Make $1 Million Fast: 8 Real-Life Strategies That Worked

how to make a million dollars
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder
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If you invest $400 a month and make 7% annually, you’ll have nearly $1 million in 40 years.

Let’s say you’re 30 years old and you give up movies, Starbucks and dinners out for four decades to save that $400 each month. At 70, you’ll have a million bucks and be ready to retire, right?

But wait! One million dollars today has the spending power of about $240,900 in 1977 dollars. If we experience similar inflation in the next 40 years, your future million will also be worth just $240,900 in today’s dollars.

So you’ll be a millionaire, but it won’t be quite like you imagined.

How to Make a Million Dollars: 8 Real-Life Strategies

What if you don’t want to wait 40 years to make your first $1 million? What if you don’t want to wait even 10 years?

Here’s how to make a million dollars quickly — with a little luck.

1. How to Make a Million Dollars Selling Something

Maybe you didn’t want to hear this, but it could be time to learn how to sell. One of the surest ways to wealth is to see what people need or want and provide it. But you still have to convince them it’s your something they need. That’s what sales is all about.

That’s how Dani Johnson went from being homeless to a millionaire in less than two years.

At first she rejected the idea of selling a weight loss program, as if it were beneath her. Then she realized she was homeless, drinking and using drugs — so why not sell something?

She didn’t even have a phone, but with a $15 voicemail service and a handmade flyer put up in a post office, she started getting orders for the program. When she ordered her inventory from the manufacturer, she had to borrow the address of a liquor store because she had no place to accept delivery.

From that start, she built her business and later sold it, becoming a multi-millionaire in the process.

Other examples of people who made $1 million fast by selling something include:

Fraser Doherty

He was 14 years old when he started making and selling “SuperJam,” and within a few years he had annual sales in the millions.

Cameron Johnson

He sold greeting cards at age 9, then moved on to selling Beanie Babies, software and advertising. By age 15, he was making more than $300,000 per month.

Alicia Shaffer

Within three years of opening her shop on Etsy, Shaffer was making close to $1 million annually selling handmade clothing and accessories.

2. Invest in Real Estate, and Retire Early

When Julie Broad and her husband decided to buy their first income property, they had only $16,000 in savings. Seven years later, they were millionaires, and she retired — at age 31.

Broad says one of the things she likes about real estate is the potential leverage.

“If you have $16,000 to invest (which is what I started with seven years ago), you can buy $16,000 worth of stocks and bonds,” she wrote at

“But, if you buy real estate, you can buy a property worth $160,000 (which is exactly what I did). If your stocks go up in value by 5%, you’ve made $800. But if your property goes up by 5% you’ve made $8,000!”

You make money with income property from rents, appreciation and equity gains from the tenant’s rent paying down your mortgage. You also get to exercise creativity and control with real estate investments.

Broad points out if your stocks drop in value, your options are limited to buying more or selling more, but with real estate, “there are plenty of creative techniques to try.”

For example, rent out the garage separate from the house, add vending machines or laundry facilities, change the usage of the property and sell it.

“There are dozens of ways to turn a simple house into a money-making machine with creativity,” says Broad.

Many real estate investors have similar stories to tell.

For example, in his book “2 Years to a Million in Real Estate,” Matthew Martinez relates how he made his fortune in rental properties after quitting his 9-to-5 job.

3. Gamble… Without Too Much Risk

Mortgaging the house and betting $29,000 on number 17 on the roulette table probably isn’t a good plan. But not all gambles have to be that crazy.

Consider poker.

The Mirror profiled seven people who made more than $1 million playing poker in 2014. Poker comes with risk but also requires skill, and you can parlay your profits into bigger ones without risking much to start.

Another option is gambling on the popularity of new currencies.

Using $1,000 he got as a gift, Erik Finman made $100,000 on Bitcoin at age 15. At age 18, he now owns 403 bitcoins — worth more than $1 million.

And yes, buying a lottery ticket is a terrible bet. But it is one of the fastest ways to make millions — and buying a ticket or two each year probably won’t break you.

Just don’t add yourself to the long list of lottery winners who lost everything.

4. How to Make Millions With YouTube Videos

The internet may be the most obvious platform for making $1 million quickly. Of all the possibilities, creating videos for YouTube is perhaps one of the most fun.

Here are just a few profitable types of videos you could create:

Comedy Videos

You may not have heard of him, but comedian Ray William Johnson made $1 million per year with his funny videos.

Toy Reviews

You read it right: The three EvanTube channels make an estimated $1 million annually for their 9-year-old founder and his family.

Cat Videos

Grumpy Cat may not have made $100 million, but her owner Tabatha Bundesen admits, “I was able to quit my job as a waitress within days of her first appearance on social media, and the phone simply hasn’t stopped ringing since.”

5. Sell Millions of Self-Publish Kindle Ebooks

You can set up an account for free and start selling Kindle books on Amazon’s ebook platform this week.

You’ve probably heard about authors who have hit it big on Kindle. John Locke, for example, sold a million Kindle ebooks in five months, and Mark Dawson earned $450,000 in 2014 from his self-published ebooks.

But you don’t even have to write your own book to make $1 million on Kindle.

You can publish other people’s books. Bob Mayer and Jen Talty say they “built a seven-figure indie publishing house in just two years.”

6. Teach People (Outside of the Classroom)

Do you like to teach people? You won’t make a million doing it in a classroom. But perhaps you can go online.

The top 10 instructors on Udemy pulled in $17 million between them — and that’s just for one year. What could you teach in an online course — even a short pilot version?

Then there is teacher Deanna Jump, who became a millionaire in less than three years by selling lesson plans to other teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

7. How to Make a Million Dollars Trading Stocks

It might take 40 years to make your first million in stocks if you go for that slow and steady 7% return. But trading isn’t the same as investing. And volatile penny stocks aren’t your slow and steady investments…

The SEC says, “Investors in penny stocks should be prepared for the possibility that they may lose their whole investment.”

Trader Tim Grittani agrees that trading in and out of these low-cost stocks like he does, often within minutes, is risky. But his $1,500 became a portfolio worth more than $1 million within three years — when he was only 24.

That might get you thinking about trading.

8. Invent a New Way to Make Millions

Not sure you’re ready to commit to making a million with any of the ways above? Then why not invent your own way to make money?

For inspiration, here are some examples of people who did just that:

Alex Tew

Tew created The Million Dollar Homepage (the first of its kind) and sold one million pixels of advertising space for $1 per pixel to fund his college education.

Zhang Yin

Yin started with $3,800, buying cheap cardboard from the U.S. to recycle into boxes in China, and is now worth nearly $2 billion.

Alan Jenkins and Pat Burke

They have shipped more than $1 million in Irish dirt to the United States, for nostalgic transplants to use on their Irish roses or caskets.

Many other weird businesses might inspire you to invent your own way to make a fast $1 million.

Of course, even if you give it a shot, you might also want to do the usual saving and investing.

Forty years from now, you might thank your former self for putting aside $400 per month to provide some extra income in retirement.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of He’s been a repo man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier; but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).