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Why aren't you doing that?

© July 2009 Anthony Lawrence

I was off reading or something but happened to walk back into the living room as my wife was watching the tail end of a news segment about people making money in this economy. This one was about some woman who started a website dealing with "mommies" and apparently is making good money reviewing cribs, toys, car seats and all that. I had missed most of it and honestly wasn't that interested anyway, but then my wife asked The Question:

"Why aren't you doing that?"

Of course she didn't mean "why aren't you writing about pacifiers?". No, she meant "why aren't you making oodles of money from the Internet?"

I don't mean that she was being nasty or accusatory. You shouldn't be picturing some poor hen-pecked husband cowering as his wife demands to know why he is still a lowly clerk while their neighbor has been promoted to vice president. No, this was just a "curiosity" question, as in "Hey, look, this women is making money and it looks like you could do the same thing?"

You should also understand that my wife doesn't know much about this website. Oh, she knows it is here. She knows it is the source of a lot of the consulting work I get and she knows that Google and other places magically put money into our checking account every month. She's even looked at the site a few times, but it's all nerd gobbledy-gook to her. She really doesn't know that I actually do review things. Or, more accurately, she does know, but she doesn't fully connect that activity with the money that appears in our bank statements. If it were "oodles", maybe she would, but since it isn't, it's reasonable for her to wonder why this "Mommy Blogger" is piling up mountains of cash while we are only getting little mounds.

That's a hard question to answer. I pointed out that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, other "Mommy bloggers" who aren't making enough money to pay for coffee and a donut. There are equal numbers of people with sites very similar to this site who are making very little money. I do far, far better than most, so we really have nothing to complain about.

But.. there are people like the woman featured in that segment who apparently have done very well. There are also tech bloggers who make a lot of money doing something very much like what I do here. So my wife's question does deserve an answer.

Not that I have one.

Well, I don't have a good answer. I can state the obvious: some people are just more talented: better writers, better at marketing. Maybe they work harder, maybe they work smarter. Maybe they have more personality, more raw talent, more friends to spread the word. Or maybe they just got lucky. Maybe they had all the talent, worked hard AND got lucky.

I could remind her of American Idol, one of her favorite shows. How many times has there been a guest singer, some wildly successful person who sells millions upon millions of records but our first thought is "He never would have even got by an audition on this show"? There are a lot of talented singers in this world, but only a few of them "make it big" and often you can't really put your finger on why. Why them and not that other kid who never went anywhere? Who knows - it happens.

I could also say that many of the very big sites aren't individuals - they are team efforts. There are exceptions, of course, but having more than one person certainly lets you do more.

I could also note that some of the very successful are very focused on just that: being successful. I know that sounds funny, but that never has been my intent here. I write to share knowledge, not to make money. Oh, I'm happy to take the money, of course, but that's not my focus. My focus is sharing.

But none of that is an answer, is it? None of it tells you why someone just like me makes a couple of dollars a month and I make a few hundred and someone else makes many thousands.

Maybe somebody does know. Maybe somebody really can isolate all the elements that make for wild success on the web and put it out in a cookie-cutter recipe for you to follow. I seriously doubt it. We can suggest things that you should and shouldn't do, but nothing guarantees success. That's just the way it is.

So why aren't I doing that? I AM doing that. I'm just not making as much money at it, and honestly, that's OK with me. Not that I wouldn't like a little more, but it's OK. I'm having fun, doing what I like doing. We have enough. We're happy. Life is good. And that's enough.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Thu Jul 2 16:04:13 2009: 6595   BrettLegree

Well, there's another answer too, in addition to yours.

We can't all make our money from web sites that review products (or sell e-books or SEO tips), otherwise no one would be doing other work that needs to be done.

No one to work in factories, pump gas, serve food in restaurants etc.

But of course a lot of bloggers and so forth would have you believe that "anyone" can make 5 figures a month online.

Some people can - but probably not too many.

Fri Jul 3 11:26:37 2009: 6596   TonyLawrence

Yes - and of course the attitude that anyone can do it. Can anyone write a book? Sing? Drive a race car? Bowl? Golf? Sure, but not well enough to earn our living at it. Yet having a wildly successful web site is supposed to be something anyone can do?

Fri Jul 3 12:23:59 2009: 6597   BrettLegree

Exactly - and that's why a lot of the "make money online" things sound so much like Ponzi schemes.

Some of the latest crop try to appeal to people with "potty mouth" to make them seem edgy or hip or something, but behind it all you just know that the only way to make money from the course you just bought is to duplicate it with a twist.

Eventually the base of the pyramid gets too wide.

Even if it isn't some kind of scheme, like you say, can you do it well enough to make a decent living (never mind being able to buy a mansion)?

Fri Jul 3 13:35:32 2009: 6598   TonyLawrence

Oh, I bought a castle, not a mansion.

It's a 1600 square foot castle, and it's missing the draw-bridge and the stone towers, but it's ours :-)

Fri Jul 3 13:44:47 2009: 6599   BrettLegree

Hee hee, I have a castle too, about the size of yours actually.

The king and queen live there, and it is also haunted by four little monsters... :) we're going to buy them a dragon today (a dog!)

Yep, not a mansion, but it is ours.

Fri Jul 3 13:48:08 2009: 6600   TonyLawrence

Wow - six of you in 1600 sq feet. We had a larger house when we had our two children living with us.. not a whole lot larger, but still..

Fri Jul 3 13:51:35 2009: 6601   BrettLegree

Yeah, it is cozy, but we're a pretty tight family so it works. My father had a total of 6 brothers and sisters, and the parents of course, in a (maybe) 1200 square foot house, and they all survived without killing each other!

The basement is finished, though, so it's kind of our "panic room"...

Fri Jul 3 14:03:04 2009: 6602   TonyLawrence

Yeah, when we were planning our move here I forgot about the basement (these are slab houses) - we couldn't fit all our stuff!

Happens to a lot of people who move here. You end up giving away a lot :-)

Fri Jul 3 14:14:26 2009: 6603   BigDumbDInosaur

No one to work in factories, pump gas, serve food in restaurants etc.

I didn't know anyone had a job anymore pumping gas. I thought that was my job, from which I lose money, not make it.

Oh, I bought a castle, not a mansion.

It's a 1600 square foot castle, and it's missing the draw-bridge and the stone towers, but it's ours :-)

Hey! Not fair! Your castle is bigger than our (rented) palace. Our real castle is still burned out and awaiting rebuilding. Of course, as soon as my new website, in which I review various brand of toilet paper and dental floss, starts pulling in the big bucks, I will purchase a new castle. Unlike Linda's and Tony's, our new castle will have a moat, draw-bridge and stone towers, as well as no whacky neighbors to start the place on fire..

Fri Jul 3 14:29:32 2009: 6604   BrettLegree

Believe it or not, half of the gas stations within 10 miles of my house are full-serve only - and two of them have the lowest prices, because they are independents.

But I hear you. A few years back, living in the Toronto area, my local grocery store put in self-serve checkouts.

However, I intentionally went to the lines with cashiers anyway, feigning technological ignorance.

One day I was greeted by one of the people running the self-serve checkouts - she asked me if I needed help learning to use it.

I said no.

She asked if there was any reason why I did not want to use the self-serve, and I replied that I had not seen any signs saying that the self-serve checkouts would return the savings to me, the paying customer, and that I like to talk with the cashiers.

I went on to say that I thought it was terrible that people would lose their jobs, and most customers would buy the store's line that it was "convenient" to check out your own groceries...

Eventually I just stopped shopping there, as they eventually removed most of the lines with real people.


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