Earning an income from the internet seems like a fantasy to most people. As someone whose income comes almost entirely from online business, I can tell you that it’s not only possible, but it’s a reality that lots of people are living today, and that’s within your reach.
Let me share with you some of the best ways I’ve found for earning a great online income–and that I have personal experience with–as well as some helpful information for each one.
The Top 12 Ways for Earning an Online Income
Let’s start right out by sharing the 12 ways for earning an income online that I’ll talk about more throughout this article.
The table below shows my 12 favorite ways to earn an online income as well as how I scored each one on 7 helpful criteria. They don’t get an overall score here, because their overall score depends on what’s important to you. That’s why I made a really helpful calculator where you can pick just how important each of these is to you so you can get rank these opportunities for yourself.
I also recommend the calculator if you’re looking at this on a mobile device, because the table is kind of big to see very well on a phone.
Let me know what email address you want me to send the calculator to and I’ll send it right over. This won’t sign you up for any other emails from me.
|Method||Time to First $||Start-up Cost||Time to ROI||Amount of ROI||Outsourcing Potential||Passivity (Time)||Success Probability|
|Your Own Products||8||3||8||4||6||1||7|
|Making Apps or Software||5||3||5||5||6||8||4|
In this video, I talk through each of these 12 opportunities for earning an income from the internet in detail and I show you the calculator tool, so if you want more of my thoughts on one or more of these online income opportunities, check out the video here.
Now let’s talk about each of these great online money-making opportunities and I’ll share some of my thoughts and experience and why I scored each one the way I did.
Make Money Quickly Buying and Selling on Facebook
This is definitely the quickest way for most people to start earning some money right away. All it takes is a little time to look through Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and any other online classifieds you have in your area.
The trick to making a good ROI buying and selling on Facebook is to find good deals. It’s easiest to find great deals when you focus on products that you know more about than the average person. Sometimes you find great deals and then all it takes is relisting the item and describing its value based on what you know.
As a teen, I worked at a music shop repairing musical instruments. So when I found a coronet for only $75 that I knew was easily worth over $200 even without making any repairs (and easily $300 or more if I did make the repairs) I bought it on the spot.
Time to First Dollar: 10. What I love most about Facebook reselling is how quickly you can start earning an income from it. You could start today and turn a profit before going to bed tonight.
Startup Cost: 3. This earns a 3 because while it’s not free to get started, it doesn’t have to cost much. If you don’t have much cash available, start with low-cost items and work your way up.
Time to ROI: 10. You’ll start earning a return on your investment, in other words a profit, as soon as you sell your first item for more than you paid for it. There doesn’t have to be really any period where you’re investing without getting a quick return on that investment.
Amount of ROI: 4. The amount of return you’ll earn on every dollar invested is usually on the low side of average. If you can find really good opportunities then you might double your money each time, which is great. But more often you’ll be looking at somewhere between 10% and 30% for the average flip.
Outsourcing Potential: 5. There are aspects of this that could be outsourced. If you have kids, getting them involved perusing Facebook Marketplace, looking for deals could work. But in the end, the more you outsource, the slimmer that return on investment ends up being. The only real way to make this profitable is to put in the time yourself. This isn’t an easy income stream to scale up.
How Passive Can it Be: 1. This isn’t passive at all. For every dollar you make you have to put in time. You won’t be earning money while you sleep or while you’re away on vacation.
Probability of Success: 8. If you can buy anything with confidence that you can sell it for more, success at Facebook Reselling is pretty much assured. There are really 2 requirements.
First, be patient. Don’t buy impulsively. Make sure you know you’re getting a bargain. Then, don’t sell impulsively. Sell for a profit every time.
Second, you have to put in the work. The worst thing you can do is start buying and then get burned out and not sell the stuff you bought. If you’re patient and you just don’t give up, you’ll at least make some money.
