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How to make money online

Let’s face it, making a little extra scratch through online sites is less than ideal. So maybe you’re unemployed. Or you’ve settled for a job well below what your used to because of the job climate, the economy has made things tough for everyone.

Regardless of your employment status and work experience, there are real answers on the internet to tide you over until your dream gig opens up. The Web has grown up in the last ten years. There’s still a Noah’s arc-load of weird porn and (p)awful cat memes, but making money online isn’t such a ridiculous idea anymore. Granted, you’ll still have to make it past the hordes of scams that offer too-good-to-be-true methods for making money at home.

Those with more modest aspirations (sorry, no condos in Florida) can actually tuck a bit of money away with a little legwork and some hours in front of the PC, all without actually getting a full-time job. Yes, you’ll have to give up your afternoon Mad Men marathons, but if you’re looking to sack away a little extra money this month, here are a few ways you can do it online.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Amazon’s innovative labor-for-hire marketplace derives its name from an 18th century device that appeared to play chess by mechanical workings alone, but in fact was operated by a human hidden within. The concept here: You’re the human, and companies will pay you to perform simple tasks that are simply impossible to automate. Okay, so “M Turk” is a little dated but it still gets the job done and it’s one of the first examples of effective crowdsourcing. (Tasks are known as HITs for Human Intelligence Tasks). For instance, you could be called upon for anything from taking photos of the Under Armour displays at Dick’s Sporting Goods to reviewing a new iPhone app (both of which are real, we can’t make this stuff up). Some tasks pay a few dollars while some pay a few cents, but in general you can expect a lot of repetitive work that businesses out don’t have the labor or patience to perform themselves. Throw on some music, do it from your porch on a sunny day with a laptop, and you might not even mind as you rack up the rewards.

Invest in Cryptocurrency

The always volatile and unregulated cryptocurrency is a perfect example of a “high risk” investment and is probably not the kind of investment that an unemployed strapped-for-cash reader should make. That said, people are getting rich with Bitcoin. According to the Bitcoin Rich List, the wealthiest user has what translates to 80 million USD in Bitcoin. In early 2013, one Bitcoin cost as little as $13. It took less than a year for the price to jump to over $900. The uses for Bitcoin is still limited. There is, however, a growing number of companies and services that have begun to accept Bitcoin. Check out our article on how to exchange your regulated currency for bitcoin.

Blow up on Social Networks

Maybe you’re looking to make some money or score some free deals with your YouTube or Instagram posts. Let me be the first to tell you, it’s possible. All those videos of cats and artsy-filter improved shots of your brunch are definitely achievable. For instance, Instagram’s Popular Pays App gives you social currency based on the amount of your followers which you can use to cash in for anything from free coffee to skydiving. The App is looking to expand, but for now it’s only located in Chicago. The same money making potential is there for YouTube as well. Producing an engaging and original video can skyrocket you to stardom and while netting you a tidy sum. Check out our complete how-to guides to making money on YouTube and Instagram. Or start creating some engaging posts online and you may find your Facebook group leading to ad revenue, t-shirt sales, and you’re very own TV show, as was the case for Elise Andrew’s “I F**king Love Science.” Or perhaps a collection of funny tweets could land you a gig writing jokes for late night talk shows. As others have shown, social media has spawned new ways to start a business or audition for a job.

Crowdfund your Idea

Key word here is Fund. There’s a whole world of backers out there that are waiting to give money to your project. Maybe not, but let’s say you have a special talent that you’d like to convert into a business and you need some financial backing. Crowdfunding platforms could be a way to make a dent in fundraising and ultimately get started on making money. Two good crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter and Indiegogo but they have pretty different approaches to fundraising. Kickstarter has a pretty good track record; successfully funding nearly half of the projects. Indiegogo doesn’t make their numbers available, presumably it’s a bit less than kickstarter. Before getting started, take note of the differing approaches to the crowdfunding platforms. Here are kickstarter’s guidlines and indiegogo’s guidlenes. It goes without saying, the best crowdfunding projects are the ones that are well pitched and promote an interesting concept. Typically, though the fundraising platforms don’t typically lend themselves to the “fund my life,” instant cash type of situation because, well, that’d be too easy.

Sell your stuff on Online Marketplaces

Earning cash online can be as simple as cleaning up the attic or as complex as a business run out of your living room. The best online marketplace for you, however, depends on your intent. Selling on Craigslist or eBay are the old standbys, which is best for unloading unwanted objects in your attic. Check out our guide on how to sell anything on eBay and how to write a great craigslist ad. Consider alternative options, though, if you’re hoping to sustain any kind of business. Both Amazon and Rauken allow users to create an “online storefront” which is useful for jump starting your business or brand or, heck, unloading those boxes of Tupperware you’ve got stocked in your garage. We won’t bother to go through the specifics of selling on Amazon and Rauken since both sites have done a pretty good job explaining their marketplace. We would encourage new sellers to start by peddling old things of their own, then move onto buying to sell, it if strikes their fancy.

Take Surveys

Yes, these things are still around. Believe it or not, companies do actually want to hear what you have to say but you just won’t make a mint doing it. You’ll have to spend anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours filling out multiple choice and short answer survey questions. While many sites directly translated the amount of surveys taken to dollars, many now offer reward points that can be redeemed for items, sweepstakes entries, and cash. Since this particular form of at-home moneymaking has attracted quite a bit of attention for its relative ease, you’ll have to sift through some sleazy unprofessional companies to find the ones that actually pay, but they’re out there. Some of the most frequently recommended sites include Survey Spot and American Consumer Opinion.


More than ever, companies are outsourcing their projects via crowdsourcing platforms. Whether you can readily translate documents between Spanish and English, design a new wine bottle label, or Photoshop adorable cat photos, someone out there is probably willing to have you work on their projects. The digital nature of most freelance work means you can safely work with companies and individuals thousands of miles away. Sites like CrowdSpring and GetAFreelancer all make it possible to peruse tasks companies need completed. Find something you can do, and get to work. Like all things online, pay attention to who you’re dealing with, though, because you don’t want to sweat whether there’s actually a paycheck in the mail when all is said and done. The best sites offer feedback for both freelancers and the companies they work for, so you can be assured you’re dealing with someone reputable.


The Web has what amounts to a nearly unlimited supply of assignments for aspiring writers. Most aspiring writers blog for fun, or as an outlet, but the most successful, well-read bloggers can actually turn a profit doing it by adding advertisements. Check out our article on WordPress vs. Tumblr vs. Blogger. Google AdSense, for instance, will display targeted text ads relevant to what you write about, and cut you in on the profit. Amazon’s Affiliate program also will display targeted text ads relevant to your blog content. Of course, only a small percentage of writers can generate enough traffic to make that a useful tactic, but several other sites offer writers the chance to turn a buck without going the traditional freelance route or blogging 24 hours a day. For instance, sites like Amazon Direct Publishing and Lulu offer writers the chance to quite literally publish whatever they want and use popular marketplaces like Amazon.com and iBooks App, then collect a paycheck based on the popularity of the finished, published work. Your languishing degree in anthropology may not be the best ticket to a hot article, but knowing how to pen a 10 page e-pamphlet on managing your Facebook profile might.

This article has been updated since it was originally published in 2009 to reflect changes in the online marketplace. Managing editor Nick Mokey contributed to this guide.

That’s it! Did you learn anything? Do you have any better money making strategies? Let us know in the comments below!

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