Famed NCAA basketball coach John Wooden once told us that your character represents the person that you really are, while your reputation is what you are perceived to be. You don’t have to look much further than the average politician or other public figure to realize that a person’s reputation and a person’s character may not necessarily be the same thing. Appearances can be awfully deceptive.
The person who you might know as a “nice guy” could turn out to be a lying cheater. The quiet guy who dresses humbly and rides a bike could actually be the richest guy on the block. And the same can be said about your online reputation as it compares to where you actually earn your living. You have to remember that what you see and what you get could be entirely different from one another.
Let’s take my career as a freelance writer as an example. If you’ve been following my writing here on John Chow dot Com and on some other sites around the Internet, then you probably know me within this sphere of Internet marketing and making money online. Outside of this circle, though, you may see a slightly different image of me.
That’s a screenshot of my Instagram you see above. On social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (along with some of the content on my own blog), I have a reputation of being a “foodie” or a “food blogger.” I like to eat and I take a lot of pictures of what I eat. I also review a number of restaurants.
If you only knew me under this context, then you might assume that “food photography” or “restaurant critiques” are my primary source of income. And that’s pretty far from the truth. As much as I like to indulge in unique culinary adventures, I don’t really make much money from that niche at all. It’s just a fun hobby for me.
Similarly, many of my friends also know me as the “Street Fighter guy” and they’re quick to share some of their fun findings from around the web as they relate to the popular fighting game series. And while I do maintain a fighting games blog, it’s also just a fun side project and hobby for me. It’s not at all a primary source of income.
What does this mean in terms of making a comfortable living on the Internet? How is this relevant to your own ambitions and endeavors? Realize this: even if you see someone else online accumulate a large following and develop a prominent reputation within an industry or niche, it doesn’t mean that person is actually earning a good amount of money in that space.
Conversely, even if you’ve never heard of someone within a particular sphere, that someone could actually be raking in a very healthy sum of money working within that industry in some way. It could be affiliate marketing. It could be arbitrage. It could be blogging under a pseudonym.
Don’t mistake reputation for profitability. While they may go hand in hand, they can also be mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be rich to be famous, just as you don’t have to be famous to be rich.