Why an Online Business?
Starting an online business is a lot less risky than brick-and-mortar businesses and you don’t need a ton of money to get started. An online business also gives you the freedom to work from almost anywhere and does not involve large overheads. That’s why anyone can launch an online business if he/she has basic IT skills and knows how to communicate professionally. However, with so many online businesses to choose from, it can become difficult to choose the one that’s right for you.
This guide covers some of the best online businesses you can start from anywhere with very little investment. Whether you are looking to earn a decent passive income or want to turn your ideas into a small fortune, the internet is a great equalizer and has something for everyone.
- Very little upfront cost
- Freedom to work from anywhere
- You choose your own working hours
- Highly scalable
- You can even get started with no money using free online services
Things You Need to Start an Online Business
The best thing about starting an online business is that you don’t need a lot of money and other resources to get started. The internet has made it possible for anyone with a bright idea and basic computer skills to establish their own brand. You don’t have to be a web developer either as there is no shortage of tools that enable you to start building your website in just a few clicks.
All you need to get started is a computer and internet connection. Web hosting and domain registration are pretty cheap these days. It’s highly recommended to go for paid solutions instead of trying to save a few bucks on free hosting (even if you are just trying to experiment). Let’s get started with the top ten online business ideas that can help you start something of your own and earn from anywhere.
A dropshipping business (you may also like to check out our detailed guide on how to start a dropshipping business) eliminates the costs related to keeping inventory and fulfilling orders. The orders are fulfilled by the manufacturer/drop ship supplier. A customer places an order through your website, while the dropship supplier is responsible for almost everything else from packing to shipping. You get a pre-negotiated commission on sales and are responsible for marketing and customer services.
Since the inventory and order fulfillment is handled by the dropship supplier, your financial cost and risk are minimized. Another benefit of a dropshipping business is that you can easily switch between products according to customer demand and current trends.
The major hurdle in a dropshipping business is finding a reliable supplier that ensures timely and accurate delivery of orders. While you have a lot of online resources to find a decent supplier, the best way to do so is through personal connections or word-of-mouth.
You can either market and sell products on your own website or through established platforms such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay. If you are in it for the long run, it’s worth investing time and effort into building and optimizing your own site. Selling on established platforms might be easier, but you won’t be able to establish your own brand like you would using your own website. Despite being a highly-competitive industry, dropshipping still remains one of the best low-to-no-cost startup options.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another great way to earn a decent passive income if you already have or are planning to offer quality content. Amazon is one of the most popular Affiliate Marketing platforms (see our detailed Amazon Affiliate Marketing guide) and offers millions of products to its loyal customer base.
Just like a dropshipping business, you don’t have to keep inventory or fulfill orders. Instead, you pick the products already on sale and include their unique links in your website/blog. You get a commission or percentage of the sale when a visitor clicks a product link and makes a purchase.
The most important thing in the affiliate marketing business is perhaps the quality of your content. If you are already maintaining a website/blog that generates decent traffic, affiliate marketing might be the right fit. Some of the most popular affiliate marketing platforms include Amazon, Clickbank and CJ Affiliate, while many big names such as Wal-Mart have affiliate programs in place through 3rd-party sites.
Here is how it works:
- You pick a profitable niche, preferably a niche you are familiar with and passionate about
- Choose an affiliate partner such as Amazon
- Include unique and trackable links to related products in your website/blog
- You get a commission on each sale made through those links
- You have to create valuable content (and update it regularly), optimize your site for search engines and generate traffic
- The important thing is to post useful and engaging content regularly (at least one post a week)
3. Online Videos
Online video platforms such as YouTube are not just about cute cats and viral videos. Creating videos with useful content boosts engagement, especially when you are dealing with niches that get little coverage. You can create all sorts of videos related to your niche, including how-tos, product comparisons, walkthroughs and more.
Here is how it works: You create engaging videos that offer something of value to the viewers, upload them to YouTube (or other platforms) and enable monetization. YouTube includes short ads in the videos and you get paid when viewers click them. If you already have a strong following, you can also opt for paid sponsorships by promoting products of other companies in your videos (Example: many smartphone reviewers include paid promotional content for smartphone cases and skins).
The best thing about creating videos is that you can even get started with your smartphone. However, make sure to properly light up the place and stay away from distractive noises while recording. You also don’t have to be an expert in video editing software. There are plenty of tools available (many are free) such as iMovie that help you create decent videos without getting too deep into technicalities.
