Updated: 24th of January, 2021
Below I list out all the ways to earn from bitcoin and cryptocurrency and the returns you can expect (spoiler: most will end up losing you money).
I'll cover them all and the results I achieved after spending over $20,000 testing them out.
TL;DR: Unless you have a lot of resources, buying bitcoin or crypto directly is still the best way to get the most value from your purchase. I personally use Coinbase. It is affordable, and also acts as a wallet.
- Start by skimming through the article but please don’t end on that. Give it a full read since there are definitely tips and tricks that can save you thousands.
- If you get any value out of this, please share it, link it, and bookmark it. I’ll be updating this regularly so check back constantly for more juice. 🔥
- Finally, none of this is financial advice. These are my own learnings, calculations, and thoughts based on what I’ve done and things I’ve read. As always, do your own due diligence and never believe people on the internet at face value.
Alright, let’s jump in!
How to earn money with cryptocurrency and Bitcoin:
- Two main ways to make money 💰
- Buying cryptocurrency directly 💸
- Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining ⛏
- Cloud Mining 💻
- Day trading / technical analysis 📈
- Index funds & buy and hold (HODL)
EDIT: There has been a huge amount of interest in this blog, thank you so much! Had so much fun reading all of your amazing messages and stories. Here are some quick links and tips I recommend:
- Buy the cryptocurrency directly, that will lead to best value. I personally use Coinbase.
- You can actually start mining for free today just using your computer. You won't get much but it's fun: HoneyMiner
- Cloud mining, for most cases, is a huge waste of money
- Monkeys can do technical trading better than humans can, so don't do it lol 🐒
1. Two main ways to make money:
There are two ways to make money with crypto.
The first is by maximising how much of the currency you end up with.
For example, you spend $8,000 on a miner and in 12 months it mines $20,000 worth of your chosen cryptocurrency. Minus the $8,000 in costs, you net $12,000 or 1.5x your initial investment. You spent 1 bitcoin ($8,000) and in 12 months time you now have 1.5 ($12,000).
The other way to make money with cryptocurrency is based off the value.
Bitcoin a year and a half ago was $18,000. Today it’s around $11,000. There are thousands of cryptocurrencies with their own stores of value and we all are hoping to invest as it goes up.
For a lot of these strategies below, we’ll assume that the value of crypto doesn’t change. This just makes all the calculations easier without taking anything away from the guide.
This is because how much money you earn is based off how much crypto you have in the first place.
2. Buying cryptocurrency directly 💸
Buying cryptocurrency directly is still one of the easiest and safest ways to secure the most cryptocurrency for your dollar.
What you’ll unfortunately find is a lot of the other ways to generate more money actually loses you money.
So we’ll start with the ‘safest’ play.
Now you might be wondering why I air quoted the word safest.
Let’s get this out of the way, it’s because this is not a safe investment.
Cryptocurrency, even if you’re a believer that this is the definite future, is still a super risky way to try generate a return.
We saw it happen at the end of 2017. Logic does not hold in the mind of the masses. We saw everyone buying crypto more and more as it increased in value, even though this is the worst time to buy. And then the few bigger companies sold, and the masses lost their wealth.
We saw this in 2008 during the global financial crisis.
And in the dotcom bubble.
And in the great depression.
We as human beings aren’t good at predicting things.
So if you have money to spare and want to play around, then this could be a super fun way to do so, but one thing we must admit to ourselves to be a good investor, is we don’t have all the information.
There are a lot of people out there trading with way more information than us.
Sometimes we can win, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend we’re the next crypto billionaire.
By buying it directly, we ensure we get the full amount.
Note, that some cryptocurrencies you can’t buy directly with fiat currency (like USD). You’ll need to buy a major cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, then exchange it.
Places to buy it directly and exchange:
Coinbase - Where I personally store the money I trade with. In New Zealand you still can’t buy on Coinbase but I believe you can in almost every other country. You can also exchange Bitcoin or a major cryptocurrency into many other varieties.
Binance - The platform I use to exchange major cryptocurrencies into the smaller ones not listed on Coinbase.
