Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Making money online sounds like a wonderful opportunity. It is. It's also a lot of work, if you have the personality for it.

Is there a way you know that a person can "make an income" on the computer, without being a computer nerd?

This is actually a very tough question, without a truly simple answer.

But it's a very common question, and perhaps even a more common unspoken thought.

I mean, to sit at your desk use your computer and make money ... sounds wonderful, right?

Well, it's difficult. It's absolutely possible, but...

Those Offers? Chuck 'Em

First off, just throw out any of those offers you may stumble into that offer to pay you to work on the internet at home.

I'll say it again: throw them away. Now. Without a second thought.

I don't care if it's supposedly filling out surveys, clicking ads or what have you. Particularly if they won't tell you what the work really is until you've paid them.

Their goal is not to make you money, it's to take your money. And sadly many people in desperate situations fall for them every day.

There may be a few good offers out there, but there are SO MANY SCAMS that you really do have to ignore the entire category to stay safe.

"Find the people who are already doing what it is you want to do, and do what they do."

It's All About You.

Ultimately what you can do to make money on the internet depends on you... what your skills are and what your passion is.

Accept that you are an expert at something. I'm dead serious on this. I don't know what it is, perhaps even you haven't yet identified what it is, but you are a smart guy and good at many things. Somewhere in there is something that you can absolutely capitalize on.

The Charateristics You'll Need

Technical knowledge isn't really as important as you might think, however what is important is passion, patience, patience, a deep willingness to learn, and persistence.

  • Passion: people are most successful when they follow their passion, and nowhere is that more true than on the internet.

    I do what I do because I love technology and helping people. It started out as a hobby with no real financial goal, and yet it's been very successful.

    There are lots of stories like that out there. By aiming at your true passion, whatever that might be, the other requirements (patience, patience, learning and persistence) become a lot easier to accomplish and often downright fun.

    Problem is most people don't really know their passion, or if they do, they don't believe that they can make money from it.

  • Patience: with the system and with computers and software. If you're easily frustrated with computers this will not serve you well.

    Computers are computers; they (or you) will screw things up. Sometimes online systems you'll use will make NO sense, but you'll need or want to use them anyway.

    Suck it up, find a way to make peace with that, prepare for it, even enjoy it and you'll have a much more successful online career.

  • Patience: with the process. There are exceptionally few overnight millionaires on the internet - those that you think may be so were actually years in the making, so as to put themselves in front of opportunity when it came along.

    It took Ask Leo! a full year to generate enough revenue to call it even close to a salary (and that was after 20 years "getting ready" in the industry Smile). The incremental growth along the way was nice, and certainly better than nothing, but realize that most internet based opportunities to take time to ramp up.

  • Willingness to learn: if your reaction is "it's too overwhelming, I can't learn all this", or "I'm too old", or "computers are too hard" then a) YOU'RE WRONG, but b) you might as well give up now and get a traditional job.

    The people who succeed at this are people who believe in themselves and enjoy learning new things every day. They're sponges. And they're having a great time doing it.

    If you have a "can't do" mindset, then of course you'll fail.

  • Persistence: given that the growth curve may not be what you've been lead to believe by the "work at home! make tons of money overnight!" crowd, and that by definition you'll have a lot to learn along the way, you need plan to stick to it for the long haul.

    Be prepared to continue to learn, learn from mistakes, learn from others, make sure you're on target and basically invest time and energy in whatever it is you're doing.

So Much Potential, But...

I'll share an example: I have a friend who has a brick-and-mortar service business, with a good - I'll even say well above average - online presence. He's a respected authority in his niche, both nationally and to a certain degree world wide. He not only performs direct service in that niche but also acts as a teacher offering classes in that niche to students who travel from across the globe to attend.

There is a huge opportunity for this person to make money online by offering information and products related to the niche. So much so that he could probably double his current earnings by allocating maybe 10% of his time to the online business. (Continuing to offer and teach the service is his passion, and that's not to be ignored).

Double your money for a 10% investment of only time - everything else is already set up to succeed. And yet - the persistence isn't there. The desire, the patience to a large degree, the willingness to learn, and most certainly the passion are all in place. But without persistence, without the commitment to seeing it through, this opportunity goes by the wayside.

More internet business fail than succeed, and I'm convinced it's not because they're the wrong business (though very often they are), but more often it's that one of the essential characteristics I've outlined - passion, patience, patience, a deep willingness to learn, and persistence - is missing.

It Can Work

So, with all that as a rather gloomy setup, I'm here to tell you that it absolutely can work. I, and others, are proof.

But like all successful ventures, it's hard work.

The fact that you might do it at home, and all you appear to be doing is typing at a computer makes no difference. I'll say it again: if you're going to be successful it's hard work.

Internet-based solo opportunities boil down to:

  • Content sites: sites like Ask Leo! that are authoritative on a subject that people are looking for help or information on. Tech is an easy example, but it applies to a gazillion different markets and niches - you'd be shocked.

  • Information products: sites that sell ebooks, checklist, videos, audios, and what not on a topic. Larger examples also sell online webinars (a seminar where attendees use their computers to access), and even in-person events.

  • Selling physical product. This is the most difficult I think, but again possible. My wife and I ran a doll shop and over 14 years we watched our business shift from 90% in-store to 90% on-line.

