The idea of a “job for life” is now a thing of the past.
That’s why around 30 million Americans operate a home-based business, many of them pursuing an online business model of one type or another. But what are some of the best online businesses to start from home?
What if you don’t have a lot of money or experience to start out? There are options!
Wanting to start your own internet business is a smart move for a lot of reasons. But the biggest mental hurdle most of you face right now is figuring out what the best online businesses to start are.
If you already have some high-demand online skills, that’s great. Not everyone does. Or you just don’t know how to convert that into a successful sustainable online business.
Or maybe you’ve just picked up pieces here and there. Maybe you heard about affiliate marketing, but somebody mentioned Shopify during lunch.
Plus…you’ve always wanted to write a book, and you’ve read stories about indie authors earning millions. Was that a one-time thing or can you do it, too?
So, how can you possibly choose the right online business idea for you?
But there’s good news! You see, you’re alive at the best possible time in human history to start your own business.
Never before has the barrier to entry been so low, startup costs so minimal, or the income potential so vast. You have access to resources and tools that didn’t exist a decade ago, social media being just one key example.
- Best Online Busines Ideas to Start
- 1. Become A Blogger
- 2. Build Your Affiliate Marketing Empire
- 3. Brainstorm an E-Commerce Business
- 4. Start Selling Sneakers
- 5. Become An Independent eBook Publisher
- 6. Flip Concert Tickets
- 7. Flipping Used Textbooks
- 8. Start an SEO Business
- 9. Flip Websites and Domains for Profit
- 10. Start an Amazon FBA Business
- 11. Start an Online Business Offering Translation Services
- 12. Start A Virtual Assistant Service
- 13. Build an App
- 14. Invest In Peer-to-Peer Loans
- 15. Teach Online Courses
- 16. Write Your Way To Success
- 17. Social Media Consultant
- 18. Start an Online Business Selling Digital Products
- 19. Open an Etsy Store
- 20 (Bonus!): Become an Online Influencer
- Best Online Businesses to Start – Based on Your Income Goals and Needs
- The Benefits of an Online Internet Business
- Best Online Businesses to Start for You
Best Online Busines Ideas to Start
In this article, we’re going to take you on a journey through our top online businesses, any of which are perfect for a home-based internet business.
And if you are reading this you can take heart you getting advice from someone that has actually started a successful online business. I’ve been a full-time internet entrepreneur since 2011!
So, not only is this “online business” stuff possible…but I hope to provide you some good advice to get you started with your next venture.
Now that you have more insight into why owning an online business is such a great idea, it’s time to look at exactly which are the best online businesses to start in 2019, and beyond.
1. Become A Blogger
Now, here’s an online business model that has unfortunately become the butt of far too many jokes.
This is because a certain segment of society (that’s you, hipster!) went around loudly telling anyone willing to listen that they were full-time bloggers.
The net result of all this misplaced enthusiasm is that if you tell any of your friends or family you’re going to start a blogging business, they’ll wrinkle their collective noses at you, while coughing politely.
Don’t let that stop you from starting a blogging business.
There are lots of very successful bloggers out there – we’re talking 5 and 6-figure-a-month levels of success. What you absolutely must avoid doing is starting a blog about “how to be a successful blogger.”
How can you do that when you haven’t achieved any success yet yourself? Faking it until you make it is not a business model we’d advise anyone to follow.
Blogging is still a viable online business idea, and one with as much potential as ever. Just make sure that you start a blog on something that people actually want to read about. If that happens to be something you’re passionate about that’s great. But you need to understand that it’s way easier to monetize a blog about organic dog food than it is to make money from a blog about obscure literary fiction.
Learning how to start a blog isn’t all that difficult either. You can choose to use a free WordPress or Blogger.com account to get started. Or if you can afford to invest about $20, then you can register a domain name, get a cheap web hosting account, and install WordPress from there.Read Our Full Guide on How to Start a Blog Here
One of the biggest misperceptions about blogging is that you need to write these long, thought-provoking posts that make people stop and think about their life. Your blog doesn’t need to be life-changing. In fact, you’ll make more money if you focus on helping your readers solve whatever problems they’re facing.
Or even just help them find a cool new product or service they didn’t know they needed. The truth is that blogging can be as visual as you like too – there are plenty of photo and craft bloggers out there with massive audiences.
If you’re wondering how to make money from your blog, then stop. You can’t monetize a blog without an audience, and you can’t get an audience without creating content. Build your audience first, and then start looking at options like AdSense, Amazon affiliate selling, or sponsored posts.
Starting your own blog is one of the best online businesses to start because the barrier for entry is pretty much none. Plus you can grow your blog into a very successful online business potentially.
Costs and Potential of Starting a Blog
- Start-up costs: You can start out with a free WordPress account and then upgrade to a paid account later. Registering a domain name plus cheap web hosting will cost you about $20. You used to have to buy premium themes for your site, but now you can get an awesome and fast website for free with Astra.
- Income potential: Blogs with a huge audience can earn anywhere from US $10,000 to US $100,000 per month.
- Success story: Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income is one of the most successful, and dare we say likeable, success stories in the blogging industry.
We recommend trying out Bluehost if you’re wanting to get in on this lucrative business. Bluehost is consistently one of the most popular options out there, especially for beginners. Their hosting is solid as are the servers. They make blog building cheap, easy, and flexible. Try out Bluehost now.Start your online business with bluehost
2. Build Your Affiliate Marketing Empire
This model gives me warm fuzzies because it’s a simple online business that’s also enjoyable and has the potential for almost 100% passive income.
Affiliate marketing, in a nutshell, is about selling products on a commission basis for a range of companies, including major brand names. There’s no need to buy stock, you don’t handle packing or shipping, and you never have to deal with customer service issues.
