Starting an online business has never been easier for you, especially in 2018. Back in the day, a business venture will have plenty of risks you need to bear, such as needing to invest in a physical storefront or finding an office space.
With our list of the best online business ideas, you can eliminate a lot of those risks and have more flexibility with the way you work. Plus, with some basic website building know-how and a keen understanding of website maintenance, you can build a website that will reach more potential customers with very little overhead.
Best Online Business Ideas and How To Get Started
You may ask yourself, “But, what types of online business ideas are there? and how do I get started?”
Well, if you need a little help, we’ve got some suggestions that you can venture into to start earning that passive income!
Idea #1. Start a Blog
The tried and true method for starting an online business is through blogging. Just to give you an idea of how much a blog is earning, Pinch of Yum is a successful food blog and the site is earning $802,144.55 during a 12-month period.
If you’re passionate about writing or have the ability to write exceptionally well, a blogging website is the best online business you can start with.
What’s great is that you don’t even need a great deal of technical or computer skills. Platforms such as WordPress lets you create and build a blog website in no time. You can even host your website with SiteGround or iPage or look for the suitable website builders that are optimized for blogging (which is very important if you want to keep your user experience up to par).
Using a blog, you can build an extensive following for your brand, which will allow you to gain profit by partnering up with advertisers or by getting a commission from brand-sponsored content.
Here are some major steps to help you get started with your blog:
Step 1: Choose a niche
People search the Internet for one reason only: to solve a problem. Be it to look for a place to hang out, fix a leaking pipe, or new recipes for dinner, your blog has to provide a solution.
Step 2: Plan your blog structure
Next, you need to have a good blog structure. It is necessary for user navigation and SEO purpose. Also, it can give you ideas on your content strategy and future blog expansion.
Step 3: Create great content
If you know an awesome quick way to fix a leaking pipe, write about it! Producing great content is easy if you are an expert in your niche, otherwise, you have to do keywords research.
Step 4: Promote your content
When you have a great piece of article, it’s time to promote it! Since most of the people are on social media platform, you can share your content where your audiences are.
Step 5: Monetize a blog
How to monetize a blog is an important factor if you’re want to start taking your blog seriously. Looking for sponsored content, creating your own eBook or endorsing advertisers’ products are few popular ways.
Examples of starting an online business with step-by-step guide:
- How to start a travel blog with WordPress and make money
- How to start a food blog with WordPress
- How to start a photography blog using WordPress (and 4 ways to monetize)
Idea #2. Join affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing has been around a long time and it’s one of the easiest ways that you can make money online. Essentially, you make money by receiving a commission on products that you sold from other companies, either through their own site or through platforms such as Amazon or eBay.
Besides, plenty of big brands offer affiliate programs and it’s fairly easy to get started. All you have to do is simply sign up as an affiliate and sell that company’s product or services using a special referral link, which you’ll then receive a commision for each product or service sold.
The best part? You can do this without even lifting a finger!
Here are some tips for you before starting affiliate marketing online business:
1. Research affiliate programs
Spend some time to research the right affiliate programs. You want to make sure the programs are trustable and have a good reputation in paying out commission.
2. How you get paid
There are various ways to get paid in affiliate marketing such as CPS, CPL, CPC, and CPA. Check carefully before you get started to make sure the program is profitable and able to generate enough return on investment.
3. Payout day
It depends on each affiliate program, some you can get your payment on the same day and some might need 1 – 13 working days depending on your country. Also, check with the affiliate program how do you receive the payment? It’s via PayPal or cheque.
4. Types of support
Find out what kind of customer support you can get if you join the affiliate program. Can you speak to someone via phone or chat or do you have to wait for 24 hours email response?
The market for affiliate programs can be quite complex and to find the right program for you will take a bit of research. If you want to find out more about affiliate marketing, here’s a handy FAQ that you can check out.
Idea #3. Open an eCommerce store
Another popular idea to start an online business is to open an eCommerce store. In 2017, total retail eCommerce sales across the globe amounted to $2.3 trillion and the revenues are projected to grow to $4.88 trillion in 2021.
