Dinosaur Alert – What Did Liz Do Before The Internet?

Today I want to show you something pretty cool. 😎 An absolute blast from the past. There’s a lesson in here on success too, so pay very close attention, and I’ll give you the insights you need at the end of this.

It was 1998 and I was 19 years old. I had quit high school, I had quit college, and was living in Nemah, Washington on a salmon hatchery. How and why I got there is a story for another day, but man it’s a wild one. My life pre-kids was quite the adventure. Heck my entire life has been quite the adventure, but… 😂

Anyway I was living in the middle of nowhere looking at ways to make-money. Everything was so far from where I lived and I didn’t know what to do.

I had responded to an ad in the local paper to stuff envelopes for $1. I could stuff as many envelopes as I wanted and get $1 for each one! All I had to do was send the person $1 and a LSASE (long self addressed stamped envelope) and then they’d send me “everything I needed to get started”.

I was like… SIGN ME UP! Give me a break… I was 19! 😂

What they didn’t tell me is I would have to place ads just like they did, get people to send me $1 and their LSASE, and then I would have to print off the directions and mail those directions back to the person who would then go on and do the same. That’s how I would get paid $1 to “stuff” envelopes.

This was a pretty popular thing for years…

And here’s the thing though… I actually placed those ads and got a ton of people to send me their $1 and their LSASE. I didn’t get rich by any means, but I made a few thousand dollars doing it.

Most importantly I learned!

I would tweak my ads, redesign them, (my first days of writing copy) experiment with ad sizes, figure out which publications worked the best to advertise in (I was testing and tracking WITHOUT technology), AND because my name and address was in many of these publications I started getting a ton of offers in the mail for all kinds of things.


Reselling products via the mail…

Dealerships which were like affiliate programs via the mail…

Advertising opportunities…

And the list goes on and on and on! There were so many money-making opportunities via the good ol’ USPS back then.

My main focuses were on…

1. Creating and selling mailing lists. Everyone who replied to me or advertised in front of me got added to a Word document and that was my mailing list. I also bought other mailing lists and added them to mine. I would use these myself and sell them to others. These sold great!

2. Ad design (typesetting as it was called).

3. Adsheet publishing which was just an 8.5 x 11 sheet of ads that I would mail to my mailing list and the mailing lists of others. Like 5,000, 10,000, and up to 50,000 at one point in time.

4. And I also offered dealerships (basically an affiliate program) for all of my offers. Others could sell my offers, collect the payment, and forward the order and my part of the fee to me and I would fulfill the order for their customer. Who was now my customer.

Sounds crazy, right?

This was what we called the “mailorder industry”.

And that’s exactly how I got started in marketing and what I was doing before all of this online business stuff…

Without technology, without YouTube videos telling me how to do this or that, without courses telling me how to do this or that.

I simply watched what others were doing and I did my own versions of that or got whole new ideas. I was making about $35,000 a year at 20 years old in 1999, and made more money every year after that.

Fast forward a few years though and postage was going sky high. I knew I needed to do something different. Postage was really eating into my profits. 😟

I had a computer and had been “online” since I was about 14 when my grandparents bought a computer for their company. I had already taught myself how to build websites (thanks Geocities) and could use message boards and email. I was way ahead of the curve.

The funny thing about my generation (What’s up Gen X?) is that half of us totally get technology and the other half are absolutely clueless. Thank God I was one of the ones that just got technology.

So I started building websites and putting all of my “mailorder stuff” online to help out with the postage costs. You don’t need to mail things if you’re putting it online. 😉 Or you could create small ads with your website in them instead of full page ads or entire mailings.

I had probably 20 different domain names and would scan people’s offers into my computer, and upload them as images to websites. Then I would advertise these websites all over the place. Online and offline.

Want to see a video of all of that old stuff? Check this video out and I’ll show you some stuff from my mailorder days!

So, I was advertising those websites, getting those people traffic to their offers, and turned it into one of the first mailorder/online businesses around.

I was way ahead of the game and made great money doing it all.

As a high school/college drop out living in the middle of nowhere on a salmon hatchery! 😂

I moved around a few times (Indiana, Texas, Tennessee) running this business but as long as I had a computer and a mailbox, I made money.

