How I Make Money Online

April 8, 2020

Sometimes I’m asked, “Amy, how do you make money online? I’m not exactly sure what your online business is, or what it does.” Let me answer that.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links through which I’m paid. No additional cost to you. More here.

Table of contents:

Read the comments at the end too! I’ve answered a ton of specific questions.

How exactly do I make money online?

Two ways:

  1. Affiliate marketing. I share tips, tools and tutorials on my blog and in the Useletter®. As I do, I occasionally mention products or services I use. If someone purchases one based on my recommendation, I earn a commission. (That’s what affiliate marketing is — earning commission on recommended products or services.)
  2. Digital products. My time management book, Tell Your Time, is the only digital product I currently have for sale. (In addition to ebooks, more examples of digital products are online courses, PDFs, printable planners or worksheets, membership sites, etc.)

Those are my main income streams today, but over the years I’ve made money with all of the following ways too.

Ways I’ve made money online in the past


  • Google AdSense
  • Independent ads in my sidebar


  • Virtual assistant
  • Web designer
  • Blog coach
  • Conference speaker
  • Writer for another site

Physical products:

  • Print-on-demand (POD) merchandise, including t-shirts, mugs and stickers
  • Reselling textbooks

Digital products:

  • My digital business notebook, called the Knowtbook (retired)
  • Printables & PDFs
  • Blog headers and other blog graphics

Other ways I’ve earned or been compensated:

  • Hundreds of dollars worth of Amazon gift cards via Swagbucks
  • Product reviews (paid with product, not cash)
  • A part-time marketing job for a local non-profit
  • Tip jar (back in the day, it was common to have a place for blog visitors to donate)

I was successful with some, not so much with others.

My biggest failure

My biggest loss was in 2005. I paid a web developer $5000 (with a credit card, because I didn’t have the money) to build a networking site where businesses could find virtual assistants. That site failed and never earned a penny. Unfortunately, it took us a long time to pay off the debt. The memory of that debt is one of the main reasons I run a minimalist online business now and keep a really big cushion.

16 years of blogs and experimenting

The blog you’re reading now is my fourth. I started my first blog — a lifestyle blog — about 16 years ago. I’ve also had a personal finance blog and a homeschooling blog. 

Those first 3 blogs are long gone, but they provided a lot of opportunity for learning and experimenting.

Through lots of trial and error, I discovered what I’m good at: finding and synthesizing information, especially about minimalist online business.

I also figured out the income streams I like most, and suit me best: affiliate marketing and digital products.

What didn’t suit me and why

We’re all different. There’s no right or wrong way to make money online or do online business. The options are really only limited by our individual creativity and preference. That’s why I love online business!

Figuring out what doesn’t work for you and what you don’t like can be just as helpful as figuring out what does work and what you do like.

My first three blogs were fun for a time, but I struggled to keep them up. I was interested in the topics, but not really passionate. So I moved on.

Tip: One of the biggest mistakes beginning content marketers make (i.e. bloggers, YouTuber, podcasters — anyone who creates content, then monetizes it) is taking too long to start. They get stuck on the “What’s your why?” and “Who’s your avatar?” and “How can I make my site look nicer?” questions. These are good questions. Spend a day or two on them, but content is key! The sooner you get it out there, the quicker Google will find it and suggest it. No one is looking at your site at the beginning — no one knows it exists. And, if you’re like most of us, you’ll change your mind about your topic or settle into something as you go. So, get your content working for you first. Dive deep into those questions later. Just start!

OK, done with my tangent. 🙂 Where was I? Right. The things that didn’t work for me…

Here’s a very brief description of what I didn’t like about each income stream I’ve tried. I’m not opposed to any of them. I would absolutely consider trying them again if I ventured into a situation where it made sense.

Ads. The clutter they created and the negative impact on user experience outweighed the benefit for me. Ads work best with certain niches (lifestyle, food, fashion, etc.), but to be lucrative, they require a lot of traffic. When I had a lifestyle blog, I didn’t have enough traffic to warrant them.

Services. I enjoyed the services I provided, for a time. At my core, I prefer autonomy, doing my own thing and building my own thing. Plus, with a house full of littles at the time, I was fitting work into the nooks and crannies of life. Having to be available for someone else on their schedule got complicated sometimes.

