If you want to build a successful digital business, the path you take may not always be straightforward and to the point. If you’re still on the fence and aren’t sure exactly which model to pursue, we can help by laying out some of the more popular options in front of you.
The main goal with any business is to help people in some way.
When you take a look at 9 of the different monetization methods you can use to make money online, and then figure out how you can use each one to help the people that will be coming to your site, your path to earning a livable income and building a successful business is substantially shorter.
Method #1 - Affiliate Marketing
One of the most prominent, and common business models beginners will follow is the affiliate marketing model.
If you’re not familiar with affiliate marketing, the model allows you to make money by promoting other people’s products and services. Think of yourself as a digital salesman, collecting a commission every time you recommend a product or service to someone and they make a purchase.
Many affiliates get started with Amazon’s Associates program because there are so many different products available to recommend, and nearly every niche under the sun has been covered on Amazon’s platform.
Getting started with affiliate marketing is one of the most common business models beginners follow because of how easy it is to get started. All you need to start making money as an affiliate is a website (typically a blog) and some content that your readers want to see.
Amazon’s Associates program isn’t the only platform available to affiliates. Nearly every product that is being sold on the internet right now could be opened to affiliates, giving them the opportunity to make money.
Some other popular networks are ShareASale, CommissionJunction, Clickbank, and JVZoo. Depending on the type of products you want to promote, you can usually find a network that will have offers you’re able to sign up for and start making money.
When you’ve built a successful affiliate marketing website, you can also find investors that are looking to grow their own portfolio who are willing to purchase the website from you. Selling earning websites gives you a nice influx of cash and allows you to free up your time to work on other projects.
This gives you a couple different options for the long-term growth of your affiliate marketing business, depending on whether you prefer to keep growing the sites you already own, or prefer to have large lump sums of cash infused into your business.
Method #2 - eCommerce
Another model that many people are following, especially with the growth of the Fulfillment by Amazon program, is the eCommerce business model. It’s also a natural progression for many affiliate marketers because of the method many people use to build their affiliate marketing business.
For instance, if you’ve built a website that has been promoting physical products through Amazon’s Associates program, it would only be natural for you to find a manufacturer and start sourcing the products yourself to sell on the site.
Then, you could set up a shopping cart and a storefront and allow people to purchase the products directly from you. Depending on what you’ve paid for the original products through the manufacturer that you’ve found, your profit margins should increase.
When you’re selling physical products yourself, rather than acting as an affiliate marketer and promoting someone else’s products, you have more control over the pricing and are not going to be paying an affiliate the commission for recommending the sale.
That means, instead of making (let’s say) 8% commission for promoting the product through Amazon’s Associates programs, you could make anywhere from 30% to 100% profit margins. That’s a very easy way to increase the amount of money a website is earning, and the hard work has already been completed by getting the site to the point where it is already making sales.
Converting an affiliate site into an eCommerce based business, or even starting from scratch and sourcing the products yourself is slightly more involved than building an affiliate marketing website is, but the financial reward is also much greater over the long-term.
eCommerce based websites can also be sold for substantially more than what most investors are willing to pay for an affiliate marketing based website, because of the additional assets like inventory, a customer database, and more long-term growth possibilities.
Method #3 - Dropshipping
Somewhere in between the affiliate marketing and eCommerce business models is where dropshipping falls. If you’re not familiar with what dropshipping is, it allows you to promote products on your website and act as an eCommerce platform, while keeping you from actually having to hold onto the inventory yourself.
Dropshipping is attractive because you’re in control of the pricing of the products that you’re selling, which allows you to increase the profit margins that you see each time a product is sold, but doesn’t require you to actually hold onto the inventory yourself.
This type of model allows you to quickly test which types of products are going to sell well to your audience, without having to devote massive amounts of time, energy, and money into sourcing the products, working with manufacturers, shipping and storing the products, and then ensuring you always have product on hand to keep your business moving forward.
You build a dropshipping website the exact same way that you build an eCommerce website, with a storefront and shopping cart, but, instead of fulfilling the orders yourself, you ship the orders off to the company that you’re dropshipping through and allow them to fulfill the order.
Most dropshipping companies will “blind ship”, which means they’re going to put your own company’s label on the box that the products are being shipped in so that the customer will never realize they ordered from another company.