The cornerstone of your affiliate business is about setting up a website that’s focused on a specific niche. You research low competition keywords for that niche, with the aim of ranking on page one of Google for those keywords.
People visiting your site then click on a referral link, and if they make a purchase at the destination store, then you get paid a commission.
That’s why some people call it “referral marketing”.
As internet-based businesses go, affiliate marketing has huge income potential.
And as mentioned earlier, once it’s set up properly the income from it can be almost 100% passive.
In fact, this is how I quit my job originally. I built lots of little niche sites that eventually were bringing in income of over $10,000 a month! So, I said “Adios!” to my day job and I’ve never looked back.
Becoming an affiliate marketer is still one of the best entries into online business – and for many it’s more than enough!
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You have two choices when creating a site to sell products or services via affiliate marketing – a niche site or an authority site.
Niche sites are smaller and focused on a specific type of product or service, featuring several dozen pages of content. Authority sites, on the other hand, tend to have hundreds of articles, completely covering all known keywords for a given topic.
If you hate the idea of writing you can always outsource that work to somebody else.
But writing great content for an affiliate site really isn’t that difficult. It just takes a bit of practice, and once you see those first commission checks you’ll be up writing articles for your site before work, during your lunch break, and when you should be sound asleep in bed.
Successful affiliate marketers can be real gluttons for punishment.
I like to start new niche sites with affiliate marketing. It offers a high revenue per visitor (much higher than ads) and gives you a chance to snag some great long tail keywords.
Here are some of the best affiliate marketing programs today:
- Amazon Associates
If you’re just getting started, Amazon is by far the easiest program to use and the one I recommend.
You can learn more about building affiliate sites by reading this guide on how to build a niche site that makes $2,985 per month.
Costs and Potential of Starting an Affiliate Site
- Start up costs: $10 for web hosting, and $10 for a domain name.If you’re starting an online business, Bluehost helps you get started with cheap hosting and a .com domain name. Try them out to get your online business going.
- Income potential: Anywhere from $50 to $100,000 per month.
- Success story: TheWireCutter.com – this affiliate site recently sold to The New York Times for US$30 million.
3. Brainstorm an E-Commerce Business
Some people still shy away from the idea of having an e-commerce store because of the dotcom crash of 2001.
It left a lasting impression on anyone who knows anything about it. But modern e-commerce businesses are as far removed from those days as Google is from Yahoo in terms of dominating the search market.
Back then you had to worry about paying web developers vast amounts of money to build an e-commerce site for you.
After that it was time to pay an SEO agency to rank your site, or you had to resort to paid (PPC) traffic. Then you had to deal with inventory, staff, deliveries and managing customer service issues.
Modern e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, provide you with an easier and more cost-effective way to set up an online store. You can choose to sell your own products directly to customers, which will involve packing and shipping products.
Another option is to again set up a Shopify store, but instead, you have customer orders drop-shipped to them by the manufacturer, or distributor. You know those super-cheap items you see on Facebook that seem too good to be true? The catch is always that it can take 30 – 45 days for your order to arrive – that’s the drop-shipping model in operation right there.
2 Brothers Making $30k Per Month with an eCommerce Store
In fact, we know a couple of brother’s doing over $30,000 a month (in profit) with their own eCommerce store. You can hear their entire story on this Niche Pursuits podcast. Or you can see the training they offer on starting an eCommerce store here.Get Dropshipping Training from 2 Brothers Making $30k Per Month Here!
A particularly hot e-commerce market right now is selling monthly subscription boxes.
One of the most famous examples of this business model is the Dollar Shave Club. These guys started out in 2012 selling affordable men’s grooming boxes each month.
By the time 2015 rolled around the Dollar Shave Club was acquired by UniLever for US$1 billion.
Shopify has become very popular in the online store industry because it offers a stable e-commerce platform, with secure payment options.
An advanced option is learning how to get into dropshipping and becoming an Amazon dropshipper. This can be a bit more challenging but well worth the pay-off if you have the money, knowledge, and time to make it work!
Costs and Income Potential of eCommerce
- Start-up costs: $29 per month for a basic Shopify store. You then need to choose from either the drop-shipping model, or to sell your own products directly from your store.
- Success story: The Dollar Shave Club.
- Income potential: Umm around US$1 billion dollars, if you do things right. On a more serious note, an e-commerce business, selling in-demand products, can make 5-figures per month.
If you want to get started with Shopify, it won’t cost you a dollar. They have a 14 day free trial so you can get a feel for the business before starting.start your online store with shopify
4. Start Selling Sneakers
Sneaker reselling is the monster market that you’ve never heard of. And unlike some monster markets, it doesn’t require a monster investment.
The principle here is simple: you buy a limited edition sneakers that are undervalued and sell them for a profit.
Since limited edition sneakers sell out so fast, the price almost always takes an immediate spike. I recommend getting started by selling shoes that are already available.
Once you’re experienced, start buying new releases. If you can be one of the few to buy a pair of sneakers before they’re sold out, you stand to make some crazy money by reselling.
Reselling shoes can be tough to master, but it’s very easy to start.
First, head to eBay and search “limited edition sneakers”. Then head over to StockX. Find a pair of sneakers you like on eBay and then search for them on StockX.
StockX shows you a graph of the value of different sneakers. This will help give you an idea if a certain pair’s worth over time and will help you predict where that price is going in the future.
If StockX is showing you that a pair is worth more than what you’re seeing it for on eBay, that might be a pair you could flip for profit.
Over time, you’ll get a feel for what shoes tend to sell well and what shoes don’t. Use this knowledge to play the riskier game of buying and selling brand new shoes.
The profit potential here is massive.
