Jon Gales
By Andrew Tilin

(Business 2.0) – If a 19-year-old kid can make a respectable living by working the Web a few hours a day, why can't you? Jon Gales still lives with his parents in Tampa, Fla., has no college degree, tends to his site occasionally—and could pull down $55,000 in a year for a job he'd gladly do for nothing.

He's one of a rare but growing breed: the independent blogger who, through smarts, dedication, and a bit of luck, turns a profit. In August alone, his all-cell-phones, all-the-time website,, earned him $4,600. Given the time he put in, that works out to about $70 an hour.

Not a bad haul for a born geek. Gales started writing HTML code at the age of 13. After finishing high school in 2002, he got a Sony Ericsson mobile phone and posted a review on a Macintosh enthusiast's site that linked to Amazon Associates, an online affiliate program that pays for referrals. After getting back $150, he realized that "there was some money to be made here," he says. So Gales launched Mobiletracker in early 2003 to cover the cell-phone world. Logging on in the middle of the night to search for late-breaking tidbits—like when Siemens would bring out a fancier camera phone—he posted news, which attracts viewers. "Over and over again, traffic goes to the sites where people write regularly, honestly, and authoritatively," says David L. Sifry, founder of Technorati, a site that monitors blogging trends. Mobiletracker serves more than 300,000 pageviews a month to 140,000 unique visitors, according to Web-tracking sites. And every time a viewer clicks on one of's Google-provided ad links, the search engine giant kicks back some money to Gales, depending on what an advertiser is willing to pay. Generally, the more expensive the products or services advertised on a site, the bigger the payout. Fortunately, Gales covers relatively high-priced goods; life would be different if his passion were toothbrushes. "Write about something low-cost and you'll get nothing out of it," he says.

This is a business that's just starting to grow. Gales is looking to extend his publishing empire into other moneymakers. "Quality content will be rewarded," he says. "People will come to me." — A.T.