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19 Types Of Online Business – Which Is Right For You?

Start Earning Online – Lesson 3

Watch the video or scroll down to read this lesson instead.

  • Note that this online business “framework” has evolved greatly since the video below was made – only 9 types are mentioned in the video, compared to 19 in the text – but my recommendation for beginners remains the same.

In the previous lesson you learned that there are endless ways to earn a living online, but some are easier than others.

In this lesson we’re going to run through 19 different types of online business, and figure out which is best for you.

The framework laid out here will give you a solid overview of the online business landscape.

Think of it like a map 🗺 showing you the key features of each territory. Use the map to cut through confusion and overwhelm, and decide which type of online business is the best fit for your goals and abilities.

Keep in mind:

  • To see the big picture, don’t focus too much on the details.
    I’ve zoomed out here to show you the lay of the land. Later we’ll zoom in to see specifics, exceptions, and nuance.
  • I use a loose definition of “business” for this framework.
    For example, if you have a remote job, you’re an employee; you don’t run your own business. Still, I’ve included Remote Job as a type of business, with the reasoning that it deserves recognition and discussion as a way to earn a living online. (Same with everything in Level X.)
  • Not every online business fits neatly into one of the 19 types listed below.
    Bigger businesses especially tend to operate as more than one type. You’ll find some examples of this at the bottom of the page.

19 Types Of Online Business

We can break those down into 6 Levels

Generally speaking:

Level 1 = Novice

Okay for side income or beer money, but hard to earn a living.

Level 2 = Intermediate

Best for earning a living online when you’re starting out, but hard to scale.

Level 3 = Advanced

Easier to scale and higher income potential, but you usually need significant investment of time and/or money upfront.

Level 4 = Superior

Even more scalable and even higher income potential, but also more complex / difficult / expensive.

Level 5 = Distinguished

Most complex / difficult / expensive, but the rewards here can be massive.

Level X = Wildcard

These are the misfits. Many aren’t even considered businesses in the traditional sense, but they are all ways to make money online. You typically need a lot of time, money, or luck to succeed with anything here.

👆 Again, those are generalizations 👆

It’s entirely possible for, say, an exceptional L2 business to out-perform an average L5 business. And some exceptional people might find it easier to build a L5 business than a L2 business. 

But we’re more concerned with the big picture here, about what’s generally true.

Visualizing the Levels

Here’s an imperfect visual for the levels:

Mountain visual for the levels

Imagine yourself as the little red person there.

The higher the level – represented by the mountain peaks above – the bigger the potential reward, but the harder it is to reach.

Level X is like trying to fly a hot air balloon to the top of the mountain: it either takes a lot of skill and practice, or you have to get lucky with the weather, or both.

Let’s take a closer look at the 6 levels and 19 types…

19 Types of Online Business – Explanations and Examples

👉 LEVEL 1 – NOVICE

Okay for side income or beer money, but hard to to earn a living.

The path to a Level 1 online business.

GetPaidTo – Level 1 / Novice

What does this look like?

Often abbreviated to GPT, this is the type of work pretty much anyone can do online. You rarely need specific skills or qualifications. 

Popular GPT tasks include completing surveys, watching videos, or participating in research studies. The offers tend to be small and frequent or big and rare. Each offer gives you the chance to earn or save money.

For example, one of the most popular GPT sites is Survey Junkie

  • Jimmy Junk

  • Online Survey Taker at Survey Junkie
  • $2.50 average earnings per hour

And one of the most popular sites for research studies is Respondent

  • Renee Respondent

  • Online Research Study Participant at Respondent
  • $21 average earnings per hour

See more examples of GetPaidTo businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of GetPaidTo Businesses

  • Mostly free
  • Low barrier to entry, no special skills needed to get started.
  • Many GPT tasks don’t require your full attention. You could do them while watching a movie or listening to a podcast.
  • Work is either extremely low paid or inconsistent – hard to earn a living this way.
  • Tasks are often boring.
  • Some offers only save you money on purchases, so it’s possible to spend more than you earn via GPT sites.
  • No significant skill-building opportunities.

Is GetPaidTo a good way to earn a living online?

The better GPT sites are fine to earn you some extra pocket money if you have lots of spare time on your hands and want something easy. 

But don’t count on a GPT business to earn you a living.

See more examples of GetPaidTo businesses and how much money they make »

Contests – Level 1 / Novice

What does this look like?

Competing with others online to win cash prizes, typically by providing a service to clients who pick the winners. You do the work upfront and get paid if your performance is deemed good enough. 

A popular contest site is Squadhelp, where you can suggest names for businesses and get paid if your name is picked as the winner…

  • Scottie Squadhelp

  • Naming Creative at Squadhelp
  • $100 – $300 per contest won

If you have some web or graphic design skills, 99designs is the most famous site for design contests…

  • Nina Ninety-Nine

  • Design Contest Participant at 99designs
  • $271 average per contest won

See more examples of contest businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Contest Businesses

  • Can help you build a portfolio.
  • The prize money for some contests can be significant.
  • Flexible schedule. Work when you want.
  • Some contests have an entry fee.
  • Highly unlikely to earn you a consistent living.
  • Most people competing in a contest don’t win any money.

Are contests a good way to earn a living online?

You might earn some pocket money and build up some good work samples, but I’ve seen very few examples of people earning a significant and consistent income via online contests.

See more examples of contest businesses and how much money they make »

👉 LEVEL 2 – INTERMEDIATE

Best for earning a living online when you’re starting out, but hard to scale.

The path to a Level 2 online business.

Remote Job – Level 2 / Intermediate

What does this look like?

A remote job is like having a regular office job, but you can do it from anywhere (usually at home).  

You would be a full- or part-time employee of a company, working from your computer. Some remote jobs allow you a flexible schedule and freedom to travel, while others have strict work hours and/or require you to live in a specific country or time zone. 

You’d typically get paid a salary.

For example, this person found a remote job as a graphic designer…

Gina Amato
  • Gina Amato

  • Remote Junior Graphic Designer
  • $33k – $66k estimated annual salary

And this person found a remote job as a senior product manager…

  • Maggie Ahearne

  • Remote Senior Product Manager
  • $74k – $132k estimated annual salary

See more examples of remote jobs, estimated salaries, plus how to find a remote job »

Pros and Cons of a Remote Job

  • Steady income.
  • Employer may offer good benefits (health insurance, paid time off, etc.).
  • Less stress and responsibility than running your own business. Usually no need to manage admin, accounts, etc.
  • Many remote jobs give you the opportunity to develop your skills, so you essentially get paid to improve.
  • Growing in popularity: more companies open to hiring remote nowadays.
  • Finding a great remote job may take weeks or months of searching. Similar to finding a great offline job.
  • The best remote jobs usually require you to have advanced skills or lots of experience.
  • With a full-time remote job you have one primary income source. So if you get laid off, your income drops to zero.
  • Hard to increase your income quickly, no matter how good your performance.
  • You have a boss.

Is a remote job a good way to earn a living online?

For many people, yes. 

A remote job provides many of the advantages of a regular job but there’s no commute and you don’t have all the responsibilities that come with building and running your own business.

See more examples of remote jobs, estimated salaries, plus how to find a remote job »

Freelance – Level 2 / Intermediate

What does this look like?

