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For many people, making money online would be an absolute dream come true. If they could find a way to make money with a website or some other online venture, they could quit their job to focus on entrepreneurship, spend more time with their family, and finally take back control of their time and their lives.
The crazy thing is, earning money online isn’t a pipe dream. I have been doing it for nearly a decade now with my website Good Financial Cents. I also know thousands of other people who are earning money online their own way with websites, courses, or unique marketing strategies.
Now, here’s the good news. The majority of online revenue strategies aren’t that complicated. Like any business venture, your online income takes time to grow. You need to be willing to devote the time and energy required to get your idea off the ground, and you need grit to stick with it even if your journey is slow when you first start out.
If you’re angling to earn money online but aren’t sure where to start, here are several of the best and most realistic strategies to consider:
#1: Google Adsense
If you’ve visited any website, you’ve seen Google ads. These ads are everywhere, and for good reason. Not only are they easy to set up on any basic website, but they can be lucrative once your website starts bringing in a steady amount of traffic.
One of the cool things about Google AdSense is that it’s so easy to get set up. If you have a blog or website, you can sign up for a free Google AdSense Account. From there, Google will give you a unique code that you will paste onto your website. Google takes it from there, tracking your page views, traffic, and earnings on your behalf. There is no upkeep or maintenance to get this thing going, which makes it a no-brainer if you have a website already.
How much will you make? I think my best month with Google AdSense was almost $5,000 over the last ten years. That amazing month blew my mind since it was actually near the beginning of my blogging journey. When you go from making zero to $5,000 in a month, that will rock your world. For me, it also got me even more excited because I knew there were other ways to monetize.
#2: Affiliate Marketing
Whether you have a website or are still dreaming up ideas for a blog, you can also look into affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you partner with brands and businesses within the content of your website. If you mention a product or service, you link to that produce or service using a unique affiliate code you received when you signed up for that particular affiliate program. From there, you’ll make money any time someone buys a product or service through your link.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to partner with affiliates that are related to your blog concept. Since I’m a financial advisor, I have focused a lot of my affiliate energy on financial products like savings accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts.
In addition to signing up for individual affiliate programs, you can also sign up for an affiliate ad network that offers a ton of different affiliates in one place. That way, you can see what works and what doesn’t work over time.
If you’re looking for inspiration, my friend Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of the website Making Sense of Sense has become the expert on all things affiliate marketing. Michelle earns more than $100,000 per month from her blog and the bulk of her income comes from affiliate sales. Michelle has had so much success with affiliate marketing that she even has her own course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
While Michelle works with a ton of affiliates in the financial services industry, one of her biggest affiliates is a blog hosting company called Bluehost. This just goes to show that you can make money with nearly any affiliate company or product if you know your audience and build up enough traffic to create sales.
Another way to make money online is via consulting. If you’re an expert in any field, you could potentially find people willing to pay you to counsel them on their personal or business goals. You might think you’re not important enough to consult for big companies, but you could be surprised at the types of expertise people will pay for.
My colleague Robert Farrington of The College Investor is a good example of someone who consulted online on the side in an unlikely industry. Robert told me that, after he had been blogging for a few years, a couple of brands reached out to him to ask him for help with social media and online marketing.
Robert said he did an average of 4-6 of these gigs per year for a while depending on his schedule and the work involved. The best part is, he charged a flat rate that usually worked out to around $100 per hour. And remember, this was pay he was earning to advise people on the best ways to use social media tools like Facebook and Pinterest to grow their brands.
If you want to start consulting but aren’t sure what steps to take next, you can also set up a free account through Clarity.fm. This website lets anyone who wants to offer consulting set up a free profile. Once your profile is set up, people will find you and book a session you’ll get paid for.
#4: Online Courses
If you have any skill you can teach others, it’s also possible to set up an online course you can market online. You can find online courses that teach anything from cooking to marketing or even freelance writing. Heck, I even offer my own course for financial advisors who want to take their businesses online— The Online Advisor Growth Formula.
Last year, I profiled my friend Joseph Michael of Easy Course Creation. Michael offers several different courses, including courses on a writing software called “Scrivener.” Over the years, Michael has earned six figures or more annually selling courses that help people achieve the kind of success he has earned.
Most people set up their online course through a platform like Teachable.com. With Teachable, you can upload your course materials and use the platform to manage customers and accept payments.
Another way to make money online is by hosting an online podcast. I have the Good Financial Cents podcast to go along with my blog, and I use that platform to find new sponsors and advertisers all the time.
I still remember getting my first sponsor on the podcast and finding out they were willing to pay $8,000 for me to include a short clip at the beginning of each podcast for 90 days. That was insanely exciting to me at the time since I wasn’t sure I would be able to monetize my podcast that much at first.
However, there are tons of people making a lot more than me on their podcasts. Take the Entrepreneur On Fire Podcast hosted by John Lee Dumas. According to the show’s most recent income report, this podcast brought in a net income of over $400,000 in March 2018. Now, that’s crazy.
The key to getting ahead with podcasting is finding your niche, growing an audience, and then finding ways to monetize and connect with sponsors. This isn’t the easiest way to make money online since there are a lot of logistics that go into writing, recording, and editing a podcast, but it is still worth considering.
#6: Book Sales
While the publishing industry used to be heavy in print, you can complete the entire process of writing, publishing, and marketing a book online these days. Websites like Create Space will let you upload and take your book to print without getting a formal publisher involved, and you can even get your book on Amazon.com so people can buy it there.
A blogger I know named Joseph Hogue has a successful blog (My Work from Home Money) and a thriving book publishing business. Hogue has written several books he has published online to create an ongoing source of passive income. He says he averages about 685 books sold per month to bring in an average of $1,857 in revenue. Not bad, huh?
