The internet is now chock full of tutorials and advice videos on how to make money online in different areas. ECommerce, Dropshipping, affiliate marketing, freelancing, consulting – they’re all possible and there are “gurus” around everywhere now. So why can’t some people make money online? What’s really stopping them?
In one sense it perhaps doesn’t even matter whose advice or methodology you follow for making money online. Anyone can make money in any of the above areas following a number of different methods provided they put in the time and effort required and are persistent in reaching their goals.
However, it is often putting the undiluted time and attention into your activity which is where many people come unstuck, since there are so many distractions in modern daily life that pull your attention and focus on all different directions and stop you truly getting any meaningful work done.
Just because you are spending “time” with the intention of trying to build your latest website or eCommerce store, doesn’t mean you are actually getting much done. If you have too many distractions in your life you can devote a lot of time to this and still get very little done.
Arguably the most important reason why can’t succeed in making money online is too many obstacles and distractions in you life which hinder your productivity and break your attention and focus. This includes more than anything, social media and use of phones.
However, readers are probably look for more than one reason, so here’s a summary list of what we’ll cover in this post as to why you probably can’t make money online:
- Too many distractions ruining focus and productivity
- Not following trustworthy, reliable people for guidance.
- Quitting too soon
- Too many different projects at once
- Wasting time on things that don’t move the needle
Let’s look at the core issue in more detail, and also the secondary factors that hinder success in making money online.
Alex Becker on Distractions, Focus, Concentration and Productivity
Core Reason – Alex Becker on Concentration and Focus
The first person whose advice we will point to on this is YouTuber Alex Becker, who has some interesting thoughts on the one key barrier to success in making money online.
He argues it is not about searching for any one strategy or tactic as such, but simply removing anything and everything in your daily life that gets in your way.
Becker is for sure a polarizing character and some will find him arrogant and obnoxious. However, the advice he is giving is totally sound in spite of the aggressive delivery of it. If you can look past the blunt delivery style then there is a lot to be said for the points he is making.
He does come across as hateful and vitriolic at times, and this despite the fact that he apparently meditates daily. Perhaps he needs to meditate a little more! Maybe the arrogant act he puts up is just that – an act and a persona to differentiate himself from other advice givers on YouTube. I personally get the feeling he isn’t actually like that in real life.
However, if you can get past his brutal delivery style, here are some other key takeaway points from the excellent embedded video from him above:
- It’s often not that your tactics or niche is wrong. All major ways of making money online (blogs, stores, FBA, dropshipping, freelancing, email marketing, consulting) all work if done with focus.
- There’s almost never “secrets” that are being withheld from you to stop you succeeding. Everything you need to succeed in any area of online business is already out there, often for free on YouTube.
- IQ/Intelligence is not the differentiating factor in succeeding making money online. Productivity and focus are separate from IQ, and low IQ people who understand productivity and focus can run circles around high IQ people who don’t.
- The main reason people fail working online is because their attention and focus is split too many different ways with the distractions that they have in their life, and they are also often not optimized in terms of their health, diet and sleep.
- Just because you are spending “time” on a project, it doesn’t mean it’s productive, focused time if there’s too many distractions.
- See also the Sam Ovens “Death by a Thousand Cuts” video Becker recommends on productivity and distractions.
Remove All Distractions To Succeed Making Money Online
Becker’s advice is not about searching outwardly for some magic trick, formula or strategy that is going to make you succeed. It is about looking inwardly and removing all barriers and obstacles that are stopping you succeeding. It is about getting rid of mental barriers and daily distractions that stop you getting stuff done.
It is really that simple. There is no magic guru or trick to follow, and he includes himself in that. Just look in close detail at your daily life and be ruthless in the way you cut out anything that is stopping you getting work done, or making you get less work done.
This means cutting out all nonsense distractions that aren’t going to help you get to your goal. This includes things like:
- Getting off social media
- Staying off your phone and deleting all your apps. It is a good idea to keep it turned off, away from where you are working and only check it a few times day maximum
- Use YouTube only for educational purposes and not wasting time watching useless videos.
- Get rid of or sell your TV if you have one
- Cancel and Netflix or other subscriptions that are just diverting attention away from working towards success online
- Get rid of or sell any video games consoles you have – gaming is a massive time drain
- As a bonus, any money you get from taking the above three steps can be used to get set up with the domains and hosting required to get started if you are struggling on this.