As a freelancer (or contractor) you’d be building and running your own business. 

You would use specific skills or training to provide an online service. Clients or agencies would pay you for your time and/or output.

You might hire other people to help you out occasionally, but you’d be doing most of the work yourself.

For example, you could earn a respectable hourly rate working as a community language tutor on iTalki, something anyone with decent social skills could do…

  • Ian Italki

  • Community English Tutor on iTalki
  • $4 – $25 per hour

And if you develop some advanced skills you could earn quite a bit more…

  • Carrie Dagenhard

  • Freelance Writer and Content Strategist
  • $67k – $91k estimated annual income

See more examples of freelance businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Freelancing

  • Easy enough to get started even if you’re unskilled or inexperienced. You can work for free or at a low rate and learn as you go.
  • You can work for several clients at the same time and diversify income, so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.
  • Can be a good way to gain skills and experience that you can use to find a remote job or build a higher-level business.
  • Potential to scale into an agency business (see below).
  • Feast or famine: many freelancers struggle to earn a consistent income unless they can charge a retainer or are particularly good at finding clients.
  • While there’s plenty of ways to increase earnings, you’re essentially trading time for money, so there’s only so much you can scale without changing the business model.

Is freelancing a good way to earn a living online?

Yes, it can be. 

I see it as the simplest type of online business to start and earn a living from.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy – many freelancers struggle to find clients and earn consistently – but it’s usually easier to earn a living with freelancing than with any other type of online business.

See more examples of freelance businesses and how much money they make »

👉 LEVEL 3 – ADVANCED

Easier to scale and higher income potential, but you usually need significant investment of time and/or money upfront.

The path to a Level 3 online business.

Agency – Level 3 / Advanced

What does this look like?

Think of it as the evolution of a freelance business.

As an agency you would still have clients, but instead of doing all the work yourself you’d build and manage a team to do the work.

For example, Joel Young started off doing freelance video and voiceover gigs before evolving his business into a successful agency…

  • Joel Young

  • Founder of JumpStart Video
  • $60,000 monthly agency revenue

And Pamela Grossman uses multiple freelancers to run her agency…

  • Pamela Grossman

  • Founder of In The Present
  • $165,000 monthly agency revenue

See more examples of agency businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Agency Businesses

  • You do less of the day-to-day work, so more potential to scale than a freelance business.
  • Can be much more fun and social than operating as a lone freelancer.
  • Passive income potential if you can put a great team in place to run everything.
  • Still a limit on how much you can scale. It’s rare to see an online agency business doing more than $1m in annual revenue.
  • The bigger your agency gets, the more you’ll have to manage people, or hire someone to do that.

Is an agency business a good way to earn a living online?

I believe this largely depends on your personality. If you enjoy being part of a team and managing people, the agency model could be a good option for you. 

It seems many successful agencies start off as freelance businesses and evolve into the agency model as the demand for their service grows.

See more examples of agency businesses and how much money they make »

Referral – Level 3 / Advanced

What does this look like?

You are the middleman (or woman) connecting buyers and sellers. You are not the customer, nor do you ever own or provide the end product; you are the bridge between the two sides.

You usually get paid a commission or finder’s fee.

A popular type of referral business is a niche website that makes money via affiliate marketing.

Sa El created such a website in the insurance niche…

  • Sa El

  • Founder of Simply Insurance
  • $50,000 monthly website revenue

Another type of referral business is Rank and Rent SEO. With that, you would create a website that generates leads for local businesses, and get paid per lead.

For example, one of Ruan Marinho’s websites generates leads for painters in Connecticut…

  • Ruan Marinho

  • Founder of Develomark
  • $1.5k – $3k per month from one website

See more examples of referral businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Referral Businesses

  • Quite scalable.
  • Strong passive income potential.
  • Little-to-no customer service required.
  • Lends itself to diversification; nothing stopping you from connecting many buyers and sellers.
  • Potential to evolve into a marketplace business (see below).
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Slow and/or expensive to start. Usually takes months or years to earn a living from this, unless you can afford paid traffic and use it effectively.
  • Can be quality control issues since you don’t own the products or services you’re recommending.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is a referral business a good way to earn a living online?

A referral business is a legit way to make money online, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners or the faint-of-heart. 

This kind of business is popular because it’s simple in theory and there’s strong passive income potential. But, in my experience, it’s a tough business to succeed with if you’re new to making money online.

See more examples of referral businesses and how much money they make »

Resale – Level 3 / Advanced

What does this look like?

This is another “middleman” business but here the customer sees you as the owner of the product and they deal directly with you.

You still don’t create the products yourself; you buy and resell, or you order from the creator/manufacturer on behalf of the customer.

You make money by selling at a higher price than you buy.

Dropshipping is probably the most famous type of resale business.

Looks like it’s harder to succeed with dropshipping nowadays, but people like Rene Delgado were seeing fast success with it a few years back…

  • Rene Delgado

  • Bounce House Dropshipper
  • $300,000 revenue in first year

Another type of resale business you might have heard of is Amazon FBA.

Dan Meadors and his business partner have had great success with this…

  • Dan Meadors

  • Co-founder of The Wholesale Formula
  • $400,000+ monthly amazon wholesale revenue

They buy products in bulk, get those products shipped to Amazon’s FBA warehouses, then resell them on Amazon.com.

Also considered a resale business:

  • Reselling on eBay
  • Reselling digital products
  • Domain flipping
  • Website flipping

See more examples of resale businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Resale Businesses

  • No need to create a product yourself.
  • Quite scalable.
  • Strong passive income potential, so long as you don’t have to hold inventory yourself.

  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Customer service headaches.
  • Slow and/or expensive to start. Usually takes months or years to earn a living from this.
  • Can be quality control issues, since you’re dependent on other people creating the product.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is a resale business a good way to earn a living online?

It can be, but this is a tough one for beginners as there are a lot of moving parts.

You have to work well with both creators and customers – first sourcing good products, then marketing them effectively – and you’re on the hook for any quality control issues.

I wouldn’t recommend jumping into resale as your first online business.

See more examples of resale businesses and how much money they make »

👉 LEVEL 4 – SUPERIOR

Even more scalable and even higher income potential, but also more complex / difficult / expensive.

The path to a Level 4 online business.

Authority – Level 4 / Superior

What does this look like?

An authority business draws and holds attention online, and can monetize that attention in various ways. 

It’s basically any business with a significant number of followers or subscribers. Think of influencers or experts providing entertainment, information, or inspiration, to the point where people keep coming back for more.

In an authority business, the owner or brand is usually better known than any particular product or service they provide. 

YouTubers are perhaps the most famous example of an authority business. Patricia Bright started on YouTube way back in 2009 and now has three channels and millions of subscribers…

  • Patricia Bright

  • Fashion and Beauty Influencer
  • $28,295 monthly ad revenue from one YouTube channel

To give a more modest example, Jarlath Regan’s podcast earns a decent monthly income via listener donations…

  • Jarlath Regan

  • Podcaster, An Irishman Abroad
  • $2k – $5k per month via Patreon

Also considered an authority business:

  • Social media influencers
  • Authority websites
  • Email newsletters

See more examples of authority businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Authority Businesses

  • Usually several ways to monetize.
  • Many authority businesses are passion-based, making the work quite enjoyable.
  • Decent passive income potential.
  • Successful authority businesses that are NOT built around a personal brand can usually be sold for a big amount.
  • With a successful authority business you become kind of a big deal on the internet. (Though that might be a bad thing, depending on your preference.)

