How to Make Money Online Without Selling Your Soul

We’ve all seen them – those 20-page online sales letters full of yellow highlighting. They have attention-grabbing headlines about how you can make a million dollars a week while you sit on the beach in Maui.

Truth-telling time – I once tried publishing one of these sales letters for my business. It made me really uncomfortable. I hated every line of that letter, from the smarmy headline to the last post-post-post script at the bottom. The whole thing made me feel slimy. And when I did manage to swallow my pride and publish it, that letter didn’t make me a single dollar.

As a blogging consultant, I want all of my clients to be able to sleep soundly at night. I want them to feel good about what they do online, to be proud of what they’re putting out in the world. I always tell them they don’t have to make a deal with the devil in order to make money – serious money – online.

Want to know all the things you DON’T need to do to make money in an online business? You don’t need to:

  • Create a hundred tiny niche websites about topics you hate or are bored with
  • Run ads on your sites for products you dislike and don’t actively support
  • Write slimy 12-page sales letters full of yellow highlighter that start with totally misleading, used-car-salesman headlines
  • Try to trick the search engines by practicing unscrupulous SEO techniques that make you fear the wrath of Google if you’re caught
  • Write five blog posts a day to get your website started, then get a divorce and/or check into a hospital for exhaustion after six months

So what CAN you do to try to get started with making money online?

Step One – Create (and grow) an authority website about a topic you know well and really love. Use self-hosted WordPress to start your site, so your online presence can grow with you.  Include an email opt-in on your website, so you can start building your email list.

Step Two – Build the content on the site by posting 2-3 top-quality, well-written articles every week. Write the best stuff you can, and put together a publishing schedule that won’t burn you out. Remember that building your content is a critical part of your business.

Step Three – Start growing your audience by seeking out guest posting opportunities on other blogs that reach your target audience. Approach other bloggers (both in your niche and outside it) with great guest post ideas.

Step Four – As you grow your audience, start researching products that your audience needs and wants. What problems do they have? What questions do you get asked over and over?

You’re doing this research so you can eventually create your own products – and the quickest way to create a product that doesn’t sell is to create it because YOU like it and think people will want it. It’s not about you. Check in with that blog audience you’ve been engaging with. Ask them what they need, using surveys or open-ended blog post questions.

Step Five – Seek out affiliate opportunities that fit your values, your ethics and your business models (affiliate relationships allow you to sell other people’s products and make a referral fee for each sale.) Take that list of things your audience needs and start looking around for other people’s products and services that fill those needs. Then become an affiliate for those folks, and start reaping the benefits of making useful recommendations that you feel good about.

Step Six – As you build your audience and grow your online authority, start creating your own products. This is the absolute best way to make money online. Create information products, if you have stuff to teach – most of us do! Try coaching programs, paid teleseminars and webinars, or downloadable e-books.

Remember – before you start creating any product, do your research. Use all that client data from step four, and you’ll create products people will happily pay you for – because you’re solving their problems for them!

Yes, this process takes work. It takes dedication. You will not make a million dollars in your first month. But if you start out right by following the first step – picking a topic you love – this work won’t seem like drudgery. You’ll put in the effort, grow your audience and your authority, and opportunities to make money will start coming in from all directions.

And once you’ve got an audience that likes and trusts you, you can make them offers by writing authentic, honest sales letters for your products that don’t make you squirm when you hit “Publish.” You can hold your head high and keep that yellow highlighter in your desk drawer where it belongs.

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Beth Hayden is the owner of Blogging with Beth, a blogging and social media consulting company that specializes in helping people launch online businesses using blogs and WordPress websites. She teaches bloggers and small businesses owners how to turn their blogs into businesses that make money in sustainable, ethical ways. And she sleeps like a baby every night.


  1. Beth,
    Good post. I have to agree with you on the six steps you outlined. A seventh tip could be is to not quit. I’m sure there’s a lot of bloggers who give up after a certain point. It’s such a shame.

    I believe in the saying Rome wasn’t built in a day and see blogging as the same way. Everyone has to start from somewhere.

  2. Beth,

    This is an excellent post on a topic you know so very well. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and inspiring us to fulfill our blogging potential!

  3. Beth – Thank you for the great reminder that authenticity is at the heart of “great selling”. It works because it matches a genuine need with a genuine solution. Thanks for being a blogging inspiration!

  4. I bookmarked this great post, Beth, and appreciate your clear, concise outline of the steps. You have such a gift for helping us move our blogs to the next stage of their evolution. I’m also glad, through your guest post, to be introduced to Laura Roeder’s excellent site!

  5. Beth! I so appreciate your ethics and your willingness to be so specific in your post! Your generosity continues to astound me.

    My blog community continues to grow just because I’ve followed most of the steps that you have suggested above. I have yet to pursue affiliates but know already that you’ve provided me with excellent directions.

    Laura, kudos to you for snagging Beth as a guest writer. I read your blog regularly and have often thought that you two should hook up! You both offer exemplary advice that fees us all!

  6. Hi Beth

    Just loved your excerpt,
    “Write five blog posts a day to get your website started, then get a divorce and/or check into a hospital for exhaustion after six month”. Let’s try to not do that!

    I just launched my website and, yes, it took an incredible amount of work and 4 months to build. People just get burnt out trying to fit it in to their other work and life. And the spouses…after seeing dishes repeatedly piled in the sinks, get bitchy.

    I am on STEP 1- build a website with a blog to reach your audience. Maybe I am in the post launch euphoria but It seems to be going just beautifully already just four days in. Over 45 “likes” on my homepage and already 2 people want to advertise with me and someone just tried to hire me for something I am unqualified to do. I wrote a post about “glamping”in Venice, Italy and the owners just wrote me today telling me how thrilled they are on the post, and want link my website from theirs. And they are not newbies- already have a great article in glossy Italian magazine and review in the Guardian newspaper.

    I believe if you research like crazy and read tons (like on the Roeder hub here), and if, in 6 months time you are even more pumped on your idea then when you first had it, then GO-FOR-IT. It just may fly!

    Anyways, I am gonna follow the steps above cause they are already proven to get results. Thanks again for reminding us Beth. Bianca

  7. Jenn Burton says:

    And she sleeps like a baby every night.

    Love this. Authenticity makes a huge difference on long term wealth ust as it does in dating. Fantastically written. Also excellent ideas I hadn’t even thought of. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jenn! I agreed, being authentic is one of the best things you can do online. I try to be as real as I can without venturing into oversharing territory! :) By the way – I love your blog! Great stuff!

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  9. Sheldon Emmick says:

    Great website and loved the article it is right on. I do some affiliate marketing and I agree.. make mistakes, learn from them and create create create. Keep pushing, I never made a dime my first month of putting in a lot of time but eventually you site will start to rank with your efforts and QUALITY content is key.

  10. The Internet is new to me, being that I just retired. I can see that there is a rich diversity in the blogs I am reading and I am trying to leave some comment whereever I visit. I think that you have to put some attention on a blog to bring it above the dry and boring verbage that is common, and you have definitely accomplished that. Well you know I have my own blog and website now. It is fun, to be sure. My email and site are included with this post. It seems to be customary to include these so I hope that its ok with you. TheVeryBest2You 13 9