Confused and Overwhelmed? 31 Successful Internet Marketers Tell You How to Overcome Self-Doubt -

Confused and Overwhelmed? 31 Successful Internet Marketers Tell You How to Overcome Self-Doubt

Self doubt

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Did you know that there are over 1 million Clickbank affiliates, and 15,000 of them make a full-time income promoting Clickbank products? Quick math: that means 1.5% of Clickbank affiliates make a full-time income from it.

Now, there are two ways of looking at that number: glass half-empty, and glass half-full.

The glass half-empty folks say “What?! Only 1.5% of affiliates are making it?”

The glass half-full folks, on the other hand, say “Wow, 15,000 people is a lot! I’m going to be one of them.”

And when you combine all of the internet marketers who are successfully promoting products from other affiliate networks, or their own products, Adsense, eBay, Amazon, CPA offers, and a million other things, there are probably hundreds of thousands of people who have “made it” online.

And yet all of those people went through a range of emotions on their way to achieving their goals. I regularly hear from my blog subscribers about the emotions they are grappling with, the most limiting of which is self-doubt:

– Doubt in their abilities

– Doubt in their chances of succeeding

– Doubt that this whole “make money online” thing is even real

I get so many emails from people trying to overcome self-doubt in making money online that I got an idea one day: to ask as many successful bloggers as I could how they overcame doubt.

So here’s what I did. I emailed 100 bloggers and asked them a simple question:

“What is the #1 thing you did to overcome self-doubt in your early days online?”

Out of the 100 emails I sent, 31 bloggers responded (so far). Included in the respondents were some heavy-hitters, including John Chow, Yaro Starak, Shawn Collins, Chris Guthrie, Zac Johnson, and Daniel Scocco. Many “up-and-comers” also responded.

The text that follows is the responses from all 31 bloggers. In their responses, I think you’ll see a few themes emerge:

– Find a mentor, or someone successful to model

– Treat “failures” as learning experiences

– Take a long-term view (don’t expect quick success)

– Focus on one thing at a time

– Persist!

You might say that this post is a kind of mirror to my previous post on the 8 challenges facing IM newbies. And yet, if you look at the responses from bloggers who have “made it”, you still see similar issues cropping up.

So, in no particular order, here are the responses from bloggers:

Yaro Starak,

Self doubt is a mindset issue that needs to be dealt all the time, even when you are successful.

Generally it’s worse when you are new since you don’t have any experiences to back up your self confidence. Instead you have to rely on faith that if you do certain things results will come.

I found that working on how I “talked to myself” by monitoring my thoughts and constantly course correcting to focus on what I wanted to achieve and what I needed to do, not what I wasn’t achieving. It’s a simple shift in thinking, which if you can master will help in all areas of life.

Pat Flynn,

The #1 thing I did to conquer self-doubt was to join a mastermind group. Having a team of like-minded people help me not only figure out what steps to take, but also confirm my actions and encourage me along the way was absolutely priceless. It was, in fact, someone in my very first mastermind group that told me I should write an eBook, which a year later turned into about $200k in profit.

When the ‘self’ is doubtful, it’s hard to pull through entirely on our own.

John Chow,

The #1 thing to help me overcame my self-doubt and limitation in the early days was my wife. She is the biggest reason for my success. I know it’s not the answer people are expecting but it is what it is. Behind every successful man, you will find a woman.

Mark Mason,

I found one marketer that did one thing well.  His story was similar to mine.  I started following him, and learned to do what he was doing.  This helped with self-doubt because I had and example of success right in front of me.  One key it to focus on a single mentor and a single business model.  Distraction is a sure way to let self-doubt creep in.

Bob Lotich,

It can be tough to overcome self-doubt when starting in this business, but I worked hard to stay focused on the end goal. I knew that others had been doing what I wanted to do, I studied their methods and their success and applied it to my business. It was very slow-going at the beginning, but I have learned to enjoy things that take a long time to reap the rewards.

Typically if the fruit takes a while to develop – it is much sweeter than that which comes quickly. For me, I had to stay focused on the long-term goal rather than the fact that I had been working for months for pennies. I took comfort in the fact that even if I doubted my own abilities, I could stick with the thing for long enough that success would be inevitable.

Eric Nagel,

I guess I just focused on what I did best (programming, in my case) and helped others where I could, and in turn, they helped me. Forming these alliances in the early days have really paid off, and people that I just happened to talk to now & again online have become good friends today.

