11 Small Online Business Ideas

Entrepreneurs around the globe are coming up with creative online business ideas to achieve their ambitions. Besides, the longer the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the more likely it is that we will hit warp speed in the march towards online shopping and away from brick and mortar stores.

Online business ideas have the potential to give entrepreneurs access to steady income and secure jobs with massive growth prospects. There is an incredible variety in the number of available options, as long as you’re willing to try.

But as is true for just about everything in life, not all online business ideas are worth pursuing. Some require too much time to set up (or require a ton of upfront capital investment) without prospects of any income for a long time. Others have a high risk of failure, but the payoff, in the end, is incredible.

The criteria for choosing online business ideas are simple: they should fall in line with your skills, passion, and hobbies. You should also have enough time in the day to commit to the business. Far too many people start their business and provide a lot of seed capital, only for everything to fall apart because they simply didn’t have enough time to commit.

What are the Benefits of Starting an Online Business?

Most people live on a single source of income in a financial situation where anything and everything could go wrong at any moment. Most people are one tragic event away losing their job, it could be an accident, a medical emergency, or even a worldwide pandemic like the coronavirus.

It’s best to have an alternative source of income lined up, and there’s enough online business ideas to go around. Besides, the advantages of running an online business far outweigh the risks. You can work at your own schedule, work from home, and charge your own rates.

The income potential for online business ideas is sky-high. Since you’re working for yourself, you can make your own decisions about which clients to work with, what services and products to offer, and focus on growing your business. Your efforts directly benefit you, not someone else.

The disadvantage of course is that you’re all on your own. You also open yourself up to certain liabilities if your business deals in certain areas that require permits, such as giving medical advice. Areas such as pharmaceuticals, food, nootropics, and more may come with personal liabilities associated with them.

11 Profitable Online Business Ideas You Can Start from Home

There are many online business ideas with almost zero in the way of startup costs, and you can work on them while working your full-time job. You could keep the business as a side hustle to supplement your regular income or simply build up the business until you no longer need your full-time job.

Here is our round-up of 11 online business ideas with low barriers to entry.

1. Create a Blog

People gobble up well-written articles like they would hot cake – the demand is never-ending. Everyone wants to stay in the know when it comes to important events, life hobbies, a particular industry, and learn new things. This is where your blog could come. The goal is to share ideas that are helpful to others, remember to never come across as a snobby salesperson, that is the fastest way to turn your audience away.

There are several ways of monetizing your blog; once it reaches a critical mass, of course. You could monetize your blog with an advertising program that operates on a pay-per-click business model. The most popular tool of course is AdSense; it also has the least barriers to entry in terms of viewership needed for activation on your blog.

For the most part, you only have to make sure that your website meets the following criteria:

  • Isn’t spammy
  • Has a good website interface with neatly laid out menus (very important)
  • Lots of content (at least 10 to 20 long-form articles on something informative)

Top alternatives to AdSense include PropellerAds, Skimlinks, Adversal, Amazon Native Shopping Ads, Taboola, and Outbrain, among others. For a more exhaustive list, you can check out this detailed blog by Kinsta.

Then there is affiliate marketing. For instance, you could do product reviews and place a link to the product for interested buyers to purchase. When your readers buy the product using your link, they will get a cut of the profits. Amazon and Alibaba have some of the largest affiliate marketing programs dealing with a never-ending list of products and services.

But if you really want to maximize your options, you could sign up with vendors like LeadPages, GetResponse, Fiverr, and Unbounce. Most of them offer more than 10% commission that could translate into massive paydays. For a complete list of the best affiliate marketing programs, check out this blog by Hubspot.

The third option is to sell your own products. You could build your own inventory (expensive and high risk) or use a dropshipping business model (cheaper and low risk).

All of the above options require you to reach a certain number of subscribers or followers to your blog. If you don’t have a high enough following, consider using Facebook Ads or Google Ads to drive more leads to your blogs. Finally, make sure to publish on your blog regularly.

