10 Side Hustles You Can Start to Make Money Online

A shortlist you can copy and paste so you can work less, stress less, and relax more doing work you enjoy

Josef Cruz
Nov 15, 2020 · 13 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

When people ask me how I make a full-time living on the internet which allows me the freedom to live wherever I want and work whenever I want, there are certain responses I hear a lot.

“I wish I could do that but I don’t know how” or “I can’t think of a good business idea” And my favorite, “Isn’t making money on the internet all a scam!?”

From now on, if I hear any of this (and they’re genuinely interested) I’ll just send them to this very post.

When it comes to starting an online business to increase your income, whether that be a few extra hundred dollars per month to help with the bills or thousands per month to quit your job for good, finding a great idea is the least of your worries.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and you don’t need to be a genius and conjure up the next billion-dollar idea like Zuckerberg.

All you need is a proven idea that has worked well for others, and then to execute it in your own way. There’s room for absolutely anyone to get their slice of the insanely huge pie that is, online business.

I believe it would be helpful to compile a more comprehensive list here to cover more of the most effective ways to make money online being used today that will no doubt continue to be effective through 2021 and beyond.

For each idea, I’ll also give a rating from low to high for the following 3 areas:

  • Learning Curve — A general estimate of how much time and effort it will take to learn the ins and outs of the strategy, assuming you’re coming at it with zero business and internet marketing experience. Don’t take the rating too literally though, as certain strategies will be easier for you than others depending on your interests and past experiences, so just use this rating as a way to generally compare between the different strategies in this post.
  • Earning Potential — An overall estimate of how much money you can likely make using this strategy. Again, don’t take it too literally. If I mark a particular strategy as “low” potential, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a lot of money from that strategy — it just means that it’s less probable than say a strategy with a medium or high earning potential OR that it will take a long time or a lot of scaling.
  • Passive Income Potential — Whether or not the strategy has the potential to earn you passive income, which is money earned whilst you’re not actually working. In other words, can this strategy be mostly automated once you’ve put in the hard yards to get the business off the ground? Keep in mind that even if a strategy can be automated, there will almost always be some sort of work required to maintain your income (you can’t expect to completely set and forget a business and expect it to last forever).

So without further ado here are 10 of the best-proven ways to make money online (in no particular order) that you can get started with right away.

Note: Some of these strategies overlap each other and can be used together.

1. Affiliate Marketing

Learning Curve: Low
Earning Potential: Medium
Passive Income Potential: Yes

Affiliate marketing has always been one of the most popular and effective ways to make money online, and that’s not about to change anytime soon.

It’s how many people first get started online because of its simplicity, and I’m no exception. But whilst simple, it does have a lot of potential because most good products out there have an affiliate program (if they know what’s good for them) so there’s no shortage of products to start marketing.

This is how it works in a nutshell:

You promote other people’s products through your website or other online medium and you earn a commission for each sale you refer to. The great thing is you don’t have to worry about product creation or handling, shipping, billing, customer service, etc.

Commission percentages range dramatically from company to company, but it’s not uncommon to see huge commissions such as 75% of the purchase price. You can either seek out affiliate programs for the particular products you wish to promote, or you can join an affiliate network that usually has a range of products that you can promote, usually across multiple industries.

2. Create an Information Product

Learning Curve: Medium-High
Earning Potential: Medium-High
Passive Income Potential: Yes

Creating your own digital product based on certain valuable knowledge or skills that you have has always been one of the most profitable and reliable ways to make money online, and these days nothing has changed.

An information product can be anything from an ebook, a video course, an audio course, a membership site, or a piece of software.

It’s more difficult to get started with when compared to affiliate marketing because you have to deal with product research, development, marketing, testing, and customer service which can take a lot of time and effort initially, but there is more potential upside because you’re in total control of the product, the price, and of course, you get to keep 100% of the profits.

Out of all the other ways to make money online it’s one of the most reliable long-term business models you can use.

If your product is good you can also recruit your own affiliates to promote your product for you. Having your own product is also a great way to earn a passive income because you put in the work once to initially create the product and then you set up the system so that it sells itself over and over again without you having to put in more work.

3. Kindle Publishing

Learning Curve: Low
Earning Potential: Low
Passive Income Potential: Yes

This could also be classed under creating your own product, but it deserves its own section because of just how much this market is booming at the moment. Online books are outselling physical books these days and their popularity is only rising.

Out of all the ways to make money online today, this is one of the easiest and one of the quickest to see results with. You don’t even need to write the books yourself as you can hire quality writers with sound knowledge about your book’s topic whilst you focus on the topic research (which is a vital part of creating a book that sells) and the marketing.

Whilst the earning potential is low compared to other online strategies if you publish a lot of books the income can really stack up to something significant.

