It’s no big secret that the Internet has revolutionized how we spend money. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 10% of all retail sales in America are now made online. For some kinds of products, the percentage is much higher. For instance, data from Tinuiti shows that about 44% of consumers shop online for books, movies, and music — one of the biggest categories experts say you should always buy online.
What’s less obvious, at least at first glance, is how the Internet has opened up new ways to make money. Depending on how much time and effort you want to put in, the Internet can be anything from a piggy bank you dip into for extra cash to your primary source of income.
There are easy ways to tap the power of the Internet to earn money in your spare time, such as getting cash back when you shop through an app. At the other end of the spectrum, there are full-time jobs you can do online from the comfort of your own home. It’s even possible to start a business and run it entirely on the Web. In short, the possibilities for making money online are nearly endless.
Earning Cash Back
One of the easiest ways to make money online is to earn cash back on the things you buy. You can take advantage of rewards apps that give you money for shopping or, in some cases, just for going into stores without even buying anything. And you can boost your earnings even further by applying online for a new rewards credit card, which will earn you points or cash back every time you use it.
Cash In on Rewards Apps
There’s a wide assortment of shopping rewards programs and apps that can earn you money when you shop. Popular rewards apps include:
- Capital One Shopping. When you shop online using the free Capital One Shopping browser extension, it will automatically apply coupon codes to your purchase. Plus, if you’re shopping on a website like Amazon, it will scan hundreds of other websites letting you know if there is a better price somewhere else. If you are shopping in-store you can download the Capital One Shopping mobile app to scan product barcodes. Capital One Shopping will then let you know prices at other top retailers.
- Ibotta. Rewards aren’t just for online shopping. With the Ibotta app for iOS or Android, you can earn cash back for shopping in stores as well. The app offers deals on specific items, and you earn rewards when you buy them. You can shop through the app, link it to a store loyalty card, or scan your receipts with your phone to verify your purchase. Plus, at more than 50 stores, you can use Ibotta to pay for your purchase and earn instant cash back. When you sign up and redeem your first offer Ibotta will give you a $20 bonus.
- Fetch Rewards. Similar to Ibotta, Fetch Rewards allows you to earn cash back when shopping for groceries. Simply scan your receipts and you’ll earn rewards each time an eligible product appears on the receipt. You can cash out with just $3.
- Rakuten. Shopping online through Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) earns you cash back at over 2,500 retail sites, including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Just click through the app to the site you want to shop on. Rewards show up automatically in your account once you make a purchase.
- Inbox Dollars. With Inbox Dollars, you can earn rewards not only for shopping with the site’s retail partners but also for just goofing off online. Taking surveys, watching TV, and playing games can all earn you anywhere from a few cents to a couple of bucks. Read our InboxDollars review.
- Shopkick. With the Shopkick app, you can earn points both in stores and online. You can get points for merely visiting a store, more points for viewing or scanning a specific item, and still more for making a purchase.
- Swagbucks. Another app that offers multiple ways to earn is Swagbucks. You can get 1% cash back on everything you buy through the site’s retail partners and also earn small sums for watching videos, taking surveys, and searching the Web. Rewards, called Swagbucks, are good for gift cards or cash. Read our Swagbucks review.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you sign up for Capital One Shopping using the links we provided.
Find a New Cash Back Credit Card
The Internet can also help you find the best rewards credit card for your needs so you can earn the biggest bonus every time you shop. To find your perfect card, follow these steps:
- Check Your Credit. There are several sites online where you can check your credit score for free, such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. It will give you an idea of what kind of credit offers you’ll qualify for.
- Choose Your Rewards. Decide what type of reward you’re most interested in earning. You can choose from cash-back credit cards, travel rewards cards, and hotel rewards cards.
- Compare Rewards Programs. Look for a card that gives you the highest reward in the categories where you spend the most, such as gas. Consider how easy it is to use your rewards and whether they expire.
- Compare Terms. Once you have it narrowed down, compare cards based on interest rates and fees. Think about which fees you want to avoid most, such as annual fees or foreign transaction fees, and choose a card without them.
- Apply Online. Apply for the card of your choice through a secure website. You can get a response in a matter of minutes.
Selling stuff online can mean anything from unloading a few unwanted items to running your own online store. Most online sales sites make it easy to do either one. You can start by selling just a few items at a time and then decide if you want to work your way up to a full-fledged business.
Sites where you can sell items online include:
- Craigslist. The big advantage of selling on Craigslist is that it’s completely free to use. The downside is that you can only reach buyers in your local area. However, it’s a good way to sell things too heavy to ship easily, such as furniture.
