I'm continuing my list of ways to money online and making money offline with some sort of internet twist to it — either using the internet for marketing purposes or using it as your "home base" for business.
As this is a brainstorm session of sorts, there is some overlap and I'm finding it difficult to make everything entirely organized into neat groups. Still, I'm doing my best to pull out all the stops here and come up with as many things I can think of in the hopes that you'll read something here and discover a way you might be able to turn your passion into your living.
So without further ado, here are more tips, hints, tricks and ideas…
If you're stumped for ideas, get inspired by others!
One of the newsletters I subscribe to and thoroughly enjoy receiving is Springwise. I get a newsletter in my inbox every Wednesday which has all kinds of really inspiring business ideas. It's just plain fun to see what cool ideas people have come up with.
One of my favorites recently was SafetyTat — temporary tatoos for your child with your contact info if you should get separated when out and about. How great is THAT idea!?!
If you'd rather not subscribe to Springwise, you can check out the online archives here. Plus, if you are an observant, business-savvy person and notice interesting businesses ideas around you, tell the Springwise team and you can win gifts.
Go back to what you know and adapt it for online!
What did you do in your former work life? Maybe you were a teacher or an executive assistant or a landscape designer. Think of ways you can use your already-gained skills in your favor and put them online. For example:
If you were a teacher, how about tutoring online? One reader mentioned she works for Tutor.com. Of course you wouldn't have to work for another company if you don't want to. You could open up your own site, pass out your business cards to local schools, libraries, mom's groups, community help groups, social services organizations, etc. and people could visit your site online. A lot of times people will be more likely to visit a website than they would making a phone call. Make yours a simple site with a few pages like Home, About, Contact, Resume and maybe some Testimonials once you get some.
Like to decorate? Landscape designer? Why not have people take pictures of their yard or house and you offer ideas of how to improve it? I saw one of the decorating bloggers who did this. (For the life of me I can't remember who it is, so if you know, give a shout-out!). Readers send her pictures of a room they'd like to make over and she offers suggestions. I'm bummed I can't find that link at the moment because she has some great Before & After photos of some of her clients'/readers' new rooms. Great idea! And so easy to do via online!
Be the guru
Have you mastered a particular application or online tool? For example, maybe you're a digital scrapbooker that can rock a particular technique than many others have trouble with. Participate in forums, leave comments on blogs, all in an effort to be helpful and establish yourself as the expert for that particular technique. Charge a small fee to coach people through it or do it for them.
Or, find a task that lots of people have on their to-do lists but never get around to finishing like digitizing old photographs (I can't tell you how long "scan pre-digital camera photos" has been on my to-do list). If you develop an efficient system for something like that, you could make a pretty penny.
Try to find a need you can fill that no one else seems to be filling (or very few are filling). For example, I'm 6'2". I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have bought something that is actually long enough in the arms, torso and/or legs. It makes me CRAZY. (And I know I'm not the only tall person with this problem.) Some stores have "tall" sizes although for me, "tall" is often still not tall enough. I do not go shopping because it's too discouraging.
Nowadays, my shopping literally consists of buying about $500 worth of stuff online at a time (OldNavy.com and Gap.com have things that fit sometimes) and then returning $480 worth of it after I've tried it all on and found the one thing that will do. I am totally serious.
I don't know how it could be done, but I'd be willing to pay a bit more for something that was actually made to my specifications. I'm terribly picky though, so it'd have to be really good for me to be a repeat customer. But don't they have those mannequin things that I could send you my measurements, you dial them in and then make me stuff that actually fits? I have no idea, I'm just sayin'. Just throwin' my need out there for ya in case you're a seamstress extraordinaire.
Learn something new
A few years into my blogging adventure, it dawned on me that I had learned more from the internet than I had learned in 4 years of college. That is the honest truth. I went to college because I thought it was what I "should" do. I can't say I enjoyed it (especially the academic part), I was not passionate about my field of study and I'm not doing anything with it today. I appreciate the experience of college and I think I gained far more life skills than academic know-how, but overall, I really wonder if the student loan debt (that was a pain to pay off) was really worth it.
