The following is my personal top 10 methods to make money from the Internet.
What makes this list unique is it’s based entirely on the methods I have personally used, so I can reveal to you what I did and what my results were.
These methods represent twenty years of building different businesses online, so I do not apply them all still today. At one point in my career however, they were an income stream for me, and are still viable options for you today, so I want to share them with you.
This is not an all-inclusive list, which means there are plenty of other ways you can make money, no doubt many of which are potentially more profitable or better choices for your own situation.
You shouldn’t base your decisions on what methods you use solely on this list. Do your research and include this article as one resource.
Note: This list is NOT ordered based on my preferences from top to bottom, so the number one slot isn’t my top choice.
I list my methods in the chronology of time of when I did them, and what I learned from each method. When you reach number ten, you are viewing my most current income stream.
You will also see that content plays a part in all of the different income streams (except my first one) in some way. I’ve made money as a micro-influencer, a personal brand writing and producing my own content, and I’ve used content created by other people to attract traffic, customers and clients to a business.
Gaining an understanding of how to use content to create income streams is a critical skill to have today. I hope this article gives you fresh insights and possibilities for your path forward in online business.
What Is My Ideal Way To Make Money Online?
It’s important before I share the top 10 list with you, that I go through my criteria — what motivated and what were my goals when it comes to building a business.
My criteria may not be the same as yours. For example, I never raised investment for any business. I always bootstrapped. If I was growing a tech startup raising venture capital, then my motivation and methods would be different.
Let’s take a look at my five criteria for making money from an online business…
1. Can you make a solid profit margin?
As you will see when I reveal my top 10 methods to make money online, some income streams have very slim profit margins, which means you must push through a lot of sales in order to make significant income.
While not always the case, in most situations to sell more requires more work, more resources and generally more of everything, which results in violation of my next rule…
2. Can you maintain income with minimal labour and/or is it easy to outsource?
I look for income streams that do not require significant amount of work to maintain.
This could be because the business model itself is very simple (I prefer the word ‘efficient’), or through building a team, you can remove yourself from much of the workload.
I’d rather earn less working less, than earn more working too hard.
Earning less can still deliver life changing money, but no amount of money makes your life better if you have to spend your entire life working for it.
3. Is there potential to scale?
As you will see from my list below, not every income stream I built had the potential to bring in enough money, which is why I eventually stopped or sold that particular business.
When I state enough money, this is of course subjective criteria. What you consider enough may not be the same as what I desired.
When I first started as an entrepreneur, my ‘dream goal’ was to make $1,000 a day. That was a lot more than I had ever made before and seemed like enough to live a pretty amazing life.
In order to reach this number, the income stream has to be able to scale that far. Some of the businesses I built struggled to reach even $1,000 a month. Others had the potential to scale further, but to make that happen, I would have to break some of my other rules.
Thus my criteria became the potential to scale to $1,000 a day without breaking my other criteria, especially around working too hard. I didn’t want to be earning a lot but completely burnt out.
4. Is there passive income potential?
In most cases I prefer income streams and business models that are at least partially passive.
Over time I’ve come to realize there is no such thing as a truly passive income stream unless someone just gives you money, which is not likely to happen to most of us!
However, when it comes to a business, because of concepts like ‘leverage‘, some income streams are just less work by nature than others.
Learning what the leverage points are and understanding how the business model works became top criteria for me — although I have to admit initially I was pretty clueless about these things.
5. Can you create a sellable asset?
True wealth creation often comes from selling your business.
Unfortunately many creators today are building income streams that are so dependent on themselves, they could never sell their business — there is no value there without them.
I’ve also made this choice as a creator, spending many years publishing content on my blog and podcast, earning amazing income, but without the possibility of selling my business.
Today, whenever I consider starting something new online, it has to have the potential to turn into a sellable asset or contribute to the creation of one.
Three Ingredients Necessary For Wealth AND Happiness
Over time I came to realize that based on my values and lifestyle goals, there are three core aspects I look for in an income stream. I call these my holy trinity –
- You make significant PROFIT
- The income can be made as close to PASSIVE as possible
- You have PASSION about some aspect of the business
Or phrased another way, my business should enable the following –
- Consistent Income (cash flow)
- Free Time (thanks to income automation, business model efficiency or large capital gain when I sell the business)
- Meaning and Purpose (you enjoy what you do each day)
So now you know my main criteria that has driven me to test different income streams over the past decade.
Now let’s review each of the ten income streams…
1. Sell On Ebay (Or Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace)
I’ll start this list with where I started online. My first income stream, like for many people, came from e-commerce — selling physical goods.