Physical products. I love print on demand (POD) and will probably fire it up again at some point. The profit margin is generally lower than keeping my own inventory, but as a minimalist, I like not having to store, process, ship, deal with returns, etc.

Digital products. Overall, digital products are great for me. The biggest downside of digital products in my niche is how quickly they become out of date. That’s an ongoing puzzle for me. I’m sure there are more digital products in my future though.

Membership sites. I’ve never had a membership site even though the recurring revenue is very appealing. Here’s why. Way back in the day, long before Facebook Groups, I started an online community for readers of my lifestyle blog. Almost as soon as I started it, I knew it wasn’t a great fit. I’m a huge introvert. Chatting, moderating and keeping people engaged was very taxing. Within a few months, I handed the community over to two highly active members. It was a great lesson! That experience is why I don’t run any Facebook Groups today, or have a membership site. Some people thrive in that environment, but the ongoing maintenance isn’t for me. Plus, having to continually come up with new content for members, indefinitely, gives me stress. I much prefer things with a clear end.

How to tweak things for a better fit

Just because you determine something doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean you should throw it out. How can you tweak it to make it a better fit? Here are ways it might work for me:

  • Instead of a regular Facebook Group, open indefinitely, I could run a pop-up Facebook Group.
  • Instead of a membership site, I could run a coaching group that lasts for a pre-set number of weeks. I could limit my involvement to regular office hours so expectations are clear.
  • Instead of one big signature online course where outdated information gets quickly buried, I could sell mini-courses that could be updated, replaced or retired easily.
  • Instead of providing a broad service (“I’ll design your website”) prone to scope creep, I could provide very specific packages with a checklist of items I’ll complete.
  • If I wanted to explore an interest and I’m not sure if it’s a passion, instead of starting a new blog, I could start a Facebook Page or write an ebook.

Those are examples, but hopefully you get the idea. No need to abandon something completely if it doesn’t work. There are always ways to tweak it.

3 things you need to make money online

If you’re still wondering exactly how making money online works, the concept is quite simple. As I’ve said before, you need 3 basic things to make money online:

  1. Passion. You’re a ninja at something. Start a blog (or YouTube channel or podcast) and talk about that thing! This is your content.
  2. People. Other people in the world are interested. Use social media (and resources like Rachel Miller) to find them!
  3. Product. Your “product” — the thing you “sell” — doesn’t have to be a thing. As you can see from my list above, you can make money in a variety of ways: affiliate marketing, selling digital or physical products, providing a service, ads or whatever works. Better yet, use a combination!

Don’t spend thousands of dollars to get started. Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple. Get a blog up and running in minutes (literally). Start writing articles. Or, record videos or podcast episodes and embed them in your blog posts with some show notes.

Experiment with and add income streams as you go. But start! You’ll never make any money online if you don’t get some content out there first.

Got a question?

I truly want this post to be as helpful as possible. Having been in it so long, sometimes I accidentally skip over things in my explanation. Leave your questions in the comments below. (P.S. There are no dumb questions!)

Things to read next:

50 thoughts on “How I Make Money Online”

  1. Brilliantly crafted post, Amy. I too agree with whatever you said, especially that pop-up ads part.

    I would like to pose a question to you. With the Amazon cutting out its affiliate commission rates, what’s your take on it? Should the newbies go for Amazon for look for alternatives?

    If you could, please share your thoughts.


  2. Hi Amy, This is an awesome article. all of the things I found practical. I’ve been following you for a couple of months now. since the beginning, I learn many things from you. thank you a lot for bringing value to your readers.

  3. This was really helpful and quite different from a lot of other bloggers. I really liked your advice and honesty about what worked for you and what didn’t.
    I do have a question – i find myself getting stuff on website speed, legal disclosures, etc. How important is it to get a paid legal template? And do you recommend anything that is for free?

    I want to start earning and email marketing but am afraid to include affiliate links or gather information because of the legal headache.

  4. Hey Amy. I had never heard of a pop-up facebook group before, this is a very good idea and something I haven’t seen! I agree completely on not spending thousands of dollars. I have met many people who spend way too much instead of focusing on putting in the work. Its best to keep it lean and validate the idea before fully opening your wallet.

  5. This is an eye-opener! It is super important for people to read stories like this one before jump into the online world of work!
    Love this post.

