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If you are thinking about starting an online business, I have compiled a list of best online business ideas that are perfect for beginners to start today.
Most of these online business ideas listed here require little to no investment to get started.
Also, all the online business ideas on this list have been tested and proven to work by either myself or other people just like you and me.
So, you will not only find out what online business ideas you can start now, but you will also read out real-life case studies where people are making a full-time income with their online business.
A few years ago, I started my own online business.
And that is the best decision I have ever made because it gives me a lot of control over my income and my time.
- No more waking up at 7 am and rushing to work every day.
- No more feeling guilty and scared to ask my boss for permission to take leave to go on vacation with my family
- No more missing out on my child’s life
We all know that a successful online business starts with a profitable business idea.
So, how do we actually define “a profitable online business idea” ?
To me, it just has to satisfy three criteria:
Criteria #1: Your target customers actually want what you offer
Criteria #2: Your target customers are willing to pay for what you offer
Criteria #3: Your target customers have the ability to pay
So, the first criteria basically mean that there MUST be a demand for what you offer.
The second and third criteria are there because you need to make sure that you can generate revenue from what you offer.
Knowledge-Based Business Ideas:
So, what is a knowledge-based business?
By starting a knowledge-based online business, you are packaging your expertise and knowledge into a product or service to help your clients get results that they desire.
You can do so by adopting the following business models:
Create & Sell Online Courses
There are many advantages to creating and selling online courses.
First of all, It requires very little capital to get started.
Unlike selling physical products, you can keep your costs very low to create your online courses.
And you don’t need to worry about inventory and shipping.
Once your clients make the payment, they can access it instantly.
Also, you only have to do the work once – creating the course.
Then you can sell it over and over again and sell to as many people as you can.
So, it’s a very scalable business model.
it might take weeks, maybe even months, to put it together a good online course.
Secondly, it’s just a one-time sale, so you always have to get new customers for your online courses.
The only way you can increase the lifetime value of your customers is to keep creating new courses to sell to your old customers.
Lastly, creating your online courses is only half the battle won.
You need to know how to market your online courses well.
If nobody sees your online course, you won’t get any sales.
That’s also why many course creators are struggling to make sales for their online courses.
What do you need to succeed in it?
- Create an online course that people actually want and are willing to pay for it ( i.e. market demand)
- Marketing know-how (i.e. get eyeballs on your online course)
- Conversion skills (i.e. converting them into paying customers)
Here’s a real-life case study of how you turn your online courses into a full-time business.
Below is a screenshot from a website called “Piano In 21 Days”.
The website owner, Jaques, started his website ON THE SIDE, out of his passion for piano, to share his knowledge about piano playing and help beginners learn how to play in a short period of time.
He makes money from selling his online course teaching people how to play piano in 21 days.
His course is priced from $97 up to $497.
So far, he has had more than 3,500 paying students.
This business has become his full-time business and allows him to support his family.
A Beginner’s Guide: How To Make Money Selling Online Courses
Consulting & Coaching
When you offer consulting and coaching, you are basically exchanging your expertise for money.
People pay you money for your knowledge and expertise to help them solve problems and get the results they want.
So, what type of consulting and coaching can you sell online?
The answer comes down to which topic you have a lot of knowledge and experience in.
For example, if you have a lot of knowledge in giving tax advice, then you might want to consider tax consulting.
Or if you are very good with relationship advice, then you might want to explore relationship coaching.
When you are deciding your consulting and coaching niche, you want to make sure that there is already a demand for it.
In other words, people want what you offer and are willing to pay for it.
One of the best ways to validate your business idea is to do a simple Google search and see if there are already other people doing it.
If there are already people offering it, that is a good sign because it means there is a market for what you want to sell.
By the way, you don’t have to worry about competition because there will always be competitors no matter what you do.
As long as you work harder or provide a better service, you can definitely make more money than them.
So, what specific problem can you help people solve? What specific results can you help people achieve?
So, what is a membership site?
A membership site is a site that contains gated content (information behind a log in).
If you want to access the gated content in the membership area, you have to pay to get access to members-only exclusive content.
Let’s look at an example of a successful membership site – Orchids Made Easy.
This is a membership site created by Ryan for all the orchid enthusiasts around the world.