Joe Sousa,

Well, the simple answer is just go for it and don’t doubt. Yeah, you may fail. Yeah, it may take 10 or 12 tries before you are successful. But take those mistakes and learn from them. If you can figure out why a site didn’t work take what you learned and apply it on your next site. After a series of learning experiences (a better word for failures) you will eventually find some nuggets of success. When I was starting out I remember the first site I worked on as an SEO back in 1998. It was for a real estate company in California and when I saw the first listings show up in the search engines I knew this was something I could do. I pretty much started from scratch as far as my knowledge of search engines was concerned but once I saw a bit of success it gave me the confidence to know I could do this.

When I got into affiliate marketing it was the same. I knew about SEO but I knew nothing of affiliate marketing. But I just went for it, learned what I could, and started building sites. It took a bit but when I saw the first sales I realized there was great potential. I took what was working on those sites and applied it to others and kept learning as I went.

So basically the best way I could tell you to overcome self-doubt is to not see failures as failures but see them as something to learn from. And when you do see small bits of success take those and run with them.

Erica Douglass (sold her company for $1.1 million at 26),

I stopped comparing myself to other people. I realized the most meaningful experience I could share was my own experience running a successful business. As long as I consistently relate to my readers in a meaningful way, I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. We all have our own journeys.


If I can tell one thing about over coming self doubt is to look at what other people who wanted the same thing as you have done, and realize that almost all of them are just like you and I. Some of them may know a bit more about SEO, Blogging or what have you, but non of them knew them when they were born. If they learned it, took action and succeeded, so can you!

Tracey Edwards,

Even when I was starting online, I never thought that I couldn’t do anything, I instead used to think that I need to find out HOW to do it.  So I used to follow a lot of people who looked like they knew what they were doing. As I learnt more, I eventually developed a style of what works for me and what doesn’t.

However in the beginning, it definitely was a huge learning curve.  So if I had any advice for complete newbies it would be to never doubt that you can do it, because every single person started in exactly the same way that you did and just learned and grew as they developed their skills.

Typically the first year online isn’t very profitable for newbs, since it takes a while to build up websites, write articles, get traffic, but if you can get past that first year believing that you can do it, then when you get to the second year and it just ‘clicks into place’ you’ll start to see some really good money come in.

Trust yourself and do the work and you’ll do great.

Josh Todd,

The key for me was to formulate a plan, and stick with the plan until it worked. There are so many different ways to make money on the internet, you will run around like a chicken with its head cut off unless you can narrow down your focus on to a single vertical, a single traffic source, and work it until it pays off. Doubt will creep in when you fail at first, but don’t give up and switch to something completely different. Just keep doing it, track everything, and eventually you will have that first breakthrough.


Its very easy to get information overload when you first start out. I think the common mindset is that you want to know “everything” before you start promoting a campaign/traffic source. This way you get caught up reading too much; not taking action at all. *

My advice is to create your first campaign (can be direct linked, can be a campaign that has only 10 kw), and work hard for your first conversion. Once you’ve done this, you can do more reading and tweak your campaign based on what you’ve learned. This way, you are not reading in vain, and actually taking that knowledge and acting on it. *

Even if you are not a tech person, I would highly recommend learning the following as you go along. Tracking202, Google Website Optimization, basic html (php/mysql/js would be nice) knowledge that will help you build landing pages down the road. Also for effective ad copy writing, the following books are of great help: cashvertising, tested advertising methods.

Geno Prussakov,

I believe that to succeed online it really requires an entrepreneurial spirit, which by definition fights self-doubt by excitement about new opportunities. You want to look at things long-term and see (or often dream) the bigger picture. That is where I get my inspiration from, and this is what keeps me going.

Sushant Risodkar,

The #1 thing I did to overcome self-doubt was that I faced the situation fearlessly without giving up and watching the final results of the experiment of whatever I did to increase my online income. And if the results were even little positive, I enjoyed those small successes.

When I started online, I really failed couple of times to start making an online income. Considering that I was the age of 14-15, I really didn’t knew how to make money online except using adsense; by exchanging clicks with other people.

