This article will focus on paths to becoming an online entrepreneur. First, let’s take a look at why you might want to become one in the first place.
Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, as political and social unrest emerges in unexpected places. The rise of divisive political agendas has shaken up countries like Britain and the US, which once seemed unassailable.
What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused another layer of havoc, leading to many deaths, businesses closing and jobs being lost. Many people are dissatisfied with how their government has handled the pandemic. They no longer believe that it has their best interests at heart. For many, it feels like the government to which their passport unfortunately binds them, has placed itself directly at odds with their values.
So what can the average citizen do to safeguard themselves against bad government decisions? Seeking a second citizenship is an excellent option, and everyone who can do so should do it. But not everyone is eligible.
For many, the only option is to get out. This brings its own set of challenges, particularly how to earn a living in a foreign country.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the 6 most popular paths to becoming an online entrepreneur. They all have different benefits and challenges, but all have the potential to offer you a ticket to freedom.
Armed with that freedom, you can cut loose from your country of origin and move abroad with confidence, taking your income sources with you. For wannabe emigres, becoming an online entrepreneur is an excellent solution.
What is an Online Entrepreneur?
Pretty simple – it’s a person who makes money from running a business online.
There are many flavours of online entrepreneurs, from those who make side income from selling handicrafts, all the way up to multimillionaire software CEOs like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.
You might already be making money online. Maybe you’re teaching English, selling on eBay or doing online translation. But perhaps you’ve never thought of yourself as an ‘entrepreneur’ before. Hopefully, this article will help you see what you’re doing in a new light, and give you a confidence boost to carry forward on your new emigre journey.
What Are The Benefits Of Becoming An Online Entrepreneur?
My first foray into being an online entrepreneur came in 2014, when I set off for Istanbul as a freelance journalist.
Perhaps that’s not the most obvious path to becoming an online entrepreneur. But nevertheless, the internet played a key role. I pitched various editors (i.e. my clients) online, wrote and edited my articles (i.e. my product) online, dispatched them online, and got paid online. My work was published in online news outlets.
Then, two years later, a month after the Brexit vote was announced, I moved back to the UK and started a regular office job, as lead copywriter for a London fintech company.
It was a difficult transition. I missed the freedom of setting my own schedule. Most of all, I missed living abroad. London didn’t feel like home. I carried on making additional money as a freelance copywriter on the side, then, in late 2017, I left my job and returned to the world of being a proper online entrepreneur, where I’ve stayed ever since.
Being an online entrepreneur has so many benefits. Here are a few of the main ones.
You can set your own schedule
This is probably one of the biggest reasons to become an online entrepreneur. You’re no longer tied to an office and can work at the times of day that suit you best. Not a morning person? No problem. If late at night is your prime time, just do your work then. You can also adopt an ‘off-peak’ lifestyle, such as going to the gym in the middle of the afternoon when it’s quiet, or driving someplace when the roads aren’t busy.
You don’t need to commute
Travelling to and from an office can be a massive time suck. In fact, in America, people waste 408 days of their lives commuting by car. The pandemic has gone some way towards changing this, but, for some, commuting remains an inescapable part of working life. Becoming an online entrepreneur means you’ll likely never have to commute ever again. Think what you could do with all that regained time. You could spend it with your family, learning a language, or fitting in the exercise sessions you never had time for in the past.
You can create something of your own
There’s great satisfaction in building something unique to you, rather than working for someone else’s agenda. You can follow your passions and interests in a creative way instead of being constrained by a set way of doing things.
In my case, I was able to pursue a number of different interests via being an online entrepreneur. In 2012, I became interested in helping countries and cities develop their brands. So I spun that interest into a consulting business. Later on, I expanded my range into journalism, focusing on the geographic regions, stories, and publications that fascinated me the most.
Post-2016, that led me to my current focus: a consultant helping organizations counter cyberwarfare campaigns and online disinformation. I now make enough money from this work to make it my primary occupation.
You’ll become better at networking
Despite most of typical business activity being conducted online, entrepreneurship usually requires you to be a people person. Much of your success will revolve around building good relationships with your peers and your clients. If you’re an introvert this may force you out of your comfort zone, but it’s an excellent skill to develop for the future.
Being a good networker means that, no matter what life throws at you, you can turn to your network to help you out. I have confidence that even if my business dries up tomorrow, I can still reach out to my network for new opportunities and leads to keep me afloat. It’s a comforting feeling. Of course, you have to be willing to help your network too. Good networking works both ways.
You’re free to live anywhere you want
This is the big one. For a wannabe emigre, the freedom of being an online entrepreneur could be the solution you’ve been looking for. If you can build up a client base before leaving the country then you can be well on your way to relocating with confidence.
The 6 Best Routes Into Becoming an Online Entrepreneur
- Online Coaching
- Selling Physical Products Online
- Affiliate Marketing
- Online Advertising
- Digital Courses
Consulting in Your Area of Expertise
The global market for consulting services is growing fast, accelerated by the pandemic. More and more organizations now hire freelance and contract services instead of permanent employees.
Working as a consultant is a great way to start your journey as an online entrepreneur. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need specific credentials, a team of employees, or a fancy office space to get started.
Consulting is a lot simpler than that. In short, it’s “the business of giving expert advice to people working in a specific field.” (Oxford Dictionary).
Think about it this way, you’re already an expert in your field. You can help people in that field solve specific problems that they’re facing. You’ve probably already been doing the exact same thing on behalf of your boss. All you need to do now is convince people that you’re the right one to solve their problem.
