How to Make Money Online: 12 Legitimate Strategies
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The idea of making money online seemed like a novel concept just a few years. Working from wherever you want, whenever you want, being your own boss and having supreme flexibility sounded great. But it just wasn’t realistic for most people. But things have changed. There are now more options than ever, making the Internet a viable source of income. In fact, 56.7 million Americans freelanced in 2018 — up 3.7 million from 2014. For this post, I’m going to take a deep dive into 12 different strategies that fit people of all different interests levels and skill sets. I’ll discuss the specifics on how each method works, how to get started and provide helpful resources. Now let’s get right down to it. Here’s how to make money online.
- Paid Market Research
Google “how to make money online,” and one of the first things you see is sites promoting paid market research. Although it’s not likely something you can make a full-time income with, this is a nice starting point to generate some extra cash. The concept is simple. You participate in online surveys or questionnaires, which help brands gather consumer data. Some companies may also want you to watch videos, play games or try out mobile apps as well. Their end goal is to get objective user feedback in order to improve their products and the overall user experience.
How Do You Get Paid?
Many companies like Swagbucks have a point system where you earn points, which can later be converted into cash, gift cards or PayPal credit once you reach a certain threshold. You’ll usually need to fill some information about yourself like your interests and demographic data so companies can offer you relevant opportunities. Earnings will vary, but you can generally expect to earn a few bucks for each survey you complete. Like I said, it’s certainly not a goldmine, but it’s a great way to get your feet wet. The great thing about paid market research is you don’t need to have any particular skills. You just need an opinion.
But here’s the deal. There are a ton of paid market research companies out there. Most are legit. But unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there who won’t actually pay. So you need to be sure you’re only working with legitimate companies with a proven track record and positive reviews. Ideally, they’ll also have plenty of opportunities, meaning you can participate in a variety of surveys and questionnaires at any time. That’s critical for making sustained income.
Companies I Recommend
Swagbucks is one of the most popular platforms around, and for good reason. They’ve been around for over a decade, have a ton of opportunities and pay out with no drama. Here are some others:
2. Virtual Assistant
This is a wide umbrella that can consist of many different tasks. Virtual assistants (VAs) may:
- Handle customer support
- Process orders
- Perform data entry
- Work in project management
- Perform content research
- Proofread blog posts
- Format WordPress content
The list goes on. And there’s a huge demand for VAs. Many business owners have a ton of work but don’t have the time to handle it in-house. So they outsource to VAs for extra help to keep the workflow moving. You’ll usually need to have some level of experience in the niche you choose. So I recommend starting with something you’re familiar with. For instance, you may be adept at using WordPress and could target gigs that involve content formatting and adding media to WordPress posts. Once you get a few projects under your belt and start to build relationships, you can move on and expand.
How to Find VA Jobs
There are three sites I suggest checking out initially:
You’ll need to sign up, create a profile and list your skills. I also recommend using Indeed because there are often a lot of VA jobs on there. Just search for relevant terms like “virtual assistant” or “remote” under location.
3. Freelance Writer
Freelance writing has never been bigger. Peruse most major job boards, and you’ll inevitably find businesses seeking writers to handle a wide variety of content needs. So there are plenty of opportunities available. And many people are making freelance writing a permanent, long-term profession. According to a 2017 survey by FreelanceWriting.com, “Over 83 percent of respondents reported they expect to continue to write for at least five years.” As you might imagine, there’s a big disparity in terms of how much freelance writers earn, which involves several factors like experience, industry, content complexity and the number of hours worked per week. But there’s certainly money to made. Build a nice portfolio of clients, and you can earn a nice living working completely remotely.
How Do You Become a Freelance Writer?
Ideally, you’ll have a degree in journalism, literature, creative writing, etc. However, it’s certainly not necessary. What’s important is that you’re able to write well and have a great command of language. These days, it’s also crucial that you’re an expert (or at least highly knowledgeable) in a particular subject. For instance, you may love technology and gadgets. Those would be the areas you would want to focus on and build your portfolio around. Professional writers almost always have their own website featuring their work to share with potential clients. So this is definitely something you’ll want to put time into before applying to any gigs.
Where Do You Find Freelance Writing Jobs?
If you’re brand new to the industry, I suggest first writing some content on a blog so you’ll have something to show potential clients. That’s vital for getting your foot in the door. To find paid work as a beginner, I recommend applying to a company like Textbroker and Skyword. This is a good way to get the feel for the industry and earn at least some money. From there, you can check out the following resources to find gigs:
I also find Indeed to be an amazing resource. Just search for keywords like “freelance writer,” “blogger” and “remote writer.” You’d be surprised at how many companies are seeking quality writers, and the jobs are updated daily.
