Why You Can’t Make Money Online

This tutorial aims to show you everything that’s wrong with the concept of making money online.

OK, maybe not everything and I should say all of this is just my opinion.

Lately I’ve been trying to think about what it would be like to really want to ‘make money online’.  Right from scratch, right now, without knowing everything I already know.

I know it would be frustrating to subscribe to all kinds of email lists from people claiming they knew the secrets and would show you the way, but many would just be empty promises.

And why is that?

I can’t say for sure, but I’m going to tell you a little about how I got started ‘making money online’ (abbreviated as MMO because I’m already tired of typing it out).  I’m putting it in quotes for a reason, mostly because even when I first got started on my MMO journey, I never thought of it like that.

For one, I got started in 2001 or something like that.  At that time there just wasn’t as much MMO stuff out there.  So it was a lot easier to steer clear of the hype.  But the biggest reason I never thought I was getting into ‘making money online’ was because in my own mind I was starting a business.  A small business, and at the time, one that I thought would just bring in some extra money, but it was still going to be a business.

I thought a lot about what I could do.

At some point along the I realized that writing/publishing would be really cool because you could create something one time and then continue to get paid for it.  And I set upon an idea for a training course.  The training course covered a subject in the career field and I thought it would end up working because that’s the kind of thing people spent money on (more than just what they pay for a book at the bookstore).

I did not buy any how to ‘make money online’ products, business courses, or anything like that at all.  At this point I was formulating a business plan for myself.  I really never did write anything down on paper, but was thinking about it all the time.  So really I was coming up with ideas for my business, which I was hoping would bring in some extra money for me.

When I hit on the training course idea, I spent the bare minimum I needed to get started.  I already had a computer so I didn’t think I needed anything else for a while.  Just to sit down and write the course.

But before I started it I did a lot of research on my potential competition.  They all had websites online and that’s how they were marketing their courses.  And the main thing is that there WAS competition.  I don’t care how unique your idea is, you better have some competition to even consider getting started in it.

So I checked out the competition a lot.  Before I ever got started with the project and throughout the entire time I worked on it,

I’d spy on my competitors.  Although again, I wasn’t really writing anything down, but I was formulating in my mind how my course would be different and better in some ways.  I was kind of carving out where I thought I’d fit in the marketplace.

And that’s really important.  I sure did a lot of things wrong with that first business and many other ideas I’ve had since then, but that last point is something I did right.  I really checked out my competition and thought about how my product was going to stand-apart.

I think that’s very important.  You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to stand-apart.

Business Mindset

And while I’m talking about this, I’ve got to point out that first; you need to have the ‘business mindset’.

You can’t just go around thinking ‘Hey, I could use some extra money.  How am I going to get that money?  Oh, I’ll just make money online’.

Because what comes next is, ‘Hey, I’m going to make money online.  Now how do I do that?  Oh, there’s all these nice people out there offering free information if I sign up to their newsletter.  So I’m going to sign up to a whole bunch of these … what nice people.’

Even while you’re doing it you may be thinking how they might ask you to buy something, but you’ll just say no and stick with the free stuff.  Even if you never buy anything, you’re in for a wild ride, one that will likely mess with your head in a big way.

One email will lead you to one product, then another, and another, and so on.

The problem is you don’t have a plan, you’re not even thinking about starting a business (even a small business for some extra money), you’re just thinking about making money online.  So you don’t have the right mindset and you don’t have any focus.  All these emails you’re getting bombarded with pull you in one direction first, then another, then another.  And it just becomes a terribly frustrating cycle.

Again, I’m just making this up, you tell me if I’m right or not (just leave a comment later on).  But this is what I’m seeing after hearing from people who are frustrated and from being there myself at one time or another.

Anyway, I really think the problem starts with that seemingly innocent little conversation in your head.  ‘Hey, I could use some extra money.  How am I going to get that money?  Oh, I’ll just try to make money online’.

Right when you think that or say it out loud you’re traveling down a path that is in my opinion, the wrong path.  I really think you’d be way better off if you realized, ‘Hey earning extra money is going to take work, but I don’t want to get a second job (or whatever your situation is)’. 

