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Work at Home or Develop Passive On-Line Income?

Updated on June 17, 2011

Work at Home or Passive Income Websites?

Lots of people want to make a living working from home or build an on-line business, and yes there is difference between the two. Of the people who want to do it maybe 90% will fail in the first few months. If you are still trying after 3 months: you are a winner even if your first Adsense check is yet to arrive! That's because most people think this is going to be quick and easy to make money on-line! That's what the ad said right? Making money on-line isn't easy or simple, but its certainly possible and my guess is that with current financial crises rapidly heading toward depression there are going to be lots more people looking to the Internet for ways to supplement their income.

I want to be up-front: I've learn a lot about making on-line, but I am still learning and although I am not making a living from it yet: I think I am ahead of 90% of people start off trying to make money online: Why? Because most people would have given up by now - because most people think that making money online is easy - and the sad truth is that it is not easy. Its like any business, and if you are new to business and new to marketing then you are going to have a steep learning curve.

Working From Home Relaxing? Photo: Dude Crush via flickr
Working From Home Relaxing? Photo: Dude Crush via flickr

What's the Difference Working From Home and a Business

Working at Home is just that you are still working for someone else. You may be an employee, but more likely you will be a contractor or a freelancer. You will get paid by the hour or more likely by your output. I am a freelance writer and get paid by the article or blog post that I write. If I get sick or go on holiday; I don't get paid.

In my opinion working from home is in the end probably worse than working in an office. At least in someone else's office I don't pay for the air conditioning, the computer, the coffee or the biscuits! I do have to get dressed, put on shoes and drive there so there are some costs involved. Generally though in the western world I will make a lot more money working in someone's office than I will if I work from home.

For other people though who need to juggle childcare or supporting elderly relatives, or just live in a remote location, working from home can be a viable option.

There are many other options, the most important of which is to sell your own information or skill: your writing as a freelance writer, your logos, your information product or coaching service. You sell your skills per an item or per the hour. The downside is that the Internet is truly an international market so you probably cannot compete on price unless you live in a very low wage country.

My experience is with freelance writing and yes I can earn more than the minimum wage in my country writing - but its hard work and work can be sporadic. And like any other job if you don't work you won't make any money.

Don't get confused though: working from home is not the same as having an online business: you are still trading time for money. You don't get paid if you are sleeping, sick or on holiday. A business will pay in those circumstances. A properly set-up business will generate you income whether or not you are working.

Developing an On-Line Business

So how do you build Internet business rather than a work at home opportunity: build income generating websites. The process goes something like this:

  • select a long-tail buying keyword phras
  • build a build a website/hubpage/blog around the same phrase which will generate income via your own product or for which you will be paid for advertising someone else's product

  • drive targeted organic (search engine) traffic to that site

  • rinse and repeat

Lets step through those simple steps:

Buyers Wanted! Photo: Hugo&Pauline via flickr
Buyers Wanted! Photo: Hugo&Pauline via flickr

Find A Long-Tail Buying Keyword Phrase

This is the hard bit. Getting this right is the key to everything. You see you can get lots and lots of traffic to site really easily. That's not the point: you don't want lots of traffic: you want people who are ready to buy.

A long-tail buying keyword phrase is just the phrase someone types into Google when they are looking to spend some money.

Here's an example:I published this hub about the upcoming movie staring Nicole Kidman getting hot in Australia It didn't take too long to write: there's not much writing to be honest. Australia Movie: 4200 views in 5 weeks. In the first week it was getting over 200 visitors a day. Did I make a fortune - no - people weren't going there to buy anything: they wanted to see pictures of Nicole and Hughe's kiss I was providing those for free and I satisfied their desire if you see what I mean. The keywords there are "Nicole Kidman getting hot in Australia" and "Nicole and Hughe's kiss" - and yes the typo is deliberate: many searches are typos.

So you need to pick a topic which solves a problem for the visitor. The example often quoted is Maddie Ruud's hub on healthy Wu Yi Tea which Larry recently mentioned on the HubPages blog earns her up to $100/day in Adsense. Another example is the one given by Paul Edmondson, HubPages CEO, in making supplemental income recently is this series of hubs about Rolex Watches which again makes consistent money for over two years. I am no expert but I can assure you that I have it on the best authority that recipes make no money: why - well when I search for recipe for a Greek dip and find one - your problem is solved: follow the recipe nice for me but no money for the author!

Avoid the obvious; its been done to death and there is too much competiiton. Buyers guide to Gucci sunglasses you will find a great deal of competition: Gucci sunglasses for kids (do they exist?) is a bit more speciailsed: cheap Gucci sunglasses for kids skiing - might be a winner (I don't even know if they exist I just made that up!)

