If you write a popular article on your website your readers will tell you what they want to see next.
My list of favorite things about living in Bali led to a daily stream of emails asking me for advice on making an income to support expat life–or early retirement–in Southeast Asia. (For me the question becomes how to earn money online, since starting physical businesses in a place like Bali has risk and expense that online businesses don’t have.)
Basically it was: “That’s all fine for you, but what can I do to support myself and my family as an expat?”
It’s a fair question, and I’ve had too many people ask me for advice to just ignore them. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve though a lot about the many dozens of friends I have around the world supporting themselves online, and the mentors informal and otherwise from whom I’ve learned how to earn money online.
You see: no two of these internet income experts are earning in exactly the same way. That’s why I suspect there’s a method out there for everyone.
I decided to create a comprehensive article to which I could refer you—regardless of you goals, your background, or your existing skills—listing some of the finest experts, blogs and websites for learning about creating income online right now.
I made it a point to list experts who use a wide variety of methods. The two things they all have in common is they’re very good at making money online in some way, and they offer a lot of education on how to earn money online for free (in addition to paid training too sometimes).
You’ll find artists, writers, entrepreneurs, jacks of all trades, and experts on specialized areas of making money online, like SEO, Facebook marketing or buying and selling websites.
If you have no prior knowledge of how to make money online this list is for you. I’m assuming only curiosity, some motivation, and Internet access.
By the way, you’ll find no programmers, app creators, or directions that require a computer science degree (or any degree at all). Too many people don’t even take the first step because they fear their lack of technical competence disqualifies them. In a minute you’ll see how untrue this is: the tech only serves the business.
You might find several directions below that sound intriguing. This can make it hard to get started. I’d suggest reading this article here for instructions on how to begin with your own interests, aptitudes and experience to earning online income–your domain expertise–to determine a good direction to go.
And remember: to Wage Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean riding the bus up to Kathmandu, or to ‘count the cats of Zanzibar’. For you it might mean working from home to spend time with your kids in their early years. Whatever your dream, these two posts are for you. You can do it. Believe it.
The best way I know to earn money is to match your interests, aptitudes and experience–your domain expertise–with one of 10,000 ways to make money online. I believe using the Internet to make money is far easier than it used to be.
This article is over 9,000 words. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. Let me give you a bit of encouragement before we get going, drawn from my own experience, a quick taste of how this process might work for you. Just two approaches, both related to client work…
1) Take a talent you already have (or can develop)– writing, drawing, speaking well, and add some tech know-how to build an internet-based business around it. Or, provide it to business customers. It will open doors you haven’t yet imagined.
You’re closer than you think to being able to do this.
2) A slightly different path: as you learn–whether it’s SEO, copywriting, running Google Ads or Facebook advertising, conversion rate optimization, etc.–you’ll begin to notice problems with websites you visit, and with marketing that could be done better. These websites and marketing campaigns represent businesses making real money. Businesses with marketing budgets, looking to reach more people and retain existing customers. Businesses that are often looking for help.
Seeing evidence of your newfound analytical ability you should feel empowered, and your time spent studying will be validated. Knowing that you can help, selling your services to businesses is much easier than you think. I’ve met clients at restaurants, on airplanes, waiting in line, etc., just by expressing my (real) enthusiasm for marketing improvements they should be making. You get the idea.
How to use this list:
Here’s the most important part of this 9,000-word article:
If a money-making method sparks your interest, just reading without taking action is worse than never reading it at all.
Doing nothing is one thing. But thinking about getting ready to get started is kidding yourself.
With making money online there is no end to the learning you can and will do, and (unlike employment) no boss standing over you telling you to take action. This is dangerous!
Reading case studies and learning about a new effective method for a business can give you a kind of vicarious stimulation that for many people is a total substitute for action. Don’t do this.
Treat taking action as the price of reading. Play or do not play. Or in this case, add work or do not read.
Start a blog using my free tutorial here, buy a domain (your name as a .com if it’s available), get cheap hosting and install WordPress. Or maybe buy a small website. Or, create a (complete) Upwork profile if you have a direction for a side gig or client work in mind, if it makes sense for you.
We’re not talking about quitting your job tomorrow. You’re building a knowledge foundation on the topic of how to earn money online here. Acting on what you’ve learned is the real education.
This knowledge is your weapon against uncertain economic times. This is you embracing and using technology instead of feeling threatened that it will make your job obsolete. This is you preparing for what’s coming.
Take action, and don’t worry about optimizing in the ‘right‘ direction too soon. It’s a great way to never get started.
OK, end of speech.
1) Tim Ferriss
Many people running online (and offline) empires today look back at the book The Four Hour Work Week as the moment when the light bulb lit up.
Released just before the 2008 economic downturn, the book encouraged readers to look beyond employment for opportunity. It pointed to ‘lifestyle design’ as an option available to anyone willing to embrace new, often Internet-related methods and tools for making money, as well as a can-do brand of personal responsibility we rarely wield as employees.
Call it life hacking, an abundance mindset guide or a hustler’s handbook, the 4HWW invites the outside-the box thinker in all of us to go beyond what we think constrains us.
It’s an invitation to choose yourself for goals perhaps not indicated by your background. It’s a practical foundation on which you can transform the rest of your life.
If you’re serious about a post-employment life, this is an invitation you have to take to heart.
