We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Can You Really Make Money Online?

Money flying out of laptop while woman using it at table in office
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Making money online from your bedroom wearing nothing but a robe. It’s the dream, eh? But is there any reality to it? Let’s find out.

Okay, so the very fact you’re reading this means that we’re making money. The ads served on LifeSavvy and its sister sites (How-To Geek and Review Geek) earn the company money, and the company pays me some of that money to write for them.

I’m not wearing a robe right now, but I’m not anyone’s idea of dressed-for-the-office. But if you think it’s going to be easy, that you’ll quickly make a lot of money, or that an ad on a questionable website offering you a chance to work from home for several thousand dollars a month will pay off, then we need to have a little chat.

Making money online is possible, but there are a few things you need to know.

Be Realistic About How Much Is Possible to Make

While there are certainly internet billionaires—Hey, Zuck!—most people don’t come anywhere close to making that amount of money. If you’re planning to make billions, millions, or even thousands of dollars online without building a sustainable company or freelance career, then you’re going to be disappointed. Even then, that kind of money is a pipedream.

Freelance or staff writers on sites like ours can earn enough for it to be a decent side-hustle or, for some, even a full-time job. But that’s the level of income we’re talking: a pretty decent, full-time job. The freedom is incredible, but many of us would make more money if we pursued a more traditional career.

Now, this isn’t to turn you off trying to make some money online; it’s just about setting realistic expectations, especially early on. Getting to the point where you have a side gig bringing in a few hundred dollars a month is achievable for most people. Getting to the point where you’re earning a full-time living is a lot more challenging.

Get a Job!

The best way to earn money online is to have a job that lets you work remotely. It’s not as sexy as having your own website or doing your own thing, but it’s by far the most reliable. More and more companies are staffing up with remote workers, and if you’ve got the skills for the job, then it’s a reliable way to get paid.

futuruama get a job hippie

The biggest issue is that remote jobs are concentrated in a few fields like programming, writing, design, and customer support. If you’re not qualified in one of those fields—or get a lucky opportunity to get on the ladder—then your options for formal employment are a lot more limited.

If you already have a job, a good way to start is to talk to your boss about going remote one or two days a week. If that’s successful, you can push for more. If you’ve got skills that let you work remotely, then check out remote job boards like Remote OK.

Try Your Hand at Freelancing

Freelancing is one of the most flexible ways to make money online. If you’ve got a skill that people will pay for—content writing, design, knitting, leather embossing—then there’s probably a way to make money from it. How much depends on how in-demand your skills are, how good you are, how reliable you are, and how good you are at finding people prepared to pay.

The best thing about freelancing is you can do it while you’re otherwise employed. I started as a freelance writer in college. It was an excellent way to earn some money while sitting at the back of lectures. When I started, I was only making a few hundred dollars per month. Over three years of college, however, I was able to grow that into a sustainable income.

There was no need for me to drop out of school—or for you to quit your job—at the very start.

freelance profile

If your skills skew more digital, check out freelance sites like Upwork. You will be competing against people from all around the world so keep that in mind when you price your work, especially at the start when you don’t have a portfolio.

For physical, crafted goods then market places like Etsy are going to be your friend (and it’s not so hard to set up an Etsy shop). Post some of your pieces and see if you can turn them into higher paying commissions.

There is, of course, a lot more to building a freelance career, but it is possible.

Earn Some Beer Money

As well as the people trying to build careers online, there’s also a community of people who use the internet to get a bit of extra cash for small expenses like, well, beer. In general, they do things like taking surveys, shopping through certain payment links, entering contests, and otherwise giving up small amounts of personal data for small amounts of money.

beer money reddit

The best resource is the subreddit r/BeerMoney. Not only do they post guides to the good sites, but they also warn you about the scam and bad sites. Don’t expect to make significant money this way, but it’s undoubtedly suitable for $100 a month if you’re prepared to put in the time.

Watch Out for the Scams

There’s an old joke about an ad in a newspaper that says, “Learn how to make $100 in one day. Only $1!” When someone replies, they get a letter back saying, “Post an ad in the newspaper offering to teach people how to make $100. Charge $1.”

That’s the problem with most guides you see to making money online: often, the simplest way to make money online is to claim to teach people the secret to making money online.

The internet has been perfect for me, but there are a considerable amount of terrible people out there preying on the desperate. There are multilevel marketing schemes, lousy investment opportunities, and flat-out scams. If you’re looking to make money online, you will almost certainly encounter some sketchy promises from people who are just looking to take your money. Watch out for them.

So there you have it: it’s possible to make money online, but it’s not simple. You need to get a “real” job or put a lot of time and effort into building a freelance career if you want to make a solid living reliably. Making a few hundred bucks is simpler, though it can still be pretty time-consuming.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?