Earning money on the side and optimizing your expenses can help you make huge strides towards your financial goals, from building an emergency fund, to saving for a vacation, to planning for retirement.
But while the internet has made it easier than ever to make money online from home, picking out the legit opportunities from the sea of scams can be tricky.
Here’s the good news: you don’t need an upfront investment (or even a website, in many cases) to get started earning anywhere from a few bucks a month to the equivalent of a full-time income.
In this post, we run down some of the best ways to make money online without spending a nickel — and without getting fleeced in the process.
Best Part-Time and Full-Time Freelancing Businesses to Make Money Quickly
#1. Online Tutoring
Earning Potential: Tutors typically make about $12 per hour, but can command $25 to $30 depending on the subject taught and their level of experience.
Where to Get Started: EF Education First is an international online education company that specializes in teaching language. EF tutors work with Chinese children aged 5 to 10 years old.
Summary: Online tutoring is a fast-growing industry for gig economy jobs, especially in the niche of ESL (English as a second language). There are opportunities to teach students of all ages throughout the world, and many online tutoring sites (including EF) don’t require tutors to have a teaching certificate or any previous teaching experience.
#2. Social Media Management
Earning Potential: On average, social media managers make nearly $49,000 per year when working full-time (either as a salaried employee or a freelancer).
Where to Get Started: Social media managers can work full-time for a company, freelance and work for several clients at once, or work full-time for a consulting firm that provides social media management to other companies.
You can learn more about the different types of social media jobs (and what they pay) in this post.
Summary: A social media manager oversees the various aspects of a company’s social media presence. Job duties can include creating marketing campaigns, writing posts, scheduling content, and engaging with followers.
#3. Freelance Writing
Earning Potential: Freelance writers can make an almost unlimited amount of money (depending on their talent), but the average is about $42,000 per year.
Where to Get Started: Upwork is a freelance marketplace that has thousands of postings from clients looking for writers with a range of experience, making it a great part-time side hustle — even for those with a limited writing background. I wrote a guide to getting started as a freelance writer, as well as a guide to getting your first job on Upwork.
Summary: Freelance writers can write just about anything, from blogs to social media posts to books (clients typically hire freelancers to ghostwrite books for them). Most freelancers have a specialty, which can include subjects like travel, beauty, health, and fitness.
#4. Virtual Assistant
Earning Potential: A VA makes between $10 and $26 an hour on average, although as with any job where you work for yourself, the upside is almost limitless. Many VAs have more than one client, as an individual client may not require full-time help.
Where to Get Started: The Horkey Handbook offers training courses for those looking to get into the VA industry. You’ll learn what skills are in demand, where to find clients, and how best to market your VA services. You can also check out this post that highlights the most in-demand VA skills (and how to train in them).
Summary: A VA performs many of the same duties as a “real world” assistant, including handling correspondence, scheduling, general accounting, and travel arrangements. You’ll usually work for individuals (like entrepreneurs and Realtors), although some small businesses also hire VAs.
#5. Blogging Management
Earning Potential: Blog managers can make from around $49,000 per year up to about $83,000 per year.
Where to Get Started: Blog managers can work on a freelance basis or as an employee. Freelance jobs are often available on sites like Upwork, and those looking for a more traditional position will find them at FlexJobs. If you’re interested in becoming a blogger yourself, learn how to launch your own blog and actually make money.
Summary: A blog manager oversees the content of a company’s blog. The job entails deciding on content, hiring writers, and tracking analytics to find out if the content is having the desired effect (driving traffic and sales to the business).
#6. Graphic Design
Earning Potential: Graphic designers make anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 per year on average, but the upside is much higher — if you’re talented and know how to market your work, $100 per hour is not an unreasonable target.
Summary: A graphic designer creates images for things like business cards, logos, web sites, and various branded items.
Earning Potential: Proofreaders make on average between $40,000 and $66,000 per year.
Where to Get Started: Proofread Anywhere offers online courses on general proofreading and transcript proofreading. Freelancing sites often have postings for proofreading jobs.
Summary: Proofreaders check written content for grammatical, typographical, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and formatting mistakes.
#8. Search Engine Evaluation
Earning Potential: On average, evaluators make around $39,000 per year.
Where to Get Started: Appen hires people to evaluate search engines like Google, as well as social media sites.
Summary: When you type a query into a search engine and it returns relevant information, it’s thanks in large part to a search engine evaluator. They evaluate the relevance of the results returned based on the word or phrase users are searching for.
#9. Get Hired by a Remote Company
Earning Potential: Wages range widely from job to job and industry to industry.
Where to Get Started: FlexJobs offers remote work opportunities from hundreds of companies across dozens of industries. And each job on the site has been screened to make sure it’s not a scam.
