I Tested Ways to Make Quick and Easy Money Online That Work


  • Zulie Rane is a content creator who has more than 80,000 followers on Medium. 
  • Rane says that the first dollar is the hardest to earn online, and then tried five ways to do it.
  • She made money with affiliate links, by playing games, and by becoming a paid digital guinea pig.

I’m done. 

I’m done with these garbage YouTube tutorials that claim to show you how to “easily earn $300 per day just by clicking links/typing words/using Google.” They’re always clickbait, and I always hate them.

So I decided to write an actual actionable guide on how to earn your first dollar online. And crucially, I’ve tested all of these. These all really work. I included screenshots as proof. 

It’s obviously possible to earn a lot more than just a dollar, but I find for many beginners, it’s a mindset shift. Once you earn your first dollar, you can go on to earn your second, hundredth, thousandth, and so on. But that first dollar is the hardest.

So let’s get into five ways to earn your first dollar online  —  that I have tested

What do you need to earn your first dollar online?

To earn your first dollar online, you will typically need a few things, aside from an internet connection:

  • An audience. This can be readers subscribed to your newsletter or an existing audience on a platform like Instagram you access through an algorithm.
  • A product. This is what you’re going to sell. 
  • A seller. This is who’s paying you for selling the thing to an audience. 

You can spoof the “audience” element to some degree. For example, if I know about SEO or virality, I can post a video to YouTube that will get me sales through the pre-existing YouTube audience, even if it’s my very first video online and I don’t have any followers.

But the other two are non-negotiable.

Let’s look at five uncommon ways to earn your very first dollar online. In each section, I’ll say what the audience, product, and seller are. I’ll also explain how to maximize your earnings. These are listed in order of easiness. 

1. Play games on your phone

It sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? And yet I earned $1.50 (as Amazon gift cards) by playing Farmville-style games on my phone. 

Now admittedly, this isn’t a lot of money. But if you’re just looking to get your feet wet with the idea of earning money online, playing games is a decent way to do it.

Here’s the proof:


In case that’s too small to read, it says, “Congrats on your $0.50 USD gift card!” And there are three emails.

Zulie Rane

I’ve reviewed how to do this in my article here

  • The audience: you.
  • What you’re selling: your attention.
  • Who’s buying: the company that makes the game.

The business model is to get more people playing the game so the developers earn money either through selling in-game currency or by getting you to watch ads. 

I earned three 50-cent Amazon gift cards. (I spent them on cat toys, of course.)

You can maximize your earnings by just playing a ton of games. Pick ones you like, and just enjoy yourself. 

2. Be a paid digital guinea pig

Back in my college days, one of my all-time favorite websites was User Testing. I just logged back in today to ensure it’s still viable and was pleased to be able to take two tests and earn twenty bucks in just a few minutes.

All you have to do is join, fill out your profile, take screening tests, and then run through the tasks they set you up if you’re approved. Today, I did one on an email marketing tool, and another on some kind of digital phone pass. 

Audience: you.

Selling: your user experience.

Buyer: Companies with new websites/apps they want to be tested.


Another tiny screenshot showing a pending payout of $10 from UserTesting.

Zulie Rane

Here’s how to maximize your earnings: 

  • Always keep your browser open. It makes a “ding” noise when there’s a new test.
  • Download the app and extra browsers to maximize your odds of qualifying.
  • Talk out loud during the test. Companies like it when they understand what you’re thinking.
  • Be honest. You’ll have to be screened for these tests. Don’t lie to try to better fit the options. 

This is one of my favorite options. You’ll never make millions, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s good money. I made $20 in thirty minutes, which works out to a decent hourly rate.

3. Get people to click on links

No, don’t worry, you’re not a hacker. These aren’t shady links. Basically, it works like this:

  1. Say a company called Pet Supplies Co wants to promote its new YouTube video. 
  2. The company wants people to click on its video, so it can sell a new line of cat food. 
  3. The company hires a bunch of creators to post the link online. 
  4. I nab my custom, trackable URL from Pet Supplies Co, maybe something like youtube.com/participles/zulie_video. 
  5. I post an article talking about how much I love Pet Supplies Co’s new YouTube video because of the cute cats in it.
  6. You click on the video.
  7. That click is tracked through my custom link.
  8. I earn a very small amount of money, maybe like $0.10, just for that click.
  9. Nine other people do that.
  10. I earn $1.00. 

