The Definitive Beginner’s Guide to Making Money Online
In this Beginner’s Guide to Making Money Online, I outline EXACTLY what you need to get started earning an income online.
This is the No-BS, straightforward guide to making money online. Let’s get right to it!
The Bare Minimum Requirement
There is actually only one required thing needed to make money online.
Yes, that’s right. Only ONE thing is absolutely necessary in earning an online income:
The one required thing is some form of generating revenue. You must have some method of getting money sent into your bank account.
Maybe that sounds obvious. But the point I want to make is this:
* You don’t need a website. (although it’s helpful)
* You don’t need a social media following. (although that is also helpful)
* You don’t need an email list, great graphics or anything else.
The one single thing you must absolutely have is a way to generate revenue!
Keeping that in mind, let’s go over 4 basic things that most people who make money online are using.
4 Essentials to Making Money Online
1. Revenue generation
2. A website and domain name
3. Email list
4. Marketing (SEO and social media)
There may be varying levels of agreement as to which is more important than others, or if some items are even needed at all. Those who have been doing this for a long time may add that quality graphics or a professional theme are also necessary.
Keeping that in mind, let’s go over the essentials.
Ways to generate revenue online
The following are examples of ways to generate revenue over the internet:
- Sell a physical product
- Sell a digital product
- Sell some kind of service (such as web design)
- Promote someone else’s products as an affiliate.
- Promote someone else’s services as an affiliate.
- Display advertisements for a fee
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
You must sell something to others – for a profit.
I cover these ideas and more in detail in my article Ways To Make Money Online (coming soon).
Of course, other people have to be interested and want to buy your product so you need marketing which is covered below.
Here we are focused on the pure technical mechanics of making money online.
Probably the most popular question that comes up regarding the bare minimum requirement of generating revenue is this:
Do You Need A Website?
No. You do not need a website to start making money online.
It is entirely possible to make money over the internet via email, social media, running advertisements and other types of campaigns without having your own website.
But – that being said, having your own website is, in my opinion, strongly advised.
3 Reasons You Should Have Your Own Website
You should have your own website, for the following 3 reasons:
- For the long-term strategy of having a home-base for all your offerings.
- For the practical usefulness of storing your own content, such as images, files, landing pages, and other needs that may arise.
- For branding purposes. Once you get yourself established, it’s helpful to make yourself memorable with your own site.
So although the single barest requirement is to have some form of online revenue generating process, my strong recommendation is to start out with A) The revenue generation, and B) Your own website.
Before continuing, let’s quickly sum up what we’ve covered:
- There is only one single bare essential required to make money online: Generating revenue.
- Having your own website is highly recommended, but not absolutely necessary.
And, by the way, the question of whether or not you can do all this with a free website or if you should pay for it is covered thoroughly in my article Free vs Paid Website Hosting (coming soon).
Let’s now take a look again at the 4 recommended essentials for making money online.
- Email list
We’ve gone over revenue.
Let’s take a look now at what is needed for a website.
Reliable Web Hosting
Many people want to know about going with Free vs Paid website hosting.
Free Web Hosting
While it is possible to go with a free webhost, I don’t recommend it.
Why shouldn’t you get free web hosting? Here are a few reasons:
- Limitations on affiliate marketing and income generation
- Very little uptime guarantees
- Overcrowded servers
- Inability to use your own domain name
- Ads and other content forced on your website
Ultimately, you get what you pay for.
And for as little as $5 to $10 a month you can get much more reliable hosting without the limitations and potential for downtime.
That being said, if you are going to go with free hosting, I recommend using either WordPress or Google’s Blogger.
Paid Web Hosting
Making a decision for a web host can be difficult. There are so many to choose from. How do you know which to use? You don’t want to waste money and be disappointed.
The good news is that there are solid web hosts to choose from to get started, and many are set up just for the specific purpose of those getting started with their first website.
The top paid web hosts I recommend are:
When you’re just starting out, I really don’t think you can go very wrong if you choose from any of them. You can always switch webhosts if you’re unhappy. Or, if your website takes off very quickly, you can upgrade to a faster and more reliable dedicated servers, often with the help of your webhost.
I recommend contacting the support staff from each web host by chat, email or phone, and asking them a standard list of questions.
Some good initial questions to ask from web hosting support are the following:
- What hours is support available? (or, “How quickly can I expect to get help?”)
- What is your uptime guarantee?
- Is there a network status page I can use to check my website’s availability?
- How many websites are typically hosted on a single shared server?
- If I sign up, how quickly can I get started?
- What kind of help is offered for setting up my website?
The idea is not only to have some answers to these questions, but to get a feel for how responsive the support staff is. If you feel uncomfortable or have reservations, move on and ask another host the same set of questions. Or, you can always ask for another support person, if you feel they are unresponsive or too busy with something else.
I’ve worked in tech support for a website hosting company so I know what it’s like on the inside. You should spend some time asking some of these questions before making a purchase.
Getting a Domain Name
Domain names aren’t free. Domain names need to be registered to your name, and that comes at a cost.
The good news is that many web hosts will offer one free domain name registration, along with the purchase of one year of web hosting.
So in your consideration of which web host to choose from, make sure to find out if a free domain name is available.
