How to make money online
It’s easier than ever to make money online. Whether you just need to generate some fast cash or want to create long-term, sustainable income — which has become more common as freelance jobs, remote work opportunities, and the ease of selling goods online has increased — there are opportunities out there for you.
According to the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of Americans reported earning money online in 2016. That number is steadily increasing. A study by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics shows that remote work has grown 159 percent since 2005.
Making money online isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but there are plenty of ways to start earning cash fast if you’re willing to work hard. You could take a full-time or part-time job that allows you to work 100-percent remotely, create content or courses that generate affiliate income or sales, become a virtual assistant, fill out surveys, or sell your own products or services. You can even set up your own online business.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to make money online through
- Online evaluations
- Selling goods and services
- Remote work
- Establishing an online business
With so many possibilities, there’s a method that will fit your education and capabilities. This guide covers a variety of ways to get started. Hopefully, one will be a perfect fit for you.
Ways to make money online
There are a lot of legitimate ways to make money online. Depending on your skills and your goals, you can choose just one or several methods.
If your goal is to create a long-term source of income, use as many methods as you can as long as they are sustainable and realistic for you. The more sources you have for earning money online, the better.
For example, some bloggers have generated income from affiliate marketing links and online advertising placements. Then, they’ve written an e-book or e-course and used their blog to sell it, leading to another revenue stream.
Here’s an overview of the eight most popular ways to make money online.
1. Content-based ideas
There are lots of ways you can make money online with content-based ideas. Blogging, freelance writing, becoming part of a content agency, translating, editing, proofreading, and publishing e-books are all viable options. Many people have also found that YouTube can become a source of income. For some content ideas, like blogging or publishing an online newspaper or magazine, you can make money by selling ads or joining affiliate programs.
Jane Sheeba has combined two content-based ideas to earn money. She started with affiliate marketing on her blog. Right after her first affiliate sale, she sold a copy of her e-book. She still relies on affiliate income and sales of her e-book to make money for her business.
2. Teaching-based ideas
If you’re particularly knowledgeable about a subject, you can use your expertise to make money online by becoming a consultant or creating online courses, podcasts, or webinars.
Several people have made decent money with teaching-based ideas. Robert Farrington of The College Investor was able to charge a flat rate for social media and online marketing consulting, which amounted to about $100 per hour, and Joseph Michael of Easy Course Creation has earned over six figures with his e-courses.
3. Online evaluation-based ideas
Believe it or not, some companies will pay you to complete surveys. Sometimes you’ll make just a few dollars or earn points for gift cards. Other times, you’ll be placed in an online focus group that pays upwards of $50 per hour. Most of these surveys can be completed whenever you have a moment, so this method is popular among college students.
4. Media-related ideas
Photographers and videographers can make money online by selling their photos and videos. Sites like Shutterstock and other stock photo and video sites allow you to list your media, and when someone buys one of your photos or videos, you get paid.
Some of these sites pay over $100 per image. The best photographers can earn a 42-percent commission on the images they sell. If photography or videography is one of your strong suits, you could earn a decent passive income through one of these sites.
5. Selling-based ideas
Selling on the internet isn’t new. You can sell tangible items, like unwanted household goods, or — even better — create your own online store. A lot of people start earning money online by cleaning out their closets and listing items for sale on sites like eBay and Poshmark.
However, you can create your own online store for your products, either as a website or on a site like Etsy. For example, if you want to start selling handmade Renaissance Faire costumes, you could make money by taking custom orders. Some people, like Mei Ong of Vice & Velvet, have found success by selling their products — in Ong’s case, vegan soaps and lotions — and have even gotten mentions in major magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine.
6. App-based ideas
Earning money through apps isn’t strictly an online way to make money because it does require you to get into the physical world. This is known as a “phygital” model because it’s part physical and part digital.
If you have a car, you can sign up for Uber or Lyft and make money as a driver, and if you own a bike, motorbike, or car, you can sign up as a delivery person. Airbnb is an option if you want to rent out a room in your home to short-term guests. The average Airbnb host makes $6,000 per year, but hosts like Pol McCann, who earned enough from listing his apartment on Airbnb after six months to buy a second apartment, earns $100,000 per year between the two properties.
7. Remote work ideas
A lot of companies let their full-time employees work remotely, and that’s always an option if you want to make money online. If you’re looking for a side gig or part-time job, you can become a virtual assistant or remote call center agent. Those with graphic design and web design skills can create websites, logos, and or other visual branding items for people and businesses.
8. An online business
If you want to go all in on making money online, you can start an online business. It might not fit into any of the above categories; people have started online businesses that include digital media services, creating custom software, and prototyping and manufacturing a product.
You can try to make a go of it on your own, or you can get a business partner. You might need up-front investment, but if your business falls into some of the categories listed above, you won’t need money to start it.
The next few chapters of this guide take an in-depth look into each of these eight money-making methods. Let’s start with content-based ideas.
If you have writing or writing-related skills, you can make money online with content. This may include earning money by blogging, writing freelance articles, working for a content agency, publishing your own online periodical, or publishing e-books. You can also explore related ideas like translating, editing or proofreading documents. If you have video production skills to go with your writing skills, you can make money with a YouTube channel.