This means that you’ll need to handle all of the customer support, and that returns are going to be slightly more difficult, but when you don’t want to deal with holding inventory in a warehouse and simply want to make money and help your audience, dropshipping is an amazing way to do it.
Method #4 - Display Advertising
If you prefer to not even deal with physical products at all, and simply want to build a website and start creating new content on a regular basis, making money from display advertising is one of the best models you can follow, and one that has made a lot of people a ton of money.
In case you’re not familiar with what display advertising is, the name implies it all -- you’re displaying advertisements on your content and getting paid whenever someone either clicks an ad (in the case of Google’s AdSense program) or whenever the ad is viewed, which some advertisers offer as part of a CPM display advertising program.
There are two types of display ads -- CPC and CPM. CPC stands for cost per click, while CPM stands for cost per mil. CPC, as the name implies, pays you every time somebody clicks an ad. CPM, on the other hand, pays you when the ad has been viewed 1,000 times.
Depending on your audience, one type of advertisement is always going to pay more than the other. For tightly focused niche websites that have plenty of advertisers, a CPC model is generally going to pay more. However, for bigger sites (like news websites with more generalized content), the CPM model is usually going to be more profitable.
For beginners, Google’s AdSense program is going to be one of the easiest ways to make money from display advertising. They have a huge marketplace with companies constantly bidding to appear on your website, keeping you from having to track down new advertisers all of the time.
They also pay reliably, so you don’t have to worry about chasing down payments at the end of each month. While display advertising based websites may not make as much money as an affiliate based website, it is still a great way for beginners to get started because of how easy it is to create content and start making money.
Method #5 - Lead Generation
If you enjoy helping other business owners and want to make good money in the process, helping them grow their own business can prove to be very lucrative. Generating leads for other business owners is a great model to follow, especially when you live in large cities.
Every business in existence has one thing in common: they need more customers.
It doesn’t matter what industry they’re in, if they’re in business they live and die by how many customers they’re able to bring through their doors or get on the phone on a daily basis.
If you’re able to help them generate more phone calls or get more customers through their doors, you stand to make a lot of money by helping them make it happen.
There’s two different models you can follow when it comes to generating new leads for other business owners. You can either charge on a per lead basis, which is typically the most lucrative, or you can charge them a flat fee each month based on how much money they spend on advertising or how much work you do to keep new leads coming into their business.
Some marketers have even convinced business owners to give them a portion of the profits each month on new business that they generate.
While the lead generation model is fairly easy and straightforward, it does require you to have your own marketing strategies in place so you can “keep your pipeline full” and have people calling you regularly to request your services.
With that being said, generating leads for other businesses requires very low overhead, and doesn’t need a ton of capital to get started, so if you have a marketing mind and want to help other business owners, consider generating leads for them and helping them grow their business each month.
Method #6 - Selling T-Shirts
Somewhere between dropshipping and eCommerce based businesses lies another model that many people have used to make a lot of money over the last 10 years. Selling t-shirts is highly profitable, and opens a new world that isn’t necessarily the “flavor of the week” anymore.
Selling t-shirts allows you to tap into your creativity, and constantly test new ideas to see what is going to work with the market that you’re promoting the shirts to.
In fact, that is what makes selling t-shirts so competitive -- requiring you to stay creative and ahead of the pack.
As other marketers see your t-shirt designs and realize that they are consistently making sales, you’re likely to get copycats that are implementing the same designs to claim their share of the market that you’ve cut out for yourself.
If you thrive in competitive environments, and have a creative side that you’re looking to be financially rewarded for, selling t-shirts could be the perfect business model for you.
Most marketers are using print on demand platforms like Teespring and Teechip to sell their shirts through, which limits the amount of overhead they have each month and helps them increase their profit margins.
Teespring and Teechip, as the name “print on demand” implies, allow you to sell a certain number of shirts before actually placing the order. That means you can have the shirts shipped out whenever you’ve hit your sales goal, instead of having to purchase 100 or 1,000 shirts and printing them out individually as orders come in.
As your business evolves, you can upgrade and increase your profit margins by purchasing t-shirt stock that you keep on site, and a printer that allows you to custom print the shirts as orders come in. This will cut Teespring and Teechip out of your business, but give you much more sustainability and predictability as time goes on.
