Genius ways how to make money online legitimately in 2020
There’s no better time than now to build a business and make money online.
With over 3.2 billion people now actively using the internet, we’re well into a massive transformation in how the world does business. We’re living in an age where there’s no longer limitations on what you can achieve based on geographic location or lack of financial resources.
If you have an internet connection and a few dollars in your bank account, there is little that can actually get in the way of you making some extra money online.
There are quite literally hundreds of clever ways to make money online. From taking online surveys, to renting or selling your old clothes, flipping your iPhone to someone in a different country, and even buying low-cost products locally, just to resell them for a higher price on Amazon. There’s truly no shortage of unique ways to make money online.
But don’t fall for the trap of “easy ways to make money online”
Sounds amazing, right? It is. But, before we dive in, I need to address the elephant in the room…
There’s no such thing as an online get-rich quick scheme.
Most of the “quick” and “easy” ways people talk about when it comes to making money online—are not true businesses.
Sure, some of them may be good for creating a few hundred or even thousand dollars in one-time revenue. But they’re not going to help you unlock financial freedom and achieve complete control of your lifestyle.
At best, they’re shortcuts that don’t last forever—and many of the “opportunities” like network marketing giants Herbalife and others offer, often pan out to either be a scam or at the very least, damaging to your personal relationships. And I would never advocate for that.
The Internet has opened up so many opportunities to entrepreneurs and forward-thinking workers to make money online. But it’s also opened up considerable competition.
Here’s the hard truth: The only ways to make money online in any lasting manner, involve putting in real time, effort, blood, sweat and tears.
This isn’t to scare you off. I simply want you to know that this guide is going to focus solely on ways to make real, sustainable extra income online. Not just a few quick bucks. I want to share all the mistakes I’ve made that got me to where I am now so that you don’t have to go through them, and can build a successful online source of income for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of great opportunities to make money online today. It’s that the most common ideas have been picked through a lot more than they were a few years ago. To stand out you need to be smart, look for the best opportunities, and be unique in the ways you approach making money online. And I’m here to help.
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products, tools and learning resources I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can’t afford or that you’re not yet ready to implement.
So, if you’re as excited as I am now, let’s dive right into the 70 best ways to make real, sustainable money online.
1. Build a Niche Blog (or Website) and Use Affiliate Marketing
If there’s a niche you’re interested in and you can build a decent audience around it, starting a blog and using affiliate marketing to generate income is an incredible way to make money online.
I know first-hand that learning to start a blog (let alone make money from it) can be a massive undertaking. The good news though, is that it doesn’t cost much to blog these days—around $65/year for the basic costs.
So, I put together a free master course for you to take that spreads out all of the work involved in starting a blog, into a series of action-packed lessons. My free course breaks the entire process of starting a blog down into an incredibly simple 7-day process for going from 0 to brainstorming the best blog post ideas, publishing (and promoting) your first blog post in just 1 week. We also cover beginner and advanced ways to learn how to make money blogging in the course. I can’t recommend it enough.
Once you’ve gone through how to pick a niche to blog about, the process of blog business planning and have launched your blog (or niche website), the next step is figuring out which products and companies you can partner with as an affiliate to help facilitate sales of a related, helpful product for your audience of future readers.
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is selling someone else’s product by referring customers to their online store. If you can create content (on a blog) or a resource so valuable to the people looking for a certain product and then send them to where they can actually buy it, you’ll receive a predetermined percentage of each sale.
It takes time and effort, but website owners like myself and Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, have built life-changing careers through affiliate marketing. In fact, Pat even publishes his income reports online, showing how he made over $2 million in the past 12 months alone.
Let’s start with the basics of building your niche website and blog, then get into how affiliate marketing will work for you.
First, you need to research and validate a profitable affiliate niche. What this means is: Are there companies in your niche who will pay you to send customers their way?
You can check this in a number of ways:
- Become an Amazon Associate and then use Keyword planner to find an in-demand niche: With more than a million different products to choose from and up to 10% commission the sales you drive, Amazon’s affiliate program is a great place to get started. Browse their available products and see what connects with you. Or take it a step further and use Google’s Keyword Planner to quickly do some keyword research and check how many people are searching for a specific term. With affiliate marketing, the more relevant traffic you can pull in, the more you’ll make off your site.
- Sign up for a reputable affiliate network: Aside from Amazon, there are dozens of top affiliate programs for bloggers and even large reputable affiliate networks, such as Share-A-Sale, Clickbank, and Skimlinks, that specialize in connecting you with merchants who are looking for affiliates to sell their products. They charge relatively low commission fees for the privilege of connecting you with merchants, and the merchants on these sites tend to offer much higher commission percentages or set dollar amount payouts.
- Research individual companies in your desired niche: If possible, it’s always better to become an affiliate directly with a company (if they have an internal affiliate program), as no one else will be dipping into your commission rate. This is the preferred route for most of the prominent affiliate marketers, including Pat Flynn. Unfortunately, it’s also the most work, as you’ll have to do the research yourself to see who offers programs (they’re usually listed in the website footer).
Now that you know your niche and have signed up for relevant affiliate programs, it’s time to build out your blog and learn how to write a blog post that can drive traffic your way.
Bluehost even has a nifty domain name availability checker you can use right here to quickly find out whether or not your desired website URL is available (and if it’s not, they’ll give you suggestions on the next best idea).
