Countless people dream of being able to start “making money online.” Everyone wants to know how to do it, how to make it happen for them.
Little wonder, right? The promise of being able to make money online is so appealing because if we can make a living from our computer screens, we can work anywhere, anytime, with anyone. We can be location independent and we can provide our services or products to people regardless of location (ours or theirs!) as long as there’s a device with an Internet connection.
But there’s a crucial thing you need to understand about making money online before you set boldly down a new career path and leave a traditional, office-bound, 9-to-5 behind.
Making Money Online Presents a New Frontier
If you’re in your mid to late 20s, you may dimly remember a time before smartphones — or before cell phones in general were commonly found on every man, woman, and child. I know you can clearly recall the sound of dial-up screeching through your home.
If you’re older, you may remember a time before computers were common in average households. You might have even experienced a world without Internet (or at least, as we generally know it today since the history of the Internet actually stretches back to the 1950s).
And no matter how old you are, you can think back and consider how much our technology has advanced in just a few short decades. Technology evolves at an exponential rate, so we can expect things to continue hopping right along.
Here’s the point: in the grand scheme of things, the Internet is a very new thing. The digital economy is even younger. Jobs that did not exist 5 years ago are in high demand today.
People making money online — through freelancing, owning their own digital businesses, selling virtual products or services — are on a new frontier. They’re leading the way and introducing us to businesses, services, and ideas that simply didn’t exist a few years ago because there wasn’t a need until now.
This is what you need to understand: there’s a flipside. All these things are so new, and many very novel, that there’s no telling how long they’ll be needed. Just as there are positions that didn’t even exist 5 years ago, there are positions that were thriving 5 years ago but have been wiped out and are now no longer in demand or needed.
It’s very easy to cultivate a trend online. It’s even (relatively) easy to join the trend and start monetizing it.
It may be harder to spot when the trend is done and it’s time to find a new way to continue making money.
So before making money online, you need to understand that things change quickly and no online career is guaranteed to last forever and ever.
To be fair, the same thing applies to traditional careers, but change there usually happens at a slower pace. Things can happen instantaneously online. While a career might have taken decades to die out in the past, a job that exists solely because of the Internet (and the popularity of a particular part of the Internet) can dry up in a matter of months.
That’s the one thing you need to know: things change quickly.
The one thing you need to do about it to survive now and many decades into your working career: have a sustainable game plan.
(And carry a towel. Where my fellow nerds at?)
This isn’t supposed to be all doom and gloom, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that the Internet itself is going to up and walk away and leave us all screwed one day. I seriously doubt that we’ll collectively decide, “oh, the Internet is boring,” and move on to something entirely different in the next few years.
If you’re interested in making money online, via side hustles, owning your own business, or starting a freelance career — I fully support that and think it’s wonderful! (And of course, let me know if I can help you along the way.)
But the fact remains that things evolve and change, so you need to be prepared to adapt so you can handle whatever changes the online economy and world throw your way.
Let me give you an example of major shifts in online moneymaking opportunities to cement this point.
Consider blogging — and by that, I mean blogging as a job to make money and not blogging to support another business that is actually the primary source of income. “Professional blogger” is a legitimate job title (which is amazing considering that when I was in high school a blog meant writing on Xanga or LiveJournal).
And it’s been an extremely lucrative career for thousands of people for the last ten years. Some bloggers have made millions from running their sites. Others made millions by selling those sites and moving on to new projects. The majority of professional bloggers make a very nice living from their blogs, and often report incomes in the high 5-figures or even low 6-figures.
But a new trend has been on the rise. In the personal finance space, it’s gained serious momentum in the last year or so. People are still blogging… but they’re also podcasting. It seems that every week another blogger adds to the growing list of podcasts with a new show.
This is not:
- a bad thing — I listen to a number of financial podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy, my favorite being Stacking Benjamins.
- a new thing — Brian over at The Money Guy Show (another excellent financial podcast) has been podcasting since 2006!