- EBay. On eBay, your first 50 listings each month are free. You can sell almost anything here, and the site takes just 10% of the sale price as its cut for most items.
- Etsy. If your hobbies include handicrafts such as sewing, pottery, or woodworking, you can earn extra cash selling your crafts on Etsy. The site charges a small listing fee for each item and also takes a cut of every sale.
- Stock Photo Companies. Both professional photographers and ardent amateurs can earn some money selling their photos to stock photo companies. Your pictures could show up in magazines, online, and even in textbooks. Sites to try include Alamy, iStock, and Shutterstock.
- Cafe Press. Through CafePress, you can design and sell your own products, such as t-shirts, mugs, and stickers. The site takes care of all the details like printing, shipping, and handling sales. It also keeps most of the money, but you earn a small commission of 5% to 10% on each sale.
- Threadless. Like Cafe Press, Threadless is a site where you can create and sell digital designs. Its products include totes, wall art, and home decor.
- Zazzle. On Zazzle, you can design and sell a wide variety of products. Along with t-shirts and totes, the site can help you create custom stationery, phone cases, playing cards, and even golf balls.
- Shopify. If none of the sites listed here meets your needs, you can use Shopify to set up your own online store. The site can help you get started with sales, marketing, and managing orders.
To sell products online, you first need a product to sell. However, to sell your services, all you need is the skill to do a job and someone willing to pay you. You can use the Internet to connect with clients in your local area or find work you can do entirely online for clients anywhere in the world.
Jobs You Can Do Online
There’s a fantastic array of online freelance work, as well as other jobs you can find through the Internet. Here’s a sampling of the jobs available through the Web:
- Airbnb Host. If you have a spare room in your house, you can make money renting it out through Airbnb. All you have to do is list your property and include some photos; the website books guests for you and processes the transactions for a fee (typically 3%). According to Travel + Leisure, as of June 2017, the average Airbnb host earned $924 per month.
- Sharing Your Car. If you have a car that you don’t drive every day, you can share it on Turo. Start by listing it for free and then set the daily rate and rules. The earnings potential on Turo is high and many earn well more than their monthly car payment.
- Consulting. If you have expert knowledge in any field, you can make money online by advising other people about it. For instance, Forbes relates the story of a successful blogger who got several jobs consulting with companies about social media and online marketing for an average of $100 per hour. You can get started as a consultant by setting up a free profile on Clarity.
- Delivery. With your own car and a decent driving record, you can make money delivering food for DoorDash or Postmates or groceries through Instacart. In fact, in some big cities, you don’t even need a car; you can make your deliveries by bike. According to TechCrunch, Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann said in May 2015 that employees earned around $19 per hour at peak delivery times. Also, as of February 2020, you can make between $18 and $25 per hour delivering packages for Amazon Flex.
- Driving. Another way to earn cash with your car is to drive for a ridesharing service, such as Uber or Lyft. These services can even provide you with a rental car if you don’t own one. According to TheStreet, drivers earned around $9 per hour in 2018. However, the pay varies based on where you live and when you work.
- Freelance Writing. Anyone with writing skills can find work as a freelance writer, but the pay varies widely. The Freelance Rates Database from Contently shows pay rates ranging from over $1 per word to less than $0.01. As of February 2020, the average pay per hour worked out to around $21.81, according to PayScale.
- Graphic Design. Graphic designers create art and lay out documents, such as brochures and posters, for their clients. According to PayScale, trained graphic designers were earning between $12 and $28 per hour in February 2020.
- Tutoring. You can make money and help others at the same time by tutoring struggling students. You can help students with specific subjects, such as math or English, or with prepping for standardized tests. Sites that connect students with tutors include Education First and VIPKID, which is solely for English tutors. VIPKID says its tutors can earn an average of $22 per hour.
- Virtual Assistant. A virtual assistant is an office assistant who works entirely online. The job can involve reading and responding to emails, managing schedules, making travel plans, bookkeeping, research, writing, data entry, creating presentations, maintaining a website, and “social chores” such as sending thank-you notes or holiday greetings. According to PayScale, as of February 2020, this job typically pays between $10 and $28 per hour. There are even courses available where you can learn how to become a successful virtual assistant.
Sites for Finding Work Online
The sites listed above specialize in particular types of online work. However, other sites list a wide variety of jobs, both large and small. These include:
- Thumbtack. On Thumbtack, you can find clients for a variety of odd jobs, such as painting, assembling furniture, or yard work. The pay varies by task and location. For example, the typical fee for assembling a desk in New York City was $69 as of February 2020.
