Almost a quarter of Americans make money online, according to Pew Research Center. From selling creations through an Amazon storefront to applying as a freelance writer for a gig on sites like Upwork or Fiverr, the ability to make money with a laptop, smartphone, and an internet connection has never been more realistic.
This e-commerce phenomenon, which is sometimes called a ‘gig economy’ or a ‘platform economy,’ is an attractive choice for many. Whether you’re looking to piecemeal a bunch of jobs to earn a full-time income or you just want to generate a little extra spending money, there are plenty of ways to do it.
Making money online isn’t for everyone. It’s hard work. Before you venture into this line of work, it’s important to know the pros and cons, as well as understand what kind of opportunities are out there.
The benefits of making money online
Generating extra income from online sources has some perks. Here’s a look at the advantages:
You set your own schedule
One of the biggest perks cited by gig workers is the ability to set your own schedule. In fact, 45% of people say flexibility is the reason they choose to work online.
You can work when you want, whether it’s a traditional 9 to 5 schedule or a more relaxed schedule with a goal of putting in a certain number of hours each week.
Controlling your schedule also means you never have to ask for time off. If you want to time off, you take it.
Increase family time
When you make money online, you’re able to spend more time with family. The flexible schedule and lack of commute give people more spare time to do the things they want to do.
You can attend Mother’s Day brunch at your kid’s school, take your son to hockey practice, and go help your parents on a random Tuesday afternoon if you want.
The average commute to work is 27 minutes one way, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. By working from home, you eliminate your commute. Not only will you skip an hour-long drive five days a week, but you’ll also help decrease pollution and save money. Americans spend an average of $2500 just getting to and from work each year, according to CNN, which is money you can keep in your pocket.
Age isn’t a factor
You might assume that working online is only for young, tech-savvy kids, but you’d be wrong. Research shows people who are selling items online or working through digital platforms are between the ages of 18-49, according to Pew Research Center. The age range shows that working in a gig economy isn’t just for kids looking to earn a few extra bucks.
The disadvantages of working online
Working online isn’t for everyone. Here are some disadvantages to consider:
Dependence on potentially unsteady income
Whether you’re a millennial selling clothes online or a GenXer generating money as a freelance designer, 56% of people consider their online income as essential.
However, an income stream generated from online sources isn’t always reliable. You might not sell a certain number of items each month or be able to secure enough small jobs on digital platforms to make a consistent wage.
Simply put, working online can be stressful. Not knowing how much you’ll make or when you’ll receive payment is likely the biggest downfall of working online.
Being motivated to work
It’s not always easy to jump into work mode when you’re not in a traditional office. You can easily get distracted by household chores or the lure of your favorite show on Netflix. Yes, you can set your own schedule, so if you have time to fold a load of laundry, that’s fine. However, distractions keep you from making money.
Lack of social time
If working online is your full-time job, it can get a little lonely. Working from your home office or a local coffee shop is nice, but you eliminate watercooler talk. While that might seem like something you can do without, keep in mind that we’re all social creatures. Over time, isolation can have a profound effect on a person. If you’re working online, you’ll have to find new ways to socialize that don’t involve coworkers.
Check out our guide on How to Make Money as a Small Business
16 Ways to make money online
If you’re ready to explore your options, let’s look at available opportunities. Since there are so many ways to generate income online, we’ve broken opportunities up into these categories:
- How to make money online by selling items or creations
- How to make money online with a website or blog
- How to make money online by selling your services
- How to make money online with your house or car
How to make money online by selling items or creations
1. Sell products or homemade items through an online marketplace
Online marketplaces offer ready-made storefronts for anyone looking to sell things online. You’ve probably heard of many marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Esty.
You simply create an account, list your products online, and sell them through the site. These sites already have a lot of traffic since they’ve become go-to places to shop, which helps get your product in front of the right people.
Here’s how it works:
- Pick a marketplace based on what you plan to sell.
- Amazon: Best for selling name brand products with a barcode.
- eBay: Best for selling used, new, or unbranded goods.
- Etsy: Best for selling handcrafted items.
- Poshmark: Best for selling gently used, name brand clothes and accessories.
- Set up an account and connect your bank account or a PayPal account to collect money.
- Read the rules and regulations before posting them.
- Take pictures of your inventory, create keyword-specific descriptions and product titles, and set a price.
- Consider creating a separate marketing plan. Customers will find your product through search engines, but these sites have a lot of competition so having your own way to push traffic to your product pages, like through social media, is ideal.
- When a product is purchased, you’ll be notified and you must ship it out.
- You get paid via an online portal, like PayPal, but the marketplace will take a cut of your sales.
