Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Can You Make Money Online in Saudi Arabia?

Make money online from home in Saudi Arabia

Updated on 04/07/2018: I initially wrote this blog post on 07/06/2016. Yeah, that was about two years ago. I took some time to explore how you can make money online in Saudi Arabia. I also experienced some of the challenges that a person living in Saudi Arabia can come across when getting into this type of business.

Here are some ventures that I pursued during these two years: ebook publishing and affiliate marketing. I've been more successful with ebook publishing than affiliate marketing mainly because I invested more time in the former. However, early this year I made it a point to focus on affiliate marketing and I'll share my experience below.

Affiliate Marketing

I got into the world of affiliate marketing in July 2016 to become the next affiliate marketing millionaire 😉. It was an exciting experience, but I finally got carried away by the worries of life. I abandoned my website for more than 12 months, but early this year, I started working on it again and got rewarded. 

How I made $1653 in Sales in 2 Months from One Blog Post

I got active again in May and started working on my website. First, I had to go over the courses taught at WealthyAffiliate® (more below). I learned how to do keyword research using Jaaxy, their keyword research tool, and targeted a keyword with high traffic but low competition. 

You can sign up for a free Jaaxy account here and upgrade later to access more awesome features of this tool.

After choosing my keyword and preparing the title for my blog post, I headed over to Google to check out the first three websites that ranked for that particular keyword. They all had blog posts with word counts < 1200. I aimed for 1500 words. 

My Results

It took less than a week for that blog post to get indexed on Google. A few days later, it was on page 1 of Google (position 6). The first sale came about 14 days later and then the second; I earned a $20 commission from each sale generated. 

Make money online in Saudi Arabia with ShareASale
Click to view full image.

Between May 1 and July 4, I made a total of $1653 in sales and $140 in commissions (from a single blog post).

A competitor noticed my website and invited me to become an affiliate partner on ShareASale. I accepted the invitation and got rewarded with a $25 bonus. Awesome, isn't it? 

You can also learn how to do this by joining the platform that taught me how to do this.




Any Luck with the Amazon Affiliate Program?

This was the first affiliate program that I joined when I started learning about affiliate marketing on Wealthy Affiliate. It is one of the most popular affiliate programs in our age, although it has relatively lower commission rates compared with other affiliate programmes. 

My abandoned website had netted a few $$$ while I was chasing Saudi riyals to take care of my family. You can imagine my surprise when I logged into my Amazon affiliate account and found that my website was still making some money even though I had not updated it for several months. 

Make money with Amazon affiliate marketing in Saudi Arabia
Click to view full image.

By the time I started actively working on it again in May, it had lost a fair share of keyword rankings, but things kicked off again in June. I hope I'll be able to keep up with the writing.

Challenges in Getting Paid

This was one of those things that made me grit my teeth. How difficult can it be to get paid because you're living in Saudi Arabia?

You can imagine my excitement when I collected my very first cheque mailed from the US by Amazon. A few years back, I wouldn't have believed I could actually build a niche site and make money from it. But I finally had this sleek piece of paper with my name and address on it showing that I had earned $159 from referring people to Amazon.

My excitement died when I arrived at the female branch of my banking institution but I was asked to go to the male section because no one knew what to do with my cheque. At the male branch, the cheque caused a lot of commotion. People came of their offices to see this cheque from أمريكا--even the branch manager was called to see "the cheque." 

Phones rang...a few persons were trying to find out what they were supposed to do with the cheque. Finally, a kind Saudi asked me to sit down and told me that banks do not accept cheques issued in US dollars. 

Frustrated, I left the bank and decided to seek help from other Wealthy Affiliate members. Apparently, affiliates who lived in other countries such as Greece faced the same problem. It seemed banks won't accept cheques issued in US dollars because the US was trying to control the flow of its currency...whatever that meant. I just needed to cash my cheque.

A Wealthy Affiliate member who faced a similar issue advised me to contact Amazon and have them cancel the cheque and add the amount back to my balance in my affiliate account. Next, I had to sign up for a Payoneer accountPayoneer permits affiliates, freelancers, and other persons doing business online to have a virtual US bank account.

After signing up, I confirmed my identity and created my global account. I, later on, used my new virtual account on Amazon to be able to be eligible for direct deposits. I also used my global bank account on ShareASale. During the next payout, the amount was transferred to my Payoneer account.  

Make money online in Saudi Arabia and open Payoneer account
Click to view full image.

Need your own Payoneer account?


I have now added my local bank to my Payoneer account. I plan to withdraw the amount to my local bank account once I make at least $1000. The withdrawal fee is low and you can view the transfer fee on Payoneer's website or within your Payoneer account. Some banks might charge a few for withdrawal. I don't know what my bank charges, and I'll try to find out. 

My Take on Wealthy Affiliate

I’ve tried every affiliate marketing programme that you can think of, and I’ve lost a lot of money in my bid to make money from the comfort of my home. I’ve even joined programmes that permitted me to make only $3/month before I got mad and quit, and I would never recommend such programmes to anyone. At the end of the day, there’s only one that I can advise anyone to join: WealthyAffiliate® (WA).

Wealthy Affiliate®, in my opinion, is the number one programme that can teach anyone (from anywhere in the world) to make money online. I’m an active member of WA, so I’m speaking from the point of view of someone who has experienced this first hand. See a screenshot of the members’ area below:

Wealthy affiliate make money online in Saudi Arabia

These are some of the benefits of WA:

1. You can choose to sign up FREE and only upgrade to become a premium member when you wish to take your business to the next level. I generally advise those who sign up under me to use the free option for as long as they want before upgrading IF they see the potential of this programme. I, for example, signed up for a free membership and only upgraded after 2 years. It took me a while to understand the programme because I was skeptical in the beginning, having wasted too much time on other programmes that didn’t get me any closer to my goals.