I don’t recommend basing your decision on web hosting just on the fact of getting the free domain name registration or not. Ultimately you still want the best hosting for your money. That being said, adding a free domain name registration can be the deciding factor tilting you one way or another.
Consider BlueHost, if you want hosting along with a free domain name.
Domain Name Considerations
The question then comes up about which domain name to get.
Typically, you want a domain name that is suggestive of the topic your website is going to be about. This website is a great example. I purchased the domain “HowYouMakeMoneyOnline.com” so that it’s obvious and self explanatory what exactly it’s going to be about.
There is a question of whether or not having the exact keywords in your domain name helps improve rankings in Google search results. In the past this has proven to be true, but less and less so lately.
Another question is whether or not to get a “.com” domain or if it’s alright to get something else. My own recommendation is to get the .com if it’s available, but if the .net or .org or .co is available, get that one instead. Ultimately it’s not that big a deal to not have the .com. Plenty of websites rank in Google with .net or .org too.
Your Website Theme
There are lots of free options for website themes, especially when it comes to using WordPress (which is what I recommend).
The only thing with free themes is that there may be some limitations as far as design flexibility. So for example sometimes when you use a free theme, part of the agreement is that you keep a link to the creator of that free theme in the footer at all times.
If you’re comfortable with whatever limitations are part of the free theme, and you’re happy with the design of it, then go for it. Congratulations, you’ve got yourself a free theme for your website.
But if you find yourself searching and searching for the perfect theme, but aren’t finding anything that’s completely free, then I suggest considering a paid theme.
Most paid themes are much more robust than free ones. The wordpress themes are getting better all the time, and the market is so competitive right now that prices are usually very low for some really excellent themes out there.
This website is using the Schema theme by mythemeshop. Other popular paid themes are developed by WooThemes, or use the Genesis Framework or the Thesis Framework.
In all honesty, you can really spend a lot of time looking for a theme. Personally, I like Schema and some of the other themes by mythemeshop because of the design flexibility, the font choices, menu options, color scheme choices, speed and other factors.
Speaking of website loading speed, did you know that Schema is well known as being one of the fastest loading wordpress themes available? If speed is a factor in your decision making (and it should be), then consider Schema.
Quality Images and Graphics
Giving your website a really professional impression goes beyond just the theme or the design.
You want to have high quality images and graphics, and this usually means purchasing professional images.
That being said, there are some free options available. Let’s take a look at one of those.
Free Image Content
Morguefile offers free stock photos for any purpose other than reselling them or claiming them as your own.
I particularly like the search function with Morguefile. Searching and downloading is an easy process.
Premium Images and Photos
Moving beyond free options for website images and graphics, you can of course pay for high quality images, and the more you pay the more high quality you’re usually going to get. It’s just the way it works.
The question is, what professional image service is going to give you the most value for the money.
Here it can depend somewhat, based on the type of website and the niche, or topic, your website is going to be about.
My first recommendation for premium photo choices is istockPhoto. iStockPhoto offers photos, video and audio too if the need arises.
Fotilia is another premium image service worth considering.
The Email List
You want to start cultivating an email list right away.
Your email list is just a list of email addresses of people who have signed up to receive your newsletter, along with any other promotional material that they have agreed that it’s ok to send to them.
Building an email list takes time, so although this isn’t something you have to pay for right away, in my opinion it’s better in the long run to use an email management service like Aweber, MailChimp or Constant Contact.
The best free option is to use is in the Jetpack plugin for WordPress for email subscriptions.
While a free option can carry you a little ways when you’re just starting out, at some point, there’s just no other option but to pay for the service.
The question is, which paid email service will you use. My top 3 choices for email providers are:
- Constant Contact
There are others worth taking the time to explore, of course. Take the time to research, but when you’re just starting out, any of my top 3 recommendations above are going to suit you well.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations. You are serious about getting started and now the only question is which of the free vs paid options you’ll use on your journey to making money online.
For the pure budget-minded, the absolutely free way to get started is by getting a WordPress.com website, with no domain (you have to use their wordpress address as a free user), using a free theme, getting free images and graphics from , and managing your email list on your own. Total cost: Free
The next step up, would be to get a domain and hosting with Bluehost for about $70 for one year, along with a free WordPress theme, free images and graphics and manage the list on your own. Total cost: $70 for the one year of hosting with a free domain.
The intermediate step is to get the domain and hosting, plus a premium WordPress theme with mythemeshop (just my personal recommendation, plenty of other paid themes are available). Total cost $100-120 for the hosting, the domain and the theme.
The full-on paid-for package would be to get the domain, the hosting, the premium theme, purchasing both graphics and a monthly free for email list management. Even going this route is still an amazingly low cost just to get an online business started. Total cost: $150-200 for one year hosting, domain, theme, images and email service.
I’m not sure of any other business that the initial investment is so low, and where the potential is so high. If you do this right, you will quickly recover all these costs, and more.
I am available for questions, on Facebook at How You Make Money Online, by email at eric “at” howyoumakemoneyonline.com.
In my next guide, I cover what to do next. Once you have your website, domain, theme and everything else set up and ready to go. In my opinion, that is where the real fun begins, because that’s where the money starts to be made.
Next article: The First Step to Building an Online Business