Making money online with publications
Creating a blog or online periodical is just one of the ways people make money online. To do this, identify a topic that you’re qualified to write about or are really interested in.
For example, you might be great at woodworking and designing and creating furniture. Your blog or online magazine could include articles and posts about working with different types of wood, using reclaimed wood, and finding the right finish. You could review tools and offer other resources for woodworking fans.
Some people create online newspapers, such as news aggregator sites. You can set up these sites in WordPress. Use a plugin to gather news from various sources and publish the feed on a blog. If you’re publishing an online newspaper about the woodworking industry, you might pull in articles about regulations, industry events and expos, and what large companies are doing in the woodworking space.
How to monetize blogs and online publications
The way people make money from these publications is by selling advertising, using affiliate marketing, and publishing sponsored posts. For advertising, a lot of bloggers and content creators use Google AdSense. This is Google’s advertising network that lets you put ads on your website. Google administers the ads and serves them up to the appropriate audience.
For example, someone might come to your site after searching for paintbrushes. A Google ad for an online retailer that sells the type of brushes they’re looking for will appear on your site. In exchange for visitors clicking on the ads, Google pays you a small amount of money. The only thing you have to do is place some code in certain areas of your site; Google does the rest.
Another monetization method is affiliate marketing. This means you place referral links to products in the text of your posts and articles, or offer a unique coupon code. When someone buys from one of those referral links or uses the coupon code, you get a small percentage of the sale.
Some companies run their own affiliate programs. Others aggregate different retailers that you can link to using special, shortened links. You can set up a form on your website for companies that want to work with you as an affiliate using JotForm. This will make it easier for smaller brands, in particular, to start partnering with you.
Sponsored posts are yet another content-based idea for making money online. This is when someone pays you to post an article they’ve written or pays you to write about a topic and link to them. You can post a contact form on your site for companies that want to sponsor a post.
Freelance content-based ideas
Creating your own blog or publication isn’t the only way to make money online with content. You can also do freelance writing, editing, or translating. One way to do this is to join a content agency, which will pay you to write articles, blog posts, or other materials for different companies. You can also contract directly with companies to provide translating, editing, or proofreading services.
Some people join a platform like Upwork to find one-off projects or build up work with steady clients. Others contact companies directly and introduce themselves, explaining what their experience is and what services they provide.
If you decide to sign on clients directly, you can create a content request form through JotForm, and clients can submit details when they need work done. For example, you might have a client who needs an e-book edited. They can submit the request online and attach the e-book so you can get started.
Selling content online
Another way you can earn money writing is to sell content online. You can create and publish an e-book, then sell it on your site or on Amazon. This can be a standalone effort or something you use to build credibility in your field.
For example, you might create an e-book about woodworking to complement the blog you write, then subtly encourage your readers to buy the book. You can also send traffic directly to the page to buy your book by using an email list, advertising, or social media.
Combining writing and video to make money online
If you have a knack for writing and video production, YouTube may be a great way to make money online. Instead of just writing about woodworking, for example, you could film tutorials on best practices for joinery for different types of furniture. Then, you could upload the tutorials to YouTube and monetize the content.
YouTube has a partner program that allows channels with more than 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 watch hours in the past month to earn money. If that’s not you, you can enable monetization, which will show ads on the bottom of your videos or before your videos begin playing. You can also sell merchandise related to your channels and work with brands to highlight their products.
Whether you create written or video content, you can promote it across social media to drive traffic to your site and earn more money. You might create a Twitter feed or a dedicated Facebook page for your site or YouTube channel, as well as post pictures of your finished products on Instagram and direct people to your blog for more information.
Writing and producing content is just one way to earn money online. You can create your own blog, newspaper, magazine, e-book, or YouTube channel, or freelance for others. But if writing and creating videos aren’t your strongest talents, there are other ways to make money online. In the next chapter, you’ll learn about using teaching-based ideas to get paid.
Having a lot of knowledge about or passion for a subject may be your ticket to earning some cash. If you can explain something clearly or are good at showing people what needs to be done, you may be able to make money online. As with content-based ideas, you have a few options: becoming a consultant, creating online courses, tutoring, or creating a podcast.
Earn money online as a consultant
One teaching-based idea is to become a consultant. You don’t have to go out into the physical world; you can run online coaching groups and provide personalized advice from behind your computer screen.
To be successful, make sure you take the time to build an audience that will find your expertise valuable. You can do this through speaking gigs, writing, or using your previous experience. You might also create a Facebook group to answer basic questions, establish a community that would be interested in your consulting services, and upsell them on premium products.
First, pick a niche that you’re really good at. There are all kinds of online coaches out there: career planning, life planning, debt management, self-publishing, and health and fitness, to name a few.
For example, you might be a great personal trainer who gets amazing results for your face-to-face clients. You could turn that into a successful online personal training business in which you provide workout routines and meal plans for people around the country based on their goals.
Creating online courses
You can also use your knowledge to create and sell online courses, either on your own website or on a platform like Udemy or Teachable. To do this, you’ll need to film videos and create webinars that are full of valuable information.
After you choose a topic, create an outline of the entire course, including the modules in it. Then decide whether the module will be a “talking head” — you on camera explaining something — or a voice overlay of a PowerPoint or similar presentation. Being on camera is helpful if you’re demonstrating something or filming an introduction to your course. Voice overlay is a good choice if your course is mostly text-based, like a course about setting up a business plan.
