6 Reasons You Might Struggle To Earn A Living Online

Start Earning Online – Lesson 3

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Watch the video or scroll down to read this lesson instead.

Today we’re going to figure out if you have what it takes to earn a living online.

But first: I have some good news for you.

And that is that there are literally endless opportunities out there for earning money online.

For example, I put together this article that lists 101 different ways you can make money online.

Just to name a few:

  • Designing greeting cards
  • Becoming a voice talent
  • Working as a virtual bridal consultant
  • Becoming a mock online juror

These aren’t just ideas.

They are actual online job opportunities that you can apply for today, and do from anywhere in the world.

Here’s another article that lists 90 different creators on a platform called Patreon, and how they’re making money.

This is my favorite: a guy teaching the ukulele online has 1600+ people paying him a combined $6,000 per month! 2

Indeed.

And it’s also brilliant, because if some random guy can earn $6,000 per month teaching the goddam ukulele, then surely there’s a way – dozens of different ways, actually – for you to earn a living online as well.

Now, having read that, I hope you’re feeling optimistic, I hope you’re feeling excited…

Okay, good.

But you might also be noticing that little voice in your head piping up and saying something like:

“Yeah, I’m sure there are lots of opportunities out there, but I can’t take advantage of them because of X.”

And you know what, you might be right.

But let’s not make any assumptions here, okay?

Instead, let’s go through 6 common reasons why you might struggle, or even fail, to build an online business.

1. “I Don’t Have Any Skills!”

So you might be thinking you don’t have any skills at all that you could use to start earning money online, not even basic ukulele skills.

Well, first of all, that’s probably not true.

Well, the ukulele thing is probably true, but trust me, you most likely DO have lots of offline skills that ARE transferable to the online world.

And hey, even if not, there are a whole bunch of skills you can learn very quickly to start earning good money online.

For example, a former student of mine, Justin from the USA, started out with no skills to speak of, learned enough in two months to start earning money online, and a year later was getting paid $50/hour consistently.

I actually spoke to Justin on Skype a couple of weeks ago and he told me he was traveling around Southeast Asia and had just landed his first client at $100/hour.

That could just as easily be you in a year or two.

So, if you don’t have any skills right now for working online, that’s okay. Many other people have felt like that, and they’ve gone on to build successful online businesses anyway.

You can do the same.

Another reason you might think you’re likely to struggle or fail to build an online business, another limiting belief you might hear from that voice in your head is:

2. “I’m Not Good With Computers!”

That’s fine, too.

Look, here’s a list of 50 non-technical founders in technology.

These people built billion dollar tech companies like Amazon, Reddit, Linkedin, and YouTube without being very good with computers.

All you really need to know how to do on a computer is navigate the web effectively.

Because for every question you might have, for every roadblock you might run into, there’s an answer out there at the other end of a Google search (or two), just waiting for you to find it.

So, not having any skills and not being good with computers… those excuses should NOT stop you from earning a good living online.

They are overblown and largely irrelevant.

Now, let’s look at some legit reasons why people often struggle and even fail to earn a living online.

The first is…

3. “I Don’t Have Enough Time!”

If you’re already super-busy and barely have time to scratch yourself, that’s a bad sign.

Because honestly, it does take time to build an online business.

Unless you’re waaaaaaay smarter than everyone else, or have some other kind of exceptional advantage, you’re simply NOT going to build a successful online business in only 4 or 5 hours per week.

I’m sorry, but if it truly was that quick and easy, everyone would be doing it.

So I recommend you set aside 10 hours per week – at the absolute minimum! – to build your online business.

And if 10 hours per week sounds like too much right now, or it’s simply not possible, then keep an eye out for an upcoming lesson all about how to free up more time.

Next:

4. “I’m In Debt / Struggling To Pay The Bills”

It’s like this: most of the people I’ve seen succeed in building an online business have been calm and thoughtful, not frantic and frazzled.