Make and Sell Your Own Products Online
The internet makes it so anyone who wants to make something and sell it online can. With platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and others you can set up a shop and start selling whatever it is you make to people all over.
Time to First Dollar: 8. You can start selling products about as quickly as you can have some made. You’ll need to take a little time to get set up on Etsy or Shopify, which also means taking some photos of your products once they’re made. But this can all be done in a matter of days or even hours.
Startup Cost: 3. The biggest cost involved is the materials for whatever you’re making. On top of that, Shopify and Etsy have some fees to be able to sell. If you don’t have your own website, in most cases Etsy is probably going to be the least expensive way to get started.
Time to ROI: 8. You can start making a profit as soon as you make your first sale as long as you make sure you can sell your products for more than it costs to make and list them.
Amount of ROI: 4. In most cases, it’s hard to sell your products for a lot more than the cost to make them, especially when you account for the time you spend making your products.
Outsourcing Potential: 6. You could definitely get others to help make your products, and even do the work of listing them and shipping them. But if your products are at all specialized, you may struggle to keep the quality up if you outsource all of the work.
How Passive Can it Be: 1. Selling your own products isn’t at all passive. Someone has to make them, list them online, and ship them. This isn’t a business model that you can keep earning without continuing to do the work day after day.
Probability of Success: 7. Your chances of at least earning a profit are good as long as you commit to doing the work. The main reason you would lost money making and selling your own products online would be if you gave up. Even if sales don’t start right away, persistence is likely to pay off.
Make Money Selling Others’ Products with Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is where you recommend products that other people sell, and then you earn a commission when someone purchases a product using your link. Probably the biggest and easiest affiliate program to start with is Amazon Associates where you can link to products on Amazon and get a cut of the sales price.
Time to First Dollar: 3. This can take time, mostly because you need an audience. This isn’t really for referring your friends and family. The point is for you to build an audience and then to promote products to that audience. This is often done through blogging, podcasting, YouTube, and other social media accounts.
Startup Cost: 8. It doesn’t cost anything to get started, although I prefer to only recommend products I have actually used.
Time to ROI: 3. It takes time to build an audience, but one you do and you start earning you first dollars, you can be immediately profitable.
Amount of ROI: 7. Due to the low cost to do affiliate marketing, the return you can make on that investment is big. How big exactly just depends on the audience you’re able to build.
Outsourcing Potential: 7. Depending on how you approach affiliate marketing and building an audience, a lot of the leg work can be outsourced. If you get going and decide that you don’t want to do everything yourself, it’s not hard to bring other on board to keep it going.
How Passive Can it Be: 8. This income stream doesn’t require any ongoing effort to earn each additional dollar. There’s no product to make or even source. Once you have an audience in place and some recommendations for them, this business can be run in maintenance mode and earn a great income for years.
Probability of Success: 5. Building an audience takes hard work, but it’s very doable with the internet. That’s really what Income School is all about. We help people learn how to build and then monetize online audiences.
Make a Digital Product out of Information You Know
Digital products are usually information that is structured in a really helpful way and that solves a problem or pain point that people have. This can be as simple as an e-book but often looks like video or audio guides, downloadable files, or even a bundle of multiple digital offers.
Time to First Dollar: 5. Selling a digital product requires both creating a digital product and getting it in front of people. If you have built up your own audience through blogging, podcasting, YouTube, or other social media, then getting it in front of people is easy. If not, you may try to get others to promote your product and offer them a commission for every sale they make.
Startup Cost: 9. This costs virtually nothing. Start with information you already have in your head and think about how you could use that information to help someone in some way. Then, package up that information in the most helpful way you can.
Time to ROI: 6. Once you start making sales, this income stream is immediately profitable.
Amount of ROI: 8. We’ve made a great income from digital products. That’s because the cost of each additional sale is basically $0. It’s not like a physical product that costs money for every unit you sell. Once you create the product, you can sell 1 or 1,000 and it costs you essentially the same.