For starters, you just need a phone and your laptop. Having a professional web presence is vital too, including a simple website (preferably on a yourname.com domain, if it’s available) and social media (at least LinkedIn).
You should also consider becoming active on Twitter. Personally I find many of my clients there. You know your industry best, so you should do some research and prioritize getting onto the platform where most of your potential clients are located.
Then, put together your unique value offer (how are you best placed to solve their specific problem?)
Alongside consulting, the online coaching industry is also booming. Life coaches, fitness coaches, language coaches, style coaches – the list goes on. Whatever you’re an expert in, chances are you’ll find someone willing to pay you to help them learn about it.
There’s also a thriving industry of coaches teaching other people how to become coaches. A quick Google search and you’ll find a host of blogs, books, podcasts, webinars and retreats aimed at helping people enter this lucrative area of work.
It’s not essential to have certification to become a coach, but there are many programs that will provide training and official recognition. These are useful to give you credibility in a competitive industry with its fair share of charlatans.
Selling Physical Products Online
Selling online is another popular option. But it can be more risky than the ones I’ve mentioned so far, due to higher upfront costs. Products sold online usually fall into the category of either commoditised products (i.e. high demand, essential items that everyone needs) or niche products (i.e. serving a specific target audience).
So how do you come up with a good idea for a physical product to sell online? Here are some quick ideas.
- Create or identify a product that solves a problem for your target audience.
- Find a way to make a product inspire passion in people – both in yourself and in your target audience. Why do you want to sell it? What’s special about it?
- Find a product that has strong potential for crafting a brand around.
- Look for emerging trends and jump on them early. Start selling before they reach peak popularity.
- Sell a product that speaks to people’s vices, such as an indulgent kind of food or luxury beauty products.
- Serve an extremely niche audience with your product, e.g. vegan bodybuilders who want organic protein powders.
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities everywhere and stay in the online entrepreneur mindset.
Passive income is the ultimate dream for many people. It literally gives you the ability to make money while you sleep. Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to get started with this.
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing involves you promoting other people’s products. This usually happens through an affiliate network, where you earn a commission if people buy the products thanks to your marketing.
There are hundreds of ways to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to be a top influencer to get started. For example, if you run a blog writing about vegan health foods, you might create a review blog post discussing the best kinds of vegan organic protein powders. This could then include products from your affiliate, which you’d link to within the blog post. You’d get a commission if anyone bought them.
You basically become the connection between your audience and products/services that they are likely to find valuable. The trick is to always ask yourself if the products/services are genuinely relevant and valuable to your audience. As Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income says, ask yourself, “How can I best serve my audience?”
To get started with affiliate marketing, you’ll need a blog, a niche of products to focus on, some traffic, and membership of relevant affiliate programs. Here’s an excellent guide to help you get started.
There’s a couple of ways to earn money via online advertising. Google AdSense is the largest online ads program. It allows you as a publisher to access Google’s massive advertising network so that other advertisers can run ads on your website.
It’s really simple to get started. First, you’ll need your own website, where ideally you’ll publish regular, SEO-friendly content that people can easily find. Then, you sign up for Google AdSense.
Once you sign up, Google puts a simple code on your website that will identify the content of your site. Then it can start displaying relevant advertisements. For example, if your website is about travel, Google AdSense will start showing your visitors ads for hotels, car hire and holiday package deals. Every time a site visitor clicks on one of these ads, Google pays you a fee. This might be anything from $0.50 to $5 per click. If your site ends up getting a lot of traffic (which doesn’t happen overnight), you can make decent money this way.
Digital courses have become one of the hottest routes into the online entrepreneur lifestyle. During lockdown, people all over the world embraced online learning, giving the industry a massive boost as a result. That sudden shift has created a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. There’s never been a better time to create and sell a digital course.
In reality, most people have what it takes to create a digital course. But due to some common roadblocks, only a few of them ever do it. Some of these revolve around self-doubt, e.g. “I don’t have any skills worth teaching” or, “I don’t have the right qualifications to teach.”
Other roadblocks stem from fear of the technology for creating and delivering a digital course. Course creation has a lot of moving parts, for sure. But fortunately, there’s a lot of great guidance available online (much of it for free) to walk you step-by-step through the process.
To find a course topic, the trick is to brainstorm your life experiences to identify areas of knowledge that can help a specific audience solve a problem. And, you don’t even have to be an expert. You just have to have been successful (either for yourself or on behalf of someone else) at the process you plan to teach.
For example, let’s say you’re really good at making a complicated dish like soufflé or macarons.
You can be sure there’s other people out there who’d love to learn from you – and would likely be willing to pay for your knowledge. So you might create a series of videos walking people through the steps involved in cooking these dishes. Recently, I’ve seen successful digital courses teaching things like clay pot making, dog training, psychic medium skills, and how to make the perfect caramel apple.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. I hope it’s given you some useful starting points for becoming an online entrepreneur. To recap, we first looked at some key benefits of online entrepreneurship. These were:
- Setting your own schedule
- No need to commute
- Creating something of your own
- Improving your networking skills
- Being free to live wherever you want in the world
Next, we explored 6 great pathways to becoming an online entrepreneur:
- Online Coaching
- Selling Physical Products Online
- Affiliate Marketing
- Online Advertising
- Digital Courses
Are you currently using any of these ideas as a way to escape your passport country? Or have you found other paths to online entrepreneurship? Feel free to let us know in the comments.