This is not ideal.

If you’re in debt or you’re struggling to pay your bills at the moment, you’re going to be stressed and somewhat desperate, and that kind of mental state is not conducive to building a business.

Go get yourself a regular job instead, pay off your debt, build up some savings.

Once the pressure’s off and you feel like you can breathe again, then you can start thinking about earning some money online.

Next:

5. “I Have A Poor Track Record Of Providing Value”

Let me ask you this:

If I were to call up your last three bosses and ask about your performance in the workplace, would I hear good things?

If not, that’s a bad sign.

Because the people I see struggling the MOST to earn a good living online are those who also struggle to earn a good living offline.

These are people whose primary interest is getting paid the greatest amount of money while providing the least amount of value.

Let me say that again:

These are people whose primary interest is getting paid the greatest amount of money while providing the least amount of value.

Such people tend to struggle working online, just as they tend to struggle working at regular, offline jobs.

Because ultimately, you succeed the same way at both: by providing value.

That’s what money is exchanged for, whether you’re working at a supermarket checkout, an investment firm, or doing something online.

So if you’ve never done well in a regular job, if you’re not experienced at providing value in any kind of workplace or business setting, before attempting to build an online business I recommend you go get a regular, offline job, where the stakes are much lower, and practice delivering value there.

Once you get good at that, you’ll be much better equipped to earn a good living working for yourself online.

Okay, one more and we’re finished:

6. “I Hate Working In Isolation”

For me personally, I can quite happily sit here all day on my own in my apartment, working away, just me and my laptop.

Kinda like this.

But that kind of isolation might make you quite sad and lonely and depressed.

Now you can of course use coworking spaces, or cafes, or become part of a remote team, or get together with some friends for work sessions… so this one isn’t a deal breaker by any means.

But I did want to mention it here because some people find it quite jarring to go from a busy office environment or working outdoors, to mostly working alone in front of a screen all day.

So take that into consideration before you go building the next big internet business 😉

Quick Recap

Here are the 6 reasons why you might struggle to earn a good living online:

  1. I don’t have any skills
  2. I’m not good with computers
  3. I don’t have enough time
  4. I’m in debt / struggling to pay the bills
  5. I have a poor track record of providing value
  6. I hate working in isolation

The first 2 you don’t need to worry about.

The last 4, you do.

Are you up for a challenge?

I want you to tell me two things in the comments:

  • What is your greatest strength for working online?
  • What one weakness or obstacle will you need to overcome to build your online business?

Leave your comment below, then check out the next lesson.

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About The Author

95 Comments

  1. Greatest strength – I have lots of skills and lots of ideas. Greatest weakness – I have lots going on in my life and can get a bit time poor

    1. Greatest strength- I am willing and able to learn new things.
      Greatest weakness- I have a lot going on in my life which keeps me occupied 24/7

    2. Greatest strength I am already working in an office all day alone so am well used to it. If i have a deadline I stick to it and get it done as i am the one who is answerable.
      Weakness perhaps the belief that I have skills that are enough to transfer to making money to live

  2. Strength: years of experience working around the world. Surely there are some transferable skills?

    Weakness: Age? Late 40s, can I learn something new, well enough?

  3. Claire Elliott

    My strength is the ability to create engaging content on multiple topics and the area I would need to overcome in order to be successful is time management 🙂

  4. Greatest strength:

    I do interactive design / front-end development so their shouldn’t be a problem in finding a job.
    In addition, I deliver quality.

    Obstacle:

    Learn to be socially secure when in a different environment and learn to be good at dealing with clients online.

    1. That’s a serious strength, Damian.

      Where do you think you fall short dealing with clients online? Not sure how to connect with them? Lacking confidence? Something else?

  5. Jack O’Brien

    I recently set up a Vegan Facebook page to help new vegans adjust to their new diet without cause for panic,

    Obstacle:
    Very little content to use in relation to the simplicity of plant based diets.