Successful courses often include handouts that can be downloaded and printed. When you’re creating modules, think about what the key takeaways are for each module and how those can be included in a handout. If one of your business plan courses is about conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, include a downloadable PDF with a SWOT template for your students.
Using webinars for coaching and online courses
When you want to have a one-off class, host a webinar. You can turn webinars into modules for online courses or use them to sell your courses or coaching services. If it’s just you speaking on the webinar, it will be fairly easy to record.
After you decide on the format and create visuals for your webinar, choose a tool to broadcast and record the webinar. Services like Adobe Connect, Webex, and ClickMeeting all have different price points and features, so look for one that will help you meet your goals.
For example, if you’re promoting your business, the goal of your webinar would be to attract a large audience. This requires a platform that can handle a lot of people logging in. A webinar just for your clients, on the other hand, would be a much smaller audience and wouldn’t require that capability.
Webinar clues: How to record a webinar
The webinar presentation tool you choose should ideally have a built-in recording feature. That way, you can run your webinar from your computer without having to worry about a separate recording device.
However, if you’re not conducting live webinars and just want to publish a voiceover module for your course or coaching business, you can use the voice recording feature in PowerPoint. In the PowerPoint menu, the Slide Show section has a Record Slide Show option. Once you start recording, speak clearly into the microphone as you go through your slides, as if you’re giving a live presentation.
Make money tutoring online
If you have a lot of knowledge about an academic subject, you can make money online as a tutor. Sites like Skooli and TutorMe connect students with tutors. Set up a profile that includes your qualifications and decide on a rate. You might also set up a curriculum for tutoring if that’s something you’re familiar with.
Tutoring platforms will usually have a way for you to communicate with the students you’re tutoring, but if you’re setting up your own online tutoring business, you’ll need to choose something like Skype or Google Meet so that you can meet with your students.
Podcasting as an income generator
If you do your best explaining when you can just talk (instead of writing, as discussed in the previous chapter), a podcast may be a great way for you to earn money online. You can set up a podcast as a standalone way to make money by taking sponsorships or ads from companies or by using affiliate marketing tactics like bloggers do. You can also use podcasting as a way to grow your coaching business or sell your products and services.
As with the content-based ideas and the ideas listed in this chapter, you’ll need to choose a topic for podcasting. Think about who you’ll interview and what you’ll promote on your podcast.
If you’re going to be interviewing people over the phone, choose a platform with high-quality audio so the podcast won’t sound tinny or have a lot of static, delays, or other distracting interruptions. Once you’ve edited the podcast and published it to a host like Buzzsprout, you can submit it to Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Hopefully one of these teaching-based ideas will help you make money online. If you want to add more income streams, the next chapter will cover how to make money with online evaluation-based ideas.
Online evaluation-based ideas
One fairly easy way to make money online is with website, feature, and search result evaluation jobs. You can also take online surveys for money. If you’re thinking this might just be pocket change, that can be true. However, the website, feature, and search result evaluator jobs can be quite lucrative if you’re able to find them.
Web evaluation jobs
The most common of these evaluation jobs is the web search evaluator, also known as a search evaluator, internet assessor, ad quality rater, or internet judge. These projects usually involve analyzing ad text, images, and content, then reporting on different parts of the ads.
While search engine algorithms are complex, they don’t capture the human factor, which is where the evaluator comes in. Google — and many other companies — hire people to do this research in the hopes of improving the user experience.
When you get a web search evaluator job, you give feedback on how relevant search results are, as well as ads and website content. You might be asked specific questions about the content, or you might have to write a full report with your feedback.
Since a lot of search engines are localized, you need to live in the area (or country) that they’re evaluating. You also need to be familiar with the language and culture of the search engine user. Some of these companies require that you have a college degree. As for equipment, you should only need a computer with high-speed internet access and some web search skills to do the job.
There are a few companies besides Google that hire web search evaluators:
- Appen is a global company that requires you to be a native speaker of the language in the area where you’re working. The company works in 120 different languages and dialects, and the average independent contractor can get four to five hours a day of work.
- Lionbridge looks for internet assessors to evaluate web search results, social media search consultants to provide feedback on content quality, internet judges, and online map specialists.
These are both legitimate companies that will pay you to evaluate search engine results, advertisements, map search results, and social media results.
It’s worth noting that web search evaluation jobs can be big-time commitments. If you’re just looking to earn some coffee money, stick to taking online surveys. Some of these companies will pay you in points that you can redeem for gift cards. Others will pay you small sums of cash. In some cases, you may be asked to test a product, then fill out a survey — so not only do you make money, but you also get a free product.
There are a lot of survey sites out there, but you won’t always get a survey from them. Most people who use online surveys to make money sign up for more than one site so they get a lot of opportunities. The ones with the best reviews are Swagbucks, InboxDollars, Springboard America, Harris Poll Online (which is run by the Nielsen Norman Group, the company that puts out the Nielsen TV ratings), CashCrate, and Toluna.
If you’re going to take online surveys for money, set up a separate email address just for surveys, to prevent your regular email inbox from being flooded. Also, take as many surveys as possible at the beginning to build up your credibility and get surveys that pay you more in the future. To save time, use the autocomplete feature in your web browser so things like your name, address, and telephone number are automatically populated in the survey questions.
