Who Are You Serving? ...or... How to Be Successful Without Really Trying

27 replies
I was earning a living online before I'd even heard of "internet marketing" as a term. I thought my brief story might be useful to some of you, and with another new year approaching it seemed like good time to share it.

I'm guessing most who are getting started in IM now come into the field because they have heard there is a lot of money and a lot of freedom in being internet marketer.

Of course, most of you have probably discovered there's a lot more to it than you first thought. For me, there was a lot less to it than you would have probably imagined.

When I first got online back in 1997 I found so many things that fascinated me that I wasn't satisfied just using the internet, I wanted to be a contributor to this amazing medium.

Rather than looking for what was in it for me, I came into it wondering what I could do for others. I got started by making free web graphics and building a small site for them.

People liked them, and asked for custom graphics. I made them for fun.

Then some people wanted to pay me, so I let them pay me whatever the graphics I made were worth to them. Some paid pretty well.

Soon I was contacted by Ziff-Davis (ZDNet.com now). They wanted to put my graphics on a CD-rom book insert. Then a game maker wanted to use some of my backgrounds for a new game in the works; and a software company wanted to include my backgrounds with an HTML editor.

In the meantime, my site kept growing in popularity. It was serving about 750,000 page views on a good month. I was making thousands a month just from the advertisers. Life was good!

I kept getting questions about web design. The emails were impossible to keep up with. To free up some time spent answering emails, I put up HTML tutorials for the most frequently asked questions.

And, at the urging of my visitors I started Almost a Newsletter. I called it that because I didn't think of myself as a writer and what I had to write about didn't seem like news to me.

A book publisher saw the tutorials and checked out my newsletter. He called me one day and asked me to write a book for his company. I've written three books for them now.

To me, the key to my success wasn't because I was smart, or special in any way ... the key was that I went into it trying find a way I could serve others first.

Here's what I think I did right, maybe it will help you along your path.

1. I looked for a way to serve others that I could enjoy. In doing that, the money found me. One of my favorite quotes is from Zig Ziglar:
"You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
That's all I was doing, Zig was right.

2. I took action. I didn't wait for perfect knowledge. I learned as I went. Heck, I made stuff up as I went, and most of it worked out great. Don't underestimate what you already know, and especially don't underestimate your own creativity.

3. I was original. I didn't copycat anyone. I brought forth new graphics and writing that was uniquely mine. I didn't even market like everyone else. I started a "Wack Attack" club and had people linking to my site like mad. It was nothing but a reciprocal link exchange program with a fun title and goofy graphics for the members. I gave graphics to other graphics sites to get links from them in the credits. I even had a link from Microsoft because I had the b*lls to ask for one. The point is, be YOU. Don't try to be like some guru, that's his or her job. Your job is to be YOU, and being YOU is plenty good enough.

4. I devoted some time and money to learning on an ongoing basis. In my experience, an investment in your mind always pays off. If I gain even just one useful nugget from each book, ebook, or magazine I read, I consider it a good investment.

You never know what will happen when you decide to serve others first. I didn't expect or plan for a lot of the good things that have happened, like the book deal, for example. They just happened.

That's it folks. No great secrets. Find a way to serve others, take action, and keep learning. Do that, keep at it, and success will follow.
#serving #successful
  • Profile picture of the author Leslie B

    I think one of the reason why you are so successfull, is because you didn't push it. You got started with something you liked doing, worked it and got successful. Most people who get started today, hop from method to method, hoping to find the goose with golden eggs, forgetting that it has to start from within themselves. If they don't want to work it, they can't make it happen.

    You grew in your business naturally, you didn't force anything, and that is, how much we like to believe otherwise, the best way to go.

    Great story from a great person. Now go share some more of your knowledge, so we can learn. You know I need it

    Taking it one day at a time!
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    No no Dennis. You have it all wrong. All you need do is look for short-cuts. Game Google. Put up bogus offers. Capture people with mousetraps until they give in and send you money. Never use your own name. Hide behind proxies. Honesty and giving are for chumps. There's millions to be made out there from all the dreamers and morons. Milk them for all you're worth. I can show you how.

    * obviously I'm kidding
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    • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
      Thanks for outlining your winning philosophy Dennis.

      I wish that more people would follow your advice.

      Far too many people try to be the next Frank Kern,
      the next Tony Robbins or the next guru du jour.

      Thank you for having the courage to be you and
      encouraging other people to do the same.

      Dedicated to mutual success,



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  • Profile picture of the author Alfred Shelver
    Dennis that was a fantastic post, thank you!

    Now, many will read that and think thats easy for you to say, you stared when the internet was in its infancy, you were shooting fish in a barrel.

