How to make $10,000 online FAST (experiments in radical prosperity)

How to make $10,000 online FAST (experiments in radical prosperity)

Over the past decade, I’ve made about half a million bucks online. That sounds like a lot, but it works out to around $50,000 a year and half of it goes into sustaining my online platform, so not great income, but I am making a living with my creative projects.

However, though I have hit a handful of $10K+ months, I haven’t been able to hit that repeatedly in way that scales, even though that’s been my financial aim for practically the entire time. There’s a ton of Big Ideas I just never finished or got around to, and honestly I don’t actually work on my business and have no hustle culture (I sleep all day like a cat).

At least part of the issue, maybe a big part, are my limiting money beliefs. That’s starting to shift a little bit. I’m starting to attract some ghostwriting and editing gigs that could earn $10K each, so accepting one big project a month would do it… but I don’t want to. I’m Bartleby the Scrivener, who was a very early practitioner of “quiet quitting” with his phrase “I’d prefer not to.”

Instead I’ve mostly been focused on ways to make passive income so I can spend more time making stuff for fun, which is a difficult juggling act that I’m confident I can still succeed at even though I’ve been “failing” at it for 10+ years.

I used to publish income reports and experiments but haven’t for a long time (don’t worry, my income hasn’t improved much)… but I dusted off this old note to myself where I was challenging myself to think up creative ways to make $10K a month.

But first – since I’m not sure it’s *actually* what you need, I’m going to start off with a simple list of creative ways to make money online.

  1. Sell your photography on stock photo websites.
  2. Start a dropshipping business using platforms like Shopify.
  3. Create digital art and sell it on Etsy.
  4. Publish an eBook on Amazon Kindle.
  5. Design and sell T-shirts on Teespring or Redbubble.
  6. Offer freelance writing services on Upwork or Fiverr.
  7. Become a virtual assistant for online businesses.
  8. Teach an online course on Udemy or Skillshare.
  9. Create a YouTube channel and monetize your videos.
  10. Stream video games or creative content on Twitch.
  11. Sell handmade crafts on Etsy.
  12. Offer graphic design services on freelance platforms.
  13. Start a podcast and gain sponsorships.
  14. Sell your own music on Bandcamp or SoundCloud.
  15. Flip domain names – buy low, sell high.
  16. Participate in online surveys and market research.
  17. Rent out your gear (cameras, drones, etc.) on Fat Llama.
  18. Create an app and sell it on the Google Play or App Store.
  19. Invest in cryptocurrency – but do your research first!
  20. Sell vintage or unique finds on eBay.
  21. Translate documents if you’re fluent in multiple languages.
  22. Manage social media accounts for small businesses.
  23. Offer SEO consulting services for websites.
  24. Create and sell website themes for WordPress.
  25. Start a niche affiliate marketing website.
  26. Write and sell your own software or tools online.
  27. Offer online fitness coaching or personalized workout plans.
  28. Sell your recipes or create a cooking guide eBook.
  29. Offer pet sitting services virtually, like pet behavior consultations.
  30. Start an online coaching business in your area of expertise.
  31. Create and sell printable planners or journals on Etsy.
  32. Do voice-over work for audiobooks or animations.
  33. Sell your college notes on sites like Stuvia.
  34. Offer webinar or workshop hosting services.
  35. Flip thrift store finds online.
  36. Sell custom logo designs on Fiverr.
  37. Create a mobile car wash service booking website.
  38. Teach a language online – English, Spanish, etc.
  39. Offer personal finance planning services online.
  40. Start a subscription box service in a niche market.
  41. Sell your 3D models to architects or game developers.
  42. Offer online interior design consultation services.
  43. Create and sell stock video footage.
  44. Offer remote tech support services.
  45. Create a local online marketplace for your community.
  46. Write and sell product descriptions for eCommerce sites.
  47. Offer custom meal planning services online.
  48. Teach DIY or crafting workshops online.
  49. Provide online music lessons – guitar, piano, etc.
  50. Rent out your home or a room on Airbnb.

