5 Online Business Skills That MAKE MONEY

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 01/14/22 •  13 min read

When I first started working online, I had no idea what I wanted to do.

The idea of having more freedom in my life, and having a platform of my own was exciting – but beyond that?

I was clueless.

I didn’t know if I wanted to be a blogger, freelancer, marketer, influencer – or something totally different.

On top of that, even if I decided I wanted to do any of those things.  I didn’t know where to start.  I didn’t know what skills I’d need in order to be successful at any of them.

One thing I did learn pretty quickly is that there are a handful of skills that will be useful to you regardless of which path you decide to take.

If you can get to an intermediate level at each of these online business skills, you’re going to have a much easier job finding work, building an audience, and making money.

What are those skills? That’s what I’ll be telling you about in this post.

My First Two Online Projects Ever

I don’t know where the inspiration came from, but in late 2008 (yeah, that’s how long I’ve been doing this) I decided that I wanted to start a site dedicated to tennis.

I grew up playing competitively and had some contacts in the industry, so I bought my first domain: hookedontennis.com.

At the time I’d never heard of WordPress, so I found getting started with basic HTML to be clunky and time-consuming, it also didn’t take long to realize my initial idea for a tennis site wasn’t very feasible – mostly due to the fact I just wasn’t that interested in tennis anymore.

After a week of that, I moved onto an affiliate tutorial (that’s no longer there) from Glen Allsopp.  I didn’t know what that was either but the concept sounded great!

You write a review of something, get a special link, people click the link, and you get paid!

How hard can that be?

As you see in this video, clearly harder than I expected:

I bought Jamoramaguitarlessons.org, and used his template to try and sell a product for guitar lessons.

By not understanding the fundamentals of marketing and setting up a website however, that idea quickly floundered as well.

While both of those were good learning experiences, in each case there was a big problem.

I didn’t take time to develop a set of fundamental skills that would help me be successful online – mostly because I wasn’t sure what those skills were.

Over a decade later, there are five skills that more than anything I’ve found to be incredibly useful to building an online business.

If you’re good at even one of these skills, you can build a successful business around it.

But if you can get a general understanding of all of them, you can apply them laterally across your business and become much more effective in the process. We talk about this a ton in Location Rebel Academy.

5 Online Business Skills That Every Entrepreneur Should Have

Below we’ll be looking at what these online business skills are, why each of them are so important, and what some potential starting points are as you become proficient in each.

Critical Skill #1: Copywriting

It took me a while to fully understand just how important copywriting is.

When I launched my very first product way bacl in 2010, I was still writing the sales page for it right before I launched it.

Most people will spend 98% of their time creating a product and 2% of the time working in the sales page, if that.

However, it’s that well-written copy that will get people in the door in the first place.  This is why most online products aren’t successful –  because their creators don’t know how to sell it.

I’ll even go as far to say this is the most important skill you need for success on the internet.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re always selling something.

Whether it’s an idea, a product, yourself – when almost everything online is distributed via words, there is never a time when you aren’t selling.

If there’s one skill that has been more crucial to my success than any other? It’s copywriting:

Potential Jobs You Can Get in Copywriting

However, if you do decide to go the freelance copywriting route, keep this in mind:

Critical Skill #2: WordPress

When I began my first two websites I had no idea what WordPress was – because of this, my ideas never got off the ground.

So to make sure we’re all on the same page, what is WordPress? 

WordPress is what is known as a CMS or Content Management System.  What this means for you, is that you can build and manage a website with next to no knowledge of development or coding.

You should also understand that we are talking about wordpress.org, wordpress.com is different and should probably be ignored if you’re serious about building a business.

To be totally honest? My business(es) wouldn’t exist without WordPress.

Sean Laptop Vail

Me, probably with WordPress open on my computer. While drinking a beer. After skiing. THIS is why you create an online business 🙂

I likely never would have gotten the traction on any of my sites were it not so easy to customize and setup WordPress.

But why mention that here?

You can take any idea from a thought to execution in a weekend if you know how to use WordPress.

Even better, if you’re skilled enough to help other people design and setup their businesses in WordPress? You can make a pretty killer business for yourself.

In fact, at its most basic level, I think the single easiest way to make your first dollar online revolves around this process:

So while copywriting is essential, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have an easy way to put those words up for people to see – this is what WordPress allows you to do.

Potential Jobs for WordPress Experts

Critical Skill #3: Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a skill that can be polarizing.

Usually people will either go all in on it, and try and make search engine traffic the primary form of traffic for their website and brand.

Or they ignore it completely.

Regardless of which way you go, understanding the basics of how it works, and being able to properly optimize a post for Google is an incredibly useful skill to have.

For me, SEO has completely made my business.

When I was first getting going with Location Rebel, I did freelance SEO. This served as my bridge business, while I worked to get where I really wanted to be.

Now, I can directly tie 10s of thousands of dollars of monthly revenue in my businesses directly to the search traffic I receive.

There are a ton of resources out there for learning SEO. Glen’s course SEO Blueprint is my favorite of all of them.

I also personally use SEMrush for all of my SEO research.

