Making Money Online: Is It All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?

So what’s it really like to try to make money online? Here’s my experience with making money using the internet, along with a few observations.

First, it’s entirely possible to use the internet to generate income. I’ve made thousands of dollars online, but I didn’t do it overnight. It took a lot of trial and error, a bunch of persistence, a lot of hard work, and then a touch of serendipity.

My first attempt at making money online didn’t succeed. My husband and I put a lot of effort into developing an online stock photography web site. I was a web designer at the time, and I was frustrated by the lack of royalty-free images that were out there. I figured other people were probably equally frustrated. We put together a plan, developed a web site, bought our first digital camera, and began shooting and cataloging thousands of digital photos.

Now of course, there’s a site called iStockphoto that does exactly what we were trying to do. Only better. In fact, that site got off the ground shortly after we gave up on ours. We had the right idea, and we had some sales too, but one little sticking point prevented us from being successful: we did not allow other people to contribute to the site. So basically we put in hundreds and hundreds of hours for…well, a loss. But I was encouraged.

Next up, I tried the whole “write a long copy sales letter and sell an e-book for $79.95” deal. Well, that didn’t work either. In fact it failed completely. I didn’t have a single sale. I quickly got discouraged and gave up on the project without putting a whole lot of effort into it.

And that right there is exactly why many people don’t succeed at making money online. They get discouraged quickly, and they give up. They figure their idea sucks, or that they’re not doing it right. Then there’s usually a bit of flailing around trying different systems thrown in too. Eventually, after spending a bunch of money and halfheartedly implementing portions of various systems, people conclude that it’s all a bunch of hooey. What’s hooey is expecting success to appear overnight by magic.

But you know what system does work?

Picking something, focusing on it, tweaking it, and following through until you get it right. You’ve got to go through the whole process. You can’t jump from method to method and give up the minute you have a set back. Or ten setbacks.

Talk to other people who’ve been successful. See what worked and what didn’t work. Join a group of people who’ll keep you focused. (See my Resources section if you want to know some of what helped me, or send me an email if you have questions.) You’ve also got to realize that it’s going to take time. Overnight successes don’t happen overnight.

Oh, and you know what I first successfully made money at online? Blogging. I’d started a (different) personal finance blog a few years back in order to kill two birds with one stone: writing daily and working on my finances. My goal wasn’t to make money, although although of course I’m always open to doing so. One day out of the blue someone contacted me and wanted to buy an ad. It sounded good to me, and off things went.

I was inadvertently doing the two things you really need to do in order to be successful: focusing on something I was passionate about that also interested others, and persisting with that something even when I didn’t feel like doing it. If you look many of the big online success stories, you’ll find exactly the same kinds of things: they focused, they persisted, they talked with other like-minded people, and they worked REALLY hard.

Now of course, my biggest focus is my Pay Off Debt app. And let me tell you, it’s HARD to focus, and keep focusing, and then to focus some more. But it’s working.

Thinking of starting a side business but don’t have an idea nailed down yet? Check out 101 Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time.

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18 comments

  • I read this post and worked up a lot of hope. If I keep up my current pace, I really should be able to make a living off of blogging – passion and focus! Thanks!

  • Great story!

    Just curious do you still have your blog and how is it doing?

    • Thanks! Yes, I still have the other blog. I post to it about once a month and it’s still doing fine. This is by far my preferred blog though.

  • I’m slowly reading through Think and Grow Rich right now, and your statement echoes the message that has hit me the most from the book so far – basically, success comes to those who keep going.

    Thanks for the encouragement and for sharing your story.

  • Well, I can certainly relate!

    Good post (I feel comforted already) and good message. I think you are spot on. Thank you.

  • Being passionate about your project definitely leads to success. I am trying to find more time to be passionate about my blogging and other small projects. I have a busy mind and it is hard to focus on just one thing. :)

  • Patricia Herman

    I admire your determination to sticking with something and eventually having your blog succeed!

    I have a simple – I am considering a blog – personal finance in nature – where do i start and target an audience to even read it?

    Great post by the way!!!!

    • Thanks Patricia! Generally people just start writing away, and the audience builds up gradually as you comment on other personal finance blogs. You may also want to check out the yakezie, which I’m a member of. It’s a great group of (mainly) personal finance bloggers.

      As far as writing the blog itself goes, some people start out on the blogger platform or using wordpress.com, although if you know it’s something you’ll want to do long term I recommend self-hosting and using WordPress (http://wordpress.org/) as the platform.

  • Thanks for sharing this. It’s important to remember that success often comes through failure, and a determination to persevere and keep going. Thanks for reminding me of that. :)

  • What an honest and helpful post on online success. Focusing on one thing and building that is key. I use all kinds of revenue share sites and several other blogs but my focus is on my main blog and it is doing well. Traffic is up and some of the articles are really pulling in lots of visits from a wide variety of search terms. Expecting a PR upgrade next time.

  • love the underlying message of this post. persistence is key.

    question on the ebook – did you drop it all together or is it lingering online with an occasional sale or two?

    • It’s no longer online, and never had a sale. But it’s not completely forgotten. Maybe someday it can be improved or reworked.