Changelly - An alternative to the above. The fees are constantly changing but you can also buy cryptocurrency with Mastercard and Visa through Changelly. The fee is much higher than Coinbase at the moment I believe, but they allow New Zealanders to buy so it’s still useful!
3. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining ⛏
Buying and hosting your own miner.
For some reason, I’ve always loved commodities.
I’ve always wanted to own a deep sea fishing boat, even though I’m vegan, and the ports in major cities fascinate me.
So since early 2017 I’ve tried to figure out ways to mine my own cryptocurrency.
And every single time I did the math, it never made sense.
And that led me to wonder, WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE MINING CRYPTO.
Let’s do some quick math.
Let’s say I wanted to buy this brand new, sexy, Pandaminer B3 Pro. A super efficient, top of the market miner for Ethereum.
Even the website says it’s hot! 🔥
Okay. So if we scrolled down a bit to the calculator screenshot we can see two key stats that I entered in based on the miner’s specs.
- Hash Rate - 220MH/s (ETH)
- Power Consumption - 1250W +10% (ETH)
So the hash rate is how fast the miner can mine.
The power consumption is how much power the miner uses.
Finally, you can check to see how much you pay her KWh. New Zealand is roughly $0.20 NZD or $0.138 USD. Let’s go with the USD price since that’s the same currency as the Pandaminer.
Plugging these numbers into a calculator below you get something like this:
Awesome! So, for every year, we generate $504 in profit!
Oops, but wait. Didn’t the brand new machine with the most effective and latest tech cost us $1,150?
Okay, so we just need to wait two years and then we’re in revenue city right?
One thing these charts, and websites that promise you great returns don’t tell you is that the difficulty of mining rises as you mine more crypto.
So from May 2017, the difficulty was 349. Today, two and a bit years later, it’s 2,075.
It’s about 7 times more difficult to mine as it was 2 years ago when you first bought the miner.
With the updated numbers, you’ll be looking at something like this 2 years later.
For simplicity, I divided the hashing power by 7 to scale for difficulty, but the reality will probably be much worse.
As you can see, you’re actually losing $1,000 per year because the power is costing $1,200.
And on top of that we needed to buy the miner for another $1,150.
This is something most websites don’t want you to know.
So how do people mine?
- You need to have super cheap power (places in China for example can have the cost per KWh as low as $0.03).
- Or you need to create your own miners so they are more affordable (Bitmain builds their own miners and uses a huge percentage of the stock to also mine crypto).
- Or you’ll need to create your own mining pool since then you control and earn from the pool fee. Bitmain also has their own mining pool.
- Finally, you can buy in such big bulk quantities that it makes sense. But to people like you and I, we’re just buying something that costs us more than it makes.
So going back to simple language for a second.
If you wanted to earn money with buying your own equipment and mining your own cryptocurrency, you’re essentially paying 1 Bitcoin, and getting back half a Bitcoin.
That’s why you’re still better off going for option number one!
Now, if you are really invested, there are really small cryptocurrencies that you can mine profitably because it’s a new coin so the difficulty is low, and there’s not many others mining it.
I’m not going to go into this in this article because even still, most of the time you’re better off just buying the cryptocurrency but I wanted to leave this as a note. I talk more about software that helps you do this in other sections below.
Security note: Please do your research before buying off an online store. Buying off the manufacturer of the miner like Pandaminer and Bitmain is your best bet. I’ve seen more and more companies that claim to be selling stock that’s cheaper than the Bitmain website. After doing 2 seconds of Googling, there are multiple complaints that it was a scam store. Miner’s are not cheap so the last thing you’ll want to happen is to be scammed :(
Update: There are a few new tools on the market that are actually pretty cool which allow you to mine with your current hardware. What I like most about them is that they don’t require you to buy anything additional.
Companies like HoneyMiner let you use your computer or laptops GPU 💻
Now I doubt that I’ll be earning $1.4 million dollars from my 2070 graphics card BUT I do love that I can just start mining with what I have. It also makes me feel a little bit better about spending so much on it :P
Keep a note on how much more power you’re using while you keep your computer or laptop running. Once you download the app it gives you a rough earning per day so you can quickly see if it’s profitable.
Everything adds up!
4. Cloud Mining 💻
Now is where things get interesting.
