As we head into 2021, there are more ways than ever to make money online. Whether you’re looking for some easy extra pocket money, a lucrative side hustle, or a full-on digital career, the web is packed full of opportunities ready to be tapped into.
We’ve narrowed down our favourite ways to make money online below. We’ve broken them down into three main categories, depending on how much time and effort you can put into your online moneymaking.
Of course, the more you put in, the more you get out, so you shouldn’t expect to make big bucks on the easier end of the scale! That said, if you’re just looking to top up your spends, we’ve got plenty of suggestions that will put a little extra money in your pocket for minimal work.
QUICK AND EASY CASH
These are some of the easiest ways to make money online, with many of them paying you to do things you’d be doing anyway. The returns are typically quite small, but if you do enough of them, you can earn a nice chuck of change for relatively little effort.
1. Paid surveys
Businesses want to know exactly what makes their customers tick, so they’ll often conduct market research in the form of paid surveys, questionnaires or focus groups. That means you can get paid simply for sharing your opinion on anything from crisps to TV shows!
Sites like Qmee, i-Say and Swagbucks will host these surveys and give you cash, vouchers or other rewards for taking part. You don’t need any qualifications to join, but individual surveys will often have certain demographic criteria, like “male over 50” and so on.
The pay varies quite widely, with surveys and questionnaires paying out anything from 5p to £2. Focus groups offer much higher rates, often between £50 and £150. However, numbers are limited so it can be difficult to get a spot.
Still, you can potentially earn up to £800 a year from survey sites. As a bonus, you might also get goodies like product samples or free trials.
2. Paid-to-play sites
If you spend lots of time online, why not start getting paid for it? Sites like Swagbucks and Gift Hunter Club give you points for doing short tasks like watching videos, taking polls, entering competitions, or even playing games. You can then exchange your points for real-world rewards, like cash, gift cards, or Amazon vouchers.
You can even get paid just for searching Google! Qmee has a browser add-on that serves you ads or additional results when you search online. Businesses pay Qmee to show you their ads, and then Qmee passes a cut of the money on to you. Simply click on the ads that interest you, and you’ll be paid around 7-15p per click.
3. Cashback sites
You can earn cashback on almost any type of product you can think of – clothing, electricals, furniture, insurance, mobile phone contracts, broadband, you name it. You can expect to get anything from 1-20% cashback depending on the website and product, but some cashback sites don’t even require you to buy anything. They offer rewards simply for doing an insurance quote or creating an account on a website, for example.
Things to keep in mind
Note that on many of these reward sites, you accumulate points that have to be exchanged for cash, voucher or credit rewards. Regardless of the reward structure, they often require you to reach a certain threshold before you can claim your reward or withdraw your funds.
With that in mind, there are three things to remember when using these sites:
- Check the reward structure, “exchange rates” and conditions carefully so that you understand exactly what you’re getting for your time. 10,000 points might sound great, but not if they take a year to earn and they’re only worth 50p cash!
- Look for sites with low or no withdrawal thresholds. You don’t want to have to spend forever racking up points before you can get paid!
- Claim your rewards or withdraw your cash as soon as you reach the threshold. If you leave them sitting in your account, there’s nothing stopping the company keeping what you’ve earned if they shut down, go bust, or even just change their terms and conditions.
A LITTLE EXTRA EFFORT
Ready to take your online earning up a notch?! These money making methods require a little more effort and skill, but the potential rewards go up too.
4. No-risk matched betting
Matched betting is a way to capitalise on the free incentives offered by online betting exchanges. Unlike traditional betting, where you have a chance of losing, matched betting is considered a risk-free way to make money online. Here’s how…
Let’s say you sign up for an online betting exchange and receive a £10 free bet. You place your £10 bet on one football team. Then you use another betting exchange to place a £10 bet on the other team. Whichever team wins, you get a payout, even though you only paid for one bet.
It sounds too good to be true, but matched betting is perfectly legal and you don’t need any betting or sports knowledge to take part. You’ll usually have to make a qualifying bet to unlock your first free bet. However, the money you make off your free bet is yours, and many exchanges offer further bonuses to keep you playing – and earning money! If you have the time, you can potentially make hundreds a month on the side.
Want to learn more? Profit Accumulator offers a handy explainer on matched betting.
5. User testing
Before a business launches a new product, they want to make sure any technical or usability issues are ironed out. That’s where user testing comes in.
Sites like Utest will pay you to try out the product prior to launch and give your feedback. The types of projects you can expect to see on Utest include:
- Testing a website or app and reporting on user-friendliness, design, loading speeds, etc.