The book has too many practical suggestions and lessons to be a ‘self-help’ book, but you’ll feel empowered and inspired by the micro-entrepreneur case studies and examples drawn from Ferriss’ own life.
Some of the tactics Ferriss talks about are outdated, but it doesn’t matter. The Four Hour Work Week is a book you’ll want to have read, background for conversations you’ll be having with new friends you’ll meet as a tech-enabled entrepreneur.
Ferriss’ attitude is infectious. You might never have met anyone quite like this brilliant guy who believes reality is negotiable. By example he might become a virtual mentor-as-touchstone to fortify you for battles to come.
His site is the perfect introduction to the book’s themes.
2) Dan Andrews/Ian Schoen – Tropical MBA
Dan writes for The Tropical MBA blog and along with business partner Ian produces the highly-rated Tropical MBA Podcast. These digital renaissance men have built multiple successful businesses and have real-world expertise in e-commerce, physical product creation, media, online communities and other ventures.
At some point ‘making money online’ becomes ‘using the Internet for business’. This is Dan and Ian’s focus. This article you’re reading is about getting started, but from the beginning you should be thinking about things like:
• How people around you and online are making money, not to steal ideas but to identify opportunities to use working methods into other markets or products (‘rip, pivot, and jam’)
• Outsourcing and hiring people rather than doing everything yourself
• Getting creative with methods you’re learning, to serve a market you identify as you go. For example, if you’re an illustrator, do you offer logos for business on Fiverr or ‘visual presence upgrade packages’ (just made it up) containing a website header/footer, Twitter background, Facebook Page cover photo, business card designs, and a logo? Oh and you can install your designs in each medium too?….. One is $5 a pop forever, the latter might be a $297 offer, i.e. a business.
I mentioned at the start of this article that the breadth and depth of knowledge of some of the experts on this list are worthy of a deep dive if you’re really ready to move from methods and mindset of an employee to that of a self-employed person: the Tropical MBA experience certainly offers that.
Taken as a whole, the content they’ve produced in the last several years resembles a graduate business curriculum, except online business methods and tech tools Dan and Ian discuss are more timely than the two-year-old strategies they’re theorizing over at your local university. Oh, and it’s free.
There’s big opportunity for small enterprise somewhere between startups seeking Silicon Valley VC funding and people happy making a few hundred dollars a month from a part-time online gig. Dan and Ian speak mostly to people looking to enter this broad middle ground. If you’re serious about online income, this means you.
You won’t get instruction on basic topics like installing WordPress or getting started as a freelancer here. You will get a higher-level perspective on current opportunities for entrepreneurs in a changing landscape, which should inform your direction, from the start.
When you’ve created some success for yourself as an entrepreneur and you think you’re ready for the next level, apply for Dynamite Circle membership for truly world-class networking, online entrepreneur/digital nomad lifestyle advice and joint venture opportunities.
Start here, and get on the mailing list:
3) Derek Sivers
It’s hard to know where the business mindset tips end and the hard business advice begins with most of the experts on this list, and Derek Sivers is a good example of this. Founding CD Baby in 1998 and eventually selling it for an 8-figure sum, he’s a true e-commerce pioneer with obvious business chops.
His experience informs his writing on business topics but his tone is always that of an creative, caring artist, perfect for beginners in online business who feel a little overwhelmed. As you learn, you’ll need to make some choices and commit to specific ways to earn online. You’ll need to re-frame early failure as learning, and a hundred other things employees never think about. Derek Sivers will help you with this.
• ‘Start by sharing whatever you’ve got’ http://sivers.org/sharing
• ‘How to hire a programmer to make your ideas happen’ http://sivers.org/how2hire
• Understanding ‘scaling’ http://sivers.org/nolimit
What are a few skills online entrepreneurs should have nowadays? As we go, I’ll define a few core concepts you’ll want to know. This background will be helpful in the next section. (Do skim past this if you’re familiar with these concepts)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science (and art) of being found online via search engines. Being found is step one, so anyone doing business online should have a good understanding of it, or access to someone who does.
Creating a website is about more than its look: the site should be optimized for search with good ‘on-page/on-site’ SEO from the beginning. It makes a huge difference in the amount of visitors it will receive from search engines, still the prime source of new visitors for most websites.
Years ago many website owners relied on using search engines—and SEO—as their main source of traffic to their websites. Whole businesses could be built on knowledge of how to drive consistent traffic this way. For many reasons this is more difficult to do today. It is much less common (though not unheard of!) to use SEO as a standalone strategy. Traditional SEO has given way to ‘content marketing’ and site owners or those who advise them also leverage social media, paid traffic and many other marketing methods to funnel visitors to their web site or presence.
Still, good SEO is vital, and it will be as long as visitors come from search engines.
The SEO game changes with every major update of Google’s search algorithm. Misusing SEO or using outdated tactics can really hurt a website’s presence in search, so it’s imperative you get your basic education from a source that’s both reputable and up-to-date. I have you covered, below.
Also, providing SEO services for businesses can be quite lucrative. There is a learning curve, and I wouldn’t call it a money-making method for beginners necessarily, but the fact is that lots of motivated, sharp people have bootstrapped their way into self-employment this way, sometimes very quickly. You’ll know you’re getting close if you’re running experiments on your own sites.
Peruse the web and you’ll still find websites of many established businesses to be appalling SEO-wise. That is opportunity for someone.