Outsourcing Potential: 8. Creating, updating, and supporting digital products doesn’t have to be done by you personally. Most everything in this business model can be outsourced to other people.
How Passive Can it Be: 7. This depends on how you choose to market your digital product. Once you’ve created it, it can be entirely passive with one exception… support. If you sell a product there will be people who have one issue or another and you’ll want to provide at least some support. This is easy to outsource.
Probability of Success: 5. Success mostly depends on making a product that people will value, and then getting in front of the people who value it. It make take a few tries to really get your product right, so be willing to adapt and modify it as needed.
Consult for Others Using Your Expertise
Consultations can be easy. If you’re intimidated by the idea of meeting with people to help them with something, then try the asynchronous consultation. That’s where you have customers fill out a survey with the information you need to do your consulatation. Then you write up or record your advice and send it to them within a specified timeframe.
I love to do consultations before making digital products or courses because it gives me a lot more insight into what questions my clients have. It helps me make my teaching better.
Time to First Dollar: 8. As long as you have some credibility in your industry and can get your offer in front of people, you can start earning and income right away. One of the best ways to sell consultations is to have your own content on the web. Blogging, YouTube, Podcasting, and Social Media are great was to build an audience through content.
Startup Cost: 10. It doesn’t have to cost you anything at all to start selling consultations.
Time to ROI: 9. Once you make a sale, you’re immediately profitable. It doesn’t have to take long if you can get in front of the right people.
Amount of ROI: 8. Consultations can earn you a great income. I’ve charged $1,000 per hour for consultations. It just depends on what expertise you have and how valuable that is to the people you reach.
Outsourcing Potential: 1. If you’re the expert, outsourcing much of the consulatation work will be very difficult to do.
How Passive Can it Be: 3. This is really difficult to make passive. To earn more money, you have to do more consultations. However, it can lead to more passive income streams, like courses and digital products.
Probability of Success: 7. Making money as a consultant isn’t hard. You can succeed at it. It will take effort though. A great income doesn’t usually come that easily.
Freelance in the Online Gig Economy
For anyone looking to make an income without being tied to anything long-term, I’d recommend freelancing.
The idea is to take whatever skills you have and allow others to hire you to work for them as a contractor. These jobs vary from a few hours per week to basically full-time. You work from home according to your schedule and you choose the work you want to do. It’s kind of amazing.
Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork are great for finding opportunities and the kind of work you do can be anything from copywriting to customer support to recording voice-overs. There’s all sorts of work and you can probably find something that suits you and that when you offer it, people will want it.
Time to First Dollar: 8. It just takes as long as it takes to peruse jobs that others have posted and apply.
Startup Cost: 10. It doesn’t need to cost you anything. You’ll likely need a computer so if you don’t have one yet, that could be a new cost.
Time to ROI: 9. Once you complete a job, you’re earning an ROI.
Amount of ROI: 5. Your income is only capped by the time you have available to work. Like more traditional jobs, you have to trade your time for every dollar you earn.
Outsourcing Potential: 1. As a freelancer, you’re the one that’s being outsourced to. Outsourcing freelance work to others doesn’t really work.
How Passive Can it Be: 2. Because you have to trade time for money, this is the very definition of active income generation. It’s not passive.
Probability of Success: 7. If you have a skill that others would pay for, you absolutely can succeed at this. The biggest question is how well you can get yourself hired. You need to be able to market your skills well so you can stand out.
Publish Books—Your Own or for Others
Publishing books has gotten so much easier in the last several years, but getting those books sold is another animal altogether.
If you have a skill for writing, either fiction or nonfiction, you may find success in self-publishing books and selling them online. You’ll find the most success if you don’t just list them on Amazon, but if you can also go through the effort to get the word out.
Look for opportunities to be interviewed by podcasters, YouTubers, and bloggers.
Likewise, you may find that you can work ghostwriting or editing books for others and then helping them with publishing and promoting their book.
