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How to make money online - 10 solid ideas without capital

There are many lists suggesting you how to make money online. However, here are ten ideas that you can do without capital.

Here are ten ideas you can use immediately.

  1. Make hand made items and sell on Etsy;

  2. Make Youtube videos and make money from Google;

  3. Gain follower and then dropshipping products, earn price difference;

  4. Market products in digital marketing or affiliate marketing schemes;

  5. Buy things at garage sale or flee market and sell them on Ebay (anything Nintendo)

  6. Build space on Facebook or Quora and attract followers.

  7. Create online courses on udemy or other platforms;

  8. Buying stocks;

  9. Invest in real estate;

  10. Get a job and learn the ropes.

In the following we will discuss each idea, and list the pros and cons of each method, the typical conversion formula, the earning potentials and investment on your part.


Idea 1: Make hand made items and sell on Etsy

Etsy is a platform to sell home made crafts. The most important advantage is that you can buy the supplies and make anything yourself - there is no need to drop ship from any remote factory, and there is no limit of supplies.

Since Etsy is still relatively young, it is not super saturated yet. The key to sell a lot of things on Etsy is the following:

  1. Keep quality high;

  2. Charge very reasonable price;

  3. Advertise and try to sell a lot, using the right keywords and title.

Etsy is a responsible platform that spend money to advertise items on other platforms. Etsy shoppers do make impulse purchases.

Remember, top earners in any arena can make a lot of money - but it is difficult to reach that level.

Most Etsy conversion rate is 2-5% - the following figure is my own Etsy store statistics. It confirmed the conversion rate.

Keys to get Etsy success:

  1. Investigate the market and have a good understanding of what items are hot selling;

  2. Sell in the "hot selling" category - don't try to be overly unique. You won't be discovered.

  3. Use ahref to check the keyword hot list and use Etsy's own title name rules.


Idea 2: Make Youtube videos and make money from Google

Simply put, you become a content maker and a product maker - when Google and Youtube present your products to the audience, the audience click and view them, and you can have a chance to earn a cut of the advertising revenue. Businesses pay Google to put advertising on the video clips, and you share a portion of the advertising revenue.

The typical conversion rate is 1000 views for about 1 dollar of revenue. It is not the easiest way to make a lot of money, since you have to make really professional quality materials that are not offensive and you must keep making them, or else no one will subscribe.

Keys to Youtube success:

  1. Make high quality, entertainment materials - remember people want entertainment. The sound quality must be good, and the video must be dynamic and eventually it must be engaging.

  2. Making good video clips takes a considerable amount of time. In the case you need professional voice over, it becomes capital consuming.

  3. Most Youtubers spend 1-2 years learning the ropes - there is no menu. Most people promising to "teach you" only try to tell you a part of the truth.

Suppose your goal is to make 100 dollars a month as a Youtube, then you are generating 100,000 viewership in a month. Although we see Youtube clips with hundreds of thousands of views all the time, in fact it is not easy. We never see the ones with zero views, because Google decided not to show your video.

Screen shot of a video running for 11 years with 100,000 views.

Idea 3: Gain follower and then dropshipping products, earn price difference.

Dropshipping means you are a marketer and seller - you are trying to buy low and sell high - buy from the source factory and sell to customers who visit your blog or website or channel.

Many people use services such as Aliexpress or Shopify to simply the process of building their own website and web store. To be successful with dropshipping you need three things:

  1. Finding a way to get people to visit your site or store;

  2. Find ways to convert the visiting traffic to purchases;

  3. Find a way to secure good and low cost products with continuous supply.

Each of the element is hard. The conversion rate of first element is typically 100,000 to 1, and the conversion rate of the second element is 2-5 out of 100.

You may have been encouraged by super successful stories or listened to your imagination, but the fact of matter is that most failures to starts are never discussed.


Idea 4: Market products in digital marketing or affiliate marketing schemes

Digital marketing is the art of presenting a purchasing link of an item to some consumers online. The way you present it can be through email, or website visiting, or store visiting, or other social network visits. When the purchasing is made from the link the income or profit is divided among various parties who are responsible for making the sale.

For example, Mr. Smith has a good course on movie making on Udemy. Udemy put an advertisement of this course on your blog, and visitors to your blog clicked the course. You, Udemy and Mr. Smith will then each keep a portion of the sales.

The key to successfully market is to bring qualified organic followers to your blog or site. Otherwise the conversion rate will be extremely low or maybe there are no visitors and no clicks.

The key to have high quality organic followers is to provide focused contents over a long period of time, even when you don't have any income.

