Like millions of others, I work a nine-to-five to make a living. I sit in traffic. I drink coffee to stay awake. I get calls and e-mails all day – every day. I work hard each year only to receive the proverbial work-harder-next-year pat on my shoulder. Escape from the world of mortgages and school fees is a fantasy. It’s just not how life works, right?
The times they are a changing
Come to think of it, we could be anything. We have the internet. Everything there was and is to know is readily available. The internet spits out more information every two years than the rest of human history combined. But freedom to be doesn’t mean freedom from.
Life’s struggles are perennial but every drudgery has its novelties. Traditional mail is dead. But companies, creditors, banks, and advertisers now cheerfully stalk us on multiple communication platforms simultaneously. The modern battle for peace and privacy is fought by means of blocking, unfriending and ignoring. And ever so often, interest and attention spans go bottom fishing thanks to information overload.
Mick Meaney’s story escapes the ordinary. Over the years, he’s earned his turf on the digital playground. Mick Meaney answers to no boss. Mick Meaney makes money online. In the late ‘90s, he taught himself to build websites for fun. Eventually, his skills landed him a job at the UK’s largest B2B Internet firm. When he became a single parent, however, he quit his ‘safe’ employment to start a home-based business.
ProfitCopilot.com is where Mick shares what he finds is working in his other businesses. It’s a site dedicated to helping people achieve financial independence through Internet marketing. To my surprise, most of the material Mick offers online is free. And it’s damn good! Mick gets a kick out of teaching, and he doesn’t need it to be a revenue stream because he already earns enough from his other online pursuits.
But seriously, I must ask, is it possible for ordinary folk to quit their job and strike digital gold, or is that just something that happens to a friend of a friend that you’ll never meet?
Let’s be real… there are risks
We’ve all heard the story. Average Joe discovers digital El Dorado and goes from renting a downtown studio flat to looking at life from a private jet at 30, 000 feet. So it’s small wonder that so many people think that they can go from handing in their resignation to cashing in online – all in the space of a day.
This isn’t the case. As Mick says, “Sure, it’s possible and anybody can do it, but not everybody should do it.” He’s right. Making money online requires effort, self-awareness, tenacity and resilience. And each of those in bucketloads.
“A few months ago, I met a gentleman who walked away from his 30-year career with the same company because he purchased an eBook that told him ‘how to quit his job’ and ‘live the laptop lifestyle.’ It’s obvious what happened next. Because he jumped in feet-first without a safety net and without building the fundamentals first, his venture collapsed, and now he’s in a worse position than [when] he started.”
But lack of preparation and foundation building aren’t the only pitfalls. There are also those with intentions that are less than savoury. “Scammers are everywhere. They want you to believe spending X-amount of money will make you millions online. It just isn’t true.”
These stories of failure, sadly, are all too common. But that doesn’t mean it is all doom and gloom. Take heart, because they aren’t the only stories. And there’s something else that holds true: consistent work pays off. Starting an online venture is a marathon, not a race.
Hold your horses
So you’ve decided to wade into the electronic pool. Good for you, but remember: Tossing a stable job out the window is not the goal here. Compromising your current position and financial stability for a long-term dream doesn’t make sense. That’s like putting an empty baking pan in the oven and expecting there to be a cake when you take it out. Even if it’s hard to stay in a career you aren’t passionate about, it’s necessary.
If you’re just looking for a reason to quit your job, then your online venture won’t succeed. If you really cannot stand where you work now, find something similar and switch to that while you continue to work on your ‘side hustle’, as Mick so aptly puts it.
“People fall into the [pit] of failing to test all the moving parts; not just once, but continuously testing and improving things,” according to Mick. What he means is that you need to make sure your business is worth pursuing before doing anything drastic in your career. If it isn’t, fix it. Make it better.
Trial and error will save you from prematurely leaving a position that pays you. Your new business rests entirely on you paying constant attention to detail. And constant means constant. Doing this while also working a nine-to-five won’t be easy, in fact, it’s quite a juggling act, but it’s doable.
