Making money online seems like a miracle created by a Jesus-type.
Unicorns, $100 bills, cocktails by the beach, no meetings, sexy folks running around your Miami apartment in Calvin Klein underwear.
I’ve made money online for 9 years straight and there’s a darker side no one talks about. It’s worth knowing before deciding to do it.
It looks like a scam on the outside
Just google making money online.
You’ll get images of laptops on the beach and money pouring out of Macbook screens. It’s enough to scare away anyone.
Making money online gets a bad rap on social media. People call it a pyramid scheme or hyperbole. The headlines and hooks used to educate people on the topic are enough to make anyone vomit.
It’s not so crazy to call making money online dishonest.
But the issue is 99% of people who successfully make money online don’t talk about it. (Read that again.)
The people I’ve met who make the most cash online rarely talk about it. They have some eCommerce or affiliate website that makes them decent money. They do the work and quietly go about their business.
They don’t educate others on how to do it or write tweet threads.
Everything looks like a scam on the internet. You have to dig deeper to understand what’s really going on to find the truth.
And the truth is the loudest folks are often the worst people to follow on the topic. Find quieter people. Reduce the noise.
Time away from family
Some days I get depressed making money online.
It’s not all roses and glitter canons. I’ll sit down to run my online business and make money. Meanwhile, my 5 month old daughter is two rooms away. She’s playing, acting all cute, and hoping daddy will come in to sing a song.
But dad doesn’t come into her bedroom.
He’s trapped in his home office doing the things that make money online and aren’t so glamorous:
- Procuring new freelancers
- Reconciling the bank accounts
- Answering customer support emails
- Writing out new online business plans
- Lodging DMCA copyright takedown requests
There’s a level of guilt I feel. How much money is too much money? I don’t have the answer to that yet.
Your workday will get 10x harder
When I started to sell stuff online my day job took a backseat.
My boss noticed and later fired me. I think he felt I wasn’t committed or would likely quit. He didn’t want to invest his time in an entrepreneur who didn’t want to be an employee.
You won’t be able to stop thinking about making money online once you make your first $20.
You’ll find yourself sitting in work meetings daydreaming about what could happen. You’ll sneakily open websites on your work computer and do research during work hours.
It’s true making money online is a distraction. But it’s a good distraction.
The only time it’s bad is if you decide you want to work a job forever. I met a guy the other day who will always work a job because he likes all the office gossip. No shame in that.
There are others like me who see a job as a transition phase. You do it to learn some skills and pay your bills until it’s time to escape.
Working a job for people like us is a prison. We don’t want to be told what to do or have to ask for permission. Decide what boat you’re in. There’s no shame in either option.
Too many platforms
The software to run an online business is overwhelming.
Every day there’s a new tool you feel you need to add. Every tool requires a steep learning curve.
And each tool has a clever subscription model designed to extract as much money from you as they can without you even realizing it. Right when you need a new feature they force you to pay.
They get you reliant on their software then extort you. The cost to switch is too high so you take it up the butt like a soldier.
The solution is to dumb it down. Stop being drawn to new apps. There’s power in focus. If you learn one online platform inside out you’ll reach mastery. That’s where 6 and 7-figure online incomes are found.
The easy way is to see what’s working. Right now LinkedIn is doing well for me so I’m doubling down rather than finding another new social app to waste my time on.
The monkey mind can be tamed. You just need discipline.
Too much meta content
One of the biggest mistakes I make is posting content like this.
It becomes this meta death loop. I sit down to make money online while writing about making money online and doing research from others who make money online.
Pretty soon you start to believe the entire world is either make money online or not. Black and white thinking is a curse.
That’s why I don’t overdo it. I limit myself to one meta piece of content a week, otherwise I go insane.
Amateurs teaching the craft who’ve never successfully done it
This whole niche has been bastardized.
Every man and his puppy dog claim to be masters at making money online. The other day a customer said to me “I can’t decide between your mastermind program and this other one.”