During my childhood and early teenage years I went from playing with toys like Transformers, GI-Joe and LEGO, to playing Nintendo, Sega and Gameboy. Eventually I started playing the card game Magic: The Gathering.
All of these things were passions for me at various stages of growing up, but one thing remained consistent throughout my youth; I traded and sold toys and games I no longer wanted to make extra cash.
In Brisbane, Australia, where I grew up, before the Internet there was a newspaper called the Trading Post that was published every two weeks. It was an aftermarket for pretty much everything. Whenever I grew tired of a game or a toy I’d sell it via the Trading Post, usually in an effort to make enough money to buy the latest toy or game I had in my sights.
Eventually the Internet came along and the Trading Post no longer commanded the secondhand market like it once did. It quickly became clear that eBay was the winner when it came to secondhand commerce online.
As a result my first experience making any money from the Internet was selling old games, toys and electronics on eBay. This was back in the late 1990s, so the very early days of the world wide web.
Today eBay is still a place you can sell items online, but the overall e-commerce landscape has exploded.
A lot of people start with e-commerce because they can understand the idea. You source a product to sell, either by making it yourself, manufacturing it (often overseas), or by buying it somewhere else and then reselling it online for a profit, or just selling your old stuff, as I did.
I never really got into e-commerce in any serious way. I’m not an expert in it, yet this is where I got my start and it’s still a great place to dip your toes in.
You may also find platforms specific to your area, for example here in Canada where I currently live, there is Kijiji, another marketplace. You can also find marketplaces specific to items, for example Depop is an app for selling clothing.
The best thing about using these platforms is they already have an audience of buyers. The downside is often profit margins on physical products are slim, sourcing product can be challenging, and competition is fierce.
2. Sell Products From Your Own Website
My first successful website was about the card game Magic: The Gathering. It was called MTGParadise.com.
At first the site was just a hobby with articles written by me and a few friends. Eventually as my audience grew I began making some money from advertisers. I approached sponsors directly, emailing card stores and asking if they wanted to spend $50 to $100 for a banner on my website.
Eventually I learned how to install more complex software, leading to the creation of a forum (or sometimes called a bulletin board), where other players of the card game could buy, sell and trade cards.
I also dived into e-commerce again, starting a small online store on my website, directly listing my Magic cards for sale. I even took a more serious step to source unopened boxes of Magic cards, buying them at wholesale prices directly from distributors, and then selling the cards on my online store.
All of this happened long before tools like Shopify made running an online store easy, and even before services like PayPal came along to make receiving money online simple. At this point, my buyers would send checks or postal money orders in the mail to me, and then I’d send them back their cards stuffed into padded envelopes.
My card game business never made me rich, earning $500 to $1,000 a month in profit. The manual labor to run the store was intense. Maintaining inventory lists, packing cards and daily trips to the post office was not always the most fun way to spend my time.
As I left my teenage years I lost interest in playing the Magic card game, so I didn’t feel all that passionate about growing my little online business. This led to the decision to sell my website, which at the time was not a common thing to do.
I found a buyer from within the trading forum community I had grown, and walked away with $13,500.
This business was far from meeting my income stream goals, but it was an incredibly important stepping stone. The experience I gained from running my own website and selling cards online gave me the foundation of skills and confidence to take on my next projects and get closer to my goals.
3. Sell Advertising As A Content Creator
For the first seven years of my online business career, advertising was a key income stream across many different websites I would come to own over those years.
The first was my Magic card game website, which attracted an audience thanks to the articles I published almost every single day.
Like today, ads were the ‘easy’ option for a content creator to generate an income stream. I was well aware of this as my card game site grew, but having never sold an ad before, I was apprehensive that it would work for me.
Back then banners were the main format of advertising because video was only just starting to become possible on the web. This was before social media and before YouTube.
This was also before Google had a robust ad platform. There were ad networks you could join, where you earn a few pennies per click on a banner displayed on your website, but I wanted to have much more focused ads — ads directly from card game stores ideally, since that was a good match for my audience.
I was able to bring in several hundred dollars per month in advertising revenue by directly approaching online card stores. I emailed them and asked if they would like to pay a monthly fee to place a banner on my site. Most said no, but some said yes and eventually I had advertisers.
Years after selling my Magic card website, I became a blogger (in 2005). My blog about entrepreneurship grew, and again I started with advertising as my first income stream.
My blog audience was at least ten times larger than my Magic card game audience ever was, and that resulted in more than ten times the income from banner ads. During peak months I was earning as much as $3,000 a month from banners.
