I’ve experienced a lot of pain trying to make money online.
$400K tax bills, $1.2M losses, fake lawsuits — I’ve seen it all. I’ve tried most of the popular online income streams. Once you cut through the hype, you realize many of them are a mirage in the middle of the Sahara desert.
If you’re trying to make money from a side hustle or part-time while working a job, time will be limited. You don’t want to waste time on strategies that don’t work.
Here are the 6 worst ways to make money online:
Self-publishing a book with zero social media presence
I once went to a success seminar.
It was as bad as it sounds. One of the presenters looked like the main villain, Doctor Eggman, from the Sonic The Hedgehog game.
He told the audience they could all be millionaires with self-published books. All they needed was his $30,000 program.
Basically, they did your book cover and formatted the book for you.
Publishing a book is such a bad way to make money because most people who do it have zero audience. They somehow think Amazon will magically market their book for free.
Or that all they need to do is put their book in the right set of Amazon categories with the right keywords on the page & they’ll magically become Tim Ferriss or Jane Austin. Publishing a book doesn’t work like that.
The first step to publishing a book is posting content on social media for 1–5 years. Once you have an email list then you have a channel to market a book. And other authors will be happy to promote you to their audience or on their podcast.
Amazon won’t make you rich overnight. Stop being lied to.
A modern-day pyramid scheme in a technicolor dreamcoat
Five years ago a new friend invited me out for coffee.
We’d met through a mutual friend and he was quite entrepreneurial. I thought we were going to have a good chat.
Then he pulls out a napkin and a pen…
I was a dog walking into the headlights of a car traveling at 100mph. I had no clue what was about to happen.
On the napkin he laid out my current life. He explained how if I got three people a day to buy their groceries from me, instead of the supermarket, I’d be rich and never have to work again.
What started out as a tutorial became a lecture.
The idea sounded horrible. When I asked about the supermarket products people would be buying from me, the detail was sketchy.
“How will prospects know they are getting a good price for toilet paper from me?”
I wanted to try the products to see if they were any good. The pitch was all about the lifestyle with zero information on the practical nature of how the business worked. I declined to join … but I got to keep the napkin.
I later attended one of their live events because I was single and looking for love. It was worse than the napkin lecture.
Many clueless wannabe entrepreneurs would cold-approach me with fake smiles and a look of desperation in their eyes to sell me and get me to join their network marketing faction over another.
The presentation these cult members got was all about entrepreneurship. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that, if you don’t at least have ownership in the company, you’re not an entrepreneur. You’re an employee. Oopsie.
Don’t fall for the lie of network marketing.
A few people get rich at the top. But most people who join just become customers and buy the products for a highly inflated price to cover all the commissions from the pyramid of referrers.
In the early 2000s affiliating was all the rage.
People set up websites with the sole purpose of talking about a product so they could link to it and get a big fat commission.
To my surprise there are still people selling this outdated model. Affiliate websites are so obviously biased it’s not funny. People don’t trust random websites and reviews anymore.
We’ve evolved beyond it.
Even though affiliate websites won’t make you rich, affiliate links embedded inside written content or posted in the summary below a Youtube video are a great way to earn some cash.
The difference is the link is more congruent.
Most creators who use affiliate links actually use the product they recommend and they write the ad for it. A great example is Tim Ferriss. His podcast is littered with affiliate links.
The difference is he goes through a ruthless vetting process and tells personal stories of him using the product versus fake-hype and traditional instagram infomercials from bikini influencers.
Approach affiliate links with authenticity … or stay away from them.
Cold DMing random offers
My social media DMs are littered with pitches.
I don’t even know how these weirdos find me. But they start conversations with: “Love what you’re doing. By the way who edits your video?”
It feels creepy, and their compliments feel fake as. They send hundreds of these DMs every day hoping to get lucky. They’d have better luck at the casino but …. shhhh … don’t tell them.
An unpersonalised DM rarely gets a response. It’s not impossible but, boy, it’s a waste of time.
You’re better off sending personalized DMs to fewer people.
My favorite approach is to join a community of your ideal customers. Then once you’re in it’s easier to find ways to softly pitch what you have to sell to people most likely to buy it.
The easiest way to get a reply to a DM is to be introduced by someone who knows the prospect. For important opportunities this is how I get through the side door of pitching.
Stop being fooled by cold DM programs. Most people ignore them. Unwanted DMs are like junk mail from the 1990s.
Patreon or buy-me-a-coffee pages
To make money online you need to understand psychology.
(Read that again.)
When you understand the psychology of “buy me a coffee” or “please donate to my cause so I can eat,” you realize it’s a bad strategy.
Patreon and buy-me-a-coffee type services make you sound desperate. They sell to people based on them feeling sympathy rather than pitching the value you have to offer.
Value will always pay more than sympathy.
Stop asking for donations or for strangers to “support your work.” They’re not going to. No one wants another expense or recurring subscription. We’re already collectively drowning in debt.
Instead, offer people value by solving a problem for them. Make a gentle pitch they can’t resist. Back it up with social-proof and evidence.
That’s how you make 6 and 7 figures online instead of earning scraps from donations and being forced to work a job for the rest of your life.
Mastering psychology equals honest internet wealth.
Writing for royalties
Let’s finish here.
Writers are some of the most exploited people on the internet. Over the years platforms like Vocal, Quora, News-break-everything, and even Elon’s tweet platform have offered royalties.
The challenge is they’ve never been transparent with their exact payment model and how money is made. And they can artificially make a writer’s stats go up or down based on whatever criteria they want.
The best way I’ve found to make money directly from writing is through newsletter subscriptions.
You’re in control. No algorithm or employee decides how much you get paid. And you own the email addresses of your audience so you can move platforms whenever you like if they use and abuse you, censor sensitive topics, or increase their take-rate.
Stop getting fooled by platforms that take your content and give you back scraps in return.