We all love the idea of making money with a website. Whether your dream is to become a full time blogger, start an online business and travel the world, or earn some extra cash in college, starting a website is a great way to do it.
Not only is it inexpensive and fun to run a website, but your friends will all be jealous once they discover that you make money while you sleep, travel, and go to movies.
Although there are millions of sites that earn money online, they all roll up into five broad categories. If your goal is to setup a website for the purpose of making money, you’ll want to decide which one of these methods to use – before you get started.
While you can earn an impressive amount of cash with any of these processes, the strategies that you implement to market, manage, and grow your business will vary significantly based on the method(s) you choose.
As of today, I’ve made money using three of these methods, and dream of setting up a business that implements #5 in the near future (my favorite). So, if you’re getting started, experiment with several of these methods until you find one that sticks. And, if you have a great idea for #5, reach out to me and we can partner up!
1. Make Money by Selling Your Audience
This is how bloggers traditionally made money. Whether you advertise with Google Adwords, link to products on Amazon, or recommend products and services that you use, there are plenty of people willing to pay you for your audience. If you have a site that focuses on a specific, profitable niche, you can start making money by giving businesses access to your audience.
But it’s not as easy as it used to be to make money by purely selling your audience. Most people ignore Google advertisements, and if you pad your website with too many affiliate offers people will quickly consider your website spammy and click over to the next blog.
However, if you’ve successfully developed a large audience (or if you’re hoping to), this is still an exceptional way to make money.
There are many benefits to selling access to your audience. Some of these include:
- You can make money by talking about something you love.
- Every sponsored piece of content (guest posts, etc.) provides value to your website in addition to the advertiser.
- Once you have a large audience it requires very little additional effort to monetize this following.
Before you get too excited, recognize that there are some drawbacks to selling your audience – which is why many of the today’s top bloggers steer away from using ads as their primary source of income:
- Every advertisement lowers the quality and integrity of your brand.
- Unless you have a very large audience (100,000+ monthly visitors) it’s difficult to make a full-time living from ads.
- If your advertising networks change their policies, you may lose a substantial portion of your income.
- You risk losing your followers if you start promoting products unrelated to your brand.
How to do it right:
If you want to succeed at monetizing your audience, do the following:
- Find a specific niche to focus on.
- Choose a platform (blog, forum, YouTube channel, etc).
- Focus on growing your audience more than building your income.
- Consider the impact that each advertisement will have on your brand image and only advertise products very clearly related to your content and audience. Preferably, stick to products that you use and are familiar with.
- Learn how to guide your reader to making a purchase without driving them away from your website. Focus on the soft sell and remember that your audience is more important than a single sale.
- Realize that you will need a very big audience in order to make money from advertising.
Although it’s challenging, it certainly isn’t impossible. There are thousands of people who make a living from advertising – including bloggers, social media gurus, YouTube stars, and forum owners.
Provide a hub for like-minded people and focus on adding value to your readers. Do this, and you’ll grow an audience that will happily reword you by purchasing the products and services you recommend.
2. Make Money by Selling Your Services
Although not as sexy as some of the other monetization strategies in this article, this is the way that most bloggers initially make real money.
Have you learned how to grow a social media following? Are you an exceptional writer? Do you create exceptional YouTube videos? If so, these are all services that you can sell from your website.
People are constantly looking for help to achieve specific goals – and they are more than happy to pay someone who can give them a hand, or do it for them.
When selling your own services, some of the benefits include:
- It’s possible to start making money right away – even without much of an audience.
- You make money doing something that you’re good at.
- You get to choose what projects to accept and which to turn down.
- You’re able to improve your own skills and portfolio while making money.
- It’s very easy to increase your rates as you improve your skill level.
Although you can start making good money right away, there are some drawbacks to selling a service online. They include:
- You’re selling your time for money.
- There is always a limit as to how much you can make.
- It’s possible to destroy your passion for a hobby if it becomes a monotonous job.
How to do it right:
Selling a service is a fantastic way to get started making money online. To do it right, remember:
- Focus on a service you are familiar with – even if you aren’t an expert.
- Increase your rate as your skill level improves.
- Under promise and over deliver – ALWAYS! You want to keep your clients happy.
- Consider the true cost of freelancing.
- Make sure you keep your cl
- Keep a clear line between work and personal life.
If you’re interested in making money right away – this is by far the easiest way to start making a decent living. Although you aren’t using your website directly as a stream of revenue, it is a great platform for displaying your abilities and connecting with clients.
3. Make Money by Selling Your Physical Products
While it’s possible to make money advertising other people’s products on your website, why not sell your own items? Whether you sell home made clothing, antiques you collect from around the world, or a product you’ve outsourced on Alibaba, selling your own goods is a great way to make money from a website!
Some popular blogs like ArtofManliness.com even sell their own branded merchandise! Although this doesn’t work for every type of blog, if you’ve developed a well-branded online presence, you may be able to make a few extra dollars selling t-shirts and mugs with your name on them.
There are tens of thousands of people who make a full time living with an online store of some type – why not join the masses?
If you start your own online store, there are many benefits you can look forward to, including:
- You can setup your own online store with WordPress for under $30 in 20 minutes.
- It’s possible to evaluate the demand for your product by first selling on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
- An online store allows you to sell real products without the costs and time involved with managing a physical location.
- Depending on the product, you may not even need to keep merchandise around – you can have the item delivered straight from the manufacturer to the customer.
- There is nothing tying you down to one location – move and travel all you want!
- You can launch your business be pre-selling on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
The drawbacks to setting up your online store are:
- If you don’t develop a clear brand to differentiate yourself, your product will get lost in the crowd.