Get Your Shop Setup! Photo:angelocsare via flickr
Get Your Shop Setup! Photo:angelocsare via flickr

Build a Site Around the Keyword Phrase

I know that some of my most useful and well-written hubs make me no money. My Review of Light Laptops consistently get visitors: but they don't make me any money: they don't click the ads because I provide lots of information. I thought maybe as the review got more and more out of date it would make money: but no it doesn't and I am pretty sure that it has too much information in it!

The other extreme is that if you searched for "blue widgets" and first site just repeated "blue widgets" 1000 times on the page - you would probably exit the site immediately: possibly using the back button but also possibly via the ads. That's why Google hates spam: it makes the spammer a lot of money and the user clicks through anyway.

The balanced medium is the difficult thing to find. This one was an accident: I replied to a request and wrote Australia Public Holiday 2008 does quite well - it peaks everytime there are school holidays on - why? Because often there are ads for school holidays on it: and I don't actually provide that information. The site in itself is useful - but some people need to click an ad to find the information they need - and they do.

I have used examples here of some of my hubs but today I tend to buy a domain name and build a site of my own. Simply so that I can match the keyword to the domain and not share the revenue. I usually use WordPress to build a site: its easy to make a WordPress blog look like a static site and of course the software is free.

Make sure you know how you are going to monetize your site before you start. If you are writing about sunglasses then you probably want to be an eBay affiliate. If you are providing information, Adsense may be better. Make sure you are writing about a topic which HAS a monetization option!

Typical ways to MakeMoney on Your Website:

  • pay per click e..g Adsense or Kontera

  • affiliate sales i.e. getting a percentage for selling someone else's product either directly or via Amazon or eBay

  • promoting your own product and selling it

Traffic Jam: Paris Photo danobit via flickr
Traffic Jam: Paris Photo danobit via flickr

Drive Search Engine Traffic To Your Site

Now I have a site how do people find it. You need to rank in the search engine listings (SERPS) to get buyers to your site and the way to do this is again "simple" - you need backlinks. Links from your site from another site. Recently someone asked in the forums how to do this and here is my list of free backlinks I can get for most sites I build:

  • build a hubpage and a squidoo lens
  • create your own blog on free sites such as blogger and tumblr link to your own hub
  • forums: use your link in your signature and post on relevant forums e.g. if writing about travel post on forum
  • do-follow blogs: post on relevant blogs who run the "do follow" plugin which means that google will count the link. Don't sign yourself "lissie" sign "blue widgets" or whatever your sites keywords are article marketing:
  • write an article and submit it to the major article directories e.g. - you get a resource box at the bottom of the article and can link to your site/hub in it.
  • write another article, spin it (write variations to avoid duplicate content) and submit in to lots of other article directories. This is tedious and I am using paid software to help my article submissions. I don't recomment this unless your business at the point that you will make more than it will cost you!

Why search traffic? Real people search Google for divorce lawyers in Utah or scuba diving schools in Queensland - they don't twitter, they don't drop entrecards, they don't vote you up on digg - they search, and almost all of them use Google.

Rinse and Repeat

Which is quite likely the most important thing. Some sites will fail, most of your sites will fail. Most successful internet business owners will make 80% of their income from 20% of their sites: the rest are failures. Don't fixate on your first site, or your second site: keep building and move on.

Yeah that is pretty much it: its simple and I didn't even get you to buy the e-book!

Oh you thought it was going to quick and easy - sorry !

The Advantages of an Internet Business

So you are a bit deflated and think this all might be a be a fair bit of work? Good getting realistic is the first step to success. Because if you do this right an on-line business can give you financial freedom.

Income producing websites are relatively passive income: you have to do initial work to setup a site and promote it up the search engine rankings. If you win that game you could have a site making somewhere between $1/day and maybe much more. Even a dollar a day is significant. That's $365/year say deduct $10 for the domain name thats around $355/year. Make 10 sites $3,550/year - make 100 sites $35,550 year. Even taking the hosting costs of around $25/month - thats a very nice little income. That's why my blog is called a Passive Income-A Journey! And that income will keep coming whether you are working or not. As in any business or investment strategy passive income is the holy grail.

Of course the problem with income generating sites is that there are no guarantees: you might find the perfect keyword, build the perfect site and for then get it ranked. Google doesn't publish how it ranks sites: if it did there would be a program you could buy that would guarantee #1 position: and Google would be dead as a search engine because all you would get in the listings are spam sites who have paid for the software! Google employs a lot of PhD's to stay ahead of the game too so what worked last month may not work next week - you have to be adaptable in this game.


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    • vivekananda profile image


      12 years ago from India

      Interesting read.... ideas are not bad at all. I liked 'em.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Yeah once or twice Eltonto- checkout my blog - link below - for my latest fights with motivation and self-belief and focus!