  6. Hye,
    I signed up a Very short time ago to start getting your newsletters so I’m not that familiar with you. After reading your replies to everybody here it seems you know a lot about a lot topics. Really You Are so amazing.

  7. Yes! I fully agree with you when you say passion, people and product are the three main things to start an online business. In particular, I would say passion is the most important. We all need a reason to get out of bed every day. I was earning money off my first business but it was a big struggle for me as I had no interest in whatever I was selling. I re-assessed my business and sold it off because I thought I will not be able to bring it to greater heights and I was not enjoying my work at all. For my next business i dabbled into fashion. I started an e-commerce store selling clothes as I myself love dressing up. I look forward to improving my business and have no problem burning the late night oil because I love what I do and I suggest all who are thinking of starting an online business to work towards their passion!

  8. Hey Amy
    I was trying to make money online for the past 1 year
    Most of the articles are spam on the internet
    And finally, I ended up with your article
    Which show a clear picture of how to make money online
    Thank you

  9. Hi, Amy!

    Great blog you have here. I really love how it looks. To be honest the design is by far the best I came across by now. Did you ask a web designer to help with the looks or was it your creation? Also I am curious what theme you took for this blog? Astra? GeneratePress? StudioPress (Genesis)? I guess what I am really asking is how can I make a blog similar to yours?

    Thanks a lot!

  10. I have been doing online marketing since 2004, and now I am an experienced website designer, SEO specialist, and have my own social media marketing agency. These multiple streams have helped me get many customers, and still have freedom to spend quality time with my family.

  11. Hi, Amy,
    I am a new blogger and concerned with all of the legal aspects and policies needed for my blog/website. I’m getting mixed information because lawyers say not to use free policies, but they are also trying to sell their products!

    Can you please give me your opinion of how to address the legal aspects of a blog/website? What are your go to legal resources?

    I trust your opinion and love your site and the Useletter. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

    Take care.

  12. Sarah Elizabeth Johnson

    Thanks for sharing Amy! I’ve been doing business online since 2008, and also, have tried a little bit of everything. Agree with you 100% on all fronts here!

  13. I wish had found you before I spent a ton on online courses that are giving me anxiety. I love your simple honest feedback, and you’re easy to trust. Thank you for this post, it’s definitely giving me food for thought.

    Questions: I am a little stuck on the avatar phase because my focus keeps moving around in my head as I write. How soon can I expect to gain clarity on my vision as a write my posts and deliver content.

    Thanks Amy,

    1. Tanielle, I’m so glad you stopped by! Thank you for your encouragement. If it helps, I can relate to that course-induced anxiety you talk about. 🙂

      Alright, avatar. I’ve struggled with my avatar too. After all these years, I still don’t feel like I have it completely figured out. So, that might be my first tip: don’t let your stuckness keep you from moving ahead. It sounds like you’re good there — you’re still writing, which is great, so keep going. As people respond, it gets more and more clear. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error, tweaking and experimenting to get there.

      Remember, defining the perfect avatar isn’t really the goal. The goal is to have an active, growing relationship with people who like what you create.

      An avatar exercise resulting in a lovely photo and in-depth description is great, but if you’re writing to that person and only hearing crickets in response, that perfect avatar isn’t doin’ much. When you’re just starting out, it’s definitely helpful to define who you think is your perfect person to give yourself some direction, but once you’re creating take note.

      Take note of what people respond to. What posts are most popular on your site? What do you get emails or messages about? Use those things to hone in on what type of person resonates with what you are creating. Writing to a specific avatar is most useful when you know who is responding to your content, not who should respond to your content.

      (P.S. The person who has helped me most with this is Rachel Miller. She sells a very pricey course which I’m not suggesting you buy at this point, but she has some free and low-cost things you might find helpful. Find them at the end of this post in the “get a taste” section.)

  14. My biggest issue right now is finding out if I can make money online in my niche. There aren’t a ton of other, up-to-date blogs similar to mine (Teaching English as a Second Language), and I’ve struggled with actually converting my audience to sales. How do you know when to “throw in the towel” and/or try a new type of website?

    1. Hey Jessica. That can be tricky to figure out. Asking yourself if it’s time to throw in the towel can be overwhelming. I’d encourage you to drill down first. A few thoughts…

      First, as long as I’ve being doing this, I’ve seen very few niches that weren’t monetizeable. The vast majority are, and I would definitely say TESOL can be.

      I’ve talked a lot about the basic 3 things needed to be successful online. It’s likely your lack of conversions are happening in one (possibly more) of these spots. I’d recommend going through some of these questions to try to identify where you might be able to focus your efforts:

      Passion. Are you excitement about the topic? Excitement is contagious! Is lack of enthusiasm on your part making it hard to stay creative and come up with a steady flow of interesting ideas? Are you burned out or bored? Should you niche down?

      People. Are you getting good traffic? Do people know you exist? Do they understand how you help? Are they otherwise active and engaged but are just getting stuck in the leap from fans to buyers?

      Product. Is it priced right? Does it meet a need or fill a hole? Did your people ask for it? Can they get it somewhere else? Do they prefer a different format? Would a different income stream work better?

      If those questions don’t help, look at other content creators in your niche and see what they’re doing. I know you said there aren’t many active blogs, but what about YouTube channels or podcasts? What are they talking about? How are they talking about it? How are they monetizing? Would that work for you?

      Blogging is such a roller coaster with so many ups and downs! It’s also very forgiving. As you can see from my post, I’ve started and stopped and tried all sorts of things. What does your gut say about your current blog?

  15. Tess Mickelsen

    Hi Amy,
    As usual, a wonderful post with great information for anyone interested in making money online! I always find your Useletters helpful … like going to meetings or seminars, I always say if I can pick up one new idea or method, it’s worth my time … and I always learn something worth my time with the Useletter! Your ability to be so honest about all this stuff is really refreshing … thank you!

  16. Good stuff Amy (especially about Google Ad experience). My first blog had those and the whole site looked horrible.
    I think a lot of people think that making money online with a blog will be easy. “If you build it they will come” But frankly, most of what people plan to blog about isn’t interesting for many readers and requires a lot of product pushing. Most blogs seem to exist for the sake of making money, and I get that, but engaging content that serves the reader should be the main goal. I feel a lot of bloggers have lost the goal.
    For instance, I created a personal finance blog (blog #2 for me) and my goal is to educate on why a particular investment structure is good or bad, beyond recycled generic advice that reads like a Suze Orman infomercial.
    I might add some monetization one day, but to me its less of a business and more of a pursuit. I love the topic and have a lot of experience in the area. I think more people should treat their blogs this way instead of pushing affiliate links every other paragraph like most of the blogs in my genre do.

    1. You’re right, blogging is definitely a challenge. And it’s harder and harder to stand out, which is why I’m such a fan of niching down these days.

      The people who have the most success are those who have a “thing” about them. Like, “He/she is the ___ person.” The blank can be filled in with so many things (Pinterest, cocker spaniel, snow shoeing, etc. ), but the point is to be the go-to resource for that thing. And like you said, being the person who talks about “___ without being salesy” can be even more effective.

  17. Hi Amy,
    I have been following you for sometime now and want to thank you for all the useful information you share. Your newsletters are a fantastic resource. You truly do serve your audience and I greatly appreciate you!


  18. You are a breath of fresh air! I have unsubscribed and unfollowed almost everyone in the “how to do online biz” world because it is just too exhausting. I don’t want to be a big name nor do I want my business to consume my life. I love your practical advice for a minimalist business model. Thank you for all the great content!

    1. Unfortunately most of them exist to sell you a course. I appreciate that Amy has a minimalist blog and shares with you actionable ideas without the hard selling popups and harassment.

  19. Great article! Ironically, I’ve discovered that I don’t enjoy blogging but love to create products. Is it possible to earn income on digital information products without creating blog content?

    1. Tara, yes, there’s always a way. That’s what I say. 😉 You just have to be creative. Or go about it in “non-traditional” ways. It would depend on what kinds of products you create, but some ideas that come to mind:

      1. Provide product creation as a service.

      2. If your products are customizable in any way, sell them on sites like Creative Market or Envato.

      3. Use a medium other than a blog to connect with people, like a YouTube channel (Project 24 guys are a great resource) or podcast (Pat Flynn’s post is a good resource).

      4. Use social media. Rachel Miller is a good resource to connect with your people. Check out her 100 Perfect People challenge. (It does cost $10.)

