scorecardI skipped college and now make $600,000 a year online. I'm the first person in my family to purchase my own home.
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I skipped college and now make $600,000 a year online. I'm the first person in my family to purchase my own home.

Ellen Nguyen   

I skipped college and now make $600,000 a year online. I'm the first person in my family to purchase my own home.
Careers4 min read
  • Oliur Rahman leveraged smartphone customization to start making money online after high school.
  • He sold designs on Tumblr before a stint at a startup and expanding into an online store and YouTube.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Oliur Rahman, a 31-year-old YouTuber and entrepreneur in the UK. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I come from a South Asian background but was born and raised in the UK. We weren't wealthy — I grew up on benefits in social housing. None of my family members were formally educated or owned property.

I never expected to become the first person in my family to buy a house or to become a millionaire, but I did.

Buying my first smartphone opened a new door for me

We didn't have internet at home until I was around 15 because my parents didn't see its value. When I finally got it, it fascinated me.

I bought my first smartphone with money saved from working as a waiter. I customized it and shared my customizations on XDA Developers, a mobile software development community. This led to me making and selling icons and wallpapers, which was my first experience making money online.

I used the money from selling these digital products to buy my first computer, a used iMac. Until then, I had to share a family computer. Buying that iMac was necessary for me to start making and learning things independently.

I decided not to go to university and instead make money online

Despite my parents' typical concerns about formal education, I convinced them to give me a year to try making money online before considering university. I made enough money to support myself that year — I paid them rent and helped with household bills.

I shared my design work on Dribbble, where clients started to notice me. This exposure led to making website templates, particularly for Tumblr. I learned to make and design websites by watching tutorials on YouTube and replicating other work I'd seen online. I have no formal training.

My themes became popular, and in 2014, I was approved to sell them on Tumblr's official online store, which significantly increased my income.

My income had been around $20,000 to $30,000 a year, sometimes even less. Once I started selling on Tumblr, my income grew to six figures.

I was still living with my parents when this financial success happened. They were still skeptical. I stayed with them for a few more years, saving as much as possible until I was ready to move out and find my first house.

I'm the first person in my family to purchase my own home

I was around 23 when I started to see significant money from Tumblr. Knowing that success wouldn't last forever, I focused on learning new web design and development skills. This strategic move and saving most of my earnings allowed me to buy my first house.

Now living on my own, I became a founding designer at a company called Plasso, where I worked for a year. I had always wanted to be part of a startup. Plasso paid well and I was given shares in the company for being an early employee.

This venture paid off when Plasso was bought by GoDaddy, resulting in a significant payout for me.

I expanded my income streams after leaving the startup

I started an online store called ULX Store in 2018 to sell my designs and other products.

I started a YouTube channel in 2015 to provide insights I wish were available to me at a younger age, demonstrating that success is attainable without a privileged background or formal education.

I began taking it seriously around 2020 when I realized its potential for scalable income through sponsorships and Adsense revenue. My channel grew to around 100,000 subscribers, which attracted sponsorships and enabled me to charge significantly for sponsored content.

Then, also in 2020, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very challenging period personally. At the same time, ULX Store became very successful. Our desk accessories were in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That year, the store generated around $1M in revenue, contributing to my most profitable year yet.

It's essential to diversify income streams and learn new skills

After my diagnosis, I worked to ensure my business could operate without my direct involvement as I took time to care for myself. I was still earning a significant amount in passive income from YouTube Adsense, digital product sales, and sponsorships arranged earlier in the year, which was astonishing to me.

Once I recovered, I gradually returned to work in early 2021, focusing more on YouTube as it had grown significantly. In 2023, I earned around $600,000 a year from all my income streams.

My approach to online business emphasizes starting with one main income stream and then using the earnings from that to diversify into other areas. I've always saved a large portion of my income, which has been crucial for building my wealth and investing in new ventures.

I have a few long-term goals

Since turning 30 and considering future family planning, I'm focused on securing a financial foundation for myself and my potential children. I don't see myself retiring because I enjoy what I do too much and find it fulfilling. I envision creating a substantial investment portfolio that allows me to live comfortably off its returns.

I recently moved to Dubai but kept my house in the UK, so I can come back when I please. Even though my living expenses went up, my income also increased because I'm not paying as much in taxes. I'm excited for this new chapter.




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