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The Internet has brought with it countless priceless opportunities such as videos of laughing babies, memes of grumpy cats, and sales of uranium ore on Amazon (replete with the required “Back to the Future” jokes). But arguably the Internet’s biggest contribution to the world is in the area of entrepreneurship.
In the past, if you wanted the Donald Trump lifestyle, you had to put on your best suit, grovel to the bank manager, and take out a loan that could either make you or break you. Now you can start up online at minimal cost and minimal risk, with just your laptop, a dream, and plenty of caffeine.
Clothing is optional. So is the toupee.
Blogging & Writing
Picture my day. I rather lazily get up at around 10:00am, and after breakfast and walking the dog, I sit down in front of the laptop to channel my inner George Orwell.
Yes, when it comes to being a writer, I am living the dream. Bang out a MakeUseOf post or two, a love ballad, a Pulitzer-winning novel, then it’s on with the smoking jacket, and cocktail hour. Wake up the next morning with a raging hangover and start again.
Thanks to the popularity and ease of use of blogging platforms, such as Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr, it is easy for someone to begin a blog (the hard part is keeping it going). To make any money from it, you should have a specialized subject that you are passionate about, and which you can write about for an extended period of time.
If blogging doesn’t appeal, then you could write proper books (fiction and non-fiction), then either try to get a traditional print publisher or go the digital self-publishing route (Kindle & iBooks). Kindle has its Scout program and Mac computers have iBooks Author where you can make interactive ePUBs.
Finally, hang out your online shingle and take assignments for companies looking for a copywriter. I do this, as well as my MakeUseOf work, and some assignments can be very interesting and/or lucrative. Check out ProBlogger as well as our own Angela’s Write Revolution.
Photography & Art
Thanks to Google Images, and the mistaken widespread belief that all images on the Internet are free to use, selling photos online has become a bit of a tough proposition. Plus, the proliferation of smartphone cameras and Instagram filters means that even a blind person thinks they are the next Jimmy Olsen.
If that doesn’t put you off, then there are various routes to selling your material. One is to make your own website to showcase your portfolio and promote the hell out of it on social media and search engines. The second (and arguably easier) route is to show the images with a very prominent watermark (to prevent theft) on places like Flickr and 500px. Stock photography sites such as Shutterstock are also good possibilities.
If you would rather channel your Da Vinci onto the canvas, then online art sites where you may be able to sell a canvas or two include Yessy, Artbreak, and Artsy [Broken Link Removed]. Or go the other way and make high quality poster-prints of your work using an online printing service. Since the cost of a poster version would cost less than a canvas, you may be able to sell a lot more of them.
Digital Publishing & eCommerce
We already discussed making ebooks for Kindle and iBooks, but what if you don’t want to solely depend on Amazon and Apple to sell your product for you? It chafes to see a percentage of your sales go to a third party, so if you want to cut out the middle man, then it may be a good idea to consider self-hosting (although it would be a whole lot more difficult, since you wouldn’t have the in-built customer base that Amazon and Apple have).
Your own site and your own domain are essential (to show you are professional) and the best platform for this has got to be WordPress. Install the free Easy Digital Downloads plugin (check out the demo), which gives you a shopping cart, payment options through various payment gateways such as Paypal and Stripe, promotional codes, a built-in customer area, and analytics. Not to mention a huge list of extension options to make your store better.
Along with ebooks, you can sell anything which can be downloaded including audio files (such as the audio book versions of your eBooks), images, videos, website templates, code, and anything else you can think of.
Selling on Etsy & Fiverr
This option appeals to a lot of people due to the large audiences on these sites actively looking for sellers, but others despise it because it’s too labor-intensive, time-intensive, and low cost-per-order.
It’s definitely not something that Tim Ferriss would advocate in his 4 Hour Workweek theory, but hey, everyone is different and there are many happy and successful Etsy and Fiverr traders out there.
Etsy is an online marketplace for items crafted by the seller. For example, when I bought my laptop, I bought a soft protective case made by an Etsy seller. Etsy is also a place where you can sell photography and art.
Fiverr is a site where services are rendered for prices starting at $5. Services are varied, including graphic design, video production, voiceovers, writing and editing, and much more. There seems to be no limit to what anyone will do for 5 bucks.
Vlogging & Podcasting
Podcasting seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late with many high quality ones being produced. It wasn’t that long ago that we had one. Many other websites also have their own podcast, as it is one of the easiest ways to connect with their audience.
The video version of podcasting is “vlogging”, and it is vloggers who are more likely to come into serious money quicker than regular podcasters.
Since so much these days in the media revolves around looks and image, presenting yourself on video is the fastest way to show companies and potential advertisers who you are and what you have to offer. Vloggers are especially prolific on YouTube, with one of the fastest growing areas being female cosmetics.
Teaching or Tutoring Online
Years back, when I was relying on English teaching to pay the bills, finding regular students in my town just wasn’t proving consistent enough for financial security, so I got a bit creative and started offering lessons online via Skype. Payment was via Paypal and the webcam was used to provide a level of “one-on-one” that a microphone headset couldn’t 100% provide.
Along with the Skype lessons, I also made my own lesson materials, including worksheets, mini-workbooks, flashcards, video lessons, audio files for the students to listen to later, and so forth. I also sold these items separately on both eBay and my own website. If you know how to draw, you can also illustrate your material to make it more marketable and sellable.
Web Design & Coding
Web design can mean designing an entire website’s frontend and backend, but increasingly it just means designing a blog theme for a platform like WordPress or Tumblr. You can offer to make custom-made templates, or you can give away a free version with your weblink in the footer and offer to remove the weblink in return for a one-off payment. You can also make WordPress plugins.
Another area is smartphone apps. If you can make an app for an Android phone or for the iOS platform, then you can command a tidy sum for your services. Or if you’re really ambitious, you might even try your hand at game development.
Finally we end with a bit of an old-fashioned business idea, because resumes (or a curriculum vitae, as we say in the UK) have been needed by job applicants since the beginning of time. How else can you give a creative retelling of your job history, by describing that year off as a “one year mission to boldly go where no student has gone before — except the library”?
When I had an editor mentor at a newspaper, while studying journalism, he would tell me all about the absolutely God-awful resumes that would pass across his desk. It was almost as if the person would start off wanting the job, then halfway through the application give up the will to live.
If there is a job you would really like to have, getting the resume right is not optional — it’s essential. It’s your one and only chance to make a good impression. Mess that up and you won’t even be called for an interview.
So if you are in any way skilled at cranking out well-designed resumes, then it may be a nice little side business that you can develop.
These potential business ideas only scratch the surface of what’s possible, but they’ve been proven to be plausible routes to take. If you have your own ideas to add, don’t keep them to yourself! Share your wealth of knowledge with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Home office via Shutterstock, Man’s Hands Typing by Antonov Roman via Shutterstock, Young Man Using a Camera by KieferPix via Shutterstock, Studio Microphone for Recording Podcasts by Arina P Habich via Shutterstock, Classroom Teacher by Charlie Edward via Shutterstock, Computer HTML on Monitor by spaxiax via Shutterstock, Resume & Pen by NAN728 via Shutterstock