Online businesses have become more and more popular over time as a type of business to start.
Not only do they have the potential to be lucrative, they can be run from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
Do you know which online business you want to start? If your answer is “no” or “I don’t know”, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ve created a list of the best online business models that you can get started with.
Each type comes with it’s own unique set of upsides and downsides, and I’ve done my best to go into some detail so you have a sense of what each type of online business entails.
1. Niche Websites
Niche websites are websites that are focused and authoritative on a particular subject or niche.
These sites can focus on anything from sports, to food, to finance, to arts and crafts, to hobbies, to video games.
Really, any niche with an audience that actually wants to learn and read about the subject is one you can make a niche site about.
To be successful creating a niche website, you’ll need to create great content that’s either helpful or entertaining to readers. Do that consistently over a long enough period of time, and you’ll build an audience that you can monetize.
Focus on great content and the opportunities to make money will come in the long run.
Niche websites can be monetized in a lot of ways. Two of the most popular ways are display ads and affiliate marketing. Some other common ways include sponsored content or selling products (digital or physical) on the back end.
Display ads are the most simple and straightforward way to earn on a niche website. Simply place ads in your content and earn when users click an ad.
On the affiliate marketing side, you can earn by referring sales to other businesses. Say you have a niche site about baseball. You could write reviews of different baseball bats and link to Amazon or the bat manufacturer’s site. If the user goes on to make a purchase, you’d earn a small commission.
Upsides of Niche Website Businesses
- Low barrier to entry: all you need to do is buy a domain (around $10) and a hosting plan and you can be up and running within an hour after you’ve chosen your niche.
- Easily scalable: niche websites are scalable because it doesn’t cost anything extra to serve your content to more people. One piece of content can be consumed by a huge audience without more cost to you.
- Potentially lucrative: there are niche websites run by regular people that easily make 5 or 6 figures per month. It takes time and lots of quality content to get there, but it’s possible to make big money with a niche site. Low ongoing costs mean most revenue falls straight to the bottom line.
Downsides of Niche Website Businesses
- It takes a while before you make money: these days, it will probably be around 6 months before Google starts sending organic traffic to your site. I’d say you should be committed to your project for at least a year going in.
- Low barrier to entry: this one cuts both ways. It’s easy to get started… for you and for potential competitors. You’ll likely be up against other people who have a very similar idea for a niche site. The solution is to create great content, over time you will stand out and beat the competition!
- Reliant on search engines: niche sites tend to rely on Google organic search results to gain traffic. Google is known to roll out disruptive updates to their search algorithm periodically, which is out of your control and can potentially tank your traffic.
Niche Website Business Examples
I picked a couple of examples below to highlight niche websites that appear to be doing quite well. Based on data from Ahrefs, I suspect both of these websites are easily getting 1,000,000+ visitors per month.
smokedbbqsource.com is a niche site in the BBQ/grilling niche. There is a nice mix of informational content that teaches readers how to grill, and review style content that is monetized with affiliate relationships.
And if you’re into BBQ, you can tell that the content is written by people who are passionate about the subject.
They even sell a few physical products on the back end (different seasonings for grilled food).
oodlelife.com is a niche site in the dogs niche. Once again there is an excellent mix of informational content and product review style content. That likely means the site has diversified earnings between display ads and affiliate marketing.
The content is well written and very helpful for dog owners!
2. Amazon FBA
Amazon has a well known program called Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA). In the FBA program, you can resell other brands, sell private label items or your own branded items on Amazon.com and utilize Amazon’s warehouses, logistics, and customer service to fulfill orders.
That means when somebody buys your product on the Amazon platform, Amazon automatically picks, packs, and ships the order for you.
If the customer decides to make a return, Amazon handles that too.
Personally, I’d stay away from reselling other brands or dropshipping on Amazon. From my experience, the margins are really tight and there is heavy competition from other sellers who are selling a carbon copy offer Amazon.
Creating your own private label or brand to sell on Amazon FBA takes more work, but gives a higher payoff if you execute.
Maybe you have a product idea in mind to sell on Amazon. No worries if you don’t! Applications like JungleScout can help you find products to sell – they (and many other applications these days) have tools that help you find winning products, and estimate how much other sellers are making with a particular product.
Since Amazon handles fulfillment, returns, payment processing, and most of the customer service, you can focus on high leverage areas of your business like product development and PPC advertising.
Upsides of Amazon FBA Businesses
- You get to leverage Amazon’s brand: selling on the Amazon site with their logo plastered everywhere, you’ll inherently have more trust and higher conversion rates. Not only that, you get to leverage their logistics operations which potentially saves a ton of headache compared to managing fulfillment on your own.
- Products convert better on Amazon: especially for more generic products that don’t have a strong brand, conversion rates and in turn sell through rates will be higher selling on Amazon compared to selling the same products on your own site.
- Amazon FBA businesses tend to sell for high multiples: relative to other online businesses, Amazon FBA businesses tend to sell for the highest exit multiples thanks to buyer demand. This shouldn’t be a reason on it’s own to start an Amazon FBA business, but it’s definitely a nice aspect of the business type.
Downsides of Amazon FBA Businesses
- Amazon platform risk: when you sell on the Amazon platform you are bound to their terms and conditions which are subject to change at any time. Lack of compliance can lead to account closures, with little to no recourse. Amazon can also change their fees at any time without notice.
- Takes a while to be cash flow positive: product development takes a while. And after you find a winning product, you’ll be reinvesting profits into more inventory – so it can take a while (6-12 months+) before you’re able to take chips off of the table.