You'll often see businesses doing all three in some form or another with a tendency to focus on one as the primary revenue stream - the others often exist to support that.

More Business Models

One approach is where you set yourself up as a contractor or more correctly a freelancer and take on individual projects in your area of expertise for things that can be delivered online. A good overview with links to the sites that manage the hookup: Top 5 Freelance Sites.

The Internet Patrol has a reasonable outline of how one goes about setting up a "content site", attracting visitors and making money from ads: How to Make Money on the Internet. It's what I do, but applies to all sorts of areas. ( is a good friend of mine).

Creating and Selling Information Products is a $19 DVD of a webinar (an online presentation - web version of a seminar) discussing and answering peoples questions on how to create and sell information products by Cathy Stucker, "The Idea Lady". Basically this is capturing what you know in electronic book, audio, or video form and selling it. (Cathy's another friend of mine.)

I don't know this author, but the book was recommended by one of my other pals: "Get Paid For Who You Are" - Looks good on the surface.

What The Internet Is About

Finally, one bit of wisdom from my good friend who runs Ask The Builder: people go to the internet for one of exactly two reasons: pleasure or pain. They're either seeking pleasure and entertainment, or they're in pain seeking something that will take the pain away. It's that later category where opportunity lies. If you can position yourself as a credible, reliable resource that can remove someone's pain, they will come knocking at your virtual door.

Computers cause pain. Around 1,500,000 people knock on my door each month.


This article is actually taken from an email that I wrote several months ago to a good friend who asked this question. In reviewing it for publication here I also noted something else that's great to have to help you be successful online: a peer group.

Shortly before Ask Leo! started I joined a mastermind group for internet entrepreneurs. Indeed, I can trace the beginnings of Ask Leo! to my membership and the ideas that were raised in that group. In fact the first Ask Leo! question was submitted by a member of that group.

Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. Learn from them. Listen to them. Take advice from them.

Find the people who are already doing what it is you want to do, and do what they do.

It's still hard work - but your chances of success go up dramatically when you have knowledgeable help that you're willing to learn from.

Article C4695 - January 7, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

January 7, 2011 1:16 PM

You talk about "Internet-based solo opportunities". How would catagorize services or cloud services? For example, I use a site where you can pay for an account and create (professional) online surveys. This site was probably made by a team of programmers, but maybe there are things one programmer could do on his own?

Oh, I'm sure you can but it's very easy to underestimate the effort required. Are you ready to fix things when they break? 24 hours a day? How will people reach you for support? How will you promote this? There's a TON of things to think about - when on your own you need play every roll. It's doable, but a lot of work.

January 11, 2011 4:18 PM

The two most basic items necessary for business success are Passion and Capitalization. And even under-capitalization in the short term does not necessarily determine failure. But without Passion, failure is almost guaranteed. For good reason you specified the difference between Passion and Persistence, but they're basically Cause & Effect.

The passion needs to be so great that your persist in spite of the pain. Failure is not even a consideration to worry about. One may fail, but it will come as a shock. And even then, Passion may force another attempt, this time to succeed. Or fail.

I'm reiterating what you've said, Leo, but trying to make the point that Passion is not simply a positive attitude or simple determination. It's a decision to Do or Die Trying, and the dying isn't even much of a consideration if that's what happens.

By the way, I did proof read this and saw my mistake in "your persist". I decided to leave it as an example of the futility of spell checkers.

Jerome Bush
January 11, 2011 4:58 PM

Hey, Mike! Did you also notice that you separated "proofread"? It's very difficult (at least for me) to notice our own errors.

Walter Willaert
January 12, 2011 1:02 AM

I have a suggestion to all wannabe Zuckerbergs. Put up a website, no matter what, and fill it with ads, the more the better. Disguise links as ads, ads as ads, text as ads, ads as text, and somewhere deep down the promised item your readers are interested in. Nowadays, when I open an interesting homepage, I first have to cut my imaginary machete through a jungle of ads, sometimes they are put in the middle of the text I’m reading. If it concerns a free download, I have to struggle through three or more other lookalike download icons. It’s really annoying and sometimes disgusting what they do with their homepages. Do they really expect I’ll click on all these ads to fill their wallets? It’s become a bubonic plague and should be considered worse than pornography on the web.

Carol Putman
January 12, 2011 12:17 PM

I agree with Walter! The worst are the ads disguised as content. You've already strained your eyes, wasted your time, and developed carpel tunnel syndrome from clicking some disguised ad link before realizing it's not part of the content

Corinne Floyd
January 13, 2011 1:51 PM

Leo, I started out by looking at the offers you mention at the beginning of your article. It is true "chuck them all away!" They are only shiny objects.
Definitely building an online business takes persistence. I have been persistent and patient. It takes time to develop the necessary skills for building an online business.
Today I was researching "how to create a screenshot" and came across an article of yours from 2004. It was something I did not know; and it is a great skill to pass on to beginners.
I used your article as an example on my post:
Thanks for the tip.

Harish Dobhal
January 14, 2011 3:03 AM

Dear Leo,

What I like most about you is your honest advice which makes me feel comfortable about following your content. There are many websites and blogs that offer tech help but yours is one the few ones which deal with problems the way they should be dealt with. I even put your site's link on my blog Changing Trends

This answer about making an income online reminded me of my own experience when I started my blogs and found everything so hard to do! I did not know about your website then otherwise it would have been much easier for me as well.

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