If you’ve just started researching how to make money online, you may be feeling overwhelmed. To the newcomer, it can be confusing. So many things you must learn and do. Your options are unlimited.
Today, I want to simplify things for you. I’m going to show you exactly how to make money online in a way that fits you.
All you need to do is make three simple decisions:
- What to sell
- Where to sell
- How to sell
Yes, there are thousands of ways you can implement each decision. But you only need to pick one or two when starting out (I’ll also be showing you the best options for beginners).
In fact, I’d recommend you start as simple as possible. Once you’ve made these three decisions about how to make money online, stop reading and taking courses. And start doing.
Throw yourself into mastering a handful of tools and strategies. Block out all the other noise.
If you fail to do this, then you’ll be spinning your wheels forever. Always chasing a new trend or idea.
Never implementing something through to the end. Not making money online. Which – after all – is the reason you started down this path in the first place.
Okay, let’s dig in and walk through the three decisions. Once you grasp these, you’ll be free to design your ideal online business. A business that works for you and gets real results.
1. What To Sell
Let’s start by deciding what to sell. Ultimately, you can diversify and have multiple products or services. But I recommend starting with one offering. Remember – don’t spread yourself too thin.
Many people get stuck here. They jump from shiny object to shiny object. Never perfecting one offering. Trying to sell a little bit of everything.
You have a much greater chance of success if you create one amazing thing. Something that’s exactly what your potential customers want and need.
So, what are your options?
Below is a list of the most popular offerings for online businesses. I’ve divided the list into two categories – products and services.
Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. It would be impossible to record every possible product or service. New categories are created every year. But it will give you a taste of the directions you can go in.
As you read through the list take note of any that spark your interest. But remember – if you’re starting out you want to pick ONE product or service to perfect. You can always add more later once you have some money rolling in.
- Crafted products such as jewelry, clothing, art, stationery
- Manufactured products such as sporting goods, home décor, clothing, beauty items
- Apps and games
- SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)
- Information products such as online courses, eBooks, membership sites
- Other people’s products (affiliate marketing)
- Coaching or consulting
- Graphic design
- Database management
- Data entry
- Legal services
- Video creation/editing/uploading
- Blog management
- Social media management
- Marketing services
- Virtual assistance
- Event coordination
- Customer service
- Email management
- Freelance writing
- Website development
- App development
- Other people’s services (affiliate marketing)
- Advertising space, sponsored posts
Best options for beginners:
When starting out, the best offerings are the ones you can get up and running quickly and for the smallest budget. Two good options for new online business owners are affiliate marketing (either products or services) and offering a one-on-one service.
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2. Where To Sell
Once you have something to sell, you need a place to sell it. At a minimum, your selling platform incorporates:
- your product or service description
- a means for people to purchase
- a way to deliver your product or service
Since we’re talking about an online business you may assume this means building a website or blog. And this is a common choice for online entrepreneurs.
But creating a blog isn’t your only option. When starting out, you may not have the budget, time, or skill set to create a website.
An alternative to creating a website is selling from a third-party site. There are two types of third-party sites – marketplace and non-marketplace. Here are some examples of each:
- Amazon (physical goods and eBooks)
- Etsy (crafted goods)
- Cafepress (print on demand good including shirts, mugs, hats
- eBay (physical goods)
- ThredUp (second hand clothes)
- Udemy (online courses)
- CD Baby (music)
- Dreamstime (photography)
- Envato (digital assets and services including apps, graphics, websites)
- Upwork (various online services)
- Fiverr (various online services)
- Coach.me (coaching services)
- Calrity.fm (consulting services)
- Contena (freelance writing services)
- UpCounsel (legal services)
- Audible (narration services)
- 99design (graphic design services)
- Wyzant (tutoring services)
- Teachable (online courses)
- Podia (online courses and digital products)
- Gumroad (digital products)
- Wild Apricot (membership sites)
- Kajabi (all-in-one online platform)
While selling from a third-party platform means you lose some control, it also offers significant advantages.
For example, a marketplace like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay offers a built-in customer base. This makes it much easier to reach potential customers. I sell my books on Amazon because this gives me the ability to reach millions of potential readers in one place.
Third party platforms also take care of the technology and delivery side of your online business. Building an eCommerce platform from scratch is a lot harder then using a service like Gumroad, Teachable, or Podia to sell your products.
I use Podia because it has a beautiful interface and handles payments and delivery. I don’t need to mess around integrating my website with payment processors and delivery mechanisms.
