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How to Make Money on the Internet

How to Make Money on the Internet

When it comes to working online and making money on the internet, most discussions tend to look at specific tactics.

How do you set up a mailing list? How can you get a merchant account? And so on.

The answers to these questions may be useful, but you can learn about them elsewhere, and I thought it would be helpful to take a step back and look at something higher-level.

Fundamentally, how do you make money on the internet?

I’ve been making my living online for more than a decade now. The specific projects I work on have changed over the years (and may change again), but I can’t imagine not doing something that pays the bills through online work.

There are essentially two broad approaches to working online: you can either profit from an inefficiency in the marketplace, providing a solution to a problem someone else should have fixed, or you can make something valuable and share it with the world.

For the first 5+ years of earning all of my income through online projects, I focused on profiting from inefficiencies in the marketplace. In my case, this meant things like selling on eBay during its early days, when it was a seller’s market and high profit margins were normal. (Things changed later on.) Then it was playing an arbitrage game with Google Adwords and Adsense, profiting a small amount, many times over, from the split between the two. (Again, things changed later on.)

There was nothing wrong with these projects, but they also weren’t very exciting. I didn’t go to sleep at night thinking about how my business would help people the next day. For a while, that was OK, because I was involved in plenty of other things that were at least somewhat helpful. But as time went by, I felt challenged to contribute in a greater way, so I began to shift to the second approach: making something valuable and sharing it with the world.

I’m writing my next book all about unconventional entrepreneurs, and the topic of value has been coming up in many of the interviews. Value is something that is frequently mentioned, but rarely analyzed. What is value, actually? Your definition may vary, but I think of it like this:

Value means helping people.

With this definition in mind, you can easily find the most important principle of making money online: be incredibly helpful. Be useful. Provide something valuable, and people will be eager to support your work.

In any kind of business, the marketplace—i.e., your customers—decides what is valuable and what isn’t. You may think you are offering something highly valuable, but if it doesn’t get the response you hope for, you’ve probably got the value part wrong somewhere. (This can be different for non-commercial art, since you can make valuable work that may not be recognized commercially. But in business, the market decides what value is and how it should be rewarded.)

If you keep the focus on helping people, regardless of what kind of project it is, you’re off to a good start. There’s just one more important thing to keep front and center before we go on to more details:

To make money on the internet, you just need something to sell, someone who wants to buy it, and a way to get paid.

This short list is really all you need. Don’t get hung up on anything else! I share this concept frequently, because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all kinds of other questions, ideas, and concerns that are completely irrelevant. You don’t need to borrow money, you don’t need write a 60-page business plan that no one will ever read, and you certainly don’t need to wait until everything’s perfect before you get started.

Again, you just need:

a. Something to sell (a product or a service)
b. Someone who wants to buy it (your target market, which is hopefully more than one person)
c. A way to get paid (you can solve this problem in two minutes by opening a PayPal account from almost any country in the world)

***

In addition to these two core concepts, here are some additional principles that may be helpful to you.

Figure out what people want, and find a way to give it to them.
You can sometimes do this through surveys, directly asking your prospects or existing customers what they want, then making it for them. It also helps to relate your offer to core emotional needs. Most of us want more love, money, acceptance, freedom, and purpose. Similarly, we want less stress, worry, and hassle. Give people more of what they really want or take away something they don’t want, and you’re halfway there.

Instead of selling, issue invitations.
Most of us like to buy, but we don’t like to be sold. Therefore, treat your customers with respect, and don’t try to sell them all the time. One of the easiest, most helpful things you can do is make it clear who your product or service is NOT for. This kind of filtering helps you as much as anyone else, because it’s never good in the long-run to sell the wrong thing to the wrong person. Be clear about the benefit you provide, and make a good offer, but don’t push.

Language has consequences, so carefully consider your words. Be deliberate about how you describe your offer—the words you use matter. For example, I always advise information publishers to avoid words like “ebook.” When you say you have an ebook, you automatically create the impression of low perceived value. Don’t sell ebooks! Sell guides, manuals, blueprints, strategy plans, or whatever you want to call them… but if you sell an ebook, be prepared for a lot of consumer resistance.

That’s an example of what not to do. It’s also important to clearly communicate a vision for your project, and how the project will benefit customers. In my work I try to communicate a sense of scale, community, and meaningful independence. That’s why I have a small army of remarkable people. That’s why we talk about empire building and world domination. Not everyone likes these phrases, which is a good sign—as Bill Cosby put it, “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone.”

