Want to earn money with your website?
When it comes to the question of how to make money online, we here at CIRA have a saying: “Ask not what you can do for your website…ask what your website can do for you!”
In other words, we’ll show you five straightforward ways to take your site from cyber-slacker to revenue generator.
Sell physical products through an e-commerce store
The first (and some might say most obvious) avenue to explore: Build a website to sell stuff!
This can mean selling your own physical products, or products from a third party.
While the whole “selling stuff with your website” thing can sound daunting at first, you’d be surprised at how, with a little legwork and a solid business idea, just about anyone can become an e-commerce store owner.
To start, we recommend picking an e-commerce website builder platform. Most of these platforms are designed with maximum user friendliness in mind and feature slick pre-designed templates that can be easily populated with your products and content. You also get plenty of built-in e-commerce features, like abandoned cart recovery, marketing emails, shipping and more. All for a monthly fee, of course!
The beauty of using a website builder platform is that you can get your first online store up and running within the span of a few hours, and without having any advanced design or coding expertise.
Shopify, Squarespace and Wix are routinely cited as being among the top e-commerce platforms.
Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish - i.e., how many products you’re trying to sell, what market you’re looking to corner - each platform offers their own features, benefits and drawbacks. So, be sure to check out our complete walkthrough guides to creating and setting up your online store withShopify, Squarespace or Wix!
If you’re a seasoned web building veteran, you can also go with a completely customized WordPress.org website with the WooCommerce extension!
Need help deciding which builder platform to pick? Check out our comparison guide!
Oh - and before we get too ahead of ourselves - why don’t you go ahead and christen your fledgling online store by picking out a catchy .CA domain name
Sell a service online
The path to earning money online isn’t paved solely with physical products. Another area to explore is through selling services.
These can include anything, from wedding photography and life-coaching to dog walking.
But just as if you were selling physical products, your “service-based” website will still need at least some e-commerce functionality so that you can send marketing emails to your customers, have them schedule or book your services and process payments.
Thing is, you don’t necessarily need to go with an e-commerce-specific web building platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, which frees you up to explore other options.
To get your services-based site off the ground and generating revenue, you’ll need to first define your niche. In other words - what makes you stand out from everybody else and where do you fit within the marketplace?
Another important consideration is your target audience. Try to be as specific and narrow as possible so you can identify (and speak to) that ideal customer.
For example, let’s say you’re an infant sleep consultant that’s targeting first-time moms with children 4 to 12 months old. Just like that, you’ve set up your niche in the market and identified your service’s core audience. Now, with your trusty website in hand, you can start earning those bookings and consulting fees. Everyone wins with a good night’s sleep, right? Right?
Use your website as a digital portfolio to gain work
Sure, this might be a bit more of an “indirect approach,” to making money online, and it’s certainly not the same as selling stuff directly through your website. That said, using your website as a digital resume or portfolio for your work can do wonders for attracting potential customers.
The best part? Your website won’t need to build in any sort of e-commerce functionality, which helps with keeping things straightforward. In fact - your site could comprise as little as one page!
So, what is a resume site? Well, it can be as simple as a single page with samples and/or links to your work. For example, if you’re a videographer, you could embed clips of your latest projects that are hosted through a video site like YouTube or Vimeo.
Aside from your work samples, your “portfolio” (or resume) site should include a short bio, along with a strong call-to-action and contact information so that customers can get in touch.
Intrigued by the simplicity a one-page resume site could provide? Check out our detailed look at how and when to build a single-page website.
Other ways to make online money: Sell ad space and set up affiliate marketing
Okay, so we’ve covered ways you can earn money online by selling stuff - be it products or services. So, what else is there? Well - you can sell ad space. This involves letting other businesses place their digital ads on your site.
The most common way to sell ad space is through a “pay per click” system. That’s where you receive a small commission any time someone clicks through to an advertiser’s site from an ad on your page.
But in order to start raking in substantial revenue, you’ll need to generate hundreds, if not thousands of clicks per day. And to generate those clicks, you’ll need a good amount of traffic to your site.
If you don’t feel like reaching directly to businesses about selling ad space on your site, you can use a program like Google AdSense. Through AdSense, Google allows you to tap into a network of online advertisers, who then bid for your website’s ad real estate. From there, any ads are checked against your website’s content to ensure they’re at least somewhat relevant. That way, your guitar repair service site isn’t suddenly displaying ads for kids’ donkey sanctuary tours. Though, they do say music soothes the savage beast…
Participate in partner or affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is where you enter an arrangement between your website and a specific partner company (or partner companies) to promote their products or services in exchange for a commission.
In an ideal scenario, the partner company’s products and services are complementary to your own site’s content - i.e., your vintage vinyl record shop may have an affiliate deal with a company selling re-conditioned turntables.
So, how does this affiliate deal generate revenue? By serving you up a commission every time visitors click on links or ads that send them to the partner company. For example, if there’s a post on your wedding photography service site about the best DSLR cameras for hobbyists, your reader might click on an affiliate link to a camera retailer, leading them to an online store.
Now, there are two ways this works. The first is cost per click (CPC), where - similar to selling ad space - you get a commission any time someone clicks an ad on your page that sends them to the affiliate’s site.
The second way affiliate marketing works is via cost per acquisition (CPA). Here, you don’t receive a commission unless the person clicking on the ad actually purchases a product or service from the affiliate. This is why with cost per acquisition, commission fees can actually be a fair bit higher compared to cost per click, given that there are real conversions at stake!
So, how do you get set up with affiliate links? Typically, your affiliate sites or businesses will provide you with a unique link to use/embed within your site’s content. These links allow the affiliate to track exactly where the web traffic and conversion came from, so you get paid.
Perhaps one of the best parts about affiliate marketing is that it’s low-cost and low risk. Really, all you need is a website to get started.
Even if the affiliate arrangements don't yield great results right away, it doesn’t cost you anything either to attempt or further optimize over time.
With that, we hope this first dip into making money online serves you well! We’ll leave you to get cracking on your groundbreaking business plans.