In short, you are using an audience (whether your own, or using SEO, or social media algorithms) to sell clicks to a company that wants attention.

Pet Supplies Co will work with some kind of middleman that connects creators like me to companies like Pet Supplies Co. In the past, I’ve used GetYrl, but other alternatives include Adsy or Shrinkearn

Zulie Rane

A nice big screenshot for once, shows an earning of $1.89.

Zulie Rane

You can maximize this by:

  1. Posting the link in a lot of different places.
  2. Posting the link in a piece of content you hope will go viral.

It’s not a lot of money, but it can be your first dollar online.

4. Go affiliate

In the previous example, you don’t have to make any sales. You just have to get clicks. The tradeoff is you don’t have to get anyone to buy anything, but you earn less money because a click is obviously less valuable than a purchase.

Affiliate links use the same mechanisms, but go a step further — you’re asked to actually get readers to buy something. The benefit is the rates are normally higher. 

For example, my favorite affiliate program is Bookshop.org. You get a 10% commission for every purchase made through your affiliate link. 

Here’s the proof:

Zulie Rane 3

Screenshot of Bookshop’s affiliate program, an earning of $2.70.

Zulie Rane

You will share this link with your audience of interested readers. You are selling book recommendations. You are being paid by Bookshop, in exchange for sending book buyers to them. 

The best way to maximize this is to niche down. You can find affiliate programs in pretty much any niche. The closer the niche fit, the more money you’ll earn.

Post content in your niche and include links. When people buy, you’ll earn a commission.

  • Pets: Chewy’s affiliate program, 4%. You’d have to make a sale of $25 to earn your first dollar.
  • Fashion: Shein, 10%-20%. You’d have to make a sale of $5-$10 to get your first dollar. 
  • Stationery: Paper Culture, 10%-12%. You’d have to make a sale of $8–$10 to get your first dollar. 
  • General: Amazon, “up to” 10%. You’d have to make a sale of at least $10 to get your first dollar. 

There are tons. Search your favorite brand + “affiliate program” and see what comes up.

Note: always disclose when something is an affiliate link. It’s the law!

5. Build a (small) email list and sell something

If you’ve tried options 1–4, you’re ready for option 5. You are going to build a small email list, create something that solves a problem, and sell it.

This is the hardest one, but also the most 1) rewarding and 2) scalable income source.

There’s this misconception that you need a huge email list to make money. But you don’t. Really, you just need one subscriber. 


Zulie Rane

Here’s how it works:

  1. Build a list. You can do this by posting content on any platform (blog, YouTube, Instagram) and encouraging people to sign up for your newsletter. You can use ConvertKit — it’s free for the first 1,000 subs.

  2. Find out a problem your readers have. You can do this by asking them. Read your comments, send a poll, or just ask someone to hop on the phone with you.

  3. Build something. Maybe it’s an ebook. Maybe it’s a PDF template. Maybe it’s a thirty-minute consultation call. You can make it literally $1, just to get that first buck in the bank.

  4. Market it. Send an email or two or eight to your subscribers. Let them know about your thing, why you think it’s going to help them, and what they’ll be able to do once they’ve bought your thing. 

How to maximize this income: This works best if you really mean it. You have to really feel like you found a problem that you can solve. You’re not just trying to separate a reader from their money  —  you’re helping them in a way only you can. 

  • Audience: Your newsletter
  • Selling: Your product
  • Seller: You

Want to earn your first dollar online? 

Stay away from too-good-to-be-true scams. These five methods may not make you wealthy, but they all work to get your first dollar online. That’s the toughest step. 

Once you’ve earned your first dollar, you can look for ways to scale up. I recommend:

Hopefully, you’ll be able to leave user testing and playing games for pennies behind as you move forward toward more profitable ways to earn money online. 


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