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As of 2021, there almost 5 billion internet users. So, there has never been a better time to get online and start your own business. Fortunately, there are lots of online business ideas.
You can use your current skill set, interests or hobbies to develop your small business ideas and create a side hustle. You may even be able to replace your full time income.
How to Start an Online Business?
All online businesses require a PC and internet connection, but beyond this the only limitation of your online business ideas is your imagination. It is possible to transform practically any skill or interest into an income stream and viable business.
So, the first step to start an online business is to give some serious thought to your interests. Initially, you’re likely to be working on your business in your spare time.
Therefore, it should be something that interests and engages you. If you pick an idea that sounds good because it could make money, but you find it boring, this is likely to be apparent to your potential customers.
1. Shopify Store
If you have products or can source a line of items to sell, you could open a Shopify store. This platform makes it easy to create an e-commerce store in your chosen niche.
Shopify offers a free trial to new members, but basic plans starrt at $29 per month.
Shopify currently has over a million independent e-commerce businesses across a variety of industries. The platform generates approximately $1.5 billion a year.
There are some massive brands on Shopify including Budweiser, Red Bull and GymShark. Despite this, the platform makes it easy for smaller retailers to get started.
Depending on your choice of products and overheads such as shipping, you could make anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds per item.
- Sell anything and anywehere on Shopify
- Extremely quick way to start your own e-commerce store
- 14 days free trial available
- Thousands of apps available to improve your store
2. Amazon FBA
If you have a line of products that could be popular or you enjoy finding bargains, you could develop a substantial business that earns you up to $100 per hour.
There are also tools to help you, such as Jungle Scout. These tols make it easier to organize and maintain your sales listings.
The selling process is a little tedious, but simple. There are no upfront fees. You will need to calculate your shipping expenses and ensure you adhere to the Amazon terms and conditions.
- What is Amazon FBA and how does It work?
- Benefits and drawbags of Amazon FBA
- Step by step guide how to sell on Amazon FBA
- How to find a winning product?
Dropshipping will not offer the same profits as Shopify, but you won’t need to stock and ship products. This is why it is one of the most popular online business ideas. You don’t need warehouse space or need to arrange deliveries.
Essentially, you’ll market products and then arrange direct shipping to your customer from your suppliers. So, you could buy products from Aliexpress or Alibaba and sell through a Shopify store or website.
You can sell almost anything through dropshipping. But, you’ll need to carefully assess profit margins to ensure you choose to sell the best products. Dropshipping is a convenient way to sell items and you can create a business that generates an income of $100,000 or more per year.
- Benefits of starting a dropshipping business
- How to find a winning product for dropshipping?
- How to find dropshipping suppliers?
- How to market your dropshipping business?
4. Amazon Third-Party Seller
Unlike Amazon FBA, third party sellers sell products on Amazon and then ship them from their own location.
You’ll still need to find products to sell. But, you’ll be responsible for packaging and shipping your items when you make a sale.
This can be a lucrative business. According to statistics, Amazon sellers typically make $1,000 or more per month in sales. There are super sellers than make $250,000 or more per month.
5. Amazon Merch
Merch by Amazon is a print on demand service. You can turn your designs into T-shirts, caps, hoodies and other merchandise. The platform does not require any upfront costs and you can even set your own pricing.
Each time you make a sale, Amazon handles the printing and distribution. You’ll receive a royalty of 14 to 35% depending on your list price.
The top Merch by Amazon sellers are making $80,000 a month. However, with good designs, it is quite easy to make $200 or more a week.
6. Subscription Box
Subscription boxes are an interesting way to explore products. You can also use this as one of the most lucrative online business ideas.
Essentially a subscription box is a recurring delivery of physical products. These monthly boxes allow trying out new products and new brands. You can build this into an impressive income. For example, Dollar Shave Club now has an annual revenue of $100 million.
Boxes typically cost the consumer $10 to $40 per month. So, you can create a decent profit margin if you get a solid subscription list. This can be accomplished through affiliate marketing, working with influencers or using your own network of followers, such as from a blog or podcast.
You can expect a profit margin of approximately 60 percent. So, there is the potential to earn $24 per box per month.
7. 3D Printing
3D printing is the next step in printing. Industrial 3D printers are creating anything from custom parts to prosthetic limbs. Today, the global 3D printing industry is worth over $14 billion and it is set to continue growing.
So, you can get a piece of this expanding industry to create your small business. The simplest way to create a 3D printing business is to print on demand. This involves printing other people’s designs using 3D files.
You will need to invest in a printer and establish your niche to compete in this popular segment. Entry level printers cost $200- $500. You can also sign up to online marketplaces like Shapeways or 3D Hubs.
