Stressed senior man browses on laptop in café

How To Earn A Living Online

I have been unemployed since November 10, 2000. The irony of this is that I have never been out of work. After surviving six-way open heart surgery on September 11, 2000, my conventional, go-the-office working days were doomed. I was awarded the gift of a second change with an amazing heart transplant in November, 2009, but by then I was so ingrained in working online that I missed very few working days.

In the 15 years I have worked online, I have never lacked for work and I have earned enough money to support a very pleasant empty nest lifestyle and frankly, never worried about income. We live a charmed life. During those 15 years, I have worked with some impressive startups, brilliant entrepreneurs and a host of businesses ranging from travel to Cuba to solar energy as well as companies that compete in healthcare, financial markets, real estate sectors and offer accredited educational courses.

Part of the fun of working online is recognizing the vast numbers of opportunities that are out there in the land of cyberspace, where knowledge of technology is not as necessary as many people believe. That’s right; you can earn money, gain equity and keep revenue streaming into your bank without ever personally speaking to the contractor who hires you. And, if you are active on social media, work and investment opportunities just seem to keep on coming. For me, it has been a land of unexpected opportunities, some of which have been quite profitable. 

Work at Home Population Statistics

As working online came to fruition, I began to pay attention to the statistics about earning money while working online in a home office. Check these statistics from the 2010 US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • The number of work at home Americans increased by 7.0 percent to 9.50 percent of the US workforce between 1997 and 2010.
  • Most of the increase occurred from 2005 (7.8%) to 2010 (9.5%), when I was aggressively building my online portfolio and observing shifts and trends in online opportunities.
  • Most analysts believe more than 10% of the US workforce is now earning their income through online work.
  • 10 percent of all online workers are aged 65 or over, like me!
  • Between 2000 and 2010, home-based work in computer services, engineering and science jumped by an astounding 69 percent.
  • Approximately 50 percent of all home-based work is performed by self-employed independent contractors.
  • About 25 percent of homebased online workers were engaged in management services.
  • Boulder, Colorado, ranked among the highest metropolitan areas in the US with 10.9 percent of the workforce engaged in online work.

Earning a Reasonable Living

For me, working online started as a way to keep busy and mentally alert while I waited for an organ for transplantation. Over the last eight years, I have witnessed an explosion in the number of talented people around the globe competing and succeeding with their self-employed online businesses.

When you consider that every word you read on the Internet was written by someone, you can imagine how the demand for good, Search Engine Optimized writers has surpassed all expectations. If you spend any time on your PC, you know that the Internet is the place to go for valuable research, the place to go to explore new ideas and the place to go to start, market and transact new business. The challenge is not finding work online. The challenge is knowing or learning how to provide your personal or business services and earn a living. There are several keys to success:

  • Development of a viable business plan
  • Development of a mission
  • Development of a marketing strategy
  • Establishing the ability to transact business online
  • Realising that your integrity is your greatest asset
  • Being consistent
  • Opening fluid communications lines around the globe

Each of these elements relies on other elements and will need to be revisited as your online presence and business grows. In the 15 years I have worked online, the surge in social media seems to grow more intense every year. And, that is just one component of any online business that requires daily attention. The online landscape is filled with competitors who want new business, just like competition in the brick and mortar workplace.

Make no mistake about it; if you expect to make a reasonable living online, your online business needs consistent marketing and your full attention. If you think you will get a few projects and see how it goes, you will fail. Commitment is necessary. Internet buyers are careful. You must have credentials and integrity. Once you build a reputation, finding work will become easier but like any startup, those formative years are incredibly important.

How to Start

Taking a methodical, business-like approach to earning a living online is the only way to go. A self evaluation of your skills is the first place to start.

  • What do you do well?
  • What do you do that is saleable?
  • What is your level of expertise?
  • What will you bring to the table that makes you unique?
  • Are you properly equipped to succeed online?
  • Are you prepared to invest yourself and your money to get up to speed with the technology you need?
  • Are you prepared to invoice and receive payments online?
  • Is your resume up to date and reflective of your abilities?

As with any startup enterprise, getting off the ground is the biggest challenge. In my case, I took easy to achieve projects that I knew I could accomplish with complete confidence. By charging less than the work was worth, I received outstanding references for my online startup.

Those references helped me establish credibility and gain additional work. Along the way, I have worked for entrepreneurs from Australia to Europe, Asia, Africa, the US and Cuba. The beauty of opportunities on the Internet is that there are no boundaries. Treat every potential client with respect.

Clarify their expectations and do not be afraid to say “no.” Like brick and mortar jobs, your online work depends on your ability to communicate. By being precise, misunderstandings can be eliminated before they occur and the road is paved for you to make a good, suitable living online. Your ability to earn a living and capture profitable opportunities online depends on your ability to identify and manage risk.

You do not have to be a genius to succeed. You do need to be determined and conduct yourself like a professional, even when the client has different standards. Work hard, be professional, develop expertise and the income will follow. You can make a good living online and every now and then, you may come across some amazing opportunities. Get started and be prepared to act.

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