To put it bluntly, the opportunity for making a living is pretty much limitless if you’re able to create or optimize content that gets ranked in search engines.

Potential Jobs in SEO:

Critical Skill #4: Design Essentials

When you show up to a website that looks like crap, what do you do? Chances are you leave immediately never to return again.  While you don’t have to be an expert designer to be successful, understanding some of the basics will go a long way.

Couple some basic design knowledge with WordPress skills, and you’re giving yourself a recipe for success.

SO many new bloggers or freelancers creating their portfolio sites have horrible looking webpages, simply because they don’t know any better.

For instance, the difference between a custom logo on a blog and stock text says a lot about your commitment to your website.

A good WordPress theme can go a long way, but if you have enough design knowledge to know the difference between what looks good and what doesn’t? You’ll be in great shape.

Potential Jobs in Design:

Critical Skill #5: Basic HTML

While understanding how WordPress works is far more important in my eyes, that doesn’t mean you’re completely free from having to learn some basic HTML.  The fact is, if you want to get the most out of WordPress you’ll want to learn some of the fundamentals.

You by no means need to know how to code a full HTML site, but the more you know, the easier it will be to customize certain aspects of your WordPress site.

Luckily there are some great ways to learn HTML that are actually fun.  My favorite is Code Academy.  I’m still far from an expert, but I can at least make my sites do what I want, when I want…

Well, some of the time at least.

What makes this stand out, is if you do get really good at HTML and CSS, you open up worlds of opportunity to do more website development work – which is always in demand.  It also pays well, so devoting some serious time to this particular skill can be incredibly valuable – although not entirely necessary to see success.

In fact, if I were to tell a teenage which one skill I’d learn in order to ensure they’d always be able to support themselves?

I’d tell them to learn how to code.

Copywriting is also an essential life skill, but to be honest, it’s easier to find coding jobs than copywriting jobs.

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

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Potential Jobs in Web Coding:

How it All Ties Together

If you haven’t noticed, there are some common themes amongst all of these skills.  Every single one can lead to successful freelance work.  Freelancing is usually the easiest way to get started online.


Because with any of these, there’s a virtually unlimited amount of people looking for work at every level.

You don’t have to be the very best of the best right out of the gate.  Start small, and expand the type of clients you bring on and work you do as your skills are built up.

Along with this, we should point out how important these skills are laterally.  Take affiliate marketing for instance.  You’ll want to be proficient in all of these skills to have the best chance of success.

If you’re a good copywriter who can put together a good-looking WordPress website, who also knows the fundamentals of SEO?

The sky is the limit.

Each of these skills work together in different ways, and by understanding the basics of each, you can take any idea and implement it in a weekend to test for viability, and potentially create something huge.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

30 comments on "5 Online Business Skills That MAKE MONEY"

  1. Carrie Smith says:

    This is a great resource. I wish I’d read this article when I was just starting out with my blog. The one thing that surprised me the most (which you pointed out) is that all these skills can lead to a successful freelancing business if you want it to. And of course if you’re really good at it. I inadvertently started my freelance writing biz because of my blog and all the extra writing I ended up doing. It’s been fantastic! It’s also one of the main reasons I was able to get out of debt so quickly.

    1. Sean says:

      That’s awesome Carrie! I believe the best way to get started in the beginning is to learn the skills, and then pursue freelancing in some capacity. Sure there are all sorts of other ways to do it, but that’s seemed to provide the most success/stability for people early on.

  2. Amber J. says:

    So, learning more about all of these things has been on my mind. Especially the copywriting. Right now I write journalism articles, but I think I could be pretty nifty at the copywriting too.

    Hmm.. thanks for the kick in the pants, Sean!

  3. Mike says:

    Great article and very helpful. If there was one area I struggle with its closing the sale. I can generate the traffic and get the people coming to the site, but really struggle with getting them to the purchase point. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and keep the posts coming as I never miss one.

    1. Sean says:

      Hey Mike, thanks for the comment! The best advice I can give you when it comes to closing the sale, is studying copywriting, more specifically the psychology around it. You need to know what triggers people to buy, and what will make them immediately turn away and stop reading. We cover a lot of this in Location Rebel, but I’d start off by reading Influence by Cialdini – I think that may help.

  4. Dee Miller says:

    Wow. I already have all of those skills to some extent (except SEO). I’ve gone from $50 a week to $300 a week in three months, mostly by copywriting for SEO assignments and blogs. Design freelancing doesn’t pay well, but I have those skills for when I need them. I’ve only used wordpress.com, but I’ve designed a couple of nice blogs on it. I just need to work out an idea, hopefully leveraging my existing professional expertise (in architecture and building engineering). Hum…

  5. Izzy says:

    This is very interesting Sean. You took this a direction that I definitely did not expect.

    When I opened up the post, I assumed you meant “psychological skills” not actual task abilities.

    I spend so much time reading about all of the right mindsets that I had not expected to see simple basic practical application. I do agree that all of these establish a groundwork that can set someone up for success.

