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22 Most Profitable Online Business Ideas

Stylish woman holding many shopping bags

Are you looking for a business idea that doesn’t cost much to set up, that’s relatively low risk, and quick to set up too?

While we can’t promise you that setting up and running an online business will be the easiest thing you’ll ever do, we can give you ideas that are highly likely to succeed.

Though it comes with unique pressures and obstacles, 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 for you.

When 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’ve split 22 great online business ideas into 5 sections: Get creative, Sell stuff, Sell your skills, Dive into tech, and Sell your personality.

Just pick the section you think best suits your skills, then explore the online business ideas within it.

Get creative

Online businesses don’t have to be all business all the time.

If you’ve got a passion, it can be relatively easy to transform it into your career using the magic of the internet to start a business.

So, this first group of online business ideas focuses on the ways you can turn your favorite creative outlet into a revenue stream.

1. Start a blog (and monetize it)

Laptop for updating content

Earning money with your words is possible, just ask. Nomadic MattNerd FitnessLifehacker, and even Huffington Post.

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. The key is content consistency; frequency alone isn’t enough and 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.

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.

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. Write an eBook

kindle direct publishing page

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.

eBooks have the potential to be discovered by a broad audience since there are no physical limitations. In other words, you don’t have to rely on people visiting a bookshop to read your stuff.

There are platforms that allow you to self-publish free of charge. However, some platforms do charge royalty fees for their service.

Not sure how to start writing your book?

  1. Come up with a unique concept. Find a central topic or idea you want to write about. If making money is your top priority, you might want to follow trends to improve the odds of selling your work.
  2. Set an outline and a deadline. After you find the best topic or idea to write about, devise an outline, and set a deadline. Make sure to dedicate at least a few minutes a day to work on your book, and keep going even if you’re stuck.
  3. Proofread, edit, typeset. Once you’re done with your ebook, the last thing to do is to polish it. Don’t rush and make sure it’s up to standard before publishing.

3. 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 from such as stock photos, commercial photos, food photos, or travel photos.

Selling photos online is costeffective. As with any other online business, the internet makes this venture relatively inexpensive to start up.

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.

Sell stuff

Having an online store is much less expensive compared to brick-and-mortar shops because there is no physical location to rent and maintain.

You can reach a wider audience by utilizing SEO practices and effective branding. Don’t forget, 87% of shoppers start their product research online.

4. Sell online courses

Research and Market projects that the online learning industry will grow to be worth $325 billion by 2025.

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.

To do that, you first 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 for by people.
  • Validate your idea. Once you pinpoint a promising niche you can teach, test the water to see how the public reacts.
  • Keep the study outline engaging. Avoid info-dumps and design courses with natural progression in mind instead, one step at a time.

All you have to do then is build a website where you can host your course, make it appealing, and promote your online course to your target audience. Then, kick back and watch the sign-ups flow in.

5. Sell 3D printed products 

3D Printer Products with Laptop

Just a few short years ago, 3D printing was the domain of big business and dedicated geeks with too much time and spare money on their hands.

Today, you can pick up a professional 3D printer for just a couple of thousand dollars and benefit from the simplified software that’s now available on the market.

Since the global 3D printing industry is due to be worth over $35 billion within the next decade, this is a futureproof service niche to get yourself into.

With the cost of startup and production on the decline, the profit margins in this industry are steadily increasing.

Within the 3D printing niche, online business ideas include:

  • Selling your own art designs
  • Print designs sent to you by customers
  • Create specialist parts
  • Print scans of people, pets, or objects

6. Try dropshipping 

Man in white tshirt closeup

If you’re worried that dipping your toes into the world of eCommerce means spending huge amounts on stock and warehousing, just wait until you hear about dropshipping.

Instead of taking on the burden of purchasing and storing goods before you make a sale, dropshipping allows you to sell to customers, then ship individual items directly from suppliers to the end-user.

In most cases, you never even handle the goods yourself.

Dropshipping can be done with basically any product in any niche, so if you have a particular interest or have identified a gap in the market you think could be profitable for you, find a supplier.