      Keep in mind, it’s riskier to sell exclusively from someone else’s site (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.). They can change their algorithms or even give you the boot. So, I would still recommend having your own site. It doesn’t have to be fancy and each post can simply be an embedded YouTube video or show notes for a podcast episode. An example would be Do It on a Dime. Kathryn isn’t an info product creator, but she’s a good example of being big on YouTube and as you can see from her blog she doesn’t write much there. She basically posts an image and embeds her video. It’s also a nice spot to put affiliate links. 😉

  20. I always love your perspective! I started a blog in 2018 and enrolled in EBA but have not yet completed it. I find that I do not want to do “all the things” that one should be doing to be successful. Maybe that means I will always have a hobby blog, maybe that means I am not cut out for it at all, I don’t know! I would love to just make a small income from affiliate marketing, guest posting, and possibly digital products; that is, if I could figure out what niche to concentrate on! Thanks for all of your useful content!

    1. Thanks, Carol! Elite Blog Academy is a solid course and Ruth has accomplished amazing things! (If you’re reading this and unfamiliar with EBA, I bought it too. You can read my honest EBA review here.) Your experience jives with most I’ve heard — it’s a deep course and takes a lot of time to work through. If you want to build a heavyweight business like Ruth has, it’s a great resource. Not sure if you plan on finishing it, but even if you don’t work through it completely, I still recommend you pick through the topics that interest you. She’s got some great product-related content in the latter modules especially.

      As one who leans toward minimalist online business myself, I wholeheartedly believe you can make an income from affiliate marketing and digital products. I wouldn’t rely on guest posting to make an income as much as I would use it to get exposure and drive traffic to your blog. Writing for others as a guest poster doesn’t make as much money as it once did. (When I was a virtual assistant, I was the Gatekeeper of Guests Posts and wrote this post with my tips. It’s an old post, but many of the principles still apply.) If you want to be a freelance writer or ghostwriter though, that can pay more, so it’s something to consider.

      Yes, figure out your niche for sure. That’s key. So important. Read my response to SJ for more on that. It doesn’t mean you have to ditch your current blog and start over either. You might also consider doing a series of posts on your current blog on a really tight topic to see if you can drum up some tighter interest. I talked about this in my recent Facebook Live (starting at about minute 9:30).

  21. I love this. I spent practically nothing getting my business started with no recurring overhead. AND I do something I’m passionate about – helping local businesses improve their online presence so they can be found by customers. The minimalist concept is so appealing to me, because I know that my family is secure no matter the economic climate – no business expenses to pay!

    1. I’m with you. I blogged on $100 per year (literally) for years. And no overhead is my jam too. I love content marketing (blogging) for exactly this reason: low startup costs, low overhead and low risk. Although these days, it’s hard to convince beginners of that because there are so many people selling products and courses. That’s why I recently wrote Why You Shouldn’t Spend a Lot to Start a Blog or Website

      Also, I like how you niched down by focusing on local businesses. Smart. (This is an example of what I meant in my other comment here.)

  22. Thanks for sharing. I’m about to walk away from a 25-year teaching career to start a service-based business as a writer, editor, instructional designer, and speaker. Your minimalist approach to your business really resonates with me!

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad. Congratulations on such a long career! I hope the transition goes well. I’m sure your teaching background will be a huge asset as you move forward. Not sure if it’s helpful, but I happened to watch this video a few days ago about running a service-based business. I thought he had some great points.

  23. I loved what you said about ads. I too do not like websites that have ads pop up. Good to know that they require a lot of traffic to be lucrative. Even more reason not to go down that route!

    I’d love to know more about how to find good ways to find products for affiliate marketing. I’ll read your post on that next.

    1. Yes, with few exceptions, to make good money with ads you have to have a lot of traffic. On the flip side, they are mostly hands off, so for some site owners it works. It’s good reminder that every income stream comes with pros and cons. We each have to look at our own circumstance and decide what tradeoffs we’re comfortable with.

      Yes, I have a whole section in my affiliate marketing post about finding products. Basically, start with the tools you use. After that, be a student of your niche. Hunt. Talk to others. Take note of what others in your niche are promoting.

  24. what is the best way to get more traffic and get your blog seen? I’m not sure if guest posting is worth the time. What strategies do you recommend? SEO/Pinterest?
    Do you do coaching?
    Thank you!
    Love your use letters!

    1. Hi SJ, great question. There are so many factors, but if I had to boil it down to two I would say: niche down and be really clear on who your people are.

