I get asked about this all the time. People I know offline and people I know online ask me, What is the best way to make money on the web? My answer is very simple, but always requires more explanation.
Be helpful? What does that mean? I don't get it. Hunh? are a few of the responses to my answer, so of course I will explain.
Let's say you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field. One great way to do so is to join forums that are related to your field. Introduce yourself and give a little history when you first join so people know a little about you.
Then browse through the forum and look for questions people are asking. Answer their questions as fully as you can. If you do not know the answer, use the search engines and find out what the answer is. Be courteous when answering. Provide links to where they can find out more information and confirm your answer.
This accomplishes five things. 1. You were helpful. 2. You may have learned something new by looking up the answer. 3. You now have a bookmark for a website you may need later. 4. You have established yourself as someone who can provide answers. and 5. Other people saw how helpful you were.
#5 is probably the most important of all. Some people read your answer, saw how helpful you were, and probably visited the website in your signature and are now a potential customer.
Whenever someone calls you, emails you, or comments on your blog with a question, take the time, make the time, to answer them even when it doesn't make you any money. Once people start taking your advice, most will help you in return and won't mind helping you make money later.
Sign up for affiliate programs that pay well. Things you know the people you deal with might need, like web hosting, web design, seo, etc. When people are asking your advice, ask them if they need hosting or whatever. If they say yes, ask them to use your affiliate link to sign up. It costs them nothing. It makes you money. And since you have been so helpful, they do not mind helping you make a little money.
Make sure the places you refer them to are actually good companies. Again, you are being helpful by referring them to something worthwhile and you make money doing it.
Learn how to search the web. I don't mean just going to Google and typing something in. Learn advanced search methods and other sources besides just search engines to find what you are looking for.
Once you know how to really search the web, you can be even more helpful. You will be able to find things other people cannot find. This valuable skill can make you more helpful to others and make you more money.
If you provide a service or product, provide free consultations and offer free information for your potential customers. Find non-competing services, products, free coupons, and other things that you know your target audience will also be interested in.
Take a little time and find these things for the people you wish to do business with and you will soon learn how much they appreciate you and want to do business with you.
So many of us get busy and view some of these things as a waste of our time. I could be talking to a paying client right now instead of this person. I can't believe this person keeps asking me questions and they haven't even bought anything.
Yes, you do have to find the right balance, because you do have a business to run. But taking a little time each day or each week to just be helpful to others or adopting an overall philosophy of being helpful will make you more money in the long run than only focusing on "What's in it for me".
Some people you help won't appreciate it at all. They may turn out to be a total jerk after you have given freely of your time and expertise. But that is their problem, not yours, and they will wish they still had you to help them later. Most people you help will respond in kind and appreciate your efforts.
They will refer their friends to you and whenever possible, they will choose your services over another provider, even if the other provider offers it at a better price.