Not only are they easy to set up, it’s also immensely cheaper to open an eCommerce store as you don’t have to worry about the high running cost of a physical store. You just have to make sure the online store operation is running smooth, your store will grow gradually.
If you worry about things such as delivery or warehousing, you can use methods such as dropshipping (more on that later) to manage your inventory.
Take WooCommerce online store as an example, there are some common yet important tips you should know in order to run an eCommerce store. These tips not only apply to WooCommerce but work on other platforms as well.
Important tips to open an eCommerce online business:
1. Pick the right eCommerce platform
The right platform for your online store is important.
Because compared to running a blog, there are a lot of things to consider for an eCommerce store, such as payment gateway, product configurations, add-on plugins, transaction fee, etc.
These are the things that will affect your store operation in a long run.
2. Get a domain name and hosting platform
If you’re going to create a store on WooCommerce, you’ll need to have your own eCommerce business hosting. This will allow you to have more control over your store compared to other platforms.
The other thing you need is a domain name.
While some hosting company offers free domain registration if you host with them, you can easily register a domain name with your preferred domain registrar companies and connect to your eCommerce platforms.
3. Install and setup the platform
Building an eCommerce store with WooCommerce is super easy.
You’ll need to download the plugin on your WordPress admin dashboard by adding it as a new plugin. Active the plugin and you should then see the setting page.
And that’s it! You’re ready to start building an eCommerce store.
While WooCommerce requires you to manually setup its platform, they are free to use. Ready-made ones like Shopify or BigCommerce will require you to pay a fee to use it.
4. Configure and add products
Depending on how you set up your online store, there might be a learning curve for using and familiarizing with each platform.
Selling simple products?
You might need to know just enough to add details such as price, SKU code, quantity, shipping method and stock availability.
Selling more complicated stuff might require you to setup product variants or attributes and consider things such as linked products for up-selling or cross-selling or connecting payment gateways to your online store.
Thankfully, most of the platforms come with a free trial, so you can have a hands-on experience with them.
5. Install add-ons
All eCommerce platforms come with add-ons that can help you grow your online store and improve sales.
BigCommerce has an omnichannel software that lets you promote and sell your products seamlessly on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and other channels.
Shopify lets you sell on social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, while WooCommerce has the most number of plugins you can use and many of them are free.
Starting an eCommerce store is the best online business idea if you have great products or looking to expand your sales. As mentioned earlier, as the global eCommerce sales are raising, you shouldn’t miss out on that!
Idea #4. Build specialized Apps
It’s the age of smartphones and the demand for new and innovative apps are bigger than ever. Every day, countless apps are being downloaded and used in the Android and iOS marketplace. With that much potential customers, making an app can be a lucrative market.
Those of you who are programmers or developers, taking the time to develop and sell a smart device app will be well worth your time if you’re looking to make money online. The overhead cost of creating an app is very minimal as you don’t have to worry about things such as shipping or storage costs.
What’s more, if your app performs well, you can even entice other brands to advertise in your app for a great source of passive income.
Note: Here’s a list of platforms for making apps and building websites.
Idea #5. Be a social media consultant
While large corporation and big brands can afford to hire a full-time staff to coordinate their social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), most small businesses tend to manage it themselves.
However, most business owners don’t have the time or capacity to handle their social media while still managing greater responsibilities for the company.
This is where you come in by offering to be a social media consultant for the smaller businesses. As a social media consultant, you can help them plan their marketing schedules, strategize content that’s relevant to their target audience, and improve their overall social media planning.
Note: If you are interested to know more about social media marketing tips, check out this simple guide for beginners.
Idea #6. Freelancer for hire
Freelance work is nothing new to the online world and it is a great way to make some passive income if you’re an expert in a certain field. Smaller businesses tend to look to freelancers to help them with one-time projects as it’s much more cost-effective than hiring a full-time staff.
The great thing about freelance work is that you’re don’t have to be tied to any field. Platforms such as Freelancer or Upwork offers freelancing work for all sorts of areas including written content, graphic designs, programming, to even data entry.
However, it’s important that you manage your workflow properly as taking several projects at a time can be overwhelming for some.