    I believe now more than ever the sheer volumes of internet users the constant changes in the world and technology .... everything points to the fact that now is the greatest time to be online, and everything you wrote is more pertinent today than ever before.

    Again Thank you
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      @ Leslie - Thanks for the kind words, my friend.

      @ Mal - I knew you were kidding.

      @ Shaun - Well said!

      @ Cathy - I think you're right, now is a great time to be online as a marketer. I also think an idea like the one offered by Zig Ziglar that I quoted is timeless.

      Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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      • Profile picture of the author astrellalopez
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        • Profile picture of the author No1here
          Really nice post and I couldn't agree with you more.

          Although I do several Black Hat and Grey Hat marketing schemes for a few niche sites the truth is that I actually started out a little bit the same way you did.

          I got dial up right around 1994 or 1995 and since I had the "expanded" version of Netscape. You know, the one that had the WYSIWYG web page creation software built into it.

          Anyway, after the initial shock of being able to find almost any information on any subject that ever interested me wore of a little I realized that there were "normal" and "average" folks with websites and pages.

          I got curious very quickly how they were creating those pages and so I started learning.

          Aside from Netscape's WYSIWYG page creation I quickly learned a handful of html tags.

          I believe they were as follows:
          < a href='' >Anchor text< / a>
          < hr >
          < br >
          < font size= >
          and finally the < font color = > tag

          Those few tags, coupled with Netscapes WYSIWYG software empowered me to make a web page. When I finally found out about FTP and how to use it, well I was off to the races.

          I was creating pages on so many topics that it was kind of nuts. I have a lot of interests so for me that made sense but in reality it was all very sporadic.

          I didn't start making money until a year or two later when I signed up for my first porn affiliate.

          Now, just to be clear, promoting porn was not exactly what I would have prefered to do but from 1995-1999 the only way to make money with affiliates was porn.

          The reason is that most people didn't trust this new Internet thing and they weren't about to put their credit card number into it if they could help it.

          The difference with porn was that if someone got worked up viewing the free part of a pictorial then the only way he could see the rest was to wip out his credit card. Basically it was CC sales based on desperation for the rest of the content.

          I made good money back then and the funny thing is that I did it with free hosts. Even though they would pull the rug out from under you as soon as they saw that you had traffic which they wanted for themselves.

          I would say that the main difference between you and I is that you started out extremely early with one particular niche. In fact, when you started doing your stuff the word niche wasn't even known yet. This was they key to your success. You started doing one type of service/website and kept at it.

          On the other hand we have myself. I was unfocused, I was only in my very early 20's when I started. I wanted to do a bit of everything and I built my "empire" on sand and we all know what happens when you build on sand.

          Around the year 2000 I stepped away from IM entirely and did the regular job thing but I can tell you I was very unhappy with the daily mindless grind.

          Around 2006 or 2007 I started dabbling in IM once again but didn't go back to it just yet. Finally my best friend got interested and asked me the "what, where, when, how and who" questions about IM.

          So I explained it to him, by that time I had quite a few years of experience.

          Funny thing is that the more I told him and the more I shared my experience with him the more that Internet Marketing spark started to glow in me. Eventually I started easing back into it slowly and then I just dove back in.

          The reason I'm sharing my story is to illustrate, for newbies and anyone interested, that even though there were many parallels between you and I. The fact remains that you did things the right way while I was all over the map with no clear direction.

          This is significant because all those things I mentioned in this post are as true today as they were in 1995.

          I really hope that my post contributes to this thread and helps to maybe even educate new people who are just getting into this stuff, what not to do. As you've already illustrated the right way to do it.

          Anyway, great post and nice going.

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    • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
      I agree with Cathy totally.

      That was quite possibly one of the best posts I've read here.

      I've even just printed it out.

      For anyone not making a living online or new to this, this is the sort of post they should be reading. It comes as absolutely no surprise you've been so successful.

      Merry Christmas Dennis.

      Wibble, bark, my old man's a mushroom etc...

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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    @ Richard Van - Thanks for the kind words, and Merry Christmas to you as well.

    @ astrellalopez - There's nothing wrong with hard work, but hard work alone doesn't guarantee success. A lot of people work very hard, but have few successes. Could it be there's more to it than just hard work?

    @ No1here - I've always found that teaching others rekindles my own desire, and I often learn or discover new things as I go through the teaching process.

    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author EnlightenMind
    Dennis, thanks for the great post. I believe you found success in what you are passionate about-graphics. Also, you do things on your pace, not under desperation or pressure so that makes a lot of difference. A lot of people try internet marketing as a solution to their financial problems. That is where the problem lies


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  • Profile picture of the author nakkihillo
    Dennis you made my day!!