The crucial part is if you could take the leap to … ‘Since I don’t want to get a part-time job and just work for someone else I should really think about starting my own thing’.

Because that’s where I’m thinking ALL of the people hoping to get rich or just ‘make money online’ are screwing up.  Yes there’s a ton of hype out there and people trying to make a quick buck from you, but in some ways, and I’ll probably get busted for this, you’re kind of asking for it when you don’t take the initiative.

If you just want some extra money, then there are much easier ways to go about it then doing your own thing and trying to start your own small business. And even if it never occurred to you that you are trying to start your own small business, that’s really what you’re attempting to do.

But if you don’t get that then you’re now a sitting duck for these guys to come along and pry money out of your wallet.

Even as I’m typing this, I’m imagining that some people reading this will have a glazed over look.  Their eyes are probably starting to roll right into the back of their head.  I just don’t know how to get around this though.

It’s Not About ‘Making Money Online’, It’s About Starting a Business

There are some really cool benefits to starting your own business.  For one, and this is true even if it’s a very small home-based business, is that it sounds cool.  I know how ridiculous that is to even bring up, but everyone wants some respect and being a business owner is a good way to get that.

Here in the US, you can file with the right government agency and come up with a name for it.  It’s like $50.  I think you go to the secretary of state.

You can even decide what role you’ll play in the business.  Like are you going to be the president or the CEO?

Who’s not going to respect that?  We’re talking $50 to be the CEO of your own company.  Even if you never make a cent, that’s just plan cool.  Sounds a lot better than, ‘I’m going to make money online’.  What does that even mean?  Are you going to fill out surveys on the internet or what?

I’m not an accountant, but it seriously is under $100, I think closer to $50 to go register a name for your company.  I think that $50 gets you what’s called a sole proprietorship.  It’s also called a ‘doing business as’ set-up.  So that means you can go to your bank and open a special account just for your business, in your business name.  Again, I’m not an accountant, so please don’t ask me questions about this, you can get online and start looking into how to do this in your state (or country).  It’s a way better use of your time than signing up to another marketer’s newsletter.

Anyway, now you have a business, a business account at the bank, and can really say you’re the CEO of whatever your company is.

And another big hurdle is, what is your company going to be about?  What’s business are you in?  Who are you going to help (all businesses help a group of people and provide solutions for them).  You’re not in the ‘make money online’ business.

The Way I See It, You Have 3 Main Choices

  1. You can sell a product.
  2. You can offer a service.
  3. You can be a publisher.

All of these can be marketed using the internet if you want or using traditional methods.

Honestly, if you’re making some money with your business later on, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to try some traditional advertising methods along with the online ones.  You can get flyers printed up and put them where your target audience is at or whatever.

Creating a website and having it online is great though because you can reach a global audience.
So that means your business choices are probably one of the following …

  1. You can sell a product and learn how to market it online.
  2. You can offer a service and learn how to market it online.
  3. You can start an online publishing business and help match products and services offered by other businesses with the right people.

I consider earning money through advertising revenues of any kind to fall under the category of an online publishing business.

So that means building a site and monetizing it with Adsense, affiliate programs, taking money for banner ads, or CPA offers means you’re a content publisher or into online publishing.

Someone else may call it something else, but that’s what I mean when I say that term.

Making Decisions

So anyway, you need to figure out what you want to do.  Don’t look to me or anyone else for the answer to that, it’s your decision.

And once you pick the type of business (and you can always mix things up), then you need to figure out exactly what you want to do.  Who do you want to help? What kind of product or service are you going to create or offer?  What market do you want to get into with your content publishing model?

Again, something only you can decide for yourself.  I will say that you’re way better off picking an area with competition then something that’s wide open.

I really think the trick is to pick a market with a lot of competitors and then come up with a unique angle or way to make yourself stand apart.  It’s called a unique selling proposition or USP.

The best way to do this is to review the competition.  Visit their sites, read what they offer, maybe even take some notes.  Then figure out how to improve on their offer, even if you just change a feature or two.  You could also make your offer different.

Have a different price point, different features; there are all kinds of options.

For example, if the competition is doing a live seminar, maybe you could do a home study version.  Maybe you could target people with a lot of money … or those without.  The possibilities are endless for this.  But it all starts with checking out your competition first and taking notes on how they’ve got things structured.

