Many of us have seen incomes reduced – or even eliminated – recently. I’m getting lots of emails and messages at the moment from people who want to know how to make money from home.
Below I have 17 ways to make money online. Most of these ideas have made me money. And all of these ideas have incredibly low start up costs.
I should say also that I have made money from 14 of the following 17 make money ideas!
There are broadly two categories of online business you can engage in from home: Active and Passive.
Active Income is “swopping hours for dollars” – earning money by providing services for clients.
Passive Income is “earning money while you sleep” which sounds more sexy and is usually more difficult and less immediate than Active Income.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with freelancing or working for clients. But, for some reason, everyone wants passive income!
Above, is a video where I talk about my 17 ways to make money from home and their pros and cons.
However, there’s more info in this article, and we’re going to start with Active Income…
Freelancing or consulting for clients
Back in 2005, when I started working from home, I had just about average graphic design skills. I started to get work gradually at first. Yes, it started slowly but it was worth it.
Maybe you need new skills – or to advance a small subset of your existing skills – in order to earn money outside the traditional workplace.
If you can write English moderately well, you can command hourly rates of $15-20 and above. Nevertheless, if English isn’t your first language worry not, translation can be as lucrative.
So you can do web design, writing, editing, coding, researching, copy checking, etc. The list is, literally, endless.
Remember: this is a recession. In a recession, freelancers can undercut larger companies by offering similar services for a fraction of the price.
But how do you get the clients? That’s the problem.
You could start with freelance websites like Upwork, FlexJobs, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, Indeed, or Solidgigs. Hourly rates will be very low. You’re not going to make a lot of money especially if you live in expensive places like America or Western Europe.
However, if you find clients through your online or offline contacts, it usually a better experience and you can charge more.
- You can start earning today and you don’t have to pay anything!
- It provides flexibility. You are in control of your workload.
- The amount of work is sporadic, especially at first
- Active income hence not scalable. You can only do so much in 24 hours
And now for Passive Income. Remember Passive Income is scalable therefore you can make more money but they all require a lot of effort in the beginning …
Sell video courses on Udemy
The first business idea for earning passive income is selling video courses on Udemy. Thanks to technology, online tutoring sites empower you to share your knowledge on a global platform. Udemy has a user base of over 20 million.
Are you passionate about coaching or teaching? You can shoot the course on your phone and by using free screencasting and editing software. However, you should pick a course subject that’s both in-demand and niche.
Online learning platforms such as Udemy provide a newbie-friendly platform to sell your video courses.
Get started by checking out this guide on how to make money on Udemy.
- Access to a wider market (20 million)
- Easy-to-use interface ensuring a smooth experience in course creation.
- You’ll usually only make $5 per course sale
- You can’t access the email addresses of your students
Have a look at my video above, about How To Make Money On Udemy.
Sell video courses on Teachable and Thinkific
Would you prefer to charge more for your courses – about $100 or $200?
With Thinkific or Teachable, you get to pocket the vast majority of the profit. Both have free plans, and add extra features at around $30/month, $50/month, and $100/month. Kajabi is another more expensive option.
These platforms allow you to sell your video courses on your own website. The downside is you have to do your own marketing and get traffic to the site. But the upside is you can charge more per course and you get the customers’ email, which isn’t the case with online learning platforms such as Udemy.
Another advantage is that you get to own all the important data about your customers so you have the capacity to further engage your students.
- Low up-front cost
- You get the customer’s email addresses
- There is no ready audience to market your course. So you’ve got to work to get the traffic
- You’ll go through a learning curve to create and market the products
The above video is my review of Teachable which is how I sell courses on my site.
Sell video courses on other platforms
Once you have created video courses, they are not exclusively limited to Udemy.
Udemy is the most popular online learning platform by far. But there are so many other alternative platforms to sell your video courses online.
I have used Skillshare, Stackskills, Stone River e-Learning, and made several thousands of dollars on them.
If you publish your course on various platforms you get a wider reach. It’s passive income at its finest. Create one video course and distribute it on as many channels as possible.
- You get to reach and engage with a wider audience.
- The platforms aren’t as popular (not so much money)
- Some of them are downright dodgy!
Above is my video Where I Make The Most Money Selling Online Courses.
Sell e-books on Amazon Kindle
By a million miles, Amazon’s Kindle store is the best place to sell e-books. All you need is sign up at kdp.amazon.com and you can sell your words of wisdom.
Currently, everyone can access the Kindle app regardless of their device OS. So you have a huge global market.
A Kindle book doesn’t have to be more than about 15,000 words. You can literally write it in Microsoft Word, upload it and sell it!
- Very easy platform to get started
- Huge marketplace
- During the lockdown, sales of Kindles have skyrocketed!