So although buying a miner and mining the currency yourself is usually a less effective way about gaining a cryptocurrency, what about cloud mining?
Cloud mining is where a company already has a bunch of miners set up, in locations with cheap power, and you rent the miners off them for a set period, usually a year or two.
Sounds awesome right?
But as you can guess by now… there are a lot of buts.
Let’s dive into the two biggest companies. And when I say the two big companies, I mean these two are absolutely giants.
Genesis Mining. If you want to sign up after reading what I wrote below, use the affiliate coupon code ‘7f0lQ9’ to get 3% off.
But read what I wrote below first 😂
The first one we’ll cover is Genesis Mining. Now before we talk about whether they can make you money, let’s talk about how they themselves make money. Fees, fees, fees.
There’s a reason that these companies are now huge and it’s not because they’re a charity attempting to help the world.
So when you sign up with a cloud mining company, you need to pay essentially one to two years of fees up front.
This means they have one to two years to earn money off your money.
If you bought the miner directly, it would usually be under half the initial investment you pay these companies.
So they can take the rest of the money and invest it into growth, they can put it in a bank, they can put it on the stock market for a 7% return.
They also earn money off fees. They usually charge a daily ‘power and maintenance fee’ which as you can imagine is more than they actually pay for power and maintenance.
So while you’re stuck having to wait at least a year to get your money back, they can spend that time earning even more money.
So why have so many people put their money with these companies? Because people are comparing absolute results.
Let me break this down.
If I invest $8,000 into Genesis (let’s say this is the equivalent of 1 Bitcoin) and I check my Genesis dashboard to see that my portfolio is now worth $11,000 in a years time, I’m going to be pretty happy!
But what has really happened is Bitcoin is now worth $16,000. You actually have the equivalent of 0.6875 Bitcoins. You’ve actually LOST money comparatively by putting it into Genesis. If you had of just bought 1 Bitcoin for $8,000. In a years time, you would be sitting on the full $16,000 instead of $11,000.
So while the crypto market has been flourishing, a lot of people are seeing ‘positive returns’ but again these returns are absolute returns, not taking into account how much additional Bitcoin they mined versus just buying it directly.
One of the ideas I actually had was for a super transparent and fair cloud mining company. Still keen to do something like this!
That’s why they have managed to grow even though the returns aren’t very good.
Now let’s look at the direct profit comparison.
These are their current offers as of the 5th of July 2019.
And these are their current fees. So you get 18 months of guaranteed run time. And every day you need to pay $0.17 per TH/s.
Let’s say you got the most cost effective plan and ordered the Diamond plan for $5,500.
You plug the numbers in and here’s what you get. Note that I put the power consumption and cost per KWh to zero since they cover those costs.
This is looking good!
Okay, now we factor in the daily costs of 100 x $0.17 ($0.17 per TH/s) = $17
Revenue from the miner looks to be $12.8k
Costs per annum are $17 x 365 = $6,205 (wow that added up fast lol)
$12,800 - $6,205 = $6,595! Okay so this is how much we make per year.
Minus the initial investment of $5,500 = $1,095 per annum.
This all looks great but we are forgetting the biggest risk, and this is where I’ve fallen into the trap far too many times.
What about the difficulty level?
Here are three charts to illustrate why the above number never gets realized.
Like I said before. Most of the top ranking crypto profit calculators don’t take into account difficulty. This is because we don’t know how difficulty is going to change over time, so while some calculators try make a good guess, most just go with the easiest solution of ignoring it entirely.
I think this is stupid and immoral since it leads to a lot of people investing money in to things that don’t work out.
Above you can see that in the last 90 days, Bitcoin has become 24% more difficult to mine.
Below you can see the recent changes. On March 24th alone, it became 5.11% harder to mine. On Feb 10th, another 4.25% harder to mine. On December 31st, 10% harder to mine!
As Bitcoin prices surge, more people try to mine it, making it harder and harder to mine. So usually, it’s when the price is going up, that most people lose their money in absolute terms.
The screenshot below is the same Genesis Mining scenario with estimated difficulty added.
As you can see at the start you begin with -$5,500 since that’s what you invested to get on the plan, and you’re earning $105 in the first 26 days. Yay!