Once you’ve got your domain name, you’ll need a platform to build your site on. While you could pick a free option like Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress.com or another website builder, these won’t give you the flexibility or authority you need to build a truly successful affiliate site.
Instead, go with a self-hosted site (like my blog here is)—this means your blog will be hosted on your own server and you’ll have full control over it. Tp;rsquo;ll be wise to upgrade from your starter cheap hosting plan, shared hosting plan or free hosting plan and into something like a managed WordPress hosting setup, where all of the settings are custom-tailored and optimized to work particularly well with WordPress-powered websites.
Now next, you’ll want to pick a WordPress theme from somewhere like Elementor, ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, or OptimizePress that you can use today. This is the barebones design of your site, which you can then customize with your own branding, copy, and images. That being said, you don’t want to cheap out. It costs less than $100 to buy a theme that will make your website look professional (and you can upgrade to a completely custom design once you get the business going). You’ll also need strong marketing tools to grow your website, like HubSpot’s All-in-One Marketing plugin.
Like I said, this process can be a bit overwhelming. And that’s why I put together this free master course to help break this entire process down into easy to follow steps that’ll get your blog off the ground and generating readers in less than 1 week.
Finally, once your blog is officially launched, it’s time to start creating content that’ll drive traffic to your affiliate partner’s site and also benefit your own longer-term blog SEO strategies. Here’s what I mean by that:
Let’s say I’m an Amazon affiliate for camping gear, and I want to write an exhaustive, in-depth blog post and review of the “50 Best Hiking Backpacks for Adventuring Outdoors.” By running a quick Keyword Planner check on the organic search volume I can see that there’s around 5,500 monthly searches for the keyword ‘hiking backpacks’ alone. I’ll then start with putting together a blog post outline to highlight my unique angle and make sure I’m doing the best possible job of answering reader questions—while striving to avoid common blogging mistakes along the way.
Then, if my piece of content is so unique and valuable around hiking backpack recommendations, that other reputable outdoor websites are willing to link to it (as a result of a blogger outreach campaign) and build the page’s authority, then I’d have a very real opportunity to rank high in organic search for these search terms (meaning, my page will come up first when someone searches for hiking backpacks).
Since it’s safe to assume that the purchase intent on searches for hiking backpacks is pretty high, the next logical step is that a reasonable number of site visitors would click through using my affiliate links and complete a purchase, over time.
While it often takes a significant amount of time and hard work to build up your affiliate income, if you have the ability to regularly publish high quality content that drives in targeted traffic to your website, this online revenue source can become quite substantial. Follow along with my experiment growing a new blog, called SmartWP about WordPress, into an additional revenue stream for my business.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog for my free 20,000 word tutorial to starting a blog, promoting your blog content and building it into an income-generating business today. After that and once you’re ready to take your blogging journey seriously, consider investing in your education with one of the top blogging books or blogging courses.
2. Launch and Grow a Startup
Do you have dreams of running your own business one day? Building and scaling a high-growth startup, while by far the most difficult way to make money online, arguably has the most potential upside.
By the 3rd quarter of 2017, Venture Capitalists had invested over $61 billion into close to 6,000 startups in the US alone.
There’s money in the air, and if you can successfully create an online service, tool, or marketplace that fulfills a rapidly growing need in the marketplace, you could be on track for creating a very valuable business. However, it’ll undoubtedly take an intense dedication of time, efforts, and financial resources.
Unlike a lot of the other businesses we’re going to cover, startup founders face a whole slew of variables and roadblocks that can get in the way of success.
For one, you’ll want to have a high level of domain experience within the industry your startup is going to operate. This means a deep understanding of your customers, the issues they face, and an idea of potential solutions they’ll be willing to pay for. This is the minimum you need to get started.
After that, you’ll need to be familiar with the other major players in the space who might be good partners or acquisition opportunities, as well as an intimate knowledge of how to raise funding, market your product, hire and manage the best talent, and keep yourself financially above water.
Now, this may sound like a lot, but the payoff is worth it.
So where do you start when building a startup?
The most important thing you need before you do anything else is a problem. What do people need that they don’t have? What solution is currently out there that you can do better? This alone is the basis of every great startup.
Once you have that problem or need nailed, the next step is to validate that idea and make sure you’ve actually got customers who will pay for it. This means building a minimum viable product, getting objective feedback from real customers, incorporating updates, testing the market for demand, and getting pricing feedback to ensure there’s enough of a margin between your costs and what consumers are willing to pay.
You’ll need some money in order to make money online in this case
Startups can cost quite a bit to get off the ground. So with your idea and market validation solidified, there are a few different paths you can follow to get your initial “seed” cash:
- Bootstrap: This means you’ll be self-funding your business. While not everyone will have the funds to pay for everything they need to start a startup, bootstrapping means that you retain 100% control over your company. If you can bootstrap your company to an exit or IPO, you’ll most likely never have to work another day in your life.
- Pitch to VCs/Angels/other investors: If you need some serious cash to grow your startup, you’ll want to put together a pitch deck and reach out to investors who might want to give you the money you need in return for a stake in your company.
