When you’re new to the world of making money online, it’s easy to be seduced by people who understate the amount of work it takes. Following these folks leads you to believe that money magically appears in your bank account. The most work you’ll ever do is editing the photos you take at that waterfall in Thailand for your Instagram account.

I can assure this is not the case. There is nothing “passive” about real internet businesses. You get the opportunity to choose when and where you work in many vocations, but the amount of work you do is not optional.  

You are also bombarded with offerings from website brokers that may be monetized in any number of ways. One day it’s an SaaS business, the next it’s e-commerce. The following is a content site, and so on.  This article details 11 of the popular online business models.

Knowing what you really like to do and how you like to work is easily the single most important part of the equation when considering investing in internet businesses. Why is so little time spent discussing this crucial question? I can only surmise that sellers of websites mix and match monetization methods because they assume the investors have already made this call.

Know Thyself

As a card carrying Baby Boomer I missed the boat on “lifestyle design.” The message when I was in college was very clear and never changed through adulthood. Go to school, get good grades, and land a terrific job than you can retire from at 65.  

Today Millennials are appalled to think this way. They deduce—correctly from my perspective—that taking stock of your likes and dislikes is much more relevant to your happiness than the formula above.  Further, happiness is much better linked to productivity and success too.

Why is this so important?

The point is that investing in websites requires exactly this introspection. If you’re not a people person, selling physical goods to real live customers and dealing with suppliers is not likely to bring you happiness. People issues are messy by design.

One of the smartest things I read early on in my ecommerce education is that the path to success is by solving tough problems.  If people frustrate you, then selling physical goods will not likely spark your joy.  As someone who has been selling or managing sales for three dozen years, you can take my word on this.

Conversely, I was just at a terrific ecommerce conference and was able to observe affiliate marketers geek out about keyword research, black/gray hat SEO, and the proper use of PBNs. While these topics are mildly interesting to me, I’d be bored to death to delve into these topics to make money online every day. By the way, getting scale in this business is also extremely challenging as every idea requires the owner’s original thinking.

I have tried desperately to see if I can engineer a workaround to be successful in affiliate marketing for numerous reasons, but the competition is very good.  I’ve seen it up close!  My motto has also always been to play to my strengths.  I’m terribly fearful of being that guy at the poker table who doesn’t know who the sucker is!

The Grass is Always Greener

I had this exact conversation with a very successful drop shipper just a couple of days back. His business has grown nicely and he’s solved for 90% of the problems most physical goods sellers fail at—picked a great niche, lined up terrific suppliers, and is driving profitable traffic to his site. His problem is that he detests the customer service process.

We started chatting about where to find good VAs. This is always the naïve starting point of this type of conversation. I explained that a good VA is only as good as the system they work in. This takes enormous effort to create, but is massively scalable.  

Deconstructing every process to build the system also has huge financial rewards should you choose to sell, as you now have a business– not a job –you can offer a buyer. Each process in every activity chain forms a holistic system by which a job takes on the characteristics of a real business. This transformation from job to semi-passive and highly scalable enterprise is the Holy Grail for real entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, his conclusion continued to be that he wanted something “more passive,” like Amazon Affiliate sites. When I described the affiliate geeks from my recent conference, I think he realized he didn’t have that DNA either. So, his day consists of answering 3-4 hours of customer emails hoping for conversions to keep the revenue flowing.

This looks to me like he has just replicated the bad aspects of a job, except he works in shorts and flip flops from a back bedroom.

The Solution is Simple

It’s always easier to do things incrementally starting with a specific endgame in mind. Beginning a business with a discipline to design and document best practices is much easier than making the call after you’ve hit 7 figures in revenues. You also get the added benefit of constantly honing each practice to fit your exact desires, in addition to enlisting any employees and their contribution along the way.

While the Nirvana of passive income doesn’t exist in the online business world, the ability to harness online tools and inexpensive labor to build something tailored to your exact business and desires is easier than ever to create.

Just remember that all roads will take you somewhere. It’s up to you to determine where you want to end up before you embark on the journey. As always, you’re only a deal away. So make that deal count by leveraging your strengths and accounting for what you really want from your life. There’s no sense in recreating the bad aspects of a job when all of the tools exist to forever free yourself from those shackles.


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