Making Money Online – 4 Decades of Deals

So let me start this off admitting something: There wasn’t even an “Internet” when I started using phone lines to communicate via computers with other people.  I’ve witnessed an evolution of a medium that has transpired over 2/3rds of my life time: i’ve been an Internet “geek” since 1987 – yes, for 24 years.  How I did this over all these years is another tale, but one thing has been consistent since I started this exploration, is that I have spent parts of 4 decades making money online.

I never considered myself a visionary, and I sure haven’t gotten anywhere close to where Zuckerberg finds himself today.  Thing is, I always knew there was profit to be made online.  It wasn’t even a conscious acknowledgement to start out – more that I took advantage of opportunity.  But each and every decade from the 80s through to the ’10s, i’ve made a buck or two on the web.  So today, I want to detail my experiences, for better or for worse, with you the readers.  This is a story i’ve never told before.

One thing you need to remember is that when I started using the “Internet” back in 1987: there was little connectivity outside of the city you lived in, and if you figured out that university servers were connected and how to connect to them, you were living in a text based online reality – there were NO images.  I was connecting to the Web with a 2400 baud modem.  It was a different time and people really weren’t thinking about making money online.  A brave new world was opening and people were less focused on making money online than they were to connect behind the safety and security behind a computer monitor.

Making Money Online in the 80’s

Ah, the 80’s.  Long before Paypal currency exchange fees.  The good ol’ days. I was in my early teens toward the end of the decade and i’d discovered a local Bulletin Board Service (BBS) called New Dimensions.  When I joined this social network (it sure wasn’t called that at the time!) there were 12 phone lines by which users could connect and this number expanded to over 36 lines in over time.  If the line was in use, you’d get a busy signal when you tried to connect!

During this time my sister made fun of me often citing my “computer friends” and that I seemed to only meet girls via the computer.  In my adult years I would eventually attribute my social ineptness in trying to pick up talk with women in person as I had only ever used the typed word.  What my sister didn’t know is that I was making money online at the same time.

The BBS cost money to use.  The guy who ran it had to recover his costs and make a few bucks.  For $1 you could buy 1 hour of online time on the site.  The site also had a multi-user fantasy game called The Forbidden Lands.  In this game you have a character (all text remember) which would wander dungeons to battle fantastic creatures.  These creatures would drop treasures.  Depending on the power of the creature the greater chance it would drop a “good” item, and some creatures would drop “awesome” items.

I’ve always had a talent playing games.  My character grew in power and eventually I was getting my share of the “awesome” items.  An awesome item would be a rare weapon or piece of armour, but most valuable were potions that boosted your core stats (strength, intelligence, dexterity etc) permanently.  I was able to “sell” these items for online hours – which saved me money that I didn’t spend on my entertainment.  There were times I had hundreds of hours on my account and this was due to the sale of virtual items.  The following are some of the going rates of the day:

  • $1-$5 for potions;
  • $1-$3 for armour;
  • $1-$5 for weapons.
Monochrome BBS www.mono.org

Image via Wikipedia

Making Money Online during the 90’s

The decade switched and I continued to play on the BBS, finding items and selling the ones I had no use for – continuing my making money online adventure.  By this time I had found pretty much every item in the game a few times over.  I actually had to fund extra user accounts in order to store all of the excess items I had found that were awaiting use or sale.

As I had been playing for a number of years now, i’d managed to build a self sufficient character that was a treasure finding machine.  This was one of the only characters that had been created that could handle the nasty, very dangerous, 6th level of the dungeon.  It was a cleric, which is essentially a holy warrior – one that could cast spells to heal himself but also spells to harm critters he fought, but he could also wear armour and fight with weapons at the same time.  One tough cookie that I named Quill.

I don’t recall the stats Quill had, but they were envious and very strong.  The game was pretty easy for me and I had discovered other multi-user dungeon games hosted on university servers where hundreds of people could play at the same time and my interest was moving toward those new gaming challenges.  My Quill character was not being used very much which I thought was a bit of a waste given the time and (other peoples) money into it.  I figured I had dedicated this account to making money online so on the message boards I suggested I may sell the account and the interest was great.

One nice lady, Sue, REALLY wanted this character and offered me $175 for it.  This was at least $75 more than anyone else offered so I took her up on her offer and sold her the account.  But the rewards didn’t end there!  At the site Christmas party Sue insisted on giving me another $80 citing how much she enjoyed the account and that she’d already made the $175 investment back from selling items herself.  She felt I had undersold and she insisted I take the extra compensation.  For a text based in game character! Once again I was making money online, this time to the tune of $255.  I am fairly confident during my BBS days I ended up clearing $1000 making money online via a single game.

