Today, there are all kinds of ways to make money online. Whether you’re saving for something specific like a new car payment, or you’re simply looking to build up your long-term accounts, odds are you’ll be doing it through an internet activity or platform.
This may mean making use of any number of budgeting and investment apps that have come about in recent years, and which help users maximize savings and put them to use. It may mean exploring the ‘Money Market vs. Savings Account’ question and investing in one or both concepts. You may even get into an alternative form of investment, such as buying startup equity through a crowdfunding site, or trading commodities through precious metal platforms.
While some are more viable than others, these are all legitimate methods of investment. At the same time however, the popularity of “side hustles” and the “gig economy” today lead many to pour massive amounts of time and effort into internet ventures that do not amount to strategic investments. That’s not to say they can’t be worthy ventures for other reasons — whether that means entertainment, pursuit of passion, résumé-building, or even just fun. But the following are some examples of common online “side hustle” pursuits that should not be thought of as investments.
Gigs on Fiverr
In a sense, one of the most popular forms of online investment today is time. An untold number of people have gotten into the digital “gig” economy, pouring their spare hours into odd jobs at freelance sites in order to earn extra money. Typically, in the simplest sense, this works. Time spent on freelancing does yield income. The only issue that is at most major platforms, that income amounts to a poor return on investment (investment, again, being time). Take Fiverr for instance.
This is perhaps the most famous freelance platform on the internet, pairing clients with freelancers for quick jobs in everything from writing to graphic design, to programming. It can look quite appealing at a glance but in the end — as one colorful post at Medium.com put it — you wind up begging to work for pennies. Fiverr (and many platforms like it) offers almost insultingly low rates but does so within an extremely competitive market. It should not be looked upon as a reasonable source of income, nor as any kind of investment.
This is a tricky topic, because in a very literal sense, cryptocurrency has become an investable commodity. People all over the world buy and sell cryptocurrencies the same way they might do with gold, or even stocks. But we’re including it here because at this point many who are drawn to crypto trading are amateurs who are more interested than informed — and that is no way to approach any investment. Money can certainly be made in the crypto markets, and if you understand them and take the time to educate yourself on trading strategy and market trends, it can be a reasonable (of volatile) form of investment. For most though, crypto speculation is at this point a hobby or interest — not an investment.
Online poker can be played for money, and in fact it’s increasingly simple for people to get into this hobby. A step-by-step guide to the process on Poker.org conveys that all a player really needs to do to get in on cash games is choose a reliable site, build a profile, and set up an account. For many, this becomes a favorite hobby, and for some it even yields real, cash earnings. But it’s still important for online poker players to recognize that it is still a game — a hobby in which chance plays a role and even good preparation doesn’t guarantee winnings. It can certainly be a thrilling game, and one at which you might win money. But it’s not an investment over which you have suitable control.
Beyond poker, online video gaming is also looked at by some as a form of investment nowadays. People might not necessarily think of it that way, but the concept is fairly straightforward: investing in games and equipment, putting time into improvement, and getting wet up as a competitive gamer and/or streamer can pay off in the long run. Again, this is true in the strictest sense. High-level gamers today actually make a fairly lucrative amount of money. But it’s important for those exploring this path to recognize that those making meaningful returns on their time and material investments represent an awfully small portion of online gamers.
Our final note is about a relatively new phenomenon known as NFTs. An NFT, or “non-fungible token,” is essentially a unique digital commodity that one can buy, sell, or hold via the Ethereum blockchain. In theory, it can be anything from a popular tweet, to a digital art file, to a sports highlight. And in fact, an explanation at TheVerge.com essentially compared the budding NFT market to that of fine art speculation. In time, said market could actually become an interesting new environment for investment in what are effectively digital commodities. So it may be worth keeping an eye on the space. As of now though, this is essentially a fad, albeit one that’s proven extraordinarily lucrative in some cases (with some NFTs already selling for millions of dollars). It makes for one more activity that shouldn’t be thought of as a legitimate investment.