4. Teach English Online
About 20 percent of the world’s population speaks English. And many more are looking to learn. Countries like China, South Korea and The Philippines in particular are looking to teach their students this language from a young age. So there’s a good demand for English language instructors online. There are two main criteria required for this type of work. First, you need to be fluent in English. Second, you’ll usually need to have a bachelor’s degree. Some companies may also require some type of certification such as TESOL, TEFL or CELTA as well. In terms of earning potential, you’re usually looking at somewhere around $28 AUD per hour. Schedules are flexible, but most companies will want you to commit to a set number of hours each week.
Companies I Recommend
You’ll need to visit their website, learn about the specific requirements and apply. Most positions listed will fill you in on the details like:
- Eligibility requirements
- Contract length
- Student level
- Salary and benefits
5. Create an Online Course
This is another way to earn money through teaching — only it involves building your own online course around a topic you’re an expert in. Here’s how it works. You sign up with a company like Udemy — they’re one of the best — and check out their course development options. For instance, Udemy has a section called “Become an Instructor.” From there, you’ll be able to plan your course and create videos and other educational content. You can build a course around pretty much anything. Everything from business and marketing to photography to personal development — whatever you’re an expert at. Here are some examples of what students are currently interested in on Udemy: Every time someone signs up for your course, you make a profit. Although the success rate varies, I’ve heard of many people making a solid passive income through developing an online course. The amazing thing about is that there’s a built-in audience on these platforms, allowing you to reach millions of potential students. To learn the nuts and bolts of the process, I suggest reading How to Make Money With an Awesome Online Course: The Complete Guide.
6. Build an Authority Site
Also known as a “niche site,” this involves taking a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate about and building a website around it. It could be anything — fitness, woodworking, fashion — you name it. The goal is to educate and entertain your audience and provide them with real value. This may include writing blog posts, creating videos, recording podcasts, referring helpful products or any other type of content you can think of. You can monetize through advertisements (e.g. Google AdSense), affiliate products or selling your own products. Here’s an example of an awesome authority site called COMET Camper (COMET stands for cost-effective, off-grid mobile eco trailer). It’s a site promoting “tiny living,” where people live in tiny houses, campers and vans, which is hugely popular at the moment. It’s basically a resource for learning about the tiny living movement and offers a ton of helpful resources, including a blog and e-course. What I like about this business model is that it requires very little financial investment to get going. In fact, you’re really only paying for hosting. The main thing you’re investing is your time. Now I will admit that the initial phases can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re developing your initial body of content. But once you get going, it gets a lot easier. And as you’re following grows, so does your earning potential. To learn the fundamentals of creating an authority site, I recommend this guide from Authority Hacker. It’s got information on everything you need to know to build a site from the ground up. This brings me to my next strategy.
7. Affiliate Marketing
As I just mentioned, affiliate products are a common way authority site owners monetize their content. This revolves around the practice of affiliate marketing, which Entrepreneur defines as, “A way for a company to sell its products by signing up individuals or companies (“affiliates”) who market the company’s product for a commission.” As an affiliate, you’re basically referring people to another company’s products, and you make a commission for every product that’s purchased through you. It’s a win-win because you’re making money without having to create an actual product yourself and deal with all of the logistics of order fulfillment, and the company is increasing their sales volume. Here’s how it works: Say you have a website that focuses on speciality dieting like the Paleo and Ketogenic diets. You could sell cookbooks on recipes featuring these diets. You would first sign up for an affiliate program post a link with your affiliate code on your site. Any time someone buys through your site, you receive a percentage of the sale. Note that you don’t necessarily have to have a website. You can do it through social media, guest blogging or anywhere you can feature an affiliate link. It’s just that having a site is nice because you’ve already got a built-in audience and trust, which tends to make it easier to convert. It’s also worth mentioning that affiliate marketing is where I first started making money online over 11 years ago. And there are a ton of people who have been successful with it.
How Do You Get Started With Affiliate Marketing?
Amazon Associates is one of the most popular programs. Although the commissions aren’t huge, you can promote over a million products. So there’s something for virtually every niche. eBay has an affiliate program. So does Target and Walmart. Check out this resource from Solvid for more programs. And if there’s a particular product you’re passionate about and it relates to your niche, check to see if the company has an affiliate program. Many do and will give you a percentage of each commission.
