You may have already searched for how to make money online and got a number of suggestions. Those lists may give you some ideas, but only a few of them are realistic. 'Answer surveys for cash' for example - you'd be clicking checkboxes frantically all day to make a couple of dollars. 'Sell your photos' or 'start a consulting business' - you would have already thought about using your special skill for sure, if you had one!
This guide is for anyone who doesn't have a professional qualification but wishes to make their main income source online. No easy way around it, because it is about your career.
And any careers require a learning process. None of the options here will fill your bank account with cash so soon. Some can take months before your effort starts to pay off, but they'll be worth it because it'll be your career!
#1 Niche Affiliate Marketing Business
In case you don't know - affiliate marketing is a practice where you recommend products to your audience, and receive a commission from the retailer or manufacturer upon sales.
Let Me Clarify... No Scam!
In this guide, I'm calling it 'niche' affiliate marketing because I want to differentiate what I'm referring to from so-called scamming businesses.
Affiliate marketing method is widely available and easily accessible by anyone. And I mean anyone, regardless of their occupation, personality, criminal records (!) Or any sort of living status. Except for some countries or states where the method is specifically prohibited. Easily accessible because very little or no capital investment is required to get it started.
But it also means the market is full of 'experienced' fraudsters trying to target innocent online business hopefuls. They continuously introduce fake products in the most deceptive way - products that claim to make a miracle happen (typically earn a large sum of money or dramatically lose weight) without any effort in a short period of time.
As a result, the term 'affiliate marketing' itself is often associated with internet scams. For that reason, I'm extremely reluctant to call myself an affiliate marketer. Many major email service providers such as Mailchimp refuse to serve affiliate marketers for the very reason. Quite rightly.
Sorry, long introduction...
What I mean by 'niche marketing' here is, you promote any niche (a class of products) that you have a passion for. You help people by recommending products or brands. You tell people what you know, voice your opinions publicly via your website, primarily. You will not 'sell', because you're not a seller. You will not 'advertise' because you're not an advertiser. You will help people.
I'll give you an easy example. You love leather shoes and you know a lot about them. You know how to take care of them, what kind of leather shoes can go with jeans or formalwear, which ones are the best value, etc. There are people who look to buy leather shoes for various reasons. Because they need a pair for work, need one for special occasions, just need something to wear, or because they simply want to look good. They're looking to buy products to make their lives better. So you help them, by recommending which ones you think is best.
People will buy products via your special affiliate link in your website, and you'll receive a commission from the shoe seller. Your intention should be genuine. No hard-selling, no spamming, no deceptions. That's what you should do!
The following two articles will help you get started:
How To Create A Website For Affiliate Marketing
 Comparison Review Articles
The concept is pretty simple. Gather 5-10 products from a retailer's site you have an affiliate arrangement with. (Above two links will help you with this.) Look for the best-reviewed ones, especially the ones with detailed feedback. Of course, you can pick more than 10 products - you often see reviews like, "35 best coffee makers" "50 must-have sci-fi books"?
Make sure they all perform the same function. So you’re reviewing a “specific item category.”
Then, present them in a listicle. Rank each one, their specs, special features, and describe their pros/cons. All products you select should ideally be part of one affiliate program. Programs from superstores such as Amazon or Walmart will make it easy for you.
Why use this format? There are mainly 3 reasons. Because;
- It's easy to structure. You don’t need to worry about content flow.
- The format makes it easier to publish high word counts per article (2,500+). And that’s vital to rank high in search engines.
- It gives readers expectations. It gives them a numerical value to look forward to (Top 5, Worst 10, Cheapest 25, etc...)
Users are always interested in reading comparison reviews. Even if they don't, at least they like checking to see which products are picked in your article and they'll skim through your page.
The final tip: Feel free to structure them as you wish. Add more or fewer items, depending on what you compare.
 Major Problem Solvers
Let’s say you blog in a niche whose services help to solve "negative issues". Weight loss is a typical example. The focus is on fat loss (the negatives) - people have a problem with it, they want to get rid of it.
...As opposed to positives. Muscle mass, shoes and handbags... Men might think it would be nice to have bigger muscles. Girls might want a new handbag, maybe buy one on the next payday. These are not immediate problems that need to be solved.
Back to weight loss example. One of the problems obese people suffer from is a bad odor. That problem may go away with weight loss, but until then, they want a powerful short-term fix, right? This could be special deodorants, soaps, etc.
These products can solve major problems. If you know a lot about the issue, you'll be able to write a lot about it without searching for sure. But it's good to search and check how other people are dealing with the same problem. Google and look for chronic problems, then you'll soon find out what they're discussing in forums such as Quora. You'll pick up on patterns.
