6 effective ways to make money online – how easy are they?

These days, anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can start their own website, pick their money-making strategy of choice and start pulling in a new stream of active or passive income. In theory.

If you searched google for ‘ways to make money online’ you’ll have seen dozens of other articles claiming how simple, brilliant and easy this is. The author often starts with a claim that they began raking in 6 digit revenue figures in mere months simply using the steps they are about to conveniently outline in their article. 

We need to have a talk about how realistic this actually is. I don’t want you to fall into a trap where you think you’ve found a get rich quick scheme without knowing the full picture. 

I am a product manager, designer and a writer for a software company whose lifeblood is in helping people plan businesses.

This means I’m on the front lines observing the efforts people go through trying to get new ideas off the ground. It always takes more than you expect. More time, more money and more effort, even for simple schemes.

And that is completely fine. As long as you go in with your eyes open, with a plan and aware of what it might take then you’ll have a much greater chance of succeeding then if you are expecting an easy run. 

Are there actually easy money making ideas out there?

Many ideas are actually easy but they are only easy if you already have expert knowledge in that field to make it work. When it comes to making online businesses there is also a common foundation of digital skills that you will absolutely need to learn if you want to succeed. 

So you have to ask yourself, do you already have the expert knowledge it takes to make this business idea a reality?

If you do, that’s great! If you don’t, this isn’t a problem but you do need to think about whether you want to invest the additional time it will take to learn these new skills. I’m not trying to put you off. I would encourage you to learn these digital skills as they are incredibly useful for anyone living in our modern, technology-driven society. 

“I’m not here to start a business”

You might just be looking for an additional stream of income to support your day job and are not looking to begin a fully-fledged business

What you’ll find with the online money-making schemes outlined in this article is that many of them could be done alongside your day job in the evenings or weekends. 

However, you still absolutely need to think about them in terms of a business.

By this, I mean that to do them properly and stand a chance at creating a revenue stream that is worth the time you have invested you will need to plan and research this as if this were a business. 

Whether it’s starting your own podcast or creating an affiliate website – you will need to analyse the market, work out your competition and create a plan to market your efforts effectively. 

So, let’s dig into the most popular suggestions from around the web that claim you can swiftly pocket some extra dollars. How much time, cash and learning do you actually need to budget to make them work effectively?

1) Affiliate marketing through your website

What is it?

Affiliate marketing can take many forms. A common variant involves building a website that is rich in content targeting a specific niche interest. You attract people to your website through search engines with free, valuable content that keeps people coming back. So – you’ve succeeded in bringing people to your site – how can this make money?

Well, your website will also feature strategically placed links to affiliates related to your niche. These affiliates have things to sell to your niche audience and by following the links on your site they could gain valuable repeat customers themselves. You, as the website owner, earn a commission on sales from people who have clicked through and made a purchase. 

Why is it easy?

The barriers to entry are incredibly low in terms of both costs and knowledge required. 

You’ll need to purchase a website domain name and hosting for your website blog. Assuming you already own a laptop or computer, those are the only costs you’ll incur to start with. 

Platforms like Wordpress handle the design and creation of your website pages without having to touch a line of computer code. 

Once you have a website name in mind, you can set up and launch your first blog post in a minutes hours (once you have worked through a few inevitable technical hitches). It’s remarkably quick and easy.

Of course, in order to start seeing revenue, you’ll need to choose an affiliate program to enrol in. You could easily adopt Amazon’s affiliate scheme but you may want to search for a specific, highly targeted product that is very relevant to the content you are creating.

Why is it hard?

Whilst setting up a website is quick, easy and cheap – turning this into a reliable income stream is a bigger hurdle.

One of the keys to success is producing high-quality content that will pull in users from search engines. Articles need to be optimised for searches relevant to your topic meaning a good working knowledge of SEO is important.

If you’ve never done keyword research before then you might have a bit of catching up to do. 

Your articles also need to be well written and highly readable such that people will enjoy your content, spend more time on your website and ideally return for further articles. This is critical to growing your traffic over time with returning users. It’s not about creating a sales website covered with garish buttons and offers as that is the perfect way to turn off visitors very quickly.

Creating content that ranks well in search engines, engages visitors on your site and persuades them that they should visit your affiliates and purchase from them is where the expertise comes in. Almost anyone can do it but not everyone can do it well. 

2) Create and launch an online course

What is it?

If you already have an expert set of skills learnt from your job, degree or general life experience you may not realise how much you know that a general member of the public does not. You also might not realise that you can monetise this knowledge through the medium of online courses.

Put simply, you need to translate your specialised skills into a video or series of videos that interested people can pay to access. You could either host this course on your own website or upload it to an online course platform such as Skillshare. 

Once your classes have been created and set up online, they have the potential to always bring in passive revenue without much further action. 