As I started blogging, however, I started learning a bunch of stuff that I had no idea I would even enjoy. Not only have I learned a ton about blogging, marketing and how the internet works, but I learned virtually 100% of it for free. Google has been my guide.
Is there something you would like to learn? You can google it, of course, but do not underestimate the power of YouTube and similar video sites. There are video tutorials all over the internet and you can learn just about anything you want. There's a whole section of YouTube dedicated to How-To videos.
My Bachelor's degree is in Sociology. I have never, ever taken a class about technology, computers, design or anything similar. And yet, I've made the greatest amount of income in my life from computer-related things…all of which I learned for free online.
So, find something you are interested in, learn it and then hang out with people who are using that thing to make money online. Watch what they do and the products or services they provide. You've got hardly anything to lose (maybe some time?) if it's all free right?
And by the way, do you know about Khan Academy? It's a non-profit site, but he makes his living teaching other people stuff online. See? The possibilities are endless. You could go in all sorts of directions.
Help local businesses establish a web presence
Lots of brick & mortar businesses are still way behind when it comes to social media. Since you've worked your way through the steps on this site you now know how to set up a website right? It's not hard and maybe you're not a pro, but you can do something basic.
Well, why not approach some businesses in your area and offer to help them get established online. You might barter your services first to get your feet wet and gain experience. For example, you might set up a simple website in exchange for some piano lessons from your piano teacher. Once you've built up a portfolio, you could start charging money to other businesses in your area.
In many cases, there would be no need for anything fancy. If you're a small business owner, a basic website is better than no website.
Helpful tip: Keep in mind that WordPress is an excellent way to create not only a blog, but a static website as well. All you do is create pages instead of posts and then set your home page to one of your pages (Dashboard–>Settings–>Reading–>Front page displays–>"a static page" (as opposed to "Your latest posts). I might do a more in-depth post on this in the future but seriously, it's so simple.
Host a paid forum
If you're highly active in forums already (or are willing to learn), this might be something for you.
Now, there are free forums all over the internet so in order for this to work, your forum would have to offer something truly unique — some sort of "insider information," special access to individuals whose expertise is highly-sought after, products or services that go above and beyond the norm such or special treatment such as one-on-one interaction and coaching.
I am a member of two of these types of forums myself (and gladly pay for them). The first is Third Tribe, a group started by some A-list bloggers that are leaders in blogging and share their expertise freely. The second one is Theme Hybrid's community. Theme Hybrid is a free WordPress theme and the paid-for club gives me access to the developer of the theme, Justin Tadlock. In the forum, he offers personalized instruction regarding the theme. So, for example, if I'm designing a site, I can post something in the forum like, "Hey Justin, how can I get my menu to do XYZ?" and he'll respond personally. Obviously these particular forums aren't for everyone, but for me, they're worth it.
Host or write for a contest
You could host a contest online or enter a contest. These come around every once in a while. Not only do you get exposure, but you could also win some decent cash, like this blog contest going on at the time of this writing.
Host a workshop or class
You could do all sorts of things with this from small to gargantuan. Of course, you wouldn't have to go big the first time around. Test the waters by holding a small, local event first. Grow bigger as you learn the ropes and figure out what works and what doesn't. Just pick something you're good at that other people want to know and teach it!
For example, many of you who responded to my "What is your passion" post the other day said you are avid couponers and bargain shoppers. Couponing can be so overwhelming for a newbie! Ask me how I know! I cannot tell you how much I have learned from Crystal at Money Saving Mom since I started helping her with her blog earlier this year. She has basically held my hand as I've learned how couponing works, but I tell you, I'm becoming a couponing rockstar if I do say so myself!
Anyway, if you're a deal-scoring genius yourself, why not put on a coupon class for people in your community?
