Starting to make money online in a sea of creators might feel like a tall order, but the truth is, opportunity is ripe for the picking. There’s endless space for creators like you to share your talent, connect with an audience, and offer valuable content – both free and paid.
Want the good news? You don’t need thousands of followers to start making money online. If you have a solid audience base that trusts you and finds your information or product valuable, the only thing standing between you and a sale is understanding what to sell, and how.
We’ve put together 12 ways you can make money online as a creator, with practical tips and advice to help you seal the deal.
How can I make money online as a beginner?
New to the scene? No problem. Even beginners can make money online – it’s all about the time and effort you put in.
How much time? As a rule, 32% of creators who make $100-10,000 online spend more than 10 hours a week on content creation.
While being a more seasoned creator does have its perks, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to start making money online as you build your brand. While you might not sell an ebook or monetize your podcast right out of the gate, you can earn cash by freelancing, creating UGC content for brands, selling templates, or even licensing your photography.
Wondering how others make money online? Get tips from real-life creators by downloading our free guide on 12 ways to make your first $100 online.
Can you make money online fast?
To a degree, yes, but be wary of the lofty “overnight millionaire” promise. Get-rich-quick schemes are just that, schemes. Instead of thinking about how to make money fast, work on making bank slowly and honestly. It might take some time, but better to do it right and set yourself up for longevity.
Like all successful relationships, it takes time to build an audience founded in respect and trust. We recommend focusing on the quality of your content and nurturing your community, which will grow organically once it’s clear that you’re in the online space for the right reasons, and that means more than just cash.
The online world is an interpersonal space where integrity will win every time. So, don’t squash the dream of earning an income by trying to take the shortcut.
12 ways to make money online
1. Sell useful templates
Ready-to-use templates are a priceless commodity for people in all fields who need to simplify their day-to-day.
To create a template that sells, understand what people need, and figure out how you can make their lives a bit easier by doing the heavy lifting for them.
What kind of templates can you create? Off the top of our head: editable CV templates, website templates, content calendar templates, Instagram carousel templates, business plan templates, infographic templates, even templates that can be used on programs like Notion and Canva. The list is honestly endless.
Building a useful template is an excellent way to earn passive income. Create it once and sell it multiple times without lifting a finger! Because it’s a volume game, we suggest pricing your template affordably to encourage sales. Depending on the complexity of your template, we’d say price it anywhere between $5-$50.
Keep these tips in mind to ensure your template is a successful product:
Find out what people really need
The essence of a template is to be helpful, so you want to be sure you’re giving people what they actually need. Before diving into creation, talk to your audience. Whether via a poll, a survey, or even speaking with them directly, take the time to get to the bottom of their pain points, so you can build the perfect solution for them.
Peep your competition
Full disclosure, there’s probably already a template (or a few) out there similar to what you’re going to build. That’s okay! Do some market research. Find them, dissect them, and come up with ways to make yours more useful, relatable, aesthetic, affordable, and easier to use. Basically, make it better.
Make it relatable
Why did you create this template? Did it help you in your own day-to-day life? Recount that narrative to your audience to drive home that you built this out of a need for something that you and others experience. Let people know just how much time and energy it’ll save them.
2. Publish ebooks
Whether you’re a food creator looking to create a compilation of recipes, or an Instagram master with the inside scoop on how to boost engagement, selling a one-stop-shop ebook can be a great money-making idea.
But how do you know when you’re ready to put it all together in an ebook? When you feel your audience is ready. This means they’re actively engaging with your free content and your community is growing. They might even be asking for an ebook!
The key is to have already built trust with your community by offering free content, such as weekly cooking blogs and video recipes if you’re a food creator. Your followers have had the time to fall in love with your content and personality, which makes it much easier for them to decide to purchase your e-cookbook.
Keep these tips in mind when creating an ebook:
Don’t aim for perfection
Writing an ebook can become an endless process if you let it. The more you look at it, the more editing you might think it needs. And if you’re not careful, you might end up needing to restart, over and over again. So, don’t aim for perfection. Aim for good enough, then put it out there and learn for your next one.
Don’t blow it all in one book
You don’t need to share everything you know in one ebook. Consider each ebook you publish a chapter of a larger book. It not only makes the information more digestible for readers, but also helps diversify your product offering and let you earn revenue from more than one product.