      Niche down. Back in the day, when blogs were relatively new, a lot of us saw them as online journals or diaries. You kind of just talked about what was going on in your life. Eventually, certain bloggers started to stand out for particular topics. We would have conversations like, “Oh yeah, so-and-so? She’s the writing person.” Or, “Have you read so-and-so’s blog? He’s the recipes guy.” These were big topics, like writing, recipes, fashion, parenting or faith.

      Over time, other people started blogs on those specific topics. Soon, those niches became really full too. It became harder and harder to be the “recipe guy” or the “writing person.”

      So, people niched down more. Instead of being the “recipe guy” someone became the “gluten-free recipe guy.” Instead of being the “writing girl” someone became the “copywriting girl.”

      Then those niches became saturated, so someone became the “gluten-free baking recipe guy” or the “sales page copywriting girl.”

      And on and on it went. Make sense?

      These days we are many, many times more niched. But people are still jumping into those top level niches. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s so much harder to stand out! And it’s difficult to convince people to jump first into the smaller niches because it naturally feels like you’re not going to appeal to as many people. Which is true on one hand, but on the other hand, in general, you’ll make more money more quickly if you go deep first.

      All that to say, my advice is always to pick a niche in which you have a reasonable shot at becoming the go-to resource. These posts might help: How to Niche Down and How to Choose a Niche.

      Next, know your people. I do not do a great job of explaining this concept, but Rachel Miller is brilliant. (She’s my go-to person for finding your people!) She has a course, but it’s pricey so I don’t recommend it right out of the gate. (I did buy it, then bought the upgrade, then bought the membership upgrade after that, LOL.) Start with her free stuff first. I list a bunch of her free stuff at the end of the review post I did for her main product.

      I don’t do coaching at the moment. 🙂

  25. Hey, what a great article -very informing and inspiring! My mom and I run an Etsy shop and we have thought about venturing into selling digital products and doing more to get our name out there. I find your Useletter so helpful every week. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    1. Thanks Julie. Since you’re already on Etsy, you could easily add digital products to your shop (assuming they are related to your shop, of course. :))

      One of my favorite Etsy shops for digital products is Paper & Oats. She sells mostly planner printables, which might not be what you’d sell, but her shop might offer some inspiration. It’s very well done.

      Digital products are a no-brainer in my opinion so I would say go for it! It does take a bit of work upfront, but as long as they aren’t labor-intensive after that (with lots of customer service questions, follow up, interaction from you, etc.), they’re awesome. One of the most passive income streams, and no limit to the number you can sell.

      In case anyone else is thinking about it…

      If I was going to start selling digital products today and didn’t have plans to add physical products to my lineup at anytime, I’d use Podia to do so. Podia is a great platform to sell digital products but doesn’t really have an easy way to sell physical products.

      If I wanted to start with, or add physical products at some point, I would use Shopify. I would simply use one of their apps to add digital products to my store as well. I like Sky Pilot and SendOwl. More: How to Create and Sell Digital Products: A Roadmap With 6 Ideas to Get You Started.

      I haven’t used Etsy, but for handmade, they seem to be the clear winner. Julie, how has it worked for you?

    1. Glad to hear it! It can be really hard to sort through all the comments of “Do this! This works! Try it! I made a lot doing this!”

      In general I don’t doubt the stories and successes, there are a just a lot of layers for each of us. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. That’s why I always say, before you follow someone else’s process or strategy, look first at how they spend your days. Compare that to how you want to spend yours. If they match, go for it. If they don’t, it might not be a great fit.

  26. Hi there. I’ve thought about doing print on demand. Can you go into more detail about it? Where did you get your Ideas to put on products, what service did you use, where did you sell your products – Shopify store? I am guessing there are probably several people in your audience that would like to hear more. Thank you

    1. Hi Sue. While I’ve dabbled in it, POD is definitely not my expertise. But I’ll tell you a bit of my experience and give you some resources I’ve used.

      Waaay back on my first blog, I sold t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, stickers, etc. on CafePress®. It was one of the only options. I think Zazzle might have been as well but I never sold there. These days there are so many other choices like RedBubble, Spreadshirt, Merch by Amazon and so many more.

      I’ve also used Spreadshirt, and I do have a Merch by Amazon account (which, I admit, I have not utilized well). As I write, Merch by Amazon is halted due to COVID-19.