Method #7 - Kindle Publishing
Another model that was once the “flavor of the week” and has seemingly fallen to the wayside is Kindle book publishing. Even though many of the mainstream marketers have abandoned publishing books on the Kindle platform, there is still a ton of money to be made for writers looking to get their name out into the world.
If you’re not familiar with Kindle, it’s a platform that Amazon provides that allows publishers to create works and promote them inside of Amazon. Then, anytime someone downloads or buys the books that you’ve created, you get a cut of the money.
Earning money through the Kindle marketplace has gotten substantially less competitive over the last couple of years, due to the fact that many of the big-name marketers that once promoted it bowing out in favor of other business models.
Even though they have practically abandoned the platform, you don’t have to worry about the model being “dried up”. You can still publish your digital books on Kindle and make money.
There’s two types of books that tend to do well on Kindle right now. The first is self-help style books and books that teach people new skills. The second is non-fiction books and books that can keep people entertained for a while.
In the past, you were able to publish the books on Kindle and then start seeing sales come in. Because the marketplace has evolved over the last few years, though, you’re now required to do some marketing for your books before sales will start coming in.
That means it’s best to start growing your following by building a website where you can gather your followers, and then start promoting your books through your own website. As you start to gain traction, your organic sales through the Kindle platform will begin to increase, allowing you to do less marketing as time goes on.
Method #8 - Coaching & Consulting
If you have skills that people are willing to pay for, or have achieved certain accolades throughout your life, you may be able to provide coaching and consulting to other people in exchange for them paying the fees that you require.
As it stands right now, business, life, and health coaching are three industries that are growing by massive proportions, with the number of coaches available growing on an everyday basis. That means that the competition is getting stiffer as time moves on.
However, one of the reasons for the substantial growth that the coaching industry has seen lately is the fact that more people are realizing how much help a coach can be for problems that they are trying to overcome.
Most coaching businesses today are being built around a blog, with the owner showcasing their expertise and having different products or services available that their followers can purchase.
If you’re not already familiar, there is a difference between coaches and consultants.
Consultants tend to work with other business owners, providing their expertise on a regular basis without being an actual employee. Hiring consultants allows business owners to learn how to solve problems that they’re having on their own, without requiring the additional overhead of another employee.
Coaches, on the other hand, tend to work with consumers and help them overcome problems they’re having in their personal lives. For instance, health coaches can help people lose weight and get fit, while mindset coaches can help people bust through mindset blocks that they have, and advance their life in other ways.
The model you choose depends upon who you want to help -- either consumers, or business owners.
Method #9 - Freelancing
Finally, the last business model that is popular for beginners looking to make money online is providing freelance services to other business owners.
Entrepreneurs, especially digital entrepreneurs all have needs for services that they typically can’t handle by themselves.
For instance, nearly every blogger needs copywriters at some point in time, to help them continue growing their blog, craft email messages, and create advertisements to help sell their products.
They will also need graphic designers, accountants, web developers, and other skills that they may not possess but need to outsource in order to grow their business.
When this happens, they’ll reach out to freelancers who can quickly complete the job they need completed, in exchange for a hefty fee in some cases. If you happen to have the skills that other entrepreneurs are looking for, you can create a healthy income stream for yourself.
Becoming a freelancer is fairly simple, and one of the quickest ways to start making money because you can get paid as soon as you complete the job. Finding the jobs is as easy as hanging out where other entrepreneurs hang out, or on job boards like Upwork and Fiverr.
Freelancing is also a great way to jump start one of the other business models that we’ve laid out for you, because the initial cash influx you can create for your business can be used to invest in other areas that are slightly more hands-off than freelancing.
Or, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you can devote your entire business to providing freelance services, build up your client base, and then hire other freelancers to help you fulfill the work as it comes in.
The method you use to make money has less to do with building a business, and more to do with how you’re going to help the people that you put your business in front of.
Now that you’ve seen the 9 most popular monetization methods that people typically use to build their business, you can figure out how you want to help people and then match how you want to help them with a method for making money.
Always remember, the best businesses are built around providing a solution to a problem that someone is having. When more people have that problem, you stand to make more money. The models listed above have been proven to bridge that gap between customers that have problems, and businesses like yours that can provide solutions to those problems.