Online Business Ideas
4.7 (94.29%) 21 votes

It’s time. You’ve thought about it long enough. You’ve dreamed about it as you’ve sat in your cubicle day after day. You’ve spent enough time making big money for your boss while you scrape by.

You’ve shrugged off the idea time and again when it all seemed too complicated or unattainable, but the thoughts always seem to creep back in.

You want to start you own business.

Well, the time is right. In fact, there has never been a better time to start your own online business, so stop dismissing the idea and start bringing your dream into the real world.

With an online company or service, start-up costs are minimal. All you really need is a decent computer with a wifi connection. You can continue working your 9-5 gig to pay the bills during the day while launching your online business from home in your spare time, with the goal of leaving the office for good always in your sights.

With perseverance and hard work, the potential is there for you to get out of that stuffy office once and for all, and make some real money being the boss of your very own online business.

Sound too good to be true?

There are 28 million small businesses in America today, and increasingly those companies are taking their services online. There’s no reason why you can’t join them.

Of course, you need an idea. That’s where this guide comes in.

Here are 15 of the best online businesses that anyone can start today. This list is far from exhaustive, but these ideas can help you get on a new path out of the office and into a home-based online business where you are your own boss.

NOTE:

We’ve written exhaustive guides on how to make money online and the top ways to monetize a website or blog. Read these guides for additional online business ideas and find the one that suits your goals best.

#1: Start an Online Store

Selling products yourself (DIY)

Here’s the most straight-forward online business idea: eCommerce sales.

This is when you sell products online and get customers to buy them.

There are two main ways to set up your store – do-it-yourself or piggy-back.

The first is where you own the store, and the second is where you use another platform to sell products like Amazon or eBay. We’ll cover both, but let’s start with the do-it-yourself way.

Do It Yourself Method

Once you find something to sell, you can have it online and ready to go with just a few clicks of a button.

There are a handful of services you can use to get your products online, but there are two that stand out from the pack: Shopify and WooCommerce.

If you’re starting an ecommerce business, it’s hard to go wrong with one of these.  

Shopify is a standalone service, while WooCommerce is a plugin for the immensely popular WordPress.org.

If you’re not sure which option to choose, read our Shopify vs. WooCommerce comparison, and pick the one that suits your needs best.

Broadly speaking, using a platform like Shopify is usually the easiest way to start for website beginners.

The reason is that Shopify uses beginner-friendly apps like Oberlo, that let you easily add hundreds of products to your Shopify store and never worry about packaging or shipping (this is known as dropshipping). It’s simple to set up and you can scale your store using it:

Regardless of which DIY website builder platform you choose, both are great options to make your eCommerce set up a breeze.

NOTE:

The top two services to start an online store are Shopify and WooCommerce. Read our step-by-step tutorial on how to set up your online store with Shopify and how to start an online shop with WooCommerce to compare both options.

#2: Sell Products on eBay

Selling products on eBay

If setting up an online store the DIY way isn’t your style, let’s cover the piggy-back side of eCommerce. This is where you use an existing sales platform to sell your own products.

Ebay’s presence in the online world continues to grow, with sales in the billions of dollars every year and no indications of slowing down. You’d have a hard time finding a person who hasn’t bought or sold something on eBay.

So why not be a part of the eBay phenomenon by turning it into a business?

The idea is simple. You sell items on eBay that you have bought for a lesser price. It will take some research to decide what you want to sell, and choosing the right products is key to a profitable venture into the eBay market.

Additionally, creating attractive, clear, appropriately priced listings is critical, but eBay is a gold mine if you’re willing to do the legwork.

Finding your niche might take some time, as will learning the eBay rules, shipping procedures, and marketing strategies.

Once you get the hang of it, whether selling books or electronics or designer clothing, you can operate a profitable eBay business right out of your own home.

It will help to have a clean, organized, smoke and pet-free area in your home to store your merchandise.

A good camera for taking quality photos of your items will be key as well. With your computer, these small investments can lead to huge returns as you build your eBay empire. And yes, this method applies to other sales platforms like Amazon and Etsy.

#3: Start a Blog

How to start a blog

Bloggers have been around almost as long as the internet itself, and they’re not going anywhere. Why not join their ranks and learn how to earn money through your own blog.

Starting a blog is as easy as a few clicks on a site like WordPress.com or WordPress.org (here’s the difference).

Whether your blog is about cooking or farm life or baseball card collecting, it’s important to quickly find your niche so you can boost traffic on your blog. Once your blog is up and running, Google AdSense allows you to post ads for products related to your niche right on your blog.

When a reader clicks on an ad to buy a product, you get a cut of the sale. The more readers you have, the more money you can make from your blog.

