Let’s cut to the chase. You’re here because you want to learn how to make money online.
Well, if you’re looking for legitimate ways to make some extra money online without having to first purchase an in-depth training course (which always seems to cost $97) about how to make money online, then you’re in the right place!
This is my ultimate guide on how to make money online, and it’s completely free.
There’s no catch, no tricks, and no up-sells here.
I’m sharing everything I’ve learned over the past decade, pulling from my own experience in earning a consistent $15,000/mo or more in side income (on the side of my day job) from online sources like affiliates, courses, freelancing and other ways to make money online that we’re exploring in this guide.
Have questions? Check out my monthly side income reports where I break down exactly how I’m making money from my blog.
👋 And by now you probably already know… one of the best ways you can start making money online right now is launching a blog of your own. For that reason, I recently put together a free master guide that breaks down how to start a blog and I share the exact strategies I’ve used to turn my blog into a more than $40,000/mo business.
I’m here to tell you that you can too—you can (relatively quickly) learn how to make money online.
It won’t always be easy, and you’ll of course have to work hard, push through mistakes and failures along the way.
But here’s the reality; the internet has opened up so many possibilities to people regardless of age, location, or background to build a sustainable, online business or side project that can make extra money online every single month.
And as I said, I’ve experienced this first-hand.
Along my journey, I’ve launched four separate online businesses. The first one lost me $6,537 in a matter of months, while I completely overestimated the audience size for the second. Both shut down very quickly.
But after my first two failures trying to make money online, I started to figure some important things out.
My next self-funded business hit $160,000 in revenue in its first year alone. After that first taste of self-made success, I’ve gone on to sign consulting contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars with startups like LinkedIn and Google, launch profitable online courses, and build a following of hundreds of thousands for this blog and my podcast series.
All these highs and lows have given me a clear understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to making money online.
There’s no better time than now to build a business and make money online.
With over 3.2 billion people now actively using the internet, we’re well into a massive transformation in how the world does business. We’re living in an age where there’s no longer limitations on what you can achieve based on geographic location or lack of financial resources.
If you have an internet connection and a few dollars in your bank account, there is little that can actually get in the way of you making some extra money online.
There are quite literally hundreds of clever ways to make money online. From taking online surveys, to renting or selling your old clothes, flipping your iPhone to someone in a different country, and even buying low-cost products locally, just to resell them for a higher price on Amazon. There’s truly no shortage of unique ways to make money online.
But don’t fall for the trap of “Easy Money”
Sounds amazing, right? It is. But, before we dive in, I need to address the elephant in the room…
There’s no such thing as an online get-rich quick scheme.
Most of the quick ways people talk about when it comes to making money online are not true businesses.
Sure, some of them may be good for creating a few hundred or even thousand dollars in one-time revenue. But they’re not going to help you unlock financial freedom and achieve complete control of your lifestyle.
They’re shortcuts that don’t last forever—and many of the “opportunities” like network marketing giants Herbalife and others offer, often pan out to either be a scam or at the very least, damaging to your personal relationships. And I would never advocate for that.
The internet has opened up so many opportunities to entrepreneurs and forward-thinking workers. But it’s also opened up considerable competition.
Here’s the hard truth: The only ways to make money online in any lasting manner, involve putting in real time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears.
This isn’t to scare you off. I simply want you to know that this guide is going to focus solely on ways to make real, sustainable extra income online. Not just a few bucks. I want to share all the mistakes I’ve made that got me to where I am now so that you don’t have to go through them, and can build a successful online source of income for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of great opportunities to make money online today. It’s that the most common ideas have been picked through a lot more than they were a few years ago. To stand out you need to be smart, look for the best opportunities, and be unique in the ways you approach making money online. And I’m here to help.
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products, tools and learning resources I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can’t afford or that you’re not yet ready to implement.
So, if you’re as excited as I am now, let’s dive right into the 65 best ways to make real, sustainable money online.
Looking instead for inspiration to just make some quick cash online? Jump down to starting at #11 for a longer list of less “long-term business ideas” and instead get inspiration for other (real) ways to make money online that involve less up-front work.
15 Genius Ways to Make Money Online (on the Side) Today
We’re going to start first with the top ten ways to make serious money online (with a long-term focus).
If you’re looking to build a true online business, or start a side business idea that has the potential to truly change your life (and you’re not afraid of investing months & years of work into the business), this where you should start.
