After reading your favorite lifestyle blogs, trawling social media posts, scoping YouTube videos on passive income, and pouring over income reports, you may be wondering “is being an online entrepreneur worth it”?
The optics of online entrepreneurism tend to focus on the riches and rewards that can be gained for founding or operating a digital business.
Being an internet entrepreneur certainly overlaps with aspirational lifestyle choices like remote working, working while traveling or the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement.
The concept of financial freedom is enticing and draws many would-be entrepreneurs who are seeking to change or improve their quality of life.
However, the reality is hard work, delays and hurdles, frequent failures and a steep, unrelenting climb to establish something viable and, more often than not, a fight on your hands to maintain it.
Despite the challenges, in this article I hope I can set out my case for why being an online entrepreneur is well worth it. I hope you will join me in exploring:
- the benefits of online entrepreneurism that make it worthwhile
- the motivations for running an online business that may just mean that it is worth giving it a go
- your main options for starting an internet-based venture
and also some interesting examples of everyday people from around the web who are doing online entrepreneurship in their own way.
I'd love to tell you that I'm writing this from my sun lounger in Bali with sand between my toes, but the reality is very different.
I'm still at home, surrounded by my family and working from my kitchen table. But when you think about it, I am an online entrepreneur.
My hours are crazy long, the golf course is still farther away than I would like, and sometimes I feel that I am at the mercy of the next Google Algorithm update or Amazon Affiliates change.
But do I think it's worth trying it? Of course I do!
As an online entrepreneur with a portfolio of sites, I am thankful that I have more than exceeded my dream of eclipsing an employment salary through growing passive income streams through affiliate marketing. Being the owner of growing online businesses means that I have been able to not only upscale what I do, but also expand into new niches and marketing techniques, building a cracking team to assist me in effecting my vision.
When I was starting out, the road ahead seemed really uncertain, but three years later it can be hard to believe how far I and my family have come.
And yes, I would have to say that the sacrifices that were part of my journey to becoming an online entrepreneur have been well worth it.
Take a look at one of the highlights of my journey, when I finally handed in my resignation letter and quit my job:
What is an online entrepreneur?
Online or internet entrepreneurs are individuals who found or own businesses and enterprises that are primarily internet-based.
When you hear the term “online entrepreneurs” big hitters like Larry Page, Pat Flynn, or Mark Zuckerberg probably pop into your head, but in fact, the range of internet company founders is incredibly diverse with plenty of room for people like you and me.
One of the key qualities that online entrepreneurs have in common, whatever their earnings or level of success, is their ability to identify a niche in the online space and develop an audience or user base which can be served profitably.
Entrepreneurs are the people who take the risk and put in the hard graft to get an online venture off the ground.
They start with nothing and usually put in their own time and investment to make their venture viable. But if they succeed, the rewards are theirs to enjoy.
Being an online entrepreneur is worth it when you consider the benefits
I think there are awesome benefits to taking that first step to building a business online.
Almost anyone can identify with one of these benefits which each in their own way resonates with the deeper motivations for starting a business that includes family commitments, life events changes, and the search for a better quality of life.
Not everyone is in the game for a shed-load of money, many entrepreneurially minded individuals simply like this way of working and being productive.
Lori Greiner, the entrepreneur of Shark Tank fame, describes entrepreneurs as “the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week”, and I am inclined to agree.
I've found that once you are really sure that being an online entrepreneur is worth it, you'll put in the hours and take the hard knocks to get there. Now, let's take a look at those advantages of being an online entrepreneur.
1. Be you own boss
If you are interested in departing from the 9 to 5 lifestyle or have hit a ceiling in your career progression, you may be thinking about stepping away from employment and pursuing your own ventures where you can work on your own terms.
And you know what, you're not alone. Well over 50% of people aged 18 to 64 years surveyed by the OECD in 2015 agreed that they would rather take a risk and build their own business than work for someone else.
Being your own boss is within reach because the internet has made it easier than ever to start up a new business.
Overheads are low, meaning that a considered business plan can be readily executed online without the contractual tie-ins and debts that come with a bricks and mortar enterprise.
Better still, the door is still wide-open for an innumerable number of online business ideas, without regulation, membership fees or red tape.
So more and more people are taking the self-determining step of becoming an online entrepreneur.
2. Own an asset
In our current global economy it is becoming harder and harder for people to own physical assets.
Assets are really important because they are things that you own that can be used to produce a positive economic value.
Houses, businesses, classic cars, even parking spaces are classed as assets, but you find that offline, you need to pay increasing amounts of cash or take out a mortgage or loan to make them yours.
If you ask me, online entrepreneurship provides one of the fastest ways of creating and owning your own assets.
Digital assets like websites are online real estate and can change hands for eye-watering sums.
