15 Ways to Make Your First Dollar Online (And Instructions for Each)

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 06/06/23 •  17 min read

You have a job, but you want to start something and make your first dollar online.

Does that resonate with you at all?

After doing a recent survey of LR readers, a whopping 70% of respondents felt that way too. They know that making that first sale, even if it’s just earning a buck, can be the start of something amazing.

I was really excited about this.


Because this is an easy problem to solve!

This is what Location Rebel is all about. We’ve spent over a decade helping people make that first dollar.

So let’s dig into some options.

Here, I have 15 approaches to help you make your first dollar online.

Before we dig into it, here’s something to note. Some of these aren’t my best recommendations for long-term businesses. But if you want to start fast, like this week, and build some momentum, this is where I’d begin.

Just for a little extra motivation, LR member Colin went with business #5 below. He quit his job and sent me an email with this photo. This was his office for a few weeks:

Koh Tao, Thailand

LR member Colin’s office in Koh Tao, Thailand!

Now that we have something to strive towards let’s do this!

1) Hosting Affiliate Program

This is my favorite way to make a quick hit of cash online.

Every hosting company generally has an affiliate program. So if you refer someone and they sign up, you’ll get paid generally between $65-100 for that referral.

I’ve made tens of thousands of dollars online over the life of this blog by recommending my preferred hosting service.

Have a friend that’s interested in starting a blog? Great, send them to your affiliate link. They get a new blog, and you get paid.

Want more? Check out this video:

How to Do It

First, get your own site up and running. And if you’re looking for a good host? I like Bluehost — it’s affordable, easy, and reliable. This post walks you through how to set up your website.

Once you’ve done that, you can sign up for their affiliate program here to get your links.

Then, it’s all about getting your links out there.

If you know people who want to start a site, share your link. If you’re pretty savvy and can get a site up quickly, then offer it as a service and use your link. Or, create a blog that talks about the ins and outs of building a site and share it there.

2) Become a Consultant 

I’m a firm believer that we’re all experts at something.

Think about what comes easily to you that is difficult for others. Maybe you’re awesome at Excel, maybe you’ve got an awesome Instagram account, or maybe you’re a wiz at getting organized with a productivity tool like Notion.

Even freelance writers can turn themselves into consultants. Start with a client and then build up your expertise. Then, call yourself a content strategist. That’s an easy way to consult on a brand’s overall content marketing strategy, including picking keywords, optimizing blog posts, and creating a content calendar.

Start by approaching local businesses that may need your help.

All of these are potential options for consulting.

Also, think about what your friends always come to you for advice on. Ask around, don’t be shy.

With the internet, it’s never been easier to get paid for that expertise. There are services out there where you can post your expertise, assign an hourly rate, and then people can find you and book a call with you on demand.

Pretty cool.

How to Do It

  1. Go to Clarity.Fm and sign up for an account
  2. Fill everything out on the site
  3. If you have a blog or website, create a link or widget for your Clarity account and put it in your sidebar.
  4. Add a link on your about page and in the signature for your primary email address
  5. Share on social media.

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3) Sell on Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy

These can be tough (but doable) to build a business around, but I guarantee at the very least, you have a few things sitting around the house you’d like to sell.

Take a couple of hours and list everything you want to get rid of on Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or eBay. You might be surprised just how much extra money you can drum up.

One person who is a huge proponent of selling things from around the house on eBay is Gary Vaynerchuck. Last year, he’s been getting people to get out to garage sales on the weekends to find stuff to flip later.

You could also take it a step further and turn it into a business. A couple of my sister’s friends from high school are making a full-time income via Etsy.

One goes thrifting and looks for cool vintage items and sells them for a big premium. The other takes old wedding dresses from Goodwill, redesigns them, and sells them for hundreds of dollars.

So if you have an eye for design or style or have a niche hobby and can spot when things are underpriced, that’s one direction you could take.

How to Do It

Let’s start with the path of least resistance:

  1. Make a list of all the things around your house you’d like to get rid of.
  2. Start with the most valuable, and take good photos.
  3. Post on Craigslist
  4. Post on eBay
  5. Watch the money flow into your bank account.

Well, you know, maybe. 🙂

4) Pre-sell a product 

So maybe you’ve had an idea for an online product, service, or app. You can skip a lot of the stress by pre-selling it rather than the “build and hope” method.

