Followed by what actually works, that you can replicate on a platform of your choosing.
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Experimentation is how you make money online.
I read a lot of content about all the ways you can make money online. What is rarely spoken about is all the ways that don’t work. Thankfully, I’ve done the experimenting for you. I’ve spent seven years playing around with what works and what doesn’t.
My findings are not immovable facts, but they will help shape your decision on how you could make money online if that’s what you choose to do.
Making money online is a lifestyle and it’s not for everyone. Working a normal job is perfectly honorable too.
Let’s start with the biggest trap
Creating content is now at the heart of every business or individual looking to make money online. You have to create video, audio, micro-content, writing, imagery or illustrations to make money. You’re smart. You know that by now.
What’s misunderstood is that most people accidentally create content that looks like an ad.
Here’s what I mean: Go on LinkedIn. Press the Home button to bring up the newsfeed. Scroll really fast through all the posts. Ask yourself, “How many posts look like ads versus posts that don’t?”
When you scroll your LinkedIn feed (or any social media feed) quickly, you’ll pay less attention to the name of the person or when the content is posted, and more attention to what the content looks like at speed.
Deciphering ads versus organic, natural content has become a subconscious sport for the human mind. Your brain switches off when it sees a cliche stock image it’s seen hundreds of times, or a smiling face in a business suit with perfect filters applied, or a duuude leaning against the side of a Lambo.
Ads are simply low-quality content. High-quality content is what you need to make money online. And high-quality content is simple to create when you take yourself and your money-making goals out of the picture and genuinely try to help or teach with the content you create. It’s such a subtle difference and I stuffed it up for years.
The best example I’ve got is when I went to a real estate event. The main speaker suggested real estate agents should cover their family SUV used to transport children with signage that has a photo of themselves, the name of their real estate firm, and lists their phone number. I’ve never once seen a fellow human walk up to a promotional car with a real estate agent’s face on it and take a photo. People don’t buy cheap marketing. They buy solutions to problems.
Don’t sell and become an ad. Solve a problem with content.
Google slave labor
SEO helps people find your website/blog. It’s a brilliant invention that makes you an accidental slave to google.
Most of us are terrible at SEO. Unless you do SEO as part of your regular job, like me, you’ll probably never get good at it.
By creating SEO favorable content you start to sound like a robot. You start to sound like everybody else who is playing the same SEO game. SEO content reads like an ad, pretending to be helpful when it’s not.
Don’t become a slave to google when you try to make money online. Use platforms like this one where the SEO component is taken care of for you, so you can focus on telling good stories and teaching what you’ve learned.
Teachers are the new masters of SEO slaves.
The creepy underbelly of marketing
Network marketing online is where money goes to die. Network marketing feels slimy and predatory. It’s basically a pyramid where a small few get rich and then the one in a million examples are promoted as the norm.
I’ll give you a clue about these tycoons of the network marketing world: most of them were the first in their region to set up the network marketing arm of the company they promote. If you’re the first person in a country to bring a multi-million dollar network marketing company to town, you’ll probably do well. Some get rich with network marketing.
The majority waste time and do a lot of chanting in front of disco lights, and walk away with nothing except a few vitamin pills you can buy from any wholesome chemist.
Selling a product through affiliate links
Amazon affiliate marketing has been promoted as the holy grail for those who seek to earn money online. Then the pandemic struck and Amazon quietly cut commissions. Unless you started in the affiliate marketing business five years ago, your chances of earning any money from this income source are low.
You need a lot of traffic to promote your Amazon links to and even then the money is limited. It’s not bad news though — quite the opposite.
Instead of selling other people’s products you can simply sell your own.
Creating products to sell online has never been easier. You can create information products. You can get anything your mind can come up with, manufactured through Alibaba and modern-day iterations of their concept.
Writing a book and selling it on Amazon the old school way
Many people still think writing a book and having it published on Amazon is the equivalent of winning the “I got chosen!” lottery.
The days of worshipping an old book publishing gatekeeper and becoming dust on the virtual shelves of Amazon’s website are almost gone. A book publisher guarantees you of nothing. A $20 book after all the middlemen take out their fees doesn’t leave you with much money leftover.
