Running a business online gives you the opportunity to be creative and entrepreneurial, whether you’re selling physical goods or delivering services. Now, too, setting up an online store or a portfolio website to promote your business is significantly easier than in the past, with some of the best website builders offering easy-to-use e-commerce platforms and membership features to serve your customers.
Here are 10 great online business ideas that you can get started on right away.
1. Sell Arts and Crafts
Online marketplaces are rife with standardized products, and many consumers are open to paying a premium for unique, handmade goods. The success of platforms such as Etsy, for example, proves that there is a booming market for creatives selling their arts and crafts directly to buyers.
Before you create an Etsy account or your own craft shop front using a website builder like Wix, it’s worth asking yourself some key questions. Firstly, where do your main art skills lie, and which of your crafts are easiest and cheapest to make on a regular basis? This can ensure you set attractive prices for your products and make a decent profit margin.
Secondly, what’s the marketing strategy that will attract buyers to your online shop? Can you take eye-grabbing product photos or use SEO techniques to target specific audiences? Planning your business with the end customer in mind can also help you design more imaginative products.
2. Start Dropshipping
Dropshipping means you deal mainly with the marketing, sales, and customer service side of an online store, while the products themselves are produced, stocked, and delivered by a third-party supplier. Usually, you can automate the order-fulfillment process using specialized software, so that your supplier receives the order details as soon as it’s placed.
However, because you’re not controlling the production process, your profit margin is likely to be low. So, to make a living off a dropshipping business, you need to sell large quantities on a regular basis.
One way to accomplish this is to streamline your marketing and operations and provide outstanding customer service—for example, you can automate discount vouchers for each new customer, sell related products in bundles, and incentivize customers to leave product reviews.
3. Sell Pre-Owned Goods
Another type of online business model is selling pre-owned items, such as clothing, electronics, or homeware. This is a booming market for both buyers and sellers, as evidenced by big businesses like eBay and Poshmark.
The trick is to find a product niche that you can easily supply and sell. You might start by advertising your vast collection of sneakers, but where will a steady supply of goods come from over the next year? Strike a deal with wholesale suppliers, individuals, or a combination of both, and brand your online store mindfully to attract your target audience.
You can set up your own shop by using a good small business website builder with strong e-commerce features, or, alternatively, gain instant access to a large user base on eBay or other marketplaces.
4. Build a Coaching Business
If you’ve got expertise that could benefit someone’s personal or professional life, consider delivering coaching sessions online. More and more people are eager to learn new skills from the comfort of their own homes, so you can impart your knowledge remotely, whether you’re a business, fitness, or life coach.
You should devise a basic business plan including your target audience, financial aims, and the market needs your service is solving—but, ultimately, one of the most important steps to building a coaching business is to launch sooner rather than later. Getting your first clients will not only help you improve your coaching technique, but also perfect the marketing strategy that will get you new business.
5. Deliver Corporate Workshops
The world of business is shifting towards online spaces, in part thanks to advanced features in video chat software such as screen sharing and webinar facilities. So, if you’ve got your eyes set on a career delivering corporate workshops, you can start doing this online to leverage a wider client reach and a lower overall cost.
Convincing a business to part with its money may not be as easy as selling to consumers, but it can pay off with major contracts. It helps if you have prior accomplishments in your focus area and professional connections in decision-making roles.
Start by uploading some case studies and testimonials to your website and identifying suitable client prospects from your LinkedIn connections. Relationships are key when winning corporate contracts, so make sure to personalize your approach for each company, focusing on their specific pain points.
6. Charge for Membership
Charging for services provided to an online community is another way to start a profitable online business. For example, you could set up an industry-targeted newsletter for ambitious professionals, offer unlimited access to a specialized online course, or facilitate networking opportunities for underserved communities.
To be a successful community manager, it’s important to leverage both qualitative and quantitative data about your members, from their location and age group to business-specific metrics, such as career tenure. This enables you to formulate and test assumptions about members’ needs and provide an improved experience.
Choosing a good standalone customer relationship management (CRM) system is the best way to keep track of client details, manage sales pipelines, and get data insights. Furthermore, some web builders—like GoDaddy—come ready-made with membership features including membership areas, e-commerce plug-ins, and a basic CRM system.
7. Organize Events
It may seem counterintuitive to build an online business that gets people to attend live events. However, with the global events market projected to grow by 11% per year between 2021 and 2028, it’s not an opportunity to sniff at.
If you’re not hosting your own in-person events, you could get a commission when you facilitate a sale for an event organizer. However, this would require scale to make a sustainable profit, so you’d need connections in the event organizer industry, and a pre-tested marketing and sales strategy.
Alternatively, organizing and selling your own events could yield a higher profit margin, and the resulting direct relationships with customers can create recurring income. You can promote and sell your events via your own website if you’ve got an established brand and regular site traffic, but event ticketing platforms like Eventbrite are also available for a small commission fee.
8. Publish a blog
With no shortage of great blogging platforms at your disposal, the question is not where you should write, but what you write about. The internet is oversaturated with opinions spanning politics, lifestyle, technology, and financial hacks, so finding your own unique voice is essential.
One way to turn a profit when starting a blog is using an affiliate marketing model, through which third-party brands pay you if your readers visit or buy from their shops. For this to work, you’ll need high traffic to your blog on a regular basis—not only to make a decent income, but to shake hands with affiliate partners in the first place.
Alternatively, you could use blogging as an SEO tool to drive traffic to your website, where you might be selling products or services related to the blog topics.
9. Freelance as a Developer or Designer
While they’re two very different jobs, graphic design and software/web development involve similar online business strategies. Firstly, you can use a portfolio-style personal website to promote your previous work and current interests. You can include screenshots and links to past projects so potential clients see your skills in action.
Secondly, both roles can usually be performed remotely, with minimal team meetings interrupting independent work. This grants you access to a global market of jobs if you know how to sell your skills.
Of course, going down this route means you’ll need design or development skills. If you don’t have these already, you could consider taking an intensive short course and building up a client base through simple gigs, like the ones that are in demand on Fiverr, for instance.
10. Trial an App Idea
Launching the next Airbnb may seem like an impossible feat, but we’re not suggesting you build a tech unicorn overnight. Rather, if you’re sitting on an entrepreneurial idea, you can use an online platform to trial it with potential customers.
Releasing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)—that is, a watered-down version of your ideal product—helps test what customers care about while getting the word out about your business. For example, if your dream product is a platform that creates a personalized snapshot of multiple social media channels, the MVP could be a members area where social media posts are manually embedded based on a customer survey.
Whatever your level of experience, there are plenty of online business ideas to choose from if you’re looking for a career change. From creative avenues including blogging and selling arts and crafts, to providing specialized services like corporate workshops or graphic design, you can take your pick according to your skill set and desired audience.
It’s important to test out your ideas by launching early and learning about your customers, but also, don’t forsake your profit margins. Make sure you’re setting sustainable targets and pursuing the best marketing channels to maximize your chances of success, and you may find that any of these online job ideas could blossom into a new career.