- Join a startup accelerator: Another great option is to apply to a startup accelerator like Y Combinator, 500 startups, or TechStars, where a group of investors will help coach you, connect you with potential partners, and provide startup cash in return for a small stake in your company. The competition is tough to get into these, so don’t rely on them as your only path forward.
Once you’re off the ground, it’s all about customer acquisition, market validation, more funding, and growth.
Of course, that’s a simplified version of everything it takes to build your startup. Luckily, there is now more support, education, and access to funding for budding startups than ever before. And a great place to start is with this list of 101 best free and cheap online business courses for entrepreneurs I put together.
3. Build and Sell Software
Right now there’s an insatiable need for useful software.
Whether it’s an important consumer application, a specialist app to solve a particular niche problem, or even a time-wasting game you can play on your phone, you can create a massively successful business if you build software that helps people. (Look at the rise of Slack—the team communication software that went from side project to billion-dollar company in just 2 years.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Most of the software and apps you use on a regular basis are made by massive companies or established development studios. Well, yes. But many successful apps, particularly those in the Apple and Google stores, are created and marketed by individuals and small businesses. In fact, independent developers made $20 billion in the App Store in 2016 alone.
There are two basic ways that you can make money online by building software products
- The first follows the startup path we outlined above: You have a disruptive idea for an app or piece of software, you validate the idea with real customers, and then raise money to hire developers or a development studio to build, launch, and scale your software. If you’ve done everything right, your software will be accepted to the Apple and Google Stores and you’ll make money every time someone downloads it or pays for a premium feature.
- The second (and cheaper) path assumes that you have the design and dev chops yourself to build your dream software. Naturally, it’ll take more time to get your product off the ground, but being able to bootstrap the development of your software lets you retain more ownership in your business and be more in control of your path, making this a lower-cost, but higher time investment to make money selling apps.
If you’re willing to take the time to learn the development skills necessary to build high-quality software products (or even MVPs to help you get funding), there’s a growing roster of reputable online learning platforms like Treehouse, CodeAcademy, and Skillcrush to get you the skills you need.
4. Start an eCommerce Site and Sell Physical Products
If finding a better solution to a problem hundreds or thousands of people have doesn’t seem like an option right now, you might be better off setting up a virtual shop and selling physical items.
These days, this couldn’t be easier. Sites like Shopify have made it easier than ever to build a customizable, powerful eCommerce site in a weekend and start selling products now.
This is one of the oldest and most time-tested ways of making money online
Plenty of digital entrepreneurs have created sustainable businesses by either:
- Creating physical products they know people in their niche will love
- Purchasing low cost goods manufactured in foreign countries, repackaging or combining them with other products, and selling them for higher prices on domestic online marketplaces
While you’ll certainly have higher levels of success if you can nail creating and marketing your own unique product, from my own experience (and that of many other entrepreneurs), I know the extremely high costs and risk associated with starting a product-based business.
Instead, if you can find a solid product that’s already being manufactured at a reasonable price from a marketplace like AliExpress, LightInTheBox, or DinoDirect and market it to your audience, you’ll have the start of a money-making eCommerce machine.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how your online store is going to operate
Whether you’re selling your own new products or reselling other goods, you still have to consider how much stock you’re going to carry, how you’re going to fund upfront purchasing costs, and where you’re going to store your inventory. Remember, even if you avoid paying rent on a storefront, you still need to store your inventory somewhere.
Well. Not always. There’s another option that’s become incredibly popular in the last few years (and is my personal favorite way to operate a product business), called drop shipping.
With drop shipping, you’re effectively partnering with a manufacturer or wholesaler to sell their products. This way, you don’t pay upfront costs to buy inventory, aren’t sitting on unsold items taking up expensive warehouse space, and don’t have to deal with shipping the products yourself. You simply create your site, fill it with drop shippable products, and drive in customers, with almost everything else done for you.
Of course, there’s a higher price per product and your margins are lower, but you’re able to start your online store with little more than a Shopify theme and some hosted images of your products. When a customer makes a purchase, you in turn buy the product from your supplier who then ships it directly to your customer.
No inventory. No handling products yourself. No shipping by hand. Sounds pretty amazing.
If you want to supplement selling on your Shopify store with other marketplaces, here are a few other highly lucrative options:
- Fulfilled by Amazon: Rather than drop shipping, Amazon lets you store your products in their own warehouses, making them available for Free 2-Day Shipping to Prime members. Which has been proven to significantly increase sales.
- Etsy: If you’ve got handmade or crafty products, Etsy is a great marketplace to market and sell on (bonus points if your product is geared towards a more female audience)
- eBay: The online auction giant is still in the game and especially good for selling electronics, gadgets, clothing and apparel, and accessories.
- Craigslist: While the least scalable, it can be very cost- and time-effective to sell to people locally.
Just be sure to put a lot of care into your product listings. Everything from the titles you use, to how effective the description is at convincing potential buyers your product is better than the rest, and even taking care to shoot high quality product photos can have a dramatic impact on your sales. I recommend using photo editing tools like Fotor, which gives you the ability to edit your images, create captivating graphic designs and more.
5. Find Freelance Clients and Sell Your Services
If you have a marketable skill—like writing, designing, web development, marketing, project management, or anything else—one of the easiest ways to make sustainable extra money online is to start freelancing.
