Maybe you have hopes and dreams about making a living online.
Maybe you’ve envisioned a beautiful future where you work four hours a week, you never trade time for money, you sail through a life of ease because you’ve learned to “work smart” and figured out “one weird trick.”
The internet doesn’t care.
The internet is not your ATM. And even if it was — you have to put money in the bank before you can take it out of the ATM.
There is no great spirit of abundance that wants to make you rich from your online business ideas. There is only your effort, your strategy, and your willingness to serve your audience.
If you have a solid business model, an engaged audience, a product or service that they’re willing to pay for, and good marketing skills — and if you stick with business blogging long enough — you’ll be well-positioned to make a healthy income.
Sound like you? Are you ready to overcome all of the hype associated with making a living online and get to work?
9 truths about making a living online
These nine truths double as online business best practices that all types of successful entrepreneurs value. They’re also especially helpful for anyone learning how to become a freelance writer.
1. Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long
Trying to figure out a workaround to doing the work is harder than just doing the damned work.
The “gurus” who try to sell you oversimplified tricks and gimmicks about making a living online are negging you.
In other words, they’re putting you down so you’ll be too insecure to realize you can do this without them. Figuring out the complicated parts of your business may not always be comfortable, but it’s something you can handle.
Getting sucked into cheap shortcuts always slows you down, because they don’t work. Then you just have to go back and do it correctly anyway.
2. Be the right kind of stubborn
It’s good to be stubborn about the outcome you want to reach.
I’m not quitting before I have a successful business up and running.
It’s bad to be stubborn about precisely how you’ll meet your content marketing goals.
I’m not quitting until my $25,000-a-year premium mastermind for mole rat ranchers has at least 1,000 members.
Be careful about becoming fixated on specific product ideas or preconceptions about your market when making a living online. If you work very long and hard and passionately on the wrong thing, you’ll still be wrong.
3. “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
This is a quote from Zig Ziglar and it’s corny.
It’s also true. Sometimes the truth is corny.
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4. You are not entitled to attention
If you want your audience’s attention, you have to learn how to write better content and create awesome things for them to pay attention to.
If you want an influencer’s attention, you have to be patient, pleasantly persistent, and make things they might find interesting.
No matter how hard you work or how much you care, you don’t have an automatic right to anyone’s attention. You have to earn it.
When it comes to relationship building, you don’t get to decide when you’ve earned it. They do.
5. You have to balance giving and asking when making a living online
Yes, yes, you need to give before you try to sell.
You need to create valuable, interesting blog post ideas so that you’re worth paying attention to, which will eventually lead to making a living online.
Your digital products and services should overdeliver relative to what you’re charging. But you also need to put offers out there.
You need to ask for the opt-in or sale … and you can do that gracefully with storyselling.
If you stand around waiting for someone to hand you money because you’ve been doing so much giving, you’ll be waiting a very, very long time to make a living online.
Which leads to …
6. Nothing sells itself
Even if you have a fear of selling, selling is not a dirty word. Learning to sell more effectively is not a dirty habit and it is not beneath you.
If you feel you’re too good to learn to sell, you should do something else with your time. Business requires selling.
You don’t have to sell like an asshole. In fact, you shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean you’re above learning about responsible, ethical sales techniques.
By the way, good copywriting is just selling with pixels.
7. There is no business gene
Ever notice how everyone who is credited with having the “business gene” looks an awful lot alike? And how people who don’t look like them don’t ever seem to be blessed with this mysterious “business gene?”
That’s how you know this idea about making a living online is bullshit.
No one was blessed by the business fairies at birth. No one is innately “cut out” for business.
Business is about learning some skills, assembling assets, and using those to serve a market. Anyone with a moderately functional human brain can figure out ways to do that.
Will you start the next Google? Without those assets and opportunities, probably not. But you can still make something cool that succeeds, which is the foundation of the practical education inside Digital Copywriter.
8. Work hard, be grateful when making a living online
You have to work hard or nothing will happen.
You have to be grateful or you’ll hate your life.
9. Don’t talk to the trash, just take it out
“You are not the Jackass Whisperer.” – Scott Stratten
Don’t waste your time and emotional energy trying to convince trolls and creeps to behave better.
Block them and move on with the 10,000 better things you have to do with your time.
Reader Comments (39)
The Internet is not an ATM. But making a living online is possible. It just isn’t the easy option many people think it is
Freddy G. Cabrera says
Interesting post you got going on here.
I agree with what you said about shortcuts, sometimes taking them takes longer than just doing the raw hard work!
I used to be like that, always looking for shortcuts, and it led me nowhere near my goals. But, when I worked hard, I always got near my goals and a lot of times hit them.
