In the last decade, a lot of hype has drawn entrepreneurial hopefuls to the internet marketing playing field for a chance to strike it rich. Make no mistake, it’s very possible to forge a living on the internet, and a very good one at that. Even doubters who once scoffed at the web as the playground of fools have had to admit the online economy is very real and that you can turn your web activities into a legitimate career.

But you have to stop seeing the online markets as a place to quickly strike it rich, or as a quick means of setting up a small “set and forget” moneymaker that allows you to pursue your “real dreams.”

Today I want to talk about 9 principles that you MUST adopt as you move from the “grab and run strategy” to the evergreen approach of the practical, real-world entrepreneur.

1 Think of the First 5-10 years as An Apprenticeship

I can already hear some of you groaning, so let me start this off by explaining what I’m not saying. I’m not saying you can’t make money online immediately.

Formative Years In Business

In fact, my first foray online made me money within days.

And I’m not saying your business can’t be profitable within the first year or even within months – it very well can.

But chances are that earnings will start off slow and that you’ll have a lot to learn. Even in the off-chance you get it right the first time and start making 5-digit months coming out of the gate, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t call it good and walk away from the online marketplace.

No, chances are you’ll have bigger expectations and that the next 5 years you’ll do everything in your power to maximize that potential.

Before you give up hope, remember that in any profession worth its weight, there is typically an apprenticeship phase, even if it’s not formally called that. These are the beginning years where you learn the ins and outs of the business, and even as you get the basics down and start to build a considerable income, it will take time to master the basics and access truly creative thinking in that field.

Read Robert Greene’s Mastery for more on this idea.

The important thing is to accept this learning phase and take it seriously by engaging in active study and giving yourself a little room for error. By making your apprenticeship years a conscious process, you can make the most of them.

The more you learn and the more what you learn becomes intuitive, the more your income will go up.

Be cautious with your spending, but don’t give up hope if you don’t make a huge income straight out of the gate. You’ve made this industry choice for autonomy, and in the beginning that may mean taking a cut in pay, but it doesn’t mean that forever, especially if you take the other points in this list seriously.

2 Focus the MAJORITY of Your Attention on Evergreen Skills

From time-to-time, you’ll come across new fancy new marketing strategies for drawing a ton of traffic, and these can create big jumps in income.

But it’s important to keep the long-term in mind at all times.

Playing with some grey-hat techniques isn’t a horrible idea to make money now, but always think about where it will leave you when the effectiveness of the strategy expires.

Will you be able to back up and change course?

Or will your current actions later render your business or website obsolete, forcing you to start over from scratch?

In the fast-changing web, many skills become obsolete as fast as you learn them. We can’t always guess which these are, but there are some specific skillsets that will most likely never fail you (or that will at least last a while).

Such as:

  • Communication
  • WordPress
  • Design Principles
  • Sales Psychology
  • Marketing
  • Writing
  • Sales Copywriting
  • Email marketing.
  • Social engagement.

Note: These may not exist forever in their current form (i.e. WordPress) but new tools and trends will likely build from what they’ve started rather than replace them completely.

This doesn’t mean you should never a tech that’s not likely to last, but by putting a little extra focus into those evergreen skills than you do the more temporary ones, you’ll always be able to rise above changing trends.

3 Set Aside Funds to Invest in the Future

Investing Funds Elsewhere

This can be hard in the beginning when your income is low, but it’s vital. You may need to retain an income stream offline so you can reroute all your profits back into your business and keep it growing, but you need to be willing to invest in your business if you want it to grow.

Also, the highest returns often come from investing in yourself. What do I mean?

I mean upgrading your skills and knowledgebase. By taking courses to learn new skills, attending seminars, and joining platforms where you can meet other successful online entrepreneurs.

Investing in yourself can often quickly multiply your income over and over again whereas an investment in a website or in paid advertising without the proper skills can be a coin toss.

There is a very big caveat in this department.

As you may have figured out by now, there are a lot of scammers in the IM industry out to get your money, and they prey on people in the first year or two of learning.

Make sure to do your research before you pay good money for a product or course, and if it’s a basic skill you can learn alone, that’s always a good exercise in self-sufficiency.

Know when to leverage OPT (other people’s time), but never forget that self-sufficiency is a successful entrepreneur’s greatest strength.

4 Tap Into the Exponential Business-Building Power of Mentors

Another place to invest your time and money that can pay huge dividends is to hire a mentor. We’ll talk about networking in a minute, which can often create the same advantages, but hiring an expert in this capacity often shortcuts the process.

Again, however, remember that this is an industry where not everything is at it seems, so you have to be very careful. Do your research on any online mentor before you take their word that they are good at what they do. Anyone can say they make millions online – ask for proof.

I’m not saying rich people don’t mentor for money because they very well do.

Why?

Some people like to give back – it’s a natural follow-up after “making it.”

So if it’s a matter of giving back, then why charge?

