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How to Make a Little Money Online

Updated on July 30, 2016

I've Tried Everything

Or so it seems. When I was sick and looking for a way to make some cash of my own without having to step outside, I turned to the Internet and signed up for everything that promised a way to make money.

Make money clicking on emails!

Make money filling out surveys!

Make money selling junk on eBay!

Now, let's be honest here. I did make some money. I clicked on a bazillion emails and probably got around $20 total after months and months. Which was cool--don't get me wrong--but when you figure up the time spent clicking on those emails, it doesn't average out to any kind of living wage. Maybe cents per hour. Maybe less.

What are some of the common ways to make money online nowadays? And how well do they pay?

I'm glad you asked.

(Disclaimer: None of the links provided in this article benefit me in any way shape or form. I don't use most of these sites anymore but have used them in the past or use them sporadically. Click if you're interested; don't click if you're not.)

Sell your rare acoustic turtles online.
Sell your rare acoustic turtles online.

Sell Stuff Online

This is probably the easiest way to make large sums of money. And by "large" I mean "more than $10."

You can sell your old crap on eBay, make things to sell on Etsy, or simply start your own e-business. All you need is a website and a supply of goods. Sites like Alibaba will sell you cheap wholesale goods from suppliers (mostly in China) that you can sell on eBay or on your own.

To be honest, the best way to make money doing this is to either sell something rare that you already own, or make something that people want.

The Catch?

The former option (selling something you own) is the only one that doesn't require an up-front cost (owning something costs nothing!).

How does that saying go? "You have to spend money to make money?" Something like that. In any case, unless you have the goods on hand or can mark up the price significantly, it may be difficult to become profitable at online selling ... unless there's exceptionally high demand for your item or you're exceptionally skilled at something most people aren't good at.

You can tell by the smile on her face that she's still in the giddy "I really think I can make money doing this" phase.
You can tell by the smile on her face that she's still in the giddy "I really think I can make money doing this" phase.

Take Surveys Online

There are a lot of sites online that promise you big bucks taking online surveys. They promise hundreds of dollars per hour.

Sounds great, right?

Except that there should be a disclaimer like on weight loss commercials: Results Not Typical.

My experience with the surveys was that it was pretty rare to get a high-paying survey. Most of them were for $1 or less.

I've had some success with ZoomPanel and HarrisPoll, but it should be noted that these two sites both do not offer actual monetary rewards. They offer points toward "prizes" that you can receive when you reach the necessary amount of points. ZoomPanel offers a $25 gift card for various retailers (including Amazon) after 2500 points, which is almost as good as money.

The Catch?

You have to meet a certain demographic to participate in surveys. For example, I don't drink alcohol, so I never get very far in the alcohol surveys. ZoomPanel rewards 5 points for these surveys (compared to 60-75 for completed surveys), and sometimes you answer quite a few questions before they decide you're not qualified.

Sites offering potentially $25 per survey are only offering those large sums to people who meet a specific profile (45-year-old single mother housewives with two cars and who live in Idaho).

Also, a lot of the prizes on sites that don't give you money ... are kind of junk. Not that the items are poor quality so much as they're things you probably don't want.

And we'll make it absolutely, downright impossible to cancel your subscription!  How does that sound?
And we'll make it absolutely, downright impossible to cancel your subscription! How does that sound?

Sign Up for Stuff

Sites like the aforementioned Inbox Dollars promise big bucks if you only just sign up for stuff. A free trial for this, a credit card for that--and they offer a pretty good sum for your efforts. Sometimes $8-20 per offer filled out. Sounds good?

The Catch?

Were you going to sign up for this stuff anyway? Because that's the only way it makes sense. A lot of the free trial offers will be difficult to cancel, and then you're going to have a bunch of credit cards you don't need. So unless you wanted to use TurboTax or Netflix or Hulu Plus ... it's probably not worth it.

Make money doing ... whatever is going on here.
Make money doing ... whatever is going on here.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a site where people who have little microtasks can find people to do them. A lot of times you're adding keywords to something, classifying a photo, or taking a survey being conducted by a university. Payout ranges from 1 cent to generally around 50 cents, although $1+ tasks aren't unheard of, and sometimes there are big bonuses to be had.

I made about $320 using Mechanical Turk, averaging about $100/month. So I can vouch for the fact that it can be a nice way to earn a little extra. You can get that deposited in your bank account, or credited to an Amazon purchase.

The Catch?

It takes a long time to earn money.

First of all, some tasks require qualifications. Either you need to be in the right country or take a test. Sometimes the tasks they want you to do seem so mundane and easy, but they want it done in such a specific way that it becomes really difficult. There are times you have to clear a few "sample" tasks before they let you move forward, with a certain success rate. And it can be difficult.

Research surveys pay the best, but they're few and far between at times, and they almost always contain some kind of "fake" question as a "gotcha" to prove you're paying attention and filling out the answers accurately. After an hour of clicking on things, it might be easy to accidentally click the wrong thing, and get a strike against your account (you may need a certain percentage of completed tasks to perform other tasks, and having your survey rejected lowers your percentage).


If you're unemployed or have a lot of free time, you might be able to make a little bit of money. And it's a legitimate way to do it that involves no marketing or investment.

It doesn't matter which blog site you choose, as long as you write something that people actually want to look at.  May I suggest something about cats?
It doesn't matter which blog site you choose, as long as you write something that people actually want to look at. May I suggest something about cats?

Writing Blogs and Articles

Anyone can go to Blogger and set up their own blog. From there it's just a matter of signing up for Google's Adsense program and watching the cash roll in!

Or you can sign up for a site like HubPages or Squidoo, which have their own ways of earning cash based on views.

So just sign up, write about something you're interested in, and wait.

And wait.

The Catch?

This is a totally legitimate way to make money that requires no real investment. The only hard part is getting approved by Adsense.

Except for that ...

You can't make money if no one reads your blog. So you might need to network and advertise in order to make any money whatsoever. And advertising? Costs money. (Google occasionally sends out flyers promising $100 of free advertising, but if you're just writing a personal blog it might not be worth it.)

Also, sites like HubPages or Squidoo have standards you need to meet in order to have your articles approved. You can't write any old thing and just expect to have it posted. "Overly promotional" pages will be declined, as will ones with poorly written or incomplete content. So you need to write carefully and write well, so that your articles will be approved in the first place!

But ...

If you can write something that people care about? It's totally passive income. You could make cents or dollars per day depending on the number of views. If you have an hour a day to write about some topic of interest ... well, it might work out in the end.

So How Can I Make Money Online?

Unless you're a savvy businessman with a lot of money to invest up front, I don't think it's possible for the average Joe to make wads and wads of cash on the Internet.

If you're willing to spend the time, Mechanical Turk will pay out eventually.

If you can write good content, writing blogs and articles can be profitable.

If you're diligent about filling out surveys you might get a gift card every few months or a set of dishes or something (or a DVD no one wants).

But as for making big bucks quickly with no real investment at the outset? (Without going into porn?) It's going to be tough.

So if you're unemployed or underemployed and you have a lot of free time, I recommend trying some of these things out. The worst you can do is waste some of your time. But I also recommend going into it with realistic expectations. You're not going to make $5000 a month filling out surveys unless you're super lucky. So pick and choose what seems like the most profitable option, put your all into it, and see what you get out of it in the end.

And good luck.


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