Then another $83.
Then another $52.
About half a year later, you’ve earned $323.
By 2020, you’re earning $9 a month.
By 2021, you’re still at -$5,160.
And the horrific thing is, I didn’t even include the annual maintenance costs of $6,205.
So another way to phrase this is you pay them upfront $5,500 to buy the miner and furthermore you’re having to pay them $6,205 a year to run a miner that is earning you $400.
That’s over $11,000 in the negative.
Now you might not lose that much, but again this is the more realistic scenario with companies like this. And again, most people are feeling good because the value of Bitcoin has gone up enough to look like a positive return.
But in actual fact, you’d probably get a 5x return if you just bought the Bitcoin outright rather than attempt to mine it.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here. Hashflare has the exact same outcome as Genesis Mining.
Nicehash is a really good alternative to the above. It’s harder to figure out what to do on the platform, but once you’ve got the hang of it, I’ve run a lot of calculations and I usually find that although you’re still better buying the cryptocurrency outright, if you did rent a miner from Nicehash, you only lose a tiny bit compared to the thousands you would going through Genesis Mining and Hashflare.
And if you can get Nicehash working with tools like Minerstat you can actually get the software to ensure you’re mining the most profitable coin, and when another coin becomes more profitable, it switches for you!
5. Day trading / technical analysis 📈
I wanted to speak briefly on this.
A lot of people are getting into day trading, or technical analysis.
This is essentially where you look super micro at a specific chart and attempt to trade on what that chart has done in the past and predict what it’s going to do in the future.
Okay, you’ve seen the graph… what should we do now? Buy or sell?
There are two fundamental flaws of this.
First of all, it assumes humans are rational.
WE ARE NOT.
The crash of Bitcoin in 2017 is the perfect example of this. If we were all rational human beings, we wouldn’t freak out that the price has gone down by $500. We would all hold because that way, it wouldn’t drop any more.
But, we really think to ourselves, what happens if I don’t sell, and everyone else does. Then I’m screwed! I’m going to sell it all.
And then you get a crash that wipes off more than half the value of the crypto industry.
Even though you might want to trade because usually you think when there’s two peaks in a row, it means the price is going to go down, please don’t assume it’s going to go down. Sometimes it will, and sometimes it won’t.
After studying finance and investment analysis for 4 years, the one takeaway I walked away with was that I’m silly if I think I can predict the market.
The second fundamental flaw is that we forget that the person with the most information will usually win.
And that person is rarely us.
There are huge investment banks, and major financial parties interested in cryptocurrency. They have access to a lot more information than I do. They also potentially have information that isn’t publicly available.
While the financial market is heavily regulated, the crypto market is still in a grey patch. There have been a huge amount of speculation about large sell offs, and insider information.
It’s better than we acknowledge that we are a tiny player in a huge market and don’t go down this route of technical trading.
It’s not more effective when it comes to share trading and it’s not effective when it comes to crypto.
Did you know they’ve done studies where they compare the best investment banks in the world who do technical trading versus monkeys who pick stocks at random.
Who do you think won?
Now remember, these investment banks literally hire the best minds in the industry, and spend millions a year on the top research around the world.
Yeap, the monkeys still won…
Last year, according to Hedge Fund Research Inc., the average genius hedge fund lost 0.6%. Meanwhile stocks picked by monkeys, plus 20% in the bank, gained 2.3%.
The year before, the average hedge fund earned 6.7%. The monkeys and the bank account did three times better, earning 21%.
In 2012 the monkeys and cash beat the hedge funds by nearly four to one, earning 13% compared to 3.5% for the funds.
Now if an investment bank with millions in research and the best minds around the globe can’t beat a monkey, how can we?
We’re usually better off just investing in an index fund which I’ll talk about more later on.
Now, some of you might be thinking, ‘but I’ve seen a ton of people on Twitter making heaps of money doing this!’
That’s the fallacy of the internet and our confirmation bias.
People who succeed are going to share it more than those that lose. That’s why lotto and gambling is still a thing. We think we can beat the odds, even though the systems are designed to on average make us lose more than we gain.