That being said, be sure each ebook you publish has an abundance of helpful and engaging content. Once you have a collection of ebooks, you can even bundle them together for a great price.
Do judge your book by its cover
You’ve got to make sure that the way you share the information is as top-notch as the information itself. Prioritize the aesthetics, the readability, and the design of your ebook beyond just the words.
People like a well-branded package that’s easy on the eyes and a pleasure to navigate. Work with a graphic designer, and even send your ebook to friends and family for feedback before putting it out there. A second set of eyes is always a good idea.
3. Create UGC for brands
Don’t have a big following? No worries. UGC (user-generated content) is more about your aptitudes as a content creator rather than the size of your community.
A UGC creator gets paid by brands to create authentic-feeling content about their products. Said content is then posted on the company’s channels for marketing purposes, rather than the creator’s own social media account.
To succeed at UGC creation, you need to feel somewhat comfortable “acting” if you’re asked to create organic-looking social media content, like product review videos. Otherwise, you might work on blog posts, how-to guides, and testimonials.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before jumping into the UGC game:
Build your content creation skills
To get hired for UGC gigs, companies will look at your ability to create high-converting content, not your audience size. This is why we suggest taking the time to build up your content creation skills – everything from photography, video, scriptwriting, acting, to editing. There’s a lot more that goes into creating high-quality content than meets the eye.
Understand what good UGC looks like
Get inspired by looking at the content of brands and other creators. What do you like that you can try to emulate? What are some no-nos to avoid? Doing your research will help you pinpoint your own style.
And don’t forget that even though you’re a creator, you’re also a consumer. What UGC tactics work on you? You might want to take those for a spin in your own content.
Get familiar with direct response marketing
You might not be a marketer by trade, but to be a successful UGC creator, there are some ins and outs you should know. Direct response marketing is about persuading your audience to take immediate action on something, rather than just building awareness. Level up your knowledge here to really succeed as a UGC creator.
4. Sell digital downloads and tools
Digital downloads are expected to reach $617 billion in sales in 2023. That’s … huge. But what are they exactly? Anything from pricing calculators, beats and instrument samples, clip art packs, sound effects, craft patterns, Lightroom presets – sky’s the limit here.
Unlike physical products, digital downloads can be delivered quickly and easily to your customers online. As long as they have a computer or mobile device, they can instantly access your product once they’ve purchased it. With no inventory, rent, production, or shipping, this is a hassle-free way to build what can be a very profitable revenue stream for yourself.
Digital downloads and tools also allow you to multiply yourself – meaning you might not be able to help 100 people decide what to price their service at, for example, but 100 people can download your calculator and do the math on their own. This frees up your time to create more helpful tools, allowing you to earn even more money.
We suggest taking the time to understand what people really need before jumping into creation. Tap into your audience and keep an ear out for what people are looking for and asking of you!
If you don’t yet have your own online store or website, consider selling your digital tools and downloads on marketplaces like Gumroad.
Keep these tips in mind when publishing and promoting your digital tools:
Offer part of your product free of charge
If you want to hook people, consider offering part of your product for free, then gating the rest. For example, let customers use your pricing calculator for free two times before they need to pay, so they can really feel the value off the bat.
Pair up with affiliate partners
Keep an eye out for creators in your field with a similar audience who might benefit from your digital download. Have them promote it to their audience and pay them a commission for every sale. Note that for this sort of promotion to work, the partnership would really need to feel organic and relevant.
Find a niche
Look for niche markets and communities that are looking for highly specific tools and create something for that space. You’re almost guaranteed a sale as you’re less likely to have competition, and it can be a fun challenge.
5. Build online courses
The e-learning market is expected to be valued at $374 billion by 2026. People enjoy learning in the comfort of their own homes, on their own schedule, whether it be for professional development or the love of a hobby. So, for creators who want to share their knowledge with an audience, selling online courses can be a home-run revenue stream.
Want to teach woodworking? Sewing? Guitar? How about a crash course in social media or how to code? There are infinite topics to choose from. Keep in mind though, there are many free YouTube videos and tutorials on other platforms covering the same topics, so you’d need to consider how your paid course offers greater value and enjoyment than what’s ungated online.