Costs and Potential of Reselling Shoes
- Start-up costs: Can be as low as $20
- Income potential: Up to $100,000+ per year
- Success story: JV Ortiz makes 6 figures per year reselling shoes. He started while in college and now does it full time.
And just like anything, you can learn on your own or you can learn from the experiences of others. I always recommend saving yourself time and energy by learning from the experiences of others.
One guy who’s done crazy good at reselling sneakers is JV Ortiz. And he has a whole guide about how you can get started.
His guide will help you find the best pairs, make the biggest profit, and make it easy to get started.learn how to resell sneakers in your free time for up to 6 figures
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5. Become An Independent eBook Publisher
They say that everyone has at least one book in them.
While that’s true, the traditional publishing industry (or trad pub, for short) didn’t support everyone’s dream of seeing their novel on the shelves of their local bookstore.
Traditional publishing had settled into a comfortable rut of turning down aspiring authors left, right and center. They could do this because a trad publishing deal was the only option available to authors.
Their only other choice was vanity publishing, which is expensive and a waste of time.
Jeff Bezos completely disrupted the independent publishing industry way back in 2007 when Amazon launched the first Kindle.
Industry experts (cough) were quick to dismiss the Kindle, saying it was a fad. They had an equally dim view of the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, which allows people to upload their own books to the Amazon marketplace.
But instead of failure, something wonderful happened – a legitimate self-publishing industry was born. Now people from all walks of life with an idea for a book could become an independent author.
Not that Indy…and we’re never going to talk about that movie.
There are now more than 3.4 million self-published indie books on the KDP platform. And both new and established authors release hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books every single day.
Although non-fiction books are extremely popular on Amazon, the real money is in publishing fiction. The indie publishing industry has hundreds of success stories of authors earning tens of thousands of dollars per month.
In fact, there are so many of them it was difficult to pick one success story to feature.
If nothing else, the indie publishing scene proved that dismissing business opportunities without fully understanding them can be a big mistake.
Just ask Barnes & Noble.
Costs and Potential of Publishing Books Online
- Startup costs: Zero, but ideally you’ll need at least $100 for a great cover for your book. You would then ideally have another $100 for an editor and $100 to market your book once it’s finished. That’s a total investment of $300 to write and publish a novel that could make back 10x – 20x what you invested in it.
- Income potential: A single successful book can earn you anywhere from $100 – $500 per month. A successful series of books could earn you up to $50,000 per month within your first year as an indie author.
- Success story: Dave Chesson is a successful publisher with several books under his belt. He blogs regularly with tips for self-publishing books and has also created Publisher Rocket that will help you find the best idea for your first (or next) book.
If you would like an easier way to get started, we recommend following along with what Dave Chesson teaches.
He actually sells a software application called Publisher Rocket that helps people find topics to write about and how to find Kindle keywords that are most likely to bring in free traffic (readers).
When you buy Publisher Rocket he has a free training course on how to be a successful author that goes along with it.Check out Publisher Rocket Here
6. Flip Concert Tickets
No, I’m not telling you to be a scalper. That’s lame and, in many states, illegal.
However, concerts, stadiums, and other events hate to have empty seats.
Just imagine if you went to watch your favorite sports team and you were the only person there.
It would be pretty soul-sucking. You’d have a bad time, the team wouldn’t make any money, and the stadium would remain empty forever.
To make sure that there are no empty seats, all events like to sell out of their tickets. Everyone loves to have a packed out stadium, so owners or managers are willing to sell tickets at below their true market value.
And when something is sold below it’s true value, enter a savvy entrepreneur.
Ticket resellers buy tickets at this underpriced value and can then sell them for just a little bit more. This means profit for the reseller. And this isn’t unethical.
Imagine that someone wants to buy tickets to an Imagine Dragons concert or a Superbowl game, but they don’t have the money when the tickets are first released.
Maybe their paycheck is next month, maybe they had an unexpected expense. Whatever the case, they can’t buy the tickets and that’s pretty disappointing.
They’re bummed out that they couldn’t get the tickets they wanted due to this unforeseen problem.
But if you bought the tickets beforehand, now you have the opportunity to sell the tickets. You can bump up the price since the tickets are sold out. And the person who buys the tickets will be grateful.
They weren’t able to buy them before but with their paycheck in the bank, they can now.
Once you have these tickets, StubHub is a great marketplace for reselling. StubHub is trustworthy and makes sure that everyone is in compliance with local laws.
Costs, Potential and Success Story of Reselling Tickets
- Start-up costs: The price of your first ticket. If you get these tickets on a discount, it could be as low as $20 or $25.
- Income potential: Up to 4 figures per month
- Success story: Michael Violi makes a full time income from ticket reselling. Michael also teaches a full training course and has an active community for becoming a ticket reseller.
7. Flipping Used Textbooks
One of the simplest side hustles to get started with is flipping used textbooks on Amazon.
While there are a couple of different approaches to take, the one I like best is buying used books on Amazon and then selling them on other book platforms at a higher price and pocketing the difference.
Sound too good to be true?
There are actually more deals out there like this than you’d believe, thanks to the fact that sellers list used textbooks for low prices on Amazon all the time, not realizing they could sell that book on eBay or other platforms for more money.
For example, you might see a Biology 101 textbook that has a used price on Amazon of $45 and on eBay for $70 – meaning you could buy it and sell it for about a $25 profit.
You can start searching for deals manually or use TexTrader to speed up the process significantly.
Cost and Potential of Flipping Textbooks
- Start up costs: $50 or the price of the first used book you decide to flip.
- Income potential: Anywhere from $50 to $1,000 per month.
- Success story: Chris from FBAMaster.com has made thousands of dollars doing this in recent years.
