My Thoughts On Making Money And Planting Money Seeds

A little while ago, I published a post on how to start a blog and why blogging can be better than ecommerce. Now normally, I tend to focus most of my subject matter on ecommerce because ecommerce is where I’ve had my biggest success thus far.

But recently in the past few years, both my blog and my ecommerce course have taken off and are on track to someday overtake my online store.


Anyways, after I published that post on blogging, I received a few emails and comments stating that blogging for money is too hard and that I shouldn’t get people’s hopes up about making money from it.

In fact, here’s a quote from Naomi, a long time reader of

I’ve been reading your blog a while and I’ve never disagreed with you before… but the time has come with this post. I run a successful blog and I would never encourage anyone to rush into blogging with hopes of making money.

It’s true. Making money with a successful blog is difficult. But then again, so is starting an online store. So is running any profitable business especially if you don’t know what you are doing. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a try.

There are many pros and cons to the various online business models and the right one depends on your own needs and income goals (more on this at the end of the post).

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My Philosophy On Making Money


Making money online is almost always a slow and steady process.

In fact, creating anything of consequence is never quick and easy. It’s a gradual ascent that takes both time and effort.

Note: This statement applies not only to making money, but relationships as well.

Also, there are no guarantees. Just because you pour your heart and soul out on a project doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful or turn a profit.

In fact, the only guarantee that I can give you is that you’ll never ever make any life changing money working your day job. And this I can say with near certainty unless you have equity in your company.

So what does this mean? It means that the only way you can make life changing money is to go into business for yourself.

And since there are no guarantees in life, the best way to increase your chances for success in business is by planting as many money seeds as possible in hopes that a few will grow. This is the principle that I live by.

Planting My Money Seeds

If you’ve followed my blog since its inception, you probably already know that I tried to start a bunch of other businesses that never quite panned out.

For example, early on in my online career, I did quite a bit of Craigslist/Ebay arbitrage.

Every day, I would comb through Craigslist for great deals on electronics. And whenever I saw a great deal, I would immediately pounce on it and then list the product on Ebay. At the height of my business, I was making close to $1500 a month.

But after doing this for almost a year, I realized that the business model was not scalable so I stopped it altogether.

After that, my wife and I considered starting a franchise. We looked at opening a Kumons (a study prep class for kids). We looked at opening a dinner service for people who don’t want to cook. We even looked at running a bubble tea shop.

None of these ideas ever panned out due to various reasons.

Finally, we decided to open an online store because it didn’t require a large startup cost. We figured “what the heck?”. If we fail, we’d only lose 600 bucks and the rest is history.

Anyways, one of the reasons we chose to open an online store versus a blog or other online property was because we wanted to make significant money within a relatively short time frame (~1 year).

As a result, all of our decisions were made to maximize profits. We decided to stock our own inventory. We decided to import our goods from overseas. We decided to host our own shopping cart. All of these things required more labor at the expense of increased profit.

Switching To A More Passive Income Model

passive income

While the money from our online store was awesome, it did require some amount of active work. When you run an ecommerce store, you have to deal with product sourcing. You have to deal with customer service.

You have to deal with inventory if you decide not to dropship. I knew that for my next business venture, I wanted to start a business that was more passive in nature.

Because our online store already made plenty of money, I decided to create with a 5 year plan to profitability. At the time, I didn’t really care how long it took for my blog to make significant money.

The key was that I wanted the income to be passive. And I knew that if I kept at it for long enough that it would eventually make a good deal of cash. Turns out it took about 3 years for my blog to reach the tipping point.

Once my blog started gaining some traction, I decided to plant another money seed with my online store course.

When I first started creating my course, I was already getting close to 50 questions a week about ecommerce. So I figured, why not launch a full blown course on how to start an online store?

Once again, I wanted the business model to veer more towards passive income. So I ended up launching a video based membership site. Customers would pay a set fee and receive access to a library of videos and course materials.

And because you can’t learn everything you need to know from videos alone, I also wanted to hold weekly office hours to answer student questions directly. Luckily, the course turned out to be a huge success and continues to sell very well.

Diversifying Your Seeds

eggs in basket

Just because a business model is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it try. It really depends on what your income goals are.

Please Read: Starting A Blog Vs Niche Affiliate Site Vs Online Store – A Comparison Of 3 Online Business Models

Here’s a rough breakdown of different business models depending on time frame and scalability.

  • Freelancing – If you need money immediately, you should either get a job or give freelancing a try. Sure, this model is not scalable and it will not make you life changing money but it will allow you to pay the bills. Here’s a list of 250 ways to make money now
  • Start An Online Store – If want to start a business with faster results and you don’t mind a more active business model, then you should give a ecommerce a try. Depending on how passive you want your business to be, you can choose to carry inventory or dropship your goods.
  • Start A Blog – If you want to start a business that is more passive in nature, then blogging might be a good fit. But it’s important to note that the revenue velocity for blogging is very slow. If you have the patience and perseverance to stick with it, then I’d say go for it
  • Sell Your Own Products – Usually, this step comes after starting a blog because it requires a strong following. But the good news is that selling your own products is about as profitable as it gets and can be as passive as you want it to be

Don’t Overdo It


To sum things up, starting your own business is pretty much the only way that you will ever make life changing money. Your day job isn’t going to cut it and neither will trading stocks or bonds.

