21 June 2014

10 Best Ways to Make Money Online for Skilled Workers

1. Software Development

Despite the recent Great Recession there is still a massive under supply of programmers and software developers.

Programming itself is becoming outsourced to places like India. But a software developer sees the broader picture and is able to manage and apply different programming jobs into a larger cohesive project or application.

The big boom area at the moment is web development and mobile applications. There are thousands of businesses out there who are under-utilizing their web and mobile presence and have tons of money to throw at it. That’s where you would come in. As there aren't enough developers to meet the demand at the moment.

Pros: High demand and big pay days. There are a couple of software developers in my mastermind group and they’re regularly bantering about five-figure projects they’re working on. Also, software developers are integral to any start up, meaning that the skill-set will often net you an equity stake in many of the start ups you hop aboard.

Cons: Must be highly qualified to do it. It’s probably the only thing on this list that you HAVE to go to school for at some point, unless you’re just a prodigy or something. The other big problem with software development is that if you’re going to get out of the cubicle, you’re going to need some connections and big ticket clients to get you out the door. Almost everyone I’ve met who is making this work started out at a larger company, bailed and brought a few clients with them to get them going. Unlike some other skills, freelancing on Elance or oDesk will not be lucrative, as you’ll be battling all of the $12 and $15 an hour Indian developers.

2. Consulting and Coaching

The best thing about the internet is that any knowledgeable person can put themselves out there and teach others. The worst thing about the internet is that any knowledgeable person can put themselves out there and teach others. For every true expert out there, there seems to be at least a dozen wannabes or outright frauds trying to make a buck. As a consumer you have to be careful.

But I’m not just talking about the old, tired cheesy “life coach” types who claim they can change your life and make you a millionaire in only a few hours. There are a lot of legitimate consulting practices that can earn a lot of money. The business world seems to be the top of the pyramid (a friend of mine gets flown around the world for free AND banks mid-four-figures for a weekend of work consulting leaders at major corporations).

But below that there are booming industries in health/fitness, PR and marketing, tech and even therapy practices done online through Skype.

Pros: Flexible schedules, big-time corporate clients means big bucks, if not location independent then travel expenses are at least paid.

Cons: You need a legitimate expertise and a lot of credibility to get going two things that are not easily come by.

3. Web Design

I sometimes joke that if my primary business (this blog) went under, I’d become a web designer. Partly because I love doing web design. But also because that industry is such a racket right now. I can’t tell you how many people I've met while traveling who have asked me to take a look at their website and it’s been absolutely horrible. Ugly. Non-functional. Totally not user friendly.

Then they tell me how much they paid for it and my jaw drops. “I’m in the wrong business,” I usually say.

The fact is, most people hire people to build a website because they know them. There’s no centralized expert design firm or anything. There’s no industry standard. And the clients have no idea what makes a site good or bad, so they just make due with the lump of crap that’s handed to them.

I've done a number of site design gigs over the years. Most of them I did for fairly cheap because they were for friends or people I met. But others I made a pretty penny.

Pros: The bar is so low right now that anyone who teaches themselves CSS, HTML and how to install and customize WordPress is going to be halfway there. Web design can be fun too.

Cons: Screwed up market. People hire you because they know you, not because of your resume or track record, so you have to hunt down leads one by one. You can use the freelancing sites, but again, you have to compete with the Indians and Filipinos at a discount. But on the other hand, because of how many incompetent designers there are out there, you can get away with charging a lot more than you probably deserve. It’s the wild west out there.

4. Writing/Blogging

People start blogs with big dreams: easy money, internet celebrity, popping champagne bottles with P. Diddy. Unfortunately none of these things ever happen.

Let’s make this easy: Blogging is not a business plan. It’s a hobby. And if you’re lucky, it starts making you money one day.