The most lucrative online surveys are actually online focus groups. These are small groups of people that companies invite to share their opinions on potential products or services.
Online focus groups are very similar to their in-person counterparts, except you join by online chat instead of going to a location. Some of these focus groups may require you to use video chat software.
A lot of companies use online focus groups because they’re less expensive than bringing people to a physical location, providing materials, and staffing the group — plus they have a wider geographic range to select from.
As with online surveys, you can find plenty of sites that will hook you up with an online focus group. Respondent.io, User Interviews, 20/20 Panel, Fieldwork, Probe Market Research, FocusGroup.com, and Recruit and Field are all specifically for online focus groups. They pay anywhere from $50 to $400, making this a great way to earn extra money if you qualify for the groups.
Taking web search result evaluation jobs and participating in online surveys are fairly easy ways to earn money. Sometimes they can be time-intensive, but for those looking for a quick way to earn cash without needing to do much legwork to find the jobs, they’re an ideal way to boost your income and pay for things like a night out.
The downside to these gigs is that you have to be actively working to earn money, unlike selling an e-book or collecting affiliate income, as discussed in previous chapters. If you’re looking to sell something online without having to do much aside from uploading the details, you’ll want to read the next chapter, which is all about how you can sell media online.
Businesses of all sizes, along with bloggers and other content creators, need images to emphasize their messaging. However, not all of them have the budget to hire a photographer, which is where you and your camera come in to make money online. Selling stock photos and videos on different websites is a great way for photographers to make passive income — income that doesn’t require you to put in constant effort.
Put simply, stock photos and videos are media that you’ve made available on a website that sells them and provides a license to the person or business that buys them. Depending on the license, your photo could be used on a website, in a social media post, on a book cover, in a magazine article, or anywhere else a photo or video is needed to illustrate a point.
These sites are massive collections of images, and when someone needs one, they search through the site for something that fits their message. More than one person can buy a license to use a photo or video.
Some of these sites let you set the price for your photos, based on how they’re licensed to users. Depending on your photography skills, the license, and where you sell your photos, your stock photo license could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, most stock photo websites will take up to 85 percent in commission, so you’ll have to work hard to create a catalog of stock photos that will make you money.
Getting started with stock photos and videos
If you want to start making money selling stock photos, you’ll need to put in some up-front work and decide what kind of photos and videos to sell. Photographers who make money online selling photos take the time to study different markets and create images that people in those markets will buy.
For example, if you want to break into the health and fitness market, spend time figuring out what images people are using on health and fitness sites, like action shots of people running or photos of meal prep. To get a better idea of your target market, read industry magazines and blogs. Look at the images that are used; those will be the ones that sell.
Another thing to consider is the style of your photos as they relate to your target market. While some buyers may want to use artistic and unique images, others may be looking for something clear and simple, like a woman drawing a flowchart on a whiteboard.
Quality definitely matters when you’re selling stock photography. As great as mobile phone cameras are these days, nothing beats high-resolution photos shot using a good DSLR camera and the appropriate lens. Ideally, you won’t spend a lot of time in post-processing since most people who buy stock photos just want clear, bright images that are in focus and appeal to a wide audience.
For stock videos, make sure your footage is about 10 to 20 seconds long. Some sites won’t accept any stock videos shorter than six seconds.
If you plan to use images or videos with people in them, make sure you get a model release. Most stock photo sites won’t accept photos or videos with people in them unless you have a release signed by those people stating that it’s OK to use them in your work. You can create a simple model release using a JotForm template.
Finally, before you start, consider the keywords you’ll use to get your photos found. For example, if you’re shooting a lot of food images, “food” would be too broad a keyword. Instead, include specific keywords like “tomatoes,” “salad,” “healthy lunch,” or anything else that applies to the image you’ve created.
Consider conceptual tags or tags that describe the mood of your photos. If your photo is of a woman lifting weights, a conceptual tag might be “fitness” or “motivation.” Just be careful not to engage in tag spam, which is using tags and keywords that don’t relate to the image you’ve uploaded.
Where to sell your stock photos
Once you’ve created images and decided on keywords, you’ll need to upload your work to a stock photo site to start making money. There are a lot of sites you can use. Some might require that you work with them exclusively, meaning your photos only appear on their site. It’s worth checking out the terms before you upload your work, especially if you want to reach a wider audience.
Getty Images is the gold standard for stock photos and videos. Joining this site can be difficult, but for photojournalists, it’s a great place to sell your photos. Getty Images started in 1995, and it doesn’t accept every photographer who applies. However, as you hone your craft, you can always reapply.
Getty owns iStock, which pays anywhere from 15 to 45 percent in commissions. You’ll still need to apply, but it’s more accessible to new photographers and videographers.
Shutterstock is also a popular site to sell photos and videos. You can sign up for free. New photographers typically earn $.25 to $.80 per download. Eventually, you can make up to $120 per download, depending on the license and your photos.
If you’re just getting started and having trouble getting accepted at other stock photo sites, you can sign up on Pixabay. Theoretically, you might not get paid because all of the photos are available for free to people who want to use them. However, Pixabay has a donate button called “coffee money” that lets people who appreciate your work give you a tip. At the very least, you’ll make some pocket change while you improve your photography skills.
