The Myth of Online Entrepreneurship

Sure, some online entrepreneurs have made a fortune. But the whole I’ll show you how to sit on a beach while the millions roll in line has misled a generation of wannabes into parting with their cash, for nothing but a dream.

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

A few years ago I dived into exploring the whole online entrepreneur world, because I love working from home solo, writing and communing quietly with written words. While I primarily write for the joy of my own self-expression, there are those damned financial realities…

So in my quest to learn how to reach the right people and help my publisher get my first book Lovelands into the hands of readers, I connected with a few coaches claiming to be red-hot self-made entrepreneur coaches with “multiple 6 (or 7) figure businesses” who allegedly impart how to build an audience and make serious bank online.

I’m a realist and a psychologist, but I’m open-minded and I wanted to be enchanted by the dream. I wanted these guys and gals to be the real deal and show me the secret sauce. It sounded amazing. They can be great sales people. The problem is, many of them are selling nothing.

I attended a day of coaching with one self-made online multi-millionaire and completed various online courses and groups with a few others who made big claims. Some were awful, some were pretty good.

One course I bought (and it was expensive) claimed to cure people, particularly women, of their ‘limiting money mindset’ so they can ‘get rich’. It had a massive amount of testimonials that looked authentic enough so I thought — OK let’s give this a go.

It turned out to be little more than a series of video anecdotes from the lady about her success selling her ideas and her advice to ‘tap’ your acupressure points on your body while repeating affirmations (a method known as emotional freedom technique which I had already had the pleasure of rejecting previously in life). She hadn’t mentioned the ‘tapping’ in the ads.

Not cool.

I’m a mental health professional so I’m all for positive psychology, mindfulness of self-talk and questioning any limiting stories you may tell yourself. I don’t even mind a well-placed inspirational quote. I’m also fiercely anti-bulls**t. And by goodness do you encounter a lot of it when you dip into the online entrepreneur/business coaching space?

I dropped a few grand and hung in there exploring courses and coaches long enough to satisfy myself that for the most part, these coaching guys and gals with the rags to riches story lines are a ‘thing’, a phenomenon that surely must soon eat itself.

Their product tends to be the promise of financial and lifestyle freedom. Not actual financial freedom, or a plan with concrete steps towards creating a better lifestyle through strategic planning, entrepreneurial intelligence and action. It’s generally a kind of floating, affirmation-rich promise sort of thing about getting paid to be yourself and use your charisma, if you have any, to on-sell the dream.

Thick with promise until you pay, then, well if it doesn’t work for you it’s because you’ve got a faulty mindset or you didn’t hustle hard enough. Or both.

Cutting to the chase, you quickly find that most online entrepreneur coaches who make big claims about their earnings are making that money telling others they can do it too (for a big fee). It’s infuriatingly circular — “I get rich by taking your money and then you’ll get rich by taking others’ money, selling this ‘secret’ to getting rich. Then they’ll get rich by taking others’ money to tell them their secret in a re-branded version of the same promise etc.”

The secret to getting rich online is, of course, (surprise, you guessed it!) that there is no secret. Like starting any business, you need a great idea, plans, patience, support, investment, skills, know-how, luck, risk-tolerance and hard work over an indefinite period. Even with all of that, there are no guarantees of making the kind of money you hope for, only a possibility.

In short, my impression of online-business coaching was that it’s for the most part, an incarnation of decades-old multi-level marketing, but without even the decency to throw in some cleaning products, or a free set of steak knives.

Net result — a handful of good generic tips that I really could have gleaned from good business articles, for next to nothing.

I’m sure there are some straight-up, truly helpful entrepreneurial mentors obscured in all the noise of sell, sell, sell — people who can teach you how to sell your thing or present the best you in genuine and innovative ways.

I guess they’re not easy to find because they’re not the ones dropping ads into your feeds about how rich they are and how poor they used to be before they discovered the mythical secret thing….

So, upshot, if you want to do stuff online for coin, do it! Just don’t go in with the sole aim of getting rich quick because that probably isn’t going to take you far. And take the entrepreneur coaches selling the myth of easy online entrepreneurship in a box with a grain of salt.

Get some real business training if you want some or need some. Make a business plan, get support, do the sums, and probably don’t give up your day job until you start drawing money out of your business.

Make contacts, listen to what people have to say — but hold back on giving big bucks to people making claims about 6 and 7 figure incomes, who say they’re going to tell you how to make it. If it were that easy…;)

Finally, regard the titles ‘expert’ and ‘coach’ with some caution. When it’s your business idea, not many people know more about how to do your thing than you do.

Dr Debra Campbell is a psychologist and author of Lovelands, a self-help memoir about becoming your own hero. You can find out more at www.drdebracampbell.com

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