While many entrepreneurs work hard to create a successful business, every business experiences a rough patch.
Whether the economy is in a slump, costs climb too fast, or a major health crisis forces a company to make changes, battling a drop in revenue is a challenge.
To help small businesses find new ways to make money during tough times, we’ve created this guide to provide some out-of-the-box ideas.
How to make money online selling products
There are ways small businesses can bring in extra money with a laptop, a smartphone, and an internet connection.
Here’s a list of ways to make money online:
- Sell your products
Sixty-nine percent of consumers have shopped online, with about 25% of consumers doing so with regularity, according to OptinMonster. Given the shift in shopping habits, it makes sense to run an online business.
There are many ways to go about selling online. For a fast and easy storefront, you should use a marketplace like eBay or Amazon. If your product is homemade, Etsy is your best bet. These platforms make it easy to set up a store and streamline the checkout process by taking payments via a debit and credit card.
While each platform varies, here’s the general process:
- Set up an account and payment solutions, like Paypal.
- Read the platform’s instructions, rules, and regulations.
- Post your products online using stunning images and detailed, keyword-specific product descriptions.
- Set your prices competitively, remembering that you have to pay to ship products.
- Consider working on marketing efforts to drive people to your storefront.
- You’ll be notified of a sale and you’ll be responsible for shipping the product to the customer.
- Collect cash for your product.
If you want a storefront that’s more customizable, opt for a platform like Shopify. The setup process is similar to eBay or Amazon, but you have more ways to make the store your own.
If you’re able to sell more products online, you might be able to downsize your commercial space. While this could be a drastic move, it could save a lot of money in the long run.
- Consider supplementing your product line
In addition to selling your products online, you might consider adding complementary products to your site that you purchase wholesale and repackage. You can buy goods from foreign companies online, repackage them, and sell them on your website.
This could also be an option for a company that doesn’t have their own products to sell online.
Of course, you need to be selective. You need to consider things like which products fit in your store, cost, repackaging processes, and how much money you could make per product.
Essentially, the process to sell these goods online is the same as listed above. You still set up an account through a marketplace like Amazon or eBay, list and sell products, and mail them to customers.
If you’re interested in supplementing your product line, you can search these sites for products:
- Consider dropshipping
If you’re interested in selling products online, but don’t want to buy and store a ton of inventory, you can use a dropship model. With this model, you set up a store and promote products, but a dropship company fulfills the order.
Here’s how it works:
- You set up an e-commerce store and promote selected products.
- When a customer makes a purchase the order is sent to the dropship company.
- The order is filled and shipped by the dropship company.
- Payment is split between you and the dropship company.
This option has a lot of perks. Retailers don’t have to buy inventory, find a place to store it, or deal with shipping the product to each customer. However, there are downsides. Since you’re doing less, you don’t make as much money. Plus, quality control and shipping speeds are all in the hands of someone else, which could hurt customer satisfaction.
- Sell eBooks
eBooks are in high demand, so why not consider writing your own? You can write on just about any topic, whether for an e-book or for articles on various websites. Whether you’re a car salesman, baker, or marketer, you have a skill that you can teach others.
There are a lot of eBooks on the market, so to succeed you need to write high-quality content that fits a niche. A car salesman who writes a book on specific sales techniques to sell high-end cars is a good example. It’s aimed at a niche, which makes it a highly-targeted piece of content.
You can sell your eBook in a variety of different ways. Most people sell their eBooks on Amazon. However, to earn cash, you’ll have to promote the book on your blog, social channels like LinkedIn and Facebook, and maybe even through paid social or digital ads.
- Create and sell digital courses
If your eBook is successful, consider creating an entire digital course. A digital course could take many forms. You could create a series of videos on your youtube channel with supporting worksheets, produce several narrated slideshows, or generate several eBook-like classes that are all on (digital) paper.
Again, you can sell this asset in your online store, on your own website, or you can sell it through digital education platforms that market digital courses. If you go this route, many of them have tools to help you create content so you don’t have to do it from scratch.
Online course marketplaces include Udemy, Skillshare, Teachable, Podia, WizIQ.
Make money by expanding your marketing strategy
Whether your company has a marketing team or just a DIY marketer that doubles as the graphic designer, social media manager, and strategist, there are ways to make a few bucks with innovative marketing strategies.
If your company already has a blog up and running, you’re ahead of the curve. If not, consider starting one. Blogging gives your company the opportunity to make money in a few different ways, but it’s hard work. A blog isn’t going to provide an instant revenue stream, but in time, it has the potential to be a good source of side income.
