Let's be positive. Forget the credit crunch and the age of austerity - we're going to help you make some money. Don't worry if you're no Alan Sugar; thanks to the internet and your PC, all you need is a good idea.
If you don't even have one of those you can transform your spare time into cold hard cash - legally. This isn't a guide to selling your old vinyl on eBay or flogging knackered paperbacks on Amazon. We've done our homework, trawled the web and put together a list of new, exciting and innovative ways in which technology can help you make money.
We'll explore topics such as human intelligence tasks: jobs that computers and software can't do, but are essential to the function of an electronic business. All you need do is sign up for a service, set aside a few hours and do the jobs you're assigned.
If might not be glamorous work, but if you have a PC and some time to spare it's a great way of earning a few quid. If you're feeling brave, we'll also explore how to start your own electronic business in a thoroughly modern way.
Back in the pre-wired age, the banks held all the cards. If you wanted to start a business, you had to convince your bank manager that your great idea was profitable. Today you can forget the big four. If you have an ambition to launch an amazing new site, all you need to do is convince a community of lenders. If they're happy with your plan, the cash will turn up.
The equation works the other way too. If you have some savings and fancy being a venture capitalist, read on.
Before we get stuck into making our fortunes, a word of warning: keep your wits about you. The web is groaning with scams and scammers. We'll look at a few classic examples. You should also check out our definitive guide to staying one step ahead of the con men.
Don't be put off though. The internet is a great place to make cash - just remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Services such as Zopa make it possible to borrow and lend without the bankers taking a cut
The internet gets rid of the middleman. Bloggers can publish to the web, bands can sell their music direct through iTunes, and now, you can borrow directly from the online community - no bankers involved. It's called peer-to-peer lending or social banking, and it uses the principle of crowdsourcing.
Let's say you want to borrow a couple of grand to start an online T-shirt business. Sign up to Zopa and you can get a loan at a very attractive rate of interest, plus a flat fee. The money comes from a network of lenders, not a bank, and it pays to be a lender too. At Zopa, for example, the average return at the time of writing is 8.3 per cent, which is better than most short-term savings accounts.
What if a borrower can't pay back the money? So far, Zopa has done pretty well on that front, with a paltry 0.28 per cent default rate. But your investment doesn't go to one person - it's seeded throughout the community at no more than £10 per borrower. If one person defaults, it'll have little impact on your return as a lender.
Zopa is the front-runner, but other sites offer a similar service. You may get a better return from Funding Circle, for example. The main difference for borrowers is that there's no flat fee. Instead, a portion of the loan is paid to the service. Funding Circle prefers business customers, while Zopa is open to anyone with a good credit rating. You can get a better return if you're willing to take a higher risk.
That's how it works at Yes Secure. Borrowers post loan requests and you can choose who to lend money to. You put in a tender for that loan, setting your own interest rate. The return on investments averages 21 per cent, but although all borrowers are screened, it's riskier than lending to the crowd. If a borrower defaults, a debt collector will be called in to pursue your investment.
Microworking - make money for tiny tasks
Computers are becoming ever more powerful, but some jobs still need a human touch. Work at your own pace with Human Intelligence Tasks
Computers have removed lots of boring and repetitive tasks from the workplace, but they've created a fair few too. That's where Amazon's Mechanical Turk comes in. Small tasks that can't be performed by software are farmed out to its subscribers, who turn the job around for a few cents at a time.
That unusual name? It comes from an 18th century sideshow attraction. A chess-playing robot was toured around Europe, amazing audiences with its apparent skill and intelligence. It was, however, controlled by a human being hidden from sight.
The micro-jobs that are tendered at Mechanical Turk (called HITs or Human Intelligence Tasks) could be any quick, computer related duty. In a typical session, a user might do a bit of data entry or fill in a questionnaire. They might be asked to copy the text from a scanned image or search for a series of phone numbers. The more HITs you can complete in the allotted time, the more you can earn.
With many HITs offered at just a few cents a task, it requires a certain amount of dedication to earn a crust from Mechanical Turk - but there are advantages too. Any temping agency can get you a gig cleaning toilets or licking envelopes for half a day, but with Mechanical Turk you can work from home doing as much or little as you want, at any time you want.
Tasks that require a little more thought and effort pay more. Translating a short passage of text into another language, for example, could net you a couple of dollars a time.
Mechanical Turk is an equal opportunities exploitation deal. Workers are anonymous, and so are the contractors. You can build a credibility rating by having your HIT completion approved, but that's it. This has positive and negative effects on the process.
The site has been criticised for giving spammers an effective method of sidestepping the posting protection that's designed to screen out bots. With Mechanical Turk, an army of human bots can easily bypass those pesky CAPTCHA boxes, posting ads on blogs, message boards and on social networks.
Another nefarious use has been the artificial rating of goods and services on review sites. Including Amazon itself…
If Mechanical Turk's rewards seem too paltry, then there are similar but more specialised services to choose from. MicroWorkers offers higher rates, but the tasks are distinctly in the grey marketing category, with HITs requiring that you sign up for dating sites and blogs, or review items on Amazon.
CrowdCloud is an unusual looking enterprise. You sign up through Facebook and much of the work on offer is - at the time of writing - proof reading and translation-based. Human intelligence tasks pay up to $3, though many of the jobs on offer are less. Payment is through PayPal and support is offered through Get Satisfaction. On the whole, it inspires more confidence than most money-making and micro-employment services online.
Finally, there's Just Answer. The model here is a little different, but still nestles in the same broad category as other HIT sites. Here, you get to use your expertise to answer live queries from users, whether that's IT support, washing machine engineering, legal advice or even medical guidance. Of course, you need to have some qualifications in the field you choose and your credentials will be displayed to users.
The system works on a bidding basis. As a provider, you scan the listings for live questions you can answer. If you can help, you set a price. It's up to the user whether they agree to pay that price or continue looking for a better deal. New providers take 25 per cent of the fee, while more seasoned experts get a 50 per cent cut.
It has its critics, with some users complaining about the quality of answers and aftercare, but Just Answer has seen off many rivals and is still going strong.
Advertise on your website
The easiest way to start serving ads from your site, and earning money, is Google's AdSense. A chunk of code is provided for you to paste into your site when you sign up. People browsing your site will see adverts that fit its content and keywords.
The cash-per-click model means that every time a visitor clicks on a link, you get a share of the fee the advertiser paid. Google doesn't publicise the exact percentage of the pie that you'll get, but some keywords offer a bigger slice than others. Some AdSense users have seen earnings of over £1,000 a month.
It's hard to track which keywords are the real winners, even though there are several blogs and websites that claim to list the highest paying AdSense keywords.
Is it worth shelling out for these lists? You can use Google's own AdWords tool to suggest related keywords for free. It'll help you optimise your content for more targeted ads.
Don't click ads on your own page, and don't think asking your friends to click on them will help you either. Google considers this 'click fraud', and employs sophisticated tracking mechanisms to protect its revenue. You're more likely to get a swift, permanent ban than any extra income.
If you want to make money with AdSense, just make good, consistent content aimed at a small audience.
For more control over ads, try affiliate linking. You either take a percentage of all the sales you refer to the service provider, or you get simple cash for clicks. Amazon Associates is a highly visible example. Sign up for access to tools that enable you to create banners, badges and text links to any item on the site - just make sure the products you choose are relevant to the content you already carry.
When someone clicks an Amazon affiliate link on your site, you'll get 9 per cent of the cash they spend. Easy money.