The following is a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, where he shares tips on everything from finding the best renter’s insurance to getting paid to drink coffee with Airbnb Experiences. As a 10+ year veteran, I asked Martin to put together a piece about the realities of working online. You’ll see it’s not all plain sailing!
“That’s so much work. I don’t have time for that.” — a friend after asking me for advice on starting an online business.
Due to Facebook ads and Instagram travel pictures, the general population seems to think that everyone who works online is bringing in money while living the good life.
This isn’t the case. Working online has been the best thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also sometimes the worst thing. Keep on reading to see the positives and negatives of working online.
You’ve seen all sorts of ads and promotions about how you should work online to make “passive income” while you get to travel the world. It’s very annoying because any online entrepreneur will tell you that it’s hard work and it takes an eternity to see any results.
It takes a long time to get any traction. It feels like a lifetime before your online business turns a profit. You’re always working and there’s no off switch.
On the flip side, working online will give you the freedom to work anywhere you want and to avoid being stuck in traffic.
I wanted to write an article where I present a balanced take on working online. As someone who has worked online in various roles for a decade, I feel that I’m qualified to write about the pros and cons.
What are the Positives of Working Online?
“How do you always make it to noon training?”
Someone in my afternoon grappling class asked me how I was always able to make it out to training. The beauty of working online is that you cant set your own schedule. This means different things to different people. As a guy with no kids, this means that I can train in the afternoon and work in the evening when everyone is stuck in rush hour traffic.
What are the Five Main Benefits of Working Online?
1. There are many different ways to make money.
When you have a job, you normally have to accept your position. You know your role and you have an income ceiling typically. You get paid your salary and that’s usually it
When you’re on your own, you’re in control of how much money you can make.
Here are a few different ways you can make more money online:
- Switch up your offering.
- Increase your rates.
- Find new clients.
- Try a totally new income stream.
- Pick up new skills to make more money.
- Attend conferences to upgrade your network.
You’re in control of how much you make so you don’t have any limits.
2. You don’t have to go to an office where you have to deal with annoying co-workers.
So, I am about to do something very bold in this job that I’ve never done before: try.Jim Halpert, The Office
This might actually be the best part of working online. You don’t have to deal with annoying co-workers, a boss that you can’t stand, and a crappy desk chair. You don’t have to rush out the door before the sun comes out to beat traffic. You don’t have to spend your life waiting in traffic and lines to get a cup of coffee.
You don’t have to spend the best years of your life in a cubicle where you feel trapped. You don’t have to be surrounded by people you can’t stand.
3. You can live anywhere that you want.
A major benefit of working online is that you can live anywhere in the world that you want. Many years ago, bloggers would brag about how they were living the life in Thailand. I enjoy my hometown, but working online gives you the freedom to live anywhere you want to.
This location freedom could mean many things. You could live somewhere warm, buy a home in the country, or move when you want a new adventure. You never feel stuck.
4. You create your own schedule.
Are you a morning person? I’m certainly not. The reason that I enjoy working online so much is that I can make my own schedule. I happen to do my best writing late at night. I also enjoy training during the day, doing groceries when the stores are empty, and going for lots of bike rides.
5. You’re not stuck in a soul-sucking job.
The weirdest thing about working on your own thing is when you hear from friends who just want to complain about their jobs. We all know people who just want to talk about how much they hate their jobs. It’s probably the worst form of conversation.
I don’t want to get too corny here, but you only get one shot at life. You don’t want to spend your life miserable at a job that would replace you in minutes. You should at least try to see if you have what it takes to make money online.
What are the Negatives of Working Online?
“You’re going to work on a Friday night?”
A buddy couldn’t believe that I was staying in on a Friday to write articles about paying off debt. The flip side of working whenever you want is that you sometimes have to work when you don’t want to work because you fell behind during the week. Your clients around the world don’t care if you want to go out on a Friday night when there’s a tight deadline.
What are the five cons of working online?
1. The work never stops.
Since most online work requires you to be on social media and to be responding to emails, this means that the work never stops. You’re responding to emails while on a dinner date and checking your Facebook business page while at a friend’s place.
When you have a regular job, you can completely check out at 5pm. You don’t have to think about anything. You walk out the door and you’re free. This doesn’t happen when you work online. It’s difficult to find boundaries. You always feel like you should be working.
2. It’s almost impossible to focus sometimes.
It can be pretty challenging to focus when working online. I almost finished this article in one shot but then I got distracted with YouTube and I ended up going for a walk.
There are many productivity gurus out there telling you how easy it is to focus. The truth is the most of us will always struggle with focus. We’re not robots. We see something and we get distracted. A simple text or social media update could entirely throw off your focus for the day.
3. You’re not making millions of dollars like everyone thinks you are.
When someone finds out that you work online, they think you’re creating the next Facebook. The reality is that working online doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to make millions of dollars. Many online entrepreneurs struggle to pay the bills.
You’re on the hook for making money when you work online. You have to find ways to bring in money and there’s no safety net most of the time. You have to bring in money or else you’re going to find yourself looking for work.
4. It’s easy to get lonely if you sit around at home all day.
The major benefit of working online can also sometimes be a major setback. Being alone all day isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Most of us need some sort of human interaction.
I realized during the quarantine that being alone all day can get pretty lonely. I also realized that most of my friends only socialize with their co-workers. Going to work is the only social life that some folks have. When you work online, you have to create your own social life so that you don’t struggle from loneliness.
5. There’s a lot that’s out of your control.
It takes forever to build a new income stream and then one Google algorithm change destroys your entire business model. You can invest thousands of dollars into an Airbnb course that you created, only to have the world shut down all travel on the launch day (yes, this happened to me).
There’s simply so much that’s out of your control when you work for yourself. With a traditional job, you know that you’re going to get paid on payday. You don’t have to worry about a client refusing to pay or someone trying to pay you in exposure.
Should You Work Online?
With the pros and cons out of the way, should you try to work online?
I believe that everyone should have some sort of a side hustle where they take advantage of online tools to bring in some cash.
I don’t believe that you should expect to get rich from working online though. You can make some decent money on the side. You can even go full-time with your online ventures one day.
I just don’t want you to be delusional by thinking that you can make passive income from the beach. I don’t want you to think that you’re going to become a millionaire in two months. You’re going to have to very patient and consistent to make it in the online world.
Those are the pros and cons of working online. You owe it to yourself to at least try to make money with your unique skills.
What Martin says rings true to my ears. It’s a misconception that online work (for yourself) is an easy life… it takes a lot of time and effort to make any online venture a success.
You will work long, unsociable hours… you can’t avoid it if you want to put yourself in a position where things start working out. Over time you may be able to throttle back, but most online money-making ventures will never be fully passive… scalable yes, but free from effort, a firm no.
However, for me the upsides outweigh the downsides… that’s why I fight every day to make my online business work out!
Thanks for visiting.
You may have a different experience than Martin and I. Drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.