You’ll create a solid customer base as you gain experience. The earning potential for this type of business is a little vague, as it depends on your niche and products. However, the average hub or project on 3D Hubs is between $100 and $1000.
8. Handmade Goods
If you’re a creative person and can produce handmade goods, you can use this as inspiration for a small business.
You can begin on a platform such as Etsy. This allows you to create a storefront with minimal fees. Etsy charges just $0.20 per item for listing fees and 5% commission on sales.
You can set your own prices for your items, but the average Etsy listing price is $25.
It is a good idea to conduct some market research on the platform to determine if your small business ideas are viable. However, Etsy provides a marketplace for personalized items, household goods, jewellery and other crafts.
- Easy to set up & maintain your store
- Market to a large audience – 45+ million active Etsy buyers
- Built-in analytics to analyze your performance & make data-driven decisions
- No shop fees
9. SEO Agency
If you’re SEO savvy, you could create your own SEO agency. Most business owners appreciate the importance of having a web presence, but have no idea how to gain online visibility. You’ll need to be able to explain your services and help clients to understand that SEO strategies don’t provide instantaneous results.
You can start your online business on a freelancing platform or set up your own website. Alternatively, you can visit local businesses in your area to start building your client base. There are also courses for beginners such as Project24.
As you accumulate satisfied clients and can demonstrate you can deliver results, you’re likely to get more referrals.
SEO agencies typically charge $100 per hour, so you can expect to earn an average of $1700 per client.
10. Ad Management
Every business needs marketing and so ad management is an in demand industry. This involves overseeing and controlling advertising activities to create an effective strategy.
As an online business, you could specialize in Google Ads, social media marketing or even SEO. This is similar to an SEO agency, but you would only be working within the area of adverts.
You’ll need to have a good head for statistics, as you’ll need to monitor ad clicks, conversions and sales. However, you can expect to earn up to $100 or more per hour.
11. App Development
If you have coding skills, you could consider creating an app development business. These days, many companies and brands have an app. People spend hours of their day on their phones, surfing the internet, buying things, playing games and more. Each of these activities requires an app.
Even if you’re not a confident coder, you can still create an app through tools such as Appypie.
If you have lots of ideas, you could consider developing apps for yourself. Coding your ideas into games, and other apps that can be sold on the Google Play store. However, if you prefer, you could market your services to businesses who need an app for their enterprise.
As a beginner, you could market your services for up to $100 per hour. But, with experience, you may find you can command thousands of dollars a month.
12. Web Development
Another area where your coding skills could be used to create a business is web development. Websites and blogs all require code to make them function correctly and look appealing.
You’ll need to know HTML, Python or other coding languages. You can find web development work on a freelance platform, such as Upwork or set up a web site to promote your services.
You can expect to earn up to $40 per hour. However, if you have an impressive portfolio and can confidently sell your skills, you could earn more.
- What is a web developer?
- How much do web developers make an hour?
- What qualifications do you need to be a web developer?
- How to become a web developer with no experience?
Saas or Software as a Service provides software hosted on a cloud infrastructure. Business pay a fee each month to access the software.
You’ll need to have good coding and design skills to create appealing products.
Typically, Saas providers use a per using pricing model. You can charge a fixed rate per month for each user on an account. For example, G Suite charges $6 per user, so companies with 10 users need to pay $60 per month.
14. Virtual Assistant
If you’re an organized person, one of the most interesting online business ideas is to become a virtual assistant. This involves a variety of tasks from admin assistance and scheduling to customer support and email marketing.
Your basic goal is to help out your clients in any ways that they need. You can expect to earn as much as $25 per hour. Once you establish a client base, you can even work with multiple clients to boost your earnings.
There are lots of platforms to find VA clients. A good place to start is a freelancing platform. You’ll need to showcase your skills to secure your first clients, but once you start getting positive feedback, it should be even easier.
- Average salary for a virtual assistant
- Skills needed to be a virtual assistant
- Steps to become a virtual assistant with no experience
- 55 virtual assistant jobs from home
15. Write Content
If you have solid grammar and writing skills, you could write content. This is one of the most lucrative online business ideas. There is a high demand, high income potential and low costs.
Most writing clients are looking for content in an informal style. So, you simply need to write conversationally. However, if you have the skills, you can specialize in technical writing or white papers.
While it can be a little tricky to get started, there are plenty of platforms to find remote writing jobs. The average pay for beginners is $15 or more per hour. As you gain experience and can show prospective clients positive feedback from previous projects, you can increase your rates with the potential to earn $100+ per hour.
- How to become a writer?
- How to find legitimate freelance writing jobs?
- 15 best creative writing jobs
- What are the highest paying writing jobs?
If you like helping others and have an interest in teaching, one of the best small business ideas is to start an online tutoring enterprise.
