14 Ways to Make Money Online Without Paying Anything

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Making money online can be lucrative, and there are countless activities to pursue. I generate income as a marketer, YouTuber, author, and advisor. Secondly, you can work from anywhere including your home or a co-working space like WeWork and Regus. Location independence also allows you to work in different countries as I have. Another benefit of an online business is that you can keep your costs low. I pay for web hosting and a few software services and spend roughly $600 annually to run my business excluding experiments. That amount pales in comparison to the expenses required to open a retail store or restaurant. Many people make money online without paying anything by getting and using free products, software, and websites. However, you must be realistic about what’s necessary for specific jobs. For example, most YouTubers possess cameras and video production equipment.

The online landscape consists of code and virtual processes. Given the nature of the environment—and types of business models including free, freemium, and premium—some endeavors and goods are free while others cost money. Case in point, a blogger can pay for hosting and use free website software from WordPress or blog on LinkedIn for free. You can sell products online with free or paid software or sell on Facebook at no cost. You can pay for email marketing software immediately or start with a free plan. LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and Google’s office suite are free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Ultimately, you have options. I use free and paid tools and get the results I want. Success will depend on your skills and ingenuity more than the products/services you use and your financial resources.

Coworking

The only requirement to work online is to have access to a computer. The computer can be yours or one you use at a library or internet café. Given that computing devices are practical for everyday use, it makes sense to own one. You’ll likely use it for more than just work, for example, to watch movies, shop, or play games. If you can’t consistently access a computer for hours daily, it will be difficult to achieve your goals. It might be better to work offline until you can afford a computer and internet plan.

Can you earn money online without a website? Yes, but it depends on what business. While I make the case that you should own a website for control, brand and list building purposes, you don’t always need one. Freelancers on Fiverr, authors on Amazon, and YouTubers don’t need sites, for instance. Many online marketplaces are free to use, but they typically split/share revenues with sellers. For example, Upwork will keep 20 percent, and the Apple App Store will retain 15 to 30 percent. E-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay charge various fees. If you choose not to operate in a marketplace or social media network, then you’ll need a website. A website on a shared hosting plan (what I have) will cost $5 to $10 monthly. Given how inexpensive a site is to own, it’s a worthwhile investment and asset for your business. Explore web hosting deals here.

In this post, I’ll list ways to make money online and their costs. I deep dive into these methods in other posts such as how to make money on YouTube, Facebook, and affiliate marketing. Excluding one-time purchases for things like software or job-specific equipment, these businesses are free or low-cost to operate. Deals are available on used and refurbished goods, and sales events are worth monitoring to save money.

Free to Low-Cost Ways to Earn Money Online
  • Promote products and services
  • Earn advertising revenue
  • Sell physical products
  • Sell photos and digital assets
  • Sell services
  • Sell subscription and membership plans
  • Sell books
  • Narrate and produce published books
  • Sell online courses
  • Create an online tool
  • Sell apps and extensions
  • Sell themes and plugins
  • Earn rental income
  • Earn by completing surveys and small tasks

  • Promote products and services

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing activity. An affiliate promotes a product/service online and receives compensation for achieving a specific objective or action. A merchant or advertiser specifies the goal, which is usually a valid sale. For example, a merchant will pay the affiliate a 30 percent sales commission. Many publishers are bloggers, internet marketers, and YouTubers. They place affiliate links on their sites and social media networks. Learn more about affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is a free endeavor. It cost nothing to join programs and promote goods. Having a website is advantageous, but not mandatory.

  • Earn advertising revenue

Millions of content creators earn advertising revenue through Google AdSense, which is a well-established ad network/program run by Google. Bloggers can feature ads on their sites while YouTubers can enable ads to play on their videos.

CoinsGoogle AdSense is free to join, and YouTube is free to use. As a blogger, you would need a website. If you develop a significant following, you can form private promotional and endorsement agreements.

  • Sell physical products

Online retail is a trillion dollar plus global industry and expanding. Companies and individuals sell consumer electronics, apparel, fashion accessories, food, health and beauty, home furnishings, and more. Retailers sell on marketplaces and with online store software, for example, Shopify.

Manufacturing products, buying goods to resell, and storing inventory will incur expenses. Alternatively, drop shipping is a low-cost to cost-free way to fill customer purchases. Drop shipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third-party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the merchant never sees or handles the product and doesn’t have to carry inventory. Learn more about drop shipping.

The conventional manufacturing model builds products for inventory storage. Print-on-demand (POD) and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing processes are designed to meet demand. For example, a t-shirt with a specific image is printed to fill a customer’s order. POD and JIT procedures can lower costs significantly.

  • Sell services

The online services market is incredibly diverse such as website development, social media management, writing, graphic design, and translation services. Freelancers, companies, and agencies make up the market. Fiverr and Upwork are two of several high-traffic freelancer marketplaces. Millions of people sell services on these sites. You can also sell services and outsource work to make semi-passive income.

Operational costs in the services industry are job-specific. For instance, social media managers and proofreaders can operate cost-free whereas graphic designers and video editors might pay for software (free software is available too).

  • Sell photos and digital assets

iStock and Shutterstock are two of many royalty-free photo marketplaces. Photographers, videographers, creatives, and artists sell unique images, illustrations, videos, and audio clips on these sites. Free photo sites are useful too, but marketplaces tend to offer more selection and higher quality products.