  6. Strength: Working for 5 years international in an “old industry” Oil/petrochemical. Having a huge interest in design and trends but last time i worked for real with photoshop & Illustrator is 10 years ago. Having tons of ideas.

    Weakness: Can not focos on one project. After I while I always have the impression that the new idea is a better on.

  7. Cheryl Parker

    I love to give value for money and like my own workspace. Greatest weakness is not knowing what my skills are and why somebody else would want them.

  8. Strength: I’m a hard-working, honest person.

    Weakness: I was laid off many months ago and haven’t been able to find anything new, so my confidence isn’t the best right now.

  9. Susanna White

    Strength – marketable skills. I have bookkeeping and office admin experience.
    Weakness – Coming to terms with my new disability. Getting past the depression of not being able to work full time away from home.

  10. Strength
    I have enough time to work online as I don’t have a physical job.
    Obstacle
    I need to improve my skills and learn new ones if possible

  11. Strength: quite the fast learner, enjoy writing and ensure I maintain professionalism with clients. They all really like me
    Weakness: haven’t gotten to.making the big bucks e.g. $10 for 500 words, I procrastinate a lot and my writing speed is really bad

  12. Shahbaz Akhtar

    I have studied fashion designing, and before that i was a science student in high school and have also won many sketching/drawing/painting competition and scored high whenever it comes to creativity.
    After several years of brainstorming and understanding, i found that,
    it’s the research work that i really enjoy.
    And i do it before doing any task (both primary and secondary) which gives me enough confident and ability to pull things and stand out from others. Even in general i like to research and study and i’m always excited to know about everything and to educate people for the same.
    same goes for the sports i play.

    Sorry for making it long.
    In short, strength:- Primary and secondary research about anything and everything.
    In terms of skills:- I strongly believe, sketching or illustrating.

    Weakness:- Confidence.
    But, i think i already took the first step.
    So, fingers crossed.

  13. My greatest strength is that everytime I’ve started something I will be fully committed into it and I’ll get pretty excited whenever there are progress on my work.
    But my weakness would be that I’ve always been planning things too far and might get off the plan in the end

  14. Strength I have time on my hands as out of work and not heavy in debt. I also have a lot of things I’m passionate about and need to express them.
    Weakness Its been a challenging year finding work and my confidence has taken a hit, but I am determined to do something myself and be a success.

  15. Sara Guerrero

    Greatest strength: I guess could be the ability of learning new programs, or software, and also in all of my “office jobs” I have done a great job according to my bosses…the Weakness, I procrastinate lots! and I get distracted easily…

  16. Strength : I’m good with computers, I can use a few programs like Photoshop or Illustrator and I could learn others really fast. Oh, and I also speak 5 languages (or at least I can communicate in those 5 languages).

    Weakness : I struggle forcing myself to work for a long time, especially if there’s a beach right in front of me.

  17. Strength: When working for someone else, or being paid for work done, i’ve always focussed, worked hard and given value. Never let anyone down.

    Weakness: I seem to struggle carrying that through for myself online.
    Guilty in past of paralysis through (over) analysis…and shiny new object syndrome. Always had the s/l belief that i’m too old to master the tech side of IM, always felt you can’t really outsource until you’re at least half competent?

    Twas a breath of fresh air to stumble across your blog Niall 🙂

    1. Hey John,

      Thanks for the comment. Given what you wrote, you might want to read up on The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. There’s a free quiz here you can take to find out what your core tendency is: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4232520/gretchenrubinfourtendenciesquiz

      Sounds to me like you fit one of the tendencies perfectly, but probably best I don’t tell you what it is so your answers to the quiz aren’t influenced.

      Once you know what tendency you are, they give you strategies for how best to achieve your goals. All free. Though I’d recommend reading the Four Tendencies book as well. I’m reading it at the moment and really getting a lot out of it.

      1. Hi Niall

        I let breakfast settle, then lay on the couch and took the test… the Big O – no surprises there then i’m thinking 😉
        Have a great weekend.

