Archive June 2018

5 ways to start making money online today

This is the first post in the Making Money Online series.

Want to live somewhere cheaper to top up your savings? Somewhere sunnier to top up your tan? Maybe you want a flexible way to make some side income. Maybe you just hate the commute. Making money online means the freedom to work – and live – anywhere, anytime.

The only question is: how? When it comes to making money online, the most common advice is to “follow your passion”. If you already know what you passion is, great. Give it a go. If not, here are some practical ideas to get you started. You should be able make one of the following options work with enough effort. I’ve scored each one against earnings potential, how hard it is to start, and the level of risk. There’s one key factor I’ve missed out: fun! That’s because only you know what you’ll enjoy, but don’t forget it’s not all about the money.


Online money making infographic


English tutor

People often overlook this skill. If you’re reading this, I’m going to go ahead and assume you have a decent command of English. Congratulations! You already have a valuable skill you can sell online.

  • Earnings potential – moderate. A tutor can expect to earn roughly $30 per hour with a bit of experience.
  • Difficulty of starting – moderate. Registering with a tutoring website is pretty easy, but getting your initial clients isn’t so easy.
  • Risk – low. Signing up is free, so you don’t lose much if your tutoring career doesn’t take off.

How: Register with a site like Tutorful, or Preply.

Grapic designer

A lot of people, myself included, enjoy playing with graphic design. If you have the skills and enjoy this kind of work, there’s plenty of customers out there.

  • Earnings potential – moderate. You’re likely to be paid per job so it all really depends on how quick you are. An example gig on Fiverr costs around $20 dollars, and could take a reasonable graphic designer less than an hour.
  • Difficulty of starting – moderate. As with tutoring, easy to register, harder to get customers. Once the ball gets rolling with good reviews, work is likely to become far more plantiful.
  • Risk – low. Offering your services costs nothing.

How: Register with a site like Fiverr [affiliate link].


Close to my own heart. Blogging is good fun, and the rockstars of the blogging world are making money online hand over fist.

  • Earnings potential – astronomical. Whilst most bloggers make next to nothing, at the top end bloggers are making millions.
  • Difficulty of starting – low. You don’t even need your own site. You can start blogging on Medium in the next 5 minutes for free.
  • Risk – high. Creating quality content is time consuming. You’ll put in the hard yards, but there’s no guarantee anyone will read it, never hand over any of their hard-earned cash.

How: Start off on Medium – especially if you want to blog for money – to see if there’s any interest in what you have to say.


If photography is already your hobby, why not turn it into a money-maker?

  • Earnings potential – low to moderate. Royalties from stock photo sites tend to be low – around 15% – which is likely to translate to only a few dollars per download. Unlike teaching English, however, once you have your portfolio, the income becomes passive and can scale without limits.
  • Difficulty of starting – high. Taking quality photos which will be accepted by sites and desirable to purchase means not taking photos every man and his dog can take on their iPhone. This means potentially expensive camera and lens equipment, as well as a high level of skill, to see real progress.
  • Risk – high. Building your portfolio will take time, money and skill and at the end of it, there’s no guarantee of any pay-out.

How: Upload your portfolio to iStockPhoto, ShutterStock, or BigStock, or upload your photos to Flickr and license them through Getty Images.


Virtual assistant

I’ll take a wild guess this isn’t a hobby of yours. Don’t write it off too quickly, though. It’s a solid route to making money online.

  • Earnings potential – moderate to good. $40 per hour is totally feasible here for services varying from proofreading and formatting online content, to producing marketing content and social media management.
  • Difficulty of starting – low. You can get set-up on a site like Upwork to offer your services in minutes. I have done this myself, and in my experience it wasn’t very difficult to get work.
  • Risk – low. There’s not much upfront work to do before you start getting paid.

How: Get yourself set-up on Upwork and look around. Once you land your first few jobs, try to turn them into stable, repeat business. AngelList is also useful for looking for certain kinds of work. They might often be somewhat specialist – e.g. marketing and SEO – but can be more lucrative than Upwork contracts. Alternatively, reach out to businesses yourself and tell them what benefits you can bring them.


Have you ever made money online? How did you do it? Was it worth it?



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How to own the world with index funds

Own the world?! Some mistake, surely? After all, we’re only here to reach Financial Independence! We’ve no business trying to own the world, right? Wrong! Two words for you: index funds. If you don’t know what I’m on about, this post is for you. Bear with me, and I promise all will be clear.

But first, let’s talk about the basics of investing in the stock market. When it comes to investing, a lot of people are scared. At best, stocks are often viewed as a socially acceptable cousin of gambling.