  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Can take several months or even years to build a big enough audience and develop enough trust before you have a sustainable business.
  • Tons of competition, unless you go very niche.
  • Many authority businesses become overly-dependent on one platform. YouTubers, for example. Or authority sites that get most of their traffic from Google.
  • Can be hard to sell this kind of business if built around a personality.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is an authority business a good way to earn a living online?

It can be, but it typically requires a ton of work upfront before you can break through and reap the rewards. Most who try to succeed with an authority business never make it. 

If you want to give it a shot, I’d recommend building up a good chunk of savings or getting steady income flowing from elsewhere (eg. via a remote job or freelancing). Then you can do this on the side without needing it to pay your bills in a hurry.

See more examples of authority businesses and how much money they make »

Digital Product – Level 4 / Superior

What does this look like?

You’d be creating and offering a digital product, not a service. Think information products or self-hosted software.

You’d sell the product directly to the customer, usually for a one-time fee, or make money via ads, donations, that kind of thing.

Daniel Vassallo knocked it out of the park with two digital product releases, a PDF and a video course…

  • Daniel Vassallo

  • Digital Product Creator
  • $100,000 revenue in 4 months

Online courses are perhaps the most lucrative type of digital product, as Michelle Schroeder-Gardner can attest to…

  • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

  • Blogger and Online Course Creator
  • $35,000 monthly online course revenue

Creating and selling any of the following would also be considered a digital product business:

  • Simple mobile apps
  • Mobile games
  • Add-ons or plugins
  • Music or audio
  • Photos or video

See more examples of digital product businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Digital Product Businesses

  • No inventory issues; easy to scale.
  • Strong passive income potential.
  • Much easier than physical products, less overhead: no shipping or storage issues, easy returns, etc.
  • No matter what you’re selling, there’s probably a marketplace you can use for distribution (eg. Amazon for ebooks, App Store for apps, Udemy for courses).
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Marketing the product is often a challenge. How to stand out from the crowd?
  • Piracy / illegal downloads.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is a digital product business a good way to earn a living online?

Yes, but I consider it a tough one to start with. 

Creating a great digital product is a challenge in itself. Then you have to figure out sales and marketing. The people who seem to do well here usually have some solid marketing skills and/or an existing audience they can pitch to.

See more examples of digital product businesses and how much money they make »

👉 LEVEL 5 – DISTINGUISHED

Most complex / difficult / expensive, but the rewards here can be massive.

The path to a Level 5 online business.

Physical Product – Level 5 / Distinguished

What does this look like?

You produce physical goods – or get them produced to spec – then sell them via an online store or marketplace.

Of course, most physical product businesses are not 100% online, but many have a significant online component nowadays.

For example, Courtney Bleier and her sister make handmade jewelry and sell online via Etsy…

  • Courtney Bleier

  • Co-founder at Ann + Joy
  • $4,000 monthly e-commerce revenue

A more extreme example: Kartik Gurmule got some luxury shoes designed in the UK, found a manufacturer in Italy, then started selling the shoes online and shipping worldwide…

  • Kartik Gurmule

  • Founder of KASA, Co-founder of Dropshyp
  • $80,000 monthly KASA revenue

Also considered a physical product business:

  • Print On Demand
  • Private Label products
  • Licensing an idea for a physical product

See more examples of physical product businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Physical Product Businesses

  • Can have a higher perceived value compared to digital products.
  • Less copycat and piracy issues compared to digital products.
  • You create a real physical thing that you can hold in your hands and show your grandma so she can kinda understand you’re not just selling drugs on the internet.
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Costs and headaches associated with manufacture, storage, shipping, customer service, etc. (Though this can be alleviated in some cases with the right setup, like Merch by Amazon.)
  • Can be hard to scale compared to digital products.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is a physical product business a good way to earn a living online?

Bringing a new product successfully to market is tough. 

A physical product business generally has far more complexity than a digital product business, since you’re moving atoms around, not just data. And you still have to figure out sales and marketing. 

All that to say: it usually takes a significant investment of time and/or money to achieve success with a physical product business.

See more examples of physical product businesses and how much money they make »

Cloud Service – Level 5 / Distinguished

What does this look like?

You would own some software, infrastructure or platform and give people continuous access to it via the cloud.

You’d monetize by charging an access fee, selling ad space, selling user data, that kind of thing.

Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses are probably the most famous type of Cloud Service business. Here’s an example of someone who built a niche SaaS…

  • Curtis Herbert

  • Founder of Slopes App
  • $25,000 monthly revenue from app

Hosting services also fit into the Cloud Service category. Matt Basta’s podcast hosting service has done quite well…

  • Matt Basta

  • Founder of Pinecast
  • $13,000 Pinecast monthly revenue

See more examples of cloud service businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Cloud Service Businesses

  • Usually very scalable.
  • Strong passive income potential.
  • Fairly predictable revenue if using subscription model.
  • Easy to sell once successful.
  • Several monetization options.
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Churn.
  • Often a slow and/or expensive way to start making money online.
  • Customer service.
  • Data security issues.
  • Competition.

Is a cloud service business a good way to earn a living online?

It’s an attractive business model but you’d need to bring your A-game and probably hire some A-players if you want to succeed. Don’t expect to get rich quick or easy.

See more examples of cloud service businesses and how much money they make »

Marketplace – Level 5 / Distinguished

What does this look like?

Think of it as the evolution of a referral business. You’d own an app or website that makes it easy for “buyers” and “sellers” to meet each other.

Many marketplaces monetize by taking a cut of each transaction or by charging for membership or listings.

Empire Flippers is an example of a digital products marketplace. They mainly connect buyers and sellers of websites…

  • Joe Magnotti

  • Co-founder of Empire Flippers
  • $2.47 million Empire Flippers monthly revenue

Funnel Rolodex is an example of a services marketplace. They help connect digital marketing freelancers with clients…

  • BJ Wright

  • Founder of Funnel Rolodex
  • $58,000 Funnel Rolodex monthly revenue

See more examples of marketplace businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Marketplace Businesses

  • Quite scalable due to network effects: “the value of a product or service increases according to the number of others using it.”
  • Strong passive income potential. 
  • You don’t have to create any content (the users do that).
  • Easy to sell once successful.
  • Several monetization options.
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Chicken and egg problem in the beginning: buyers won’t use it if there are few sellers, and sellers won’t use it if there are few buyers.
  • Quality control issues.
  • Very hard to compete with established players (again due to network effects).

Is a marketplace business a good way to earn a living online?

It’s an attractive business model but you’d need to bring your A-game and probably hire some A-players if you want to succeed. Don’t expect to get rich quick or easy.

See more examples of marketplace businesses and how much money they make »

Social Network – Level 5 / Distinguished

What does this look like?

You’d provide an online platform that people would use to build social connections with others who share similar interests, goals, backgrounds, whatever.

Usually several monetization options for a social network business.

Obvious examples here are the big players like Facebook, Reddit and Twitter.