I’ve seen multiple friends of mine do this with nothing but their Facebook friends list. If you have any kind of blog or email list, then it’s even easier to try this.

How to Do It

  1. Come up with an idea for a product or service
  2. Figure out how much you think it will cost to create
  3. Pick a date for your pre-sell to start and end
  4. Select the number of pre-sells you need to make for it to be worth it to you to pursue
  5. Create a Paypal Business Account
  6. Create a buy link for your pre-sale
  7. Send to friends, family, blog audiences, etc.

This allows you to validate the product idea, fund some of the development of the product, and give you a group of committed customers who can give great feedback throughout the development process.

And if no one buys? Then you didn’t waste your time building a product no one wanted.

5) Freelance Writing

First, you might ask what is freelance writing?

This is essentially selling your writing skills to sites or companies that need it. You don’t need a ton of experience or be an incredible writer to start.

I personally think becoming a freelance writer is the best way to create a sustainable long-term business online.


Because freelance writing is one of the easiest ways to find work online, it helps you learn the fundamental skills to be successful online, and it will give you a great platform with which to expand into other types of writing in time.

How to Do It

  1. Create a website for your freelance services
  2. Write a few samples
  3. Start applying for online writing jobs
  4. Rinse and repeat (and use a few of these strategies)

Seem simple? Well, it is. However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do both of those steps.

If you’re serious about building a long-term, sustainable lifestyle business, I highly recommend you check out Location Rebel.

We walk you through every single step in the process of getting started with freelance writing and provide support all along the way. Plus, you get to hang out and talk to me more often. 🙂

Who wouldn’t want that?!

6) Write a Book

Self-publishing is pretty much all the rage these days. We’ve had multiple people in our community have a ton of success with it, and many are even into making 5 figure monthly incomes solely from publishing on Amazon.

Think you have no way to get started as a self-published author? Think again. Check out this guest post where Dave Chesson shows how you can create a book from your blog content.

If you’re a blogger, you don’t want to miss out on what could potentially be a really easy way to start.

How to Do It

  1. Come up with an idea for a book. There are all sorts of ways to find profitable Kindle niches.
  2. Write the book. Start with something shorter for your first one; think less than 60 pages.
  3. Read this post to avoid common mistakes.
  4. Buy this book for a walkthrough of the whole process.

Stuck on getting started from scratch? If you’ve already got a blog, consider using that as a starting point for your book topics.

Also, as with #2, think about what you’re good at. Even if it’s an obscure topic, you might have the potential of attracting a few buyers.

7) Sell Your Services on Fiverr

I love Fiverr.

What is it, you might wonder?

It’s a site where people make their services available for 5 bucks (or much more). Usually, there are all types of add-ons to help you earn more money, but it’s amazing what you can get for pretty cheap – everything from singing customizable songs for you to a new intro for your YouTube videos.

You’ll want to make good use of their upsell ability in order to make a decent income, but experiment. It can be a fantastic way to start bringing in a little bit of extra income.

And if you don’t think Fiverr is worth it, maybe you want to check out this article on the high-paying Fiverr gigs and think again.

How to Do It

  1. Spend 10 minutes on the site to get an idea of what people sell (the Fiverr seller’s forum is a great source of info).
  2. Brainstorm 5 different things you can do on Fiverr
  3. Sign up for an account
  4. Share your services on social media!

8) Amazon Affiliate Program

You know what’s even easier than making affiliate sales for hosting accounts? Making affiliate sales on Amazon. In fact, it’s an awesome way to get into niche sites as affiliate marketing.

Anyone can sign up for the Amazon Partner program – and to start, you’ll earn a percentage of money on anything people buy through your link.

Does your mom buy things daily from Amazon? Cool! Just give her your link and tell her to click it every time she buys something.

The percentages aren’t huge, but you can get started relatively quickly. Learn more about how to get things up and running with Amazon in this post.

With Amazon, it’s tough to make a ton of money since the commissions are so low, but this is a fantastic way to make a few bucks and begin to monetize a website or blog.

How to Do It

  1. Sign up for the Amazon Partner Program
  2. Create a link and send it to your friends and family and have them buy through it
  3. Write a review of your favorite product and post it on your website with your affiliate links

9) Google Adsense 

This way isn’t recommended, but hey, it’s a way to make a little bit of money!