That’s quite understandable. Just like putting it all on black in roulette, shares in a single company can leave you with double or nothing in a short space of time. Just ask anyone who bought Enron shares in the late 1990s. All of this makes the stock market seem a real emotional roller-coaster.

Let’s be honest. Investing is risky, and it will never feel 100% comfortable. But we’re about to learn a strategy to smooth out the roller-coaster. To do so, let’s go back to kindergarten. We were all taught this proverb as kids:


Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.


I’m sure most of us follow that advice without even thinking about it a lot of the time. When we look for work, most of us submit many applications rather than just putting in one and crossing our fingers. It turns out “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is pretty sound investing advice too.

Whilst individual shares can be exceptionally volatile, big groups of shares across large numbers of companies tend to be less so. Why? Because when one company goes down, another will probably go up, balancing things out.

Here’s where “owning the world” comes in. If we could just own a bit of every company in the world, we’d be insulated from the fortunes of any single company, or even country. Instead, we’d just take a slice of the overall pie of global growth. Obviously there are times when the global economy as a whole takes a dip. On the other hand, if the whole global economy ever goes the way of Enron we’ll be too busy worrying about other stuff in the armageddon to even notice.

I hope we can agree that owning the world is a solid theory. But in practice it sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it? Can you imagine how long it would take to buy shares across the whole world? Here’s the lucky bit: someone already did it for us. We can invest in a whole bunch of shares – getting the benefit of global diversification – through vehicles known as global index funds.

We’ve got options on specifics. The biggest game in town for index funds is Vanguard. Even Warren Buffett – the most famous stock investor in history – wants his wife to put their wealth in Vanguard funds when he dies. I’m not here to sell any particular option. If it’s good enough for Warren Buffett, though, it’s certainly good enough for me!


What are your main concerns about investing? Have you already started? Would you consider global index funds?




15 things every millenial should remember about home ownership

It’s a fact: even as many millenials resign themselves to a life of renting, most of us are still obsessed with dreams of bricks and mortar. In many parts of the world, millenials have grown up with house prices that only ever seem to go in one direction: up. This feeds into a general idea that home ownership is a golden goose, and many of us feel a pressure to hurry – bordering on panic – in order to get on the “property ladder” before it’s too late.


Home ownership is a common dream for many of us. But is it the best one?


In our enthusiasm, though, we forget that buying a house is a massive financial decision. For most of us, it’s the biggest purchase we’ll ever make. So it’s surprising that the question of whether or not it’s even a good idea to buy a house is often considered less than where to go on holiday next year.

The best way to approach such a big decision is to go in armed with the facts. Understanding the possible pitfalls will help you approach home ownership with maturity, wisdom and good sense. You will be able to look back in 20 years and look back on the decisions you made without regret. Here are some thoughts to get you started:

1. Affordability. A mortgage is a type of “secured” loan. This means that if you stop paying, the bank has a claim on your house. It doesn’t take a long memory to know that this threat has teeth. Psychologically, you should consider a mortgaged property as being owned by the bank.

2. Interest rates. At the time of writing, interest rates are really low. The Bank of England base rate, for example, is close to zero. In the 1980s, though, it was more like 10-15%.  Over in the States, the fed funds rate similarly reached a high of 20 points in 1979 and 1980. Could you afford your mortgage repayments doubling or trebling?

3. Opportunity cost. My dad always told me that rent is money down the drain. That’s only half true. To illustrate the point, we’re going to imagine being already pretty well off. You might rent a $200,000 property for $10,000 per year which you could have bought outright. If you buy it, you save $10,000. If you don’t, you might put that money into an investment which yields 7% – $14,000. You just won $4000 per year by skipping home ownership. Of course, we’re not factoring in leverage (see below) or the tax implications and stability of that return.

4. Leverage. Property can be a powerful investment due to leverage – you can put in e.g. 20% and borrow the rest. The ordinary citizen is gonna find it hard to get a similar financing arrangement on their stock portfolio. If the value of the property goes up, you keep 100% of that additional value. Just don’t forget that this cuts both ways. Property can go down in value too, eroding all of your equity and more, and you still have to pay the mortgage.

5. Stamp duty. Some countries – like the UK – have a government tax on transferring land or property. This can go up to a hefty 12% for the most expensive properties, so can be a significant added cost of home ownership.

6. Conveyancing. Most UK buyers will use a solicitor or conveyancer to conduct searches on a property they want to buy (e.g. to check ownership or flood risk), and then to exchange contracts and complete on the property.  This doesn’t scale with the cost of the property, so could easily add 1% to the cost of buying a cheaper property.