And stick to the following maxim:
In order to gain something in life, you usually have to give something else up. Not necessarily forever, but for a time until you reach your goal
Taking these steps is important for a few reasons, the most obvious one being the time saved but also the impact this removal of distractions has on focus. Social media and use of phone especially represents a huge distraction and diverter of focus away from one thing.
Constantly checking your phone for texts and Facebook messenger is stopping you getting into that place of focus that will really allow you to get a lot of stuff done during any period of time you devote to building your websites or other online business.
True focus and concentration comes when you dedicate all your attention to one thing, and remove anything else. Constantly flicking back and forward between work and distractions stops you getting into that place of focus and keeps your productivity at a fraction of what it could be.
More on Focus – Cal Newport on Deep Work
Cal Newport basically argues exactly the same point in his presentation above. To get in a state of focus where you are truly productive, and producing something exceptional and of really high quality – what he calls deep work – requires devoting ever increasing amounts of un-distracted time and attention to that activity.
Social media and other distractions get in the way of this by pulling your attention and focus in all different directions, preventing your from ever getting into this state of intense focus where you can perform deep work and truly get a lot done.
Moreover, as well as being a distraction in the moment, Newport covers how the way people interact with social media can over time permanently reduce their capacity to pay attention to focus on one thing. Excessive use of social media can re-mould the brain into constantly seeking new stimulation and thereby harm one’s ability to give their undivided attention and focus to a project.
This is a further argument in favor of just getting off social media altogether. Moreover both Becker and Newport report they have thriving businesses without using any social media at all, dispelling the myth that you “must” be on social media in order for your online business to succeed.
We have made a similar point in our article on the best use of your time as a blogger. Social media can definitely be useful in internet marketing – Pinterest, Reddit and YouTube can be great avenues to build traffic to a site – but it can also represent a massive time drain if you get too absorbed into it and cross the line where this is no longer the most efficient use of your time.
General Steps to Take To Succeed Making Money Online
Here are some general pointers to take away from the videos posted, emphasizing the main key points plus adding a few of our own suggestions to help keep focus high and distractions low to give yourself the best chance of succeeding with online businesses.
- Get rid of any and all distractions in your life that are not going to get you to your goals, including especially social media.
- Mindfulness meditation can also be an excellent daily practice to undertake which trains the mind’s ability to better focus and be present in the moment.
- Make sure you get proper rest and sleep.
- Regular exercise can be useful in keeping concentration and focus levels high.
- Make sure you eat healthy food and avoid eating junk all the time.
Cal Newport’s Deep Work (link to Amazon) is a superb resource on removing the distractions that fill daily life in the 21st century and putting the foundations in place to do work that is truly creative and productive. Top of his list of actionable steps is acknowledging and removing the pernicious influence social media has on attentiveness and getting the mind into a place where it is more powerful and focused.
Secondary Reasons Why You Can’t Make Money Online
When you break it down, this core point about about time, focus and distractions really covers just about everything. Really! If you take out all distractions and develop an ability to generate undiluted focus on something, you can really make pretty much anything work online for you, be it blogging, YouTube, FBA, Freelancing etc. Even something old fashioned and cliche like email marketing still works if done right, as Becker points out.
It’s just removing all distractions to increase productivity and focus on your online project that’s key. This is what allows you to get more stuff done more quickly, which means you get the feedback loops you need to adjust and pivot (do this enough and you’ll get there in the end). You can make anything work to make you money online eventually if you stick at it long enough and with enough focus.
However, let’s also look at some secondary reasons which can also stop you making money online. Again, we’ll keep these as broad, high level, overarching principles rather than low level minutiae.
1. You’re Not Following The Right People
Whatever avenue you are trying to make money online, you need to make sure you are following the right people who are teaching you the right thing, and approach the topic with integrity and honesty and a genuine desire to help people improve and do well for themselves.
Look for honest, trustworthy people who aren’t selling you BS or unrealistic pipedreams about being rich in 30 days, and not promoting “crash and burn” business models that might make money for a year or two but not not any longer. You really need integrity when following someone online, someone who really wants their audience to succeed, and not just sell them expensive courses.
Here are a couple of my recommendations (I don’t know about all niches/areas):
Blogging – This is my area of specialty, and I can tell you that Income School are the undisputed guys to follow here, with a honest, down to earth approach that helps people monetize their interests into blogs and make a full time income. There is huge integrity in their approach and no BS. Just binge watching their free YouTube videos is plenty enough to get started (it’s what I used to get started in 2018), and if you can afford it, their Project 24 program (affiliate link) will get you to success with blogging even sooner.