Through my years of experience and research, I’ve consistently found the following ideas have the best potential to create a steady stream of recurring revenue. They’ll take a lot of effort. But if you’re willing to put in the work, they could change your life, like they have for me.
1. Build a Niche Blog (or Website) and Use Affiliate Marketing
If there’s a niche you’re interested in and you can build a decent audience around it, starting a blog and using affiliate marketing to generate income is an incredible way to make money online.
I know first-hand that learning how to start a blog (let alone make money from it) can be a massive undertaking.
So, I put together a free master course for you to take that spreads out all of the work involved in starting a blog, into a series of action-packed lessons. My free course breaks the entire process of starting a blog down into an incredibly simple 7-day process for going from 0 to publishing (and promoting) your first blog post in just 1 week. I can’t recommend it enough.
2. Launch and Grow a Startup
Do you have dreams of running your own business one day? Building and scaling a high-growth startup, while by far the most difficult way to make money online, arguably has the most potential upside.
By the 3rd quarter of 2017, Venture Capitalists had invested over $61 billion into close to 6,000 startups in the US alone.
There’s money in the air, and if you can successfully create an online service, tool, or marketplace that fulfills a rapidly growing need in the marketplace, you could be on track for creating a very valuable business. However, it’ll undoubtedly take an intense dedication of time, efforts, and financial resources.
Unlike a lot of the other businesses we’re going to cover, startup founders face a whole slew of variables and roadblocks that can get in the way of success.
For one, you’ll want to have a high level of domain experience within the industry your startup is going to operate. This means a deep understanding of your customers, the issues they face, and an idea of potential solutions they’ll be willing to pay for. This is the minimum you need to get started.
After that, you’ll need to be familiar with the other major players in the space who might be good partners or acquisition opportunities, as well as an intimate knowledge of how to raise funding, market your product, hire and manage the best talent, and keep yourself financially above water.
Now, this may sound like a lot, but the payoff is worth it.
So where do you start when building a startup?
The most important thing you need before you do anything else is a problem. What do people need that they don’t have? What solution is currently out there that you can do better? This alone is the basis of every great startup.
Once you have that problem or need nailed, the next step is to validate that idea and make sure you’ve actually got customers who will pay for it. This means building a minimum viable product, getting objective feedback from real customers, incorporating updates, testing the market for demand, and getting pricing feedback to ensure there’s enough of a margin between your costs and what consumers are willing to pay.
3. Build and Sell Software
Right now there’s an insatiable need for useful software.
Whether it’s an important consumer application, a specialist app to solve a particular niche problem, or even a time-wasting game you can play on your phone, you can create a massively successful business if you build software that helps people. (Look at the rise of Slack—the team communication software that went from side project to billion-dollar company in just 2 years.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Most of the software and apps you use on a regular basis are made by massive companies or established development studios. Well, yes. But many successful apps, particularly those in the Apple and Google stores, are created and marketed by individuals and small businesses. In fact, independent developers made $20 billion in the App Store in 2016 alone.
There are two basic ways that you can make money online by building software products.
The first follows the startup path we outlined above: You have a disruptive idea for an app or piece of software, you validate the idea with real customers, and then raise money to hire developers or a development studio to build, launch, and scale your software. If you’ve done everything right, your software will be accepted to the Apple and Google Stores and you’ll make money every time someone downloads it or pays for a premium feature.
4. Start an eCommerce Site and Sell Physical Products
If finding a better solution to a problem hundreds or thousands of people have doesn’t seem like an option right now, you might be better off setting up a virtual shop and selling physical items.
These days, this couldn’t be easier. Sites like Shopify have made it easier than ever to build a customizable, powerful eCommerce site in a weekend and start selling products now.
This is probably one of the oldest and most time-tested ways of making money online. Plenty of digital entrepreneurs have created sustainable businesses by either:
- Creating physical products they know people in their niche will love
- Purchasing low cost goods manufactured in foreign countries, repackaging or combining them with other products, and selling them for higher prices on domestic online marketplaces
While you’ll certainly have higher levels of success if you can nail creating and marketing your own unique product, from my own experience (and that of many other entrepreneurs), I know the extremely high costs and risk associated with starting a product-based business.
If you want to supplement selling on your Shopify store with other marketplaces, here are a few other highly lucrative options:
- Fulfilled by Amazon: Rather than drop shipping, Amazon lets you store your products in their own warehouses, making them available for Free 2-Day Shipping to Prime members. Which has been proven to significantly increase sales.