- Installing an app on your smart TV and reporting on ease of installation, functioning, user experience, etc.
- Using a piece of software and reporting on features, performance, bugs, etc.
Pay varies, but one job currently advertised is offering around £38 for 45 minutes of work – not bad at all! You’ll have to go through a short course in order to join, but you don’t have to be particularly technically gifted to earn money (although it definitely helps!).
6. Search evaluation
Search evaluation involves conducting online searches and assessing how relevant and accurate the results are. Companies like Lionbridge hire people part-time for search evaluation and similar tasks, like reviewing social media adverts.
You need a degree to join Lionbridge, and you’ll also need a bit of basic technical knowledge. In addition, you’ll have to pass an aptitude test for certain jobs. They also ask that you commit to at least 10 hours a week, but you can choose when you work.
If you have a few hours a week to spare and some tech skills up your sleeve, this could be a good online side hustle!
Got a competitive streak? Get paid for it!
Comping is essentially just entering lots of free competitions in a systematic way. While you do have to put in the hours, entering can be as simple as answering a quick question, and you can win anything from gift cards and cash to five-star holidays and cars.
Comping certainly isn’t a guaranteed money-maker. Serious compers enter hundreds of competitions a year, and it can take some time before you strike it lucky. It’s up to you how much time you put it, but there’s no denying that the (tax-free!) payoffs can be impressive.
If you’re going to get stuck into comping, the pros recommend having some systems in place. Use a dedicated email address to keep spam under control, and keep a spreadsheet of every competition you enter. Take advantage of autofill to complete forms, or have a Word document with your personal details so you can quickly copy and paste.
PRO TIP: People are lazy! Focus on the competitions that require a bit more skill or effort, like slogan contests, as they’re likely to have far fewer entrants.
THE BIG GUNS
If you’re serious about making money online, the following options are for you. They take significantly more time and effort, but there’s potential to make a solid side income or even a comfortable living from these online jobs.
8. Affiliate marketing
As an affiliate marketer, you use your website, blog and/or social media platforms to promote products sold by other retailers. The retailer gives you a special tracking link to use on your page, so they know which visitors you’ve sent to them. You’ll then get a pre-agreed commission on certain items bought by those “referred” customers.
Perhaps the best-known affiliate programme is Amazon Associates, which offers you 1-11% commission depending on the product category. However, most brands will have their own affiliate programmes, with commissions that can be as high as 50%.
Some brands run their programmes independently, while others offer them through affiliate marketplaces like ClickBank and Awin. Joining criteria will vary from brand to brand, but you should be able to demonstrate a professional-looking website that aligns with the brand in some way. Some brands will also require you to have a minimum amount of traffic coming to your site.
Beware of anybody telling you that affiliate marketing is an easy way to make money online! The reality is that you need a good set of digital marketing skills, like search engine optimisation (SEO), content writing, and at least basic web design. It will also take some time before your efforts start to pay off, so you have to be resilient and determined enough to work for a while without seeing any rewards.
That said, all of the necessary skills can be learned online. If you’ve got the time and patience to learn, and you can publish quality content, there’s no limit to your earning potential. After three years of consistent effort, an associate of mine is currently earning £15,000+ a month from his affiliate site.
If you’ve got a way with words, there are many ways to turn your writing talent into a lucrative money-making gig online.
There’s huge demand for content writers and copywriters, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Content writers specialise in creating blog posts, social media and other written content to help businesses build relationships with their audience. Copywriters, on the other hand, focus on using persuasive writing to drive sales, sign-ups, conversions and other measurable outcomes. They might achieve this with sales pages, marketing emails, Google ads, or even a simple web page.
If you’re more of a creative writer, you can make money submitting your stories, poetry or screenplays to online writing competitions. Prizes range from hundreds of pounds, to hundreds of thousands, and you could even get your work published. Check out NaNoWriMo, the annual 30-day novel challenge, or see Creative Writing Ink for a list of current comps.
Always dreamed of being a published author? Now you can DIY with self-publishing platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. It lets any author upload and sell their manuscript through the platform, as digital Kindle books and print-on-demand paperbacks, and takes a commission from every sale. And if you don’t want to publish your own stories, you can make a living as a ghost writer, helping other people put their own ideas down on paper.
Reselling is selling other vendors’ products online. There are various ways to do this, the most famous being eBay.