We tend to find the 5 people who have succeeded and ignore the fact that crypto market is currently valued at $319 billion dollars and there are probably millions of players. For every one person that succeeded with technical analysis, there might be 10+ that failed.
Also warning, in the internet marketing world of ‘making money online’ there are a lot of scams. I’ve heard stories about binary trading where one guy had an email list of 10,000 people. He said, if he can guess the next 3 market movements right, you should join his course.
But what he did was email 5,000 people that he thought it would go up, and the other 5,000 people that he thought the market would go down.
If the market went up, he’d literally just stop emailing the other 5,000 people.
Then he repeated with 2,500 people.
And repeated with the last 1,250 people.
And you can guess those 1,250 people were probably super keen to follow this guy and learn how he had a 100% guess rate.
So while I’m sure that some people can make it work, on average, in the long run, for most people, this is a more risky way to invest.
6. Index funds & buy and hold (HODL)
Yes, yes, yes. This is where I’ve found the most success.
In this section I’m going to bring across a lot of learnings that I experienced in the real world.
Just like buying and selling stocks, it’s super hard to pick stocks. And it’s also very common to buy and sell at the worst time.
So how do investors try to solve this?
Two main things:
- Index funds
- Dollar cost averaging
Let’s start with index funds.
An index fund is a type of mutual fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track the components of a financial market index, such as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500). An index mutual fund is said to provide broad market exposure, low operating expenses and low portfolio turnover. These funds follow their benchmark index no matter the state of the markets.
Index funds are generally considered ideal core portfolio holdings for retirement accounts, such as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) accounts. Legendary investor Warren Buffett has recommended index funds as a haven for savings for the sunset years of life. Rather than picking out individual stocks for investment, he has said, it makes more sense for the average investor to buy all of the S&P 500 companies at the low cost an index fund offers.
So instead of investing your money into one stock which you think will go well, you’re investing in the top 500 companies in the S&P 500’s case.
This reduces your risk a lot.
With a limited amount of knowledge, it’s super hard to know if the one stock or few stocks you pick will go up, but by investing in the top 500 for example, even if 20 companies go down, your exposure is very minimal since there are 480 other companies in your portfolio.
New Zealand has the NZX 50 which is the top 50 public companies in New Zealand. But there are more and more index funds being created around niches as well like emerging countries as well as ethical and sustainable companies.
The S&P 500 is the top 500 companies in America. So when you’re investing in that index, you’re essentially in that index investing in America and only if America fails, does your index investment fail.
This is super simplified but essentially the thought process behind it.
So how does this relate to crypto?
So this obviously when you’re talking about ‘investing’ in crypto, it’s much more risky. The world economies have been around for quite a while, crypto is quite new.
The world has quite a lot of faith that America as an economy isn’t going to collapse by tomorrow since there’s a lot of real world value being created there.
This is less certain with crypto.
And MUCH less certain if all you’re doing it buying one of the cryptocurrencies.
If all you’re doing is buying Bitcoin, then this means that you only succeed if Bitcoin succeeds. You’re not betting on the crypto market in general, you’re just betting on one of the currencies in the market.
So I personally think Bitcoin is valuable as a measure of value, but it’s not very effective in terms of a cryptocurrency. There has been many better versions created which process faster, are more affordable to transfer, and are safer.
So while Bitcoin is doing well ATM and I do have money in Bitcoin but not everything, I tend to invest in an index for the reasons outlined above.
I believe there’s a future in crypto, but I don’t know if that future is all Bitcoin so I own some Crypto20 which is an index fund made up of the top 20 cryptocurrencies.
So I feel like I’m going to get lower returns in the short-run but hopefully better returns in the long run.
Dollar Cost Averaging
Let’s start with dollar cost averaging. With dollar cost averaging, essentially what you’re trying to do is take out the volatility of the market by buying in small consistent quantities rather than one big purchase.
So rather than doing what most people did which is buy a large quantity of Bitcoin when it was $15k+ in 2017, and then losing a lot of money, you want to take the human irrationality out of the equation.