Then find a powerful product that deals with that issue. Write an article about it and place your affiliate link... Now how do you actually do this?
In order to add authenticity, you might want to pick a product and actually try it (on yourself...or someone else!). So you can show concrete proof that your recommended product does work.
I'm not saying you should buy every product that you recommend and try it yourself. But you see, the more you know about a product, the richer, more in-depth review you'll be able to create. You'll know exactly what pros and cons are. Readers will know whether you've written an article as a real user or based on how it's advertised anyway. Which one's more believable? Of course the latter.
This big, problem solving article can be your "cornerstone content" of your blog. And after all, this page of yours can become one of the most reliable sources to thousands of people in years to come.
The final tip: Take time with trial and error. Be a journalist, collect experiences, and write the best articles.
As you carry on blogging and your pages start to rank in search engines, you'll be likely to receive sponsorship requests from related businesses from time to time. They'll contact you and ask you to let them market their products/services on your domain. In return, they'll offer you some monetary value or equivalent, such as their products for free or one-year service for free.
So you can offer them an interview. It doesn’t need to be vocal. It can be scripted, where you coordinate questions, and they'll answer each question in PR fashion. In a sense, your post will look like a mini-FAQ section. But it’ll attract tons of attention.
Why? Because there’s more narrative. An interview article describes a story of people, businesses, how they succeed and what they stifle for. It discusses lessons learned, and showcases useful experience. So it will have an educational value.
Alternatively you can reach out to the affiliate manager of a company and request to interview them. This may not be a model you can apply often, but it will make your blog more genuine and will certainly stand out from the competition. It’s a post that commands a little more time to prepare, but it'll be worth a try.
The final tip: You can be picky. Don’t accept the first business that pays to post. Look for the best to write meaningful interviews!
How To Get Started!
Before I summarize anything, I want you to remember you're going to have a lot of fun with your niche affiliate business. You'll choose a niche that you love, and you're going to help people by blogging on your website. Don't try to pressurize yourself, the main thing is to enjoy the whole process. Just like any other success formulae, niche affiliate marketing requires patient and persistency too. Your success will definitely follow your enjoyable experience!
There are two things you need to do immediately;
- Find out what your niche will be. Your hobby, your experience. What you know the most about in life, so that you'll be comfortable blogging about it.
- Build a website - building one is easy, it won't take more than a few minutes. But you're going to learn how to add menu bar, add images, tags, plugins and so on. You'll be learning how-to's as you build it.
The two essential guides I mentioned earlier can help you get started from Day 1.
As you progress with your site building, you'll gain knowledge about internet marketing, such as;
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keywords
- Various ways to drive traffic to your site
- All about Google (Google Analytics, Webmasters, Adsense)
You don't have to know all this in astronomical level (nobody does!) but you'll certainly need to learn the basics as time goes by.
#2 Do You Have ANY Skills To Sell?
Internet marketers often advise in their blog as part of "how to make money" options and say this in a very casual manner - "If you have your own products/services, sell them online!"
...As if we are all artists, write novels and make papier-mâché and stuff. As if we're already equipped with an inventory warehouse. No, I do not have any products/services to sell, so this option's thrown out of the window...
Wait, do you really not have any skills?
I actually have experience in selling my skills; I gave bookkeeping service and Excel data entry using my spare time for extra money. I didn't want to carry on because I wanted to pursue my career in niche marketing. So there you go, I did have a skill and actually made money out of it.
Sell Your Skills On Fiverr
Fiverr is a market place where you can sell your skill. You do a specific task for other people and get paid for it. Every day thousands of people look to hire others to do almost any kind of job that you can think of. Designing, editing script or audio, voiceover, relationship advice, fitness advice and all... Anything that can be delivered over the internet.
Fiverr allows you to sell "gigs" (Fiverr call job as gigs), starting from $5. You can make any gigs you like. In this case, Fiverr will get $1 and you will receive $4 for every gig you sell. You may think that the amount of money is not great. However of course, you can start charging more as you build your experiences. Some sellers sell a single gig for over $500, $1,000, and more. When it adds up, you could receive a decent monthly income.
Registration with Fiverr is free for both sellers and buyers. It's best to sign up and check out what's out there yourself and get the feel of it. You'll know what kind of gig/job categories there are, what they have to offer, how much they charge, how long it takes them to deliver (edit a 10-minute video clip for you in 3 days, for example).
The following are just a few of many ideas to offer gigs.
Content writing is highly in demand. If you have good writing skills, you can start offering a gig writing 400 words of an article for $5. If you can write ten articles per day, $50 less $5 administration fees = you will receive $ 45 in per day. If you have Facebook or Twitter with a significant number of the follower, you can repeatedly advertise your gigs.
