Note: I know, right? What better way to kick start a website about ways to make money than telling you about my failure(s!)? I just wanted to go over the things I have done in hopes to save you some time choosing carefully how you wish to make money online.
Ever since the early days of the internet, I have always admired people who were able to make a living online. Remember the guy who sold every single pixel of his homepage and managed to raise a million dollars? Here is a screenshot of part of the million dollar homepage.
What about the guy who swapped a red paperclip for something bigger and better until he got a house? Or Ebay’s founders? They were not even selling anything, just creating a marketplace for people to buy and sell stuff. Once this types of sites were created, I wondered why no one (me!!!) had thought about it before, it seemed so obvious. And knowing nothing about how to create or manage a website, I thought I was bound for failure anyway. So I tried a few things.
Back when Hotmail was still an acceptable email provider, I often received spam asking me to take part in surveys. Some would offer a points system and you could then trade your points for a low cash value or a higher value item, and others would enter you in a prize draw with a chance in one million to win. I don’t know if those were the actual odds, and if there was a legit prize at all, I thought like DC who enters tons of giveaways all the time that eventually, I would win something, and since I used to take surveys during my boring lunch hour anyway, it was not a big time suck.
I quickly got bored, never won a thing, and never reached the minimum for a prize or payout on other sites. I bet they make most of their money from dropouts like me.
Selling my products
I own an energy saving company in Spain, together with a business partner. When we started, we were selling filters and low flow shower heads to reduce your water consumption. We thought we just had to open a shop on Ebay and orders would flow. Wrong. The demand at the time was pretty low, six years ago people were just starting to hear about such items, and did not even know their names. If they were into DIY, they would try to get them at the hardware store. And online, it was hard trying to make a case for our quality German product against cheap Chinese imitations at half the price.
I am convinced that there is money to be made on Ebay, although nowadays the fees (and Paypal’s) are pretty steep and it takes a lot of time to properly list and item, take a good picture, ship it, follow up and give after sale support. It can work if you have a high turnover of high demand products, such as iAnything or collection items.
We sold a few products, but for the time invested it was really not worth it.
On a related topic, find out how Jessica made $100,000 from Amazon.
I had read somewhere that Mturk was the new thing going. You perform a very simple task that takes minutes, like checking that a sentence is properly traduced and makes sense in English, and earn a few pennies. Again, like the surveys, I thought the time spent doing that was time I would have been procrastinating online anyway so I signed up. It was actually a longer process than this, as your actions had to be validated by the client, sometimes they would not validate and not provide a reason, and unless you give the tasks your full attention for a full hour, you are far from making minimum wage. You could specialize in one task assuming there is a recurrent task that you are good at doing, if you can do it faster than average, you can make a little money, but don’t expect the big bucks.
The next natural step from Mturk was Elance, or Odesk, or whatever virtual assistant marketplace. I signed up mainly hoping to get translation jobs. I don’t have a degree but translating something from English or Spanish into my mother tongue, French, is simple enough, and Elance allows you to take a test to prove your skills and make up for the degree.
I started bidding on some projects, and felt more than once that I was a perfect fit, but had no references, and was either outbid by a cheaper freelancer (lots of members are from Africa, speak perfect French and bid 70% lower) or some established freelancer with dozens of glowing references. Having used Elance as a client, I would also go for the one with more references, or the cheapest if the task is really basic.
Another such site you can try is Taskrabbit, the advantage is they only take US based freelancers, so there is still a bidding war, but less so than when it is a worldwide affair.
Didn’t even try: selling pictures
I saw there was an opportunity to sell pictures to marketplaces and hope some bloggers and online publishers would buy them. I am not a great photographer, and between the time spent to select, optimize, upload and describe the few good ones that I have, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble.
All those ways to make money online are perfectly legit and have been used by people more gifted or diligent that I was to make money. They just did not do it for me. Thankfully, I did find a few successful ways to make money online, but that is for another post…