A better example for our purposes would be the Dynamite Circle, a private community for established entrepreneurs, co-founded by Dan Andrews…

  • Dan Andrews

  • Serial Entrepreneur
  • $50,000 Dynamite Circle estimated monthly revenue

Members of the DC pay a quarterly or yearly fee.

Another example would be Colin Theriot, who grew his own social networks (Facebook Groups) within an existing social network (Facebook) and has monetized them in various ways…

  • Colin Theriot

  • Founder, Cult of Copy Facebook Groups
  • $20,000+ monthly revenue

See more examples of social network businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Social Network Businesses

  • Quite scalable due to network effects: “the value of a product or service increases according to the number of others using it.”
  • Strong passive income potential.
  • You don’t have to create any content (the users do that).
  • Easy to sell once successful.
  • Several monetization options.
  • Usually requires a complex set of skills.
  • Can be hard to get that initial critical mass of users so you benefit from network effects.
  • Moderation headaches.
  • Very hard to compete with established players (again due to network effects).

Is a social network business a good way to earn a living online?

It’s an attractive business model but you’d need to bring your A-game and probably hire some A-players if you want to succeed. Don’t expect to get rich quick or easy.

See more examples of social network businesses and how much money they make »

⚠️ Please take extra caution with the next level ⚠️

I’m including this final level to be thorough, but I don’t consider anything in Level X worth spending time on if your goal is to earn a living online in the near future.

👉 LEVEL X – WILDCARD

These are the misfits. Many aren’t even considered businesses in the traditional sense, but they are all ways to make money online. You typically need a lot of time, money, or luck to succeed with anything here.

The path to a Level X online business.

Level X is like trying to fly a hot air balloon to the top of the mountain: it either takes a lot of skill and practice, or you have to get lucky with the weather, or both.

There’s also a chance here that you’ll never get off the ground in the first place. Or, if you do, you might end up going the wrong direction or crashing into the mountain 💥

Trading – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

Trying to profit from the financial markets using short-term strategies.

Day trading and swing trading are probably the most popular forms of trading online.

You’ll find the occasional success story, like Ryan Roots quickly earning thousands of dollars on trades via the Robinhood app…

  • Ryan Roots

  • Co-founder of Ralli Roots
  • $8,000+ profit from 16 days of trading

However, the largest studies done on day trading show that you’re unlikely to earn any money this way.

Poor Donnie here is representative of the typical day trader…

  • Donnie Day-Trade

  • Day Trader
  • $0 or even less

Also considered trading businesses:

  • Forex
  • Crypto trading

See more examples of trading businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Trading Businesses

  • Potential for fast returns.
  • Easy to believe that you’re some kind of badass digital Wolf of Wall Street character… for a few hours at least.

  • High risk.
  • Very little passive income potential.
  • Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.

Is trading a good way to earn a living online?

From what I’ve seen, lots of people try to earn a living by trading online, but very few seem to succeed. 

If you poured the same time and effort into building a true online business – see Levels 2-5 – I suspect you’d get much better results.

See more examples of trading businesses and how much money they make »

Investing – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

Investing money in digital assets or financial markets for the long term.

Think months, years, or even decades.

You can profit if the value of your investment increases enough over time, or if you invest in successful companies that pay dividends.

This blogger shows the passive income potential of using robo advisors for investing…

  • Mr. Money Mustache

  • Do-It-Yourself Investor with Betterment
  • $40,944 5-year earnings on $167k deposits

More on the speculative side of things is this example of a buy-and-hold Bitcoin investor…

  • Erik Finman

  • Bitcoin Investor
  • $2+ million from bitcoin investments

Also considered an investing business:

  • Dividend income from stocks
  • Real estate investing through online platforms

See more examples of investing businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Investing Businesses

  • Can be very passive.
  • Some markets are very well established and their performance is fairly predictable over the long term.

  • Usually requires a big initial investment and/or many years of regular deposits to see a significant return.
  • Possible to lose lots of money. Usually happens when investors try to “time the market.”
  • Taxes, fees and inflation can offset gains.

Is investing a good way to earn a living online?

It can be if you’re thoughtful, patient and financially literate. Or if you strike it lucky. 

In the short term, you’re unlikely to earn a living from investing unless you start with significant capital and invest it wisely.

See more examples of investing businesses and how much money they make »

Esports – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

Playing games online for money. You would usually compete with other people in organized tournaments.

Given the high level of skill required and how competitive esports are, this is actually more like trying to fly a helicopter 🚁 to the top of the mountain, during a thunderstorm ⛈

Here’s an example of a professional gamer who made it to the mountaintop…

  • Will "Rush" Wierzba

  • Professional Gamer
  • $15,300 average monthly winnings

I also consider games like chess and poker to be esports when they’re played online.

Poker pros like João Vieira seem well capable of winning big in online tournaments…

  • João Vieira

  • Professional Poker Player
  • $109,603 prize money from 3 weeks of online poker

See more examples of esports businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Esports Businesses

  • Can be fun and social.
  • The prize money for some tournaments can be significant.
  • Top esports “athletes” attain a kind of celebrity status and get offered endorsement deals.

  • Some tournaments have an entry fee.
  • Usually takes a loooong time to get good enough to compete at the highest levels and earn the big bucks.
  • Highly unlikely to earn you a consistent living unless you’re one of the best in the world.

Are esports a good way to earn a living online?

Only if you’re world-class at the game you’re playing. 

Think of it like trying to earn a living as a professional athlete: it will likely take years of practice with little reward before you break through as a pro (if you ever break through at all).

See more examples of esports businesses and how much money they make »

Betting – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

Placing a wager on a certain outcome and winning money if your prediction proves correct. It’s similar to gambling (see below) but not purely based on luck. Your skill, knowledge or ability can influence whether you win or lose, sometimes significantly.

Perhaps one of the more reliable ways to make money online here is Matched Betting (but only if you’re in the UK or Ireland)…

  • Foxy Michael

  • Matched Bettor
  • £31 – £42 per hour

Bet-on-yourself websites and apps also fit here.

For example, with HealthyWage you can bet money that you’ll reach your weight loss goal. Win the bet and they’ll pay you a cash prize.

  • Wendy Wage

  • HealthyWage Winner
  • $1,945 average weight loss prize

See more examples of betting businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Betting Businesses

  • Betting is considered by many to be a fun activity.
  • Possible – though very unlikely – to win big money.
  • In some countries your winnings from betting may be tax free.
  • Possible to lose lots of money.
  • Highly unlikely to earn you a consistent living.
  • No significant skill-building opportunities.
  • Some countries do not allow online betting.

Is betting a good way to earn a living online?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

It can be a fun distraction but it’s virtually impossible to earn a significant and consistent income by betting online.

See more examples of betting businesses and how much money they make »

Gambling – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

Playing games of chance for money. You can’t influence the results; they’re totally random. You pay to play and get paid if you win.

