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10 Realities Of Working Online That You Need To Know

Realities Of Working Online

Being able to earn a living by working on your own websites and projects is a dream scenario for many people, myself included. There are countless people working in “regular” jobs that would love to have more freedom and the ability to make more money, and having an online business seems like an ideal solution.

While I do love what I do as a full-time internet marketer, I know that many people who desire the same thing don’t have a completely accurate idea of what it is really like to earn a living by running your own online business.

In this article I’ll cover 10 realities about working as a self-employed blogger or internet marketer.

1. You have to be disciplined

When I first left my full-time job to work online I had a lot of friends and family members comment about my schedule or ask questions about how much I’d be working. For some reason a lot of people think the flexibility that comes with running an online business means that you can be lazy.

If I had left my job to start a traditional business no one would ask me if I’d be sleeping in, but with an online business that seemed to be a common assumption.

In reality, earning a living from your own websites and blogs requires a great deal of discipline. There is no boss telling you to start work at a specific time, no designated amount of time for a lunch break, no exact limit on vacation days, and no one telling you what you need to be working on and how to spend your time.

You have to be able to make all of these decisions on your own, and you’ll need discipline to stay on task and to treat it like the business that it is.

2. Your income is likely to be up and down

One of the challenges is getting used to an income that will have some fluctuations from month-to-month and year-to-year.

If you’re used to working at a job with a consistent salary, like I was, there will be some changes once your primary income is from your own online projects, whether it is from websites that you own or from services that you provide to clients.

You can’t always know ahead of time how much money you’ll make in any given month, so you’ll need to be able to get comfortable with this situation. It’s a good idea to learn to live below your means, at least at first, to avoid a situation where your income is less than expected and you can’t afford to pay your bills.

3. Being self employed doesn’t mean that you don’t have a job or a boss

Working on your own websites and projects can allow you a lot more freedom than you would have with a typical job, but this is not always the case.

For example, when I left my full-time job I had been working on growing my own website for about a year and a half, and while the income from that site was growing nicely, it wasn’t enough to replace the salary from my old job right away.

To supplement the income from my site I also did a lot of work as a freelance blogger and also did some web design work for clients. The clients that paid me for writing and designing essentially replaced the boss at my old job. While working as a freelancer does offer a little more flexibility than a typical 9-5 job, your clients are still essentially your bosses.

Whether it is an online business or a traditional business, being self-employed doesn’t mean that you don’t have a job.

If I stop working today I’d still have some income from product sales, AdSense, and affiliate products that would continue to come for some time, but it would decrease and eventually dry up.

I don’t, at this point, have a business that will run very efficiently or effectively without my own efforts. Essentially, I replaced my old full-time job as an employee with my current full-time job where I work for myself.

Yes, I do make more money now, I have more flexibility, and I enjoy what I do, but I still have a job.

The ultimate goal for many who work online, myself included, is to eventually get to a point of being a business owner where the business can be sustained without full-time effort or hours from the owner.

4. It takes time to build a business

When someone starts a traditional business they usually understand that it will take some time for the business to become profitable. Some successful business take years before they really turn the corner.

When it comes to online businesses, for some reason many people expect to see instant results. Building a business takes time, whether it is an online business or a more traditional business.

One huge advantage that you have with online business is that the expenses and capital investment will usually be drastically lower when compared to a traditional business, but making money still takes time.

Over the years I’ve seen countless people start websites or blogs with the high hopes, only to give up within a month or two when they realize it’s going to take more time and effort than expected.

If you can approach your online projects with the right mindset and realistic expectations, you’ll be well ahead of most people and you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it until you achieve your goals.

5. Most people probably won’t understand what you do for a living

I’ve worked on my own websites and blogs for more than 5 years now, and most of my friends and family still don’t completely understand what I do or how I make money. If you tell people you make money by blogging, most people will have no idea how you actually make money with a blog, and you’re likely to get some pretty interesting questions.

6. Don’t forget your business expenses!

In the world of internet marketing and “make money online” blogs you see a lot of products and courses that make specific claims about the amount of money that someone made with their approach, but very rarely will you see many details about expenses. Not too long ago I purchased a product from a well-known marketer that showed how someone made $1,000 virtually overnight by following a specific system.

The course shows the exact amount of money that this person made, and it mentions that traffic was bought, but it didn’t mention how much money was spent to get that traffic.

Generating $1,000 in revenue is not the same thing as earning $1,000 inprofit. Business expenses are often overlooked when it comes to making money online, but you’ll need to consider these expenses when calculating how much you expect to earn.

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income is a rare example of someone who mentions expenses in his monthly income reports .

7. Income potential is high

With a traditional job your potential earnings may be capped by your job title, the type of work that you do, the length of time that you’ve worked for the company, the degrees or certifications that you have, the amount of money that your co-workers make, and even the amount that your boss makes. In some cases these limitations are rather arbitrary and may not allow you to be paid what you are truly worth to your employer.