Time to First Dollar: 3. Writing, editing, and publishing books takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Your fist dollar isn’t coming quickly.
Startup Cost: 5. Unless you have the skills to do everything, there is probably going to be some cost involved for things like cover design as well as book layout and design.
Time to ROI: 2. Not only does it take time to start earning money from a book, it also doesn’t pay a lot. Depending on how you publish, your profit on each book sale can be pretty low. One option to keep cost really low and increase ROI is to publish ebooks rather than physical books, at least for getting started.
Amount of ROI: 2. If you have an audience, then the ROI can be quite a bit higher. For a lot of people, their books get listed and then generate very few sales. It takes a lot of hustle to be very profitable. That said, if you’re doing the work for other people’s books and you’re taking a fee for it, then you could have a nice business right there.
Outsourcing Potential: 5. There are a lot of aspects of book publishing that you could outsource, but it will all have a cost. There’s a tradeoff between ROI and outsourcing.
How Passive Can it Be: 7. Once your book is published and the initial marketing push is done, income can be incredibly passive. You’ll probably need to do follow-up marketing here and there to keep your book selling, but very little needs to be done in the day-to-day.
Probability of Success: 2. This can totally flop, even if you put in the work. Best sellers usually have big names and big publishers behind them. So don’t bite off too much for your first attempt at book publishing.
Create and Sell Apps, Software, and Web-based Tools
If you have technical skills to make apps, develop software, or even make a helpful tool using free online software, then this can be a great income stream for you.
The idea is to create tools that make things easier for other people. Tools for everyday people are great for selling a lot of volume, but tools for business people are great for selling fewer at a much higher price.
Time to First Dollar: 5. It takes as long as it takes to create the tool. Depending on the tool, that can be a few days to several months.
Startup Cost: 3. This can really vary. Usually you’ll need software as well as some education. Another option is to partner with or outsource some tasks to people who have the skills you don’t. All of this adds to the startup cost.
Time to ROI: 5. Like other digital products, software and tools can be incredibly profitable. They scale really well, meaning you can sell a lot with about the same cost as if you sell only a little. So once you start selling, an ROI can be almost immediate.
Amount of ROI: 5. Depending on how much you do yourself, the amount of the ROI can vary a lot too. If you have partners, employees, or even contractors that you pay to keep your software/tool up-to-date you’re going to have costs, but you can still be very profitable.
Outsourcing Potential: 6. A lot of development and support can be outsourced to employees or contractors. If you’re starting by yourself, consider using a virtual assistant to help with customer support and to route the tech support requests to you.
How Passive Can it Be: 8. Depending on the complexity of your tool and how much it needs to be updated, software products can generate an income for you extremely passively. But you’ll need a good sales funnel or an audience to make that happen.
Probability of Success: 4. If you have the skills and you have a concept for a tool that solves someone’s pain points, then you can absolutely succeed at generating a good income from this income stream. But it’s not one to dive into head first if you don’t have the skills or resources or if you don’t have a solid concept for a good tool.
I recommend building software using the agile methodology. Get a version out there for some people to use and get early feedback. Striving for perfection before getting people to use your tool isn’t likely to work today.
Sell Your Own Online Course
This takes the digital product concept a step further.
Online courses are where many people are going today for continuing education, to learn things they’re just interested in, and in some cases, for their main education. Taking information and packaging it up into a step-by-step format adds a lot of value beyond the content that we normally find for free online.
I love building my own audiences and selling the online courses that I host on my own websites. But, it’s easier to use an existing course platform like Udemy or Podia to host your courses and even to help you market them.
Time to First Dollar: 5. You do need to get your course in front of the right audiences. But they don’t have to be your own. If you aren’t building up your own audience, consider asking others who do have audiences to promote your course for you in exchange for a commission on all sales they make.