Many months ago, my friend Alyssa at Kingdom First Mom was the first person who told me about the idea of a couponing class. Smart! Start by gathering a few of your friends who have asked you how you find the deals, put together a packet of helpful info and teach a two-hour "How to Coupon Like a Pro" (or something) class. Then, encourage them to tell their friends (give them some of your biz cards to pass out!!) and get new participants through word of mouth and send people to your site (more traffic!) in the process.
Do it once or twice to refine your presentation and then start charging a small fee to those who want to take your class. I'm sure there are other places you could post a flier such as those community boards on all college campuses (make sure you get proper permission first though to add your flier). Another great place is your city's Parks & Recreation department. (Do you get those catalogs every quarter or so with classes your city is offering to its residents? You know, like swimming lessons etc.? Why not offer a couponing class too?) Check with churches too.
You could even branch out further and offer one-on-one personal coaching. Charge more and take a newbie with you on a shopping trip! Now they can watch you in action!
Then, of course, you can go even bigger and reach a larger audience like my friend Carrie from Grocery University. She created her own instructional package of 18 MP3 downloads, a PDF workbook and more. So now, her customers can take her couponing and saving money class at their convenience…and anywhere! Very smart!
Host a conference or special event
You can also do bigger events like day-long seminars or workshops or even multi-day conferences. Do not underestimate the work that would go into pulling off one of these events successfully. It's a huge undertaking, but if you have a background in event planning or are extremely motivated, organized and are good at networking and making connections with companies (sponsors) etc., this might be for you.
In your niche or area of interest, it's likely there are large, established conferences already. So, try narrowing down your conference topic in order to target a more specific group. Let me give you an example to show you what I mean. I'll use blogging conferences since it's what I know. But I think it goes for anything.
So, when blogging started taking off a decade or so ago, people started having blogging conferences. Then in 2005, a group of women decided to hold a conference especially for women bloggers. That was BlogHer. It grew & grew and is still going strong. Then in 2008, Alli Worthington partnered with Barbara Jones to offer Blissdom, a blogging conference where women could "share lots of support and encouragement to build blogs that fit their lives, personal goals and values." Blissdom has grown by leaps and bounds and is also going strong. Then last year, my friends Toni, Erin, Crystal and Andrea teamed up for the SavvyBlogging Summit which focused on hands-on, practical advice and information about the "how-to" of blogging. It was also a smashing success. And next week, I'm going to yet another blogging conference, The Relevant Conference, put on by Sarah Mae, Jessica and Dana who wanted to target Christian women bloggers. See how that works? All great conferences which all sort of grew out of each other. In other words, if you're going to put on a large-scale event, be very clear and very specific in your goals and make sure there's a strong desire for the information you can provide. And then do it with excellence.
The way you would make money, of course, is to charge a fee to attend and/or partner with sponsors to cover your costs (and your salary).
And by the way, any of you experienced event-planning types want to offer some good resources for anyone interested in going this route?
This is another way to make money online, specifically on your blog or website. Simply ask for a donation.
I think this works best for sites offering really helpful information (or great products, like an outstanding plugin) for free that people would often pay for anyway. Back when I started my online ventures in 2004, I used to see "Donate" buttons a lot. It's not so common anymore now that there are other forms of monetizing, but you still see it on occasion.
The key here, in my opinion, is to not "guilt" people into leaving a donation. That's tacky. Make it clear that the information you offer will not be determined by the donations you receive. I have donated to sites several times when I truly appreciate what they have provided me and I was glad to throw in a dollar or two as a "thank you" for what I gained.
You can easily set up a "Donate" button on PayPal (using their Merchant Services). When you're putting it on your site, you might say something like, "Please do not feel obligated, but if I've saved you time, money or your sanity and you'd like to buy me a cup of tea, I would be much obliged!"
Stick around because believe it or not, I have more to say on this topic! Stay tuned…