To make money as a blogger, you can:
- Sell ad space
When you have a good following and a decent Google rank, advertisers will pay to place ads on your blog. You can try to connect with advertisers yourself, or you can use third-party companies that can connect you with advertising opportunities, like BuySellAds and BlogAds.
Pay-per-click advertising is also an option. Your company gets paid when someone clicks on the ad, so you’ll need a good following to make money with this option. Companies like Infolinks, Media.net, and Chitika offer PPC ad opportunities.
If you’re okay with a pop-up ad being added to your blog, PopAds can facilitate that request.
You can also get paid for adding certain links to your content that promote a product. Again, there are third party sites that can help with this, like Linkworth.
- Participate in affiliate marketing
As a blogger, you can also make money through affiliate marketing opportunities. You’ll write about a product that fits your blog’s niche, include a link to the specific product, and you earn a commission on the sales that you inspired.
Bloggers get creative when it comes to affiliate marketing. Rather than just crafting a blog and hoping people stumble upon it, they’ll send the blog post out as a newsletter via email and share links to the post on social. The idea is to drive traffic to the post so people will click the link, and hopefully, make a purchase.
Again, to be profitable, you need a fairly large audience. If you do, you start by joining an affiliate network online. One of the most popular choices is to become an Amazon Associate. Additional affiliate marketing marketplaces are ClickBank, ShareASale, or e-junkie.
- Add a membership-only site
Once a blog is established, you could consider adding a membership-only site to it. People can pay a certain amount of money each month to have an exclusive membership to your site in exchange for great content. The membership site might offer expert advice, provide a job board, and offer membership to a shared social group where people can network and connect with others in their industry.
A membership site can be a good source of passive income. Once you get people to join, it’s a steady stream of money coming in. Of course, you have to maintain the site and continue to provide value to your members, but this can turn into extra income.
- Scour sites for new clients
If your marketing team has free time on their hands, you can task them with looking for new clients on sites like Upwork or even on Craigslist. They might be able to craft blog posts, manage social media accounts, or create email marketing campaigns for a handful of clients as a part-time gig during their spare time.
Ideally, marketers will look for clients that could turn into loyal customers. By freelancing with them on a few specific projects, they could build a relationship that grows into a more lucrative one later on.
- Monetize your email list
Most bloggers distribute their content via emailed newsletters, so many have a healthy contact list. There are ways to leverage your list of contacts to make some extra cash.
Here are some ideas:
- Sell ads
Similarly to selling ad space on your blog, you can sell ad space on your newsletter. You need a list of at least 2,500 for most advertisers to work with you. If you meet the threshold though, you can team up with companies like LiveIntent, NewsletterDirectory.com, and BuySellAds, to include ads in your next newsletter.
- Sell products through you contacts
You don’t need a blog to make money from your email list. You can leverage that list to sell your products. Part of having a successful online store is marketing your product, and emailing customers is a simple, affordable way to do it.
Consider sending customers a coupon to promote a sale, suggest product recommendations based on their buying history, and remind customers of an abandoned cart.
Email marketing can serve as a great support vehicle for online storefronts.
- Take and sell photos
Have your marketing team take photos of employees working, with their permission of course, and sell them as stock photos. You can upload photos to a stock photo site and earn money when someone licenses the photos. There’s always a need for business-related and marketing-related photos.
Many businesses subscribe to a stock photo site so they can use images on marketing materials, like blogs, brochures, and social media.
You can sell your photos, and even video footage, on sites like Shutterstock, 123RF, AdobeStock, and 500px.
Make money by renting stuff out
Consider renting out things you already have as a side hustle. Wondering what you can rent? Here are some ideas:
- Office space
If your company has extra office space that you’re not using, consider renting it out. If you own the building, you can rent out space to a company of your choosing and set the prices. If you lease a space, you’ll need to speak with your landlord about subletting space.
- Parking space
If you own your building and it’s located downtown or near an attraction, you can rent out parking spaces for additional income. Again, there are marketplaces that can make this process simple. Look into Spot Hero, ParqEx, and JustPark for more details.
- Company cars
If loss of work has your company cars sitting idle in the parking lot, consider renting them out. There are specific sites that can help you find renters and facilitate the entire process.
There are risks to renting, of course, like the driver damaging it. To provide added protection, speak with your insurance provider before moving forward.
While renting out cars might seem a little extreme, it is a good way to generate income if you’re not using them due to a decline in business.
Turo and Hyrecar can help you rent out your company cars.
- Email list
If you’re in a bind and need money fast, you can also rent, or even sell, your email list. Given consumers’ privacy concerns and the amount of soliciting consumers already receive in their inbox, this can hurt your reputation. However, if you need some money quickly, it is an option.