Being AWE-ful when it’s awful
(AWE = Attitude + Work Ethic)
“Everyone who’s successful online has worked for it. There are no shortcuts. There are no secret loopholes,” Mick says.
I can relate. Right now, all I know is why I started www.corporategeek.co. I love the idea of becoming the best I can be, not just for myself, but also in order to help others to do the same. It would be great if paying it forward also paid the bills, but who knows – realistically – when that time will come? Until then, though, I ‘force’ myself to write, read, watch tutorials and take courses. I offer free coaching sessions in my spare time.
Only a few months ago, I could hardly write a sentence without sinking into a dark hole of self-criticism. It could take me up to a month just to write 500 words. Oh, and I almost forgot about formatting, editing, uploading, trying to make things to look a certain way – like a sick masochist. It’s physically draining and mentally exhausting, and I think I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
I’m sure the Internet can be a beautiful, freeing space when you’ve reached a point of true success. The journey leading up to that freedom, though, can be filled with agony. As Mick says, “It takes time, it takes hard work, and it takes discipline. Not everybody is cut out for that.” Every day needs to be productive. Unconditionally buying into the ‘How to get money fast by doing what you love’ rhetoric does nothing but hinder your progress.
Clichés are clichés because something in them rings true. The value of knowing who you are and why you do what you do is one of those clichés. Understanding it, though, is all important.
Without finding something that you genuinely care about, your road to success will be hard to keep to during the inevitable times when there is very little return or positive feedback.
Imagine trying to build an authentic business around selling herbal supplements that cost a few cents to make and don’t work? You’re not only letting yourself down, but you will also be sowing distrust of online entrepreneurs among potential clients.
Social media heavyweight Gary Vaynerchuck explains just how hard it to win trust in the digital age. So often we tend to underestimate people’s ability to pick up on one hidden message: Give me your credit card details now.
Ironically, therefore, it takes a rather old-school mindset to succeed as digital entrepreneur of the future. It means absolute honesty, transparency and allowing the personality of everyone involved in the business to shine through.
Potentially never having to meet your customer face to face doesn’t mean that they do not exist. None of the principle for creating a positive customer experience have changed. In short, “business leaders have to relearn the ethics and skills our great-grandparents’ generation used in building their own businesses”, writes Vaynerchuck. It’s a back to basics truth.
For a while, it’s all about you
Presumably, you’re wanting to leave your job because you want to break free. Who, doesn’t? But many people simply trade one form of dependency for another one. The only difference is that the coalface is now in their own home. And ‘The Man’ is still watching and checking in on you through your router.
By way of example, think how it’s possible to travel the world by selling holiday-club memberships. Travel, after all, is arguably the ultimate freedom. But if that network marketing scheme goes under or tightens its rules, you’re left with nothing. What happens from there is all out of your control.
It’s similar to the online world. “You’re depending on product vendors to sustain you, so you’re at the mercy of someone else. We saw what happened a few years ago, when Amazon changed their rules.” Policy changes literally wiped out a chunk of companies that relied on the Amazon trading platform. “It was hard to watch people’s livelihood being taken away. Many had poured their heart and soul into these online businesses,” Mick says.
At the end of the day, you want to be in charge, rather than labour under the illusion of being in charge. Selling products on behalf of someone else isn’t gaining freedom. You’re only gaining a new boss whose attention is split in thousands of ways. Network marketing and affiliate marketing models rely on hundreds, even thousands, of wannabe entrepreneurs doing the exact same thing.
Your interests will mean nothing. It’s better to put your efforts into your own business and build from there.
Stay on the rollercoaster
There is no better teacher than trial and error. But there is also no more brutal and exacting taskmaster. You don’t get anywhere without hard work, honesty, self-criticism, and faith in your ability. Taking the leap is the first step, but simply jumping blindfolded into an abyss is not the same thing.
Figuring out what’s right for you takes time, but it’s worth it. You won’t get to success alone. Find people like Mick and learn from them. You have what it takes. Mick Meaney proves that with his story every day.