7 Tried-and-Tested Ways to Make an Income Online
Today’s fast moving technology advances have made it easier than ever for willing Entrepreneurs to make an income online. Yet, with so many options available, many are still left confused by what to do to actually make money.
Below we’ve picked out a selection of the most tried-and-tested models which fit nicely into the types of business you can start while keeping your full-time job or if sales start to increase, quit and run full time.
THE CLASSIC BLOG
You’re looking at it. Blogs have exploded over the last decade and are now accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection. Bloggers can make a healthy living from writing about their experiences or interests and this is perhaps one of the simplest ways to get earning online. Setting up a blog is easier than ever and we have a step-by-step beginners guide to make it easy for anyone to get started. Once up and running you can monitise your following through affiliate links, advertising and mailing list promotions.
To get your blog started
- Find your niche – Figure out what you are good at, you don’t need to be an expert right now but this will be a long term project so having a genuine interest will definitely help
- Build a blog on your own domain – Don’t use a yoursite.wordpress.com link, this is your brand and its worth paying the small fee to own your spot on the internet. Use our beginners guide to setup your blog in under an hour
- Add value – Adding value creates authority, authority breeds trust which in turn helps to grow your audience and readership. Without a following you’ll find it hard to generate an online income. It takes time so be prepared!
- Create an email list and treat them right – One of the best ways to make money online is by marketing to an active group of email subscribers. Email marketing is far from dead and if done right can create a win/win situation for both you and your readers
- Don’t sacrifice morals for a quick buck – At the beginning you’ll want to do anything to start generating an online income. Don’t sacrifice your morals, build an audience and monetise later
To make money blogging online
- Once you have an active readership and large audience, opportunities will present themselves. Recommend a great new product or implement advertising and affiliate links. As long as you are adding value most users will be happy to receive offers knowing you will make a small commission if they buy through your site.
- Quick and easy to set up
- Low start up costs
- Can be a lucrative form of passive income
- Easy to automate and outsource
- It takes time to build a following
- Requires continuous effort to post and add value
- Easy to become disheartened and give up
- Earnings come later
Who does it well and where can i find out more? Pat Flynn at https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/
A NICHE SITE
‘Niche’ doesn’t necessarily mean small! Niche sites can be anything from relatively simple blogs right the way through to full blown shopping carts or online market places. What they have in common is that they are typically content driven and highly targeted to a specific niche or sector. Use of keyword research and back linking along with how to pick your topic will be covered in a separate post but this tried and tested method is a relatively risk free proven model to generate an income online (if done right!). The Business model, Pros and Cons are similar to a blog
The Niche site model
Write consistently great and helpful content to drive traffic to your site. Monitise that traffic through either advertising or affiliate schemes (typically this will be Google AdSense or Amazon affiliate). Niche sites are great because they are about as passive as they come and once up and running, very easy to maintain.
- Low start up costs
- Clear target audience
- Can be automated
- Takes time
- Earning will be slow at first
- Careful keyword planning required upfront
The downside is that starting from scratch could take time and you’ve largely invested the bulk of your time upfront before you see any earnings. It is also easy for people to give up or become disheartend if you are not really interested in the niche. Finding the right topic and targeting keywords for your posts/pages is the name of the game – fully automating the site utilizing virtual assistants is the second step before rolling out the model to more and more niche sites (ideally targeting a similar demographic to create cross selling opportunities).
Who does it well? Spencer Haws at http://www.nichepursuits.com/
FBA – Fulfillment by Amazon
Imagine having a shop smack bang in the middle of Oxford Street, London or on Fifth Avenue, NYC with hundreds and thousands daily natural footfall – That’s what Amazon offers it’s sellers everyday. A new wonder of the online shopping age is that actually any of us can launch a product and set up stall on the biggest marketplace in the world. The basic idea here is to identify demand and fulfill that demand with YOUR product.
To make money with FBA
- Research what sells well on Amazon – There are tools you can use for this, JungleScout is probably the best (US only for now)
- Find a product (make it unique if possible) – Read reviews and see what can be improved. What is there that people like and you could improve? Use Alibaba to source a product and liaise with the manufacturer to get something unique. You want to stick to the 10-50 impulse buy price range if possible.