Maintain a balance of free and paid work. Since beginning AONC, I’ve maintained a balance of doing at least 80% of my work for free, with only 20% or less for sale. (I am actually way over the balance on the free side lately, but that’s OK. I’m having fun and I’ll get back to “business stuff” soon enough.) Your ratio may not be that high, but there are almost certainly things you can do in your business to help people that you don’t need to be paid for. How can you help people without being directly compensated? Megan in Omaha recently described her business plan to me as “strategic giving”—I liked that a lot.

Whenever possible, make it fun. You don’t have to make it fun, but it’s a lot better when you do. If you make it fun, you’ll generate interest and trust, not only from those who purchase from you, but also from people who just enjoy following along. The best example of this from my own business was the first Empire Building Kit launch, where I traveled across the U.S. on the Empire Builder train for a time-limited launch. It was an exhausting-but-fun experience where I built up a lot of attention and respect for the Unconventional Guides business. (Naturally, I’m working on something just as fun for the near future…)

Base your price on value, NOT time cost or materials cost. Unless you are selling a commodity (which you shouldn’t, because why would you want to compete with Wal-Mart?), you should think about pricing based on the value you provide to the customer, NOT what it costs you to create the product. The time or materials cost is irrelevant; what matters is how people benefit from what you make. This is yet another reason why “be incredibly helpful” is the most important lesson in making money online.

Side note: once in a while, someone will complain that something I sell is “too expensive.” I always reply that it may indeed be too expensive for them, and I’d never try to persuade them otherwise—but only the marketplace will decide if it’s too expensive overall. If large numbers of other customers are happy buyers, it’s NOT too expensive.

Try to get paid more than once. Getting paid once is nice, but if you can get paid over and over for something, it’s much better. You can do this either by creating something that people need to buy in multiple, frequent units, or by creating a subscription service where access is provided over time in exchange for regular payment.

It took me a while to switch to this model, but I finally did so earlier this year with the launch of the popular Travel Hacking Cartel, where members pay for access to a series of Deal Alerts each month. This much-needed transition has caused a big shift for my whole operation, as it requires a less launch-intensive approach elsewhere. I haven’t done much business development work lately (writing a book and hosting a 500-person summit takes its time), but as I get back to things later this summer, I plan to produce much of my commercial work in a subscription model going forward.

If you want to consult, just start consulting. There is no “consulting school”—if you want to be a coach or consultant, get a $10 domain, set up a one-page site with WordPress, describe what you do, and get the word out wherever you can. It will help you greatly if you can be highly specific about the kind of service you provide. The more generic, the less valuable. Also, make it easy for people to pay you—if you require people to contact you for a quote, you’re missing out on a lot of business.

Advertising is like sex. I like this quote from a Fast Company magazine article: “In the future, advertising will be like sex: only the losers pay for it.” For the most part, I think the future is already here. I recently conducted a “$10,000 vs. 10 hours” experiment, where I compared the results of a targeted advertising campaign to an amount of time I spent working on free publicity. I’ll share the whole story in the book I’m writing, but the short version is… the 10 hours of “free” work easily beat $10,000 of advertising.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As long as you’re being helpful and doing work that matters, you’ll be building trust with people (customers, colleagues, blog readers, Twitter followers, etc.) over time. These people will help when you ask them. Always remember that there are many ways people can help you, and giving you money in exchange for something is only one of them.

***

This longer-than-usual overview could be greatly expanded, but of everything mentioned above, the most important is… be incredibly helpful. More than making money, think about how you can make something valuable and share it with the world.

What has been your experience with making money online?

###

Image: Tod

74 Comments

  • Matt Langdon says:

    I imagine this one will make it to your Top 10 Articles section in about six seconds. Great advice.

  • Harley says:

    In my experience, I’m just getting started, but I can tell already that it is going to open up a world of new experiences in my life. It’s a steep learning curve in the beginning, but it’s also a blast!

  • Nick says:

    I really like this post. Motivating and encouraging. I am currently stuck in a 9-5 cube dwelling job looknig to escape. (I’m actually in a meeting right now, pretending to take notes while writing this!)

