Though it comes with unique pressures and obstacles, running an online business can prove to be a profitable pursuit in the modern work landscape.
The versatility of the internet means that there’s almost no limit to the online business ideas you can try your hand at. It’s just a matter of choosing the right path to success.
Weeding out the choices that might not work for you isn’t always easy. Before starting an online business, you’ll need to consider your own interests and skills, the market demand, your budget, and time constraints.
If you need some inspiration to kickstart your online enterprise, just check out some of our ideas below. We’ll share some of the most potentially profitable online business ideas to help you get started.
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Why operate an online business?
According to Fundera, 2017 saw an all-time high for online transactions, with 1.66 billion online shoppers using the internet to buy. This was easily beaten in 2018, with 1.79 billion shoppers taking to the web.
The trend of online shopping shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. In fact, it’s only growing stronger.
If you’re still unsure whether you should start your own online business, consider the benefits:
- Online businesses are more cost-effective than traditional brick-and-mortar alternatives.
Business 2 Community estimates that the operation cost of traditional retail stores averages around $10,000 for initial startup, and reach up to $10,885 per month.
In contrast, the initial cost of online retail amounts on average to $6,000 and tapers off to $2,530 or less per month.
- It’s a future-proof investment to earn passive income.
According to FE International, online business owners can spend as little as 30 minutes to 10 hours monthly to earn 30-40% profit.
It’s predicted that online businesses can anticipate a 265% growth rate by 2021.
- You are your own boss.
You can manage your business anywhere and anytime as long as you have stable internet access.
- The flexibility means better service and engagement with clients.
- Broad potential for reach.
You’re not constrained by physical barriers like borders, so you can reach a global audience.
If any of those arguments convinced you to start an online business, then you’re ready to move on to the fun part: brainstorming.
10 online business ideas you could try
1. Start a blog
The blog market is pretty saturated, but for good reasons. There are many ways to monetize a blog or website, from displaying Google Ads and selling merch to leasing ad space and writing sponsored posts.
However, earning a real income from blogging takes dedication and hard work. Your content may take a while to catch on, and being prepared to focus on audience-building is important.
The key is content consistency; frequency alone isn’t enough, the quality of your content matters too.
Not only does pumping out consistently engaging content in a timely manner show dedication, but it will also result in better SEO.
It’s also the perfect chance to build brand trust and establish yourself as a credible expert on a subject or field.
To make more consistent content both in terms of quality and quantity, first, devise a content plan that works for you.
You have to decide on a timeline that you can stick to, figure out the style, tone, and voice that represents your project, and determine the posting schedule that works for your website.
It doesn’t have to be every day, as long as you’re consistent.
Once you’ve settled on an actionable content plan and calendar, the next move is to create an accompanying website to play host to your blog.
With Zyro’s website builder, you can create your dream blog in no time. It’s free, packed with gorgeous templates, easy-to-use, and most importantly, optimized for search engines.
2. Join an affiliate program
Affiliate programs let you promote a product, service or merchant in exchange for commissions on sign ups or sales.
The amount of revenue depends on how many sales or conversions you make, which is tracked via special links.
Your income will also depend on the type of program you’re signing up with. In general, there are three models:
- Pay-per-sale – the most common affiliate program, in which you’re paid according to how many sales you’ve sourced for a business.
- Pay-per-lead – the money you earn from this format is based on how many conversions you can generate from leads. Leads in marketing are basically prospective buyers.
In this affiliate model, marketers persuade leads to visit the promoted website, and conversions are measured depending on whether they complete a specific action (i,e subscribe to a newsletter, download an ebook, etc).
- Pay-per-click – as its name implies, you’ll get paid for the number of clicks (visitors) you drive to the merchant’s website.
Regardless of which kind of program you chose, affiliate marketing is a lucrative business.
It’s profitable yet cost-effective for both the affiliates and merchants.
The affiliates can benefit from passive income, provided they fulfill their end of the bargain.
The merchants cut expenses by having an affiliate marketer promote their products on websites or social media. Plus they only have to pay when affiliates manage to hit a certain goal.
Another benefit of affiliate marketing is the exposure to a broader audience.
While merchants get traffic from reputable blogs and influencers, affiliates also get more from visitors specifically looking for product reviews. It’s a win-win situation.
This online business idea is flexible and convenient for affiliates. They can do it anytime, anywhere, and they don’t need to have special expertise. Overall, it’s a great way to earn passively on the side.
3. Run an e-commerce store
Having an online store is much less expensive compared to brick-and-mortar shops because there is no physical location to rent and maintain. The advantages of e-commerce extend to both buyers and sellers.
Buyers can browse products with all the info they need on a single page. They can have a personalized shopping experience thanks to behavior tracking and analytics.
Buying online saves time and energy, and can be done in just a few minutes without having to go anywhere.
Similarly, sellers benefit from e-commerce flexibility. They can reach a wider audience by utilizing SEO practices and effective branding. Bear in mind 87% of shoppers start their product research online.