Here’s a HUGE list of 186 ways to make money online.

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What it REALLY takes to make money online

Business is pretty simple: find a thing people want, that you can provide.

  • Some things are “scalable” – you can make it once and sell it over and over
  • But it’s easier to start with services

That’s generally true for every industry. Most people try to start a business and have all these IDEAS that are cool and focus on names and brands and logos… and that stuff is a little bit important, but building traffic to your website is hard and especially right now with AI, both blog traffic and services might become impossibly competitive.

So you need a unique edge, which will probably either be:

  • Your unique community (start with people you know in your area)
  • Establish a difference

What are you offering that nobody else is? How are you different and better, or serving a specific exclusive audience? Local businesses are much easier, as people may search for services in their area. Focus on your OFFER, but don’t spend to much time perfecting it. Research the costs, make sure you can do it, and put your offer out there – if it doesn’t get bites, change the bait and try again (improve the offer or think of a different offer). Keep fishing until you catch something.

Once you have an offer, put it in front of people.

  • Organic Traffic
  • Advertising

Traffic is free, stuff like blogging or social media, but it takes a ton of work. If you’re clever you can position yourself near some trending topics and more viral stuff. Advertising is simpler and easier: for $5 a day you could reach just about everyone in your town (or all the *specific types of clients* in your state).

Send them to an offer page; if you don’t have a good one, send them to your Facebook post or put up an offer on Fiverr.com or Elance.com

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The Writing & Publishing Business

Most of my income has come from serving authors and writers, as an editor and cover designer. I’ve tried offering services as well as digital products like templates and courses. I’ve had a bit of success with traffic, youtube and growing an email list (which keeps getting up to 100K and then I slash it down to a manageable size).

But like I mentioned, despite getting some pretty great traffic – like when CNN featured me for renting castles or Amazon shared my writing tips – I don’t convert sales as well as I would like to, for a host of reasons I won’t go into here (but I have some long ass posts on sales page conversion).

I’ve thought about other things I could offer or how I could grow my income, but have yet to really act on most of these ideas… also this brainstorm exercise is several years old so I’ll updated it as I go:

This is a thought experiment in online business.

I’ve never been great at managing money and the frustrating thing about working for yourself is lack of consistency. I made good money last month – so I spent it. This month I made about half as much, and I’m short. I know that things will even out again, but we’re moving out of our downtown Portland apartment tomorrow: we need to GO somewhere and LIVE somewhere, so I need to make some quick cash.

This entire subject, by the way, revolves around the kind of creative work you WANT to do vs what people need and are willing to pay you for. I talked recently about how I’ve been shifting gears and starting to focus on the high level work I’m passionate about… which may be why I’ve lost sight of what people want and need from me. 

I’m not saying you should always slave away on other people’s projects, and it’s important to free up your time for the important work. But sometimes, you have to do things you don’t love, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (it can even be refreshing).

1. Start with need

First, you need to find an audience and figure out what’s challenging them. It’s much easier to get people to buy if you tap into a clear pain point. Recently I went to a writing conference and figured out what most people want is help publishing. But they don’t REALLY want to self-publish. They want an agent; because then they know they can trust the rest of the stuff.

Personally, I know that indie authors are the ones who make money, and there are a lot of unscrupulous agents who string clients along. Mostly though – authors aren’t writing commercial books, which means agents can’t sell them. And then when they do finally decide to self-publish, they just want to pay for a package that promises all the things they wanted from traditional publishing (but don’t actually sell books).

I’ve been trying to teach authors who to do all this themselves and sell more books, but the smart indie authors don’t want to pay for information or help, and the newbie authors don’t want or understand the offer.

I need to focus on clear, specific services people actually want, which are valuable, and then drive in the pain point.

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Those are a few of the strongish offers that would probably work, but I just can’t bring myself to use sales-speak like that (even though, I know people would benefit from my services and it’s my job to persuade them to trust me.)

