When you read about overnight millionaires and web celebrities enjoying ridiculous salaries, it’s hard not to fantasize about building your own wealth online. However, you probably also dismiss the idea as an outright impossibility. And that's too bad, because most people don’t realize how realistic the notion of making money online really is.

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Sure, you might not get rich, but you could earn a significant stream of passive income from a website -- maybe even enough to serve as your primary source of income. By using today’s technology and online resources, you'll find that it’s possible to build a website for free. And, all you need to create one that's profitable is a little bit of effort and a unique personal experience to share (which you probably already have).

4 Steps to making money online

You might already realize that building a website is easy, but making money off that website is the hard part. You can sell specific products and services to earn revenue, but if you want to use your experience to make money, there’s a four-step process you’ll need to follow:

Choose a niche with a significant audience. Your first job is to choose a niche that has a sizable and dedicated potential audience. You’ll want to be as specific as possible here. For example, don’t just target “men.” Instead, target “male parents ages 35-to-50 interested in _______.” This may limit the total number of people you can target, but you’ll increase your content’s relevance for that audience, and you’ll be able to grow faster as a result.

Put time and effort into your onsite content. Next, build up your site with the most detailed, valuable, insightful and original content you can. This is the most crucial step of the process because, without that content, you won’t be able to retain an audience. Learn the basics of content marketing, and produce content consistently -- at least once or twice a week.

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Promote your content using audience-building techniques. Next, you’ll need to start promoting yourself. Submit your content to news sites, guest-post on outside authorities, optimize your site for search engines and get yourself involved on social media. There are hundreds of ways to increase your content’s visibility, including paid options like advertising, so dig in deep and spread the word about your blog. Eventually, you’ll be able to build up a big enough stream of traffic to fuel the rest of your plan.

Monetize that traffic. Once you have a reliable audience in place, you’ll need to find a way to monetize that traffic. This is easier than it might appear on the surface, as there are dozens of ways you can make money from a site that’s already seeing lots of traffic. For example, you could start selling products or offer consulting services, or you could sell advertising on your site. You could even use affiliate links in some of your blog posts to earn passive revenue that way.

Building a site from your own experience

Once you understand the process, you next need to decide what types of personal experience you can draw on to create a blog.

Write reviews of products or services. First, you could write reviews of products and services that you already use. For example, Snoring HQ produces reviews of a number of different products designed to help users stop snoring. People almost always look for third-party neutral reviews of products and services they’re considering buying, so this is a valuable opportunity to build both visibility and user trust.

Offer career or technical expertise. This may be the most conventional item on this list, but you can use your own career, technical or professional expertise to educate other people on a specific subject. For example, Tim Wackel, a sales expert, has used his advisory blog to achieve massive popularity. When you have this type of site, your best bet is to choose a highly specific niche; most all-purpose general advice has already been dispensed, so you’ll need to find some topics that haven’t yet been explored.

Share personal stories. Don’t underestimate the value of personal anecdotes -- as long as you can keep up a consistent stream of them. For example, you might share examples of the things that happen at your workplace behind closed doors, or you might detail the experiences you have with your crazy neighbors (keeping their identities anonymous, of course). Or, you could just take a humorous slant on daily life -- as long as your ideas are unique.

Give tangible value to others. Finally, you could use your experience to give your users some kind of measurable, immediate value. For example, the Krazy Coupon Lady offers a number of coupons, deals, discounts and other monetary incentives for readers. You could easily start a site like this from your own personal endeavors in saving money; all you'll be doing is sharing that knowledge and experience with other people.

Once you’ve identified a unique experience that you can share with others, your process for making money online is relatively simple. That doesn’t mean your task will be easy; in fact, it might take you months or years of hard work to build a reputation suitable enough to produce a steady stream of revenue.

Related: 5 Secrets to Increasing Customer Retention -- and Profits

However, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it’s an opportunity too valuable to pass up.