When you decide to take the leap and make your money online, many often jump right in without a clear idea of what it is they’re doing.
That’s how a lot of people start off – but this method of just jumping in can cause havoc on your bank account, especially if you’ve got no fall-back plan.
However, some of us are thrust into the world of making money online because we’ve got no other choice.
For me, it was having a baby and needing flexible working hours that didn’t involve a daily 2-hour commute. Everyone has their reasons for picking the online life.
I’ve been making an income through the Internet for almost a year now – starting back in January 2019 and managed to pull in almost $50k in approximately 10 months.
I’m part of a few Facebook communities and there are others who started around the same timeframe but struggle to find a viable financial footing.
In part, it’s because they haven’t figured it all out yet.
Everything is a system and the tasking of figuring out the online system and how to make money from it can be a hard task.
Here are 13 important questions I often ask those that ask me how I do it.
If you want to make a living online, you’ll need to answer these questions too. They’re questions that I review on a quarterly basis, to ensure that I’m on the right track towards where I want to be.
1. What’s driving you?
Yes, having money is great but what’s that one thing (or two) that makes you want to make your online hustle gig a real thing?
It’s your why for doing the thing that you do, the motivational force that sits on top of everything else. Is it freedom from the daily 9 to 5 grind? Or is it freedom of time and mobility?
Is it because your local wages aren’t cutting it for what you need? Or is it because you’re feeling undervalued for your efforts and work? Or are you just sick of the workplace and want to create something that’s your own?
The point is, what’s driving you? You need to dig deep and figure this part out before making the commitment to move your hustle online.
2. What’s the minimum you need each month to survive?
This is a practical question. Many of us have a mental image of raking it in when it comes to online money. We daydream about what we’d do with the money – but what are your actual current needs?
This will help keep you realistic and determine the necessary things you need to do to get to that point first – because you can dream but if you can’t keep rent or make enough to feed yourself a decent meal, sustaining your online money making endeavors will be a hard one to achieve.
Knowing your monthly minimum will also give you a baseline to work towards in the beginning.
To figure this out, you’ll need to account for the main things such as rent, food, electricity, water, heating, petrol and any ongoing payments that are due.
3. What’s your financial runway?
If you’re starting from zero, how long do you have until your funds run out? At the beginning of January, I had 6 weeks of money left in the bank and that was the end of my financial runway with a substantial income to sustain my quest to make a living online.
Currently, I have about 10 weeks of a backup runway with an ongoing income that covers my minimum.
I started my initial baseline at $1000 online income within 30 days and then to double that by the next 30 days. My growth goal was to increase my income by $1000 each month until I covered my basic minimum. By the end of March, my income was at $3,338.15, after taxes and student loan deductions.
Achievable growth goals are necessary to keep you focused. Frequent reflections on your processes and actions can also help make you aware of what’s working and what’s not working for you. It also lets you analyze and decide where to step next in order to at least maintain your financial runway.
4. What are your skills?
This is where the money is at. What are your skills? What are you an expert at?
You don’t need to be an expert at everything – just the thing you’re an expert at.
Sometimes we get hit with a case of imposter syndrome and try to go down the route of dropshipping or whatever the latest money-making schemes try and sell you on.
But that’s not how you make a sustainable income online.
You need to sell something that’s unique and have a value attached to it.
Perhaps you’re good at writing – you could write about writing. Or perhaps you’ve got years of knowledge and practical experience in a particular area like cooking, dressmaking, woodwork or coding. Or perhaps you’re a stay at home parent and know a lot about how to be successfully frugal.
You need to identify your skills and figure out the space where you have a lot of knowledge in. This is essentially your bread and butter product.
5. What are you going to sell?
So your expertise is your main product – but what exactly are you going to sell?
A majority of people expect blogs to be free – except bloggers will need to figure out a way to monetize their content. So how do you go about doing that?
There are multiple ways to monetize your content. Affiliate marketing through Amazon is the most obvious one. When you create trust with your audience, there’s a higher chance that they’ll click on your product recommendations and you get a small percentage as a commission.
There are also other affiliate programs beyond Amazon that can work well with your content. Etsy, for example, has an affiliate program that pays 5% as the commission. Target also has an affiliate program too, rewarding 4% commission on every sale.
6. How are you going to sell it?
It’s one thing to know what you’re selling. It’s another to actually make the sale.
If your plan is going to make money through blogging about your expertise, you’re going to also need to be strategic about your content.
For every 10 piece that pulls in your audience, one should be dedicated to selling a product or related product. This is because a 1:10 ratio is a good ratio without it starting to feel like spam. Depending on your chosen product, a 1:5 ratio may even work.
The issue with many blogs out there is that they try to monetize too quickly and too much. As a result, every page is littered with product placements and the audience becomes blind to it.
If we look at our own behavior as an example, we tend to naturally filter out any kind of advertising that gets thrown our way. However, in spaces where the act of selling is sparse, we take more notice and have a higher chance of making a purchase or remembering it for when we might need it.
Content that is specifically geared towards selling may be an honest review of something or a recommendation in relevant areas within the copy.
7. What’s your monetization strategy?
Are you going to start off with affiliate sales? Or are you going to try and sell your own products first?
Many people often start off by throwing everything possible at their audience without much thought, then waiting for the money to roll in – except it doesn’t. Or not at the rate they’re expecting.
A monetization strategy involves determining your audience’s response to a particular method. It’s about figuring out how to generate a substantial income from a particular method before throwing out the next thing.
It’s good to diversify your monetization streams but you need to figure out how to make one work first before jumping into the next thing.