- It’s necessary to manage inventory, shipping, and customer service – or pay someone else to do these things for you.
- Depending on your niche, you may have to compete with big players in the field who can undercut your prices.
How to do it right:
Setting up an online store is a great strategy for making money, and it really isn’t that difficult to get started:\
- Choose a very specific niche to get started.
- Find a manufacturer (if relevant).
- Develop your website using WordPress (least expensive) or an online store platform like Shopify.
- Understand all fees associated with shipping, sales/import tax, and credit card/transaction fees.
- Know who your “avatar” is (that’s your target audience).
- Create a simple design and minimize the number of clicks needed to make a purchase.
- Determine how to find your audience (social media, paid advertising, offline, etc.).
- Promote like crazy!
Although it takes a bit of time and work, you can have your new business up and running in a matter of days. And because your investment is minimal, it’s easy to make changes and gradually grow into the type of business your customers want you to become.
4. Make Money by Selling Your Information
If you take a look at the most successful bloggers, along with many successful businesses, you’ll notice that they make money by selling information.
This sounds counter intuitive considering that you can find any information online for free. Why in the world would people be willing to pay for content?
Well, the answer is simple – if we find a credible source, we are willing to pay for their information because we believe it’s worth it. Sure we can scour the web for answers – but are they going to be accurate? And how long will we have to spend finding that information?
What exactly is this “information” I’m talking about? Ebooks, courses, webinars, reports, and other resources on virtually any topic.
Just take a moment to look at Udemy.com or the Amazon Kindle store to see the prevalence of information for sale. And it works! There are a plethora of bloggers, authors, YouTubers, and stay at home mom’s who make over $100,000 a year – some even over $100,000 a month – by selling their information.
There are many pros to selling an informational product online:
- Once you make the product you can sell it unlimited times – you are investing, rather than spending, your time.
- Making an informational product establishes you as even more of an expert in your field.
- Teachers are amazing people. By creating a course or book you play a role in helping people achieve their dreams.
- If someone purchases one of your informational products, odds are they will be willing to make additional purchases from you.
- Courses and books are an easy way to transition into public speaking.
If you aren’t at the right place, there can be a few cons to creating and selling an informational product:
- There’s a large time investment at the beginning.
- It’s important for you to be (or to become) an expert on the subject you’re teaching.
- If the product is low quality and over priced it can damage your brand and reputation.
- Unless you already have an established following, it may be difficult to make significant sales.
For someone willing to put in the time and effort to create an exceptional ebook or course, it can be a very rewarding experience – both personally and professionally. Not only does it have the ability to earn you a healthy return on your investment, but it almost overnight establishes you as an expert.
You can literally say that “I wrote the book on ______. ”
5. Make Money Selling Other People’s Audiences, Services, Products, and Information in Your Marketplace
Of all of the ways to make money online – this is my favorite! And, of course, it’s the one that takes the most work to establish.
Think about the biggest and most successful online businesses – Amazon/Kindle/Audible, Facebook, Google/YouTube, eBay, Udemy, Alibaba, Fiverr, 99designs. What do they all have in common?
They sell other people’s stuff!
If you list an item on Amazon, they take as much as a 15-25% commission once the item sells. And how much time did listing and selling your item take them? None (most of the time). You design, build, and market the product, and still pay Amazon 15% to list it on their store. If you’re selling a Kindle ebook, Amazon takes 30-70%!
Meanwhile, how much recruiting does Facebook do to find new users? Not much. Instead, you email your grandma and invite her to join Facebook. She wants to be your friend so BAM! she signs up. How much time did Facebook spend to get your grandma online? None.
My point is not to criticize these brands, but rather recognize the pure brilliance of establishing an online marketplace that connects other people and allows you to make money from their audiences, services, products, and information.
Do you think all of the great ideas are taken? Guess again! It wasn’t too long ago that PixieFaire.com launched a website that exclusively sells clothing patterns for dolls! Who would have thought there would be enough demand for a store like this?
Maybe you can create a platform to connect custom ukulele makers, sell advertising space on people’s front doors, or build a marketplace exclusively for used Prius’. Hey, it could work…
Really, starting an online marketplace is the most brilliant idea imaginable:
- No need to create a product yourself.
- No need to deal with manufacturing or shipping.
- You make a commission every time someone else sells a service.
- Other people promote your website when they refer traffic to their own product.
- Plenty of opportunity to scale – Amazon started as a book store.
Although this is by far the best way to make money with a website, it’s also the hardest:
- You need a great (at least decent) idea and niche to focus on.
- It’s up to you to build and design the marketplace – which requires a bit of creativity and work.
- People will hold you responsible for issues with con artists – if someone gets spammed they will blame it on you.
How to do it right:
While I’m still waiting for my million dollar idea, here are some tips I’ve observed from those companies that do it best:
- Start with a specific niche the big players are ignoring.
- Focus on ease of use for vendors, customers, or any other users.
- Make it easy for users to share the website and invite friends to join.
- Closely monitor the quality of the products being offered on your website.
- Continuously improve.
You don’t need to start the next Facebook to make your millions online. Take a small piece of the pie by creating a local or hobby specific platform and you may be surprised at how quickly you can grow your user-base to start making some serious cash – simply by connecting people.
What will your next website be?
Whether you’ve just launched your first website, or whether you’re starting your 100th, it’s always exciting to hear about people’s next great idea for a business or blog. So share your project with us in the comments below! And, of course, if you have a great idea for #5, let me know! I’d love to partner up to make it a reality.
Finally, do you have any thoughts to add? What online business ideas have you noticed over the years, and which ones seem to be most successful? I would love to hear your thoughts on how to successful monetize your website.