8. Start an SEO Business
If you have even moderate SEO skills, then you can easily start a side hustle offering just search engine optimization services to businesses all over the world.
SEO is global, so always think global when it comes to your potential client base.
But…isn’t SEO dead?
The sad truth is that for all the SEO consultants out there who know exactly what they’re talking about, there are hundreds of others who are clueless, money-grabbing sharks.
Their sole focus is on getting customers signed up to a 6-month retainer based on promised results.
They then kick their heels for the first few months, pocketing cash for doing nothing.
There is huge demand for ethical, white hat SEO experts who can help businesses improve their online visibility in the major search engines, and all the lovely, free organic traffic that goes with that.
You can approach this online business from a couple of angles.
The first is to market yourself directly to companies through LinkedIn or via cold emailing. The idea of actually marketing yourself might terrify you, but it gets easier with time.
The other option is to offer white label SEO services to web design agencies.
What this means is they handle the web development side of things, and you take care of the search engine optimization work. The perk of this approach is you never have to deal with their clients. Most SEO consultants start here because all the client-finding work is already done.
That leaves them to do what they’re best at – ranking sites in Google.
The only real downside to running an SEO business is that you’ll need to invest in a handful of tools to give you the best possible chance of landing those 4-figure per month client retainers.
Oh, and if you have any experience in managing PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising campaigns for clients, you can double whatever your current hourly SEO rate is.
Businesses in competitive industries are quite happy to pay a freelance PPC consultant a lucrative monthly retainer to beat out their competitors.
Costs, Income Potential, and Success Story of an SEO Consulting Business
- Start-up costs: Ahrefs, SEMrush, or similar are helpful all-in-one tools. You need at least one that will likely run $79 to $199 a month. These tools help you research keywords, analyze search engine results pages (SERPs), and check backlinks.
- Income potential: Monthly retainers of US$1,000+ per month are quite achievable
- Success story: Daryl Rosser is a perfect example of a local SEO consultant earning an enviable monthly income from his business.
9. Flip Websites and Domains for Profit
Let’s assume you have money you want to invest in an online business, but you have limited free time in which to do that.
In fact, you’d just like to buy low and sell high, like they do in the property market.
There’s my “Flipping Vegas” addiction rearing its ugly head again.
If you’re the type of personality that likes the maximum return for the minimum of effort (and who doesn’t?) then you might just fall in love with the idea of flipping websites and domains for profit.
There are thousands of website owners looking for somebody to buy their web properties.
Now, most investors who buy these sites will continue to run them, banking the profits. They take a long-term approach to their investment, not hoping to recoup their investment for several years.
But there are other speculators looking for “Golden Goose” websites.
They’re looking for sites where the owner doesn’t understand the true value of their web property. Sometimes they’ve made a handful of mistakes with their SEO that’s caused their traffic to tank.
Sometimes they just haven’t monetized it properly.
What this means for you is you can find websites being sold for just a few hundred dollars. That same website can quite easily be resold to the right person for several thousand dollars.
So, as an investor you could buy a website for $10,000.
You then hire an SEO consultant to optimize it for $1,000. Once the SEO work is complete you flip the site several weeks later for $20,000.
That leaves you with US$9,000 in profit for doing almost no work.
If can’t afford to buy a website there are just as many opportunities in buying and selling domain names.
The people who do this are referred to as domain flippers. The principle is the same – you buy a domain for as little as $10 and flip it for several times that amount.
Do companies still pay thousands of dollars for a domain name you own but they want? Absolutely.
Costs and Income Potential of Flipping Domains and Sites
- Startup costs: It’s entirely possible to start a domain flipping business for as little as $10. Running a website flipping business on a tight budget is possible, but you’ll realistically need $500 to find a worthwhile investment.
- Income potential: The sky really is the limit here. I’m aware of one site that was bought for US $30,000 and is being flipped two years later for almost US $400,000.
- Success stories: Chris Clark registered the domain name Pizza.com in 1994 for $20 and flipped it in 2008 for US$2.6 million. Opportunities still exist today.
We like to purchase our domains through Namecheap. They are (as they sound) cheap domain names that you can turn and flip for big bucks. Buy your first domain with Namecheap for under $1.Buy cheap domains with Namecheap
10. Start an Amazon FBA Business
We kept the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) business model separate to the e-commerce section above. The reason for this is that Amazon FBA is a little bit different to regular e-commerce.
This difference is it allows you to piggyback off the success of the biggest online retailer on the planet – Amazon.
How would you like to come up with an idea for a range of products you want to sell online, but to have Amazon do all the hard work of advertising, picking, packing, shipping, returns, and dealing with customer services headaches queries for you?
Sounds great, right?
It is, and that’s exactly what Amazon offers their FBA sellers.
The process of getting Amazon to sell your products for you is a straightforward one:
- You brainstorm an idea for a product you think will sell online
- Next up is to do extensive market research on that product, focusing on product popularity, sales price and profit margin
- Now you need to find a company that will manufacture your product(s) for you – this is a lot easier than it sounds
- Once your product order is completed, you then arrange for them to be shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center
- You create your product listings for your Amazon store
- The listings go live, and you start making sales
- Around 14 days later you receive your slice of the pie from Amazon via check or electronic fund transfer to your bank account
The above is a simplified version of each step, but it really is that simple when you break the Amazon FBA business model down to its core principles.
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Link Whisper is a revolutionary tool that makes internal linking much faster, easier, and more effective. It makes it simple to boost your site’s authority in the eyes of Google. You can use Link Whisper to:
- Bring out your orphaned content that isn’t ranking
- Create smart, relevant, and fast internal links
- Simple yet effective internal links reporting: what has lots of links and what pages need more links?