    You make the approach to to making money online seem simple (i.e. all you need is something to sell, a person to sell to, and a way to get paid). However, my problem is idea generation for something to sell. Can you possibly talk more about idea generation for products or services or possibly point us to some good resources that may help address this roadblock?

    I feel like once I have a product or service, I’ll be good to go. Its that simple idea generation phase that is tripping me.

  • The Bill Cosby quote really struck home for me. I think when you’re trying to please everyone you not only run yourself ragged but also overlook the core people of loyal and supportive people. I find when I get caught in the loop of “I haven’t sold enough books” it pays to come back to the fact that I have sold some books to people who love it and tell their friends enthusiastically and I am incredibly grateful for that.

  • Awesome post! Talking about your 80%-20% free to non-free ratio, this article is worth $20. You always provide more than you charge.

    Your posts are always insightful and I appreciate the wonderful information. It’s time for me to create a product.

  • John Sherry says:

    I think selling one small thing to many people is the way forwards. That small thing could be a tool, a solution, advice, or support but online means the days of being a big business by creating one has virtually gone – gone onto the Internet. The little things are the big things in this 21st Century technologically connected world.

  • David Delp says:

    Excellent advice Chris. I thank you again for you generosity. My products and services are already selling pretty well, and I have you to thank for inspiration… and Chris Garrett who is one awesome teacher!

  • Thank you for that great post. I always enjoy your posts, but this one in particular hit home for me as I’m in the process of creating my service to sell – AND I made all those mistakes you talked about by paying for a beautiful website that I now have to remodel because my idea has taken a different shape Lots to learn, but keep on sending out the good advice!

  • Therese says:

    Thanks for this post. You’re absolutely right; before anything else, you have to figure out how you’re bringing value.

    “Value means helping people.” It really IS as simple as that.

    But what’s NOT simple is figuring out how to make sure that the value YOU see is the value other people want, need, and resonate with (and figuring out how to communicate it effectively).

    I also love the bits about free advertising, etc. I learn from you and AONC every day: authenticity (being true to yourself) and truly having the desire to bring VALUE to others is the very foundation of your success.

  • Momekh says:

    Chris, I am a dairy farmer, I distribute birthday cakes to households in Lahore, I have a boutique hosting company, I design, and I blog for a living. In the last 8 years of me graduating from college, I have never done a job. That’s unconventional by many counts.

    I started an experiment sometime back to earn enough money through strictly online means to finance a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world. I did that mainly through affiliate marketing. Now tomorrow, I am flying to Thailand.

    And thanks to your guidance, have turned my blog around from a ‘personal thing’ to something that helps me connect with and help people out. It is already bearing fruit and am loving every moment of it. (except the part where I associate too much ‘validation’ from the low amount of comments I get on some posts) :)

    I have written my first ebook (70 pages) of how I earned my first 1000 US$ through aff marketing, because I too understand that I need to be incredibly helpful to people. The exceptionally, totally awesome thing is, I also WANT to be incredibly helpful to people. I call it for-profit philanthropy.

    Good luck for your book! And God bless!

  • Brendan Cain says:

    @John Sherry. Great point. The market changes so rapidly. So I think it’s important to find one small idea, solution, tool etc. that is useful. If it doesn’t pan out, at least you didn’t exhaust too much, time, energy, money and you can start again on a new idea. Trying to come up with a big thing obviously would be more time consuming and if it fails could be more devastating to the person who spent the extra time, money etc to get it out there

  • Maureen says:

    So much commonsense in such a small space. Wonderful post. I think traditional/historic business models made things complicated and difficult. Your plan is simple, to the point, allows a clear view of the goals and direction of the business venture, and most importantly reminds us to have fun along the way. Thanks.

  • Etsuko says:

    Thank you for this incredibly helpful post! Happy Monday.

  • Marianne says:

    I guess that if you can maintain your self-determined balance of doing at least 80% of your work for free, and earn sufficient online income through the other 20% of your efforts, an additional benefit is that you get TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT YOU DO. And that´s ALWAYS a bonus :)

    Keep inspiring me!

  • Steve M says:

    I’ve been using some of your, recently acquired, tips from your ‘Break Out of the 9-5′ product. There’s some excellent stuff in there. I’ve been focusing on eBay, which has tied in nicely with my big decluttering exercise at home. This post has some great advice in it, but as you say the basics of economics say you have to have something to sell, and somebody has to want to buy it. It’s that straightforward really.