It’s a bit like trying to fly a hot air balloon to the top of the mountain while tied up and blindfolded 😵

But rare success stories like this lady keep people coming back for more…

  • Aura Dominguez Canto

  • Online Lottery Winner
  • $21 million jackpot winnings

See more examples of gambling businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of Gambling Businesses

  • Gambling is considered by many to be a fun activity.
  • Low barrier to entry / no skill needed to get started.
  • Possible – though very unlikely – to win big money.
  • In some countries your winnings from gambling may be tax free.
  • Likely to lose lots of money, since the odds are always stacked against you.
  • You have no influence over your results.
  • Highly unlikely to earn you a consistent living.
  • No significant skill-building opportunities.
  • Some countries do not allow online gambling.

Is gambling a good way to earn a living online?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

It can be a fun distraction but it’s virtually impossible to earn a significant and consistent income by gambling online. You’re actually far more likely to lose money this way.

See more examples of gambling businesses and how much money they make »

Multi-Level Marketing – Level X / Wildcard

What does this look like?

You’d be a salesperson for an MLM company that sells physical or digital products.

You can make money by selling the company’s products, but the big earnings come from recruiting other salespeople and getting a percentage of their sales, then a percentage of sales from the people your recruits recruit, and so on down the line.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of MLM participants seem to make very little money…

  • Marsha MLM

  • Multi-Level Marketer
  • $0.67 average hourly earnings

See more examples of MLM businesses and how much money they make »

Pros and Cons of MLM Businesses

  • Possible – though very unlikely – to earn big money. Usually only happens if you get in early and can recruit well.
  • Decent skill-building opportunities, especially in sales and marketing.
  • MLM companies are highly controversial and widely considered to be a scam.
  • Almost impossible to earn a consistent living this way.
  • Good chance you’ll spend more money than you earn.
  • MLMers are often encouraged to sell to friends and family, which can make Christmas dinner kinda awkward.
  • Many MLM companies encourage you to sell offline rather than online.

Is MLM a good way to earn a living online?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

The odds of making good money here are ridiculously low and, if you ask me, MLMs have too shady a reputation to risk associating yourself with them.

See more examples of MLM businesses and how much money they make »

You’ve now seen the 6 levels and 19 types of online business 👍

But of course not every online business fits into a neat little box with one label.

Businesses that are more than one “type”

Many businesses are more than one type. It’s especially common for bigger businesses, as they seek to diversify their offerings and income streams.

A prime example…

  • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

  • Blogger and Online Course Creator
  • $1.5+ million annual revenue

Michelle runs a multifaceted online business. 

According to our framework it can be broken down like this:

  • Freelance (Level 2)
    This was how Michelle first started earning good money online, often more than $10k/month doing freelance writing and virtual assistant gigs.
  • Referral (Level 3)
    Michelle has earned quite a lot of money via affiliate marketing.
  • Authority (Level 4)
    Michelle has built a big following through her website, email list, and several social media platforms. This has become the core of her business. As an Authority, she now has many monetization options.
  • Digital Product (Level 4)
    Michelle started creating and selling her own online courses in 2016.

Another example of a business that’s more than one type…

  • Sam Parr

  • Founder and CEO of The Hustle
  • $1+ million The Hustle monthly revenue

According to our framework, Sam’s business can be broken down like this:

  • Authority (Level 4)
    Sam’s newsletter (The Hustle) fits here with over 1 million subscribers. Sam can also be considered an authority with a big following on social media.
  • Digital Products (Level 4)
    Trends is a premium online offering from Sam. That can be considered a digital product first and foremost.
  • Cloud Service (Level 5)
    Sam apparently owns “a few other software and content companies.” I’m guessing at least one of those is a SaaS.
  • Social Network (Level 5)
    Trends has a significant social networking aspect in the form of a private Facebook group.

What’s the best path for you?

That very much depends on who you are, what you want, and how much work you’re willing to do.

But I’d caution against trying to tackle some of the higher levels straight out of the gate.

From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of successful online entrepreneurs start on the lower levels and work their way up, developing skills, experience and relationships as they go.

Nathan Barry is a great example:

  • Nathan Barry

  • Founder of ConvertKit
  • $2+ million ConvertKit monthly revenue

From the about page on Nathan’s website:

Nathan Barry's online business journey

ConvertKit is now seen as a great success – at $2 million MRR, last I checked – but even with all Nathan’s skill and experience going into that, it apparently took him two full years to get the business to $5k/month.

Mapped out on our mountain landscape, Nathan’s journey looks something like this:

Nathan Barry’s online business journey.

That was Nathan’s path.

Yours won’t look the exact same, but it probably shouldn’t look much different.

The Most Reliable Path To Build A Successful Online Business

Let me wrap up this lesson by clearly mapping out the most reliable path for you to build a successful online business.

This comes not only from my own experience, but also from the experience of 1000’s of people I’ve worked or corresponded with over the years.

This is the path of least resistance, the path I’ve seen work best for most people, so it’s likely to work well for you.

Step 1

Get your online income flowing consistently via freelancing or a remote job. Those are the quickest and easiest ways to earn a living online, and you can even do a bit of both at the same time.

Step 2

As you gain experience, increase your rate 📈 and reduce your hours 📉

You want to get to the point where you only have to work 15-20 hours per week, at most, and earn enough in that time to cover all your expenses and have some money left over.

Step 3

Once you get to that point, you’re free 🥳

Now you’re earning a comfortable living working part-time hours, and you can spend all your free time off traveling the world and having loads of mad adventures (that’s what I did initially).

Or… you can spend your free time building one of those higher-level businesses listed above.

Because those ARE businesses worth building.

Yes, they are more challenging, and yes, they take more time to get off the ground – which is why I don’t recommend trying any of them right out of the gate – but, if you’re anything like me, you won’t want to play that video game on easy mode forever.

So think of remote work and freelancing as stepping stones – albeit very important stepping stones, but stepping stones nonetheless – to bigger and better online business models.

You start small, make things easy on yourself, get some money flowing, free up your time, gain some experience, and then move on to the big leagues 💪

Make sense?

What is your #1 takeaway from this lesson?

Was there anything in here that particularly surprised you or stuck with you?

Please go ahead and leave your answer in the comments below. This is for your benefit, because when you take the time to reflect and put down in writing what you’ve learned, you deepen that learning.

So take two minutes now and share your #1 takeaway in the comments.

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127 Comments

  1. Hi Niall
    Great info on the perils of online business’s. I’m 68 now back in the UK after thirty odd years in South Africa. Still have an active business there but need to keep busy or I will be climbing the walls.
    I created employment in South Africa for which I am very proud and have an idea now to try and help small business and entrepreneurs who don’t have a website.
    I would like to do a website course in order to see if my idea is viable. Would appreciate any advice on this.

  2. I was quite surprised when you stated that Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping are both difficult to start and takes a while to start earning money

  3. Nothing really surprised me. I have been looking into (and been very weary of) different ways to make money and be financially free. I do appreciate how very upfront and honest you are about everything. This will help me for sure. Thank you!

  4. In your creating and selling digital products section on this page you say, “ I actually would have made a lot more money if I’d invested the same amount of time and effort into another type of online business that I’ll tell you about in a minute.”
    What exact business model are you referring to here In this statement?
    Thanks

      1. Thanks Niall! Is “Web design” the same as “Web Development” or No? Did the guy who went from charging $9 to $50 to $100/ hr focus on Web Design or Web Development?
        Also, Would you say that the TASS course is the best resource for learning this skill in-depth & quickly?

