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1. The importance of starting small

How to make money online for beginners: Top 13 methods [2024]

From stay-at-home parents to college students, people from diverse backgrounds are discovering ways to not only supplement their income but even forge lucrative careers online. 

If you're interested in starting a side hustle or generating passive income but you feel overwhelmed by where to start, you're not alone. Many are unsure about the legitimacy of online earnings or feel lost amidst the countless options.

Fear not! This guide is specifically curated for beginners like you. Here, we’ll explore 13 top methods to earn money online, breaking them down step-by-step, so you can find the path that best aligns with your skills and interests.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Begin your online money-making journey on a small scale, allowing you to learn and adapt. 

  • Avoid falling for get-rich-quick schemes and prioritize building a sustainable, ethical income source instead of trying to make money fast.

  • Explore 13 beginner-friendly methods to earn money online, including creative endeavors like print on demand and dropshipping, leveraging skills through freelancing and online tutoring, selling digital products or used items, and engaging in digital marketing with affiliate programs and YouTube channels.

  • Launch your online business effortlessly with Gelato, a leading print on demand platform, offering simplicity for newcomers, a zero-inventory model, global reach, and sustainable solutions for faster, smarter, and greener ecommerce with minimal risk.

The importance of starting small

The most successful online entrepreneurs did not skyrocket to success overnight. Behind the scenes of their achievements lie countless hours of learning, numerous trial-and-error moments, and persistent efforts. 

By starting small, you give yourself the time to learn the ropes, understand the nuances of your chosen method, and hone your skills. This incubation period, although it might seem slow-paced, is crucial. It's where you lay the foundation for long-term success.

With patience, you can learn from mistakes, adapt to changes, and grow steadily in the vast digital landscape selling stuff online.

Avoiding get-rich-quick schemes

The allure of making money online has given rise to a plethora of scams and dubious schemes promising instant riches. While it's tempting to dive into opportunities that pledge large returns with little effort, they often come at a hidden cost. This could be in the form of financial loss, wasted time, or even damage to your reputation. 

Starting small helps you steer clear of online platforms that are notorious for 'make money online fast' claims. By focusing on genuine, slow-burn methods, you can ensure that you're building a sustainable, ethical online income source. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Making money online as a beginner: Top 13 methods

If you're new to making money online and looking for simple ways to start, we've got 13 stellar ideas to help beginners like you get started.

1. Print on demand

T-shirts ready for print

Our top pick for making money online is the 'Print on Demand' method. This strategy allows you to monetize your creative ideas, from smart t-shirt quotes to detailed designs. The best part? There's no need to maintain a product inventory. An item is only made once a customer orders it, reducing any risk and financial input. 

Instead of letting your talent sit idle, why not make money from it? Your quick sketch could end up being someone's favorite t-shirt or mug. Plus, you can automate the whole process.

  • Startup time: Instant – get started in minutes by signing up and uploading your designs.

  • Startup ease: Easy – no technical skills required. All you need is your creativity and designs.

  • Best for: Creators, artists, designers – anyone with a design they want to share with the world.

  • How soon you'll start making money: As soon as your products start selling.

2. Dropshipping 

If you're a newcomer wanting to earn money online, dropshipping is a great choice. You act like a link between the manufacturer and the customer, handling the selling part while the supplier manages inventory and shipping. When customers buy from your online store, the supplier ships the product, and you earn from the profit margin. 

This approach takes care of inventory and shipping duties, letting you concentrate on marketing and providing great customer service. It involves minimal costs and high potential earnings and could provide a steady revenue stream without usual retail challenges.

  • Startup time: Fast. Start as soon as you find a high-quality supplier and set up your own website.

  • Startup ease: Easy – especially with numerous ecommerce platforms available.

  • Best for: Those who have a marketing flair but do not want to handle inventory or shipping operations.

  • How soon you'll start making money: As soon as your products start selling, and once you're established, you'll start seeing profits in 3-6 months.

3. Digital services and freelancing

Freelance digital services is a method that consistently proves its worth. Skills like web development, graphic design, and freelance writing are in high demand, making the Internet a perfect marketplace for freelancers. This method lets you learn and grow at your own speed without workplace pressure. 

And the best part? You have total control over your work, from choosing projects to setting your rates. Websites like Fiverr and Upwork make connecting with potential clients easy for beginners.

  • Startup time: Immediate – provided you have the necessary skills and equipment. 

  • Startup ease: Easy – setting up a profile on freelance websites is a quick process.

  • Best for: Anyone with a marketable skill such as writing, coding, designing, tutoring, etc. 

