After dropping out of college, I had to get creative, and find alternative ways to make money doing things I enjoyed, because there was no way I could land a full-time job back then without a degree.
So, I turned to the Internet and learned how to make money online. And the rest is history. I can’t imagine making money any other way.
But, as with all things in life, there is a catch… or two.
The first catch that comes to mind is that you’ll very likely need to have multiple income streams, if you choose the online route. (But, I recommend doing this anyway, for your own security.)
If you follow any popular bloggers, or google “income reports,” you’ll find that most of these influencers making a lot of money online are the ones who have numerous income streams.
The Swedish proverb, “Many small streams will form a big river,” rings very true when it comes to making money online. It’s really important to remember.
Catch two: Learning how to make money online requires you to invest something—whether that’s money for a Shopify subscription to build your online store or a ton of time to actually execute your vision. It requires A LOT of hard work, persistence, and determination. And even then, it’s still really difficult to succeed making money online in many instances.
The one exception to this would be making money online by freelancing. You can easily find/read blog posts or watch freeonline courses to learn how to do something. Then you can get paid to do the same thing, once you prove you can do it, for someone else. Set your rates super low to start, and increase what you charge as your skills (and therefore, outputs) improve.
With that being said, here are the best ways to make money online without paying anything to start.
How to make money online
Freelancing gives you the opportunity to add meaningfulbullet points—i.e., worthwhile projects—to your resume that dramatically increases your value and gives you leverage when it comes time to negotiate your first job offer.
Even better than a resume, though, you’ll be able to create a badass portfolio, featuring non-fictional case studies of real businesses that paid you to help them. Do you know how phenomenal that would make you look to prospective employers?! Really freakin’ phenomenal!
Freelancing also allows you to experiment with different types of work (before committing to a full-time position) and helps you inch that much closer to figuring out what to do with your life.
I know this to be true because I freelanced my way through college, and I know that doing so not only gave me clarity but also allowed me to break through the noise and quickly increase my salary over the years.
» How to determine freelance services
If you’re wondering how to make money online doing freelance work—specifically, what services you should offer—consider these 3 things: 1. Your skills (What are you good at? What natural abilities do you have? What skills have you learned or could you learn quickly?); 2. Your passion (What do you love to do?); and 3. What’s in demand (Is there a need? Will someone pay you to do this job?).
If you’re stuck, here are a few examples of how skills can translate into services.
Social media skills
Do you have a witty personality and love to engage on social media? Then, consider offering social media services to local businesses and/or startups.
Here are a few services I’ve sold to clients before:
→ Social media strategy
If a business doesn’t have a social media strategy, or their current strategy isn’t meeting their goals, offer to create a new one. You could build this strategy in a G-Doc, and just spice it up with a nice header.
Here are a few good resources on how to create a social media strategy.
The more comprehensive the strategy, the more you should charge.
You could also make a strategy for just one network, i.e. an Instagram or Pinterest strategy. Don’t feel like you need to include a lot of networks to make a good strategy that will get results.
To start, as an inexperienced social media strategist, I’d charge around $500 per strategy.
→ Social media management
Upsell your strategy clients on executing the strategy for them. This will give you recurring revenue in the form of a monthly retainer.
When making your proposal, detail exactly what your weekly/monthly deliverables will be. For instance, pretend you’re executing an Instagram strategy. How many times a day will you post? What times? What type of posts will they be? Will you engage with the audience by leaving X comments per day or reposting other accounts’ content?
Not only will asking yourself these questions help you when it comes time to execute, but it will also ensure you’re charging a fair amount for your services/time.
→ Social media consulting
Consulting is the easiest way to make money. Charge X dollars per hour and teach businesses how to properly use social media to reach their target audience.
→ Social media ads
Social media ads are a really great way to market today. Facebook offers the cheapest (and best) solution thus far, in my experience. Instagram is more expensive but extremely valuable for certain types of businesses.
Here are some resources for learning more about social media advertising.
If you’re wondering how to make money online without paying anything, freelance writing is a great place to start. (Particularly if you’re studying journalism or English. Or you’ve always gotten good grades in these types of classes.)
If you’re a newbie writer, expect to make ~$150 per post.
If you’re better on the computer than most, teach others (maybe older people?) how to use software (Microsoft suite, Gmail, etc.), industry-specific tools (Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.) and/or just how to use their Mac/PC more efficiently.
Teaching industry-specific tools is probably the most lucrative gig of this type. Look for fast-growing software that have certifications and partner directories (listings of certified freelancers).
According to NPR, brands are estimated to spend upwards of $10 billion on influencer marketing by 2020, and according to Traackr, 72 percent of major brands say they are dedicating a sizable portion of their marketing budgets to influencers.
Influencers are people with a strong relationship to a specific audience. They are so valuable to brands because they can heavily sway purchasing decisions. Not to mention, influencers connect with people on a much deeper level than any banner ad ever will.
Believe it or not, influencers with just 1,000 followers generated 85 percent higher engagement than those having 100,000 followers, and as the number of followers increases the engagement tends to decrease.
According to Vox, a micro-influencer (someone with 10,000 to 50,000 followers) can collect at least a few thousands dollars per post, as of 2018. Those with up to one million followers can expect $10,000 [per post], depending on the platform, and influencers with more than one million followers, can charge $100,000. Some even get $250,000 per post! This is especially the case if the post is on YouTube and the influencer is in the gaming industry.
How much does this come out to annually?
As of 2018, people with smaller followings (aka nanoinfluencers) can make between $30,000 and $60,000 a year, while micro-influencers can make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000. Celebrity influencers make A LOT more.
Here’s some additional resources you may want to check out before making the decision/commitment to brand yourself.