Making Money Online vs. Building an Online Business

Are you working on “making money online” or on building a business? You may wonder if there’s even a difference – after all, isn’t the purpose of a business to make money? Of course, much of it comes down to how you want to define each expression, but let me illustrate a big difference in mindset that I believe is reflected in these two option

Watch the video and see the rest of this article to see how you can make sure you’re on the right track.

In this short video, I explain exactly what the big difference is, to me:

Here’s a recap of the main points (also: search engine fodder):


People who are looking for ways to “make money online” are the favourite prospects of most online marketing product-creators and even affiliates. Why? Because they are most likely opportunity seekers. They can be sold on the big dream of finding that magical button that will just make the Internet spew out unlimited amounts of money, no work required.

Just take a quick look at some IM forums and at about 90% of IM-related sales-pages. There’s no shortage of people who are looking for a shortcut.

Most people don’t want to build and run a business. Building a business is something that most people associate with hard work, taking risks, management, support and customer relationship management, more complicated tax forms and other boring, un-sexy stuff. Want to build a business and be “the boss”? No thanks!
How about making some money online? Yes, sign me up for that!

Making money online is non-committal and this is reflected in the sales-messages of many products. Just install some software, push some buttons and watch the money roll in. Get automatic traffic. Never mind that those are actual human beings visiting your website. Never mind that the money you make comes out of other people’s pockets.

The most popular themes in online marketing require no commitment on your part: build a mini-site, fill it with auto-generated content, slap some ads or promotions on it and move on.

Investment Management

So, am I telling you that you should forget about mini-sites and affiliate marketing and either get a job or build a “real”, public business with branding and customer service and all that?


I do recommend getting out of the “make money” mindset and consider the following: start thinking of “making smart investments” as your primary goal. That is, in many ways, what business is about.

Maybe you’re just starting out and the only thing you have to invest is your time. That’s fine. It’s also about making smart investments concerning your time. The question should be: how and where can you invest this time, so that you can start making some income fairly quickly? And then, more importantly: how can you invest that income to scale up your operations?

What’s your take on this? Do you think of what you do as building a business or making money? Are you committed for the long-term or is it something you want to get over with so you can go to the beach (in your expensive car)? As always, I’d love to hear your take on this topic.


About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Tony says:

    Hi Shane,

    Excellent advice as per usual. It’s hard for people to get into a long-term mindset when they really only have short-term goals. Unfortunately most people are looking to make their first profits online so are naturally looking for a ‘quick fix’. Hopefully, over time, more people will understand the benefits of building sustainable businesses online. Maybe then we’ll get less of the over-hyped and ridiculous product launches that seem to come out every week.

    All the best for Christmas and the year ahead.


    • Shane says:

      It’s something I wonder about. Are “quick fix seekers” and entrepreneurs just two entirely different markets or can people effectively transition from one mindset to the other? I sure hope they can.

  • Manu says:

    Great post

  • Paul says:

    Hi Shane

    It made me think so I wrote a business plan.It is two hand written A4 pages but would be less than one if it was typed. This is the format I used:
    Goal (Overall vision of the business)
    Objectives ( What I want to achieve)
    Finance ( How much capital, what is included/excluded, contingency plan)
    Strategy ( What actions I am going to take to achieve the objectives)

    That’s it except for the date I wrote the plan ( for review)
    What I think will happen is that:
    -I will work towards my objectives
    -when the next shiny IM thing comes along, I can look at it and say does it fit with my goal (yes buy, no don’t buy)


    • Shane says:

      Hi Paul,
      Awesome! Congratulations on taking action like that!
      The last thing you mention is one of the great things about having a clear plan: Many shiny objects are no longer tempting, because you instantly see that they just don’t fit into your plan.


  • Abraham says:

    This is one blog that I always look forward to reading a new post. I have it on my Google Reader, and I only have 3 blogs on there. This is one of them.

    Thanks for this post, very useful and enlightening. You rock!

    • Shane says:

      Thank you, that’s a very nice compliment! Very honoured to be in your reader. :)

  • Alex says:

    The phrase “making money” has always puzzled me…so many people seem to think that everything is different on the internet and that’s their main mistake.

    Fact is that you can offer a service and get paid for it or just set up a store and sell stuff and everyone seems to understand that but somehow a layer of hype and confusion creeps in and presents itself as real.

    I try to keep my path clear with a simple question, ” Is this useful to my business model?” and that wipes out nearly all of the confusion and hype.


    • Shane says:

      That’s a great point, Alex. I also found that as soon as I got a clear idea of where I wanted to go with my business, 90% the noise just died down. If you only want to make money, eveything seems interesting and “worth a shot”. If you know what your business model is, most IM offers become completely uninteresting.

  • mitchel says:

    The problem for most persons getting into the IM field is they are used to X hours for Y dollars. So in a sense they are “comfortable” with that idea (people prefer at times a familiar hell than a unfamiliar heaven.” Conversely many people have only heard the negative about businesses without seeing the positive side (freedom, creating a system that makes money outside of their own effort, tax benefits…etc) so alot of people are conditioned to avoid “starting a internet business” even though it would benefit them. The mind is the key to doing well and a persons belief on whether he/she can do something or not.

    • Shane says:

      That’s a very interesting perspective. I have to say that I’ve never thought of it like that before. So, it could be not just laziness, but also fear, to a certain degree, that’s holding people in the wrong kind of mindset…
      Thanks for this contribution!

  • Leah says:

    Well, this is right up my ally again. I love what you talk about and your advice is always right on they money too. You are correct, fear is the stealer of dreams. Fear kills creativity in brilliant kids who grow up thinking they’re not by age 18.

    Lazy? People are not born lazy. Children never sit still. The conditions are de-motivating. Money is a necessity. CORRECT. Fun and doing what you love is entertainment. WRONG. It’s living and the reason for getting up in the morning.

    People are trained by uninformed parents who either adhere to the rules of society or they rebel and set bad examples for children who see, feel, sense and learn what they live every day.

    MITCHEL said it here: “The mind is the key to doing well and a persons belief” determines what they do but they want more and believe money is the answer to everything they want. Money becomes the reason for everything we do.

    Most doctors and lawyers are middle class professionals with a title for doing work they don’t even like. They went to college for a decade and ask, why can’t I make more money? Because nobody is good at doing something they don’t like.

    Money is always a result, not a reason. People don’t care what you do, they want to know WHY you do it and if it’s for money – forget about it. Marketers make up all kinds of reasons why they created the latest product – mainly its for you and anyone tired of not making any money. This product will work this time. I swear that’s why I spent 2 years and $134,000 is software costs – just for you.

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