There are many ways to earn money online but ultimately they fall under 4 different buckets.
In this post and video I’m sharing the 4 common ways you can build a stream of income online, with specific ideas for each so you can get started with your next side hustle or online business today.
Sell Digital Products
The first way to earn money online is to sell digital products. Of course this is my first in the list because it’s one of my personal favorites even though it is NOT how I make most of my own income online.
For this income generating activity you create and sell digital products like printables, spreadsheets or courses. You can sell these digital products on marketplace websites like Etsy or on your own website too.
You can create products using a design app like Canva or Adobe InDesign where the end product will be an image file or a PDF. For an online course you can use a platform like Teachable that makes it super easy and actually walks people through how to create online courses too. There are many, many different types of digital products.
There are so many different benefits to creating and selling digital products:
- only have to create it once
- no physical inventory or space needed
- low cost to create products (free programs like Canva)
- can automate everything and make it very passive
- sell it over and over to many people
Creating a digital product can be very easy. There are many design programs that allow you to easily create items without any graphic design experience. If you want to sell an educational digital products there are many ways to do this as well via programs like Teachable that help you sell a course.
Below are some of the programs that you can use to create and sell digital products:
Adobe InDesign – This program is very robust and the absolute best for creating printables. It’s the most professional, most reliable and has the most flexibility. There is a learning curve because it’s a professional program but it’s worth it for the hassles it removes. Try creating with Adobe InDesign’ free trial.
Canva – Canva is one of the best free editing programs where you can create a digital products. The paid version of the app is even better with many bonus features that help take your work to the next level. Try creating with Canva.
PicMonkey – This is a program built heavily around photo editing but you can also create digital downloads through PicMonkey. In addition, if you plan to sell things like stock photos or mockups it is ideal. Try creating with PicMonkey.
Teachable – If you plan to sell a course as a digital product then you need to look into Teachable. It’s the leading option to create, market, and sell your knowledge as a course. Try creating a course with Teachable.
How To Choose A Digital Product To Sell
The best way to sell digital products is to go into a niche with less competition.
I’ll be honest, the niche I’m in sucks because there is a huge amount of competition and everyone sell basically the same thing. Thats why I’ve ventured into new digital product niches with less competition.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
Every YouTuber and blogger that talks about money has a budget printable or a savings tracker and these are very easy to rip off (people do it all the time). When you search budget printable on Etsy for example you get over 25,000 results… and that is just on one website! It doesn’t even consider all the other places people sell these.
So let’s instead think of something else and see if it has less competition.
My sister-in-law is a nurse so let’s look up something related to her career or studies. When we search this nursing study term that auto-populates in Etsy we see that the competition is much, much less. But I also know that people are searching for it because it auto-populated in the search bar and just personally I know a lot of nurses who bought tons of study material to get through school.
That’s how you find a good niche and then you can create a digital product to sell for that market.
- Read more: Resources For Selling Digital Downloads
Create An E-Commerce Store
Another popular way to make money online is to create an e-commerce store to sell physical products.
Some people do this with products they have made themselves locally like my husband but to make it more efficient and scalable in order to earn higher levels of income most people use a partner like Alibaba.com.
If you haven’t heard of Alibaba.com before, it is a leading business to business trading e-commerce marketplace. This means you can connect with suppliers in order to source products for your e-commerce store instead of making them yourself. Alibaba.com has more than 100 thousand suppliers across the globe in 40 major categories so they’ve got the supply chain set up for almost anything you may want to sell online.
There are billions of product variations on alibaba.com and there are multiple ways for you to look for trending products that would sell well online in the current market.
They also have the option for you to either purchase inventory in bulk and then resell via your store or to create a dropshipping store. There are multiple different e-commerce business models that you can choose from to fit your needs.
How To Choose A Product For Your E-commerce Store
When evaluating potential products to sell you will want to ask yourself several questions:
- Does it have high profit margins? When you are running a product based business you will want to find a quality product that you can buy at a low price and sell at a higher price. The difference in price is what will be your profit. The higher the profit margin with your product the more money you’ll have to spend on other parts of your business like advertising.
- Are people actively looking for this solution? Are your potential customers looking to buy what you have to offer? If you want a successful online business you want to sell something people are actively looking to buy. How do you find out if they are looking to buy? Instead of guessing based on your intuition, you should instead do keyword research. Are people searching for it? If they are searching for your product then there is existing demand and this would make a good product choice.
- Is it trendy? Products should not only be a solution to a problem but also a trending product because it will be much easier to sell. How do you find a trending product? One of the best options to search for trending products is to go to alibaba.com where there are billions of products you can see and evaluate what’s trending based on sales. Look through the different sections on alibaba.com about what is popular and trending and drill down to the product category you are interested in.
Selecting a product will be much easier after you’ve asked yourself these questions and done the research necessary to find a good product to sell. Just like with the digital products you’ll want to evaluate the market and the competition to pick your products.
Become A Content Creator
Creating content is my favorite way to earn money online and it’s the one I’ve made the most money with thanks to YouTube.
Content creation is a valuable skill and you can use it to earn money online by creating content for yourself or even freelance those skills to others.
Creating content can look very different depending on your niche, your platform, and your own unique style. There are full time content creators that are bloggers, YouTubers, Instagram models, etc.
Ways to make money with content creation:
- advertising revenue on your content
- brand sponsorships
- brand partnerships
- affiliate marketing
- tip jars
- patreon or other memberships
Each of these revenue creation methods can be effective on any platform. The best part of being a content creator is that you can layer the different monetization methods and make money by multiple methods.
- Read more: How To Make Money With A YouTube Channel
Freelancer / Service Provider
Freelancing is a way to earn money online where you sell the skills you have to others who need that work done. It’s often the fastest way to earn money online because you can quickly get started on projects that pay.
Personally I’ve used freelancing to make money by selling my skills with content creation, SEO, and even building online shops for people.
Freelance work can be a great addition to your income streams if you need to increase your income but can’t wait for passive income streams to pay off. You can apply for and start doing freelance work within a couple of days.
What kind of work can you do freelance jobs?
You can find freelance work easily with many skills like:
- video editing
- graphic design
- website design
And many more! Whatever skill you have can be useful as a freelancer.
Where can you find jobs?
You can sell your freelance skills on sites like these:
You can also contact local businesses around you and look on local websites where businesses may have listings or talk about things that need to be done based on skills.
If you’ve worked in a certain field and have a good reputation you will also be approached with jobs by contacts.
- Read more: 6 Income Streams (How I Doubled My Income)
Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.
Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.