Being an online entrepreneur ten years ago was a very different ballgame. Thanks to rapid advancements in technology, and the digitisation of our lives, it’s a path that more of us are now able to choose. Young people grow up with the online world constantly buzzing around them, and making money online becomes a mere by product of living their lives online.
At the same time, online entrepreneurship has now been commodified: everyone seems to be giving it a go. In some ways, it’s now harder than ever for two people in a back bedroom to reach the dizzying heights of online success. Viral sensations rise and fall in a blink of an eye, and literally everyone seems to have a great idea for a new blog or app.
Here are six statements that I think show just how far online entrepreneurship has become in the past ten years or so...
You’re a pioneer
Digital is pretty much the default by now. Some of the pioneering sheen that used to surround the online world has definitely faded.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still pioneering things going on, but the very fact of making money online has become commonplace. There was a day when setting up a website or doing SEO were seen to be ‘radical’ things to do, whereas these days every small business has a web guy whose job it is to update the website and do SEO.
These days the true pioneers can be found deep in the heart of the industry (or at its edges), doing things that no one else has really heard of (yet). Digital is still a great place for pioneers, but online entrepreneurship is no longer a pioneering thing in itself.
You’ll make loads of money
This one may have never really been true, but it’s a statement that is definitely used in order to falsely entice people into online moneymaking schemes, masterminds, and webinars. The truth is, very few people actually make it big time, and a lot of them have done so simply because they got there first.
Starting out in 2017 with a blog, you are competing with a huge blogging marketplace that’s been going for over a decade already. You need to really offer something different and unusual if you want to make a mark.
It’s not realistic to enter the world of online entrepreneurship just in order to make some quick cash. It’s best to approach online entrepreneurship like a traditional business venture and ensure that you have solid business ideas, plans, and processes in place.
You need to understand technology
Tech is everywhere, and a lot of emerging tech holds the keys to success for the next Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But outside the tech world, the everyday entrepreneur has tools and systems that ten years ago seemed like impossible pipedreams. Now anyone can launch a website, even a complex one, in a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months.
The technical debt involved in an industry like ecommerce has rapidly decreased, opening up entrepreneurship to people who’ve never written a single line of code. We have gone from relying on hugely complex development platforms that took months to master, to point-and-click store builders that anyone can build and launch. Coupled with the easy access that online entrepreneurs have to developers and coders around the world, the tech possibilities are just staggering.
My advice to budding entrepreneurs? Learn as much as you can about web development yourself, as it’s always good to be able to keep developers accountable.
You need to be young
There used to be a day when the web person was always the youngest person on a team. In fact, employers would be quite blatant about hiring young people to help others get to grips with computers, printers, and scanners. Back in the day, if you were an online entrepreneur, you were probably young (maybe from an IT background like me), and had started off by taking computers and websites apart and putting them back together again.
These days, many people have a web career that spans two decades behind them, and the barrier to entry to running a digital business has been massively lowered. Age doesn’t really come into it anymore.
You can’t study it
There used to be no manuals or guides for online entrepreneurs. Everything you learnt came from scraps and hard-won information: there was a lot of testing and self-directed study going on. These days you can take courses on Udemy or hang out on social forums like Inbound and find out all about coding, SEO, content, influencers, email marketing etc.
Take advantage of today’s knowledge community and learn as much as you can. Online qualifications and courses can help massively boost your credibility if you are dealing with clients.
This can also be dangerous: if everyone is doing it, it must be easy! Try not to get sucked in by the hype and end up merely copying what everyone else is doing. You need to be different and add genuine value if you want to have an online business worth talking about in two years time. Studying is great, but doing things for yourself can be even greater.
It’s a man’s world
The old online entrepreneur stereotype of a guy in a checked shirt still holds true to some extent, but there are plenty of women making waves in the digital community.
In fact, online entrepreneurship has widely been embraced by mothers and women who are in the need of flexible, meaningful work. There are loads of hard-working bloggers, marketers, developers, social media managers, and consultants out there who are creating working communities like Digital Mums that are disrupting old stereotypes of what an online entrepreneur looks like.
Online entrepreneurship is a great way to carve out your own life. You could become a digital nomad and live out in Asia, or start your own agency with a couple of friends. Just make sure that you have your eyes open and that they’re looking towards the future. Digital changes fast, and your whole business idea could be here today, gone tomorrow. Remain agile, and move fast to keep up with the pace of progress.
Gareth is an SEO pro with over a decade in the industry, and he’s done it all: freelancer, entrepreneur, agency owner... As well as making money online, Gareth likes to spend time outside, preferably up mountains (when he gets the time).