- Order a sample – Use Aliexpress or Alibaba and order a sample. It’s important to check the quality of what you will be selling. It may also help to have the product to hand when creating promotional material, you’ll want some great picture!
- Order your first batch -Negotiate to keep this as small as possible. Ideally around 200 units is fairly standard. Sent to an Amazon fulfillment center, create a great sales page and see how it sells
- Re-order in bulk & get reviews – Assuming the test batch sold well, you can now order in bulk and get those profit margins up. Try hard to get some reviews with excellent customer service. Use Amazons pay per click to hold your position in the product pages
- Rinse and repeat – Repeat the above for your product while simultaneously trying to find other similar products in the same category. This is where you will start to build your brand!
- Can generate huge profits with (relatively) low set up costs
- Very scalable
- Don’t need your own website
- Simple sales and fulfillment process – Amazon handles all the dirty work for you
- White label – You can create your own brand which carries additional value
- Inventory costs / cash flow
- Relatively high set up costs. Your capital is at risk before the product has proven itself
- Reliant on a third party (Amazon)
- Saturated market and with fierce competition
- Lead times on orders from China/Alibaba
Who does it well? Ryan Moran is the main man in this space; http://www.freedomfastlane.com/
Finding a demand and filling it with a unique product is the hardest part. Amazon is a market place and therefore a good value, high quality product WILL sell. By using fulfillment by Amazon your customers will still benefit from all the perks they like about Amazon such as prime one-day-delivery etc. I’ve simplified the process quite a lot in this summary but check out FBA sellers on YouTube and read up on the topic via other people’s blogs and you will see the opportunity that’s available here. Be careful of lead times, Amazon doesn’t like you if you’re out of stock and you’ll need to be prepared to risk a bit of capital upfront but if you crack this, you’ve got yourself a passive cash machine!
SAAS – Software as a service
Software-as-a-service is a great business if you can get it right! As the name suggests you sell software and/or services rather than a physical products. This carries some great advantages such as scalability, instant access for the customer and is ripe for automation – add into the mix affiliate schemes to sell your service and you are flying. It can be highly lucrative when it scales but you will need some time and possibly cash (if you are not a developer) investment upfront. Ensuring there is a demand for your service before hand is imperative but with good market research and a solid product this could propel you to a different level in terms of earning an online income.
The SaaS model
Research and find a demand for a service – It’s usually best to try and solve a problem you have and create a solution you would use yourself and pay for! Develop the technology and market to potential customers.
Types of payment model can be – subscription, freemium (free at first but with option to pay for extras), fixed price, free (and monitise the customer base in other ways) or via licencing arrangements.
- Highly scalable – Once the product is built there is a minimal costs per additional users
- Highly lucrative – The more people that use your software the more valuable it becomes
- Regular income if you use a subscription model
- Once created you can sell multiple times, forever
- Acquire loyal customer base which could be used to cross sell into later
- Time and money investment upfront
- No guarantee it will sell
- Customer service needs to be top notch – this can be time consuming if the product is complicated or not designed well upfront
- Requires ongoing support
- Can be complicated to produce – Technical knowledge may be required if you are to run it yourself (we’re talking hosting, updates, customer service, bug fixes, security and disaster recovery)
Who does it well? There are tons of examples online; DropBox, Salesforce, Antivirus software, pretty much any subscription site, there really are too many to name. A more smaller scale example is longtailpro which was created by our good friend Spencer Haws (you’ll remember his name from our Niche site strategy). He started LongtailPro to aid his own keyword research before eventually commercialising his software and selling subscriptions to generate an income
This can be anything from learning how to beat-box right the way through to courses that help others help pass professional qualifications. The number one thing people should invest in is themselves and a good course that can be purchased over and over again is a nice side business to be in. To produce the course you don’t necessarily need to be the product expert (although it helps) as you can easily facilitate the right people with the right knowledge to create a package for others to buy.
