Make Money Online (Without Spending a Dime)
Even with no product or website, you can get paid for what and who you know
Making money online used to require having your own website, products to sell and some marketing savvy. However, in today's digital age, there has never been more ways to get paid for what you know and who you know, without having to be an established web designer or a marketing genius.
In fact, starting an online business and building a foundation for future growth can be done in a matter of hours, as opposed to what used to take days, weeks, even months. If you have a novel business idea, a well-defined target audience in mind, and the skills to pull it off, you can make money online in countless different ways.
But, it's hard to tell the difference between legitimate business ideas and the seemingly great opportunities that'll instead end up wasting valuable time (and money). There's both an art and science to figuring out how you can best make money online in today's age—and it involves pairing your skills with your interests.
Here's the problem with what happens when you're just learning about how to make money online... A search on "make money online" and "making money online," and much of the information out there tends to promote various different information products, multi-level-marketing programs, and money-making schemes that aren't going to help you create the lifestyle you desire.
So here is a list of business opportunities with legitimate companies that:
- Pay cash, not just points towards rewards or a chance to win money
- Don't require you to have your own website or products
- Don't involve any hard-selling
- Aren't just promoting more online marketing
- Give a positive return on your time investment
In the interest of objectivity, none of the links below are affiliate links, and none of them have paid or provided any other consideration for their presence here. These are legitimate companies with business models that allow you to get paid for a wide range of different activities.
Remember, when evaluating a potential business to start, you need to choose an opportunity that activates your strongest skills, and engages your most prominent areas of interest. When the going gets tough (which it will), you'll need to rely on your domain expertise and internal drive for what you're doing, to push past the inevitable roadblocks that'll present themselves.
If you're still looking for a business that's best suited for your unique skills and interests, join my free course on Finding a Profitable Business Idea. Now, here are some of the best ways to make money online, today.
Help Friends Find Better Jobs
Sites like Zyoin and WiseStep connect employers with prospective employees, many of whom are already employed and not actively job-hunting, via networking - the people who know these qualified candidates. Rewards for referring a candidate who gets hired range from $50 on up to several thousand dollars - not chump change. If you know a lot of job-seekers (and who doesn't these days?), this is a great way to break into the recruiting business with no overhead whatsoever.
Connect Buyers with Suppliers
Referral fees are a common practice in business, but they haven't been used much in online networking sites because there was no way to track them. Sites like Share-A-Sale and Amplifinity now provide that. Vendors set the referral fees they're willing to pay (and for what), and when the transaction happens, you get paid by the company you just brought a new customer to. uRefer also allows merchants to set up referral programs for introductions and meetings, as well as transactions.
Become a Freelance Writer
A growing number of websites and companies will pay well for your articles or blog posts. Some websites like will "pay for performance" based on page views for just about anything you want to write about if you have the experience and background to cover your beat. A lot of companies are looking for part-time bloggers to help them create high-value blog posts for their websites, which creates great opportunities for those with a knack for writing compelling content. Most clients pay per post or on a retainer contract with a set number of posts delivered per month.
The best thing about becoming a freelance writer is that you can even start a freelance business on the side while keeping your day job with just a few hours per day. As a starting point, create freelancer accounts on the leading online marketplaces like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and Freelancer. Then, once you're ready to branch off and start charging higher rates, you'll want to build your own portfolio website and reach more valuable clients in other ways.
You don't have to build a custom website, install complicated blogging software, or even figure out how to set up advertising systems, to start a blog today. At Blogger and Wordpress, you can set up a blog for free in less than five minutes without knowing a thing about web design, and Blogger even automates setting up Google AdSense so you can make money off your blog by displaying ads and getting paid when people click on the ads. To make even more money from it, set up an affiliate program (see below) for books, music, etc., and insert your affiliate links whenever you refer to those items.
For even more customization and options for future monetization, opt for building your blog on a custom domain with WordPress powering the backend. It'll allow for much more scalability in the future, and is still an extremely low-cost option. You'll have to get a lot of traffic to become a six-figure blogger, but pick an interesting topic, write well, tell all your friends, and you're off to a good start with building a targeted audience.
Create Topical Resource Hubs
Are you an expert on a particular niche topic? Can you put together an overview of the topic and assemble some of the best resources on the topic from around the web? Then you can create topical hubs and get paid through sites like HugPages. You'll make more by doing it on your own and creating your own niche site, but these established topic sites already have a built-in supply of traffic and tools to make content creation easier. In fact, creating a niche topic website is one of the most profitable online business ideas.
Now, once you've established yourself as an expert within your niche, you'll be able to make money from a combination of ad revenue, affiliate fees, and more creative avenues like online courses, other digital products, and one-on-one coaching fees from others who want to learn directly from your expertise.
Affiliate Marketing of Other People's Products
If you already have a website or blog, look for vendors that offer related but non-competing products and see if they have an affiliate program. Stick to familiar products and brands—they're easier to sell. To promote those products:
- Place simple text or graphical ads in appropriate places on your site.
- Include links to purchase products you review or recommend in a blog, discussion forum or mailing list you control.
- Create a dedicated sales page or Web site to promote a particular product.
They all work - it just depends on how much time you have to spend on it and your level of expertise in web design and online marketing.
You don't have to be a professional photographer to sell your photos for money. People are constantly in need of high quality, unique stock photography for websites, presentations, brochures and so on, and are willing to pay for the right image.
People generally search for images on stock photography sites by keywords, not by a photographer, so you have the same chance as anyone else of having your image picked. Just be careful that you don't have images of trademarked brands, copyrighted art or people's faces that are readily identifiable (unless you have a model release), but just about anything else is fair game, and I promise - you'd be amazed what people need pictures of, so don't make any assumptions. If it's a decent photo, upload it.
It is by no means comprehensive, but it highlights some of the new and interesting ways to make money online without investing any money, without having a product of your own, and without having expert sales and marketing skills.
Most of all, unlike taking surveys or getting paid to read emails, the potential return on your time investment is substantial with these business opportunities.