Written by Jason Michaels Last Updated: Mar 5, 2023
Want a six-figure income? Don’t become a teacher. Data shows graduates with a master’s degree in education typically have over $50,000 in debt, and the average starting wage for teachers in the U.S. is only $36,141 (and it’s below $28,000 in some states).
What about other jobs? Sure, you can make $100,000 with some of them. But you’ll spend a lot of time and money to get there.
For example, the top 25% of veterinarians make an average of $118,460 annually (the median wage for all vets is $88,770).
If it’s your passion to be a vet, a lawyer, or a rocket scientist, great! But if you just want to make six figures there might be a better way. In fact, there are many ways to make $100,000 within a year (or two), and without a job or degree. Here are a dozen examples…
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1. Get Paid $100,000 to Drop Out of School
The Thiel Fellowship is a program started by billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel. If you’re one of the lucky 20-to-30 applicants accepted into the program each year, you’ll be paid $100,000 to drop out of college.
Then you’ll work with mentors to build something new; an interesting business, a useful invention, or some kind of venture.
The money is paid out over two years, so no six-figures annually there, but the future potential is much greater.
For example, when Business Insider followed up on nine graduates of the Thiel Fellowship program, most of them seem to be doing very well. In fact, several of them have raised millions of dollars for their entrepreneurial ventures.
2. Start Informational Websites
For many years my wife and I had a profitable collection of informational websites in English and Spanish on various topics.
My website on how to remove carpet stains made over $10,000 per year with only a few hours of work annually (a week to build it), and my sites on backpacking and increasing one’s brain power each made more than double that.
We also had websites on self improvement (in Spanish), weird ways to make money, and how to find a cheap house. Most of our websites were based on our own hobbies and interests.
In our best years our collection of websites netted over $100,000 annually. That came largely from Google AdSense revenue, but also from affiliate commissions and other sources. Once you have decent traffic there are dozens of ways to monetize a website.
The bad news is that it’s tougher now than when we started (2004). You need more marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) skills than ever; I mostly focused on writing, and just got lucky.
After many years of success, our own little website empire crumbled over a period of time thanks to Google search algorithm changes.
The good news? It’s not difficult to start. We invested less than $100 at the beginning, and we knew absolutely nothing about building a website.
3. Become a Teacher Online
No degree is required to become an instructor on platforms like Udemy.com. If you have a video camera and can put together some lessons on a topic you know something about, you have what it takes to get started. And teaching this way can be lucrative.
For example, Nick Walter had never been a teacher, but a few years back he decided to help people learn “Swift,” a new programming language created by Apple.
He put together 50 lessons and uploaded them to Udemy in June of 2014. They were popular enough that within a few months he had made more than $100,000.
What can you teach? Whatever you know. People pay to learn chess, scrapbooking, how to apply for business loans — the list goes on and on.
4. Invest in Pot Stocks
Of course, you can easily make $100,000 in the stock market. Just invest $2 million and make a 5% return. But to make six figures starting with less money, you have to look for bigger returns, which come with bigger risks.
Penny stocks, which Investopedia defines as stocks priced below $5 per share, are where the biggest returns are possible, if you don’t lose everything first. And new industries, like legal marijuana sales, are the best bets for those big gains.
For example, Kent Holesinger made $100,000 in marijuana stocks by carefully investing in new companies. And no, he doesn’t even use the stuff. One list of marijuana-related stocks has more than 60 companies on it. Who knows which ones will hit it big next?
5. Sell Photos
Websites need photos, so the site managers, owners, or writers turn to stock photo websites, where they can buy everything they need. If you have a portfolio on these websites, you get a cut of the revenue every time one of your photos is purchased.
How much can you make? Keith Morris made over $250,000 in the course of a couple years, and that was on just one stock photography site.
But income like that isn’t common, and it takes work and patience to get to that level. Morris says it took him six months to get to the point of selling just one photo monthly.
If you’re good with your camera and want to give it a try, check out a list of the many stock photo websites where you can sell your work.
There is usually an approval process (typically you upload a sample portfolio), but if one platform does not accept you, there are plenty of others to try.
6. Sell Toys Online
Just about anything can be sold on eBay, but how much can you make with toys?