Inside the membership site, you will get a lot of premium content on how to grow and care for your orchid.
Also, you will have new content made available to you every week in the members-only area.
On top of that, you also get the chance to ask the orchid experts any questions you have as a paying member.
What are the benefits of creating a membership site?
- You get recurring revenue ( just think of Netflix)
- You create your content once and you can sell it to different people again and again ( i.e. you get leverage)
Membership Site Examples: Inspiration For Your Members Area
Blogging is a proven online business idea.
If you are new to the online business world, blogging is actually a good starting point for you for a few reasons.
Reason #1: It’s easy and quick to get started.
All you need is a domain name and web hosting. Even if you are not tech-savvy, you can set everything up with a few clicks.
Reason #2: You can build and grow your blog on the side without quitting your job.
It’s extremely flexible. If you have other commitments, you just need to fit your blogging schedule around them.
Reason #3: There are many ways to earn money from your blog.
Most of them are truly passive income such as affiliate earnings and advertising earnings.
There are quite a number of bloggers who are making at least 5 to 6 figures every month.
What do you need to succeed in it?
- Know how to get people to visit your blog)
- Know how to turn blog traffic into money)
For my own personal finance blog, I started implementing a new strategy of driving traffic to my blog just 5 months ago.
Heres’ the best part.
I did all this without spending a single cent.
With traffic, money will follow.
One of the guaranteed ways to get passive income from your blog is display advertising revenue.
There are, of course, other more profitable ways to monetize your blog.
When you build a niche website, you are basically creating a website in a specific niche targeting a group of specific topics.
Here are some niche websites that people have built and have been making at least a couple of thousand dollars in passive income every month:
- Dog training website
- Gardening website
- Boat buying website
- RV buying website
- Pottery website
- Mountain climbing website
- Baby gear website
You just need to set up the website, and then start writing useful and helpful content to help people solve their problems in the niche you are targeting.
If you do it right, your website will start to get free organic traffic from Google over time.
When it comes to making money with niche website, traffic is money.
As you get more and more website visitors, you can start to monetize your website through advertising, affiliate marketing and maybe your own products.
Now, let’s look at one niche website example – OutdoorGearLab.com.
This is a niche website that is specifically focused on outdoor gear such as hiking boots.
Every month, it gets over half a million free organic traffic every single month from Google.
And it makes a lot of money from promoting Amazon outdoor gear products and also selling advertising spaces on its website.
Here are some advantages of creating niche sites:
- No need to handle customers
- It’s passive income
- You can get started with very little startup capital
How much can you make as a niche site creator?
Some niche sites such as Outdoorgearlab.com could earn up to 5 figures (or even 6 figures) per month.
Serviced-Based Business Ideas:
So, what is a service-based business?
By starting a service-based online business, you turn your own skills or other people’s skills into services that other businesses or individuals already want and are willing to pay for.
Selling services is actually one of the quickest ways to make money.
It is all about solving problems and providing value for other people.
Just think back about what services you have paid for in the past.
What are those services?
Why did you pay for them?
Personally, I have paid for many services before:
- Delivery service
- Dance lessons
- Language lessons
- Tour guide
Each of these services either helps me solve a problem or offers a benefit that I really want.
Here are some benefits most people would be willing to pay for:
- Save Time
- Make Money
- Save Money
- Personalized Service
- Remove Pain
- Have Fun
- Become Happier
- Impress Others
How To Get Started
To get started selling services, you need to first identify what service you can sell.
In this case, you need to find out what service you can sell ONLINE.
So, what skills do you have that can be turned into a service that is already in demand?
Before you start telling yourself that you don’t have any sell-able skills, I want you to do me a favor to suspend that thought for a moment and read on.
Believe it or not, everyone is good at something.
Sometimes you just don’t realize it.
This is because what could be so natural and normal to you might be something that many people are struggling with and are even willing to pay you money to help them.
For example, if you are into fashion and have a great sense of style, this might just be a hobby of yours.
But what you might not realize is that people would actually be willing to pay you money to teach them how to dress well to impress their dates.
Here’s another example.
If you are a stay-at-home mom who is very good at cooking healthy and delicious meals for your kids in a very short time, you might feel this is nothing special.
But I bet there are many women out there who would pay you to get your secret on how to do the same.