A camera is a given to take pictures. Lens and accessories will cost extra. Software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator attract subscription fees, but free software is available such as GIMP and Pixlr.

  • Sell subscription and membership plans

Products, services, and information can be packaged into subscriptions. Many news organizations and bloggers charge users to access exclusive content. Several food companies send monthly product boxes to members.

You’ll need a website to promote your offer. Content-based offers don’t have to cost much, and members can log in to your site for articles, files, webinars, and courses. Service-based businesses can be inexpensive too. Product-based memberships will cost money, but you can fill orders on demand to delay expenses. Payhip, Podia, and Sellfy facilitate digital downloads and memberships. WordPress subscription/membership plugins are available as well.

  • Sell books

Self-publishing is straightforward with two of Amazon’s platforms, i.e., Kindle Direct Publishing and the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). After you complete your manuscript, you can upload your book and have it available for sale within 48 hours.

It cost nothing to write and self-publish a book. However, one-time costs might include editing/proofreading, cover design, or interior layout services.

  • Narrate and produce published books

If you don’t enjoy writing, you might like narrating books instead. Earning income as a narrator is possible once you record a book and list it for sale. There are several audiobook marketplaces, but Amazon is likely your best bet to earn decent royalties.

Like self-publishing books, narrating doesn’t attract expenses. However, you’ll need professional recording equipment and software.

  • Sell online courses

EducationThe online education market is ever expanding and generating billions. E-learning marketplaces like Skillshare invite instructors to self-publish courses on an array of subjects like app development, dog training, and digital marketing. You can also sell classes with software from Podia and Thinkific.

Whether you create educational content for e-learning sites or YouTube, a video is a video. Owning a website isn’t essential, but you’ll need video equipment and software.

  • Create an online tool

I have a bunch of online tool websites bookmarked for generating things like privacy policies, quotes, buttons, logos, and so on. Best of all, many of these tools are free to use. Site owners make money from fees, advertising, and affiliate marketing. For example, Biz Card Maker allows you to design business cards and logos. One way they make money is by featuring a print discount offer, which is an affiliate link to a print company.

An online tool necessitates a website. If you have an idea but lack the technical skills, you can hire a freelancer to help develop your software service (same applies to web, app, theme, plugin, and game development).

  • Sell apps and extensions.

App revenues are robust and led by growing sales on Apple and Google app stores. Apps belong to a range of categories including games, entertainment, messaging, social, health and fitness, productivity, travel, and more.

Browser extensions are also hugely popular with users. The Chrome web store is full of free, freemium, and premium/paid extensions. TubeBuddy is an excellent freemium extension to grow your YouTube channel, for example. App and extension developers commonly make money through purchases, subscriptions, and advertising.

Apple AppStoreMany app developers have websites to promote their software and support users, but sites are optional. App stores frequently charge registration and listing fees. For instance, you must pay a one-time registration fee to Google before you can upload an app.

  • Sell themes and plugins.

WordPress users are familiar with the thousands of free themes and plugins available. Equally sought are paid solutions because many free themes/plugins lack features and timely user support.

Themes, plugins, and apps extend beyond WordPress. Shopify, 3dCart, BigCommerceHootsuite, and many other SaaS companies’ partner with developers to create solutions for their customers. You can also sell on marketplaces like Envato and CreativeMarket.

Development costs are minimal, and a site would be handy for marketing and selling purposes.

  • Earn rental income

Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and other short-term accommodation sites allow individuals to list properties and rooms for rent. These platforms don’t charge listing fees.

  • Earn by completing surveys and small tasks

You probably won’t get rich by completing surveys, downloading apps, or watching videos, but companies like Swagbucks and MySurvey will pay you for these types of activities. You don’t have to pay to join these sites. If a company requires payment, run the other way because it could be a scam.


Recap

The table below highlights startup/annual costs and if a website, software, or equipment is necessary.

CostWebsiteSoftwareEquipment
Promote products/services$0 – $250OptionalNoNo
Earn advertising revenue$0 – $250OptionalNoNo
Sell physical products$0 – $500OptionalNoNo
Sell photos and digital assets$0 – $500OptionalYesYes
Sell services$0 – $500OptionalDependsDepends
Sell subscription plans$0 – $500YesDependsDepends
Sell books$0 – $250OptionalNoNo
Narrate books$0 – $500OptionalYesYes
Sell online courses$0 – $500OptionalYesYes
Create an online tool$0 – $250YesYesNo
Sell apps or extensions$0 – $250OptionalYesNo
Sell themes or plugins$0 – $250OptionalYesNo
Earn rental income$0OptionalNoNo
Earn by completing surveys$0OptionalNoNo

Final Word

Making money online without paying anything is a fantastic scenario, and plenty of activities require little to no investment. Wanting to keep your expenses low is a sensible objective. Sites like Fiverr are excellent for lean-minded entrepreneurs who need assistance. If you want to develop your skills, there are plenty of e-learning sites that offer free and low-priced courses. On the other hand, to grow a business is to invest in it like how water is necessary to grow a plant. New ventures, experiments, marketing, and sales require funding. If you hold your wallet too tight, you might not expand your horizons.

 

Chad Tennant

Chad is an online marketer, advisor, and writer. At Digital Fodder, he covers affiliate marketing, digital marketing, working online, e-commerce, WordPress, and more. Chad’s primary goals are to help businesses and individuals achieve growth and success.

 
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