2. There are so many resources in the members’ area, where you are taught how to make actual money online. Members are provided with tools, training, and videos to teach them how to build an online business. Members can also get support directly from the founders of the programme, Kyle and Carson.

3. Wealthy Affiliate® has an active community. I’ve never seen such an active community in other programmes that I’d joined online. Members are always quick to respond to questions when another member is experiencing difficulties in setting up their business. In other words, you get support all round the clock. 

Ebook Publishing

You can make a pretty decent amount of money from ebook publishing. However, it does take a lot of work to write and publish a book. In addition to writing the book, you have to hire someone to edit and proofread it. Next, you need someone to write the blurb and another to design the cover. 

If you don't have the budget, you can hire someone on Fiverr. You can find someone who's willing to edit and proofread a manuscript of 2000 to 5000 words for as little as $5. Once, you start making sales, you can hire an editor elsewhere for a more refined job. 

I believe you can make more from self-publishing. Fortunately, the Internet has made this easier for us. Anyone, young or old, can write and publish a book. My favourite platforms are Amazon's KDP and Draft2Digital.

With Amazon's KDP, you have to hire someone to format your manuscript before uploading it to Amazon. If you can format the book yourself, fine. You get to save a few dollars. 

It is much easier to use Draft2Digital. You can upload your Word document or an epub file, and Draft2Digital will distribute your book to several online book channels, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Tolino, Scribd, Inktera, OverDrive, Playster, Apple, 24 Symbols, and Bibliotheca. All you need is one document to upload and Draft2Digital will do the rest.

Most of my income from ebook publishing comes from Draft2Digital, especially from Scribd. I don't make a lot from Amazon due to the high level of competition on that platform. If you have to get into ebook publishing, my advise is that you start with Draft2Digital, earn a few loyal readers, then move to Amazon. 

You might not even need to get a KDP account to publish on Amazon because can submit your book to that channel on your behalf. But if you're writing in the self-help category, you'll have to submit your book yourself, as Amazon won't allow Draft2Digital to submit books in this category.


Contrary to Amazon that offers direct deposit (US), gift cards, and cheques as the only payment methods, Draft2Digital offers more options. You can select direct deposit (both US and international), PayPal, Payoneer, or cheque, and Draft2Digital will transfer your royalties every month once your account reaches the payment threshold.

Other Ways of Making Money Online in Saudi Arabia

Mystery Shopping

In mystery shopping, you’re contracted to pose as a “shopper”. You’ll purchase or use a service and give your feedback to the contractor at the end of your assignment. The contractor will refund (either in part or in whole) the amount that you spent during your “shopping” and pay you a small fee for your evaluation. While this might be a good way to earn extra cash, I don't believe anyone can make a living from this.

There’re a lot of scams out there, and you don’t want to lose money when your goal is to make it. Be wary of 'mystery shopping' programmes that ask you to pay a small fee (even if it is $10) to join.

One programme that I found interesting was that of International Service Check (ISC). Read more about what they do here. The members’ area looks like this (see the screen capture below) when you sign up, and you have to complete a certification process to be assigned checks for projects in one of the following areas: Jeddah, Riyadh, Madinah, Makkah, Al Ahsa, Taif, Dammam, Qassim, Tabuk, Jizan, Najran, or Yanbu. They typically send emails whenever they need service checkers at particular locations.

Make money online in Saudi Arabia with mystery shopping

They are legit and pay mystery shoppers when they complete their checks. However, you may have delays of up to 6 weeks before receiving your payment. One other downside of this programme is that if ISC isn’t satisfied with your evaluation, you won’t get paid. Imagine how distressing that can be—spending money as well as time and energy only for your evaluation to be qualified as ‘unsatisfactory’.

Direct Selling

I’ve tried EDMARK®, Avon® and Forever Living® and can proudly recommend these to women (and men) who have a business mind and who wish to make part-time income while hunting for a job. I personally know a few women who earn between 2000 and 5000 SAR/month just from promoting and selling Avon® products, and I’ve heard about other women who make up to 10000 SAR/month.

I'm a fan of EDMARK® products, and there're specific products such as Red Yeast Coffee, Ginseng Coffee, Shake Off Phyto Fiber, and Splina that I purchase nearly every month. EDMARK® has a very interesting referral programme where they offer incentives to members who have the highest number of referrals and sales. Hard-working members can even earn a car or a villa! And before you scream, I've personally met a Filipino who won a villa in Jeddah through their programme.

Online Services

If you’re good at writing or you have other skills that can be offered online, then there’re good chances you may be able to make some money with Fiverr®. If you don’t know it yet, Fiverr® is a marketplace that permits people to buy or sell their services (also called ‘gigs’) for $5. Here is a list of services that you can offer on Fiverr®:

Make money online in Saudi Arabia with Fiverr

·         Writing and/or editing

·         Graphic design

·         Voice over

·         Ebook formatting

·         Book cover design

·         Data entry

·         SEO / SEM, etc.

Fiverr® is totally legit and they’ve been around since 2010. No get paid after each successful transaction, i.e., when your client is happy with the service you provided.

Another option is to create a free website and offer your services. I've tried this and I can tell you that it would very difficult to find clients if you don't know how to promote yourself.

I hope you’ll be able to find something that works for you on this list. If there’re other programmes that you think can help expats in Saudi, please feel free to leave a comment below.

(Disclosure: Some of my links are affiliate links. This means that if you decide to upgrade, I shall be paid a small commission; however, I'd appreciate your supporting me.)


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