So, here’s what I want you to do next.
First, identify your top 10 skills.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, it helps to take a look at the following:
- Books you usually read
- Activities you do in your free time
- Websites you frequently visit
- Tools you often use
- Results you’ve gotten for yourself or others
- Certification you have obtained
- Subjects you have studied in college
- Courses that you have taken
Also, you can ask your friends and family what they think you are good at.
Once you have identified your top 10 skills, I would like you to think about what problems you can help other people solve with each skill.
You see, all the services out there serve ONE purpose – solve problems for people.
If you have a marriage problem, you might want to look for marriage counseling services.
If you have a tax problem, you will want to look for tax consulting services.
If you need people to look after your pet for a few days while you are away, you will want to look for pet boarding services.
Basically, what problems you can help solve will give you clues as to who your ideal clients are.
So, who are you helping with your service?
Are you helping other businesses solve their problems?
Or are you helping individuals?
Here are some service-based online business ideas for each.
Service-based Business Ideas For Offering Business Services Online:
- Digital Advertising Service
- Graphic Design Service
- Social Media Marketing Service
- Copywriting Service
- Translation Service
- Website Design Service
- Accounting Service
- SEO Service
- Project Management Consulting
- PR Service
- Tax Service
- HR/Payroll Service
- Video Editing Service
Service-based Business Ideas Ideas For Offering Service To Individuals Online:
- Career Consulting/Help (Resume editing / Interview Prep / Finding job)
- Give Lessons (Music, Language, Arts, Sports)
- Fashion Consulting
- Relationship Consulting
- Travel Planning
- Tax & Financial Planning
- SAT Prep
- College Application Review
Generally, it is easier to sell to businesses because they are always looking for help to solve their business problems and they also have the willingness and the ability to pay for solutions.
What if you don’t think you have any sellable skills?
The good news is that you can always learn a NEW marketable skill.
If you are interested in picking up one of the in-demand skills, below are a number of useful courses that you can take and go through at your own pace.
- Write to 1K (Recommended)
- How To Start A Profitable Virtual Assistant Business From Scratch (Recommended)
E-Commerce Business Ideas:
If you don’t want to sell service or your knowledge online, here’s another option- selling physical products online.
Physical products are well understood.
Personally, I buy a lot of physical products online, ranging from clothes to gadgets.
And I bet, you do it too.
If you want to sell physical products online, you either create your own products or you can sell private label products (i.e.reselling wholesale products you source from other countries).
Sell Private Label Products
Private label products are those manufactured by one company for sale under another company’s brand. Private-label goods are available in a wide range of industries from food to cosmetics. Simply put, a private label product has your brand name on it but is manufactured by someone else.-STARTUPBROS
To sell your physical products, you can either sell it on platforms such as Amazon or ebay, or you can start your own online store.
One of my friends started an online store selling private label products – handphone case covers.
He sourced the products from China at a very low cost per unit.
Then, he redesigned the packaging to sell it under his own brand name at a much higher price – about 500% higher than his cost price. (yes, that’s how high the profit margin for handphone accessories.)
To market his products, he made a few videos of his products and then spent some money running Facebook ads on these videos.
Did he make any sales?
He made a lot of sales in the first two months.
His competitors started to bring in the exact same products and undercut his prices.
He had to keep sourcing for new products with a good profit margin.
So, the challenge with private label products is that you don’t really have any competitive edge.
The barrier of entry is also pretty low, therefore you will face a lot of competition.
Another downside with selling physical products online is that you might have to invest some money upfront to buy inventory.
Create & Sell Your Own Products Online
So, if you are into arts and crafts, maybe you can create and sell your own handmade products online.
There are many handmade items that are already proven to sell online:
- Handmade jewelry ( i.e necklace, bracelets, earrings and etc)
- Handmade bags
- Picture frames
- Hand-knitted items like scarves, leg warmers, and sweaters
- Wedding accessories (i.e. corsages, bouquets, hairpins and etc)
- Wedding decorations (i.e centerpieces, cake toppers and etc)
But what if you are not an arts and crafts kind of person?
You can always invent your own products and have it manufactured and then sell online.
If you have watched Shark Tank, there are tons of examples of ordinary people coming up with brilliant product ideas.