- Etsy: If you’ve got handmade or crafty products, Etsy is a great marketplace to market and sell on (bonus points if your product is geared towards a more female audience)
- eBay: The online auction giant is still in the game and especially good for selling electronics, gadgets, clothing and apparel, and accessories.
- Craigslist: While the least scalable, it can be very cost- and time-effective to sell to people locally.
5. Find Freelance Clients and Sell Your Services
If you have a marketable skill—like writing, designing, web development, marketing, project management, or anything else—one of the easiest ways to make sustainable extra money online is to start freelancing.
And while freelancing might not be as scalable as some of the other ideas we’ve spoken about, it’s not uncommon for solopreneurs to build healthy six-figure freelance businesses for themselves. (In fact, I’ve interviewed tons of them on my podcast!)
Today, over 54 million Americans are opting to forego traditional careers and start a freelance business.
There’s plenty of work and clients to be found. If you know where to look. To start, you need to know if there is enough demand for your skill to make it worth the effort to go out looking for work. Start by searching for freelance postings on sites like Flexjobs, SolidGigs, Contena, greatcontent or one of the dozens of other skill-specific freelance job boards.
How many postings are there for jobs similar to what you do? If there’s a decent amount and it looks like there’s steady demand, put those skills down on a shortlist and start researching the companies and industries that are hiring.
- Decide what your goal is: Do you want a bit of extra income or are you looking to go full-time freelance? It takes time to ramp up a freelance business working from home, so it’s important to know your goals from the outset.
- Find a profitable niche: We’ve talked about this a lot. But, where are you most comfortable. What niche do your skills, values, and interests intersect? Do you have 10 years of experience as a technical writer? Do you have long-standing PR relationships that’ll be invaluable in helping startups launch a successful crowdfunding campaign? Determine what makes your value unique, and lean heavily on showcasing that strength to your potential clients.
- Identify target customers: Write down exactly who you want as your client and then start researching those companies and making your list. You’ll want your portfolio and cold emails to align with the companies you’re reaching out to
- Set strategic prices: The $37.50/hr you earn at your day job doesn’t even come close to the hourly rate you’d need to charge, in order to create the same net annual income, once you’re self-employed. This infographic on calculating your freelance hourly rate can help you decide what to charge.
6. Start Online Coaching and Sell Your Advice
Similar to selling your freelance services, you can also start selling your knowledge and advice in an area you specialize in as a coach or consultant. If you can bill yourself as an expert, there are tons of people out there willing to pay for your time.
Being an online coach or consultant is a great way to make money online, as instead of giving your client ongoing deliverables (like when you’re a freelancer), you’re teaching them to be better, faster, stronger than the competition. Your expertise becomes the product you’re selling.
Even better, if you can find ways to package your experience and coaching skills into an easily digestible program, you have the potential to significantly scale this business model.
Now, if you don’t know people who might want your coaching services, there are a number of online tools and communities that make it incredibly easy to find clients and teach, on just about any topic area you can think of. Community driven platforms like Savvy.is, Clarity.fm, and Coach.me provide you with a network of potential clients to interact with, as well an integrated payment solution.
And while it’s one of the most limited businesses as you’re only able to charge for the time you can provide, many online coaches make hundreds or even thousands for their packages.
7. Create Online Courses to Productize Your Knowledge
If you’re already an expert in a topic—either through your current job, freelance business, or coaching—you can package that knowledge into a high-value course and sell it for years to come.
And while building, launching, and marketing an online course does take a considerable amount of upfront effort, their earning potential is through the roof (especially compared to a lot of the other online ways to make money we’re talking about).
Courses and other knowledge products like e-books, are what’s called passive income. That simply means that once the upfront time and effort is put in, with just a bit of regular upkeep and marketing you’ll be able to continue to sell and make money from them for months and years.
So, how do you go about putting together your course? One of my favorite online course success stories comes from Bryan Harris of Videofruit, who built and launched an online course in just 10 days that made him $220,750!
To hit this awesome goal, Bryan followed a four-stage process to discover, validate, and launch his course:
Phase 1: Explore and discover the best topic for his course based on the most popular posts from his blog. This ensured he knew the content was already valuable to his audience.