So far, we’ve covered how to sell content and expertise, but what if you want to sell actual, physical items to make money online? The next chapter will teach you how to sell tangible goods on the internet.
Selling content or your expertise can help you make money online, but if you want to sell tangible goods, there’s also a big market for that. There are so many opportunities for you to sell your own products, especially handmade items. This chapter is all about how to turn your hobby into actual money.
When most people hear about selling stuff online, they tend to think of an online garage sale. Cleaning out your closets and listing unwanted items on eBay, Poshmark, or in an online group on Facebook or Nextdoor is definitely a way to make some extra cash, and it’s ideal if you just need a onetime cash infusion.
However, if you want to make an actual income selling your products online, you can set up a storefront. This may seem a little intimidating.
Sure, you can fire up the Cricut machine and make custom tumblers for your friends and family, but would anyone buy tumblers with the designs you’ve created and painstakingly applied? The answer to that is yes, and you can make good money doing it.
Jordan Lee Dooley started an online Etsy store, SoulScripts, when she was still in college. She hand-lettered quotes onto mugs and journals, which gave her an online platform to start building her business. She’s since transitioned to blogging and writing, but having SoulScripts gave her a foothold in the online world.
Other examples of handmade goods you can sell include jewelry or custom clothing, including costumes. If you find that you’re making a lot of a particular type of costume and taking orders for people you know, you can easily transition that to an online store.
If you’re already part of a community — like a group that attends Renaissance Faires or Comic-Con regularly, a Civil War reenactment club, or a live action role-playing (LARPing) group — you may have already made costumes or props for those events. In other words, you know what you’re doing.
Selling artwork online is another great way to make money. Artists use platforms like Etsy or their own website to sell their original works.
Listing your handmade items
While an online marketplace like Etsy makes it easy to get started selling handmade items online, if you want to take it to the next level and have more control over your orders — and not have to pay a commission or fee to your host site — you can start your own website. When you create your own site, you have full control over it, as well as any money you earn. It takes more work to set up, but you don’t have to worry about someone else hosting your content or changing their terms at any time.
To be successful, consider using social media to help boost interest in your items, regardless of where you list them. For example, you could create an Instagram account and post pictures of bolts of fabric you’ve bought, finished items, and behind-the-scenes videos of you attaching just the right amount of trim, then link to your shop in your Instagram profile.
Pinterest and Facebook can also help generate sales, and all three of these platforms offer a way for interested people to shop directly from your posts. Having this extra presence beyond your online store will help generate excitement for your products. Remember, there are a lot of people selling handmade items, so you need to make yours stand out.
When you list products online, pay attention to two big things — how you present the products visually and the search engine optimization (SEO) keywords you use to attract customers.
Take a lot of high-resolution images of your goods, and if you sell clothing, take pictures of a model wearing the clothes (or a customer, if they’re OK with that). The idea is to show people what your handmade products look like when they’re in use, whether it’s something they wear or an item like a throw blanket, which you can drape over a chair or sofa.
Keywords are very important. People will use certain words to look for products like yours on Google or in other search engines. Use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to help you find the right keywords to use in your product headings, titles, and descriptions, as well as in social media and website meta descriptions. For example, if you’re posting a listing for a custom Uhura costume, include keywords related to the original Star Trek series.
Using order forms to sell handmade items online
Something you’ll definitely want to consider is how you take orders for your items. If you’re using an online marketplace, they handle it for you. But if you’ve taken control and set up your own website, you’ll need order forms for different things, like buying a single item that’s already listed or commissioning a custom piece.
Since you’ll likely be selling a number of different items, including custom pieces, there is no one order form that will work for everyone. JotForm has more than 150 templates you can use to create a custom order form. The forms integrate with Square, PayPal, Stripe, and other payment methods so that you can collect money directly through the form and don’t have to email the buyer.
For example, if you just sell a few different premade products, you could create a simple order form that allows your customers to check off what they want to order. If you sell custom products, create a form that lets the customer specify what they want so you can contact them.
If you integrate your order forms with a trusted payment method, you’ll sell more of them. Make sure you include the basics on your order form: name, shipping address, email address, and a phone number in case you have questions.
Whether you sell your items on a marketplace or on your own website, setting up shop for the crafts and handmade goods you create is a great way to make money online. You can extend your physical world into the virtual world and reach a larger audience.
In the next chapter, we’ll talk about bridging the physical/virtual gap to earn money with app-based ideas.
Thanks to the proliferation of apps that connect people with the services they need, you can make money by combining the physical and digital worlds — also known as “phygital.” These app-based ideas for making money online aren’t strictly online; there is some physical work involved that requires you to leave your home. If you want to learn how to make money online with apps, this chapter is for you.
Earn money online with your car (or bike)
A couple of the best-known examples of phygital ways to make money are taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. If you have a car in a certain condition (typically 20 years old or newer) and a clean driving record, you can make money in your spare time, on your own schedule, by ferrying people around.
To sign up for either of these, you need to meet the age requirement for your specific region, pass an online DMV and background check, and have a smartphone so that you can use the app. It helps to own your car, and you have to provide proof of insurance. If you don’t have a car and you want to be a regular Uber or Lyft driver, both of these companies can connect you to one of their partners to lease a vehicle.