YouTube – Income School are again good on this, and their Project 24 program has a specific module on YouTube if this is the route you to go instead of blogging, but their spin off Channel Makers YouTube channel is also excellent if video rather than blogs is how you want to make money online. Again strong integrity and no BS in their approach.
Freelancing – Brett Dev is someone I really warm to in this field, again a completely honest, mature and down to earth approach in how to succeed in freelancing online. Also Vlogs a lot on the digital nomad lifestyle, but especially on the pitfalls to avoid when trying to make money online. See here YouTube channel to get started, and he also has a freelancing masterclass course.
Consulting – I haven’t got massively into this, but Sam Ovens is a credible resource on this, very much along the same lines as Alex Becker in terms of productivity and time management, and an expert in consulting having built up a multi-million dollar business. See his website here, and his YouTube channel
Facebook Ads Shopify Store or SaaS online businesses – Alex Becker is good on this, having built several large online businesses, and he did have courses specifically on building Shopify stores that used well targeted Facebook ads to drive traffic to them. I don’t know if he still does this.
2. Quitting Too Soon
This is another key overarching reason why people fail in making money online – they just quit too soon. In some cases, they quit right when their business would have taken off, or sell their website and miss out on all potential! Other times it just feels like too much of a slog, and it’s just easier to give in and go back to the Netflix or the video games (see the core point above – distractions!).
When building any kind of business online, you need to be patient and wait and work for your results. There is no quick fix. It requires persistent effort and dedication, and usually sacrifice of other things as well.
This is definitely true of blogging, my specialty – on a new site, you can expect to wait up to 9 months for new content to rank. So you’re usually looking at a year minimum to make any kind of serious money, possibly two years, even if you do everything right. It took me 3 years blogging before I could quit my job and support myself doing just this, so there was a long slog to get there.
But I’m sure the same is true for any other type of online business. If you’re freelancing, you have to spend time building up a client base, and to build that base and trust (and positive reviews) up, you might to start out working for next to nothing, massively underselling yourself, just to get some traction. YouTube channels take time to build an audience. Drop-shipping stores also take time to get going. To do well at consulting, you need to build up trust and a reputation, and this will take time and possibly working for nothing or next to nothing initially.
Whatever line of work you’re trying to make money online with, you need to be prepared to wait for at least 1-2 years (sometimes more) to see significant results. You need to devote that much of your life to it if you’re really serious about it.
3. Too Many Different Projects
This needs including because it’s a common mistake for internet marketing newbies especially – splitting your attention into too many different projects, the so called Shiny Object Syndrome.
We often start something, but then soon after something else catches our eye, perhaps the latest fad in making money online, and we lose focus and start something up on that as well. Before we know it, we’ve got too many projects on the go, none of which are getting the attention they deserve, and so we end up with a bunch of online businesses, none of which get off the ground because we couldn’t give them enough time.
To succeed making money online, at least in the early days, you really need to focus on one project only until it is successful. After that, you can branch out and do other stuff, but only when your first project is successful.
I’m not going to say there isn’t someone who’s bucked this trend – of course there will be people who’ve been successful even starting up multiple projects – but to keep the percentages in your favor, I advise you to keep it to one project at the start until you gain some success. Especially considering the focus part we covered above as the core point – having too many projects is just another way of pulling your focus in all different directions, and reducing your overall effectiveness.
4. Wasting Time On Stuff That Doesn’t Move The Bar
This is another mistake that often comes from following the wrong people – messing around on something that some “guru” is telling you is important, but actually really doesn’t move the bar. It’s not a “90% action”. It doesn’t get you to success.
It’s important to focus on broad, overarching, core principles that are going help you succeed making money online, and not get caught up in small details that don’t move the bar.
Every niche of online work will have this, but for me in blogging, I know there’s a whole load of time wasting teaching people about “keyword research tools”, “social media”, “SEO tricks/plugins”, “sitemaps” etc, when the bottom line is that the best way to succeed with blogs is just to write good, helpful content for well targeted keywords. That’s it! Focus on that and everything else takes care of itself.
Find those same few overarching principles in your area of making money online, and stick at them long enough, and you won’t fail. Also look to follow people that stick to these core overarching principles, and don’t get caught up in small stuff that doesn’t move the needle.