Why is it easy?

Like affiliate marketing, the barriers to entry are very low. If you are creating videos then you can easily spend a lot of money on high-quality recording equipment. However, there are very affordable options for mic’s, screen recording software and webcams that won’t set you back thousands.

The technical requirements for creating videos and uploading them to a website can be picked up quickly too.

There are limitless creative possibilities for making videos fun and engaging that might require a background in video editing. However, initially just keeping them simple and focusing on delivering the content in your lessons clearly is all you need to get started. 

If you are new to creating video content then the key is to keep it simple, to begin with. Get the basics right and build from there. 

Why is it hard?

It’s one thing to be an expert in a particular field and it’s another skill altogether to turn that knowledge into easy to understand lessons that anyone can pick up. You need to become deeply interested in teaching and passionate about helping other people understand and learn new skills.

You’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time writing and planning your course content, taking the knowledge that is locked up in your head and turning it into digestible classes.

Even if you use an easy platform like Skillshare for uploading your course, you will still need to promote it. This will likely be through the same techniques mentioned in the affiliate marketing section. Create a website that pulls in content from search engines related to your topic. The only difference is this time instead of pushing your visitors towards affiliates, you are pushing them toward your own courses.

3) Online Consulting business

What is it?

You might associate consulting with big corporate environments however, at its core, consulting is all about problem-solving.

Whether it’s an individual looking to plan an event or a business trying to increase their online social media presence, everybody has specific problems. Life coaches, for example, help people in achieving their goals in daily life, or in business. These are often best approached with the help of an experienced consultant who can save people time and money by getting to a solution far quicker than they could on their own.

Why is it easy?

As I described in the online course section, you might already have key skills that not everyone has.

Compared to the other ideas we have looked at already – you don’t need to invest a large amount of time creating a body of content needed to pull in large amounts of traffic. Compared to selling a product online, you have far fewer costs and your profit margins are generally substantially higher.

You’ll still need to create a website but as discussed earlier, this is a very low barrier to entry these days.

To attract your first customers you can use adverts on google or facebook to push people towards your landing page.

Why is it hard?

By far the hardest aspect of getting started in this field is getting your first few clients on board before you have established any trust signals on your website.

What do I mean by trust signals? These are snippets of information that help convince visitors that you can be trusted, that what you say on your website is true and that it is worth their time and money to get in contact with you in the first place.

These often take the form of customer reviews or customer testimonials that you will not have when you first strike out. If you have qualifications relevant to the service you want to provide then these can help mitigate this issue.

Getting clients is about the art of persuasion. You need to carefully craft a website that correctly presents the problem the customer has and convinces them that you can solve it for a price they are willing to accept.

This is a difficult skill in and of itself. There are consultants out there who deal with exactly this kind of problem – creating a website that effectively converts leads.

4) Create a Youtube, video or streaming channel

What is it?

From product unboxing videos to tech reviews to gaming ‘let’s play’ series – you are spoilt for choice for popular types of video channels that can draw in thousands of viewers either on live streams or pre-recorded videos.

On the streaming side, Twitch.tv is one of the fastest growing streaming platforms worldwide with more and more gamers making a living streaming their activities.

Popular channels are as much about the personality presenting the content as the content itself. A well presented and engaging video channel can generate reliable ad revenue if you can grow a large enough audience.

You also have opportunities to pull in additional revenue by combining this with affiliate marketing as well.

Why is it easy?

You can begin recording videos with an entry-level mic, webcam and video editing software making the initial costs low. Uploading videos to a Youtube channel is not difficult and Youtube itself has robust tools for adding in annotations, links and music to your videos. They have a library of music and sound effects you can download and use for free.

Creating good content is not about having fancy hardware, animation or editing. Your personality and your content can do the heavy lifting initially as long as you are hitting a basic level of audio and video quality.

Once it’s a proven source of income, you can gradually invest in more advanced tools and techniques.

Why is it hard?

In order to see meaningful revenue, you will need to have a large viewer count every month.

Unless you hit on a magical video that unexpectedly goes viral this will take a lot of consistent video creation.

You’ll need to patiently grow a subscriber base over time. This will be a combination of creating consistent, quality content and promoting it. If you don’t have this knowledge, you may find it initially time-consuming and challenging to go through the process of scripting, filming and editing a video series.

It may take a bit of trial and error and experimentation to find a winning format that really engages your viewers and keeps them coming back every time you release a new video.

Once you do start bringing in ad revenue, the platform itself will take a cut which you’ll also need to factor in.

This is a time-consuming activity but it can be very rewarding once you learn how.

5) Become a freelancer

What is it?

Freelancing can be a great way to turn your passion into profits. Often people have skills that they don’t have a chance to pursue in a salaried job. Relevant positions may not be available locally, competition could be too steep or it might require certain qualifications.