A few reasons:

  • It’s a barrier to entry that weeds out the idiots.
  • They value their time, as most successful people do.
  • It shows you’re committed.
  • Hey, they’re still entrepreneurs.
  • Everyone likes money.
  • And, well, because they can…

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, please do your due diligence.

Proof of results is a good start – just remember that screenshots can be faked too. Word of mouth and social proof are even better.

Which brings us to…

5 Invest the Time to Build a Valuable Network.

Building a career online can seem like a lonely endeavor, but these days it doesn’t have to be.

And in fact, there is good reason to tap into the social networks that exist out there for people who are serious about creating a web-based income.

Building A Network

You’re human, for one, and like most humans you need that social interaction to be happy. But it also opens up a lot of doors for you. Two brains are often better than one – it’s up to you to put in the work and make the final decisions, but by networking with other online income earners, you can get invaluable feedback, tips, resources, and help.

You’ll also forge connections with people who are can teach you a lot about the business, become mentors, or give you “lucky” breaks.

Much of this is dependent on the type of community you involve yourself in. A place like the Warrior Forum may not be the best choice, for example. There are good people there, but the sound advice is often lost in the noise created by a sea of scammers and newbies.

Seek out communities for people who are actually making money at this, and preferably people that are a tad further ahead in the game for you.

You may have to pay for the privilege of socializing with these types. It’s worth it. Especially if you join communities where the real big fish hang out.

Private paid forums, online training courses, and membership programs might be good places to look. Joining someone’s course can be a great way to get to know them if you take their info and get results.

Two I would recommend include Tropical MBA’s Dynamite Circle and Copyblogger’s Authority.

Also, try to socializing with other internet businessmen offline if possible. Try seminars, local networking groups, and parties where IM professionals lurk. You might find yourself amazed by just how diverse a bunch those who make money online are.

6 Take a Lesson From Tony Robbins and Embrace the Power of CANI

CANI is a term borrowed from Anthony Robbins, an acronym that stands for “Constant and Never-ending Improvement.” This is the philosophy that you need to adopt not just regarding your own skillset but every long-term project you engage in online.

It’s tempting to assume a website has reached its max income capacity and try to replicate the success by building a new web business, but far too often this means leaving money on the table – the fastest income jumps come from improving what already works.

Constantly seek out ways to increase the revenue from a site already making money.

There are plenty of ways you can do this. Tweaking the design and copy for better conversions. Blogging more. Bringing in more traffic. Offering upsells and cross-sells. Improving social presence. Creating books, courses, or forums.

As you learn more about making money online, try to revisit your long-running projects and see how you can apply your new skills and insights.

7 Drill Down With a Systems Focus

A focus on systems is one of the most high-leverage approaches to long-term profit growth

Those who make the most money often just have better systems for running their operations, and most things you do that bring in money already can be systemized to be done easier, faster, and more effectively.

Great money-making systems can also often be used across niches and websites, making it easier to duplicate your efforts in another space and exponentially increase your income.

Try to analyze everything you do with the eye of a “business engineer.”

  • What are the actual steps involved?
  • Can they be streamlined, automated, or outsourced?
  • Can you get rid of them entirely?

As your business grows bigger, take in employees and teach them to run these systems without you – teaching them how to teach other employees can be a great test of how well your business can run without your input.

This is how a scalable operation is created.

8 Commit to Ongoing Research & Education

Information technologies are constantly changing and you need to stay abreast of those changes if you want to go the distance.

Thus, research and online education must become a part of your daily routine.

This means reading magazines, blogs, and other credible sources to stay informed about the latest changes in the online space –30 minutes per day or even every other day goes a long way.

If you’re involved in a particular niche online, you’ll also need to stay abreast of that particular subject as well. If you’re running multiple projects in a variety of niches, you at the very least need to have someone who is in charge of a particular website staying educated for you.

9 Look for Ways to Diversify Your Income Offline

There is a lot of diversity in the online space if you like to spread out your efforts, but it’s very good insurance to bring your money out into the real world as well.

Some people also make the mistake of just dumping investments back into their online business even when they don’t know what they should be investing in. This can create a pointless loop where the business just eats up its own profits when it has nowhere else to grow.

It’s a good idea to start investing your money in other areas as you get bigger. Many online entrepreneurs put their money in real estate, for example – just make sure you actually learn the ins and outs of buying right.

Tread with the same caution you would online to avoid being scammed or making bad choices.

10 Here’s the Bottom Line.

Building real wealth on the internet IS possible.

As is building the type of business that can make money without your constant attention.

However, these achievements do not come easy, and when they do it’s typically because someone with a good deal of experience did the right thing at the right time.

Instead, you need to see your ventures online as a career.

Not a shortcut but a decision for a particular lifestyle and economic means of making a living until you either retire or get a lucky break that allows you to throw in the towel early on.

That’s realistic thinking.

And it’s the type of thinking that may ultimately decide your fate online…