how to make money online

The Beginner’s Guide to Making That First Million From Your Online Business

There are a number of ways to make money online.

There’s a real boom in online businesses starting up now in all kinds of areas. These range from e-commerce to services and from affiliate websites promoting third parties to people selling directly on Amazon and eBay. There’s also a great deal of online support available to promote new web-based businesses – so there’s never been a better time to start your rise to becoming one of the successful netpreneurs of tomorrow.

make money onlineThe nature of online business means business can be conducted at any time.

The internet has done a great many things for the world, not least given a real impetus to many netpreneurs to start their own businesses. The even better news is that there have never been more options available both in terms of the types of businesses you could start or in the ways that you can build and support their success. So let’s take a look at just some of them.

  1. Understanding the scale of e-commerce

make money with ecommerce

The e-commerce industry is booming. It’s estimated that 75% of people are now well-used to shopping online, and this isn’t just good news for parcel delivery companies. It also means that the possibilities for e-commerce businesses are unprecedented – whether you’re selling online courses, T-shirts or jewelry.

Want to get in on the action? Follow these steps:

  • Choose a product and know it inside-out.
  • Evaluate your idea and the market that already exists around the product.
  • Obtain your product by finding a manufacturer or supplier, or making it yourself.
  • Research your competition thoroughly so you know what you’re up against.
  • Write a business plan that outlines how you want to move forward.
  • With a business plan in hand, register your business.
  • Choose a memorable name – taking into account the available domain names.
  • Craft an eye-catching logo for your new business.
  • Find a popular e-commerce hosting platform, such as Shopify.
  • Understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so can make sure your site ranks effectively in Google search results.
  • Build your store by adding product descriptions and images to your website.
  • Get approved for a payment gateway so you can accept credit card or PayPal payments.
  • Once your site’s ready to launch, set up a Google Shopping Campaign and make sure you have a presence in Facebook’s product catalog.
  • Work out your storage and shipping options

It’s a good idea to not waste any time kicking off your SEO strategy. Having a head-start on the keyword research will give you an advantage when it comes to spending time on the subsequent website design and development work – as you’ll be able to spend more time making sure it’s as eye-catching as possible.

If you’re wondering how much an e-commerce business takes to develop and launch, it can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in total – factoring in planning and pre-development tasks, the development and system configuration itself, design and project management. Once you’ve launched your e-commerce business, what follows is the hard work – and the ongoing marketing, driving traffic, and using Analytics to understand how to reach out to more customers, is essential to keep growing your company.

2. Selling physical goods v information or intangible products/services such as software or stock photos

make money online

Airbnb offers a brilliant online service. Still wondering about what product you might want to sell? Perhaps it shouldn’t be a product at all. It could be argued that offering information and services as opposed to physical products makes running an online business much more straightforward.

There are a few advantages to selling digital products such as software or services like stock photos:

  • The potential to make high margins, as physical products require more upfront investment
  • No shipping or handling costs, production costs and overheads, meaning more profit
  • You can sell digital products over and over again for little cost – both in terms of time and money
  • Digital products are delivered automatically to customers, as soon as they order them, improving customer satisfaction
  • Customers can easily trial a product via download, improving your conversion rates
  • It’s more environmentally sustainable, as it doesn’t use physical and natural resources

One downside, however, is having to compete with all the others out there who have had the same idea about starting up a business that has minimal overheads and relies on selling information or expertise in some form or another. A great example of this is Airbnb, which started with the simple idea of bringing people with space available in their homes together with others looking for a bed for the night and which has now grown into a business worth an estimated $31 billion.

3. Making affiliate marketing work for you

make money with affiliate marketing


Affiliate marketing explained

Once you’re up and running, affiliate marketing can really help get your e-commerce business off the ground. By starting a site that is effectively an introducer for various different kinds of businesses and taking a commission for each new customer, it’s a simple way to make money. Affiliate marketing is popular in most sectors, including in online gaming, where online casino affiliate sites are especially prevalent and provide an invaluable source of new players.

Affiliates are one of the online gaming industry’s main source of web traffic, so affiliate marketing has had a great impact on the success of the online casino. It’s easy to join up with a scheme – there are no sign-up fees, and it’s open to everyone. All that’s required is a website where banners and other kinds of adverts can be displayed. Once customers click on these adverts and make purchases, your affiliates start earning money – and you’re saving on marketing budget by only paying for proven results.

Most online casinos use revenue share as a payment structure. This means that affiliates earn a percentage of the profit generated by the traffic. Another option is a cost per acquisition (CPA) model. While the profits may be appealing, the most important aspect of being an affiliate marketer for an online casino is that the affiliate really believes in the brand they’re promoting.

4. Appreciating the success of online casinos

While we’re on the subject of online casinos, let’s focus on the online gambling industry – and how it’s been able to take a traditionally physical game and make it work on the internet. Leading online casinos simulate the look and feel of real, land-based casinos, letting users immerse themselves in their favorite games from the comfort of their own home, or on the move. Today, online gambling now accounts for 33% of all gambling in the UK. The industry generated £13.6 billion between 2015 and 2016.

how to make money online

The success of the online gambling industry reflects a wider trend towards internet usage

5. Becoming an Amazon or eBay seller

how to sell online

You can sell your products on Amazon. If you’re just dipping your toe into e-commerce, becoming an Amazon or eBay seller is a great way to test the water, especially as Amazon gives you access to an estimated 244 million+ customers worldwide. By using these as a platform they also provide you with a fixed template for advertising products as well as taking care of the payment methods on your behalf. Then, once you’ve seen how your products are selling via these channels, it could give you the confidence to set up on your own.