But it is a growing trend that we can’t deny. Meanwhile in the wider online world, some people claim that blogging as we used to know it is on the way out.
Who knows what this will turn into and what it means for the online media community. I don’t have a crystal ball (and suck at making predictions), but that’s kind of the point.
Because you don’t have a crystal ball either. So don’t assume the way things are now are the way they’ll always be. That’s the one guarantee you can take to the bank: things will change. Don’t know how, don’t know when, don’t know why. But we’ll keep advancing and developing, so you need a plan to keep up.
Like I said, there’s no need to panic. Here’s what to do instead.
Creating a Sustainable Online Career
If you want to make money online from a sustainable career, you are one smart cookie. Sustainability and adaptability are the two keys to success in my book. Here’s how you can develop your own career that will last:
- Build a diverse network. A handful of people all in the same exact position or line of work will not be of any help to you if your work all dries up together. Network and connect with a number of people from all kinds of positions and even industries. Not only will this help you find new opportunities you never knew existed, but it will also introduce you to new ideas and ways of working.
- Maintain a solid skill set. It’s one thing to learn a skill and start putting it to work. It’s another to maintain some core skills and continue to improve them on a regular basis. Invest in yourself by periodically attending a seminar or training event. Purchase a course from an instructor via sites like Udemy or enroll in free classes and webinars. Focus on a few core areas of your knowledge and abilities to avoid spreading yourself too thin, but maintain those skills with care and frequent practice.
- Consider how your core skills apply to various positions. Ask yourself, how can you apply your current knowledge to a new industry or field? Know where you can immediately go, without investments of time and money into education or certifications, if your current line of work was no longer viable.
- In other words, have a Plan B…and Plans C through Z. This point builds off the one above. Have a backup plan! This is a helpful exercise in building confidence, too, as odd as that might sound. If you brainstorm all the different ways you could continue working and making money, you’ll realize that the end of the world is a long way off — even if your current job suddenly disappeared. Considering these things while you don’t have to worry about them can also help you better handle an unexpected loss of income or work, too.
- Remain open to new opportunities. You never knew when something new will come your way. Put yourself in a place to pick up on those opportunities when you want to! Remain active and engaged in your industry. And remember to help others find opportunities, too. You don’t have to believe in good karma. Human nature encourages us to agree to you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours agreements — even if the agreement is completely unofficial and never spoken of. If you can help someone today, that person will be more likely to help you when you need it in return.
- Don’t rely on a single source of work or income. This is where the side hustler can reign supreme. It doesn’t matter what you situation is, everyone can benefit from a side hustle. Not only does this diversify your income, but it also broadens your experience, your network, and your knowledge base.
- Try new things. This is really scary sometimes, but the best way to keep on keepin’ on is to try new things. I’m currently in this process myself — instead of seeking out new content management clients, I want to maintain the work I do have while exploring the possibility of starting a coaching program. In your own work, don’t be afraid to try new things on the side. Let that project become your side hustle! If it doesn’t go so well, that’s alright. Consider it your time spent dabbling in a new hobby. If it went well, congratulations, you just developed a new opportunity and maybe even an income stream.
- Get while the gettin’s good. Here’s what I mean by that: don’t rely on something bigger to come your way down the road. Whether it’s a client, a paycheck, a bonus, a job, a business — you name it. Whatever it is that you’d like to rely on, don’t. Take care of what you can right now while you know you can.
There’s one more thing that can help you if you want to (or do) make money online now and for a long time to come: stay positive and believe in yourself. I know it’s fluffy, but this really does go a long way toward helping you develop success.
There’s nothing wrong with making money online, and even better — it’s actually both realistic and rewarding. But before you start, you need to understand that we’re doing something very new and untried. We’re a very long way from what work and careers looked like just 20 years ago, and there’s no telling what changes will come our way in the next 5 to 20 years.
That’s no reason to panic, but it is reason to prepare yourself and to build a sustainable career online for continued success.
What else do you want to know about making money online and working virtually before you start? Let me know!