Costs and Potential of Amazon FBA
- Start-up costs: An Amazon ‘Professional Sellers Account” only costs $40 per month, but you’ll need around US$2,500 in total to get started. That figure does not include advertising or professional photography.
- Success story: Chris Guthrie is a shining light in the FBA business space.
- Income Potential: Anywhere from $1,000 per month to several million dollars per year.
To minimize your start up costs, you can do some research to find low hanging fruit. We recommend Helium10 to find opportunities with low start up costs and high rewards.
11. Start an Online Business Offering Translation Services
Translation services may be the only item on this list that not everyone can do.
As the world is more interconnected, different cultures and languages are constantly running into one another. There is a bigger need than ever for people who can see both sides of the language barrier and explain what is being said.
The translation gig is one that has more competition than ever. More people are growing up bilingual than ever before. But the vast majority of this competition only exists in certain niches.
For example, there are tons of translators from Spanish to English. Any of the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.) have huge numbers of people who can speak two or three of these languages.
If you want to get started in translation, you can make a living by translating common language pairings (Spanish to English, French to German, etc.).
You can make a killing by translating to uncommon language pairings (English to Arabic, Spanish to Russian, etc.). If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, translators are paid more depending on how distant the native speakers of each language live from one another.
English and Spanish speakers live close, so translators are more common. German and Swedish speakers live near each other, so you’ll find a lot of competition there.
English and Arabic speakers live on the other sides of the planet, so there is a lot of money in this niche.
English speakers can make a killing translating to Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, Hindi, and other languages that aren’t present in English speaking countries.
Costs and Potential of an Online Translation Business
- Startup costs: If you already know the language, there are no startup costs. This is a ripe niche that needs to be filled. If you don’t know the language, you could consider tutoring as an investment in your future online translation business. You can purchase tutoring or use something like Duolingo for free.
- Income potential: Translators from common languages can make anywhere from $15 per hour on up. Your wages may rise if you can listen and translate instead of just reading and translating. If you can translate uncommon languages (English to Arabic), then you could make a starting price of $30 per hour. If you can translate multiple uncommon languages (English to Arabic to Russian), you could be making $100 per hour or more.
- Success story: Multiple six figure translators charging upwards of $0.40-$0.50 per word.
12. Start A Virtual Assistant Service
This is our first example of a service-based online business, and it’s ideal for anyone who wants to earn money from a side hustle, but without having to wait tables or mow lawns.
There’s nothing wrong with waiting tables or mowing lawns, by the way – they’re both great offline side-hustles.
So what exactly is a virtual assistant (VA)?
Virtual assistants are generally solopreneurs who offer their services to small businesses that need help with a given range of tasks.
Some people might argue that being a virtual assistant isn’t really running a business. But somebody like Gina Horkey can prove that’s simply not true, and she has a booming business to back her claims up.
She’s also seen as the “go to” person for a step-by-step guide to running your own VA business.
It’s also possible to scale up the idea of being a solo VA and becoming an agency instead. In this model you find and vet virtual assistants for business owners, and get paid a referral fee for doing so.
Typical tasks required of a virtual assistant can range from answering phones and organizing their clients inbox, all the way up to graphic design, search engine optimization and ad-hoc web design and website maintenance tasks.
Wait…somebody will pay you to manage their emails for them?
You’d be amazed at just how many small business owners and entrepreneurs are buried under an inbox of 10,000 – 20,000 emails that they don’t have time to categorize, prioritize or reply to.
If you’re trying to decide on what virtual services to offer, all you need to do is sit down and list out what skills and abilities you have. Everyone has a skill they can sell as a virtual assistant. And even if, for some odd reason, you don’t then you can always learn one by taking courses on Udemy or Teachable.
The odd thing about having a VA business is that once you develop a reputation, then word-of-mouth advertising takes over. All successful VAs wind up hiring other people to help them because they get so swamped with client work.
Costs and Potential of Starting a Virtual Assistant Business
- Startup costs: A laptop, and Internet connection and a $10 account on Upwork.
- Income potential: Virtual assistant rates vary from $20 to $100 per hour, but you’re more likely to make around $30 per hour for your efforts. And you get to do that without ever leaving your home.
- Success story: Gina Horkey, but she’s just one of many successful VAs out there.
13. Build an App
The modern world runs on apps.
Open your phone and go to your list of apps. How many do you have?
Some of those may get used all the time (Facebook, Instagram) and others are about as useless as a camouflage golf ball (hello Samsung Flipboard).
The one thing that all these apps have in common?
Someone is making money off of it.
If you’re able to start your own app that others want to use, you can get in on the money that’s coming from apps. You don’t have to launch the next Angry Birds or Reddit. Try to think of an app that you’ve always wanted on your phone but never been able to find.
A fun game that doesn’t drain my battery.
A free, powerful photo editing software.
Something that tells me when my favorite shows are getting removed from Netflix.
If this is the arena you’re going in, try to start small. This helps you to keep your initial investment low.
It allows you to decide whether or not you like the business and makes sure that you have plenty of opportunities to learn.
Costs and Potential of Starting an App Business
- Start-up costs: Purchasing open source software and developing it can cost as little as $500. If you know how to develop apps already, your start-up cost could be $0.
- Income potential: Billion dollar companies have been made off of apps, but a more realistic goal is about $1000 per month.
- Success story: Podcast guest Justin makes over $1000 every day with his apps.
14. Invest In Peer-to-Peer Loans
The traditional model of banks having a monopoly on loans and currency has finally been turned on its head after several hundred years. Although the first bank was set up by the Medici family in 1472, the loans process hasn’t changed since then.
Then in 2005 the first Peer-to-Peer (P2P) loans took place.
