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Unique Ways that Real People Make Money Online

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

This week we asked our panel of experts something a little different to get ideas for thinking creatively in your business.

“What's a unique way you make money – something that most people might not think of or think that you would do?”

Here are their responses.

RachelRachel Rofe of How To Get Every Book You Write Onto The First Page Of Kindle says:

Well, I recently outed myself to my list, but I created a site back in 2006 or 2007 that shows people how they can marry Russian women. I learned a whole lot about Russian culture while making that site! 🙂

Another unique way to make money has been with my blog. Sometimes I make blog posts that are informational but also include some of my products, like this one which is a detailed explanation about how to publish a book.

I then add an affiliate link to the post into my affiliate center. That makes it so that affiliates can get an affiliate link to send traffic to that individual blog post.

Basically, affiliates get paid to share great content. A lot of times, leads come to my site and end up staying for a while. They often buy my other products.

And since my affiliate program pays out lifetime commissions, affiliates can send people to a FREE blog post, but get paid for years to come on anything their leads buy.

It's a great win-win-win. Affiliates can share great content AND get paid for it, customers GET great content, and I get more exposure to my blog. 🙂

Note from Nik. I do love having the ability to share Rachel's blog posts like the one above with an affiliate link. It's great content and it has profit potential. Two things I love.

terry dean

Terry Dean of Internet Lifestyle Cheat Sheets says:

Good question. I make money all the normal ways: product sales, coaching, services, Kindle, and many affiliate programs. But here's a method a lot of people might not have thought about. I have business partners in a couple of other countries that translate and sell my products to their audiences.

For example, I have a business partner in Russia who translates my products into Russian including even republishing my physical book into Russian. It's their business. They do the work and pay me a royalty fee on everything they sell that's mine.

I also do a webinar for them around quarterly. They supply a translator and we do a content rich webinar that sells one of the partner products at the end.

This is a fun way to expand your publishing business into other markets and languages while adding almost no additional work for your business (the webinars are usually ones I've done for my own audience and the partner handles the translation of them).

How do you get deals like this? Once you build a name in your market, you may get approached by them. Or it can also be as simple as sending an email to your own list letting them know you're interested in this kind of arrangement. Most of the people who would want to do this with you would already be on your list as one of your current fans.

If you're fluent in another language, this also becomes a potential business idea for you – republishing someone else's work into another language. You'll find most markets are less competitive than the English version.

Note from Nik. Terry's so smart. I've thought about paying to have some of my books translated, but never considered the model he has where he just sits back and collects royalties. It's totally hands-off. And, pretty brilliant.

connieConnie Ragen Green of Affiliate Marketing Secrets Explained says:

I had to think about this question, because my business tends to overlap with my personal life these days. One unique way that I've made money several times now is by helping my friends to ‘market' their high school age kids so that they are more attractive to the colleges.

This started a couple of years ago when my friend's daughter was told by a school guidance counselor that she would most likely not be accepted by the colleges of her choice because the only thing in her favor was her grades. She was a shy, introverted girl who had never joined clubs or become involved with other activities at school. She was an accomplished pianist, loved soccer, and excelled in mathematics.

We set up a blog for her so that she could share her thoughts and ideas with the world. Being able to communicate from behind a computer made it much easier for her. We also set up a YouTube channel where she could post videos of herself playing the piano. She began to blog about the school's soccer team, analyzing each game and giving tips for what they could do to improve. She also blogged about math, sharing tips and strategies for some difficult concepts. Finally, I had her connect with three ‘influencers' at her school, asking them to tell others about what she was doing online.

The results were fast, fun, and fantastic! She was asked by the music department to join them for specific performances; the math department asked her to help with some after school tutoring, and the soccer coach asked her to come in as a strategist for the season. Her gifts and talents were being noticed and acknowledged.

And, yes, she was accepted by all five colleges she applied to, and she is now a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin.

Note from Nik. Great idea from Connie. And I'm betting whatever she charged, the parents thought it was a steal considering the results they got.

shannonShannon Cherry of Learn How I Get *Paid* to Attend Events says:

I have several ‘sneaky' ways to add more money to my bottom line. But the most profitable to date has been getting sponsors to pay me to do my marketing.

I've been using sponsors to underwrite everything lately.

  • Sponsors pay for me to attend events. I have sponsors pay for travel, lodging, meals, outfits and even gifts to give out whether I am speaking or not.
  • Sponsors have paid for me to blog on my own blog,
  • Sponsors are paying for some of my renovations in my house because I am blogging about it.

(Yes, that means you do NOT have to have your own live event to get sponsored!)

In the past few years, I've earned more than $170,000 just in sponsorships alone.

How does it work?