And while freelancing might not be as scalable as some of the other ideas we’ve spoken about, it’s not uncommon for solopreneurs to build healthy six-figure freelance businesses for themselves. (In fact, I’ve interviewed tons of them on my podcast!)
Today, over 54 million Americans are opting to forego traditional careers and start a freelance business.
There’s plenty of work and clients to be found. If you know where to look. To start, you need to know if there is enough demand for your skill to make it worth the effort to go out looking for work. Start by searching for freelance postings on sites like Flexjobs, SolidGigs, Contena or one of the dozens of other skill-specific freelance job boards.
How many postings are there for jobs similar to what you do? If there’s a decent amount and it looks like there’s steady demand, put those skills down on a shortlist and start researching the companies and industries that are hiring.
Freelancing is a proven way to apply your existing skills to make money online
I’ve written a full guide to starting your own freelance business, but here’s a quick list to get you started:
- Decide what your goal is: Do you want a bit of extra income or are you looking to go full-time freelance? It takes time to ramp up a freelance business working from home, so it’s important to know your goals from the outset.
- Find a profitable niche: We’ve talked about this a lot. But, where are you most comfortable? What niche do your skills, values, and interests intersect? Do you have 10 years of experience as a technical writer? Do you have long-standing PR relationships that’ll be invaluable in helping startups launch a successful crowdfunding campaign? Determine what makes your value unique, and lean heavily on showcasing that strength to your potential clients.
- Identify target customers: Write down exactly who you want as your client and then start researching those companies and making your list. You’ll want your portfolio and cold emails to align with the companies you’re reaching out to
- Set strategic prices: The $37.50/hr you earn at your day job doesn’t even come close to the hourly rate you’d need to charge, in order to create the same net annual income, once you’re self-employed. This infographic on calculating your freelance hourly rate can help you decide what to charge.
- Pitch, cold email, and sign your first clients: Now it’s time to go after clients. Mention them in your content. Reach out to them over email or LinkedIn. Tailor your pitch to show what kind of value you bring to the table. (You can even read my personal cold email templates).
Lastly, remember to always have a solid freelance contract in place.
You might be working on small jobs to begin with, but getting in the habit of not starting freelance work without a contract in place can save you big time down the road.
6. Start Online Coaching and Sell Your Advice
Similar to selling your freelance services, you can also start selling your knowledge and advice in an area you specialize in as a coach or consultant. If you can bill yourself as an expert, there are tons of people out there willing to pay for your time.
Being an online coach or consultant is a great way to make money online, as instead of giving your client ongoing deliverables (like when you’re a freelancer), you’re teaching them to be better, faster, stronger than the competition. Your expertise becomes the product you’re selling.
While not very scalable, online coaching is a great way to build an online business
Even better, if you can find ways to package your experience and coaching skills into an easily digestible program, you have the potential to significantly scale this business model.
Now, if you don’t know people who might want your coaching services, there are a number of online tools and communities that make it incredibly easy to find clients and teach, on just about any topic area you can think of. Community driven platforms like Clarity.fm and Coach.me provide you with a network of potential clients to interact with, as well an integrated payment solution.
And while it’s one of the most limited businesses as you’re only able to charge for the time you can provide, many online coaches make hundreds or even thousands for their packages.
It’s also one of the quickest ways you can get set up and start generating revenue. All you really need is an account with one of the online coaching communities I mentioned above and expertise to share.
7. Create Online Courses to Productize Your Knowledge
If you’re already an expert in a topic—either through your current job, freelance business, or coaching—you can package that knowledge into a high-value course and sell it for years to come.
And while building, launching, and marketing an online course does take a considerable amount of upfront effort, their earning potential is through the roof (especially compared to a lot of the other online ways to make money we’re talking about).
Courses and other knowledge products like e-books, are what’s called passive income. That simply means that once the upfront time and effort is put in, with just a bit of regular upkeep and marketing you’ll be able to continue to sell and make money from them for months and years.
So, how do you go about putting together your course? One of my favorite online course success stories comes from Bryan Harris of Videofruit, who built and launched an online course in just 10 days that made him $220,750!
Selling online courses are one of the most scalable ways to make money online
To hit this awesome goal, Bryan followed a four-stage process to discover, validate and launch his course:
Phase 1: Explore and discover the best topic for his course based on the most popular posts from his blog. This ensured he knew the content was already valuable to his audience.
Phase 2: Validate that people would actually pay for his course by surveying readers and securing pre-orders. (This is an important part that so many people forget. Never spend serious time building something unless you know there’s a paying audience for it).
Phase 3: Quickly write, record, and edit the course content. As he already knew there was demand, it made sense to create the content as quickly as possible. He could always go back and update or edit based on feedback from his initial students.
Phase 4: Launch the course to his email list. The success of your course comes down to getting it in front of the right people. And your own audience, no matter how small, is usually the best place to start. That said, you need to have a clear idea of your launch plan before you put it live.
Now, what if you don’t have a blog with popular posts? Or an email list to market to? Let’s look at how you can build your own online course with no previous experience:
- Start by taking other courses you’re interested in: Not only is this important competitor and opportunity analysis, but it also gives you an idea of how a course could or should look and feel. What’s the pacing like? Is it via email, video, in-person chats? Once you understand how you want your course to look, it’s time to decide what it should include. Those same courses are a great starting place. How can you make your course better or more interesting? Do you have experience others don’t?
