This post is aimed towards those that just can’t choose what to pursue to make their first dollar online. I’ve gone ahead and outlined many ways and ideas on how to make money in today’s online-dominated economy, from the comfort of your own home. Bear in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive, but it should get the juices flowing for someone who is totally clueless.
Whilst earning an income from seemingly thin-air seems like such a foreign concept for many, and many can’t wrap their heads around how to earn money from the digital age we currently live in, just know that it’s possible to do – and to make lots and lots of money!
From the darkest corners of unethical income-earning cheats to 100% legitimate businesses, some earning multiple billions a year (Facebook just reported huge growth, reporting a whopping $8.8 billion for the most recent quarter!), there are many ways you can create an online career for yourself, though, it’s not for everyone.
If you don’t have work ethic, put bluntly, you’re most likely going to fail. If you don’t want to invest in your own education to learn and understand computers to a more than basic degree, chances are you’re going to struggle in many ways.
If you require someone to tell you what to do in order to get anything done, then this isn’t going to be the best life decision for you. For everyone else though, here’s some ways you can make money from, arguably, the most advanced technological advancement we’ve made in human history – The Internet.
1) Affiliate Marketing
I figured I’d start with this point, as it’s my forte, my field, filled with all sorts of opportunity to make a quick buck and arguably one of the easiest ways to get your feet wet. Things have definitely gotten more challenging in the past few years and this space isn’t as newbie friendly. Gone are the days of VERY EASY money – even the worst of the worst scammy affiliates have to innovate frequently.
In a nut-shell, for those unaware of what Affiliate Marketing is already, allow me to relate it to something more commonly understood – sales. In particular, receiving commissions for generating sales (or leads).
In a nutshell, you act as a salesman of sorts for vendors/advertisers who have a product/service that they offer, or are collecting leads to then sell off to other companies for a bounty. This is typically done either via organic traffic (less common these days) or paid traffic (buying advertising space). There are many resources teaching the secret ninja-art of affiliate marketing out there, but not many compare to STM (StackThatMoney). There is a wealth of knowledge there from years of the forum being active and many multi-million dollar affiliates and affiliate companies/teams dropping knowledge bombs in there (including myself).
- Low barrier for entry
- Low start-up costs compared to traditional businesses
- Quick results and lots of potential to scale
- Wealth of knowledge available nowadays
- Very diverse space, a lot of different things you can promote and a lot of places where you can buy advertising.
- Fun industry to be involved in
- Easy to have your hard work ripped off and copy-pasted
- The pond is getting more and more crowded
- Regulations making things a lot harder for the most profitable campaigns to well.. stay profitable.. or even run at all
- Very volatile and unsustainable for the most part
- Can be quite frustrating and stressful at times
- Not always the most ethical – a lot of what makes the most money tends to take advantage of people (for example, sweepstakes, nutraceutical offers, tech-support). This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate “whitehat” offers out there. They exist, though they are typically much harder to make work. Some examples are eCommerce offers (flashlight, HDFX), Leadgen (Mortgage Refinancing, Solar, Insurance)
- Easy to get ripped off and left without payment (see previous article about Jamie Law burning my company $256,000 USD)
2) Viral Sites / Content-Arbitrage
Typically known as “content-arbitrage”, and potentially a very saturated and difficult space to enter into now, this is a popular method being actively used where income is usually derived from ad-networks such as Google, RevContent, Content.ad, Taboola etc..
“Viral” sites are usually designed to be populated with “clickbait” articles and slideshows to lure users in. The sites are littered, ABSOLUTELY LITTERED, with advertising which completely slows down the experience, irritates most users, but the goal is to have them click on ads and generate revenue. Some will also run their own affiliate campaigns, depending on what yields the highest returns for them, but from what I see mostly is clickbait ads being purchased on social/native advertising networks, which lead to a clickbait article and the goal is to spend peanuts on clicks and yield a high enough RPU (revenue per user) to be profitable. Some examples of sites that are quite big are viralbuzz.com, elitedaily.com and littlethings.com
- Dealing with more reliable companies (Google Adsense, RevContent, Content.ad etc..) instead of advertisers who can disappear overnight
- Pretty-straightforward method of earning money
- Considered white-hat (or grey-hat depending on the viewpoint)
- You typically have to float a lot of money as payment terms with a lot of these networks is around 90 days compared to weekly payments offered by most affiliate networks
- High-risk in the sense that, well, if you are caught out not following compliance guidelines, you risk non-payment, which can be rather damaging
- Quite a saturated market now and a lot harder to enter in to
- Better off focusing on International, non-English speaking markets, if you can. Stick to countries that are wealthier, though (Norway, Denmark, France, Japan all come to mind)
This seems to be all the buzz lately, with a lot of blackhat affiliates moving into the space of Dropshipping and making an absolute killing doing so. Some create funnels selling only one product with some upsells/downsells (G700 Flashlights for example), whereas some are utilising Shopify or Woocommere stores to sell. Effectively what’s occurring is not a new concept. You buy low and sell-high on products sourced mostly from China / Chinese Factories. The most typical setup is having a Shopify store, which sells products sourced from AliBaba/AliExpress, and the store is promoted via Facebook Ads. You can also do the same via Amazon or eBay, whereby you sell via their platforms.
