Clicking for bucks
It pays to cast your financial net online, where possibilities abound.
Monetizing your expertise -- whether in social networking or transcribing -- is one way to make money while sitting at your computer at home. But others also are popping up, such as taking online surveys or even predicting election results.
The good part: You don't have to pay a dime. And with some sites, you can start to make money online immediately. Most of these gigs are small, steady streams of cash. But they can add up to steady earnings over time.
To avoid scams, forget unknown or untested sites with big promises. "Find out if the site is legitimate," says Nick Mokey, associate editor of DigitalTrends.com. "How long has it been around? And what are they asking you to do?"
Also, keep a clock running so you can maximize your income without wasting your time. Follow these rules, and you'll find the Internet awash in moneymaking opportunities.
Pitch products online
Pitching other people's products is one of the Internet's best-paying gigs.
One method is being an affiliate at a mega-site such as Amazon.com, where commissions are up to 25 percent. Anytime anyone buys a product you're pitching, you get a cut. And you can choose from more than a million products, including gift cards or computers.
At ClickBank, commissions are even higher -- up to 75 percent -- and there are more than 50,000 products to choose from. Signing up is free.
On the downside, some ClickBank products can be of poor quality, says Bethany Mooradian, owner of QueenoftheRandomJob.com. So some products are easier to pitch than others. One solution is to buy the product ahead of time to assess its quality, she says.
Dish out answers
If you're an information junkie, this gig is for you.
There are several to choose from to make money online. At kgbanswers.com and JustAnswer.com, you become an expert after taking a brief test. At these websites, a customer asks a question and receives an answer from an "expert." At kgbanswers, answers come via your smartphone. At JustAnswers, answers come via email or text message. Both offer subscription and per-question alternatives.
Brainiacs are also welcome at ChaCha, which pays you small amounts of money for completing guide tasks. Advice runs the gamut from solving puzzles to answering questions on set subjects. Payouts can be small but steady.
Building a following on ChaCha is the hardest part, though, Mooradian says. The reason: You're listed along with 62,000 other experts. Also, ChaCha rates are pretty slim, ranging from 1 cent to 20 cents per task. Though savvy experts can make money online, don't give up your day job.
Perform a microgig
You can offer your services online at task marketplaces such as fiverr.com or Zaarly.com. At fiverr, workers fulfill tasks starting at $5 per job. Zaarly.com offers a similar service. It has launched its first storefront in San Francisco but has workers performing tasks all around the U.S.
Or, even better, head to Amazon Mechanical Turk, or MTurk.com, says Mokey. More than 200,000 tasks are listed there to make money online, with varying pay and work requirements. Once a task is completed, payments are deposited in your Amazon Payments account.
"In the worldwide marketplace of today, your skills can be used for anything, including mapping," Mokey says. However, you're also competing against people in developing nations who are willing to work for pennies, he says.
To maximize earnings, evaluate tasks carefully.
Can you make accurate predictions?
Are you good at forecasting election results or the price of gold?
Then predictive sites are for you. Introduced by the Chicago Board Options Exchange in 2008, binary options are financial contracts that let you earn money by predicting the rise or fall of financial assets. You can buy them at binary option brokers.
The website Intrade is another twist in prediction-making. You can predict hundreds of events -- such as presidential election results or Academy Award winners -- by buying shares if you think the event will happen or selling shares if you think it won't happen. If your prediction is accurate, you make money. If it isn't, you lose money.
"Some power users buy thousands of shares at a time," says Carl Wolfenden, exchange operations manager at Dublin-based Intrade.com. "Others put $50 down and hold their shares. It's a lot of fun."
You should be warned that you can lose your entire investment, Wolfenden says. On the winning side, your money-making potential is unlimited.
Take an online survey
Put your money where your mouth is by giving advertisers your opinions.
To find a job, head to websites such as MindFieldOnline.com, GlobalTestMarket.com or ZoomPanel.com, Mooradian says. They offer points and rewards for taking wide-ranging opinion surveys.
Another site, eJury.com, will pay you for being part of online mock juries, Mooradian says. EJurors are paid $5 to $10 per verdict.
The attorney prepares the case submission, which consists of facts from the perspective of each party. EJury converts the attorney's case submission into an HTML format and posts it to a secure location on the website where only eJurors can access the case. EJurors review the facts of the case and answer questions, each clicking a "submit verdict" button upon completion.
But don't expect big paydays. "Surveys are good for making pocket change," Mooradian says. "Payouts are only pennies to a few dollars per survey."