It’s a little different for content publishing, but still the same premise.

If you want to get into content publishing, then your site is more or less your product.  And you’re going to put different forms of advertising on it.  You’re going to help other businesses sell more of their product and services.  And you’re going to help the people who visit your site by having some unique content on it of some sort with answers to their questions. Then you just showcase related ads.

This is a very different mindset from someone who just wants to ‘make money with Adsense’ or that kind of mentality.

And once you’ve decided what type of business you’re going to have, now when you do see a training course for ‘how to create a product in 3.5 minutes’, you know you don’t need to buy it.  You’re not going to create a product; you’re getting into content publishing (or whatever you decide).

In all reality, you don’t need to buy anything.  Sometimes the act of buying all these courses and subscribing to newsletter after newsletter is just because you don’t have a plan.

You’re hoping someone will give one to you.

But you do have to make some decisions.  Otherwise there’s really no point to buying anyone’s course.

To Recap …

  • First, what type of business are you going to try to build?
  • And second who are you going to help (or what’s your market)?
  • The third thing you should decide is how you’re going to get traffic to your offer/website.

If you think you’re good with video, try video marketing.  If you’re usually the life of the party, maybe give twitter a try.  Or you might want to try paid advertising.  It really depends on personal aspects, what your competition is doing (which is another reason it’s smart to do a little research), or where your target market is.

To start, I’d only pick one type of traffic method.  Master it and then move on if you want.

It might make sense here to buy something geared to traffic generation online.

I really haven’t read as many business books as I should, but one I have read is the ‘E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber.

Anyway, the E-Myth Revisted is a great book to read.  It doesn’t have anything to do with ecommerce (which is what I originally thought), instead the E stands for Entrepreneur.

And that’s what you want to be if you plan to earn money without getting a job or work for someone else.  You’re an entrepreneur.

There’s a companion book called the ‘E-Myth Mastery’ which might even be more important.  It talks about the skills entrepreneurs need and that they can actually be learned through practice.  There are 7 major skills he covers.  I don’t remember them all, but I do remember decision making being one of them.

And that’s a big one.  If you don’t like making decisions then running a business may not be the best way to earn some extra money (or to make a living). There’s no way around making those decisions.  You’re the boss.

Even if you buy a course that’s A to Z, you’re going to have to decide plenty on your own.  There’s really no way around making decisions (well, other than working for someone else).

But if you can get comfortable with that and work out some sort of business plan or concept, you’re going to move away from being a cash machine for the next guy with a hyped up course and move into being the owner of a real business that can bring you extra money or possibly even support a fantastic lifestyle.

Anyway, I hope this helps. People might not want to hear it, but I really think it’s exactly why so many people can’t seem to make money online.

1 reply
  1. Matt
    Matt says:

    Lisa, I’ve found that “making money online” is EXTREMELY HARD WORK but it has the potential to pay off in the long run. I’ve made about 1,000 off the internet in residual profit from something I set up over ten years ago. That’s not exactly that great since I probably invested about $5,000 of my time (ten years ago) and just now have made back $1,000-ish.
    I agree with you on running a real business. I actually own a web design business separate from my internet marketing website, NEITHER OF THEM HAVE MADE ME ANY MONEY 🙁 but people definitely respect me more when I tell them “I am a registered web design business owner” than when I say “I’m trying to get rich online.”
    I kind of regret sticking with internet marketing so long when I have wasted so much of my time/money on it and ***IF*** I someday get rich than it may have been worth it but if not than WOW… I’ve wasted a lot of my life on this unproductive path (at least for me).
    Some people are successful at it, but so many things I have tried have failed. I’ve built Exact Match domain websites, I at one point had a self development blog with 126 articles on it (than I temporarily abandoned it and when I got back to it I accidentally erased the whole site!!!)
    My goal was to duplicate Steve Pavlina’s success (www.StevePavlina.com is a self development blog that he runs that makes him tons of autopilot money because he writes really controversial and well written (even if crazy) articles and that picked up Google’s attention basically).
    Hopefully you’ve had more success than I have.

    Reply

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