- Choose your niche and check for demand: The golden course combination is when you can find an in-demand niche that aligns with your skills and unique experiences. A great way to do this is to use Google Trends, Google’s Keyword Planner and other key blogging tools to do keyword research and look for average monthly search volume for keywords related to your proposed course content. Are people actively looking for high-quality information about this subject? Of course, if you’re already creating content for a blog, coaching service, or a site like Medium, you can test demand this way for free just like Bryan did.
- Find your niche partners, collaborators, and champions: As you’re creating your course, look for notable people who are also creating content in the space. Look at how their businesses operate and incorporate that into your own plan. You can also reach out to any influencers and make them affiliates for your own course. This way, they’ll be incentivized to share your content with their own audiences (which can be a major way to generate your first sales—it helps if you’re using one of the best CRMs for small business—and start building your own community!)
- Create a killer course experience: With your course validated and in the works, you need to figure out how people will take it. Most course creators choose to host their courses (after going down the path of learning how to make a website) on their own blogs. This way, they get all the value of bringing customers back to their site on a regular basis. I host my own courses from a subdomain on my own site so I can easily add more. The course experience is incredibly important as well. And after trying most of the solutions, I highly recommend Teachable—an online platform designed specifically for courses.
- Build your audience on a course community: If you’re just getting started building an audience for yourself and want to leverage communities already actively looking for content you can choose to host and sell your online course on a site like Skillshare or Udemy. These are easy, cost-effective ways to build an audience and test your niche to see if there’s demand for it.
- Market your course: The beauty of using a course to make money online is that you can continue to sell it for as long as you’d like. Look for niche communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Reddit that might benefit from your content. Guest blogging on relevant sites. Look for anywhere you might be able to get in front of the right people. With just a few hours a month you can continue to generate sales.
At the end of the day, you’ll need to attract some sort of audience to sell your online course to—and if you can do that well, you’ll be on the path to building a very long-term sustainable online business for yourself.
8. Launch a YouTube Channel to Entertain and Educate
While YouTube recently changed its monetization program, if you’re able to hit their new minimum bar of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time in the past 12 months, it’s still an incredible place to make extra money online.
YouTube is arguably the world’s second largest search engine (after Google) and is the third most-visited site in the world. In 2017, almost 5 billion videos were watched on YouTube every single day!
Rather than making money through subscriptions, YouTube channels are based on a traditional advertising system. Meaning the more viewers you get, the more you make. Once you’re approved for the YouTube Partner Program and can start including ads on your videos, with every 1,000 views, you will make approximately $2-$4. Which might not seem like a lot, but if you have 100 videos with 5,000 views a month each, that would be $1,000–$2,000 already. Just imagine if your videos start hitting millions of views!
YouTube is one of the fastest growing platforms you can make money online with in 2020
Growing a YouTube channel is a lot like starting a blog or website, except that you’re working in video—not writing. The first step is to choose what kind of videos you’re going to create. Most successful YouTube channels fall under one of two categories:
- Educational content: People always want to find the quickest way to learn something new. And YouTube searches including the phrase “How to” are growing 70% year over year, making YouTube an incredible place to teach what you know.
- Entertainment: Web series, product reviews, comedy sketches and pranks, vlogs, even video game walkthroughs—there’s so many different ways you can entertain people through your YouTube channel.
Next, you need to set up and build your YouTube channel. Your YouTube channel is your home base for all your content. If you already have a Google account for Gmail or Google Drive, then you can use that to log-in to YouTube and start setting up your channel. Pick a username that works for you and is memorable (if you’re using an existing Google account you’ll have to edit your username in Google+).
You’ll also want to make your YouTube channel more easily found by adding relevant keywords under the “Advanced” section and picking your targeted country (where you think most of your viewers are). If you have a personal blog or site, add it as an “associated website.”
Now, it’s time to start creating and uploading content. Make sure you’re using a high-enough quality camera (most smartphones will work but I’d suggest at least having a tripod so your footage isn’t shaky), but don’t worry about being perfect at first. The beauty of YouTube is that you can continue to test out different content and styles as you find what works for you. Instead, stick to a regular schedule to build up your subscriber base.
You can optimize your videos to rank higher by experimenting with attention-grabbing descriptions and previews as well as using relevant tags. You need to stand out and make people want to click on your video.
As you start regularly putting out content, you’ll hopefully start to build a bit of an audience. But to start seeing real money from YouTube you need to market your videos elsewhere. Share your channel on Twitter and Facebook. Distribute videos anywhere else you can think of. Also, interact with comments and build a community around the videos you’re making so people will share it with their friends.
Once you hit the 1,000 subscriber/4,000 hour threshold, you can start monetizing your videos by selecting “Monetize with ads” under the Monetization tab of your channel. While it can take a while to build up a decent following for your YouTube channel, it can be a lot of fun to do as well as become a steady source of extra income.
9. Record a Podcast and Share Inspiring Stories
Podcasts are super hot right now, and for good reason. With how busy our lives are getting, more and more people are looking for passive ways to take in content. Which makes them both a great opportunity to build an audience and to make money online.