For example, the cooking blog where you share your favorite family recipes can host links to cookbooks or kitchen tools. A person reading your blog clicks on a link and buys a product, and you get a cut of the sale.

The more you sell, the more money you make.

Constantly updating your blog with new, interesting, relevant content will keep your readers coming back for more, and buying more through the links on your blog.

Ads aren’t the only way that your blog can generate an income. Several income streams can flow from your blog, including other businesses listed in this article, like dropshipping, online courses, or ebooks.

Many bloggers make a sizable full-time income blogging, after only a year or two of generating content and utilizing several income streams that can naturally flow from it.

There are many blogs out there, no doubt, but if you find your niche and create an interesting blog based on it, this online business can turn profitable in no time!

#4: Create a Digital Course

Online courses

Maybe you have knowledge or expertise in a particular field that you’d like to share, but being a consultant is just too personal. You’re not the encouraging coach-type, too introverted for Skype calls and the like.

Website building, photography, finance – pretty much any specialized knowledge can be turned into a course.

Udemy, Teachable, and Thinkific are all great platforms for creating courses. If you’re more tech-savvy, set up a course on your own website.

Creating a digital course is a way for you to share your expertise while keeping a distance from the people learning from you.

You will want to create a website, including a sales page that will market your expertise and make people want to buy it from you. Promoting will be in your hands as well, sharing your website through email lists and affiliate partnerships.

The content of your website will be open to people once they click buy from your compelling sales page. If you don’t already have an audience, consider publishing a short ebook through Amazon (see #6).

Once you hook your audience with the information provided in your book, they will want to hear more and can sign up for your online course.

#5: Buy and Sell Internet Domains

Buy and sell internet domains

You’ve seen the shows on HDTV and the Discovery Channel. A cute couple buys a run-down house in the up-and-coming neighborhood. She picks the tile, cabinets, and paint colors while he wields the hammer and Skilsaw.

The house is transformed into the cutest house in the neighborhood and they flip it for a huge profit. Buying and flipping internet domains isn’t all that different, and no power tools are required.

Like the house flippers who know a diamond in the rough when they see one, the key to buying and selling domain names is knowing a bit about the “neighborhoods” on the web.

The right client will pay big bucks for the perfect domain name for their business, and if you’ve had the foresight to buy that name first, then you can flip it to them and bank a huge profit.

Start by choosing your “neighborhood”, something that you know a bit about already.

If you know your hometown and a bit about the businesses that are growing there, then you can search for domain names that might sell in your area at a bargain through sites like GoDaddy or Namecheap. Here’s a thorough guide on how to buy and register a domain name.

Once you buy a domain for cheap, you can market it and flip it to a business for them to use. Buying and flipping domains can be tricky, and you shouldn’t expect to make the reported 11 million dollars made in the sale of hotel.com.

If you are patient and are active in the market, you can create a profitable online business buying and selling domains.

#6: Publish a Book

Publish a book

Do you have a book idea that you’ve been longing to put to paper but it just seems impossible? You’ve got a story to tell and the skills to tell it, but the thought of editing, publishing, and marketing your book prevent you from writing even the first word.

It has never been easier to self-publish a book, and whether or not you’ve got the great American novel up your sleeve, you can make money publishing your own ebook online.

Amazon has made self-publishing incredibly easy. Anyone can do it, and yes that means you! Before you spend hours at your computer writing, test the waters using a site like PickFu.

It will help you set up an online poll to see if people will read your book based on your title. Positive feedback may indicate a real interest in your book idea, and you’ll know you might just be on to something.

Once you’ve established that you have a profitable book concept that people, create an outline and stick to it, setting aside an hour or so of uninterrupted writing time each day.

If you plan on self-publishing through Amazon, be sure to follow their formatting guidelines. Once you’ve finished your book and it’s formatted correctly, go to Kindle Direct Publishing and sign in to your Amazon account.

Follow the steps for creating a new title – it’s as easy as that!

Now that you’ve written and published your book, it’s time to sell it! Strategies for getting your book to potential buyers abound. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Launch your book with a 99 cent price for the first week or so. Use sites like Robin Reads to promote your book at this introductory price.
  • Use a relevant subreddit to promote your book. Post a book excerpt and link to your book sale page at the end.
  • Post guest posts during the first week, again linking it back to your book page.
  • Use email blasts to promote your book, always linking to your sale page and highlighting the bargain 99 cent price.
  • By the end of your launch week, hopefully, your book is well on its way! Raise the price to $2.99, still a bargain of course, and you’ll continue to promote it as such. Keep raising the price by $1 every week or so, until you have it at the price you think it’s worth based on your own research of similar e-books.
  • If it stops selling, lower the price by $1 until sales pick back up again.