        If NOT, please recommend a one-stop course that you can vouch for that will develop my skill to a professional level quickly. I would like to achieve the same results as that other person that you’ve mentioned?

        I don’t want to waste any time on google serps only through more trial and error to find wishy-washy/ incomplete or out-dated instructions from content providers that pretend to know what they’re talking about (fake gurus). I’m looking for an all-encompassing blueprint to take me from beginner to professional in a short period of time. I apologize for repeating myself, I’m just tired of wasting years of time and energy listening to people who really won’t help me get to my desired outcome.

        I appreciate the your contributions Niall! Thank you so much!

        1. Hey Arron,

          Is “Web design” the same as “Web Development” or No?

          The terms are often used interchangeably and I’ve described myself as both in the past. Technically though a web designer would be focused more on the user interface design of a site and perhaps some front-end coding (HTML/CSS), whereas a web developer would do more of the back-end coding work.

          Did the guy who went from charging $9 to $50 to $100/ hr focus on Web Design or Web Development?

          Neither. That was Justin Clifton. He focused on digital marketing, especially Google Ads. See the interview with him here.

          Would you say that the TASS course is the best resource for learning this skill in-depth & quickly?

          For learning web design or web development? No, that’s not what the course focuses on. You’d learn a bit about building a basic website but if your goal was to do build sites for clients then the TASS course wouldn’t be a good investment.

          please recommend a one-stop course that you can vouch for that will develop my skill to a professional level quickly.

          If the skill you want to learn is web design/development then I don’t have such a course to recommend to you. There might be one out there, but I haven’t researched or reviewed those kinds of courses.

          1. What information did you consume/practice in order to become competent in webdesign? The coding part sounds a bit scary and I’m don’t no if I’d like it much, but I really don’t know. Maybe I would like it!

  5. While I was aware of all of the business types, I did not h ave any idea as to the difficulty and time devoted to building all of them. Now, thanks to Niall, I have a clearer, wider picture and I finally see a road-map that I could follow to build my earnings online.

  6. Zsolt Szerencsi

    For reliable and successful online business definitely takes time, but meantime there are great opportunities to live a dream as working online as freelancer. From this small seeds is growing my tree 🙂

  7. Wow. I actually thought advertising and blogging was easy. Just realized you have to be dedicated and have patience as they are not easy and take time to blow up.

  8. I tried e-commerce to start. Very difficult on cash flow. I feel I went at it wrong and should have gone with freelance work first. Thanks Niall for the clarity.

  9. My brain hurts with all the info I just learn. My take away from this video is the dedication that I have to put to make this work.

  10. Thank you Niall! Actually… yes, my brain hurts… #1 takeaway: my dream of making a decent passive income from blogging is pretty much smashed hahaha, but think I can manage it like something aside of other stuff… my personal opinion is that any passive income sum and os worth it (If it is truly passive of course), and I got to be patient with freelancing, that I started trying recently.

  11. I was pleasantly surprised that you didn’t hit us with an offer to join a pyramid scheme (I loathe recruiting), or didn’t funnel us into something that put money into your pocket!! Very refreshing!! Most of the players out there don’t care that their luxurious lifestyle is built upon the broken dreams of countless people who trusted them.
    I am freelancing now. My session rates are already at the upper range for my location, so I will actually work more hours than I have been. So, unless the next lesson on “Why I should NOT follow my passion” redirects my thinking, I will expand my geographical reach through blogging/vlogging and figure out how to monetize it. Any other ideas Niall?

  12. wow, my brain hurts, but your honest opinion has made me think deeper and more clearer. Most programmers only tells you that you can make money with any online business but don’t tell you how much work has to be put in. Thanks for your advise.

  13. I have ever ‘dropped my ship’ after about 3 to 4 months. Lol about the way you put it. My takeaway-all required hard work, dedications and definitely time/effort. Yet, on freelance it interest me and considering to explore into that area. Thank you for the idea and advice, Niall!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Helen.

      In my opinion, a blog is a hard way to make money online. It’s very quick to set one up and feel like you’re making progress, but to build a big audience and monetize takes a lot of time, skill, and effort. I blogged for close to a decade without making much money from it. I believe part of the reason why many people recommend blogging is so THEY can earn money by getting you signed up for web hosting through their affiliate link.

  14. Wow this is refreshing no BS about ordering my new sports car or yacht .

    But it tells me I don’t have a clue I can’t see how I can freelance or work remotely.

    I have been retired 15 years and worked in industrial relations on the union side

  15. I am a bit surprised by the first 7 based on a LOT of the online courses out there right now (2020). Affiliate marketing via clickbank or another similar site has become very popular and is being sold as virtually instant money making potential. Mostly by using paid advertising on social media sites rather than your own blog.
    Anyway, I know a lot of people are working remotely (especially due to Covid-19), but I never considered it “online business”. It really is though, and depending on what your being asked to do, could be a way to limit your hourly requirements while maintaining your income. Of course this is assuming you can garner a salary rather than an hourly position. Interesting…

  16. Manuel Fernandez

    Main take away is that I need to do more research into freelancing and remote work. They’re both completely foreign to me. I’ve done research on most of the others, but if those last two are the key then I need to stop wasting my time.

  17. #1 take away is learning that freelancing and remote working are the quickest and and easiest way to earn money online. I have been starting on Hard mode. It’s time to start on easy mode! Thanks!

  18. My take away from this is that I now know which road to take , or should I say begin with,
    Freelance get my self known for who I am and I will also look in to remote work

  19. My number one take away is the approach to this whole online business idea, start out freelancing until you are working part-time hours for good money, then focus on building one of the seven “expert mode” businesses afterward. It just opened my eyes to my starting point.

  20. First of all, thanks for this course.
    I am new to online business (not even new – I didn’t start yet). And I did not expect this conclusion. Freelance and remote work would have never occurred to me.
    May I ask you this question: If time to income is irrelevant, would you still recommend these first? I currently work in an office job I like with a team I love. Salary is decent. So I’m not in a hurry, just I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in office jobs. Given this, is it viable to start with, let’s say, affiliate marketing right away? You say “not quick, not easy” – quick is irrelevant, and easy… well I think I’m alright in web skills, writing and so on.
    Another concern is that my company requires me to ask them permission if I want to have side activities that earn income. Don’t want to do that because I don’t want to risk them viewing it negatively. So again I thought affiliate marketing (e.g. via blog) could be nice, where I could work under internet pseudonym, without disclosing my real name and thus “hide” it from my employer. In remote work or freelance I understand I would have to register publicly on these board sites with my real name.

    1. Hey Andy,

      Good questions. If time to income is irrelevant, then yeah I think it’s fine to start with something more advanced like affiliate marketing. Many people struggle with that because they want fast results and get frustrated when they see it takes a lot of time. If you’d be happy not to see much return for 6-12 months, then affiliate marketing is a decent option. Sounds like you have decent skills to get started with it, too.

      As for using a pseudonym, you can do that, but you might want to be careful what niche you choose. If it’s a YMYL niche (look that up if you’re unfamiliar), it’s usually better nowadays to use your real name and credentials. Although I doubt it would make a massive difference, to be honest. You could even start with a pseudonym and then switch to using your real name on the site later, once you get to the point where you’re ready to go all-in.

  21. Thank you.
    So starting with remote work from home or freelancing is a good strategy to give yourself time and space to build another sustainable online business in the long run.

  22. My number one takeaway is the clear comparison between the first 7 models and the last 2. That I can see is a massive time saver and a way to set realistic expectations.

  23. Hi Niall. I am from South Africa and most stuff being promoted on YouTube etc are not applicable to us. I have done some extensive research and have tried a couple of hundred things and I suck at it or it sucks. I would like to start making money online. I would love to travel. I am busy doing my TEFL and researching some more maybe something will start happening that I can actually do or that can work in South Africa. I need to make a constant stream of income before I can leave. I have a two year old and I cannot sit in a foreign country broke with a baby . Any ideas as to what I can look at or even a course I can take? Maybe just get a VPN I don’t know…at this moment I will try anything

    1. Hi Hilna,

      Probably the best advice I can give you is to try find other people in South Africa who have successful online businesses. You can probably find a group on Facebook for that, or a subreddit, or maybe something on Warrior Forum. Those people have done what you want to do so they’d be well-positioned to give you good tips and strategies to emulate their success.

      Aside from that, if I were you I’d be looking at developing some skills you can use to find freelance work or a remote job. Those are usually the easiest ways to start earning a living online.

  24. kathleen Edwards

    What have I taken away from this lesson?
    It must be that I have been looking at online businesses the wrong way. I thought affiliatte marketing was what I should be doing and am struggling with it all. Now I see I need to scale down to the easy stuff and try freelancing probably. Remote working may not suit me as well

  25. my main take away is that you stand a better chance doing freelancing or remote work. It seems the opposite of what is usually promoted in cyberspace…..counterintuitive.

  26. Rodney E Bryant

    I have already started being a freelance writer. I have a super low rate right now. I have worked for less than 2 months as a freelance writer. I am not surprised at anything in this lesson.

  27. I’ve never thought about free lancing before but makes a lot of sense what you are saying in the video. I work as a park ranger in London and actually do enjoy my job but have been attempting to make a full time income online for a few years well since 2008. What worked was building a personal development blog and promoting products and this was working well in 2014 with lots of first page rankings and then lost all the income due to google updates and my rankings disappearing. Went through some serious health challenges since and needed to focus on keeping my job but now looking at affiliate marketing again and how I can build a full time income to help me travel and not work for a council anymore. Never really thought that free lancing could be an option but you’ve made realise I have some skills, like seo, wordpress and article writing I could use to get paid for, I’m finding your videos really helpful and inspiring, so thanks for that and really nice to see how honest you are which is really refreshing!

  28. Hi Niall,
    Your lesson was quite insightful. I’ve always wanted to invest in a business and do it while I’m young so I can be comfortable in the future. It’s just so confusing on how to start and can be super expensive. I’m willing to invest in myself, of course, but I want to be smart about my investment. Thanks for the lesson and advice!

  29. The #1 take away for me from this awesome video is: first things first…start small and bring in some income freelancing or working remotely, and then use the money earned to invest in a bigger money opportunity such as affiliate marketing.

  30. Harshith Varma

    Another valuable article!
    But I have a small question.
    How hard do you think it’d be to get a client as a freelancer amidst the COVID-19 crisis?

    1. Hi Harshith,

      In some ways it’s harder, because now fewer businesses are willing to spend money. But in other ways it can be easier, mainly depending on the service you provide or the niche you serve. Some services are in high demand right now, and some niches are booming.

      If your service is less in demand or your niche is suffering, then all your competitors will have a harder time finding work as well. Whatever opportunities are left over, you may need to fight harder for, or charge a lower rate to secure them. It sucks, but that’s what has to be done to ensure the survival of your business. Survival of the fittest.

  31. What is your #1 takeaway from this lesson?
    Start online business with eith freelance or remote work. Start small, make things easy on yourself, get some money flowing, free up time, gain some experience, and then move on to the big leagues (advertising, affiliate marketing, blogging, creating and selling digital products, dropshipping, Saas and sponsorship).

  32. My biggest take away from watching this video would be the path of least resistance as I need a stable and consistent income like everyone else. I want to be able to build my own successful business, however, I have to have money, consistent that is, in order to be able to invest it, and especially maintain it. I want to build my dream, not someone else’s, but I gotta do what I gotta do first, and that’s knowing that I will have a stable income in the meantime while building and trying to achieve this.

  33. This section felt very anti-climactic lol.
    Ah, I don’t fully know why.
    I just feel like I don’t really agree with you, but at the same time there’s points to be made on both sides.
    idk.
    When I start my online business, I’ll challenge you to a debate on the side-hustle show or something.

  34. Hi, I was thinking of freelancing as a proofreader. However, the computers now come with spell check and grammar check for people that do not really know what is correct. I am learning to be an accountant to get my CPA. 2020-2021 will be online classes to complete my degree. It costs money to take the CPA pre-study for the actual exam. I need to get those funds. I will look deeper into the remote jobs as a friend of mine does that and lives in another city not close to the office. I have thought about copywriting which I would need more training on as I can write very well. It’s just learning the correct process probably. Thanks. W-A

  35. Really enjoyed this video. Refreshingly honest account of how difficult and time consuming most of the online ‘miracle jobs’ can be to get off the ground. My takeaway is that I’m starting to see a route to working fully online, and it starts by shifting my offline job online rather than starting a new type of work altogether. No idea why I hadn’t really considered that intermediate step before. Cheers Niall.

  36. Wow! Okay, biggest take away was the two easier ways to get into making money online (freelancing and remote work). I was gravitating towards those, but felt like there was more to what I could really accomplish. Seeing the very first 7 described first and the explanations of their level of difficulty made me hone in a more methodical approach to my future goals. Also, the steps drawn out at the end which brought everything together in summary helped me realize the goals I can set for myself realistically right out of the gate. Great read

  37. Gregory Prince

    Taking the path of least resistance makes the most sense. Taking action now is my biggest take away: to make money with remote and freelance work. I’m beginning today.

  38. Wow this was usefull and mindblowing info. Thanks. Nicely said and no shugar.coated.
    good stuff. I am new in all of this, but I want to start with small steps.

  39. I really need to freelance or remote work. Freelancing is probably the best route now, because I have a summer job every year, and that’s coming up . I can freelance and do the job, but I would have a hard time taking a full time remote work situation. So….freelancing it is.

  40. Very sharp & concise information, you just gave me an excellent starting point – with a double-edge: start with freelance while I create a slow-building online business

  41. Demetrius Nalls

    It’s ok to start small. We watch all the success videos about the first 7 and get all INSPIRED. Not understanding all the time it takes to earn a significant income. I know, I know, you’re supposed to challenge yourself for growth. There is a challenge in these last 2. The transition from the ” rat race”.

  42. Demetrius Nalls

    It’s ok to start small. We watch all the success stories but do not actually realize the amount of time it takes to earn a significant income. I know, I know you’re supposed to challenge yourself. And freelancing and or remote work WILL be a challenge, the transition from the “rat race”.

  43. para lograr un cambio total en la vida, debemos emprender, con perseverancia y confianza. Si yo quiero este cambio entonces, debo sacar cualquier minimo espacio libre disponible para capacitarme en algo que me sirva, para proveer un servicio freelance. (pienso en curso de sistemas y diseño web)

    gracias niall.

