Even though Mark Zuckerberg may be worth $13.5 billion, it’s not easy to start up an internet sensation. Not only does it take a good idea, a thriving website requires adept technological skills, a marketing plan, and oh yeah, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of viewers. It can sound pretty daunting, right? But Tony Heally didn’t let the statistics or the idea of starting a site from scratch shake him up. Instead, he hit the ground running with not only one, but two college student websites.
With a passion to write and the patience to learn from the masters, Tony has something to offer every college student, whether they’ve got the graduation jitters or they’re just trying to figure out what movie to watch on a Saturday night. I sat down with Tony and as a fellow blogger, I loved hearing about his inspiration and instigation to create two fantastic websites. I highly encourage you to check out both of them and to read what Tony had to say.
Campus Tops: www.campustops.com
Retired in College: www.retiredincollege.com
You’re are about to start your senior year at UC Davis. You’ve already launched two websites, Campus Tops and Retired in College. What inspired you to start not only one, but two websites?
Near the end of the last school year, I started researching ways to make a little extra money. I already had a job, but wanted to find something that I enjoyed to do, as well as make a little money. I came across sites that talked about making money by starting your own website. It intrigued me because it didn’t seem too difficult. You think of a topic, write a little about it, and then put it online. Unfortunately, it’s not THAT easy, but I’ve come to enjoy learning about starting websites and how to make money online. Now it’s become a hobby, and anything earned is an added bonus.
I’ve since found that starting websites is a bit addicting. When I started, I thought Retired in College would be my only website, but it actually turned into a learning experience and I used what I learned while starting Campus Tops.
What is Campus Tops about and why should every college student read it?
Campus Tops is what I like to think about as my public journal about the experiences and lessons learned during my college years. With tips and tricks about how to deal with certain aspects of college, as well as fun posts about random things, I think it’s a great website for college students to stop by and read a couple of pages. All the posts are relevant to college students and so they can relate. I recently wrote a post about how Nickelodeon is bringing back our favorite TV shows from the 90’s and it was awesome to see how my post informed so many college students about something that they hadn’t heard yet.
So what about Retired in College, what’s that all about?
Retired in College was the first website I launched. While I was researching everything about starting my own website, I always took detailed notes for myself. After looking at all my notes I figured I could just compile them into blog posts and share what I learned with other people. So I wrote down everything I learned and started Retired In College. Because there’s so much more to learn about building, maintaining, and monetizing websites, Retired in College gives people a base to work from, and makes it easy for anybody to start.
As a blogger, how do you think the internet can provide a career?
I think the Internet is one big lottery and your work ethic and passion will set you up for success. If you truly want to blog or run websites as a career, it is possible. Millions of people already have made careers from the Internet, and you could be the next. Though rising above the hundreds of millions of sites and being successful may seem daunting, you’ve got to remember those same odds faced the creators of Facebook, Google, and other major websites. The Internet provides an even playing field, and it’s up to you to be successful. A favorite quote of mine has been, “The only person stopping you from success is yourself.” Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something, and if they do, use it as motivation to prove them wrong.
What has been your greatest challenge with starting the website?
The biggest challenge so far has been to get a large amount of visitors each day. There will be days where I get hundreds of views and others where I get thirty. I have to keep reminding myself that the site has only been up a month and that the growth I’ve seen is phenomenal and to keep it up.
Realistically, how much financial success is there to be had with self-starter sites?
I think the amount of financial success is directly related to the amount of work somebody puts into their product, or in this case their website. Just like anything, there’s no “get rich quick” formula to a good website. It takes great content, dedication, and commitment for a self-started website to work.
What does it take to have a successful website?
I think a successful website is driven by two factors, dedication and passion. If you blog, you have to be dedicated to your website and always come up with new content for your readers to enjoy. You also need to be passionate about what you’re writing about or else people won’t be interested. If you aren’t writing about something you’re interested in, your readers won’t want to read what you write. Pick something your passionate about and readers will be able to see that through your words.
What is the biggest mistake you see people make with their website?
The biggest mistake I hear about is people that quit working on their website because they don’t see results fast enough. What people don’t realize is that website success is exponential, and with time your sites success will grow. I always hear about people that quit working on their website right before it could get big, and it’s sad to see so many sites abandoned.
What advice would you give someone who started their own website?
There are a couple inside secrets I’d share with someone that started their own website. The first would be to never stop learning and researching how to better your site. I believe the Internet is the fastest evolving object, and if you take a break for just a second, you’ll be thrown under the bridge and left behind. Always be looking for what’s next and capitalize on it quick. The second would be to use any failure as motivation for success. Things won’t always work, but use those as learning experiences for the future. Lastly, I would suggest that you shouldn’t expect great results fast. Websites take a long time to grow and be successful, so be sure you’re ready for the commitment.
Has starting your sites been easier or harder than you thought?
Starting a website has definitely been harder than I first had thought. Though in all fairness I had thought that creating a website was as easy as writing something, putting a couple pictures up and then going live. If you are serious about creating your own website, take some time to research websites and plan out exactly what you want to do.
What inspires you when you need a little extra creativity?
One of my favorite things to help with writers block is to go people watching. Campus Tops is all about relevant topics so what better way to get ideas then to watch college students go about their day.
How can students make the most of their upcoming year?
The best way to make the most of your college years is to balance having fun and working hard. College is a privilege that not everybody gets, so make the most of it academically as well as socially. I see both sides of the spectrum at school, those that don’t care about their grades and party all the time, and others that only care about their grades and have no social life. I think both of those groups aren’t getting the full college “experience,” and can only recommend that students balance the two to really experience college as it’s meant to be.
What is the secret to your success?
I think the secret to my success has been my ability to act of my ideas. One of my favorite quotes that I’ve really taken to heart has been, “Everybody has million dollar ideas, but only one in a million act on it.” I’ve just used those words to motivate myself to act on any idea I have because anything could be my ticket to success.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
Follow Lauren on Twitter at TheSunnyGirl5