- You can only really charge $2.99 for a book on Kindle
- Only 70% of the sale goes to your pocket
It’s so easy. Here I show you how you can upload a simple Word document in order to sell your Kindles on Amazon: How To Self Publish a Kindle E-book on Amazon’s KDP Select.
Sell paperbacks on Amazon
Similarly, you can turn the above Kindles into paperback books in exactly the same way. You upload the file of the book (PDFs in this case) at KDP and then, when it is purchased on the Amazon store, the book is printed and delivered to the customer.
- Another low risk low cost opportunity to make passive income on Amazon
- Although you can charge more for paperback books than for Kindles, you’ll still only make $8 per sale at the most.
Sell low content paperback books on Amazon
I have had a lot of success selling low content paperback books on Amazon (planners, log books, etc.).
All you need is to create a great book cover and publish it on Kindle Direct Publishing and sell it on Amazon as paperbacks.
You can check out my sales figures on low content paperbacks. Making thousands of dollars in profits monthly, I can confidently say it’s an easy and fun way to make some bucks.
My free course will teach you how to sell low content paperback on Amazon.
- It’s a low-cost start-up
- High competition on Amazon, notebooks don’t sell so well now so it’s better to spend the time on well-researched low content books
- It’s a numbers game, you have to create a few books to see what works and what doesn’t
The above video shows how to create and publish a low content book on Amazon.
Sell audiobooks on Audible
So we’ve done e-books and physical paperback books. Why not provide an audio option for your readers?
And you can sell the audiobook on Audible. You can use the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to create and distribute the audiobook. You get to choose a narrator at no cost as you share the royalties fifty-fifty with the voice-over artist.
Your audiobook will be available for sale on iTunes, Audible.com, and Amazon.com (Audible is part of Amazon).
- Access to numerous high quality narrators
- Amazon is a powerhouse and audiobooks are becoming more and more popular
- Royalties per sale a fairly low
Here are my two books on Audible:
- The New Freedom: Ordinary People Are Living Extraordinary Lives & So Can You!
- Mind Freedom: Re-Program Yourself for Success and Happiness with Meditations, Affirmations, Mindset Shifts
Sell ebooks on your own site (using Clickbank, Gumroad, Ecwid, e-junkie, etc)
Thanks to digital products selling systems, you can sell e-books from your website and you take all of the money or most of it.
You are free to charge $10, $30, $50, etc. for an e-book. Gumroad, Ecwid, and E-junkie, are some of the other platforms you can use to create a ready-made sales page. They are free, they just take a percentage commission on your sales.
Check out my sales page for my ebook Running A Web Design Business done on Gumroad.
- Easy to create an eCommerce store
- Give your customers seamless shopping experience
- You get your customers emails
- Again, you need traffic!
Dropshipping / Shopify
You don’t have to invest in inventory or design a product, you just have to open a Shopify website. If you make a sale, the supplier will fulfil that to the customer and you’ll get a commission.
Shopify has been successful for a long time and has a huge ecosystem supporting it. There are number of apps and plug-ins available for every stage of the sales funnel. The apps range from Oberlo to Printful, Yopto, Referral Candy Omnisend, among others. They can be used to generate leads, convert them into sales, and build your brand.
- Easy and low-cost set-up
- Good customer support
- Secure and reliable online store
- You have to get traffic to the Shopify site using Facebook ads or Google ads which can be expensive
- Or you have to have really good SEO to get organic traffic
There is another way to sell physical products online and that is through the big daddy Amazon. Say goodbye to traffic worries as Amazon has it in bulk. In a nutshell, with FBA, Amazon deals with the storage, sales, customer support, and shipping of your products.
Competition, on the other hand, should be your major concern. Price your products well, apply SEO to product descriptions and titles, and work hard on getting good reviews.
Source a product niche with low competition (before it was usually in China with Alibaba), and buy your inventory to start. Some people have kicked off with $500 but I needed a few thousand to get going. Here’s my article: Amazon FBA Business: How Much Money And Time Before I Got Profit?
It was always a good business model with opportunities in Europe, Japan, and America. Now supply lines from China are stressed, there maybe more opportunities sourcing products nearer to the intended market.
- Leverage Amazon’s popularity, customer base, and fulfilment capacity
- Requires capital investment to start
- Highly competitive, listings can be “hijacked” by competitors
- Dependent on Amazon’s inconsistently-enforced guidelines
Create an affiliate website, Youtube, etc.
Affiliate marketing is how a lot of people get into making passive income.
To be an affiliate marker, you need to create a popular website, YouTube channel, or social media channel, join affiliate programs, and promote products.
If someone makes a purchase using your affiliate link, you are then given a commission on the sale made.
Amazon itself has an affiliate scheme called Amazon associates where they pay you about 4% (if you’re lucky) commission on the product.
Others, say digital products, might give you a $80 commission on every sale, for example if you sell webhosting.