If I am reaching a particular target market, I find a company who wants a connection to that target market. Then I make that connection for them, by simply using the marketing I am already doing, and they pay me.

Sponsorship marketing is still in its infancy, so now is the time to add this to your revenue mix. If you have a direct connection to a particular market, take the extra step now and get companies to pay you to market to them. If done right, you can be paid for years to come.

You can learn Shannon's system here: Learn How I Get Paid to Attend Events

Note from Nik. Shannon has been talking about these sponsorships that she gets for a few years now, and every time she does, my jaw drops. It's like magic to me. Seriously, amazing stuff. I need new flooring in my house. Hmmm… maybe I should think about this. 🙂

markMark Mason from the Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast says:

Well, here is something really different — a non-traditional answer for you. One of the best “unique” ways to make money that I have found is to help people without asking for anything. In other words, helping people absolutely for free and often without being asked.

For example, I just noticed that a guy was having trouble on facebook installing a plug-in in wordpress. I made him a quick YouTube video and sent it to him. Probably saved him hours (maybe more). He was stunned and amazed that I took the time to help. And that is important — I did it to help him. But there are a three good things that might happen.

One — he will almost certainly say thanks. That might seem like a small thing, but I have found selfishly that gratitude and praise from others adds fuel to my fire. I love that feeling of knowing I helped someone and hearing them gushing about what a big deal it was to them. Just makes me happy — selfish, but true.

Two — He will tell people about it. Brand and reputation is everything online. ‘Nuff said.

Three — And he and his friends (and his friends friends) might buy stuff from me someday. Maybe. All just because I helped without being asked. Notice that the money is the last thing. That's important. You need to be satisfied that helping people is enough. Then the money will come.

“You can get everything you want in life by helping enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar

Note from Nik. True. I find that the saying “the more you do, the luckier you get” holds true.  However, and I'm sure Mark would agree, doing nice things repeatedly without selling won't cut it either. I give all the time, and I have learned over the years that not everyone is wired to reciprocate. If you're hoping that they'll figure it out, it can eat away at the relationship. So, you do also have to be asking for things in return.

But, giving from a place of goodness and not needing or asking for anything in return is sure a great feeling, too. Hmmm… I'm thinking this needs to be a separate blog post. Watch for that. 🙂

kellyKelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:

My surprising income stream probably comes from my little blog network. I run ten blogs on a variety of home and family topics and I earn income in quite a few ways there.

First, it's part of an ‘ad network' that pays a tiny amount per ad impression. Two ad impressions are served for every page view so that tiny amount adds up pretty well over a month.

Second, the network earns a nice amount of ‘pay for placement' advertising income as well. This income fluctuates quite a bit, some months I may see only a couple hundred and others months I'll see close to a grand. If I would intentionally promote sponsorship, I'm sure I'd have more steady income from that – I just can't make myself do that. I'd love to work with a partner on that, it has so much potential!

There are some non-financial benefits too. Naturally we get a lot of product reviews offers as well and I'm very choosy about what we accept. I'm not in the habit of doing free PR for anyone but if it's a great product that I'd want anyways or can use as a gift for one of my nieces or nephews – I'll go for it.

Everything else I do online has to be so targeted, so specific! The blog network is all about sheer magnitude of all kinds of content and traffic so it's very different animal for me to manage. I have created it to run as independently as possible. All of the new content is created by my blogging interns and I have a VA who manages email inquiries.

Note from Nik. I love Kelly's blog networks. And the fact that they've evolved and changed over time has been cool to watch.

jasonJason Fladlien of WP Secure Pro says:

Nobody really sees this, but we license whole or parts of the code for our software… sometimes directly to others marketers in our niche, but also to marketers outside of our niche.

A lot of software developers don't understand that their code has a lot of value – and when faced with the option of developing parts of all of software from scratch or paying someone a few grand to hand over it already done – well obviously a lot of people would happily pay you $2,000.

That's why it baffles me that people on the Warrior Forum sell software for like $10 or $20 a pop. The bigger picture is that it behooves us all to think in terms of ASSETS, not products or services. A product IS an asset, but an asset doesn't JUST have to be a product.

What are ways you can take your current ASSETS and leverage them outside of their normal function? That's a profitable thought exercise to have 🙂

-> Check out Jason's course to make sure your WordPress blogs are safe and secure here:  WP Secure Pro

Note from Nik. As I've said in the past, Jason is freaky smart. The way I understand this is – he is saying that he sells rights to his software (or pieces and parts of it) – similar to Resale or PLR rights, but with software instead of content. Not only is he selling to his direct competition, but he's also finding other markets of people who may be interested, as well. Smart. Smart. Smart.

One of the products that I bought from Jason and have listened to many times is this one: Six Figure Baby. Check that out. I love it.

