Lately I’ve been interested in the kinds of things people do to earn a secondary income. Losing your job will make you curious like that. The question is, what can I always be doing that will ensure my financial security long-term even if I wind up between jobs again? So I did a lot of research. In this entry, I’m going to go over what I found and talk a little about my plan.
What’s mine is yours
Here, I don’t just want to give you a glimpse into what I’ll be doing. My hope is that you too will find something to take away and try for yourself. Even if you feel your job is pretty secure, I can’t imagine it would hurt to make a little extra money.
I’m going to start by talking about the cheapest, easiest ways to get started making money online. From there, we’ll graduate to talk of things that require a little more skill or investment. I’m a long way from there myself, but with time I’ll be revisiting each of these on my blog as they become a part of my story.
In the past few days, I’ve signed up for a couple of sites that could earn anybody a few extra bucks on the side. They require little to no skill, and no investment other than your time.
Clickworker for instance is essentially a small online chores board for businesses. Today for example, I had the opportunity to essentially tag the logo on a bunch of websites. But the interface was buggy, and the pay was ridiculous. It’s low effort work, but even so we were looking at pennies for maybe twenty minutes work. Maybe! Like I said, the interface was buggy so I had to give up. Not worth it.
More promising is UserTesting. This site has you follow instructions on client websites while speaking your thoughts out loud. There’s an approval process to get through, but the pay is very reasonable. $10 per twenty minute recording. Some skilled freelancers offer their services for lower rates than that (I know I have in the past). I’ve submitted an application, so hopefully I will know soon how steady the work is.
Collect, Buy and Sell
Something I absolutely would like to do is online selling of actual products. I used to do all of the web administration for a company that did just that, so I already know a fair bit about managing an eBay shop and an Amazon storefront. That company held their own inventory, but what’s caught my attention recently is drop shipping.
Drop shipping means no inventory. Instead, you partner with a third party wholesaler, sell their items and you can fulfil the order without ever touching any stock.
I’ve got some ideas about what I’d like to sell too. It looks to me like there will be an ever-so-minimal cost in the setup of an online store that I’m not quite prepared to face yet, but when I am I’m looking to Shopify for my storefront and Oberlo for drop shipping. They are the kings of their respective domains, and pair together easily because they were made to do so.
Back in the day, I studied in an arts college. My domain was film production and I’d like to get back into it just for fun at some point. It’s something that requires a good eye for a scene. And I would love to train that eye by doing photography too. If I can sell it, all the better.
I don’t know what the pay is like on stock photo websites like Shutterstock and iStockPhoto. I’m not even sure that I would want to go in that direction. Actually, I may not sell photography at all. But I do want to look into it in more depth. Stock photo websites would definitely be the easiest way to turn a photo into a paycheque, but I think I’ll personally be looking for other opportunities by the time we reach this point.
My Own Designs
As a web designer and developer by trade, I’d be a fool not to consider graphic design. I do know far better designers than myself, but I would love to train myself in it. In fact, I want to eventually program my own video games so it’s going to be essential. But while I’m working my way up to that, I also love the idea of putting my designs on a T-shit.
This could well even use those photographs we were just talking about taking.
I found a few sites (and there are countless more, I’m sure) that look relatively easy to get setup with. CafePress is probably the most popularly known, and Zazzle is an almost eerily similar competitor. But to my mind, clothing has got to be cool in everything from its design to its distribution. And the winner in those terms for me is Threadless. I would really love to setup shop with them! And if I could pair a T-shirt store with my drop shipping plans, I think that could be a real money-spinner.
The Write Stuff
I’ve already briefly discussed the virtues of blogging or taking notes for your own catharsis or clarity. It’s been a big help to me. But blogging can also be a way to make an income, or certainly a way to provide exposure that might lead to income. And it’s free to get started.
My setup currently is a Jekyll blog, stored on GitHub and hosted by Netlify. Netlify offer free hosting for open source projects, so with that setup I get total control over the look and feel of my blog at no cost. I only pay for my domain and DNS.
Not the easiest setup in the world, but I’ll be doing interesting things with the freedom offered by that in time.
I’m also going to start cross-posting my content to Medium, which is a free social blogging platform that pairs really well with Twitter (we’ll talk about that soon).
I’ll also be starting my mailing list soon, which if you hang around my site long enough you’ll see a notification for.
None of that really makes money though, not to begin with. I see them more as a way to build trust and authority, but I would eventually like to experiment with advertisements and Medium’s premium subscription model. But I’m told the real money in blogging and mailing lists is in affiliate marketing which I want to take a deeper look at in another post.