Creating a nice side income of a few hundred dollars per month with a small handful of kindle books is very doable for most people and can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time. Many people are also making thousands of dollars per month.

4. Blogging

Learning Curve: Low
Earning Potential: Low-High
Passive Income Potential: No

Starting a blog is one of the most popular ways to make money online today and there is a lot you can do with it.

It’s simple and quick to get started with, and there are endless opportunities to earn money from your blogging efforts by incorporating some of the other strategies like affiliate marketing, advertising networks, and creating info products.

It’s definitely more of a longer-term strategy though and requires a lot of patience, blogs can take a long time to build up a following and start earning.

I would typically consider a blog as an active income source as opposed to a passive income source because of the need to continuously add fresh new content, but it’s up for debate because how often you update your blog is totally up to you, and the type of blog you’re running.

Say you have a small “niche” blog about a very specialized topic, and your aim is to simply earn passive income with the blog and not grow your blog over the long-term. After you’ve written enough posts to cover the topic well and you’ve built up a steady base of visitors you could leave it to basically run itself (whilst coming back to update it every few months or so — remember you can’t leave a business dead forever and expect it not to stagnate).

On the other hand, if you’ve got bigger plans for your blog and really enjoy the topic, you should focus on building it slowly over the long-term if you want to see success.

5. Advertising Networks

Learning Curve: Low
Earning Potential: Low
Passive Income Potential: Yes

Basically, the easiest way to make money with your website once you’ve established some traffic is to join an advertising network.

But just a heads up — I wouldn’t recommend this as a stand-alone strategy that you should base a business around — it’s more of a supplemental method to squeeze out more income from an existing website and is commonly used in conjunction with others strategies such as affiliate marketing and/or creating your own product.

This is how it works — you join an advertising network for free such as Google AdSense, which is the most popular by a mile because they tend to pay the most.

Then you simply place their ads on whichever pages of your site you wish. The ads will automatically be targeted to match the content on your pages, and whenever somebody actually clicks on one of them you earn a small amount of money.

This is called Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and how much you make per click all depends on the topic of your site and how much advertisers typically spend in that industry.

For example, if you have a site about finance you’re going to make a lot more per click (perhaps up to a few dollars) than say a site about dog training (likely a measly few cents per click).

PPC is not the only advertising model you can use on your site, there is also CPM and CPA. CPM (Cost Per Mille) networks typically pay for every thousand ad views on your site but tend to only accept high-traffic sites.

Here are just a few of the more popular CPM networks out there:

  • TribalFusion
  • CPX Interactive
  • EPom
  • Verizonmedia

CPA (Cost Per Action) networks pay you every time a user clicks an ad AND they take a specific action such as filling out a quote or joining an email list. Some of these networks also offer affiliate commissions too. Again, like CPM networks CPA networks can be picky as to who they take on board.

Here are some of the most popular CPA networks today:

  • OfferVault
  • MaxBounty
  • PeerFly

6. Freelancing or Consulting

Learning Curve: Low
Earning Potential: Low-Medium
Passive Income Potential: No

Freelancing or consulting work is one of the fastest ways to get started working online if you have a particular skill or specialized knowledge that others are willing to pay for.

What’s the difference between being a freelancer or a consultant? Freelancing is typically performing a job where you create a deliverable, tangible product like a completed website, a design, or a finished video.

On the other hand consulting is offering training or guidance (usually to the management of a company) in a specific area such as translating or marketing and which can be an ongoing contract as opposed to a once-off job.

In-demand freelance gigs as of right now include:

  • Website design and development
  • Graphic/logo design
  • App development
  • Programming
  • Content writing
  • Sales copywriting
  • Video production (sales videos, training videos, animated videos, etc)
  • Infographic creation
  • Customer service/support

And here are good opportunities for consulting:

  • Social media consultant
  • SEO specialist
  • PPC/Facebook ads consultant
  • Marketing consultant
  • WordPress consultant
  • Accounting/bookkeeping
  • Translator/interpreter
  • Language learning
  • Fitness/nutrition coach
  • Virtual assistant
  • Life coach

You could offer consulting/coaching in person, over phone calls, or with one on one video calls through Zoom which is becoming increasingly popular these days.

With freelancing and consulting you usually have the freedom to work from home using your own tools and resources in your own time, so it’s similar to having your own business.

But it can be tough to earn a decent full-time income from this these days as it’s a global marketplace and if you live in the western world you’ll be competing with people in third world countries who can afford to take on cheaper jobs.

You need to be solid at what you do and stand out from the crowd if you want to make a good living, but it’s definitely very possible. Once you gain some experience and have built up a nice portfolio of work there’s always the option of creating your own business around your expertise instead of just going from odd job to job.

