Being able to earn a living by working on your own websites and projects is a dream scenario for many people, no doubt for the reader as well. There are countless people working in “regular” jobs that would love to have more freedom and the ability to make more money, and having a successful online business is an ideal solution.
So although it is an ideal situation I am sure that many people who would like to be in that situation don’t have a very accurate idea of what it is really like to earn a living by running your own online business.
This article will cover ten realities about working as a self-employed blogger or internet marketer.
1. You must exercise self-discipline
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 not likely to be steady
One of the challenges is getting used to an income that will fluctuate 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. Self-employment doesn’t mean that you don’t have a job or a boss
Working on your own websites and projects can possibly allow you a lot more freedom than you would have with a typical job, but this is not necessarily always the case.
For example, leaving a full-time job I had been working on growing my own website for about a year and a half, and even though the income from that site was growing nicely, it wasn’t enough to replace the salary I was used to making.
To supplement the income from my site I also had to do a lot of work as a freelance blogger and also was able to do some web design work for clients. The clients that paid me for writing and designing essentially became my new boss at my new job. While working as a freelancer does offer a little more flexibility than a typical 9-5 job, the ones who hire you 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 there would be some residual income from product sales, AdSense, and affiliate products that would continue to come for some time, but if I did not continue to work on these things they would decrease and eventually dry up.
I would not, at this point, have a business that would run very efficiently or effectively without my own continued 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 have to remind myself that I still have a job.
The ultimate goal for most anyone who works online, myself included, is to eventually become a business owner where the business can be sustained without full-time effort or hours from the owner.
4. It takes significant 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 businesses have a development phase which may take years before they really turn a profit.
When it comes to online businesses, most people have an expectation of seeing instant results. Building a business requires time, whether it is an online business or a more traditional business.
One important advantage that you have with online business is that the expenses and initial investment will usually be significantly lower when compared to a traditional business, but becoming profitable still takes time.
Over the years I’ve seen many people start websites or blogs or online businesses with great expectations but they give up within a month or two when they realize it’s going to take more time and effort than they expected.
You have to approach your online projects with the right mindset and realistic expectations; then you’ll be well ahead of most people and you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it until you attain your goals.
5. You will probably be misunderstood as to 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 really don’t have a good idea what I do or how to make money. If you tell people you make money by blogging, most people can’t conceive how you actually make money with a blog, and may get some pretty interesting questions.
6. Don’t forget to reckon with 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 some other person was able to earn, but very rarely will you see many details about what expenses are involved. Not too long ago I purchased a product from a well-known marketer showing how easy it is to make $1,000 virtually overnight by following a specific system.
The course shows the exact amount of money that this person supposedly made using paid traffic, but there is no mention of how much money was spent to get that traffic.
Generating $1,000 in gross receipts is not the same thing as turning $1,000 in profit. Business expenses are often minimized when it comes to making money online, but it is crucial 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 known to be high
With a traditional job your potential earnings may be limited by various criteria: 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 co-workers salaries, and even the amount that your boss makes. In some cases these limitations are rather arbitrary and preclude you from earning 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 are able to become good at what you do the potential is very high. Of course, there are no guarantees that you will make more than what you could make at a traditional job, and many people will never be able to reach that level. However, the potential is there, and if are willing to work hard, have some patience, and learn a lot along the way, there are many opportunities for making money online.
8. You’re building assets by the work you do online
When I left my full-time job I took my last pay check a week or two later, and that was the end of my income from that job. In 2013 I finally reached the position of being able to sell the website that had been making income at for several years (and also my primary “job”), and when I walked away from that website/job I was able to turn a healthy profit from the buyer..
When you’re working on your own websites and projects it is like building assets that can be used to bring in future revenue for you, or which could be sold to someone else. A profitable website is truly an asset. The mailing list you’re building is an asset. Any goods or services 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 turn a healthy profit by selling the assets.
When you’re working for someone else as an employee it is the other way around in that you’re essentially helping them to build assets for their future profit, and they are paying you in return for that kind of work.
This ability to build valuable assets would surely be the favorite part of what I do. Going back to point #7, being able to build and sell assets has everything to do with the high income potential.
9. The future is not something you can count on
Things in the online world change very quickly and you have to be able to adapt in order to remain successful. Digg sold for $500,000 in 2012, just four years after they turned down a $400 million dollar offer. Other popular sites like MySpace also have become out of favor fairly rapidly.
It’s not just huge, massively popular social media sites that can be impacted by changing trends. The algorithm changes by Google have led to serious damage for businesses large and small over the past couple of years for those who may be vulnerable.
When it comes to online business, the future is not guaranteed. You’ll need to be able to implement creatively and constantly learning and improving, because things can change very quickly.
10. You’ll have to be flexible and think ahead of the curve
Because things can change so quickly, and because the future can be a gamble, as an internet marketer you’ll need to flexibility and willingness to evolve. You’ll need to improve upon what you are presently doing and learn new things in an ongoing way. If you’re able to keep adapting you will have better odds to remain successful well into the future.