It’s pretty easy to make money online. What’s tough is to make enough money online to quit your job and do it full-time. I’ve met hundreds of people who make between $100 and $2,000 a month online, but very few who make a full-time income.
Of course, you’ll hear success stories all over social media — people who make insane money online — but these are the exceptions.
Unfortunately, it’s never as easy as running a few Facebook ads and making bank or publishing a Kindle book and becoming a bestseller.
Here’s how I know: I’ve built my entire career online. It’s made me a millionaire and helped me reach financial independence at the age of 30.
24 Ways To Make Money Online
Here are 24 ways you can actually earn money online:
- Take Online Surveys
- Do Freelance Gigs
- Work Remotely Online
- Sell Stock Photos
- Start a Blog
- Buy an Existing Website
- Start a Podcast
- Start a YouTube Channel
- Create How-to Videos
- Start an Online Store
- Transcribe Audio
- Test Websites
- Join Amazon Mechanical Turk
- Become An Instagram Influencer
- Become a Ghostwriter
- Teach English Online
- Be a Virtual Assistant
- Become a Tutor
- Test Products
- Start Online Coaching
- Create and Sell Online Courses
- Narrate Books
- Become a Social Media Specialist
1. Take Online Surveys
Taking online surveys is a quick and easy way to make some extra cash online while you build up your full-time method of making legit money online.
Swagbucks, Branded Surveys, Survey Junkie, Opinion Outpost, Inbox Dollars — these kinds of survey sites use your opinions to help companies do market research.
Each time you take a survey, you can earn points to use on gift cards, PayPal cashout, or on some sites, direct deposit. You won’t earn a living hanging out on survey sites, but you can pick up some extra cash for a night out or a good takeout meal.
And if you’re going to be surfing social media on the bus or train anyway, you may as well turn that time into a few extra dollars on a survey site instead.
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2. Do Online Freelance Gigs
Freelance platforms are the go-to place for many individuals and businesses who need help with a wide variety of tasks.
From Administration and accounting to engineering, development, freelance writing, data entry, and everything in between, many of the jobs available today can easily be freelanced, and start making money from your laptop!
Fiverr is one of the top platforms for finding freelance gigs for around the world. Sign up now for free!
3. Work Remotely Online
More and more companies need employees who work off-site — either from across town or across the country. Depending on your profession and skillset, you could find a remote job, ranging from data entry to project management.
Give FlexJobs a look if you’d like to connect with a variety of short-term or contract work such as writing, editing, web design, logo design, and even data analysis and customer service.
Price: $9.95 w/ 30-day Money-Back Guarantee
The biggest site for finding remote, work-from-home jobs, both full-time and part-time for your skillset. The trained researchers at FlexJobs hand-screen job listings to eliminate ads and scams found on other sites. Find everything from entry-level to executive positions at FlexJobs.
4. Sell Stock Photos Online
Do you know how you are taking pictures of beautiful sunsets, your delicious meal at dinner, or those beautiful flowers you just walked passed? What if I told you – you can get paid to take pictures with your phone?
Graphic designers need stock photos when they make brochures, websites, and advertisements – and your camera roll is stocked full of some great pictures.
You can provide just the right photo and earn a profit through services like Foap, istockphoto, Adobe, Getty Images, or Shutterstock.
5. Start and Monetize a Blog
If you’re curious about starting and monetizing a blog, see the top half of this post.
Here’s a quick summary: If you enjoy a subject (for me, it’s personal finance) and you enjoy creating content, you could develop a large audience.
When you have a big audience, you can make money through affiliate marketing (referring readers) and ads.
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6. Buy an Existing Website
If you aren’t up to the challenge to launch a website from the ground up quite yet, there are plenty of websites out there that are live and for sale. Websites that generate a lot of traffic can be monetized in many different ways, which is why they can cost big bucks.
If you have the capital for it, you can buy a website that already has traffic and monetize it, skipping the often most difficult bit of getting a new website off the ground.
