Do you ever stop to think about what a marvel the internet is? How many possibilities it has unlocked? What kind of stories it can tell? How much time anything took before its inception? Or how much more rock solid your social class was?
My little Etsy shop is still far from rolling in money, but every time I get an email that someone bought a thing I feel such a jolt of joy it is difficult to compare it to anything. With my background, this earning money online venture feels like free money. How can it possibly be real money when I didn’t go to an office/factory/hospital to grind away for 8 hours, 5 days a week or more?
The invention and distribution of internet has led to some massive changes most could not predict. People in remote locations can talk to each other, sell stuff they don’t use, or work from anywhere in the world. And people build so many things, write blogs and share their ideas. Of course, not all of those ideas are kind, but that doesn’t change the fact that the internet has made an unprecedented change to how we live, work and interact. For good and bad.
I grew up in a working class family, with working class relatives and working class friends.
All the role models I had growing up were or had been employed by someone else. My grandparents were on pension by then, but when they were working, they were employed at factories as either a welder (grandpa) or a seamstress (grandma).
My father worked at a battery factory, my mother works as a nursing home assistant, another grandpa was a sailor. One uncle works on an oil rig (the wealthiest of us all), and another uncle was a carpenter for a building company. The list goes on and on.
In my entire extended family (not a very large one, I admit), there was not a single entrepreneur, freelancer, artist, writer, musician or self-employed person of any other kind that I knew of. All I saw and all I knew was the 9-5 grind. How could I expect anything different for myself?
I was advised against anything that had a variable income, such as farmer, freelance journalist, musician or artist. Starting your own business? You’d do nothing but work for at least the first five to ten years! Better get a nice, “safe” 9-5 working for someone else with pension benefits where you could leave your job at work after a long day and take some well-earned rest. Go on one vacation every summer. That sort of thing.
Anything else was dangerous. Unstable. Unknown. You could loose your house with a job like that.
I learned that “get rich quick” and “earning money online” schemes were two of the same coin. Scams, click-bait, lies.
It took me the better half of a decade to learn that it could be any different. That hard work and patient, consistent progress could lead to as solid an income as any office job. The idea first started crystallizing when I found Etsy and fell in love with it. An online marketplace for handmade goods? Here was something I could understand and appreciate!
I have tried to make some shops before. All of them for physical goods. None of them made much money. Not reliably anyway. But my little digital product shop does. And Mr. Frugasaurus’ little writing venture has grown from €100 in January to €130 at the time of writing this. We think it’s a pretty good chance he will breach €150 before February is over, and it feels like magic.
Every penny, every read and every sale seems too good to be true to two children of working class background. But the money buys our food and shelter just as well as any other hard-earned cash. We are starting to really hope that our dream might be possible. Really possible – not just a pipe dream.
And it makes me think, that if we can do it, many other people can too.
I’ve seen people in wheelchairs earn money online. People who write amazing things from the confines of a prison of a body, with nothing but a computer controlled by their eye movements and more patience than I have ever thought possible.
Minorities can earn money online, people of color, people in poor countries with few jobs and/or high inflation rates. People who are too sick or scared to leave their house, people who gets discriminated against because of their name at job interviews.
We can all go online and slowly, patiently, build a small trickle of income online. A piece of independence.
And if not earning money, you can still meet people, grow friendships and have engaging conversations. On the internet, no one can see that you’re fed by a tube or can’t talk with your vocal chords.
Obviously, I am not saying everyone can do this. Some people struggle with computers, some people are just too sick, some people don’t want or can create the type of content that creates an income stream. Some people, like my brothers, would rather just work a steady 9-5 and come home to their video game/friends/girlfriend or other hobbies.
And obviously that is perfectly okay.
But from what I’ve seen, the internet is far more accepting to social class, disability and sexual orientation than any other place. People get their medical surgeries funded by strangers online instead of their government, for crying out loud!
Obviously, I’m not saying the internet erases all of those things. A person with a solid middle class background and a safety net to fall back on will be more at liberty to take risks and pursue their online passion than a single mother of three working four different jobs. And I am not saying there isn’t a lot of hate online, because there certainly is, and I would never deny that.
But if you can create good content. The kind of content other people are willing to pay for, and you can learn to do some marketing, you can grow your income online. From anywhere. Even on borrowed time on a library computer because you can’t afford your own or to pay for internet to your own house.
And I think that is awesome.
PS: I hope I managed to share my joy and excitement about the possibilities of the internet in this post. I certainly didn’t mean to seem elitist, ableist or stuck full of white privilege which I most certainly might be. If I come across that way to anyone, feel free to let me know. I am always trying to improve my writing to be the most inclusive I can manage.