- Lots of opportunities available
- Harder to copy and paste compared to affiliate marketing campaigns
- Can build a brand
- Store can become a sellable asset
- Scalable, given demand is there and supply is readily available
- Diverse range of things than can work, from t-shirts and mugs, to hair-combs and sex-toys. It’s the wild west!
- You must be on top of customer-service or you will piss off a lot of consumers
- Collecting payments comes with a tonne of frustrations (PayPal/Stripe/Shopify Payments). Some can’t get processing in their home countries. Some have issues where funds get frozen due to a high rate of chargebacks or high risk transactions. If you join any ecommerce group on FB that’s active, you’ll see quite a few people complaining about this
- Logistics can become a headache
- Scalability is limited by supply and demand.
- If you scale up heavy and decide to move away from dropshipping to increase margins, you face quite a few challenges. Pellets can go missing. Customs can cause big delays. Campaigns could die before you’ve sold your entire inventory. Fulfilment centres aren’t always reliable or cost-effective.
- Margins are typically slimmer
- Dropshipping from china can be slow, leading to a lot of upset consumers who are used to Amazon-prime treatment.
4) Info Products / Digital Products / Courses
Feel like going Guru? Another popular way to make money online is creating info-products (see Clickbank, SoftwareProjects or Shareasale for marketplaces that facilitate this). Typically these are guides or courses in the form of eBooks or Videos in all sorts of niches, from cookbooks to fitness, from online betting systems to erectile dysfunction.
- Digital Download – no need to ship physical products meaning no real overhead meaning higher margins
- Access to a large network of affiliates experienced in promoting info products
- Can translate into many languages for extra scale (a lot harder to ship physical products to different countries, but digital makes this simpler)
- Lots of room for creativity
- Most reliable vendors like Clickbank won’t stiff you on payment
- If not done in a certain way, easily ends up on the ‘black market’ as a free-download
- Lots of customer-support required normally
- A lot of initial up-front work to get going
- Approval times can be lengthy
5) Video / YouTube
I recently read an article of the top 10 earners on YouTube. The top earner I believe was PewDewPie at 15mm a year. That’s right, YouTube, if done right, can be a gold mine. A lot of vloggers make a decent income, as well as themed channels like Fitness, Cooking, Instructional Videos etc… pick a niche and dominate it, it’ll take a tonne of time to grow the following but nothing good comes easy!
- Have a passion? Does that passion also have a decent sized passionate audience? Then you get to spend time making videos doing what you love.
- Can be a lot of fun to do and won’t always “feel” like work
- Can be as creative as you want
- Dealing with YouTube/Google means you’ll get paid, as long as you don’t break any of their rules (and get caught!)
- Great for a “side hustle” until things gain traction
- It ain’t easy to do (like most things)
- A lot of noise online – you’ve got to try and stand out – Doing the same sh*t other people are doing isn’t likely to garner a large audience easily.
- No guarantee’s it’ll work, or be a big money earner
- You’ll need to learn a new skillset, or hire someone with the skills to film and edit well. Don’t film vertical video on your phone!
- Long-term play – until you get a decent sized audience, you won’t be earning the big bucks
6) Software / SaaS
Software, or Software as a Service is big, BIG business. Some of the wealthiest companies in the world are software/SaaS companies. An example of one in the affiliate industry is Codewise, the guys behind Voluum and Zeropark, who’s valuation is well in the 100s of millions. If you have an idea for redistributable software or an online service (think Uber, Dropbox, Invoicely, Xero etc..), and you know a thing or two about software-development, or are willing to hire one or more developers, then this is definitely a route worth exploring.
- Has huge potential to be a large asset and garner large valuations if things take off
- A unique idea that solves a problem for users will be likely to obtain most of the market-share before the copycats come flocking in.
- Can be expensive
- Can be time-consuming
- Technical support better be good!
- Software bugs are inevitable – stressful – and can sometimes be very costly
7) Become a “Middle-Man” (Affiliate Network or Traffic Source)
There are many ways to become a middle-man online – where you take a percentage of revenue for providing a service or taking on some risk. Examples of this are Affiliate Networks or a Traffic Sources, such as tier-2 pop networks, DSPs or RTBs.
- As long as the publishers/advertisers pay their bills, the income potential is huge
- Can act as a steady stream of income for the business if the client base is large enough
- Pay on time or provide quality traffic and the clients will be there
- Pretty big potential to scale
- A lot of competition out there when it comes to affiliate networks and traffic sources
- A lot of risk involved in both business models
- Brokering brokered traffic that is brokered? Yeah, good luck. Most people won’t waste their money, soon as they realise the traffic doesn’t convert or that it’s just resold inventory (examples of companies that do are most pop networks!)
