How to Make Money Online
Have you dreamed about replacing the income from your 9-to-5 job?
Or perhaps you'd like to make a little extra from home…
…whatever the reason or the amount, many, many people want to make money online. The Internet offers lots of possibilities for making a good income, some more promising than others. We'll take a balanced look at the most common opportunities here.
There's No Get Rich Quick Here…
Before we dive into different ways of making money online, I want to make sure you understand that this is no “get rich quick” scheme. There are plenty of get-rich-quick schemes online – but I'm not going to talk about any of them here.
I do feel like you can start to see a modest return on your investment pretty quickly when it comes to building an online business. But you're not going to turn into a millionaire overnight, and you're not going to generate thousands of dollars tomorrow.
You can expect to see a solid start with modest income that you can scale over time.
That may not sound as sexy as promises of instant riches online, but this is real.
Instant riches are a pipe dream, vapor, not real.
What's the point in pursuing something that's not real?
Instead, plan to work steadily for a few months – you will be rewarded with an income that grows each month, possibly exponentially. But, you have to set the foundation, first.
With that, let's jump into different ways to make money online.
Options for Making Money Online
There are several different types of online income. When people think of money online, they often think in these ways:
- Your Products
- Other People's Products
Active ways to make money include things like creating your own products, heavy affiliate promotion, seeking sponsorships, etc.
Passive means that you're not “actively” making the money – in other words “money when you sleep.” Display ads are commonly thought of as passive. Truthfully, many “active” methods become passive when they've been established – we'll discuss this further in this article.
Your Products are products you've created to market to your audience.
Other People's Products are obviously products somebody else has created. They could be physical products (like cameras, strollers, etc.) or information products (like eBooks and online classes).
Ultimately, active and passive and other people's products vs. your own not the biggest issue because you'll likely use a combination of these methods to grow your income online. Let's talk about each and then I'll give you a “case study” scenario for using them on a website.
Display ads are probably the “holy grail” on online income…
…what could be easier than throwing up a little website with Adsense ads on it and watching the cash roll in month after month?
Unfortunately, that's not really reality. Firstly, you have to have traffic because you only get paid for display ads when people click!
Let's take a step back and look at what a display ad is:
Anytime you're on a website and see banner ads for a product (or another website), that's likely a display ad. When a visitor to your website clicks on that ad, you as the publisher are paid something – often anywhere from .01 to a couple of dollars. High-dollar clicks tend to be high-ticket niches such as investing.
Sometimes these ads are served through networks like:
There are also inline ads, which are a type of display ad. With these ads, key phrases in your content are turned into links that lead to an ad (sometimes a popup comes up when your visitor hovers over the link with their mouse). Some of these networks are:
Other times display ads are a private or brokered arrangement.
Though getting thousands of dollars every month in passive advertising income sounds appealing, it's not realistic until you have a very large site getting massive amounts of traffic. Since most clicks are worth only pennies (or less), it takes many, many clicks to build up to a good income.
People also leave your site when they click through display ads, so you lose your visitor and a potential customer for your own products (or affiliate products).
Once you've build out a large authority site, display ads become a possibility. At that point, do your homework and find out which ad networks are most flexible and helpful (a network that assigns you your own representative who can help you customize ads for your site and share best practices is a good choice). You want a network focused on publisher success.
Sponsorships are most common for sites that have some kind of audio-visual channel, for example, a Youtube channel or a podcast show. Sometimes sponsorships can also be private display ad arrangements, but these are usually arranged on a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression (how many people “see” the ad) basis.
A sponsorship can be very lucrative to the publisher because it's generally a regular, contracted amount. For example, you make make $100 per 30-second sponsorship slot at the beginning and and end of your podcast (click here for my post on why you should podcast, which includes a full sponsorship example). You might sell two per episode, plus you sell a 60-second spot mid-episode for $200 – that gives you $400 per episode. If you're doing an episode per week, that's $1600 a month just from your podcast. Sponsorships for a Youtube channel are similar.
As you can see, this can add up to quite a lot, especially if you're creating frequent episodes.
Sponsorships are much more “active” income, especially at first when you're seeking out sponsors for your show. Once you've lined up regular sponsors, you still have to produce the episodes for their ad spots to air on 😉
Like with display ads, you need to have a good amount of traffic before you'll really make any money. Sponsors pay for ads when they feel that they earn a good return on their investment. You need to be consistent and build up an audience for your show or your channel, then work to attract sponsors.
Affiliate programs are probably the second most popular online income strategy (after display ads) and the pitch is similar:
“Put up a little site with a few pages and some reviews of affiliate products, and watch the dollars roll in!”
…that's not really how it works 😉
First, just as with display ads, you have to have a site that attracts visitors – it must be a quality website (or email list). You have to offer something of value to your visitors, and a “thin” site with only a few pages and an obvious pitch for affiliate products isn't really a lot of value.
It's better to establish a strong, authoritative site people know and trust. Then they'll value (and trust) your affiliate recommendations.
There are two primary kinds of affiliate promotions, each with its own pros and cons:
- High perceived value
- Somebody else handles shipping
- Commodity products
- Cash in on seasonal purchases
- Low affiliate commission %
- Many other affiliates
- High affiliate commission %
- Someone else handles delivery
- Lots of affiliate support
- Regular product launches (some niches)
- Lower perceived value
- Many other affiliates
You can often do well with affiliate products if you build a good list and promote seasonal physical products or follow launch schedules on digital products.