Can this really be a profitable venture? Yes. It really can! Check out this case study for a little inspiration, then get busy writing!

#7: Freelance Writing

Speaking of writing, maybe you don’t have a book idea in your head, but you are a skilled writer with a command of the English language and solid grammar skills.

A freelance writing business might be just the thing for you, and all it takes to get started is a computer with word processing software and an internet connection. Freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com make it a few clicks away from connecting with people ready to hire writers.

There are many different types of writing in demand on the internet. You can focus on one or dip your toes into many of them until you find your niche. Here is a sampling:

  • Article writing – Printed publications like magazines can be hard to break into, but they generally pay more than online work. You would pitch an article idea to a magazine, and if they accept it, you get paid.
  • Web content writing – Websites are constantly looking for good material to lure traffic and provide helpful information to readers. Marketing is often a part of this type of writing, so an understanding of search engines will serve you well.
  • Medical or technical writing – If you’re knowledgeable about the medical world, engineering, computers or software, then this type of writing can be very lucrative. Companies will pay good money for this type of highly technical writing because not everyone can do it.
  • Copywriting – This type of writing is for you if you have expertise in the marketing or advertising worlds. Copywriting involves writing sales letters, ads, and other promotional materials and requires an understanding of the things that prompt people to buy things. If you are a persuasive salesperson or at least speak that language, this type of writing is for you!
  • Blogging – Blogs abound on every topic under the sun, and bloggers are increasingly subcontracting their articles to freelance writers.
  • Resume writing – Many job seekers need help writing the perfect resume that will land them their dream job, and they will pay for it. Resume writing is similar to copywriting in that it seeks to attract an employer, so an understanding of persuasive writing is key.

This is just a small sample of the writing jobs available to you if you decide to become a freelance writer. Where can you find jobs like these and more? Freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com are a good place to start.

You might have to take some low-paying jobs to build your portfolio, but before long, you can set your own price, and your own hours, as a freelance writer.

#8: Online Consulting or Coaching

Online consulting and coaching

If you’re an expert in a specific field, then starting up an online consulting or coaching business might be your ticket to being your own boss. Online consultants sell their knowledge to clients who are looking for help achieving their goals easier and faster.

Make a simple website that explains all about your capabilities and experience. After that, run advertising or call on your network to explain your new venture.

People are willing to pay for such help, so if you’ve got skills and knowledge in a specific area, a lucrative business sharing it with others might be sitting right in your lap.

Training, education, and experience in your field of expertise will provide you with the credibility you’ll need to get your consulting business off the ground.

But while you might have the knowledge, sharing it effectively with others requires good coaching skills. If you’re a good listener and have the ability to assess and motivate based on what you hear, this might just be your gold mine.

There are a plethora of services that provide teleconferencing abilities, and many of them are free so startup costs are minimal. These services can enable you to consult with clients around the world, sharing your expertise with them and helping them solve their problems face to face, or at least through a computer screen.

You’ll never have to leave your home, or even put on shoes for that matter! The personalized coaching you’ll provide your clients will be well worth their money.

#9: Virtual Assistant

Not long ago, every successful executive or manager had their own personal or executive assistant. Those positions were the first to go when the recession hit, but personal assistant jobs are on the rise again, though they look a bit different nowadays.

Consider becoming a virtual assistant. All it takes is a computer, phone, and internet access, along with some basic administrative skills. Take on one client or ten, depending on your availability and drive, and spend your days serving your clients from afar.

The job includes arranging travel, scheduling appointments, sending emails, and other basic administrative tasks which make your clients life a bit easier.

More than home-based secretaries, however, virtual assistants can do many different things including marketing, bookkeeping, social media management, and so much more.

Working remotely means you can set your own hours and work when you want from the comfort of your own home. Plus, you’ll never have to pick up your boss’ dry cleaning!

Sites like Upwork, People Per Hour, CloudPeeps and VA Networking have these types of freelance jobs. Simply search the categories you’re interested in and reply to job posts.

#10: Social Media Consulting

Every big company employs a full-time staff to manage their social media accounts, but small businesses often don’t have the time or resources to devote to keeping up with their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.

These social media outlets are critical for doing business in today’s world. If you know how to navigate these sites, then a consulting business devoted to helping others market their business on social media might be a gold mine for you.

Clients would pay you to post content on their social media sites with the goal of creating interest and increasing traffic. You would also help them know which social media sites they should be using to best reach their target audience.

A new wave of social media management sites like Sendible and Social Booster makes it easy for managers like to you to best serve multiple clients as you promote their company on Facebook and the like.