And while it will take time to build up a big-enough audience to attract advertisers and other ways to make extra income from your podcast, the opportunity is there. John Lee Dumas interviews entrepreneurs seven days a week for his podcast Entrepreneur on Fire and now makes more than $200,000 a month from it. In fact, John publishes all his income online and showed that he’s made almost $13 million since launching in 2012.
The podcast market is constantly looking for new, quality content. And luckily for anyone trying to get started, it’s now easier than ever.
Starting a podcast, like making a YouTube channel or blog, comes down to telling interesting stories and building an engaged audience. I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now, but you need a niche that you’re interested in and there’s already a demand for. Come up with a list of topics you’d like to talk about and then search iTunes charts, Google Trends and other podcast research sites to see what’s currently out there and popular.
You’ll need the right tools in order to make money online with a podcast
You can be as complicated or simple as you want depending on your comfort with audio equipment, but at the minimum you’ll want a microphone and software for recording your voice. Recording equipment like these three top options of various price points will get you started:
- Blue’s World-Renowned Yeti Microphone ($65)
- Behringer’s Complete Podcasting Set ($99)
- Focusrite’s Studio Quality Recording Bundle ($189)
Plenty of other brands sell studio-quality, plug-and-play podcast setups that can get you recording today—but I personally use the Focusrite setup, myself.
Now, it’s time to plan out your show. If you’re doing an interview-style show, you’ll now want to start getting some guests involved. You can use your existing social network to reach out to people you already know or are connected with on Twitter or Facebook. You can also head to Medium or Amazon to find authors or experts on topics specific to your niche.
Once you’ve gathered a list, put together an outreach email template (as you’ll be doing this over and over) that’s short and clear with expectations. Tell your potential interviewee who you are, what your podcast is about, and what you’re asking of them. Do a few test interviews with friends and family to make sure everything is being recorded at the quality you want and then book your first episode.
Consider outsourcing components of your podcast to speed up delivery time
If you like learning new software or are experienced with audio editing, you can put the show together yourself. Otherwise, there are lots of services you can find that will help edit and build your show on place likes UpWork and Fiverr.
Congrats! You now have a podcast episode that’s ready to be uploaded to iTunes, SoundCloud, or anywhere else and promoted alongside the rest of your content!
The last step is deciding how you’ll market and monetize your podcast. The larger of an audience you have, the more chances you have for monetizing it. Choose the best website builders to create a simple site for your show and start sharing episodes to your network. When you’re ready to monetize there are a few options you can choose from:
- Traditional advertising (sponsors)
- Selling your own products
- Donations and crowdfunding
- Selling “subscriber-only” content
- Putting on live shows
As Aaron Mahnke, creator of the Lore podcast says:
“I always tell podcasters to use as many streams as possible. Don’t just sell ads on your show. Don’t just sell T-shirts. Don’t just do crowdfunding. Do all of it. Combine it and find the right mix, and together it adds up to something that’s stronger and more dependable.”
10. Join a Remote Company Part-Time (or Full-Time)
While most of the ideas for making money online we’ve covered so far can be done on the side, if you’re looking to completely change your career and start working online there are thousands of companies looking to hire who don’t care where you are.
More and more companies and startups especially are embracing remote work—where you use online collaboration and communication tools to do your work from wherever you want. And you don’t have to be a 20-something hotshot designer or coder to reap the benefits of working remotely. Many remote positions are for customer support positions or other customer-facing positions that don’t require specialized skill sets.
Better yet, they aren’t all full-time either, meaning you can find a remote company and job that works as a way to make extra money online.
If you’re interested, here’s a list of some of the best websites to find remote jobs today:
- We Work Remotely
- Skip the Drive
- Virtual Locations
- Remote OK
- Working Nomads
- Authentic Jobs
- The Muse
Here are even more of my picks for the best remote jobs websites where you can find high quality full-time flexible gigs.
Now, let’s talk about the rest of my picks for the best ways to make money online.
If you’re looking to build a new career online or test your way into launching a small business, the first ten ways we just ran through are some of the best, long-term plays for making money online. However, for a lot of people (myself included), you probably want to find other, quick online business opportunities where you can start seeing a return faster.
Which is a great idea. Of course, making money online takes patience and effort. But there are lots of proven ways you can get started making money today without the long lead time of building a startup or getting your own freelance business off the ground.
Also, no matter what your career, it’s important to diversify where your income is coming from. This means having multiple revenue streams from multiple sources, like selling your freelance services, affiliate and passive income, as well as coaching and other online odd jobs.
Not only will this multiply the money you’re bringing in in a serious way, but it protects you against any sudden changes in the market or in your business. Remember that old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket? A few hours a week committed to just one or two of the following opportunities will put you in a much stronger position to be financially safe and independent.
So, no matter what your speciality or niche, there’s a way to use your skills to bring in extra money online for you here:
11. Give Your Opinion in Online Focus Groups and Surveys
If you want to help shape digital products in their early stages, joining an online focus group or answering survey questions is a great way to make extra money online. They don’t pay as much as some of the other options we’re highlighting in this list, but you can join groups on sites like Survey Junkie, User Interviews and InboxDollars that pay out through PayPal, check or even Amazon gift cards. You’ll be asked to provide a bit of information about your personal demographics (age, location, etc…), but after that you can get going making money online through completing surveys.