I spent a lot of time optimizing my blog to sell ads at better prices directly to sponsors. You can read how I did this in my article – How To Sell More Ads On Your Blog.
As my income grew, I decided to invest some of it in acquiring other blogs and websites. All of these websites earned income from advertising and had writers or a community producing content.
I acquired these websites on Flippa.com and then worked with an assistant to increase the ad revenue after we took them over using my ad optimization methods.
Eventually my portfolio of websites was bringing in as much as $8,000 a month, although I had to pay my assistant, but 80% of it was profit.
Some of the sites I owned at this time also made money from affiliate product sales (more on this coming up). I also used third party services to find sponsors and sell ads, including Google’s AdSense program, which was relatively new at the time. You can read a very old post breaking down the income sources here: How I Make Money Online Part 4 – Blogging (2007).
Despite my success with advertising and building a portfolio of content sites, after a few years I made a big decision to sell most of my websites. I wanted to focus on my education business (selling my online courses), which was starting to do incredibly well, and I didn’t like being pulled in so many different directions with all the different websites.
Advertising today is still the most common method for content creators to get started with. Google’s ad platform is incredibly popular. You can use it to run ads on your website and also it powers the ads that run on your YouTube videos.
I encourage you to consider finding your own advertisers directly, approaching the companies you would like to work with, who have products or service you believe would be of interest to your audience.
4. Sponsorship Campaigns And Brand Deals
Sponsorship is almost as popular as advertising as a method for content creators to make money.
You’re probably well aware of all the ‘paid product placement’ happening on social media, with YouTubers, Instagrammers and TikTokers promoting products or services. These people get paid to create content about a product.
If your audience is big enough, sponsors will approach you. You may also become part of networks or work with talent management, who will find sponsors for you. For example, The Standard has a roster of over 160 content creators who they support and help source brand deals.
I started offering sponsorship with a simple offer — I would write a blog post review about a product in return for $250 (this fee later grew as my audience size grew). I made this offer available on my blog and people approached me directly.
I did not accept just any product for review. I had to see an angle that made for relevant content for my audience. A paid review was not a promise that I would write positively about a product — I highlighted both good and bad points.
Initially I didn’t mind writing paid reviews as the income was pretty good. I could make as much as $250 an hour, which was great at first, but as my motivation focused more on freedom and less on money, even this became a poor incentive. Plus I never liked that I was told what to write about rather than choosing subjects I enjoyed.
Sponsorship and advertising are the most common income streams for content creators today. Personally, I consider them two of the worst options because you need very significant traffic to make significant money. Yet because they are easy to get started with, often this is where people begin.
5. Affiliate Product Promotions
Affiliate products are one of my favorite places to start making money from your content. I like this method because it forces you to think about how to sell a product, even if it’s not your product.
Like many people, one of the first places I sourced affiliate products to promote on my blog was the Amazon Associates program. You can sell basically anything Amazon sells and earn a small commission for any sales you generate.
Amazon never became a big income source for me. I made a lot more by promoting software and online courses created by other people. These were tools and education I often used myself, so it was easy to write a review and use an affiliate link to drum up some sales.
One of the very first things I promoted was the Aweber email newsletter software. At the time it was the email newsletter tool I used, so I wrote a blog post review and sent a link to it to all my email subscribers.
My income from Aweber grew to a $500 a month, which repeated each month because Aweber is a recurring software subscription. I would earn a commission for each recurring payment made by people I sent to Aweber who subscribed to the software.
Affiliate income became my second highest source of income for many years as a blogger (only sales of my own products made more). By combining my blog and email newsletter I could reach thousands of people with just one piece of content.
By testing different products and recommending things I personally used myself, I’ve been able to earn as much as $25,000 in commissions selling just one product and hundreds of thousands in total from affiliate income.
The challenge with affiliate marketing is to figure out what market to enter/products to sell, and then building an audience and maintaining relationships with them, so they trust your recommendations.
The great thing about affiliate income is you don’t have to deal with customer support. Your job is sales, that’s it. You have to get very good at using content as a sales tool — so copywriting skills are crucial!
6. Sell Your Own Information Products (Courses, Membership Site, Ebooks)
The most profitable income stream I have had as a content creator is my own information products (educational programs like online courses and membership sites).
Most of the influencers and content creators who choose this income strategy often say the same – their online course or teaching programs end up making more money than any other income stream.
The profit margin on information products is impressive. You create a course once and keep selling it over and over again. Each copy of your course costs you almost nothing to sell besides fixed costs like web and software hosting, and payment transaction fees.
What I love the most about information products is how efficient a business model you can build to sell them. You don’t need a large team or lots of different software tools to make it work.
