How to make money online

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The Web has opened a world of opportunity and wealth creation. You can earn, sell, market, spend, leverage your skill and lure clients from the comfort of your home. But there are scams abound and hurdles aplenty. Here's how to make the most of this platform.

You never had it so good. Access to a client list that runs into hundreds of millions, a reach that spreads across the world, hardly any infrastructure cost, and no need to impress anyone with a wall full of framed qualifications. Welcome to the virtual bazaar, a marketplace that encompasses the world while shrinking it to a small screen. A region where every boundary is blurred; no one cares about your age and no one needs to know if you live in the boondocks or a plush penthouse.

The World Wide Web has a solution for everything, and for everything, a customer. If you don't know where to start, join a popular network. Let the numbers convince you: 150 million users on Facebook and 200 million on Twitter. Each and everyone is a potential customer for anything that you have to sell: your skills, your thoughts or even your junk.

We take you through a list of professions that you can venture into and introduce you to people who have leveraged the Net to earn a comfortable income. By no means is this a comprehensive list. In fact, it is not even an indicative one since the virtual world is continuously evolving and new opportunities are cropping up every day. After all, some of the biggest platforms that people use currently didn't even exist a decade ago-Facebook was launched in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006.

Write way to earn

JOBS:

Blogging, micro-blogging , Tweeting, freelance writing, editing, e-authoring and translating.

SKILLS:

Comprehensive writing skill and expertise in any field.

INCOME:

500 for a 300-word article to 1 lakh a month for full-time blogging .

Your thoughts are worth more than a penny now. Your scribbles and musings can earn you big bucks, if you know how to market them well. If you are unsure of your talent, start by writing a blog. It's easy to begin-just join a blogging site, such as Blogspot or Wordpress, and start writing. There is no training institute for this and only through trial and error will you discover what appeals to readers. However, bloggers are flooding the virtual world and if you want to stand out and get noticed by readers and advertisers , you will need to provide information or advice that no one else can, or provide it in a way that is better than others. You can join a writers ' community, where people freely dispense tips on improving writing or increasing readership (see How to increase blog traffic). Once you find your literary footing, it may be better to have your own Website and domain name. This gives you a specific identity, and if you submit your blog's URL to search engines, it will become more noticeable on the Net. The charges for a domain name usually range from 300-1 ,000 a year. The main source of income for most bloggers is Google AdSense, which places contextual ads on Websites.

As new mediums open up, you need to adapt and leverage these. Hrish Thota did so when he evolved from blogging to Tweeting. Thota has been blogging for almost a decade and joined Twitter when it was launched in 2006. He is now a professional Tweeter, who has 4,500 followers and earns about 1 lakh a month. The 31-year-old , who is a former employee of consulting firm Capgemini, began his Twitter career by writing about events and computer hardware in Bangalore. Within a year, as his network of followers grew, companies began to approach him to Tweet about their products. Recently, he was involved with a campaign for Ford Figo for around a month-and-a-half , where he had to do a road show from Chandigarh to Chennai, Tweeting and photo-blogging about the events in real time. On an average, he earns 30,000-40 ,000 a month per brand.

As important as your writing skill is your ability to network. "Before you begin to post your views, you need to create a community. You should go to various meets and events to develop contacts," says Thota.

Though writing seems easy at first glance, if you want to earn money from it, you will have to work hard. Professional bloggers put in about 2-5 hours every day and constantly strive to write on topics that provide updated information. You need to be regular and prompt in answering your readers' queries.

If you have honed your skills and are confident about what you write, you could even publish a book a la Anupam Mukerji, who became famous for his blog, the Fake IPL Player , written cheekily about the IPL's second season. In March last year, he published a book, The Gamechanger. However, if no publisher seems interested in the physical realm, don't despair. You can write a virtual bestseller . E-books are in high demand across the world and many people are writing exclusively for this segment. In June this year, crime novelist John Locke became the first independent author to sell more than 1 million ebooks through Kindle's (Amazon) direct publishing programme, under which you do not need an agent or a publisher. Each e-book was sold for $0.99 (` 48), of which Locke pocketed 35 cents (` 17). Global classroom JOBS: E-tutoring . SKILLS: Domain knowledge and good communication skills. INCOME: 5,000-50 ,000 a month (for 8-hour sessions) depending on the subject and region (India/international).