    • Eltonto profile image


      12 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hi lissie. Love the what you had to say about not giving up. I actually didn't know hard it would be and thought about giving up trying to make any kind of money this way. Yet, I do love to write. And the whole concept of being paid for something I really love keeps me going. Now I have been doing this for close to five months. I think it's getting easier. Yet, am I making money? no,lol. But still I am thinking constantly about where I should go next. One thing that really tears me up sometimes, is the sheer enormity of the internet. There are so many interesting marketing ideas sometimes I get distracted. Has that happened to you, by any chance. Thanks for post. Eltonto.

    • Jerry G2 profile image

      Jerry G2 

      12 years ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      Great hub, Lissie, and I completely agree! The freelance writing is hard, and I'm making the transition to passive income. It's extremely hard work, but I definitely think the end result makes it worth pursuing. Thanks for sharing a word of the truth!

    • LondonGirl profile image


      12 years ago from London

      fascinating hub - thanks for the detail!

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 

      12 years ago from USA

      Lizzie, this is a great hub. Thank you.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Careful Amzill - that sort of reaction can get you addicted to this game - it is strangely compelling LOL

    • amzill profile image


      12 years ago from United Kingdom

      Woe, not only was this a very interesting article, a very honest a refreshing point of view; but the comments were also very interesting as well as illuminating.

      It's strange but during the whole time here I found my feelings swinging back and forth and up and down - first I felt interested, then excited; then I began to wonder whether it was all worthwhile - then hope and determination set in and well ... it's been a roller-coaster ride.

      Thank you for the best time I'm had for ages :)


    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Yahoo traffic sometimes seem to be more in the moode to buy too - not sure why! I get mixed results often at hubpages I raink in google first but on my own sites its often yahoo first

    • charlemont profile image


      12 years ago from Lithuania

      I recently discovered that Yahoo! begins driving me more traffic than Google. They're very close in daily numbers, but Yahoo! is slightly ahead. I believe this is because ranking in Google sometimes is harder.

    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 

      12 years ago from Hong Kong


      thanks for another great hub.

    • steimmanbernard profile image


      12 years ago from california

      actually i start hubbing lately and i never know this could be profitable site:) thanks for letting me know!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Weird but true HD - exactly my experience too! They get bored reading, and want something to do!

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      12 years ago from Oregon, USA

      OK, I start to get this. It seems I can relate a little experience. I had a certification practice exam site with practice questions. And no in case ur wondering itw asnt a braindump site. I let it go for a little while and of course my material was starting to get a little out of date. And the interesting thing is that as the quality of the data went down the number of clickes to adsense went up. It's like if your site satisfies their every whim for free why would they click. And if it's sorta mediocre they'll click an ad thinking gee maybe I can buy something to solve this problem.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      @Faith - it really is a good book - I bought cause I was bored in the ariport and Iwas revited for the 4 hour flight!

      @Pamela everytime I get frustrated and tired of getting links I just think of the alternative - get a job. It gets me focussed very fast - I think you might relate to that one!

      @Amanda - hi I know the feeling I got hooked exclusviely on hubpages for a fair while myself it is a great community. I havent found it a waste of time either in the bigger scheme of things either! Actually I think your range of topics to date is really interesting and I am sure its not just you and I that find them interesting LOL

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      12 years ago from UK

      This is a really helpful hub Lissie. I'm quite hooked on HubPages at the moment, and I tend to forget that there's any money to be made! At some point, however, I have to get my head into sensible mode, and write something that other people are actually interested in, instead of my own (very niche) ideas.

      Thanks for the inspiration!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Hi Lissie,

      Thank you for this hub--it's helpful and honest. I'm just now learning to put up websites for passive income--don't even have one yet but I'll get there. The freelancing thing isn't all that bad for me. I guess the job options where I live are bad enough that so far freelancing is fairly competitive, but it's definitely not easy, and you do have to put up with a lot of crap. I wouldn't say it's for everyone or that it's a get rich quick scheme.

      Thanks for being honest and straightforward about a topic that's been hyped to the ends of the earth! How to get rich? Work our butts off! LOL!

    • belief713 profile image


      12 years ago from Earth

      Lissie, yes I agree, many are desperate - I know I was when i first got started. And quickly became very frustrated with all the scams and money taking "work-at-home" schpiels. It's definitely not easy to do it around a family, hence the problem with time management. LOL! I will definitely check out the link, thanks again for sharing. -Faith

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Wow thanks so much for you your great insights belief. I admire anyone who can do this aroun a family- this weekend all my partner got was the odd friendly grunt LOL! Just think though if the data entry dried up? I think the story for a lot people persuing the online stuff is that they are desparate: I am desparate not to go back to a career I now hate: many others are desparate to make a few $ for whatever purpose. If you have a chance check out the 4 Hour work week book linked to above: it really is a very,very inspirational book

    • belief713 profile image


      12 years ago from Earth


      I like how you layed this out. I agree with you a lot, some I disagree about though. Yes, it is quite a bit more work to create an income online and like you said most give up. I've been trying to look for a way to work at home since I was pregnant with my oldest, about 4 yrs, and this year I actually figured it out. I do data entry from home for $10/hr while my infant is crawling around and my 3 yr old plays. It took a while to get that position and a few other similar small projects, but I'm finally being paid a reasonable amount to work from home. And that's great - but then it's hard to stick to a schedule. That's my biggest problem right now is managing my time.

