The three stages of figuring out how to make money online without a traditional 9 to 5
From binge reading to the act of making real money
Istarted on this digital entrepreneurial journey much younger than I officially thought I did.
My earliest memory of an actual attempt at digital entrepreneurship dates back to when I was around 14 — when a blog post by some guy introduced me to the idea of passive income. Just imagine it — a 14-year-old being told that it’s possible to make money while you slept. It was mind-blowing.
After binging on his content, I borrowed my mother’s credit card, promising to pay her back once I made my millions and bought the cheapest hosting I could find. It took a few weeks to finally figure out how to make a proper website from scratch and waited for the money to roll in.
During that time, I enlisted my dad to do the photography (it was a food blog), selling him on the grandeur of Internet fame and money. Over the course of 3 months and from memory, we made about $0.34.
I was proud but was also disappointed at the same time. Dad was pumped to keep going but I gave up. In hindsight, I should have kept going, built up the content rabbit hole and we would have figured out how to make our millions by now.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on my digital entrepreneurship journey and it appears that a lot of us (including myself) go through a particular cycle before we finally figure it out.
Without further ado, here the three stages of figuring out how to make money online without a 9–5.
Stage 1: The Inspired State
You find some content online. Sometimes it’s a success story. Sometimes it’s a YouTube ad that’s longer than the actual vid you’re trying to watch. Whatever it is, the content inspires you with a sense of possibility.
You become motivated to act on it, to replicate the successes by doing exactly what they’re doing. Whether it be writing, YouTubing, or live streaming games on Twitch.
Whatever it is, the source of your motivation is fueled by money — rolling in the cash kind of money. It escapes your logical reasoning that if it were easy, everyone would be millionaires and yet only a select few make it. But you’re already biased towards the success stories, to a point that it skews your ability to accurately perceive the real ratio for success.
So you jump right in — making those YouTube videos, blogging away like crazy and even invest some of your money in dropshipping, just because it sounds like the quickest way to get rich.
But the cash never rolls in. Or if it does, not at the grand levels you were expecting. You experience the disappoint of failure. At this point, many give up — until they find another success story, doing something that appears easy but different from the thing you just tried.
Stage 2: The Art of Real Value
At some point, in your persistence to make it online, you decide to do something different — something that the success stories haven’t really gone over.
You diverge from what you perceive as the norm. You start creating your own content rather than trying to copy others. You start to sell your own products, experimenting with what you personally believe in the most rather than trying to flip things you don’t even have.
You stop buying into the scams, the get-rich-quick schemes and start playing the slow game. You figure to figure out how Internet people actually respond and work on developing a quality audience.
You learn to create stories and narratives, becoming a brand of your own creation that people listen to. Your audience appreciates you because you’ve learned how to generate value.
Because value is the real currency, especially when it comes to digital entrepreneurship. There’s only so many you can con into a product or content that offers no substance. But there is a much larger group who are willing to exchange their attention for value.
At this stage, most people quit their jobs to work on their entrepreneurial endeavors. In a way, they’ve figured it out — but not all of it just yet.
Stage 3: Digital Real Estate Not For Sale
Digital entrepreneurship is linked to your ability to create digital real estate. Unlike traditional real estate, you’re dealing with things that continue to create revenue without your active involvement 100% of the time.
Your main revenue source may come from freelancing work — but you begin to build up your back up plan for those low months. You figure out how to turn your skills, knowledge, and creativity into a passive income source.
Except the difference between what you were doing in stage 1 and what you’re working on here, is that you understand the true meaning of what value means.
And you have an engaged audience — something that the inspirational tales in stage 1 often fail to mention. They just skip on by into the money and that is all we see.
At stage 3, you’ve reached a level of enlightenment and the discovery of consistent outputs. You’ve figured out marketing funnels, where your audience hangs out on the Internet, what you enjoy creating and a higher reason than money as to why you’re doing the thing you do.
Upwards, onwards and beyond
Personally, I’m at the beginning of stage 3. My digital real estate comes in the form of digital ink.
While I’m not exactly rolling in the millions that I was told I’d be, I feel a lot smarter than the kid I was more than a decade ago.
Making money online is not easy — but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There is no secret. There are no tricks. There is, however, learning from your failures in order to move forward and figure out how things work.
It is equivalent of figuring out how to run a business. You become all the parts required to make the machine work — the customer service, the front desk, the designer, the wordsmith and any else that is needed. The boss is someone that coordinates or delegates these tasks. They are the person behind a grand vision that offers some sort of value in exchange for money.
You become that person — discarding on working the 9–5 for someone else and start working for yourself.
And that is how you make money on the internet.