I started working at 13 years old, helping to operate a run-down batting cage in a local park. A year later I moved on to concession stand sales, and before leaving for college I manned a power saw in a pallet factory sweatshop.
I’m telling you this so you understand I’ve never had any interest in obeying bright, flashing ads on the Internet urging me to ACT NOW to make quick, easy cash whilst sitting at home on my couch.
The following ways to make a bit of extra money online are all legit. Just be warned that the meaning of “easy” is open to interpretation.
1. Amazon Mechanical Turks
Computer programs and robots have not yet eliminated the need for cheap, tedious human labor on the Internet. Want to be an e-assembly line worker? Amazon’s Mechanical Turks Program might be right up your alley.
Suppose someone wants to create a directory of all the restaurants in Tucson, and so designs a program that combs through restaurant websites and takes out their contact information. This information might be arranged in such a way that the program misses it, or the page might be made of flash-only content. This is where the Mechanical Turk comes in.
Valued employees of this virtual sweatshop perform very cheap, contract labor for people who post jobs on Amazon’s site. Believe me, it works – within an hour of joining I had earned a whole fifteen cents! If you get a good system down, this could be an easy way to make a buck, but certainly not a liveable income.
2. Affiliate Programs
If you don’t fancy lugging around a set of Cutco knives, working as an online sales rep for any of the thousands of affiliate programs out there is as honorable as being the next Avon Lady.
Like any affiliate program, whether online or not, you’re a freelance salesperson. Whether it’s sex pills and muscle building formula, hotel reservations, or IQ tests, you can choose the company you work for, and there’s something for everyone.
Again, Amazon is one of the more popular affiliate programs. You just create a blog or website where you describe and review products available on Amazon, and link visitors to the selling site. You earn a percentage of the final sales. Check out Scott Allen’s thorough guide to making money this way.
3. MatadorNetwork Bounty Board
OK so I’m biased, but becoming a “bounty hunter” for the articles listed on the Matador Bounty Board is definitely a legitimate and fulfilling way of making some cash. As well as payment, your article will get great exposure, and for writers it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
4. Online Gambling
Obviously gambling is a risky business, but if you know what you’re doing it is possible to make significant money. Many options exist for those looking to strike it rich at the online poker tables, but Full Tilt and PokerStars are two of the most reputable and popular. To really sharpen your skills, check out the coaching available at Drag The Bar.
For people who want a lower-risk option, CentSports offers sports betting for even those on a beggar’s budget. Bet pennies, nickels, quarters – or even whole dollars if you’re feeling ballsy – on just about any sporting event around.
5. Be a YouTube Phenomenon
This is certainly a fun way to make money.
Step One: Get a free YouTube account.
Step Two: Learn how to share and upload videos on YouTube, and acquaint yourself with what’s popular. A recorded lecture of your cousin’s dissertation on Keynesian economics isn’t going to get many hits, but a one minute video of your kittens on a slide might bring in over a million.
Step Three: Once you’ve uploaded a number of videos, go to YouTube’s homepage and click the Partnerships link. To become an official partner and make money from your videos you have to apply. YouTube will review your account, looking at how many videos you have, how often you submit them, and how many views you regularly receive – so be sure to build up a nice portfolio of your friends’ skateboarding accidents.
Note that YouTube’s criteria for becoming a partner are comprehensive and strict:
— You create your own “original” videos.
– You own all the appropriate copyrights.
– The content is 100% yours (no income splitting/sharing if money is involved).
– You upload videos on a regular basis.
– Your videos are viewed by thousands.
— Your videos are suitable for all viewers.
– You are at least 18 years of age.
– You are based in an English-speaking country.
As with most things in life, your return will be related to the amount of work you put in.
6. Be a ChaCha Guide
Do you like surfing the Internet? Are you frustrated by people who don’t know how to search efficiently online? Do you consider yourself a level-90 Google mage? If so, and you’ve got some free time, becoming a ChaCha guide might be exactly what you’re looking for.
ChaCha.com bills itself as a human alternative to search engines. You enter a question, and they return a number of answers to similar questions asked before. But if none of these seem right you can submit the question to one of their live guides, who will work their magic on the web, find the answer, and send it to you on your phone.
According to a pretty thorough review of the program by a former guide, the current pay rate is 10 or 20 cents per query, depending on performance. Payment is monthly, as long as the ChaCha guide earns over $100, but there is also an instant pay option
7. Project Payday
Project Payday has all the typical signs of a scam or fruitless endeavor: an alliterated name, the word “payday” in its title, and a low-tech website featuring only a vertical, “read more” stream of text.
However, the way you can “make money” on this site could be a compelling reason to try it out. All you do is complete trial offers, and then get paid for doing so. For instance, if you complete a 2-week Netflix trial, then complete a brief questionnaire, you’ll get paid. As you might imagine, though, it takes a considerable number of offer-tries to make enough cash to legitimize the effort.
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Jason Wire graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 and spent the year after writing and teaching English in Spain. He's back in the states now, but doesn't know where. Follow him @wirejr.
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