Once you understand SEO basics you’ll be equipped to follow experts like Glen, Matthew and Hayden (below) who share SEO experiments they do, and maybe run your own. If that sounds ambitious, well it is. But if you’re looking for a new challenge that can pay very well you might consider it.
…is earning commission by selling products created by other people or companies. An affiliate marketer’s main challenge is to bring people to the his/her unique affiliate link (given by a merchant or affiliate network), then to compel them to click the link and buy. Buying through an affiliate link doesn’t raise the price of the item for the buyer, by the way.
Put your affiliate link on a page of your spectacularly helpful content, especially if that page is on a website regarded as authoritative by people and search engines, and you can be very successful.
There’s nothing shady about it; it’s a legitimate way to be compensated for your effort in helping a person find something they want, and usually reviewing its pros and cons in the process, sometimes extensively.
Affiliate marketing strategies are still one of the the most popular ways to make online income (or to supplement other methods you use), and not only by being the person who makes the commission. At some point you might find yourself creating products of your own and recruiting affiliates to sell for you for a commission.
Protip: Since Google ranks websites differently than it once did, and and because many search results are now dominated by paid ads, affiliate marketing strategies have changed. Affiliate marketing used to have a cozy relationship with SEO as a primary way to generate consistent traffic to websites. Creating small niche websites to target a narrow set of keywords to sell one or a few related products was common, but now it’s less effective than it was…generally.
Therefore, many affiliate marketers now focus on creating trusted, authoritative, branded sites, often an extension of an expertise one might have on a topic, and creating real connections with customers who might buy repeatedly. This brings us to:
Email lists and newsletters
As internet users become more sophisticated, non-spammy ways to reach out to people who have expressed interest in what you do are more relevant than ever. An important method for turning a single visit to your website into the foundation for a customer relationship is by collecting visitor email addresses and sending out regular emails to them.
This favors you if you write well and sincerely on subjects and products you care about. You can also use video to convey your message. The good news is you can focus on building your list and crafting engaging newsletters while automating the process, sending out pre-defined sequences of emails based on how a visitor found you.
Everyone on this list will invite you to sign up for their newsletter and a few offer free content or whole courses to educate you on their area of expertise. You’ll see the sign-up forms and popup windows.
Sign up for these newsletters: it’s a great way to keep up with your online education. (Create an email address for this purpose if you want to) Usually there are worthwhile pieces of ‘VIP’ content offered for you when you sign up.
But also: please pay attention to HOW these experts reach out to you with their newsletter. They are teaching you by example. The content usually–hopefully–contains messages that are relevant to you, and they usually test their methods so that you won’t be turned off and unsubscribe–which you can easily do, at any time. It’s a meta-lesson for you, and who better to learn it from than the very people who will be teaching you?
Most of us have established a social media presence as users. (Please don’t worry if you haven’t, do keep reading!)
You know there’s a lot more to social media than your Facebook status updates and Pinterest pins. Still, you might not feel the need to learn much about the services behind the ‘share’ icons you see near articles you read online.
I’ll say it gently: start slowly, but this needs to change. No matter how you approach the internet as a tool for making an income you’ll need to work social media into your strategy: people you’re trying to reach spend too much time using it to ignore.
Don’t think you have to become an expert in every social media service to be effective. You don’t. And, don’t think you have to spend hours each day interacting on social media— you shouldn’t! Tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, EveryPost, BuzzBundle etc. can help you manage your social media presence and save you loads of time.
You should use everyone on this list as an example of how to use social media well, because—as with email lists—it’s part of what’s made them successful. I’ve included a small section on Facebook ads later to sensitize you to the possibilities for paying for traffic, but to be clear: social media is outreach that costs you time only, so you have an incentive to learn to efficiently manage it. Doing so will pay huge rewards over time.
OK, that was a bit of necessary background, let’s continue the list!
MOZ is a major authority on SEO, with something for everyone, even experts. Their archives have endless detailed value sourced from many respected SEOs and the MOZ team. Whatever level of SEO expertise you’re aiming for MOZ wants to be your go-to reference. In 2013 they changed their name to MOZ from SEOmoz, reflecting the increased relevance of other methods of generating traffic.
They now offer a wide range of education and analytical tools (including many terrific free tools) on marketing generally. If you’re just starting out focus on the following links if you’re ready to build a site, or to properly SEO a website someone else builds for you. Web designers don’t always have SEO skills, and SEO is something you can’t leave to chance..
A comprehensive guide to basic SEO
and off-page SEO.
You’ll have a solid foundation if you go through the MOZ basic SEO lessons and before you spend your time and enthusiasm on endless, outdated, often dubious opinions all over the web, please start here.
Also, I referred to ‘misusing SEO’ above, by employing more aggressive methods for ranking well for specific keywords that matter to your business. MOZ will teach you to err on the side of caution if you attempt to do this, and give you plenty of background with which you can view the ongoing debate in the SEO community as to how aggressively one might use these tactics without jeopardizing a site’s position in search results.
5) Pat Flynn – Smart Passive Income
Transparency, positivity and integrity are Pat’s modus operandi. He’s been a huge influence on so many people starting out, and if you are you’ll feel like he’s speaking directly to you. If you want proof that nice guys can finish first (or at least, very well!) take a look at the upper right-hand corner of any page on his website. Go ahead, I’ll wait!
