If you use an Internet search engine like Google or Yahoo to find sites about, let's say, spoons, you'll be directed in seconds to 12 million Web sites about spoons.  Naturally, companies that sell spoons want their sites to appear on Page 1 or 2 of the search engine, not on page 6,000. 

And one way they achieve this is to buy what's called a pay-for-click ad that will appear right on the first or second page.

In return for such a prime location, the advertisers pay Google or Yahoo a small fee each time someone clicks on their ads.

And ordinary Americans are getting a piece of this action.  They're hooking up with networks, clubs, informal groups of friends, and even professional coaches right at home. Any time of day or night, they can make money, dressed as they please ? even in their pajamas, if they like.

Here's how you do it:

With help from the friends, club, or coach, you strike a deal with a big company, say Ajax Spoons.  You create a pay-for-click ad for Ajax.  Customers who are looking for spoons see the ad and click on it.  They may buy some Ajax spoons.  But even if they don't, Ajax captures their e-mail addresses and begins sending them all kinds of promotions and sales pitches about Ajax products.  And just for finding these prospects, Ajax pays you, the entrepreneur working at home, a fee.

Pay-per-click entrepreneurs can also dream up ads that ask a poll question, such as Who's Your Favorite Hollywood Celebrity? and even offer prizes for those who answer the question.  People who open the ad are told that to win a prize, they must participate in various sales promotions or even purchase something.  But once again, just by opening the ad that contains the poll question, they, too will soon be bombarded with e-mail promotions from advertisers. 

But you, again, get paid ? even if you're at home, working in your pajamas.