It was way back at the Dawn of (Internet) Time that Darren Rowse first started blogging, late in 2002.
He started his first blog ‘Blogspot’ on a bit of a whim, “in short it was curiosity and the hope of a new hobby and perhaps some new connections that drew me to it. At the time I was working three jobs.”
His main job at the time was as a church minister, working with young people three days a week.
He also did menial part-time work helping out in a warehouse, and various casual labor jobs.
After about a year his blog had become quite popular in church circles, but he wasn’t making any income from it and his costs (hosting and ISP) were starting to mount up.
It was around this time that Darren started his famous Digital Photography School (DPS) blog, and started using AdSense and the Amazon Affiliate scheme to monetize it.
He didn’t have high hopes for a big income, “my hope was to pay for my ISP and hosting costs and to perhaps help pay for a blog design.”
Initially his income was very small, but gradually began to mount as the months passed, from $1.40 per day in October 2003 to $15 per day by March 2004. Since his income was steadily growing month by month, “I began to think in terms of exponential growth.”
Around this time he graduated from his theology studies, and his wife began to encourage him to find another part time job to help make ends meet.
However his earnings from the blog continued to rise, hitting $20 per day in April and reaching $48 in June. Converted to Australian Dollars, that equalled about $62 per day.
They decided that was encouraging enough to give blogging a go for at least a few more months (he was still doing it via dial-up then.) He also bought his first Apple iBook at this time.
Some words of wisdom from Darren, interviewed by Chris Ducker:
Earning a living from blogging was almost unheard of at that time in Australia, and he remembers he got remarks from friends and family such as, “‘that’s nice but are you going to get a real job?” and “how’s your little hobby business going?”
For the rest of 2004 he blogged for two days per week while working at the church and the warehouse, though he worked long hours in the evenings on those two days to keep things moving on his blog.
Darren also experimented with as many as twenty different blogs at this time, trying out different advertising strategies and various income streams.
He also started a blogging tips section on one of his blogs which he soon moved to a new blog ProBlogger.net in September 2004.
His earnings continued to rise and by the middle of December 2004 he’d basically decided to become a full time blogger.
Then disaster struck!
Google performed an update that affected search results and suddenly three quarters of his traffic and earnings disappeared almost overnight.
Darren was now once again uncertain about his financial future, so applied for a part time research position to provide some extra income. He needn’t have worried though, since the next Google update a month later restored him to the position he’d been in before the previous update.
He said this did teach him though, “many lessons including the importance of diversifying your interests, the necessity to not just rely upon Search Engine traffic and to expect the unexpected when working online.”
2005 was a great year for Darren as his traffic and income continued to grow dramatically, and he created a course called ‘Six Figure Blogging’ as well as a few new blogs.
He also founded a blogging network called b5media.
Here’s an early screenshot of ProBlogger from July 2005 (thanks to Wayback Machine) showing a page design that now looks rather dated, but was fairly standard for 2005:
He didn’t publish his income for the year but at the end of 2005 he wrote that over the last fifteen months, he’d had 670,000+ Unique Visitors, 1,540,000+ Page Views and 1814 Total Posts.
Darren was also doing well enough by March of that year to post about The House that Blogging Built.
Over the next three years he continued to create new blogs, b5media continued to grow, and his traffic and income grew exponentially.
He continued to grow his team of writers, developers, administrators etc and accepted $2 million in venture capital to further expand his burgeoning blogging empire.
By the end of 2008 Darren was running one of the biggest blogging networks on the internet.
TwiTip was abandoned towards the end of 2011 after publishing a huge number of articles (over 13,000 subscribers and about 150,000 Twitter followers.) “With the growth of DPS and ProBlogger I’ve had to let go of some of the other projects I’ve had running… including both TwiTip and b5media.”
Here’s a screenshot of TwiTip in July 2009 (thanks to Wayback Machine again):
DPS became Darren’s biggest blog with a huge readership of over a million visitors a month as well as a popular forum. It was launched in April 2006 as a bit of an experiment, and to build upon all he’d learned in his previous blogs as a major long-term project.
It grew quickly and soon had hundreds of posts of the ‘how to’ and ‘tutorial’ variety, over 100,000 subscribers and over 200,000 monthly visitors.
Darren also devoted most of his time to posting there, posting on a daily basis. He also had a team of five writers as well as guest posters, so naturally the amount of content on the site grew very quickly.
Within a couple of years he was approached by interested buyers, “In fact what surprised me is that the valuations that they put on the site (very high six figure sums) were not based upon what it was currently earning at all.
They made offers based upon these other factors – factors that made their offers much higher than a valuation based upon traffic or monthly income alone.”
Darren was tempted but ultimately rejected the offers, saying that, “I realized that for me to take it beyond where it has grown to will see it rise exponentially in value.”
One of Darren’s hundreds of podcasts (also viewable on YouTube) :
DPS went on to grow exponentially (something that seemed to happen a lot with Darren’s blogs!) and was receiving over four million visitors monthly by late 2016.
By that time the site had also been used to launch over thirty photography ebooks, as well as numerous courses and other products.
ProBlogger also experienced amazing growth, also publishing numerous ebooks and courses, including the popular ebook 31 Days to Build a Better Blog which was a collection of posts already available for free on the site.
Darren has also achieved some fame as an author, co-authoring ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income with Chris Garrett in 2006, which has gone through three editions, the latest in 2012.
Darren’s advice to those looking to follow in his footsteps?
“Take a long term view of your blogging. Take your time to build strong foundations that go beyond traffic and income. As you do these two things you’ll put yourself in a position to build a site of significance.”
As to Darren’s personal life: “On a personal note life has been good too. ‘V’ who now is happy for me to call her by her real name on line (it’s Vanessa) started blogging on her blog – Style and Shenanigans – in 2013. We have 3 boys now (born in 2006, 2008 and 2011) so life is definitely full of shenanigans but is a lot of fun!”
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