Pat’s very prolific, consciously employing a ‘be-everwhere’ strategy in spreading his presence over many different media. It all informs his podcast and blog and gives you the latest on a huge variety of topics, such as the role of social media in your business, using video and podcasts for getting the word out, and most aspects of the path from blogger to entrepreneur. The archive is huge, filled with value.
Pat’s niche site duel in 2010 influenced thousands of people to get into building niche websites to create semi-passive income. The game has changed somewhat, largely due to changes in Google’s ranking algorithm. In this recent article on upgrading two of his well-known sites, Pat shows how his thinking toward niche sites has evolved, and shares specific steps he’s taking to triple his revenue from the sites.
You’ll learn a lot about what’s still possible with narrowly-focused sites, and why ‘authority’ is such a key concept for all sites you build. It’s also a valuable article if you’re interested in buying an existing site, authorities for which I’ll list later in this article.
Affiliate marketing is a big portion of his business and the page at this link will start you off from the very beginning.
Pat has an excellent series of articles and podcast episodes on email lists, newsletters and auto-responders.
Pat’s not afraid to share his business setbacks either, which should serve to put yours into perspective.
6) Social Media Examiner
I had a pretty good idea of who I wanted on this list even before I started— most people here have taught me a lot over the years—but as I researched this article Social Media Examiner kept popping up as an amazing source of social media education.
I wanted a go-to site on the subject I could refer you to, especially since my own education has been piecemeal over the years. Seriously, this is a tsunami of timely info, helpful whether you’re taking your own social media presence to the next level or starting to offer services to clients. Use it as a go-to reference on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook Twitter, etc. whenever you need background or help expanding your expertise into a channel you don’t yet use.
Keep current with your social media education. Channels change constantly, which further solidifies your status as an expert as you keep up with it all.
Pro tip: when you’re reading ‘a guide for small business’ do keep reading, even if you don’t feel like one yet. Soon you’ll be thinking like one. Then you’ll be running one.
Get started here:
7) Josh and Jill Stanton – Screw the Nine to Five
For proof that a husband-and-wife team can run a successful online business while traveling and working from exotic places all over the world, take a look at these two pros. Affiliate marketing is Josh and Jill’s expertise, and the free information they share is solid and actionable especially if you’re just getting started.
- This first link takes you to a whole series of articles on affiliate marketing, a case study on an actual affiliate website Josh and Jill created. It takes you from the very beginning with niche selection and overall strategy, and covers related topics like SEO and website creation:
There’s plenty to explore in their video and podcasts too. This episode is excellent:
And by the way, if you think being a geek with no personality is a requirement for online income success, Jill and Josh’s unpretentious enthusiasm proves otherwise! Their meta-lesson is that if you have a talent for putting people at ease and genuinely connecting with them, do not hide it and don’t limit it to writing either! Grab the device of your choice, get the video or podcasting going and leverage it right into your marketing.
8) Matthew Woodward
Woodward concentrates mostly on SEO, and on his site you’ll find plenty of SEO-related tutorials, tool reviews etc., but there’s a whole lot more. Matthew is one of the people on this list who focus on their own experiments and hacking shortcuts to success out of existing methods, and I find more creativity and originality with him than almost anyone else whose articles I read regularly.
A lot of his content can probably be termed intermediate-to-advanced level, so don’t be intimidated if you feel over your head, please. If it’s hard it means you’re growing. I’m including him here because sometimes enthusiasm for a topic–which Matthew is good at provoking–can motivate us to learn faster.
The range here is wide: comprehensive instruction on everything from affiliate marketing, social media engagement, Facebook advertising, website monetization, blogging topics, and email marketing.
Most posts feature a method or review of a tool that’s new to me (not always a positive review by the way!) or a tutorial giving away information other businesses might package up and sell. He publishes the monthly income he earns from this site too, and it’s very respectable.
So many solid reviews. A healthy income. Do you suppose the two are related? It’s another of the meta-lessons to which I alluded earlier: his review posts will contain affiliate links.
Again, buying through those links doesn’t raise the buyer’s purchase price. And he gives away so much detailed info—more granular than the creator of the tool gives sometimes!—that I don’t hold it against him one bit.
• Email marketing: http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/email-marketing-part-1/
• YouTube Video Optimization: http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tutorials/youtube-marketing-optimization-part-1-channel-videos/
• Conversion rate optimization: http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/tips/how-i-increased-profits-by-changing-the-colour-of-a-button/
• This is a review of a rather expensive piece of software, BuzzBundle, to help a marketer engage efficiently using social media. I’m including it because it’s a great tool (especially relevant with recent changes in SEO) and because Matthew’s detailed review of it shows exactly how you’ll want to do affiliate reviews. http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/reviews/buzzbundle-review-how-i-drive-traffic-to-my-blog/
9) Bryan Harris – VideoFruit
Harris bills Videofruit as a place for business owners to learn how to produce video content for their businesses, but he delivers much more. He shares methods he implements with clients as well as original ideas which take advantage of new tech, trends and combinations of strategies. Bryan is here because of his original approach to interesting hybrid methods and overall creativity.
Here is a perfect example: ‘How to make $1,000 in the next 14 days without an idea’ is a empty promise with no substance at all, right? Well take a look at just how Harris suggests you pick an idea for a consultancy business, then how to get started on it, today. Seriously, take a look! Simple and brilliant:
Once you start getting signups to your email list this article will show you that you can be successful launching a product to as few as 25(!) people:
Or, how to get your first $3,000/month client:
I ran across Bryan relatively recently but his approach and work ethic means you want to be on his mailing list.