Susanne Myers of  Daily Affiliate Tasks says:

I’m an affiliate marketer and make money in a variety of niches. Some are larger than others. Today I want to share one of my smallest niches with you – a tomato cookbook. Toward the end of the summer I noticed that there were tomatoes everywhere. The store, the farmers market and of course my own kitchen counter. Neighbors would drop off buckets full of these delicious red fruits (yes, they are fruits) and I had to get creative in what to make with them and how to preserve them.

One weekend, I sat down and wrote a kindle cookbook all about cooking tomatoes. It includes salads, soups and the like but also more exotic dishes like tomato jam and tomato pie. I formatted it for Amazon Kindle and uploaded it to the Amazon Kindle Store. It’s been selling like hotcakes. The past few weeks sales started to slow down as tomatoes are no longer in season, but I’m sure I’ll continue to sell a few copies each week over the winter, and really see sales pick back up early next summer.

The Tomato Cookbook

The beauty of this money making method is that it’s completely passive. I wrote and uploaded the book and I’m done. Amazon takes care of orders, fulfillment, customer service emails and even some of the marketing. I can just jump in and do a little extra promoting as time allows. Other than that I’m just cashing the checks Amazon sends my way.

Note from Nik. I love this example, because this is a highly highly targeted niche Kindle book on a topic that most would  never think of. So, rather than writing a big long Kindle book, you might want to grab each chapter of it and put it up on Kindle separately.

bobBob Jenkins of How to Use Mindmaps to Organize Your Business says:

As a business coach and marketing teacher, the bulk of my income comes from private and group coaching programs and teaching online courses and virtual workshops.

But what most people don’t know is my long history making a healthy chunk of change from selling a weird product online: beef jerky.

It’s kind of a funny, random story.

Back when I was still a full time history teacher with dreams of making money online, I tried a little bit of everything in the network marketing world. Dental plans, diet cleansing products, video email, even a premium social network.

At the time (this is back at the end of 2005), the Million Dollar Homepage was successfully launched by Alex Tew in England. He sold 10×10 pixel blocks for $100 each – and he sold out for the full $1 million dollars!

Seeing an opportunity (i.e., a squirrel), I bought the pixel ad script from the German company that designed his and launched to give network marketers a unique advertising opportunity. That site generated a couple thousand dollars, but the fad ran its course and I let the site die and its registration expire.

However, I had placed Google Adsense on the site for additional monetization which would prove fortunate. Not because I made much from Google Adsense – hardly! But because one day (this is January, 2006), while I was tweaking the back end settings for PixYourBiz, I noticed an ad that read: “Beef Jerky Goes MLM”. Even though I wasn’t an experienced jerky connoisseur, I was intrigued.

After clicking the ad (you’re really not supposed to do that on your own sites, by the way!), I was introduced to an online direct sales company, Jerky Direct. After a quick review, I jumped on the easy $12/month online store and waited for my 2 bags of jerky to arrive.

I loved every bite of that first bag, and have enjoyed a pair of bags of beef, buffalo, or turkey jerky every month for the last 6 years. The best part has been that I haven’t had to pay for my online store or the bags of jerky since it’s generated a lot more revenue for me.

Here’s how that happened…

I created a page on a brand new (at the time) social content site (Squidoo) to advertise the product and business opportunity – “Where Can I Find The Best Beef Jerky Without Putting 10-Syllable Chemicals Direct Into My Body?” I also bought a good domain name ( My “lens” quickly hit the top 100 on Squidoo, and I saw sales of jerky coming in. On Google, it didn’t take long for my lens to appear on the first page of the search results for “best beef jerky” and similar keywords.

The real boost came when the New York Times printed its first article on Squidoo in April, 2006: A Home Where Bloggers Can Plumb Those Obscure Passions. The author, Bob Tedeschi, used my lens as the initial angle in the story. Within a day, my lens was #1 on and remained there for over a week. With an active link from the, Google rewarded me with the #1 result on its search engine. The lens stayed in the top 3 for well over 3 years. Today, the lens is on page 2, still sending me traffic.

With my passion for coaching business owners, I’ve never actively promoted my online jerky store other than the Squidoo lens and a casual mention, since it makes for a fun story. And now you know another weird, unique way to make money online.

Note from Nik. I'm glad you shared a physical product, Bob. That's a cool twist compared to the other answers.

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Well, goodness. I've had several odd businesses in the past, but this is a hard question – simply because I'm pretty transparent about my businesses to begin with.

I'm going to share two methods, today.

Niche Sites.

