How to Start Making Money Online Even if You're Broke!

If you want to add a stream of online income or completely replace your 9-5 job, you have good news. I've updated this post for 2017 and it's easier than ever to get started. It may not seem that way as it often feels like a challenge and sometimes it feels like the world is completely against you. Most things you find either end up being some type of MLM or cost tens of thousands of dollars to start. Then when you find an affordable alternative you find out how many hidden costs and upsells there are once you get started. The reason why I know better than most people how much it sucks to be broke and the need to make money online is because I was in that exact situation just a few years ago when I had less than a $1,000 in my bank and was only making $200 a month, while watching my savings dwindle.

Sometimes I wake up and think maybe I just got lucky? It seems pretty impossible that less than 3 years ago I dreamt about being able to make $600 a month just so I could pay rent on the cheapest apartment and scrape by. Now I make more money than my doctor and lawyer friends back in California and best of all, I do it from my laptop. I now know that with the correct strategy, business model and motivation, making money online is possible for anyone willing to put in the work. In this post I'm going to share with you exactly how to start making money online even if you're completely broke. With all of the new tools 2017 gives us, there's really no excuse not to get started today.

Things that Don't Work: (if you're broke)

When you're broke and struggling to get started, it is super important to get on the right system or business model as soon as possible so you don't completely run out of savings. If you don't have more than $2,000 in savings, here are a few common systems that may be fantastic for other people but won't work for you.

The confusing part is everything listed below may be excellent ways to make money and are often talked about by people who are already successful, but will be a waste of time in your situation. Keep these things in mind to do in the future and bookmark this page but don't start on any of these just yet. If you want to know more about each system, I've included links podcast interviews for each method.

Amazon FBA

Selling on Amazon requires a minimum of $3,000 but most likely closer to $10,000 as you'll have to factor in importing goods, buying inventory, giving away free review products, and advertising to get you to the front page of Amazon's search results. You'll also need to reinvest your first 3-6 months worth of profit into buying more stock so most people don't actually start getting paid for closer to a year.

However the upside is huge as I have multiple friends who have built six figure FBA businesses. Listen to the FBA Empire interview, the interview with Ryan Daniel Moran, or the latest episode with Cory Michael for info on how they built large Amazon businesses using FBA.

Biggest Expenses for FBA:

Stock: $3,000-$10,000
Reviews: $1,000-$2,000
Advertising: $300-$500

Total Costs to Start: $10,000 +/-
Average Time to Profit: 4-6 Months 

Interviews with successful FBA owners: 


Drop Shipping: 

It really sucks needing to put dropshipping under this category as things that don't work if you're broke because it's what I started with and it has been the most straightforward system to follow that has delivered consistent results in a reasonable amount of time. The reason why I really like dropshipping is because it allows you to sell physical products without pre purchasing inventory. 

The reason why I like physical products is because when you are new to business, it's a lot easier to know how to sell a piece of furniture and know the value of it than a digital product or service that price could vary all over the place. If you weren't broke, it would be the business model I would recomend to start with for most people.

Why it Won't Work: 

To be completely honest, drop shipping is complicated, as is starting any physical products business whether it be a restaurant, shoe store or supermarket. There are a lot of little questions that will come up and hold most people back who don't have an MBA, previous business experience or access to a course like Anton's Dropship Course. The good news however is aside from education there aren't many more expenses to start since there is no inventory to buy, there isn't' much else to spend money on to set it up. 

I've met a few people like Archie Jeter in episode 62 has built a successful drop shipping store without being a part of the course so it's possible. But the reason why I wouldn't' recommend it is because the other 99.9% of people who didn't work an an ecommerce company in the past who try doing it without a course has given up, burnt all of their friend and mentor bridges by wasting people's time asking a million questions and has have wasted a lot of time going down the wrong path following the wrong path.

Biggest Expenses for Dropshipping:
Anton's Course: $1,497 - $2,997
Shopify Hosting: $29 a month
Advertising: $200-$300

Looking to start anyways? Here's all of my dropshipping discounts in PDF.