People don’t realize that blogging has a ridiculous ramp-up time — it took me almost three years of writing every week to even reach 1,000 daily readers. That may sound a lot, but in the blog world, it’s not. If I didn't have my coaching work and my freelance web work in that period, I would have gone broke and given up. In fact, even WITH my coaching and web work, I still almost went broke and gave up.

Freelance writing gives a more immediate pay day, but it can be just as frustrating, just in other ways. Most major mainstream publications (Huffington Post, CNN.com, Salon, etc.) allow anyone to submit their story ideas and possibly get paid for them. The competition is thick though, and even if you do manage to break in, the pay is squat. Editors change your work and sometimes they don’t post it for months. It’s not a reliable or stable income.

Pros: If you love to write, it doesn't get any better.

Cons: No matter which way you go, there is VERY stiff competition. You have to be an excellent writer and you have to be able to do it at the drop of a hat. If you’re good and persistent, you’ll make it. If you’re not, then you’re just going to be frustrating yourself.

5. Poker

Many people don’t know this, but I spent much of my senior year of college playing poker seriously. I never turned pro, but I did turn $50 into about $5000 in less than a year.

Coincidentally (or maybe not), I've spent a fair amount of time around poker pros. My assistant is a former professional poker player. Many of my former dating coaching clients were professional poker players. Friends of mine have taken a stab at going pro and come close and failed.

Poker is easy to get good at but incredibly hard to be great at. Good will make you a little money, but being great is what makes you the big bucks. The earnings in poker scale exponentially. So the difference between being “pretty good” and “really good” can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years.

But getting to that “really good” level will require years of practice, analysis, studying, stress and discipline.

Pros: If you love it and are good at it, it can mean a lot of “easy” money after only a couple years of studying and playing. You have to take it seriously though, like you would a job. Also, if you start traveling, you get access to a lot of softer poker sites that aren’t available in the US due to restrictions, so it actually works in your favor to be abroad. Also, most foreign casino games are hilariously soft (I spent a couple weeks in Ukraine and paid for my entire time there with a few trips to the local casino).

Cons: As with any sort of gambling, there’s always the risk of going busto and losing everything. Poker can and likely will destroy your social life for stretches of time. Prepare for major emotional upswings and downswings depending on how well you did at the tables that day. It’s not an “easy” or “stress free” life like it would seem.

6. Stock/Options/FX Trading

People who trade for a living are rare. This is because anyone who’s not good at it quickly loses their money. But when you’re good, you can make a helluva lot.

The catch is that 1) you have to love it, 2) you have to spend an insane amount of time educating yourself about markets, and 3) you have to be willing to deal with the insane emotional stress of making $20,000 in an afternoon and then losing $30,000 that night after dinner. It’s like poker stress times five.

Periodically, I pick my friends’ brains about this stuff because I find it interesting and this is what I've gleaned: There is a lot of Shitty information out there. So much, that you’re better of just learning the fundamentals and then observing and developing your own principles and ideas based on your own experience and observations. You’re never going to learn more about a market than everybody else, and there are always going to be insiders who have more information than you. So the best you can do is learn to watch the trends among the other trades and react based on those.

7. ECommerce/Dropshipping

ECommerce sites are basically shopping sites. Think of Amazon as ultimate ECommerce site. It may be a store for sports supplements, wedding decorations, or cat furniture, but it’s a store set up online for shopping.

Drop shipping is when you outsource the actual manufacturing and inventory to a factory that you have no affiliation with.

For instance, let’s say I want to start a business that sells scarves. I can outsource the actual manufacturing of the scarves to a factory in China, and then connect them to my US-based online store. So when someone orders on my store, the factory automatically churns out the product and ships it over.

There’s a lot of logistical hassles involved in drop shipping businesses. There are also higher start up costs and more ways things can go wrong. One must be certain that there’s a strong market demand for whatever product they want to sell or you can lose money quickly.

But once drop shipping businesses are off the ground, they’re usually sustainable and consistently profitable. It’s how Tim Ferriss originally made his money. It’s also how Tropical MBA founder Dan Andrews makes his.

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