10) Nick Loper – Side Hustle Nation
The point for Nick is to get ‘side hustles’ going, as a way of testing a range of money-making ideas that could turn out to be profitable winners. You want to be looking to specialize eventually, but if you’re getting started there’s a lot to be said for casting a wide net. Nick has enough energy to diversify into many different ways to make income himself, and his podcast features hustlers using all sorts Internet-enabled money making tactics. If you have a commute you should be listening to Nick’s podcast (also The Tropical MBA podcast!).
Follow Nick on Twitter and you’re tempted by a constant stream of interviews with online entrepreneurs involved with sub-niche business and promotional ideas you might never have imagined:
• the Fiverr seller who earned enough to buy a house (!)
• repurposing your existing content into Amazon books and Udemy courses
• viral Slideshare presentations
• finding productized consulting opportunities via one-page Adsense sites
• how to automate your peer-to-peer lending
• turning your blog into a coaching business
If you don’t know some of those terms, well that’s part of the point. Familiar ways of earning from the Internet are dividing into micro-niches and recombining in interesting ways, driven by creative people like the ones Loper introduces you to. This is another site worthy of a deep dive.
Here’s just a taste of Side Hustle Nation:
11) Hayden Miyamoto/No Hat Digital
Had to be on this list. Visit http://www.nohatdigital.com for a look into the future, among other things.
With a compound in Mexico that sounds equal parts high-tech commune and mad scientists’ club, No Hat Digital isn’t the first or only entrepreneur’s incubator, but I’m impressed by the professionalism and scale of it. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of these collective efforts to combine the best elements of teamwork and entrepreneurship.
You probably aren’t reading this article with an plan to jump on a plane to Mexico so what does this have to do with you?
NHD brings together people with a common desire to
• conduct far-ranging marketing experiments, share the results and scale them if they’re successful
• ‘fire their boss’
• participate in social opportunities for entrepreneurs
NHD offers a choice of two virtual online internships that could accelerate your online career path quickly: 20 hrs/week for five weeks, written and video training, time management techniques and by the end the knowledge that you can create a new business in five weeks.
The free internship will have you working on site NHD owns while being mentored by team members, often scaling methods that have shown promise as NHD experiments. The paid internship lets you work on your own site(s) or projects while being mentored toward growing them into real businesses.
Mentorship opportunities do not come by every day. How serious are you?
Read about it here:
Graduates of both internships have opportunities to partner with NHD on new businesses or maybe as a paid employee. Apparently moving to Valle De Bravo, Mexico is an option too.
To understand the reasons why Hayden has structured his organization as he has, plus why and how his team has pivoted away from SEO as their main source of traffic in 2014 look at this:
Some people work well alone. Others thrive off the sort of camaraderie and teamwork Hayden appears to be constructing in Mexico. Even if you don’t relocate, embrace the networking possibilities you have online. Entrepreneur or freelancer, you’re more likely to find success after leaving your job if you also grow your ability to connect.
12) Glen Allsopp – Viperchill
OK, here’s another person who produces original material that will veer into intermediate-to-advanced level subjects, but his explanations are so lucid and the experiments/research he shares so interesting that he has to be on this list.
AKA Viperchill, Glen started helping large corporate clients increase their search engine traffic when he was in his teens. Now he’s an example of the multi-faceted opportunity you have when you really master a skill that makes money. He also has a ton to teach.
Much of his focus is still on SEO for business, and if you’re analytical, intellectually flexible and like a challenge it might be a path to think about. It won’t be right for everyone, and there’s a learning curve, but if your interest is sparked by Glen’s attitude and the SEO analysis he shares, helping business clients with SEO might be a goal for you.
Remember what I said at the beginning, about marketing problems of business websites being easier to spot as you learn more?
At the same time, many SEO tactics from a few years ago are no longer effective, and lots of people who offered SEO services to businesses using these tactics are no longer around, or offer other services in addition to SEO. Also, SEO is just complicated enough that the prospect of learning current methods well is a barrier to entry for many.
This all means opportunity for you, if you’re competent enough to help clients. Combining SEO knowledge with content marketing ability and social media engagement techniques means you have a very solid foundation for internet marketing, for your own services or products or for those of clients.
We’re not talking about just getting by. If you can sell, or merely excited at the thought of helping businesses fix gaping problems in their marketing of which they might be unaware, you can make much more money than your current boss. And his boss.
It will take more than a couple of weeks, but let me be clear: internalize lessons from people like Glen Allsopp and that is the road you’re heading down.
Balance the foundational SEO knowledge you got from MOZ with Glen’s recently updated article below, and if you really understand it all you’ll know more than many people who sell SEO services. Even if you don’t aim for SEO clients this knowledge will be worth a lot for your own sites! Note that some tactics in this article would be considered controversial by some, but Glen has labeled them as such.
Facebook ads PPC (pay per click) study. You’ll understand a whole lot about paid traffic from this single post. Reads like a detective novel, plenty of data, plenty of return on his investment too, and so well-explained:
Here’s an excellent step-by-step video series that outlines in great detail how affiliate marketing, blogging, email lists and auto responder series should all work together for you no matter what type of business you’re building.
When I get well-written emails from people of obvious intelligence asking for suggestions on how to leave low-wage jobs, I feel their frustration.
There should be a way to participate in today’s economy using higher capacities you spent years developing in school.