2. Price above average

I’ve been shifting towards low-priced products, to create passive income, but services should usually be priced higher. When pricing, remember value is what THEY will pay, not what YOU think it’s worth. That said, make sure you’re actually capable of doing excellent work and delivering what you promised.

After researching what other people are charging for similar services, and how much time and effort these services would take, I’ve priced thusly:

#1 total branded website. $997

Website design is a pain, especially because most authors want something that expresses their soul, rather than something simple and functional which will actually boost credibility and sell books. BUT – if I kept this to a few theme choices, this would mostly consist of headers and promo images. I’m actually going to make templates for this stuff so people can get a big package and DIY for less.

But if it’s “done for you” – $1K for an author website is reasonable. If I’m also giving marketing help on how to build your social media following to 1K, linking social media accounts, creating a blogging schedule with suggested posts, helping SEO etc… I should be charging more. (Eventually this will just be a course that includes a templates package, and it’ll cost $997 and WON’T be “done for you.”

But if I want to make quick money, and get some testimonials/practice, I need to be willing to do more work.

#2 book query package. $749

This would include critiquing the synopsis and outline, finding the hook and pitch, and editing the query letter and first three chapters (agents sometimes ask for the first 50 pages). I stopped editing years ago but this would be something I enjoy that would also be higher value than just the editing. (I’m a great editor, but it’s frustrating to edit a book when the author’s in charge – focusing on the commercial aspect, what this book needs in order to be SELLABLE – is more attractive for me and valuable for authors).

#3 outline critique $349

I LOVE outlining. Coming up with plot twists and events is my favorite thing to do (actually drafting is harder for me). And a lot of authors get stuck somewhere in the middle, don’t know what happens next, which sucks up the enthusiasm for the project – lots of good books die somewhere in the middle. I’ve seen other services like this for $200ish, but I have a PhD in Literature and I focus on commercial books, which means my help is valuable. I can help turn a mediocre book or story into a great one, and I can do it before you waste months writing a less powerful version.

#4 publishing makeover $349

I’ve been doing author platform audits for $349, but that’s just feedback and maybe blurb revision and keyword research. If I really wanted this to be valuable, it would include a book cover makeover as well… but it would have to be something quick and simple (I charge 5X more than this for cover design). Authors may not be ready to let go of their old covers, but if I could at least give them something else to test this would be really valuable. I’d probably also need to find a way to get them reviews, if that’s the problem.

Funnily enough, all five of those suggested offers above are things I teach in my Guerrilla Publishing course, which is only $500, but it’s the difference between teaching someone how to do it, and just doing it for them. Like I said, I’d rather sell the cheaper stuff, without feedback or consulting, rather than do it myself, because then I could truly scale.

As in, I’d rather enroll 20 new students into my course and mastermind and spend a year coaching them, but there’s at least as many people who don’t want a course and would rather just pay for a service. So basically, I’m repackaging things I already do and turning them into simple, specific offers with clear benefits.

Pricing is a balance, if you get too many sales, you’ve priced too low. Too few sales and you aren’t communicating the benefits, and credibility well enough. You want to make sure you’re making a profit and it’s worth your time (you need to charge at least 25% more than you think you should, so you can focus on growth and advertising, not JUST breaking even.)

Update: at the time, these prices felt expensive, and not they feel cheap, so hopefully that means I’ve become a little more comfortable with charging what I’m worth (it’s no longer worth it to do these things at these prices).

I’ve also played with offering consulting, and the problem is, people want to pay to talk to me but I generally refuse. My friends think I’m crazy for not jumping at the $500/hour and I know my advice is solid… but I’d rather help people by actually doing really things that take time and effort that will pay off and benefit clients more than just talking with me for an hour.