Idea #7. Be a WordPress theme designer
With more and more people starting up their own WordPress websites, the demand for quality WordPress themes has also increased significantly. For those who have a talent for design and HTML coding, there is a big demand for people who can create bespoke and attractive WordPress website themes.
Sites such as TemplateMonster is a great example of how you can generate a nice passive income for yourself by selling off special and unique themes for people. If you don’t want to create a website, you can even use a marketplace such as ThemeForest to sell your WordPress theme designs.
Idea #8. Use or work with advertisers
If you already have a website or a blog, then you already have a great platform that you can use to generate passive income. By selling off a portion of your page space to advertisers, you can earn money passively when your audience or visitor clicks on the ads on your website.
Using advertisers, your earning will generally be counted using the cost-per-click (CPC) and click-through- rate (CTR) method with the level of your earnings will be based on your website’s traffic. Basically, the more people click on the ads on your page, the more money you will get.
One of the more popular ways to earn money through advertising clicks is to use Google Adsense or any other similar advertisers such as RSS feeds and direct banners.
Idea #9. Offer webinars and online courses
The demand for tutors, whether it be online or offline, have always been great. If you’re an expert or knowledgeable in a specialized area, then offering online lesson or webinars can be an excellent way to generate extra income during your spare time.
Sites such as Tutor.com or TutorVista are great platforms for you to advertise and offer lessons in your area of expertise. You can conduct lectures, seminars, or webinars on all sorts of topics, such as digital marketing, blog writing techniques, and so forth.
If you’ve built up a good reputation online, you can even offer your services to university and college students who are more than willing to pay for a good online tutor.
Idea #10. Offer SEO services
The ins-and-outs of search engines and platforms such as Google Analytics can be confusing for most people. Plenty of small to medium businesses often overlook the advantages of search engine optimization (SEO) and how it improve their website’s performance.
If you know your way around SEO and their practices, setting up an SEO consultant agency can be a great way to utilize your skill set. You can offer services such as interpreting and reading their analytics data the right way, structuring content to gain better traffic or to properly use keywords to improve search engine rankings.
You can look to people like AJ Ghergich for examples on how to set up your very own SEO consultant agency.
Idea #11. Dropshipping Business
Another great path for entrepreneurs to kickstart their business is to set up a dropshipping business. Not familiar with the term? Well, it’s basically a type of business where you sell products to customers BUT all the inventory and shipping is handled by the manufacturer on your behalf.
Those who want a low-risk business model should definitely consider venturing into dropshipping business as the only cost you’ll have to deal with is the payment for the products that you are selling to your customers. Any other costs such as shipping, inventory management, and product creation, will be handled by the manufacturer instead.
Sites such as Shopify offers an easy and simple way to get started on a dropshipping business, but if you need a little help, just read on for our step-by-step guide below.
Idea #12. Become a Vlogger / YouTuber
Content consumption has changed dramatically over the last few years and one of the fastest growing platforms are the video-centric sites such as YouTube and Snapchat. While there are places for text-rich articles on the internet, more often than not, users will gravitate more towards rich media such as videos.
This allows for the rise of Vloggers and YouTubers who are able to make millions of dollars a year from their audiences by creating video-based content. And starting a vlog or a YouTube channel can very cheap as all you need is a camera (either your iPhone or a basic SLR camera) and you’re ready to go!
Plus, you don’t have to just make videos on YouTube. There are other effective video content platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat Stories, and FaceBook Live video that you can use to build an audience and promote your brand.
We’ve only scratched the surface for few online business ideas, but the ones that we’ve mentioned above are some of the tried-and-tested ways that you can get started. If you are looking for more inspiration, here is a list of over 300 small business ideas.
The important thing to note is that, more often than not, these online businesses can be great to get some extra money on the side, but not as a steady source of income.
That’s not to say that you can’t transform it into your primary business as some entrepreneurs have done. It can be done, but it’s going to take a while before you can see substantial profits from your online business that will justify making that transition.
As with any business, if you want to see results, you just have to put time and effort into it. Before you know it, you’ll have a successful online business in your hands!