Every day I see dozens of articles about making money online. Most of them are either A) totally cheesy or B) gimmicky hacks that really don’t work.
My skin crawls when I see this. Because to start a successful online business, you can’t simply throw up a webpage, tweet out a few links, and watch millions of dollars pour into your bank account.
Anyone who promises you these things is not telling you the truth.
On the other hand, some people are running their businesses the right way, and they deserve to be applauded for their hard work and dedication to their craft.
By the “right way,” I mean they run their companies ethically, in a way that supports their vision, and in a way that helps others achieve their goals.
If you listen to these key people and follow in their footsteps, you can start a successful online business — the right way — too.
And, right now, it’s never been easier to do this. You just have to know where to focus your time and energy and who you should follow.
So to get you started down the path to success with your online business, I’m going to show you the six best ways to make money online and the people who know the ins and outs of these key areas. These are the 6 ways that matter most, and they are proven ways to earn income from the comfort of your own home.
Which business model will you choose?
The top 6 ways you can make money online with integrity:
1. Teaching and Training
If you’re pretty good at something, have special knowledge, or a unique skill, you can package your expertise into a book, online course, or app.
One reason this business model is so compelling is how fast the industry is growing. Just this year, online courses are projected to be a $150 billion industry. No doubt there’s a lot of money to be made.
Here’s another thing I love about creating courses: You don’t have to teach each person individually. You can package your best content and teaching materials, and thousands of people can use it.
I’ve been earning money like this for the past 7 years. But when I started, things were much trickier. The software was confusing, the technology often crashed, and nobody really understood how everything worked.
Today things are much easier. And there’s never been a better time for companies and entrepreneurs to teach online.
Steve Kamb has done an awesome job of using this method to teach fitness to…nerds. His training program, Nerd Fitness, is an all-encompassing health and fitness self-directed course that is tailored to nerds who would normally be alienated by the gym and personal trainers.
Because he focused in on training a niche group of customers, he’s also been able to expand that brand to include an annual camp event and an apparel line. His academy has grown to over 5,000 members around the world and built him a great business.
That’s another reason I’m such a fan of teaching online: the huge number of people you can reach versus teaching one-on-one. Even when I get on stage at big marketing events and speak in front of thousands of people at once, I can’t reach as many people as I can through teaching online. Online scales when you cannot.
Here are a few people who are killing it in the online teaching space:
Baby steps to get started: When you’re just getting started, you can try offering one-on-one coaching to your audience. You can do this even if you just have a few readers. And the lessons you learn from coaching people one-on-one will be great for scaling to teach thousands of people down the road.
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: Testimonials help prove that others have used your product and gotten great results. But if you don’t have testimonials for your teaching or courses yet, you can offer your product to beta students for free or at a discount. In exchange for the lower price, ask them to promise you feedback. If your product or class is good, this will give you tons of great testimonials you can leverage.
2. Offering a Service
This is the easiest way to get started online. That’s because you don’t need any investment to get this going. Rather than building an actual product, you can simply offer your services in exchange for a fee.
Tons of businesses get their start online this way. For example, there are companies like Freedom Podcasting.
They help podcast creators edit their shows. Their entire business depends on the services they provide. No products whatsoever.
If the idea of creating an actual product (whether it’s digital or physical) is overwhelming, and you’re not an amazing teacher or writer, don’t worry. You can offer a service doing what you’re good at, and people will happily pay you for it.
Here are just few examples of service businesses you could start: social media management, graphic design, IT/tech support, website optimization, presentation design, brand consulting, dating advice, niche skills, etc.
Here are a few people who are killing it in the online services space:
Baby steps to get started: Ask people in your network what their biggest pains are. From there, brainstorm services that could solve their biggest pains. Then ask them if they’d pay you to fix them. If the answer isn’t a resounding “YES!”, keep digging for more ways you can add value with your services. If it is, you’ve got a great business that’s ready to go!
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: If you already have a service business, you can increase your sales by adding a monthly service for some of your bigger clients. That way you can earn a more consistent income and constantly work on their accounts.
3. Membership Sites and Continuity Programs
Ramit does an amazing job in this arena. He has an awesome monthly membership program called Ramit’s Brain Trust.
In the program, members get tons of cool resources, monthly interviews, accountability partners, and access to a passionate community of thousands of top-performers.
Passive income is what makes this business model so beautiful. You’ll need to continually add new material and valuable content, but you don’t have to scramble to make new sales every month with a membership site.
There’s something really powerful about developing relationships with your students in an ongoing program. You can’t really create the same connection with a one-time event or random Periscope session.
Here are a few people who are killing it in the membership site space:
Baby steps to get started: Outline the structure of what an ideal membership site would look like for your audience. Who would you have as guests? What type of content would you include? How often would it be updated? What keeps people enrolled, month after month? Once you have these ideas down on paper, you can run them by your audience and see what they want. Ask yourself what you can give your audience consistently that will be new and innovative so that they will want to stay in the program long-term.
