You used to have to have a website of some kind and products or services to sell in order to make money online. Now there are so many other ways to start making money online that all you really need is access to a computer.
Here is a list of online opportunities that actually pay out cash and don't require more than just an Internet connection:
Help friends find better jobs. Sites like ReferEarns, Zyoin, Who Do You Know For Dough?, and WiseStepp connect employers with prospective employees, many of whom are already employed and not actively job-hunting, via networking – the people who know these qualified candidates. Rewards for referring a candidate who gets hired range from $50 on up to several thousand dollars – not chump change. If you know a lot of job-seekers (and who doesn't these days?), this is a great way to break into the recruiting business with no overhead.
Connect suppliers with buyers. Referral fees are a common practice in business, but they haven't been used much in online networking sites because there was no way to track them. Sites like Salesconx, InnerSell and uRefer now provide that. Vendors set the referral fees they're willing to pay (and for what), and when the transaction happens, you get paid. uRefer also allows merchants to set up referral programs for introductions and meetings, as well as transactions.
Write. A growing number of sites will pay for your articles or blog posts. Associated Content and Helium will “pay for performance” based on page views for just about anything you want to write about. Articles on specific topics they're looking for can earn direct payments up to about $200. The rates are probably low for established writers, but if you're trying to break into the field and have time on your hands, they're a great way to start. Also, a lot of companies are looking for part-time bloggers. They may pay per post or on a steady contract. Our Weblogs Guide posts blogging jobs weekly in the forum.
Start your own blog. You don't have to have your own Web site, or install blogging software, or even figure out how to set up the advertising. At Blogger you can set up a blog for free in less than five minutes without knowing a thing about web design, and Blogger even automates setting up Google AdSense so you can make money off your blog by displaying ads and getting paid when people click on the ads. To make even more money from it, set up an affiliate program (see below) for books, music, etc., and insert your affiliate links whenever you refer to those items. You'll have to get a lot of traffic to become a six-figure blogger, but pick an interesting topic, write well, tell all your friends, and you're off to a good start.
Create topical resource hubs. Are you an expert on a particular niche topic? Can you put together an overview of the topic and assemble some of the best resources on the topic from around the web? Then you can create topical hubs and get paid through sites like Squidoo, HugPages and Google Knol. Payments are based on a combination of ad revenue and affiliate fees. You'll get higher rates doing it on your own, but these sites have a built-in supply of traffic and tools to make content creation easier.
Advertise other people's products. If you already have a Web site or a blog, look for vendors that offer related but non-competing products and see if they have an affiliate program. Stick to familiar products and brands – they're easier to sell.
Microstock photography. You don't have to be a professional photographer to sell your photos for money. People are constantly in need of stock photography for websites, presentations, brochures and so on, and are willing to pay for the right image. People generally search for images on stock photography sites by keywords, not by photographer, so you have the same chance as anyone else of having your image picked. Just be careful that you don't have images of trademarked brands, copyrighted art or people's faces that are readily identifiable (unless you have a model release), but just about anything else is fair game, and I promise – you'd be amazed what people need pictures of, so don't make any assumptions. If it's a decent photo, upload it. Some sites to get you started include Fotolia, ShutterStock, Dreamstime and iStockphoto. The great thing about this is that it's truly “set it and forget it”.
The techniques above should have a higher ROI than most other companies, whether the investment is with time or money.
What is one of your favorite ways to start making money online for free?