Digital transformation is a popular buzzword used to describe the practices that corporations and government bodies, around the world, use seeking to remain relevant in the digital age.
The leaders in legacy institutions know that you have the power to displace their empires from your living room, and are spending billions to update their practices, before you get around to doing that.
Since the creation of the World Wide Web in 1990, and the introduction of electronic payments a few years later, megalithic industries have been brought to their knees, and the opportunities for anyone with an internet connection have been rapidly on the rise.
Digital transformation is all about becoming a digital enterprise—an organization that uses technology to continuously evolve all aspects of its business models (what it offers, how it interacts with customers and how it operates). - Digital transformation: A PRIMER
Challenge vs opportunity learning to earn online
When I started learning how to earn a living online, I began in the same places most people do: micro jobs and click work (think surveys and random small web tasks) with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork, and (growing massively, in demand) audio\video transcriptions.
I’ve always loved to read, so I thought writing might be a good fit for me. I began advertising my services writing articles on tech trends like AI and Blockchain. I didn’t know anything about those subjects, but I was willing to accept low paying gigs to learn.
While doing research for the articles, I was constantly irritated by the mass quantity of fluff content online. Articles written to catch your eye but providing nothing of substance to the users. I spent a ton of energy reading and sifting through search results, trying to determine where reliable information lives.
Where most people are trying to write as quickly as possible, I pushed the other way, with the aim of creating detail rich articles, with plenty of references, so the readers could easily continue exploring, and check the source of essential information.
That’s when I began collecting sources for a variety of subjects and thinking about how to facilitate peoples sharing their internet research with each-other, to make it easier for everyone to create quality content.
From there, I became far more interested in curation than writing, and eventually got into some contract based research work. More recently, I’ve found that transcribing podcasts to be an efficient use of my time.
It gradually became clear that people were making a lot more from my efforts than what I was getting paid. I could see that there is far more potential in putting that energy into a venture of my own.
The Hard Thing About Learning Hard Things
The sky’s the limit
It can be very difficult to get started working online, but there is no cap or limit on the opportunities available to you. One of the challenges is in determining what are the fundamental digital skills? What are the basics you should know to be conversant in the digital sphere? What should you work on first, when trying to make a living on the web?
It’s hard to make those type of decisions if you don’t even know what your options are.
The answer to those questions will depend on your interests, and what are your pre-existing skills and talents. Not that we always immediately recognize where our personal value lies.
Even having a strong digital literacy, starting out, I had no clues about how to create a sustainable income online, and put a lot of effort into learning things the hard way.
While there’s a lot of educational resources online, a large percentage of digital content has been published in misguided attempts to rank with shady SEO practices, not to edify the masses. Especially in the beginning, before I knew how to look, it was exceedingly difficult to find the information I needed to know.
One of the biggest problems people face is all of the time necessary to figure this stuff out. Especially if they’re not getting paid much for the considerable efforts required, during the earliest stages of your learning curve.
A not-for-profit educational organization
None of the problems around learning digital skills are particularly hard, but this is an entirely new educational paradigm who’s infrastructure is simply under-developed. Moreover, the incentives of legacy educational institutions don’t always seem aligned with the interests of their students.
These are the experiences which led me to the idea of creating a not-for-profit educational organization who’s students teach each other digital skills. Members of this organization get the opportunity to learn digital fundamentals by building the organization, creating it’s curriculum, knowledge base, and ultimately educational products like online courses.
Get paid to learn
You can learn basically anything for free online, but I think getting paid to learn is even better! Those opportunities are abundant, but they may not always be the highest paying gigs.
The plan is for this organization to eventually reward members for contributing to its creation, and its creation will be a part of the curriculum. So depending upon which lesson or course module you complete, you can be rewarded in a number of different ways.
There can be a variety of incentive mechanisms and forms of payment for different tasks. That could include getting paid for income generating products you help to create in the organization. That could also include some type of points or token system where you get points for a variety of activities such as: helpfulness in chat or a forum, building and editing the wiki, and of course the could be redeemable for a variety of rewards.
Once a sufficient knowledge-base is developed, there will be opportunities to create paid newsletters, reports, online courses, and any other product\service ideas that we come up with. These learnings can be applied anywhere, including the creation of products that bring in an income for the organization, along with independent projects our users form separately.
By the time members have developed skills from among each of our learning tiers, they will also have the benefit of a supportive community, nurtured by their efforts in building out the organization.
It would really only take a few dedicated souls to make a significant impact on those goals, and get the flywheel turning. Until such help arrives, I have no problem gradually bringing this idea to life.