By doing this you’ll be building your reputation and your brand and you can make it easier for people to seek out YOU for a change. You could also go on to hire your own freelancers to take on the work whilst you focus on marketing and growing your business.

There are tons of websites that can hook you up with freelancing/consulting work but these are some of the best:

  • Upwork — One of the most active and respected freelancing sites which are competitive but tend to have the most high-paying jobs available.
  • Fiverr — All jobs on here cost $5 so it will take many jobs to make a nice side income.
  • Freelancer — Another decent alternative to Upwork with a focus on programming and design.
  • PeoplePerHour — This one is different where you set what sort of tasks you’re willing to do for a set price.
  • 99Designs — If you stand out as a designer you can do well here.

7. Sell a Physical Product

Learning Curve: High
Earning Potential: High
Passive Income Potential: Yes

Selling your own physical product can take a lot of work initially, especially when compared to the other ways to make money online, but there is massive potential doing this.

Every year more and more people are turning online to every type of physical product imaginable. Look around you at some of the objects lying around — you can more than likely make money by selling your own branded version of that product online.

When selling your own physical products online you’ve got two overall ways of going about it.

  1. Sell through an existing platform like Amazon (which is a booming multi-billion dollar company and they actually help you to sell your products on there), eBay, or Etsy and ArtFire (for arts, crafts, and other homemade products).
  2. Start your own online store.

I’m planning on selling my first physical product in the future, and if I managed to create good results for myself with this strategy you can be sure I’ll document everything I learn from this.

8. Start a YouTube Channel

Learning Curve: Medium
Earning Potential: Low-High
Passive Income Potential: Yes

YouTube has a humongous audience that is only growing. If you manage to start a popular channel that gets a ton of views, you can become a YouTube partner which means that you will get paid a small amount every time your videos are watched a certain amount of times.

If you’re creative or talented enough to create viral videos you can earn a significant income from your videos alone, but this obviously isn’t going to work for everyone and it takes a lot of effort to stand out from the crowd.

But you don’t need to create a hugely successful channel to make money with YouTube.

You can create videos to increase your reach and drive more traffic to your existing site/s, or you could review/promote different products in your videos and earn affiliate marketing (by putting your affiliate links in your video description).

9. Start a Podcast

Learning Curve: Medium
Earning Potential: Low
Passive Income Potential: No

Podcasting has become increasingly popular in recent years and is commonly used as a powerful way of expanding your brand and your reach. If you’ve been living under a rock, a podcast is basically having your own online radio show where you can talk about absolutely anything that you want, and possibly bringing on guests.

Although it’s possible to make money directly from a podcast if you get creative (getting advertising sponsors, charging listeners for full subscriptions, selling affiliate products through your podcast, etc), it’s generally used as an indirect strategy to boost your existing brand and not as a primary money-maker (unless you can manage to create a massively popular podcast).

10. Website Flipping

Learning Curve: High
Earning Potential: High
Passive Income Potential: No (unless you buy and hold a site long-term)

Whilst I’d only suggest this to the more experienced internet entrepreneurs and marketers out there, site flipping can be an absolute goldmine. This is something I’ve also recently been studying myself and I’m always on the eye out for solid opportunities.

Website flipping is exactly like being a real estate entrepreneur but instead of buying houses at good prices, renovating them to add value, and then reselling them for a profit, you do it with websites.

Whilst there are quite a few places out there where you can buy and sell sites, these are the top 3 most reliable ones in my opinion:

  • Flippa.com — The biggest and the best place to buy and sell sites
  • EmpireFlippers — A more recent brokerage-type site that hooks you up with legit buyers and sellers

If you know what you’re doing there is a ton of opportunity to make significant profits with this, usually in a relatively short amount of time. Most websites out there can be improved in some way and are leaving a lot of money on the table.

You can increase the value of a site with a number of methods such as improving search engine rankings, doing more effective marketing, adding quality content, increasing sales conversion rates, and so on.

You definitely want to be careful though as for every good website with potential there is a truckload of crappy sites that are going nowhere. You’ve got to do extensive research and know what to look for.

Conclusion

Now you know some of the best ways to make money online, your creative juices should be flowing and you should do your research on the strategies that gel with your interests, your skills, and your financial goals.

The internet has changed the course of my life forever and I want more people to experience the freedom and fulfillment that the internet can allow us.

If you found this post helpful I would love you to help me spread the word by sharing it with those who you think may benefit from it.

Until next time.

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Josef Cruz

Written by

Entrepreneur, writer, husband, father. I spend my days on the web learning and sharing information across the globe.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Josef Cruz

Written by

Entrepreneur, writer, husband, father. I spend my days on the web learning and sharing information across the globe.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store