But I never gave up! I always had in my mind that my goal is to overcome this situation any way possible rather than just sitting and thinking that ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘it’s not possible’ (the famous sentences)…

Before starting my internet business, I spent about 2 yrs. with the community of hackers and online pirates. They were really fearless in what they did and this helped me also. I was never afraid about the bad results of my steps and always tried to take my new experiments to the final level to see what really happens. So I’ll really give credits to those people that made me fearless in advance 😀

Albert Fang,

It is true that building a business can be hectic and may seem complicated at first, especially in the early stages. However, for me I strongly believe finding a sense of purpose and motivation goes a long way of helping people pull through the rough times. Although it may seem there may be a lot of information to take in at first, there is really no rush. The hardest part for me was realizing this. The best thing I did was literally setting a daily routine of simple things like, what I would like to accomplish (realistic goals) and how I would go about successfully executing it. I would jot down notes and ask for feedback, which were extremely helpful in the process. The biggest obstacle when beginning thinking I had to learn everything at once. But in reality, learning everything on the way was just as productive and just as fulfilling.

Lee Ka Hoong,

No free lunch in this world, don’t worry about anything such as losing money, just invest on a hosting and domain and start your journey. There are thousands of blogger out there who are ready to help you and provide you piece of great information, follow and implement. No shortcut, just do whatever you think is right, success will be in your side in the end!”

Zac Johnson,

I can’t tell you how much fun it was to play around 15 years ago and start making money online. I wish I could go back to those days. It was so exciting and brand new. As much as I’d like to say I had a ton of hurdles to jump over and needed to make money to pay my mortgage in time… I can’t! I was a kid in high school and just figuring out how to make an awesome business online. Any self doubt I may have had, was when I would start new projects or be disappointed by slow growth, but I just knew there were more ways to make money online and it’s all about being persistent and believing in yourself! Stick to your gut, don’t listen to the haters and find your own success.

Ian Fernando,

A loss is good data. Fear is a bad feeling and it just needs to be removed. When starting out it does become hard, but realizing you are going to be handling a business changes your mind set just a bit.

When you lose money its actually positive information, it tells you not to do what you just did. More importantly analyze why it didn’t work and how to improve it. Never look back but always forward, what can we do to fix it and not ask why did it happen.

There are times where losing money can hurt especially if you are not seeing results. The best thing to do is just look at it as data provided, never a negative thing. If you have a fear of losing $50 what will happen when you start losing $5,000?

Removing that factor and looking at how to improve and not why it happened can help change perspectives a lot.

Pat Doyle,

I didn’t really have a problem with self-doubt when I started out online.  I was lucky that I learned earlier, in my job as a computer programmer, that you have to have confidence in your abilities to figure things out, otherwise you will never get anything done.  It is pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I have noticed that those who think they can’t do something, will turn out to be correct.  And those that think they can, will persist until they do.

So the trick is to realize that you are just as smart as a lot of other people online, and if they figured it out, you can too.  In the beginning everyone flounders.  That is normal.  Just keep trying things and improving on what you do.  There is no magic “smarts” that you need.  You basically just need patience and persistence.

I started my first blog on a subject I enjoy, dogs.  I just thought to myself, what kind of stories would I enjoy reading?  Then that is what I posted on my blog.  I started commenting on other people’s blogs and made some friends that way.  Those same people came to my blog and left positive comments.  It was great to have that positive feedback.  You can have that too, if you just take the time to make a few friends online.

What is the worst that can happen?  The blog police aren’t going to come and arrest you if your blog is not up to some arbitrary standards.  Just get out there and start doing something.  You will learn as you go.

So I guess the #1 thing I did was just to start doing things online and not worry about failure.  Be patient and realize that your early attempts might not amount to much, but you will be learning a lot.  Eventually it will all start to come easy to you.  You just have to expect a little confusion at first, and be okay with that.

By the way, that dog blog I started way back then, is still a strong AdSense earner for me.  I have other blogs too, but that one is still my favorite.

Shawn Collins,

I started blogging in 2004, and I wasn’t really clear about the length, look, tone, etc. a post should have. Over time, I just settled into writing in my voice, and it all came easy. Early on, it was sometimes discouraging, because it seemed like nobody was reading and it mad me wonder what the point was of even doing it. But I stuck with it and build a list of subscribers to my RSS and daily visitors over time. I found that frequency was a good strategy for building my readers, so I started posting 365 days a year a number of years ago. The consistency has helped retain and build an audience. But one issue I had was what to write about on such a frequent basis. So, I set up a site to help provide a regular source of content at Since my blog is about affiliate marketing, I created this page to enable people to ask any question about affiliate marketing, and then I answer each one on my blog. So, I get to help people and have a source for frequent, original content. That makes it easier to maintain a regular habit of posting.