    Steve

  • Andrea says:

    Hi Chris. Great article. I’m interested to know how you arrived at the datum that using the word “ebook” will create a perception of low value. I’m in the process of writing my first ebook, so this caught my attention. Did you survey it or did you use the word and get negative feedback?

  • Sean M Kelly says:

    Great article, yet again, thanks. My experience in making money online has been pretty random really, that is not very consistent. I’ve made money with online courses, ebooks, a music cd and online coaching. My background is not marketing but that’s what I’ve been focussed on learning on the internet. I’ve just launched a totally updated version of my Dare to Dream course, which is basically about exploring what you love and offering it as a service. How can we put a value on this is one question I often am challenged by. The feedback I’ve received has been excellent and very rewarding but its hard to know what to charge, at least on the internet. I’m currently offering it for €33 a discounted price for the first 101 to sign up, its normally €99. Thats for a 9 lessons over 3 months and membership to the Dare to Dream site for 4 months. For me this is outstanding value but how can I get that across to more poeple? Cheers Sean

  • Jonathan says:

    This is just the sort of article I’ve been needing to grow my business. Thanks (: Soon enough I’ll be hitting the road with a guitar in hand and online jobs ready to go.

  • FYI There are schools for consultants though a small percentage actually come through an educational program. The Institute of Management Consultants is an international body of professionals who consult to management (which most of us do if we consult leaders). The IMC is the only certifying body for consultants in the areas of competence, skills, and ethics. If choosing coaching or consulting as a profession, it is important to be aware of the resources available to you to better serve your clients.

    This is a great article simply put. It is easy to get caught up in all the tactical and promotional hype and skimp on the core of what every business on or off line needs to deliver. Value!

    I appreciate your voice!

  • Maryper says:

    Awesome article, as always. Interesting to receive this today as I had spoken to a friend yesterday, exactly about online business. I needed some feedback on my project/biz. I couldn’t see creating something without fostering collaboration, partnership, learning, evolving, authenticity, joy, love, service, and of course, profit. She gave more than a feedback, she gave her wisdom and said just to create–the “how” will take its shape. A great biz model is Conscious Business by Fred Kofmann. It’s great to have some guide to follow, at least for me, as I get distracted by energies that don’t serve.

  • matt says:

    I am constantly inspired by the content you provide and the advice you give your readers. I agree, this is going to be a very popular article and I love how simple it reads.

    There are a million websites that offer up different strategies for making online business work, but seldom do you hear people telling you to be as helpful as possible. I really think thats what it’s all about.

  • Marie Noelle says:

    I’m new at trying to make money online. I have been blogging for a while but I wasn’t trying to monetize my blogs in the past.

    I started a new blog 2 months ago and plan to monetize this one. I use affiliate programs for now while working on something of my own (ebook/workbook/digital product… I’m not sure yet).

    I worked as a manager in the hospitality industry for several years after I graduated and my friends said I should start a consulting business online, to help businesses with customer services or anything else… however, I don’t feel really comfortable doing it. For now, I’m helping people for free when they request my help…
    Your post inspired me… maybe I shouldn’t be so shy about offering a paid service instead of telling people they can contact me if they need something… helping them and not getting anything in return…

  • I really like the talk of value. I was speaking with a friend the other day who’s really struggling with his business. As I am working on career coaching he asked for my help. The biggest issue I found with him is value. He’s a photographer and even though everyone “loves his photos” no one will pay for them (not even me). And he’s right – his photos are great! But the value is very low on what he sells. Throughout our conversation he started to realize that his value isn’t in high quality photos, but in creating a fun experience that the photos remind people of.

    I’m bookmarking this one. There is so much gold in this post it needs to be read over and over again.

  • Nancy says:

    I loved this! Centering a business around helping people and giving away time for community benefit is exactly what I aspire to. Thanks, Chris!

  • Though I still have “local” clients, the majority of what I do for my clients—whether they’re local, national, or multi-national—involves marketing or selling something online. I love that I can work from anywhere, and though finding a way to make money AND provide value is a perennial problem for entrepreneurs with web-focused businesses, I continue to see many ways for passionate, creative people to do what they love and pay the bills. Here are the two words that have proved very important for the vitality of my marketing consulting business: focus and finishing. Creative people tend to be great with the start but falter when finishing requires focus. That being said, creativity, combined with an aptitude for focusing and finishing, is a sure-win recipe online.