12. Test Websites
You probably have a pretty strong idea of what makes a good website. Is the design clean and easy to navigate? Does the content make sense? Luckily, there are plenty of people out there who want to hear your thoughts. And they’ll even pay you decent money for it (most sites pay ~$10 per 20 minutes, or ~$30 per hour!)
To test these websites, you’ll be asked to visit the site in question and record your reactions and thoughts as you go through it. To get started making extra money online by testing websites, sign up for some of the most popular services like UserTesting.com, Userlytics, TryMyUI, Userfeel, or TestingTime (for people outside the U.S).
13. Narrate Audiobooks
The audiobook industry is booming, yet only 5% of books ever get made into audio format. If you’ve got a background in acting, or if people have said you’ve got a voice made for the radio, you can make extra money recording audio versions of independent and popular books. Sites like ACX connect authors with audiobook performers. So, whether you’re an author looking for more ways to sell your book, or an actor/voice actor looking to make some extra income, you can sell your services online.
14. Write and Sell an eBook (Amazon Self-Publishing)
So many people dream of writing a book, but never go through with it. Yet no matter what, I’m sure you have experience and value you could give through writing a book. By packaging your skills and knowledge into a downloadable eBook that helps people learn a skill, advance their careers, or start a businesses, you can change someone’s life and even make good money online. You’ll just need to employ an easy tool like Sellfy in order to quickly sell PDF files (like an eBook) to your readers.
Better yet, you can even upload your own book to one of the world’s largest book sellers: Amazon. With Amazon self-publishing, you set the price, retain the rights to your book, and get access to Amazon’s massive audience. For every sale, you keep 70% with Amazon taking the remainder as a fee. If you want to get started, check out Tara Gentile on CreativeLive as she shows you how to use your existing body of work to write an eBook within the next week. Who knows, you might just write one of the best business books of this year!
15. Do Micro-Jobs on Amazon Mechanical Turk
Amazon Mechanical Turk is a service that lets you make money online through doing paid microtasks. Each task is something simple that requires human interaction like rating search results, checking for the right spelling on search terms, categorizing the tone of an article, or even basic translating. You can do these tasks from anywhere you want and make money online from the world’s largest e-retailer.
It can take time to build up your personal freelance business. Yet, there is more demand than ever for freelancers. So, if you want to kick start making money online through freelancing you can join one of the top freelance networks, such as Flexjobs, SolidGigs, Contena, Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour. Sign up, build your profile, upload some samples of your work and start making extra money by doing small freelance jobs.
Even if you already have experience or freelance clients, these networks can be a great way to supplement your income and keep work coming in without spending too much time on cold outreach.
17. Sell Your Services on Niche Sites Like 99Designs, Cloudpeeps or TopTal
If you’re a skilled worker in a specific niche, like marketing, design, or software development, there are specialty marketplaces that cater just to you. These are amazing places to make money online as you know that the people visiting them are looking specifically for the skills you have. Check out places like 99Designs or Dribbble for designers, Cloudpeeps for marketing and SEO professionals, and TopTal, Crew, or Gigster for high-level software developers. Once you’ve built up your development skills, you can begin building a brand for yourself as a higher-value consultant and start charging brands for larger projects like implementing an entire WordPress security overhaul or migrating a website from http to https.
18. Do Graphic Design for Local Companies
Walk around your neighborhood or town and I’m sure you’ll see tons of great local businesses with terrible design. However, with increasingly easy-to-use tools like Adobe Illustrator, Venngage, Stencil, and Visme, just about anyone with a creative mindset and a good amount of motivation can start making money online by being a graphic designer for local companies.
19. Email Marketing with a Niche Newsletter (The Skimm, Mister Spoils)
How many email newsletters are you bombarded with every single day? There’s a reason for that. Email marketing to an actively interested group of email subscribers is one of the best ways to make money online. There have even been million-dollar businesses built from simple email newsletters like TheSkimm, or Mister Spoils. Each newsletter targets a specific type of user with interesting, daily content, while also partnering with relevant companies and affiliates to bring in extra money. If this seems daunting, it’s not. Email marketing tools like MailChimp, ConvertKit, HubSpot and AWeber make it easier than ever to get started with email marketing. Here’s my comparison of ConvertKit vs AWeber vs Mailchimp to review a few of my top picks. Another great option to consider (with the largest free plan available) is SendPulse, with their ability to send up to 15,000 emails per month to 2,500 subscribers, and then affordable plans starting at under $10/month as you grow from there. And regardless of which email service provider you end up going with, it’ll eventually be smart to invest in tools like MailGenius that help increase your email deliverability, avoid spam folders and authenticate new subscribers as they sign up.
20. Sells Products on a Shopify Store
If you’re serious about making money selling things online, it’s pretty much impossible to not recommend Shopify. The platform gives you everything you need to get your online store up and running in less than a day including a custom domain, beautiful templates (so you don’t need design skills), secure payment options, and they can even take care of marketing and shipping for you. Whether you’re promoting your own products, designs, or curating other products for people in your niche, Shopify is the best option for powering your online store.
21. Sell Your Crafts and Art on Etsy
Etsy is the most popular online marketplace for handmade goods and crafts. From bracelets to phone cases, rings, furniture, and more, Etsy is perfect for anyone who is creative and wants to sell their handmade creations. As long as you have the space, this can make for one of the best ways to make money online that can be started with a very limited investment. Consider these 5 steps to starting an Etsy store, from Handmadeology.
