilaite program!). So don't give up!

Why It's Worth The Wait

I’m not one to flaunt how much money I make, but I will say that I have been earning a comfortable full-time income from affiliate marketing since 2011. I started in 2009, so it personally took me 2 years before I was able to quit my truck driving job and focus on my business full-time.

Over time, my income has continued to grow and diversify. I have 12 different affiliate partnerships and multiple income earning websites. My income has never been so secure.

Over the past 7 years, affiliate marketing has enabled me to become debt free, travel the United States in an RV, and I now live in a very expensive city, walking distance to the Ocean, in a very nice area and in a very nice luxury apartment, all because of affiliate marketing.

I’m not trying to brag here. I just think that many people could use an honest answer from those who have already “made it”. It might take you a couple of years. Heck, it could take you longer. I'm here to tell you that it's worth it. My life has never been better.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to encourage everyone to stick with it. Have patience. Keep going. Never give up. Dream. Visualize. Prioritise. Work smart. Failure is not an option.

Patience is by far the biggest barrier to entry in this business. Get past the point where most people quit, then push twice as hard. If you do that, success will be inevitable.

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Delanee Premium
Something I really needed to hear! Thank you for the post! It is hard not to get anxious, thinking that you can't do it or maybe you are doing it wrong.

I keep trying to tell myself everyday that great things take time to build! Thank you for the reminder!
Igor13 Premium
Hi Alf!
Thanks a lot for your post. Congrats on your success. I agree totally that the time is the biggest enemy of the online marketers, regardless of affiliate or others.

Besides, if you consider that o there are literally hundreds of millions of written articles and blog posts and millions and millions of visitors on social sites active on a daily basis, it is not easy to break through.

I think a faster way to start making money is a visual way, faster than written way. Audio and video files, online video presentations and webinars can capture much faster visitors and conversions.

Such events must be regular, very often and loaded with content of high value.

Combining all of such methods is the best way.

I would like to hear your opinion about it.

Thaks in advance,
Best regards!
AffTraining Premium
Yeah, I don't doubt that is possible, but I don't have any experience with it. Even the vloggers I know on YouTube took at least a year of making videos just about everyday in order to finally start making money. I only know the methods I've used and have succeeded with, so while I'm sure there are much faster methods, I don't have any expertise on them unfortunately. I always play the long game.
Igor13 Premium
That is great you are mentioning these points. Your experience is showing how difficult (but possible) it is to succeed. I am sure also it takes time to start making money only.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Best regards!
mlda65 Premium
I just went to your website. AWESOME!!! VERY inspirational. i wasn't already here.. I would Definitely sign up. I do know some of your truck driving experience. ( I worked for a small one and went on runs with a couple of the driver's). there is a lot of wait time to get loaded and unloaded. so I see where you had time to "create content" I brought my crocheting with me. LOL. I hope to be where you are some day. Today is day 4 for me.
AffTraining Premium
Thanks so much for your nice comment Marcia! You're absolutely right, trucking is feast or famine sometimes. Some days I wouldn't have any time at all to write, but other days I'd be waiting for hours for another load assignment, then spend hours at a shipper getting my truck loaded, then deliver and spend hours waiting for the truck to be unloaded. Any free time I had, I was writing content!

Thanks again!! :)
MozMary Premium
It's great to have a time frame and learn from the experience of others, it certainly does depend on the niche, I'd just add that some niches and sites can earn immediately, I'm not talking 'full time income' but a few hundred dollars here and there can certainly cover our hosting costs etc

congrats on an amazing journey and thanks for sharing it, looking forward to hearing more :)
AffTraining Premium
Yeah, I think "immediately" is wishful thinking, but I get your point, and technically someone COULD theoretically build up a site and start driving PPC traffic to it in the same day and start making money right away. As far as getting organic search traffic, this almost always takes, at a minimum, several months to start earning money, but you're right that's not always the case. I think those who succeed very early though had a bit of luck on their side. Sometimes, the right niche at the right time is chosen and things take off quickly. The opposite can also hold true. Even when all the numbers look good and a site is planned perfectly, it can take so long to rank and make money.

Thank you for your input though. You're definitely not wrong so your comment is totally valid. My hope is that people will get into this with long-term expectations, then be pleasantly surprised if things start happening sooner.

Thank again for sharing your thoughts! :)
MozMary Premium
I speak from experience, landed a post inside two hours and made $123.50 on a new site, that same site made another $500+ very quickly, we could call that a lucky niche

But I did it again with WA referrals earlier on, which is tough, and did it with facebook though I'm no expert in that

I did get inspired when I heard someone with an amazon site get ranked #1 in the first couple of days and getting clicks in the first couple of weeks, again a competitive niche - it's good to know stuff can happen fast, rather than rule it out! LOL! But none of that is full time income, which is what we are all aiming for and what you are demonstrating so well.
jmstickney Premium
Wow. I keep thinking somehow I can speed up the process, but if anything, I can see now that it will only take me longer than what you specified. I'm a mother of 3 and busy as heck with just that. I'm a freelance digital marketer (for others) and I have my own brick and mortar Reiki and Massage practice in the evenings and while kids are in school. Four articles a week is out of my reach, I think. I wonder if sites that slowly add to their content ever really reach an "authority" level. One day at a time though. I just keep plugging away, doing what I can.