Freelancers find ways to utilise their skills by finding clients online who will pay for their services, which can be as diverse as proofreading, illustration, software testing or web-design.

Doing this kind of work can be a way for many people to live their dream job – turning a hobby, or cherished past-time into a business. For others, freelancing is a natural extension of their existing job skillset – but taking the extra set of putting yourself in total control of the work that you’re doing.

Why is it easy?

The great news for freelancers is that there is an ever-expanding array of platforms available to put you in touch with clients.

These platforms build their business around giving freelancers the opportunity to engage with clients and get paid securely for their services. You don’t have to go through these sites, but building up a good reputation on them gives the site’s audience trust in your skills. Your freelance skills will be easily searchable through the website’s portal, saving you some of the cost of advertising and having to promote your own web presence.

Here are a few of the sites available!

  • Fiverr
  • Peopleperhour
  • Freelancer
  • 99Designs

One of the best ways to get noticed is to develop a niche that you specialise in. This increases the chances that somebody searching for the precise kind of work that you do will find you. Competition for “illustrator” may be high, but “children’s book illustrator” narrows the field, as does “anthropomorphic animal children’s book illustrator”.

Why is it hard?

Competition is steep, and work is not guaranteed. In addition, the very platforms above that grant you visibility also take a cut of your proceeds. Once you have a reputation, something to give out trust signals from your profile, you may find this a lucrative way of doing business. Until then, it can feel like an uphill struggle.

The alternatives to working through a freelancing site are no more appetising – building a freelancing business online requires that people trust you to deliver good quality work in a timely manner. You’ll need to secure testimonies and, most crucially of all, get people to notice you!

The other side of freelancing is the work itself – dealing with your clients and successfully delivering work of a high and consistent standard. Some clients may be forgiving, others less so – and the trouble is your reputation rests on both of these!

The effort required to please clients and ensure that they have a positive experience can lead you into a spiral of overwork – undercharging your hourly rate in order to complete work to the expectations you have given your client. You’ll become a lot better at making these judgements as time goes by, but initially, it can mean you end up doing a lot more work than you bargained for.

6) Start a podcast

What is it?

Podcasting has seen a resurgence in recent years. A podcast is a spoken-word audio show that can be downloaded or streamed online. Podcasts usually focus on a very specific angle or topic, often based around a hobby. Other podcasts might be entrepreneurial, focused on helping others succeed, or commentaries on films, media, or current affairs.

What makes podcasts tick are the insights that the presenters offer into their subject, which can be hard to find elsewhere. Combine this with entertaining showmanship, guests, or incredibly well-scripted episodes, and you could have a successful podcast on your hands.

There are ways to monetise a podcast, many of which are tried and tested – they just require a very large audience and do take some time to grow.

Why is it easy?

The attraction of podcasting is its ease. Where starting a video channel needs the extra step of recording video, you can skip this step altogether here making it significantly easier.

All you need is a recording device (a phone) and something you can talk about. At least, that’s the podcast sales-pitch. In reality, successful podcasts end up needing a lot more than this – because at their core podcasts have to interest their target audience.

Here are a few ways that podcasts can earn money for their creators:

  • Crowdfunding
  • Sponsorships
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Use the podcast as a way to market your own business

Why is it hard?

“Two friends start a podcast” has become something of a cliché. The two friends do start the podcast… but it never goes anywhere.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Starting a podcast is easy. Getting it to make money is hard. Expecting profits to roll in thick and fast is quite … optimistic.

Podcasts make money incidentally through their audience, or through attracting a large enough audience for sponsors to take notice. The tricky part then is growing your audience.

This requires marketing, networking, growing your production values, and most importantly having something interesting to say!

All this is just a prerequisite getting your podcast to make money. It can take a long time to reach this stage, and many podcasts fall apart before this. The trick then is persistence – and to go into podcasting with no illusions about the time and effort it takes to succeed.

How to Really make money online – go in with your eyes open

Now, you may have noticed a consistent theme across all these ideas. 

Making money online is EASY because:

  1. The starting costs are low
  2. You can turn the knowledge you already have into a revenue source

Making money online is HARD because:

  1. You need to find and attract an audience
  2. You need to engage an audience and convince them to act

So when you begin researching your idea in more detail – remember that many online articles claim it’s easy because of the first two points (and they aren’t wrong there).

They claim this because they know the second two points are hard and this is where they can sell their own online courses to solve this. I’m not saying don’t buy into these courses – many of them are genuine and written by experts. We write guides like this ourselves on our website! 

Just be aware that any idea you take on will need quite a bit of planning to ensure it is worth your time and energy. You CAN make money online but be prepared to give it the appropriate time, attention and focus it requires. 

Treat it like a real business and not just a small activity on the side of your day job. If you do this, you can absolutely make it a success. Good luck!

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