When it comes to selling your products online, it’s important to consider the differences between the two biggest marketplaces on the web:

  • Over 100,000 new sellers join Amazon every month – and Nike are among the large brands and retailers on its books. eBay is more suited to smaller-time sellers of unique items such as heirlooms, collectibles and niche items.
  • Amazon shoppers love great value and fast, free shipping – whereas eBay consumers are traditionally more interested in high-quality items and great customer service.
  • When it comes to international reach, eBay is easily more global – making it preferable to sellers interested in reaching out to customers across the globe.
  • Amazon products are price-competitive, and they have great ranges in all categories – whereas eBay is generally thought of as the place to go for unique items and collectibles.
  • In terms of shipping, Amazon’s system is centralized, robust and well-planned, with distribution centres across the world. eBay, on the other hand, just provides a platform for sellers to sell and deliver their own goods.
  • Amazon offers an affiliate program called Amazon Associates, where website owners and bloggers can earn referral fees for every customer who clicks a link on their website and ends up making a payment. eBay has a similar Affiliate Program.
  • Fulfilment by Amazon takes care of picking, packing and shipping of items – which could really help you out if don’t have much storage space.
  • Amazon Vendor Express can help you expose your products to the company’s millions of customers. Selling your products to Amazon rather than directly to your own customers, and having them take care of everything from handling to promotion, you can really make a name for your company and get it growing quickly.
  • If you’re focusing on publishing music, film or books, Amazon Advantage can help promote and sell your media products to its global audience.

6. Promoting your business online

how to promote online business

There are a number of ways to promote your business online. There’s the old adage that “if you don’t tell you won’t sell” and this is just as true for an online business as it is for an offline one. Here are just some of the many online promotion channels that’ll help your fledgling e-commerce business get its name out there.

As well as harnessing the power of social media by setting up Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even Instagram accounts, one of the most effective is Google Adwords. Google AdWords is a different way of basing payment on performance. It’s an online advertising service that’ll help your business appear in any search. Placing an advert for your business in a prominent place that appears when a user searches for a relevant keyword – you’ll only start paying for the advert when they click through to your website. This Pay-Per-Click advertising method is very popular for all kinds of business due to the fact that you don’t have to pay for your advertising unless it is getting results. To bid for an advert and a top position, you’ll need to typically bid just a penny more than your nearest competitor, assuming your advert is the same quality as theirs.

How Google AdWords looks on screen

make money on the internet

Google AdWords has also introduced remarketing. These are targeted ads that appear on a wide range of different websites visited by the same user. They are very effective because the user has been interested in your service at one time or another, so they are likely to click through and convert again. This sophisticated form of advertising can lead a user to believe that your company has a large advertising budget, and is perhaps more established than it is, as your ad is appearing in numerous different places. In reality, it is the Google AdWords remarketing tool that has monitored the user’s cookies. However, make sure you don’t run the remarketing campaign for too long – users can become frustrated at seeing the same ad over and over again.

Google AdSense native ads, like Taboola and Outbrain, are designed to match the look and feel of publisher websites, promoting your online business in a more subtle way, through ‘sponsored content’. AdSense lets you customise your ad so it appears in a format that’s suitable for the website it’s being hosted on, then bid with other advertisers in a real-time auction for the right to occupy the space. It works out well for webmasters, who can choose the most relevant ads for their site, for you, who can reach out to more customers, and for users, as the ads are more relevant and bespoke to their interests. Google AdSense also allows you to host ads on your website. Google share around half of their revenue from these ads with you, giving you another stream of income.

Examples of how Google AdSense ads look

make money online


making money online

AdSense publishers are effectively part of the Google Display Network, which network spans over 2 million websites and reaches over 90% of people using the internet. It’s an important part of the AdWords campaign management, as it enables users to target websites based on keywords in their content, to further target their ads.

AdWords display ads are another option, giving businesses the opportunity to advertise on two million websites and in over 650,000 apps. It takes just minutes to pick a format and create an ad, decide where it will run and set a budget.

Another great site that more and more online businesses – or specifically, freelance workers and self-employed professionals – are using to promote their services is Fiverr puts people looking for a particular service with others who can provide it – a further example of how the connectivity of the internet is changing the way that e-commerce can be done.

7. What else does it take to succeed?

how to make money online

Teddy Sagi


You might think that however easy and practical these suggestions sound, it’s going to take major backing to get an online business off the ground. But there are many examples of some of today’s most successful business people starting out with very modest start-up capital. For example, Teddy Sagi founded gambling software developer Playtech in 1999 that’s worth $700 million today.

So the most important things you’ll need if you want to emulate this kind of success are a clear vision of what you want to create, the drive to make it happen and a little luck along the way.

And there’s no better time to go for it than now!


  • It takes between $5,000 and $10,000 to develop an e-commerce business
  • Netpreneurs might also take advantage of the sharing economy, which presents more opportunities for revenue
  • Affiliate marketing has worked wonders in online casino gaming, and many other industries
  • Selling products on Amazon or eBay can open up a business to millions of more customers
  • There are a multitude of ways to promote a business online
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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.