Startup Cost: 3. All you really need to get started is information. That said, courses do really well when they include video and if you decide to host your own course on your site then there will be some software costs.
Time to ROI: 5. I’ve found courses to be incredibly profitable. Once you start making sales, you’re earning an ROI in most cases.
Amount of ROI: 10. There isn’t another monetization method on this list that I’ve seen earn more than I’ve seen myself and others earn from courses.
Outsourcing Potential: 6. As you create courses, you’ll see that you can always make them better. Your production can always improve. As you continue to work on your courses, there is a lot you can outsource, from marketing to video editing, to copy writing.
How Passive Can it Be: 7. With courses, like other products, it’s hard to be totally passive. There will always be some support needed as well as course updates. But most of the time you can earn a great income without needing to work day to day.
Probability of Success: 5. This has an average probability of success. The biggest determinant of success is going to be getting it in front of the audience that will value what you have. Partner with other content creators to get the word out and you’ll find that you can reach a lot of potential customers.
Grow and Audience and Build Rapport with a YouTube Channel
YouTube is one of the most amazing platforms for content creators today. It’s still far less competitive than other online platforms and we’re seeing so much success. The way this works is that you create content for YouTube, and as that content gets viewed you’re able to monetize those views in various ways.
Of course, you can earn ad revenue through YouTube’s partner program, but with a YouTube channel, you can also earn money from affiliate marketing as well as selling consultations, information products, online courses, merchandise, sponsorships, and on and on.
We find that selling to a YouTube audience is relatively easy given the amount of trust and rapport you build with video content vs audio or written content.
Time to First Dollar: 7. Growing a YouTube channel to the point of starting to earn some money can actually happen quickly. You don’t have to wait to be accepted to YouTube’s partner program to earn your first dollar. Affiliate marketing can be available to you almost from the first day you start.
Startup Cost: 7. You can create a YouTube channel for free. As far as gear goes, I recommend starting with a cell phone camera and free video editing software. The first additional piece of gear I’d buy is a lapel microphone that plugs into your phone so you can get clear audio. That’s it until you can justify the cost of more gear.
Time to ROI: 6. Reaching profitability isn’t immediate, but it can be pretty quick. If you keep your cost down, you can start earning more than you spend as soon as you earn your first dollar which I have seen happen (and done personally) in about a month.
Amount of ROI: 10. YouTube channels can be incredibly profitable. The main reason is that it doesn’t have to cost much to create good content, and the amount you can earn from all the ways you can monetize your channel is incredible.
Outsourcing Potential: 5. Once you’re the face/personality of your YouTube channel, it’s hard to ever change that. However, you can definitely outsource video editing and a lot of the other work involved in producing content. With time, many YouTubers end up with a whole team of people supporting their channel.
How Passive Can it Be: 3. With YouTube, you can’t just stop producing content. Like other content businesses, it’s somewhat passive in the sense that you literally earn money while you sleep and while you’re on vacation. But, if you stop adding new content to your channel, the income will drop off.
Probability of Success: 6. There’s no guarantee of success. But I’ve also found that there’s an audience for just about everything. If you have any desire to give YouTube a chance, I highly encourage you to check out the Channel Makers YouTube channel where Nate teaches all sorts of great strategies and techniques for building Successful YouTube channels.
Spread Your Message and Build Authority with a Podcast
Podcasts are amazing for building authority with an audience. When people listen to podcasts, they’re usually willing to stick around for quite a while, whereas on YouTube people are all too quick to skip ahead or even jump to a new video if you don’t keep their attention.
With a podcast, you can monetize through advertising, consulting, and all types of information products. The podcast allows you to build an audience and gain their trust by providing helpful and interesting content.
Time to First Dollar: 5. Growing an audience doesn’t happen overnight with a podcast. And it’s the audience that makes your podcast valuable. The easiest way to grow an audience is to interview other content creators and get yourself interviewed by other podcasters. Once you have some regular listeners, earning your first dollar is quick.