Total Costs to Start: $2,000
Average Time to Profit: 2-3 months

Interviews with successful Dropshippers: 


Things that Do Work: (even if you're broke)

Here's what you've been waiting for. What can you realistically do to make enjoy money online and continue traveling or living in another country even if you don't have any money to start? Remember, all of these take hard work, dedication and the willingness to put in the effort.


Working on someone else's already successful business or providing services to them is a great way to start your location independent lifestyle. You can start by working from home then as soon as you make $600 a month or so, you can afford to live in a place like Chiang Mai, Thailand and either scale up your freelancing gigs by outsourcing the grunt work to others, start charging more money, or create templates to make your life easier. 

I know a lot of people who make $500-$1,500 a month working on places like Upwork or even Fiverr. Popular freelance gigs besides web development include translations, writing articles/blog posts, graphic design and editing of all sorts plus, pretty much whatever else you can think of. 

Marion now makes over $3,000 online and started out recording voice overs in her French accent on Fiverr. George and Jackie make a full time living as a proof reader.  Stephan from episode 19 has been working as a freelancer for over 3 years now and is still traveling the world and around Thailand. 

Interviews with successful freelancers: 


Total Costs to Start: $0

Average Time to Profit: 2-3 weeks

Ebay Arbitrage:

I used to think "dropshipping" from places like amazon or home depot to ebay was stupid. I still don't think it's a real, long term, sustainable business but recently I've realized how great of a starting point it is for people starting out, especially if they're broke. The reason why I recommend it to a lot of people is because I know the importance of making your first sale online and how much even making $100 adds to your confidence. 

I'd rather see everyone making just a few hundred bucks online but starting today than waiting 4-6 months researching something else or saving up to start another business or take a more expensive course. Also selling on ebay is possible anywhere where Paypal is accepted which is pretty much every country in the world. The main reason why I advise most people starting out to start with the ebay route is because you can make your first sale within 1-2 weeks instead of waiting months. 

The game plan wouldn't be to sell on Ebay forever, my recommendation would be to start today, prove to yourself you can follow directions, overcome obstacles and actually do the work necessary to make your first couple of sales, then use your first $1,000 or so to join something like Anton's course and start building a real, sustainable business.

Biggest Expenses for Ebay Arbitrage:

No Other Fees to Start. 

Total Costs to Start: $50
Average Time to Profit: 1-2 weeks

Interviews with ebay store owners: 


Sell Your Crap:

When I first decided to move to Thailand in 2008 I didn't have any money. So I sold my crap. I had a house full of kitchen crap I didn't use, tons of clothes, a second hand car that was paid off, furniture, DVDs, a playstation, you name it. The best way to have money in savings is to not buy crap you don't need in the first place, the second best way is to offload the crap you already have.

You can also combine this technique with David Vu's ebay arbitrage to make even more. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk explain how to do it below. (by this way if you haven't noticed, this post has been updated for 2017)

Other Ways to Make Money:

A few years ago, I honestly thought it was impossible to make a full time living online, or at least thought it was impossible for me. I didn't have any programming skills, didn't know how to make a website or even know what ecommerce was. I was reluctant to pay for ebooks or digital courses as I assumed they were all scams or wastes of money as there is so much free information on line.

Fast forward 3 years, I now make over $100,000 a year online and have done so pretty much all self educated through reading books I've purchased or courses i've signed up for. I've also had the pleasure of interviewing over one hundred location independent entrepreneurs who all make a living online while traveling the world. I know it works. I am 100% sure it is possible and probable to make money online and anyone who says it isn't is wasting their lives and yours being a pessimist. 

If you listen to the Travel Like a Boss Podcast you'll know that people are making money from:

  • Doing skype consults and blood test reviews
  • Creating online courses / medical school test prep
  • Doing online consultations and x ray reviews as a Dentist
  • Podcast editing 
  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Video or Photo Editing
  • Health Advice Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Piano Lessons
  • Online Fitness Courses
  • Selling Physical Products
  • Accounting for Expats
  • Creating Board Games
  • Manufacturing Bicycle Wheels
  • Selling BitCoins
  • Creating Supplement Companies
  • Creating Men's Grooming Products
  • Currency Trading
  • Building Apps
  • Real Estate Lead Generation
  • Writing Ebooks
  • Kindle Publishing
  • Launching Kickstarter Campaigns
  • Travel Blogging
  • and wayyy more

The reason why I don't recommend the above methods for getting started with online business if you're broke or just a beginner isn't that they don't work...they just take more time, money or resources than you might have right now when starting out.

