How to Start Making Money Online

There are a whole lot of ways to make money online, and more new ones every day. We could never possibly list them all, but it’s a good idea to get some basics out of the way.

Firstly, we have to assume that you have:

  • A computer and reliable internet access
  • Fluency in English, including the ability to read and follow written instructions, and the ability to write in English. *Of course this isn’t a requirement for all online work, but it’s necessary for the types of work we’ll be looking at here.
  • Access to a standard electronic payment method. Most clients will pay via PayPal or other electronic transfer, and many sites require PayPal specifically.

You will need these basic tools to find and use nearly any method of making money on the internet, so if you don’t have them, that’s where you should begin.

Best Ways of Making Money Online

The different kinds of online money-making opportunities can primarily be grouped into these categories:

Remote work opportunities:

These are traditional jobs, paid by the hour or salaried, that can be done primarily or entirely offsite. Remote work is growing in popularity, and there are a number of websites that list these kinds of jobs.

As with any traditional job, you will find the job listing, and need to apply with a resume and cover letter and undergo an interview process. You may need to work a set schedule, or the job may offer flex time. These jobs often offer benefits as well.

There are openings for a wide range of job descriptions and experience levels, but these jobs are extremely desirable and competition is fierce. Millions of people want to be able to work remotely, so be prepared for a tough search.

Online freelance opportunities:

These are generally set-term gigs and projects, often at a set project rate. These are generally done entirely remotely, and the scope of the work is defined upfront in an agreement between the freelancer and the client. There are lots of websites that broker these deals, showcasing freelancers and helping them attract clients, and generally taking a percentage of each contract they facilitate.

These gigs are best for people with a single, well-honed skill or specialty. Clients choose freelancers based on their past work and on their reputation. The life of a freelancer is one with a more-or-less constant hustle: people with a job can just get a job and then not worry about it any more. A good freelancer has 3 jobs and is always looking for the next. These gigs are competitive, and unfortunately many freelancers compete with each other based on price, reducing the cost of their work in order to attract clients.

Skilled service sites:

While a person with a marketable skill can use either of the above methods to find work and make money online, there are also specialized marketplaces for particular skills. Educators, transcriptionists, designers, photographers, voice actors, office assistants, marketing consultants, all have specific niche online marketplaces where they can find work. They can generally command better pay in these niche sites than they can in the larger freelancer service marketplaces.

Clickworking/Unskilled Service Sites:

Clickworkers do low-skilled work for a very low rate, and attempt to do a lot of it. They manually perform tasks that can’t be done by computers, so think of completing CAPTCHAs all day long for a nickel each.

This work is very easy to get, with almost no pre-screening or qualifications needed, and virtually anyone can do them, with no special skills required.

Many people have become very sophisticated at making money off of clickworking sites, and have devised ways to “hack” these sites to make more money out of them.

Other Ways of Making Money Online:

Affiliate marketing:

Affiliate marketing is a loaded term, because on the one hand it’s a legitimate way to use your website and online presence to earn commissions by recommending products. On the other hand, it is the favorite phrase of scammers and MLM schemes to make their work seem legitimate. Be extremely skeptical of any affiliate marketing program that promises huge money online, or wants you to pay for affiliate marketing training, and be skeptical of any website giving good reviews of that training and claiming to make money with those techniques. They aren’t all scams, but an awful lot of them are.


There is always the old standby of trading online in physical goods. People make money on the internet by selling merchandise on eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and the like.

It is possible to do this work entirely online and never physically touch a product. This is called “drop shipping,” and many people frame it as the ultimate source of passive income. In reality, only a tiny percentage of drop shippers earn more than $50 a month. The main source of income from drop shipping consists of selling courses to people about “How to Make Lots of Money Drop Shipping.”

Survey/coupon/UI sites and apps:

There are a huge number of websites and apps that pay you to “give your opinions”. Some of these are scams, but a lot of them aren’t. A lot of people like the idea of making a little extra money in between classes or while they are riding the bus, but you will often find that the ratio of money earned for time spent is terrible. It is extremely difficult and time-consuming to make a living off these methods, and there are better ways.

As mentioned above, there is always something new. Matched bets, trading, bitcoin mining, streaming, “influencing”, crowdfunding, podcasting… perhaps someday we’ll delve into all that material more systematically. But we have plenty in front of us to start with.

Hopefully this overview of the many different ways you can make money on the internet has given you an idea of where your skills lie, and what paths best suit your abilities and interests.