If you’re like me, you’ll be starting 2019 with an empty bank account and a host of bills that demand payment.
At times like this, it’s natural to try to find some ways to make some extra income.
In this post I’ll introduce three ways that I made money in 2018 (and will continue to do so this year). They really work and they’ve been providing me with consistent income over the last twelve months.
Before you get excited and quit your day job, I need to make it clear that the income I’ve been making was very small (because I didn’t really make that much effort) but I expect that to grow considerably in 2019.
Teaching English on Cambly
The short version: you can earn around $10/hour video-chatting with people around the world.
Cambly is a video learning platform that connects people that want to practice English as a second language with native speakers from around the world.
Cambly does the hard work of handling students, taking their payments and making the connection between tutor and student using their own proprietary video platform.
If you’re interested in becoming a tutor, you need to sign-up and record a sample video introducing yourself. This isn’t as stressful as it sounds – you just need to say a bit about yourself, as if you’re introducing yourself to a new student that wants to practice their English.
The sample video serves two purposes. First, it’s used to assess your ability to speak English (this can take a few weeks, so don’t be disappointed if you’re not approved in a weekend). Secondly, it’s placed on your profile page so that prospective students can see if they like the way you speak English.
Once you’re approved, you won’t have any students.
You can either sit on your hands and hope that someone finds you in the tutor directory and books a reservation with you or you can make yourself available for a priority hour.
Priority hours are sessions in which you remain connected for the full hour, waiting for any students to make a call. Some will call for any available tutor but some will specifically request you, based on your location, skills or the way you sound.
I’ll be honest, sometimes, priority hours can be extremely tedious. Sometimes you will sit there for a full hour and never receive a call (but this is quite rare).
Either way, you’re paid for at least 15 minutes, even if you don’t take any calls at all. Sometimes Cambly will up that to 30 minutes of guaranteed paid time, depending upon how short of available tutors they are for a session.
Once you’ve met some nice students, you’re encouraged to suggest they make a reservation for further sessions with you. You will find that you strike up a rapport with certain students and they’ll want to make regular reservations to talk to you.
I’ve been talking to a couple of my students for over a year and it’s quite enjoyable to chat to someone you’ve become friends with.
The good points
- Cambly have always paid me on time, every Monday.
- $10.20 an hour might seem low but you’re just chatting to people. If you’re good at English, it’s a very relaxed way to make extra money.
- You can work at any time that suits you, as often or as little as you wish (but Cambly will only pay you when your balance is over $20).
- It’s easy to block and/or report abusive students (not that I’ve ever needed to).
The bad points
- Priority hours can sometimes be challenging. Some students are using free trials and can be a bit silly but as long as they’re not abusive, does it matter? You’re paid for $0.17 for every minute they remain connected. 😉
- Priority hours aren’t always available. This becomes less of an issue once you have regular students.
- Some students expect more knowledge of English grammar than others but you can establish this in your initial conversation with them.
How much do I make?
I generally spend between 3 and 4 hours a week on Cambly, resulting in just over $40 a week. That $160 a month has helped to pay for my groceries in some tight months so I still believe it’s worth doing.
If I had more time to spare in a week, I could make considerably more money – and if you’re in that position and enjoy talking to people, you might find Cambly the perfect fit to supplement your income.
Do it now: Sign up to be a tutor on Cambly
Teaching a Skillshare class
Skillshare is a platform that enables anyone with a skill to create an online class (a series of short videos) teaching others how to do it.
To be honest, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about appearing in camera. I don’t think I have the face for video and I don’t like the sound of my own voice.
It turns out that most people (barring narcissists) feel that way so I swallowed the frog and decided to just give it a try.
Anyone can sign up to become a Skillshare tutor. You can create classes on just about any conceivable subject, except for making money or those that guarantee an outcome (e.g. “Lose 20 pounds fast”).
The most popular classes on Skillshare tend to be in the creative fields but there are sections on business, technology and so on.
You are paid according to how many minutes of your classes premium Skillshare members watch. How much you are paid depends upon the profit pool Skillshare accumulates each month.
In Skillshare’s own words:
Skillshare teachers earn revenue based on a royalty system. Each month, between 30% and 50% of Skillshare’s Premium Membership revenue goes to a royalty pool for teachers.Skillshare help centre
In general, the amount I’ve been paid over the last year ranges from $0.04 to $0.06 per minute. So if all my students watch a total of 500 minutes of my class, and the royalty rate that month is $0.05, I’ll get paid $25. Bear in mind, this is totally passive income.
How to create a class
It’s easy to get started building a class – in fact they provide you with a completely free class, guiding you through each step.
It’s thanks to that class that I gained the confidence to create my first class so it’s definitely worth spending the time to watch.
What you’ll need
The equipment you’ll need will depend upon the class you’re creating but in general will include:
- A camera or good webcam (for physical skills like drawing) or screencapture software (for software-based skills like Photoshop).
- A good microphone (not essential but poor sound quality will affect how well your class is received).