Another popular gig in Fiverr is foreign language translating work. It can be any kind of documents or length, from blog articles to instruction books. Or even audio files and YouTube videos in foreign languages. We know AI technology in translation is not quite there yet, so there is a demand. If you are a bilingual, something to consider.
Needless to mention, if you have skill in web design, graphic design, programming or anything in the IT field, Fiverr is a place to consider. Some sellers design a logo for $5, while others offer to develop a mobile app for $5,000 or more.
If you think "consultants" are qualified professionals, not in Fiverr. If you are seeking to resolve a problem, there are people who can give you a piece of advice. From cooking/nutrition plan to business plan, trouble with the landlord, relationships. Lawyers are there who can write legal documents for you too. So you can use what you've learned through your career there. For example if you've been working as a recruitment agent, you can provide career advice.
Or Consider Buying Skills?
You can find anything there, which means Fiverr can be an option to help you in the future. Whatever you do to make money online, once your business is on the track you might want to invest some of your income to get a few things done professionally.
Pay to redesign your ads, write blog posts on your behalf, do some web research for you, or ask a virtual assistant to do some daily tasks for you... Just keep in mind, Fiverr is there to help you too. For a fee!
Okay, back to "make money with Fiverr"...
Fiverr is good if you want to start making money soon. They hire you, you do the job, and get paid upon completion of the job. So you can use this platform to build up your experience, while you're planning to set up your own business. You see what I mean, if you were to set up a new website and start your brand new business, it would be hard to bring customers in without testimonials to display or any kind of reputable background.
So it'll be good for you to work just like a "contractor" for Fiverr first. Boost your skill, learn what it's like to deal with customers (if you haven't experienced), discover unexpected through failures. You'll be much more confident when you become totally independent.
Having said all that, it's not an internship, Fiverr is not a discount marketplace. You shouldn't provide your service less than wholeheartedly. Otherwise it will cost you, i.e. receive negative reviews by your customers.
The tips to make good money with Fiverr can be found here ("5 “Insider Tips” To Make Money With Fiverr"). Be professional and always treat buyers with respect and sincerity!
#3 Drop-Shipping Business
The idea is simple. You simply act as a medium between suppliers and consumers. A customer places an order on your online store. You immediately order the same item from another shop and arrange to send it to your customer directly. So you don't have to hold inventory, don't need a brick and mortar structure.
I'll explain the procedure a little more in detail. You just opened your own e-commerce store to sell vacuum cleaners.
- Pick vacuum cleaners from Amazon. Let's say Cleaner A is sold for $100.
- List the same item in your e-commerce store. You decide to sell it for $140. (Among many more vacuum cleaners from Amazon that you pick and list on your site with a profit margin, of course.)
- A customer buys Cleaner A from your site, pays $140 to you.
- You immediately buy Cleaner A on Amazon, pay $100, and request the shipping address to your customer's address. State it as a gift, so Amazon won't enclose their invoice in the package to your customer.
- You send an e-invoice for $140 to your customer, together with "Thank you" message, dispatch information, etc.
- The margin (difference) of $40 is your profit.
But Not That Simple
Taking the step 1-6 above might sound so easy, but of course it's not. There are a few immediate points that you should be careful of...such as;
- (If you use Amazon) your customers will receive the goods in the Amazon package!
- Use of product images. Manufacturers of the goods hold the copyright of each image, and they allow online stores to use them. You can't just download images out of Amazon and use them on your e-commerce store.
- In fact the whole dropshipping business - some retailers don't allow you to dropship without agreement or special arrangement in advance.
Go For The Best or Go For The Cheapest?
Many dropship sellers use eBay. It's fairly easy to open a seller account, and the first few months you'll only be allowed to sell a small number of items. Then eBay will increase the threshold for you.
Selling on eBay can be an easy option, but eBay stores generally have no personality (sorry!) It would be challenging to show your own brand and make a difference from thousands of other successful power sellers there. So you might want to consider building your own e-commerce site and establish as a brand, as part of a long term plan.
With all that said...demand for necessities (e.g. household items) is evergreen. In fact, most drop-shippers sell mass-produced “warehoused” items. Anything from shirts to books, to gadgets like headphones, toys, etc.
If you're not bothered about branding and purely make money by selling 'anything', it's all up to you. As long as you see "value" in your work. "Meaning of life", that is! Enjoy what you do!
It takes a lot of creativity to go for the best - make your brand stand out and provide a unique customer service style. Whereas it seems simple and easy to go for the cheapest - just bring the prices down - there are competitors who do exactly the same as you. The moment you lower the price by 1 cent, they'll lower theirs by 2 cents. Customers who look for the cheapest will no longer buy from you unless you have any other unique selling points.