In his blog post, “How I Made $100,000 Selling Toys,” Arthur Burlo says it took him a couple years to make $100,000, not one year, but he adds, “Considering that in Malta, where I live, the average wage is $2,000, I could have easily made a living off of that.”
Ryan Grant buys toys and other items from Walmart and then resells them on Amazon. CNBC reports that his company makes millions doing this.
7. Sell Your Eggs
Of course, it’s referred to as “egg donation,” but you do get paid. Egg Donor America says you can expect to make $5,000 to $10,000. That payment is per cycle, so you can make quite a bit of money doing this.
For example, ABC News reports that college student Sarah Gwaltney made $100,000 as an egg donor, in the course of about two years. Most egg donors don’t make anywhere near that much, but Gwaltney’s story shows what’s possible.
Another ABC News article says “premium” donors (as determined by DNA testing for certain criteria), earn up to $20,000 per donation. But before you get started, read the true stories of egg donors to see if you really want to go through the process.
8. Start a Blog
According to WorkAtHomeWoman.com, Lisa Weber blogs about celebrity babies and makes $300,000 annually. Miranda Marquit makes six figures from a blog about personal finance.
When I first started writing for Kyle Taylor’s blog, The Penny Hoarder, he was just beginning to hire employees. A few years later he had built it into a $20 million blog.
I wouldn’t say it’s easy. If it was I would be putting my articles on my own blogs rather than freelancing. But the potential is there if you have the ambition and some marketing savvy. And you don’t need a college degree.
9. Design and Sell T-Shirts
In a post on how he made $100,000 in five months selling t-shirts, Benny Hsu says, “I’m tired of listening to people say ‘get a real job'” (I like that attitude).
Hsu uses Facebook ads as a primary sales method, and he uses Teespring to print and ship his shirts (there are also other platforms you can use).
Again, it isn’t easy. Hsu says he had 21 failed businesses before he made a real profit (but he also made a $30,000 profit in 30 days from an iPhone app).
10. Invest in Cryptocurrencies
Normally you have to invest a lot of money to make $100,000 from your investment. But in 2012 Erik Finman, at age 15, invested just $1,000 in Bitcoin, and he sold his investment for $100,000 a little over a year later.
According to Fortune magazine, if you had invested just $100 in Bitcoin in July of 2010 (when it cost 6 cents), your investment would be worth over $28 million as of December 2017.
Of course, the likelihood of fast 100-to-1 gains (or 280,000-to-1 gains) from Bitcoin is pretty small now. If returns like that are still possible, it’s new currencies that are more likely to have them (if they don’t just lose all value).
A list of Bitcoin alternatives on Investopedia.com has 6 other “important” cryptocurrencies you could try.
On the other hand, maybe by the time it’s considered important a cryptocurrency is already past it’s really cheap phase, so you might want to look further. Wikipedia says there are over 1,300 cryptocurrencies as of early 2018, and they list details on about 50 of them.
11. Sells Things in Online Games
If you play any of the many multiplayer games online, you know there are various in-game items that are in demand. Sometimes selling things to other players is forbidden, but some games actually encourage it.
For example, Sony Online’s Player Studio program allows you to create and sell in-game items, and keep 40% of each sale. It can add up.
In fact, Gamer.com reports that, “one gamer has made over $100,000 creating and selling in-game items in SOE's Player Studio program.”
Of course, you’ve probably heard of Ailin Graef, whose avatar Anshe Chung made millions of dollars selling virtual land in the game Second Life.
12. Become a Kindle Writer/Publisher
Amazon’s Kindle platform makes it easy to publish ebooks, and if you know how to market them, you can really make some money.
In the past (when it was easier to compete) I made over $10,000 with various Kindle books (no longer available), including about $2,000 from a backpacking book that took me five days to write.
But it’s possible to do much, much better. For example, Joe Konrath made $100,000 from his books that had been rejected by traditional publishers, and he did it in just three weeks.
And that is certainly not the limit. Amanda Hocking was one of the first Kindle millionaires, and more followed her.
If you’ve made $100,000 or more without a college degree or a job, please share your experience below … and keep on frugaling!