Though it is commonplace to work online on behalf of an employer, more and more people are launching independent online careers.
A decision to translate one's digital life into a full time career is typically driven by the following conditions:
- A desire to work independently
- An ability to provide something of value that has sufficient demand
- An ability to take a break from earning money for a while as one gains traction online, OR
- Willingness to transition from a full or part time job to an internet-based career over time
The Perks of an Independent Online Career
Online careers, whether complementing or superceding full time jobs, come with quite a few perks:
- Freedom to express yourself
- Freedom to follow your passions
- Ability to fully utilize your talents
- Flexibility in work style, hours, and location
- Independence from bosses, managers, and corporate executives
- The privilege of having all of your work and after-tax profits go toward you (rather than an employer)
The Drawbacks of an Independent Online Career
While most are aware of the perks accompanying internet-based work and entrepreneurship, many often overlook the major drawbacks:
- Unstable income (there is no fixed salary on which you can depend)
- Dependence on customers, readers, and/or fans that can be incredibly demanding and may not always be polite
- Zero starting income and low income for beginners (plus only truly talented/dedicated/persistent/lucky people will earn a sufficient living in the end)
- You have to manage everything yourself (that includes any staff you may hire, health insurance, order fulfillment, taxes, etc.)
- No oversight (unless you have someone audit your work or give you regular feedback, only your income or viewership will tell you whether or not you are on the right track)
- Potential social isolation (it is up to you to work in social environments such as shared workspaces, public libraries, or cafes to ensure that you are around people and enjoy sufficient social interaction)
How to Transition Smoothly and Safely into an Online Career
Do not let the pitfalls and drawbacks of an online career dissuade you from taking the leap and following your dreams. The following steps can ease your transition and increase your odds of success:
- Establish clear goals and create a plan
- Figure out what value you can and want to contribute to the world
- Verify that what you want to contribute to the online world meets an unmet need
- If possible, begin building your online career while still maintaining your existing source of income
- Thoroughly educate yourself about your target market, the nature of the market you which to enter, and its risks and opportunities
- Study the specific career track that you wish to adopt (using Gigaverse and other resources) to learn about key tools, platforms, resources, and best practices
- Do not quit your day job until you are earning enough money through your online venture to support yourself (or until you can safely estimate that you will be earning enough to support yourself by the time you run out of money)
Major Online Career Tracks
Our courses cover some of the most common online career paths, which are summarized below.
You do not have to do something specifically "internet-related" to have an independent online career. Should you have a valuable skill set, you can conduct your career primarily online by:
- Using the internet to augment your online and offline reputation
- Using the internet to establish yourself as an expert
- Selling services through the internet
- Selling products through the internet
- Providing freelance services online
- Building an internet-based business
This career track is ideal for those who would like to bolster existing full-time careers (working for an employer), strengthen existing independent careers, or start entirely new careers.
Interested? Take our Online Business course.
Online sales is one of the most common and straightforward online career tracks.
Online stores typically serve one of the following functions:
- Sell handmade crafts, decorations, clothes, or accessories
- Sell unique luxury items, such as custom-made furniture
- Sell carefully-curated sets of products, such as vintage clothes or hard-to-find imported goods
- Sell original art in the form of prints, digital copies, and commissions
- Sell software downloads
- Sell designs applied to generic products, which, when purchased, are in turn produced, packed, and shipped by a third party (such as Zazzle or Society6)
- Sell access to exclusive, private online material, such as business intelligence, courses, etc.
If online sales sounds like a good option to you, take our Online Sales course.
Should you wish to become a published author, your best bet may involve circumventing traditional publishers (at least in the beginning) and taking an independent online approach. This often involves:
- Using the internet as a testing ground for your work
- Sharing some of your work for free to get feedback and build a following
- Creating a strong online presence to attract fans, agents, and publishers
- Independently hiring an editor and cover artist (or creating a book cover of your own)
- Using readily-available online tools to format, self publish, distribute, and sell your book
- Using online resources to find additional support and garner critiques and reviews from fans, critics, and bloggers
You can learn more about the pursuit of online authorship in our dedicated course.