 

make money online from home writing books

3. Offer a deal

Normally, if you want QUICK sales, you need to be willing to improve the offer. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Cut the price. Usually $1997, now just $997! Or “this is just a test offer so I’m doing 10 SPOTS at $100, after that the price will go up to the regular price of $349
  • Offer more extras. Buy this service and get this bonus service free! I’ll also feature you on my website/build a list of 100 potential reviewers to contact/give you a personalized package of ad graphics/do a 30 minute clarity session
  • Urgency and scarcity. Limited to 10 people. Today ONLY. Flash Sale. Deal ends at midnight.
  • Gorgeous landing page design

You don’t want anything to be fake though, be honest – part of the reason I’ve had trouble is that I’ve been chasing an evergreen sales funnel, instead of a course launch every few months.

4. Build your funnel

For high-end services, ideally you’d have a free or cheap offer – a free book or consultation, a free checklist, guide, review, or something cheap (less than $50 probably). Something people can buy quickly without thinking about it. What I SHOULD do is have a $97 course on each of these subjects, with a 50% off coupon – then at the end of the course upsell with the done for you services (and then a really in-depth, long, detailed blog post on each thing.)

You also want to start free or cheap to build up a portfolio of work and testimonials, which will make it easier for you to sell your offer. You’ll probably need some landing pages or sales pages, positioning your offer with great sales copy. Ideally you want to disrupt your field or industry, by offering something new, fresh, different and BETTER. This is mostly a branding thing.

But since we want to make money FAST, all you really need is a sales page with a PayPal button, or better yet, join a services site like Fiverr and Upwork (prefer Fiverr, because people can find YOU, as opposed to needing to bid on projects and sell yourself).

5. Visibility

Here comes that hard part. You have a clear, specific, valuable offer that resonates with your target audience. It’s intuitively and obviously valuable. It just FEELS right, like something they need, and it solves a frustrating problem (it’s not about the details of HOW it gets solved, as long as you promise results, confidence and happiness).

Now you need to get your offer in front of the right people!

#1. Blogging

This is what I’ve used for years. It’s mostly free, but takes work – and you can’t really have one blog that does everything, you need specific sites that align with your offer. You need to write 10 to 20 in-depth posts about relevant subjects, hit all the keywords people are searching for, hit the pain points and provide lots of value. You can redistribute the content by making youtube videos, powerpoints for slideshare, linkedin articles, medium posts etc.

#2. Guest posting

Blogs are probably too slow if you want to make money NOW, but guest posts can work great – find 100 blogs and websites that share your intended audience. Google your keywords and see what shows up. If I write “manuscript critique” I’ll just get a bunch of editing companies; I want blogs about writing or craft or publishing that accept guest posts. Make a big list. Pitch them blog ideas. You can use a title generator for click-worthy titles.

Aim to write 5 articles about every one topic; one BIG one for your site, 4 specific ones for 4 other sites. Send out a pitch email to all the websites: focus on more than just the topic; show that you understand their audience and what they need; be personal and refer to the site’s other posts. Make sure you know the blog owner, what they like or hate, what they post about, read the about page. Don’t just “Dear sir or madam” them.

#3. Viral content

Once you have some content up, you can try and get it shared. You can do this with great graphics. Share on social and pinterest. Ideally something beautiful with emotional appeal, rather than an “ad” – for example I just made these graphics. Ideally, I can share these with a great story and offer, and they’ll get more organic visibility as people share them (I should have put a tiny logo on brand name on them).

These are some old images I made for BookButchers, but I have way better branding now.

Videos are great for sales as well, so I may make some cool videos for my sales page – but… that’s kind of procrastinating. Start by trying to sell the offer. All the extra cool stuff my help sell the offer but aren’t essential. Going viral is HARD. And it’s usually about something controversial or that speaks to people (people share what THEY are, what relates to themselves, like “5 signs you’re a better writer than Hemingway” or “19 secret habits writers do while you’re sleeping.”) With pics and gifs. You can make content like this on BuzzFeed or similar sites, but you’ll probably still need to drive some traffic.