There are plenty of platforms to help you connect with students. Most platforms do have requirements for their tutors. For example, you may need a degree and or teaching experience. However, there are platforms that don’t require formal qualifications. For example, Cambly allows you to earn $10 or more per class.
Many platforms require a teaching certificate, but you can earn as you learn to further boost your earning potential.
- What is an online tutor?
- How much money can you make online tutoring?
- How do I become an online tutor?
- 56 best online tutoring jobs for teachers & college students
17. Graphic Design
If you have excellent graphic design talents, you could develop an online graphic design business. Businesses need graphics for almost every aspect of their operation. From logos and flyers to book covers and merch there is a high demand for graphic designers.
If you’re already into graphic design, you’re likely to already have the necessary software and tools.
You can start your operation by working on freelancer platforms. Alternatively, you could offer your services on Fiverr. This will allow you to offer your services with a tiered payment structure to find new clients.
If you’re code savvy, you could even set up your own website to promote your services.
Depending on the specific project, you could earn $35 or more per hour.
- You’re selling a service at the price you set and not your time
- Remain anonymous – Fiverr allows you to remain anonymous and don’t reveal any personal or contact information of yours
- Upsell opportunities. You can increase your Fiverr earnings by offering your clients upsells. E.g. you can offer less delivery time for additional payment
- Seller protection. Fiverr ensures your and your funds’ security on the platform and helps you resolve the case with fraudulent clients
18. Remote Customer Service
As a remote customer service worker, you’ll provide information to customers needing help with queries or concerns.
Typically, this type of work is an hourly role, but some companies pay bonuses for peak performance. There may even be commission for upselling. You can expect an hourly rate of $14 on average.
The most popular company with remote customer service positions is Amazon. However, there are companies around the world with opportunities.
- What is remote customer service?
- What is the salary of remote customer service representative?
- How do you become a remote customer service rep?
- 15 best remote customer service jobs and platforms
19. Stock Photographer
If you enjoy taking photos, you could become a stock photographer. Lots of businesses need stock photos for their blogs, websites and other promotional materials. If you are a keen amateur photographer, you’re likely to already have the equipment you need to get started.
Selling photos online can be one of the simplest online business ideas. For example, Shutterstock allows you to earn $0.25 to $0.45 per image per month. The platform pays 15 to 40% for licensing your images depending on the level. While this seems like a small amount, imagine if you have hundreds of photographs selling.
You can take stock photographs in practically any area. If you need a little inspiration, take a look at the current images on the Shutterstock marketplace.
- What Are Stock Photography Websites?
- How Much Can You Make Selling Stock Photos?
- What Stock Photos Sell Best?
- 10 Best Platforms to Sell Stock Photos
20. Niche Blog
A niche blog can pay anything from a few dollars to thousands every month. Blogging is a job that is flexible enough to work part or full time. In fact, many bloggers start their niche blog around their day jobs.
You can’t expect an immediate return for your blog. However, with consistent posting, you can build up a following. Typically, it can take six months of blogging or more to start to generate revenue. Therefore, it is important to choose a niche that you feel passionate about.
There are virtually limitless possibilities. Once you’re established, you can put ads on your site, sell your own products or earn affiliate marketing commissions.
- How to start a blog in 6 easy steps
- Most profitable niches today
- How to make your blog successful
- How to promote your blog
21. Youtube Channel
Starting a YouTube channel is another of the great online business ideas. However, it does not provide instant cash.
Although YouTube has made changes to its terms of service, channels are still a mammoth industry. There are still content creators who earn millions of dollars. For example, PewdiePie made $13 million in 2019.
Starting a channel is a little more involved than just making and uploading videos. New channels need to meet a 1000 subscriber requirement and a minimum 4,000 views before you can share in ad revenue. However, once there are ads on your channel, you can earn up to $2,000 or more a month.
Your earning potential will vary according to your posting consistency, niche and content. So, again, you need to pick a niche that you will enjoy working in.
- How many subscribers & viewers you need to start making money from Youtube ads?
- How much money can you make as a youtuber?
- 5 ways to make money in the Youtube partner program
- 5 other ways to make money on Youtube
22. Instagram Influencer
We’re in the social media age, and many companies are moving their ad budget from conventional advertising methods to influencers. As an Instagram influencer, you can help companies to access a specific demographic that matches its target audience.
Your potential earnings will vary according to the size of your following and your engagement rate. Popular influencers can command massive sums to do a sponsored post. For example, Kim Kardashian receives $300,000 to $500,000 for a single post.
Becoming an Instagram influencer is not easy. You will need to carefully choose a niche and create an appealing bio. You’ll need to regularly post new content and follower interaction is crucial. It can take time to build a following, but once you have, you can negotiate sponsorships.
- What is an Instagram Influencer?