8. Self-Published Books
Have an idea for an epic book? There are several platforms that allow you to self-publish your book for free and earn royalties. Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing and Lulu are two of the most notable. And it’s surprisingly simple.
- Write your book
- Submit it (usually on a Word document)
- Design a cover (many platforms have tools to help with this, or you can use Canva)
- Wait for approval
- Sell it in an online marketplace and earn royalties
Here are some examples of books people have recently published on Lulu. What makes self-publishing feasible for companies is that books are printed on demand. So many of the pains that have traditionally come with publishing a large volume of books are eliminated with this model. They simply print a book whenever someone orders one. The other great thing is that people can easily find your books through these types of platforms. So much of the marketing is done for you.
9. Clothing Design
If you’re into fashion and have got a knack for design, you can use platforms like Zazzle and CafePress to create your own customized apparel and earn royalties.
- Create a design on your own or through a platform
- Add it to a t-shirt, hat, sticker, etc.
- Set your royalty rate
- Publish it
Any time someone buys a product with your design, you receive a royalty. Like self-publishing books, clothing items are also printed on demand. The awesome thing with platforms like Zazzle is that someone can take one of your designs and customize it exactly to their specifications. For instance, they can choose from different t-shirt, styles and colors to make it all their own. But you still receive a royalty regardless. And because these sites receive a lot of visitors, you’ve got built-in marketing working for you around the clock.
Read just about any blog post, and you’re bound to see stock photos. They’re everywhere these days. And this is good news if you’ve got photography chops because you can turn this into a legitimate side hustle. Sites like Shutterstock and Fotolia allow you to upload your images and sell them to earn royalties. Here’s how Shutterstock’s contributor program works: And here’s the thing about stock photography. It’s got to be A+ quality like this. Low quality, grainy, amateur photography won’t cut it. But with modern camera equipment and editing software being so sophisticated, it’s something that most people can get into. You by no means have to be a professional photographer to make this work. It’s just a matter of putting in the time to develop the skills. It’s also helpful to take photos of what people are looking for the most. According to Stock Photo Secrets, some of the top selling subjects in 2019 are:
- Personal technology
- Social causes
- Still-life images
YouTube has a massive audience. As of early 2019, 1.3 billion people were on it, making it second only to Facebook in terms of its user base. And it’s YouTube’s popularity that makes it another potential money maker. Advertising brings in big revenue on this network, and those with successful channels can get a slice of it. It’s all about growing your channel so that you bring in a large volume of views and engagement. The first step is to choose a niche you know inside and out and focus on it. “If you’re all over the place, doing all kinds of content, brands won’t understand what your audience is,” says Zoe Marans, vice president of Mediakix, an influencer marketing company. Then you need to create a steady stream of quality content. It’s also important to have a unique angle and showcase your personality. I’m not saying that it’s easy to grow a massive YouTube channel and bring in huge money. But it’s certainly possible to generate an extra stream of income through it. The YouTube Money Calculator from Influencer Marketing Hub can give you an idea of how much money you could potentially earn based on daily views and engagement. To learn how to build a successful YouTube channel from the ground up, I suggest reading this guide from DrSoft.
12. Craigslist Flipping
This final strategy revolves around finding great deals on Craigslist, buying items and reselling them at a markup. Say you found an amazing laptop that someone was trying to sell quickly that’s well below retail price. You could swoop in and buy it and then “flip” it on Craigslist for a profit. There are two key things you want to look for when using this method. First, you’ll typically want to aim for higher priced items because it’s easier to mark them up. For instance, it would probably make sense to flip a laptop because you could potentially buy it for $100 and resell it for $200. However, you probably won’t make much money if buy a stack of books for $20 and resell them for $30. It has to be worth your time. Second, you should only purchase in demand items. If it’s something so obscure that only a handful of people will be interested, it may take forever for someone to buy it.
What Items Are Easiest to Flip?
Here’s a list of items that are desirable and can yield a solid profit, according to Great Performers Academy:
- Technology devices and computers
- High end appliances
- Power tools
Or if you have a lot of knowledge in a particular area, like antiques for instance, you may want to focus on that angle as long as it’s profitable. With a wide variety of categories on Craigslist, the possibilities are endless.
Using Your Creativity and Skills to Make Money Online
As we’ve just learned, there are many ways to make money online. Some techniques can potentially provide a full-time income, while others are more of a side hustle. However, they’re all are legitimate and strategies that I can personally vouch for. Crushing it with these techniques is all about figuring out what you’re good at and passionate about and aligning it with your personal business goals. Can you think of any other ways to make money online? Please let us know: