The new ways to earn extra moolah: from drop-shipping and virtual teaching to affiliate marketing. Learn from those who've been there, done that.
“I sold a variety of products, from beauty, lifestyle to fashion... The biggest earning in a month was $5,000.” − Cherie Lim
SELL TO THE WORLD, EVEN WITH A TIGHT BUDGET
If you want to start a small online business but lack the funds, drop-shipping is a relatively low-risk and fuss-free way to start a side hustle.
Basically, there’s no need to fork out any money up front to invest in an inventory of items. Instead, you can trawl websites like Alibaba.com and Amazon.com (through its Fulfillment by Amazon programme) for drop-shipping manufacturers, and choose what you want to sell from their catalogues.
All you have to do is to set up a website with an e-commerce store and promote the things that you’re selling online. When a sale is made on your website, you simply act as a middleman to transfer the customer’s orders and shipment details to the manufacturer, who will ship the items directly to the customer. You earn a cut out of each sale.
Cherie Lim, a 22-year-old business and marketing undergraduate, dabbled in drop-shipping for four years.
“I found the cheapest ways to set up my website,” she recalls. “I experimented with Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, and I’m still exploring other platforms.”
She worked fast as a one-woman show, capitalising on the free two-week trial on e-commerce platforms to launch the site to save costs, and test if the products were saleable. If they were, she would continue subscribing to the e-commerce service. Cherie spent about $100 a month on social media ads to promote the products that she was selling.
With its low entry barriers, she says that drop-shipping is one of the best ways for students or those with low capital to start a business.
She adds: “I sold a variety of products, from beauty, lifestyle to fashion, on multiple websites that I created quickly. The biggest earning in a month was $5,000.
“Like any business, one needs to know how to price your items, as you don’t want to over- or under-charge.”
Cherie spent a fair bit of time on research, trawling the Internet looking for the right manufacturers and products that she wanted to retail.
“Not all manufacturers are willing to participate in drop-shipping,” Cherie shares. “You have to reach out to them personally if you want to customise something that’s different from what they have.”
Instead of selling readily available products, look for innovative merchandise that’s unique. A product’s novelty-factor often influences online shoppers to go ahead and make a purchase.
The downside of drop-shipping for Cherie: While there are all kinds of goods, she had difficulty looking for eco-friendly and sustainable products to sell.
EARN PASSIVE INCOME AND TEACH THE WORLD, VIRTUALLY
Teaching is no longer restricted to a traditional classroom. Conducting virtual lessons or e-teaching is the new way to fully utilise your skills in your spare time. Another teaching option is also available – posting your content online. With Covid-19, this latter option has become very popular, globally. Anyone can enjoy learning new skills by taking an online course, and learn at their own pace.
And this is what Rocket Scientist, Marianne N. Michaels, has been doing for five years now. When she is not creating Python code or making solar system discoveries for Backyard Worlds and Exoplanets, or training the NASA Mars Rovers’ how to classify the terrain on Mars using Machine Learning while working as a NASA Citizen Scientist, she enjoys creating course curriculum related to mathematics and the environment, via the online learning platform known as Udemy.
“I started creating courses online to reach a group of people who had a desire to learn. The platform allows students from anywhere around the world to purchase my courses, and learn at their own pace. They can jump in and out, anytime they want. Plus they can revisit as often as they like, as their purchase comes with lifetime access,” she explains.
Marianne has a masters and bachelors degree in engineering, and offers six courses on Udemy: Renewable Energy and Climate Change (2-hours, 36-videos in multiple languages (English, Spanish, and German; with French coming soon) for people who want to learn more about Climate Change, as well as those in the industry who wish to have a broad overview and earn a Course Certificate for their career, Renewable Energy and Climate Change LITE (1-hour, 13-videos); 15 Speedy Math Tricks (1.5-hours, 14-videos + lots of practice quizzes) mainly for students who wish to do mental math quickly during standardized tests and exams; and Easily Convert Powerpoint/Keynote Slides to Videos - YouTube. The duration of each course ranges from one to two and a half hours, with each priced between S$26.64 and S$199.90. In all her courses, every student also receives an End-of-Course, Certificate of Completion.,But her primary goal is not about making money—the main draw for her is in sharing knowledge.
“How much an instructor makes really depends on the time they spend on marketing. Some instructors can earn quite a lot, and generate a good profit from such a passive income stream. For me, when I’m not marketing, it's all about the joy of sharing knowledge. That’s why I continuously add new curriculum, all the time.
”Love the idea of teaching on Udemy and think it’s an opportunity you’ll explore? She has four tips on how to find success.
1. Don't offer free courses, if you intend to make it a paid course later on—your competition might enroll in your course when it’s free, just to maliciously give you a negative rating later on, thus lowering your course ranking.
2. Read thoroughly all the Instructor Promotional Agreements on whichever platform you join--if you opt-in, the learning platform can offer your course at a steep discount. For the Percentage Promotions, these can be "up to 75% off the base price" while for Fixed Price Promotions, the course price can be "a discount exceeding 75%.” Remember, once subscribed to this, the learning platform also keeps a revenue share of what’s leftover, so you, the Instructor, may not end up with much in the end.
3. Look out for plagiarism--the online learning platform has had problems with hackers embedding and posting Instructors videos as their own, and selling the courses elsewhere. Udemy has an outside company who deals with the big problem of Copyright Infringement. Over the years, they have proven to be successful. They have even been successful at removing the bogus sites off of Google and YouTube, due to such infringement. All of this bodes well for protecting your work, and your brand!
4. Before you create your first course, make use of Udemy's Marketplace Insights tool--it will inform you how much demand there is for your topic, as well as what the competition is like, and how saturated the market is already.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the September print issue of Her World, and had quotes that were wrongly attributed to Marianne N. Michaels. This online article is the corrected version.
“The key is to be consistent, as with building anything worthwhile.” − Cheryl Tay, digital content creator
EARN AN INCOME FROM SOCIAL WITHOUT BEING AN INFLUENCER
Imagine waking up in the morning and realising that you made hundreds of dollars overnight – and all you did was share a link on your website and social media accounts.
This is affiliate marketing, where one promotes other people’s products to your network of friends and family, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.
Today, affiliate programmes have grown in size, especially with the availability of new software that supports such businesses. Social media channels have become the new phenomenon to help promote what you’re selling.
When you join a programme, you get instant access to these materials, which help your promotional efforts. Back in the day, you usually had to compile your own materials.
One affiliate marketer is digital content creator Cheryl Tay. The 33-year-old joined an affiliate programme by Pruvit in April. It’s an American company that specialises in ketone health supplements. Ketones help boost energy levels and physical endurance, as well as improve body composition.
“As affiliates, we’re not resellers or distributors,” the fitness influencer explains. “We have a unique referral link given to us, which many of us attach to our social media sites like Instagram. My sales are mostly through Instagram (@cheryltaysg) and word of mouth.”
The barrier-to-entry for an affiliate is low, and one doesn’t hold on to an inventory of physical stock. This means, marketers don’t have to deal with the shipping process. It’s managed by the source (of the products), who will ship the items to customers.
“Some time and effort are needed to learn more about the products, and how to manage your customers,” Cheryl notes.
She also promotes Pruvit through her personal experience on her website, www.cheryltay.sg. Cheryl was introduced to the product by her good friend. She says she felt sluggish all the time, and started reading up on ketones. She tried Pruvit and felt improvements in her energy levels.
If you’re looking to earn a sizeable profit (more than covering your grocery expenses), you have to be consistent in promoting the link. “There are people who do it full-time, while others like me do it as a side hustle and find pockets of their day to do the business,” she adds.“The key is to be consistent, as with building anything worthwhile.”
GET CLUED IN ON GROWING A SUCCESSFUL CONTENT SITE
With many looking for information online today, a useful content website can generate advertising income and commercial engagement for the author of the site. But what goes into making a successful content website?
Dawn Cher, 30, who’s behind the popular finance blogging site, Sgbudgetbabe.com, tells Her World: “It should be content that you love. I advise others to think about what their passion is, before setting up a website.” The main goal, she adds, is to set yourself apart from the others with your content. “I started my website in 2014 because I saw many gaps when it came to financial and life advice for women,” recalls Dawn, who has a passion for writing.
And writing for her site is a hobby. “I have a full-time job, but I do take on the occasional sponsored post on a project basis,” says Dawn, who works as a freelance public relations consultant and tutor.
Sgbudgetbabe.com draws millions of visitors each year, and has been ranked as one of the world’s top budget and finance blogs by Feedspot, a global social network for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers.
Dawn’s success with her website boils down to having evergreen and easy to understand financial topics, publishing a wide variety of articles consistently, and her keen engagement with the audience.
She adds: “With a plethora of web-creator services today, it’s definitely easier now to build a website, as web-services have a more user-friendly interface.”
She’s referring to website-building platforms like Wix, Wordpress, Squarespace and Weebly, which offer thousands of custom templates for your site’s design. You can create a website in minutes – using a drag-element method on all the pages, after choosing a colour theme and layout.
Weebly, for instance, is priced between US$9 ($12) and US$29 ($39.88) a month. These platforms also provide the option for users to buy a renewable domain name (of your choice) to connect to the site.
“I made sure my tutorials are clear and easy to follow.” − Tiara Surya Dusqie
MAKE MONEY FROM VIEWS EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT A TOP YOUTUBER
If you’ve been drawing loads of traffic to your self-made videos on social media, why not make some money out of it on Youtube?
Today, anyone can make a side income via video hosting channels, says Tiara Surya Dusqie, who is behind fashion and makeup YouTube channel, Tiara S. Dusqie.
“I began with makeup tutorials because my friends were asking me for eye makeup tips,” recalls the 28-year-old. “So I decided to share my passion by creating videos on the platform.” Tiara started her channel in 2013 and she has 4,400 subscribers.
One can earn an income through videos on YouTube by signing up as a YouTube Partner. YouTube pays content creators by inserting ads into your videos. You can choose the number of advertisements to insert, and the video timestamp where you want them to appear.
How much you earn depends on your channel’s traffic and advertisement clicks, says Tiara. On average, a YouTuber who has a sizeable amount of views (say more than 1,000) can earn at least US$3 ($4.13) for every 1,000 views.
The ads are delivered through various advertising widgets like AdSense auction and Google Ad Manager, which the creator has to manage.
Having run her video channel for nearly seven years, Tiara says she makes “a significant amount to cover her daily expenses”.
Starting the channel and uploading videos is easy. Gaining followers, though, can be an uphill task. Tiara says: “One thing to note is that YouTube is a very saturated platform, and you should rely on other platforms to promote your videos in order to gain traction on your YouTube channel.”
Tiara grew her subscribers by promoting her video content in creative ways on Instagram.
After you know the type of videos you want to put out, ensure that they’re of good quality.
“I made sure my tutorials are clear and easy to follow,” says Tiara, who took a while to invest in pricey equipment such as camera, lighting and audio .
THE BEST SITES TO LAUNCH YOUR SIDE GIG
SELLING ARTS & CRAFT
Etsy is probably the biggest online craft marketplace. Other popular platforms are Artfire, Shop Handmade, Hyena Cart, and Handmade Artist’s Shop. Some charge sellers a monthly membership fee, while others don’t. Etsy has no membership fee but takes a 3.5 per cent cut from the sale of items.
IF YOU’RE OFFERING CREATIVE SERVICES
Upwork is one of the largest gig portals for freelancers online. It offers services like graphic design, animation, content creation, writing and editing, and video-making. Other platforms include Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru, Freeup and SolidGigs. Some take a commission from freelancers’ earnings.
IF YOU WANT TO TEACH ONLINE
Coursera is a popular platform for professionals who want to upgrade their skills. The classes are structured like college courses with set start and end dates. Other highly recognised platforms are Udemy, Skillshare, and The Economist-owned Learning.ly, which is popular among entrepreneurs.
IF YOU’RE SELLING A VARIETY OF PRODUCTS
While Amazon.com is one of most popular e-commerce websites, the prices of items can be costly when shipping charges are added. Alternative global sites include AliExpress.com and auction platform eBay.com, as well as local sites like Shopee.sg and Lazada.sg. Facebook Shop also offers a shopping experience where businesses can create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free. Sellers can connect with customers through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to answer questions, offer support and more.