You may not know this but I have several niche sites still that bring in passive income month after month after month. A few of them, I haven't touched in years – which is a mistake on my part. But they still bring in money. So, that goes to show that quality over quantity worked in 2006 and it still works now. 🙂

Is that an unusual way to make money? Not really. But it may be unusual when you think about me. 🙂

The niches? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Four of my favorite niche sites are about:

  • Romance in a Marriage
  • Fun Exercise DVDs
  • Kids Crafts
  • Cooking

How to I Make Money with those Sites?

Through a few ways.

  • Affiliate Marketing. I get checks from Fredricks of Hollywood for the romance one – and all kinds of other places. 😉
  • Google Adsense. Yes, still. My deposits aren't nearly as big as they were a few years ago, but I'm also not really doing anything to earn it, so I'm happy with the amount that I am getting.
  • Selling my own niche products. I don't do this nearly as much as I used to, but I'm about to get back into more niche product creation again. This time, on the Kindle rather than selling the products as an ebook.

And, because I've successfully created my niche sites, I then spun off a series of Kindle books about a few of them.

Make Money with a Craft Blog

Make Money with a Recipe Blog

Make Money with a Fitness Blog

Make Money with a Travel Blog

So that's one odd revenue stream that you may not have known about. 🙂

What else?

Monetizing Affiliate Communications.

Another revenue stream that I have in place that may be considered “unusual” is in monetizing my affiliate program.

I don't “sell” to my affiliates. However, I will include a PS. when mailing them about a new affiliate tool or new product or promo of mine.

The PS might say something like this:

Want to make more money with my Affiliate Program?

I recommend that you check out these two courses to boost your profits:

  • If you're just getting started, then this is the training that I would suggest: Affiliate Sales Domination as it starts from the absolute beginning.

I have lists of affiliates. Those affiliates need training to be successful. Therefore, I see a win-win scenario. 🙂

How about you?

What are some unusual ways that you make money?

Nicole Dean

PS. Be sure to click on the links of my friends to learn more about them. That’s how I get them to come back.)  🙂

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Loretta

    I love all of these unique and fun ways to add to existing income – totally inspiring and motivating. And now I must go scribble ideas down before I forget them…..

  • Samantha Angel

    I’m in the process of formulating ideas into plans so this has been really helpful. Its inspiring to know that there really are so many different ways to make money online.

  • Ramiro Rodriguez

    Awesome Nicole! You’re the best. I got so many ideas I don’t know where to begin 🙂

    I’m currently writing an ebook on how I’m getting paid to build a website with Google AdSense and the ad revenue goes to me.

  • Shannon

    You know Nik… getting your flooring paid for isn’t too far fetched.

    As you know my house flooded about a month ago. Sure, I have insurance, but also saw an opportunity to talk about working while renovations are being done in an already chaotic home. And guess what? I now have two sponsors paying me for the privilege of blogging on it over at

    So now I have better renovations and cash in my pocket. (And wait ’til you see my new office!)

  • Christina Lemmey

    I LOVE this post!! Such creative ideas…now if I only had an extra 18 hrs in my day to try them all.

  • Debra

    Great article! I’m new to affiliate marketing and, I’m definitely struggling with overwhelm, so I’m sure I’ll be going through that course this weekend. Thanks for thinking of me!

  • Clare

    Thanks for the great post Nicole

    I especially like your Kindle book examples.

    I have wanted to write a book since a very young age, and your post is inspiring me to get the kindle a shot.

    I don’t currently have any unusual ways I earn money (does the usual ways). But your post has certainly got my creative juices flowing.

  • Patricia Weber

    What a terrific wide variety of Expert Briefs.

    I particularly like how Shannon is getting sponsors and how Kelly is managing 10 blogs – TEN blogs that produce recurring income in various ways!

    It’s quite encouraging and inspiring. Thanks so much for interviewing these successful people.

  • Shawn Hansen

    Hi Nicole,

    Great post–as usual. Some of these folks I am familiar with, but I also learned about some new marketers and thinkers to follow. Thanks!

    I also LOVE the twitter plugin: I just grabbed it for my Site. What a great participation encourager!

  • Michael Belk

    Wow Nicole, you provided us more than enough information on making money. I love that they all have unique ideas. Marketing is the key.

    If you have an idea it is all about the way you present it to others. thanks

  • Celene Harrelson | The Happypreneur

    Wow, so many great ideas here. I’m thinking I’m going to have to try a couple of them and spiff up my niche sites too. Thanks!

  • Peggy Baron

    I love these ideas, all of them! The one Connie shared of helping the college-bound student really hit home with me. 🙂

    I have just jumped in to (no toe-dipping here) creating physical products and I’ll let you know how that works out.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone.

  • Lewis Saka

    I’m glad I found this blog and this post, it’s helped me to think of new ways of making money online. Very inspiring set of people.


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