Can You Make Livable Money Online?

Over the years on this blog I’ve talked about how I’ve made money here and there. I’ve tried a lot of things, some successful but most of them not. Because of this, I want to address the topic of making money online because it’s a major industry, lots of people talk about it, but you need to understand how insecure it can be.

Dfardin via Compfight

Let’s get the first question out of the way; can you make money online? Yes you can. Let’s address part two of the question; can you make enough money online to live on? That one isn’t so easily answered.

There are basically 3 ways people can make money online, which I detailed a bit more on this post some time ago. Those 3 ways are: selling stuff, selling services or accepting advertising. There are nuances for each of these, but those are the specifics.

The majority of people who decide to try to make money online will do so; just not very much. For instance, I’ve made upwards of $700 a month online, but over the last couple of years I’ve barely made $10 a month. I made pretty good money via Adsense on one of my blogs, advertising on another. On this blog many years ago I signed up for something called Text Link Ads, which Google disapproved of. Before they caught me & clamped down on me I was averaging nearly $300 a month. Let me tell you this up front; if you want to consistently make money, don’t anger the search engine gods. 🙂

I’ve made a little bit of money where it’s concerned obtaining contracts for consulting or speaking services, even once for a webinar on a health care topic. That kind of money is rare for most people, but there are a number of people who’ve mastered that; I’m still working on it.

Let’s go back to that Adsense money for a quick moment. It took me 18 months to hit $100 the first time around. Then when I created the website that was bringing in better money, I was averaging between $500 and $700 a month from it. Not livable income here in the states, but not a bad part time job at the time. However, once Google put out Penguin and Panda, my income dropped precipitously. I know people who’ve been running Adsense for years and haven’t hit $100. Diversify how you try to make money online; don’t rely on Adsense for very long.

Let’s look at making a livable income from a high level. No matter who you are, if you’re living in the United States you probably need to be generating at least $2,000 a month at the lowest sustainable level of living. It’s hard getting exact figures because most people not making money don’t want to say and the ones making it are going to tell you if they did it so can you. For a good comparison let’s look at athletics.

In the United States, there are around 3,000 athletes in the major leagues of the 4 major sports. If we look at colleges, there are nearly 500,000 players of those same 4 sports at all levels. If you take the percentage of pros to those that don’t make that level, you’re looking at 1/200th of a percent. To break it down further, some of those sports have minor leagues, where players are making the same kind of money that someone with a nice job makes. They’re living their dream, but it’s not sustainable. I think you get the point.

Can making a livable income online be done? Absolutely. Are the odds great? Nope.

I gave three ways most people make money above. For two of those, you need to generate a lot of traffic to your websites. It’s estimated that for every $100 you make you need at least 5,000 visitors coming to your site. That doesn’t flow into every area.

For instance, if you write on something specific and you have your niche crowd that loves you, then you won’t need as many visitors. For advertising or direct sales, you’re going to need the numbers to show your worth and make any real money.

There are companies that travel across the country telling you that you can make a lot of money creating online stores. My wife talked me into going to one of these many years ago. One lady said her page made $15,000 a month selling cat toys that she didn’t make herself. Another guy said he was making $12,000 a month selling sports paraphernalia. These kinds of companies are scams, preying on the greed of consumers who think all they have to do is put up a site and the visitors will come; they’re not coming without a lot of work, and you’re never going to make the kind of money they’re professing.

A secret to making money online
Mathieu Thouvenin via Compfight

There are also companies that sell people things like travel sites, credit card sites and the like, telling them they can compete with the big boys. Trust me, after you’ve gone through your friends and family, without a compelling marketing plan, it’s not going to work and you’ll be out thousands of dollars.

If you still want to give making money a try, I recommend a few things.

One, don’t give up your job to do it.

Two, if you decide to buy some books on the subject don’t buy more than 3 before attempting to start. So many people get bogged down on different systems, get confused by the contradictory recommendations and become inactive.

Three, don’t spend more than $500 to get started. That’s on the high end; anything more and they’d better be giving you a guarantee (which they’d be stupid to do unless the contract contained some of that fine print language).

Four, learn how to write compelling sales copy because that’s what it’s going to take to entice whatever visitors you get. If you’re going to try to do it via a blog, learn how to tell stories as well as learn a lot about the products you’re trying to market so you can talk about them. For instance, even though it’s going slowly, I’ve been making a little chunk of change from when I wrote about the iDrive Cloud System, something I not only use but knew well enough to write a pretty good post about it.

Five, take at least one online course or read a book on marketing and sales. There are a lot of good ones, and if I’m asked I’ll recommend a couple for you.

Six, find one or two people online who you know are making real money and read whatever you can from and about them. Just remember that doing everything they do in the exact same way probably won’t work all that well; you’re going to have to add your own touches.

