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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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you have a great piece of article, it's time to promote it! Since most of the people are on a social media platform, you can share your content where your audiences are.
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.
Affiliate marketing has been around a long time and it’s one of the easiest ways that you can make money online.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you're going to create a store on WooCommerce, you'll need to have your own eCommerce hosting (such as InMotion Hosting and SiteGround). This will allow you to have more control over your store compared to other platforms.
The other thing you need is a domain name.
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.
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.
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!
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.
If you have no coding experience, here are apps makers on the market to help develop mobile apps:
Cloud-based mobile app builder for Android, IOS and Windows Phone. Appery.io uses the visual editor to drag and drop the components to build the UI. You can connect instantly to any REST API and use it in your app.
It's a DIY platform that lets anyone create IOS, Android, and HTML5 apps. No coding knowledge required. You can build as many apps as you want with AppMakr for unlimited updates and number of features.
Besides building an app, you can also build websites for clients. Sames as building an app, you don't need to be an expert on HTML or PHP to create websites for clients. Here's a list of website building platforms you can use.
While large corporation and big brands can afford to hire 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.
The average rate for a freelance social media manager/marketer is about $25.25 per hour with the highest amount being $150 per hour and the lowest being $4 per month. The better you are, the higher your fee can be on these freelance platforms. (source)
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.
In fact, if you have your own website or blog, you should learn this simple social media marketing guide for beginners to manage your own social media accounts.
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 Fiverr 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.
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.
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.
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 e-courses can be an excellent way to generate extra income during spare time.
Tutor.com or TutorVista are sites where you can provide online tutoring service. Udemy and Teachable, on the other hand, are great platforms to create video courses and earn money by teaching people around the globe. Digital marketing, web writing, Excel, financial analysis, and pet training are some of the most popular topics.
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.
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.
Kate is a successful dropshipper. She made $32,000+ monthly revenue from her Anime dropshipping business. Kate logic says that many dropshippers can make money by pooling different items from a variety of dropshippers based on a common theme and thus create a dedicated shopping base. – Crazylister
Since the business model is different from an eCommerce store, the cost involves in starting a dropshipping business also different.
Sites such as Shopify offers an easy and simple way to get started on a dropshipping business, but if you need a little help, here are some tips:
You can't pick any random products to sell. To maximize the performance, you need to identify the profitable niche for your store.
Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush to justify your choice by researching for the market demand, keyword difficulty and competitors.
When it comes to finding suppliers, you can't go wrong with AliExpress. It's easy and convenient to use AliExpress with your dropshipping store.
To get started, Shopify actually recommends AliExpress as your primary source in their article for all your dropshipping needs.
There are lots of eCommerce platforms for your dropshipping business. But, Shopify is one of the best platforms you can get started quickly.
Shopify integrates with marketplaces such as AliExpress and Oberlo to import products directly to your store and order them for your customers.
It's different from WooCommerce, you can straightaway configure your dropshipping store when you signed up with Shopify.
Just pick a beautiful storefront theme to begin. Although there's no installation required, you still have to go through the learning curve to use the platform.
When the basic setup is done, it's time to launch and promote your dropshipping business.
Analyze your audience, promote your store on social media and write original content related to your products are a few ways to promote your store.
Those who want a low-risk business model should definitely consider venturing into dropshipping business as the cost you'll have to deal with is the payment for the products (that you are selling to your customers) and the storefront setup.
Any other costs such as shipping, inventory management, and product creation, will be handled by the manufacturer instead.
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.
One of the YouTubers – Toby Turner is one of the highest earning stars on YouTube channels. From vlogs, animation to podcasts, Toby is earning $3.3 Million for the content he creates. – NewMediaRockstars
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.
The ones that I have listed here in this article – blogging, affiliate marketing, online store, social media marketing, app or website theme designers – these online businesses have the highest success rates in my research.
The same as starting an offline business – you find and fill a consumer needs. The only difference between an Internet business with an offline business – is that you connect with your customers differently (online vs in-person).
Here's our website creation guide to get you started.
No, a website is not a must to start selling online. But eventually you will need one for marketing and communication purposes.
We have published several in-depth guide on Shopify business, read: How to create an online store using Shopify and How to start a successful dropshipping business with Shopify.
All businesses that I mentioned here can be started with less than $20,000.
Three main reasons why most online businesses fail:
1- They are not able to drive sufficient targeted traffic to their website / online portal,
2- They do not offer unique / quality products with a branded experience, and
3- They do not adapt to changes quick enough and lost to new competitors.
At this time of writing, the best sellers on Amazon are products in the following categories: 1- Toys & Games, 2- Electronics, 3- Camera & photo, 4- Video Games, and 5- Books. According to research by Startup Bros, easy-to-ship products selling between $21 – $200 are easiest to sell on Amazon.
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, check out:
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!