Think of affiliate marketing as micro artery of biological organisms - the digital marketers' role is exactly that - to spread the products to previously un-reached populace. Each marketer is using the URL link that uniquely record each person's contribution in the supply chain.

Digital marketing word of mouth spread.

Idea 5: Buy things at garage sale or flee market and sell them on Ebay

The quality of things you buy at yardsales, garage sales are at least of high or acceptable quality compared to handmade items. For example, if you find a large stash of Nintendo game discs it is like hitting a gold mine - each CD can be sold on Ebay for 4-8 dollars over a long time, and the shipping cost is minimal. The overall profit for each item sold can be as high as 2 dollars or more.

One can spend 2 hours each day doing treasure hunts and make 200-300 dollars each week on the side hustle.

Used Nintendo game CDs - high quality, low cost.

Idea 6: Build space on Facebook or Quora and attract followers

As digital netizen's increase in numbers, it is increasingly harder for people with like minds to meet in digital space. Although tags like Twitter hashtag # works, it is increasingly being abused. As a result, many platforms are allowing users and operators to build space of interests - Facebook and Quora. The administrators of such space become facilitator of discussions. Advertising revenue in such space can be shared with the admins and contributors.

In Quote space for example, digital advertisement revenues is distributed monthly once your space has reached a certain size. As long as your revenue is over 10 dollars each month, the ad revenue is distributed to the admin's paypal account and shared with contributors who put in the hard work.

The name of the game is organic followers.

Key to success:

Keep in mind that the monthly income is typically capped around 10 dollars/month. A space with 1 million follower sounds impressive, and very few actively visit the space and click on the advertisements.

Quora has a nice system of "recommended answerer" that allows a poster of questions to suggest answerer based on Quora's recommendations. The person who answers a lot of questions on a given topic gets to be asked a lot.


Idea 7: Create online courses on udemy or other platforms

Anyone can create short video courses on udemy on any topic! with each purchase of your course, you earn between 2.5 dollars (if the course is entirely promoted by udemy) to 12 dollars (if you brought in the subscriber yourself).

If you are an engineering students, you can create a class on engineering and perhaps even outsell your teacher on your class. I know, this is crazy.


Idea 8: Buying stocks

The stock market everywhere is booming and stock prices are rising. The rich people use the stock market - their money is really their asset and capital - they can make more from stock gain simply because they put in more. But even as small investors you are missing a lot of action if you are not considering putting small amount of money into the stock market.

Money shrinks if you don't use it.

If you are not buying stocks in 2020 and 2021, you are like a traveler avoiding the highway. The massive money governments printed are rushing into the stock market, and almost daily we see stock price setting new record while the interest rate is almost at zero. If you are not in the play, you are missing the best chance governments afforded you to grow your money.

In 2020, most USA trade companies eliminated the stock purchasing fee - you can buy stocks for zero fee! (when you sell, obviously you need to think about tax consequences).

You don't need to have a lot of money to invest. If you are interested in bitcoin concept, you can buy a bit coin for 50000 dollars, or you can buy a bit coin related company for 20 dollars per share. Both will rise if bitcoin price rise.


Idea 9: Invest in real estate

The only thing the earth has limited supply of is its surface area! Simply put, EARTH is the most valuable. If you own land you can rent them out. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the renters never miss a beat of collecting rents. Why? because they don't have to give discounts.

With little money, it is hard to become a landlord or renter. However, stocks related to housing materials and constructions should be something you can watch. For example, the Home Depot stock price roughly tracks the land and home sales price.

When you have enough money, buy apartments and rent them out (but be careful to pick the right locations and country).

The earth population is growing exponentially. There is always a seller's market on housing and homes.


Idea 10: Get a job and learn the ropes

When you are short of money, the number one instinct is to go out there and make them. This is wrong. You should be more patient. The money you can make instantly will always be small.

Getting a job at a company that does what you want to do, and learn the business inside and out. Getting paid a steady salary is never bad (try start your own business and you will miss the monthly checks, however small it is).


Wanting to be creative?

Sell what people wants to buy.

Generally speaker there are five ways to make money online:

  1. Sell products;

  2. Build products;

  3. Help others market their products;

  4. Help others with your skills.

  5. Collecting advertising revenue. Organize social space and provide value to groups.

Cautions for some ideas

Other ideas include writing ebooks, sell on Amazon FBA stores, sell pictures, starting podcasts, and various forms of freelancing. However, none of these are easy and none of them are scalable. Here the word "scalable" means you can make enough to hire a helper.

You can keep your hope up and try everyone of them, and eventually you will find that none of the method is easy, and there are many hidden obstables.

The author of this article is Dr. Chang Liu. He can be reached at

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