  • How soon you'll start making money: A few weeks or months, depending on the demand for your skill and experience.

4. Online tutoring and coaching

Tutoring session essentials

With more people working and learning remotely, there's a growing demand for online courses and tutoring services. You can profit from this trend if you have particular skills or knowledge. The benefits are numerous: you get to work flexibly, use your expertise to earn, and meet a high demand in today's digital world. 

You can use platforms like Outschool, VIPKid, or Chegg to start your online course for the tutoring business. Just create a profile, set your rates, and start teaching!

  • Startup time: Instant – get started by signing up for a tutoring platform and advertising your qualifications.

  • Startup ease: Easy - Most tutoring and coaching platforms are user-friendly.

  • Best for: Individuals with specific skills or expertise that others are willing to pay to learn.

  • How soon you'll start making money: In a week or two of your first session, depending on the demand and the competitiveness of your niche.

5. Creating and selling digital products

By using your unique creative skills, you can start a profitable online business selling digital products. This could be anything from downloadable art, online classes, e-books, music, or 3D printing designs. With digital products, you save yourself the hassle of handling physical stock or shipping, and the best part is that they can keep making you money over time. 

Successful artists on platforms like Etsy or BigCommerce make a splash selling things like digital art, posters with unique typography, and printable templates for home organization.

  • Startup time: Medium to high, depending on the time needed to create your digital products. 

  • Startup ease: Medium – It requires skills and talent to create a desirable product, as well as knowledge in digital marketing strategies to sell it. 

  • Best for: Creative individuals who are skilled or talented in any form of art/media that can be digitized. 

  • How soon you'll start making money: As soon as your product is ready, uploaded to an ecommerce platform, and starts selling.

6. Selling used items through online marketplaces

If you're looking to make money online, selling used items on online marketplaces like Etsy can be a great starting point. It's an accessible, low-cost way to start trading items you already own. The demand for used items online is massive and keeps growing, which means there's someone out there wanting your old clothes, electronics, vintage items, handmade crafts, or books. 

Online marketplaces, like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, and Etsy, connect you to a global audience.

  • Startup time: Almost Immediate. Gather your items, list them, and you're ready to sell.

  • Startup ease: Low. Anyone with spare items and an internet connection can start.

  • Best for: People with unused items or specialty goods they wish to sell.

  • How soon you'll start making money: As soon as your listed items start selling, typically within a few days to a week.

7. Selling stock photos

Camera and nature photos

Got a knack for photography? Capitalize on your ability by selling your high-quality pictures as stock photos online. Businesses and individuals are often looking for visuals for their blogs, websites, or marketing materials and are willing to purchase your images. 

Reputable platforms like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock are ideal for showcasing your work. The advantage? Once a photo is uploaded, it could generate continuous earnings as it can be bought multiple times.

  • Startup time: Instant - if you have available photos and an understanding of what photos sell.

  • Startup ease: Medium. All you need is a quality camera, a keen eye for detail, and an established stock photo platform account to start selling.

  • Best for: Those with a photography knack interested in clicking photos for various themes or industries.

  • How soon you'll start making money: In a few weeks to months from the first sale, as your portfolio grows and finds consistent customers.

8. Affiliate marketing

Advertising others' products and getting a reward for every sale made through your referral link is perhaps one of the easiest ways to earn money. It's perfect for beginners, as it creates a steady income without needing your own product. Amazon Associates is a well-known example of an affiliate marketing program

You could open a blog or vlog where you discuss popular tech gadgets. Then, use your affiliate link to send visitors to Amazon to buy those gadgets. You'll get a small amount of every sale made through your link without any extra fees for your audience.

  • Startup time: Quick - Just a few hours to a few days, depending on prior experience with hosting websites or blogs.

  • Startup ease: Medium - requires some technical understanding to set up a website or blog, integrate affiliate links, and drive traffic.

  • Best for: Bloggers, vloggers, content creators, and anyone with a sizable online following.

  • How soon you'll start making money: It can take several months to a year to generate significant income.

9. Creating a YouTube channel

Starting your own YouTube channel is a popular, easy way to make money online. The platform is beginner-friendly and helps you reach a global audience. Plus, you can earn money through ads, channel subscriptions, and Google AdSense. 

You could make videos about anything - unboxing the latest tech, reviewing products, or sharing your travel adventures. You could even showcase your artistic talents or create educational content.

  • Startup time: Setting up a channel is instant, but curating and editing content that attracts and engages viewers can take weeks to months.

  • Startup ease: Easy, as you only need a Google account, a good-quality camera for recording videos, and basic editing skills.

