Sam D. Miller

Marketer and YouTuber based in Atlanta

Six real ways to make money online

How many dozens of articles have you read about ways to make money online? A lot, I’m guessing. And they all let you down, because they’re all filled with dumb ideas like “Take surveys” and “Get cash back” and “Download these apps” and ON AND ON. It’s all dreadfully bad advice. Because the truth is, if you want to really make some money online, you’ve got to do the hard work that comes with it.

All that said, here are six real no-BS ways to make money online. They’re not for everyone, but there’s got to be at least one idea in this list that you can see yourself doing. And if you put in the time and effort, and continue to improve your craft, you can make some serious income.

1. Start a YouTube channel

YouTube is the new golden child of making money online. So many people, from Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (PewDiePie) to Casey Neistat to Marques Brownless (MKBHD) to Lewis Hilsenteger (Unbox Therapy) and hundreds of others have made a living off of posting regular content to YouTube. They each have a few million subscribers (or more than 50 million in Pewdiepie’s case), which translates to massive views on everything they upload. What each of these YouTubers do well is that they post consistently, their content is top quality, and they have very unique personalities and lifestyles that appeal to lots and lots of people. At their core, they’re all extremely entertaining, which brings fans coming back to watch every single video. And these YouTubers can bring in insane amounts of income from YouTube itself (via video monetization), or through paid sponsors. YouTube can be a tough nut to crack, but if you’re determined and you are a good storyteller, you could certainly be the next YouTuber to get a gold play button sent to your door.

2. Build a blog

This one might be the easiest of them all to start, but requires an insane amount of effort to turn into a revenue-generating opportunity. Generally, blogs become financially beneficial once you have a large following of readers. Niche blogs do well by narrowing in on one topic or area and create a consistent following, and news-style or generic blogs can do well by attracting consistently high volumes of random traffic. I used to run a blog where I published all of my college papers and writing assignments, and also the news articles I created for my college newspaper, and that site received about 80,000 views per month during its peak. I eventually stopped posting new content on it, and the existing content became dated and irrelevant, so that idea never took off into something larger, but there’s certainly opportunity there. But keep in mind, even with an audience of some 80,000 per month, the income from basic ad revenue only amounts to $100-200 per month. To really create sustainable income from a blog, you need to bring in massive traffic, or at least offer some products for sale, or smartly integrate affiliate links into your blog without them becoming obtrusive, as a few examples.

3. Create a podcast

Are you seeing a trend, yet? Starting YouTube channel, blog and podcast are all about creating a community and following. If you don’t like the way you look or talk, you can start by blogging. If you don’t like being on camera, but you like your voice, maybe podcasting is for you. If you don’t mind being on-camera, then turn to YouTube. But what’s nice about podcasting is that you get to be expressive and creative, but you only have to focus on the audio side, not the writing side or the video side. Most of us can talk at length about something we’re interested in, and thanks to technology, it’s easy to even podcast with someone across the globe or have guests on the podcast via telephone or Skype call. Podcasts, like a blog, won’t make you rich overnight. In fact, none of these money-making ideas promise to do that. But if you’re passionate about what you’re talking about, your content has value, and your listeners are engaged, you’ll start to grow an audience. Once that audience is large enough, you’ll be able to pick up paid sponsors to feature on your podcast, in return for some cash. Grow your audience large enough, and you can make a great side income from podcasting, just as you can with blogging or creating a YouTube channel. In fact, if you’ve got what it takes, why not do all three?

4. Run your own services business

This is where I make most of my money online. Professionally, I’m a marketer, so I understand email marketing, social media marketing, web design, graphic design, copy writing and everything that goes into marketing a business. While I have a full time job, on the side I’m helping a few small businesses with their marketing. It’s my favorite thing I do to earn money. What types of services could you sell that you can do from a computer? Are you good at graphic design? If so, help companies with their brand, logo design, marketing brochure creation, designing menus and signage, and so on. Are you a photographer? Great tutor? Web developer? Audio engineer or producer? Coder? Social media guru? There are all kinds of things you can create online, and sell to a worldwide audience.

5. Sell stuff online

This one’s similar to the last, but more about selling goods out of your home versus selling a service or digital product. Are you good at making something? Can you build something by hand? If so, sell it on Etsy, or on your own website. Have junk to get rid of, or things around the house you wouldn’t miss if they were gone? Post them to Facebook or Craigslist, sell them quickly and easily, and avoid having to pay any service fees to facilitate the transaction (Etsy and Ebay both charge fees).

6. Create a drop-ship business

The drop-ship world is interesting, and one area of making money online that I’ve never fully gotten into. It’s extremely time consuming in the beginning stages, but once set up, drop-shipping can be a lucrative revenue stream. One of my friends and I considered starting a men’s grooming and accessory brand, but we got distracted and never followed through. We had everything nearly ready to go, though. We contacted a wholesaler of beard supplies (bear oil, beard balm, razors, combs, etc.) and inquired about drop-shipping. They were fully on-board, shared us a price list, and we planned to sell the products for double what we paid for them. Best of all, the customer pays for the shipping, and the goods are sent directly from the wholesaler to the customer without any involvement from us. Our logo and packaging even goes on the products, so the customer has no idea that someone else is completely handling fulfillment. As you can see, as long as you have a great brand identity, market your products well, and have solid relationships with wholesalers, there’s lots of money to be made in drop-shipping.

And that’s it! Sorry this list isn’t exhaustive, but each one is a genuine way you can start making money online. No gimmicks and no BS. Just give one a shot and stick to it!

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