The jobs available for people looking to make money online run the gamut. On the internet, you can seek everything from full-time employment as a remote staff member to a work-whenever-you-want side hustle as a mystery shopper, blogger or jewelry-maker.
The parameters for how and when you make money online are up to you, which is good news for job seekers everywhere. “We’re in a really great labor market right now, and with almost 7 million jobs currently open in the U.S., there is a fit for everybody,” says Sarah Stoddard, community expert at job-search site Glassdoor. “There are opportunities for every job seeker in every industry.”
So, if you’re looking to find your next gig as an online worker, you’re going to have to narrow a few things down first. Here’s what to know about earning money online.
Consider the Work You Want to Do Online
Because the types of online jobs vary, it’s wise to home in on what you want to accomplish, including the experience, the number of hours you want to work and how much money you’re looking to make online.
The answers to these questions will dictate the websites you search for jobs and the career opportunities you seek.
For example, as a freelancer, you could choose to only work on projects that interest you or choose your own hours. As a mystery shopper, who poses as a regular customer to provide feedback on stores, you could roll money-earning activities into your weekly trips to the mall. If you’re looking to start your own business, diving into e-commerce could be the first step toward becoming your own boss.
Perhaps you want to keep your full-time job but augment your income with a side hustle. Maybe this is a step toward a new career. Consider what you’re looking for, then start your search in the right place.
Think of New Ways to Make Money Online
Take inventory of the skills you offer and how you can market them to potential future employers. “I’m finding more and more (job seekers) are ‘niche-ing down’ and being really great at one specific skill,” says Kristin Larsen, a Nashville-based blogger who writes about side hustles on her blog Believe in a Budget. “People are willing to spend more on hiring someone who excels at one thing.” For example, Larsen says, she recently hired someone to handle her emails. So if you know everything about a specific administrative task, coding language, social media platform or something else, those hyperspecific know-hows will stand out to employers.
Think about the core skills and competencies you offer and make sure to market yourself accordingly. The top industries for online and work-from-home jobs include finance and insurance, sales, business services, technology and human resources, according to job-search site ZipRecruiter. And according to freelancing platform Upwork, these are the top lucrative skills for freelancers along with average hourly pay:
1. Network analysis: $200 per hour
2. Computer vision (processes that allow a computer to capture and analyze images): $145 per hour
3. Chef.io (a software program): $140 per hour
4. Neural networks (a system for computing modeled on the human brain): $140 per hour
5. Firmware engineering: $130 per hour
If you have these skills, then there may be a well-paying market for you online. And even if you don’t, understanding what you can offer to a potential employer will help you find jobs and narrow your online search.
Visit These Websites and Apps for Online Work
For those looking to make money online, experts recommend checking out these apps, companies and websites:
— A Closer Look
— 20|20 Panel
— Better Business Bureau
If you’re looking for a flexible way to make $20 to $50 per week, Larsen recommends finding gigs as a mystery shopper through a company like A Closer Look, or giving feedback to companies as a member of a panel study through a company like 20|20 Panel. Another low-commitment way to make money online is through cash-back cellphone apps. Ibotta and Shopkick give you money or digital gift cards when you shop online or in stores.
Looking to sell your products online? A site such as Etsy or Zazzle works great, Larsen says. If you like fashion, interior design, fitness or other hobbies, you may even be able to supplement your income with endorsements on social media sites like Instagram or by blogging as an online media star.
For artists and designers who want to put their portfolios online, sites such as Behance or Houzz work great for showing off previous work, Larsen says. You can share your handyman know-how on Takl or advertise a variety of skills — from home organization to life-coaching — on Thumbtack. Upwork is a common site for promoting your skills as a freelancer. Fiverr is another option for freelance work, but Larsen cautions that there’s stiff competition on the site from international workers, who can charge less for similar work. Traditional job-search sites such as Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed and your industry-specific job-search websites will have postings for remote or online work.
Consider using the Better Business Bureau to look up a company with which you’re considering working, says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, a resource for finding remote jobs, part-time jobs, freelance jobs and other flexible jobs. The BBB, which offers ratings and reviews of businesses, can help you identify scams or questionable companies. Reynolds also recommends FlexJobs’ sister site, Remote.co, which is free and dedicated to remote work.
Be Wary of Online Hiring Scams
One of the more concerning downsides of digital work is that scammers may target online job seekers, offering them fake career opportunities in exchange for their money or financial information.
Make sure to search online for any company you’re looking to work with, including searching for lawsuits, bad reviews on job-search sites and other red flags. “Always do research on any company that offers you online work. Never accept checks to buy supplies or computer equipment, and never wire money to anyone who offers you online work,” says Scott Garner, corporate communications manager at ZipRecruiter, via email.
Try to get in touch with current or previous employees, Stoddard recommends. And look for other red flags, including vague job descriptions or background requirements that don’t make sense in your field, such as asking for a certain number of years of experience that don’t match the skills required. If almost anyone could qualify for the job, or if the pay is ridiculously generous, the job may be too good to be true. Plus, if the employer is asking you for money, Stoddard says, that’s a red hot flag that something’s not right.
When searching for online jobs, avoid using the search term “work from home,” Reynolds says. Scammers use that term to lure victims, she says. Job seekers should use preferable, less scammy terms such as “remote job,” “telecommute” and “virtual job.”
[See: 8 Easy Ways to Make Money.]
Treat Your Online Job Seriously
If you want to succeed at earning money online, treat this new income stream seriously. That means acting professionally, responding to emails and meeting deadlines, experts say. In the world of freelancing, for example, reputation matters. If you want employers to continue to work with you and recommend your work, then maintaining a professional, reliable persona is essential to your new job as an online worker.
“Pay attention to your online presence,” Reynolds says. “Make sure that it’s professional and consistent.”
More from U.S. News
Update 11/27/18: This article was originally published on Jan. 18, 2018, and has been updated to include new information.