The other thing you need to understand is that not everything you try is going to work out so it pays to try a number of different business models to see what sticks. In other words, you should plant a number of money seeds in hopes that something might grow into something special.

But one thing I do want to emphasize is that you shouldn’t try and plant too many seeds at once. Even though I consider myself a fairly productive guy, I know that I only have the capacity to start one business at a time. If I try to do more than one thing simultaneously, I end up creating garbage.

Planting a money seed takes the most amount of work during the initial startup phase. Once you are past what I call the “infrastructure” stage of your business, you’ll have more time to think about starting something else.

photo credit: Lucy Crosbie Global Crop Diversity Trust photobunny backpackphotography slightly everything

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About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at

His blog,, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store,, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

17 thoughts on “My Thoughts On Making Money And Planting Money Seeds”

  1. Naomi says:

    Wow Steve! This is a very important and in-depth article.
    This post shines with the incredible business savvy, motivation and guts you have been blessed with. Some of it probably comes naturally and some of it you have acquired through your own life journey.
    Not all of us are where you are in terms of these qualities, but people like you help us to make progress – and that’s why I regularly share your blog posts.
    Wishing you continued success!

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Naomi,

      Thanks for the comment on both posts and for providing me with the impetus to write this one:)

  2. Denise says:

    Great post! Just like the parable of the sower out of the Book of Matthew. I love the electoronic insights they have been very timely here for my son! He is 15 and learning alot from you as well.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Denise
      I think it’s awesome that you are starting your son out so young. I have no doubt that he’ll be financial set once he grows up.

  3. Eunice Coughlin says:

    Very good post. I agreed with Naomi, too, regarding the other post about blogging as a way to make money online-I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners. But you make some very good points here about how anything that you do to make money – any business you build- is going to take time to get started. I’ve tried my hand at lots of different businesses and wondering, at what point did you decide that the ones you were working on were not the right one? Are there any signs you can point us to that would help us quit throwing good money after bad?



    1. Steve C says:

      Hi Eunice
      That’s funny. I’m starting to have the opposite view after working with so many new entrepreneurs. A blog is an easy way to get your feet wet in launching a website. But yes, it’s not so favorable for someone who expects to see immediate results.

      Personally, I haven’t thrown in the towel on any web-based project thus far because it’s so cheap and easy to maintain a site. However I’ve changed the directions many times in the past. Perhaps this would make a good blog post.

      In general, I’m pretty patient with my money seeds. In fact a seed I planted 14 years ago just started blossoming recently:)

      1. Eunice Coughlin says:

        Well, that’s encouraging! I have a few sites around that I don’t want to quit on, for sentimental reasons mostly because it was the first one I started. I guess I will just hang on and wait for those money trees to blossom!

  4. Monica @ {} says:

    Great analogy! You’ve definitely got the best of both worlds having both an active and a more passive business model with your blog. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Steve C says:

      Thanks Monica! I’m actually kind of paranoid that a lot of my business is derived from Google. The best way to Google proof your business is through social media and having an email presence.

  5. Miranda says:

    Awww. Thanks for the link!

    I especially agree with the idea of diversifying. I’m working on a little diversity in my income as well, and I’d like a little more passivity in some of those revenue streams.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Miranda,
      I have no doubt that PMS will yield copious amounts of passive income:)

  6. Claudia DeMordaunt says:

    I’m so glad I found you online. I’ve been playing around with the idea of starting an online business, and I’ve found your website to be truly honest and insightful. I think you’ve done a brilliant job at diversifying yourself by creating both active and passive business models. Thank you for all of the knowledge you’ve shared, and I am officially a very active follower of your website/blog!

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Claudia
      Thanks for the comment! It always makes me happy knowing that there are people out there actually reading what I put out:)

  7. Tom says:

    I am guilty of doing too much. But it’s also a good learning experience. Like you mentioned, planting a seed and seeing what grows is important for any entrepreneur. Some things will grow while other things will wither away.

    Plus with a family, you have to find the right balance to get everything you want accomplished. Something has to give way or you have to prioritize your day to get things done.

  8. Dean says:

    Thank you for the article. You made a very good point about passive income. I particularly like your analogy about seeds.

  9. fekadu says:

    Dea sir
    Thank you for the information you have provided me so far but does it work for Ethiopian who is far from this teaching.

  10. Jeremy Robinson says:

    Hi Steve,

    Great article! I also run a product based/ecommerce business with my wife and so you were one of the inspirations for starting my own blog to document our brand building adventure. I’ve got 3 out of the 4 “seeds” checked off my list so far and hope to follow you into the fourth as I also begin developing my own course material.

    All the best,


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