For several years I earned over $400,000 annually with 80% profit margins and no full time employees. It was me, my email customer support team, one tech support person, my project manager and a handful of specialists contractors for things like copywriting, graphic design and bookkeeping.
Technology makes selling information online relatively easy to automate, once you get through the learning curve. I currently use the Systeme.io software to run my email newsletter and to sell my information products. I use Stripe to take payments.
To create courses you can either record videos of you on camera delivering lessons, or like I often do, have a contractor put a slide presentation together based on your notes, which you then talk over to make a lesson presentation (you can see an example here).
I’ve sold programs that cost from $27/month to $97/month for a membership, all the way to $2,000 for a course. How much you charge and what pricing model you chose depends on what you sell, who you sell it to and how much the perceived value for your help is. As a simple rule, charge more and you will work with better customers and make more money.
Like with affiliate products, your potential to succeed selling information products rests on your ability to identify market needs, tap into audiences looking for this information and then give them what they want. It takes work to make a great course or membership site. You should expect to invest quite a bit of time and money into initial setup.
7. High Priced Private Coaching Or Consulting
Private coaching or consulting is more common when the topics you create content about relate to teaching people how to do something. If you’re a health, money or relationships coach or influencer, it’s quick and easy to start selling your time direct to clients who want your expertise.
I’ve helped one-on-one private coaching clients for as much as $1,000 per hour. You can see my current rates here: Private Coaching With Yaro.
I’ve also on rare occasion run longer term coaching programs for small groups, which last from six to twelve months and cost $5,000 to $10,000. While this sounds like amazing money, it’s a lot of work and not often the best use of your time. However, for those who enjoy the personal contact with clients, helping them to grow, this can be a professionally satisfying and lucrative option.
People who are new to selling teaching products online should start with private coaching, even if you charge as low as $100/hour to begin. This helps you to gain experience and confidence, and to learn more about what your target audience wants.
There’s something special about earning money for your advice, so coaching is a great starting point and by far one of the quickest way to turn your content into an income stream.
Not all topics are a good match for coaching or consulting however. You need to have a target audience who want to change something about their life or business and they see you as a key resource to help them get there.
8. Sell Services You Provide Personally
Similar to coaching/consulting, another way to utilize content to make money is to sell freelance services.
For example, create videos on what it’s like to live or move to a certain city, and sell your real estate agent services to help them find a property to purchase. This is a common strategy on YouTube for many niche service providers and professionals.
I really like this formula, because you start creating content already fully understanding what you sell. This helps guide the content you create.
The downside with this model is that you still trade hours for dollars. If you’re the one delivering the service, you can only grow so far, plus you are a point of failure — if you can’t work, you don’t earn.
This is why I recommend if you do see services as your business model, you plan to grow a team to support you, even to the point where they deliver the service.
If you’re smart, start from day one with a team in place, just as I did with InboxDone.com…
9. Sell Services That Your Team Delivers
I could have written about this money making method earlier than number nine in my list, because I sold services that other people deliver way back before I even started blogging.
However, my largest income stream today is also with the same business model (I’ve used this model twice with two different companies, 15 years apart!), so I share it now towards the end of my list.
Back in the early 2000s I started a language translation and proofreading business called BetterEdit.com. I had contract editors and translators provide the service. I built the website and created content to attract customers.
Over time the business was refined to focus on one niche only – academic editing for students with English as a second language. I sold the company for $100,000 in 2007, after running it for many years as my main income stream.
Fast forward to 2016, with a co-founder named Claire who was part of my blog coaching customer service team, we launched InboxDone.com, a company that offers email management and calendar scheduling by virtual executive assistants. Today we have a team of over 40 people — by far the biggest company I have started so far.
I don’t consider these pure content creator businesses as they are not about me personally writing content to grow an audience as an influencer. However, both of these businesses rely heavily on content to attract customers. In fact, I’d argue pretty much every business online uses content in some way as a way to get customers.
InboxDone is a prime example of a business that matches all the criteria I set out at the start of this article. The service is scalable, the company is an asset that can be sold one day if we want to, my job as chief of marketing and sales is important and something I enjoy, but much of the company runs completely without me, with my co-founder leading an amazing team of assistants, hiring, training and client success staff.
If you know how to use content to sell, then building a services agency as your income source is certainly an option, especially if you have a team and system in place. People love the idea of services ‘done for you’, and there are so many different services you could build an agency around. It’s not easy, but it might be the perfect choice for you.
10. Invest Income Into Assets That Return Cash And Capital
This final income stream, frankly, would have been impossible for me to consider 20 years ago when I first started out online with dreams of having a profitable business.