The Online Course model
Pick a topic and create a great online course. Add video’s and lots of valuable information on a topic you think others may like to learn more about. It can be an interest or hobby or profession you have. Market the course through direct marketing such as Facebook or upload to a specialist site such as Udemy who will manage everything about course for you.
- Many white label courses available online for you to get the base of your subject
- Subject matter experts can be cheap and readily available to help add value to your course if needed
- Similar to software-as-a-service, it can be sold over and over again once created
- Competitive market. There are many courses on just about everything so make yours specific and try to add something unique if possible.
- May need to develop some video editing and writing skills to produce the content
- Can take time to research, edit and produce
- Will require quite a lot of content in order to give some away free as a ‘preview’ to your potential students (and to drive sales!)
Okay, no one is expecting you to go out and write the next Wuthering heights (although if you can then that’s certainly something you should do!) but Ebooks are now big business and open to anyone who doesn’t mind putting their fingers to work on the keyboard. Ebooks first overtook physical book sales a few years ago and that trend is likely to continue so the market is only going to grow in the coming years which means there is opportunity for you to have your slice so you be inclined.
The Ebook model
is simple, write a useful book on anything you feel competent to do so. Remember that now days people are self-publishing all sorts of content so it doesn’t have to be a novel it could simply be a guide to something or that short story you’ve always wanted to pen. If it’s priced right and you can put it in front of people who may be interested then there is no reason why it may not sell. If it turns out to be the next New York Times best seller then.. well.. that’s great! Incidentally, Alternatively some people opt to hire a ghost writer and you can find these online cheaper than ever so the opportunity is there and you’ll be able to call yourself a published author which always sounds good in a conversation! Check out what’s on our book shelf for some ideas on the types of books you could write.
THE FACEBOOK SELLER
Facebook, as we all know, is a powerful platform with billions of active daily users and there is arguably no easier way to get your product in front of so many people, so easily. The model here is either directly market your digital products such as courses and ebooks or utilise the cost arbitrage potential of something like Alibaba/Alibaba Express. Try to source a strong product within the impulse buy range of $10-50 accompanied with a strong targeted advert. If done right you could replicate the host of other successful busienss who are already turning over millions using this model. Drop shipping is probably easier to begin with but there is nothing stopping you sourcing in bulk to really grow those profit margins once you are regularly making sales.
To get started selling on Facebook
- Source product – ideally something you have used or have knowledge on
- Create your own site which can accept payments or use something like Shopify
- Produce a good advert –this may require some photography or even video production and is worth doing properly
- Trial Facebook ads – see what works and what doesn’t. Keep tweaking your ads and approach until you have a fairly accurate acquisition cost (price you have to spend on advertising to generate one sale)
- Once you have a tried and tested and know you can make more from your sale than it costs you to buy, ship and advertising then you can ramp up knowing that for every X you spend on advertising you will make X back in sales. Now scale!
- Maintain good customer service and utilise other social media sites to complement your Facebook campaign. Instagram, twitter for example could be valuable resources when trying to target customers and build a following.
- Relatively quick to start
- Cash flow friendly depending which model you use. Drop ship works well to begin
- Facebook has one of the most highly targeted advertising services on the planet. They know so much about us!
- No need to maintain your own technology if you use a third party like Shopify to handle all transactions
- Cross selling opportunities – Once you have customers it much easier to sell other similar products into them via direct email
- Cash flow & Inventory if you are buying in bulk and holding stock
- Need a good product – its a competitive market!
- It may take a while to perfect your Facebook advertising which depending on how aggressive you start is an upfront cost while you learn
- Facebook giveth, Facebook taketh away. Relying solely on a third party leaves you open to any policy changes they make in the future which could affect your business.
Who does it well? Check your Facebook feed! – There a bound to be tons of live examples for you to see. Hawkers sunglasses and The Elephant Pants are great examples of companies that started mainly with Facebook advertising and have grown into massive businesses.
So that’s it folks! These are some great strategies to get you started. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section or if we’ve missed something please let us know. We read every comment and email.