Online Entrepreneurship & Side Hustles: So Many Lessons, So Little Time11 min read

Being an online entrepreneur is such a fascinating idea to so many people. The thought of having a side hustle is alluring to some and downright scary to others. I'm in the category that find it alluring and fascinating.

As I've grown up, I grew up around my dad starting and running quite a few businesses. When I was old enough, he made sure that I got the spirit and started putting me to work in the various places, teaching me many different lessons along the way. Looking back along the journey, I went to make a list of all the different things that I've learned to do through our many adventures. I would like to share a few of them with you. I hope these lessons inspire you to dig deeper, chase your dreams of being an entrepreneur, and not make the same mistakes I did.

Businesses I've been involved in range from working in a few different service type business offline to running my own membership sites online. I started my own lawn care business when I was 12, making up flyers and passing them out in my neighborhood. I've worked my way up in an MLM business, learning to recruit and work online leads that we purchased. Promoting many different online affiliate programs, both free and paid, I've learned many different strategies to build a list. Helping to run a 4 site membership hub, we've learned a good deal about building a following.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

I have joined my fair share of different opportunities that didn't hold up their end of the bargain. I got "sold", if you will. This has happened to me a couple of times. It's partly my fault for not doing the due diligence on the opportunity I was joining but it also happens when you are getting in on ground floor opportunities.

One type of opportunity that can easily be like this is MLM opportunities. I'm not saying that they don't work, I was in one for a couple of years and was making some pretty decent money. But, you have to know what you are getting into before you get started. I learned some valuable lessons for sure during the time that I worked as an affiliate of this MLM.

Build Your Team, Not Your Upline's

When you are as excited about business as I am, it's easy to get caught up in talking to people. Just make sure that you are talking to the right people. I was holding joint conference calls with my upline. We would both get our team's on the calls to provide more people and make the time more efficient. However, as I started hosting more of the calls, I ended up doing a lot of the training for my direct sponsor's other team members and not just mine. This was a big mistake on my part as I should have mainly just been working with my team.

Know What Business You're Getting Into

If you aren't careful to do your due diligence, you can easily get sucked into a business that you know nothing about or turns out to be completely different from what you thought you were doing. This is another lesson that I learned when I worked in a MLM business. I thought I was getting in and selling product and going to be helping people use the product. This turned out to be only partly true. However, the real money in MLM is normally in the recruitment of other business affiliates. As we worked the opportunity more and more, we learned to play the game, but were having a hard time finding other like minded people who really were looking to recruit and not just sell product.

Easy Come, Easy Go

Another thing that happened with me in some different opportunities was that I got used to the money. Never do this. Getting used to money coming in will make you lose some of your drive that made you successful in the first place. I had some very lucrative business opportunities where I was earning quite a bit of money building an email list and earning commissions very easily from that list. Then, one day, the business model gets turned upside down and, POOF, it's no longer viable! When you don't have a backup plan in place, or "put all your eggs in one basket" you can be wiped out without warning.

Downline Building Is Never "Easy"

If you've done any work on a business, than you know that you need others that buy into your product/opportunity/whatever in order to make money. All the gurus out there will tell you that it's so easy to build a list in your sleep or that you can do it very quickly using some secret formula. I've checked those out and they all basically say the same thing. Give someone value in exchange for their contact information and continue to deliver. As you build the relationship, you will start to see people trust you enough that they take your recommendations. It's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to happen automatically.

You Will Move Along The Affiliate To Owner Path

As you progress and learn more as an online entrepreneur, you are probably going to follow a similar path that I did as you learn and get more involved in online business.

Try Promoting FREE Programs -> Promote Paid Programs -> Start a Site to Promote Multiple Affiliate Programs -> Build Your Own Product/Service/Program

This progression could be a post in itself (I might have to do that later on) but it still is important to mention the path.

Basically, people start out trying out affiliate marketing with either a free or paid opportunity to see if it will work for them.As they have a little success, they end up joining and promoting multiple opportunities. This is where most people get stuck and don't take it to the next level. Others realize they need to build a list to promote all the different things, so they start capturing leads and promoting all the opportunities to the list. Others on the path go further by deciding they can earn more by creating their own program to entice people to join while promoting their multiple affiliate opportunities inside that program.

We had this same model happen to us. We started out using free traffic programs to generate traffic to our paid affiliate opportunities. As we started making money with that, we put together a main website to put all of our links to all the different opportunities we were referring together into one place. Finally, we decided to create our own membership site to build our own list and market to. This took us about three years to go through this entire process.

 Learn Everything You Can

Learn How To Use The Internet

In this day and age, knowing how to use a computer and navigate around is not just a privilege, but more of a life skill that most people have to have. Being born at a time when I would actually grow up with computers in a way I'm not completely reliant on them like today's generation, I feel fortunate. I remember starting out on a 56k modem with AOL, learning to navigate chat rooms and check email. There is a lot of nostalgia in the Internet past, but it was nice that I was able to learn the ins and outs of making different things work. Not like today, where you can just pop in some plugin to make a website load up and do everything we want.

Learn The Ins And Outs Of What You Are Doing

One big thing that I had to do while I was working online was run a few web sites. While promoting one of my businesses, I put up a web site that reviewed different advertising programs that paid their users for being active and paying for "ad shares". It was highly speculative, and in the end, the government ended up calling them ponzi schemes and shut them down. My web site was an advice site where I tracked my experience in the programs that I used. I was posting which ones I tested and having a good experience with.

As I started building my web site, I remember learning how to code in HTML and learning quite a few of the code snippets that I still find helpful today. I love that I basically taught myself basic HTML, because now, I can go into the code of my current website and fix certain problems that I find.