      Today I would probably start on Shopify. Just start a shop, then use an app to connect your account to a company that will do the printing for you. I’ve used Printful (here are others).

      Other Shopify resources I’ve found helpful:

      Print on Demand: A Low-Risk Way to Sell Custom T-Shirts, Books, and More
      Start a business using print-on-demand

      People I follow who talk about Print on Demand:

      Lisa Irby
      Wholesale Ted

      As for designs, I like the text-based designs because they are easy. I get ideas from products I see out and about, greeting cards, gift bags, books, etc. Sometimes I think of things on my own. Occasionally I’ll say something and think, “Hmm…that would make a good t-shirt.” I have dozens and dozens of ideas filed away in Evernote. Someday… 🙂

      To create graphics, use something as simple as Canva to design something. Keep in mind, if you use Canva, you can’t save your creations with a transparent background (important for a lot of designs) unless you have the premium version. If you don’t want to pay the monthly fee though, and you don’t mind going through a few extra steps, create your graphic in Canva then use a free tool like Gimp or to remove the colored background and make it transparent. (Always be careful when you run an image through tools though. Sometimes the quality suffers.)

      Another option for creating graphics if you don’t want to create them from scratch is to buy ones you can edit yourself in Adobe Creative Cloud. For example, these customizable badges from Creative Market would make fun t-shirt designs. So many options.

      A lot of people outsource their graphic design through sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

      1. I signed up a short time ago to start getting your newsletters so I’m not that familiar with you. After reading your replies to everybody here it seems you know a lot about a lot topics. You’re amazing! Glad I signed up. Oh, and thanks so much for the detailed answer to my question.

  27. I see that your digital product is on Amazon. Why did you choose that route instead of selling your product directly since you already have an audience on your blog?

    I just started blogging 2 months ago and I’m really curious about what makes you decide on this option.

    If you could, please share your thoughts.

    Highly appreciated.


    1. Hi Jeremiah. Great question.

      I used to sell my ebook (and other digital products) directly from my site using SendOwl. I like SendOwl and would recommend it for this purpose.

      But after retiring my last product (the Knowtbook), my book was the only thing left I was selling. It was already on Amazon, so moving it there exclusively was just easier. Basically, I was just trying to simplify.

      If I decide to sell more digital products in the future, SendOwl worked great and I’d definitely consider using it again. It’s easy, simple and smooth. Their support is great. It makes selling your own digital product directly from your site quite nice. If I was going to go bigger and sell more complicated digital products (like courses, membership sites, webinars, etc.) rather than simple printables, I would use Podia. (See my response to Julie or more on that.)

      I hope that makes sense. If not, feel free to ask clarification questions.

      Sidenote: I prefer using 3rd party tools to sell things, for two reasons. (1) I don’t want to have sensitive customer information on my site. I don’t want the responsibility if I get hacked, etc. (2) I prefer to avoid as many “breakable” things on my site as possible. This is why I don’t use WordPress plugins like WooCommerce to sell things from my site. If the plugin broke, either on its own or because of something else that went wrong on my site, I wouldn’t want to have to fix it. Also, the more plugins and activity, the slower my site.

      SendOwl integrates seamlessly on my site so the user experience is pleasant, but none of the transaction bits take place on my site. SendOwl works with PayPal and Stripe which are both very familiar to people, again, making it user-friendly. And, all of the information associated with the transactions is stored in SendOwl, PayPal and Stripe. I can log into those places to get info, see analytics, etc.

      Another sidenote: If my book was at a higher price point, I probably would not have moved it to Amazon. Why? Because I would keep a higher percentage of the profit by selling it on my own. However, it’s at a very low price point ($2.99 as I write), so I’m not making a ton on each sale anyway. By the time I consider the SendOwl and PayPal/Stripe fees I incur when selling it on my own site vs. Amazon’s cut when I sell it there, the profit on each sale is comparable. Plus, by sending people to Amazon to buy my book using my own affiliate link, users are cookied, so if they buy anything else while on Amazon, I get the affiliate income from that too. All that to say, the profit difference was similar (Amazon vs. SendOwl on my own site), so simplicity won the day.

      Keep in mind, you can use your Amazon Associates link to link to your own product on Amazon. However, you cannot use your Amazon Associates links to shop on Amazon.

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