You can too. The early days of my web career

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You CAN make your business grow using just the web. I started my first two successful businesses completely online– and neither one was in marketing.


Creative Commons License Image credit: hobvias sudoneighm


After skimming this there’s NO way you won’t think you can do it too

I have to force myself to talk about this but I’ve learned that silence doesn’t help anyone solve problems.

“This” being the default situation of my life. My hope is that whether you’re running a micro-business, a small business or heading up a department in a medium sized business, you realize that the phrase “you can too” applies to you.

First let’s go back in time, then I’ll tell you about now.

When I first came online back in 1998, I had a full time job working at Federal Data Corporation, a company in Greenbelt MD that later got swallowed up by Northrop Grumman.

(I left right before that happened, and apparently missed as I’m told the company allegedly shared the payday with their workers. )

Phat Wad, Break me off some

Creative Commons Licensed Image Credit: Refracted Moments™

Missed Out on That Cash? But still came out richer

I’d been out of college a few years and found the job through temp agency. When they hired me permanently I was really grateful. It was kind of a cushy job and I was done with my duties by 11 am most days.

Still, I had to look like I was working. So I started checking out that weird internet thing an ex-boyfriend tried to get me into in college. (Hi Sean! Do you think we’d still know each other if it wasn’t for Facebook?)

I was fascinated to say the very least.

So I thought “it can’t be that hard and maybe there’s some money in it,” and I started a website. I was, at heart, a poet, and I wanted to make more money from my poetry.

Which I know sounds crazy right- whoever heard of a rich poet? There’s a reason for the phrase “starving artist”.

Yep. I made money off a POETRY site

Going to the web made sense to me. I mean, there might not be enough people in my immediate environment to support a poet. But the whole world? Maybe.

It was three tries before I would realize things like:

  • “If you build it they will come” is just a line from a movie. You have to tell people you exist at minimum.
  • Marketing isn’t a bad word unless you’re doing it in a way that annoys people.
  • You can’t do things like try and sell poetry chapbooks and business advice in the same site. It’s like trying to go left and right at the same time. 
My first website to actually earn money

Wow. It was Not Beautiful

The image to the right was my first successful site (click it to go to the version).

At the time, the new start-a-business fad was customized web directories.

I thought, why not a literature search engine that promoted links to a special directory from voting?

You had to display our icon on your site to vote so we’d get lots of links. And you had to click the icon to vote so we’d get enough visitors to pay for the site and advertising.

If it generated some of its own exposure, and I could really get those listed traffic via click arbitrage, it seemed like it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

At the time, not having social media so you could use the wisdom of the crowd around you, we all had to rely on site with good link collections or the main search engines.

So people thought this was the next big thing and for a time, it was.

In my desire to get more visitors to stick after the came through from advertising on what was then, I started a forum.

It changed everything.

How I started the number three poetry site in the world – AND made money from it!

Now the people who came to my site were making most of the content, and all I had to do was enjoy the traffic that came when they proudly showed off their poems — and the responses– to friends and family.

Fast forward to 2000.

My site was wildly popular and had an updated design.

(Here’s a partly browesable version from’s Wayback machine.)

We had an advertising partnership with that yielded the equivalent of an extra paycheck a month when I split it with my partner at the time.

(It was the third most popular poetry site behind and and one of the top 5000 most trafficked sites in the world).

Because of the acclaim for my site, I’d gotten back into my writing for a few years, posted on poetry forums for feedback, and was performing my poetry every now and then.

(This was before spoken word artists began to believe that everyone had to sound like Saul Williams in Slam.)

As such I kinda had three careers.

By day I worked on a computer help desk at the International Monetary Fund.

By night I wrote, would occasionally get a  little piece of a door at a performance, and sold my chapbooks.

Then I had the passive income from my poetry forums, where I dipped in from time to time to post my writings and respond to people.

And then? It happened.

One day out of nowhere a chronic condition I had got massively, suddenly worse.

In the coming months I lost my job, got evicted from my apartment, and moved to Vegas to chase after a job that turned out to be a scam. I was counting on that income to start my next business.

Now what was I supposed to do?

I’ll tell you what I did in the next post.

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