How to make money online for beginners in 2021

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Are you looking to build an emergency fund to carry you through your next surprise bill? Do you need to pay down debt like a credit card or student loans? Is it high time that you start investing for your future? Whatever your money goals, it’s going to take some cash to turn them from goals into reality. 

The good news is that in today’s day and age, all it takes is an internet connection and some entrepreneurial spirit to begin making money online. Whether you’re looking for a side hustle to make extra cash on top of your day job or this is going to be your primary source of income, there are countless ways to make money online—even for beginners. 

Below is a look at ways that you can get started making money online with little-to-no experience:

While some options may require a little bit of an upfront investment for training or equipment, there are also a number of options where it’s completely free to get started.

Freelancing

A freelancer is just a fancy term for someone who works for themselves in a self-employed capacity. While freelancers do technically work for clients, this is usually on a contract or per-assignment basis. They aren’t actually “employees” of the client. Because they work for themselves, freelancers have a lot more freedom than regular employees do. For example, freelancers get to:

  • Choose their clients (sometimes)
  • Choose their assignments (sometimes) 
  • Choose their schedule (ideally) 
  • Choose where to work from 

Thanks to the Internet and marketplace demands, freelancers are making up a greater percentage of the workforce than ever before. According to a 2019 survey by MBO Partners, as 41 million American workers identified as freelancers. Of that number, 15 million were full-time freelancers and 12.4 million were part-time freelancers, with the remainder unclassified. This same survey found that the average annual income for full-time freelancers was $68,300 per year, though this varied substantially by age: $52,200 for Millennial freelancers, $71,500 for Gen X freelancers, and $84,000 for Boomer freelancers.

And of course this survey was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people out of their regular, in-person jobs. According to Upwork, as many as 2 million more Americans pursued freelance work in the past 12 months due to the pandemic than the year prior. 

If you’re wondering what kind of work freelancers do, the short answer is: Everything! It’s possible to work in a freelance capacity in virtually any industry. Here is our comprehensive list of the best career-level work at home careers, which include:

1. Freelance virtual assistant

Virtual assistants are more or less exactly what they sound like: People who assist business owners or entrepreneurs virtually, through the internet. They do everything from writing emails and screening phone calls to managing calendars, creating documents, collecting data, conducting research, processing payments, basic project management, and so much more. In many ways, a virtual assistant can be thought of as an online equivalent to an executive assistant that might be found working under a high-powered CEO. 

Depending on how much experience you have, a freelance virtual assistant can make anywhere from $20 to $75 an hour.

If you’re interested in becoming a freelance virtual assistant, you’ll want to invest in a training course that will quickly teach you the skills you’ll need for success. Our recommendation is $10K VA, an online course taught by Kayla Sloan, who makes more than $10,000 per month as a virtual assistant (hence the name). The course teaches you everything from pitching and landing clients, setting your rates, onboarding clients, creating efficient workflows, and more. 

2. Freelance bookkeeper 

Bookkeepers work to keep track of financial transactions for individuals or businesses. This can include everything from:

  • Recording transactions
  • Updating financial statements and spreadsheets
  • Reading over financial documents for accuracy
  • Processing payments to vendors, contractors, and employees 
  • Finding and fixing accounting errors
  • Tracking expenses
  • Processing and filing taxes
  • And more

Freelance bookkeepers can make up to $75 per hour depending on their experience and ability to handle complicated financial situations like taxes. 

Becoming a freelance bookkeeper will require you to have a firm understanding of financial best practices, as well as the ability to work with bookkeeping technology. For this reason, it’s a good idea to complete a training course to quickly get up to speed. Bookkeeper Launch is a popular bookkeeper training course that is designed to teach you everything you need to know to get started, including the fundamentals of bookkeeping, how to get clients, how to grow your business, and more. 

3. Freelance proofreader

Proofreaders typically act as the final set of eyes to review a piece of written content before it is considered “final” and pushed live for the world to see. The job quite literally entails reading the material for one final time to ensure that there are no errors or mistakes. Sometimes, you’ll compare the final set of pages against earlier versions that were marked up with edits, looking to make sure that the edits were put in place. Other times, you’re just reading with a set of fresh eyes. 

According to ZipRecruiter, freelance proofreaders make an average of $27 per hour, or nearly $57,000 a year.

While proofreaders are most commonly thought of in the book publishing business, many industries hire freelance proofreaders. Advertising and marketing copy, emails, website copy, grants, academic papers, news and magazine articles, business plans, speeches, and press releases all require proofing. 