Google gives you the ability to display ads on your website via their service called Adsense. Most of the people who make significant income through Adsense of a network of sites and/or a ton of traffic.

The reason this is worth mentioning, though, is that it’s incredibly easy to get started and place ads. Just be sure to weigh the benefits of doing this.

It could cause your site to be a little bit uglier and may remove some of the trust you’ve built with your audience.

How to Do It

  1. Make sure you have a website.
  2. Sign up for an Adsense Account.
  3. Make sure you review Google’s Ad Placement Policies.
  4. Place the ads on your site.

10) Sell Your Photos

Consider yourself a good photographer? Know how to take beautiful photos of everyday objects and situations?

Perhaps you should consider becoming a stock photographer.

Again, this can be tough to make a lot of money at, but I’ve had friends who posted photos they already had and, within a few months, were bringing in an extra $500/month.

The catch here is everyone has travel shots or beautiful sunset shots. The stuff that tends to do well is photos of everyday objects or people in very specific situations. But if you’re looking for a new avenue to make some money online, this is definitely worth looking into.

How to Do It

  1. Spend half an hour looking at stock photography sites to get a sense of what sells. I’d check Big Stock or iStockPhoto.
  2. Create an account at either of those two sites. There are plenty of others as well. Here’s the link for iStock.
  3. Get your photos approved. The approval process can be pretty rigorous, so keep trying if you’re shots aren’t accepted at first.
  4. BONUS: You should also check out this post that highlights all the best places to sell your photos online in 2018.

11) Become a Virtual Assistant

Are you organized? Good at helping people stay on track? Want to help someone grow a business?

You could be a perfect virtual assistant. With an ever-increasing amount of online entrepreneurs, there’s a huge demand for virtual assistant work.

Just make sure you don’t underprice yourself. For the most part, people seem to have moved beyond outsourcing to extremely low-paying places – so you should find some solid opportunities to make decent money doing this.

How to Do It

  1. Create an account on Upwork.
  2. Look for potential jobs you could be a good fit for.
  3. Apply for jobs.
  4. Post your services on different city Craigslist Pages in the Gigs section.
  5. Go places where potential clients hang out. This could be in-person networking events, online forums, Facebook groups, and other communities.

12) Create an Online Product 

Don’t want to pre-sell a product like in idea #4? Then consider creating a mini-product.

So often, people think when you create an online product, you have to spend months and months working on it.

Here’s a tip: more content isn’t necessarily better.

Not everything has to be a huge six-month course. If you can come up with one idea that solves one small problem people have, you can sell that! For example, if you are awesome at Notion and make a ton of cool pages, you can sell those as templates.

Here’s the link to do it.

You can do the same with a site like Gumroad too. Create a little ebook or a short video course, and put it up for sale on Gumroad.

How to Do It

  1. Come up with one small problem you know you can help people solve.
  2. Outline your product and exactly how to solve this problem
  3. Choose your selected medium (PDF document, audio podcast, video)
  4. Create the content
  5. Put up a sales page on your website. Here’s how.
  6. Get your Paypal buy link.
  7. Sell!

13) Do a Webinar

Generally, these days a webinar is most effective if it’s free. You’ll attract more people and get more engagement this way.

You can monetize it by selling a product at the end of it, and there are people whose entire online businesses revolve around selling products this way.

But something you see less of that’s still doable is by creating a paid webinar.

Just like building a product mentioned above, if you have some unique knowledge that you can share with people, you can easily create a presentation around it that you can charge for.

For most people trying to grow an online brand or business, I don’t recommend starting with a paid call, but it’s definitely a way to make a little bit of quick cash!

As a bonus, webinars can be great for building an email list.

How to Do It

  1. Sign up for an email service. I recommend ConvertKit.
  2. Sign up for LeadPages.
  3. Sign up for a webinar service. Here are the ones I recommend.
  4. Create your landing page in LeadPages and tie it into your email service. This way, everyone who registers will also be on your email list.
  5. FOR PAID WEBINARS: Create a Paypal Link and then have it forwarded to a registration page after the sale
  6. Sign up for a Facebook Ads account.
  7. Run ads to your target demographic. I usually do about $300 worth of ads per webinar I do. This will vary depending on the type and price of your product.

Note: this is a pretty in-depth process, so this is just a quick overview. If you choose to go this route, make sure you do your research.