If you can’t get affiliate sales to work, how are you going make selling your own eBook or merch work?
Start with one thing and analyze the information you gained from it – such as traffic data through analytics and search rankings through Webmasters Tools.
Figure out what worked well, what didn’t do as expected, what the differences between them are and create new content based on the findings.
It may be the way you wrote your headlines or the images you used. It may be the length of your content or inbound links from a particular place.
Whatever it is, create content so that you have something to analyze and help you decide your next moves.
8. How long are you willing to commit?
Making money online is a long game. Yes, there are promises of quick riches floating around on the Internet – it’s all rosy until it comes the time to execute the necessary things needed to get you from point A to point B.
When you have a time frame for commitment, it also determines how serious you are at making money online.
It also gives you time perspective when things don’t go as planned and failures feel small against the timeline you’ve set for yourself.
We live in an age of instant gratification and making money online may feel lucrative, it is also a hard game to play to actually succeed at 6-figures kind of levels without having to throw your entire life savings at it.
But is it possible – you just need to be able to hold out long enough to see the fruits of your planted seeds.
That’s why a timeframe is vital if you want to live your life online.
9. How are you going to drive traffic?
There is a misconception that if you put something up online, people will magically discover you without effort.
When you’re first starting out, your traffic will be at zero and it will remain at zero for some time. This is expected and natural.
You’re going to need to find channels where people hang out and figure out how to get their attention. Maybe it’s Instagram, maybe it’s Facebook, maybe it’s Reddit or TikTok. Wherever your audience is, produce signpost content there too and be sure to use hashtags.
Using social media is like putting out road signs that point towards your shop that’s hidden down a street no one knows about. To make your blog visible, you also need to be visible in spaces where there’s traffic.
10. What’s your current social presence?
Social media sill matters. What’s your current presence on them? Are you an active member with an active following? Or are you unknown to the world, except maybe your friends?
When you start producing social content, you are connecting into a space where there is already an audience. Social media is an important component of your blog’s success because it allows you to freely advertise to a large group of people.
However, you’ll need to construct a portfolio that best represents you – and not create social content based on what others are doing. This is because when you start copying others, you risk losing your edge of authenticity.
If you’ve got no social presence, using hashtags will gain your social content some exposure. The hard part is figuring out the right hashtags for your type of content. Every platform has an audience that will consume your blog’s content – but you’ll need to go and seek them out through the different threads, groups and hashtag spaces.
Growing a strong social presence isn’t limited to just the number of followers and fans you’ve got on a particular account. It’s also about building engagement – that is, how frequent your audience interacts with your content.
You don’t want to build your profiles based on numbers. This is because if you’ve got a passive audience group, then chances are that they’ll also remain passive towards your content and don’t help you out by sharing, by commenting and recommending it to others. Word of mouth is still a thing – even in the digital age.
11. Who are your coaches?
Coaches are people who keep you accountable and on track towards your goal. They help you figure out what you should be doing for your particular situation.
If you have no one within your personal vicinity to coach you through the process of making money online, there are an abundance of coach-like figures out there on the Internet.
They should be a mixture of motivational and business-oriented. This is because when things get tough, you’re going to need their words to help boost you up. You also need a business element to it as well because making money online is like running a business.
There are many moving parts that you may not be aware of, such as free marketing techniques, how to attract an audience, and how to retain and convert them into returning customers.
Business-oriented coaches tend to make you take a step back and think about your processes, how and why you’re doing the things you do – and how you can improve on each round.
12. Who are your role-models?
Role models are different from coaches. They are people that you aspire to be – or be in a similar situation. They can help you visualize your journey and replicate their actions to get to a similar space.
If you want to make money online, you have to look beyond the money itself and analyze what is it that your role-models are doing. By doing this, you are looking at the path they’ve walked and then assessing it against your own situations.
What is it that they’re doing that’s working for them and can also work for you?
Sure, the scale of their online enterprises may be on a grander scale because they’ve got more funds and a larger audience – but how did they get to where they are now?
Did they write a book? Did they guest blog? Did they produce a blog post or content of some sort every day? What’s the frequency of their social updates?
Look at their habits, their tendencies, the way they present themselves to the world and work on emulating it in your own work.
13. How disciplined are you?
If you want to make money online and in a sustainable way – you’re going to have to be disciplined. You’ve got to show up every day and create content.
It’s part of the initial hustle.
Sure, you can slow down and work on other things once you’ve got the traction and backlog for your audience to binge through. But you need to know that for the first year, you’ll be to be creating more than you’ve ever created.
This is because you’re playing an attention game and once you’ve got it, you’re going to need a way to maintain it.
How much content you’ve got matters as much as the quality of what you’re producing.
Have you ever browsed through a blog and found yourself going down the rabbit hole? Reading one thing and then navigating through the blog to find more things to read? That’s what you want your audience to do. In order to achieve that, you’re going to need content and to create this backlog, you’re going to need to be disciplined and consistent in the act of creating.
I hope these questions got you thinking about the commitment involved when it comes making real money on the Internet.
The ability to make money online is a possible task – but it’s more than just putting affiliate links here and there. It’s a process of building value and then figuring out a way to monetize it – maybe through affiliate links, maybe through your own product.
Whatever it may be, you need to be fully committed to the act of consistent creation and build that backlog of content first before thinking about other things.
Making money online is great but don’t let it distract you from a higher purpose of doing so. It’s harder to attract the digital cash if that’s the only thing you’re thinking about. It’s much easier to rake in the money when you focus on delivering something valuable to your audience.