We’ve put together a brief guide on how you could start your own website/blog for as little as $4 a month. The guide includes a complete how-to on creating a website from scratch, setting up WordPress, and choosing the right theme.

2. Start a YouTube Channel

There are virtually no barriers to entry here.

The only problem is that YouTube suffers from an oversaturation problem with millions of creators hoping to one day go viral. With over 2 billion logged-in users, YouTube is the true melting pot of the world, teeming with new ideas (you’d be surprised).

In order to become a success, you’ll have to create exciting videos that engage human visitors, as opposed to search engine algorithms. The quality of your videos, and not SEO, will ultimately decide your success.

Because of the sheer number of creators out there, it is important to limit your channel to a very specific defined niche. For example, instead of doing video game reviews, you could be doing reviews for home décor accessories such as throw pillows. The idea is to find a niche within a niche. But if you’ve really set your sights on a popular topic like video games, consider searching for a popular niche within the niche such as gaming keyboards.

You would be surprised just how rewarding niche marketing can be, even if it may appear that you’re not getting the most eyeballs on your videos.

Here are a few tips to get started on YouTube:

  • Find the right equipment such as mirrorless cameras, DSLRs, lenses, and studio lighting
  • Buy a professional microphone if you plan on using your voice
  • Upload on a regular basis
  • Publish short (~5 minutes) and long (~10 minutes) videos
  • Do live streams once you’ve gained enough traction
  • Respond to your readers via comments, follow up videos, and try to build genuine relationships
  • And if possible, try to stir up your very own little internet beef with a fellow YouTuber over a small disagreement. The potential for escalation is huge here. Engaging in YouTube drama is one of the fastest ways to get to the front page of the internet.

Pro Tip: The last suggestion is like a double-edged sword that could go either way! So choose your battles wisely.

As with blogs, your money-making potential is almost limitless. For starters, you’ll earn money via video monetization, product endorsements, affiliate marketing, product ‘reviews’, and if you’re really successful, you could open up your own fashion lineup!

3. Help Small Businesses as a Virtual Assistant

One popular option is to become a virtual assistant and support other business owners in several ways. Virtual assistants can choose their services based on their unique skill set and what they enjoy doing. For example, if you have a knack for sales, you may offer telephone answering services. If you know your way around grammar, you could become a proofreader.

You could also offer assistance through other services such as writing blog posts, email management, social media services, and much more. The possibilities are endless.

Our advice is to expand your skill set so that you could take on more tasks from your clients. Bonus points if you have actual office experience, but if you’re just starting out, you’ll have to learn the ropes yourself. But it won’t take long to learn.

If you start getting more requests than you can handle on your own, you could start hiring or outsourcing.

Once again, there are no barriers to entry, but you have to find unique ways of pitching your services to clients. There is no dearth of competition online.

One of the prerequisites of virtual work is being able to communicate clearly. Virtual assistants perform many important day-to-day tasks that keep the wheels turning, which means you’ll need to provide hassle-free communication services. Consider buying professional microphones for the best customer service.

As a business owner and VA, you should be able to deliver exactly what your client wants based on their briefing to you. This is why it’s a good idea to check out your competitors to determine the best structure for your service packages and the most suitable price plans. For obvious reasons, if you’re really new, you should consider undercutting your competition to attract more clients.

If you want to learn how to set up a virtual assistant business, check out the top courses offered by Udemy here.

4. Freelance Writing Gigs

Content writing is a rewarding job and can generate near-limitless revenue. But it’s not easy.

Many market-savvy businesses are quickly realizing this and are either hiring writers or outsourcing this to freelance writers (which are the cheaper option of the two). This is where you could come in. If you’re passionate about writing, you can offer freelance writing services.

The company walks away with a well-written, well-researched blog that would have taken them ages to write, and you walk away with cash. It’s a win-win. Besides, freelance writing gigs are among the most risk-free online business ideas from home.

Writing is a very subjective business, so you should be prepared for lots of criticism coming your way. The smart thing to do is to learn from the criticism and improve your weak areas. Criticism, both positive and negative, will go a long way in improving your business.

