Work Smarter Not Harder

In this current economic funk set to stay for years thanks to the global Covid-19 Pandemic, it makes more sense than ever to not put all your eggs in one basket. Why not experiment with creating several or more income generation streams and start earning money online?

Back in 2015, I asked myself a question: How does one make a living when you don’t live anywhere?

I actually did live somewhere at the time; Rome, Italy where I was a Program Director and Associate Professor of Digital Media at The American University of Rome with a lifetime contract. But my husband was working for the UN and we felt like our life in Rome was not sustainable given my restless nature and obsession with living and working in developing countries and the need for him to go into the field (to developing countries) so he could move forward in his career.

So in 2016, we set off to begin a three-year stint in Myanmar. As of 2019 we now live in Malawi. But before all that, I decided to explore the online economy and challenged myself to see if I could earn money online from virtually anywhere.

I basically was wondering out loud if I could make my skills more portable and offer them virtually to people in different parts of the world through an online connection.

It turns out apparently, I was preparing for this very moment when education, work, and everything else have been forced to move online and are being reinvented daily to respond to our new pandemic-induced reality.

earning money online

I’m now fitfully busy working from home making design and multimedia content for UN Organizations in Malawi, but I always appreciate getting the “extra” monthly paychecks from online courses, e-books, print on demand sites, and more.

Just picture little toy sailboats constantly bringing you a dollar here, ten there, a hundred there in a constant stream of abundance. (*And whatever you do, don’t put your mental footage in reverse where money is flowing away instead of towards you!)

My list below is not at all exhaustive. It’s just a list of things I’ve actually done. Since I am by no means a business-savvy person or marketer, I tend to favor enterprises that anyone can do without any special skills, though obviously if you happen to be a creative person who writes, makes art, takes photos, or similar, my list may especially appeal to you.

Results are always going to vary depending on your own skills, level of interest, commitment to giving the “ole’ college try,” etc. However, if you are starting out by seeing what some of your options are and pick one or two to begin with, you should be well on your way to first making some extra pocket money… and who knows? You might discover you make a heck of a lot more than that and launch a full-on second career.

Teaching Online

Start earning money online by teaching online courses on the things you know and are good at. Art, math, science, music, languages? All can (and need to be) taught online during this pandemic.

For great places to put up self-contained video lessons that students go through at their own pace in their own time, try:,, Skillsuccess,,, and others.) Many of these platforms will market your courses for you or help your lessons become discoverable to millions of potential students through their search engines. However, if you want to host your own courses and have much more control over how your lessons are marketed, sold, as well as have the ability to offer live webinars, coaching, or scheduled courses (that meet a certain day or time) try Thinkific, Zenler, or Teachable.

For places where you meet students virtually in actual time to give instruction in hourly increments, I have used and recommend TakeLessons very highly. Other sites you might try are, Tutorme, Preply, and Classgap.

Not too long ago I was interviewed by one of my online course creation heroes, Phil Ebiner. (*He’s pretty much the King of Udemy!)

He was the “whipper-snapper” that helped light the fire in my belly that first got me started creating my own online courses back in late 2014. His Udemy course and related book, Teach Online: Make Money Doing What You Love was a great help for someone just getting started.

He writes:

“In this interview with Kristen Palana, you’ll hear how this semi-digital-nomad mother of two is teaching the world with online and in-person courses. On Udemy, she has over 64,000 students and has built an amazing following. She has leveraged her time and passions to get in-person teaching jobs wherever she lives.

She shares her entire story in this episode of the Online Course Masters show!”

Listen Now (Podcast)
Listen Now

In this episode:

  • Kristen’s back story
  • Partnering with other instructors to teach courses
  • The difference between teaching in person and online courses
  • Balancing a busy family life with her online business
  • Living abroad and teaching online courses
  • The two approaches to coming up with course topics
  • Advice for putting courses on Skillshare
  • How to use social media to grow your business

More Teaching Online Resources

8 Things I Learned Teaching Online That Will Make You a Better Udemy Instructor
This blog post is about what I’ve learned in one year’s time, specifically using the Udemy platform with some advice for newcomers. It’s what I would say to myself as a newbie if I could.

7 Productivity Hacks That Will Make You a Better Udemy Instructor
Here are more personal Udemy successes I stumbled onto these past years, mainly through trial and error. Hopefully by adopting one or all of these productivity hacks you’ll start to see better results over time as well regarding producing more high-quality online courses, keeping students happy and engaged, and yes, I’ll even mention the s-word… getting more sales.

