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How to make money online for beginners

In reality, there is no such thing as “making money online”. There are merely services and products people pay for, and now they pay for them online.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Learning how to make money online has changed my life.

I don’t have Lambos or yachts and don’t always fly first class.

If you want to be technical about it, I’m not even rich.

I have a small but significant amount of debt (a student loan). There are things I want but can’t afford (oceanfront property). I still have to “work” in order to put money in my bank account.

So if you’re hoping to learn how I made a million dollars last year from my laptop only working 4 hours a day, you’ll be disappointed.

However, if you want to learn how I made six figures online in 2018 working about 20 hours a week on average, then read on. Even if you only learn how to make extra money from blogging, this know-how has the potential to change your life.

[Read: How to become an internet entrepreneur]

The Principles

In reality, there is no such thing as “making money online”.

There are merely services and products people pay for, and now they pay for them online.

Some professions and industries more readily lend themselves to digitization:

  • Sales
  • Freelance writing
  • Teaching
  • Data entry

Some jobs only exist because there are new ways to make money online

Others are more recently starting to break into the online world. Jobs like:

By themselves, these jobs are excellent for making a lot of money. As a side-hustle or part-time gig, these are the types of things people are looking for when they look for ways to make extra money online.

CBD oil sold online
This product made a little over $17k last year.

Virtually every physical store today has an online presence, regardless of what they sell. There are so many ways to make extra money that it’s irresponsible if you don’t at least have a side hustle. This is the golden age of internet opportunity, and you can change your life if you want to.

And that’s the beauty of making money online. There’s no “one” way to do it.

But just like an offline business, an online business is governed by a basic set of principles. Beginners don’t know them, so this guide is here for the general principles from the ground up.

1. Marketing

In this article, I will cover four fundamental ideas that you need to understand if you want to make money online.

This is the most important one.

Marketing is more important than the actual product or service you sell.

Marketing is what will ultimately determine how much money you make and how well you deal with competition.

If you’re unsure exactly what marketing is, don’t worry: there is a lot of subtle disagreement around what exactly constitutes marketing. Rather than try to reconcile the different definitions, I’m just gonna use my own.

“Marketing” is any activity that draws attention to your product or service.

If people don’t know you exist, there’s no way they can spend money with you.

Attention is a coveted resource.

This is why social media influencer marketing is such a big deal right now. It’s why Facebook advertising is all the rage. These are both relatively new ways to get people’s attention, so companies are making a killing using them to sell their products.

One of the ways I make a decent amount of money online is by affiliate marketing and helping worthy Twitter accounts get more attention via retweets. Both of these methods are extremely lucrative because I command a huge swath of attention.

Partnering with me is a very good way to increase how much money you’ll make because of the sheer number of people I’m in front of at any given time. This also explains why everyone is building an email list.

Having the attention of a few thousand people may not seem like much, but you can make serious money by getting a small percentage of a small number of people to buy something. Let’s run the numbers:

If you have an email list of 1000, with an open rate of 30% (small and doable for anyone), and half of them purchased your $197 offer, you’d make almost $30k.

But always remember:

Not all attention is created equal.

The key is to get in front of the *right* people.

The followers of a keto blog probably don’t care about veganism. If you’re selling hunting equipment, a women’s fashion influencer would be useless to you.

Marketing is all about playing the attention game. The more attention you have, the more money you stand to make. But even with all the attention in the world, you still need to motivate people to take action and hand over their hard-earned cash.

The way you do that is through sales.

2. Sales

You got their attention with good marketing.

Now how do you get them to part with their cash?

This is the domain of sales.

The difference between marketing and sales is simple: marketing is the delicious bait and sales is the hook buried within.

The job of a salesman is to get people to buy. They’re the soldiers in the trenches doing battle with the customer’s fears and objections.

You most likely won’t have a team of salesmen at your disposal, at least when starting out. Instead, you’ll be an army of one.

The way I see things, there are two general methods for online sales:

  1. You can be a walking billboard demonstrating the results of your product or service

  2. You can explain the benefits of your product or service through great copywriting

Ideally, you are able to show how a product or service changed your life *and* you write some incredible copy for it.

Copy, if you didn’t know, is simply text. The material for a newspaper or magazine article is referred to as “copy”. So is the text of an advertisement or a sales page on your website.

In this article, “copy” refers simply to the latter.