Seven, have faith in your process but be judgmental and cautious with whatever you decide to try. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

That’s all I have for now. Let me know what you’re trying to do or how you’ve done; I love to hear success stories, and it’s possible I might be able to help.

10 thoughts on “Can You Make Livable Money Online?”

  1. Very intriguing read, just read your post and I like how you give encouragement but advised to take care and caution on your decisions.
    Very helpful information for anyone serious about living of the internet.

    1. Thanks Jorge. There are too many people telling others how to make big money online, but it’s easily not for everyone because everything doesn’t work for everybody. Sometimes people need to hear it so they’ll know that if it doesn’t come out how they want it to it’s not necessarily their fault.

  2. Hi Mitch, I like your advice on this one! I only did Google adsense once way back in the beginning and didn’t really get anywhere with it. I think you really have to be blogging at least a year before really making any money at it. It takes a lot of time and energy to get it up and contiuously work it. It’s even harder if you work a full time job and do it on the side. Looking back, I’m not sure how I did it all 🙂
    Learning from others is key and helping others along the way is a must as well.
    I hope this year is going well for your blogs with all your changes, etc to them Mitch.

    1. Good stuff Lisa. Actually, some people start making good money within 6 months or so, but I have no idea how they do it. Each person’s experience is different; that’s why it’s not always easy learning how to do it from someone else. If I ever find the formula I’ll share it with others, without promising that it’ll work as well for them as it did for me.

  3. Hi Mitch

    I think the best way to profit online is to build a good email list and to WORK it.

    That means, giving your subscribers the opportunity to hire you for your services, and even your digital info products.

    So sure, that’s making money “blogging” for instance, but not really from your blog directly as much as from the relationships your build via your email list or Facebook group. Your blog serves mostly to drive people onto those platforms.

    One other thing I’d say… besides selling “stuff” or “services” or “ads” on your blog… if you already have an established business or service (like maybe you’re a dentist or a roofer)… then marketing your content and building your list via blogging or social media can really make your business burst!


    1. Hey Donna! Sorry I’m late in responding, but initially I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.

      You know I’ve never created an email list via blogging. I had one years ago for my two newsletters, but after 10 years of articles and 10 years of promoting I never sold a single thing and decided the effort wasn’t worth it anymore. These were people who opt into it; I never added people just because they visited me (although a few times, just to be snarky, I did add a few people who’d added me to their own mailing lists lol).

      On my business blog, I figure I’m in it to show proficiency, and I can’t deny it’s gotten me a few paying gigs… though not in the longest time. This blog… once the big G penalized me years ago, I’ve never consistently promoted anything; they irked me to no end! lol

      Still, at least I was there at one point, not quite livable income but nothing to sneeze at. People need to know it’s not all that easy to do; I’ve heard of too many people quitting their job and thinking that if they have a blog they’ll not only survive but surpass what they were doing before. For the overwhelming majority it’s a pipe dream, but if they’re going to go for it they need to be warned not to give up their regular jobs until they see how it’s going.

  4. Making money online is a serious business.

    First, there is no easy money. You need to work hard like you do offline to earn money online. Sometimes even more.

    In my experience, I have earned from $1 per month to highest of $200. And it is a stretch for me.

    The best chances is when you can sell some unique service, app or course. Rest have less chances of success.

    But you do it anyway because it is a project for you. Now go make something.

    1. Great stuff Rohan! You’re correct, as hard as it can be to make money, if a person is engaged and motivated enough to try then do it. Protect yourself though, because it’s certainly not easy, it could take way more time than you’re used to, and it’s not necessarily inexpensive long term. But if you succeed, the world is yours! 🙂

  5. Thank you for the sharing, Mitch. It is very possible to make money online like you said but we need traffic, traffic, and traffic to make a meaningful one and it usually takes some time to have a good traffic which is good enough to make enough money from online.

    You need persistence and a lot of effort to make it successful one. I think it is true what you said to about don’t give up your full time job to go fully on online business, especially if you just start. It will be a different case if it already generates enough money to match your salary or enough for day-to-day living at least.

    Learning everyday from every possible resources including your own experience as you build the business is important too.

    Also, if I may, I am kinda curious to know about your experience with Adsense. Did you get a ban on your account on something because of the Text Link Ads you mention?

    1. Yes Daniel, I got banned because of my relationship with Text Link Ads. Actually, it wasn’t a total ban in the sense that I couldn’t be found on Google anymore; it’s that they took away my page rank, which was a big deal at the time. I didn’t show up in search for a long time unless someone was specifically looking for me or typed in the title of an article that matched up with what I’d written, but Panda hurt me way more than losing page rank. There are always other ways to try to make money online but I was smitten by the almighty dollar at the time and, truthfully, thought I might be small enough to be overlooked. Nope!

      Let me add this one thing. Learning every day is a wise step, but people should try learning from one person, then putting those recommendations into place and seeing how they work before deciding to try someone else’s methods. Without enough time invested in one thing, nothing ever works.

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