As with, your offering I recommend you start with one or two components to your selling platform. Master these before seeking to sell from additional platforms.
For example, I started out with a static website and email list. Then, sold my books from Amazon. I have since added information and coaching products which I sell via Podia.
Best options for beginners:
I’m a big fan of leveraging an existing marketplace when starting out, especially if a well-established marketplace exists for your product or service.
However, if you decide to build a blog – for example to sell affiliate products – then be sure to keep it simple. Too many people get bogged down with the technical details when building a website and fail to make any money.
For more help on setting up your platform, check out this post:
3. How To Sell
Fantastic, you now have something to sell and somewhere to sell it from. There’s just one more decision to make – how to sell your offering.
At it’s simplest, your online selling process has two components:
- A source of traffic – people to buy your product or service.
- A means to engage people so that they buy from you (or buy again).
If you selected a marketplace for your selling platform then you already have a head start with the first component. One of the chief benefits of a marketplace is that they connect sellers with potential customers.
Other traffic sources are:
- Organic traffic – this involves understanding the search options for your selling platform (see decision 2). For example, if you have a website then you can learn how to use SEO so that your site appears in Google’s search results. You can also optimize your listings on marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy. Or build a following on social media and then redirect that traffic back to your selling platform.
- Other People’s Audiences – this includes doing guest posts and podcast interviews to get in front of someone else’s audience and lead them back to your selling platform.
- Collaboration – this is working with other business owners who have an audience like yours. Some ways to collaborate are joint webinars, online seminars, co-authoring books.
- Paid Advertising – this is paying for traffic, for example on Google, Amazon, Social Media or other people’s websites.
- Your Personal Network – this is one of my favorite strategies for new online business owners. People who already know you are more likely to buy from you. Tell people about your new business and ask them if they know anyone who may be interested in your offering.
The second component of your selling process is a way to engage potential customers. People want to get to know you before they consider buying from you. Some ways to engage potential customers are:
- Sending a regular newsletter to your email list
- Posting content to a blog
- Posting on social media sites
- Publishing a podcast
- Creating YouTube videos
- Connecting in an online community (either your own or someone else’s)
- Speaking in person or at online conferences
- Holding online or live meetups
- Connecting via chat (e.g. by adding a chat box to your website)
- Connecting via phone (e.g. offering free discovery calls if you’re a coach)
Best options for beginners:
If you’re selling on a marketplace then learn everything you can about your chosen platform. Study successful sellers and understand how they get their offerings featured and how they make sales.
If you’re selling from a website, then make sure you have basic SEO in place. However, don’t solely rely on Google for traffic – you could be waiting a long time.
Another good beginner strategy is leveraging your personal network. You can do this in person, via email, or through social media.
Finally, it’s generally a good idea to cultivate an email list. For help building an email list check out these posts:
How To Make Money Online – The Three Decisions
Okay, I’ve condensed a lot of information into as few words as possible. My goal here is to break down the steps to making money online. And show you how everything fits together.
View these options as a pick ‘n’ mix. For each decision, pick one or two options that appeal to you. Then ignore the rest.
Here’s a summary of the three decisions:
- What do you want to sell? Select one or two products or services.
- Where will you sell your offering? Decide whether to build your own website or use a third-party site (either a marketplace or non-marketplace).
- How will you sell your offering? Select one or more traffic sources and one or more ways to engage people.
To show you how this works, here are the decisions I’ve made in my business.
- What to sell – books, courses and coaching.
- Where to sell – Amazon (for my books), Website and Podia (for courses and coaching).
- How to sell
- Traffic sources – Amazon, Google SEO, collaboration, other people’s audiences
- Engage potential customers – weekly blog posts, bi-weekly emails, online seminars
I didn’t start out with all the above in place. I try to master one facet of my business at a time. If something doesn’t work, I abandon it and move onto the next.
There are many things I’m not doing in my online business. Including social media, paid advertising, in person speaking, podcasting.
I may add some of these in the future. But for now, keeping my business simple and laser focused on the few things that work for me are key to my success.
Now, it’s your turn. If you’re already making money online, what are the main components of your online business?
Are any parts of your business not fulfilling one of the above functions? If so, can you stop doing them? And if you’re just starting out, which of the above options do you want to try first?
If you’d like to learn more about building a successful online business, check out Home Business School. Inside, you’ll gain access to exclusive content to help you launch and grow your at-home business.