I’ve made a lot of money selling WordPress plugins and themes, so I know it works.
- Low set up cost
- It is highly dependent on SEO or the traffic you get
- You need to invest time and money for positive results
An example of productized servcie is Design Pickle who provide graphic design services at a flat-rate fee. Or WP Curve acquired by GoDaddy in 2016, they offered WordPress support services based on a fixed membership fee.
You can productize anything and outsource the work, but you’ve got to get the clients, and a trustworthy website is a good way to go about that.
For productized services, it’s important to keep in mind that the service has to be properly defined. The delivery schedule is also fixed and the scope of work including the costs are communicated upfront.
Clients today are more comfortable buying into ‘no hidden costs’ services as they know ahead of time what they are signing up for. Any creative or tech service should be a no-brainer to productize.
- Easy marketing and sale processes as you have standardized deliveries
- You don’t have to be physically present for work to be done
- Lose out on clients with more personalized needs
- Lower prices as you bank on economies of scale hence lower profit margins
- You need reliable staff to provide the services
- Upfront cost
Selling Software, WordPress plugins, themes, SaaS, etc.
Now you can also sell software. This is a great idea in terms of recurring income because you can charge monthly, yearly, or charge for support.
Most blog and website owners would rather not deal with day-to-day tasks. Site management plugins like InfiniteWP, ManageWP, MainWP, offer full maintenance services to clients on a single dashboard, for example.
Additionally, you can sell a WordPress plugin, a theme, a Chrome extension, etc.
Another way of selling software is to buy some sort of app template on a site like CodeCanyon. You can then hire a developer to skin the template for you.
- It’s scalable with the potential for regular income
- You need to find developers to create and test the software, which can end up costing a lot
Merch by Amazon (currently paused due to COVID-19)
Merch By Amazon is another fabulous way to earn passive income.
With zero inventory costs and a global market platform. Cool, right?
Do you have a dash of creativity? A love for fashion? And the determination to make it work? Then Amazon Merch has got room for you.
Fill in the application form on the Amazon Merch request invitation button. I advise that you have some artwork online to showcase to convince them.
Once accepted, upload your art, pick the colors, set prices, add descriptions, and voila! Amazon will handle the printing, packaging, and shipping when you get an order.
Further reading on Merch By Amazon:
- How To Design Merch By Amazon T-Shirts That Sell
- Amazon Merch: What It Is, How To Get Accepted, And How To Make Money
- Low-cost investment
- Access to a global market
- They limit the number of merchants so you might not get in
- More competitive these days
Other POD (Print On Demand) sites
Are you creative with witty t-shirt ideas? Well, POD sites have you covered. These sites include Redbubble, Teepublic, Zazzle, CafePress, Teespring, etc.
Unlike Amazon Merch, you don’t need to make any application on POD platform providers and there’s no tier limits.
POD allows you to create and advertise customized merchandise but only print it when an order is made.
You can sell t-shirts, hoodies, bags, coffee mugs, cushions, mobile phone covers, stickers, shower curtains, leggings, etc.
- No inventory cost
- These POD sites don’t have the customer base of Amazon but some of them are quite big
Selling Printables on Etsy
Printables are a source of recurring passive income as you only need to create them once and sell them over and over.
You can create calendars, planners, checklists, workbooks, journals, trackers, etc. Etsy is the go-to store for selling printables.
The digital files are in the form of SVGs and PNGs (sublimation) or PDFs that people purchase, download, and print. It won’t make you an overnight millionaire but once you master your craft, it’s a fun way to make money.
- It’s an established store for printables.
- You have to pay some fees for every listing. (About 0.20 cent)
You can do it
Phew! I think that’s enough for now!
Lots of ideas there. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even talk about the gig economy and the thousands of ways to earn money there.
What do you think? Any other ideas? Have a question about any of the above?
Let’s talk in the comments! 🙂
Thank you for this great list.
I like especiallynthe pros and cons,
Rob Cubbon says
Thank you, Marion, glad it helped.
Eugenia Soto says
Thank you…overwhelmingly generous!!!
Rob Cubbon says
My pleasure, Eugenia
Thank you for the ideas!! A few I had forgotten about like codecanyon.com. Very much appreciated!!
Rob Cubbon says
My pleasure, Tammie
Very helpful , Thank You
Rob Cubbon says
John Ravi says
It was a great read! Pandemic has affected the streams of income, and people are often looking for ways to get back to before with some new work or side hustles. I think your article will help a lot of people. I really appreciated that you shared so many ways to generate some income. Since some of my friends are struggling with a similar issue. I will definitely be sharing this article with them. Thanks a lot for taking the time and curating this article.
Rob Cubbon says
thank you, John, I hope you do share the article with your friends. These are ideas that I’d tried over the last 15 years doing online business.