If you’re not comfortable driving people around, you can also become a delivery driver for services like Uber Eats, Grubhub, or DoorDash. These services all have different requirements for delivery people, but in some cases, you won’t even need a car, particularly if you live in a city like New York or Boston. In those areas, all you need is a bike to transport food orders.
You have to be able to lift up to 30 pounds, pass a background check, and be at least 18 years old. For those that do scooter delivery for these sites, you need a motorized scooter under 50 cubic centimeters that’s 20 years old or newer. For car delivery, you’ll need a two-door or four-door car that’s 20 years old or newer. You’ll also need a valid driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Amazon Flex is another way to make money with your car in over 50 metropolitan areas. You can sign up to deliver items from different Amazon services like Prime, Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, Instant Offers, or Store Orders.
Earn money with your skills
If you don’t have transportation, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn money with apps in the physical world. Apps like TaskRabbit can help you make money by connecting you to people who need your skills. You can do these tasks in person or remotely.
Some of the things people need help with are putting together IKEA furniture or installing a light fixture in their homes — and those are just a few of the tasks people ask for help with on TaskRabbit. For those who have a knack for handyperson skills, TaskRabbit can be a viable way to earn money in the phygital world.
You can also earn money on Airbnb leading what they call “experiences” or “adventures.” If you’re really familiar with your city, or you can give people lessons on something related to your locale, you can sign up to give tours or classes on Airbnb.
For example, if you live in a beach town and are an experienced surfer, you can give surfing lessons to visitors who book with you. You could also lead a themed food tour or a guided tour of street art, or lead a group on a hike.
Make money when you run errands
Getting out of the house to run errands can pay off. You can make money online when you sign up for some apps, including Gigwalk, Shopkick, and Field Agent. All you need is a smartphone.
With Gigwalk and Field Agent, you take a picture or record data when you’re running errands (or just out for a walk), basically confirming that merchandising displays are set up correctly. Shopkick gives you points that can be redeemed for cash when you complete tasks at retailers, like scanning items and buying things that you might have already planned to buy.
These tasks are fairly easy to do and a good way to put a little extra cash in your pocket.
Make money with your home
If you travel a lot or don’t mind someone sleeping in your spare room, you can also make money by listing your home or spare bedroom on Airbnb. To host your home on Airbnb, check your local regulations to make sure it’s OK. If it is, all you have to do is sign up on Airbnb’s site and list your property. You set the price and availability.
For those who would rather host four-legged guests, the app DogVacay matches dog owners to host homes. You can host local dogs while their humans are on vacation, again setting your own rate and availability. You can also limit your services to specific breeds, so if you really don’t like Chihuahuas, you can exclude them.
Dogs get to stay in a home and get lots of attention, and you get to have a furry friend. DogVacay recently teamed up with Rover, so you can also sign up as a dog walker if you don’t want to host an animal in your home but still want to earn some money while spending time with pets.
It seems like a dream come true — earning money online for activities you do offline. From putting together furniture to renting out your spare room, there’s an activity that can help you make extra money just by logging into an app and accepting a booking. In a lot of cases, you don’t need any special equipment or up-front investment. And in some cases, you get to turn something you’re passionate about — like street art or caring for pets — into a source of revenue.
Remote work ideas
There are lots of jobs you can do from anywhere, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection. For those who want to make money online, remote working opportunities can provide a steady part-time or full-time income and a flexible schedule.
According to remote worksite FlexJobs, 43 percent of U.S. workers worked remotely, at least occasionally, in 2017. Thirty-eight percent of full-time staff are predicted to work remotely in the next 10 years — and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic sent millions to in-home offices.
Many companies are hiring remote workers to save on overhead, and small business owners often look for people who can handle tasks remotely on a regular basis. Graphic design, web design, and data entry are just a few of the many ways to make money online as a remote worker.
A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who provides help for businesses and entrepreneurs from a remote location. They handle a variety of tasks, like managing social media, managing calendars, responding to emails, booking travel, or doing some light research. Using a VA saves companies time and money.
If this sounds interesting to you, polish up your resume and sign up on some freelance marketplaces, like Upwork and Freelance My Way. Upwork provides skill tests for you to take, and when you complete them, a badge will appear on your profile for prospective employers to see. You can bid on VA jobs as they’re listed, or someone can contact you directly to interview for a VA job.
Customer service or tech support
Another popular remote work option is providing tech support or customer service, either by email, chat, or phone. Companies often want to provide 24-7 support for their customers, so if you want to work outside typical business hours or are in a different time zone, you can likely find a job doing this.
If you have a background in customer service, marketing, retail, or communications, you might be an ideal fit for a customer service job. Those who understand the technology and have the patience to explain it to someone who doesn’t (i.e., “Have you checked to make sure all the lights on your router are on?”) can excel at remote tech support. All you need is a computer and a reliable internet connection.
Web and graphic design
A lot of people make a decent living as web or graphic designers. They might work for a specific company or work as freelancers for several companies.
Freelance graphic designers may work on everything from new logos for small businesses to package design for large consumer packaged goods companies. Web design work ranges from creating new websites to revamping existing ones. You can do this work on a flexible schedule, as you meet deadlines.
Website developers have a related role. This is someone who creates websites on specific platforms, like WordPress or Wix. To do this, you’ll need website design skills as well as specific knowledge of the platform you’re building on.