My Digital assets:
- Site One 80K +
- Site Two ( Service site ) 25K +
- Site Three 25K +
- Site Four 20K +
- Site Five 40K
- Site Six 4K
- Site seven 3K
- Site Eight 1k
Plus over 30k sold in the past 12 months
All those assets built up over the past 36 Month. Which is insane to think about. I don't know another ( Legal ) business that could do that without a lot of cash investment or luck.
For example, affiliate marketing websites that perform well and generate significant commissions and advertising fees carry an authentic value that can, should you wish, be converted into cash.
This is why people all over the world wide web are buying and selling websites and even aged domains, to generate passive income for themselves and accrue value that can be exchanged for that house, car or boat you have been dreaming of.
3. Create your own schedule
When I started out in affiliate marketing, it did not feel like I was in control of my own schedule at all!
Working at my desk at the edges of the day then heading over to my job was an exhausting rollercoaster of a ride.
However, those late nights and early mornings were an investment for the freedom I enjoy now I am working for myself full-time.
Though my working hours can still be intense, I can decide what they will be and can adjust them to make time for the things that matter, including a round or two of golf from time to time.
4. Exercise your creativity, skills or service
There is definitely more than enough room in online entrepreneurism to play to strengths. After all, entrepreneurism is about building something of recognizable value and opportunity.
When you want to build a business based on the things you are passionate about, the internet is able to assist you in reaching a like minded audience who will appreciate what you have to share.
It's not all heart though, learning the key skills and strategies that you will need to effectively reach and secure an audience are critical to the success of your venture.
5. Learn new skills
If you think you are done learning as an online business owner, the journey to becoming an online entrepreneur will provide you a suitably rude awakening.
Developing and accelerating an online business will require a broad skill set including copywriting, graphic design, photography, digital marketing, accountancy, SEO, and more. Your organizational skills get an upgrade too!
Unless you can afford to outsource everything there are very few people who won't have to learn some new skills.
One of the great things about online entrepreneurship is that the rule book has not yet been written.
This means that you become a lifelong learner, sharing that journey to business ownership with fellow bloggers, YouTubers, and affiliate marketers who are looking for more innovative ways of getting their products and services to a wider audience and making their businesses more profitable.
I have been learning the art of email copywriting. Which is totally different from blog writing. I'm using and learning all about Convertkit which is helping me build a targeted online audience.
Fellow entrepreneurs and creatives are really great at sharing what they know, meaning you can learn from fellow business owners who are usually willing to share their successes and failures.
6. Accelerate your financial growth
If you read the online income reports of successful bloggers and affiliate marketers, like Spencer Haws or Pat Flynn, you will be able to see just how much money that can be made through internet entrepreneurship.
It may not be the big boy billions of Bezos or Musk but within a relatively short period of time a family can find themselves making life-changing sums of money.
And it's not just down to chance either. By learning and implementing key affiliate marketing techniques and strategies you can quickly find yourself with highly profitable websites that can be the platform to meeting big financial goals.
7. Enjoy passive income
Passive income is one of the enduring fruits of successful online entrepreneurism. This is income that is being generated and in some cases even grown without you having to lift a finger.
Evergreen content, useful software and classic ebooks sell and sell long after your marketing efforts have waned. Some of my earliest websites are still generating sales even though they haven't been touched for ages.
I explain more about passive income in my article ”Why is passive income such a swear word?”.
8. Establish a legacy
Aside from assets and cash money, entrepreneurism is about building something that others can benefit from too.
A lot of husbands and wives relish the challenge of taking on their projects together and seeding what may become a long-term family business.
You may aspire to provide work for your community or build businesses your children can run and grow.
Online enterprises are a tool that you can use to establish a long-term vision for how you would like your life to be.
The great thing about online entrepreneurship is that you have so many routes to success
As an affiliate marketer, my businesses are focused on generating income through targeted promotion of the products and services of my own and other companies.
This method of online entrepreneurism is accessible and popular, and of course, you can learn more about how bloggers make money in the article “How do bloggers receive their money?”.
However there is more than one way of building a successful online business, and I am sure that you'll find that there is something for everyone.
Here are some of the main types of online business digital entrepreneurs are building along with a few examples of regular people who are building these types of internet businesses:
- E-commerce sites
E-Commerce is definitely here to stay, and running a virtual storefront is just as satisfying as having a real one.
Like in affiliate marketing, your prospective customers will be relying on you to provide all the information needed to decide on their purchases.
Selling products that you are passionate about with great service and responsive customer care can lead to the establishment of a high-revenue business in a very short time, perhaps with expansion to other product inventories or websites.
Software as a solution or SaaS is a very lucrative entrepreneurial venture that has high financial yields as you don't need to sell or store a physical product.