  • That “balance of paid and free work” is radical and crucial. For years, while slaving away at jobs I hated, I held two visions of freedom that I thought might work. The first was finding something that I might hate, but that I could spend minimal time doing. The second was finding something that I loved to do “full-time.”

    I realized that both of those scenarios were built on the flawed model of “steady” work, that peculiar idea that virtuous folks are “regular” in their schedules and activities.

    Now, some of my projects entail a whole lot of free work followed by a minimal amount of “official work time.” Others pay steadily. The real metric is the total amount of money I earn in relation to my needs (and how much I enjoy my life in the aggregate!) not an incremental amount of pay per hour or day or year.

  • Becca says:

    I have a friend, Jeff Orr that just wrote a book, called “Succeed In The New Normal: Winning Strategies to Succeed in an Unfamiliar World”. SucceedInTheNewNormal.com

    The main concept is the “we” are all waiting for “everything” to “return to the way it was so that we can continue on with our lives the way they were. The book is about realizing that the “old normal” will not be back again. It’s time to change and figure out what to do next…. that’s just what this article says to me, figure out what to do next……. thanks your messages are always so inspiring to me. Thanks again!

  • jules says:

    Good stuff, I agree, having launched one fairly big product I know how tough it is to
    be in launch mode especially as a solopreneur with no staff in the background.

    Only when you actually do one does it sink in. I think I’ll try a subscription product next time round :)

  • I’ll be honest, most of the time I delete the AONC emails I get in my inbox. Not that I’m not interested, just that I’m too busy to read. But today, for some reason, I clicked on the link and read the email. And I’m really glad I did. I’ve been blogging for awhile, getting good response and being incredibly helpful for free. Now I think I’m ready to take it up a notch, and your advice has given me some confidence to make that move.
    Thanks.

  • Michele says:

    I have been selling stock photos online, and am trying to sell digital art. I have a blog but don’t like ads and can’t see a way to monetize it. I appreciate your advise and encouragement to do things that are fun and helpful to others. I have some kindle book release plans (I’ll call them ‘guides’!). Doing it this way feels better than selling out, and probably has more chance of success than creating things purely for the money which I can’t seem to get into anyway!

  • colin says:

    Nice, post it a real pleasure to read a post that doesn;t just go on about list building etc. and actually explores intelligent angles in which to market yourself, product or service. Giving my time away for free feels more natural anyway and using this as part of a business plan is some thing i feel could use to my advantage.

    My experience with making money is minimal ,to date i’ve made a grand total of $10 but i think i’ve been non plussed with the service i’ve been offering my new angle is doing some thing a little more fun and a little more personnel. I don’t expect to make a living out of my new plan, just learn a little bit more about myself and enjoy the expereince of trying something new.

  • Chris Stott says:

    This post is a guide in itself Chris and sums up how to build something online that you can really be proud of. It’s certainly the model I’ll moving towards. Although it is possible to make good money with various methods online, running a business online or otherwise that you are truly proud of and makes a difference to people’s lives must surely be a far more sustainable model.

  • Iris says:

    What I run into is people will say about my drawings, “Wow you are really talented!” “Thanks,” I say. “How much do you charge?” I tell them. “Oh…wow. But hey, you are really talented!!” Sigh. And so it goes. If you can get past the folk who see value in what you do except they only want to pay like 3rd world prices for what you do, then I think maybe you have a chance.

    That said, since I am far from a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist & do have socialist leanings I don’t mind the concept of using your talents for helping people. My aunt used to say that after all, “that’s how you get your blessings.”

  • Jacob Sokol says:

    Great read Chris… “Incredibly helpful” ;)…

    Keep raising the bar and dominating the universe!

  • Juha Liikala says:

    Chris, this is EASILY the best “make money online” article I’ve read this year. I think the biggest problem people have in regards of making money online (and I’ve definitely been there myself!) is that we don’t treat our blogs, products, services, etc. like real businesses. We are too impatient, always try to find that “fast & easy way” and just basically.. we procrastinate. I love your a-b-c example. There are no “secrets” and “underground tactics”. If we all would just start doing (instead of “talking about doing”), we’d be so much further on our way to succeeding online.

