I’m here to tell you that you can (relatively quickly) learn how to make money online. However… it won’t always be easy, and you’ll of course have to work hard, push through making some mistakes and learning from your failures along the way.
I’m going to be talking a lot about your niche for every way of making money online that we cover here. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, all it means is your unique topic, angle, market, audience, or voice that will make people stand up and notice your business.
It’s a competitive space online, and the more you can differentiate what you do from what’s out there already, the better chance you’ll have for success.
Alright, now with that out of the way, let’s get into my ultimate guide of how to make money online.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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 FIVERR.
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.
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 Fiverr. 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 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 fiverr 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 learning how to write a headline that’ll capture attention, 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.
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.
Today, over 54 million people 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 Fiverr
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
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.
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.
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 fiverr will 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.
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?
Selling online courses are one of the most scalable ways to make money online
To hit this awesome goal, fiverr follows a four-stage process to discover, validate and launch his course:
Phase 1: Explore and discover the best topic for your course based on the most popular posts from their blog. Just ensure you know the content was already valuable to his audience.
Phase 2: Validate that people would actually pay for your 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 you already know there was demand, it made sense to create the content as quickly as possible. you could always go back and update or edit based on feedback from your initial students.
Phase 4: Launch the course to your 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. fiverr or 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.
Launch a YouTube Channel to Entertain and Educate
While YouTube recently changed it’s 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.
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 Fiverr 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 this
Plenty of other brands sell studio-quality, plug-and-play podcast setups that can get you recording today
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Write and Sell an eBook
So many people dream of learning how to write an eBook, 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 or blogging books of the year!
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.
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.
Guest Post as a Freelance Writer for Niche Websites
f you’ve got a way with words and expertise in a niche, there are plenty of sites that will pay for articles and content you write—plus guest blogging is also one of the best ways to build up the authority of your own blog over time. Think of the sites you read regularly. What can you contribute to them that would be interesting? Research your niche and then look for ways to pitch articles. Many sites will simply have a submission or contact link in the footer. To get started, check out my full guide to becoming a freelance writer on the side and then submit your articles