Earning an income online is quickly becoming the #1 goal of everyday people. Whether it’s earning a little side income to supplement your day job or going full-time on your own business, earning an income online can lead to loads of exciting opportunities.
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This episode of the Paul Minors Podcast is sponsored by TextExpander.
With an online income, you can work from anywhere, giving you the option to work and travel (I am literally writing this on a plane while we're travelling Canada). And you have the flexibility to work on your terms, across time zones with people all over the world. And if you have the ability to earn more than a fixed annual salary.
But getting started earning an income online isn’t easy. In this post, I’d like to discuss the different ways you can make money online and at the end, explain how you can earn your first few hundred dollars within the next 30 days.
If you'd like to learn my system for making money as a consultant, click here to learn more about my How to become a “Virtual Consultant” program.
Different ways of earning money online
Today, I’m able to earn an income from a few different sources. This diversity helps lower your risk as you’re not putting all your eggs into one basket. In other words, if income from one source dries up, you’re still earning from other places.
But when you’re getting started, it’s important to pick one primary source of income, focus on this before you diversify and grow other sources later.
Let’s look at a few ways you can earn money online (and this list is far from exhaustive):
Creating a digital product like an ebook or an online course is probably the most appealing way to make money online. The idea is that you can make a high-margin product that costs very little to manufacture (mostly just your time) and sell it thousands of times all over the world with little to no distribution cost. Sounds awesome right! No inventory or manufacturing to worry about. Just make something once and sell it as much as you can.
When I started my website, I spent years trying to build an audience and sell digital products so that I could replace my salary. What I came to realise later is that it takes a long time to build an audience and learn about selling digital products to earn money in a reasonable amount of time. When I was getting started, my goal was to replace my salary. In hindsight, I should have been more adaptable and looked at other ways of making money sooner so that I could achieve this goal.
Today, I earn money from the sale of digital products like my Personal Productivity Toolkit and How to become a “virtual consultant” program. It’s a fairly passive way to make money which is great but it’s taken a while to get to the stage where I’m earning a sustainable income this way.
I think selling digital products is great but if you’re just getting started, I think there are quicker ways you can earn income online. Once you’re earning a sustainable income from other sources, can then divert some energy to digital product sales later when you’re more established.
Another great way to make money online is from affiliate marketing. This is where you earn a commission for selling other people’s products. One of the most popular ways you can do this is by promoting products on Amazon.
For example, let’s say you have a photography blog. You could write a blog post or make a video about the gear that you use and link to these products on Amazon. The great thing about Amazon is you’ll earn a commission on anything that the user then purchases, even if it’s not the initial photography product you linked to.
The benefit of affiliate marketing is you don’t have to make a product yourself. You can promote other people’s products and services that are already proven to be popular. And, you don’t have to worry about shipping or refunds which means you have no customer service cost.
Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income (who I highly recommend you check out when getting started) earned the bulk of his income in the early days from referring people to purchase hosting services from Bluehost (affiliate link).
To be successful with affiliate marketing, you need to produce good quality content that helps people to learn about the benefits of whatever product or service you’re referring. For example, I make videos showing people how to use Pipedrive. Below these videos are details of how you can sign up and get an extended trial (affiliate link). I then earn a commission when these users become paid Pipedrive users.
However, like digital product sales, it can take a while to produce enough content and get the audience numbers needed to earn a decent income this way.
Display advertising and sponsorships
Another great way of earning an income online is from display advertising or sponsorships.
Display advertising refers to the banner ads you see on websites. I used to do this, but not any more. You can also earn display income from pre-roll ads that show before YouTube videos. I’ve been doing this for a little while and earn a few hundred dollars a month. It’s not exactly life-changing money but it helps pay for a few bills.
You can earn money from sponsorships if you partner with a brand that wants you to talk about their product or service as part of your content. Sponsored videos and podcasts tend to be the most common methods of earning sponsorship income. For example, if you’ve listened to my podcast, you’ll have likely heard mid-rolls ads that are about a minute long that run halfway through an episode.
To be successful with sponsorships, you need to produce good quality and frequent content that attracts a regular audience (nobody will sponsor your videos or podcast if there’s no one listening). You also need the sponsors to align with the content you’re producing. Because I talk about productivity, sponsors like TextExpander (affiliate link) are a great fit and it’s highly likely that my podcast listeners will be interested in a product like this.
Just like with digital product sales and affiliate marketing, you need a decent audience side to be able to earn a half-decent income from display advertising or sponsorships, so it’s not the quickest means of making money online.
Consulting or freelancing
And finally, we get to consulting and freelancing. I’m using these terms to describe any kind of service where you sell your expertise to a client or a small group of people.
A lot of people immediately assume they could never do any kind of freelancing or consulting as they don’t have a skill that people will pay for. Let me just say that you’d be surprised and the things you find easy are the exact type of thing other people will pay to learn. Take me for example, I never thought people would pay to learn about Asana, but here I am.
The benefit of consulting or freelancing compared to the previously described models is that you can earn an income by selling your expertise very quickly. In fact, during my first month of consulting, I earned a little over $1,400 by teaching people how to use Asana (affiliate link). Another great benefit is that by providing a service, you can lot about what customers value which will help you later if you do decide to create and sell digital products.
How to make your first few hundred dollars this month
To get started with consulting, start by brainstorming the skills or expertise that you have that other people need help with. It could be anything: design, web development or software training (like me). And it doesn't just have to be a professional service. I’ve met people who help with baby sleep training, personal training and even teaching French impressionist art. Also, think about the type of customer you’d like to work with who would benefit from your service.
Once you have an idea, you can list your expertise on directory websites like Upwork, Freelancer or Clarity. Doing this, you can start selling your expertise without having to create a website and it’s a great way of testing your ideas quickly without having to invest a lot of time upfront.
To help build some initial traction, reach out to your professional and personal network. When I started I listed a few tools like Asana and Mailchimp that I know how to use on Clarity. I then emailed my newsletter list and shared links on social networks giving away free calls to people who needed help. I did about 5-10 free calls and this was a great way to get a few reviews and practice what it would be like to help someone via the internet. It didn’t take long before I started getting discovered naturally and real business owners started booking paid calls with me. I can’t begin to tell you how eye-opening this was!
When you’ve tested your service ideas and done a few paid calls, you can work on putting together a website, making YouTube videos or networking to get more of your ideal type of client.
I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to get started making money online. If you'd like to learn more, check out Nick Loper's awesome post outlining 23 ways he makes a passive income online.