The A/V Club
If you’re reading this on my website, you’ll have noticed the embedded audio player at the top of my post. And if you’re already listening, well you’ve found my podcast instead. Greetings listeners!
The service I’m using there is Anchor. Super easy way to get started in podcasts. The service will even connect with and distribute your podcast to other services, as well as transcribing your speech for you in short video. I’ve been using those to post previews on social media.
I’m still fumbling with socials, but once I get my legs there I want to talk more in detail about it.
Again, this isn’t a direct earner in and of itself, but a podcast can be supported by sponsorship, as can video content on YouTube and Twitch. Both of those also have in-built advertising models and subscription-based services. And I know I want to get back into video production eventually, so we’ll take a look at all of the options then.
Okay, there might be a better way to make money blogging than advertising or sponsorship. You can write directly for larger publications, a number of which offer handsome pay for short pieces of content. It’s also a great way to boost your authority and, if allowed, invite traffic back to your own site and services.
I haven’t started this yet, but I’ve got a huge list of sites and email addresses sitting by waiting for me. I’m going to give it a whirl soon.
For every other type of freelancing, there are sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour. I already have a profile on all four and have checked them out a little. They’re ordered here in my perceived sense of prestige and quality, Fiverr being suited for basic work and PeoplePerHour for the more established, regarded freelancer. They are also a little different in how they go about pairing the freelancer to the hirer. The rates one can command appear to be relatively low unless you’re well-established, so I’m going to have to give a bit of thought to what services I can provide at relatively low prices.
Of course the best way to secure authority, and therefore to become well-established, is to write a book.
Self-publishing today is relatively easy thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing and other tools like it.
I definitely want to sell a book, but there is also something to be said for offering e-books as a freebie, particularly in incentivising other actions.
Those who can, teach
And while passing on what we know, teaching online is worth considering. There are sites like Superprof and Tutorful which pair tutors directly with students in need of help. I’d really like to do that, but I think I’d first want to offer a course more broadly to hand on knowledge that I’ve gained.
For that, I’m thinking - and this may be a long while from now - I’ll host a course on Udemy. It’ll definitely be a course having something to do with software and web development, so while we’re on that subject…
Software and the Web
I write software. That’s been my career for the past seven years. I’ve been paid quite handsomely for it. I’ve also been paid very poorly for it, but I was once awful at choosing my clients and employers. But I don’t want to talk about standard, nine-to-five employment. I want to talk about owning and selling your own software.
My entire career is thanks largely to Codecademy, where I learnt to program for free. I took their lessons and then I devoted myself to an application that would serve peers in my field, which at the time was writing.
I was definitely naive at the time, going after funding and investment instead of stripping it down to the most minimum viable… and payable product. In fact, I want to revisit that application at some point and do just that. There are more ways to make money from a thing than with subscription or advertising models.
Outside of being paid per hour, I’ve made $10. Not a lot, but it involved no extra effort on my part. This was a pair of donations paid to me for my open source contributions via a site called BeerPay. I want to do a lot more for open source.
This does mean that my code would be easily obtained and adapted by others, reducing whatever value it could have in licensing fees or subscription models. But I could still sell my services training others, consulting and contracting in its use and further adaptation for specific needs. I’m a ways off from that being a viable business strategy but I think it could work, and I’m excited to give it a go.
Consulting and Coaching
Speaking of consulting, with a wealth of expertise and experience in any field, you can sell that information through a consultancy or coaching service. If you’re a specialist or the originator of some concept, all the better. Consulting fees can be crazy-high for the right consultant. I’ve got a lot to prove before I get there, but I know that it will be very worth my time to help others gain from the tools and knowledge that I’ll be building along the way.
There are tons of ways to do one-on-one consultancy online, even large group sessions too. And then there are tools designed specifically for online seminars like GoToWebinar and Join.me, the latter of which has a free plan.
The seminar industry is huge, but obviously we have a lot of work ahead in order to build the respect first to get there.
It takes money to make money
That about covers it for ways to make free money online (yeah, literally everything described so far can be achieved at no cost). Beyond this, there are ways to turn your own money into profit. I’m not there yet, although I did give matched betting ago last month and it kind of saved my ass… for a little while.
As I’ve got nothing to spare right now, I need to be making money before I spend any. So we’ll cover a few more ways to make money that involve putting your own cash on the line with low-to-no-risk in a future entry. Stay tuned.