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: You’ll need to decide on a price point for your membership site. Here are some important things to keep in mind. Pricing your site lower means you get more people in the doors, but more turnover (aka more customer service). Pricing yourself higher means you get fewer customers but better quality. Those initial customers and the price point you pick will shape the program for years to come.
4. Affiliate Marketing
When a lot people think about affiliate marketing, they think of scammy promotions and hard selling. But this can actually be a great way to earn money when you do it right. The way affiliate marketing works is you get a commission on every sale or lead you sends to another company through his site when you promote their products on your site.
When you partner with people and products you genuinely like and that fit with your brand, it’s effortless.
Here are a few people who are killing it in the affiliate marketing space:
Baby steps to get started: If you have a following already — even if it’s small — affiliate marketing could be a great option for you. One way to ensure success is by giving your followers a poll about the kinds of products they are most interested in. That will give you an idea of what products to offer.
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: Affiliate marketing is all about creating win-win-win scenarios. It only works when you, your audience, and the affiliate get big value out of the campaign. So one thing you can do is make your audience a HUGE winner. You can do this by adding in bonuses of your own. Go above and beyond to make sure that your audience gets tons of value out of the offer. Add in coaching, free books, or other courses you’ve developed. If your audience has a strong incentive to buy, that’s going to be the best way to get everyone winning in the affiliate game.
5. Selling Sponsorships on Your Current Platform
John Lee Dumas generates more than $50,000 per month from selling sponsorships on his podcast. He writes about how he does this here. (He also generates over $400K a month with his online courses).
You can sell sponsorships in a lot of different ways, such as via podcast, a video show, or your Instagram account. The main thing is you have to create branded content around your passion and find sponsors that will be attracted to your audience. Podcasters like John are excellent at this because they can give a spoken endorsement for their sponsor mid-podcast. Instagram is an awesome place for this as well. Check out @secretsquirrelfood for a great example of a foodie giving shout-outs for her travel and fitness sponsors like Amex and Google.
Here are a few people who are killing it in the sponsorship space:
Baby steps to get started: This works the same way as building a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel. The only difference is how you’ll monetize it later on. Start by noticing what companies are sponsoring the podcasts and blogs in your niche. Test out their products and see if they’d be great options to send your audience to down the road.
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: Check out the iTunes Top 40 chart to see which podcasts are performing the best right now. Take notes on their branding, how their episodes are composed, and how they promote their sponsors. You can use what’s already proven to work to accelerate the growth of your sponsorships.
6. Masterminds and Coaching
I can’t say enough about how much value there is in a good mastermind. Having that many high-quality people in your network is really powerful. Just as an example, if you’re ever stuck, you can ask questions and get nearly instant answers from a network of top-performers. People who’ve faced and overcome the exact challenges you face today.
That’s the true power of a good mastermind.
He has ongoing coaching programs and retreats in exotic locations as a part of his masterminds.
And because he’s built such a high-quality community, his customers happily pay him top-dollar for the value his membership programs add to their lives.
Here are a few people who are killing it in with masterminds and coaching space:
Baby steps to get started: Make a list of 5 people in your network who you would go to for business advice. Start networking with them. Remember, you don’t have to meet them in person when you’re first starting. You can chat over Skype or email to get things rolling. The key is to hold each other accountable and have network you can draw on for advice. Down the road, you can expand.
Pro tip to accelerate your growth: You are really only as valuable as your relationships. Never compromise those just to make some cash. By giving way more than you ask, you’ll develop powerful relationships that pay off big when you need to tap into them as resources. This was a big part of my marketing strategy for my book launch for The School of Greatness. After 5+ years of supporting my peers’ book launches and products and not asking for anything in return, I finally asked all of them to promote my own book. This only works because I’ve given a ton first and we have solid, real relationships established – many of which started in masterminds. For the best advice, read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.
The sky really is the limit when it comes to making money online. There are as many ways to do it right as there are to do it wrong.
From someone who has tried it all, trust me: making money online is best when you do it with integrity, hustle hard, and stay authentic to what you like and what you know. You don’t need to look further than Ramit to see the results of that kind of career.
The School of Greatness
Want even more tips for how you can earn money online and do something truly great with your life? Right now, I’m giving away ton of free resources as part of my book launch.
These are some of the exact tools and resources I use to power my 7-figure online business and live an epic lifestyle that I love (all from working from wherever).
Get instant access to the free resources page here. And if you’re ready for some even more advanced material, make sure to grab your copy of my new book: The School of Greatness here. It just hit the shelves on Oct. 27th and is already on its way to becoming a best-seller.
Don’t wait too long to get your hands on a copy.