Getting started with dropshipping, is as simple as:

  1. Choosing your product(s)
  2. Connecting with a supplier
  3. Setting up your eCommerce store
  4. Marketing to your target audience
  5. Making sales which will be shipped directly to customers

7. Sell your handmade goods 

Handmade pottery and ceramics products being made by a person

Creativity meets eCommerce in this online business idea.

Are you amazing at sewing shirts and dresses? Are your paintings out of this word? Do you baked goods make people smile?

While big business may have ensured that most online transactions involve mass-produced products, there’s a huge market out there for niche, artisan, and homemade products.

Platforms like Etsy popularized the idea of selling homemade and handmade products online, but there’s no reason why you can’t set up your own online store to offer the same kind of goods.

For example, we spoke with Lapsa – an eco-friendly handbag brand that started selling on Etsy but then took matters into its own hands.

The process to get started selling handmade products is the same with any other products, but in this case, you simply have to put in the time to create the product beforehand, or when customers order them.

This kind of small business relies on you being able to message the extra quality and ethical value of people buying handmade over factory-made.

8. Sell prints and t-shirts

Behave Badly Tote Bag Print

Sure, there are literally thousands of people selling printed goods and t-shirts online, but there’s a good reason for that.

This evergreen online small business idea has almost constant demand and if you hit upon a successful design, it can become a great source of income.

While basic t-shirt and items like tote bags and mugs might not be premium items, customers are more than willing to pay if there is an attractive printed design included.

These items can be bought for oneself, gifted, bought in bulk for businesses to be resold… The opportunities are literally limitless.

You might begin by thinking up some design ideas you can start off with, or you might decide to allow customers to upload their own designs for you to print on their behalf. Another avenue would be to hire a freelancer to come up with some designs for you.

If you’re not ready to invest in a ton of inventory for your t-shirt company, don’t worry. There are plenty of suppliers who will print items on demand for you, and often ship directly to customers.

Sell your skills 

Goods are not the only thing that you can sell online. Selling services is an incredibly fast and cheap way to start a business online.

One of the best things about selling your skills as a service is that all you need is a laptop and internet connection, and you can do your work from anywhere – whenever you like.

You can take advantage of your freedom to travel or simply stay home and strike a really good work-life balance.

Unfortunately, unlike other entries in this list, selling your skills usually don’t open up the opportunity to have passive income. You will have to actively work for your money.

9. Become a graphic designer

If you’ve got an eye for design and know your way around Photoshop or another image editing software, there’s a good chance you’re set up to start a business offering graphic design services.

If you spend 5 minutes on the internet, you’ll realize that the place leans heavily on visual elements. Companies are always in need of people with design skills to create logos, banners, website elements, and other visuals.

Obviously, being a graphic designer does require some amount of education. As well as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver, you should probably also have an understanding of how HTML, Javascript, and CSS work.

Most graphic designers use social media heavily to drum up new business, but they also heavily rely on a great-looking portfolio website of their own to get new clients.

10. Sell your SEO or advertising skills

Blocks spelling out SEO

Do you know your SEO from your PPC, and do you know the secret of doubling traffic in a matter of days? Well, companies and individuals would love to apply your skills to their digital marketing needs.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to success for most companies that do business online, and marketing skills in areas like pay-per-click (PPC), content marketing, or email marketing are always in high demand.

If you have the right knowledge or experience, it’s easy to market your skills out to the highest bidder.

These skills are also applicable to pretty much all the online business ideas in this list, and are especially helpful for things like affiliate marketing.

So, getting familiar with them is helpful, whichever small business you decide to start.

11. Manage other people’s social media

Here’s a little secret: most celebrities and many companies don’t actually manage their own social media accounts.

Because they don’t have the time or skills to make a success of it, there are loads of people willing to hand over their Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram login credentials to people who know what they’re doing.

Social media management isn’t just about taking cute photos of food and coffee. It requires someone with strategic thinking, photography, and copywriting skills too.

Does this sound like the perfect job for you? Then you can start making money this way relatively easily.

First, you need to make sure that your own socials are up to standard, then set up a professional website and just start reaching out to people you think might be interested in your services.