Summary: Many companies have realized that while they need dedicated, full-time employees (as opposed to freelancers), they don’t need to provide them with a place to work. Maintaining an office is expensive, so more and more companies are allowing employees to work entirely from home. This also means a company isn’t restricted to the employee pool in the local area, as remote workers can be hired from anywhere.
#10. Market Your Skills on Fiverr
Earning Potential: Freelancers set the prices for their work on Fiverr. How much you charge will depend on the type of work you’re doing and your level of experience. Some Fiverr workers report making six figures.
Where to Get Started: If you’re just starting a freelance career and don’t have a lot of experience to list, offer your services for a lower price than similar sellers. This can help you build up a portfolio or resume of your services that will allow you to charge more.
Summary: Fiverr is a freelancing site that allows members to post their services to potential clients. Services on the site include data entry, voiceover work, translation, writing, graphic design — almost everything under the sun.
Online Business Ideas That Don’t Require An Investment
Some online business opportunities have zero startup costs. If you have an internet connection, you can get started. If you want to know how to make money online for free, these are the ways you can do it.
#1. YouTube Videos
Earning Potential: Income will vary but there are multiple ways to make money with a YouTube channel, including ads, affiliate marketing, Patreon, paid product reviews, and paid super chats (if you livestream).
If your channel does grow into a business — fitness training, for example — you should consider building a blog. Not everyone uses YouTube, but almost everyone uses the internet. A blog can help non-YouTube users find you.
Where to Get Started: All you need is a smartphone! Eventually, successful YouTubers invest in more sophisticated equipment, but it’s not a necessary up-front expense.
Summary: There are YouTube channels for every subject you can imagine — true crime, health, makeup, DIY projects, cooking, knitting, weight loss… everything. If you have a hobby or interest, why not create a YouTube channel and talk about it? Anyone can do it and it doesn’t cost a dime.
#2. Instagram Influencer
Earning Potential: It’s kind of like the Wild West when it comes to pricing Instagram posts. Many digital marketers pay one cent per follower, but some influencers command six figures for a single sponsored post.
Where to Get Started: Choose a really small niche subject to build your page around. Things like beauty and fitness are already saturated, making it harder for a new person to break in. Instead, think of ways to narrow down the topic, like “beauty for people who hate makeup” or “fitness for those recovering from a broken bone.” Niche content makes it easier to get noticed in a crowded field.
Summary: Those considered influencers on Instagram are usually either celebrities or people who have some degree of expertise in an area like fashion, food, travel or fitness. When those people gain a large enough following, companies will approach them for sponsorships.
#3. Create an Online Course
Earning Potential: Udemy instructors can make from $166 per month up to $1,000 per month. And the income is passive — once you create the course, you continue getting paid each time a student purchases it.
Where to Get Started: Udemy is a great platform for those with a niche, whether it’s a professional niche or a niche hobby.
Summary: Udemy is an online learning platform. The site doesn’t create the courses offered, but hosts courses created by users. There are courses in dozens of subjects including business, personal development, marketing, design, art and many more. Instructors create and post their courses, which students can purchase on demand.
#4. Write Niche Kindle E-Books and Sell Them on Amazon
Earning Potential: Most self-published e-books sell for just a few dollars. Selling an e-book is a great form of passive income: you write the book once and each time someone buys it, you make money!
Where to Get Started: Don’t worry if you don’t have time to write a book that’s several hundred pages long. You can write an e-book that’s as short as 3,000 words, which is about six pages.
Summary: Literally anyone can publish and sell e-books. Kindle and Amazon make the process easy, and it can all be done online.
#5. Selling Homemade Crafts on Etsy
Earning Potential: The amount of money you make will depend on a number of factors, including the price of your items and how well they sell.
Where to Get Started: Etsy is a great way to turn your hobby into a money-making venture. It’s free to join and start a shop, but there are three selling fees: listing, transaction, and payment processing.
Summary: Etsy sellers offer a whole range of handmade and vintage items.
#6. Affiliate Marketing
Earning Potential: While affiliates can make solid money, it typically fluctuates from month to month. For instance, if you recommend gardening products, you’ll likely make more money in the spring months than in the winter months.
Where to Get Started: The more followers you have on social media, the better your chances to make money as an affiliate will be. But becoming an affiliate doesn’t cost you anything upfront (unless it’s a scam) and is another good source of passive income.
Summary: Affiliate marketing allows an affiliate (you) to earn a commission for promoting a company’s products or services. When someone uses your link to make a purchase, you get a portion of the sale. Affiliates recommend things on various social media platforms, blogs, YouTube, and elsewhere.
Short Term Tasks and Micro Jobs For Making Money Online
While these kinds of online jobs aren’t going to pay the bills, they can be a way to earn some free money in your spare time.
