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Make Money Online

(Legit Ways)

Need some new side hustle ideas or ways of really making money from home? There are legitimate ways to make extra money online, but there also are a lot of bad deals and illegal schemes out there.


Consider these red flags before taking any work-at-home deal:

  1. Is it on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s list of common work-from-home scams?
  2. Is there a start-up fee? Did they request that you send them money (even a small amount)? Have they asked for your financial account information?
  3. Is the product worth it? How much demand is there? How likely are you to find customers on your own?
  4. How do you get paid (commission, sales, by task, hourly)? How often do you get paid? What conditions must be met for you to get paid?
  5. How many hours would you have to work to make a profit?
  6. Is part of your job to recruit others? (If so, it might be a pyramid scheme.)


First of all, just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Research the company and “complaints” or “scam.” Look for reviews and be wary of unbelievable opportunities. Con artists will say anything you want to hear and will pressure you into making hasty decisions. Watch out for anyone giving you the “hard sell.” Here are some legit ways to make money online (with considerations for each).


The most legit way to make honest money from home is to become your own boss. Research resources at the Small Business Administration (SBA). Write a business plan. Think through the details. It takes more effort to start your own thing, but you get far bigger payoffs. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling jewelry on Etsy, operating a food truck or doing graphic design from home, every business begins with a plan.

Ask: Do I have the resources and energy to make my business a success?

Paid Surveys and User Testing

Do an internet search for established sites. This can be pretty easy money, but the work isn’t always there. Some sites limit the number of surveys you can take per month. Some user testing sites don’t pay very well despite being tedious and time-consuming.

Ask: Is the pay worth the effort?

Sales and Multilevel Marketing (MLM)

Legitimate multilevel marketing (MLM) companies sell products that customers want to buy. However, if a company makes its profits from enlisting new recruits, then it’s a pyramid scheme (which is illegal). Selling products in an MLM format means that you buy the wholesale product from the company to sell to your own network. Sometimes there are commissions and/or base salaries.

Ask: Who are my customers? How much must I sell to make a profit?


Some online games pay you in gift cards or even cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, but if you’re serious about earning extra income, first measure the amount of time you spend gaming vs. what you’re making. Earning a $20 gift card after 8 hours of playing a game means you earned $2.50 an hour.

Ask: Could I make more money doing something else?

Secret Shopping

Companies might hire you to visit certain stores, restaurants or other attractions to report back on your experience. These can be fun gigs if they fit your lifestyle, but if you find yourself spending time, effort and transportation costs to go places you normally would never go, then secret shopping is not earning you any money. You’ll likely be paid in gift cards and discounted meals or coupons — not cash.

Ask: Factoring in costs, am I making any profit? Sharing Your Consumer Info You can earn points toward products and gift cards by sharing information about what you buy with the Nielsen Consumer Panel and other consumer data sites, but keep track of effort vs. reward. Ask: How is this saving or making me money?

Sharing Your Consumer Info

You can earn points toward products and gift cards by sharing information about what you buy with the Nielsen Consumer Panel and other consumer data sites, but keep track of effort vs. reward.

Ask: How is this saving or making me money?

Young man brainstorms legitimate ways to make money online.

Clerical and Admin Work

If you have organizational, communication and computer skills, you can find a variety of jobs online — from typing audio transcripts for closed captioning on videos to doing light bookkeeping, data entry or even project management for small businesses.

Ask: What is the hourly pay? Is there any room for advancement?

Currency Trading

It is possible to make money on the Foreign Exchange (Forex) Market, but it’s extremely risky. The values of currencies are changing all the time — it’s a 24-hour market, meaning it never closes. As with any investing, you should never invest in something you don’t understand. Practice before putting any real money on the line and never risk more than you are willing to lose.

Ask: How sustainable is this?

Online Investing

Investing is not a quick fix, but it’s the best way to improve your financial future and increase your income in the long term. When you’re ready to start investing, it’s important to learn as much as you can about fees and potential rewards. Check first to see if your employer offers a 401(k), 403(b) or similar retirement plan. If not, then open your own individual retirement account (IRA). Whether you go with a traditional brokerage, an online investment firm or even an app, investing is the best way to grow your money for the future.

Ask: How much could I have in my retirement account if I increased my contributions?

There’s no magic bullet or quick fix to making honest money from home. Keep assessing whether you’re giving more than you’re getting. Choose to spend your time in ways that cost you the least and earn you the most return for your effort.

As always, we’ve got your back. — The On Your Own Team End of article insignia


[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by On Your Own, the National Endowment for Financial Education or any of its affiliate programs.]