If this is the kind of online business idea you want to start, make sure to:
- Research your market – research your target consumers, get to know their buying habits, and find a specific niche with growth potential.
Carry out keyword research and brainstorm ideas; find your consumer’s common pain points.
For instance, fashion vendors are a dime a dozen, but you can stand out from the competition by selling sustainable fashion.
- Plan your investment – after finding a suitable market, research the costs of manufacture and distribution.
Make sure that your product isn’t too cheap so as to have no profit margin for you.
Don’t have your own products to sell? No worries!
You can turn to drop shipping – a business model where you sell third-party items and have the original vendors and manufacturers ship them directly to the customers.
4. Sell online courses
Research and Market projects that the online learning industry will grow to be worth $325 billion by 2025.
If teaching sounds like your thing, and you have expertise worth sharing, selling online courses is a future-proof online business idea you might consider.
A successful online course can generate over $75,000 according to Teachable. Plus, it encourages you to improve on your skills and expertise, while establishing yourself as an authority on a topic.
However, just providing knowledge isn’t enough–you have to make sure it’s actionable.
Your students can simply find information they want on Google; what they really need is reliable guidance to transform what they know into tangible results.
To do that, first, you have to determine common issues your potential students are struggling with, and establish how your expertise can help them.
- Conduct a survey – if you already have an email list or a following on social media, you can ask your followers to fill out a survey on the subjects they have an interest in learning.
- Gauge public interest – you can do this by using analytics tools like Buzzsumo or Ahrefs to gain insights on the topics most frequently searched by people.
You can manually look up “how to” key phrases on Google to see the top-ranking results.
- Validate your idea – once you pinpoint a promising niche you can teach, test the water to see how the public reacts.
Before completing a course, promote it using a strong landing page with great visuals, compelling copy, and a call-to-action.
If people seem interested in signing up for a newsletter so they can stay updated on when your course is release.
- Keep study outline engaging – avoid info-dumps and design courses with natural progression in mind, one step at a time.
Divide skills from beginner to expert and keep each lesson short but engaging. Set realistic goals to keep the lessons rewarding.
All you have to do then is host a website on Zyro, make it appealing, and promote it to your target audience. Then kick back and watch the sign-ups flow in.
5. Become an influencer
Instagrammers and Youtubers serve as brand ambassadors and content and product promoters and much more.
In general, people who undertake this type of work are placed under the umbrella term “influencer.”
An influencer, as the name implies, is someone who has influence within a niche or a community. Because of that, they have a say and power in affecting trends and other people’s buying decisions.
Many online vendors rely on influencers to endorse their products and drive sales.
An infographic made by Invespcro shows that 40% of people purchase products used by influencers. An astonishing 94% respondents claimed that they trust influencers more than their friends or relatives when making a purchase.
It’s no wonder 89% of marketers agree that influencer marketing’s return on investment is comparable or even better than most other channels, as revealed by Mediakix.
This online business idea relies heavily on personal branding, networking, and gaining a huge following.
While it may seem like easy and glamorous work, influencers need solid entrepreneurial skills to establish their brand and keep it afloat.
It may take a while for them to build a sizable audience, and they have to stay relevant to remain on top.
Influencers often turn to affiliate marketing and content creation to grow their brand. They also use platforms to establish an online presence, such as social media, blogs, websites, YouTube, and podcasts.
There are many types of influencers, but they generally can be divided into four categories:
- Celebrities – pretty self-explanatory. These are people in the showbiz like models, actors or musicians.
Depending on their demographics, some celebrities may not fit to endorse certain products.
A teen actor might be suitable as a brand ambassador for a sneaker company, but not for promoting insurance packages.
- Industry experts – this type of influencer gains notoriety due to their professional qualifications and experience in the industry.
Think journalists, professors or professional consultants.
- Content creators – bloggers and YouTubers fall under this category. When they’re more niche-driven, they can overlap with the last type of influence.
- Niche influencers – also known as micro-influencers. These are the everyday people who wield influence within a specific niche because of their knowledge and expertise.
As a result, they’re more likely to be reluctant to promote something that isn’t aligned with their niche.
Aside from monetary gain and free goods from merchants, being an influencer offers the opportunity to connect to your audience in a more authentic way.
It’s also a chance to learn more ways to enrich your content, inspire people positively, and to make a difference.
6. Write an ebook
Not only is writing ebooks a great way to establish brand authority on a subject, but you can also make money out of this online business idea.
You can publish your work without relying on a traditional publishing house. Because it’s digital, you don’t need the extra costs that come from printing and binding, and self-publishing spares you from dealing with publishers.
Ebooks have the potential to be discovered by a broad audience since you’re not bound to physical limitations.
There are platforms that allow you to self-publish free of charge. However, some platforms do charge royalty fees for their service.
There might also be some fees you need to pay upfront for cover design and basic editing. That’s why your best bet is to create a website to promote yourself as an author or the content you created.
Not sure how to start writing your book?
- Come up with a unique concept – find a central topic or idea you want to write about.