  • Best for: Those passionate about creating video content or vlogging.

  • How soon you'll start making money: Earnings can vary widely, and it may take months to years, depending on your content's success.

10. Becoming a virtual assistant

Virtual assistant's desk

Working as a virtual assistant is a great way to join the digital world. This job involves various online tasks such as handling emails, planning appointments, or doing data entry jobs. It's especially suitable for beginners as it allows you to learn and improve a wide set of skills. 

You can find inspiration from successful virtual assistants like Gina Horkey and Abbey Ashley, who started in this field and are now running prosperous businesses and training programs.

  • Startup time: You can start immediately after identifying your unique skills and setting up your online profile.

  • Startup ease: It's quite easy, requiring only a computer, internet access, and essential administrative skills. Enhancing your abilities over time will only add to your value.

  • Best for: Detail-oriented, organized individuals who enjoy admin tasks.

  • How soon you'll start making money: Typically, you'll start earning within a few weeks once you land your first client.

11. Developing mobile apps

Creating mobile apps is a great option for beginners to make money as more and more people are using smartphones these days. There's a growing demand for new, easy-to-use apps now, and you don't need to be a coding wizard to get started. With just some basic knowledge, you can start creating simple apps right away using online platforms with user-friendly tools to create apps by simply dragging and dropping. Use platforms like the Google Play Store or Apple's App Store to get your apps out there for billions of users worldwide.

  • Startup time: Depending on the complexity of the app, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to develop the app.

  • Startup ease: Moderate. Basic knowledge of coding is beneficial but not always necessary.

  • Best for: Tech-savvy individuals who love solving problems or those with innovative app ideas that meet an existing need.

  • How soon you'll start making money: It may take months to start earning significant income, depending on the popularity and monetization strategy of your app.

12. Participating in market research

Doing market research is another risk-free way to earn money. Firms are always on the hunt for user input, willing to pay for your views and time. It's not just about earning; you're also shaping future products. 

Unlike high-skill tasks like app development or maintaining a YouTube channel, market research only takes your time. No special skill or significant investment is needed. Simply join online survey sites like Swagbucks or Toluna and start earning and learning more about market research.

  • Startup time: Immediate. As soon as you sign up for a platform, you can start participating in surveys or studies.

  • Startup ease: Very easy. No technical skills are required; only your time and your opinions are needed.

  • Best for: Those who want to start making money online immediately without needing to learn new skills.

  • How soon you'll start making money: Immediately. Most survey sites reward you immediately after survey completion.

13. Taking online surveys

Person engaging in online survey

Online surveys are a beginner-friendly way to make money online. It connects businesses needing feedback with people who can provide it for a small fee. All you have to do is answer a few survey questions. There's no need for special skills or resources, which makes it great for beginners. 

Plus, you can do it in your spare time. So instead of spending downtime on social media or watching TV, why not make some extra cash by taking online surveys on reliable platforms like Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, or InboxDollars.

  • Startup time: Immediate. Just sign up on a platform, complete your profile, and start receiving surveys.

  • Startup ease: Easy. No specialized skills are needed.

  • Best for: Students, part-time workers, and anyone looking to earn a bit extra on the side.

  • How soon you'll start making money: Immediately, but it's a slow process with small increments adding up over time.

Start earning money online easily with Gelato

In today's digital age, the myriad of opportunities to make money online is vast and accessible, even for beginners. From blogging to affiliate marketing, dropshipping, and more, there's a business model that can cater to your skill set and interests.

Among these avenues, utilizing platforms like Gelato, the world's largest platform for local print on demand, stands out. 

Its unique selling propositions are:

  • Simplicity for newcomers: Gelato's print on demand platform is designed to be user-friendly, allowing even those new to ecommerce to start their journey smoothly.

  • Zero-inventory ecommerce business: You can focus solely on design and marketing without worrying about dead stock or storage. This model drastically reduces the upfront costs and risks associated with traditional retail.

  • Global reach: With Gelato, you can design, list, and sell your custom products to an audience spanning continents. It offers a network of printers worldwide, ensuring that products are printed closer to the customer.

  • Sidestepping common hurdles: One of the significant pain points in ecommerce is managing inventory and handling logistics. With POD and platforms like Gelato, these concerns are virtually eliminated.

  • Faster, smarter, cheaper, and greener deliveries: Gelato emphasizes not only efficiency but also sustainability. By printing products closer to the end consumer, it reduces shipping times, costs, and carbon footprint.

Ready to expand your own online store? Sign up for Gelato today and transform your online income potential!

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