      Now with online marketing and niche topics and all - that works too. But, like you said, it takes time. I'd love to get where Maddie is @ $100/day - that's great!! I've made close to $600 using keyword marketing and all since I started in January, so not too bad. For me, that makes me happy because most of the work I did was back in Jan/Feb and I'm still getting paid usually monthly for it. But at the same time with all the other stuff I have going on I've decided to treat this more as a hobby or pasttime. But the income is definitely possible, it just takes time and persistence. I'm not giving up....

      Many people fail to realize you need specialized knowledge in anything you do - whether it's being a doctor or online marketing/money making. Many don't want to take the time to learn, and continue learning - but you have to if you truly want to be successful.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      That was the feeling I had a few months ago when I almost quit. But its also like a poker game because: I guess its a game and I want to win LOL Also I found a small corner of the web where I was getting good information soI could start to develop my own judgement for what was OK and what stank to hgh heaven! The $$ are there but its not easy and its not for everyone - and I worry for new people coming to the internet as a quick fix to their finances with the currrent financial crises

    • Passionatepurpose profile image


      12 years ago from T.X.

      Lissie, you consistantly write extremely helpful, honest, and informative hubs! We have all heard of the term "rocket science", well making a living online IS rocket science. The more you get in to it, the more you realize what you don't know. The net is a scarey place because of the sheer inability to trust anything or anyone. Everybody can stay anonymous.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for commenting John See to me setting up a "real" business is scary - all that financial outlay up front scares the beeejezus out of me! But at least you (mainly) know what the rules are - that's the problem with the internet - its run by Google and they make the rules!

    • John foster profile image

      John foster 

      12 years ago from South Africa

      I have been in various businesses for many years and have found a normal physical business to be quite easy to set up. The hardest business to set up is actually an online business. Easy money - no ways. Well written Lizzie.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Terry

      You know one of the reasons I started this game is because I want to live in the "western world" - an online income is the same regardless of where you live - if I get bored waiting for the $100k I will move to Thailand and make my $10k have the purchasing power of $100k! Itotally agree - people seem to fall for for the income not the profit figures: or the potential income not the actual LOL

    • honestway profile image


      12 years ago from Spain

      Aha, I'm reading the comments of one of the 95%'ers.

      That's the percentage of IM failures or those that give up because they don't make enough money online to warrant all the hard work and effort. Which is fair enough as it is probably one of the toughest businesses there are unless you get lucky. No different from most things, I suppose.

      It doesn't help that so many IM'ers are out and out liars who tell you they're earning a small fortune to get you to buy their "system", when in all honesty they're not.

      I heard a classic one a few months ago from a fairly well respected marketer who claims to make over $100k a month. In a post at a certain forum, he remarked that his sales were down "a little" and he was struggling to find his daughter's school fees for the next term. Yeah, right!

      When they tell you they make $100k, they're probably spending $99k on adwords to fund it!

      In all truth, there is really only a handful of marketers that really do make a good living online either because they have been at it for so long their websites have a ton of authority, they found a system that really does work (and keep it to themselves), or they got lucky.

      I'm still waiting for the lucky horeshoe to drop into my lap,so in the meantime its back to the grindstone...

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      I was thinking of you when I wrote that bit Marisa! I am also playing with wordbay which similar to phpbay and allows me to select eBay countries.

      No I don't think you are right regarding promotion. I think once you have a stable ranking for your keywords you will stay there unless someone comes along and beats you up - which is unlikely in your niche really. So yes make money online sites have to continuously fight for position #1 but a niche focussed site like yours shouldn't have to. You are automatically updating with the eBay listings so you are "news" as far as google is concerned. I'd just make sure every few months that you check any outbound links to other sites aren't broken cause the site moved.

      Thanks for visiting

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      12 years ago from Sydney

      Working at home is worse than working in the office - yes, Lissie, that's why I've given up on this online game, except as a hobby! If I have to work for someone else - and that's all freelance writing is, after all - then I'd rather be earning a big hourly rate in an office with other people, than sitting on my own in front of a computer earning a few dollars an hour. If nothing else, I'll be able to retire that much quicker.

      I'm having fun playing around with Hubs and phpBay. If something works and starts to make a reasonable passive income, so be it - but I get the feeling the income is never truly passive, as you can never stop promoting your sites. Would I be right?


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