While you can make a few pounds selling off your old clothes on eBay, the real money is in resale. Sellers will scour online stores and marketplaces looking for discounted or low-priced products, and then sell them in their eBay stores at a mark-up.
You may also have heard of dropshipping. This involves selling another vendor’s products on your own website under your own brand. When a customer places an order, it will go directly to the vendor, who will ship out the order for you. This means you don’t have to buy stock upfront, you don’t have to find a place to store it, and you don’t have the hassle of shipping it out.
Maybe you like the sound of dropshipping, but you want to sell your own brand of products. If so, many vendors also offer private label products, where they’ll put your branding on their products before they ship them.
If you don’t have your own online store, you can list your products on Amazon. Using the Fulfilled by Amazon programme, you can have your goods shipped directly to Amazon from the vendor, and Amazon will store them for you in their warehouse. When someone orders your product, Amazon will dispatch it for you and take a small cut of the payment.
There’s good money to be made from reselling, but as with affiliate marketing, you need to have some digital marketing skills under your belt. You’ll have to advertise your online store and drive traffic, so it helps if you understand channels like SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and social media marketing. If you’re new to digital marketing, check out Udemy for some affordable courses.
Want to sell your own custom designs online? In years past, you’d have to order a bunch of printed t-shirts, or mugs, or greeting cards, or whatever it is you wanted to put your designs on. Then you’d have to store and shift that stock yourself. If it didn’t sell, you’d be stuck with the stock and you’d lose your money. Print-on-demand solves this problem by letting you print your inventory if and when you have a paying customer.
Let’s say you’re selling slogan t-shirts. You find a print-on-demand supplier and send them your design, and then they print it on a t-shirt and send you a sample. Happy with the goods? Then you list the design on your website. When an order is placed, it goes directly to the supplier, who prints the custom design and ships it to your buyer. No upfront costs, no wasted stock, just profit.
It’s hard to say how much you can earn from print-on-demand. Again, you do need good digital marketing and e-commerce skills to be successful, along with patience and resilience. But again, the skills are readily available to learn. Do the work, find a reputable supplier, and find a product with good profit margins, and there’s no reason you can’t earn decent money with a print-on-demand business.
Freelancing is great for earning a side income, but it’s also a viable full-time career option in itself. No matter your skillset, there’s a way to monetise it on the world wide web.
Websites like Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour are good places to start your online freelancing journey. They list thousands upon thousands of online jobs in fields like digital marketing, copywriting, graphic design, web development, social media management, technical support, virtual assistance, translation… the list goes on!
You create a profile detailing your experience, services and rates, and then apply or “pitch” to jobs posted by potential clients. These include everyone from solopreneurs and small business owners, all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. The client can then send you a job offer if you’re successful, and leave you a public review once the work is complete.
You’re paid through the platform, although commission rates can be quite high. However, you get the convenience of having thousands of jobs in one place, an easy application process, and various protections to make sure you get paid. You also have the opportunity to build up a stellar public reputation, which lets you charge more for your services.
If you don’t want to go through job marketplaces, you can set up your own website quickly and easily using platforms like WordPress or Wix. It doesn’t have to be a work of art! You just need a few pages explaining who you are, what you do, and how people can work with you, along with a few examples of your work. Then set up a LinkedIn page, put the word out to your network, and get in touch with a few businesses in your niche to find your first clients.
13. Forex trading
The foreign exchange (“forex”) market is a global marketplace where world currencies are traded against each other through brokers. Currencies are traded in pairs, e.g. USD-EUR or GBP-AUD, each of which has a live exchange rate. This rate changes constantly and can be heavily influenced by world events and market changes. You make money by essentially buying the currency at a favourable rate, and selling for a profit when the exchange rate changes, much like trading on the stock market.
That’s a very simplified description! It would take much more than an article to really break down forex trading, but there are lots of courses, books and other resources out there to help you master the market.
If you do decide to try making money online from forex trading, you should be aware that it attracts a lot of get-rich-quick charlatans. Many people will try to sell you courses promising instant, easy wealth, but the truth is that most people actually lose money – and you can lose a lot very quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Those who do make money from forex trading treat it like a job in itself. They spend years studying currency charts, reading books, and testing strategies in “dummy” accounts – often before they ever spend a penny of real money. It pays off though. A relative of mine adopted this very same strategy, and five years later he makes a consistent 5-7% per month on his forex investment for barely a few hours’ effort.
In short, be prepared to study, steer clear of anyone who promises you instant riches, and do your due diligence before choosing a broker. You can read about the UK’s best forex brokers here.