- Craigslist. In the “gigs” section on Craigslist, you can find many types of work, from installing tile to social media marketing. Be careful, though; many of the “gigs” listed here are actually scams. Check out any job opportunity carefully before signing on.
- Fiverr. On Fiverr, you can offer your services for any task, such as writing a blog post, designing a website, or being an online fitness coach. You set your own price at anywhere from $5 to $995, and the site takes a 20% cut.
- MTurk. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, or MTurk for short, offers an assortment of bite-sized “human intelligence tasks,” such as filling out a survey or identifying items in a photo. These tasks don’t pay much, but they’re easy to do in your spare time. Just don’t expect to make a full-time job out of it. According to a 2017 Cornell University study, the average MTurk worker that year made only $2 per hour.
- Upwork. Freelancers of all kinds can sell their services through Upwork. The site has listings for a wide range of professional services, including writing, Web design, engineering, and IT.
There’s a limit to how much you can make by selling services online because there’s a limit to how many hours you can work in a day. However, when you create and post content online, you can continue to make money from it for years to come. Engineer and business owner R.L. Adams, writing for Entrepreneur, argues that if you want to earn a living online, the bulk of your earnings should come from passive income streams such as content people will pay for.
Types of Online Content
There are many types of content you can post online and turn into sources of revenue. The major ones are:
- Blogs. Adams argues that if you’re serious about making money online, you need to develop a successful blog with a large audience. The key to doing this is finding a niche – a specific group of people interested in specific content – and then designing everything to appeal to that group. Your content, your domain name, and your offers – things you sell through the blog – should all appeal to your niche audience. It takes work to build a successful blog, but once you’ve got it up and running, it doesn’t take too much effort to keep it humming along and bringing in money. For more ideas, check out these blog monetization tips from Setapp.
- Podcasts. Another way to turn your words into cash is through a successful podcast. Like a blog, a podcast needs to start by finding the right niche, then build up an audience and attract sponsors. A podcast can also go hand-in-hand with a blog, with each one drawing a bigger audience and new sponsors for the other. Podcasting is more work than blogging since it takes more equipment and organization to write, record, edit, and post, but it offers big potential earnings. For instance, an earnings report for the successful Entrepreneur On Fire podcast hosted by John Lee Dumas shows that it earned over $150,000 in January 2020.
- Videos. If you express yourself better in front of a camera than in writing, another way to build up an audience is to set up a YouTube channel. According to Forbes, the top 10 highest-paid stars on YouTube earned a total of $127 million from June 2016 through June 2017. Of course, these are hugely successful stars with millions of viewers, but even smaller-scale channels can bring in some side income through ads and sponsorships.
- Online Courses. If you have a skill that others would like to learn, you can earn good money by creating an online course to teach it. There are online courses to teach all kinds of things, including cooking, writing, marketing, massage therapy, and playing the guitar. There are even courses on how to create online courses. A good online course includes videos, worksheets, and perhaps a discussion forum for students. You’ll have to create all this content on your own, but a platform like Teachable or Zippy Courses can help you organize it into a coherent course, find students, and receive payments.
- Webinars. A shorter version of an online course is a webinar – a single video teaching session, usually streamed live, that lasts an hour or so. Adams says you can “make an exorbitant amount of money” from webinars, but you first have to build up a decent online presence – for instance, through a blog or social media. Both Adams and Jeff Rose of Forbes note that webinars can also be a useful tool for selling a full-scale online course or another product or service that you offer. Adams recommends GoToWebinar as the best tool for creating a webinar.
- Books. A final way to turn your knowledge into cash is to put it in a book you can sell online. Nowadays, you don’t need a publisher to do this; sites like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing make it easy to self-publish both printed books and e-books. It costs nothing to create a book this way, but Amazon takes a cut of each sale on top of any printing costs. However, you can still make a lot of money this way because you can reach so many potential readers through Amazon. Rose says one blogger he knows has several self-published books that bring in an average of $1,857 per month in royalties.
Ways to Make Money From Online Content
Once you’ve decided what kinds of online content you want to create, you need to figure out how to make money from that content. Some options include:
- Ad Sales. One easy way to make money from blogs and videos is by selling ad space. The easiest way to do this is through Google AdSense. It’s easy to set up, and Google takes care of tracking your views, traffic, and earnings. Rose says he once made $5,000 in a single month through Google Ads, but this is only possible once you have a successful site with a lot of readers or viewers.