I sincerely believe there is, regardless of your skill. It’s a big part of what I’m expressing in this article and throughout WageFreedom.com.
Ironically, a million businesses would pay these Wage Freedom readers— often quite well— to employ the same skill they use to passionately articulate their money and job problems to me!
Marketing has become even more dependent on writing, as illustrated by three new-ish ways businesses reach potential customers and retain existing ones. See Carol Tice below.
13) Carol Tice – Make a Living Writing
For quality and quantity of info on the business of writing Carol’s outstanding site had to be here.
I mentioned supercharging skills you already have with tech and marketing know-how to totally change the way your ability is valued.
Please start with this article on the benefits of working on retainer, because it also concisely introduces content marketing, social media account management and e-newsletters/email marketing:
Businesses which don’t use all three of these today risk getting ignored by their customers, and some are as likely to have a person on staff who can competently handle these tasks as they are to have an in-house plumber.
Here’s the thing: As with SEO years ago, marketing departments already knows they need to be doing these things (and by the way for many small businesses this ‘department’ is an owner juggling a dozen balls). They know they aren’t up to speed with the latest marketing methods, and might not be able to invest the time to learn them.
Clients need to be able to trust you, and trust that you can deliver. So learn what you must to deliver. Then get the word out with strategies drawn from Make A Living Writing and Copyblogger (below). Your focus might be on one of these skills, or all three. Tell them what their problems are–everything they know they aren’t doing– and how you’d solve these problems. You might find it’s an easier sell than you think.
Maybe you’re more comfortable trying for freelance jobs at first. That’s great—as you gain confidence look at freelancing as a way to sell clients on your services on retainer. Dig deep into Carol’s site. If you write well and you know it you will feel empowered. Please take that feeling and act.
There is gold in these two articles, for example:
To fortify yourself to get moving you can start here:
14) James Altucher
Writing books used to be what ‘being a writer’ usually meant. Today it’s just one of many ways to use writing ability for online income. But if you’re good—or especially prolific!—you’re going to love Altucher.
Well, every writer has to love James. It’s mandatory. Here’s one big thing he’ll teach you: forget finding a publisher who will allow you to ‘become a writer’. You are a writer if you write, and now you can choose yourself to take the next step of publishing professionally, yourself. You can also market your work better than publishing houses will tend to do for you (unless you sell a lot of books) by directly engaging your audience. Please start here!
‘The distinction now is no longer between “traditional publishing” versus “self-publishing.” The distinction now is between professional versus unprofessional publishing.’
I’ll resist superlatives with James, if I can. A brilliant iconoclast (couldn’t do it) and polymath, Altucher might become a virtual mentor-by-example for you as you redefine your career, and not just as a writer.
The next time you’re afraid to leap, let Altucher entertain you with a few (dozen) things that didn’t work out in his life, and how with the right attitude those things led to successes. As James says: choose yourself.
15) Copyblogger – Brian Clark
Brian Clark is a longtime authority on using writing for blogging, copywriting and business generally, and Copyblogger’s free archives have years of good information. Get on the mailing list.
I’ve mentioned the emphasis on ‘content marketing’ in writing today. It refers to the longer, well-written, researched articles in high demand nowadays, and many other tactics like eNewsletters, social media, Slideshare presentations, video, etc. etc. Many writers who used to churn out low-quality content for businesses looking to be found via SEO don’t do content marketing well. If you can create quality, you have even more of an advantage than you used to.
The game has changed, the bar for writing is higher now, and sites like Copyblogger (and Carol Tice’s site above) will help you participate in the new landscape. I’ve recommended the content marketing career pivot to professional writers in academia and freelance journalists.
• Big-picture look at what’s working: http://www.slideshare.net/CMI/b2b-small-business-content-marketing-2014-benchmarks-budgets-and-trends-north-america
• Content marketing lessons drawn from comedy writing: http://www.copyblogger.com/agile-content-marketing
Writing for money is attractive for many reasons:
• a low barrier to entry
• few attendant expenses
• rather easy-to-learn tech tools/methods
• maybe most of all: an increasing number of ways to use your talent
You don’t have to be a great writer to succeed in making money online per se, but remember: creating written content is a foundational part of sales, branding strategy, and presence. Persuasive copywriting and long-form sales pages can be especially lucrative. Even if you outsource, it still behooves you understand how to use writing to connect with people.
Earning Online with Art Talent
In high school did you spend more time drawing portraits or whole universes in your notebook than you did focusing on the lessons? If you can make original artwork —even if you eventually ‘got serious’ and stopped drawing, illustrating, painting or sketching — you have the basis for an online income stream.
There’s huge opportunity: too often young people might not be encouraged to regard artistic skills as commercially viable, even though both the need and ways to use talent has increased in the Internet age.
Just look at the websites and apps you visit, the logos, illustrations and caricatures businesses use to give their presence a professional flair. Combine your talent with software for illustrators and artists like Adobe Illustrator, Corel Painter and many others, and you have entered the digital realm.
Am I arguing against formal education in art, design or illustration? Absolutely not. But as with many opportunities on this list I AM arguing against the idea that a lack of formal training is a showstopper, assuming you’re motivated.
Of course, if you do have formal training but haven’t approached your talent as a way to extricate yourself from something else you do for money, please reconsider! There are so many ways to market yourself today which don’t require huge amounts of time, money or technical know-how. New platforms exist to streamline the process so you can focus on making your art.