So instead of investing in large chunks, you instead invest as much as you can consistently each week. That means, even if there is a big drop, since you’ve bought when the price has been both high, and low, the drop doesn’t matter. What the drop really means is you’re about to buy even more of the asset at a huge discount since you’re now buying when the price is super low.
So rather than putting huge amounts at once and trying to win today, change your mindset to the long term. If you actually believe that crypto is here to stay, then why are you trying to win tomorrow? Just keep buying consistently for the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and there’s a bigger potential for huge gains.
In Jan 2013, the price was $13.
In December 2013, we had our first huge peak at $1,000!
It took almost 4 years to hit the $1,000 mark again.
So if you bought at $13 and sold at $1,000 in Jan that’s huge. You’d feel like a winner. Most people would stop there, and that’s totally fine.
If you believed in the future, you could continue over years to keep buying it when it went back to a super affordable amount of ~$200.
You could have invested a lot at this super low price over the next 4 years and you’d be laughing today.
This strategy is very popular in the stock market and very popular to do with index funds because you believe in the future of that particular country or economy.
Crypto still has the risks where although there are practical elements, it could all just become worthless as an investment.
Maybe selling at $18k and never putting more money in could be the smartest idea in the world, I personally don’t know, no one does yet until it plays out.
I do think that there is value of crypto, if regulation allows it, so I’m going to keep putting an amount in that I’m willing to lose :)
2017. What a year for scams. An ICO is an initial coin offering, where essentially anyone with a plan could say, here is our plan, we’re raising this much money, so buy a coin at a discount to be a part of the action early on and enjoy the upward success as our coin increases in value.
Unfortunately there were a HUGE amount of scams. Ideas that had no way to take off. But essentially a company would create a coin, start pre-mining it, launch an ICO, sell all the coins they pre-mined and then walk away while everyone else suffered.
There were also a lot of coins that were purely there to work as a pyramid scheme. The biggest was what I call scamcoin coin but others called Bitconnect. They promised a daily average return of 1% but you had to keep your money in there for a certain amount of time.
Bitconnect could successfully pay people out if they withdrew their money because so many more people were putting money in AND the price of Bitcoin was growing hugely.
But obviously, at a point it had a to fail, and when it did, it scammed the market out of a rumored $2.5 billion dollars.
Another big one was Envion who had the biggest ICO of its time… $100 million dollars was raised and then went on and proceeded to fail completely.
I personally lost money in this one. So did thousands of other people.
So while there are legit companies doing ICOs, please do your homework. Read their whitepaper. Double check the team who are running the company. Read what other people think. Decide yourself if you believe what they’re saying.
I did all the above with Envion and still lost money there.
The market for ICOs has died down a lot over the last few years but it’s still a big part of the crypto market so definitely needs mentioning.
Phew. First of all, thanks so much for reading the above. Even if it makes you double check one more thing, I think it’s super worth it.
Losing $1,000 today on something silly like what happened to me with Envion didn’t just cost me $1,000. It cost me $10,000+ in future value so in the super risky would of crypto we just need to make sure we’re consistently cross our t’s and dotting our i’s.
I personally still invest most of my money in index funds (US, NZ, and other countries) and in the bank.
I also don’t rely on crypto to pay my bills. I have an amount invested that I’m more than happy to lose and that’s it. I run a marketing agency and do a few other things that pay the bills and give me security.
I’ve read a lot of articles and Reddit posts where people are attempting to make their full time off income crypto. I’d suggest against it, unless you have a good safety net.
Even if you’ve been winning for a few years, if you haven’t set it up right, in a few days you could lose it all.
Seeing the after effects of the general population being scammed, losing money when price crashes, and everything else has left me pretty somber.
Finally, this is obviously not investment advice. This is what I've seen from my personal experience.
There were more than enough stories of people putting everything into the market because they listened to a friend, or simply saw everyone else investing and the price of Bitcoin continuing its increase and losing it all.
And even after 4 years of studying finance, I made more mistakes than most so if you’re in crypto at the moment or looking to invest, just be careful ❤
If you share this article on social, or on your website, please let me know and send me the link below. I’d love to either link back or embed your posts on here!
Also if you have any questions, or if I’ve done some bad math somewhere, please flick me a message below.
All the best on your journey. I look forward to seeing what you do next 😍