Unless you're a freegan and have found a way to live entirely off the grid, you probably need some sort of steady income in order to survive. The traditional way to earn money, of course, is by having a job. You work for a company or start your own, and the work you do earns you money, which you spend on things like a mortgage, rent, food, clothing, utilities and entertainment.
Most people typically work from their company's central location, a physical space where everyone from that organization gathers to exchange ideas and organize their efforts.
But a few lucky souls have found ways to make money within the comfort of their own home. With the Internet, an ever-changing arena for businesses, some people looking to earn money are finding ways to do so. Some forms are best for part-time endeavors for those looking to make a little extra money on the side, while others can lead to full-time jobs and Internet success stories.
We've put together a list of our top 10 ways to make money on the Internet, in no particular order. On the next page, we'll start with an old favorite.
Most people today are familiar with the concept: You have things you don't necessarily need but others are willing to buy, and you can auction off the items on eBay or other online auction sites. Simply gather your goods, create a seller's profile and start selling.
It sounds simple, but it takes some practice to sell successfully. Creating persuasive and legitimate product pages for the goods you're selling will help get buyers interested. It's also important to set reasonable minimum bids to ensure that people will buy. And remember to deliver the kind of customer service that will garner positive feedback ratings and to communicate with buyers to let them know you're reliable. The more positive feedback you receive, the more people will be willing to do business with you. And that, of course, means more money.
If you have a particular passion for something, whether it's a hobby or an obsession, and you have something to say about it, blogging could be a profitable way to pour out your endless stream of thought. The key here, as with many other services on the Internet, is in selling advertising.
After starting up a personal blog, many writers sign up for ad services like Google AdSense, which post those familiar sponsored links you often see at the top and on the sides of Web sites. The more times your blog readers click on those ads, the more money you'll make through the ad service. This works fine if you're a casual blogger, and you may make some extra spending money. But if the blog is consistently interesting, well-written and really takes off, you may be approached by companies who want to reach your fan base with graphical advertising around your blog. Some of the more successful blogs, like I Can Has Cheezburger? and Boing Boing, have become pop-culture phenomena, and their creators have been able to quit their day jobs and blog full time because of the money they make from advertisers.
A you walk around most high school and college campuses, you're likely to come into contact with lots of words. But it won't be material from textbooks or term papers -- those are probably in backpacks or sitting unfinished at home. Instead, they're the simple phrases or logos -- most of which are ironic or amusing -- printed on the T-shirts on the backs of the students.
Usually, the more unique and offbeat the design is, the more desirable the T-shirt is. The growth of the Internet has made it possible for vendors to sell T-shirts all over the world. In fact, sites like CafePress.com and SpreadShirt.com allow you to set up your own store, create your own designs and sell them yourself. If you can create your own shirt design with a clever catchphrase or come up with your own unique statement and people like it, you can start making money.
Freelancing is similar in some ways to blogging. For one thing, you get to work from your own home or office most of the time. But there are a few important distinctions. First, if you're thinking about freelance writing, chances are you need to have more experience than the average blogger. Many freelance writing positions cover specialized topics for online publications and many require expert knowledge on the subject. However, if you're passionate about things like travel or food and know how to write, a freelancing job can provide you with a good income.
Along a similar line, you might also consider self-publishing your original work rather than working on contract-driven tasks. Self-publishing offers many of the same benefits as freelance writing. This additional step is risky, though, because it requires marketing work to your target audience so they'll buy your work.
Writing's not the only way to make money freelancing, of course -- anyone with graphic design or programming experience can find contract jobs that pay well and provide challenging work, too.
Based on luck, strategy and business savvy, domain name flipping can be one of the more lucrative ways to earn a living online. The term comes from the real estate trick that involves buying old, undervalued houses, fixing them up to make them more attractive and modern-looking and selling them for a much higher prices.
In this case, the old and outdated place is not a house, but rather a domain name -- the main address for a Web page. With a little bit of searching, dedicated domain flippers locate unused, poorly maintained Web sites that have generic and recognizable identifiers and buy them. They usually pay a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars, but after extensive updates that make the site more business- and user-friendly, the domain name can fetch several times more than it was originally worth. The domain bird-cage.com, for instance, was bought for a mere $1,800 in 2005 -- after a redesign two years later, the site was sold for $173,000 to a bird cage vendor [source: Bhattarai].
Financial services include accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll processing. Today, you can accomplish most of these services using specialized software. For businesses, this means hiring fewer people to handle these tasks. For individuals, it means doing it on their own and hiring a consultant online when necessary.
These cost-saving opportunities for consumers mean money-making opportunities for you. You can create a Web site on your own or work with an existing Web-based services group. Then, you can correspond with clients through that Web site and via e-mail.