The P2P lending model directly matches lenders with borrowers, and usually at very competitive interest rates. So, even if you have lousy credit, there’s still a good chance you might qualify for a P2P loan instead. There can be more risk for the lender in a peer-to-peer loan, but the dividends are worth it.
Peer-to-Peer loans are really just a form of crowdfunding. But the difference is that P2P lenders “invest” in borrowers, instead of investing in business start-ups.
So, how exactly do you go about lending your money to other people and generating a profit?
You use an intermediary P2P platform, such as Lending Club, to do all the hard work for you. They’re just one of the many popular P2P loan platforms online, including others like Prosper, BitBond, and Zopa.
To give you a basic example of how P2P lending works, let’s say you find a borrower on a P2P loan platform that needs $10,000.
You offer them a loan for the full amount but at an 8% interest rate over 3-years due to their unstable credit rating. You could also offer to part-finance the loan, with other lenders investing in the remainder of it.
If you invested the same money in a standard savings account in the United States you’d earn a whopping .01% to 1.45% in interest per year. Banks actually offer those rates with a straight face!
The lending platform then takes a 1% cut for matching lender and borrower, leaving the investor with a healthy 7% return on their investment.
This is a simplified version of what takes place, but the principles are the same:
- You lend money to people who can’t or won’t borrow it from regular banks
- Your profit is generated by the interest charged on that loan
Costs and Potential of Peer to Peer Lending
- Startup costs: You don’t need to be Warren Buffet to get involved in the peer-to-peer lending market. In fact, some peer-to-peer success stories have started with as little as $25.
- Income potential: Inexperienced lenders can earn as little as 4% per year in interest on their loans. More experienced lenders report returns of 12% – 14% on their loans. Do your due diligence because every financial transaction involves an element of risk.
- Success stories: Joseph Hogue made US$10,000 with P2P loans.
15. Teach Online Courses
If you have a skill of any sort, you can make money by teaching it online.
You could be a great writer, or know how to draw people in with a story. You might be a powerful public speaker, know how to do a narrator’s voice, or be a great parent.
Online teachers in the modern world can teach anything from high level college classes to cooking to handling fights in a relationship.
If you’re interested in sharing your skills, ask yourself what your interests and your skills meet.
What is something that you’re passionate about and really good at? Do you think there are other people out there who would be interested in learning your skill or knowledge?
Your skill may be a little bit more valuable than you realize.
There are whole markets out there who want to know primitive survival skills, who want to know how to stay motivated.
What talents do you have? What are you passionate about? What is there a need to learn?
Costs and Potential of Teaching Online
- Startup costs: It depends on how you want to teach. If you made a course through something like Udemy, your start up costs could be $0. If you want to make your own website to sell videos or courses, then you’ll need to spend a little bit on hosting. I’ve used Bluehost for tons of my niche sites.
If you’re starting an online business, Bluehost helps you get started with cheap hosting and a .com domain name. Try them out to get your online business going.
- Income potential: The income for online teachers can be enormous. $1500 per month is very achievable. Pat Flynn, Brian Dean, and many others make more than $1 million a year selling online courses.
- Success story: Khalid Farhan, guest on the Niche Pursuits Podcast, went from writing $1 articles to running his blog that teaches people how to make money online.
16. Write Your Way To Success
Ever wondered where the term “freelance” comes from?
Freelancers used to be soldiers-for-hire, willing to sell their lance to the highest bidder. We’re not really sure how that got applied to writers-for-hire, but they do say the pen is mightier than the sword.
Speaking from experience, selling your services as a freelance writer is one of the quickest ways to earn money online. The weird thing is that you don’t need a Masters in English or journalism experience to be successful.
In fact, having too much knowledge can actually get in your way of making money as a freelance writer.
What you do need to get clients are samples of your previous writing work.
And that means you’ll need to create some if you don’t have any.
One of the quickest ways to build a portfolio to present to clients is writing articles for sites like Constant Content. Their editors are merciless, so that means they only approve well-written work.
If that approach doesn’t interest you then head over to Google Trends and look for a trending topic. Ideally, this will be something you find interesting, but that’s not an absolute requirement here.
Then create a piece of content on that same topic, sign up for a free WordPress account and post it there. Voila – you now have one “clip” for your writing portfolio.
What will also help your earning potential is to specialize in one style of writing, and maybe even one particular subject. You see, writing on the same subject for hundreds of hours each year makes you an expert on it.
To paraphrase Cal Newport, “…you’ll build up a lot of career capital through deliberate practice.” It’s how you become so good that clients can’t ignore you.
Once you have one or two samples to show prospective clients, it’s then time to find some.
Sites like Freelancer and Upwork are good places to start out.
But you don’t need to stick to the same path taken by every other freelance writer. Use some lateral thinking to find clients.
Join relevant groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Have a look for forums dedicated to web development, digital marketing or SEO – there’s almost always a “writers for hire” section you can use to find new clients.
Some writers only work on specific types of writing, such as technical writing. Other freelance writers will work for whoever is willing to pay them. But writers who specialize earn more than generalists. That’s been proven time and time again.
Two sub-niches within the freelance writing world you should be aware of are editing and proof-reading. Reliable, high-quality editors are in huge demand, with some of the best ones having a six month waiting list.
Costs and Potential for Freelance Writing
- Startup costs: Freelance writing is another of those service-based businesses with very low start-up costs. There are tons of places online where you can find clients for free. At worst you can sign up for an Upwork account for $10 per month, just don’t plan on staying there forever. The most lucrative writing projects are rarely found on platforms like Upwork.
- Income Potential: Freelance writers charge anywhere from 1c per word to $1 per word, depending on their experience and ability.
