Updated: Feb 27, 2022
The email came in late at night, and I couldn’t help but smile to myself when I read it:
“I would love to start an online business, but I have no idea where to start or what kind of business will suit an old retiree like me.”
In reality, it doesn’t matter whether you’re young, old, or in between – everyone feels this way when they first get started with an online business.
I’ve been dabbling in the online world since my early twenties. I learned how to set up websites using platforms like Wix; I helped my mom take her dance studio online; I taught myself the basics of email marketing.
But about a decade ago, I started to REALLY get serious about figuring out this whole “making money online” thing. I knew it was a rising trend…and I really wanted to get in on it…but I had no idea HOW.
To start, I didn’t even know what my options were. I had a full-time job and a full life, so the amount of time I was willing and able to spend on this new venture was somewhat limited. I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) go “all in” on starting a new business. And yet, I knew there had to be something I could do with the few hours per week that I had to spare.
So, I started my research.
My mission: Find out all the ways I could (fairly easily) make money online.
I didn’t really know how to go about conducting this research, so I did what any logical person would do: I Googled “how to make money online with limited time.” As you might imagine, I got a lot of spammy-looking ads and gimmicks that surely didn’t seem legit.
But then I noticed an article that caught my attention. I clicked on it, submitted a form for more information, and set up a time to talk to someone the next day.
After that call, one thing lead to another, and I was soon the proud owner of breastfeedingbliss.com – an e-commerce site that I set up with the help of the company whose program I enrolled in. This site was a labor of love…and while I did love it, it never made me any money.
Back to the drawing board.
The next few years were a revolving door of more of the same – discover a new business model, try it out, see how well it worked, decided whether to stick with it or move on. While this journey had its ups and downs, I can confidently say that I accomplished my original mission: To find ALLLL the ways I could make money online.
Armed with this research, I now help retirees figure out what type of business will suit you best and will fit your retirement lifestyle. If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t done much “online” besides email, social media, and surfing the web. And here’s the great news – that’s no problem! There are plenty of options out there, and there’s certainly (at least) one that will suit you beautifully.
So, without further ado, I now present to you my top 10 list of the most legit ways you can make money online in retirement (without having to start a Fortune 500 company):
#1: Dropshipping e-commerce site (ex: Shopify)
You can start an e-commerce site fairly easily – and the best part is, you don’t even have to purchase merchandise upfront. You can simply dropship it to your customers…which means a) customer purchases an item from your online store; b) you place an order for the item with a vendor and put the customer’s info in the “shipping info” section of the order; and c) the vendor ships the item directly to your customer. You are simply a pass-through. Voila.
The only problem is free traffic will be slow going, so you will likely need to run ads – which is fine, as long as your sales are greater than the cost of your ads (which was not always the case for me). Also, dropship sites (where you can find vendors who offer dropship) have all but disappeared as of late with the massive product and fulfillment challenges going on in the world.
#2: Freelance work
Sites like Fiverr and Upwork are a wonderful opportunity for people whose skill sets are in high demand online – things like copywriting, video editing, digital marketing, and business. However, there are also sections for “Lifestyle” topics like wellness, travelling and life coaching. The work may not be consistent – and you’re trading time for money – but it’s still a solid option if you have a skill that people are willing to pay for.
#3: Start an email list
Fun fact: Email lists have created more millionaires online than ANY other business model. There’s a reason email lists are popular…they work. When I was first told I should start an email list, I gave an emphatic “NO WAY,” thinking it was way out of my league. In time, though, I came to realize I was blowing it out of proportion, and it’s actually quite easier than I ever thought it could be.
Starting an email list simply means you capture the email addresses of people who are interested in hearing from you on a particular topic. It could be to help you promote a book, or sell an online course, or feature products on your e-commerce site. The possibilities are nearly endless, but rest assured: Email lists are one of the most legit (and consistent) ways to make money online.
For those crafty folks out there, Etsy is a phenomenal platform to sell your wares. From clothing and jewelry to furniture and art, there’s a broad range of categories for all of you artists. Etsy drives millions of people to its site each day, so you won’t have to do any heavy lifting there. As with Fiverr, one of the big downsides is that you’re trading time for money, so there will be a limit on how much you can earn (based on how many pieces you want to create and customers you want to service).