        1. Yeah, that’s what I had guessed. What would help you reach your goals then is to have some external accountability, like a group or an accountability partner that you have to check in with regularly.

  18. My strength is attention to detail. After 25 years plus in the hotel industry this is second nature. I love teaching people new skills. Love all forms of administration, proofreading, online data capture, proofreading adverts/articles/web content before going to press/live.

    My weakness is not knowing where to begin with setting up a business offering these services online. Tend to doubt my own worth when thinking about what to charge for my time.

    1. Hey Paula,

      Thanks for the comments. Those are great strengths to have. I also have very good attention to detail. And after writing that I’m now really paranoid that I’ll have a typo in this comment somewhere 😛

      As for where to begin, it really all starts with finding one person who is happy to pay you to do some work for them. If you can find one, you can find more. And even if you start with a low rate you can raise it steadily over time.

      I see your on the list for me email series so keep an eye out for the Hedgehog lesson and the one about earning your first $100. I think you’ll get a lot out of those two in particular.

  19. Hi Niall,

    I think my strengths are that I am a hard-worker. I have been working for myself for the last two years, so I know what it takes to become a success. I also already know what it means to sit at home every day and gear yourself up for waking up early and not just lazing around on the couch all day (although on really quiet days I might end up doing that :)).

    My weakness right now is that I have been struggling to completely break into the freelance world and have been able to get by with word of mouth and old clients and then started relying on that but it doesn’t work. So, I am in that fear stage at the moment, even though everyday I work towards something better…I do have that fear of, “Am I just wasting my time?”

    I look forward to diving deeper into your course.

  20. Hi Niall,

    I would love to work remotely. To be honest, I would do anything within my desired industry (design) that would keep me at home and give me the chance to travel the world at the same time. I have just struggled to find a company or retainer clients to commit to a remote worker, it is not such a big thing here in South Africa, as it is in the rest of the world but I will keep on keeping on.

    Thank you for the article 🙂

  21. strength- I am good with people and i know alot about fitness and health which is something i would like to teach others.

    Weakness- I am very impatient if something does not show results quickly then i quit.

    1. Hey Bagcine,

      Being good with people gives you a big advantage when it comes to sales. Because genuine sales is really all about making a connection with people and helping them get what they want/need.

      Regarding that weakness, what have you tried in the past to help with that? Or what might you try in future?

  22. Strength – I am able to create time to devote myself to an online job. And I believe in myself.

    Weakness – At this stage I’m not entirely sure exactly what i can do. But i need to find a way

  23. My strengths are self discipline and determination.
    Weakness is I tend to feel overwhelmed because I push myself too hard.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Derek.

      I consider myself an introvert as well, but don’t consider that a weakness. In some situations it is, of course, but in others it’s a strength. Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? That’s a great book for introverts.

  24. Strength: Good computer and research skills.

    Weakness: I am scared I will fail because I have already applied for many online jobs and failed.

  25. Hi! I’m working at an office job but I’m trying to change that.
    Yesterday I went to a Digital Nomads meet-up event (to do some spying on their lifestyle and get some tips haha) and a guy told me about your blog.
    I’m so glad he did! Honestly I’m always complaining to myself about not having differentiating skills and not knowing/being interested in how to code. Thank you for the video!

    My strength and weakness come from the same root: I have no big singular passion but I get curious and research about a million different things a day.
    Strength: fast learner
    Weakness: I get bored of things really easily as soon as I get to a good (not optimal though) level or when a major blockage appears.

    1. I can relate to you on that strength/weakness, Helena. I also have many interests and love learning new things. I have a stubborn streak as well though which helps me stick with certain things for a long time.

      One thing that may help you is Gretchen Rubin’s framework called The Four Tendencies. There’s a free 5-minute quiz for it here: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3706759/Gretchen-Rubin-s-Quiz-The-Four-Tendencies

      After learning your core tendency, they give you some recommendations for how to get things done according to that tendency. I’ve found it very helpful.

