In the early days of the internet, the online world was a mysterious place where only geeks and hackers hung out. Over the years, it has evolved from discussion boards and file-sharing to being completely synonymous with the international economy.
Thus, “working online” is really just “working” these days, because internet technology is so integrated with everything now.
“If your adding value and helping other people in some way, then money should be flowing into your life with ease.”
― Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr
Why do you want to make money online?
The question is, why are you here? Do you want to make money in any way possible, regardless of ethics and adding value to the world? If so, this is probably not the best article for you! What most people searching for online income are looking for is a way to become self-reliant and location-independent, so that they can travel wherever they want, whenever they want, without asking. In my mind, it’s not necessarily about getting “rich” but rather finding ways you can add value to the world in your small corner of the internet, while achieving a comfortable life that values time more than income.
After centuries of irrelevance, introverts are now winning the game.
Lots of “online income” articles will mention all kinds of ideas like tutoring, drop-shipping, or creating YouTube videos… but most introverts are looking for ways to AVOID human interaction as much as possible, even if it’s via email/chat/phone. The truth is that most forms of e-Commerce are overrated — especially for saturated niches like T-shirts or greeting cards — for exactly that reason. If your reason for working online is to reduce human interaction, then selling physical products of any kind is going to require human interaction and quite possibly real world interaction, too. But if you really want to make money selling physical products, you aren’t going to find a good idea by browsing articles like this one; instead, you are going to have to do some detailed market research and come up with a somewhat unique product (and price point) that can be successful.
- Blogging. The ancient art of blogging has always been, and always will be the king of online revenue streams. Why? Because organizing ideas into different topics and writing about them is arguably the basis for most other online business. The easiest road to passive online income is slapping Google Adsense on your blog and pumping out niche articles every week. And if you can do this well, it leads to many other easy ways to branch off your blog’s traffic into even more revenue streams.
- Advertising. This goes beyond simple Adsense snippets, and encompasses an entire world of selling things like native ads, partnering with niche ad agencies, selling sponsored posts, selling sponsored newsletter blasts, and more. Again, if you have a blog or website with high-traffic, it is the cornerstone for being able to making revenue from ads that go beyond generic Adsense. For example, if your blog on video games has become so popular that you’ve added a discussion forum to your website, you could now also sell fixed-size ad zones on that forum either directly, or by partnering with another agency like BuySellAds.
- Affiliate links. Also an age-old money maker online, and controversial in some ways. Affiliate links are probably the single biggest cause of online fraud and dishonest endorsements, because people tend to “recommend” products that are paying them. I’m not opposed to affiliate links per se, but the industry does regularly bother me with how much dishonesty it creates. Although blogging is still the main basis for making money with these links, the cool thing is that even low-traffic microsites are often able to generate decent income if they are targeting SERPs well, or if they are being used effectively in other places. For example, some discussion forums allow members to put affiliate links in their posts, meaning you don’t even really need to be a good blogger.
- Online courses. Several years ago, the world of courses became incredibly popular after a few platforms like Udemy (and some self-hosted options) caught on. This trend has calmed down a bit now in recent years, perhaps because many topics have become saturated — and probably also because there are now so many free places where you can learn things, too. I’ve kinda always despised the “webinar” obsession that always seems to come back again every few years or so, but there is certainly money to be made regardless of how you host your teaching. And, hopefully you’re able to do it in an honest and enjoyable way.
- Online services. This is really just a way of saying that you can sell something as a recurring digital service, as opposed to open-ended freelancing or one-time gigs. For example, you could launch a web hosting business, an online PR agency, or health coaching. There are many different niches that you can choose, but the important thing is that you’re an expert in that niche (best case scenario, you have already been blogging about the topic for a while).
- Publish books. Writing books is surely not a new thing, but the profit potential of being an author has grown exponentially bigger in the modern age of media attention and the internet. There is also the benefit of being able to publish as an ebook, meaning you can still get an ISBN number (or not) without having to jump through as many hoops as you used to. No agent? No problem, you can take care of the entire process by yourself, and see sales potentially rolling in for years into the future.
- Freelancing. I know we are focused on introverts here, but most of my fellow introverts would be okay with occasional emails or online chats with a paying client, as long as it didn’t require jumping on phone calls, etc. I can say definitely after freelancing for a decade on Upwork that I’ve never once had a phone call with a client (by my own choice), and generally speaking I’ve been able to choose the hours that I work. Plus, after you have finished projects for clients, they often end up contacting you back later or looking up some of the other products you’re working on, so it’s kind of a great way to develop warm leads and relationships to keep the synergy flowing on referrals and beyond. Many of the highest paid freelancers I’ve come across do things like writing, translating, and content/copywriting editing, so you don’t even need to be a high-tech Python programmer!
- Side gigs (fixed-price). This can mean different things to different people, but if freelancing is more like hourly consulting or project-based pricing, a side gig or fixed-price gig is usually a cheaper service you provide as a one-off basis. For example, if you’re great at Photoshop, you might draw logos for $25 each on a marketplace like Fiverr, or offer phone consulting (yikes!) on a platform like Clarity for a per-minute rate that is much higher than your typical freelancing rate to justify the annoyance. Personally, I have never been that interested in fixed-price gigs because they seem to take more time than you expect, and can take your focus off more profitable freelancing (or personal) projects, but many people have great success at scaling these.
- Investing. Probably of the more forgotten options in many articles is learning the stock marketing and cryptocurrency market and finding ways to profit. Day-trading is quite difficult in the traditional stock market, but it’s a LOT easier in the world of crypto due to no government regulation, and since many coins are incredibly volatile. Long-term holding of crypto assets is always a good primary strategy, but short-term or very-short-term buying and selling of coins can be fun and sometimes result in a nice bit of cash after just a few hours of playing the graphs.
- Selling photos/art. Stock photography has been a trust source of income for thousands of people around the world for many years now, and it’s still going strong. But you can sell a lot of other stock media too, like vector graphics, audio recordings, and beyond at marketplaces like Getty Images or Envato. And if you love to travel at the same time, you could be making money off your media and even write-off some of your traveling costs as business expenses (esp. for us Americans who deal with the IRS mafia).
Of course, there are some other common ways to make money online, such as flipping websites or domains, doing surveys, and other things that are incredibly fleeting, but I don’t really like promoting things that are not adding long-term value to the world.
And if diversifying your efforts into multiple revenue streams is not your cup of tea, you can even find a full-time job online these days (esp. in the post-COVID area) on sites like FlexJobs.
Also see my article:
Why I think drop-shipping is the most overrated business (and will become increasing fruitless)