Of course, proofreading is a skill like any other, and one that requires training and practice to master. If you’re interested in starting a freelance proofreading business, completing a training course will help you gain the skills you need and ramp up your business as quickly as possible. My number one recommendation for a proofreading training course is Proofread Everywhere, which includes 40 lessons broken into 8 modules that will teach you specific skills, methods, and frameworks used by professional proofreaders, as well as tips for launching and growing your business. 

Check out more work-at-home, remote and telecommute positions at FlexJobs, or read our review of this job site created by a mom seeking professional-level flexible work.

Writing

Many people make quite a healthy living working online as a writer. If you’re a skilled writer then the jobs below can be great options for you to consider. 

4. Blogging

Bloggers own and operate their own websites, producing content ranging from blog posts and articles to reviews, videos, lists, and more. They then monetize this content in any number of ways, from sponsored content to advertising to affiliate marketing and more.

How much money you can make through blogging will depend on a number of factors, including how much content you publish, the niche you are targeting, the size of the audience that you reach, and more. While it can take some time to build up your website into a revenue generating machine, if you’re consistent and put in the effort it’s possible to bring in thousands of dollars a month. 

If you’re interested in starting your own blog, there are a few tools that you’ll need to get started. The two most important of these are the domain and hosting BlueHost is my personal favorite, which will allow you to buy your domain and hosting in just a few minutes, for as little as $3.95/mo.

5. Grant writing

Many businesses and organizations would not be able to function without the funding provided by grants. Unfortunately, applying for most grants will involve a complicated and laborious process. One mistake can be enough to get an application removed from consideration. That’s why many organizations hire professional grant writers to complete the application for them.

Grant writers perform a number of tasks to help their clients secure funding including researching grants and funding opportunities and putting together grant proposals and applications. 

Freelance grant writers make an average salary of $72,517 according to Salary.com. Those who are new to the field can make anywhere from $40 to $50 an hour, while those with years of experience can often command $100 or more per hour.

Because grant writing requires such a specific set of skills, we highly recommend taking a course before you get started. Udemy offers many affordable courses that will teach you the basics. Completing a certification program, like the Certified Grant Writer® Series from the American Grant Writers’ Association is another excellent option, as this will give you a powerful credential that you can include on your resume, website, and LinkedIn profile while you are looking for clients. 

6. Market research

Completing market research in the form of surveys is by far one of the easiest ways to make money online. It typically doesn’t pay much—usually just a few bucks here and there—but it takes literally zero skills and zero investment on your part to get started. If you’re looking to make a bit of extra money online during your spare time or while you’re doing other mindless tasks (like sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, watching your kid’s soccer practice, or walking on the Stairmaster at the gym) then this could be for you.

If this sounds interesting to you, here’s a look at some of the most popular survey companies willing to pay you for your opinion. 

Toluna

Share your opinion about new products and services, and change the world while making coin! Compensation is in points you can redeem for sweepstakes tickets for getaways, gift cards, or cash.

SurveyJunkie.com

Get rewarded for your online participation. Survey Junkie rewards program offers gift-cards and cash payouts via PayPal. Who doesn’t love free money while playing on your phone or laptop?

PrizeRebel.com

With Prize Rebel, you can easily complete online surveys from your computer at home. Earn points and you can redeem them for cash and gift cards from multiple places such as Paypal, Amazon and Walmart.

Epoll.com

Survey panels are a quick and easy way to earn a couple of bucks. All that you have to do is sign up, and wait for invites to hit your email. After that, just answer some questions and earn rewards. You can earn gift cards to WalMart, Amazon, and much more.

SurveyRewardz

Create a free account. Take surveys. Get Paid. It’s as simple as that! Might as well take some time to sign up for these during your free time at work!

SwagBucks

SwagBucks is more than a survey site. They let you earn cash through watching videos, answering questions, shopping, and much more.

InboxDollars

Cash rewards for everyday online activities, such as reading emails, taking surveys, playing games and signing up for offers.

FindFocusGroups

This website is a database full of different focus group opportunities. It could be anything from a snack food brand to having to do a phone interview about life insurance.

FocusGroup.com

As you can guess from the name, this site lets you join focus groups, test products, take online surveys, or even watch TV shows for money!

MediaBarn

This is yet another focus group that you can join. Why not join several of them? More focus groups equals more money.

Opinion Outpost

Another opinion site where you can give answers about commercials, movies, politics, and much more.

Harris Polls

Harris Polls is one of the most famous survey companies around. They offer surveys on everything from non-profits to sports

Nielsen

You’ve probably heard of Nielsen before. They are one of the largest companies for consumer marketing studies. One of the advantages of Nielsen is that they have an app that allows you to complete surveys whenever you have the free time.

