One of the questions I have been asked a lot is what real money making opportunities exist online for someone willing to work hard for honest pay? So, I've spent the past few days talking with some peers who all earn honest livings from their homes to compile this list of opportunities that we all agree are relatively easy to launch and also have high potentials in the current market.
Keep in mind that when I say easy to launch I don't mean any monkey can do it. Each of these requires some minimal skill sets, a willingness to hustle and like any business, a commitment to providing services of value if you want to succeed. What I mean by easy to start is that they require little or no initial financial investment, and little to no special equipment or hardware to get up and running. Basically, opportunities that you can begin from your home quickly.
This is a field that continues to grow. There are many out there who'll say that it's saturated, but my friends and I agree that for anyone who can hustle freelancing jobs and stays current with the trends and needs of potential clients as the web and software needs evolve there is huge rewards available.
Obviously, this requires programming knowledge. The best programmers often tend to master a single programming language and style/type of development.
One risk with this field that a lot of new or young programmers fail to recognize is low end market places. Avoid bidding for jobs in these large flea-market environments at all costs. You'll waste tons of time competing on price points, and ultimately under-value yourself. There are better options, with more realistic pay scales out there, you just have to invest the time in finding them.
Another idea that's worked well for quite a few programmers, is to develop software (either for the web or for PC based application) as Open Source that has a mass appeal and need in the market, and then provide support services and add-on modules or programs for pay.
It's a myth that Open Source means completely free. If you create a good program, you can provide the core of it as Open Source and build a viable commercial business around supporting it.
2) Data Conversion
Here's an area that seems to be opening up by the day online. Old web sites which often began using plain text, flat-file databasing are everywhere. Many who own and run them have begun to realize the benefits in converting their outdated databases into MySQL or other platforms, however lack the knowledge or time to do it themselves.
For aggressive go-getters with the ability to perform such conversions there is a wealth of business available right now, and it only looks to increase for the near future.
If you're also a talented programmer, you can combine this service with assisting clients in updating their web pages to utilize the newer database model as well for additional revenue. Plus, being able to provide the "full service" to potential clients will likely land you more jobs.
3) Blog Transcription Service
Here's a neat idea that came up in our conversations this week and still has me thinking I'd love to use a service like this myself.
There are a zillion (give or take) bloggers online now, and many of them do it for fun. However, many use their blogs for professional reasons and view it as a work chore that pulls them from other duties rather than an exciting way to spend time each day.
For these people, a service that allowed them to phone in their daily postings, which would then be typed out and sent by email to the accepting address of their blog for email-posting (which most blog software provides for) while they are on the go or between meetings could be very popular.
With the low-costs of setting up a toll-free phone number, and many of these services offer free voice-mail with the number as well, you could easily charge on a per post, weekly or monthly basis and make a nice income transcribing client's voice messages into blog postings for them.
I'm not advocating on behalf of any specific service, but some like Kall8 offer toll-free numbers with voice mail for under $5 per month (at the time of this writing). When someone calls and leaves a message, it gets sent to you by email as an audio file, making it perfect for use in this kind of service. As I said, I'm not endorsing Kall8, there are others who offer the same type of service, I only named them as an example of how little the overhead could be to start something like this.
4) Web Development
While this one may seem obvious and saturated, where my friends and I agreed that there is still a large market available is in assisting small and medium size businesses in your area to expand their brick-n-mortar operations online.
Depending on the business, this can be anything from a single page site that explains the business and provides contact information to full-scale ecommerce applications.
The opportunities for someone doing this are everywhere. One example that came up was from my friend Mike who recently had car trouble. He was stuck on the shoulder of a busy highway and couldn't get cell service when a tow-truck passing by pulled over to offer him assistance.
The guy offered to tow him free to a gas station at the next exit, or for a fee to anywhere else. My friend paid to have his car towed home, and during the ride discussed business with the driver.
By the time they got to Mike's house, Mike had convinced the guy to have a single page web site created, that was optimized for his coverage area. Mike charged the driver $85 to create the optimized page, and a $25 monthly fee to host and maintain it for him. This service includes submitting it to the search engines and various directories, and updating those submissions on a regular basis.
This was several months ago, but Mike says the last time he spoke with the driver he was getting at least 1 additional job call per day thanks to that single page web site, so I'm sure he's happy to have pulled over that day to help Mike out.
In any given area, there are hundreds, or even thousands of small and medium size businesses which aren't online. If you have the technical skills to build a web site, and the marketing skills to go find these opportunities in your area this is a viable business to begin.
I hope some of this helps you. One common element that all of these opportunities has is that they require a desire to work and a commitment to providing a valuable service to your clients.
None of these are "get rich quick" ideas. I don't believe in those and will never endorse them on my site. I believe in an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, and so should you if you intend to build a business of your own.
About the author: Scott Bannon earned his first online revenue in 1995 and has made a full time living online since 2000. Get valuable advice and tips from Scott's free blog for webmasters, O'Bannon's Leap, where he chronicles the ongoing leap of becoming a webpreneur.