Below is just one example of an excellent business idea.
This product is called “Simply Fit Board” created by a mother and daughter duo.
It is a dynamic workout tool that will give your abs, legs, and entire core a good workout in minutes.
So, how much sales have they done so far?
160 million in revenue in 4 years!
I hope that this inspires you to look for new product ideas to solve everyday problems:)
The good news about selling physical products online is that you can get started very quickly with just a few clicks.
That’s right, you don’t even have to be tech-savvy to make it happen.
For example, Shopify, one of the best e-commerce platforms, has made it very easy to build your online store from buying your domain name, setting up your shop to integrating a secure payment gateway.
On top of that, Shopify also offers excellent marketing tools such as custom gift cards and discount coupons.
Are there any big companies that use Shopify?
Yes, there are in fact many big brands that choose Shopify to host their online store.
Here are just some examples:
- House of Holland
- New York Times Shop
- Penguin Books
Try out Shopify with a 90-day free trial (no credit card needed)
Promote Other People’s Products As An affiliate
If you don’t want to sell your own physical products online, you promote other people’s physical products online and make money as their affiliate.
As an affiliate, you earn a commission when people buy something at no extra cost to them using your link.
Here’s an example of me promoting books on my website.
Basically, I signed up to be an Amazon affiliate.
As an Amazon affiliate, I can promote any product that is being sold on Amazon using my unique affiliate link.
The investment books above are shown at the end of one of my investing blog posts because I felt that it was relevant and it might even be helpful to some readers who want to read more on the topic.
If any of my readers think that the book is good and decides to buy, then I will be paid by Amazon a small commission at no additional cost to my readers.
Affiliate marketing is one of the simplest and proven ways to earn a full-time income online.
Personally, I am promoting a lot of products through this blog, ranging from web hosting, investment apps to e-commerce software.
My revenue from affiliate marketing contributes to at least 50% of my total revenue.
So, I highly recommend affiliate marketing to anyone who wants to start an online business for the first time.
Here’s a FREE affiliate training that you can sign up to get yourself started in the right direction.
Technology-Based Business Idea:
If you are a technology guy, you might want to explore these online business ideas:
- Software as a service
- Develop an app
- Create & Sell Website Theme
Software As A Service
So, what is software as a service?
Basically it’s a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted.
Let’s look at some examples.
Shopify is a software that allows anyone who wants to set up and open an online store instantly with just a few clicks.
This software solves a lot of problems like:
- having to hire website designer and developer to build your online store
- having to make sure your website is also mobile-friendly
- having to integrate your payment gateway with your online store
- having to make sure your website is secure and reliable for financial transaction
To use Shopify as a service, you need to pay a monthly subscription fee as well as a fixed commission for each online transaction.
The beauty of this online business model is that you earn recurring revenue.
If your customers continue to use your software, they also keep paying you month after month.
But, there are obvious obstacles to starting a software as a service online business:
- You need a lot of upfront investment
- You need a team to help you with this big project
- You need to know how to do marketing to sell your software
Develop An App
Compared to starting a software company, developing an app is much easier and simpler.
Quite some time ago, there was this free popular mobile game called Flappy Bird.
It was developed by Vietnamese video game artist and programmer Dong Nguyen.
The game is a side-scroller where the player controls a bird, attempting to fly between columns of green pipes without hitting them.
It is a very simple yet addictive game.
Within a short time after its release, 50 million people downloaded and installed the game.
It was reported that this mobile game app was making $50,000 per day in advertising revenue.
That is $150,000 in monthly revenue!
So, you can see the income potential of this online business idea.
If you know about app development, you can do it yourself.
But, if you don’t know any programming, you can also hire programmers to help you.
All you need to get started is a great app idea.
Create & Sell Website Theme
If you can design websites, this passive online business is for you.
More and more website owners buy ready-made website templates and WordPress themes instead of hiring a website designer to create a website from scratch.
Because it is so much cheaper and quicker.
So, where can you sell your WordPress themes and website templates?
There are quite a few online marketplaces where you can sell your work:
- Envato Marketplace
Becoming An Influencer Online(e.g. YouTube, Instagram, Podcast)
This is one of the best online business ideas that you start right away without any investment.
And best of all, ANYONE can do it.
