With all the doom and gloom news about the economy, there's never been a better time to make an extra paycheck online with a minimal amount of time and effort.
If you have an internet connection, you can get started on the road to having the internet pay for your mortgage, car payment, kids' college tuition, or even that special vacation you've wanted. Now, don't worry that you have to be a tech whiz to start a business online--I'm a complete techno-dunce.
A perfect part-time business would have to be very easy to start, require little time and money and no technical expertise, be easy to maintain with just a few hours a week and have a proven track record with a high probability of success.
There's actually one other important criteria--it has to be perfect for you! Experience has taught me that it's different strokes for different folks, and there is no "one size fits all" perfect business. You're much more likely to be successful if you do something you find fun and interesting.
With that in mind, here are five of the best ways to make extra cash moonlighting on the internet:
1. Information marketing: We're in the information age, and the internet provides you with the ideal medium to exchange know-how for money. Do you know the best fishing holes? How to play guitar? The secrets to a successful marriage? A recipe for moist and delicious brownies? A trick for saving gas?
Think about your career, your hobbies and your interests. Virtually anything you know can be turned into extra cash. And don't worry if you think you're not an expert--as long as you know more than the average person on the topic, that information is valuable.
However, if you don't believe you know anything that others would pay for (highly unlikely), you can take someone else's know-how and make money that way! It could be as easy as interviewing a veterinarian to help you create a dog-training product.
Ninety-two percent of people go online looking for information, and you could be one of the many people cashing in on selling it.
2. eBay: One of the largest online marketplaces makes it a piece of cake to get your own business going. You can open an account and start making money within hours on eBay!
While I dislike that whole "sell your garbage on eBay" thing, there is some validity to it as many people get their start on eBay by selling items from their garage or attic that pre-eBay would have been thrown out. This approach is fine, but where is the business once you run out of those items? If you want to create an eBay business that doesn't require tons of time and effort, you need to leverage products that can be sold over and over again.
This is one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the "eBay seller for hire" kinds of opportunities, where you sell things on eBay for other people. You get access to stuff people want to sell, but because each item is unique you have to work to list each and every one. There's no leverage there!
Take a look at some of the largest eBay PowerSellers and notice how they specialize in very specific products (iPods, cell phones, dog grooming kits, etc.). This allows them to leverage their efforts. A listing is created once, and money is collected over and over again.
Unlike information marketing, this business requires the handling of physical goods, but even that can be automated, so it shouldn't prevent you from considering this idea.
3. Affiliate marketing: This may possibly be the absolute laziest way to make money because it doesn't require you to have a product, make a sale or ever have any interaction with customers.
This is essentially a "referral" business, or as one of my book contributors likes to call it, "passionate recommendations." Basically, you can get paid a referral commission just for sending people to sites (or vendors) that are set up to pay affiliate fees once a sale is made. The vendor does all the selling, fulfills the purchase and handles any customer service issues--and you just collect your check..not bad!
Some people choose affiliates based on who or what is paying the highest commissions, and that certainly is a viable option. Most people opt to choose products or goods they are passionate about so that the process is much more fun and engaging.
Insurance and credit card companies pay high commissions for referrals that convert to customers ($40 to $150 and up), but the competition is fierce. It may pay well, but is this something you'll enjoy doing for the long haul?
Alternatively, you could take a look at your hobbies and other things you enjoy and see which affiliate programs are a good match. As always, do your research to verify the viability of your market. A good place to look for ideas (and downloadable products just waiting for an affiliate) is ClickBank.com.
4. Blogging: This business is best suited for folks who enjoy communicating about a particular subject. Think of blogs as journals of sorts. Although you can have a personal blog, writing about a particular topic will have a higher chance for financial success.
The range of topics is virtually endless--photography, sports cars, parenting, dieting, star gazing, the latest gadgets, Hollywood gossip--you name it, as there are blogs on just about everything you can imagine. Don't worry about competition. Folks who read one blog are apt to read others on a topic they're passionate about, as long as you have something interesting to say.
Once your blog starts getting traffic, you can make money passively with things like AdSense (Google's ad revenue sharing plan) or actively by doing a little bit of affiliate marketing. You can see both types of moneymaking strategies at SparkleCat.com, which is a blog about a person's cat. What makes it interesting is that it's written from the cat's perspective and often refers to her "human." At the top of the page are Google AdSense ads, and sprinkled throughout are suggestions for things like cat furniture and premium cat food, which are tied to an affiliate program. Pretty cool, no?
5. Yahoo! Store: This business is very similar to eBay in the sense that it's a monster-sized marketplace but more similar to a store in the true sense of the word. Think having your own retail outlet but without the hassles of rent, employees, utilities and all the other expenses of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
The neat thing is that it can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you want it to be because of companies called drop-shippers, which can do most of the work for you. In fact, you don't even pay for the inventory until you make a sale. How cool is that?
Most people think the hard part of this business is creating your virtual store, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yahoo! has made the templates and wizards so easy that, dare I say, even a caveman can do it!
The best way to ensure your success is to do your homework and research what products people most want to buy. You need to find a niche. Once again, start with things you enjoy. Let's say you love fishing. What products do fishing folks want to buy most? (Or get even more specific, like, what are bass fishermen looking to buy?)
Then the task is to find the right source of those products so you can carry them in your Yahoo! Store. In most cases, you'll be able to pull pictures and product descriptions directly from your sources and plug them right into your store.
As you can see, this business requires a little bit more upfront work, but once it's done it can be maintained with very little regular input on your part.
There you have it--five perfect part-time businesses. Are you ready to start moonlighting on the internet now?
Yanik Silver, a serial entrepreneur based in Potomac, Md., is the author of Maverick Startup: 11 X-Factors to Bootstrap From Zero to Six Figures and Beyond from Entrepreneur Press.