If you want to offer financial services over the Internet, first make sure you're either trained or experienced in the services you're planning to provide. For example, you're probably not an expert on preparing taxes for a small family farm unless you've done so before or had training in farm-related accounting. In addition, make sure you know whether you'll need government licenses to offer certain services, and refrain from misrepresenting yourself or working illegally to avoid getting sued for fraud.
Many businesses support their products through a customer service department. In many cases, this means people who answer phone calls from customers. A growing number of businesses also offer customer service electronically through their Web sites and by e-mail.
At a Web site, customer service might include live chat sales and support. To use this, a customer clicks a link requesting to chat with a live person, and a customer service representative answers the request and speaks with the customer through a chat window. For e-mail customer service, the customer fills out a form at the Web site or sends e-mail directly to a particular address.
Since the live chat and e-mail depends only on having a reliable Internet connection and Web browser, businesses have looked increasingly at hiring home-based workers for these services. As a result, customer service contracting firms like Talk2Rep cover e-mail and live chat support in addition to inbound and outbound phone calls. While the pay rate is often minimal or commission-based, the growing demand for online customer service makes it a reliable source of income if you have a knack for it.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a growing area for Internet-based employment. SEO is a means of improving the results from a search engine so that they represent the closest matches and most reliable resources for the user's desired results.
As a contract SEO reviewer, working through a company like Leapforce, you can aid in this optimization. You start each evaluation task by judging a user's intent based on the key word combinations provided and your own knowledge of popular culture in the user's locale. Then, you use a set of given guidelines to evaluate how particular search results match that user's intent.
SEO reviewing can offer a steady income from home, but there are some risks. First, an SEO reviewer has to run reliable antivirus software and have a good, strong defense against malware. That's because viewing certain Web sites during evaluation tasks could introduce malware to the computer. Second, an SEO reviewer must be willing to view potentially offensive material, such as pornography. As a reviewer, you may be asked to check whether a given site contains malware or pornography, so you're putting your computer at risk as part of the job description.
With each passing year, there seems to be increasing pressure for elementary, middle and high school students to make good grades and prepare for a path to higher education. For some kids, this means getting help from a tutor to bridge any gaps in understanding in certain subjects.
Since more families often have reliable high-speed Internet connections at home, too, Internet-based tutoring services are growing. When you apply for these jobs, you usually have to take tests in your selected subject areas and submit to background checks. Though you could start your own online tutoring service, sites like Tutor.com have already done the legwork for you in terms of marketing. These sites match thousands of kids with tutors each week.
While many Internet-based jobs offer flexible hours or multiple shifts, tutoring services might require you to be online during a specific block of time or reward you for doing so. This encourages tutors to be available during the heaviest demand. For example, when Tutor.com has more tutors than tutoring requests, it places tutors on a waitlist and gives preference to tutors who work at least five of hours per week in the 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST time slot Sunday through Thursday [source: Tutor.com].
Earlier, we considered using sites like eBay to sell stuff that you don't need. You can also use Web sites to sell your original creations. Certain Web sites like Etsy.com and ArtFire.com are dedicated to matching the artists who create things by hand with the customers who appreciate and want to purchase their handmade goods.
If you're like most people, the word handmade probably brings to mind some traditional crafts like knitting, crochet, needlework, quilting, painting and sculpting. Handmade items don't stop there, though. You can also market woodworking, glasswork, metalwork and anything else you're capable of building at home. Be sure to focus on projects that you're already good at or that you have a passion for so you don't burn out producing each new item.
Existing Web sites like we mentioned before usually let you set up your own shop for free or for a very small fee for each item you list there. If you have a small home-based operation, this could be a better deal than setting up your own site. For many people, hosting and managing an entire Web site might be a full-time job by itself.
The biggest challenge for selling homemade goods is making back the cost of what you put into it. Not only do you want to be reimbursed for materials, but you also want to be paid proportional to the time you put into it. Keep track of your sales and purchases carefully in the first few months, and make adjustments as necessary to maximize your profit.
Now that you have our 10 ideas, click on over to the next page for even more information on ways to make money on the Internet.
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- Babauta, Leo. "How to create multiple income streams." FreelanceSwitch.com. (March 2, 2009) http://freelanceswitch.com/money/how-to-create-multiple-income-streams/
- Bhattarai, Abha. "Find an undervalued asset. Fix it up. Flip it. (Now it's Web sites, not houses)." The New York Times. July 29, 2008. (March 2, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/technology/29flip.html?_r=1
- Isaacs, Deanna. "How to make money on the Internet." Chicago Reader. June 19, 2008. (March 2, 2009)http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/thebusiness/080619/
- Talk2Rep. "Contact Applications." (Nov. 20, 2011) http://www.talk2rep.com/contact-applications.htm
- Tutor.com. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Nov. 20, 2011) http://www.tutor.com/apply/tutoring-faq