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5 Reasons Why You're Not Making Money Online (And How To Fix Them)

1. You're Not Focused

For a long time, I worked on the next shiny thing. My personal projects were an outlet for my curiosity, and I built sites for the joy of doing so. They would make money, but just in small quantities, and with a lack of attention they would fade with time. Building sites that way isn't necessarily bad, but it's difficult to build up a significant income like that.

How To Fix it: It took me a long time to understand that I was suffering from this and even longer to work out how to avoid it being a problem. In small doses, some fuzziness to focus is a good thing, so I didn't want to stamp this out entirely. But the trick to stopping it affecting your earnings - planning. That's it - every month (or week, or day if you like), create yourself a set of goals. Review your previous goals. Work out what you need to do to hit those goals. Without that, you're working undirected, and that leads to a lack of progress.

2. You're Out of Date

Once you're past 35, this is a problem you quickly encounter all over the place. However, with website development it's especially problematic. If you're running a website, and it's going well, there's no pressure to keep up to date until things start to stagnate or even go downhill, and by then it can be too late to stem the tide.

How To Fix it: Sadly there's no easy fix, you need to put the work in to keep up to date. I do some contract work occasionally, and I find that a great way to work with different people and get exposure to different ideas. I've had similar luck with going to regular freelancers groups. The key is to be open to new technologies and ideas, and to always be looking for a better way to do things.

3. You're Not Talking To Your Customers

I've been guilty of this time and time again. The simple fact is that for any project, the people that use it may not be wanting to solve the problem you had in mind when you built it. You may have solved one problem, but in a way that is no use to your customers. Maybe you build a web interface, when an API was what they really wanted. There's no way to really be sure how people would (or do) use your product other than to ask them. And if you're not taking every opportunity - and even making some of your own - to speak to your customers, you are leaving money on the table.

How To Fix it: This is a problem which can be greatly helped with automation. Set up automated emails to ask your customers questions about the product. Use something like ConvertKit if you like, and communicate with people. Make it easy for them to contact you as well. And if someone gets in touch, for example with a support question, once you've dealt with their query ask them some followup questions.

3. You're Suffering From Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis (AP) is a term I first heard in the context of board gaming. It's what happens when you have too many choices. You get stuck, going in circles and failing to make a decision because there's just too much to consider and too many variables. The root cause is the desire to make the very best possible choice every time. But what happens is that if you spend too much time working on one problem, or making one decision, that's time you cannot spend on actually getting something done.

How To Fix it: This one is tricky. Some decisions do warrant a little more time. Right now, though, I'm stuck in AP with Cheatography, trying to work out how to monetise it. There are lots of options, none of which seem to stand out, but I don't want to chop and change between them. In actual fact, I'd probably be better off forcing myself to make a decision, because even if it's not the right one, I'll learn something valuable and gain some momentum. Sitting here failing to make the decision ... that can't possibly be the best use of time.

5. You're Not Networking

Many of the entrepreneurial developers I know really struggle with networking. They see it as tangential to their core business, a waste of perfectly good time to swap insincere pleasantries with people who won't really be able to do much for them. In actual fact, networking is a great and useful tool when done well. I suspect everyone gets something different out of it, but for me it offers a chance to get feedback from other like-minded developers, to meet potentially useful contacts who can provide services that I'll likely need to use, an opportunity to increase awareness of a product, and it's even sometimes an outlet to vent about the frustrations of building an app and growing an audience.

How To Fix it: I only started taking networking seriously when I started getting work from it, but since then it's something I do as often as possible - though I don't think of it as "networking" very often. Work out what you would benefit from, whether that's people to bounce ideas off or a group you can find good freelancers to work with or even an outlet for your frustrations, and then try a few local meetups to see what fits.