I have over 200 writers in my inner circle. Many of them have written best sellers on Amazon. They are lucky to make $50,000. Writers that make $100,000 from a book sold on Amazon are rarer than a Picasso. It’s not that they are bad writers. It’s that we are overwhelmed with way too many books.
Most books should have been a blog post. That’s the sad truth.
The book publishing industry is changing. Writer Nicolas Cole changed how I think about books. Books are the gateway to making money online rather than the primary way to make money.
Books are level one of what you have to say. A good book leads to something more. And the something more is what you can charge money for, ethically.
Or you can do what Todd Brison does and learn the art of self-publishing books on Amazon without the boat anchor of a traditional publisher there to hold you back.
- Self-publishing started with Amazon.
- Then social media allowed us to build an audience and point them to a self-published book we sell on our personal website.
- Now platforms like Wattpad and Stary are allowing books to be published as in-progress chapters an audience happily pays money for.
A completely different way to think about books
Making money can start with a book. It’s what comes after the book that leads to the real income.
Think of a book like an MVP. If someone is willing to spend $20 with you on a book, would they be prepared to spend $99 on your course or $150 for three coaching sessions with you to learn what you know?
Going from $0 to $1000 is too much of a jump for a customer. Try taking a customer from $20, to $50, to $99, to $299, to $699, to $999, and then beyond.
Asking people for free help to make money online
In the early days of online business I tried to ask successful people via email for free help. Most of my emails went unread. You rarely get someone’s help for free. But when I spent a little money on learning from others, then I reached out to them, it made all the difference.
If someone spends money on your business and then asks you a question, you’re unlikely to ignore them. Why? They’ve got evidence in the form of a purchase that they have some level of progress towards finding out the answers. Asking for free help is lazy.
Paradox: when you offer to pay a person for help, often, you get the answers you want for free.
The way I got closer to people who understood how to make money online was by buying their courses and attending their live events. This showed them I was serious and they were all too happy to help me.
I also offered my skills to people who could teach me what they knew in return. My first gig was writing startup press releases for a Wordpress blog. I worked in a bank at the time and had access to startup founders. This meant I could offer a perspective others couldn’t by getting interviews from customers.
The owner of the blog made videos for me on how to use Wordpress so I could publish the stories. He gave me a behind the scenes look at his process which I couldn’t buy from anywhere. People want you to help them make money and they’ll give away their tips in the process. It’s a counter-intuitive approach to building your own little empire online.
The LinkedIn approach that is done to death
Building a personal brand on Linkedin is touted by personal branding coaches as an excellent way to make money online. It’s not. I fell into this influencer category too in the early days.
As soon as I made LinkedIn all about myself, people ran in the other direction. Your content becomes a ghost town. A personal brand doesn’t make you money. People don’t buy your selfishness. They don’t want to hear about you and your overly perfect life.
People spend money online when you inspire, entertain, educate, and solve their problems.
What does work then?
Once you know what probably won’t work for you, then you can move on to what is tried and tested.
Build an audience like this…
Produce content that isn’t an ad. Do it daily for whatever amount of time you can manage to spend on it.
Collect email addresses
An email address enables a future conversation. Place a quiet, one-sentence call to action somewhere in your content. Give people a way to level-up if they choose. If they don’t, then don’t overdo it and chase them down the street with a fish net.
Build a community in a group chat app
An email address is level one. You’ll get 50% or less who will open your emails. An online community you operate through Facebook Groups, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc is level two. Email feels lonely and doesn’t have social proof. Online communities are social.
Make 99% of what you do for your community free. Occasionally give the community options for products or services they can purchase from you related to the theme of the group. Think online summits, coaching, courses, real-world meetups, etc.
Teach rather than sell
Selling is how most businesses operate. Teaching is how businesses that understand the power of content sell. There’s a subtle difference. Selling feels sleazy. Learning from a teacher you trust feels natural.
Mindset you can adopt to make money online
Give away more than you sell. Keep most of what you do free. Use small price tags to work out who are the superfans, who are the ones who need help, and who are the ones who will never buy from you.
The trap you can fall into is asking people for money who will never buy from you. Knowing who wants to buy from you is half the battle when it comes to making money online.