#1. Online Market Research
Earning Potential: With regular use, you can earn $100 a month or so in extra cash or gift cards.
Where to Get Started: There are lots of survey sites, but not all of them are legitimate and some pay better than others. LifePoints, Survey Junkie and Swagbucks are all highly-rated and among the better-paying ones out there.
They’re free to use and in most cases, as long as you’re at least 18 years old and reside in the U.S., you can join. You can also refer to our list of the best online survey sites and apps for more options.
Summary: Companies that sell products and services need to know what customers want and don’t want. One way to get that information is through online market research. Sites that conduct surveys sell the information obtained through those surveys and reward users for that information with cash or gift cards.
#2. Selling Your Stuff
Earning Potential: Some people clear out their own stuff and have so much success selling it that they start buying other items to resell. If fact, buying and reselling items can become a full-time career.
Where to Get Started: Clean out your closets, attic and garage and see what you have that others might be willing to pay for. eBay is great for smaller items that can easily be shipped, and more local sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are good for large items like furniture that requires pickup by the buyer. Here’s a post that lists the best sites for selling different kinds of items.
Summary: Online sites are kind of the modern equivalent to garage sales. People sell their unwanted items and can make a little extra money. If you’re looking at how to make money online without paying anything, selling your extra clutter is a great place to start. In most cases, all you have to do is upload some photos, add a description and settle on a price — the buyers will come to you.
#3. Money Making Apps
Earning Potential: This is another online gig that isn’t going to become a career but can bring in a little extra money in the form of cash or gift cards each month.
Where to Get Started: Money making apps should always be free to join and users typically qualify as long as they’re 18 or older and reside in the U.S.
Summary: There are a variety of money-making apps that pay users for things like uploading shopping receipts, shopping through a site’s online portal (via cash back), and scanning barcodes (no purchase required) on specified items in participating stores. One of the best is Ibotta, which rewards you for your grocery purchases.
#4. Website Testing
Earning Potential: Website testers typically make $10 per site they test, although sometimes more experienced testers can make $20 to $25 per site.
Where to Get Started: Website testers at UserTesting.com don’t need a degree but clients are often looking for testers who fit a certain demographic, so not everyone will qualify for every assignment.
Summary: Websites require constant feedback about how they function, how they look, and ways they could be improved for users. Website testers are paid to provide this kind of feedback.
#5. Transcription and Data Entry
Earning Potential: Transcriptionists can make from $19 an hour up to $46 an hour for more specialized work. Data entry pays between $10 and up to $24 an hour.
Where to Get Started: Freelancing sites like Upwork have frequent job postings for both transcriptionists and data entry workers. Here’s a list of some of the best data entry and online typing jobs, and some of the best transcription jobs for beginners.
Summary: Transcription means taking handwritten or recorded audio and turning it into written content. Medical transcription (i.e., turning oral doctors’ notes into text), is a niche within the industry. Data entry is taking written or typed content and transferring it into a computer program or system.
#6. Renting Out Your Stuff
Earning Potential: Airbnb hosts are among the highest earners in the sharing economy, but earnings depend on location and how often you can rent your place out. Renting out a car isn’t as common as renting out a home, but it can bring in a little extra money each month.
Where to Get Started: Do you live in an area that’s desirable for tourists? Renting out your home on Airbnb can be a lucrative side hustle. Similarly, if you can walk, bike, or use public transit to get to work, why leave your car sitting idle in your driveway all day? Rent it out on Turo and let your car make you money for a change!
Summary: A big part of the gig economy is the sharing economy — renting out things you own but aren’t always using to others.
How to Avoid Scams
When you’re looking for ways to make money from home you will come across a lot of scams. Some of them are more subtle than others, but one signal is when a site asks you for money; maybe you have to pay to join, or maybe you’re required to buy supplies or products.
Either way, be wary — you should be earning money for your time and effort rather than paying someone else for the potential to earn.
And while it’s true that some businesses require an investment, you should approach any such “opportunity” with skepticism and caution.
You should also watch out for…
- Sites that ask for your credit card number or bank details. These are often phishing scams looking to acquire your financial information.
- Sites that don’t provide a valid email address and telephone number.
- And of course, sites promising you can make outrageous sums of money.
This list features options at a mix of input and reward levels — from mobile apps that can generate a few bucks here and there to legitimate ways to leverage your skills and earn a lot of money.
None of them are “better” than any of others by nature, but some will be better for you given your particular situation and goals.
That’s why it’s important to go into anything on this list with clear eyes and reasonable expectations; you have to understand that while using an app like Ibotta, InboxDollars or Rakuten can score you some free gift cards without much work or time investment, they can’t help you fundamentally change your financial status.
Doing that takes hard work, a little bit of strategy, and an understanding of how to exploit your talent in the online economy.