What to do first:
If you want to make money online, my first recommendation is to start a blog or website (using my simple step-by-step instructions). Let your blog serve as your internet home and branch out from there.
Be warned, it'll take work!
Once you've got yourself set up with a blog, it's time to work. And when I say work, I mean it. Making money online is not a way to get rich quick. If anyone tells you differently, be extremely skeptical.
There are millions of blogs and websites. The challenge for all of us is to get noticed. After all, in order to make a business work, people must know you exist. Your idea might be golden, but even a golden needle can get lost in a gigantic haystack. Here are some things that have worked for others…
1. Create a niche website.
Niche websites are sites that offer some sort of helpful or entertaining information to a highly-targeted group of people. It involves doing keyword research to find out what people are searching for in the search engines and tailoring your site to be the go-to place for that search.
If you have a highly-specialized interest with accompanying expertise you can share your knowledge and generate income from it. How? Advertising or affiliate marketing.
The absolute best tool for keyword research is Market Samurai. I know, because I'm a paying customer. If you want to see how it works, check out their very informative tutorial videos. Highly recommended.
2. Sell on Etsy.
Are you crafty? Consider selling on Etsy. You can set up your own shop for free and it's simple to get started. It's not so simple to stand out from the crowd, so that's likely to be your biggest challenge. Here are some tips on how to market your shop.
3. Write for someone else.
The advantage of writing for other sites is that you get to be a part of something that's already established. Also, you don't have to worry about the technical aspects of running and maintaining your own site.
Become a guide (compensation at least $500/mo) or contributing writer (compensationat least $250/mo) at About.com. At the time of this writing, they're looking for guides forBreastfeeding, Home Furnishings and Country Music. They're looking for contributing writers for Soul Food, Wedding Planning, Children's Activites and Digital Scrapbooking. To name a few.
4. Are you a photographer? Illustrator?
Why not sell your photos on a site like iStockPhoto (scroll down and click "Contribute")?
5. Like to travel?
This is clearly not for everyone, but I throw it out there because I think it's cool.
If you have the flexibility to travel, be a guide for The Lonely Planet like Gayle who lives in Ghana. Speaking of travel, more and more people are becoming "Location Independent" meaning, their home is wherever they feel like going next. Check out Lea & Jonathan's story.
6. Be a consultant or virtual assistant.
If you have particular knowledge or experience that is in demand, consider offering your expertise as a consultant. Get started by joining forums and leaving comments on blogs—always being helpful! As you establish yourself as a knowledgeable person, people will notice. Many people (myself included) have found excellent opportunities this way.
If you have experience as a secretary or executive assistant, working as a Virtual Assistant might be for you. As the internet grows and more and more people are working online, the need for help with administrative tasks is especially huge. A good VA is hard to find, so making yourself visible, building a great reputation and delivering excellent results will ensure you'll be kept busy with work.
7. Create and sell your own tangible products (not necessarily the handmade kind).
If you have an idea for a product you'd like to sell but aren't sure where to start, this couple tells you how they started selling wedding linens online. Their Online Store Tutorials are particularly helpful.
8. Write a book. Better yet, write an ebook.
Many bloggers have dreams of being published authors and many have indeed accomplished that goal and their blogs were a major catalyst in doing so. If that's you, then write and write well. Get involved in online writing communities like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Follow a blogger like Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent who explains the ins and outs of getting published the "traditional" way. I also recommend following Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson (the biggest Christian publisher as of 2010). If that doesn't work for you and you'd like to self-publish, try Lulu or CreateSpace (from Amazon).
But don't overlook ebooks! Their popularity is on the rise and they are simple to create. I turned down a traditional book deal in favor of self-publishing.