2. Sell products through a customizable storefront
Online marketplaces are helpful, but there’s limited customization and the sites take a percentage of your profits. If you want to be in complete control, you should set up a fully customizable storefront through sites like Shopify or Big Cartel.
These sites have store templates that make it easy to design an online store and customize it to your liking. You’ll be responsible for handling more of your own marketing, but the sites have tools to help send emails, create blog posts, and push products on social media.
Here’s how it works:
- Create an account with an e-commerce site.
- Shopify: Best for easy-to-create stores and businesses small and large.
- Big Commerce: Best for people who want integration with third parties tools like invoicing and email.
- Big Cartel: Best for beginners. You can list five products for free.
- Set your store name and pick a domain name.
- Create an online store with easy-to-use templates.
- Add your products to the store using great images and detailed descriptions.
- Sign up for payment options.
- Start marketing your products.
- Get notified when something sells and ship it out.
- Get paid.
- Expect to pay a monthly fee to maintain the store, and possibly, set up fees.
How to make money online with a website or blog
3. Create a niche blog
One of the most popular ways to create money online is by blogging, i.e., to create a website. You should pick a topic that provides a lot of writing potential, but also something that’s also unique.
Blogging isn’t an instant way to make money online. In fact, you may have to wait months to generate a side income all while spending time creating quality content. It’s a time-consuming job. Plus, you’ll need to market your blog as well. To do so, you can use social media, paid ads, create a video for your youtube channel, or produce a podcast to get the word out.
Once your blog is established and gains popularity, you can start making money by selling:
- Ads to interested companies
- Your own courses or products
- Affiliate marketing
Check out our guide on How to Start a Blog
4. Create and sell digital courses
Consider creating digital courses that focus on your specialty. Whether you’re a marketer or a baker, you can design courses that people can buy to learn a new skill. Once you create the course, it’s a great way to earn passive income. While you have to update content and add fresh pieces regularly, a lot of the work is completed upfront.
Here’s what you should do:
- Pick a course topic, something you’re experienced at.
- Research what’s already available in the field.
- See if there’s a demand for your courses. Try pre-selling courses or talk with industry professionals about it.
- Launch a pilot course to see how it does.
- Start creating course content.
- Sell your content.
- Get paid.
You can sell courses in a variety of different ways. If you’re a blogger, you can sell them on your site. If you have an Amazon store, you can use your course to create an eBook and sell it as a product. If you don’t have an outlet to sell your course, you can try an online course platform. You can try using any of these marketplaces that are specifically for digital learning:
5. Create a membership site
For people with an existing audience online, consider creating a membership site. These sites cater to specific groups of people and offer things like advice from experts, networking opportunities, free courses, and access to a job board, just to name a few.
To gain access to such an exclusive club, people pay to become members.
It’s a great idea for people who have a successful blog with a great following or someone who’s known in their field with a great list of contacts.
How to make money online by selling your services
6. Become a virtual assistant
If you’re great at organization and logistics, becoming a virtual assistant could be a great fit. Virtual assistants, as the name suggests, assist business clients with everyday tasks like scheduling, invoicing, customer support, email marketing, lead generation, and project management, just to name a few.
A lot of businesses are hiring virtual assistants rather than hiring a full-time employee to save money and allocate jobs when there’s a need. To see if it’s the right fit for you, there are assessments that can help you determine the type of work you should be seeking.
To find a job as a virtual assistant, you can create your own website and market your skills or you can look for jobs through gig sites like:
7. Sell your photos and videos
Are you a great photographer or videographer? If so, you can generate money by selling your work. One of the biggest needs in the photography industry right now is a supply of stock photos and footage.
You can take pictures or videos, upload them to stock photo sites, and get paid when someone buys a license to use your photo. The biggest stock photo sites are:
As with other marketplaces like this, you’ll make a portion of the sale while the marketplace keeps the rest.
8. Freelancing via digital platforms
Whether you’re looking to find a number of freelance gigs to pay your bills or just a few side projects for extra spending cash, you can use freelance platforms to find the gigs you’re looking for.
Think of these freelance platforms as a giant job board. Clients go to the site, post jobs they need done, and accept bids from freelancers who are interested. They select a freelancer to work with and complete the project through the platform. Many of these platforms have time-tracking tools, document sharing features, and payment solutions all in one place.
To succeed on these platforms, you need to build a reputation and a portfolio of work. As you receive and complete jobs, clients can review your work and help you build credibility that could sway the next client your way.
You may need to be picky when applying for jobs. Some clients are looking to get freelance work done on the cheap, so be sure to look at the estimated budget before applying to a job. Clients are reviewed by freelancers too, so check their profile as well.