7. Start a Podcast
It seems like everybody has a podcast these days, and if you are going to launch a blog that you are passionate about, why not podcast about the topic as well? If you start a podcast that attracts enough listeners, you could sell ad time.
Last year the website Podcast Insights reported the number of podcasts surpassed 1 million. This means you’ll have fierce competition for listeners.
But if you have a unique message to share, why not join the crowd?
8. Start a YouTube Channel
If you care a lot about something — whether it’s Les Paul guitars or the French fries at Five Guys — you can start creating video content about your niche and monetizing it on YouTube.
As with a blog or your Instagram feed, your passion for your topic must translate to your audience for your followers — and your revenue — to grow.
You’ll also have to set up your YouTube channel for monetization, which you can do in the user’s settings and connect to a Google Adsense account.
Interested in Getting Started on YouTube?
In YouTube Secrets, online video experts Sean Cannell and Benji Travis draw on a decade of experience as well as interviews with more than 100 top creators to give you a step-by-step YouTube success playbook.
9. Create How-to Videos
Not quite ready to hit the ground running with your own YouTube channel, why not make a niche YouTube channel with how-to-videos?
The DIY market is a sizeable one with many people resorting to doing things themselves – from brewing beer to installing new bathrooms. Tap into the market by creating how-to videos that explain how-to processes in detail. Monetize by placing adverts or selling relevant products.
10. Start an Online Store
Etsy is the go-to marketplace for handmade stuff – from jewelry to bags, furniture, and everything in between. If you’re good at crafting goods, you can sell your own creations.
Extra points if using sustainable materials and methods of production.
11. Transcribe Audio
Researchers, physicians, and even some journalists conduct lengthy, recorded interviews.
Often, they need someone to transcribe the recordings into a text file. Sites like Quicktate, Tigerfish, and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk can connect your transcribing skills with business owners who need them.
If you have a special expertise or knowledge base — such as health care or the legal profession — you could make even more.
12. Test Websites
Websites and blogs need testers, just like physical products. You can make some quick money by becoming a website tester.
You’d need to be good at recording your initial observations from the point of view of a site visitor or customer.
For most leading services like UserTesting.com, you’ll also need to pass a test to become a tester.
13. Join Amazon Mechanical Turk
Amazon Mechanical Turk, also known as MTurk, is a marketplace for microtasks that include image and video processing, data verification and clean-up, information gathering, and data processing.
Unlike other platforms, you do not set your own prices, but you can choose the tasks you work on.
14. Become an Instagram Influencer
Already like Instagram? You can take it to the next level by growing your audience and then letting big brands market their products to your followers.
It’ll take some time to build a bigger base of followers, but posting great content is the first step, and if you’re already doing that, you’re well on the way. You’ll also need to post consistently, engage with followers, and share lots of IG stories.
Just like starting a blog, growing an Instagram audience starts with having something you’re passionate about to share with your audience. Some people even sell their Instagram accounts and followers to small business startups who need an immediate social media following.
15. Become a Ghostwriter
Ghostwriters write a variety of texts for other people. From simple blog posts to entire books, ghostwriters sign over the rights of their creations to their customers whose names will often appear as the author of the text.
16. Teach English Online
While English is widely spoken all over the world, for many people, it’s not their first or secondary language. This means there’s a market for teaching English for both personal and professional reasons.
You can teach English online to people all over the world independently or with an existing school. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification can be a great asset in increasing your effectiveness and credibility.
17. Be a Virtual Assistant
If you’re good at creating reports, organizing meetings, editing letters, and taking care of details many of us can’t imagine, you could make a good virtual assistant.
Executives often like virtual assistants because they’re easier to hire than in-person assistants.
Several websites can connect you with work, including 99 Dollar Social, Zirtual, and Office 88. These companies will pay you by the hour for your work.
18. Be a Tutor
Online tutors help students of all ages excel in all sorts of subjects — from English literature to chemistry to political science.