If you are a problem solver and spot an opportunity in the market to sell a software-based solution, you could quickly find yourself with significant sales through one-off purchases or recurring subscriptions.
Case study: Chris Smith of Swytch
Chris Smith is a serial online entrepreneur and currently, the founder of Swytch, a phone app that online subscribers download onto their smartphone that enables them to use additional VoIP-operated phone numbers.
With targeted blog-based content marketing on his website, Chris has been nurturing B2B and B2C interest in his product and a growing subscriber list.
For Chris, who has matured multiple income streams on YouTube and other platforms, internet-based entrepreneurship has allowed him to spot viable business ideas and opportunities and act on them quickly.
Online publication has left the playing field wide open for aspiring authors with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Readers are looking for e-book publications on just about any subject and strategically marketed titles only have to be written once and will generate passive income ongoing.
Case study: Luschka van Onselen
A fully invested family life has been the motivation for Luschka Van Onselens online entrepreneurial efforts.
Her journey into the world of e-book authoring commenced with the birth of her first child and over time she has established a lucrative self-run portfolio of sites and e-books that focus on attachment parenting, home education and Thermomix cooking.
For Luschka, her online publishing is key to supporting her family and enjoying a home-centered life in financial comfort.
- Courses and training
If you have a unique skill or a gift for making complex ideas understandable, creating courses may be the method you use to expand your digital empire.
YouTube is a major jump-off for many digital entrepreneurs as it offers multiple income streams including affiliate marketing, influencer work, advertising, and sponsorship.
Once again YouTube channels can be about anything and if you have a strategic approach to growing your audience, your income will follow.
Case study: Richard Vobes
Richard Vobes is a serial digital entrepreneur who is motivated by his lifelong passion for filmmaking to generate a sustainable income through online enterprise.
Richard was one of the first Brits to make serious waves in the world of podcasting.
To date he has produced over 3000 episodes of his award-winning podcast, The Naked Englishman, earning a massive following in the US.
In fact, his listeners funded a US tour which he also serialised.
Following the success of his podcast, Richard has moved onto YouTube with an eponymous channel, where he has carved out a niche in creating high production quality long-form and short-form video content on English landscape heritage and nature, funded entirely by an expanding audience of viewers.
- Lead generation
Lead generation is a lucrative online business strategy that underpins what are now global organizations like Uber and AirBnb.
Entrepreneurs are always looking for niches where they can develop sales leads and enquiries, selling them on to businesses that need them to sell their products and services.
Like affiliate marketing, the success of these website-based businesses is based on helping a prospective customer make an informed choice.
The internet is about as close to a level playing field as you are going to get
One of the things I appreciate about being an online entrepreneur is that there really is room for everyone.
There are about as many different ways of earning a living online as there are websites.
The absence of hurdles to owning a domain, purchasing hosting and installing a CMS website means that there is nothing to stop you from starting up a website that can take on big multinationals and win.
After all, companies like Amazon know that they can't speak to everyone, everywhere, all the time and that's why they work with people like me!
So you're convinced that being an internet entrepreneur is the way to go. What's next?
If you are ready to take the leap into online entrepreneurship and join over half a billion entrepreneurs around the world, here are some next steps that should help you on your way.
- Be prepared for heavy lifting early on
This is really important as I am sure that you are aware of the high failure rate of online businesses, which can be as high as 90 percent in the first quarter of operation.
A big contributor to the collapse of these ventures is a lack of commitment, realistic expectations and the planning, motivation and discipline to get a startup business off the ground.
If you want to reap the rewards of passive income and great working hours, you may have to give months or even years to your venture without getting a significant return.
However the more you invest in selecting the right niche, producing well-targeted content, and good SEO practices, the better the long-term performance of your site(s).
- Becoming accustomed to failure
Failure is a big part of being an entrepreneur and sometimes despite your best efforts you may find yourself having to walk away from a project you had worked hard on.
You need to be able to be honest with yourself when evaluating the viability of your business ideas and niches, and also be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try something new.
- Learning to delegate
When you have nurtured a new business from its infancy and had the sleepless nights and days of worrying, it is really hard to let your “baby” go into the arms of outsourced or even in-house copywriters, webmasters and SEOs.
But you have to understand that the next stage of growth after the start-up, after the survival stage is to scale and stabilize growth. Delegation is a key skill for establishing your entrepreneurial venture, and without it you are basically just self-employed.
This really means that you need to move from a position of peddling the business forwards to leading with a team behind you.
It’s the journey of a lifetime, There's no other career like it.
I can honestly say that my journey into online entrepreneurism has completely changed my life and I would heartily recommend this way of being productive and financially independent.
If you have taken your first steps or are running an online business, I encourage you to persevere.
It can seem lonely and unprofitable at the outset, but given time, motivation and the right strategy you should find that your venture starts to provide the returns you are hoping for.