    Thanks for this great reminder of the big picture. This is it!

  • Donna says:

    Great post- taking notes on it! More pondering needed on my part towards my business and creating value. probably time to think out of the box on how to create/market the value so OTHERS see & invest in what I do: saving their photos. Working on my mindset with money also but I love the freedom you allow with the concept of “free.” People think I’m nuts yet free allows me to help people start seeing the value of photos in albums and beyond the cost in dollars. Lots more thinking to do… thanks, Chris, for an awesome thought-provoking post.

  • You are so right about value. It is ALWAYS determined by the customer. I know you asked about how we make money online, I would like to share an experience I had last Friday in my off line business that makes the point of customer perceived value.

    I give away balloon animals for a living. People pay me whatever they feel its worth to them. Some a little, some a lot, and some none.

    When they ask me how much? I tell them that they get to decide what it’s worth to them. Then I jokingly tell them that a hundred dollars would be nice. Last Friday I received my first $100 tip. All I created was three balloon hearts. Actually it was $120, $20 in cash and $100 on credit card, added to the restaurant tab.

    I have been telling people, hey, if I don’t ask I’ll never get it. You never know who will take you up on it. I am glad I kept asking.

    Now I want to apply this same principle to my online work. Steve Pavlina made it work for him, and Rebecca Fine has been doing it for more than a decade. I know it works. So I am all for being incredibly helpful.

  • kara rane says:

    hi Chris-
    “try to get paid more than once”.
    true advice- especially in the world of Art.

  • Kristen says:

    I’m just starting out as a freelancer and I’m finding your website and resources invaluable. To a large degree, just knowing that there are so many other people who have found success in this kind of lifestyle is the most powerful value it’s added to my experience. Whenever I have a moment of self doubt and fear that I might not be able to pull it off, I just remind myself that I know I’m smart and good at what I do and the examples of others let me know that it’s not impossible. Thanks!

  • Robin says:

    I love this post.

    Hubby and I own two small businesses (offline) and they mostly keep us in bread and Mariner’s tickets. Meanwhile, I’ve got an Etsy shop that brings in some fun money, and I’m learning all I can about building an excellent blog.

    The thing I have to remember is not to get terrified at the first sign of disapproval. Thanks for helping me to remember that as long as I’m providing value, it’s okay if not everyone is applauding.

  • Sylvia Black says:

    For me, the biggest lessons I had to learn in online business were more personal: I had to accept that I was going to have to face a lot of my fears and regularly leave my comfort zone. And I had to learn that this was going to be more work than I’d ever put into anything before, and that it was going to have to largely take over my life for a while. They both should have been obvious, but I struggled against them for a long time.

  • Donina says:

    VALUABLE information. Thanks for the insight about the “ebook”. Okay, nix that off my vocab. Keep this stuff coming! Thanks again, Chris.

  • Cathy says:

    I have a nice local following for my products, but you’re right, the next step is taking it to the net and making money online. I share knowledge freely and form relationships via the blog, and give advice/life experience about starting a lavender farm to anyone who asks, hopefully providing that added value. I don’t know why the internet seems like such a hurdle. I’ve repeatedly been advised to “go early and go ugly” and just get it out there. I was wondering if you think that is good advice to just put it out there even if it’s not perfect. As always, a really great post. You are so wise for one so young!

  • Ocean Starr says:

    I sell my art online (and in real life) and over the years I’ve found two things to be most important: value and relationships. Pushing to sell is nowhere as important as building relationships and producing something of value to people. Even in art, there must be value behind the work and the best way to have stable income is to build good friendships and support friends. I donate time to beginning artists and promote people whose work I respect even when that means that they get the show instead of me. It always pays off!

  • barry says:

    I like what I heard from other internet marketers. Give something for free but charge for the implementation of it. Most people buy calendars or time management systems but need someone to help form the habit to use it. Now I just need to find the something to offer and do it. I think tho I and others already have our ‘idea’ we just need the confidence to “go for it”.

  • David Utke says:

    I love watching your methodology for everything you do. The experience I have when visiting your part of the internet has such cohesiveness.

    I understand your unique selling point, how you constantly hit it on every channel, how you keep everything aligned in terms of content, message and design, and most importantly how your online work transends a feeling you just wanting to make a buck and galavant around the world to be more akin to a social movement – this is why I think ANOC makes cash.