12. Become a translator

Child writing multiple languages blackboard

Can you speak two or more languages fluently? Lucky you.

Why not put those skills to use and make money as a translator?

Google Translate will only get you so far online and companies are always on the lookout for people who can help them get their message across in different languages.

There are different ways you can put your translation skills to use online:

  • Simultaneous translation. This might involve you sitting on a Zoom call with two or more people who don’t speak a shared language. You would translate what someone says into another language the other party understands.
  • Copy translation. This simply means you’d take a piece of text in one language and convert it into another language.
  • Localization. This involves taking a holistic look at a company’s online presence and changing all the elements which will make it more familiar to people who live elsewhere and/or speak a different language.

13. Become a copywriter

Man writing on paper closeup

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.

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.

14. Become a virtual assistant

Man Working on Laptop with Dog

A virtual assistant is a freelance contractor who offers remote services to a company or an individual.

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.

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.

Dive into tech

Though not for everyone, entering into a more technical field is ideal for those who can code or know a thing or two about web design.

Perhaps you have been struck by inspiration for the next big tech product or simply want to sell better versions of existing products.

Whatever it is, there are a number of ways your tech skills can help you get started with an online business.

One of the best things about starting a business in tech is that, if you enjoy success, it’s relatively easy to scale a small business into a much larger one over time.

Want to start but lack online business ideas? Worry not.

Below you’ll find a number of tech business ideas you can start on immediately.

15. Join an affiliate program

Two toy figurines shaking hands

Affiliate programs let you promote a product, service or merchant in exchange for commissions on sign-ups or sales.

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.
  • Pay-per-click. As its name implies, you’ll get paid for the number of clicks (visitors) you drive to the merchant’s website.

Affiliate marketing is a lucrative business; industry spending will hit $8.2 billion by 2022. Google Trends shows that the keyphrase “affiliate marketing” is growing in popularity too.

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 passive income on the side.

Interested in becoming an affiliate? Consider joining one of the popular programs such as ShareASaleAmazon AssociatesShopify Affiliate ProgrameBay PartnersRakuten Marketing Affiliates, or Zyro Affiliates.

16. Create an app

TikTik App on Multiple devices

Do you have an idea for an app that will solve a problem no one else so far has been able to overcome?

This is one of the best online business ideas that has the potential to make you a log of money – congrats.

Apps are the perfect way to turn great online business ideas into reality, since they’re relatively quick to make, and can bring you huge returns.

Of all the ideas on this list, building your app could prove to be the most profitable. Since the global mobile app industry is worth over $106 billion annually, there’s certainly room in the market for you to get started.

Despite being one of the most potentially profitable online businesses, app development does cost a good amount of money if you need to hire developers. Or, it will majorly eat into your time and resources if you try and go it alone.

If you plan to make money from an app, you’ll also need to invest time and money in app store optimization (ASO) and other marketing efforts. In such a competitive market, this can prove a challenge.

But if you love app development and have always admired startup business owners, why not just give it a shot?

17. Trade domains 

Com Domain Extension Keyword Backlit

Yes, you can actually make money buying and selling domain names for websites online.

As far as online business ideas go, this is a risky one.

It involves quite a lot of investment in time and money to find domains you think might be desirable, and you always run the risk of losing money if you can’t sell your domains again.

There are two main approaches to trading domains:

  • Buy up domain names which you think lots of people might want. These tend to be one-word domains that could apply to a number of different companies or individuals. Their value comes from the competition.
  • Buy up longer or more specific domains only one or two companies or individuals might be interested in. You then keep hold of the domain and offer it at a mark up to the parties you think may be interested.

If you’re a creative individual who’s great at coming up and combining keywords, as well as predicting future trends, and have a decent intuition, this can be a great business idea.

In case you’re interested in purchasing your first domain, you can search and buy domains on Zyro.

18. Create SaaS

Desktop screen application icons - software

Software as a service (or SaaS) are some of the most essential tools we use every day. From project management tools like Asana or Monday, to office suites like Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, it’s likely you’ve used multiple SaaS products today.

This is another business where you definitely need to be a developer or have the resource to hire developers to be able to turn your idea into a reality.

