Six successful online entrepreneurs share their best secrets for making money online
As someone who loves reading about financial history, I can say without a doubt that there has been no other period when it was as possible for anyone to make a lot of money as it is right now.
Not in the 15th and 16th century when new worlds were being opened to trade, not in the late 19th century when the U.S. government opened up land free to whoever would homestead it, not even during the gold rush of 1849.
Those periods all involved substantial risk or required you to put down life savings to get started.
The online revolution has brought ways to make money that involve little risk, little cash and that virtually anyone can start with just an internet connection.
But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to make money online. The key to making money has always been with the knowledge of how a business idea works and how to make it successful when others fail.
That’s why I reached out to six of the most successful internet entrepreneurs I know and asked them to share their favorite ways to make money online and the secrets that make it possible.
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Critical Keys to Making Money
What I heard from nearly every expert was that making money comes down to a few simple ideas like creating high-value products and making your money work for you. These are the secrets to making money online you never hear about but work to create your online business.
- Don’t rely on just one source of income. Diversify so you have money coming in from multiple sources.
- Focus on creating passive sources of income when you can. This will keep your income growing even when you take a break.
- Automate your marketing system through a sales funnel including emails, videos and advertising.
- Develop a brand, something people know you by and respect you for as an expert in the topic.
- Balance selling other peoples’ products with products of your own like books, video courses and consulting.
I’ll highlight each of these below. Follow them like your bible because these are the basics to making money online and being successful!
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Think Value in Your Money-Making Products
Instead of starting with strategies to make money online, I always like to start with brainstorming the value I can bring to customers and readers. Start with a value proposition and you’ll be able to take that to any type of product or media format.
- What’s your experience in and what do you like to do? This could be one specific thing or many things in a topic.
- Was your education in one field but you work in another? Does that give you unique insight by combining the two fields?
- What life experiences do you have that you can share with others?
Ryan of Blogging from Paradise takes the value proposition one step further, matching it up with audience needs.
My favorite strategies for making money online include solving specific problems related to my audience’s needs, building an email list and guest posting to leverage my presence. Each sets the table for building a profitable business.
Selling my eBooks, courses and offering consulting services are my preferred online income streams. Make no mistake though; those income streams are not the money-makers. The value you bring to the table nets profits.
David of Young Adult Money brings up a valuable point in making money online.
While blogging and freelancing writing are both excellent ways to make money online, I always push people to develop some type of unique product or service they can sell online. If you start a blog and build a following, think of what sort of product or service your following would find useful. You’ll also make a lot more money from your own products than having to rely on affiliates or others’ products all the time. You’ll be able to control the marketing and that revenue source will never go away. It’s one of the best secrets to being successful, creating your own assets instead of relying on others.
Once you’ve identified the ideal product or service, create it and let your following and others know about it. This is the best way to make money online in today’s crowded online landscape.
There are two critical players in making money online, the product and the distribution.
- The product serves a customer need
- Distribution gets the product in front of customers so they know it exists.
You can make a lot of money just being the distribution channel for other people’s products, i.e. having a website with lots of traffic. Similarly, you can make money developing your own products to sell through other people’s websites.
You’ll make the most money by owning both the product and the distribution. This gives you the opportunity to not only sell your own product and keep all the money but to also sell other products.
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Developing Your Own Brand to Make Money
The biggest difference I’ve seen between people that seem to have overnight success making money and those that always struggle is the success stories have built a brand for themselves around a specific topic.
There are more than 26 million channels on YouTube and more than a billion blogs. What makes you different? Why would someone remember yours above all the rest? Don’t worry if the answer doesn’t come to you instantly but you do need to give this some time and think about it. This secret will make you more money online because you’ll be able to grow your business faster than others online.
Developing a brand means becoming THE trusted expert in a topic. The more specific that topic can be, the better.
Making money is so much easier when you’ve established your brand because you’ll get referrals from everywhere. Your name will come up in conversations and people will visit your site and buy your products without even the need for a marketing funnel.
Becoming the go-to resource in a niche also means people will visit your site for information and then reference that information on their website. That means links and links mean huge Google traffic…and traffic means making more money.
Creating your own website is a must for developing your brand. You need your own piece of virtual real estate to show people who you are and what you can do.
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The Secret to Building Your Online Business
Once you’ve started thinking about what needs you can serve and products you might be able to develop, it’s time to start building your business.
The Frugal Farmer offers some suggestions on building your business and getting your name out there.
Make a list to determine what you love to do and what you’re good at. Then find ways to market yourself to your audience.
- If you’re a freelance writer, ask popular bloggers if you can guest post for free on their site.
- If you’re into web design, contact site owners with a good following and offer to re-design a site for cheap or free in return for advertising.
- Consistently give clients more than they expect. By exceeding their expectations, you build yourself a solid reputation that will make clients eager to share your name with others.
Get your name out there, and if you’re good at what you do the business will come.
Get active in Facebook groups around the topic or where your target customer hangs out online. Help answer people’s questions and be a resource for the group. You’ll build a reputation for being helpful and great at what you do and people will come to you for paid services.
Getting started freelancing means either spending months making the same mistakes as everyone else or taking a course from someone that has been successful. Whenever I start a new project, I look for video courses and ebooks to get me up to speed as quickly as possible.
Courses can be surprisingly inexpensive when you consider how much time you save (months) and how much more money you can make in those months instead of fumbling through wondering where to start.
Making Money Online with a Blog
Blogging is an under-appreciated and misunderstood business. Most don’t understand just how much money you can make and even fewer understand how to make a blog successful.
Treat your blog like a business and the potential to make money will continuously surprise you.
Jeff of Breaking the One Percent offers some tips on getting your blog started.
The best way that I have found to make money online is through blogging. It’s one of the more challenging work from home jobs, but there is also no income ceiling. There are plenty of bloggers out there making over $10k a month.
My biggest piece of advice for new bloggers is to start viewing your blog with a business mindset right from the get go.
Figure out what value your blog will provide to your audience, how you will generate revenue, either selling your own products or being paid to help others sell theirs, and you will be positioned much better for success. The last thing you want to do is write about whatever is on your mind that day, with no particular long-term blogging strategy.
Understand that your blog can be the distribution and/or the product to make money. Most blogs act as the distribution which means drawing internet visitors to sell products like ebooks, printables or advertising.
Your blog can also be the product though with this next idea, as a membership site. It’s not only your marketing channel but how you make money as well. Anytime you can think in these dual terms, finding people AND making money, you’re going to make more money online than just focusing on one of them.
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Stable Monthly Income with a Membership Site
A membership site is just like any other website except it’s restricted to paying-members through a password. Members get extra content, discounts and access to the website owner in return for a monthly, quarterly or annual subscription fee.
That regular fee makes membership sites a great source for stable income though it’s less passive than running a traditional blog. I detailed how to set up a membership site in a previous post.
Carol of Small Blog, Big Income shares her experience running a membership site.
The most successful strategy for me and by far my favorite way to earn online is through paid community. I launched my Freelance Writers Den community in 2011, and it now has over 1,000 members.
Recurring memberships are a win both for me and for my members — they get access to a ton of great materials at a low price. Offering a product at a low price makes it easy to sell, which I love because I’m a former journalist and marketing isn’t my favorite thing! Membership also provides stable, predictable income, which gives me financial security and allows me to invest in my business.
Finally, recurring memberships are an appealing offer for affiliates, because sellers love products where they can earn every month on autopilot, for many months into the future.
There are several ways to run a membership site, through a low initial fee and then selling products through the site or by charging a higher fee and then granting free access to everything on the site.
Membership sites are just one of the nine strategies highlighted in Make Money Blogging. In the book, I detail how to get started and how much you can make in the nine most popular strategies used online.
An Amazon best-seller in the blogging category, the book starts with the quick and easy strategies like display advertising and affiliate sales before detailing how to make thousands a month with self-publishing, webinars and seminars.
Entrepreneur Secrets to Making Money No One Talks About
In all the tips and tricks to make money, there are a few ideas that few people come out and say directly. These are the things most people don’t want to hear about but they are how real success works in this world.
- Being an entrepreneur is hard work. I work harder on my work from home projects than I ever did at a 9-to-5 job.
- Being an entrepreneur is lonely. There’s no one to complain to if your business isn’t growing as fast as you’d like. Even if you’re not a one-person business, your employees don’t want to hear you gripe.
- Making big money means taking big risks. You can sit in a cubicle and make $50,000 a year or you can take a chance and make $500,00…just remember, for every successful entrepreneur that makes $500,000 there are probably ten that failed and are only making $5,000
Create Passive Income for Long-Term Success
Passive income ideas are hugely popular but mostly misunderstood. Blogging, real estate investing, and creating courses can all be passive income sources in some respect, but they can also take years to set up and make truly passive.
Sure, your blog will continue to get thousands of visitors from Google for your posts but only after you’ve spent years to build it up. You’ll never be able to fully walk away from working on the blog or your income will start to slow.
That’s why you need to balance and diversify your income sources between ones that will instantly create cash flow and others that take time to develop but will mean thousands a month in the future.
Part of this success with passive income ideas is automating your marketing system as much as possible. If you can create a system that guides visitors from start to product purchase, you can make just about any product passive.
- Use blog posts to set yourself up as the expert in a topic
- Create a free email training series around each theme on your blog and add a callout in relevant posts
- Your free email series should start out with a simple introduction of who you are and your experience in the topic
- Follow-on emails can help readers with very specific problems, leading them to your product that walks them through everything in the topic
Don’t Neglect Miscellaneous Sources of Online Income
Besides some of the longer-term sources of online income, there are plenty of other strategies you can use to make extra money here and there. Most of these short-term sources don’t make much but they are easy to set up and can be done in a half-hour of spare time.
Lylia Rose shares some of her ideas for making extra money.
The most profitable ways to make money online are through blogging and matched betting. I also recommend mystery shopping and website testing. It really is possible to make a full-time income online as a mum to young children.
The Secret to Having More Money is Changing What it Means to Be Rich
You can make all the money in the world but it will never be enough until you change what it means to be rich. What good is making all that money if you don’t FEEL rich, if you don’t see your success as an accomplishment because you keep raising the bar for what it means to be rich?
Feeling rich means staying grounded even after you’ve started to make real money from your online projects. You don’t necessarily always have to live on the same spending level but try to live below your means even as your income grows.
Set standards that don’t include money for what it means to be rich. Start judging your success on the number of people you reach, the relationships you’ve created or other qualitative factors.
There’s no ‘one’ way to make money online but that doesn’t mean you have to invent something completely different. Find out the strategies others are using to make money and bring your own value to the game. Treat it like a business and you’ll start to build a reputation for quality that will keep people coming back and you’ll make more money than you thought possible.