If you think you could write a book people would want to buy, this is a smart strategy to consider since the start-up costs can be minimal and you probably already have a computer and word processing software anyway.
#7: Lead Sales
Another way to make money online is by collecting leads. The main steps you need to complete to make lead sales work include setting up a website, getting traffic to that website, and making sure you’re collecting leads that someone will actually pay for.
Here’s a good example of how lead sales can work in real life: My second website, Life Insurance by Jeff, brings in a ton of traffic from people who are searching the web to find answers to life insurance questions. While I used to have the website set up so I could sell these people life insurance myself, it was a lot of work to process all the different requests and clients. As a result, I started selling the leads I gathered instead.
Basically, lead buyers are willing to pay for the personal information I gather from people who visit my website. This is a win-win for everyone since I get paid for the leads and my website visitors are connected with someone who can help them.
Keep in mind though, you can sell leads in many different industries —not just life insurance. Really, you just need to figure out a niche, build a website and traffic, and see how much you can get for the leads you collect.
#8: Freelance Writing
If you have writing skills and creative talent, it’s also possible to get paid to create online content. I don’t do this as much as I used to, but I am very aware of how viable this income stream is.
One blogger I know, Holly Johnson, actually makes over $200,000 per year creating content for other websites. And actually, that’s on top of the six figures she earns with her blog, Club Thrifty.
Holly told me she started writing content in 2011. At the time, she still worked a full-time job but created content online part-time to supplement her income. Over time, she was able to double and triple her rates until she could quit her full-time job to write. These days, she makes bank as a freelance writer and teaches others to do the same via her online course, Earn More Writing.
According to Johnson, the key to making it as a freelance writer is figuring out a niche, networking with people who might hire you, and delivering high quality content 100 percent of the time. While there are a ton of writing job boards to help you get started, she says it’s fairly easy to find starter writing jobs on websites like Upwork.com.
#9: Sponsored Posts
If you have a website or a large social media following, you can also make money by pursuing sponsored posts and ads. But, how does this work? Basically, companies are willing to pay bloggers and social media influencers to promote their products and services. If you have a platform, be it a blog or a huge Instagram following, you can cash in.
The first time I got a sponsored post for Good Financial Cents, I was totally blown away. I think I got paid only $100, but that was a lot of money to me at the time. Later on, however, I realized companies that wanted a sponsored post really just wanted a link from my website to their own site. For that reason, I started increasing my rates.
These days, I charge around $4,500 for a sponsored post. Plus, I clearly mark all sponsored content as an #ad to stay in compliance with Google’s terms and conditions. I also only promote companies I use or believe in.
But, I also know bloggers that get $20,000 for a sponsored post. That’s pretty crazy, but it just goes to show what is possible.
Keep in mind though, you don’t need a website to do sponsored content since you can also get paid if you have a lot of social media followers. My wife has a pretty big Instagram following, and she gets all kinds of sponsorships. Not only does she get paid in cash, but we get a lot of free stuff, too. We’ve received free rugs, free lights, and free carpet cleaners. She only promotes things she loves though, so this strategy works really well for her.
Need more ideas on how to make money online? Another strategy is using webinars to market your product, service, or course. I’ve done webinars to promote my financial planning practice and to drum up interest in my online course for financial advisors. With a webinar, you’re basically offering a lot of tips and advice for free — usually in a live format. At the end though, you pitch your paid product or service with the goal of securing a few deals.
Professional speaker Grant Baldwin uses webinars to market his courses on public speaking, including Get Booked and Paid to Speak. While Baldwin offers plenty of free tips during his webinar, he offers his course at the end for people who want to pay to learn more. And, a lot of times, his sales pitch works.
No matter what you’re selling, it’s not that hard to set up a webinar and attract people to sign up with a lead magnet or Facebook ads. Heck, you can probably find a free webinar on how to create your first webinar if you look hard enough.
YouTube is another platform that has made it possible for people to earn money online. There are a ton of YouTube channels out there on any topic if you can think of, and most of the people with a big following are earning some money in exchange for their videos and time.
Marine officer turned men’s fashion expert, Antonio Centeno has built a million dollar business from his YouTube channel, Real Men Real Style.
Last year, Forbes profiled some of the biggest players in the YouTube scene. According to the study, the top ten biggest grossing YouTube stars brought in $127 million from June 2016 to June 2017. The most popular, a gamer named DanTDM, earned $16.5 million of that on his own.
Will you earn that much? Probably not. However, you can start making money via YouTube using the platform’s own ad network or by getting sponsored posts. If you like doing videos, starting a YouTube channel can a fun way to earn some cash on the side.
#12: Build an Online Community
Last but not least, you can also earn money online by building an online community, although the monetization strategies you can pursue will vary a lot depending on your goals. You can build a community with a blog, for example. You can also build an online forum and charge people for membership. You could even build up a Facebook group and use your influence there to sell and promote products.
My good friends Shane and Jocelyn Sams have become experts in building online communities. They have one right now for their website – Flipped Lifestyle. This community shows people how to create an online business and connects entrepreneurs who are pursuing similar dreams.
Prior to that group, they had an online community for teachers looking for lesson plans. That probably sounds pretty random, but it’s crazy the type of communities you can build and rally people around. If it’s something that you’re passionate about yourself and you want to connect with others that have that same passion, then an online community is something you should definitely consider.
The Bottom Line
There are a ridiculous number of ways to make money online and the ones I’ve covered here are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have time, a passion for almost anything, and at least some creative skill, you may be able to build an online income stream — or several — if you give it enough time.
But, don’t just take my word for it. If you look online, you’ll find thousands of success stories you can use for inspiration.
One day you could even create a success story of your own. But you’ll never know unless you try.