- How Much Money Does an Instagram Influencer Make?
- How to Become an Instagram Influencer?
- 5 Tips to Become a Successful Influencer
23. Online Courses
You don’t need to be a formal teacher with qualifications to help other people to learn a skill. There are online courses on almost any topic, so you can turn your skill set and experience into an online course business. The most popular type of course is a “How to”, but practical guides can also sell.
Typically, you can expect to earn up to 60 percent of each copy of your course you sell.
You will need to choose a topic that you have in depth knowledge of. This will enable you to walk people through all the steps.
With some promotion and connecting with affiliate partners, you should be able to make a residual income. Platforms such as Udemy allow you to sell your course and work with affiliates.
- How Much Money Can You Make Selling Online Courses?
- What Online Courses Sell Best?
- Steps to Sell An Online Course
- Platforms to Sell an Online Course
24. Book Publishing
If you believe you have at least one good book in you, you could consider a book publishing business. Amazon’s Kindle platform makes it easy for authors to sell their books to a global audience.
This platform is free to use. Amazon allows you to upload your book on the publishing dashboard and list it on various Amazon sites. You’ll receive a percentage of each copy of your book that sells.
You can set your own book prices, but it will affect what percentage you’ll receive. If your book is $2.99 to $9.99, you’ll receive 70% of the price for each sale. However, if your book is outside this range, you’ll receive 35%.
The Kindle platform allows you to participate in promotions and you’ll appear on best seller lists if you sell sufficient numbers. Although you will need to dedicate some time to promoting your books, there is the potential to make a massive income. For example, Steve Scott, under the name, SJ Scott makes $40,000+ per month.
You can set your own book prices, participate in promotions and appear on best seller lists.
- Amazon Self-Publishing: What is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?
- KDP Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
- How Much Does it Cost to Publish with KDP?
- A Step By Step Guide to Amazon Self-Publishing
If you don’t like the idea of making videos for YouTube, but you have plenty to sell, you could consider a podcast. Podcasts are available on practically any subject. You can discuss your skills and interests with like minded listeners.
It can take some time to gain a podcast following. However, when you have gathered regular listeners, there are sponsorships, affiliate deals and you can even sell your own products and services.
While the earnings can vary, typically if you have 10,000 downloads of your episodes, you can expect to receive $500 to $900.
26. Webinar Business
A webinar business involves developing, designing and delivering internet based live seminars. People can attend the seminars from their offices or homes.
Typically, a webinar allows participants the opportunity to ask questions, chat and even download handouts. Fortunately, there are courses to help you get started.
People tend to pay per entry to webinars, so there is the potential to earn a decent income. Just imagine if you have 50 attendees all paying $25, you’ll earn $1,250 for one event. You can either help businesses by developing their webinars or set up webinars for your own services.
27. Online Community
Another possible online business idea is to build an online community. When you have a following, you can harness this to generate an income.
For example, you could sell t-shirts, caps and other merch, host adverts, create a board, sell services or charge for membership with exclusive content. For example, CafeMom has a million members. This offers advice, but also advertises products and services in the parenting niche.
Although you can use a social media platform to create your online community, for exclusivity, create a branded community. This type of community requires more than just an email address and password for entry.
You can build your community around your passions and interests, finding people who share your enthusiasm.
28. Membership Site
Membership sites are more common today than ever before. You may start by offering free content on social media platforms, but the aim will be to get people to join your membership site to pay for exclusive content. Like an online community, you can create your membership site around your skills, passions and interests.
For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you could offer one to one fitness guidance, create diet and exercise plans and even provide a forum to offer mutual support. There will be some overheads involved, but if you have 50 people paying $20 a month for membership, you can generate $1,000 each month.
For example, Succulents and Sunshine has 59,000 members and generates over $100,000 per year.
You can build a website for yourself or you’ll need a web designer to help you. Just be sure to tailor your membership site to complement your desired brand aesthetic.
If you have skills that you have accumulated throughout your career, you could create a consulting business. You’ll need to decide on a platform and specify your niche. However, it is possible to earn $20 to $100 an hour.
You could start working on a freelance platform or create your own website. However, to establish a successful consultancy business, you will need to network within your industry.
Fortunately, you can do this online, participating in online communities and speaking with people on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. You can then seek referrals for your consulting services.
- What Exactly Do Consultants Do?
- How Do You Get Paid as a Consultant?
- What Skills Do You Need to be a Consultant?
- 10 Steps to Become a Consultant
How to Make Your Online Business Profitable?
There is no quick answer to make a profitable online business. However, a good foundation is to choose something that you have a deep interest in.
There is no point in starting a business in an area that you cannot imagine spending hours each week for months or years discussing. So, think carefully about what you feel passionate about and develop your online business ideas from this point.