It’s easier than ever before to build a website. With free templates being both plentiful and easy to adapt, almost anyone can create the shell of a website and fill it with custom content within a few hours. Combine that with the fact that the story of the “entrepreneur who became a millionaire online” has become a common one, and you have a generation of new and young entrepreneurs hopeful that all it takes to make money online is a decent-looking website.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. It’s definitely possible to make money online—you may not become a millionaire, but you can almost certainly make a livable salary. But before you get involved, you need to understand what it really takes to make money online.
Truths About Online Revenue
Face these often unpleasant realities about making money online before investing your own time or money:
- There’s a lot to learn. According to entrepreneur Tim Sykes, one of the most important steps to becoming a millionaire is to train yourself in whatever discipline you hope will make you profitable. You wouldn’t expect to be good at basketball if you’ve only just heard of the sport and barely stepped onto the court. Why would you expect to be good at making money online without a fraction of the necessary education and training? Soak up as much information as you can from whatever resources you can find, including online articles, books, and even mentors in person. Commit to learning over the course of the long term, as it’s a never-ending process.
- A good idea isn’t enough. It may seem like a good idea should sell itself—and maybe that’s the way the world should work, but it isn’t the way it does work. Online, visibility doesn’t come spontaneously. Even good ideas have to work to be seen—at least initially. Otherwise, even good ideas can remain unseen by the masses, and never discovered by the people who would be interested in paying money for them. Even if you have a great idea for a product or a blog, you need to be prepared to spend months, or even years, promoting that idea if you want a chance for it to take off.
- There’s a steep curve for ad payouts. On the surface, it seems like selling ads on your site is a perfect, easy way to make lots of money. And it’s true that advertising can be a good source of passive income; once set up, you don’t have to do much ongoing maintenance and there’s significant potential to earn revenue when you have lots of traffic. However, until you reach a certain threshold of popularity, ad payouts are barely worth your time.
- It takes time to build traffic. To make the advertising problem more complicated, it takes a long time—sometimes years—to build a significant stream of traffic to a site. In the words of entrepreneur Steve Jobs, “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” Even with a unique idea or a valuable offer, your first few months will likely result in a small trickle of growth. As you build authority, brand recognition, and word-of-mouth referrals, it’s possible to scale—but it’s not a process that happens overnight.
- Trends and competitors will force you to change rapidly. Author John S. McCallum in the Ivey Business Journal describes the importance of adaptation in leading a business to success. Market conditions change too rapidly for any business idea to remain successful for long; new competitors are going to emerge and change, threatening your business, and new environmental factors like trends, technologies, and shifting demographics will change how your brand is perceived. You need to be ready for these changes and be prepared to change your approach accordingly.
- You may never get rich. Finally, you need to understand that making money online shouldn’t be treated as a get-rich-quick scheme. Even with a great idea, hard work, and ongoing commitment in place, it’s possible that your efforts will never turn you into a multimillionaire. If that’s your goal, feel free to strive for it, but keep your goals and your expectations grounded in reality if you want a healthier approach to generating online revenue.
Moving Forward From Here
If you understand these six truths and you’re still interested in becoming an entrepreneur, the first step is to learn more about the process and more about ways to make money online. Don’t build a website on a whim; instead, take a step back and take a few hours to draft up a formal business plan. This will help you clarify your goals and motivations, and give you a solid blueprint you can use to build your enterprise. From there, remain patient, and focus on achieving measurable goals.