Earning a living from your own websites and projects is completely different. There are no limitations and if you’re good at what you do the potential is very high. Of course, there are no guarantees that your income will be higher than what you could make at a more traditional job, and many people are never able to reach that level. However, the potential is there, and if you’re willing to put in the effort, have some patience, and learn a lot along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to make money online.

8. You’re building assets

When I left my full-time job I collected my last pay check a week or two later, and that was the end of my income from that job. In 2013 I decided to sell the website that had been my primary source of income for several years (and also my primary “job”), and when I walked away from that website/job I collected a nice sum of money from the buyer.

When you’re working on your own websites and projects you’re building assets that can be used to bring in revenue for you in the future, or could be sold to someone else. A profitable website is an asset. The email list the you’re building is an asset. The products that you create are assets. All of these things help you to earn a living now, and unlike a typical job, you also have the potential to get a nice payday when you’re done by selling the assets.

When you’re working for someone else as an employee you’re essentially helping them to build assets, and they are paying you in return for your work.

This ability to build valuable assets is probably may favorite part of what I do. Going back to point #7, being able to build and sell assets is part of the high income potential.

9. The future is not guaranteed

Things in the online world change very quickly and you’ll need to be able to adapt in order to remain successful. Digg sold for $500,000 in 2012, just four years after reportedly turning down a $200 million offer from Google. Other popular sites like MySpace also have fallen very quickly.

It’s not just huge, massively popular sites that can be impacted by changing trends. Google’s algorithm updates have led to serious damage for businesses large and small over the past couple of years.

When it comes to online business, the future is not guaranteed. You’ll need to be able to work in an environment where you need to be constantly learning and improving, because things can change very quickly.

10. You’ll have to be flexible and evolve

Because things change so quickly and because the future is not guaranteed, as an internet marketer you’ll need to be flexible and be willing to evolve. You’ll need to improve your existing skills and learn new thingsconstantly. If you’re willing to adapt you will have a much greater chance to remain successful well into the future.

What’s your experience?

Please feel free to share from your own experience in the comments.

Photo credit: William Hook, (changes made; text overlay), cc.

About Marc Andre

Marc Andre has been blogging and working online full-time for the past 5+ years. He has built successful blogs in several different industries and is offering the comprehensive Guide to Profitable Blogging at his new blog ProfitBlitz.

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  • Marc – thanks for putting a great post together for us.

    Each and every point is bang on.

    Point #5 specifically has been something I’ve experienced a lot of lately.

    For a long time I just didn’t mention what I did to the people I grew up with. It seems a difficult thing for people outside of our community to get their heads around.

    One comment made me laugh though, someone said “is that like the theoretical dollars they earned off YouTube on South Park?”

    Thanks again for a great post, Marc.

    • Yeah, I generally try to avoid the topic or at least quickly steer it back to something about what the other person does for a living. And that question about South Park is exactly what I meant about getting some interesting questions.

      • Definitely sounds like a smart move, Marc.

        I’ll be sure to change the subject next time so I don’t get any more South Park related remarks!

  • Marc,


    Patience, grasshopper. All I am learning is because I patiently stuck with the online gig through ups and downs.

    If you persist and follow the fundamentals of creating and connecting good things will happen for you.


    • Ryan,
      Patience is definitely key. If more people shared your approach they would be able to push through the frustrating times.

  • Great post Marc,

    I have been working online for the past 8 years, and it can still be a volatile and scary place sometimes.

    Ryan is right, persistence and resilience are needed every month to make it all work!



  • David Schuller

    Excellent post Marc,
    There are two different stories told by online marketers.
    1) Get rich quick, sometimes over night.
    2) It’s a tough business, if you don’t know this certain strategy you will never make it.
    The one thing they both have in common: they want your wallet.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like making money just as much as everybody else.
    Truth is, any business takes perseverance and persistence.
    The most important ingredient is a unshakable can do attitude.
    Once you have this, everything else will fall into place and nothing will stop you.
    I like your point about nothing being guaranteed. You have to constantly have an open mind.
    I think I can, I know I can.
    Again, great post

    • David,
      I think your point about knowing you can succeed is important. I’ve paid attention to this characteristic that I’ve seen in successful people over the years. It applies in any kind of business, not just online. The people who expect to be successful almost always will be successful. Sometimes it’s because they are willing to keep working and find a way rather than just giving up because it got hard. When it comes to online business, I think a lot of people expect to fail before they even start.

  • Dangerous Lee

    When people ask what I do it’s usually in a way that they expect me to tell them step-by-step instructions; that’s what drives me nuts. It’s never just enough to say that I am an artist or a blogger. They always ask – But what exactly do you do?

  • Dangerous Lee

    BTW: I learned so much reading this. As someone doing it all on my own I never thought of my websites as being assets in the way that you explained it. Thanks!