Thanks for sharing your story and your successes!! This information really helps and such an inspiration. It IS possible. I CAN get there... eventually. :)
AffTraining Premium
Have you built a site for your local business? I think you could really bring in a lot more business by building up a site or blog that targets local search phrases in your area. Heck, maybe things can get so good that you can hire other people to work under you and handle the increase in workload?

Anyway, just an idea. I know it's so hard being so busy trying to grow your business. My suggestion is to just do SOMETHING each and every day to move your business a little further along. Even if that just means asking a question here or learning something new by reading an article for 15 minutes. As long as you do SOMETHING each and every day to move your business forward, I think you'll be surprised at how things can grow.

Best of luck to you!! :)
jmstickney Premium
Thanks for your suggestions. I hadn't thought about articles that target local search terms. Not sure why I hadn't thought of that before. I do it for other people on their sites, LOL! I can come up with so many good marketing ideas for my clients and then still miss the obvious on mine.

I have recently been working on developing my value ladder(s) for that business so that I can develop some more targeted offers and articles or programs related to the services I offer.

I think trying to do so many things at once slows down my progress. I keep making a push in one, then going on to another, pushing through some more stuff there, and then moving on to another area to build some stuff there. Focusing on just one thing has always been a struggle for me. That's why I love working in so many industries. It's just part of what feeds my soul, I think.

But just doing SOMETHING each day for each business would be a good goal, I think. Or maybe I pick my brick and mortar biz as the primary focus for 3 days a week and the other two businesses that I have (an affiliate site and my freelance work) each gets just 1 day a week of my time each week. Hmmmm.....

Something to think about. Thanks again for your suggestions! I appreciate it!
AffTraining Premium
Yeah, for example, I'm building a site for my brother in law who started a gutter cleaning business. What I'm doing is creating a blog where I will target search phrases for people searching for [county] gutter cleaning or best [county] gutter cleaning service, etc. I will also write articles doing that same basic thing for each city in the county. There are literally thousands of search terms I can go after. The ultimate goal is, if someone searching for anything related to gutter cleaning services in the county he operates, the first service they will see is his. You could do the same thing for your business! Worth considering! :)
jmstickney Premium
Yes, I will be giving that a try. Most of my clients all tell me that they found me on a Google search (I know because I always ask them how they found me). So more articles tailored to my local market should help a lot as long as the content is all unique. ;) Grammarly is awesome at ensuring my content is unique though! I LOVE Grammarly.

AffTraining Premium
Grammarly is awesome!!
jweldon1 Premium
This is good stuff and I appreciate your encouragement and so happy that I works. I really hope to learn the system well enough to know what it takes for instance you are promoting hosting sites on your site or what do you mean promoting the wrong product on the hosting sites. I'm a little confused didn't quite understand but aren't they for hosting sites Bluehost and WPengine? Glad you could quit that trucking business is tuff.
julesnp Premium
Hi Mike,
Tonight, I read a few of your posts and honestly, I am very impressed. I congratulate you on all of your achievements and also on your honesty and sincerity in describing your progress in this very interesting field which is ours. I am still very new to it but I will definitely make it. I never quit. I sincerely thank you for all of your posts and am proud to be part of your network. I definitely will be consulting with you in the relatively near future. I am now following you Mike.
Have a great day and a great week.
AffTraining Premium
Hey, thanks for your kind words! Back when I first started doing this, I was still a long-haul truck driver, but I just knew affiliate marketing was the answer for me. I just knew it, and like you, failure was not an option. Stay motivated and stick with it, you'll make it! :)
julesnp Premium
Thanks Mike, We Can And We Will.
DGArchitect Premium
I appreciate the honesty in this article. I've heard about a wide range of success stories from people that have been in the business a while. Some post articles regularly and others take time off and then come back to it later. It seems like consistency is the key to growth and taking the right actions to increase traffic. Organic SEO takes too long.
marycmiller Premium
Thanks, this is the best post that i have read on time frames, I need this to be my pension income so I have a couple years to worry about retiring. Right now my goal is to make enough a month to pay my membership fees. I have some other things I am interested in (training products) along with affiliate marketing to help with a pension income. It all takes time, but it is nice to see a map clearly. Thanks again.
phakacha8 Premium
This really is a motivation boosting post. You see, I've been throwing and spewing every nerve I could possibly handle in seeing some real results for a 12 months mark now and see no signs at all.
Nobody signs up the links I offer about Wealthy Affiliate Marketing Training that I have been preaching on Making Money Online.

Today, you've shown me the 'Timeframe' and 'Patience' in specificity.

Thanks buddy. May you continue updating such blogs to encourage the new comers.