    1. Nelson Edward Montz

      You laid down the gauntlet, Niall. You knocked out most of the reasons many were attracted to an online business in the beginning. There’s little sense in trying to become the exception at the onset. My strength is my voice, so I feel that freelancing would be a good opener.

  44. Hi Niall,
    I’ve tried different things you mention – a free-lance business in graphic design (after GD school), building websites (for people who didn’t want to pay me or for myself), blogging…

    Then I started an editing gig with someone I met at a writer’s group. It lasted for years and he paid me monthly. So that was perfect… but like all good things, it ended (when he died).

    I think free-lance writing or editing is for me. That is, if I can carry off the “appearing to be professional” part of it to get responsible clients.

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for the comments. Sounds like the key for you is to find good clients. Even one good client can make a big difference. Do you think the same writer’s group you mentioned would be a good place to find more clients?

  45. Demetrius Nalls

    Hello again Niall,
    Takeaway from this lesson, don’t jump into the pool, head first, if you can’t swim. Take your time, learn the basics(foundation), and build from there.

  46. Oneica Hopkinson

    That was very informative for me, what I took from this was that I could start off a little at a time and gain experience as I go along. I have no prior experience in this field what so ever. I’m currently a stay at home mom that wants change, more money, motivation and a career I can build around my young family.

  47. Surprised to find to find out freelancing was quick but yes it is quicker as compared to others listed and self management(I lack it) is extremely important for freelancing. And your upwork templates got me hooked on this blog, I’ll hopefully be reading this every night now 🙂

  48. Aneliya Zheleva

    Actually I was surprised (and happy about it) to find out that freelancing – what I’m aiming to – is one of the fastest ways to freedom 🙂

  49. This is a different take than a lot of the other “build an online business” advice I’ve seen, and I think it’s because those tend to be about figuring out the thing you want to bring into the world, like what tribe or change you want to create, and making a business around that. The question here is strictly about making money and that is where my mind is at.

  50. I like how you put it into steps on how to have a successful online business. I have read many tips and tricks on how to be a freelancer but your tip on how to get to that successful place as a freelancer is the first I have ever seen. Thanks

  51. Matthew O'Donoghue

    What struck me is the fact that i can actually learn and acquire a skill in only one week, and use this skill to help me start earning online. tbh beforehand i would have thoough it would take years.

  52. Hello Nial, I’m greatly impressed by the way you present it. I want to start as from today but k9ndly show me how to begin freelancing, it’s my only option, please.
    Looking forward to your kind consideration.

    1. Hey Patrick,

      I see you’re subscribed to my Start Earning Online series. Keep going through the lessons there and you’ll have plenty of info to get started.

  53. G’day again Niall,
    Nothing really jumped out at me as I do know of all these possibilities,
    As I have said before I am a Structural Draftsman, I have been trying to twist the arms of past and present employers to allow remote working, I haven’t yet been successful even though last Christmas while the office building was closed they were quite happy for me to work from my apartment.
    They seem to think that you need to have direct communication with the Engineers and that you do however that is what Skype is for, we do use that between offices.

  54. Roughly corresponds my experience. I tried remote work, but bit off more than I could chew. And it’s not passive.

    The type of work I do best (realtime embedded systems) is a bit hard to do remotely, so I might need to re-train a bit…

    The type of work I really love is teaching violin. I would need to substantially revise my approach to make that viable online. And I fear that I would not enjoy doing online/recorded violin lessons as much as one on one lessons in my studio.

    1. There are lots of sites that list remote job opportunities. For example:

      https://weworkremotely.com/
      https://remote.co/remote-jobs/
      https://remoteok.io/

      Find one you like and apply.

      If you don’t have the skills yet, get busy learning and practicing.

      It doesn’t have to cost you anything to start, though occasionally it makes sense to invest in a course to speed up your progress. But if you’ve got plenty of time and don’t mind some trial and error, no need to spend any money.

  55. Sheila Louise Omondi

    I spent so much money trying to get into affiliate marketing but I failed miserably.You’re right. Not something to start with. I now want to look into remote jobs because I like the concept of working consistently without being tied to one place.

  56. You have confirmed what I have been contemplating. I want to do freelance online administration/proofreading etc. So freelance/remote work sound like my solution.

  57. I didn’t know much about remote work. I’m glad you talked about it even though I’d probably prefer being a freelancer as I’ll be travelling, so I can choose when I want to work more and when I want to work less, depending on the activities I’ll be doing.

  58. Freelancing and remote work sounds interesting. any tips on where to start the search for these jobs?

  59. Definitely a remote work is what Im thinking of at the moment, the reason I get to know about digital nomad is because I saw a job offered by 5CA company

  60. I trust this recommendation as I have been trying to get into affiliate marketing and found it very difficult to make any online income, so I tend to agree with freelancing or remote work and sure do hope there is availability in South Africa for them?

    1. Well that’s the beauty of online freelancing and remote work, Bryan: doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can still find gigs and start earning money either way. So if you’re in South Africa, there’s nothing stopping you from working with clients and companies in Australia or Canada or anywhere else in the world really.

  61. Thanks again Niall! the main thing I have taken away is I need to start applying for stuff on upwork etc! will probably have to wait till November though, as I am currently working at a hotel for the summer and doing 50+ hour weeks…

  62. awesome insight brother. coming from an offline business world, the first seven speak to me so much. however as you said starting point matters a lot.

  63. I have done freelancing and have found it not qyick and not easy –
    a challenge. Clients prefer cheap and fast, and there is a lot of overhead time ironing out requirements. . . and no one pays when your computer crashes, or you need new software.

    1. Niall Doherty

      Yeah, I was careful not to say in the video that freelancing is quick and easy, but that it is much quickER and easiER than the first seven online business models I mentioned.

      Some clients certainly do prefer cheap and fast, and some clients do love to micromanage and nitpick, but those are the clients to avoid. Think of it this way: some customers love to go to WalMart and pay very little. Others are happy to go to Whole Foods and pay a lot more for superior products and service. And the latter are usually more pleasant to deal with. The same is true of freelancing clients.

  64. I live in the UK and I’ve recently been doing matched betting http://www.teamprofit.com/tomclark
    And making £10 a day, it’s quick and easy. But I also work 30 hours a week and I’m looking for something more sustainable to do long term and freelancing seems the way forward to make some good money. Thanks for sharing this and prompting me

  65. Really awesome Nial, You nailed it! On my site and on Quora I get asketh the question about how to earn money online a lot. Freelancing, of course, is the easiest way to start earning. Then you can diversify into other areas.

  66. Damian Rensen

    Great video!

    I didn’t really know that remote workers are so popular these days. So that is something I want to learn more about!

  67. Great stuff, Niall! I have been working online for a number of years now and agree what you say here. It is easy to get tempted by the idea of passive income and focus all your attention on that. It is definitely possible to choose that as your preferred method, but it requires a ton of time, attention, and hard work.

    Freelance work may not be as sexy, but it will give you the chance to start making money online much faster, and much more steadily. Starting there with the intention of building an online business with other business models later, is the perfect strategy and you keep yourself from falling into some passive income get rich quick scheme :).