If you have something useful and engaging to offer, you don’t have to be super slick in the beginning. Make sure to share your creations on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and keep your social circle updated with latest developments. In addition to video monetization, YouTube videos can also be used to drive traffic back to your blog/website or expand the existing email subscriber list.
Starting a blog is pretty simple and inexpensive and works really well for people who have a passion or expertise in a certain niche. Many platforms such as Blogger allow you to start a blog for free, but having your own site (aka paid) is a much better option in the long run. Blogging is usually considered an all-writing affair, but you can also post videos, images and links or repost articles and news.
You can blog about almost anything that’s related to your niche, but the important thing in this game is regularly posting original and quality content. You can include different types of content including how-tos, product reviews, product comparisons, top 10 products, latest trends and launches and tips-and-tricks. The next step involves partnering with an Ad network that places its Ads in your blog. Some of the most popular Ad platforms to monetize your blog include:
- Google AdSense (CPC-based ads), you have to follow strict guidelines to get approved
- Media.net (CPC, CPA and CPM programs)
- Propeller Ads (CPC, CPA and CPM), almost instant approval
- Popads (works well for small publishers, no minimum traffic restrictions)
- Infolinks (suitable for content-centric, focuses on in-text ads)
- Chitika (CPC-based, real-time bidding, no minimum traffic requirements)
5. Online Consultancy/Coaching
Providing online consultancy or coaching works great for people who are highly skilled/experienced in a particular industry or niche. This online business also works well for people who have a certain skill and want to teach others using the internet. Whether you want to offer business consultancy, teach music or a foreign language, internet serves as great medium by eliminating physical boundaries.
If you know the ins-and-outs of a field and want to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success, offering online consultancy might be the perfect online business for you. Posting useful and informative content on platforms like LinkedIn helps you show off your expertise and bring in clients who are looking for consultancy or coaching services.
Although there is no alternative to building your own website, you’d have to work hard to generate traffic and get noticed by search engines (at least in the beginning). Your social networks can play a huge role in spreading the word and getting noticed by prospective clients.
6. T-Shirt Printing
The t-shirt printing business can work well for people who have an eye for design and want to experiment with new ideas. Setting up an online store is easier than ever, thanks to platforms like Shopify and Spreadshirt. We have already covered T-Shirt printing in details so you might want to have a look at the guide to explore more.
7. Publish a Book on Amazon
Publishing your book on Amazon is fairly straight forward and saves you from having to deal with all the difficult stuff related to publishing and marketing. If you think you have a flair for writing and can write a book that can make a few hundred sales, Amazon can do the rest and promote it for you. Make sure to validate your ideas (friends, surveys etc.) before writing the book and format it according to guidelines provided by Amazon.
8. Buying and Flipping Domains / Domain Reseller
This might sound like the easiest online job, but it takes experience and intuition to pick the right domains. There is no shortage of platforms that allow you to buy and flip domains such as Flippa, and Empire Flippers. The important thing is to find a great domain name that’s available or use drop catching services to secure an expiring domain.
Different things you can do to attract buyers is to create a landing page letting visitors know that the domain is available, disabling WHOIS privacy so people can see your contact information and listing domains on aftermarket services such as Sedo and Afternic. You can also consider building and reselling niche sites. However, this line of business requires a lot of time and effort so you might want to stick with domain reselling if you are already doing a 9-5 job.
9. Writing CVs
Similar to a coaching/consultancy business, you can also help people with their CVs if you are good with words and know how to highlight best qualities. You need a good website or strong social media networking to bring in clients, while you can also offer your services on freelance platforms such as Upwork.
10. Forex/Stock Trading
Although riskier than the aforementioned online businesses, the stock and forex trading business can also bring in big rewards. Your best bet is to start small and grow as you gain more experience and knowledge. You’d have to keep yourself updated with current affairs and what’s happening in the financial markets. Platforms such as eToro allow you to invest in multiple assets, but there is always a risk of rapidly losing money. Only consider this line of trade if you can afford to lose some money while testing the water.
The most important thing to consider before starting any online business is your own experience and skillset. You can also consider starting multiple online businesses while keeping yourself updated with the latest market trends and customer demands. This allows you to have something in the backup if one online business starts going south. Most of these online businesses are all-inclusive, fairly easy to start and offer a great potential for growth.
If you have been thinking of starting an online business and putting it off year-after-year, now is the right time to take action. There are plenty of options to choose form and advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to go global. Just pick the right ideas and you’ll be on your way to having your own profitable online business.