I recently had a chance to hold an interview with Ahmed Bilal, someone who has been making his living online for the last three years.
Check it out below.
Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy life to answer some of my questions.
Thank you for giving me the chance mate.
1.) I guess most people are going to wonder a bit about you and what it is you do? I have seen posts from you on Performancing and seen you in some of my social circles lately.
These days I run Soccerlens.com (a football news site) and work / blog on Performancing.com. In addition I’ve done some consulting in the past (search marketing, online business building, etc) as well as a lot of freelance work (copywriting, search marketing, adwords etc). I’ve been online fulltime since July 2004, and in the last 3 years I’ve earned my living exclusively online.
What else? I’m from (and live in) Pakistan, I’ll be 25 this October and I’ve got big plans for both Soccerlens.com and Performancing.com – hopefully you’ll see the results in the next 10 months or so.
2.) You and I are both lefties, which is a trait that puts us in the minority in the world. What personality trait do you have that helps you with your successes online? And as a sidenote, do you consider yourself a success?
You’re left-handed too? That’s great – left-handed people are more risk-taking, more independent in thought and more prone to do something crazy. On the other hand we’re not as good at following instructions, which I suppose casts us as social disruptors.
Success is relative – it’s measured against certain standards that are different for different people. If I compare myself to my peers in Pakistan, I’m definitely successful (earning in USD and working out of home helps a lot). On the other hand, if I compare myself to other bloggers and entrepreneurs, I’ve done well but there is so much more to do. You look at people like Brad Callen, Darren Rowse, Scott Adams, Steve Pavlina, Rand Fishkin, Aaron Wall, Danny Sullivan, Jeremy Shoemaker, Nick Wilson … and plenty others … who have been extremely successful by working smart AND hard for a long period of time. These people may be the top 1% in terms of success, but that’s the bracket you want to be in if you wish to call yourself a success.
Of course, the thing with success is that you always want more – so while I’m happy with what I’ve done so far, I’d love to go 10 steps further and be even better.
There are two things that have helped a lot. One is that I always have alternative options available to any plan of action – so for example, if I pick up a consulting project I have at least 3-5 other leads lying unused. If I was to lose the Performancing gig and I didn’t have Soccerlens.com, I’d still have half a dozen different projects to make a living from. Always have a backup plan.
The other thing is competition – I can’t stand the thought of competing blogs / businesses being recognised as #1 instead of my site, so I’ve used that instinct to motivate me into working harder.
Speaking of minorities – I rank pretty high in the top Pakistani bloggers list (I hope).
3.) What do you think of blogs and blogging? Is it a sustainable business? Do you enjoy it?
Blogs make self-publishing ridiculously easy – and assuming that you can monetize a niche, you can use blogs anywhere. That’s the best part about blogs and blogging – self-publishing is an efficient and convenient way to leverage knowledge for money.
I enjoy blogging, and yes, it’s very sustainable, provided that you do one of two things: a) have a very famous blog that pays for everything or b) hire bloggers and expand your blog network so you can scale your business.
4.) Who have been your idols online when it comes to blogging, be it running them, writing on them, monetizing them?
Darren Rowse for his ability to adapt and stay fresh, Scott Adams for his genius, Steve Pavlina and Danny Sullivan for their attention to detail, Nick Wilson, Rand Fishkin and Aaron Wall for their ability to make common ideas work in their favor by working hard and being in the right place at the right time. There are others – but Steve Pavlina and Scott Adams are probably the most inspiring.
5.) If you had one tip for a novice blogger, what would it be, and why?
These days, it’s simple – learn to tell funny stories. I’ve talked about this in detail here ( Want to be a Better Blogger? Tell Funny Stories ), but the basic idea is that if you can be a good story teller (you don’t have to be a stand up comedian), then that skill-set has all the necessary non-technical skills needed to be a good blogger.
A good story-teller values clarity, knows what his audience wants and delivers it with emotion, confidence and lasting impact. He also knows that he’s only as good as his last story.
A good blogger also values clarity, does intensive research on what his audience wants, speaks with authority and aims to help his readers by shaping opinions and filling the gaps in their knowledge. He knows as well that if he slips up in quality or expectations, he will lose his audience’s trust.
6.) Lastly, if people are interested in finding out more about you, as well as all the great posts you’ve written, where can they find you? And is there anything else you’d like to mention? (a special shout-out, tip, project you are working on, work you are looking for, etc..?)
The one thing I have trouble managing, and something I hope everyone looking to make money online can master, is the ability to work hard, consistently. You may have the best idea, great timing, be the best communicator in the universe and a master wheeler and dealer but without being persistent, you’re going to be stuck in a start-and-stop loop. There are so many people who start off brightly but fade away. Society treasures success for a reason – because not everyone can do it.
And what do successful people say? That they worked really hard (I guess I’m not that successful then – heh).
Thanks again for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I look forward to following your continued success. Oh, and don’t forget to update your personal blog.
Thanks for the opportunity David, I appreciate it.