Phase 2: Validate that people would actually pay for his course by surveying readers and securing pre-orders. (This is an important part that so many people forget. Never spend serious time building something unless you know there’s a paying audience for it).
Phase 3: Quickly write, record, and edit the course content. As he already knew there was demand, it made sense to create the content as quickly as possible. He could always go back and update or edit based on feedback from his initial students.
Phase 4: Launch the course to his email list. The success of your course comes down to getting it in front of the right people. And your own audience, no matter how small, is usually the best place to start. That said, you need to have a clear idea of your launch plan before you put it live.
8. Launch a YouTube Channel to Entertain and Educate
While YouTube recently changed its monetization program, if you’re able to hit their new minimum bar of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time in the past 12 months, it’s still an incredible place to make extra money online.
YouTube is arguably the world’s second largest search engine (after Google) and is the third most-visited site in the world. In 2017, almost 5 billion videos were watched on YouTube every single day!
Rather than making money through subscriptions, YouTube channels are based on a traditional advertising system. Meaning the more viewers you get, the more you make. Once you’re approved for the YouTube Partner Program and can start including ads on your videos, with every 1,000 views, you will make approximately $2-$4. Which might not seem like a lot, but if you have 100 videos with 5,000 views a month each, that would be $1,000–$2,000 already. Just imagine if your videos start hitting millions of views!
Building a YouTube channel is a lot like starting a blog or website, except that you’re working in video—not writing. The first step is to choose what kind of videos you’re going to create. Most successful YouTube channels fall under one of two categories:
9. Record a Podcast and Share Inspiring Stories
Podcasts are super hot right now, and for good reason. With how busy our lives are getting, more and more people are looking for passive ways to take in content. Which makes them both a great opportunity to build an audience and to make money online.
And while it will take time to build up a big-enough audience to attract advertisers and other ways to make extra income from your podcast, the opportunity is there. John Lee Dumas interviews entrepreneurs seven days a week for his podcast Entrepreneur on Fire and now makes more than $200,000 a month from it. In fact, John publishes all his income online and showed that he’s made almost $13 million since launching in 2012.
The podcast market is constantly looking for new, quality content. And luckily for anyone trying to get started, it’s now easier than ever.
Starting a podcast, like making a YouTube channel or blog, comes down to telling interesting stories and building an engaged audience. I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now, but you need a niche that you’re interested in and there’s already a demand for. Come up with a list of topics you’d like to talk about and then search iTunes charts, Google Trends and other podcast research sites like cast.market to see what’s currently out there and popular.
Next, you’ll need the right tools. You can be as complicated or simple as you want depending on your comfort with audio equipment, but at the minimum you’ll want a microphone and software for recording your voice. Companies like Behringer, Blue, Focusrite, and others sell studio-quality plug-and-play podcast setups that can get you recording today.
Once you’ve gathered a list, put together a template outreach email (as you’ll be doing this over and over) that’s short and clear with expectations. Tell your potential interviewee who you are, what your podcast is about, and what you’re asking of them. Do a few test interviews with friends and family to make sure everything is being recorded at the quality you want and then book your first episode.
If you like learning new software or are experienced with audio editing, you can put the show together yourself. Otherwise, there are lots of services you can find that will help edit and build your show on place likes UpWork and Fiverr.
Congrats! You now have a podcast episode that’s ready to be uploaded to iTunes, SoundCloud, or anywhere else and promoted alongside the rest of your content!
The last step is deciding how you’ll market and monetize your podcast. The larger of an audience you have, the more chances you have for monetizing it. Create a basic website for your show and start sharing episodes to your network. When you’re ready to monetize there are a few options you can choose from:
- Traditional advertising (sponsors)
- Selling your own products
- Donations and crowdfunding
- Selling “subscriber-only” content
- Putting on live shows
As Aaron Mahnke, creator of the Lore podcast says:
“I always tell podcasters to use as many streams as possible. Don’t just sell ads on your show. Don’t just sell T-shirts. Don’t just do crowdfunding. Do all of it. Combine it and find the right mix, and together it adds up to something that’s stronger and more dependable.”
10. Join a Remote Company Part-Time (or Full-Time)
While most of the ideas for making money online we’ve covered so far can be done on the side, if you’re looking to completely change your career and start working online there are thousands of companies looking to hire who don’t care where you are.