17. Social Media Consultant
Social media is the new giant of the world, but there are still tons of businesses (and people) who do it badly.
There are over 42 million Facebook pages. Think about how many pages you are an active participant in.
For me, I have an active role in exactly one Facebook page – the Niche Pursuits Facebook page.
It’s not that I hate other pages. I would love to find more pages and groups that appeal to my interests!
But these pages have done a poor job of marketing themselves to me. They haven’t put themselves in my radar and told me why I need them.
There is a huge market for social media consultancy. If you can help businesses or individuals find more like-minded people, then you have a valuable skill. Most businesses have something to offer to somebody. They just have to find that somebody.
If you can help businesses find followers and communicate their message well, you can start consulting for social media. This won’t just help your clients and your own reputation.
It’ll put some serious bucks into your wallet.
A good social media consultant who can find plenty of potential clients for these companies will build an impressive small business.
One that is much easier to deal with than if you focused on web design, graphic design, or other areas that are in demand but also heavily competitive.
Start Up Costs and income Potential for Social Media Consultants
- Start up costs: None. If you can build a social media following without fancy tools, the startup cost for you is exactly zero.
- Income potential: There are entire multi-million dollar businesses built on the backs of social media consultancies. A side gig consultancy could net you an easy few hundred dollars per month on retainer. If you are good at it, you could be getting up to $10,000 per month or more in residual income from clients you love.
- Success story: Alexis Grant is so successful as a social media consultant that now she’s teaching others how to become one.
18. Start an Online Business Selling Digital Products
While this online business model does involve selling products, they’re not physical ones. Instead digital products can be anything from a PDF file, to a membership site, a training course, or a software product.
But the one thing to remember about selling digital products is this: You create it once, and you sell it many times over.
A digital product can be resold to new customers all year round. This is the exact opposite to the e-commerce industry where you’re constantly looking for new products to sell.
Infoproducts can cost almost nothing to produce, and they don’t require space in a warehouse. Customers receive their order by email, or via a download link, so there’s no shipping involved.
Creating a digital product can be as simple as writing a document in Microsoft Word, saving it as a PDF file and then uploading it to Clickbank. Although the days of selling high-priced PDF “eBooks” is a thing of the past, there’s still huge demand for digital products across a wide range of niches.
An example of this is all the cryptocurrency training guides currently available online.
People from all walks of life want to invest in cryptocurrencies because of the crazy success of Bitcoin. A digital product teaching people about crypto might only sell for $27, that’s pretty much 100% profit for the creator.
Digital software products can be just as profitable, but operating system compatibility issues can make it tough work. You can wind up spending half your day dealing with customer support issues, for example.
Now with the advent of SaaS (Software as a Service), software creators are hosting their products online. Your customers don’t have to download and install a software installer because your product is available from the cloud.
Taking your software to the cloud means your product is compatible with almost any computer with a web browser. Customers then pay for access to the software, ensuring your creation is never pirated or hacked.
Costs and Potential of Digital Products
- Startup costs: You can create an eBook with a word processor, a few hours of your time, and some stock images. Your total production costs would be no more than $20. You may need additional money if you want to pay for advertising or promotion.
- Income potential: Successful digital product creators can make tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. This depends on the pricing of their product and whether or not they have recurring income from it.
- Success stories: Here’s a great example of lateral thinking when it comes to selling digital products. This creative couple on the Shopify blog are making US$50,000 per month selling doll clothing patterns.
19. Open an Etsy Store
Do you love everything arts, crafts and vintage? Or maybe you love making things with your hands?
If that’s the case then Etsy is an online business model with a twist because it provides crafters like you with a dedicated platform to sell your handmade or vintage goods from. And don’t think you’ll have to nickel-and-dime your way to a profit – it’s actually the opposite.
Although Etsy originally launched as a platform solely for crafters, it’s expanded to include pre-made vintage and antique items. Some sellers do try to circumvent the system to sell mass-produced items, but Etsy shut those stores down as soon as they find them.
Personalized items such as mugs, pillows and wedding favors are always popular. Handmade bags, stickers and vinyl transfers, handmade jewelry and charms, and other fabric items also sell in volume.
If you’re not artistically inclined then you could set up an Esty store that only sells the raw materials of the crafter trade to others.
Other big sellers on Etsy include vintage and retro household wares and clothing items. Everything from hats to chairs and sofas can sell for 20x what you paid for them in a thrift store.
Starting an Etsy shop is completely free, and they provide tons of support and training for sellers. This includes an online marketing training course that even covers the basics of SEO.
An Etsy store can be started as a part-time business, and then become your full-time gig when you’re earning enough from it. The top sellers on the platform often sell over 1,000 items from their store every day.
Yup, that’s 1,000 items every single day.
Costs and Income Potential of an Etsy Business
- Start-up costs: Free – you can start by selling unique items you own but no longer want. Or have a look on Craigslist for items people are giving away for free. People regularly give away vintage and retro items that are worth hundreds of dollars.
- Income potential: The biggest Etsy sellers earn tens of thousands of dollars per month.
- Success story: There are too many to mention individually, but here’s a selection.
20 (Bonus!): Become an Online Influencer
This doesn’t mean you need to become the next Kardashians.
Influencer is a term that gets overused but the truth is it can be a very successful business venture.
Are you passionate about a topic? Willing to sharpen those photography or YouTube video skills?
There are influencers who are popular gamers on YouTube and Twitch. There are influencers who specialize in hobbies of all kinds and hang out on Pinterest or Instagram.
There are outdoor experts making their living as an influencer on YouTube and other social media platforms.