A lot of it will come down to how your course is branded, how digestible and accessible the content is, and the additional resources you offer (think PDFs, interactive quizzes, and downloadable resources).
If you’ve got an idea in mind, try an all-in-one platform like Thinkific that allows you to create your course website, upload your content, and distribute it to people worldwide.
Curious about courses? Here are a few things to consider before you start this online business:
Get your ducks in a row
Before you jump into filming, take a few hours to thoughtfully map out the curriculum you’d like your course to follow, as well as milestones you want your students to reach along the way. Putting together this course outline will keep you organized.
Consider different learning styles
People like to consume content differently. To build an inclusive course, try creating content in different formats to cater to everyone’s learning preference. Think video, audio, transcription, and even PDF summaries of your lessons.
Your sales page is as important as your course
A strong sales page is non-negotiable. What’s behind your paywall might be absolutely stellar, but if your sales page doesn’t entice people to purchase or empathize with their struggles, they’ll never know what they’re missing.
Relate to them and why they’ve landed on this page, and give them a glimpse into the different modules you’ll cover (either a video sneak peek or a breakdown of your outline). We love Taylor Loren’s sales page for her Instagram Reels Course.
6. Start a paid newsletter
A digital newsletter is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and build a meaningful relationship with your audience. There’s something charmingly “old school” about this format, in that it requires little more than good, honest writing and useful information to be a success.
How do you know if it’s for you? If you have knowledge in something that you feel you can speak on consistently, and you like to write.
The only catch is that there are many unpaid newsletters out there, so you’d need to think about what you can offer your community that they can’t get elsewhere. Think exclusivity! Things like behind-the-scenes content, closer access to the writer, more in-depth information, and so on.
Tip: You can also ask your community what they’d want more of, so you have a good idea about what they’re willing to pay for.
If you think this format might be for you, here are some key things to remember:
Consistency is everything
Before committing to sending a recurring newsletter (daily, weekly, or monthly) be sure that you have the time to send it out that often, and enough information to carry you through.
If this is a side hustle to earn some extra money online, and you have a full-time job, ask yourself if it’s really feasible for you. To maintain trust with your audience, you need to be true to what you say and offer excellent value every time.
Run A/B tests
The beauty of the digital world is that you can analyze data to see what your audience responds best to. Test anything from emojis in your subject lines to the length of your copy. Just be sure to keep track and run tests more than once, because there are other variables that can come into play.
Include testimonials on your sign-up page
No one says it better than a user! Ask readers to share their honest feedback about your product and why they love it. If they give you the go, include a few testimonials on your sales page to help convert prospects. Even better, try to get testimonials from influencers in a similar field that have signed up.
7. Create a membership site
A membership site offers gated content to members of your community who choose to pay a subscription fee for additional content and perks. This can look like first access to promotions, bonus content, unfiltered interviews, etc. It has great potential to help you make money online.
To get to this point, however, you’ll need to have an existing, engaged audience who are ready to be shepherded into a paid community. That can take some time, so if you’re a newbie creator, don’t expect a membership site to bring you your first $100.
Overall, it’s an excellent way to earn money online when the moment is right, and when you as a creator have ample time to nurture both your community.
Here are some tips for making your membership site a success:
Offer different pricing tiers
To create an accessible membership site, consider offering different pricing tiers.
For example, maybe for $5/month, someone can join the community with early access to product launches and promotions. For $10/month, they might get access to all your downloadable resources for free. And for $20/month, they get access to you and your expertise via monthly 1:1 consultations.
This can look a million different ways, but consider this route to get people in the door, and work on upselling them later!
Offer a free trial
One way to get your audience on board with paying for a membership is to offer all features free for 15 or 30 days. Let people see the value and get hooked! It’ll make the decision to opt in for a subscription very easy.
Let your audience decide what to pay
This is less conventional, but should you like to democratize access to your membership site, think about leaving the cost up to your community! You’d be surprised to see that people who really value your content might pay even more than you would have priced your subscription.
8. Make a paid podcast
While advertising is a very common way to monetize your podcast, if you have a captive listener base who are ready to dole out some extra monthly dough, a premium podcast subscription can be very lucrative.