To do this, you have to research the market. Of course, you can simply write whatever you want, but if making money is your top priority, you might want to follow trends to improve the odds of selling your work.
- Set an outline and a deadline – after you find the best topic or idea to write about, devise an outline and set a deadline.
These will help you follow through with your work better. Make sure to dedicate at least a few minutes a day to work on your book, and keep going even if you’re stuck. The proofreading comes later, just focus on writing.
- Proofread, edit, typeset – once you’re done with your ebook, the last thing to do is to polish it. Don’t rush, make sure it’s up to standard before publishing.
Once you’re ready – upload the book to your website, start promoting it through relevant marketing channels, and start counting sales.
7. Create a portfolio website
If you choose to go freelance, you might want to create a portfolio website to establish your personal brand and reach a wider audience.
Your marketing strategy is a crucial part of an online business, and what better way to diversify your reach than showcasing your work?
To create an eye-catching portfolio website that gets people talking and interested in your services, try out these tips:
- Highlight your best work – this is pretty much the point of any portfolio website, which sometimes gets lost when translated into design.
To ensure prospective employers and clients see your most successful projects first, make sure your website is intuitive and easy to navigate.
- Be authentic, be creative – come up with an original design that represents your brand best.
You can take inspiration from other portfolio websites, but don’t plagiarize as you’d want to put your most authentic persona forward.
Aside from introducing yourself, say a few words about your interests as well.
- Display testimonials – having positive testimonials for your past work builds your credibility, especially if your creations are still being used by your past employers.
- Keep it current – much like a resume, a portfolio serves as a summary of your work history.
The more experience you build, the more promising you are as a hire. That’s why you must keep your portfolio up-to-date.
Keeping a blog is another good way to do this. Not only does it allow your voice to be heard, but it’s also a way to stay engaged with trends in the industry.
- Make yourself easily reachable – integrate features like booking systems and contact form so your potential clients can reach you easily. Make sure to put links to your social media as well.
8. Sell photos
If you’re a photographer, you can sell your photos online by licensing them via third-party picture libraries or by creating your own stock packages for sale.
There are many types of photos you can make a profit off, such as stock photos, commercial photos, food photos or travel photos.
Selling photos online is cost-effective. As with any other online business, the internet makes this venture relatively inexpensive.
It’s also convenient. Your customers can browse and purchase your works easier and quicker. You will have the advantage of being able to target a broad range of markets.
The internet is heavily dependent on graphic content, so you will always find a market willing to purchase your photos.
9. Become a copywriter
If you like writing but don’t need the hassle of managing a blog, copywriting is a way to make money online worth considering.
Copywriting, in the most conventional sense, is the act of writing to advertise. It often overlaps with content writing’s main focus which is to inform.
However, the reality of this occupation is much more nuanced, as there are also specific types of copywriting like medical, legal and IT copywriting that doesn’t quite fit the traditional definition.
Regardless of the specific context, copywriting entails working with written content, which is constantly in demand. As long as we need to communicate via writing, a copywriter will never run out of jobs to do.
The content can range from blog posts, emails, industry reports, white papers, social media captions, and of course, marketing copy.
Other perks of copywriting include a flexible work schedule, opportunities to learn something new, a chance to be creative, and most importantly, everyone can do it.
10. Become a virtual assistant
A virtual assistant is a freelance contractor who offers remote service to a company.
Their specific job description varies depending on the contract, however, it usually involves clerical tasks, bookkeeping, marketing tasks, web design, customer service, and social media management.
Virtual assistants are always sought after by companies, as they can save them up to 78% on annual operating costs, according to OutsourceWorkers.
It’s cheaper than hiring a full-time employee, as virtual assistants are only paid based on how many hours they work. Plus, the contractual nature of this job means that they’re only hired when needed.
Typically, virtual assistants have experience in secretarial positions, although it’s possible to be one even without such qualification.
As long as you’re tech-savvy, able to do basic administrative tasks like using word processors, and have some knowledge in marketing and graphic design, you can apply for the role.
The job has plenty of perks, with the flexibility of remote working being the number one advantage.
Just like most other freelance jobs, most virtual assistants can decide their own working hours and workplace.
They can also decide who to work with, and name their own fee. It’s a perfect job for those who are looking for a side gig or full-time work they can do from home.
However, they may need to finish impromptu tasks on the weekends or take care of last-minute work when required. Virtual assistants also need to actively search for prospective clients, especially if they’re new to the industry.
It’s reported that in 2018 the value of outsourced services was worth $85.6 billion, with its compound annual growth rate predicted to reach 4.4% between 2018-2022.
While it is ultimately down to you which path you choose to take, our picks for potentially profitable online business ideas are:
- Affiliate marketing
- Online courses
- Self-publish ebooks
- Creating a portfolio website
- Selling photos
- Becoming a virtual assistant
Your journey to a successful online business starts with a representative website. You will need something that can leave a strong impression while showing off your brand, skills, or experience.
With Zyro website builder, you can build a stunning website to fit any type of niche in just a minute.
Ready to start your successful online business today?