Thanks for sharing this post, I’m sharing it with my audience!
Sonia Simone says
I have seen *so many* people get sucked into the shortcut thing. It bums me out, because if they hadn’t been chasing the allegedly “easy” way, they’d have it down by now.
Rika Athena says
This post powerfully triggers the desire to authenticly act on my creative potential. When we I work from the angle of what’s in it for me, I lose the momentum of making an impact on the fear-based desire of making a sale.
The human element of needing to provide for oneself is a necessity that can be done in an elegant and refined way to empower each other.
Our actions are so telling of what we capable of and I communicate in my work that you can channel your unique way of finding balance in through the art of knowing yourself. Just like knowing what you got going on in the ATM.
Sonia Simone says
Thanks Rika! 🙂
I agree with everything here except there being no business gene.
I think in the same way there is a music and sports gene, there is a business gene.
It doesn’t matter how much I practise piano, having never played before, I am not going to be a successful pianist.
Why should business be any different?
Sonia Simone says
There is no music gene, either. If you have access to music as a child, take lessons, and put a lot of deliberate practice in, you will get good. If you have access to great musical education and put in great effort, you can become wonderful. But there’s no evidence that anyone has found for a “music” gene, and it has been looked for.
You might be born with perfect pitch (genetic), which is handy, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient to become a great musician.
Sports are different, because biomechanics play a role. But without the drive for deliberate practice, you’ll never get particularly good. Being tall is important in basketball, having great eyesight is important in baseball, but they are not enough.
What we think of as the “business gene” is just early access to business ideas. And those ideas can be adopted later in life, if your early upbringing didn’t include them.
I agree with you. In the book, ‘Talent is overrated’ the author Geoffrey Colvin describes this concept in detail. The key words to get a mastery of any skill under the sun according to him are; ‘deliberate practice’.
Great article by the way.
Ryan Biddulph says
All great lessons here.
Being online for the right reasons – to have fun and to help others – has helped me see the internet as a medium through which I can help, serve and receive. Not confusing that order either. Because many folks in their desperation and palpable fear wish to receive, and then, maybe help…..but most have no interest in helping. Desperate people rarely think about others outside of themselves and their immediate family.
Unfortunately, unless you can be your own client or perhaps, your family can buy your products and services, endlessly, you won’t grow a successful blogging business unless you genuinely care about other folks, outside of yourself and family.
By helping people and having fun and learning your craft, your online business will grow over time. Not in weeks, usually, but in months, and certainly, over years. All the generous help you offered gratis literally pays you money over the long haul.
I like to say; people dig the freemium, and then pay for the premium.
Thanks for the rocking share Sonia.
Hazim Alaeddin says
Your article made me laugh, because it is so true. Every part of it. Everyone wants a get rich scheme, and it never happens. Everyone wants instant attention, and it never happens. Things take time, like a great meal. It needs lots of love and attention –like all great things.
Again, thank you for your post. I loved it.
Sonia Simone says
Hashim Warren says
Shame on you, Sonia.
You’re selling us dreams that generousity leads to reciprocation, and continual growth is possible for anyone.
What a scam!
Sonia Simone says
Kevin Gregg says
Just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. It’s exactly what I needed to read today.
Nope, no shortcuts.
How many times have I wanted to put in such little effort and get gigantic results.
It just doesn’t work that way.
You are right on the nose: serve, give, offer something they want, something they value, something that will help.
Oh and by the way, did I say thanks?
Sonia Simone says
And thanks right back at ya, Kevin. 🙂
Jennifer Henczel says
I absolutely love this! So so very true… “Don’t waste your time and emotional energy trying to convince trolls and creeps to behave better. Block them and move on with the 10,000 better things you have to do with your time.” Great article. Excellent, truthful writing.
Sonia Simone says
Thank you, Jennifer. 🙂
Jocelyn Ring says
Thanks, Sonia. I agree with everything on this list.
Nothing grinds my gears more than the promises of 6 easy steps and shortcuts and the marketing that makes people feel insecure and unable to do things without a guru. There’s a big difference between that and being someone who can help someone get something they want (and get paid for it)…Zig Ziglar approach.
The stubbornness factor and focus is spot on, too. Many times, I’ve seen people so attached to a specific vision and exactly how they’ll achieve it that the tunnel vision sends them down a wrong path. Being stubborn about the goal (successful business) and open to how that comes to be is the right approach.
The premium $25K Mole rat ranchers mastermind with 1,000 members made me laugh 🙂
Sonia Simone says
Glad I could make you laugh. 🙂
Colin Dunbar says
You are so on the button with this article, Simone. Bravo!