As you likely know, free podcasts are prolific today. So, if you want to monetize yours, it’ll need to offer something beyond what your listeners can find in your free episodes. Using platforms like Patreon to run your subscription service, you can offer your audience perks like behind-the-scenes content, subscriber-only episodes, early access, video content, unfiltered episodes, access to you and your community, ad-free content, and more.
If you’re ready to ditch the ads and focus on a content-first monetization approach, paid podcasting can be for you. Check out these tips!
Let your listeners be part of the conversation
Giving exclusive access to you is a definite selling point. Open up the floor to your audience and get them involved in the discussion with formats like AMAs, or live chats on platforms like Discord where fans can suggest topics and ask you questions. Especially if you have an engaged fanbase, the opportunity to get that close to you and your content can be very exciting.
Offer different pricing tiers
Like any subscription-based membership, it’s common to have more than one subscription option to be financially accessible to all and offer different levels of commitment. You might have a Tier 1 subscription for around $10 a pop that offers early access to episodes, extended episodes, and access to past archives. And then a Tier 2 subscription that offers all that plus access to a private community and exclusive merch.
Keep special guests behind a paywall
If you have big guests that you know people will want to tune into, keeping these episodes gated is a great way to entice people to sign up for your subscription. So long as you have enough free and quality content to keep your unpaid audience happy and entertained, you can keep the big guns as part of your premium plan. You can also consider only gating part of the episode!
9. Do freelance work
Freelancing is a good way to start earning money online while you simultaneously take the time to build your creator brand. What can you freelance in? Anything from social media strategy and graphic design, to video creation and web development. Basically whatever you can lend your expertise in.
To find clients, you’ll need to put yourself out there and reach out to companies and individuals you want to work with. We also suggest connecting with other freelancers in your niche to keep an ear out for open gigs. It’s also key to know your rates (and that means knowing your worth!) Consider your expertise, experience and years in the industry to pre-determine your rate, but also keep in mind that you might need to be flexible depending on the opportunity.
All that being said, freelancing lets you get your byline out there by bandwagoning on another company’s reach. But if you want to build your own brand, we suggest considering other revenue streams that you have more control over in the long run.
Into freelancing? Follow these steps to get started on the right foot.
Make meaningful connections with both prospects and other creators, because at the end of the day, you’re in the people business and you never know who might pass your name along. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but to land the gigs you want, you’ll need to make your value known and take time to penetrate your field.
Build a portfolio
The ideal situation is this: you have a well-branded website that shares a bit about yourself, your expertise, and your credentials, a page that showcases your services and your rates, a portfolio of past work, and testimonials from happy clients. This will help you close the deal, and with platforms like Squarespace, building your own website is easy as pie.
Research and outreach
Sometimes you’ll have four gigs at once, other times you might have no work at all. During the lull, we suggest using that time to research the companies you want to work for and the right person to speak to. In a personalized message that includes your portfolio, let them know that you are actively looking for freelance opportunities as well as the value you can bring to the table.
10. Offer your time
If you like working with people, offering 1:1 consulting services can be a great way to earn money online. It’s more time-consuming than automating your knowledge in something like an ebook or online course, but many find working with real clients to be very fulfilling.
This more individualized coaching role allows you to charge more as well. To determine your pricing, consider your education, years of experience, and current success in the field. You can also look at what other consultants charge for reference.
If you’re curious about getting into the 1:1 consulting business, take note of these tips:
Offer discovery calls
To help break the ice and answer any questions people might have, try 15-20 minute discovery calls that allow prospects to learn more about you and your offer. While this might not be sustainable long-term, it’s a good tactic to close some initial clients and get the ball rolling. Once you’ve secured business and are able to collect testimonials, they might not be necessary.
Invest in your continued education
Stay up to date on the latest knowledge, trends and skills in your field through courses and certifications. It’ll ensure you remain relevant and competitive in your market, demonstrating not only a passion for your expertise, but a responsibility to your clients to offer the greatest value.
Align on expectations
A contract is always a good idea. Be sure that you and your client are aligned on what to expect from the session(s) with you, any cancellation policy you might have, the cost, etc. Get it all down and ensure both parties are on the same page.