    But I cannot hel but think that above all else someone must focus on process over outcomes. In other words, I think the vast majority of people will fail there first few times around. So, they need to have a mindset which focuses on learning over immediate success. I think without this mindset none of those other things matter. Would you disagree?

    I think this post is great because of the practicality that you put forth. Funny, how there is so much content out there where everyone is trying to be so profound and deep that it becomes really easy to forget about the straightforward and practical :).

    1. Sean says:

      Izzy, I totally agree. Without the mindset none of this stuff matters. That being said, I’ve found that having these skills in your arsenal also helps make the process stuff more feasible and easier to grasp. When you know how to do these things it’s easier to visualize a process to move forward.

  6. Annie Andre says:

    The list I wish i read before I started my blog and online business.

    Sean, i’ve been practicing my copy writing skills, do you have any books you recommend? specifically the psychology behind it and triggers that copy writers are so good at using?
    There are so many out there, i can’t seem to weed the good books worth a read adn the bad ho hum ones.


    1. Sean says:

      Annie, absolutely check out Influence by Cialdini as well as Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. Hands down the best two books I’ve read on the subject.

      1. Annie Andre says:

        Thanks for the recommendations Sean.. This is great!!!

  7. Michael says:

    This is pretty interesting, I certainly tick several boxes – I’m actually an ex-SEO Consultant, i used to work for two of the larger UK agencies. For this reason, i hate doing freelance SEO… but obviously that’s just one of the ways to make money.

    It’s really cool have you listed these as major necessities, i’d go as far as saying words are #1 too. Though, it’s a hard skill to grasp.

  8. Number one and two are definitely the most important I think.

    But you can tell people until you are blue in the face and I bet most people would just ignore it while they chase easy one-push button money lol.

    I’m just learning now how important one is; both for earning money writing for clients and for playing around with my emails.

  9. Gemma says:

    1) Branding is much more than just the look and feel of a website or a product.

    2) 50 Dollar Blogs has a good business model but if I was Niall, my prices would be higher, from what I could see.

  10. Chris Jefferies says:

    Your list here is AWESOME! The thing is, what if we are new to the potential of running and working as a self-employed laptop wizard?
    I am currently trying to leave my job and head to India at the end of November. I want to work while I am there, but not too much. Any suggestions where to begin?

  11. Kris de Leon says:

    These are great tips, and it’s motivated me to take a copywriting course. Do you have a good course you can recommend for people just starting out? It’s not listed in your post, but where would you rate skills like e-mail marketing and analytics? I’m doing this in my current day job, and wanted to know how important they are when building your own online business.

    1. Sean says:


      Well I may be a little biased, but https://www.locationrebel.com is my recommendation. If you want just copywriting then checkout http://www.copyhour.com. Email marketing and analytics is definitely important to pay attention to, however it’s not as essential in the early going as some of the other basics I mentioned. Consider them more advanced skills, and EM is basically an extension of copywriting.

      1. Kris de Leon says:

        Thanks Sean for your suggestions! I’ve been learning quite a bit from Jeremy and Jason of Internet Business Mastery, but if there’s an area lacking from their training, I’ll definitely look more into Location Rebel. Though I’m attracted to your community of people who are living around the world and making a living for themselves through their online business.

  12. frugal expat says:

    Hi Sean,

    I recently stumbled on your blog. I have been reading some of your blog posts and I found it very informative.

    Thanks! I am glad actually that I found your site!


  13. R.Gokarn says:

    Hi Sean,

    Big fan of your blog. I am aiming to be location rebel in the near future. I have actually quite a few skills listed. I am comfortable with copywriting, design, SEO and basic HTML.

    I am contemplating going with a blog, but again and again, I just keep feeling that there are so many million similar services out there. There are a million out there for each skill mentioned.
    Somehow, I get the feeling that though this is just a basic overview, there is something missing out of the picture. Freelancers are dime a dozen.

    How does one choose which skill to focus on. My problem is should I focus on design or branding or copywriting?

  14. Frank says:

    Hi Sean,
    Great insights!
    You mention that SEO is the skill that you get asked about the most via email, but that if choosing one of these skills to start out with, you wouldn’t start here.
    And where would you start then? or what would you learn before SEO?
    Thanks again for the great post!

  15. TJ says:

    I’d have to absolutely agree with point number one. There isn’t a single online business that doesn’t require copywriting. It’s by far the most important skill. Maybe I need to put more focus into it I think. Insightful post!

  16. James Zedd says:

    First heard about you on Tim Conley’s Foolish Adventure. These 5 skills are a great starting point for any entrepreneur. I’ve struggled a bit with copywriting and SEO, but I’m getting better. Cheers, Sean.

  17. Alyce J says:

    Learning good copy is definitely a skill that needs to be mastered and something I think a lot of bloggers struggle with.

    I am still learning how to create good copy. I often go back and review what I wrote 6-12 months ago I can see how far I have come.

    Thanks for the post.

  18. Alberto Rodriguez says:

    Cool article. I need to learn about Copyrighting like yesterday. Just starting my blog and learning

    Thanks for sharing your post.


  19. Melissa says:

    excellent post – thank you thank you thank you!!!

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