I recommend reading The Ultimate Guide to Webinar Marketing beforehand.

14) Freelance SEO

SEO is one of the fastest-changing and evolving industries online. Back when I was doing it 5 years ago, things were much easier and more simple.

However, it can be a fascinating industry to be in and extremely lucrative if you’re willing to put in the time.

Most people will have more luck starting with freelance writing, but if you really want to give this a go, be prepared to spend months learning, testing, and iterating before you actually get clients.

How to Do It

Rather than focus on how to get clients, here I’ll just tell you how to go about learning SEO.

  1. Read the Moz Beginners Guide to SEO
  2. Have a website you can use as a training ground
  3. Sign up for SEMRush to use for keyword research (get a 7 day trial through that link)
  4. Put content on your site and decide on a few test keywords
  5. Start experimenting

15) Be a Teacher

This is a baby step on the way to consulting. Take some of those skills you’re good at, be it speaking another language, math, or meal prep, and use that to help other people.

Grab a couple of clients and charge by the hour. Suddenly, in a few hours a week, you could be making a few extra hundred bucks. And it’s a great way to test and see if it’s something you want to build a bigger business around.

Take this a step further, and if you have specific expertise in scholarly things, post it on Craigslist or one of these other sites. You could make $40 an hour or more tutoring students or helping someone learn to speak English.

How to Do It

  1. Start with something you’re already great at
  2. Check out sites like Tutor.com, iTalki, or other sites that host tutors
  3. Post up your services
  4. Chat with friends and family about your services to see if they know someone who needs your help
  5. Put up an offer on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Craigslist

Ready to Make Your First Dollar Online?

Has this post inspired you to get started? Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the different potential starting points you can pursue?

Let me help you. Check out The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Lifestyle Business. It’s perfect for people who are thinking about creating a business online but aren’t sure where to start.

Do you have a way of making money online that I left out? Let us know about it in the comments!

Note: This post has been updated for accuracy as of June 2023.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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35 comments on "15 Ways to Make Your First Dollar Online (And Instructions for Each)"

  1. Branko says:


    Good article.

    Should there be a link at section 6, bullet #4?

    1. Sean says:

      Yep! Not sure how I missed that, fixed now, and thanks for the heads up!

      1. Branko says:

        Glad to help fellow Web people. 😉

  2. salahuddin says:

    nice business idea.

  3. Martin says:

    Oh man. I’ve done so many of these. The trick is to pick one and focus on it until you make some money. I’ve seen to many friends get stuck at the analysis paralysis point. They analyze every single idea and don’t follow through on any of them.

    1. Sean says:

      Totally agree. Bouncing around is generally a surefire way to failure. Give one thing 100% time and energy, rather than 10 things 10%. If you don’t you’ll never get enough traction to feel good about your progress.

      1. Chas says:

        Love this response. Do you mind if I quote you(just leaving off the ‘Totally agree’ part) and share it elsewhere? Thanks.

        1. Sean says:

          Totally cool 🙂

  4. Great stuff Sean – as always, packed with tons of valuable information, resources, and proposed next steps. Takes the stress out of where to start and what to do. Also the love wide variety of ways you mention to make some extra coin – everything from SEO work, freelance writing, consulting, and even selling stuff you don’t need/want around the house on CL… awesome! Big-fan of #4 (pre-sell a product). Definitely something I haven’t done yet but will be experimenting with in the next few months. Thanks again man – cheers!

    1. Sean says:

      Keep me posted if you experiment with the Pre-Sell idea at all! Definitely can be a smart approach when utilized the right way.

  5. Tim Johnson says:

    Great article. I’m getting ready to add a few affiliate links for companies and programs I’ve used. Hopefully I’ll start getting some extra revenue coming in from that.

    I love seeing all the new content lately, especially stuff directly related to building a business. Thanks!

    1. Sean says:

      Thanks Tim! We’ve been working hard to keep improving the quality of content and make it as useful as possible.

  6. Sara Param says:

    Excellent ideas. Thank you!