The flexibility with a start-up business like this is huge, allowing you to work with two clients or twenty, growing your own company as you help them grow theirs.

#11: Design Websites

Design websites

NOTE:

Before you can make money from this method, you’ll first need to know how to make a website.

Every company big or small needs a website.

It’s critical for businesses, from online startups to your local coffee shop.

If you have an eye for design and can handle a computer, consider designing websites for companies right from your own home. If you’re already a web developer or designer, create WordPress themes and plugins to sell.

Marketplaces like Themeforest and CodeCanyon are specifically made for people looking to buy and sell graphics, code scripts, plugins and templates for their own website needs.

If you’d prefer to build websites for clients, add a “Services” page to your own website and start taking on freelance web projects. You can go to sites like Fiverr, 99Designs and Freelancer.com and start bidding on projects. As you grow your following and reputation, you’ll build a referral network of happy clients who can help to refer you future business.

One of the benefits of this kind of business is that your clients will continually come back to you to make the inevitable changes, updates, and total redesigns of the website you’ve made.

If your work is good it will sell itself through word of mouth. As your client base grows, you can join the ranks of the average web designer making over $70,000 a year.

#12: Build Apps

We have an entire category devoted to apps in our guide on how to make money online. Let’s touch on the basics here.

It might feel like the app market is flooded, but there’s still money to be made in app development (if you’ve got an idea for a fun, useful app). After all, Yahoo paid 30 million dollars for an app created by a 19-year-old not too long ago!

You can always learn app development, but if you have a solid idea you might not need to.

Once you hammer out the details, you can hire a programmer, often at very cheap rate, to help build the idea you have (try Freelancer.com or Upwork). A key to this though is ensuring the app is compatible with both Apple and Android devices for maximum sales.

What if you don’t have a brilliant idea for a new app?

You can still create an online business creating apps for others if you’ve got the technical skills. Start an app development business, and let the guys with the big ideas come to you and pay you big bucks to put their app on every iPhone in the country.

#13: Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Learn search engine optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to the process of getting websites to rank higher on search engines like Google or Bing. Websites want to be at the top of the list when people search for keywords because they will get more relevant website traffic and draw potential business.

Learning Search Engine Optimization can be a bit tricky since the rules of search engines are constantly changing. Books and online help abound, so if you’re willing to dig in and master SEO, you’ll have the potential to earn good money from businesses who will trust you to put them at the top.

SEO is a highly valued skill, and companies will pay you to make sure they are at the top of the search.

#14: Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is when you promote another company’s product or service, and earn a commission when someone purchases through your affiliate link.

Typically affiliate marketers start a blog on a specific topic, then refer people to the best services and businesses.

Like any home business, making it in the world of affiliate marketing takes research, constant management, and a lot of hard work, but the payoff can be huge!

There are a number of affiliate programs that are easy to get into and don’t require much tech savvy to set up. Consider signing up for:

I’ve covered affiliate marketing in much more detail in this post on the best ways to monetize a website or blog.

Affiliate marketing is hard, and you’ll need to know how to get website traffic. But it’s a great way to earn a profit without ever having to create or deliver a product, with little start-up costs involved.

#15: Video and Photography

Video & photography

Do you have the knack for taking interesting photos? Are you a ham in front of the camera?

There is money to be made on the internet through video and photography, potentially turning your little hobby or quirky personality into a surprisingly profitable online venture.

From video stories on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to the monster we call YouTube, video continues to grow in popularity each day with no end in sight.

Your video venture can tie into your blog, making it a vlog and generating revenue by selling products to your audience. Your YouTube channel can amass a following in the millions before you know it, again driving ad sales and generating a solid income.

Maybe you’re camera shy and would rather be behind the lens than in front of it.

Consider selling your unique, original photos online.

There are countless businesses looking for one of a kind images to help tell their story and sell their product, and it’s easier than ever to make your images available for sale to them.

There are many stock photo sites like AdobeStock and Shutterstock that offer tempting incentives for people like you to earn money from the photos you take. The amazing thing is you don’t even need an expensive camera to make money from your photos!

A newer model smartphone will do, so think about starting your online business in the world of video or photography now, whether you’re in front of or behind the camera.

The Time is Now

Hopefully, our list of the 15 best online businesses anyone can start today has inspired you! The beauty of all of these ideas is that you can start slow from the comfort of your own home and with the security of your nine-to-five job still in place.

As you grow your online business from the ground up, you can look forward to the day that you pack up your cubicle for good and work for yourself full time, making the kind of money you’ve only ever dreamed of.

Online Business Ideas

Written by Alex Jasin

Last Updated: April 8, 2018