    OR as you concisley put it, value :)

  • charlino says:

    Wonderful post. As for your question, “What has been your experience with making money online?” — Squidoo is where my online adventure began. I found Squidoo almost by accident while researching ways to help my fellow artists expand their online presence.

  • Nick says:

    Sorry for the vampire like post, but I’m disappointed. I really enjoy your posts and ideas, but this one is not unconventional or consistent with your ideas of nonconformity.

    Create value for your customers, probably the oldest and most conventional idea in good business.
    Publicity as advertising, free advertising, both conventional ideas.
    Making money online… Really? I won’t even comment on the convetional wisdom here. It’s just a newer idea since the advent of the Internet.

    We need stronger material Chris!

    Hopefully you see this as a wake up call, you are starting to conform…

    Please feel free to respond to this comment, anyone, I am very interested in the responses and what you think.

  • Chris – I can’t wait to read your next book and I’m definitely coming to the next WDS.
    Excellent, excellent inspiring AND practical advice.

  • Sage says:

    Well-put Chris.
    Value and Service. There are a zillion self-help, business development books that take 200 pages to say what you’ve said in one paragraph and a 3-point bullet list.

    I’d add “mastery” to your guidance to encourage people to assess and focus on something they are truly great at.

    The first book a wrote filled a niche that I thought I had a unique knowledge about. This single book still pays most of my bills and allows me to travel and write a bit more experimentally.

    ~Sage

  • really one of your best posts Chris. Thank you. Adding value is important to me. I have often been way out of balance with giving away, and not enough focus on making money. Want the two integrated, your comments help.

  • Prime says:

    This epic post best sums up how to do business online. Anyone who wants to go into business – online or not – needs to remember that you can only be in business if you can solve a problem for people who can pay you for your services.

    As for me, while I continue to blog on my travels, I don’t rely on it to pay the bills. I’m using it instead as a showcase for my new side biz – copywriting for travel entrepreneurs. It’s not passive income, but unlike some travel bloggers I know who blog every day and barely get enough from their Adsense income, I have clients who can pay me a decent amount of money. That is definitely a business!

  • Patricia GW says:

    I was asking myself yesterday this very same question, and here you have it laid out in a simple, down-to-earth form. I think it’s a very practical and valuable post about sharing value in order to make a digital living. Thank you, as always.

  • James Brown says:

    Great stuff! You hit the nail on the head.. the key to earning money in ANY business online or offline is to provide value. So many people go into business a**backwards dreaming of only “making money” rather than the former. Making money is a result of first & foremost providing value in all things you do.

  • ryan hightower says:

    *really* great post, I kinda tuned OUT to your posts for awhile…just wasn’t resonating, or maybe I was just being bombarded with so much other info that’s out there….but this was VERY good, VERY helpful, some of it reminders, some of it new…

    very useful…very helpful…

    Thanks for sharing…..Ryan Hightower, Phoenix Arziona

  • After reading your post which I enjoyed very much, I am wondering why you say we shouldn’t sell commodities. One does not necessarily need to compete with Wal-Mart and there are ways of using a personalized and personal approach to selling a commodity that makes you stand out in the crowd and does not drag you down to a ”competition”. And yes, you will make more money allowing people to pay ”now” instead of contacting us for a quote, but the latter opens up lines of communication and a one-on-one relationship that is more and more in short supply in this new world of ours. This way is also more satisfying in terms of human connection and people feel that we do in fact care about them and their needs. Less money? Most likely. More heart? Definitely.

    I don’t understand your point of view on these matters.

  • super helpful mix of theory, tactical + tangible here, chris. and LOVE the colourful canadian currency in the post image! (the pink ones! the green ones! the gold ones!)

  • Kent says:

    I love that this post gets into the value of helping people when deciding to make money on the Internet. We bolted from the corporate world a few years ago and decided to give doing our own thing a shot. It’s been wonderful (and successful!) and not without a lot of hard work.

    We always get contacted by people wanting to duplicate our life so that they, too, can travel the world and work virtually. The problem is that so many people who get in touch just want to make a quick buck.

    When I ask “What need do you see exists?” people are shocked.

    Know yourself (strengths, natural talents, passions). Next, know how you can use those things to help people. The result = fulfillment.