Greg Lyles says
Excellent article and I only wish I had written it myself!
I just shared this with a few thousand real estate agents who fall prey to the “guru’s” who tell them they can generate thousands of leads with a $5 ad – if they only buy their course for $500.
Have a great day –
Bonny Buckley says
“You are not the Jackass Whisperer.” LOL Great stuff! Thanks
Missy W. says
I’m trying to teach my kids that “shortcuts take longer,” (while attempting to learn that truth myself!) One problem is that my 12 year old is starting to idolize these youtube stars who were subway sandwich artists a couple years ago, but now pseudo-celebrities making a ton of money off their narcissistic videos. not the best role models! It’s a weird world, and easy to forget the “journey,” while trying to get to the destination.
Missy W. says
…by the way, a Pug with a plush hot dog for this post seems to make sense for some reason! the more time i spend online, the more I’m convinced that things are turning into Fantasyland…
Sonia, when you say, “Business is about learning some skills, assembling assets, and using those to serve a market. Anyone with a moderately functional human brain can figure out ways to do that.”, I totally agree. It just takes some longer than others to realize they do have what it takes.
This is one of my favorite posts from you I have read. We all have to realize we already have what it takes to be awesome. Now we just have to define it and get started.
Brad Dalton says
I worked a 100 hrs a week in the community for 5 years to learn coding https://www.studiopress.com/forums/users/braddalton/replies/page/895/ so i can make a full time living on the internet which is a challenge as so many people want everything for free.
My policy : Anything which takes less than an hour is given away for free and anything more i ask for payment.
Some people will try and take shortcuts by bullying you into working for free and some will even resell your work. Don’t let them get away with it and don’t be anyones slave!
Adam Lee Rosenfeld says
First Seth Godin, now Sonia Simone. Bravo. ???
Dan Kassis says
Thank you for this very productive rant.
Evan Demma says
Great post. I learned a lot. One question. I hope it doesn’t sound off-topic. Do you insist on bylines for freelance work? Or accreditation of some kind? And did you always? I have a pretty good client, who’s paying well and I like the work, but I’m afraid it’ll end up being a fool’s errand, if I’m not getting byline credit that I can showcase. In fairness, I don’t know that he’s adverse to including bylines, just that he hasn’t included them or gotten privy to subtle mention of them.
Marco Floriano says
Having making a living from internet in the last ten years i have to say: great post, and ideas. Would be nice though to dig a little deeper into the idea of “easy” path. By my experience, most people don’t know what is the easiest or harder path, they are just trying to survive.
I love the quote that if you feel that you are too good for selling then you should do something else.
Over the years I have met so many people who think that they can just throw up a website and it will start generating cash for them. Forget about short cuts, these people didn’t want to do anything after the web design phase.
Business, like life is about educating yourself, learning from your mistakes and putting in a lot of hard work. Thanks for the article.
Yesterday, someone in an affiliate forum I’m in talked about how they had been at it… for one month… and they were not seeing any success yet. They were wondering if they should quit. It tells me there are still a lot of get-rich-quick scams convincing people that they can make a killing online quickly without a lot of effort. Or, as you say, the internet is an easy ATM to pull money from.
It took me years to start making decent money. I’ve tried everything, screwed up everywhere, and have had more failures than successes. It’s just part of learning what works for you.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Thanks for sharing, Kari! Things take time, and there’s no substitute for hard work.
Sunny Kumar says
Hello, Sonia! You’ve got a really interesting subject here.
I agree with everything you said about shortcuts, and I believe that sometimes taking them takes longer than simply performing the hard labor!
I used to be a person who looked for shortcuts all the time, and it got me nowhere near my objectives. However, when I really put out the effort, I always managed to approach or even surpass my objectives.
Thanks for sharing this post.
Susan Scott says
Wow do I love this dose of reality! Thank you for being that voice of truth. I deal with so many people who believe life “should” be all sunshine, roses, and the spirit of abundance, as so you beautifully phrased it, just because they somehow deserve it. I’m going to send my aspiring life coaches a link to this article.
I truly believe when people count the cost up front and know the truth of what it takes to succeed, instead of falling for the hype, they have a much better chance of succeeding.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Well put, Susan!
Tatiana - Professora Particular de Inglês says
This text hits hard on everything I am going through now! Thank you very much for sharing it.
“Jackass Whisperer” 😂. Gosh, what a lot of time + mental energy I could’ve saved myself had I embraced that philosophy 20 years ago!
Thanks for the great tips! I couldn’t agree more that it takes time to build a business. I’m constantly explaining this to people who expect blogging to bring in results right away and make them an overnight success, but that’s not how it works.
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