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  • Adrian Brambila was earning $27,000 annually before he began side hustling.
  • Now, he’s self-employed and earns seven figures.
  • He shared four ways he got started online and how he scaled to millions. 

Adrian Brambila, 32, became a self-made millionaire by the age of 29. But he wasn’t always a high earner. When he was 21, he was a customer-service representative at the investment- and retirement-management firm Prudential making about $27,000 a year.

After witnessing clients who were retiring comfortably, he began to think about ways he could increase his income. But having a limited salary and tight budget meant anything that required capital would be a nonstarter.

While being an avid saver and investing were ways he grew his wealth, he also focused on finding avenues to increase his income.

After spending a few years dabbling in various ways of making money online, Brambila’s company ended 2021 with $1.7 million in income, according to an income statement viewed by Insider.

His first few tries weren’t successful, and it took him over a year to start generating even a few thousand dollars. But once he got the hang of it, his income started increasing in strides every year.

In an interview with Insider, he shared four ways to earn passive income online without any initial capital.

Top 4 methods to earning extra cash

E-lancing is simply freelancing online. It's a great side hustle, Brambila said. In the beginning, this gig won't be passive, but it can eventually replace a 9-to-5 job.

The opportunities are limitless when it comes to the type of things you can do, Brambila said. But he added that it could take time to build a portfolio of clients large enough to quit your full-time job. You may have to start off taking smaller gigs or less hourly pay than your ideal wage and work your way up, he said.

Every small business or influencer has administrative tasks they need done. These could include writing emails, social-media posting, editing, bookkeeping, and even video and audio editing.

Average earnings vary substantially but can be as little as $35 and as much as $140 an hour depending on the task, experience level, and skills required.

While there are numerous platforms you can sign up on to start working almost immediately, Brambila recommends checking out Upwork. You can create a profile that lists your skills, and then either wait for someone to reach out or apply for openings that match.

Once you've landed a few clients, you can turn them into contracts or retain them long term.

This was one of the ways Brambila got started. Over 10 years, he was able to keep his contracts long term, while adding more. This allowed him to hire 20 employees and create a marketing agency called Unimarketa.

Being a content creator on platforms like TikTok and YouTube is the second option.

There are three main ways of earning income as a creator. The first is by views. Platforms pay per 1,000 views. Brambila said he earned $40 per 1,000 YouTube views with 144,000 subscribers, and $1 for 1,000 views on TikTok, where he has over 800,000 followers.

The downside of this side hustle is that you have to put yourself out there. Not everyone may feel comfortable doing that, and it also exposes you to online bullying and trolling.

The second way to earn is by partnering with brands and doing things like product reviews. Since Brambila's content is mainly focused on how to scale small businesses online, he gets paid to endorse brands such as the e-commerce platform Alibaba.

Affiliate marketing is the third method. This is when you earn a commission after a user buys a product through a link you provided. It's similar to being a content creator, but you can create a blog post or an ad that sends the customer to the product or service.

This method makes up a big chunk of Brambila's income. But that's because he's spent a good amount of money, about $800,000, promoting ads with links.

"Today, I'm still getting paid for content I created seven years ago that's still making money," Brambila said of his social-media posts, blogs, and more.

The biggest downside to affiliate marketing is the testing phase, Brambila said. You may spend hours creating content for a product and then realize that nobody wants to purchase it. No one hits a home run their first chance at bat, he added. You'll have to test multiple products to find a winner.

Creating courses is the fourth option. This is the method that earns the most passively, Brambila said. And it's one he tried very early on.

He loved to dance and was a backup dancer at one point in his career. So he created dance tutorials on Skillshare and Udemy. Those videos are still earning him an income today.

Any skill you have can be monetized, he said. This includes teaching a language, how to fix a car, how to travel cheap, and how to paint.

"If you know anything of value to someone, then someone is willing to learn from you," Brambila said.

Many platforms are free to upload courses on. But Brambila recommends checking out Skillshare and Udemy.

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