Cash in: 12 ways to earn extra money online

If you want to make a little spending money from home or earn a full-time salary, now’s the time — especially if you have a computer. Just going online opens up a host of opportunities. The trick is knowing which businesses are legitimate. Here are my top picks.

Sell your craftsDo you knit? Make jewelry? Sew? If so, there are lots of opportunities to sell handmade wares online. As a member of Etsy (), you’ll have your own online store to showcase your items. It’s free to become an Etsy seller, but you’ll pay a fee of 20¢ to list an item with up to five photos for four months. When the item sells, you pay a 3.5 percent commission to Etsy. There’s no limit to how much you can charge, and what you earn is based on how your crafts sell.

Make money from your talentAt Fiverr (), you can offer services that use your skills — designing a business card, creating a podcast jingle, planning a trip — for five bucks a pop. Fiverr keeps $1 and the seller gets $4 per gig. Stefanie Strobel, 28, of Newport Beach, California, writes people’s messages in the sand at the beach and takes a picture that she then emails to them. “I make about $300 per month and can do about 10 to 15 messages per hour, depending on length and complexity,” says Stefanie.

Be a nurse on call If you’re a registered nurse, consider a company like Fonemed (), which provides phone-based triage and medical information to their customers in Canada and the U.S. These companies contract with medical-related clients, mostly doctor’s offices and especially pediatrician’s offices, to answer questions when the offices are closed (the work hours are typically evenings, nights and weekends). You must be licensed in the state or province where you are located and have at least three years of recent clinical experience with adults and children. Fonemed nurses are paid an hourly minimum plus a fee per call, and are eligible for benefits like health insurance and paid leave. A typical Fonemed nurse makes $27 per hour, according to Fonemed owner Charlene Slaney.

Write, edit, proofreadSites like Demand Studios () and Associated Content () hire experienced freelance writers, editors and filmmakers to work on projects for sites like eHow, LiveStrong.com and YouTube. At Demand Studios, assignments pay anywhere from $15 to $100; if you meet tenure and activity requirements, you can be eligible for health insurance plans. At Associated Content there are three ways to earn money: Upfront payments for content you write ($2 to $15 per article), assigned articles ($10 to $100 per article) and performance payments ($1.50 for every 1,000 page views of your article if it’s posted online).

Design graphics and websitesElance () works like an online marketplace, setting up designers and computer programmers with companies that need their services. Companies post jobs and freelancers bid on them, listing their experience, portfolio and the price they will charge for the job. If your bid is chosen, you’ll pay Elance a commission of 4 to 6 percent of what you earn.

Tutor kids or adultsIf you have a college degree or are currently enrolled in college and think you have the skills to tutor math, science, English or social studies, tutoring online might fit you perfectly. Check out Tutor.com, where tutors work as independent contractors and earn around $10 to $14 per hour based on the subject and hours worked. Very active tutors can earn anywhere from $800 to $1,600 a month.

Give adviceKnow a lot about medicine or car repairs? JustAnswer () is a paid question-and-answer site that’s growing its community of experts in the medical, legal and financial fields, as well as in other specialties like car repair and home improvement. Registered customers ask a question and then name the price they’re willing to pay (usually from $10 to $40) for an expert answer. The expert usually responds within an hour, and once the customer accepts the answer, keeps from 25 to 50 percent of what the customer pays. How much experts earn depends on how many questions they’ve had accepted by customers. Experts are vetted through a fairly grueling process, with credentials, education and background verified.

Provide customer serviceMany retailers are outsourcing their customer service operations to third-party companies like Alpine Access () and Working Solutions (), who in turn contract with home-based workers. The reps, who typically work 20 to 40 hours a week, take calls for large and small companies. The hourly rate is about $9, but agents can earn up to $13 with incentives and bonuses or up to $30 for special projects. Some companies offer benefits like health and dental insurance and a matching 401(k) plan. LiveOps () is similar, but service reps operate as independent contractors, typically invoicing LiveOps $10 to $15 per hour depending on the type of call and performance. And with LiveOps you can work as many hours as you want. The hiring process is rigorous: Expect a comprehensive written or online application, skills exam, phone interview and background check.

Make a little spending moneyWhen career librarian Rachel Singer Gordon, 40, of Lombard, Illinois, quit her job in 2005 to take care of her children and pursue freelance writing, she knew she’d need to find other sources of income to supplement her writing. She dove headlong into couponing and frugality, and became a wizard at finding ways to earn money online. Soon Rachel was bringing in small amounts of income from lots of sources she calls “multiple profit centers.” “They’re the equivalent of a nice, steady part-time job,” says Rachel. In 2009, she started the blog Mashup Mom () to share all the stuff she was learning. In fewer than two years, the blog has become yet another profit center for Rachel, as has her first book, Point, Click, and Save: Mashup Mom’s Guide to Saving and Making Money Online. Tap into multiple profit centers with Rachel’s favorites.

  • Launch a blog. “If you have something interesting to say, grow your readership, post ads and earn some dough,” says Rachel. Start your blog at a free site (go to false

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    falsefalsefalsefalsefalsefalsetrueH6falsetrue1) to feature advertising on your site. With AdSense, you make a little bit every time someone clicks on one of the ads hosted on your site. With Amazon’s program, you earn a small commission when someone clicks through on an ad and makes a purchase at Amazon. The income will start small, but if you build your following, your cash flow will increase. Rachel typically makes several hundred dollars per month from ads or affiliate links on her blog.

  • Give your opinion. At MySurvey.com, Surveyhead.com or ValuedOpinions.com, you can sign up to take surveys about products and services and get paid for it. Sites typically pay $2 to $5 per completed survey and will send you a check or deposit to your PayPal account, or gift cards or merchandise once you reach $20 in your survey account. Scam alert! There are lots of survey sites out there, but not all are trustworthy. Avoid participating in anything that charges a fee up front to participate. “I try to take three or four surveys each week while the kids are watching TV, and that brings in $20 to $30 per month,” says Rachel.

  • Search the Internet. Rachel loves to scour the Web, and one of her favorite things to do is use Swag Bucks (false

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    falsefalsefalsefalsefalsefalsetrueH6falsetrue1) as her search engine instead of, say, Google or Yahoo. By doing this, she earns Swag Bucks points — called “SBs” on the website — redeemable for merchandise like Target gift cards and beauty products. (Maximize the number of points you earn by installing the Swag Bucks toolbar on your computer.) You can also earn more Swag Bucks points by taking the site’s daily poll and by participating in the company’s “trusted surveys.” But be warned, it could take awhile to accumulate SBs. A $300 Apple gift card, for example, costs 37,000 SB. If you don’t want prizes, you can trade your Swag Bucks points for PayPal deposits into your account.
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  • Do online tasks. Have a few extra minutes with nothing to do? Companies like Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk (false

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