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    • Profile picture of the author theemperor
      Dennis - nice story! I like this idea of giving and getting something back, and of being creative.
      Learn to code faster, and remove the roadblocks. Get stuff done and shipped! PM me and I can help you with programming tutoring, specialising in Web and the following languages: Javascript ~ HTML ~ CSS ~ React ~ JQuery ~ Typescript ~ NodeJS ~ C#.
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  • Profile picture of the author Diana Lane
    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    The point is, be YOU. Don't try to be like some guru, that's his or her job. Your job is to be YOU, and being YOU is plenty good enough.
    This bit stood out here. A fair percentage of my sites are autoblogs and done with the end user in mind at least, this is still plenty profitable enough for me not to want to abandon it any time soon, but by far my most successful ventures have been the ones with a bit of 'me' in them. The importance of being seen to front it all is becoming more and more apparent to me, even if a lot of stuff is automated behind the scenes. As long as you're being yourself, you'll always have a USP.

    Plot short fiction, long fiction, even outline non-fiction * Edit the question prompts to suit your genre * Easily export text and image files for use with your word processor or Scrivener.
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  • Profile picture of the author lostarts
    The point is, be YOU. Don't try to be like some guru, that's his or her job. Your job is to be YOU, and being YOU is plenty good enough.
    It's this advice that more people should take to heart.

    I'm almost afraid to admit that this is something that I've personally had trouble with. I think it comes down to the idea of trying to emulate success. Assuming that others know something that I don't causes me to forget my own creativity and unique insight.

    The fact is my perspective has value - the same goes for every one of you!

    When I read a blog it's easy to tell when someone is being real. Dennis' post is a perfect example - he wasn't selling anything or trying to prop himself up as a guru. I think most readers appreciate this when they come across it and it make it that much more likely someone will really want to connect with you; this mutually beneficial relationship helps people grow - which I think is what it's all about in the end.

    "We think in secret and it comes to pass. Environment is but a looking glass" - James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
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  • Profile picture of the author Will Edwards
    Hi Dennis

    That is a truly inspirational post my friend. I completely agree with everything you said and it is great to see people following this philosophy at the WF, even if we appear to be in the minority.

    By the way, I love Zig and I also love the quote

    May you go on to ever greater things.

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  • Profile picture of the author KarlWarren

    great post - I've been a bit busy for posting in WF myself, but was pointed to this one by a friend, and I couldn't agree more. It is inspirational, and a good reminder that a business plan shouldn't start with:

    "What's in it for me"

    But it should begin:

    "What's in it for my customers"

    When you're proud of what you do, and know deep down in your heart that what you're selling is truly going to benefit people, selling is EASY - not only that, people buy into it and tell others too.

    That's when you hit the tipping point, and your customers become the biggest FREE salesforce you could ever imagine.

    Zig Ziglar was a very wise man.
    eCoverNinja - Sales Page Graphics & Layout Specialist
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  • Profile picture of the author Ken Leatherman

    That's it folks. No great secrets. Find a way to serve others, take action, and keep learning. Do that, keep at it, and success will follow.
    Thank you for posting such a outstanding way to run our business. I suspect that many of us lose site, from time to time, of the important and right way to run our business. You summed it all up in the quote above.

    Dennis is what you see in his post. I have had the good fortune of talking with him 3 or 4 times each week. When you ask him a question, his answer and opinions make a great deal of common sense and most of the time he's right. (Not always )

    Two other things and I'll shut up. Dennis doesn't take him self to seriously and has a great sense of humor. And that my friends is a lesson we can all apply to our self.

    Don't just reach to help others now; lets do it all year.


    The Old Geezer
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    OK, I'll catch up with all the comments in one post. Here we go...

    @ EnlightenMind - What you say about "pace" may have been true in the first 18 months, but after I went full time online I have the same pressures as everyone else. In fact, the reason I went full-time was because my employer went out of business.

    @ Diane L - You wrote, "As long as you're being yourself, you'll always have a USP. " That was freaking brilliant! Of course, putting your "best self" forward is important too. I've seen more than a few would-be marketers who shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to that. A little discretion goes a long way.

    @ lostarts - You're so right ... we often undervalue what we know and underestimate what we are capable of. Your closing comment about mutually beneficial relationships tells me you're on the right track.

    @ Will E - Coming from someone who has written a lot of inspiring things, your kind words are high praise indeed. Thanks for the well-wishes.

    @ Karl W - You nailed it ... when you believe in what you're doing selling is a whole lot easier. A philosophy I know you demonstrate in your own work.