More and more companies and startups especially are embracing remote work—where you use online collaboration and communication tools to do your work from wherever you want. And you don’t have to be a 20-something hotshot designer or coder to reap the benefits of working remotely. Many remote positions are for customer support positions or other customer-facing positions that don’t require specialized skill sets.
Better yet, they aren’t all full-time either, meaning you can find a remote company and job that works as a way to make extra money online.
If you’re interested, here’s a list of some of the best places to find a remote job today:
- We Work Remotely
- Skip the Drive
- Virtual Locations
- Remote OK
- Working Nomads
- Authentic Jobs
- The Muse
11. Narrate Audiobooks
The audiobook industry is booming, yet only 5% of books ever get made into audio format. If you’ve got a background in acting, or if people have said you’ve got a voice made for the radio, you can make extra money recording audio versions of independent and popular books. Sites like ACX connect authors with audiobook performers. So, whether you’re an author looking for more ways to sell your book, or an actor/voice actor looking to make some extra income, you can sell your services online.
12. Write and Sell an eBook (Amazon Self-Publishing)
So many people dream of writing a book, but never go through with it. Yet no matter what, I’m sure you have experience and value you could give through writing a book. By packaging your skills and knowledge into a downloadable eBook that helps people learn a skill, advance their careers, or start a businesses, you can change someone’s life and even make good money online.
Better yet, you can even upload your own book to one of the world’s largest book sellers: Amazon. With Amazon self-publishing, you set the price, retain the rights to your book, and get access to Amazon’s massive audience. For every sale, you keep 70% with Amazon taking the remainder as a fee. If you want to get started, check out Leslie Samuel’s great guide to selling eBooks online or follow Tara Gentile on CreativeLive as she shows you how to use your existing body of work to write an eBook within the next week. Who knows, you might just write one of the best business books of this year!
13. Do Micro-Jobs on Amazon Mechanical Turk
Amazon Mechanical Turk is a service that lets you make money online through doing paid microtasks. Each task is something simple that requires human interaction like rating search results, checking for the right spelling on search terms, categorizing the tone of an article, or even basic translating. You can do these tasks from anywhere you want and make money online from the world’s largest e-retailer.
Another way to utilize your talent and business skills is to run corporate workshops online. Businesses are always looking for unique ways to help educate their workforce, and if you can package your talents into a day or half-day long session, you can sell that to companies all over the world to make money online. Start by building a portfolio and then reaching out on LinkedIn to influencers at relevant companies to see if they would be interested in you teaching their team.
14. Sell Your Services on Niche Sites Like 99Designs, Cloudpeeps or TopTal
If you’re a skilled worker in a specific niche, like marketing, design, or software development, there are specialty marketplaces that cater just to you. These are amazing places to make money online as you know that the people visiting them are looking specifically for the skills you have. Check out places like 99Designs or Dribbble for designers, Cloudpeeps for marketing and SEO professionals, and TopTal, Crew, or Gigster for high-level software developers. Once you’ve built up your development skills, you can begin building a brand for yourself as a higher-value consultant and start charging brands for larger projects like implementing an entire WordPress security overhaul or migrating a website from http to https.
very year, hundreds of millions of documents are notarized in the United States: wills, mortgages, citizenship forms, handgun applications. While for decades, this has all been done in person, there is a budding crop of sites that allow notaries to take their services online. If you’re already a notary, you can sell your services online. Or, if you want to get started, check out the National Notary’s checklist for becoming a certified notary.
15. Do Graphic Design for Local Companies
Walk around your neighborhood or town and I’m sure you’ll see tons of great local businesses with terrible design. However, with increasingly easy-to-use tools like Adobe Illustrator, Venngage, Stencil, and Visme, just about anyone with a creative mindset and a good amount of motivation can start making money online by being a graphic designer for local companies.
How many email newsletters are you bombarded with every single day? There’s a reason for that. Marketing to an actively interested group of email subscribers is one of the best ways to make money online. There have even been million-dollar businesses built from simple email newsletters like TheSkimm, or Mister Spoils. Each newsletter targets a specific type of user with interesting, daily content, while also partnering with relevant companies and affiliates to bring in extra money. If this seems daunting, it’s not. Tools like MailChimp, ConvertKit and AWeber make it easier than ever to get started with email marketing. And another great option to consider (with the largest free plan available) is SendPulse, with their ability to send up to 15,000 emails per month to 2,500 subscribers, and then affordable plans starting at under $10/month as you grow from there.