My goal is for every person following my blog, podcast, and journey to be successful or at least have the best chance at being successful. I love meeting location independent entrepreneurs that I've helped out along the way, as they make the best friendships, traveling buddies and business partners.    

Dinner after our weekly Digital Nomads & Coffee Meetup

How to Get Started:

The fact that you're even reading this far down shows that you just skipped through everything you needed to get started making money online without taking action. Here's the thing about starting a business, they all suck and they all take a ton of work. There's no magic bullet, super secret easy method or path without downsides or difficulties.

Every single person I've ever met who makes a full time living online has overcome challenges, and none of them think the business model they follow is perfect. You just need to fucking do the work. I will personally vouch that everything I mentioned and recommended above works, you just need to put in the effort to make it work for you. People lie to themselves all of the time. Numerous people tell me that they are special and they have special circumstances that prevent them from being successful. Not being a dick, I just nod my head as that's what they want to hear, they want to hear poor them, it's not your fault. 

But here's the truth, they don't' want it bad enough, they aren't willing to try, they aren't willing to fail, they aren't willing to put in the work. They feel entitled to get everything for free, to have others do the work for them, while they bitch and complain about life and hardships. These are the same people that say they can't afford to buy an online course or purchase an ebook yet I see them out drinking beers every other night. Fuck those people. Don't be one of them. Go make it happen then come back and do some more. Be exceptional, work twice as hard as everyone else, and I promise you'll be successful beyond your wildest imagination. 

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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Post a Comment

  1. Thanks Johnny, beautiful post. Always so helpful.

    1. Really happy to share Hope. I know how important it is for people just starting out. Please share it with anyone who might benefit!

  2. Johnny - Came across your blog and podcast and it's packed with some great info!

    Quick question for you - For someone who isn't "broke", would dropshipping still be a viable model to get into and start making money online? It seems like you're having some great success but you also got started earlier. In your opinion, do you think it's too late to get in on the game or has the gold rush passed?

    1. Hey Eric, if you're from the U.S., Canada, Australia, or Western Europe then yes 100% I would get into dropshipping still as every week I talk to or meet someone in Anton's course who has either started making their first sales or have replaced their 9-5 income.

    2. johnny if you are from south america, like me :P, why wouldnt be a viable business model, what problems may seem difficult to pass when dropshipping??

    3. Hey Juan, it's only because there aren't other course members who have done it there yet and have outlined the process and proven the model in S. America so i can't personally recommend it yet.

      But I guarantee the first person who figures it out there will make a killing.

    4. But Johnny, couldn't Juan LIVE in South America, but sell US products to US citizens, at least to get started, while he figures out if/how he can do it successfully with S American products/customers? I imagine it also makes a big difference where in S. America he is (so many different countries, as opposed to US being one great big country).

  3. Replies
    1. I know that'll piss off some people but maybe those people need a kick in the head the most =) Glad you enjoyed the final paragraph!

    2. Yeah, I "believe" and I'm not a dick but I do need it pounded into my head, thanks for the bluntness! It's funny how we/I get stoked about all the positives in an opportunity and then one single hurdle and I write it off...gotta stop getting in my own way...

  4. Thanks for the post brother. Its always good to hear from someone who has made what they want and go back to their root problem and offer advice for others. Respect!

    1. Hey Daniel, super happy to help. Especially since I can just link people to this post in the future whenever I meet someone who is just getting started or if they are one those "poor me, nothing works" people. =)

      But the real reason why I took the time to write this is because I wish there was content like this out there when I first started, it would have made my life a million times easier.

  5. Hi Johnny!
    Awesome post man. This is really going to benefit others. I had a similar experience where I was signing up for all sorts of courses and stuff. I think it's called "Shiny Object Syndrome". And yes your absolutely right. You got put in the work! That last part was major badass.