When Shyamila Rana's husband got a job in Dehradun in 2007, the 42-year-old school teacher began applying for a post in various schools in the city. Unfortunately, not many were willing to hire her, citing age as a factor . Rana was unwilling to waste her experience and time, so she began looking elsewhere. She soon found hundreds of overseas students, who were eager to learn science from her. "One of my husband's colleagues told him about e-tutoring and I sent an application , along with my resume, to one of the Websites," says Rana, who now teaches science for four hours to students based in the US. For this, she is earning better than she would in a traditional school.

E-tutoring is a process in which a teacher educates a student or a group of students on a particular subject through online technology. This can involve the use of Web-based programs and includes data, voice and video communication. The tutor can send questions, receive completed papers , provide results and recommendations , clarify concepts, assist on assignments , etc. To begin in this field, you can sign up with some established names such as TutorVista.com.

Says Alok Bansal, chief executive officer of Gurgaon-based Alethia Education Services: "To start a career as an online tutor, you should know the content well and be conversant with technology." Another aspect you need to consider is the working hours, especially if you are teaching international students.

Atul Kulshreshtha recognised the lacuna in this field in 2007 when he decided to venture into online teaching . The Noida-based chartered accountant is a serial Web entrepreneur, who started two advisory services portals in 2000. A few years later, he launched a BPO company, Cleave Global E-Services , which he sold last year. As he was comfortable with the Net and had the technical expertise, Kulshreshtha invested almost 10 crore in setting up infrastructure, buying equipment and hiring teachers , before he finally launched Extramarks .com in 2008. Although the going was tough initially, today Extramarks .com has a support base of around 150 teachers and has 7 lakh students enrolled in various programmes . It has nine offices in different parts of the country and had a turnover of 60 crore last year.

Virtual bazaar

JOBS:

Online enterprise.

SKILLS:

Guts, gumption and marketing savvy.

INCOME:

Whatever you want. Shakil Thasariya began collecting autographs as a 13-year-old schoolboy, when the former President APJ Abdul Kalam gave him one in 2003. A year later, he discovered that his passion could be profitable when he sold 10 autographs to an antique dealer for `4,000. However, finding buyers in his hometown, Rajkot, Gujarat, wasn't easy. The perfect avenue: eBay. The portal opened up access to a wider and more keen clientele. He made quite a few successful sales and also got in touch with a lot of autograph dealers in the US and Europe. "This business of selling autographs is based on trust, especially if you are doing so online. To have a credible long-term reputation, I offer my clients a 100% money-back guarantee if they discover that my autographs are fake," says Thasariya, who earns about `7,000 a month by selling 7-8 autographs.

The online medium is a perfect platform for small entrepreneurs or startups , who cannot afford to rent office space or shop. However, maintaining a Website also requires work and money. A free and easily manageable platform is social networking sites, most notably Facebook. Say Nikita Fernandes and Vinisha Dugar: "We were already members of Facebook and had a wide circle of friends, so when we decided to launch our own business, Fishing Hook, using the site was a logical choice. Besides, managing a dedicated Website would become too difficult to handle."

The two Mumbai-based friends launched their business in July last year. They outsourced accessories from China and Hong Kong, put up their photographs on Facebook and then sell these in India. Within three months, they had about 500 fans on their page and were generating orders worth about 10,000, of which 3,000 was their profit margin.

Initially, they would deliver the products themselves and collect cash from customers. However, as their clientele grew in other cities, they began to courier the products and charge 100 as shipping charges. In September this year, they joined hands with an e-commerce portal, Ebagsfull.com, where they have put their products on display. Today, their Facebook page has nearly 2,100 fans and their client base has expanded to Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata.

There are hundreds of online sellers who are leveraging the World Wide Web to create wealth. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

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