Or if you prefer to just make your teaching materials and ideas available without appearing on camera, consider creating classroom and teacher products and must-haves over at

Writing Informative E-Books

Write e-books and record audio books on the things you know and are good at. Bonus points if you make an e-book to go with your online course or vice-versa.

I often get a lot of questions from people who want help with their crowd funding projects. Writing my first e-book and making it on crowdfunding was a double-win for me, because now I can easily share my tried-and true tips and techniques with people either through my online crowdfunding course, or through its companion e-book in a matter of minutes. (Which then saves me from writing out the same advice in an email week in and week out to different people!)

For my best tips on how to get started creating and then launching your book, have a listen to a recent podcast interview I did for Global Book Publishing. (It’s 24 minutes long and hopefully will get you up and running with confidence fast.)

Freelancing and Consulting

Again, what is your background and how can you take your skills and expertise to help others who may be lacking in those areas? Some ideas for freelancing include:

  • Writing blog articles for companies
  • Doing freelance art, photography, illustration, or design
  • Doing social media marketing for companies and entrepreneurs
  • Fix, create, or optimize websites
  • Create an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keyword business
  • Assisting educational institutions with curriculum, policy, and teaching and/or transitioning from a live classroom to the online one.
  • Being a freelance copy editor
  • Becoming a ghost writer
  • Become a digital assistant (e.g. through
  • Doing translations
  • Being an online academic tutor
  • Checking out the more unusual gigs and services on (and sites like it) to become inspired to start your own
  • Set up a free account through This website lets anyone who wants to offer consulting set up a free profile.

Want to learn more about freelancing?

Have a look at a recent live interview I did for Essitino Artists:

About This Episode:

“In today’s Creative Success Story, we are talking to Kristen Palana, a practicing award winning multimedia artist, world educator and author. Treat this like your freelancing 101 for artists class – if you’re interested in earning money and building your reputation doing what you love, this live interview with Kristen will help you have a better understanding of what it takes to start and work as a freelance artist or creative.

Some of the things covered in this video: what do you need to start freelancing, how to find freelance clients, build an effective portfolio, how to price your services, what are some things to avoid, how do you create a repeat client list, produce income and build your reputation as a freelance creative, etc.”

Do You Have the Right Personality to Survive and Thrive as a Freelance Designer or Artist?

Please check all that apply

___  1.) I take pride in my work and believe that anything with my name attached to it stands for a high level of quality.

___  2.) I have the ability to listen to clients and understand their goals, wishes, and objectives (even if I don’t always agree with them.)

___  3.) I value my time and therefore deserve to be paid proportionately for completed work that fulfills the guidelines specified and agreed upon in the contract with the client.

___  4.) I can give the client what they asked for as well as communicate a better option they may not even have considered by submitting alternate versions of the project (as long as it is not overly time consuming to do so.)

___  5.) I have a reasonable ability to make professional-looking work (aka: talent).

___  6.) I have a good work ethic and can be counted on to meet deadlines and deliver projects reliably.

___  7.) I have the ability to gracefully accept criticism.

___  8.) I have the ability to gracefully accept criticism.

___  9.) I have the ability to gracefully accept criticism.

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, you are in good shape to proceed with your freelancing enterprise. Those last three are especially important!

The ability to gracefully accept criticism is even more important than having artistic talent or an excellent work ethic. This is because even if you are happy with your work and ready to showcase it in your portfolio, your client may have other ideas. Some clients are easy to please (and should be treasured!) while others are either seldom happy or don’t even KNOW what they want. 

Diplomacy is key, especially when you are allowing clients to preview almost-completed work and getting their feedback. There’s a fine line between making minor tweaks for someone and being taken advantage of in terms of your time. 

The key thing to remember is: Respect Your Client. Respect Yourself. When we ignore either of these is when we get into trouble. Got it? Great! Let’s continue.

Sites to Look At:

24 Best and Most Active Sites for Freelancing in 2020

Take my online course to easily get started Freelancing like a boss. Freelance Success For Artists: A Quick & Easy Guide

Affiliate Links and Referral Programs

Become an online affiliate with advertising on your own blog or website.

My husband has a blog, Man With a Mug, he runs as a hobby devoted to tea, fine waters, health, and wellness. One day I suggested he sign up for Rakuten Affiliates program. Now when he mentions a certain brand of tea or a particular wellness product in his blog posts, instead of just linking to that company’s page, he uses his own affiliate links and get a percentage of money if someone goes ahead and buys that product thanks to his referral.

