Whether you want to profit off a passion, a side hustle to pay down debt, or make a living without leaving home, there are hundreds of legit ways to make money online. The key, however, is that you need to follow these 10 golden rules to make money online. If you don’t follow a few basic online business rules — you might just risk everything that you’ve built.
1. Online businesses are first and foremost businesses.
Many moons ago, I decided to sell some of my personal possessions. I was planning to move and didn’t want to lug around things I no longer needed. So, I listed them on sites like eBay to offload them. And it also didn’t hurt that I was making some extra cash on the side.
I didn’t realize the amount of work I had to put into this side hustle. I had to take pictures, write clear descriptions, and interact with prospective customers. And, once I made a sale, I had to box the items up properly and then go to the post office or schedule a pickup.
I eventually dedicated a spare room to this endeavor. The listed items were all in this dedicated room, and it was also where I packed these items for shipping.
I’m in no way complaining. But, it taught me the first rule of making money online; it’s a business.
Simply put, having a business — even a “quick-selling-items” business must be treated as any other business. If a business is going to be profitable, it cannot be a casual venture. Ultimately, websites don’t bring in any revenue. Rather, businesses make the revenue.
2. Know thy customers.
A surefire way not to make money online? Failing to create customers and failing to give customer service.
After all, according to Peter Drucker, “the purpose of business is to create a customer.”
Businesses exist only if they have customers. The chances of making a living online are slim-to-none if you don’t have a business. Accordingly, if you aren’t sure about whom you will serve, you might attract customers who aren’t really interested in your business.
So, how can you determine your ideal customer? Well, here are some tips that can accomplish just that;
- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes when you define your product or service. For example, how will your product or service improve your customers’ lives?
- Define the ideal customer for what you sell. For example, do they have a particular age, education, profession, or business? What is their income or financial status? Do they live or work in a specific location?
- Find out what specific benefits your customer wants from your product. What is the most important benefit that your ideal customer values most out of all the products or services you offer? What are their goals or fears?
- Know where they hang out. Which social channels do they use? What online groups do they engage with? What are they watching and reading online?
- Establish precisely when your ideal customer will purchase your product or service. For your customer to buy your product, what must occur in his life or at work? Does your customer buy during certain seasons, months, or weeks?
3. Determine your niche.
Markets have niches, but not all niches have markets. With that in mind, you could spend years in a marketless niche, not making a penny. But, on the other hand, if you fall into a niche with a market, you might stumble upon wealth.
Ask yourself the following questions before settling on a niche;
- Have you done any research on your potential niche?
- How much money do people already spend on products and services in that niche?
- How can you differentiate yourself?
- How well does it match your unique abilities and strengths?
- Would people pay you if you filled the gaps they need?
You most likely chose a domain name that you thought was catchy or inspirational to start your blog or site. However, the thing you failed to consider was if it applied to a niche that has a market.
As actor and filmmaker Nate Parker said, “Identify your niche and dominate it. And when I say dominate, I just mean work harder than anyone else could possibly work at it.”
4. Learn how to ethically monetize.
“If you are in the digital marketing industry, chances are that you heard the word monetization,” states the team over at CodeFuel. “Monetization refers to the process of making money from your website or other digital assets.” It doesn’t always mean selling products or services but instead generating revenue through your website.
Your website or app is the ideal place to market products, and there are countless ways to do so. You can monetize it, whether it’s an application, software, or browser extension.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a website for selling stuff at first — just use your email and practice your skills until you get better at it. Learn to communicate clearly and get your stuff out on time.
How can you monetize anything? For monetization to be successful, you need to connect with your target audience and provide them with what they are looking for. Unless you follow these steps, you won’t have problems monetizing a website, application, or extension.
You can employ affiliate marketing, PPC through Google AdSense, sponsored posts, and display ads and banners for websites. Other options would be paywalls or content locking, where visitors must answer a survey to view the content.
As for apps, paying per download or install is viable. But, you could also explore in-app purchases or advertising.
Whatever monetization strategy you use, the key is to be ethical. At the very least, this means earning a trustworthy reputation and working with legit platforms like AdSense, CodeFuel, or Shopify.
5. Stop chasing quick-rich schemes.
As the old saying warns, if “something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” And this definitely applies to making money online. After all, there are way too many grifters and snake oil salespeople prying on people’s susceptibility.
What’s more, these scams, schemes, and downright bad financial ideas, can be risky. For instance, because there isn’t much public information regarding the company, investing in penny stocks can be unpredictable. The same is true with online gambling as most online gamblers; one study found that 89% actually lose money.
But what about the ad your saw on YouTube? I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But that’s trying to get you to waste your money on a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme or a package that promises more information and excitement.
Look — it’s likely that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist — this is just a private suspicion — don’t quote me. But we all learn at some point that getting rich quick rarely occurs. As such — brace yourself — it’s going to take months, if not years, before you’re making a consistent and positive cash flow. Just stick with the work and work your plan.