Sites such as tutors.com and Chegg Tutors can connect you with students. You’ll need some patience, some flexibility, and a way to prove your credentials.
19. Test Products
Product testing is just as it sounds. It is when companies that are in the process of launching new products look for testers to gather feedback on their upcoming launch.
In most cases, you get to keep the product while some companies offer monetary compensation for the feedback you provide.
20. Start an Online Coaching Business
Coaches help people in a variety of citations, with business coaching and life coaching being two of the most common ones. You can add a reputable certification to your CV to increase your credibility with your target market.
21. Create and Sell Online Courses
Education in both formal and informal settings is a big business that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Platforms like Udemy allow just about anyone with the know-how of a particular subject to upload their own courses with an internal review and auditing process, making sure everything is as it should be.
22. Narrate Books
Not everyone has the time to read books, which is why audiobooks are so great. While big publishers might have their own teams or even hire actors, independent book publishers will try to tap the freelance market to get their audiobooks narrated.
23. Become a Social Media Specialist
Many businesses rely on social media to communicate with their customers with online platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter being some of the more popular choices. Managing social media takes time and requires an understanding of the platform and target audience to make it work.
As a freelance social media specialist, you could be helping businesses make the most out of the platforms they use – and it’s all done online.
With dropshipping, you do not have to hold any stock. Instead, you redirect customers to the manufacturer’s website and earn a commission on any purchases done.
With stock being one of the biggest challenges and overheads eCommerce websites face, you get the best of both worlds but you won’t make as much money as selling the products yourself.
My Story Making Money Online
The best thing about making money online is that it typically requires so little overhead – you don’t need an office, you don’t need a garage full of products, and you don’t even need to get off the couch in some cases.
But while it’s flexible, it’s also a ton of work and actually pretty tough. And while there are a ton of ways to make money online, they all tend to fall into these three categories:
- Building a website and monetizing your content.
- Selling other people’s products or services.
- Launching your own product or service.
Let’s go through these one by one:
1. Build a Website and Monetize Your Content
I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you – it takes time to make money on a website. Usually, it takes a lot of time.
The Story of Millennial Money
I spent at least 500 hours building and writing content for Millennial Money before I made my first dollar. I did it because I loved it. You really gotta love it to put in the time.
Ninety percent of the blogs I see these days last less than six months – people just burn out. It’s easy to burn out when your blog doesn’t have any traffic and makes no money.
Millennial Money was launched in 2015, and after building hundreds of websites for other people, this is the first one I’ve built for myself.
Doing What You Love: It Matters
Interestingly, I launched Millennial Money because I love to write as much as I love side hustling, making money, and investing.
I knew it was possible to make money as a blogger, but making money wasn’t my primary motivation. Like many people, I live an insanely busy life, and blogging about money is a way for me to reflect and disconnect.
I’d wanted to launch my own website since 2010, but it took me five years to find the time to actually do it.
Sure, I was pretty busy between 2010 and 2015, trying to make as much money as possible and pursue financial independence.
But by 2015, I had enough money in the bank to make work optional. I decided to launch Millennial Money to share my story and strategies to become a millennial millionaire.
While I was very intentional about how I built all of the pieces of this website, I didn’t have any massive expectations for traffic or revenue. It took me three months to get to 1,000 total visitors, and I was so pumped to hit that goal. I just kept writing and writing and writing.
Now I average more than 200,000 unique visitors a month.
My mind is completely blown. I never imagined this was possible. While I was excited to share my ideas with the world, I never had any expectations people would read them.
Turning Traffic Into Money
One of the most common questions I get from readers, friends, family (and really anyone I tell about Millennial Money) is, “How much money do you make on your website?”
The answer is that a successful website makes money through its connections as well as from its traffic.
I can make thousands of dollars a month directly from traffic-driven ads and links such as my guides on best credit cards or student loan refinancing.