Chris Guthrie, (Make sure to check out Chris’ post called “How I Sold a Website for Six Figures”)

I knew from the start that I would probably fail (and fail often) so rather than worry about when I may fail I simply charged ahead and when various online projects inevitably failed I didn’t let it bring me down. I knew that if I stayed positive and continued working hard I’d eventually have some successes. One of the most recent successes was selling a website in a deal worth six figures. This came after getting fired from my day job and having all of my friends telling me to go get a real job instead of doing this online thing so not only did I have to worry about supporting my wife and I while she was getting her master’s degree I also had my friends giving me a hard time (and probably thinking that I would fail). You truly have to believe that you can be successful but if you’re reading this blog post right now and haven’t even tried to create a website I urge you to get on it immediately. You can spend literally years reading about how other people have been successful online and never get around to trying it yourself.

Wendy Piersall,

The best advice I got on this topic was from a conference and a speaker who I can’t remember. She said, “Fail FAST so that you can get the critical lessons you need to learn out of the way as soon as possible.” Failure isn’t an if – it’s a when. And the only true failure is when you let a mistake stop you from pursuing your goals.

Olgi Zenullari,

The most difficult thing online is not how to make money, but convince yourself you can do it. I had to read tens or even hundreds of inspirational case studies from experienced people and when I mean experienced, not the self-claimed guru’s who would sell you a get rich scheme for only $47, but the ones who have been there and have achieved results

You should inject into your readers mind the winners mindset, that everything is doable and that anyone can achieve it, no matter of their race, ethnicity or location. As long as the have a computer connected to the internet and the desire to succeed, they will surely achieve it.

Just think of it, the big Internet bubble was about 10 years ago but that doesn’t mean you are late on starting a project today. Imagine how many people search for the term “make money online” for the first time in their life every single day, imagine how many people will be doing the same in the coming 5 years, 10 years and so on.

The most important thing is to have strong bases of valuable information and as per the success, it will follow, believe me 🙂

Brian Johnson,

The short answer to this is, “I jumped in”.  I was accepted to my first network (azoogle) while we were in the hospital waiting to deliver my baby girl.  That was in early June of ’07 and I didn’t “jump in” until October.  As you can see there were a few months of self-doubt.  I finally took $50 and joined a coaching forum in October and it was the best decision I made.

Brian Evans,

I was a successful amateur basketball player as a kid growing up. I was one of the best free throw and 3 point shoots in my town. How I became so good at free throws is also how I overcame self-doubt in my early days online.

It all started when I was about 10 years old. I was playing basketball vs. kids much bigger than me in the neighborhood. They would push me around and use their size to their advantage to make sure I couldn’t get anywhere near the hoop. This forced me to become a shooter and a quick shooter at that. I would go home and practice for hours upon hours shooting shots and shooting shots quickly.

I would sit outside on my parents driveway and literally shoot 100, 200, 500 or 1,000 shots in a row. Sometimes I would say to myself “I’m not going in for dinner until I make 100 free throws or 3 pointers”… my parents would have to either drag me in or I would finish, usually I finished. This started building up my discipline, confidence and character which would inevitably serve me well on the basketball court, and as an Internet Marketer and Actor.

Fast forward 15 years I’ve found myself in Internet Marketing and Acting as my two major career choices. I believe my ability as a kid to say “I’m going to shoot free throws until I make 100” gave me my ability to overcome self-doubt knowing that if I stick with something long enough I will succeed. To me it’s a matter of not quitting, not giving the edge to the evil marketing demons that are hoping I lose.

My analysis on this is that because of my ability to not quit it built up a little bit of confidence, and that confidence bread success. Now that I’m having success in my two career choices IM and Acting, that continued success is giving me more confidence. It’s basically an endless circle at this point of success -> confidence -> success -> more confidence…

For anyone starting out I’d recommend finding something like I did to give you the confidence to go forward, even if it’s something unrelated to making money online. Being successful in life in general, is the real key to being successful online. You must be exposed to success or have the ability to do what I did and say “I’m not going to quit until I get X result”. Don’t let yourself quit. Believe in yourself and hit your goal.

