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Macroeconomic trends that affect people and places thousands of miles beyond the United States' shores may seem remote and irrelevant. Unfortunately, the recent global slowdown has triggered a financial domino effect that continues to plague ordinary American households. With worldwide demand for American products and services chugging along at depressed levels, many firms see no need to take on new workers or bump their existing employees' pay. As a result, recent job and wage growth figures have been anemic.
The situation is even worse than it may appear. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, credit was easy to come by. Banks practically gave away low-interest mortgages and no-questions-asked refinancing loans. Meanwhile, credit card companies extended high-limit cards with low teaser rates to nearly anyone who could fill out a credit application.
The recent financial crisis abruptly ended the era of easy credit. Overnight, the interest rates on outstanding loans and other credit facilities shot up. While banks continued to lend, they did so far more cautiously than in the past. In historical terms, it's now fairly expensive to borrow money in the United States.
If you're in the same boat as millions of Americans who have been forced to supplement stagnating or declining wages with expensive personal loans or credit cards, you may be searching for answers to your growing debt problem. One thing is for certain: You can't continue to make timely payments on your high-interest debts with just one meager stream of income.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways in which you can supplement your current income. The Internet has created countless at-home money-making opportunities, some of which are shockingly effective. After a few months of online hustling, you may begin to think seriously of "going career."
Legitimate online money-making opportunities fall into one of several broad categories. Affiliate marketing is perhaps the best-known of these. While established affiliate marketers come in all shapes and sizes, your nascent operation should exhibit a few key characteristics.
First, you'll need to market products from established vendors. Trawl the web for well-established companies that sell easy-to-understand products or services and sign up for their affiliate marketing program. You'll have to place banner ads, logo graphics or other promotional materials on your own site as a condition of the program.
Secondly, you'll need to generate content for your new client. If your blog already promoted products and services similar to those offered by your client, continue producing quality content to promote them. If not, you must deftly weave plugs and pitches into your existing content stream to avoid alienating your current audience.
Most affiliate programs offer cash rewards or product discounts for bringing new affiliates under their umbrellas. These can be significant: Many companies that use affiliates offer referring parties upfront bonuses plus kickbacks of 12 percent or more on any sales generated by newly-referred affiliates. Keep this in mind as you build your reputation as an online marketer. If you're successful, you can earn life-changing amounts of money in this business.
A lesser-known but related trend involves promoting people and ideas rather than products. Sites like ReferEarns and WiseStep have created dense social media webs that allow qualified individuals to promote their friends, colleagues and peers to prospective employers. Unlike better-known professional networks like LinkedIn, these sites has successfully monetized the employee-referral process.
In a sense, ReferEarns and WiseStep function as headhunting services for entry-level and non-executive workers. The best part is that they pay well: If your referral is hired, your payoff will range from $30 or $40 up to several thousand dollars. The size of your payoff is determined by the depth of the employer's pockets and the referred employee's level of specialization.
You may even be able to earn a decent second income by engaging your visual creativity online. The stock-photography industry is booming like never before, and dramatic recent improvements to digital-camera technology have melted away the space's barriers to entry. If you have a knack for framing images, grab your camera and start snapping photographs of nature scenes, still-life close-ups, and small clusters of people. Spend a few hours trolling the web sites of reputable companies to get a sense of which types of stock photos sell. When you're ready, bring your wares to popular stock photography sites like iStockPhoto and ShutterStock.
While your second income won't erase your debt problems overnight, it may make a significant difference. Consider pairing one or more of the above online money-making ideas with a program of debt consolidation. Your new streams of income may enable you to escape your obligations through debt settlement in less time and with less effort than you ever thought possible. What's more, you can continue to build your online business presence even after you've shaken your debts for good.