He has a highly specialized niche with loyal tea enthusiasts and tens of thousands of social media followers, so adding simple affiliate links was one of the easiest things he could do to generate some extra “tea money” from his website. 🙂

earning money online
Man With a Mug

Want to learn more and try it yourself?

105 Best Affiliate Programs of 2020 (High Paying for Beginners)

Print on Demand Sites

Create a free online store that sells your designs as t-shirts, art prints, tech accessories, and more. All you need are your designs or just some smart text quotes (no artistic skill required!) and you can get started building your store and selling your work today. The P.O.D. platforms handle the orders, printing, and shipping for a commission so all you have to focus on are your designs and any marketing efforts you may do to promote your products.

I often do a small creativity exercise each day and set a timer for no more than 30 minutes. I make a random artwork just to keep the creative juices flowing. Often I put the results in my online store and get the occasional sale on something that otherwise would have languished unseen in an old dusty sketchbook or in a folder in a folder on my desktop.

earning money online

How to Get Started:

How to sell your artwork online as prints, iPhone & iPad cases, collectables and more

Sell Your Work at Redbubble, the Largest P.O.D. Site

Add Your Work to Teepublic, a Very Popular P.O.D. Site

Try,, and others.

Ready for the big leagues? Try Art Storefronts. -They are a full web hosting platform, marketing engine/ university, and P.O.D site specializing specifically in helping artists with their art businesses.

They are not for everyone however, as they require a monthly subscription fee and the set-up cost can be seen by artists just starting out as too high. I have used many of the P.O.D. sites above and my personal top choice is Art Storefronts. They are the platform hosting my new art gallery, Ma Kalulu Studio.

I have learned so much about having and running an online art gallery (that actually makes sales!) from their tech support, workshops, templates, and resources, and community.

I’d say, start with some of the sites above, and when you feel ready, go for Art Storefronts or perhaps Fine Art America– another great choice specifically for artists.


Maybe it’s not a job you are looking for, but some emergency assistance to pay for a medical bill, electric bill, groceries, or to help a friend in need. If that’s the case, it’s never been easier to set your own crowdfunding project to garner support and donations.

I’ve raised over $140,000 USD online for worthy causes since 2004 through my now archived website and I continue to fund-raise several times a year to help needy families and communities in developing countries through modern crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, FundRazr, and others.

The formula for crowdfunding success is quite simple: 1.) Have a good cause that other people will care about. 2.) Set up your project with high quality text and imagery that explains your project well and gets others to care about it too. 3.) Make the first donation to your own project and get close family and friends to donate the day you launch. 4.) Launch your project and promote it to get others on board. 5.) Keep the momentum going, stay transparent, and keep updating.

To learn more about how to launch a crowdfunding project successfully using social media as your main means of spreading the word, check out my articles to help you get started:

earning money online

More Ideas to Explore

Some More Useful Resources

Finally, have a look at some of my favorite websites for getting inspiration on how you might think outside the box when it comes to earning money in difficult times.

The Penny Hoarder: The Penny Hoarder is one of the largest personal finance websites in America, receiving millions of visitors each month looking to make and save extra money.

Save the Student:
“On this page you’ll find all the best ways to make money in your spare time whilst at university based on our own experience.” 40 easy ways to make money quickly

I love Nerd Wallet! 26 Legit Ways to Make Money “Make money with a side gig and learn how long it will take to see the extra income, whether it’s freelancing online, driving passengers or selling stuff you no longer need.”

The list could go on and on but that would be overwhelming. If you see an option that piques your interest, I encourage you to learn more about getting started through books, courses, and joining online communities of people already successfully doing it.

For more ideas on how to work from anywhere (even if you don’t live anywhere in particular, ) you can also check out my book for sneaky ideas for being employed or self-employed under unusual circumstances, Free At Last: Live, Love & Work Abroad. Find Jobs and Build Your Career Anywhere.

free at last books

So Now What?

What ideas, if any, are you going to try first? How are you holding up during this pandemic? Was your job affected?

Since playgrounds are closed and we are professional shut-ins during this pandemic, I used some of my online course sales money to get my sons a tree house. I also like to use online income to donate to worthy causes and help people in need. Always remember to pay it forward.

start earning money online
Not too shabby. Our rustic tree house and play area, financed by online income (to help get my sons to play in the offline world!) 🙂

Whatever you do, I wish you all the best. Feel free to add to my list of resources or ask me specific questions in the comment section below.

Start earning money online