7. Survey. A full structural survey can cost hundreds. Whilst cheaper options are available, bear in mind that buying a house is a huge financial decision for most people. Weigh up other factors like the age of the house, and whether you’re in a position to cope with a large unexpected maintenance bill, to decide what the most appropriate option is here.

8. Valuation fees. Some mortgage lenders will charge a valuation fee, which could run well over £1000.

9. Mortgage early repayment costs. This one is important for us Financial Independence types. We might be in a position to pay back our mortgages faster than most. However, typically the charges range from 1–5% of the value of the early repayment. Consider looking for a mortgage with no early repayment charge if this is a path you’re looking to take.

10. Moving costs. Are you moving far? Don’t forget that you need to get your stuff from A to B. If you don’t plan this right you could be hit with significant costs, especially if you’re moving long distance.

11. Property taxes. This is really specific to where you live. An average American household spends a couple of thousand on property taxes on their home. Council tax in the UK goes to local councils to pay for services like bin collection, but households end up paying a similar amount.

12. Maintenance. Upkeeping your home can be a significant expense – one that you don’t need to pay in most countries if you’re renting. 1% of the home’s value per year is a common rule of thumb, though you will want to consider other factors like age, climate/weather and who’s living there.

13. Leasehold/Ground rent. In some parts of the UK and US, home ownership is not always quite as simple as owning outright. Especially some parts of England and Wales, and on apartments, “leasehold” is common. This means that instead of buying a property, you are buying a long-term lease on it. You do have all sorts of rights, and a level of security not usually associated with being a tenant. In the case of leasehold houses you should also be able to buy the “freehold” (~complete ownership). That process can be expensive, though. You also have an ongoing cost – ground rent – to use the land the property is built on.  Be doubly cautious when buying a relatively newly built house. The leashold agreement can leave you with spiralling costs, and a house that is difficult to resell.

14. Insurance. Not one of the biggest costs of home ownership, but still factor in another couple of hundred in the UK or around a thousand in the US year after year.

15. Anchoring effect. Some of us like roots, some of us like wings, some of us a bit of both. Our 20s and 30s can be a great time to indulge our wanderlust or explore living in new places before deciding where to put down roots. Whilst it’s never too late or too hard to make a change, the costs of home ownership we just covered will make you think twice about packing your bags overnight and moving somewhere new.


What do you think? Is home ownership worth it? Does it increase or decrease your freedom? Is it necessary for Financial Independence?




Why your dream of the quiet life is (probably) doomed to fail

When I first heard about Financial Independence as a structured concept, it was through the Early Retirement Extreme blog. Here was a guy who had saved like an absolute lunatic for five years and amassed enough money never to have to work again. I was hooked. If I could just pull through the hard bit, this could be me full-time in a few short years:


Well, here I am five years later, and I’m still not retired. Why? Was I too lazy to save hard enough? Did the Protestant work ethic get to me? Not exactly. The fact is, whilst I’m a big advocate of Financial Independence, I can take or leave the Retire Early part of the FIRE movement these days. Here’s why:

  1.  Pure idleness is unhealthy. Humans have evolved psychologically to work hard, so in the same way as it’s not natural for a tiger to be cooped up in a cage, it’s not natural for a human brain to be cooped up in its own inactivity. “Work” definitely doesn’t  have to mean the typical 9-5. There are plenty of other ways to get mental stimulation. But some form of meaningful structured work can be a good source of stimulation.
  2. Work becomes much more fun when it’s optional. A lot of the stress of work is knowing that you have to take the bullshit because you can’t afford not to. The mere fact of knowing you could tell your boss where to go can turn a horrible job into a decent experience overnight – for example by daring to ask for homeworking, part-time hours, or using your newfound freedom to take more risks (which actually often improves your performance).
  3. Some goals are far easier to hit in work. Let me give you an example. If you want to have a positive impact on your community by improving the design of your city, this will probably be a lot easier if you work at the city’s planning department, and piggyback on their resources, rather than building your own solo initiative from the ground up.
  4. It’s hard to shift from 100 miles per hour to zero. If you have the drive to save up a lifetime of wealth in five years, you probably have too much drive to be satisfied with lazing on the beach long-term. A bit of decompression – sure. But as a permanent lifestyle, it’s something that requires slow, gradual adjustment if that’s genuinely a transition you really want to take.


None of this is to say that you shouldn’t kick the day job as soon as you hit a “magic number” and move to the Bahamas. But as with everything, it’s probably worth a bit of introspection first!


What would you do if you could retire tomorrow? Would you still do your current job? Would you still do any kind of “traditional” work?




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