While attending university in the mid-late 90’s I found a new way to diversify how I was making money online: selling my text books.  At the end of every year the university book store would publish a pricing page and show how many of each text book they wanted to buy.  The actual transaction would happen in person, but the online site would provide the “web savvy” with knowledge about when and where to sell which book.  Basically, which lines to get in if you wanted to make a sale.  By using this information I was making money online via research.  Each year I got about 25% of my textbook investment back – about $750 over 3 years.  Much needed end of semester beer money!

Making Money Online in the 2000’s

The 2000s brought back a new flavour of an old means of making money online: gaming.  But this time, the game was Diablo II and it had actual graphics.  At it’s peak Diablo II had millions of concurrent players online completing quests and exploring new lands, all the while killing critters (dragons, serpents, ghouls etc) and scooping up the vast treasures these critters would drop.  Diablo II had many more areas, critters and treasures than did The Forbidden Lands but the premise was identical albeit much more technically advanced.

For this game I did make a $25 investment to gain some of the “currency” (a ring called the Stone of Jordan (SOJ)) which got me 40 rings with which I could use to trade for items in the game that would assist my character in finding other valuable items.  I ended up following a a cookie cutter character build that was optimized to find great treasures and with those SOJs I got a bunch of gear that helped me build the character up and make it extremely item finding friendly.

I was able to find tons of good items that were valuable and sellable on E-Bay.  Of course, it was selling a service, not property of the parent company that owned the game, but the items were sold nonetheless.  Absolutely, 100%, making money online.  I sold my highest yielding item for over $25!  In total, playing a game contributed about $2500 to my college education, including, once again, an account sale as I bored of playing the game.

Later in the 2000s after buying a home, I sold some items on the Canadian sale site Kijiji.  The house I first bought, prior to meeting Mrs. SPF, had an above ground pool.  I wanted it GONE and asked for $100 on Kijiji.  I got $80 and the monstrosity was cleared out of my garage.  I also bought a number of items on Kijiji, like an Atari 2600 for $25 that I did really well on.  I also sold a 15 yr old washer/dryer pair to a rental landlord for $200 – and he and his guys came and move these very heavy objects from our 2nd floor to the 1st floor and into their truck.

Making Money in the 2010s

So recently we’ve discussed how to sell a house quickly.  Part of selling means massive home staging.  We again turned to Kijiji to get rid of stuff.  We got rid of a ton of stuff at no charge.  Now, you may ask why we did not try to get money.  The reason?  Ease of disposal.  We wanted it gone quick and easy and cheap – as in FREE.  People wanting free stuff will come to you, pay for their own fuel and use their own labour to get the stuff you want to get rid of (not to mention dump run fees!).  I find that a way to making money online is to SAVE spending your own money!

What did I manage to get rid of?

  • a truck bed, piled high, of wood that was poor burning. The pile had toppled in our yard – getting rid of it for free was great.
  • scrap metal.  Old BBQ and other objects that I wanted gone, but didn’t want to do a dump run.
  • an old chair, used only by our oldest cat

And upon moving into the new house we used Kijiji to sell/dispose of:

  • a very nice table that was in great shape but we inherited a super nice oak table – so we got rid of the waste of basement space for $100
  • 11’x10′ of carpet in GREAT shape.  We want the old hardwood floors not the carpet covering.
  • An extra bed.  The one I used back in the 80s bit of this post.  My single bed, with mattress and slats under neath.  A recently separated mother needed it and we were very happy to give it to her free of charge (she took the carpet too).

All of this brings us to today. We have this blog and we love writing.  That’s why we started this project.  Mrs. SPF and I wanted to work together and figured a writing project would be a good thing to collaborate on.   We’re doing just that. Thing is, and this is something that has surprised us greatly – companies ask us if we’ll work with them to advertise their product.

We’ve decided that covering our expenses makes sense and some ad deals make sense.  We have rejected some offers too, if they didn’t feel right for our site.

Thing is, we have been making money online with this site – and we don’t want to hide this fact.  Making money online has been part of my life (SPF) for over 4 decades, and, I figured it best to write about it so our readers get a bit of insight into us as a couple, specifically myself, and how i’ve been making money online for a loonngg time.

So we ask you all, do you have experience making money online?

 

40 comments to Making Money Online – 4 Decades of Deals

  • I thought I was early to the internet party getting hardcore into it and online gaming in 1995 with Warcraft 2 on Kali! You’ve got me beat by at least half a decade!

    As far as making money online goes, other than my website I haven’t attempted too much of it. I’ve been using cash back websites for many years to get money on purchases that I would have bought anyway combined with a lot of online research, price matching (the good ol’ Staples 50% PMing days), and bargain hunting.

