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Meanwhile, the explosive popularity of eBooks has made it much easier to turn your prose into extra income. In 2010, Web strategist Scott McIntosh dashed off a 61-page eBook based on his knowledge of search engine optimization, then uploaded it onto the websites of Amazon for the Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook. While Google Juice may not ever be a bestseller, it has netted McIntosh several thousand dollars.
Not a techie? Free software, such as Calibre, can be found online that will convert your Word document into all the popular eBook formats with the click of a button.
Create an app. Benny Hsu knew nothing about programming when the 35-year-old manager of his family's Jacksonville, Fla., restaurant seized on an idea last year that he thought would make a perfect iPhone app. What soon became the hot selling Photo 365 enables users to take and save (or post to a social media site) a single photo each day, in effect creating a visual diary of the year.
Hsu's total cost was just $1,900, much of that the fee he had to pay the programmer he found by posting at Elance.com. Odesk.com is a similar site that he now also uses to find other contractors. The $.99 app proved so user-friendly it was featured by Apple, and it has so far earned Hsu $55,000. He recently released his second app, Gratitude 365, a daily diary of appreciation.
Programming for the increasingly popular Android phones may be even easier to accomplish, now that Google and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have launched a new online tool, App Inventor (appinventor.mit.edu). "It's a real game-changer in that it was designed so that folks with no experience can begin building apps almost immediately, without learning to write code," says David Wolber, professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco. Other resources for navigating the app world are iPhone Application Development for Dummies, Android Application Development for Dummies, and Wolber's tutorial at Appinventor.org.
Profit from your videos. Professional filmmakers aren't the only ones who can make money from their creations, as Wayne Perry of Schenectady, N.Y., discovered this year. Like millions of other parents, Perry had filmed his newborn's first moments in 2010 and posted the results for friends and relatives to watch on YouTube. Because his newborn had grabbed hold of the doctor's instrument, Perry intriguingly titled it: "Newborn baby helps doctor cut umbilical cord" (www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpeTQsTqHwQ).
A few months later, Perry was shocked to discover that his home movie had reached 50,000 views. Last October, when it hit 750,000 (it's now 1.7 million, and growing), he signed up for Adsense (www.google.com/adsense) and checked the box allowing commercials to run before his four-minute video. Since then, between $1,000 and $1,500 each month has been automatically deposited in his bank account. Of course, luck also plays a role: Perry has since uploaded several animal videos, but none has made even close to that amount.
Another way to profit from your videos is to sign up for the free YouTube Partner Program (www.youtube.com/yt/creators/partner.html). In effect, this gives you your own "channel" on the site, something that may be worthwhile if you plan to upload a series of well-done works with a common theme. Humor represents four out of the top five channels on YouTube. Gaming represents the fifth. Anyone can opt in to monetize his videos if he is the intellectual property owner, confirms YouTube spokesperson Kate Mason, who notes that thousands of channels brought in six-figure incomes this year. In addition to allowing ads, the program offers training and mentoring to improve your video skills.
Cobble together odd jobs. People with access to a computer can get paid to do a variety of unique activities on their own timetable, says Christine Durst, a home-based career expert and co-founder of RatRaceRebellion.com. Each assignment pays from $5 to $50. Some examples: