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If you ever wondered whether it’s possible to make money online without having money to start with – then here’s your answer.

But, by asking this question, you’re assuming that you need money to make money.

You don’t!

All you need is an idea and a plan – after that, it’s a matter of taking action.

I and many others like me are proof that you can make good money providing services to clients online. I’m certainly not special, I just picked a skill I already had, planned my way forward, and worked my plan.

Fast forward to today and I make tens of thousands of dollars each year writing for a living. I’m not the best and I’m not the worst writer out there, but I live comfortably doing something I love.

So, let’s start with how to come up with an idea.


1. Make a List

Grab a pen and paper (or a pencil) and list down all the things you know how to do on a computer.

When I first started online, I knew how to create spreadsheets, write business reports, bookkeeping, and create Word documents – you get the picture.

Try to come up with a list of all the things you’ve done for yourself or other people using a computer.

Now that you have that list, is there anything that jumps out at you that you can offer to do for other people?

Here are some ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Writing skills

Articles, blog posts, reviews, answer questions, sales pages, give opinions.

  • Graphic Design

Create logos, and banners, edit photos, business cards, letterheads, and event posters.

  • Web Development

Set up a website or blog.

  • Voice

Get paid to record your voice as you read books or become a voiceover artist.

  • Gaming

Play games and get rewarded for finding glitches and errors or review the game.

  • Tutoring or Coaching

If you have a lot of experience with a piece of software or know a lot about a particular subject, then you can offer to teach others what you know.


2. Create Your Plan

Now that you have a better understanding of your skills, you can start looking for opportunities to get paid for your efforts.

Next, visit Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, and People Per Hour and browse the various categories to see what other people are doing to make money.

You’ll see what services and skills are in demand so that you can align your skills with what businesses are looking for. You’ll also get an idea of what people are charging for their services.


3. Finding Clients

Now you need to find someone to pay you for your work.

Pick a skill and type of job that’s in demand and you feel you can stick with it for a few weeks or months.

Depending on what you wish to do, you can either try to get clients by yourself or you can use a service like Fiverr or Upwork to apply for jobs.

Apply For Jobs

Potential clients post jobs on these websites, and you can apply to do the jobs. Clients usually want to see a portfolio of work or some proof that you know what you are talking about and can do the job.

With writing or graphic design jobs, for instance, a portfolio of work helps clients determine whether you’re a good fit. Your portfolio can be as simple as a shared document on Google Drive, or you may have a blog or website that showcases your skills.

Be prepared to apply to lots and lots of jobs. Aim for 10 to 20 per day for at least the first month. You’ll not get much feedback at first, so don’t be disappointed by the poor response.

Keep applying for jobs, making sure that you tailor your application to the job’s specific requirements.

What If I Don’t Have Any Skills?

While everyone has something to offer, you may feel that you lack the skills required to apply for jobs online.

In that case, there are a multitude of tutorials online that will show you how to do something you’re interested in learning. A search on YouTube will bring up plenty of free content that will get you up and running.

Companies like Google offer free training and certification in the use of their software and platforms. You can set aside a couple of weeks to learn how to set up analytics for a website or how to create business profiles on Google Maps.

These are just two of the services for which businesses will pay good money.

Once you know how to set up Google Maps profiles for local businesses, you can either approach businesses in your area and offer them your services or you can go online and contact businesses who don’t have their profiles optimized for local search.

There are plenty of companies looking for someone to help with data entry, email management, or even customer support.

What If You Need Money Right Now?

We’ve all been there; you have an emergency, and you need money right away.

There’s no time to waste applying for jobs or creating portfolios, so what do you do?

Go through your home and look for things to sell online.

The list of things you can sell is limitless, games and toys, clothes, jewelry, and power tools are all in demand.

If you don’t need it and money is tight – Sell It!

eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace are all options that you can use to get cash quickly. You can even turn this into your full-time income by flipping items you buy very cheaply and reselling them at a profit.

Online Surveys and Market Research

Make Money Online

You could also participate in online surveys and market research studies.

Websites like Swagbucks, Inbox Dollars, and Survey Junkie reward users for completing surveys and simple tasks.

While this does sound enticing, the amounts of money you’ll make are quite small – normally under $100 a month. It can be time-consuming and many participants in these programs report being frustrated by the amount of time they waste when they don’t qualify for a survey.

If you’re determined to make money online, then you need to identify your skills, create a plan, and then stick with it.

I hope that I’ve given you some ideas on how to make money online without having to spend any money first.

(Note: This answer first appeared on Quora.)

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