    I also spent quite a bit of time buying and selling on Ebay back when Ebay was still fairly young and there were more everyday people selling on Ebay instead of businesses.

    Back when DVD box sets were still hot, I would find smoking deals on popular shows, watch them once, and then often sell them to others on Kijiji like new often for a profit. Since I didn’t have cable, it was a really cheap way to watch TV!

    I may be moving soon too so I’ll definitely be using Kijiji and Ebay to unload some stuff and clean up the house a bit! I will definitely be referring to your house buying and selling articles if that ends up happening.

    • What are cash back websites? This is a new term for me.

      • The Saved Quarter

        Sites like Ebates, Mr.Rebates, and ShopAtHome give you a rebate on your purchase if you go through them before going to the store you plan on shopping at. For example, if you wanted to buy something at JC Penney, you might sign in through Ebates and get 4% (or whatever amount) back as cash when you’ve met the threshhold. They mail out a check once a quarter.

  • Wow, no wonder this website is growing so quickly. You are an old hand at making money online. My brother sold stuff when he was playing Ultima 5?, but I never got into that kind of venture. Great story! You should ask friends to promote this post. I’ll tweet, like, and etc..

  • Wow. You were making money online back before the World Wide Web was even dreamed of! lol I am looking to make money online from content and e-commerce.

  • OMG, deja vu. My oldest son was an early user of the bulletin board services too.

    My employer furnished PCs to all of it’s mainframe programmers (think Fortran, RPG, COBOL) of which I was one. My kid just took to it like a duck to water. He was programming his own applications (ion BASIC of course) in middle school back in the 80’s. It worked well for him, he turned it into a software engineering gig as a career.

  • Great article! I couldn’t believe how many of my friends in college paid their tuition with money they made from World of Warcraft. It’s awesome.

    Shared w/ my facebook family.

  • Man, that is a great post! It is so cool to hear how you made money in that old BBS days!

  • I was wondering how you made money online for 4 decades since that would be before the spread of the internet. Making money on the old BBS is something I wasn’t aware of although it makes sense that some people had to be making money on them. I remember wanting to get on some of the BBS but I didn’t have a computer with a modem back in those days or enough money to get one.

  • Julie @ The Family CEO

    Interesting trip through time!

    I’ve made money online by writing for revenue sharing sites, my own blog, and for other blogs. I’ve also referred people to services I use for a referral fee.

    I also like your info about giving stuff away. I’ve given stuff like an old water heater and an old patio table away for free on Craigslist and have avoided the large item pickup fee my trash service charges, not to mention keeping those items out of the landfill.

  • Wow, I had forgotten how far we’ve become since the days of dialing up and hoping the line wasn’t busy!

  • I was an ebay buyer and seller for the beginning part of the 2000s. I remember the 2400 baud modem, how long was that around for? I feel like I had that modem going into like 94ish?

    • By ’94 modems were into the 16k range – but they also cost a few hundred bucks. I used our 2400 baud through to 94 or so to. I remember b/c I went to university in 95 @ age 19 (almost 20) (here in Canada, at the time people often graduated @ 18 or 19 after 5 yrs of high school).

  • Daniel

    Very good content. Interesting points of making money online. I was looking for this information. Glad I found it.

  • Fantastic article! I wish I could have sold some of the stuff I found playing games like runescape etc. but by the stage I realised I could make money, they destroyed real world trading. Oh well, nevermind.

    If anyone is interested in saving money (since saving is the new earning!) they can feel free to having a look at my website. I’m trying to reinvent the old idea of saving money rather than needing to earn more, which seems to have been lost on recent years.

  • SPF- I love that you were able to sell a text based game character! Totally not were I thought you were going with this article, did not know you were a gamer!

    Ah, I can remember BBS’s back when I was in college…..

  • Mary Olson

    You have well described the trend of making money online from 80s, well, I’m active from 2000 and I see here that Adsense is very popular for making money online but newbies are not familiar well of any method of making money so they don’t concentrate on one method this is the main problem I would say.

  • Great story, love hearing about clever ways people find to make money. Can’t say I’ve been at it for too long myself, obviously have a lot to learn!

  • Interesting article and a great summary of common ways to make money through the different decades. The internet has just made it easier to take old money making techniques and through technology make things a bit easier to sell and to a larger market.

    In addition, there are so many new income streams that have been created from the internet, whether it be: google adsense, email marketing, affiliates, banner advertising, blogging, etc the list can go on and on

  • Robert Connor

    Wow you have been making money online for a long time-can see you have alot to teach us!

  • Rhonda Harris

    Wow, quite a journey. The internet has certainly evolved.

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