- Affiliate Marketing. Another way to monetize a blog is through affiliate marketing, or setting up partnerships with brands to promote their products and services. Whenever you mention one of your partners in a post, you include a link to the brand with a code showing it came from your site. Your partner then pays you for every customer who buys the product after clicking on one of your links. Many resources can help you find affiliate partners for your site, including ClickBank, Commission Junction, Rakuten Marketing, ShareASale, and Impact Radius. Both Rose and Adams recommend looking for partners that are related to your blog’s niche, such as gardening supplies for a gardening blog.
- Sponsorships. Another way to work with brands is to have them sponsor you directly. For instance, if you have a podcast, you could have a sponsor who pays you a fee to talk about their products and services at some point during the podcast – like an ad with a more personal touch. If you have a YouTube channel, you can get companies to sponsor your videos or pay you for placing your products in them. Bloggers can write sponsored posts about a particular product or service in exchange for a fee. Rose says he got $100 for his first sponsored post, but nowadays, with his successful site, he can charge $4,500 per post. He also notes that his wife, who has a “pretty big Instagram following,” earns both cash and free stuff for promoting “things she loves” on her page.
- YouTube Partnerships. One of the best ways to make money from YouTube videos is to join the YouTube Partner Program. To do this, you must have a channel with at least 1,000 subscribers, 4,000 watch hours in the past year, and a linked AdSense account. If you’re accepted as a partner, you can earn money through ads displayed on your videos, channel memberships, merchandise sales, and a cut of subscription fees paid by YouTube Premium subscribers who watch your content.
- Product Sales. There are some forms of online content, such as books and online courses, that you can simply sell directly to customers. Adams says offering content for sale is the best way to make money off a blog.
- Lead Sales. Companies are always looking for new customers, and they’re often willing to pay for leads on people who might want their products and services. For instance, Rose has a site about life insurance that gets a lot of visitors interested in buying it. Rather than selling it to them directly, he has a form on his site that people can fill out to request quotes from insurance companies. He then collects a fee from the companies for connecting them with customers.
- Memberships and Subscriptions. If you have a big enough online presence that a community has formed around you, you can charge people for membership. For instance, you could create an online forum and charge people a small fee to view or post there. You can also charge a subscription fee for a channel on YouTube or the online gaming network Twitch, a podcast, or an email newsletter.
A final way to earn money online is to harness the power of the Web for investing. The Internet has created whole new areas to invest in, as well as making it easier to put your money into traditional investments.
Here are some ways to use the Internet for investing, from simple to complex:
- Earn More on Your Savings. Opening a savings or checking account at an online bank like Bask Bank or Simple.com can get you a much better rate than you could earn at a traditional brick-and-mortar bank. Online banks also offer low fees and good customer support. Making this switch won’t put a lot of extra money in your pocket, but it’s as close to a risk-free investment as you can get.
- Use a Robo-Advisor. If you’ve been keeping most of your money in the bank because you don’t know how to invest it, a robo-advisor can help. These are algorithms that select a portfolio of index funds for you based on your investment goals and then maintain it automatically. Investing with a robo-advisor is easy and costs less in fees than a typical managed fund. Some of the better-known ones are Betterment, Ally Invest, and Acorns, which focuses on investing with small sums.
- P2P Lending. In the past, if you needed to borrow money, you had to get a loan from a bank – which, in turn, was getting it from depositors. Today, the Internet has made it possible to eliminate the middleman. You can make loans directly to borrowers through peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms such as LendingClub and Prosper and keep most of the interest for yourself.
- Crowdfunding. You can also use the Internet to invest in other people’s businesses as part of a group. Various equity crowdfunding sites allow you to stake moderate sums on many different ventures and make money on the ones that succeed. This kind of investment can be risky since many startups fail, but it also offers a chance to get in on the ground floor with one of the few that become wildly successful.
- Flipping Websites. Here’s an investment that definitely couldn’t exist without the Internet: buying and selling websites. Through sites like Flippa and Deal Flow Brokerage, you can purchase available domain names or entire online businesses, then sell them to others for a profit. Adams says this can be a sizable source of income, but only if you know what you’re doing. It’s not an investment for beginners.
Don’t feel limited by this list. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of money-making opportunities, more than a single article can cover. If you have an idea for a new product or service you’d like to sell online, there’s almost certainly a site out there that can help you do it.
No matter what your passion is, you can probably find a way to make money from it online with enough time. Just search the Web for stories of others who have done the same, and then follow their examples. If you succeed, your own success story could be an example to others one day.
Can you think of any other ways to make money online?