I spend about 10 to 20 hours a week on the blog, so earning thousands of dollars is a great return on my time, and blogging is one of my favorite things to do in the world, so it’s a win-win.
But I also write books and manage two other companies, and I have a number of other income streams – so I don’t have as much time to put into blogging as I would like.
But I do know there is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend writing and optimizing posts and the amount of money the blog can make. So my effective hourly rate over time should continue to go up the more time I spend on the blog.
Affiliate Marketing Can Diversify Income
When you review a product or service on your blog, you’re helping your readers decide whether they should try the product. When sharing your time and experience helps the reader decide to try the service, you can get compensated through affiliate marketing.
Let’s say you reviewed one of your favorite books on your blog. You could get an affiliate link to the book on Amazon or another site. If the reader clicks the link and buys the book, you’ll get a commission. A lot of new bloggers start out with an Amazon affiliate marketing account because it’s easy to set up.
I recommend linking to products through affiliate programs only if you believe in the product and have tried it yourself. You want your blog to be a reputable source of info and not just a way to make a few dollars.
Successful affiliate marketing depends a lot more on getting enough traffic than it depends on collecting enough affiliate programs. I know some people who make $100,000 or more per month blogging, so there are definitely some growth opportunities!
Click here to learn more about how to start a blog.
How Much Traffic Do You Need to Make Money Online?
Making money through affiliate programs or selling your own products is all about traffic, but a big mistake that many people make is they focus on quantity instead of quality. The higher the quality of your website traffic, the more money you will make – period!
This is why a lot of paid advertisements don’t work – because they are cold traffic. If someone sees an ad for your product on Facebook, you are probably targeting them because they’ve never heard of you or your product before.
You can’t expect this person to then turn around and buy something.
2. Selling Other People’s Products or Services
Over the past seven years, I’ve helped sell over 50 different types of products online by providing marketing services.
I’ve marketed and sold so many things for people online, including master’s degrees for universities, headphones, travel experiences, hats, sports memorabilia, prefabricated homes, insurance, legal services, real estate services, dental services, and even supplements.
In all of these cases, I was getting paid by someone else to sell their products online – none of these were my websites or my products.
In almost all of these cases, I was paid for my time, but in a few cases, I was compensated based on the results.
How To Make Bank Selling Stuff
This is when you can really make bank: By getting part of the money you help someone else make. It’s a win-win consulting; all you invest is your time. The more profit you create, the more money you can make.
In a few cases, like with the headphones company, I was able to maximize my value by negotiating a deal where I got paid based on the amount of profit I was able to drive – which with this one client was insane.
I got 20 percent of the profit I drove that was directly attributable to the digital marketing campaigns that I was running.
I knew that I was going to crush it, so I spent extra time up front making sure my contract covered a ton of scenarios.
While I tried to make the case, which was true, that my strategy would help increase sales over at least the next 2+ years, the owner of the company would only sign on for six months.
And you know what happened? Yup, I crushed it and ended up selling over $2.5 million in headphones in that six-month period for the owner.
My cut of the profit was $200,000. Not bad for six months of work that didn’t really take much time.
Avoiding My Rookie Mistakes
Unfortunately, even though I crushed it for him, the owner did not renew my contract. He thought he could do what I was doing. I was so pissed.
I’d made a rookie mistake: When I was excited one day, I showed the owner how part of the campaigns worked.
Over the following months, I kept a close eye on what he was doing, and it was easy for me to see he was messing up the paid campaigns I had built. But he was still clearly making a ton of money.
The search engine optimization (SEO) work to help him rank higher on Google for a number of popular searches ended up helping him for a long time until his website one day disappeared.
I estimate the work I did for him made him at least $5 million, but I still made a little over $200,000. Still a super solid return on my time!
If you want to learn more, check out my post on how to launch a consulting business.
3. Launch Your Own Product or Service
Last but not least, you can make money online by launching your own product or service. It’s never been easier to launch an online business and reach people with your product.