Startup Cost: 8. It takes very little to start a podcast. Podcast hosting starts at $10 per month with Blubrry. You’ll also want a decent microphone. You can use a USB microphone but I wouldn’t cheap out too much. I really like the Rode Podcaster (affiliate link) but it’s around $300. For a more budget-friendly microphone I’d go with the Blue Yeti Nano (affiliate link).
Time to ROI: 3. Like I said, it takes some time to start earning an income from a podcast, and with a little bit of an up front cost that pushes out the ROI a little longer.
Amount of ROI: 7. You can earn back a lot more than it costs to produce your podcast. That’s the best thing about content businesses. You create the content and attract the audience, at which point how much you can make just depends on how you choose to monetize your content.
Outsourcing Potential: 5. While you can outsource a lot of the work involved in producing a podcast, if you start out hosting the show and build rapport as the host, it’s hard to outsource that. Plan to be involved at least as far as recording the episodes goes. Beyond that, you really could outsource almost everything else for a podcast.
How Passive Can it Be: 5. Like other content businesses, a podcast can be pretty passive in the sense that you create the content, but then the content does the work of attracting customers and earning you an income day and night and all year round.
Probability of Success: 6. If you’ll put in the work, and especially if you’ll focus on outreach to other content creators, you can succeed. Depending on your current skill level, you may want to watch some tutorials and listen to lots of other podcasts to learn how to produce a podcast that people will enjoy listening to.
Create Several Income Streams with a Blog
Blogs are extremely powerful tools for attracting web traffic. You write blog posts that answer the questions the people type into search engines, like Google. Through blogging, our sites attract thousands of visitors every month and we earn an income through ads, affiliate marketing, consulting, information products, courses, and sometimes selling our own products using Shopify or other e-commerce platforms.
Time to First Dollar: 1. It takes longer to earn an income with a blog, because you have to write several articles before search engines really start to show your content in search results. This can take several months.
Startup Cost: 9. Starting a blog costs very little. While there are free platforms, our recommendation is to use WordPress and to register your own domain name. This gives you the most credibility online and gives you a lot more ability to customize your site as your needs evolve. The total cost of a WordPress site with content hosting and a good domain name is still only about $10-$15 per month.
Time to ROI: 3. It takes a while to start earning money from a blog, but the ROI happens almost immediately after you start earning an income. That’s because it costs so little to start this type of business.
Amount of ROI: 10. The ROI for a blog-based business is incredible. For so little cost and relatively little work you can not only earn a substantial monthly income, in time, but you can continue to earn an income for several years from every article you write.
Outsourcing Potential: 9. A lot of the work in a blogging business can be outsourced. While I recommend that you write your first several articles yourself, there are many great services where you can order optimized content for your blog. We have many writers who write content for our blogs and offer own service for other bloggers. If that’s of interest to you, you can find all the information at ContentWarrior.com.
How Passive Can it Be: 10. This is about the most passive business model I’ve ever seen. The reason is that you do the work up-front, and any work you need to do going forward you can do as it fits your schedule. And all the while, you continue to earn an ongoing income.
You earn an income during the night while you sleep, while you’re away on vacation. It’s passive because earning your next dollar doesn’t require additional work because the work you did once continues to earn you an income day after day after day.
Probability of Success: 6. This business model requires real effort, but it also requires some understanding of search engines and content businesses. It’s critical that you pick the right topics to write about and that you write about them in an effective way for attracting web traffic.
That’s why we created Project 24. It’s our membership program designed to help people with the goal to create a content-based business that can replace a full-time income in about 24 months.
If this business model sounds interesting to you, I invite you to learn more about Project 24. But if you’re not ready for that, the best place to start learning how to succeed with a content-based business is on the Income School YouTube Channel. I have tons of videos to point you in the right direction and help you avoid the mistakes that are all-too-common when people try to figure it out on their own.
I hope to see you there!