In many ways, smartphones have become miniature computers, offering many of the same features and advantages, while also being incredibly convenient. With this in mind, it shouldn’t be too surprising that smartphones are also promoted as a way to make money.
In fact, when you get down to it, there are actually a lot of different ways to make money with your smartphone.
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Making Money With Your Smartphone
With that in mind, this post digs into the various approaches that you can take for earning with your smartphone.
Making Money from Apps
The simplest way to make money with your smartphone is using apps. There are a number of apps out there that promote themselves as ways to earn money, although some are certainly better than others.
Apps are also the logical choice when it comes to smartphones because they are specifically designed for mobile devices and tend to be pretty easy to install and to use. In most cases, you won’t earn a large amount of money from these apps but you may earn something.
Below I'm going to talk about a few of these apps and how you can make money with them. Note: there are some online games that you can use to make money, but I'll cover those in another post since making money through gaming can be quite complicated, and requires its own set of research!
Making Money On Instagram
Making money on Instagram is probably my best idea, so I'll get it out of the way first while I still have your full attention! Instagram can be used to make money, but not in a straightforward way.
If you use Instagram, then you know they don't have clickable links in the photo description or comments. Each user only gets one clickable URL in their profile.
At the same time, Instagram is a very powerful way to build a brand based just on photos from your phone. In fact, they don't even need you to upload images from your computer! With editing apps, filters, etc you can create some really fun photos and videos right from your phone.
But how do you make money?
Once you have a big enough following you can garner sponsorships for certain posts. Follow any foodie blogger on Instagram and you'll see lots of promos for diet pills, exercise programs, or food subscription services. All those Instagram models are either selling diet tea, promoting events, or even getting gigs because of their fame.
Of course, you need a big following to get that kind of attention! Pick a topic like a specific dog breed, Crossfit, or other visual topic and get snapping! Follow related accounts, comment on their pics, and get your own followers by being social.
Another great way to make money from your Instagram account is to add an affiliate link to your description. I'll describe more about affiliate marketing below, but in a nutshell this “affiliate link” gets you credit for sales made. You can make a commission for promoting products.
So if you have a following of 5,000 people, you can do a post about product XYZ and just say “link in the description”. A portion of your followers will be interested enough to go to your profile, click the link, buy, and you'll make money!
Of course you can make much more money by having a website to supplement (and advertise) your Instagram account. More on that below, so keep reading!
Making Money Back on Purchases
The most common approach are apps that earn users cash back when they shop. With this type of app, you do make money but you have to spend it first. As such, this isn’t an especially good way to make money, unless you aren’t spending any more than you would normally. One example of this is the Snap by Groupon app, although there are a lot of different apps out there with similar features.
For example, some apps out there provide cash back for shopping at stores like Walmart or Target. Now, if you shop there anyway, using an app like this might make sense because you are effectively getting free money. However, this certainly isn’t income that you can scale very well.
There is also a slight risk here.
When people are getting rewarded for shopping there is a risk that they will end up spending more as a consequence. For some people, this happens because it is easier to justify spending money when you know that you will get a small proportion of this back. In other cases, people end up spending more to reach the next tier of rewards or to reach a level where they can cash out.
As such, you have to be very careful with this type of app. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending more money unintentionally, which negates the entire point of using the app to start off with.
Another way to earn money is through apps that pay people for tasks. In many cases, these apps may act as a way to connect buyers with people providing services and the use of a smartphone makes these pretty convenient.
Perhaps the most classic example of this is Uber, where drivers need little more than a car and a smartphone to basically act as a taxi service.
Other apps offer more basic tasks. For example, the app Gigwalker involves a wide range of tasks, including things like taking photos of stores and the products that are on shelves. The company offers this description:
Overall, it's a fairly simple one and might make sense for people already out and walking around with phones. The amount that people can earn for tasks varies dramatically. In the case of Gigwalker, the range is $3 to $100 per gig, while other companies will have their own ranges.