This creates an awesome opportunity, but you’re not alone out there, so it’s really hard to stand out.
While it’s definitely possible to make money selling your own products on Craigslist or your own site, it’s not as easy as many Facebook ads indicate.
Sure, you can get lucky and launch an Etsy product that blows up, but in most cases, you’ll need to spend a ton of time building an audience and organically expanding your online visibility.
There are very few overnight successes.
My Personal Experience
I launched my own online marketing agency in 2010, but I didn’t launch a real online product until a couple of years ago (Millennial Money Course).
I had a phenomenal 5-figure launch the first few days (and we launched on a holiday weekend because we wanted to control the sign-ups).
Putting together the course was an insane amount of work, but the best thing about creating a digital product is that you create it only once. Then you can keep selling it.
Every time your pdf or audio files get a hit, you can clear cash. You get a lot more return on your time investment compared to freelance writers or other work that pays once.
Some people, like my fellow personal finance blogger Michelle, absolutely kill it selling online courses – Michelle makes over $100,000 a month on her course! Insane.
How To Build Your Product
If you want to build a product, make sure you’re selling something people will want to buy.
A great way to do this is by analyzing Google search volumes using the free Google Keyword Planner to see how many people are searching for what you want to sell.
This tool also shows how competitive the keyword is by showing how many people are bidding on it. This can help you assess your competition.
A word of caution: To make money, your product or service needs to be unique.
So many people reach out to me about their new products. About 99 percent of the time, they’re creating a copy of someone else’s product. Either the course is the same, the app is the same, or the physical product is the same.
This is a surefire way to fail.
Before you launch any product, spend at least 10 to 20 hours online researching other similar products and figuring out what makes yours unique and why someone should buy it from you.
And then sell it! If you can’t describe what makes your product unique or valuable, then it probably won’t sell online.
Be Careful! It’s Not Easy Making Money Using Facebook and Google Ads
I’ve been running Google ad campaigns for the past decade-plus. I’ve been running Facebook ads since they were created.
I can say without a doubt: It’s not easy to make money running these ads! There’s no secret system to make money on Facebook ads without having an insanely awesome product or maybe a service.
Just about every day I see at least seven or eight new ads on Facebook for tutorials on how to make money online.
Since I study models for making money online, I click on some of them — just to check out how others are turning clicks into money.
The vast majority of these tutorials are crap. The formula is simple and usually the same:
- You sign up for a free webinar where the expert will share all of his or her secrets with you.
- After an hour or two of watching the webinar, you don’t know much you didn’t already know. There is rarely anything of substantive value.
- Then the person asks you to make some form of a purchase – usually a subscription, a private consultation, or some form of course — that the expert claims will actually share the secrets.
As you can see, these are just elaborate sales pitches – just by signing up, you’ve already given the person your email. And your address is insanely valuable since the expert can now start emailing you immediately to sell you the next webinar.
Let me be clear: There is some real value being shared, and some legitimate people really are making money online, but these are rare. In most cases, the expert is making money by promising to help you make money.
I’m not here to dissuade you from buying these products. I’m just saying I’ve sat through two or three of these webinars each month over the past few months, and all of them were crap.
If you want to go deeper and explore models for making money online, some of the best books I’ve read are:
- The Lean Startup
- Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Method to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level
- DotCom Secrets
Making Real Money Online Isn’t Easy
You’ll come across a lot of make-money-easy-and-fast pitches online (and offline, too). Some of these are scams; others just won’t create enough extra income to make them worth your valuable time.
I have been honest in this post about the difficulties you will face as you try to learn how to make money online.
The most important ingredient will be persistence. And to succeed with persistence, it helps a lot to enjoy what you’re doing.
So as you decide which approach to take, ask yourself if you’ll be able to continue putting in the work week after week, month after month, year after year.
If you can, you’re more likely to be on the right track to long-term success in earning money online.