A strong mailing list is key to the success of most affiliates. You build list and send them great content so they know you and trust you. When it's time to mail a promotion, they're more likely to listen to your recommendation.
Even if you produce your own products, affiliate promotions can form a large part of your income. Most niches have some kind of product or special promotion/product launch that you can promote. As long as it doesn't directly compete with your products, you can do very well.
An example of this is on my largest site in the pregnancy & baby niche. I'm able to include one of my products in a large bundle focused on natural health for families. This annual promotion is always an incredible value for my readers, and I do very well promoting it.
I believe that, ultimately, you should have your own products – but I also feel that there will be many affiliate opportunities that benefit you. Just make sure that your own website (and email list) provide high-quality content.
Also take affiliate launches into account when you're planning your own promotions, so you can stagger promotions appropriately and not overwhelm your audience.
Creating Your Own Products
Your own products can become your “bread and butter” income. Though they take work to create and promote initially, over time your products can become a passive income stream that generates consistent income while you sleep – or while your family plays on the beach!
There are many different kinds of products to create, but most digital marketers choose one of these:
- Courses / Classes
Product creation gives you the opportunity to share your own expertise with your audience, which can create not only income, but trust and a strong bond with your customers and students.
Many are intimidated by product creation because they feel they don't have a lot to teach – but remember, you only need to know more than your prospective customers. You can teach at just above a beginner level, then go on to learn and discover more yourself…
…then teach what you've learned. In this way you'll be able to offer more and more in-depth training to your customers – and stay a level ahead of them. At the same time, you'll have more beginners coming into your initial products. If you eventually learn enough to feel you should revise your beginner's material, you can do that and re-launch.
Information products (ebooks, classes, etc.) let you scale your product sales almost infinitely – limited only by your audience size. In addition, you can create different levels of the products (beginner, advanced, master levels, for example) and create funnels that keep each customer engaged with your product funnel for longer.
Physical products are a possibility as well, but may be limited by production concerns. Even if you produce physical products, it may be good to research possible digital products that compliment your product line (for example, if you sell golfing equipment, you might sell courses on improving your swing; if you sell custom clothing, you might also sell your patterns and tutorials for DIY'ers).
Membership programs can be very lucrative because they build up residual income that recurs month after month – for as long as your member remains enrolled. They allow you to give a lot of value to your customer and build loyalty. Memberships are also a good way to build brand ambassadors – loyal, engaged community members who add value to the membership itself and may also help bring in new members.
A membership program can take a lot of work to build up to a critical mass and it can take time to cultivate brand ambassadors, but it's a good long-term strategy for digital marketers.
As with an affiliate product model, you need to have a lot of trust and goodwill with your audience if you want to sell your products. Selling Kindle books on Amazon can help you gain some initial traction (or great traction if you're writing fiction), but for most information products, you want to have a good website and a loyal list of email subscribers.
As you can see, a common theme with all of these monetization methods is having a quality website and/or email list.
A Case Study Example
I'm working on building out a small, niche site called Getting-Pregnant.com. It's my little lab experiment domain 😉
I've thought some about monetizing Getting-Pregnant.com and it's a good example site for many of these strategies. Here's what using these would look like:
My first steps will be to build out more content on Getting-Pregnant.com so that it's a solid resource for visitors. I'll also create a few high-quality lead magnets, or opt-in incentives, to get visitors onto the site's mailing list. That gives me the chance to send high-value information to the list.
I happen to already have a beginner-level product recorded for this site (an audio product), so I can offer that to subscribers once they sign up. I'm thinking through what I want to offer next – likely a more comprehensive online course. I could also offer a membership model very easily on this site. I feel like for this particular membership, a forum (or Facebook group) would be critical, so I'm not certain I want to go that route yet. Once I can bring in a virtual assistant to help moderate the forum. I may consider it. Since this niche is related to my well-established site, it's possible I could hire someone to moderate all those areas for me – but this is just thinking down the line.
Right now I have the small, fertility-diet related product, so I'll work on a few more specific products, and create a larger online course focused on natural fertility.
Fertility and getting pregnant also lend themselves well to affiliate products. Many women interested in conceiving use ovulation test kits, pregnancy tests, supplements, herbs, etc. to help boost fertility and conceive faster. I'll likely review many of these products and recommend high-quality, trusted products on the site and via email. This gives me a nice secondary source of income.
I can also recommend trusted products within my own classes and in the membership if I create that.
An affiliate promotion like the healthy lifestyle bundle I described above would also make a good promotion in this niche, so I can keep my eye out for those opportunities.
A podcast or Youtube channel is a possibility with this niche. I enjoy podcasting, but I don't consider myself an “expert” on fertility yet, so I'd likely look for experts to interview on the podcast. This is also a great way to gain traction for your podcast (or channel) quickly. Then I could look for sponsorship opportunities.
While growing these other aspects of the business, I'll continue to put high-quality content on the website, growing its authority and web presence. At some point I could experiment with display ads for an additional revenue stream.
Monetization Through Multiple Channels
As you can see, monetizing through multiple channels can grow your revenue. It also leaves you with a more secure income because you have multiple streams of revenue flowing into your business. If something fails. You still have a viable business model.
All of this is built on quality content and trusting relationships with your visitors and subscribers, because if you don't have that, your business is not going to stand the test of time!
Focus on good content and trusting relationships, then build on monetization models until you reach the income level you've been dreaming of… and even soar beyond it 😉