#3. Affiliates

The easiest way to get people to share is to pay them: offer them a $50 bounty for every referral. It’s hard to set up though, you’ll need some special software; or you could just include a form that says “where did you hear about us?” and you can keep track of who you owe.

Update: this is the big thing I’ve always avoided but also been missing. You need fancy software and stuff to make it all happen. Once I have a very solid offer, I’ll probably invest in either SamCart or ThriveCart.

#4. Advertising

I’m starting to really like the idea of AD >> sales page. Simple, direct, measurable. You can also advertise a free video, video series, short guide, checklist or PDF, then add a link to the sale page on the thank you/downloads page. Basically shortening the time you ask for the sale, and offering a paid solution right away. But, if you’re broke and need to make money fast, advertising may not be the best idea.

I’ve played around with ads (spent probably 50K or more), and they kind of work, but I could be doing much better. I’ve focused on conversion, but with ads you could fix and fine tune your funnel faster and test out dozens of images and ad copy until you find the winning combinations.

#5. Service websites

I mentioned Fiverr earlier and that’s actually the one I’m going to try first. I want to make 5 brilliant offers at the price points above, and maybe some cheap $5/$10 ones like “get 5 books on writing and publishing.” My goal is to stand out, and brand myself as the premium provider – I’m also going to need some reviews. Ideally, these will be set up in a way to match your branding and personality, and instantly boost credibility.

I may also finish my Reedsy profile. The value of having a listing, if you get found or get lots of reviews or successful projects, is you’ll be “found” easily and people will recognize you as an expert in that thing. You could also focus on being relentlessly helpful on Quora.com for awhile (Google’s new algorithm update pushed up Quora results).

#6. SEO

As you’re thinking about all this stuff, see which platform is most likely to rank well for your keywords. Include keywords in your title, description and bio. Include links back to your main topic-posts on your blog or website, if you have one. Link to your services from high site-authority websites. Ideally you want to get a piece of content to rank on the first page of Google.

#7. Value bombs

A value bomb is usually when you go on someone’s Facebook group or forum and post a huge, super useful info dump. It’s SO good people save it and share it. You don’t want to be spammy or promotional or sell things in other people’s groups, but if you have your profile set up with an offer and links, you can get some work – you can also PM everyone who likes or comments your post, and talk them into a sell or something, but I don’t do that and wouldn’t recommend it (it works though).

6. Multiple income streams

I’ve always been against sites like Kickstarter or Patreon for authors – I think you should earn from great products and launches, not “support” – however since I give my nonfiction books for free and not everybody needs one of my courses or services, there’s no way for people to just say “thanks” if they want to. I actually help a LOT of people out for free, and spend at least an hour a day answering emails.

I saw this on another website and thought it was clever: “buy me coffee” plus some free resources with a recommended value. This would be easy to set up, and I wouldn’t feel like I’m just asking for free money. I could also add this into my autoresponder series, ie “did this free training and videos help? buy me a coffee!” Again… I don’t LIKE to ask for this, but it’s easier than “buy my $500 course” and I know my resources are insanely valuable, and are helping thousands of authors publish with confidence.

I have added some donation buttons in a few places and they do make a few hundred bucks a month, but I’d rather be focusing people into a powerful funnel to give them all the stuff they need.

I set up a “buy me coffee” link.

I actually think “Ko-fi” might be a little better. Ideally you want the largest platform, where people can search for stuff, which will rank well for keywords. Patreon might be fine as well but I don’t like the idea of monthly support. Kickstarter is my favorite, and it’s better because it’s focused on providing value, not asking for handouts (I’ll probably update my coffee page so when you buy coffee you get something too.)

In every case, this is not marketing: you still need your platform, traffic or audience, or these pages won’t make any money, so they aren’t really “get rich quick” moneymakers. It won’t buy me a castle, but ideally I can generate a few hundred bucks a month (which isn’t much, actually… this is prime real-estate. It would be BETTER to use that for a specific pitch or hook, get them in a funnel, and convince them to buy your book or product on Amazon..