Whether you are a student, a stay-at-home mom, a retiree or a working professional, you can do this on the side.
Also, it’s extremely flexible.
You can set your own hours and do it online in your free time.
Below is an example of how even kids can make a lot of money by becoming an influencer on YouTube.
So, do you have something you want to share with the world?
YouTube is a good platform for you to host and share all your video content and grow a loyal following at the same time.
For example, if you are passionate about cooking, you can create cooking videos to share your recipes.
Personally, I follow quite a few food Youtube channels to learn how to cook good food at home.
Below is one of the most popular cooking YouTube channels created by an American housewife.
All she does is to share her videos on how she cooks different types of Korean food.
So, how do you make money with YouTube?
Generally, Youtuber makes money with advertising ((yes, it’s those irritating ads at the start of every youtube video )
But, what if you are not a video person and you are not comfortable recording videos of yourself?
There are other options for you:
Become An Instagram Influencer
If you love Instagram and are basically living on Instagram, perhaps you can explore this online business opportunity.
How do you become an Instagram influencer?
You can become an influencer by actively growing your Instagram followers.
So, how many followers do you need to start making money with Instagram?
Generally, you should be able to earn some extra income once you have at least a few thousand followers who are very engaged with your post.
Of course, the more followers you get, the higher your income potential.
How do you make money as an Instagram influencer?
There are a few ways an Instagram influencer can make money:
- Partner with brands and businesses to promote their products and earn a commission for every sale made
- Sponsorship from brands and businesses to mention their product to the Instagram followers
- Sell your own products
How much can you make as an Instagram influencer?
Kylie Jenner gets paid $1.2million per post on Instagram (WHAT!)
Of course, I am not saying you are going to make that amount of money.
But, you can see the income potential with Instagram.
How To Decide What Online Business YOU Should Start
We are going to use the method of elimination.
Question #1: Do you want to be an influencer?
Being an influencer means that you must be comfortable with putting yourself out there.
For YouTube, it means that you must be comfortable recording yourself talking in videos.
For Instagram, it means that you must be okay with taking pictures of yourself and post them online for everyone to see.
For podcasts, it means that you must be comfortable talking to people and sharing your thoughts live on podcasts.
If you are a private and quiet person and shy away from public attention, then becoming an influencer might not be a good choice for you.
Question #2: Are you into technology?
If you are a programmer, you might be interested in exploring the technology-based online business ideas.
But if you have zero coding knowledge just like me, then you will find it challenging to develop an app or start a software company.
Also, you might need a lot of startup capital for this type of business.
And to succeed, you need to make sure that your software or app sells.
If you are not interested in becoming an influencer or starting a technology based online business, then you are left with three options:
- Service-based Business
- Knowledge-based Business
- E-Commerce Business
For service-based business, you need to deal with your clients constantly and make sure that your clients are happy with the work you do for them.
For e-commerce business, you need capital for inventory and advertising and marketing and also have to deal with all the logistics aspect of the business.
My personal favourite is an online knowledge-based business.
You can get started with little to zero capital.
Better still, it can be a one-man business if you don’t want the headache of hiring and managing employees.
Here’s the best part.
It can become a source of passive income for you because most of knowledge-based online business can be fully automated.
That means you don’t need to actively go and get leads and generate sales for your business.
Leads will come to you automatically.
And sales will happen automatically without you having to go on the phone.
Is this too good to be true?
If it sounds too good to be true to you, then you have what I call a “knowledge gap”.
A Knowledge Gap means that there are things that other people know but you don’t.
Everyone has a knowledge gap.
Nobody can possibly know everything, that is why we always learn from people who have done what we want to achieve.
Now, let me explain how lead generation can be fully automated.
Let me take Hotels.com as an example.
When you are browsing the website, you will see this sign-up box asking you to sign up to get great offers and save more money on hotel booking.
This is how businesses automate their lead generation process.
Once you give them your email address, you become a lead for them and they can keep in touch with you through emails and send you their latest offers and deals.
What do you need to automate lead generation?
All you need is an email marketing software such as Getresponse which allows you to create sign-up forms to collect emails and also send pre-loaded marketing emails to your email subscribers.
So, just keep an open mind when you see a new business idea or a new way to make money.