There are many options out there if this sounds like the type of home based business you would enjoy! A big part helping people, a little dash of charisma, and a willingness to interact with your target audience, make deals with potential customers, and show value to companies who might want to sponsor you, becoming an influencer can be a high profit margin way of turning your knowledge, helpfulness, and personality into actual online income.
The earning potential varies quite a bit depending on a variety of factors.
One of the most important steps is to start out with a plan.
Being a “general influencer” usually isn’t a thing and only works with celebrities or mini-celebrities anyway.
However, talking about travel, hobbies, going in-depth on a local location, a specialty type of exercise or sport – all of these can lead to get photos, videos, and things you can share information about.
Always add value and look to build multiple income streams and you may be surprised just how profitable this can be.
This isn’t the conventional small business owner route.
You need to learn to get and keep attention on top of turning that into enough value for companies or partners to pay you.
However there is serious potential with being an influencer and turning that into a profitable online business you’ll love.
Costs and Income Potential of Being and Influencer
- Start-up costs: Free. While you will want to make sure to get good camera equipment, learn skills, and have a decent laptop at the very least, signing up for social media is free. Posting your pictures is free. This is one where you can literally start with nothing and build your way up.
- Income potential: Starts small but balloons. Top YouTubers earn over $10 million a year, while many niche influencers comfortably make five or even six figures per year.
- Success story: Lost LeBlanc is a YouTuber who went from no following in 2015 to full time travel YouTuber just two years later. If you Google “niche influencer” you’ll see just how many very different roads there are for making a living as an influencer growing an online community.
For many people the idea of being a mini-online celebrity is less than appealing. For others this is the best business to start online and a dream come true!
Best Online Businesses to Start – Based on Your Income Goals and Needs
Starting an online business isn’t a decision you’ve come to lightly. In fact, we’re pretty sure you’ve talked yourself out of the idea of being self-employed as many times as you’ve convinced yourself it’s absolutely the best possible decision for you right now.
But once we get to the heart of why you want to have your own part-time or full-time online business it comes down to a handful of factors:
There’s no better feeling than grabbing the rudder of life away from an ungrateful employer and setting sail for the glowing horizon of entrepreneurial success. You KNOW you can do this.
But an even more pressing need is earning enough money to replace your 9-5 income, or just to pay those extra bills, with the sweat of your brow.
And this is the point where you need to stop and ask yourself how quickly you want to replace your income.
Because that will have a direct impact on the type of business you start. You see, there are only two types of businesses:
- Product based
- Service based
A product-based online business is one where you’re selling products directly to customers. E-commerce stores are a perfect example of a product-based internet business. Just be aware it can take several weeks or months for this type of business to earn money.
Service-based businesses are where you exchange your time for money, but at a higher rate than a daytime job.
The real beauty of this type of business is that you can start earning money almost immediately.
There’s constant demand from businesses for virtual assistants, freelance writers, web developers, and SEO consultants, for example.
Never leave a full-time job in the hope of getting rich overnight from an online business. That might happen, but the odds are stacked against you.
The Benefits of an Online Internet Business
When you compare any online digital business to its brick-and-mortar retail equivalent, you’ll understand why tens of millions of people all over the world take the online route instead.
Owning a “real” business means you need to think about bank loans or financing, leases, maintaining inventory, business insurance, finding staff, training staff, etc.
You then need to factor in finding a prime location for your business. If you don’t have enough footfall then you can expect to be shutting up shop in as little as a few months. In fact, 50% of small brick-and-mortar businesses fail within their first 3 years.
Some of the things we love about pretty much any online business model out there include:
- Low startup costs
- Almost non-existent overheads
- Can be run from anywhere in the world
- Can be run part-time
- No staff required, unless you choose to
Most of the online business models we cover here can be started for less than $50, while some of them can be started for exactly $0.
That’s not a typo – it genuinely does mean zero dollars and cents.
If you can find any ethical and legal brick-and-mortar retail business you can start with exactly nothing, then we’d love to hear about it. Oh, and that doesn’t include the “no money down” property flipping model.
Internet business opportunities are more accessible and available now than ever. There is nothing preventing you from getting started… just you!
Best Online Businesses to Start for You
So there you have a list of the best online business ideas.
Are there more ways to have successful online businesses?
Sure, but lots of them aren’t possible for the average person.
So what is the best online business for you to start?
That will depend on where your passions and your talents intersect. Maybe you love the idea of helping people do little things to make their lives easier.
If so, that is the literal definition of a virtual assistant. Consider starting a VA business.
If you love teaching and think that you have a skill that others want to learn, open an online course and begin teaching. Be funny, be interesting, and help others learn your trade with ease.
If you want to grow a business to huge levels and make passive income, maybe an Amazon FBA business is a good pick for you. It’ll take a little more initial time and investment than some options, but the sky really is the limit.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we have a personal love. We’re passionate about building niche websites that rank well and make passive income. There are so many internet business ideas that you can take advantage of with a niche site.
Almost all of the businesses above could be run on, advertised on, or funded by a niche website.
Take a look at where your passions lie. What excites you, gets you out of bed in the mornings? Then look at what people need. What’s the great product that hasn’t been built yet? What idea could make something easier for you?
That’s what your online business should be. You can make lifetime, passive income and do something you’re passionate about. Now that is winning.
There you have it – a comprehensive guide to the best online businesses to start this year.
But which of these online business idea should you choose?
Most entrepreneurs will start several over a period of a few years. This is so they never have to rely on just one stream of income. The online business world is always in a state of flux, so it’s best to never to have all your digital eggs in one basket.
Whatever you choose, we think that an online niche business could be used to start, promote, or fund every one of the ideas we mentioned above. If you have a strong work ethic, are willing to learn, and have an internet connection, there’s no reason you can’t start your own internet business and build it to a mini-empire!