Online entertainment is a booming industry with many entrants both from the amateur and corporate ends of the spectrum. Independent online entertainers may:
- Create videos, comics, podcasts, or music
- Create content designed to amuse others (though it might also educate or inform)
- Publish regularly or focus on putting a lot of time into involved, high quality productions
- Utilize online tools and platforms to create, publish, distribute, and profit from their work
- Make money through ads (high volume viewership), sponsorships, services, grants, support, or sales (e.g. of albums, books, downloads, or access to special content)
Should your ambition be to entertain, check out our Online Entertainment course.
Bloggers are an entertainer-author hybrid. They typically:
- Publish content that revolves around a specific theme or subject (e.g. nerd life, their lives, biochemistry)
- Publish in the form of written blog posts (typically presented in a reverse-chronological format), vlogs (video blog posts), or podcasts (audio-based releases)
- Build a following around their unique personalities, lifestyles, and expertise (rather than specific functions or subjects)
- Publish regularly and often report on time-sensitive subjects
- Earn an income through ad revenue, product sales, exclusive content sales, services, and sponsorships
If blogging is the pursuit for you, take our Blogging course.
Social Media and Community Management
This online career has grown in popularity and importance as small businesses, large corporations, governments, and public figures alike have discovered the importance of social media and online communities.
Social media and community managers:
- Manage and monitor social media accounts, interacting with followers and sharing content
- Educate online communities about the brands, tools, organizations, and/or people they represent
- Act as liaisons between online communities and their clients, facilitating effective, positive exchanges
- Respond to questions and complaints posed by members of an online community
- Help customers troubleshoot problems with their clients products or services and offer helpful tutorials and guides
- Act as advocates for online communities when helping clients with marketing and product development initiatives
If you think you have the patience, people skills, and multitasking ability required to represent clients' public presences online, stop by our Social Media and Community Management course.
Though the publishing world is in flux, there are still many opportunities for online writers. Most freelance writers who work mostly online engage in the following tasks:
- Ghostwriting and co-authoring articles and novels
- Writing articles for print publications or media sites
- Writing articles or ad copy for business' websites or blogs
- Creating business plans, research reports, and white papers
- Editing content, resumes, manuscripts, and more
- Helping companies with content marketing and the production of content that is optimized for search engines
Though the work is straightforward, finding the right clients and jobs can be tricky, and a successful online freelance writer must have not only impeccable writing and editing skills, but also a flexible schedule and an ability to work quickly. To learn more, visit our Freelance Writing course.
Online Arts and Design
The internet has provided an unprecedented number of opportunities and resources to artists and designers. Those with artistic talent can create online careers in which they:
- Showcase their portfolio and win over new clients through active engagement with various online communities
- Create and sell design solutions through a third party platform or an independently-run website
- Sell original art through an online store or major online artist platform
- Sell generic products featuring their designs that, when ordered by online shoppers, will be produced, packed, and and shipped by a third party
- Sell custom art commissions
- Sell design services to clients
We encourage any and all online artists, be they amateur or seasoned pros, to take our Online Arts and Design course.
Anyone who does not live in a cave could tell you that the internet has revolutionized the manner in which journalists collect and present information. A career as an online journalist involves:
- Working as a freelancer or full-time journalist with various established media organizations
- Utilizing social media channels to report on breaking news in real time
- Publishing both online and print articles independently and/or for clients or employers
- Scanning social media sites to find breaking news, fresh information, firsthand reports, and valuable sources
- Utilizing a myriad of platforms and services to efficiently and effectively report on live events while still on the ground
- Carefully verifying sources and maintaining journalistic integrity despite ever-shortening news cycles and low newsroom budgets
Should you have the righteous incorruptibility and tenacity required to succeed in this field, learn more through our Online Journalism course.
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Only take this lesson’s quiz if you are enrolled in the course and want to prove your skills and earn official credentials. Credentials related to a course are useful if you would like to find work related to this course’s career, as we direct businesses and entrepreneurs to our membership page when they approach us looking for specialists.
Finally, make sure you have reviewed this lesson’s required reading (displayed at the top right of the page) before taking the quiz- you will be tested on information covered in those guides!