I’ve recognized that time-cycles from idea to fully fleshed successful product can be rather long. Even after initial success or recognition, you have to figure out what the market you’re interested in really needs to feel good about paying for, or other funding opportunities aligned with your values.
I’ve also seen how projects can grow rather quickly if you satisfy the right need in a marketplace.
Not only a technical education
One of the great things about learning digital skills, is you can do that while following any interest, and creating content that supports your needs.
This is meant to develop a community of people who teach each other digital skills, and learn to build an online business by participating in it’s creation, but it should also empower people to learn deeply on subjects they are passionate about, and amplify our voices on important issues.
One of the projects will be creating a wiki, that can include knowledge on any subject our members are passionate about, not only technical how-to guides and curated lists of tools and information on a variety of subjects. It will also focus deeply on information related to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), emotional intelligence, mindfulness, restorative practices, the biology and psychology of addiction, social dynamics, personal development and working actively to repair damage and turn the tide against systemic racism and sexism.
If we disagree on any of these topics, the research skills we’re developing will be especially useful. We don’t have to fight, but make our case with curated lists and detail rich articles in the wiki.
The most fundamental digital skills, in my estimation, are web search and curation. Much of our curriculum will revolve around finding useful information online, along with any number of pursuits that can be explored while developing those skills.
The idea isn’t for the organization to focus only on my favorite propaganda, but for the members to create their own curriculum and make messages important to them more accessible for their own benefit and the benefit of others.
DigitalSkills.Info is meant to support recognition of the internet as a place where people can earn an income, even a living, while pursuing their interests.
The long tail
long tail is a business strategy that allows companies to realize significant profits by selling low volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. - investopedia
My take on the long tail is that, as an individual, you could choose the even most obscure niche subject or product. You’ve got the entire world as a market. If you need 2000 bucks a month, you only need 20 customers to pay you 100 bucks a month, 40 customers to pay you 50 bucks a month, 200 subscribers to give you 10 dollars a month, 400 subscribers to give you $5 monthly, and so forth.
It’s just a matter of finding your market, and figuring out some product they will be happy to pay for because it meets their needs. If you start with something you really care about, that you would even do for free, that will help to ensure you don’t burn out before achieving success.
The age old argument against pursuing your passion because you can’t make a living with it is officially obsolete. In the digital age, you really can make a living focused on philosophy, latin, and any other pursuits you may have thought would never pay your bills.
Curriculum for the Digital Age
I’m sure this list is not exhaustive, but gives an idea of the type of information I’d like to make more easily accessible.
- Optimizing slow computers
- Computer security fundamentals
- How to acquire affordable used tech
- Web search and digital curation
- Digital etiquette and social awareness
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness
- Positive masculinity and sexual consent
- Allyship and Anti-racism
- Benefits of the varieties of social networks
- Content creation
- Website publishing
- SEO fundamentals
- Deploying and maintaining web-servers
- The use of valuable web applications
No matter what subject we’re working on, digital tools will play a starring roll. 💫
Digital Tools make the Digital Transformation
More than 70% of all SMBs report revenue growth and attribute some of this growth to the use of digital tools. More digitalized SMBs have a higher likelihood of experiencing revenue growth than their less digital peers. - Performance of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in a digital world
There are powerful tools available for people of every level of experience, and as a part of DigitalSkills.Info, there will always be someone available to help you around the trickiest parts of learning to use them.
While there are a multitude of free tools available directly from your web-browser, the majority of tools you pay for online, can be replaced for free, or at a fraction of the cost, if learn how to use some dev tools and spin up a web-server.
If do you like the idea of learning to write code, I think it’s easier to start by using developer tools to accomplish tasks that you want to complete.
The important thing is to start out with some achievable goals, and get some positive feedback loops working in your favor. That’s where having a community like this can be an invaluable resource in getting over that initial hump.
After running other peoples code for long enough, eventually I learned enough to change a single parameter, slightly altering the code to suit my purpose. One day I wanted to create a Twitter quote bot, and discovered I could write a script from start to finish, and set it up to run on a schedule for free with GitHub actions.
It was a transformational moment where I realized the power of the web is really at my fingertips, and that I have what it takes to use the tools for this journey.
Stay in touch
Over the coming year, i’ll be releasing a number of projects and articles to make the value of DigitalSkills.Info more tangible.
In the mean-time, please do subscribe here for updates, and share what interests you about this project. If you’re ready to get started learning and building, right away, I’ll be happy for company.
Support this project on Patreon
One last shout out
Before I go. Lately, I’ve been binge listening to the IndieHackers Podcast, which has lots of interviews with solo-founders who go into detail about how they started a business online. It’s definitely been an inspiration for me while working on this idea. Highly Recommend.