With SaaS, your customers are just as likely to be other businesses as they are end-users. Common types of SaaS include:

  • Customer relationship management tools
  • Email marketing applications
  • Cloud storage services
  • Project management tools
  • Online office services

19. Create a digital product

Products don’t have to be physical and some of the best online business ideas are for digital products.

If your customers can simply download your goods, your profit margins can be a whole lot bigger than if you have to manufacture actual items.

Digital products are among the best business ideas for those who want to guarantee a passive income, but still have a valuable commodity to share.

You’ll definitely need to be able to put some amount of creativity and expertise into your digital products, but this is usually a one-time effort.

Great examples of popular digital products include:

  • Art prints. Graphics which customers can print themselves at home.
  • Themes. Layouts for beautiful websites.
  • Templates. Which customers can use for emails, resumes, or anything else that needs to be designed.
  • Printables. Anything from workbooks to calendars that can be printed at home.
  • Swipe files. Guides that share your expertise.
  • Stock music. Tunes you can earn money on the royalties from.

Sell your personality 

When you think about online business ideas, you usually think about things to sell or online courses you could set up to generate passive income.

However, hardly anyone thinks they should start an online business selling… themselves.

No, this isn’t R-rated stuff. We mean making yourself into the medium that would sell someone else’s product, or things like setting up your own podcast.

Are you ready to sell your personality? It’s a highly profitable online business.

20. Become an influencer

Instagram kyliejenner page

Instagrammers and Youtubers serve as brand ambassadors, content and product promoters, and much more.

An influencer 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.

An infographic made by Invespcro shows that 40% of people purchase products used by influencers. An astonishing 94% of respondents claimed that they trust influencers more than their friends or relatives when making a purchase.

Generally, influencers can be divided into four categories:

  • Celebrities. These are people in the showbiz like models, actors, or musicians.
  • Industry experts. This type of influencer has an even bigger importance due to their professional qualifications and experience in the industry.
  • Content creators. Bloggers fall under this category. When they’re more niche-driven, they can overlap with the last type of influence.
  • Niche influencers. These guys and gals are also known as micro-influencers. These are the everyday people who wield influence within a specific niche because of their knowledge and expertise.

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 than straight-out selling stuff to them.

21. Become a YouTuber 

Recording Youtube Video - Young Man Camera Microphone

Yes, vlogging might feel like something out of 2005, but it’s now a legitimate business idea.

The top YouTube stars earn up to $22 million per year. While it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be able to reach up into those kinds of numbers, many thousands of people make a decent living from the platform.

The secret is finding a niche that is specific enough that your content has a clear theme, but broad enough to have mass appeal to a big audience.

You can make money on YouTube in a number of ways:

  • Revenue from the ads that play before or during your videos
  • Subscriptions for premium content
  • Selling merch to your fans
  • Taking sponsorship deals from related companies
  • Recommending other companies and taking a commission for sales (affiliate marketing)

Often, companies will have a YouTube channel in addition to their regular business as an extra revenue stream and as a marketing channel.

22. Start a podcast

Until relatively recently, podcasting wasn’t taken very seriously as a profession, but podcasts with mass appeal like Serial and The Joe Rogan Experience have really put the medium on the map.

In 2021, the entire podcasting industry is expected to be worth $1 billion.

The revue models are pretty much the same as with YouTube, but of course, it’s usually just an audio file rather than a video.

The beauty of podcasts is that they can be about pretty much anything. As long as you have an interested audience, you can talk about anything from news and current affairs, all the way to music, art, TV, or just whatever’s on your mind.

For example, we recently spoke to a couple that run a podcast geared towards aspiring authors. As we said, it can literally be about anything you want.

Since there are tons of podcasts out there, it helps if you have a very specific focus which lots of people are going to find interesting.

Written by

Author avatar

Duncan

Duncan is obsessed with making website building and eCommerce accessible to everyone. He explains the best tools and the latest digital marketing trends in ways that are clear and engaging. His focus is on supporting the sustainable growth of small to medium-sized enterprises. When not writing, he enjoys deep sea fishing and endurance cycling.

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