6. Time is money.
Let’s be clear. Not all making money online endeavors are equal. For instance, there is no shortage of online surveys. Even though they’re on the up and up, are they really worth your time? You could spend hours just to make a measly five bucks.
And continuing from the previous point, the same is true with investing in an MLM. No matter how it’s spun, an MLM is a pyramid scheme. Whoever sits at the top makes all the cash, while those in the middle worry about recruiting new people. And even worse, they are encouraged to peddle garbage to their friends and families. In reality, multilevel marketing is arguably one of the worst ways to earn money.
7. Don’t succumb to the dark side of clickbait.
“As its name implies, clickbait is content written specifically to attract as many clicks as possible,” explains Dan Shewan for WordStream. “Just about any type of content can be considered clickbait.” Skip the dark side clickbait because there is plenty of really good stuff on the light side of click-worthy information.
You can make any web content clickbait by packaging it specifically — news stories, blog posts, interviews, infographics, and videos. The main characteristics, however, are:
- A compelling and eye-catching headline
- It can easily be skimmed
- Images and videos that are funny or memorable
- A tone that appeals strongly to a specific emotion
- Designed to promote social sharing
Not all clickbait consists of these features, but many of them do. When used correctly, clickbait can drive more traffic to your site or social channels and can be used to spread brand awareness.
Understand clearly that misleading clickbait will damage your reputation. Additionally, your audience will likely not find sensationalism appealing. Pageviews aren’t really all that important if no one buys. So, for example, Medium relies on Total Reading Time instead of the click metric model.
8. You absolutely need SEO.
To succeed online financially, you need marketing skills in addition to expertise. It’s imperative to be able to market your blog, online store, YouTube videos, e-books, or online courses outside of your business. To accomplish that, you will need strong social media skills — particularly with Facebook and a solid understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).
It’s all about quantity and quality in SEO. As you improve the performance of your website’s back-end and front-end, you will increase traffic and search engine rankings. A data-driven approach is used to combine SEO elements. Among them are:
- Keyword analysis. Your words can affect your rankings online, and certain words are more powerful than others. People use keywords often to find what they are looking for, and they can be single words or phrases. To ensure high-quality content while still using frequently searched keywords, it is essential to research keywords and strategically place them throughout your content.
- Backlink building. A backlink is a link on your website that links back to another credible, high-quality website. You gain credibility by citing relevant sources because you build backlinks to your website.
- Content creation. The essence of SEO is in content creation. Direct communication with your existing and prospective customers is possible through your content. The purpose of keywords is to help you build authority and trust. An effective digital presence can balance the human element of your customer-driven business with the necessary analytics to optimize it.
9. Protect yourself.
Recently, I had a friend sell their old washer and dryer. So, naturally, they listed these appliances online. However, a red flag was raised when the buyer said they paid via Zelle. But, they accidentally overpaid by $100.
Smell that? Yep. That’s fishy.
- Take ownership of your business name, like securing a domain name.
- Go from being a sole proprietorship to an LLC.
- Keep tabs on all online actions and affiliations.
- Consider investing in business insurance.
- If you intend to offer goods or services to individuals or to join forces with another business or entity, creating a paper trail is a wise decision.
- Having a website is a necessity for online business owners. If you collect customer information, such as their email addresses and phone numbers, having legal documents such as privacy policies, disclaimers, and terms and conditions is essential.
- Become GDPR compliant. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted to protect consumer information. It is anticipated that these regulations will soon be expanded to the United States, even though they are currently enforced primarily in the EU.
10. You need capital, skills, and resources.
Financial resources, time, and skills are needed for every form of earning. In the same way, making money online involves various skills and a lot of time. And while it’s possible to get started for next-to-nothing, you will need some money to purchase the necessary tools and software.
For instance, to launch a blog, you’ll need to purchase a domain and hosting. In addition, if you were a freelance graphic designer, you would certainly need software like Photoshop. And, if you considered dropshipping, you might have to dish out anywhere from $63 to $420 a month.
Beginners often try to make money online. But unfortunately, they lack the necessary capital, skills, or resources, so they fail.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Money Online
1. Is making money online right for me?
If you have the time, you should definitely try it, are motivated, and want to introduce a new income stream. Eventually, online income could pay off in the long run.
2. How do I start an online business with no money?
Freelancing is the best option when you have no money to invest in an online business. To start, you will need an email address, an internet connection, and a service you can provide. First, however, it would be wise to consider investing in a website to land more clients.
3. What is the best way to start an online business from home?
If you own your own domain and choose a hosting service for your website, you can start an online business from home. Then, you can start getting clients and customers by promoting your products or services.
4. How long does it take to make money online?
Well, that depends on several factors. However, this can take anywhere from 3-months to 3-years.
5. Can I make money online fast?
These online gigs require some time to develop into revenue-generating machines, even if we all want to get rich quickly. But, again, you can usually start earning good money after a month or so — but give yourself a year.
How much effort should you put into marketing and building your following depends on your success.