The internet has created a global market place for anyone at all who wishes to sell any kind of product or service… which in turn has opened up a black hole sized portal to an endless amount of competition, and a tsunami of information, advice, and opinions! In my quest to expand my minuscule business empire, I have repeatedly been overwhelmed and exhausted by all of the free advice I really need to follow, if I am serious about getting onto that first rung of the success ladder… and by the follow up message that actually, what I really need is to buy a fairly pricey course that reveals ‘secrets’ only available to the smart few who have the cash and the foresight (and which also grants them access to sacred inner sanctums… usually located on Facebook).
Don’t get me wrong; I have definitely, absolutely, benefited from the wonderfully free tuition that is readily available on the internet, 24 hours a day. I have to remind myself every now and then to be genuinely grateful to all kinds of people for generously sharing their knowledge and wisdom: I wouldn’t even have this website if I hadn’t learned for free how to put it together… because I didn’t have the money to pay someone to do it for me.
I have achieved far more than I ever thought I could, in terms of technology, courtesy of other people’s expertise. I have created book covers, Pinterest pins, and images for my website, thanks to a variety of free online services. I really cannot complain… but still, the process has at times been disheartening and confusing, and I have seriously been tempted to just give up and give in, more times than I can count. What’s the point, when there are already a zillion others out there who are already miles and miles ahead of me, and who are years younger, and who ‘get’ all of this stuff without even trying? What’s the point, when every which way you turn, you bump into yet another contradiction: social media is the way forward/social media is dead; email lists are an absolute must/email lists are so yesterday; blogging is the best way to develop a following/blogging is a waste of time and is a saturated market; you can make thousands through blogging/there is no money to be made in blogging; this or that search engine is the business/this or that search engine is no longer effective; hashtags are absolutely necessary/hashtags are just a fad; affiliate marketing creates millionaires/affiliate marketing is a con, and only works for the select few.
And then you discover that you are using the wrong keywords, that your content isn’t strong enough, or consistent enough, and that someone somewhere is doing what you are trying to do… only much better, and with a more enthusiastic response from the public. Oh… and if you aren’t aspiring to work from exotic locations all over the world, rather than your lounge or bedroom, you don’t have a ‘success’ mentality.
I have to admit that, in the past, I have been seduced by the stories of fabulously rich online gurus… running businesses I can’t even begin to understand, with titles that leave me none the wiser. I am not on the same planet as these people, never mind in the same league. They are like alien gods, with 10 books on the best sellers list (all at the same time), and have changed the lives of millions all over the world… whilst running a multi-million pound/dollar empire, which they started from scratch, even though they were deeply in debt. Or the twenty-something boy in his designer trainers, creating his new Youtube video as he drives his Ferrari to the gym, explaining how you too can reach these heady heights (what, ME? Really?? Yay, I can’t wait!). I don’t think I am being negative when I say, “I can’t do it. I applaud you, but something in me is clearly lacking… I have no idea what it is you really do, and how you actually got there. I sadly accept that I am always going to be a medium-sized fish in a very small pond… but at least I gave it a shot”.
I have had my other website for around 5 years; I have made a number of Youtube videos (which are all far too long); I used to have a shortish email list (which I deleted last summer, as I had created a situation in which many of my customers only purchased when I was offering generous discounts); I have three short books on Amazon; I have a small but steady trickle of visitors to my main website, and business ticks along. I have started to dip the corner of one toenail into the world of affiliate marketing… oh, and I write blogs. And it has taken me years to reach this point – but at least I don’t have to go and do a 9 to 5 job that I hate, week in and week out!
So, on reflection, it is possible to earn a living on the internet, even if you aren’t likely to reach the dizzy heights of the Ferrari driving elite, who work for an hour a day in sun-drenched locations, whilst rubbing shoulders with billionaires. Don’t let this put you off. Do what you can do, and be consistent in your actions. Don’t waste time procrastinating, by immersing yourself in constant research, or spending too much time on social media groups, connecting with ‘like-minded people’ (I joined a writing group, as advised by a published author, and found that it was frequented by people who like to talk about writing, without actually doing much writing… and I honestly did not have the time to waste).
If you were to ask me to share a few helpful nuggets of hard-earned wisdom, I would say: keep it simple and straightforward; you have a product or service to sell, and you need a platform from which to display and promote it. Use whatever money you have wisely, and learn from your mistakes – because you will make some! If you can’t afford to pay someone to do the necessary stuff for you, learn how to do it yourself. I have propped myself up in bed, laptop on my knee, battling away until 6 am in the morning, trying to figure out some technical process… and succeeded (with bags under my eyes big enough to carry a pile of potatoes). Pay attention to the logical stuff – life, and business, is a numbers game, and the more people who become aware of your product/service, the more sales you are likely to make. I always say, “if I can sell one thing, I can sell a hundred. And if I can sell a hundred, I should be able to sell 1,000… it just might take some time”. You will need to develop a basic understanding of how certain things work, and how to draw some attention to your website/blog/online shop. Don’t be idealistic. I honestly, truly believed that all I had to do was publish my first book on Amazon and the sales would pour in ( it seems like a lifetime ago, rather than 18 months!). I now know better… big style. Don’t be afraid to tweak, tweak, and tweak some more. Don’t give your stuff or skills away for peanuts, but be realistic about your pricing. And keep going, through the ups and downs, the lean and the busy times, the failures and the victories… and never rest on your laurels.
Oh, and try to put your money where your mouth is. I have been saying for months that I need to produce a reasonably priced online course, to sell on my business website (good old passive income)… so maybe it really is about time I actually got on with it!