    1. Hey Izad, glad you got over the shiny object syndrome and got to work! Keep it up!

  6. Thanks Johnny for sharing!
    As always all your posts are of incredible value but this one is one of the coolest. (Thumbs up)

    I'm making some money online as a SQL developer but I think this post is still very useful because I'm trying to build multiple income streams. Also because I need a kick in the back every now and then :)

    Thanks Again.


    1. Really happy to share Saabir! Glad it give you the kick in the pants you needed!

  7. You're absolutely right! Freelancing is what got me making money right away when I decided to quit my job - two separate times. Now I've learned to forget about finding another job and just focus on freelancing and online work full-time. It's a blast and provides all kinds of flexibility. Thanks for sharing all of your great content.

    1. Hey Rierich glad you had good experiences with freelancing as well! It's such a good bridge between quitting your job and being an entrepreneur. Happy to share!

  8. I do think a lot of people underestimate how well a person can do freelancing as long as they take the time to find jobs or projects. Right now, I freelance casually as a side hustle by going through a website for assignments. I can essentially do as much or as little as I want through them, do not have to do any marketing, and can pick and choose what I work on. Since this is side work, I don't have to depend on it to replace a full time income, but I've considered it a wonderful learning experience on the way to branching out further on my own.

    1. Hey Cathy, glad you're doing well with freelancing so far! If you ever move to a place like Chiang Mai where the costs of living are ultra low, you can easily make enough to have it be full time. But you're right, either way it's great for learning skills and branching out!

  9. Real talk, love it. Especially the last paragraph. I avoid those kinda people like the plague nowadays. Ok, back to work now ;)

    1. Good stuff Rick! That's why you're doing well and others aren't =)

  10. Nice one Johnny! That is very encouraging and honest. Need to step up and do the work!

  11. Replies
    1. Happy to help! P.S. you gotta change your name =)

  12. Thanks for this post, Johnny. I'm really appreciative of your attention to our fears/concerns/questions/etc. I seriously want SO BADLY to spend the $1K and dive headlong into Anton's course, giving everything I have to make this work! But my wife would probably kill me if I spent 2/3 of our savings... while we still owe money on our car... still are trying desperately to pay off the few $k left of our credit card debt... and while also having this lingering school debt building as we near our final year of college. These are definitely proving to be tough (but exciting) times in our life right now...

    Anyways, thank you very much for your frankness and honesty, and for the gracious wealth of information that you continue to share. I sincerely hope that I can change my circumstances enough to make this lifestyle a reality for us. Kind of hoping for a miracle at this point, hah. But excited and ready to work hard at this to change our life. Thanks & Peace, Johnny!

    1. Hey Wesley, whatever you end up doing, it sounds like you're on the right path of getting yourself out of a tough financial situation!

  13. Replies
    1. Go through the videos at http:/ as he explains it best.

  14. Hey Johnny, very informative post! Do you know any Singaporeans or Asians who have succeeded with dropshipping? That's besides yourself! haha

    1. Hey Carl, plenty of Asian people have been successful with dropshipping but mostly selling in the U.S. or Australia. Asia itself is a hugely untapped market as Amazon doesn't really ship here and places like have limited selection. So there is a TON of potential and lots of money to be made.

      However, it'll be high risk/high reward as it hasn't been done.

      Example: My friend Sam is in Singapore right now and wanted to buy two USB mics and a USB Mixer for the new podcast but couldn't find it anywhere online. Amazon wanted $280 in shipping/customs. Lazada doesn't sell it. So he had to find a local store which was difficult. It would have been easier to find online but it doesn't exist yet.

  15. Johnny. A lot of great info! I need your advice of where to start. I am a single broke mom of three. Currently unemployed. I was working at a call center, just commission and that didn't work. I feel I don't really have anything g to offer as a freelance(other than using my moms ability to speak Farsi)lol, but I REALLY want to get started! I want yo travel with my kids and enjoy life so please tell me where to start. I could probably put together 1000 for Antons course but if I did, I am not sure I could pay the next rent. How long would it take to start making money on Anyons course? And would it be more than 1000 to start? Would you say s person in my position should start there? I really need a change asap! Also I like in Phuket and visited Chang Mai in my 20's. It gorgeous. You got the right idea! I also lived in Dominican Republic for many years, it was great. I live in Florida now, very depressing and people really don't live. I can't wait to make money and get away from here!