    @ Ken L - Sorry my friend, but my thanks button quota was used up on Karl's post. I'll catch up when I get my thanks button back. Once again you were late to the party. Seriously though, thanks for the kind words, Ken. You wrote, "Don't just reach to help others now but lets do it all year." That sums it up nicely.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I wish you all much success in the 2011!

    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author Joshua Rigley
    Love your post Dennis. Reminds me of a quote:

    "It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed."
    -Napoleon Hill
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    • Profile picture of the author Ocean56
      This is a great post, Dennis! EXACTLY what I needed to read right now....
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful break of what it takes to be successful.

    Always adopt the attitude of being a servant. If you seek gain in any area, seek to give, and give freely. Giving freely of your time and talents causes unexpected opportunities to pop up. It's almost like magic but it's based on the simple yet powerful law of sowing and reaping.

    Ryan Biddulph helps you to be a successful blogger with his courses, manuals and blog at Blogging From Paradise
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    @ Joshua R - Love that quote. I copied it to my quotes file. Thanks!

    @ ryanbiddulph - Unexpected opportunities is a good way to put it. Wise words, Ryan.

    @ Ocean56 - Glad to hear that, thanks for letting me know.

    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author AidenChong

    I heard you mentioned about your post in the other thread, so I did a quick search and landed on this one.

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

    I've realized this long ago, since I am a networking guy, the WIIFT (What's in it for them) kind of mindset is one of the most important part for us networking person, I guess.

    However, I didn't know how should I convert these free help into something bigger. I didn't know I could do that too! LOL

    Until I've meet with a few quality people in this wonderful forum, that's where I started to pick up.

    I've one thing that you don't have, and that makes me "set myself far apart from you" -- That's PERFECTIONISM. What "sets me far apart from you" was, I DID NOT make a single dime for the first 3 years online, but after taking action on monetizing whatever resource I've got, I started to see positive results.

    That's where I learned not to be a perfectionist, and how to utilize the WIIFT mindset inside myself

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this with us, Dennis.

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  • Profile picture of the author 1960Texan
    Thanks, Dennis. I always look forward to your threads.

    Your post should be required reading for anyone in sales, and guess what? If you're marketing anything to anyone, be it a product or a service, you're in sales.

    The Zig Ziglar quote is one of the best philosophies out there. Put another way, "A salesperson's (or in our case, marketer's) job is to give the customer enough information so that they can make the best decision for them." That was from John Lawhon's excellent book, "Selling Retail." Taking that and a few Zig Ziglar quotes to heart has really helped me to improve what I do and how I do it.

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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    @ Aiden - Yes, perfectionism can be a real drawback. Striving for quality is good, but there's always a point of diminishing returns we have to watch for. Sounds like you're on the right track.

    @ Will - Loved the Lawhon quote. Added it to my quotes file -- thanks!

    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author King Shiloh

    Honestly, this is one of the best threads I've read in this forum and any other forum I've ever been. I have bookmarked it because I need to see it often.

    I appreciate you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Britt Malka
    Hi Dennis - or Boogie Jack, which was the name, I got to know you under back then

    Thank you for writing your story here.

    Funny, because our backgrounds share many similarities.

    I started a book keeping company back in 1996, and in connection with that, in our chamber of commerce, we were offered a homepage on the Internet. I was already on Fidonet, but I went ahead and got an ISP.

    The homepage - which was made by a marketing bureau - was horrible, but one day, I went to a presentation about how to get the most out of the Internet. I was taught that I could use Microsoft Publisher to make a homepage, and that the secret of getting success online was.... to give!

    Those, who made the presentation, were lawyers, and they gave free advice from their homepage. I made a free ask-a-question-about-book-keeping on my site.

    Luckily, soon after I started teaching how to use computers, and that let me to write an instruction book about a book keeping program, which again let to my first book publishing, which again opened the doors for the second, and from then, it just went wild

    Anyway, somebody told me about sending mails to a list, and I made a list about jokes, first, and then about computer tips. That let me to my biggest income maker so far. Since I was searching for tips online to rewrite in my own style and in Danish, I stumbled over ... Boogie Jack

    In your letters, you always started out with something personal. I copied that to my own e-mails, and it's incredible how valuable that is. People really feel they know you, and they relate to you in a totally different way than if you just send them your tips or sales pitches.

    Thank you, Dennis You have been of big inspiration to me.
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  • Profile picture of the author bobcath
    Dennis I'd say that this post was most likely the best, most sensible, simplest and most enlightening post I've read in all my years online. What I love about it is that it applies not just to online business but in some way to all of life!

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