So here are 5 x marketing strategy tips for you to make a difference with your dropshipping business.
 Build Your Own E-Commerce Store and Blog
E-commerce = E-Store? Not Necessarily. All stores need a selling point. And in the sea of competition, what’s yours? What makes you stand out from “faster-delivering” and “more competent” online retailers? You need credentials to back you up. And nothing says that better than a “niche blog” whose articles discuss products that YOU sell.
Basically the same as niche affiliate marketing. You write product reviews - make "top 10-50" lists, comparing products one by one. It's a chance to present yourself as an expert in your niche...
...With affiliate marketing, when a user clicks a product link in your review, they're directed to a store page such as Amazon. They make a purchase and you'll receive a % commission. With drop-shipping, the product link will jump to your own store. They make a purchase, you proceed the step 1-6 I explained earlier, and the profit will be yours.
The point is, a blog markets dropshipping stores. It adds an authentic touch to your commercial activity.
 Focus on Trendy SEO Keywords
Check Google Trends periodically and keep yourself up to date with what's on trend. Write reviews of related products and include them in your drop-shipping store. It also works for affiliates (i.e. choose a niche that's on trend).
But before that, there's something you can never get away from - keywords. Popular keywords won't simply get you more traffic. Many users are searching, and therefore many competitors are advertising also.
Use good keyword tools and find out long-tail keywords (3+ words) that are high ranking, low-mid competitiveness and that represent a hot topic. (Keyword tools that I recommend are Mangools and Jaaxy.)
Hot topics can be controversial, innovative breakthroughs, or anything interesting. If your review page is successfully ranked in the SERP first page, the topic will get you instant clicks. After all, good trends die hard. And articles that follow trends (with proper SEO) will stay memorable for longer!
 Use PPC Ads Wisely
PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads such as Google Adwords and Facebook Ads could kill marketing budgets if you don't plan carefully and monitor closely. Again it's all about using the most effective keywords in your ad campaigns, so it can be complicated in the beginning.
I suggest that you focus on driving organic traffic by blogging and see how you do first (in terms of search engine ranking). When you're confident with your basic keyword research technique, perhaps you should start considering paid advertisements. Just to avoid nullifying the budget advantages of drop-shipping!
 Build an Email List
Is money really "in the list"? Yes, it is. You know this by now...
You want recurring clients, so you'd better build an email list. People who've bought from you once will come back - that is, assuming they liked what you offered previously. To retain your existing customers, ask them to sign up with your newsletter.
Offer a free e-book, video or app in exchange for signing up. Find some PLR products if you don't have anything to offer in your hand. Once you gain their emails, you can start offering discounts or "hot products of the week" in your newsletter.
To do that, you need to build a compelling landing page, also need an email marketing tool, set it up, and need a little bit of trial and error. But the total effort will pay you off. Here are some related posts for you.
How To Build A Sales Funnel On A Budget
What you need is a landing page, "thank you" page and an autoresponder. Here's how to keep it all within a small budget.
 Invest Time
What you don’t pay for with money – you pay with time. Dropshipping business requires a pretty low level of expenses. The price you pay is patience... (Have you heard that before!?!?)
By mastering the skills (training course is available - see below), you'll soon be able to sell a few products on eBay. But you know the real success requires grit. It may take weeks to build your blog and email list. Then it may take months to work out the uniqueness of your brand and build a good customer base.
In-Depth Drop-Shipping Training
The training course I took was this one; eBay Drop Shipping Guide with No Inventory - Work From Home by David Vu.
The only part I didn't like was the first section - it's so overhyped. People come up talking about how drop-shipping changed their lives dramatically, one after another, and another. But from section 2 onwards it's a real step by step. David introduces tips that I didn't talk about in here. Extremely useful free tools. How to structure pricing, how to actually list (including image optimization technique) and so on.
The course is particularly for selling on eBay but the technique can be used on your own e-commerce website.
Would I Recommend Drop-Shipping?
The question is whether you love it as your business brand or not. I have tried drop-shipping, I've made constant profits from it - because I was constantly at it. Did I like it? I thought I did because I had to, but now I'm not so sure. I was...busy!
Because my life was totally ruled by list managing and customer orders. The first thing to do in the morning was to check my inbox (to see if any new order's come in), spent all day sorting out product listings and analyzing the sales, while checking inbox. And the last thing to do before I went to bed was, you know. Inbox.
You will make good money from drop-shipping, but you'll have to be constantly at it. That's why it's important to find out your own brand authenticity.