16) Sarah Steenland
For a perfect example of just how many ways you can help businesses express their purpose and engage better with customers visually, please take a look at the ’social marketing cartoonist’ page from Sarah’s website:
Sarah offers her talent in 20+ ways to clients. If you are a visual artist how many of these methods could you use to help business owners who need to add personality to their presence? Sarah doesn’t teach (yet) how to make a living from art as far as I know, but take a good look at her presence and how she markets herself. Her example is as instructive as a formal course.
Even if you’re currently unfamiliar with the software tools it takes to produce work for the digital realm, isn’t it worth a try? There are many free ways to learn software tools, and many of them offer free trials. Whatever your artistic style, I’ll bet there are potential clients out there waiting to discover you. Help them.
And also, Sarah is another example of someone who’s changed professions to follow a better path while raising two kids, and is working during an epic trip with her family through Asia on their sailboat!
17) Yamile Yemoonyah
If your dreams of making a living from your art seem no match for your own internal obstacles and doubts, Yamile Yemoonyah understands you. She reminds you that your creativity isn’t something that has to be constrained for you to be successful in the art business. On the contrary, it can also infuse the business you start, and as an artist it should. Please start here:
You feel the authenticity and sense it’s an inner battle she herself has won, or is winning as a working artist. Sign up for her free marketing challenge and free monthly hangouts to start to bridge the gap between your creativity and a world that really is waiting to be inspired by your art.
The thing I appreciate about Yamile is that she addresses a barrier which I’m sure holds back many creative people, and shows a way through: commercial success for you as an artist can be about simply adding some marketing knowledge to your talent. You don’t have to somehow beat back your artistic side in the hope that an inner businessperson will present itself.
18) Cory Huff – The Abundant Artist
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of creating your online presence as an artist, please take a look at this spectacular 2-hr free recorded webinar Huff produced on how best to construct a artist’s website:
You might think selling art means you’ll have to dream up marketing processes and invent a website design and social media presence out of thin air. All this extraneous education and work would be enough to discourage anyone from getting started!
But it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Huff’s webinar is about accelerating the process by not reinventing the wheel. Huff shows exactly how to glean lessons from working artist websites as well as niche- and marketing research using SEO and Facebook Graph Search. Sound over your head? Please watch. It is practical, detailed instruction and by the end you’ll have enough to get you started. There is a long Q & A session at the end involving the webinar attendees.
Huff talking you through the process during the video could be the spark that compels you to getting started online as an artist, and I sincerely hope it does!
The blog section of Huff’s site http://theabundantartist.com/blog/ complements this webinar well. There’s plenty of nuts-and-bolts instruction on enhancing your platform and using social media channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Google Hangouts to get your art seen and to sell it.
Chances are you’re pretty comfortable navigating Facebook as a user, but you may never have thought much about ads you see. If you know what you’re doing Facebook ads can be an economical, effective way to target potential customers and funnel them to your website, or sell to your email list.
They offer detailed targeting options and are surprisingly easy to set up. Facebook has more than a billion users worldwide and it most certainly wants to help you target them, no matter who you’re tying to reach. Chances are that a user base so large will have plenty of people interested in what you have to offer.
Another thing to consider: focusing on getting good at a relatively narrow area of expertise like Facebook ads is one way to gain competence and a learn a sell-able skill relatively quickly.
Remember, Facebook is only one source of visitors you can pay to reach. Google Adwords is another, but some people think Adwords targeting is more complex, and in some applications less effective than Facebook ads. (Please see the Glen Allsopp article above for a single datapoint regarding Facebook ads vs Google Adwords)
At any rate, whether you try a few low-budget experiments or not, I’m including this section because I think it’s important to understand the role paid traffic can play in bringing attention to a website or to your presence, and perhaps nudge you to get involved, inexpensively.
19) Amy Porterfield
Amy has a ton of free educational Facebook marketing content for you, including free video training and podcasts. This article is an excellent place to start your education:
Amy also has good info on things like advanced targeting strategies, writing good copy for FB ads and peripheral but vital subjects like outsourcing. Her podcasts feature value-laden interviews with heavy hitters in Internet marketing and social media. Also, Facebook makes frequent changes to its advertising platform, and she (along with Rick below) is a go-to authority for explaining how the latest changes impact how you use it.
20) Rick Mulready
I learned a lot from Rick when I wanted to learn how to run Facebook ads for Teespring campaigns (a story I’ll tell sometime) in a hurry. Super-clear instruction, and he’s very good at conveying best practices far beyond the generic help Facebook supplies you.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of immediately–today–getting targeted traffic to your website but afraid you’ll be over your head with targeting options and have problems controlling your spending, go here for access to Rick’s terrific free webinar on getting started with Facebook ads for as little as $10/day:
Buying and Selling Websites
A guide to making money online today is incomplete if it doesn’t tell you where you can learn to get started buying websites. The process is analogous to buying real estate fixer-uppers or well-cared-for old cars whose value can be increased with knowledge and elbow grease. (A market certainly exists for apps but I’ll focus on websites here in the interest of brevity and because I have two excellent resources for learning about the website market to point you to)
Even though people spend a lot of time today in mobile apps and walled-off sites like Facebook, websites are still used as income streams or standalone businesses. Affiliate marketing, selling advertising, community/email list building, lead generation, digital or physical product sales and software sales are a few ways to make money with websites. Buy the site and you can buy the income stream too (make sure you are, in fact, buying it).