OnlineVerdict

Jury duty isn’t a fun task, but you can get paid to participate in online legal focus groups. You could also have the opportunity to be a part of a mock trial.

SignupDirect

This is another way that you can join a mock trial. For every day that you work, you can get $100.

Qmee

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. Qmee pays when you do all of your searching. You can also take some surveys to earn extra cash. There is no minimum requirement to cash out.

UserTesting.com

This site lets you get paid to go to a website, use an app, and complete a set of tasks about it. Every test that you complete, you’ll get paid $10 through PayPal.

SlicethePie

It’s another review site that pays you for your opinions. Most of the reviews on SliceThePie focus on music, record labels, and clothing.

Achievement

If you’re a health nut (or you want to be), you can get paid for betting healthy. Download the Achievement app and you can get paid for walking, hiking, running, and much more. Every time that you’re active, the app will give you points based on how long and hard you worked out. Every time that you earn 10,000 points, you can get paid $10. There is no limit on how much you can earn. The app used to be called AchieveMint.

Beta Testing by Erli Bird

There are millions and millions of apps and websites out there. When they are being developed, there are tons of bugs and problems with them, and companies are willing to pay to find those. That’s where you come in. Become a beta tester with Erli Bird, give feedback and get paid $10 every time.

Music Xray

The idea is simple. Listen to music, and then write a review. One advantage to Music Xray is that the more that you review, the more that you’ll get paid.

HitPredictor

This is another music review site, but you don’t get paid in direct cash. Instead, you’ll earn points which translate into other products.

Sell stuff online

Compared to the other ideas on this list, this one is by far the quickest and easiest way to make money online. If you’ve got anything lying around the house that no longer brings you joy or serves a purpose other than cluttering your space, selling it can be a great way to bring in cash you can actually use!

7. Sell your old jewelry and gold

Most women have at least one or two pieces of jewelry in their jewelry box that they never wear anymore. Whether it’s a broken chain, a gift or engagement ring from an ex, or simply a piece that you used to love but no longer do, selling your jewelry or gold for cash is a much better idea than holding onto it for years and years. 

But where to sell?

For pieces of diamond jewelry worth at least $1,000 (which typically means it includes a .5 carat diamond) I recommend Worthy.com, an auction site that specializes in diamond jewelry. Requesting an estimate for your diamond jewelry through Worthy is quick and painless, and even if you ultimately decide not to sell your item you’ll walk away with a free GIA certificate full of information about your stones. And if you do choose to sell, your item can be listed for auction in as little as a week, and you’ll be paid in as little as 24 hours after sale. That’s what I call a win-win. Read our Worthy review.

If your jewelry doesn’t contain diamonds, or has diamonds worth less than $1,000, I recommend selling to CashforGoldUSA and its sister sites (CashforSilverUSA and CashforDiamondsUSA). Not only will they happily buy your unwanted or scrap gold, silver, platinum, or diamond jewelry, but they will deposit money into your account with 24 hours of you accepting their offer. Read our Cash for Gold USA review.

CashforGoldUSA has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

8. Sell on consignment

Consignment shops accept items from people looking to sell and, once the item sells, take a commission off of the sales price. Everything else is yours to keep. Online consignment shops work in virtually the same way, except they allow you to reach an even wider audience since they’re, well, online. 

Some popular online consignment shops to consider include:

Pawn shops, online auctions and eBay are other ways to sell your unused items for cash.

9. Sell handmade items and crafts

Finally, if you’re creatively inclined, consider selling your crafts and handmade items online. Sewers, knitters, crocheters, quilters, photographers, crafters, and artists of all stripes can make money online. Below are some platforms to consider selling your goods on:

Adobe Stock

If you enjoy photography, then you can sell your photos as stock photos. Fotolia is an excellent place to do that. They have one of the biggest resources for stock photos. This site used to be known as Fotolia.

iStock

Similar to Fotolia, except it’s owned by Getty Images

ShutterStock

Not only can you sell your photos on ShutterStock, but you can also sell music or videos that you’ve created

Etsy

This is the premier site for any handmade goods or crafts. Anything from clothes to art. If you’re a craft person, Etsy is an excellent place to sell your products.

Cargoh

Another place to sell your original designs and goods. Not as popular as Etsy, but there is nothing wrong with using both sites.

Amazon’s Handmade Channel

Aside from selling everything from a to z, Amazon also has a handmade section.

Oatmeal Studios

You can make money by writing greeting cards! Oatmeal Studios accepts greeting card ideas and they will pay you for your work. They pay both artists and writers.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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