You should start your career on a platform like Upwork and Fiverr. Once you’ve accumulated enough cash, your goal should be to start your writing agency. This path is ultimately more rewarding because you get to keep almost 100% of your profits (payment processors may take a sizable chunk of your profits though!).

If you’re not getting enough clients for your freelance writing gigs, do what everyone does: place ads on Google AdSense, social media, and Bing.

Offer freebies, $1 blogs, and free trials, and once you’ve made a reputation for yourself, introduce them to your regular payment plans. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

5. Become a Social Media Influencer

Social media is one of the most effective online business ideas from home with very low barriers to entry. If you gain enough followers, you could promote your own products, sell your own services, or partner up with brands for endorsements. Places like Instagram have evolved from just a platform where you check in on your friends every now and then.

Platforms that you can target include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Make sure to upload engaging videos on a regular basis because it is one of the most efficient ways to grow an audience. You can conduct interviews, teach lessons, make how-to tutorials, do product reviews, provide commentary on current events, or be an all-out goofball.

The list is endless.

Of course, it should be known that making money on social media is easier said than done. For starters, you’ll have to choose a niche and research the strategies that successful influencers are using. In 90% of the cases, if it worked for them, it should work for you.

Pro tip: Social media has grown past the notion of viral videos where a person falls off a chair, pet tricks, and ‘prank’ videos. To stand out, you have to create a well-defined strategy that doesn’t bank on one-trick-ponies.

Try to post regularly because consistency is key and make sure to focus on providing value-added information optimized for your specific niche.

Once your audience grows, you can partner with companies like Amazon and SEMrush for affiliate marketing. Each time someone uses your link to purchase an item, you will earn a small commission (in some cases over 30%).

6. Sell Online Stock Photos

The popularity of self-publishing has gone through the roofs (including e-books and blogs), and now also applies to photography. There has been a huge uptick in demand for stock photography as people get fed up with the same pictures circulating online endlessly. As a response, many microstock sites have emerged to provide affordable images to business owners, bloggers, and designers.

They can choose different licenses for different uses. Because the demand for stock photography is so high, it can be a source of decent revenue for photographers who have a large stock of images for sale. The only precursor is to have a huge collection of high-quality photographs that may be profitable as stock photos.

This means you’ll need above-average photography skills and the ability to edit photographs with eye-popping visuals. To get an idea of popular images from stock sites, simply take a cursory look at the most downloaded images from stock sites and you’ll know what’s in-demand.

In most cases, people want generic business images, as are simple abstract photographs that may evoke strong emotions. The best way to make money with your photographs is to partner up with popular microstock platforms like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Dreamstime.

The advantage is that you don’t have to do any marketing at all. The microstock platform does all the heavy lifting for you because thousands of people search for images every day. That being said, there is a drawback to this approach. You will pay a large commission on each sale for every image. The fees depend on the site, with most offering royalties of between 20% to 60% for your photographs.

Try to experiment with different sites to see which one offers the most value for money.

Your eventual goal should be to wean off of these websites and create your very own microstock platform. Before long, you should be able to create your very own independently hosted WordPress website and integrate it with WooCommerce to start selling your photos.

To learn how you can create your own eCommerce store on WordPress, refer to our blog here.

7. Open a Web Developing Agency

Websites are always going to be in demand business owners have next to no idea how they operate. This is where you come in with your tech expertise. Now here’s the deal with websites: you don’t need to learn how to code, for the most part.

Thanks to platforms like WordPress and Drupal, website design is as simple as using a few drag and drop builders. It’s like using Lego blocks to build stuff.

But you still need to learn the basics of website design.

There are two ways of developing websites: the easy way and the hard way. Let’s discuss the two below;

The Easy Way

Learn how to use popular WordPress themes like Avast to create beautiful, professionally designed websites. There are thousands of free and paid premiums to choose from on WordPress. But it can still become very complicated for the average person who doesn’t know heads nor tails from buzzwords like ‘widgets’, ‘menus’, plugins’, ‘footers’, and ‘sidebars’.