Savvy ways for businesses to save money
Making money is only part of the equation. To keep more money in your pocket, you should also look for ways to trim your expenses. Depending on how much your company needs to save, you can make small cuts to programs or larger cuts that will affect people’s employment.
Here’s a list of ways to save money that start with small efforts and grow to include larger efforts:
- Save money on utilities
Utility costs can add up. Make efforts to cut these regular expenses by installing timers on the lights in places like the bathroom or office supply closet. Install a thermostat that you can adjust on your phone and enable scheduling. By doing so, the thermostat will instantly dial down at 5:30 pm when employees have left for the day and come back on at 7:00 am the next day. These small changes can save on energy costs all year.
- End unused subscriptions
Many businesses use a suite of different online tools to help with various tasks. For example, you might pay monthly for a subscription to a stock photo site, a social media management tool, and online invoicing software.
There might even be some that you’ve forgotten about and don’t need at all. Research shows the average person has seven forgotten subscriptions that are costing $1,100 a year, according to Business Insider.
Take a look at your regular subscriptions, see which ones are forgotten and which ones you can live without and eliminate them.
- Shop services around
Every business needs certain services to run, like the internet, phone, fax, and cable, just to name a few. It’s a good idea to shop around for new prices on a regular basis, but especially if you’re strapped for cash.
You might be able to find a different provider with cheaper rates or at the very least, you can downgrade the services you have with your current provider.
- Task employees with finding ways to save
As a business owner, you might not be aware of all the places you can save money. If the company is struggling, tell employees about it. Being honest is always best. Then, ask them to come up with ways to curb spending. Consider incentivizing this task by giving out small gift cards.
- Eliminate your travel budget
Many companies set aside money for travel. Whether you attend trade shows, go to conferences, or make personal visits to your regional or national customers, you can trim or cut this budget to save money. Even cutting this budget for a year could save a good chunk of money.
- Negotiate prices with vendors
If you rely on any kind of vendor, talk with them about your pricing. You might be surprised how often vendors are willing to adjust their prices to keep companies on board. Of course, if they say no, you can always look for another vendor.
- Outsource jobs
There are certain jobs that can be done by contractors or freelancers, which is cheaper than paying full-time employees. For starters, you don’t have to worry about a contractor’s health benefits or take taxes out of their check, that’s up to them. Plus, you can hire freelancers as needed or work out a small monthly retainer to manage certain services for your company.
Consider outsourcing marketing tasks like content creation, graphic design, social media management, and email marketing. You could also opt for finding a virtual assistant over an office manager. A virtual assistant can handle scheduling, invoicing, billing, transcription, and project management.
You can find freelancers through platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Craigslist. You simply post an ad and receive responses from people interested in freelance work. You can accept a bid, negotiate a price, and get to work.
- Stay on top of invoicing
If you have clients who don’t pay on time or always pay late, it’s time to enforce a late fee. If you don’t have a policy in place, let clients know about it first and then enforce it. While this measure doesn’t exactly save money, it will help improve cash flow, which can be a major problem during slow months.
- Don’t fill any open positions
It might go without saying, but if you’re in a tough spot financially, you shouldn’t hire any employees. Instead, try to fill the gap by delegating those responsibilities to others.
- Barter for services
It might sound old-school, but companies can still barter for services. Let’s say you run a marketing company and are in need of office supplies. Connect with a small office supply company in your area and see if you can trade supplies for free marketing materials.
Of course, bartering usually works best with small businesses. Large corporations aren’t likely to entertain the idea, but small mom-and-pop shops could be open to a trade.
- Cut back employee hours
Making payroll is likely one of the biggest challenges for your own business when sales are down. If you have to recoup money quickly, consider cutting hourly employees back. Hopefully, by cutting everyone’s hours down by one or two, you can avoid laying people off.
- Get rid of office space
One of the biggest expenses for many businesses is their commercial lease. If you’re paying rent that’s continued to climb year-after-year, consider a new plan. You can try co-shared office space, which means your employees will share space with another company. Or, you can create a remote team where everyone works from home and uses telecommuting tools to work.
A successful business is one that makes money, but every business faces financial challenges from time to time. When revenue streams dry up, small business owners have to use creative solutions to find alternative sources of revenue and cut costs at the same time. Hopefully, by making a series of small changes, it’s enough to make it through the financial storm until business goes back to normal.
Using the guide above, small business owners have a ready-made list of ways to boost profits. Some of the options take time to generate revenue, while others are more of an instant boost. Finding new income streams is just part of the puzzle though. At the same time, companies must cut costs. The combination of both should help small businesses stay afloat.