In theory, this does mean that you could make a significant amount of money, however, that would strongly depend on how long tasks take versus what you get paid for them. It’s also likely that you would end up spending time waiting for new tasks or moving locations, so the income you get overall might not be that high.
With task-based apps, it's rare that you make a stable income, and quite common to earn less than minimum wage except on rare occasion. These apps were not created to make the users rich by any means.
Survey and Video Apps
Survey sites are pretty common online and they’ve made their way onto smartphones as well. Generally speaking, these sites will tend to pay relatively little for what you do and the process can be time-consuming. At the same time, you often end up having to wait days or weeks for new surveys, which means that it can take months to reach the point where you can actually cash out.
For some people though, doing surveys on a smartphone may make sense. After all, it is something to do while you’re waiting in a line or when you have a little spare time – and the process is more productive than playing a game.
At the same time, some apps have other ways for earning money, such as watching videos. The premise is similar here and you tend to earn relatively little money for the time involved. Certainly, this isn’t a good approach for making a decent amount of money, although it can be a way to earn some pocket money if you don’t mind spending the time.
Apps and Income Overall
There are other types of apps that I haven’t considered in this list, such as ones that pay you to download other apps or to do mystery shopping. However, regardless of the specific type of app, you’ll find that the overall ideas used are very similar from one app to the next, as is the potential to earn money.
Perhaps the most common trend across various apps for making money with a smartphone is that you will tend to earn credit, not dollars. Sometimes this can be converted into actual money, while other times you may only have the option of spending that credit.
Google is actually a good example of this, as it has an app called Google Opinion Rewards. The app offers surveys in return for Google Play credit. The surveys aren’t available frequently but they tend to be fast to answer, often just involving a handful of questions. I’ve seen the service pay as much as $1 in credit for a single response, although some surveys don’t reward anything at all.
Clearly, that app is never going to be a good way to earn money – but it may be worth the effort for people who do use Google Play credit on a regular basis.
Having one or a few apps like this on your phone does make sense for many people, as you can earn a little money (or credit) without much work.
However, in most cases, you’re going to find that the amount of time and effort outweighs whatever you earn. In other words, if you really want to make some quick money, you'd be better off with a regular job.
Even with the best apps out there, you’re never going to be earning a large amount of money. So, you might get enough to go to the movies or buy a treat but you certainly couldn’t consider these approaches a realistic income.
What About A Tablet?
Tablets are a kind of a combination of a phone and a computer, so does it change anything about the information I've listed above? Not really in this case. Check out the post I wrote on if it's possible to make money with an iPad to see what I mean.
Making Money From A Laptop: It's Possible!
What I’ve discussed here so far are ways for making money with your smartphone. But if you have a laptop, or can muster up the funds to get you, you can actually make money from this type of computer.
You don't need a super-powerful 3-monitor specialty desktop or any kind of gaming computer. A very simple computer that can just connect to the internet (like a Chromebook) would do just fine.
In fact, I ran my entire business on a laptop for the first 4 years of operation. Now I have a nice big iMac since I upgraded last year, but when I travel I still use Windows laptop.
I run an online business that makes money with affiliate marketing.
If you’re read other posts on this blog, you’ve probably already noticed that affiliate marketing is my favorite technique for making money online and there are some good reasons for this. In particular, I favor affiliate marketing because it’s a powerful technique and it’s something that can be scaled up and become more profitable over time.
My first sale was for just $5, for some computer software. I now earn over 6 figures per year and am still growing.
You don’t need a product of your own to start with, and building a website is quite easy these days. You are promoting products from other companies and earning a commission for each item sold.
I wouldn’t suggest building a website on a smartphone! It's pretty impossible unless you really have a lot of patience. Now, there are probably tools out there that make this possible but honestly, computers provide much more flexibility for website design and make the entire process that much easier.
But, smartphones can be used to manage websites, especially when you are away from the computer. As such, they can make the process of affiliate marketing that much easier and more flexible. For example, I answer emails from my phone, send payments to writers and photographers, or check my accounts to make sure payments have been sent to me on time!