#5: Start a YouTube channel
If you’re alive, you probably know about the vast hugeness of YouTube. One billion hours of content are watched every day, and it’s in the top five most popular websites on the internet. Starting a YouTube channel on a topic that you are interested in or have experience in is a fun venture, and it requires little more than a smartphone with a nice camera on it. However, monetizing your site (making money off of it) is another thing – and it takes time and commitment to figure out the best strategy, whether it’s to gain so many subscribers that you can demand advertising dollars, or to try to get people to actually pay to view your channel.
#6: Become an Instagram influencer
Any wannabe celebrities out there? Becoming a social media influencer (Instagram is one of the top platforms for this) is a growing trend. All this really means is that you post pictures and captions that people really like, and as a result, you gain a lot of followers. As you gain more followers, you can start promoting certain products and provide a link for them to buy, and you’ll get a commission for those sales. This can be a great and no-cost way to earn money online, but you’ll have to get comfortable baring it all online in order to really connect with an audience. It also typically takes several years, at least, to grow a substantial following.
#7: FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)
Similar in a way to an e-commerce site, an FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) business is one in which you sell products online – specifically, on Amazon. The great thing is that Amazon handles fulfillment, and you obviously benefit from the massive amount of traffic that visits Amazon by the minute – but, you have to invest substantially upfront to purchase your merchandise. And, you can’t be sure what’s actually going to sell and what’s not…so there’s quite a bit of risk.
#8: Start a blog
Do you love to write? If so, starting a blog could be a great fit for you. Similar to being a social media influencer, as you gain more and more people who visit your blog regularly, you can start to promote other people’s products and include affiliate links in your blog posts (so that if someone clicks on the link and purchases, you get a commission for that sale). But, just as with social media, it can take several years to gain a big enough of a following to make this a worthwhile money maker, so I would only do it if you truly love to write and don’t care as much about earning an income.
#9: Affiliate marketing
The way I think of affiliate marketing is like being a sales rep – someone who represents a company, sells their product, and earns a commission if they get a sale (think Cutco knives). Except online. The nuts and bolts of how it works is once you find a product that you want to promote (ex: XYZ co), you’ll go to XYZ and request an affiliate link. They will send you a URL (like www.xyz.co/katie123), which is what you use in your ads. When a potential customer clicks on that link, if they end up purchasing the product, you get paid a commission – and it’s all tracked seamlessly through that unique URL that XYZ Co gave you, with nothing for you to do except collect your money.
Although you can include affiliate links in lots of different business (blogs, social media, emails), there’s one particular approach to affiliate marketing that I have found to be far and away the most effective: Running Facebook ads. Not only is it the fastest path to success, but it requires the least amount of work and doesn’t require you to be the face of the business (which is perfect if you’re not someone who wants to be “out there” online).
#10: Knowledge business
Last but certainly not least is an online knowledge business. What is this? Basically, anything where you teach others something you know. The range of topics is endless…from business to health, lifestyle to hobbies, cat grooming to gutter cleaning. If you’ve been through something tough and came out the other side, or you’re a grill master, or everyone you know calls you for advice on how to buy stocks – you have something to teach.
Although this industry was rapidly growing a few years ago, the advent of the pandemic lit it on FIRE. Now nearly everyone in the world is comfortable navigating online and joining Zoom calls, so the thought of learning something via an online course or membership is easy peezy.
So, which one is best for you?
Using the above list and descriptions, there are probably a few you can rule out immediately, based on your interests and desires. Are there any that immediately pique your interest? Which one excites you the most? This should be a fun experience (it certainly has been for me!), so make sure you choose something that will bring you some joy. Or choose two and see which one takes off the fastest!
Over the years, three have personally risen to the top for me: Affiliate marketing, knowledge business, and starting an email list. Not only are these three perfectly aligned with my interests and skills, but I’ve also found them to be the most successful and profitable, not to mention consistent.
In the end, you’ll have to choose the right business for you. But, it all starts with at least knowing what your options are.