Copywriting is such a hot skill because it grants you the magical power of making people hit the “buy” button and part with their cash.

The basic principle of copywriting is to focus on the problem (pain point) of the prospective customer and demonstrate how your product is the best solution.

This can be done explicitly or implicitly.

When done explicitly, it looks like a typical sales letter you’ve seen all over the internet.

When done implicitly, this is the art of becoming a walking billboard for the power of whatever you’re touting. The solution speaks for itself in the testimony that is your existence.

I’m only average at writing copy. Where I excel is showing how a product affects my life. My entire strategy for income generation is based around a simple idea: if I don’t use it, I don’t sell it. The beauty of implicit selling is that it forces you to be authentic.

Using your body to nake money online
My body is a great billboard for anything I want to sale related to fitness

Seeing someone use a thing to change their life and solve a problem makes people feel like it’s possible for them to do it too. When they feel like what you’re selling can solve their problem, they’ll pay handsomely for it.

If you ever wonder what exactly constitutes a “problem”, it is this:

Anything which causes a degree of discomfort—physical, mental, or emotional. The more severe the discomfort, the easier it is to convince people to give you money in order to solve it.

3. Product

You need something to exchange for money.

This is the product or service you’re selling. It doesn’t have to be *your* product or service—you can sell or refer other people’s services—but you do need to sell *something*.

Someone lazy once said that if you want to make one million dollars, get a million people to give you one dollar each.

While not at all practical, this idea deserves some credit because it acknowledges that you can’t just make money magically appear.

You can have the best marketing and the best sales copy ever. But if you want to make a *sustainable* living online, you need to get other people to part with their money in a way that does not rely on subterfuge or dishonesty. That is where the product comes into play.

What I’m about to say may seem obvious, but I’ve learned that common sense isn’t as common as you’d hope.

If you want to go into business, you need to have something to sell.

It can be a digital good, a physical good, or a service. It can be yours or someone else’s.

In my case, I sell all of the above. I write and sell books that are available as physical copies and as e-books. I help promote the products I use (like the Wim Hof breathing course or the Onnit’s Alpha Brain) and in exchange, I receive a small sales commission. I offer my services as a social media consultant, specifically on Twitter.

Content I make money online with
Products of mine that I've sold to make a decent living online

These are all different products and services, but what they have in common is that they solve a certain pain point or provide some sort of value to people.

Figure out what you can sell that would be of value to others.

The easiest way to figure out if someone would pay money for it is there’s already some version of it out there that people are already paying for. If you’re thinking of entering an untested market, don’t. There is a time to be a maverick and a pioneer, but the beginning of your online business journey is not that time.

4. Networking

As with so much else, having a network makes everything easier.

By this, I don’t mean “network marketing”.

I mean your social and professional network. The people that you can reach out to directly, and by extension the people that you can reach by way of introduction.

The only thing that matters is the number of people that you have a direct connection with:

  • Your friends and family

  • Your co-workers

  • Your friends on Facebook

  • Your social media followers

These people can become your first customers. They can become champions of yours and let the people in *their* network know about you.

A fairly successful real estate agent once told me that a good predictor of a new agent’s initial success is how many followers they have on social media. It makes sense. The more followers a person has, the bigger their network.

And your network can be an extremely valuable resource if you use it correctly.

Most of my marketing efforts do not aim to promote specific products to people who have never heard of me before. Instead, they aim at adding more people to my network.

Because advertising is expensive. It can give you a jump start, but the more you scale it, the more expensive it gets. Advertising slogans and campaigns are constantly in competition with each other. As your network grows though, your network becomes *more* profitable and *less* expensive to maintain.

Because of my network, it’s very easy for me to make money. I find something that I like to use, and then I promote it to my audience in exchange for a small sales commission. Companies are always looking to partner with people who have large networks.

There’s also a flip side to that equation. If you have something to sell, but don’t have a large audience to sell it to, affiliate marketing or sponsorships can be a fast and profitable way to get your offer in front of more people. It’s a win-win.

Making Money Online Summarized

  • Product: The value you offer

  • Marketing: How you let people know that you have something valuable to offer

  • Sales: Getting people to give you money for that value

  • Networking: A force multiplier, clout, and proof of your value all-in-one

If you understand these principles, you’ll have no problem figuring out how to apply them to make enough money online to support your lifestyle.

The rest is up to you…

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.