Long term, you should have

  • cheap books or products ($7~$27)
  • cheap services and courses ($97)
  • more expensive courses, consulting, services or coaching ($297~$997)
  • and some live workshops ($2997)

At least that’s what I’m trying to build up to. I *COULD* just sell a $5K publishing package including cover design, editing and marketing, and it would probably be easier, but I’m shifting towards things that are high value but take less time and work (expertise, not effort).

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The truth about running an online business

I do posts like this to procrastinate, but I’m going to make myself pull the trigger on a lot of this – because, crisis averted – building up a larger platform with more traffic by offering things that coincide with real problems is good for my platform.

However I’m already getting TOO creative. I could just focus on “book design” or “book editing” – simple, universal services people understand and search for. I’ve been trying to AVOID straight services like that because I can’t scale, but I should at least make sure they’re selling when I want them to be.

One of the most frustrating things for creative people is running out of money and needing to go back to work. BUT, it also forces you to focus on value, and remember helping other people is as important as making progress on your own goals.

I’ll update this post once I’ve made changes (and hopefully hit my $10K!)

Broad vs Narrow

It’s much easier to go narrow, “riches are in the niches” – but there are varying degrees. It depends on competition, search volume and how much people are willing to pay. Your income will always be limited by the amount of people who want to buy what you are selling.

I’ve built a small community around people writing books, and everybody is writing books, so there’s a lot of room for a wider audience; but most of my *traffic* right now is from broad search terms like designing a home office or love poetry. Most of my personal, longish rants (like this one!) are ignored and get no traffic.

If you get enough traffic, you can try to make some money somehow, but it won’t be focused; you can make more money with much less traffic – and this site (creativindie) isn’t even where I make *any* money… I just use it to boost a few other sites I have that are actually focused on providing one solution to one problem.

But I’m open to allowing this site to grow in a wider direction, but embracing creativity and creative culture on a larger scale to more people.

FUTURE GOALS & Updates

Did my 10K project succeed? No, not yet, but I also haven’t done most of these things.

Though the truth is, I should be focused on doubling traffic, visibility, conversion and evergreen content, as well as new products, rather than taking clients or custom work, because it’s SCALABLE – then I can just invest in ads).

I will probably do that (someday, in the distant future, maybe) and quit services again for real when I’m past 10K in passive income. The reason I quit the first time, is that I was stuck at an income limit of around 10K, because I couldn’t handle more work. But with scalable assets, I should be able to, for example, spend $20K in ads and make $50K a month.

I’m hesitant to start advertising because most of my offers aren’t perfect, but there’s a lot of crap being advertised out there and I know my resources really help people; also I’m tired of not being famous or having to introduce myself. I want writers and authors to RECOGNIZE me. I have impressive credentials, and some cool / useful stuff, but it doesn’t matter unless I can get it in front of people.

I’m also hesitant because deep down in my creative soul, I don’t *want* to do any of this stuff. I want to write fantasy novels and make stuff. I’m great at figuring stuff out and sharing knowledge and doing fun experiments, but I’m uncomfortable selling and not entirely convinced I should change my attitude.

I’d rather write about history and literature and mythology, and creative philosophy and culture… and I do sometimes. (If you like it when I do that stuff, some positive encouragement would be appreciated!)

But I do already have a ton of good stuff, and a ton of good reviews, and people seem to genuinely benefit from my resources, so it’s not inconceivable I could be doing it all a little better, and scaling up aggressively, without really changing very much.

So basically, 

  1. I need to focus on increasing PROFIT from my platforms
  2. I need to double traffic with content
  3. Then I can double income with ads

I made 500K in 10 years… it’s not impossible I could make 500K in 1 year, because most of what I’ve been doing for the past decade, was transitioning from active to passive income, and figuring things out. That still sounds a bit crazy, but maybe by becoming comfortable with 500K in a year, the idea of 10K a month won’t sound out of reach by comparison.

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