While Etsy is a great place to get in front of potential customers who wouldn’t have otherwise found you, once you’re up and running and have built a decent audience, you can move your store over to Shopify and retain a larger portion of the income you make from selling your goods.
22. Become an Influencer on Instagram
Build up a following on your Instagram account and you could quickly be making extra money online. Major brands, gear companies, and even startups are willing to shell out $500-$5,000+ per post to get in front of your audience. While it’s getting harder and harder to build a massive Instagram audience, if you already have a solid niche and are posting quality content regularly with a great camera for taking Instagram photos, with a few small tweaks you can make yourself an influencer. Check out this awesome article from Shopify on how to build and grow your Instagram following to get started.
23. Sell Your Art and Designs on Society6
While Etsy is fantastic for handmade goods that you’ve already created, if you’ve got killer designs that would look good on phone cases, t-shirts, or even wall hangings, pillows, and duvets, you can sell them on Society6 without paying anything to start. Society6 lets artists upload their designs and create their own shops where they choose what products their designs can be used on. That means one design can be used to make a whole range of awesome products that are printed and shipped on demand whenever someone buys from you. With top creators making thousands every month just from selling their designs.
24. Local Business Consulting
If you’ve developed valuable skill sets or picked up certifications within your industry over the years, offering your consulting services to local business owners can be a lucrative way to make money online. Whether you’re an expert marketer, business strategist, or manufacturing aficionado, there’s likely a local business owner who’s willing to pay you to help them solve an issue with their company. Start with my guide to launching a freelance (consulting) business and then use my breakdown of crafting an effective cold email to convince local small business owners to hire you.
25. Sell Stock Photos Online
If you have a fondness and talent for taking pictures you can make extra money online by becoming a stock photographer and selling your images to a stock photo company like ShutterStock or iStockPhoto. You’ll get royalties every time someone licenses an image you’ve submitted. To really be successful, build your own photography website to be able to showcase your portfolio and start getting higher-paid private corporate work.
26. Rent Your Home or Room on AirBnB
Not only is Airbnb a great way to make extra money online by renting out your spare bedroom, but you also get the benefit of meeting new people (if that’s your kind of thing). You can even rent out an entirely new apartment just to manage as an Airbnb.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking this will be a passive source of income—you’re on call whenever you have a guest and you’ll always need to keep the place clean for incoming visitors. On top of just renting on Airbnb, consider offering your guests paid add-ons, like Lauren Gheysens’, Royal Day Out in London, England—where she gives visitors a local’s only tour of the city, complete with bespoke 18th century costumes.
27. Start an Online T-Shirt Business
It’s sometimes hard to comprehend just how much people love t-shirts. And with the right niche, marketing and tools, you can create an online t-shirt business that makes you extra money online while you sleep. (Even Bloomberg and Forbes feature stories from entrepreneurs who’ve done just that.) Services like TeeSpring make it easier than ever to create a t-shirt drop-shipping business where they handle the sales, printing, and shipping, and you’re only responsible for design and marketing. Or you can even buy into well-established franchise businesses like Rhea Lana that sell fashionable, affordable kids clothing and get the backing of a proven organization to fuel your online sales. For more tips, check out this simple guide to launching and marketing an online clothing store by my friends over at Selz.
28. Sell Your Expertise on Clarity.fm
If you’ve got experience and expertise in a specific area of business, there are hundreds if not thousands of business owners who would love to jump on a phone call and pick your brain. This can be an easy way to make extra money online and to hone your skills to use in your consulting or freelance business. Sites like Clarity.fm let you create a profile where entrepreneurs and business owners can pre-pay to book a phone call with you for a set amount of time. Whether you’re an expert in raising money for startups, building apps, or running a restaurant, you can make extra money selling a few minutes of your time to people in need.
29. Answer Professional Questions on JustAnswer
If it’s not clear yet, information and expertise are two of the most consistent and lucrative ways to make extra money online. If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can sign up to get paid to answer professional questions on JustAnswer. There are thousands of questions being asked every month from people looking for help from lawyers, doctors, mechanics, vets, and more. To apply, you’ll need to supply your professional verification, resume, and a form of identification.
30. Become a Virtual Assistant
If you have a knack for organization, you can make money online as a virtual assistant helping people to keep their days in order. A virtual assistant will do everything from bookkeeping to research, database entry, booking travel, and managing email. It can also be an awesome way to rub shoulders with some very important people, build up your professional network, and of course grow another stream of income. You can find great gigs on UpWork, Fiverr, Indeed, and Remote.co.
31. Get a Commission-Only Sales Gig
If you’re willing to take on some risk and have the heart of a true hustler, you can make extra money online doing commission-only sales for startups and other businesses. While you won’t be getting a regular salary, with the right sales strategies and skills as an inside sales rep, you can make decent money for each sale you bring in. And because you’ll most likely be working with startups, if you can negotiate a little equity you could profit big time if you’re pitching a solid product and the startup succeeds.
If you need to brush up on your sales skills, check out online courses like Sales Training and Prospecting on Udemy, The Guide to Pitching and Selling Clients on CreativeLive. And once you’re ready, head over to Angel List and see if there any open sales position opportunities align with your interests.