I simply had no cash or the potential to purchase any kind of asset.
Fifteen years later, after making several millions of dollars in sales of all kinds of products and services from the various businesses I built, I had the opportunity to decide how to invest my money.
Like so many people, I grew up considering property investing a great strategy to grow my long term wealth. I also really wanted to own my own place — it felt like the ultimate sign of success.
This is why, once I’d put away my first $100,000 in savings, I purchased property as both a lifestyle and investment choice. Over several years after this I bought and sold property in Australia and today still hold property in Canada and an apartment in Ukraine.
After all the experience with property I’ve had so far, to be honest, it’s not my favorite investment strategy. Some people love it, but lately I’ve been more excited about business orientated investments, because I love entrepreneurship and the positive impact it can have on so many people. Starting or buying a new business also creates new income streams.
Besides property, I’ve made and lost vast amounts of money in the stock market and in cryptocurrencies. Although overall, I have made more than I lost, in particular from the 2017 rise in Ethereum.
Around the same time as my crypto portfolio was booming, due to a case of truly unforeseen decisions I found myself living in Ukraine. While there I made a new friend, Andriy, who told me about an investment opportunity in solar energy. To cut a very long story short, I am now co-owner of a solar plant in Lviv, Ukraine, which returns yearly income.
On the other end of the risk spectrum, I also started placing small bets on companies as an Angel investor, following advice from Jason Calacanis, who has a book on angel investing and a podcast that I listen to every week.
I’m in my fifth year of angel investing currently, so my returns have been minimal. I expect the next five years are when exits will occur. This income stream is certainly not about cash flow, but landing one good company investment early on can result in a very large return.
When I started out as a content creator and online entrepreneur, I never expected I’d start angel investing, or help to build a solar plant, or speculate on a new emerging digital asset class.
I mention investment now at the end of my income stream list because one of the ways people get truly wealthy is to have your money work for you.
I personally spend much of my time running my current company InboxDone.com and producing content for this blog and my email newsletter. These are still my main income sources today, however my asset base is heavily diversified. From property, to solar, stocks, crypto and ownership in startups, these are producing income directly for me, are appreciating in value or have teams of people creating new value.
The good thing about diversification of income and assets is the safety net it provides against downturns.
As I type this, war is on in Ukraine, and while my solar is safe in the west of the country, this event will no doubt impact my return. I’m also typing this as crypto and tech stocks have gone through a massive downturn, losing as much as 80% of their value. Meanwhile, my Canadian properties have been through three years of significant capital growth, with things only just slowing down now as inflation climbs.
I can remember in 2008, when the global financial crisis occurred. I had just purchased my first home with a mortgage on it, but besides this and my blogging business, I had nothing else – I’d sold all my other websites. Companies were losing customers as everyone was cutting costs. People were losing jobs and consumer spending was down.
If this downturn hit my blogging business, it would have been detrimental to me, as I had no other income streams and all my capital and just gone into my property. Thankfully, as people lost jobs they went looking to learn how to start an online business, so my blog coaching program continued to sell well — the best years in fact happened from 2007-2009, right in the middle of the GFC.
Of course, I had no way to predict this. I was extremely grateful to be on the winning side of a downturn in the economy, but it could have gone either way.
As you grow your income, you should consider how to diversify investments and acquire or build assets, so your money works for you and you have more stability during down times.
You may find one day that your investments will return far more cash flow and wealth, but without becoming a content creator in the first place, you will never have made the money you needed to get started and acquire those investments.
What Money Making Method Is Best For You?
I haven’t mentioned other income streams like selling software or SAAS, or building a niche marketplace platform (for example Voices.com). E-commerce is especially hot right now, with many people doing well with direct to consumer companies and/or selling on Amazon. I have yet to make significant money using these business models, but they are certainly options you should consider.
The amazing thing about being a content creator is that the internet is all about content. You can use your creator skills to attract an audience and make money using so many different income streams.
You will likely combine many different ways to make money. At one stage I was earning from advertising and writing paid reviews on my blog, selling a course, selling affiliate products, my editing services company and owning a portfolio of content sites.
As your cash flow and profits increase, you can use that money to purchase assets like property, stocks or more companies. Everything has risk of course, but diversification and building assets is a sound strategy to protect you from complete catastrophe during down markets, or if a business fails.
I suggest you first gain clarity about what is important to you and who you can provide value to. How you use your content and what income streams will be born from these decisions.
If you need mentorship with anything I’ve written about in this article, join the Laptop Lifestyle Academy. I’m here to help and can guide you to the appropriate training.