If you’re wondering what kind of work is available on these platforms, it varies. Freelance writing and graphic design are quite popular, but here’s a closer look at possible jobs:
- Web, mobile and software development
- IT and networking
- Data entry and analytics
- Engineering and architecture
- Design and creative work, like graphic design
- Admin support or virtual assistance
- Customer service
- Sales and marketing
- Accounting and consulting
If you’re ready to start working, here’s a list of popular platforms to choose from:
- People Per Hour
9. Teach online classes
Whether you’re a college professor with years of experience or are someone interested in teaching kids abroad how to speak English, there are a growing number of opportunities online.
What you want to teach and the amount of experience you have in the industry will dictate what platform is best. Here’s a quick snapshot of popular choices:
- English teachers
- QKids: Teaches English to kids in China.
- SayABC: Teaches English to kids between ages 5-12.
- K-12 positions
- K12: Positions for teachers in every grade between Kindergarten through 12th grade.
- Fluent City: Teaches a foreign language to adults in business.
- Edmentum: Provides educational opportunities for districts all over the country.
- College positions
- Colorado State University
- Grand Canyon University
- Rasmussen College
- Walden University
- West Coast University
10. Take online surveys
One of the easiest ways to make money online – with no experience required in any industry – is to complete online surveys. Thousands of companies want to collect customer opinions, but it’s not always easy to get people to participate. That’s where you come in. You can join survey sites that pay you to take a survey. For most surveys, you’ll earn a few bucks or you might get gift cards as a type of compensation.
As mentioned, you won’t earn a lot of money per survey, so this option is more for people looking for a part-time gig or just to earn a little extra cash as opposed to someone looking to support their family.
There are a ton of survey sites out there, but make sure you chose one that’s legit and won’t waste your time. Try these survey sites to generate extra money:
- Survey Junkie
- Pinecone Research
11. Narrate audiobooks
If you have a great voice and love to read, you can make some money narrating audiobooks for various clients. Audiobooks are a hot commodity right now since they’re available through Kindle and other e-readers. You need to invest in some equipment, like a high-quality microphone, headphones, and some recording software, but the entry cost is fairly low.
There are specific marketplaces for this job as well. Look for narration jobs through some of the other gig sites that we’ve mentioned before like Upwork or Fiverr, but the dedicated sites that deal specifically with audiobook narration are:
12. Offer pet sitting or pet walking to animal lovers
Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households have a pet, which explains why people are able to turn pet sitting or pet walking into a decent side hustle. Pet caregivers can advertise services on heir own website, promote them on social, or post flyers on local bulletin boards, but the more modern way to secure a gig in this field is to use these sites to advertise or find work:
13. Join a remote company
A growing number of companies are offering remote work opportunities. If you’re worried about not achieving a steady income with online work, one of the best options is to find a company that offers remote positions. Some companies offering such positions may be an online business or it may be a small business with both brick and mortar locations and remote positions or teams.
There are remote positions in many fields and finding one is as simple as running a Google search for remote jobs.
You can also search for sites that focus on flexible jobs like:
- We Work Remotely
How to make money online with your house or car
14. Rent your car when it’s not in use
If you have a car that’s not used a lot, consider renting it out. There are plenty of people who are willing to rent cars in your neighborhood, and it’s not just tourists. People rent cars for a lot of reasons, from taking trips to needing an extra vehicle while theirs is repaired.
There are certain risks, of course. Your car could be damaged or involved in a crash, so you’d likely want to speak with your insurance provider first.
If you’re interested, check out these sites that make renting out a car a simple, money-making process:
15. Join a rideshare service
You’ve likely already heard of ride-sharing. Research shows 36% of Americans have used a rideshare app to get around, according to Statista. With this choice, you download an app, sign up as a driver, and act as a taxi driver taking people where they need to go.
Rideshare drivers are able to choose their own hours, so it’s an ideal job for people who need flexibility. You can work as little or as much as you want, and everything is done through the rideshare app, from getting fares to collecting tips.
16. Rent out your home
Tourists are staying away from generic hotel accommodations and instead of looking for the comforts and amenities of a home. More and more people are willing to rent their homes out to tourists or to long-term renters who need a place to stay for several months to a year.
There are risks to renting out your home, mainly property damage, but there are safeguards you can put in place for protection. As with renting out your car, you probably want to speak with an insurance agent to make sure the proper coverage is in place.
As you might expect, there are websites that make the rental process simple. If you want to rent out your home, research these sites:
The workforce is changing. The number of people who prefer to work online over punching a clock in an office continues to grow. For some, working online can present a new career opportunity. For others, online work is more of a side hustle that generates money for extras like vacations, shopping, or home renovations.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make money online and many options to choose from. This guide is meant to serve as a starting point for those interested in online work. Start by exploring the pros and cons, consider how you want to make money online, and what you’re qualified or interested in. The list of opportunities should point you in the right direction.