If today's economy has left you in need of more cash, consider this emerging trend: Millions are using the Internet -- and a minimal amount of time -- to bring home extra bacon.
Whether delving into e-commerce or selling ad space on a blog, Internet sellers often benefit from a rock-bottom initial investment, the convenience of working wherever and whenever they please, and the freedom of being their own boss.
However, before you quit your day job, it's important to consider the potential pitfalls of selling on the Internet. These include startup time, extenuating costs and stiff competition.
"There are a lot of people trying to do the same thing," says Robert Spector, author of the book "Amazon.com: Get Big Fast," a book covering the history and development of the Web giant.
"What's going to differentiate the book I get from you versus the book I get from your competitor?"
Following are four ideas for turning the Internet into your own personal cash cow, and suggestions for staying ahead of the competition.
Making cash online
- Selling books, music and other products.
- Marketing your hobbies.
- Contributing to a Web site.
1. BloggingWeb logs -- now almost universally know as "blogs" -- were once the sardonic voice of dissent on the Web. Now, everyone seems to have a space on the Internet where they offer opinions or other reflections.
If your blog captures the imagination of the public, you could earn money while you entertain.
Eden Kennedy of Santa Barbara, Calif., started Fussy.org when her son was 3 months old. She's been blogging about parenting, marriage and the hilarity of daily life for eight years now.
Kennedy says she built a readership by reading, commenting on and showing interest in the blogs of others.
Eventually, Kennedy had enough of a following to sell advertising space on her blog.
She works with several different advertising networks, each of which compensates her with anywhere from $1 per month to several hundred dollars per month.
One day, Kennedy had another flash of entrepreneurial insight: She decided to sell T-shirts to her readers.
She had shirts printed up with the phrase "Writing well is the best revenge" and watched the orders roll in.
"Just that phrase, it hits people pretty well," Kennedy says. "Actually, a lot of academics buy the T-shirt."
Kennedy now earns roughly $200 a month selling T-shirts. That income is in addition to the advertising dollars she rakes in.
Kennedy says her online pursuits have been more fruitful and less time-consuming than her former "real world" job working in a bookstore.
"Usually a post, no matter how long it is, takes me about an hour to write, and lately I haven't been updating more than twice a week," says Kennedy, who adds that designing her blog and dealing with advertisers takes an additional five hours per week.