The "Make Money Online" myth

By Katharine Swan On Thursday, October 29, 2009 At 12:02 PM

As a freelance writer and a work-from-homer, I tend to get pretty annoyed when people ask me, "How do you make money online? I want to do that!"

The owner of the barn where I used to board my horse was the epitome of the type of person who usually gets taken in by these myths. He had retired early, needed money badly, and was convinced that if he gave his email address (and sometimes, his credit card number) to enough people online, eventually he'd find a get-rich-quick opportunity that wasn't just a scam.

How many times have you heard the following questions or statements, either from people you know or those you meet in passing?

"I want to learn how to make money online! Can you help me?"

"How can I do that?"

"So that's what you do — you just write?" (Said as if you just told them you get paid for breathing)

(When you explain what you do) "I can do that! Is there a website you sign up with or something?"

What these people don't seem to get is that for every genuine freelance client, there are 101 scammers just waiting to take advantage of the poor unfortunate souls who can't tell the difference. My old barn owner was forever telling me that such-and-such company had taken money out of his account, or that his inbox was full of spam. In fact, at one point he had tried so had to find a way to make money online that he actually had to change all of his account numbers to prevent the numerous charges that kept hitting his account!

As any successful freelancer knows, writing is a business, and businesses require work. As Wesley says in The Princess Bride, "Anyone who says differently is selling something." Real business opportunities — whether for writing, graphic design, investment banking, or even selling pinatas — don't happen overnight, and usually don't make you rich (quickly or otherwise), either.

My problem is deciding what to tell people that ask these questions. In my experience they are usually somewhat inept, and don't really get it when you try to explain that it doesn't really work that way. What do you usually tell people when they ask you dumb questions like these?

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Blogger Harmony Says:  

That it takes a lot of effort, time and commitment! Even if you do have some successes there is no such thing as easy money!

Glad to see you're still doing well Katharine!

 
 
Anonymous Devon Ellington Says:  

I'm no longer polite. I call them out.

If you're not self-motivated, professional, skilled, and creative, you won't survive. period There are no shortcuts.

 
 
Blogger Irreverent Freelancer Says:  

Little story for you: It was my dad's birthday last week and a friend of his attended. Every time I see this particular friend, I get asked a dumb-a$$ question about my business, always with the underlying insinuation that I don't really work. This time it was, "So how's the selling over the phone, or computer, or whatever, going?" No matter how many times I've tried to explain, this guy still thinks I sell items on ebay or something like that. I've given up. I now just say I don't sell things and add that given the economy, I can't complain as I've got plenty of work.

 
 
Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

Harmony, thanks for stopping by! It's been a while -- I hope you're doing well!

Devon, absolutely. I'm just not as good at being a hardass with people as you are. Don't worry, I'll get there eventually. ;o)

Kathy, the sad thing is, I know exactly that type! The owner of the old barn used to come out and say that kind of thing to me when I'd be grooming my horse. I think he thought my work did itself while I played with my horse, rather than the reality that I paid for that time off during the day by having to work in the evenings!

 

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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