  26. I am good in seo and smo. I am good in communication. But just started working on upwork and not been able to get any reply on my proposals. 17 proposals with no response at all. I currently work in firm but want to quit and become a good earning freelancer. Also, I want to get better with my skills but get confused and messed up as in India an seo must be able to do seo,smo, adwords, YouTube etc.

    I know I can do it but not succeeding in getting results in any of the situation discussed above.

  27. 1. I am good with navigating the web and have a passion for working online

    2. The biggest obstacle I have to overcome is to become more motivated.

  28. Strength-I am focused whenever i’m doing something. I have the strength to learn new things, challenge myself into things I have no skills of.

    weaknesses- I procrastinate a lot whenever I don’t see any progression

  29. Strengh : I have talent and experience, I am good at what I’m doing and people like my design

    Weakness: I’m not a people person and I don’t know how to sell my self or convince someone to use my service. I don’t know how to get client and build connections. I don’t know what to write in every job proposals and cover letters. I’m not good at marketing. I still can’t overcome my introvert and my lack of social networking

      1. Yeah, great tips Mokete, thanks for sharing.

        Septy, I’d also recommend checking out the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I consider myself an introvert and that book helped me understand myself and my strengths much better.

  30. Strength: I’m very much independent and I enjoy working in isolation
    Weakness: Not very confident in my skills, not really sure if they’re strong enough

  31. Strength: I’m an introvert, and I don’t have a problem with doing repetitive things — although, in the process of repeating a task, I start inventing ways to automate that.

    Weakness: Focus. Bright, shiny objects, quitting too soon. Oh, that’s 3, not one…

  32. Love the website Niall, absolute eye opener!

    Strengths: Content writing, SEO, teaching English. Good with people!

    Weaknesses: Struggle to work alone for long periods, lose focus, over-thinker.

  33. Strength – I am able to create time to devote myself to an online job. And I believe in myself.I am a very positive person

    Weakness – At this stage I’m not entirely sure exactly what i can do.

  34. Wow, great article. One of my strengths are that I have a ‘whatever it takes attitude. One of my weakness is probably that I have mixed feelings about social media (not sure if that makes sense). Example, I can do it, but I’m not exactly passionate about it… Maybe I haven’t found the right product/job yet?

  35. G’day young fella how are you,
    If you went back to all my employers over my 55 years you would not find anyone that wouldn’t have me back.
    I have worked in Engineering (Mining and infrastructure) for like forever. I am good at what I do but no longer want to work in a cubical.
    I have done programming as well and am good at teaching myself anything I need to know, I wish to create online courses using YouTube as the traffic source.

    What plays on my mind constantly is that little gremlin (where did I get that from) in my head telling me my course won’t be good enough, even though I usually excel at most things I do/Try. I do know that if I had one course that was successful there would be no stopping me.

  36. Hi Niall,
    i would say strengths I have good people sklls and can communicate well with a wide range of groups young and old as Ive a broad range of interests. Also I dont mind working alone.

    Weakness I do have mortgage debt but its not crippling as I didnt lose the run of myself during tiger times lol.

  37. Strength- I am very good with computers and even better on a cellphone. I am creative and think in and outside the box.

    Weakness- Time but I will work on that.

  38. At the moment, my greatest strength for building a business online is that I have experience teaching (English) online through one of the largest providers of TEFL classes in Asia (while working from South Africa though)- and in my time there, I made top 10 Global Language Consultants during one of the most trying times in my home/family life. So I am dedicated, focused, was well-liked by my students and I want to continue to teach online or offline on my own terms wherever possible.

    And my greatest weakness/obstacle right now would be debt and struggling to pay the bills and support my immediate family – which, with Teaching English, may not be a long lasting issue considering some people make money weekly or even daily depending on the arrangement, right? Please do let me know if I am wrong…

    1. Hi Aurora,

      Thanks for the comments.