To get started working as a remote web or graphic designer or as a remote web developer, simply reach out to companies that might need these services.
Data entry and other remote work opportunities
There are many other opportunities to make money online by working remotely. Data entry is a perfect remote option because most companies don’t require you to be onsite for this work. You just need to get the work done, be detail-oriented, and type fast without making errors. Companies like Clickworker, Dion Data Solutions, and SigTrack offer remote data entry opportunities.
Another way to make money online is as a research assistant. Often, universities or research institutions need someone to handle large volumes of background research. If you have expertise in a particular field, this might be a great opportunity to pursue.
Transcription is also a remote opportunity that can pay off. If you have a good ear and can type fast without making mistakes, there’s definitely a need for your services. You could end up transcribing phone calls and dictation. If you’re familiar with medical terminology, you could take on medical transcription gigs as well. Companies like Babbletype, Daily Transcription, and AccuTranGlobal all hire remote transcriptionists.
If you’re good at remaining neutral in the face of heated arguments, you might want to explore moderation and community manager opportunities. These remote jobs require you to review online forums and pages to make sure they’re free of specific content, like personal attacks, or sensitive information like people’s home addresses. LiveWorld and Crisp Thinking are just two companies that hire community managers.
Those in the medical field can earn money by taking online medical coding jobs. If you have a degree and experience, you can find jobs where you assign certain medical codes to health diagnoses.
One last remote working opportunity that this guide will discuss is app and software development. If you have a background in computer science or software engineering, you can find jobs designing, coding, or troubleshooting mobile apps and software programs.
The benefits of remote work
Remote work has a lot of benefits. In addition to having a flexible schedule, remote work eliminates your commute, reducing your carbon footprint. Of course, a lot of remote workers will also say that being able to work in comfortable clothes is a bonus. And employers don’t have to procure office space and run electricity and HVAC systems for these workers.
To get started with remote work, all you really need is a computer and a reliable internet connection. Some of the remote work tools you might use include project management tools like Basecamp, collaboration tools like Slack, and cloud storage like Google Drive and Dropbox.
You may also need to use remote work tools, like Teamwork or Hubstaff, to track your time and online videoconferencing software like Zoom. Other remote work tools you might want to use include task management tools like Todoist to keep your to-do lists organized, time zone converters, and Evernote to take notes.
No matter what you decide to do, there are plenty of remote work opportunities that can help you make money online. This chapter only scratched the surface of what’s out there, so if you have a particularly useful skill, it’s worth exploring potential remote jobs that make the most of your experience.
Setting up your online business
If you have a great idea, make it a reality by setting up your own online business. This is something you can do all by yourself or with a group of friends or business partners. First, map out your ideas on a piece of paper or in a blank word processing document and figure out if they’re viable.
To come up with some great online business ideas that will help you make money online, think about some of the problems that you or others face in daily life. For example, Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick founded Uber in 2009 after they had difficulty hailing a cab in Paris one evening. They realized a ride-sharing app could make the service more affordable and accessible, and the idea of being able to order a car via an app was born.
Your idea might be on a much smaller scale, like finding a way to keep track of your to-do list, car maintenance, or your child’s allergy shot schedule. If there’s something you’re having trouble with, others probably are, too. That makes it a profitable business idea; you just need to figure out how to bring the business to life.
One of the first things you have to do is figure out how you’re going to fund your business idea — from setting up a minimum viable product to see if there’s a market for your idea to actually launching the product to the public. Every business will have different needs, and depending on your idea, you may be able to fund the entire startup yourself. Other times, you’ll need outside help.
Funding your business with venture capital
Investors, in the form of venture capital or VC investments, are one way to raise money for your business. With this funding model, people or companies give you money to start your business. In exchange, they get a share of the company along with a say in how it’s run. Typically, a venture capitalist will invest in high-growth companies and will take bigger risks.
If you choose to fund your business with VC, you can either go to an individual or a company. Research who you approach for funding to make sure they’re trustworthy and have experience working with startups (where the risks are greater). Investors will want to see a business plan and review who’s on your management team, as well as your corporate documents and financial statements.
Crowdfunding your online business
You don’t have to go the formal VC route to fund your online business. Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter can also be a great way to raise money to develop a prototype and get your business running.
Unlike using VC, people who contribute to your crowdfunding effort don’t expect a share in the business. They’re not technically investors. They do often expect to get a “gift” from your company, like the first run of your product or their names in the credits for your app.
If you want to keep full control over your business, crowdfunding may be a good option, particularly if you don’t need a ton of money.
Getting a small business loan
Another option that lets you maintain control of your business is a small business loan. Typically, you’ll need a business plan, an expense sheet, and financial projections for the next few years when you apply for a loan. A lot of banks offer these types of loans, so it’s worth it to shop around for the best rate. If you live in the U.S., you can also consider U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, which tend to be granted to companies that traditional banks may be wary of lending to.
Self-funding or bootstrapping
If you have the money to do it, you can always self-fund, or bootstrap, your business. This simply means that you use your own money to get your business off the ground, or you ask your family and friends for some help. You can also tap into savings accounts or even your 401K if you’re confident enough about your business idea.
The advantage of bootstrapping is that you don’t have to give up control to anyone, and you only have yourself to answer to when it comes to financials. However, you could easily spend more than you planned.
