Downloadable material. Almost any subject you can think of is available online as a download. It may be “free” (usually at the cost of submitting your email address &/or other contact info.) These vary from one-page reports, lists, checklists, and other condensed subject matter to full-length books. You can sell your own or write these for someone else.
Print on Demand. This technology came on the scene in the 1990s and changed the face of self-publishing forever. Originally, self-published authors had to contract with a printer, usually for a minimum of 100 to 1000 or more copies to make it cost effective. Now a person can submit an electronic file (often for no setup fee) and order books as needed. The minimum now is one copy! Mainline publishers are also utilizing the technology for small runs and for out-of-print books. By eliminating the need for an agent or publisher, authors can get their own work out to their readers for more control (along with more responsibility for the process). Make sure you know the difference between a publishing service and a vanity press. Do your research!
Research. Speaking of research, online sources have made this task much more convenient—and have also created a nightmarish situation. Whom do you trust? How can you tell who is the originator of the material? What are his or her credentials? Set yourself up as a reputable researcher to supplement your writing income. While not strictly writing, you do need to present the results of your research clearly for the end user.
Online Writing. This opportunity could include material you write yourself and sell on your own website or blog, or you could write for online magazines (e-zines), websites, or any site covering your area of expertise. You can also seek out business owners looking for online content for websites, blogs, or advertising.
Content Sites. This is an online option that deserves its own category. Possibilities vary from prestigious sites with rigorous guidelines, to places that pay one-two cents per article. You heard right: that’s per article, not per word. Some places will pay by article or by word, while others offer a revenue sharing model based on the number of clicks your article receives. Writers have mixed success with these. There are some legitimate sites out there, but it may take extensive research—and a bit of luck—to find them. Look for sites that require good English skills and that value your talent—or at least offer some combination of byline, author picture, bio, and a link to your site.
Venues to Avoid. In my search for writing opportunities, I often encounter ads looking for writers with educational degrees and/or knowledge of MLA/APA/Chicago Manual of Style. This “easy writing” opportunity is a thinly disguised call to write essays for students. Just say NO to plagiarism. Also, some of the online sites mentioned in the section above may expect you to locate online articles and “rewrite” them. This is also a blatant form of plagiarism—illegal and unethical. Don’t be tempted.