  • Fantastic share. As a dot com successful conqueror, I have made thousands online for years and continue to do so. I suggest ambition to all of you and an honest approach within yourself. Do NOT phish and leave comments everywhere. This is prostituting out your image and your weakens your integrity. Moreover, learn how to market your product. This is key. Accountability is essential, you need to be accountable, NOT to yourself, or you are sure to fail. Having said this, good luck to all of you!

  • Jim Dee says:

    Great article — and it leverages the best part of the internet: pictures of CATS. :-)

  • Ming-Zhu Hii says:

    Chris, I just want to say: Thank you for keeping it real. Seriously.

    In a web full of lots and lots and lots of noise, and tens of thousands of beautiful people doing “the thing”, your honesty, down-to-earth-ed-ness & perspective is not only refreshing, but downright imperative.

    Thank you for being the anti-schmuck. *Especially* when it comes to topics such as this.

    MZ. :)

  • Casey Friday says:

    Haha, you’re funny “filmfortoday.com”. You say not to “prostitute” your image, but that’s exactly what you’ve done here. You didn’t even fill your name into the “Name” box.

    Perhaps it’s the opposite. Perhaps “prostituting” your image is a great way to spread the word about your business/product/website, and that’s why so many people (like you) do it.

  • Jo says:

    After reading 279 and this article, I feel pretty inspired to figure out how to offer readers something they value. The past year has been a process of paring down and simplifying my blog, eliminating ads and trying to focus on personal change. If I were to do it again, I’d probably have thought a lot more before starting the blog (what is it about? What is my vision?) but now I think the process was important– learning to write, learning what people like to read about. Now I feel ready to be more strategic– openly strategic– about how I use what I’ve learned to offer readers something that will benefit them. Thanks for this!

  • It’s a blast! It opens you up to so many people you never though you would meet and so many great experiences. One of the biggest changes, I think, is about time perspective. You start getting and creating much more value then you could ever spending time in a regular job. Though challenging at first, it’s totally worth it once you get your message through and start seeing results of your work.

  • Gayle Pescud says:

    Definitely getting paid more than once is the key to being paid a fair wage for the output, otherwise there is a constant, endless need to produce. Ideally, keep producing work that gets paid more than once! It worked for our few small guides and will certainly help with other projects in future, too. Thanks so much for the details in this post. Great work.

  • Heather M. says:

    When I read about working online, I start to feel like I need to go through a series of hoops to be successful. “Pay your dues, please the gatekeeper, buy this product, get an MBA, learn to advertise, use SEO, hire a web designer, ride the Loch Ness monster, find Jimmy Hoffa’s body … then profit.”

    Then I come to AONC and remember that it’s about giving people value. The rest is just details.

    Chris, if it weren’t for you I’d still be chasing Nessie with a lasso. This post was of great value to me: I have some big plans now that I didn’t have this morning. Thank you.

  • I LOVE the term “strategic giving.” Brilliant! I’ve been a graphic designer for almost a decade and, while I’ve received payments online, I would consider myself someone who’s really made money online. I’m in the process of shifting my model. While I still do design work, I’m EXTREMELY passionate about teaching the world personal responsibility in a way that empowers them to create the life they dream of living, while also creating more solutions-focused and collaborative communities.

    To do this, I’m looking to create a business model that is primarily funded by online sales. I feel that is the best model that will allow me the TIME and FREEDOM to then create valuable free content (along with products, programs and events!) that will really make a difference, whereas working in a service model can leave little time for additional creativity.

    This was such an excellent post with some really great information. Thank you for always being you and sharing your knowledge! xo

  • Jack says:

    Awesome guide! Straight to the point.

    I liked the tip on not calling your product an “ebook” never thought about that. But then again I guess it’s okay if it’s just an ebook for getting people to sign up on your mail list?

    Anyways thanks Chris, I’ll have to go through it all and see where I can do better with my online business.

  • Marshall says:

    Reading your stuff for a while now. Never commented before … but really like what you are doing. Something very trust-building about what you are doing.

    thank you

  • Travis says:

    Brilliant! Straight to the point and all about what the emerging economy is. Personally I think of the gifting economy at Burning Man as being an excellent example of giving to receive.

    Cheers!

  • Avadhut says:

    Practical avice to the dot.

    Being incredibly helpful has many benefits.

    If you like doing what you love and people are ready to pay for that, wow, then, it’s like icing on the cake.

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