They gave me the creator’s name. I googled them. They had 2000 email subscribers and had been doing it a year. What can you really learn from someone like this about making money?
I never pay amateurs. I learn from the best even if it costs more because it saves me time. It’s the same reason I don’t get an online education from free Youtube videos.
The best people to learn from are the obsessed, the practitioners, the guys and gals who are 5 years in at least.
Unlearning everything you know to level up is hard
Writer Nicolas Cole said once you win an online game, you have to learn how to unlearn what made you successful, so you can play the next game that’s at a higher level.
I won the online writing game. Then I won the email list game, followed by the course game. Now I want to win the private community game.
To do so I have to unlearn what made me successful before. Otherwise, I’ll become like some of my writer friends and get trapped in the freelance writing game working for b*tchy clients for the rest of my life and trading time for money.
Unlearning is an art form.
It requires you to feel fine being an amateur again.
Finding the niche is bloody difficult
Anything you decide to make money from online will be tied to a topic.
Finding what that is, is a massive challenge. I still haven’t figured it out. I’m not sure you ever have one niche.
You have several topics and cycle through them when you get bored. They’re all loosely related to your life and view of the world.
So what niche should I choose never gets easier 🙂
It takes longer than you think
Making money online looks like it can happen in 30 days.
That’s if you believe the gurus and the clickbait. That hasn’t been my experience. The dark side is it takes 5+ years to succeed online.
I think of it like the olympics. If you win a gold medal you’ll have your country’s respect and endless sponsorships for the rest of your life.
But it’s freaking hard.
You’ll likely have to compete for 4 years to qualify. And if you do, the first olympics you attend will probably fail.
People who compete in the olympics play the long game. They want sustained glory and to pick a hard goal. When they achieve results, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Olympians often say the feeling is hard to describe. Why? Because people who achieve extraordinary results are so rare. Good.
5 years — that’s what it takes without all the hyperbole.
Getting off the internet is hard
Right now my wife wants to visit family overseas.
It’s hard for me to take time off. The internet never sleeps. There are weekly newsletters to write, Zoom calls to do, team members who have questions for me. After a long time doing this, you don’t feel like you can ever take a break.
That’s why you have to force yourself to.
It feels like everything will collapse. The truth is everything will still be there when you return. The answer is to find balance.
When I go on holiday I still do an hour of work each morning on my laptop so I feel like everything is still running. It helps heal the guilt.
Some strangers will hate you if you succeed
A couple of people are pissed I did okay online.
They regularly drop my name in articles and cry in tweets about their “views.” All you can do is feel sympathy for these people.
Someone is always gonna be pissed off if you succeed. And it’s just jealousy in disguise. The best technique is to switch off the noise. You know … take out the trash. Unfollow, block, and mute are your best friends.
It’s cliche to say, but mindset is everything.
Think like a loser, act like a loser.
When someone else wins online you win too.
No plan works
Good luck trying to plan how you’ll make money online.
Nobody knows. I thought I was going to get rich off Adsense ads on my timdenning dot com website. Lol. That never happened.
The best plan is no plan. It’s to try a few things and collect data. See which one works for you. Sure, you could make $100K from affiliate links but maybe it makes you feel dishonest.
Or you could sell a course but maybe you hate teaching.
Follow your intuition.
Too many notifications
My online life is a mess.
- LinkedIn notifications
- Slack notifications
- Tweet notifications
- Newsletter notifications
- 200+ new emails a day
- 40–50 newsletters to read a week
It can get out of control if you’re not careful. That’s why I have all notifications turned off. And I check emails a few times a day then close the window, otherwise I get sucked in.
Pro email tip:
98% of people never follow up emails they send. Focus on replying to the 2% who do. Chances are their emails are more important.
As you can see making money online isn’t so glamorous.
But no way to make money is glamorous. Once you look behind the scenes what you find is blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of compromises.
Making money online is still one of the best things you’ll ever do in life. Just don’t go in with cute kitty expectations thinking it’ll be a piece of piss.
Expect hard and you’ll find fulfillment.