Check up on top web development courses from Udemy here.

The Hard Way

Learn how to code and build your own themes from the ground up. Sell these themes directly to business owners or feature them on places like themeforest.net.

Pro Tip: Web development is closely intertwined with graphic design, which means you can branch out and hire graphic designers should your web development agency become popular enough. After all, professionally designed websites need their images, brochures, and visually appealing graphics. Generic images are only going to get you so far.

You can start offering your services on places like Fiverr and Upwork before creating your agency for maximum profits. The earning potential for websites is massive and even if you’re not doing too well, you could be making over $100,000 per year very easily.

8. Flip Blogs for a Living

You can flip a blog in exchange for a huge profit. This idea only works best if your blog already has a sizable number of followers, subscribers, and keywords on search engines.

Alternatively, you can buy a blog that is doing good and work on it to increase the traffic of the website, and then sell it again to the highest bidder.

Flipping blogs is a good option for anyone who doesn’t like the prospects of maintaining a blog like an albatross around their neck.

Before you decide to buy a blog, pay attention to the following things:

  • The blog should have a few daily visitors and must have more than 200 unique visitors per month
  • Analyze the complete Google Analytics report to find out which country’s visitors are viewing the blog
  • Check the earnings on the blog. As a general rule, if you’re buying a site for $1000, then it should generate at least $120 per month.
  • It should be at least six months old
  • It should be ranking for a couple of high-quality keywords

9. Small Online Business Coach

This gig works best if you have had success with your online business ideas. You can offer your experience and share your secrets to help others grow their online business. Many entrepreneurs are willing to learn from an expert coach who’s been there and done that. There are a few ways of making money as an online business coach:

1 on 1 coaching

Personalized one on one coaching is a lucrative way to make money. Clients will get customized solutions to their specific problems and will pay a premium your attention.

Training and Online Seminars

Not every client has the time or money to do one-on-one coaching sessions. But most of them are willing to attend online seminars, workshops, and training to learn the tricks of the trade. These online business ideas ultimately depend on how many people sign up for your sessions. If you don’t want to teach your sessions to live, you can always create video courses and sell them to places like Udemy.

Publish an eBook

This is an ultimately profitable way to generate an income. All you have to do is pen down all your life’s experiences in the form of a book and self-publish using platforms like Amazon. Depending on how popular your business becomes, you can sell copies to earn passive income while helping your clients.

10. Start a Dropshipping Business

A dropshipping business model allows you to sell products without keeping inventory. Instead of selling the products at a physical store, you’re selling it in your online shop. All you have to do is create the product, which could range from T-shirts to pottery to mugs, and offer them for sale on a platform like Amazon, Shopify, and BigCommerce.

When a customer buys your item, instead of you having to ship the item to them from home, your wholesaler takes care of everything.

While you’re not managing inventory, you’re still taking care of the marketing aspect of driving customers to your store. This is not a simple task, particularly if you’re operating in a competitive niche. You may need extensive paid advertisements along with product research to find items that sell well to achieve success with dropshipping.

11. Sell Your Artwork on Etsy

Etsy is more like a creative platform where artists sell their merchandise. The main draw of shopping on Etsy is the ability to find unique products that you can’t otherwise find on big retailers. If you’ve got the artistic skills to create unique products, you’ll have no problems finding demand.

You could create woodworks, coloring books, candles, pottery, printables, and everything in between to earn a profit.

Our recommendation is to find a niche product that you can easily scale.

Here are several top online courses Udemy to start selling items on Etsy. Some courses will cost upwards of hundreds of dollars, but they will teach you valuable skills that save you time and money.

In a Nutshell

Given the number of online business ideas and the benefits of being your boss, it’s highly recommended to start your own business. Not only will your earning potential go through the roof, but you’ll truly become independent.

If you’ve got your suggestions for online business ideas, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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