    1. Hey Leanne, do not spend your rent money to take a course, no matter how good that course is, as it's like spending your last dollars on something that will pay you back 2-3 months from now.

      In your case I would start selling on ebay by following David Vu's course which is much cheaper, just go to

  16. Awsome post Johnny, now there's really no excuse! :)

  17. I'm considering starting a dropshipping business, as well as other revenue streams like those you listed, but can't justify spending $1000 all at once. Do you know of any courses that allow you to pay fees in installments? It would be a lot more palatable to pay $200 upfront and pay out the balance from sales over 6 months, or something like that.

    1. Hey Linda, the only dropshipping course I recomend is Anton's and he doesn't do installments. I'd suggest starting with something cheaper on the list above, then buying Anton's course with the money you earn from it.

  18. Great post Johnny, really well broken down to remove excuses for people.
    I started with the eBay model, made sales after 2 weeks and then moved onto the Anton Method.
    Thanks for all the content you put out, I learn so much from every podcast episode.

  19. Hey Johnny, is there a code for David Vu's course that makes it $50?

    1. Sign up with the link for the best current deal on his course.

  20. Didn't intend to be anonymous - not sure where or how to "log in" to post with an identity (I'm not active on social media). Thank you for publishing my comment. PS My name is Penny, I tried to select the option to set up an ID to post as "One Cent". Thanks again for all you do to help others, Johnny,

    1. Hey no worries, happy to have you part of the community Penny! =)

  21. Thanks for your inspiration! I read your posts and emails as well as Anton's and they always provide me with daily motivation! If if was easy everyone would be doing it. Also as a US expat living in SE Asian i feel a little connection. :-)

    1. Nice stuff! Glad to have you as a reader! Enjoy SE Asia wherever you are!

  22. Thanks again Johnny for the revised post. A lot of great stuff and have sent to a couple of my mates.

    1. Happy to do it. Thought it would be good timing as a lot of people are looking to add more income in the new year!

  23. Hey Johnny where can I find the details for the weekly coffee meetups? Just moved to chiang mai and keen to grow my social circle over here :)

    - Josh

    1. Hey Josh, welcome to CM! Just search for "Nomad Coffee Club Chiang Mai" in facebook. it's a group!

  24. Thanks Johnny, they are really good online money making tips. A lot of people would be able to change how they work and how they earn money. but I have come across a better way of making money online

  25. Hey Johnny. Great post. I have been into kindle publishing and crushing it and now have started an eCommerce store.

    Rohit I Lifeselfmastery

    1. Wow nice to hear that Rohit! Keep crushing it! Let us know how it goes!

  26. Hey Johnny,
    I loved your post. I loved the sheer authenticity with which you have written this. I have been really exploring a lot of these options from a lot of days, and I want to have someone as a mentor, who could guide me through the process.

    I am ready to work hard enough. The only thing I am looking for is something that starts making money sooner, so that I can support myself on the path, and keep up my confidence, while I build a long term sustainable business.

    I would really love to have you as a mentor. Let me know how can I connect to you further.

    1. Hey Ankit, i'm really glad you found my blog as this is how I openly mentor people. I don't have time to do it 1 on 1, but with posts like this I can be your virtual mentor. You have all of the information you need here, just go for it and keep me updated!


  27. Excellent post Johnny, I would like to ask you about dropshipping ebay, once you receive the money from people on ebay to paypal, you can buy with your same paypal money to your suppliers, like amazon for example? Or is it necessary to withdraw your money to a bank account or credit card and with it and the profits, finally buy from your sippliers?

    1. You can use the same money as most merchants let you pay with paypal anyways. However, for new accounts paypal may hold the payments for a few days. I prefer to use my credit card, get reward points, and have 30 days to pay. =)

  28. Great tips!
    I tried all kinds of ways to make money online.
    What works best for me is koocam.
    I teach my hobbies and sells my knowledge in any field.
    It's great :)

  29. johnny thank you, you are very inspiring and i hope we meet one day as i am going to make this online business!!!

  30. The way to change your life in your daily work is pretty and attractive. I appreciate the way you put it.


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