Bootstrapping is a viable option for a business that has a low entry point, like doing graphic design to make money online. In a scenario like that, you just need a computer that can run standard graphic design programs, along with the software, an internet connection, and some basic marketing materials, like a website. You can most likely pay for these with your credit card.
In fact, some of the ways to make money online that we’ve discussed don’t require any prior investment at all. If you already have a computer or a smartphone, you likely have most of what you need to get started.
For example, even if you’re considering an online custom-made clothing business, you likely already have everything you need — a sewing machine, a mannequin, a smartphone to take pictures, and a computer to list the items. For a business like that, you can request a deposit up front from customers to cover materials, and you’ll have to pay very little out of your own pocket to start.
Funding your business may seem like a difficult proposition, but with a great idea and some creativity, you can find the funding to make it a reality. VC, loans, crowdsourcing, and bootstrapping are all viable options to explore.
Once you’ve found the funding, make sure your business is a success. In the next chapter, you’ll learn about the principles of successful online businesses so you can move your online side hustle into a full-time, income-generating machine.
Successful online business principles
As this guide has discussed, there are a lot of online money-making methods you can pursue. Some of these can be side gigs for pocket change, while others could turn into full-fledged businesses that allow you to set your own hours and work from home.
There are also a lot of successful online businesses that you can build, both individually and as an enterprise. This chapter will focus on successful online businesses and the principles to sustain them.
One example of an online business that was so successful it spun off into a second business is Oh My Dog Supply. This business began when Eric Shannon had difficulty finding a comfortable dog bed for his 92-pound labrador retriever and basenji mix who had hip dysplasia.
After spending hours looking for the right bed for his large dog, Shannon started his own company to sell high-quality dog products. Customer requests for dog beds that could fit Great Danes, mastiffs, and golden retrievers quickly increased, and Shannon expanded his online business into Big Barker, which creates therapeutic mattresses for dogs.
Solve a problem
Oh My Dog Supply was able to succeed and grow because it filled an unmet need. People weren’t able to find high-quality dog beds for their large animals, and at first, Oh My Dog Supply focused on sourcing these and other dog supplies. However, Shannon realized that there was an even bigger need for therapeutic beds, and Big Barker grew from that.
Collect and organize customer feedback
The second successful online business principle that Big Barker followed was collecting customer feedback and keeping it organized. At Big Barker, customers send in video reviews in exchange for a gift card. The company uses JotForm’s integration with Slack so that staff are immediately notified of new reviews and can take action quickly. They store reviews on Google Drive for easy access.
Not only does collecting customer feedback help Big Barker improve its products, but it also gives staff easy access to testimonials they can use in their own advertising. And when a customer does have an issue, they’re able to respond quickly.
Be prepared to change course
As mentioned, Big Barker spun off from Oh My Dog Supply in response to a need. Shannon’s willingness to grow by taking a different course proved successful. In this case, it was to start a new business that focused solely on one product.
Make it easy to order from you
Second Use is a Seattle-based nonprofit that salvages and sells reclaimed building materials to help the environment. It also sells t-shirts and calendars online.
To make it easy for people to order its products, Second Use added an order form that integrates with Stripe, its preferred payment platform. This not only makes it easy for someone to order from the company, but it also provides the security that Stripe offers and eliminates manual payment processing.
Ensure your product is easy to use
If your online business is something like an app, it needs to be intuitive enough so people can use it. This applies to both businesses and consumers.
As you develop an online product, look for ways to simplify how it can be used.
Know what’s valuable about your business
What do all these companies have in common? They know why people want to do business with them, and they leverage this in their marketing.
For example, Repair Pricer knows that people who use its site have just gotten a home inspection report back and want to figure out how to negotiate the purchase price of the home based on the repairs needed. They also know it’s a time-sensitive matter. Their marketing materials stress that getting an accurate repair estimate is fast and easy.
As an online business itself, JotForm is a good example of how to succeed. JotForm has made creating online forms as simple as choosing a template and dragging and dropping questions into it.
But JotForm has taken it one step further by creating a comprehensive library of resources for business owners, everything from how to create a contract to data management. The takeaway is that, when you start your own online business, create a value-add for your customers. It might be directions on how to style a particular item of clothing you’ve made for them, or it could be some light keyword research you’ve done to go with the marketing plan you created for a client.
The bottom line is, a successful online business works hard to meet the needs of its customers and asks for their feedback. It makes getting in touch simple and provides extra value for the customer in some way.
From ways to earn coffee money to building an entire business from the ground up, the internet has made it easier than ever to make money. Creating content, sharing expertise, and opening an online storefront are just three ideas, but there are many more.
In addition to content-based ideas, like blogging and freelance writing, you can leverage your knowledge to teach others online. You can also take surveys and evaluate search results.
Photographers and videographers can earn money online by selling stock photos and videos. And, naturally you can sell physical goods online — in particular, handmade goods.
There are also ways to make money from app-based ideas that combine the physical and the virtual, using apps like Uber — or even apps that let you host people’s dogs in your home to make money. Remote work, including online contact center and virtual assistant jobs that you can do with a computer and an internet connection, can provide a steady source of income as well.
Last but not least, you can set up an online business. With this guide, you’re now ready to find a way to make money online that matches your skills and interests.