What are the top ways to make money (online, or from home)?

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I've been exploring ways to make money and am sick of the usual list of bad ideas - I've tried a bunch of these and they never work out. Please don't give me a rehash of the same old ideas, especially:

  • Online surveys
  • Donating blood and other bodily fluids and parts
  • Walking dogs
  • No risk matched betting
  • Trading binary options
  • Competitions

I want to work. I want a business or a job. Not something that might bring in a couple of dollars once-off. Actually, I want something that will make money on a regular basis. In other words, reliable.

The catch is that it has to be suited to working online, and preferably from home, because I need to be at home during the day and don't have access to transport anyway.

Ideally your ideas should also be something I can build up over time. If I can do it once and make a small profit, I should be able to keep doing it to continue making profits and potentially hire other people to do it for me (i.e. turn it into a business).

Any genuine ways to make money will be most appreciated. I don't have huge amounts of technical experience but I am willing to work at it on my own - teach myself. To sweeten the deal I'd be happy to offer you a commission if I make a million from one of them.

3 Ways to Make Money From Home (That I've Seen Work)

Making money from home is not as easy as most sites would have you believe. It's true that there are a number of bigger companies that are offering work from home jobs to cater for a growing demand for telecommute roles in the modern workforce - WAHMs (Work At Home Moms) are a good example.

Certain jobs are more suited to working from home - usually those involved in information - such as writing. However, it's important to realise that most companies will only offer decent paying jobs to stay at home employees they know and trust. It's not always easy to land a fantastic job without ever going into the office.

The trick to working online (or from home) is to have one foot in the door before you begin.

I'll accept the challenge of coming up with a few money making ideas that should provide reasonable opportunities for generating a reliable income in the medium to long term. The caveat is that each of these ideas relies on having a foot in the door already.

As you'll see, knowing the right person or being in the right place at the right time things can make things a lot easier. If there's nothing you can think of that can currently help, then

Talk to people you know. There may be fantastic opportunities right under your nose.

Whether or not these ideas are helpful to you really depends on what you like doing and what you have experience in. Not everyone who works online necessarily needs to be a writing or programming nerd.

Anyhoo, here are my suggestions that will hopefully cover a broad set of potential skill sets to suit a variety of tastes:

1. Freelance Content (Blogging, Research & Editing) Producer

There are literally thousands of paying writing jobs out there on the Web - if you know where to find them. The trick is to find niche communities that relate to your own experience and skills. There's no point in trying to write an article on quantum mechanics for New Scientist if you are not a physicist or mathematician.

It won't take you long to find a job board offering decent paid work. I found one at ProBlogger that offered a range of different blogging, editing and content related jobs. Some of them paying in the region of $500 for 4 - 6 articles per month:

Paid Writing & Content Online Job Board

The nice thing about this type of work is that it speaks for itself in the sense that your portfolio is immediately accessible to any other potential employer because it is published online.

Job boards aren't your only channel either. Many small businesses need decent content for their websites - either for a blog to attract organic search traffic, or to create better converting landing pages. There's nothing stopping you visiting local businesses and offering your services as a freelance writer. Some may even take you up on a regular or semi-regular basis.

Writing technical books is how I paid for my university studies and funded my first startup.

To be effective there is a lot you'll need to learn about blogging and writing for the Web. I'd recommend you start by reading our beginner guide on how to blog.

2. Home Cooked Lunches for Local Businesses

I work in an office. My office is part of a building. That building is part of a business park, which in turn is part of a growing CBD area in the suburb of my home city.

Our office has about 15 people working in it and one of the employees wives began cooking healthy lunches for him (she was on extended leave from work at the time). The rest of us wanted in on the deal, so she charged us a reasonable price and cooked for about ten of us each day.

It was a huge success. We loved having hot healthy meals that we could eat at our desk, or together in the communal area.

Other people began to notice her bringing delicious food into the building each day and so she ended up cooking for people in different offices too.

For many office-workers, a delicious lunch delivered to the office makes a big difference because less break time is wasted walking or driving somewhere to find (junk) food or waiting in lunch time queues.

Home cooked lunch at the office desk

Ultimately, she ended up emailing us a weekly lunch plan at the start of each week. We could tick off which meals we wanted and pay via bank transfer. Her business grew quickly - until she could no longer cook enough with the kitchen resources available.

At that point she returned to work and decided to discontinue the service. But,

She could easily have invested in a larger kitchen and continued to grow.

Now many companies have cafeterias or coffee shops in their buildings. But many do not. Plus there is always a growing demand for healthy hot meals, so there might be opportunities in your neighbourhood.

This is essentially a work from home business because you can always hire someone to hand out flyers in the morning and make deliveries during lunch hours. It should also be possible to order fresh produce from local grocers online.

Finally, it's easy to manage orders and payments via bank transfers or online via a website.

3. Virtual PA (Using Smartphone Apps)

My cousin worked as a PA to a high powered executive for several years. While the pay was good, there were no prospects for growth in the long term. There was no other position to which she could be promoted for better pay.

She decided to take a risk and become a virtual PA service, with her boss as her first (and only) client.

Her first hurdle was to overcome the limitations on her time. Without being able to work more efficiently there was no way to take on new clients.

This is where she made a smart move.

By making use of the latest smartphone apps (like synched calendars, to-do lists, etc) she was able to work remotely while still staying in touch with her client. This meant her client could simply add something to a to-do list that would synch to her device and she could tick it off the list once it was done (synching back to the client's device to notify him at the same time).

This saved her enough time to take on another client, and then another.

Soon she hit the work-limit ceiling again; so she hired a driver (who she could barely afford with the cash coming in from only three clients). Fortunately this saved her even more time and she was able to take on additional clients.

To cut a long story short; she works at home (and sometimes her local coffee shop) and manages several employees who perform the various tasks requested by clients on a day-to-day basis.

Her clients are happy because they get a fantastic service. She's happy because her business is growing and she has more time for herself. She also works from wherever she likes - provided there is an Internet connection.

What's quite nice (and unique) about this particular business is that having a PA seems to be some sort of status symbol that people are prepared to pay a premium for. If you're able to get it right there are people willing to pay top dollar.

So those are my ideas - taken from my own experience and people I know. Do you, or anyone you know, make a living with a good side-hustle? Share your stories in the comments.