- Video-editing software (I used the free iMovie but Windows users have a wide choice of free options too, including Windows movie maker)
The hardest part was the editing. I removed all the annoying non-words that I used during recording (like “um” and “errr”) and empty space that wasn’t helpful for the person taking the class.
I also used iMovie to speed up segments of video that was just demonstration of what I’d already explained. Nobody wants to sit through a long boring demonstration. 🙂
Once you’ve created your video segments, you upload them to the Skillshare platform using the easy-to-use class creator.
Marketing and class feedback
I haven’t marketed my class, partly because I wasn’t sure I believed in the platform. After seeing a consistent small return, I’m convinced it was worth the effort and I’m going to start taking Skillshare seriously.
One thing I DID do (and Skillshare expect you to do as a class teacher) is to make sure that I respond to class submissions from the students. I think that if a student went to the effort of taking my class and doing the class project, the least I can do is offer some encouraging feedback. 🙂
The good points
- The class creator is easy to use and you’re guided step-by-step on how to create your class (as much as they can guide you through a video, anyway).
- There’s a very supportive community when you’re creating your first class
- The return for my class has been consistent and almost totally passive.
- You can repackage the videos you create and upload them as a Udemy class too.
The bad points
- The monthly royalty payment varies from month to month, ranging from $0.04 a minute to $0.06. There is no transparency about how this is calculated (which is understandable as that would require Skillshare to reveal confidential financial figures).
- There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to recording and editing the videos but it’s not hard and there are lots of tutorial videos on YouTube on how to set up your mini-studio.
- I don’t consider this a bad point but you might – you are required to interact with any students that leave messages or upload projects to your classes.
How much do I make?
I make about $20 – $40 a month consistently, ever since I published the class.
When you consider that I’ve never actively promoted the class apart from when I initially launched it and I’ve only got one class on the platform, that’s actually pretty good.
It’s because of this consistent result that I’m now in the process of creating another class. I intend to really expand my Skillshare class offering in 2019.
Incidentally, if you don't want to create a class
but you'd like to try some of the classes, you can
try Skillshare, free for two months with this link.
Publishing paperback books on Amazon
If you’d have suggested that I’d be selling books on Amazon in January 2018, I’d have laughed in your face.
Yet, here I am, at the start of 2019, planning what books to release for the coming year. I’m doing this on Amazon’s self-publishing platform called KDP.
I read about Low Content books in the first quarter of 2018 and after an initial period of skepticism, I decided to give it a go.
What’s a low content book?
A low content book is a book that’s designed to be used rather than read. If you imagine a coloring book, a running log book, or a diary, these are all low-content books. The idea is that the pages are templates that the owner writes or draws in.
Do they sell?
I only started creating low-content books in July so I think I’ve seen an encouraging amount of success for such a short period of time.
I’m now selling an average of five books a month, resulting in between $4 to $5 in royalties a month. This is from a tiny catalogue of books (I only have 30 published on Amazon and it’s only five of those 30 that actually sell).
So, if I can make $5 a month from a catalogue of 30 books, imagine how much I could be making if I had 300 books, but building on the template of the books that actually sell? I know of entrepreneurs that are clearing $2,000 a month, upwards doing this.
Creating a low content book
You can create a low content book in Microsoft Word (or the free equivalents), Powerpoint or a good desktop publishing application (although I’m not sure about MS Publisher).
I’ve even created one in Google Docs that has sold.
What matters is that you can create a manuscript in PDF format and in the right dimensions. You can get more details directly from Amazon KDP’s help pages.
You will also need to create a cover for your book either using KDP’s built in tools or by designing it in a graphics application and uploading it.
When you’ve uploaded the manuscript (the book contents) and the cover, you get to choose what price to sell the book at (subject to a minimum price dictated by the printing cost).
The good points
- It’s easy to publish a new book using the KDP platform
- You can sell the same book interior with different covers
- Once a book is published on Amazon, it’s available to anyone searching for the right keywords
- Your book is published to all of Amazon’s sites, globally
The bad points
- It can be a bit confusing understanding trim sizes and so on but there’s lots of tutorials online to help with this.
- Can be time-consuming at the start, setting things up. Once you have a template set up though, it’s quite quick.
- Choosing the right keywords so your book is actually discovered can be challenging. Perhaps social media marketing could help here?
How much do I make?
As I said above, I’ve only just started so I don’t have many books in my catalog and I’m only discovering which books sell and which don’t.
Since July, I’ve made a total of $29.97, including the books sold in the UK and Europe. Although that isn’t much, it’s now passive income – my books are on Amazon and continue to sell.
If you consider that I have a catalog of 30 books, that works out to be an average of $1 per book but in reality, it’s 5 of those 30 that are actually selling.
I strongly believe it’s because I have yet to master the keywords so that people can find my books in the first place that is hindering my process.
I really hope that this honest breakdown of my successes over the last year will encourage you to approach making money online with an open mind.
It IS possible to make money, if you’re willing to put the work in and although the example profits I’ve provided are relatively small, I expect them to grow as I put more effort into the platforms this year.