Learning all about what you are getting into is going to take you much further than just following someone blindly. Read about the opportunity.

Find others that do it successfully and learn best practices.

I'm always looking for others to contact, asking opinions on what makes them successful. Working in MLM, I constantly read other's reviews and asking other people in the business what they were doing successfully. Working with affiliate opportunities, I contact top affiliates to pick their brain. While running our own membership sites, we talked to other site owners in our niche for strategies.

Learn To Balance Your Time

This can be the hardest lesson to learn, as it's always in flux and is different for everyone. Running a business is a lot of work. There are many things to do and only you to do it, at least initially. You have to be organized with your time, or you will fall by the wayside in a rabbit hole.

It's so easy for me to get sucked into conversations on social media sometimes if I'm not keeping myself aware. I can get sucked into reading tutorials and how to guides for other traffic building strategies all day long if I don't limit myself and move on.

Some things to consider when working on time balance with your business:

  • Manage your work time well. Set hours that everyone knows you will be working and focus so that you stay productive.
  • Don't work nonstop. There is always something to be done to promote more, write more, build more. Take time to get away from it. When you come back to the business, you will be fresh and will work more focused.
  • Working during a rush. There are going to be times when the iron is hot and you will need to strike. Your life balance can take these swings from time to time. Just make sure the pendulum swings to the life side as well.
  • Responsibility to keep up with the work. Just because you are running your own business doesn't mean you get to slack off. Make sure you aren't committing to too many things and can actually keep up. Slow and steady wins the race! Business building can be a marathon with little sprints built in from time to time.

Wrapping Up

Looking back over all these points, there are many more lessons I could go through. But, hopefully these lessons hit home and give you a realistic sense of being an online entrepreneur. Heed the warnings in here, do your research, learn everyday, and manage your time by getting organized. I would have loved to have nailed these tips down sooner in my online journey and side hustles. However, some are just learned through experience as we go along. For more reasons you should start side hustles, check out my post 5 Reasons You Should Start a Side Business.

What kind of experiences have you had in regards to these tips? Have you got any lessons to share that you've learned? I would love to chat about it in the comments below!

This post originally appeared on You can view the original article here. 

Are you ready to finally take control of your finances? Let my budgeting spreadsheets help!

Just fill out the form below and I'll send you the link to get the same exact budgeting spreadsheets that I use each month!

Included in the workbook:


  • Monthly budget form
  • Breakdown of savings form (for your sinking funds)
  • Overview of your financial plan

I've been using these same forms since August 2011 and have grown my family's net worth 500% tracking our money using these forms!

First Name:
*Your Email Address:

The following two tabs change content below.

Steven Goodwin

Owner/Blogger/Consultant at MyFamilyOnABudget
Steve Goodwin, a stay-at-home dad of two girls is passionate about finances and is helping others just like you get out of debt and build wealth handling money God's way. His goal is to inspire people like you to gain control of their finances by destroying debt and building wealth using their cash flow.
Posted in Career, Entrepreneurship, Finances, Making Money.


  1. I love your point about diversifying your income streams (when you’re rainmaker went bust, and you didn’t have an alternative $$ source).

    Just like we diversify our investments across asset allocations, we should all seek to diversify our income. Side hustles are a great way to do it, and we should all seek to learn from those who have gone before us (like you!).

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! Diversifying and spreading things around is almost always a great idea! Side hustles and investing are both great ways to diversify and grow our income streams!

  2. Thanks so much! Building a team is important no matter your industry.
    Shanna recently posted…webMy Profile

  3. Good reminder to maintain work-life balance! It can definitely be easy to get sucked into a project and lose track of time!
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…10 Reasons to Buy a Gently Used CarMy Profile

    • Yeah if you lose track of everything else when working and stretch it too long it can definitely cause problems as it tends to make the relationship strain.

  4. “Manage your work time well. Set hours that everyone knows you will be working and focus so that you stay productive.”

    This is very important but very hard when you have young children. When with them I want to be 100% in the now with them and when working I want to be 100% focused on that. Too often I end up not focused on either which is failing at work-life balance as they both suffer.

    I sometimes try to work after they get to bed but I’m often too tired to be real productive (I’m at my peak in the morning) so the only real hack that works is leaving the kids at home and going to a coffee shop to work. Not the best move for financial independence but I try to look at it as an investment.

    • Hey Will, thanks for stopping by! I agree with this as it’s hard to be everything to everyone all the time. Having young children myself, I struggle with this as well! I feel I’m pulled in multiple directions from time to time wanting to please everyone. Once you learn that you won’t be able to please everyone, you will make more progress. I need to start getting away more as you suggest to focus my “work” time there. That way I won’t feel drawn into my work as much when I’m at home with the girls! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Like this article describes, I have many ‘irons’ in the fire. I think you do need some diversity.

    MLM opportunities have never been money makers for me. And, many of them make it seem like in just a few hours a week you can earn a part-time income. While I have friends that are making a lot of $$ through certain companies, I struggle to get anyone interested in even talking about it. I call it the downside of being price sensitive. Even if I have decided to pay a premium for something, I expect most contacts to not want to do it.

    What I have found is that there is no way to get rich quick. It all takes an investment of time and financial resources. Setting priorities and then managing your time is the only way to approach it without complete burnout. Affiliate marketing can be great but still puts demands on your time that some people do not anticipate.
    LauraOinAK recently posted…Inspiration is Found in GiftedMy Profile

  6. I belong to the category of people who find a side hustle fascinating. I have tried a couple of those myself and I have fallen into a couple of those traps you highlighted above. I find the information you provided very useful, especially around affiliates programs. Thanks for sharing.
    Olu Afolabi recently posted…Behold, I make All Things NewMy Profile

Comments are closed.