Have a Great Day.
phollett Premium
Thanks for the post and a reminder that it is worth it even if it takes, a couple of years . We do not have to get a loan .we have no overhead while we are building our business,and can we now write of our home for taxes because we work from home?
AffTraining Premium
You'd want to ask a tax expert about this, but my tax guy says I can write off at least a portion of my rent as I use an area exclusively for business.

It is TOTALLY worth it, so stick with this! The income isn't all that "passive" at first, but after a while, it gets to that point!
TeamIceCream Premium
A heartfelt thank you for this post Mike! You are right, some people make money quicker, but for many others, it is a much longer process - and it is appreciated that you are pointing that out!

And no, we will never think you are bragging, we know it is the result of hard work and everybody is allowed to enjoy the reward of their labor!

Thank you for sharing! This is a very inspiring post. Bookmarked too. ;-)

Sharlee (Chocolate IceCream)
AffTraining Premium
Thank you for your kind words! :)
pazalles20 Premium
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience my friend, what a very good and inspiring post, just keep sharing and all the best.
mikekronholm Premium
Thanks for the great post. I like that you have included the work ethic (4x quality articles per week) that is involved alongside the timeline. Less work = longer time.
midhunvm Premium
Most people only like to talk about their
success and hide their failures.

They make others believe that success
in an online business is easy. For the most
part they do this to sell their courses or
promote an affiliate offer.

You are different, I find your story
really inspiring.

Also, I really appreciate your honesty.

You said you have been making full-time
affiliate income from 2011, but you joined
WA in June 2016.

So you were successful even before using
WA training.

I agree that fundamentals of affiliate marketing
will never change.

Do you think that a beginner here at WA can
be successful like you, making full-time income
online only by following the online entrepreneur
certification(OEC) or bootcamp course and
Jays' training here at WA and nothing else?

AffTraining Premium
Hi Midhun,

Thanks so much for the kind words and great question. My answer to you is both "yes" and "no" so I'll need to clarify.

Yes, I do believe a beginner here at WA can be successful and earn a full-time income by only following the training here at WA and nothing else. Just about everything you need to know is here.

However, as you dive further into your business, you'll find that there is just so much to learn and sometimes getting viewpoints from other sources is good, too.

I think you'll find that while WA offers the vast majority of what you need in order to grow your business, there will be times when you've got to head over to Google and do some independent research, too.

My advice is this... When you're just starting out, focus only on WA training and get any assistance you need from the community here. Don't get overwhelmed and bogged down with information overload. Stick with WA to learn how to do industry (keyword) research, set up your website, learn how to write search-friendly content, etc. Let WA lay the foundation of your business, and don't get distracted with all the other stuff out there.

After a while, though, you might start getting more advanced and need to learn very specific things that might not be available here at WA. By all means, you can go to other resources to find solutions.

Back when I first got started, I didn't even know WA existed. I stumbled upon another service (one I no longer recommend) and went through their training program. Fortunately, they were a lot like WA at the time. They boasted that they were NOT a get-rich-quick service and that it would take work, but they'd provide all the training I needed. This was so refreshing as I was sick of all the get-rich-quick scammers out there. Finally, some honesty!

I focused solely on that service for probably the first 6 months of building my first site before I sought help anywhere else. WA is 10x better than the training I had when I first started, so absolutely you can do just fine with the WA training. The community atmosphere here is nothing even close to what I got to have. I'd say it's even more advantageous now than ever before.

So anyway, the answer is "yes" you can succeed just by focusing on WA training. WA will teach you what you need to know and in the order you need to know it in. After some time, however, you will likely start doing some independent research on your own as well.

Does this answer your question? I hope it helped!

midhunvm Premium
Mike! you are awesome and really helpful.

I didn't expect an answer this soon and
in detail like this.

Yes, it really answered my question.

Thank you so much, Mike!

I wish you 10x your monthly income
and success, you really deserve it.

Roybretton Premium
Hello Mike, what a fantastic and very honest blog post, you have made some excellent points here. Congratulations on your success, which is due to your hard work, it's always a great pleasure to read and hear about other people's success stories!

Enjoy your day and may have even more success.

cbarnes1 Premium
Good information.

I see a lot of people promoting how much money they make and how successful they are but when you dig in to find out their history you will see that it didn't happen overnight.

For many it took years but even so it is still worth it.
hopet Premium
This is interesting and very encouraging,keeping all things into perspective. Thanks for the great article
JosonInc Premium
Wow...finally, the kind of article I have been waiting for! Thanks Mike for this detailed layout of your experience in online business, the income that comes with it, the time that it takes to achieve certain milestones.

I am sure that this will encourage many of us to stick with it and persevere. Heck it is also a lot of fun !

Thanks again for this great post Mike !

RAFStuart Premium
The time frame is what I would have expected and am building towards.
AngieKitts Premium
Thanks for the post.
asktony Premium
Great and inspiring post. It really helps to keep things in perspective.