      You can definitely earn a consistent income teaching English online. Many people do. You may need to start off at a low rate and build a good reputation with a company and students, but it gets easier from there.

      There is a relatively low ceiling though on how much you can earn teaching English. It’s hard to earn more than $17/hour doing that. Do you have a minimum amount in mind that you’d like to earn per month?

  39. My strength is my ability to adapt. I am very good in caring and a really hard worker.
    Weakness.. I guess the uncertainness of the unknown

  40. Strength – I’m a dedicated graphic designer with a passion for creative flair. I am desperate to make the full time freelance leap & leave the 8-5 job behind … Weakness – I’m terrified of the unknown …

  41. I have lots of skills but I am antisocial I would not like making a video explaining for example how to bake a cake or make a pot pie or knitting a jersey. What do you suggest for the shy creative tallents?

  42. Strength would be a wide variety of interests which i think is good for relating with peoples wants/ needs.
    Weakness would be planning and delegating time and sticking to it to avoid getting flustered

  43. strength – driven to help people progress in life and improve their well-being

    obstacle – taking the leap ( blogging, creating video content etc…)

  44. My greatest strength:

    I am a creative and a qualified filmmaker/editor. I come from a musical family so I can sing abit.

    My greatest weakness:
    I am insecure and lack confidence. I’m afraid of looking like a fool.

  45. Greatest strength: I love to learn new skills and are talented with computers

    Weakness to overcome: Planing and stick with the motivation

  46. I have admin experience (largely in hospitality). I am independent without any limiting factors for this lifestyle. I set up a very small business making soaps a few years ago.

    Obstacles however would be a lack motivation and confidence to develop my skills and believe in myself.

  47. rhoan joy pacubat

    My strength is that I love to right about my travel and try some free online sites where I can put words into my travel. I am good at my job as well.

    Weakness , not a tech person and not know how to use or edit my pics, blogs and videos. Where to start. 🙂

  48. Hi Niall,

    On the plus side I am creative, innovative and can think outside the box. On the other hand I suffer from information overload and procrastination and never manage to get stuff done.

  49. Greatest strength are the opportunity of learning something new and the possibilities of greater things.

    My Weakness are No Qualifications and Degree .

  50. Matthew O'Donoghue

    Strenght: im lucky to earn a full time salary working part time as a swimming coach in dublin 5 days a week. my working hours usually start after lunch so my mornings are free which gives me lots of time.

    Weakness: iv started college a couple of times trying out new things thinking that id like the lifestyle. after a year or 2 i become totally demotivated and think to myself that the job will not fulfil me. i guess i could say im probably too fussy(though it may not be the worst thing). i have a tendancy to start lots of things but rarely finish anything.

  51. My greatest strength is that I have a multiplicity of skills that can be easily transferable and marketable online.

    My weakness would be lack of proper time management skills.

  52. Vikki Aitchison

    Strengths – computer, people skills, currently work at home (in isolation)
    I have worked in Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign for the past 5 years. I am continuously learning new skills in each program. I am a Real Estate Assistant, Real Estate Photographer and have built and now maintain a WordPress site. At this point in time, I had thought about focusing on Photoshop and Lightroom in Fivrr and Upworks. I look forward to the rest of your videos.

    Weaknesses – I follow many RE Photography groups on FB and compare my work to theirs. I am moving forward but I question myself – are my skills good enough to make money with?

    1. Hey Vikki,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure if your skills are good enough, but given what you’ve written, it sounds like you have more experience than most. Think about how much you could help clients who need someone with graphic design skills, photography skills, or someone who can build a website. You could surely add a lot of value there and save such clients a lot of headaches.

  53. Greatest Strength- love to work alone.
    greatest weaknesses- Don’t know how to start, I failed to find my skills, Moreover I don’t know which skill to learn…
    Please help me figure out the problem.

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