In 2004 after meeting my now ex-husband with a HUGE family (I had a child and he had four children) I needed even more money. A big family and my growing goals and dreams demanded more.

So I handed the mailorder/online business to him, (which I had built to about $65,000 a year) and I went to work creating a totally online information publishing business.

Which leads me to the next story of how I became Liz Tomey… I call it… “The $37,000 Story”. If you want to continue on with that then you can read it at https://www.LizTomey.com/blog/the-37000-story

And that’s what this dinosaur did before the Internet…

But for now there are a few lessons I want you to take away from the story I just told you…

Lesson 1: Watch And Learn – Always be watching what is going on in your industry/niche. You can always do what someone else is doing with your own twist on it. I’m NOT saying to copy anyone, but using what others are doing for your own inspiration is something that you CAN do and there’s nothing wrong with it. You will always get a ton of ideas too for things you can do to make money or make MORE money by watching and learning too!

Lesson 2: Be Ahead Of The Curve – Look for what’s coming next before it even comes out. You’ve got to know your niche inside out to do this, but keep your eye open for things that might be coming next. I knew the Internet was going to be the next big thing in the mail order industry. It was it’s replacement. And I jumped on board VERY quickly and got a load of people (whom at the time were very anti-Internet) to trust in me and start using it.

Lesson 3: Be Ready To Pivot – Pivot became a hot word during Covid because so many people HAD to pivot with what they were doing to survive. Doing business for most became VERY different with all the new rules. But there are many other things that will make you pivot. Demand, a change in life circumstances, etc. Don’t stay stuck, or watching your business lose money. DO SOMETHING! You’ve always gotta be ready to pivot!

Lesson 4: NEVER Quit – This should go without saying, but you have to have the attitude that quitting and total failure is NOT an option. No matter what, you have to just keep getting up and coming back and fighting for what you want.

Even though I was amazing at school, I hated it. It wasn’t for me. And the thought of working for someone else on a schedule sounded like the worst thing in the world to me. I’d rather live in a box down by the river than work for someone or have to have a schedule. 😂 It was my first “WHY”. My second “WHY” was my son. I couldn’t imagine having someone else take care of him while I slaved away at a job. I give a lot of credit to how all my kids turned out because of me ALWAYS being at home with them.

Find your WHY and you’ll find the “can’t quit won’t quit” in yourself that will fuel you to do anything you want!

Okay, I hope this was a fun story for you to read, and most importantly I hope you got something from it!

What lessons did you learn from this story of an online dinosaur? Leave your lessons and thoughts in the comments below…

6 Comments to “Dinosaur Alert – What Did Liz Do Before The Internet?”

  1. John Rotnem

    Oh my goodness Liz, you definitely took me waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back!!
    I believe that’s how I first ran across your name, while looking at the different ads for sending out classifieds.

    I started out in the mail order book industry, and was mailing offers to mailing lists that I purchased. It was always nice to have those envelopes show up with a $20 bill in them, accompanying an order. Ahhhh… those were the days. *grin*

    Your post definitely reawakened my entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Signing off as I always did,
    Cheers, Smiles, Love, Laughs and Success,
    til we meet again.

    Johnny “Hollywood” Rotnem

    1. liztomey Author

      I didn’t know that about you! How awesome!!! ❤️ Thank you for the kind words sweet man. You’ve always been such a big supporter and I really appreciate that and your friendship ❤️

  2. Lowell Sann

    Hey Liz!
    Amazing what looking backward can do for a reality check. It is great to see where you came from and how the steps to bizness hasn’t changed all that much. But the media, tools, and hardware make it so much simpler to succeed.

    Your example is a great take on what I read in James 1: 22-25. It talks about hearing or reading information then going out and putting what you have learned to work and figuring out how to make a profit from it. That by continuing in that way, you will be blessed.
    Kind regards,
    Lowell Sann
    PS: I wouldn’t be surprised if you check your old mailing list, that I am probably on it too. That would make me your longest customer right? LOL

    1. liztomey Author

      You’re exactly right, Lowell! And yes… I’m pretty sure you win the longest standing customer trophy. I cannot think of anyone who has been around longer than you. Thank you SOOO much!



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