Yep, that’s a terrible clickbait title because it’s dangerously misleading. And that’s precisely why I’ve used it — to highlight a profound, global problem that technology has given us. It’s made too many of us believe in the impossible.
The internet has built many wonderful opportunities to earn money that didn’t exist just a generation ago. It’s made freelancing and remote working a real possibility for almost anyone, anywhere.
But there’s a rediculous misconception that one can earn money online regardless of their skills or experience? Wipe away your starry eyes, because it’s not a magic money tree.
Here are real titles from popular blogs posts and youtube videos:
- How to Make Money Online Without Special Knowledge or Skills
- 5 Ways to Make Money Online | No Skills | No Experience
- 10 Stupidly Easy Ways to Make Money with No Skills
- How to Earn Money Online Without Any Knowledge
- The Best Work From Home Jobs That Take Little or No Experience
The quick answer to every single one of them: you can’t, unless you’re talking about earning less than minimum wage doing $5 gigs or taking mindless surveys. Slogging through Upwork, Fiverr, or TaskRabbit is not a career, nor is it even a good side-hustle.
The web has made learning new skills easier, and it’s connected us a larger pool of potential customers to sell them to, but it hasn’t changed the equation. Making good money still requires providing good value. There’s no shortcut.
Reframe the question
If you’re asking the question “how to make money online” you’re bound to fail because you’re looking at a business upside down. Here’s why…
Making money from a service business is a simple formula:
- Develop a valuable skill.
- Learn how to apply that skill to customer’s needs in a professional manner.
- Learn how to sell that skill to new customers.
- Trade your service for money.
Notice how that part about making money comes last. You don’t have any ability to earn it until you’ve satisfied points 1–3. If you chase the goal before building a bridge to it, you’re running a treadmill to nowhere.
So reframe that question: “How can I build and sell a valuable service?” Do that, and the money will follow. Skip it, and you’ll be stuck with the $5 low-skill scraps forever.
My youngest son just started school, which means my wife — who’s been a full-time mom for 8 years — finally has the time to think about a serious hobby or job. She’s always loved reading and is often surprised at how many editing errors she notices in the Kindle novels she devours. So here’s a niche she wants to chase: proofreading for smaller authors who publish independently and don’t have access to big-budget editors.
There’s no doubt of a demand for it, evident by the number of errors she spots without even looking for them. And there’s no doubt she has some skill for it. But that doesn’t mean she can start making serious money from that service yet, because she’ll never get hired until she can demonstrate expertise and experience. So she’s decided to take an online course in editing and proofreading to gain a recognized certification in the field. Sometimes it takes qualifications to prove your skill. Remember selling your service is just as important as developing it. You need to be able to convince others of its value.
How to create value
Building your professional value starts by investing in activities that build skills and experience first, even if they’re not the most immediately profitable. Increasing your value makes your long-term earning potential skyrocket, so you can’t be impatient.
- Prioritize activities like education, training, mentorship, or entry-level work experience. Anything that will accelerate your learning and give you the opportunity to practice and grow.
- Invest in becoming an expert at something. That doesn’t mean you have to be the best world. But could you be the best on your street, the best in your neighbourhood, or among the best in your city? Could you be an expert in a niche no nobody else in your area services? That’s immediately valuable.
- Don’t settle for being a one-trick specialist. Once you’ve become an expert at something, increase your value by broadening your skillset to become T-shaped. This allows you to better communicate and collaborate with other experts that touch the fringes of your field. It allows you to make connections and solve problems other’s can’t see.
- Often overlooked is the value of business soft-skills. Communication, sales and marketing, project and time management, the art of cost estimation, scheduling. Even if your expertise is mediocre, reliable soft-skills can make you a highly valuable asset. Being easy to work with is as important as being good at your craft.
- When you’ve reached a level of skill and experience that you're proud of, don’t be afraid to give some of it away for free. I don’t mean spec work, or any other arrangement when you don’t get paid for your services. Give away knowledge and advice. Allow clients to pick your brain for 10 minutes, and give them the most honest and valuable advice you can with no string attached. Share your processes, your successes, and your failures. Teach what you know to those less experienced than you. Don’t be afraid to give away your “secret sauce” recipe. It shows your customers that you genuinely care about their success.
Really want to make money online?
Stop looking for the easiest ways to make it. Easy is cheap. Instead, find something difficult to do, and learn to do it well. It’s really that simple.