11. License your photography
Many photographers earn money online by selling their work on stock photo websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Alamy. Companies and agencies search for photos to fulfill their content needs (whether that be for digital, social or print media), which can be anything from clever images that represent abstract ideas to landscapes to lifestyle photography.
We suggest working on the type of photography you love, because typically those photos are the best. But you can also research what’s currently selling the best and aim to penetrate that category with your own spin on things. This is a very crowded online space, so try to differentiate yourself via the quality or uniqueness of your photos.
Level up your skills and equipment
You don’t need to be a seasoned professional photographer to sell your photos, but there are some basic techniques to be mindful of, like framing, focus, exposure, and lighting. You’ll also want to be sure you’re using good equipment to produce a good quality photo. That can be an iPhone, so long as you know how to use the features and have good editing software.
Promote your work on your own channels
It’s not enough to just post your photos in a marketplace. You’ll need to be an active participant in driving traffic to your photos! One way to do this is to share your photography on your own social media channels like Instagram, where you can post relevant hashtags and follow people who you hope to see your work. Building this community and awareness of your talent will help you monetize it down the line.
Be consistent with your output
While you should always prioritize quality over quantity, it’s important to be consistent with your photography production to keep your brand top of mind for potential buyers. There’s no exact math to it, but think about the accounts you follow on instagram that appear the most in your feed – they probably post pretty regularly, right? The more photos you upload to marketplaces, the more options you give potential buyers to choose from.
12. Join affiliate programs
Affiliate marketing is all about promoting the product or service of a brand via your own platform. It’s an excellent way to earn money online, if you do it right. By right we mean authentically.
Your followers trust that you always share the most honest information with them, so we suggest only affiliating yourself with brands and products that you actually like and use. While you might be able to make extra cash promoting something, when your followers see that it wasn’t great, you’ll begin to lose them, along with other partnership opportunities.
Maintain your integrity
Creators are nothing without their integrity, so always be sure that what you promote aligns with your brand’s mission and values. Ask yourself questions like: Would I use this? Would I pay for this? How does this connect to my creator brand? Does the quality of the product or service match the quality of my other output? Have I tested this product long enough to form an actual opinion on it?
According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), all affiliates must disclose that there is a financial relationship with the brand they’re promoting, calling attention to all links as affiliate links. Learn more about the FTC’s guidelines for endorsements here.
Offer discount codes
Ask your affiliate partners if they’d be willing to share a discount code for the product you’re promoting. This will really help push conversion, and it’s a nice way to thank your community for trusting your recommendations and giving them a try.
Tips for starting to earn money online
Don’t make it all about the Benjamins
If you’re doing it just for the money, your audience will be able to sniff that out and you won’t feel authentic to them. Choose to sell or create something you love, that you’re passionate about and that means something to you, because that’s what people connect with. In a very noisy virtual world, the creators that will survive and hopefully thrive are those who maintain integrity! If you have an audience that believes in you, the money will come. So, do it right.
It’s a bustling and oversaturated online world. Take the time to see how you can position yourself differently from what’s currently out there. It doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel, but rather find the nuance in your approach to whatever it is you want to sell, and how you sell it. Audiences don’t only connect with your information, but you, so really hone in on your uniqueness.
Learn from your community
Your community has all the answers you need. Poll them, survey them, even speak to them one-on-one to learn what it is they want and need from you as a creator. It’s really the simplest way to understand what people are willing to pay for.
Be your own cheerleader
This isn’t easy for everyone, but it’s important to market yourself and your products with pride. Talk about what you’re creating for your audience, show them how excited you are about it, how it’s helped you, and sell yourself as an expert voice in your field. Creating hype and legitimacy around your own products and services will be a huge help in monetizing them. This doesn’t mean being obnoxiously overconfident, but when you show people you trust yourself and your brand, they’ll trust you too.
And that’s a wrap on making money online. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to start monetizing your knowledge and expertise. To do it right, it all boils down to building a trusted audience and offering something helpful, authentic, and unique. What might start as a side hustle can eventually become a lucrative revenue stream if you keep at it. Just remember to see the big picture – the why you’ve chosen to become a creator, not just a dollar sign.
Want more tips for earning money online? Download our free guide on 12 ways to make your first $100 online to get inspiration from a dozen creators.