    1. Sean says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Sara!

  7. Eugene says:

    Nice list. The hardest part about most of these is just deciding to do something small to get started. After that stuff starts happening. I really like the affiliate method and I currently make some bucks with a niche affiliate product. It does require being able to analyze competition and do some SEO though but it’s a great “set and forget” way to make money. The other way I currently make an income online isn’t on your list, although point #3 touches on it. Drop shipping is a brilliant way to make some money online without cash flow and fulfillment issues. Go onto a website like Alibaba or eBay, choose a niche product, build a website using something like WordPress and Woocommerce or Shopify and run some Google or FB ads. Heck, Google will even give you free credit for ads on new accounts. Focus is key though. I found that when I tried too many things at once I didn’t see results.

    1. Branko says:

      So if I understood correctly what you are saying is you resell products on your own website?
      One product or a category of similar products, like gym equipment for example?

      1. Sean says:

        The concept of Dropshipping is this:

        You create an ecommerce store with a bunch of products. Any sales are forwarded to a fulfillment center that handles the processing/shipping of the orders, so you don’t have any inventory. The margins are much lower than if you do everything yourself, but it’s a much easier way to get started.

      2. Eugene says:

        Exactly. Except you really need to get niche specific and then laser target your Google and FB ads. Don’t think “gym equipment” but rather “gym equipment for left handed people”. That way there’s a lot less competition and better margins. Run some tests and make sure that your ad cost per sale is less than your markup. Then scale.

    2. Sean says:

      Totally agree. If you’re going to go this route focus and a bit of dedication is absolutely what’s going to make it successful. Spend the time to build one site out and wait until it’s profitable before expanding.

      1. Branko says:

        Thanks for the explanation guys.
        I was actually going to do something similar a year ago but went in another direction.
        One more thing,
        In this case would you handle the orders yourself without the customer having anything to do with Aliexpress (or other site)?
        So I would have to:
        1. Take the order and charge the customer
        2. Order the product myself on Aliexpress using the customer’s address as shipping address and my own billing details
        Is that right?

  8. Charis says:

    These type of articles makes me sure I made the right choice in signing up for LR newsletters. No fluff, just pure GOLD.

  9. Dakota says:

    Finally, the (free) post I will send readers to when they tell me, “that’s nice that you built a business and can travel…but how can I make money on the road?” Added to Evernote for future reference! Well done, Sean.

  10. Shane Labs says:

    I still remember my first paycheck from Google (via AdSense). I was so proud of it I almost didn’t want to cash it. The best thing about AdSense is once you create your site you don’t have to do much to maintain it (well, that depends), and the income is recurring 🙂

    Inspiring others to give adsense a try too!

  11. Hi Sean, thanks again for another insightful post!
    I have never heard of Clarity FM, but I will look into your step 2 to add to my Business Model.

  12. Ray E says:

    Great stuff!! I really enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the great work. I am working on my first check, I know it is coming soon just have to keep plugging away at it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. David says:

    Great ideas Sean! Right now I’m thinking on making e-commerce websites for small businesses. As good as it sounds, i however do not want to rush in getting clients. I thought it would be better to make an e-commerce website for my mum who makes tasty Indonesian snacks to start out with. The keyword has average 4,000 monthly searches, low competition and high demand. I will take things from there only after my mum’s e-commerce business picks up.

  14. Simon says:

    From my experience affiliate marketing can be one of the most frustrating ways of starting out. There’s no denying that people are making money with it but it often relies heavily on a large opt in email list / a high traffic website.

    I love sites where you can sell things in a marketplace, you’ve got much more chance of your products / services being found.

  15. Ray says:

    Yes, I agree all of these will work. As has been said before the key is to pick ONE and stick with it until you start making money. The problem is that relatively few people have the confidence to stick with it and give up too soon!

  16. Giahung says:

    Great list. I tried a few from that list like SEO writer and offering my writing services on fiverr but didn’t have much luck with either one. I may give it another shot soon.

  17. Dave Nicosia says:

    Great list Sean!

    Here’s what I did once in my early days of IM to make a bit of quick money online.

    Make a huge list of Amazon Affiliate bloggers – then contact them and ask if they are looking for any new writers. I found a handful that were, showed them my example Amazon review articles, and charged $10 for a 1000 word post. It would take me about an hour to write one based off their keywords. (English is my first language)

    I found a few Amazon Affiliates that hired me and I was able to make a few hundred $ rather quickly. That gave me the seed money to reinvest in my own websites and I’ve never looked back.

    Kind of funny, now I need a good American writer and I can’t find one!

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