Rob Malon,

I never really had much self doubt if any at all. I would question that if you have too much of it, you’ve got other problems to sort though before starting a business. If you don’t know how to do something but you’re passionate about it at the basic levels, you’ll strive to meet the needs of the demands placed in front of you. Each time you’ll learn something for it even if you fall short on expectations the first time or two. Learning how to learn and troubleshoot your own problems that come up are paramount in eliminating self doubt. That’s why I have never had any. Everything is possible. It only takes time and willingness.

Adrienne Smith,

I don’t think it was any one thing that I did really.  I just knew deep down inside that this was where I belonged.  I knew that I would eventually acquire the right information for me and that things would start to fall into place.  I said some daily affirmations and prayed each morning.  I also have a wonderful support system in my family and friends and they always told me just how much I knew that really impressed them and that always made me feel so much better.

Tiffany Dow,

Wow it was hard. For 6 years, I did nothing. I stayed paralyzed. Then I finally watched The Secret and one single portion stood out to me enough to make an impact that changed my life.

They said, “Live your life as if your goal has already happened.” So for me,my goal was to become an Internet Marketer. Instead of acting as “only a ghostwriter,” I started blogging and posting with confidence. I forced it at first, but it worked!

I also realized that everyone else is nervous – even those big gurus. They sweat things even more sometimes because of the fact that everyone’s watching.

Daniel Scocco,

In my case it was a lot of gut feeling that this “Internet thing” would work. I didn’t know what I was doing, but after a couple of months my website was already getting 1,000 visitors a day, so I figured the potential was there. But when I decided to quit my job to work full time online I was still making little money with my websites, so it was a big leap of faith. It worked out fine though, so remember to trust your gut.

Ajith Edassery,

Self-doubt is bound to happen when you are entering a new domain regardless of whether it’s online of offline. When you start off a new online venture without much investment (e.g. blogging) you could have time at your hand to overcome any fear but if you start off with a bigger investment you are more vulnerable to the fear for failure. Setting small targets at a time and achieving them step by step might help to become more confident than taking huge leaps and take the risk of failure. This also gives you a sense of ‘progress’ while bulk investment-slow returns scenario may only increase your self doubt and affect your venture negatively. The ‘slow and steady wins the race’ adage is still my favorite one but at the same time be alert on newer opportunities.

In my particular case, I waited for almost 9 months to 1 year to start making anything significant. Even now, I do things one at a time and newer ventures are strictly made out of the returns from older campaigns/sites.

Timon Weller,

Interesting question as we all go through this being a blogger or website owner from time to time. I believe the best answer is self determination. One can easily give up along the way, however those that keep going at it eventually get to where they are going… Things I recommend to work on for any blogger or online writer is positive conversions of sales as well as becoming a good writer. Its all great to have great writings and all that, but we also need to do what the top marketers do as well to keep readers coming back, this includes like you say below a subscriber base, a auto responder, a free related guide to your niche and recommending good products and services (related to niche as well) to keep your audience happy. Conversions is what keeps us as writers motivated to keep going and also helps us pay the bills.

In the early days I guess it is also about motivation, keep the goals you want in your head and start small, to me my first goal was a 100 targeted visitors a day which is a small goal and then move to 200 a day and so forth as each goal is achieved. Then also creating small income goals for that website starting at a low 1 dollar a day and moving up to 5 dollars a day for that site and so on. By focusing small and building it, it is a great way to create momentum and motivation as the site grows in traffic as well as income.

Summing Up

From reading the responses of these 31 bloggers, you can see that there are a handful of practices that heavy-hitter (and up-and-comer) bloggers use to overcome feelings of self-doubt – techniques they use to keep on truckin’ when things are a little tough. These practices include: finding a mentor, or someone successful to model; treating “failures” as learning experiences; taking a long-term view (don’t expect quick success); focusing on one thing at a time; and persisting!

Another thing I found really interesting was Yaro Starak’s comment about feeling self-doubt “even when you are successful”.

So what do you think – any surprises in there? And how do you overcome self-doubt?

Please leave your comment below!

About the Author Moe Muise

I've been making money online since 2009 and have a passion for research. My focus is niche research: finding profitable niches, keyword research, and competition analysis, as well as creating outstanding content.

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