8) Games / Gaming
Games, gaming and gamification have been around since the early days of computing and companies have made an absolute killing with it. The industry has shifted over the years with many people gaming on their portable devices (iPhones, Androids etc..) with the largest and most successful companies raking in around $2 million a day. Multiple ways to approach this that I’ve seen work for friends of mine: develop a high quality game and market it really well, ensuring the launch is planned out well or develop smaller, lower quality games with the monetization stream coming from in app advertisements, then promote via social media, Instagram, Facebook etc… of course, there are many other ways to approach it – and this is just mobile gaming that I’m talking about. Other ideas include white-label games, or entire websites dedicated to “free flash games” which tend to bring a lot of repeat traffic which you can then monetize (i.e. miniclip). You then have the concept of gamification, which isn’t really gaming, but involves turning a service you provide into a fun, game-based system to make it more fun for the user and increase the retention rate.
If your game takes off, it can reel in a lot of profit, establish you as a respected game-development company and will give you footing and a great Launchpad for new developments, especially since you can now leverage existing connections easily. It can also be a lot of fun developing games, seeing them come to life and having friends and family enjoy them also.
Long-term play, not something that’ll make money overnight but rather, months or even years to get going. Can also be an expensive investment and not a guaranteed one either. Not something I’d recommend attempting on your own, hire one or more experienced developers, a graphics designer, audio engineer etc.. or go the white-labelling route where you can take the core-gameplay and modify the graphics and theme to create your own version of an existing game.
9) Create a Brand (eCommerce)
Building a brand can be an incredibly lucrative venture when done right. Ways you can accomplish this is to build a service or ecommerce store or product, such as a custom clothing-line, or supplement range. The beauty of building a brand is you can potentially set yourself up to have an out – as in, getting bought out for a large sum of money. Not an easy feat.
- Can be fun & exciting
- Would require employees to really get the business on its feet
- Building an asset that you can potentially sell
- Allows you to be creative
- Risky, can be a wasted investment (welcome to business!)
- Can be expensive and difficult to get the ball rolling
- You’ll most likely face multiple, frustrating challenges revolving around shipping, importation, customs etc..
We can’t forget the obvious – trading time for money – or if you’re clever, building an agency that takes a cut, and dishes off the work to employees or other outsourced employees. If you have a particular skillset but want to work from home, you a market yourself on websites such as Upwork.com or Freelancer.com and trade time for money.
- Work from home doing what you’re good at
- Pretty straight-forward in the sense that you satisfy the needs of a client and you typically get paid for that work
- You are partially your own boss
- Due to having client demands and requirements, you’ll never fully be independent
- Not scalable if trading time for money
- Will feel more like a job than a business
11) Membership Sites / Subscription Services
Another great way to make money, is via membership sites which specialise in something particular. These are great for bringing in monthly revenue but can be a lot of work to maintain as well.
Some examples of these are:
- Porn Sites (Still one of, if not THE, top industries online)
- Specialty Forums (Car Clubs, Education/Training, Underground Sharing Groups). For example, STM Forums.
- Monthly Fitness Advice
- Email Newsletters
- Premium Services
- Web Hosting
- Subscription Boxes / Crates (i.e. BarkBox, Bespoke Box)
- Monthly-Refills of a Specific Product (Supplements, Beauty Products, Food etc…)
12) Trading Stocks, Currencies, Options etc..
As the title says, this option is a viable one, it’s still considered making money online just via markets such as foreign-exchange (FOREX), Stocks, Options etc… and the list goes on. Do bear in mind, that this form of money-making is difficult, requires a lot of education and skill and is technically a form of gambling. I don’t recommend it, as appealing as it seems, I’ve seen friends lose absolutely everything to FOREX and wouldn’t want others to fall into that trap.
13) Everything Illegal
Whilst not something I would ever endorse or recommend, it’s definitely worth mentioning some of the illegal and sometimes highly sophisticated ways people make money via the internet. These can include: Ad-fraud (Recently read an article of a sophisticated Russian ad-fraud set up that was bringing in several million a day from using bots to generate ad-revenue), Dealing Drugs/Medication (i.e. SilkRoad), Selling Pirated Software and probably a bunch of other naughty things but I think you get my point. I highly recommend against any of these and instead, encourage you to look into the other ways I mentioned above.
If you’re looking for further Affiliate Marketing Guidance, check out StackThatMoney. Best community of experienced marketers from around the globe, exclusive meetups, follow along’s, tutorials and the knowledge of a thousand sun-gods.
Can’t Decide on Tracking Software?
This tracking platform called Thrive by the guys over at iPyxel which I love, is the best in the industry. It’s constantly improving and making strides, and the best part about it is it can be self-hosted. The offer a 30-day trial and it’s $99 a month thereafter which is well worth the investment. They also offer a managed service, which I use, for larger scale affiliates who don’t want to bother with managing a server.