1. Ebook store. There are plenty of websites out there that sell the same ebooks. The market is flooded with bad ebooks that give the industry a bad name. Most of them seem to be written by people who have a 4th grade education. They are full of typos and incomplete thoughts. Over the past few years, I was lured by the promises of wealth and free reselling rights for purchasing these ebooks, and found that after spending $50 to $100, I've only made $10 or $15 on my investment.
2. Write and publish my own book. This is a time intensive process. In addition to research, writing, editing, and finding markets for the book, there are the hard costs of printing and promoting the book. I self-published an ebook and marketed it through Amazon.com for use on the Kindle ebook reader. After spending $40 for my ISBN and hundreds of hours writing the book, I've only made back around $50 - over 2 years.
3. Writing for magazines. This isn't a bad deal, but it is still hit and miss on the income stream. The best deal that I've gotten was back in 1997 when I wrote a two sentence suggestion to Better Homes and Gardens (25 words) and was paid $2 per word. With the current economic crisis, many publishers are going out of business, but before they do, they eliminate any extra costs, including freelancers. This is happening throughout Santa Barbara.
4. Photography for magazines/newspapers. I have won awards with my photography, so this isn't too bad a deal. However, the trick is to keep updating the camera equipment. When I started promoting digital photography, a 2MP camera was the standard. Now, most publishers will not accept less than a 12MP photo. The new equipment can be very expensive. I stay away from stock photography sites, because nowadays, there is so much competition that publishers can by cover photos for under $10. Compare this to the good old days when that same cover photo could go for $2,000.
After all of this searching, there seems to be only 2 areas of low investment and high profitability that I've found to be tried and true that are almost turnkey businesses: Ebay and selling handmade jewelry in the local Santa Barbara high-end boutiques. I hope this helps my readers save some money as you start looking for additional income streams in these challenging economic times.