Good news: you might be surprised how little money it takes to purchase a site and immediately start earning, and learning about everything from traffic generation and promotion to website monetization, optimizing conversions to building an email list, etc.
Is a site making $30/month worth buying? What if it only cost you $250 and very little further effort? What if putting some work into it turned it into a site making $100/month, or more? What if you had a lot of these sites? Even more valuable in the long run might be the varied lessons you learn as you manage it.
Buy and refurbish it wisely and your site might become an income generator whose return on investment (ROI) makes it well worth you original purchase price. Or, sell it and repeat the process. After creating a process for buying and refurbishing websites, many people have built large portfolios of web properties for both income and equity growth.
21) Pro Guide To Buying Websites by Flippa: Learn as you Earn
The best, most comprehensive guide I know for buying web properties is Flippa’s free 70-page pdf Pro Guide To Buying Websites.
It’s outstanding, a few years old but not dated. It is all covered here: determining if a site suits your needs, site selection criteria, ways to gather data independently and analyze a website, dealing with sellers, how website sales transactions work.
Flippa has been a popular place to buy and sell websites and domain names online for many years, and that popularity means you’ll have to work to sift for quality sites once you finish the guide. Flippa’s notification system can email you when sites match a filter you create. There are third-party tools to help you search even faster.
For sheer range of offerings Flippa is very good, but don’t limit your search for sites to buy there. You’ll be rewarded for digging through search results, Ebay and many, many other places online and and offline for neglected websites with potential, and reaching out to site owners.
22) Empire Flippers
To accelerate the process of locating and purchasing sites whose traffic and income has been vetted for you, do not miss the Empire Flippers.
If you’re smart enough to know you don’t know enough yet, but do have funds to invest, look here. Site owners Justin and Joe act as full-service brokers for both buyers and sellers and have an excellent reputation built on transparency and helpfulness. (For example, currently they include site migration to your hosting as part of their service) Using Empire Flippers does not replace your own due diligence, but you’ll be provided many of the relevant metrics a smart buyer needs to take into account before you purchase.
There might be less room for negotiation on purchase price for the sort of premium sites listed at Empire Flippers, but having confidence in the site(s) you buy is worth it for many people. Also, prices for premium sites will tend to be higher no matter where you look.
Bonus: Here are a links to info from a couple of entrepreneurs with lots of real-world experience both buying and selling sites:
What you should do now:
Pat Flynn has a piece of great advice for writing blog posts: he talks about giving your reader ‘quick wins’: small, actionable tips that take a few minutes to convey.
I went completely against that idea in this post, and I’ll tell you why.
I aimed wide in terms of subject matter in the hope that more people would find at least one direction which interests them.
I don’t expect anyone to be drawn toward every discipline and expert I mention here, or even to read this entire article necessarily. If you find one blog post or person in this article that sets you on a better path then I’ve succeeded.
I chose each link carefully. I want you to find a spark.
Because I believe that, assuming you are willing to take action, there’s an idea out there— a person with critical bit of info you need right now— which can liberate you if you’re stuck.
I really do.
So, dig to find a direction that suits you. But also, please don’t read for weeks without taking any action. Education is ongoing for all internet entrepreneurs. It never ends. Do not wait to ‘become an expert’ to start. Being an expert is inextricably linked with experience.
Look, making money online is that rare human endeavor in which it’s not scarcity that holds us back. We can’t blame failure on a lack of knowledge on how to earn money online, lack of money, or even competition.
The real threat is never actually getting started. The difference between learning and taking action is all the difference in the world.
I created this article as a reference, and I expect to add to it. If there’s someone not on this list who’s helped educate you to use the Internet for income please tell me about them in the comments or @mention me on Twitter. @wagefreedom is my handle.
If you found value in this article please share it on social media. I sincerely appreciate every single share.
If you have a friend who is underemployed or dissatisfied with their job, please forward them the link to this article.
And, if ‘underemployed or dissatisfied’ describes you, I sincerely hope you can find the strength to improve your situation, armed with my humble pointers to people and knowledge you might not have had previously.
So which direction sounds like it might fit you best?
Start small. Please let me know how it goes. Life is too short not to wage freedom.
8 thoughts on “Making Money Online: 22 Experts to Get You Started”
Thanks for the shout! Quite an impressive list!
Thank you Nick for the endless actionable ideas and case studies. You’ve helped a ton of people.
Thank you so much for the extremely kind mention, Tom! We’re blushing over here 🙂
Oh you’re welcome Jill!
You two have such an engaging delivery and attitude, it puts people right at ease and makes your solid instruction totally accessible. I think that’s your superpower and it’s not an easy thing to do.
Screw the Nine to Five is perfect for people just starting out–and others of course! You had to be here.
Pingback: EFP 115: Building An eCommerce Brand From Scratch | FireMoney
Wow, what a great list! And what an honor to be mentioned alongside some of my favorite people, websites and podcasts 🙂
The research for this post must have taken you forever!
Thanks so much Yamile! I’ve been a fan of everyone on this list–most of them for a long time–but you’re right, I couldn’t publish without doing my very best to describe them and their work. It did take longer than I’d hoped! (But really that’s OK, it was fun!)
Good luck to you and keep going Yamile, there is huge need for what you’re doing. We need more artists who can make a living from the best parts of themselves!