- Lots of competition: it’s fairly easy to make a new Amazon account and start selling, so you’ll be competing with a lot of other sellers, which can make it tough if you aren’t selling a differentiated product.
Amazon FBA Business Example
The Pearhead store appears to be a thriving Amazon FBA business. They have a deep catalog of unique/differentiated products that stand out from competition.
Pearhead appears to have been around for at least a decade so this is an example of a very mature FBA business.
For example, they sell dog plush toys that appear hot sauce and beer bottles and other fun designs – these small, creative ideas can be a powerful way to stand out selling on Amazon.
3. Dropshipping Business
Technically, “dropshipping” refers to a fulfillment method, but over time it’s become slang for an entire subcategory of eCommerce businesses.
Dropshipping is simply an order fulfillment method where a third party fulfills orders for a business.
That means you can list products for sale on your online store, and when a customer buys you send an order in to a vendor who ships the item directly to your customer.
There are two main routes you can go with a dropshipping business.
First is private labeling. That means partnering with manufacturers to sell their products where you create some light branding around your offers.
Second is reselling. This means partnering with established brands and becoming an authorized dealer/reseller of their items.
Generally speaking, I’d recommend reselling for those getting started with running an online business.
And specifically, I’d recommend reselling high ticket items – high ticket dropshipping in my mind is one of the best online businesses for beginners to get into.
Building a brand is not easy and it takes time. By leveraging existing brands, you can focus your energy on creating a website that converts and running ads to your store.
Upsides of Dropshipping Businesses
- Simple to get started: since you skip the product development phase with a dropshipping business, you can get a business started as fast as you’re able to get a website running and traffic going to your store.
- Great cash flow: when a customer orders from you, they pay for the item first and THEN you pay your supplier for the COGS. This creates an immediate cash flow positive situation, with no need to reinvest in inventory.
Downsides of Dropshipping Businesses
- No competitive moat around products: usually there’s nothing stopping competition from selling the exact same products as you any time you are private labeling or reselling. Because of this, it can be tough to differentiate your offer from the rest of the market.
- You don’t control the product: when reselling, you don’t control the product supply chain or the price you’re allowed to sell at (most brands set the minimum prices you’re allowed to sell their products at).
- Thin margins: in most cases, your margins will be slim with dropshipping compared to what’s possible in other business models. This is because the brands you work with have to make money in addition to you, plus costs of advertising and shipping can be high depending on the product.
Dropshipping Business Example
Shop Solar Kits is a dropshipping business in the solar equipment niche that appears to be doing very well.
The business is built on Shopify and has a lot of very helpful content that helps demonstrate authority and trust around the product line, which is extremely important to establish in a dropshipping business.
Blogs are similar in many was to a niche site but with an important distinction.
Instead of being hyper-focused around a particular subject or hobby like a niche site, a blog has an element of personal branding.
That means the blogger’s persona is present throughout the site and usually, a personal connection is built with their audience.
So if you’ve wanted to build a business that also can help build a personal brand for yourself, blogging can be a viable way to achieve that.
Blogs are commonly monetized with display ads and affiliate partnerships. Sponsorships tend to be a nice revenue channel for blogs as well.
Upsides of Blogging
- Easy to get started: all you need is an internet connection, a domain, and a hosting plan and your blog can be up and running.
- Can create a passionate following: building a personal connection with an audience is powerful. Not only can it be intrinsically rewarding, a loyal following can be a lucrative income opportunity as well if you promote products that provide value to your audience.
- Can diversify to multiple channels: if you’re building a strong personal brand, odds are you can get a significant portion of your readers to follow you on other platforms, creating channel diversification for your business.
Downsides of Blogging
- Brand is tied to the blogger: having a business tied to a personal brand cuts both ways. While it can lead to a loyal following, it also makes the business more dependent on the blogger’s output.
- It takes a long time to build an audience: you will probably have to create quality content for at least 6 months at least before you really start to gain momentum building your following.
- You can’t stop creating content: if you stop creating content, your blog traffic will likely stagnate or decline. Unless you’re able to hire talented team members to help create content, this can lead to burn out.
Location Rebel is a quality blog run by Sean Ogle who helps people create freelancing and work-from-home businesses as a writer.
You can see that a lot of the content he creates is about writing, entrepreneurship, and running a small business, but his personality definitely shines through in his content.
Averie Cooks is another blog example – her content is almost exclusively recipes but you can see that her personality and voice make the content feel more relatable and engaging to the reader.
5. Micro SaaS
Software as a service (SaaS) businesses can be a great online business to run for a number of different reasons.
And you don’t necessarily need to have coding skills yourself to create and run a micro SaaS business, although it definitely helps.
The rise of platforms like FreeUp and UpWork make it possible to connect with freelance programmers who can help create, maintain, and improve your software.
The key to starting a great micro SaaS business is to hyper-focus on solving a problem for a particular niche. That way, you have an opportunity to differentiate your offer from bigger players in the software market.
Profitable SaaS businesses are particularly attractive for entrepreneurs because they are a recurring revenue model. These days, most software subscriptions renew on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.
If your software continues to deliver value to your customers, your customers will be more likely to stick around and pay that recurring revenue.
Upsides of SaaS Businesses
- Recurring revenue model: the stability of recurring revenue means it’s easier to predict what your income will look like and you can plan how much to reinvest in your business over time.
- Highly scalable: since it only costs basically the same to fulfill the software service to 1 customer, 10, or 100+, software businesses tend to be scalable to the extent that you can find paying customers.
- Low ongoing costs: typically your ongoing costs are hosting, development costs from time to time and a customer service/success manager. Other than that, all of you profits can go into your pocket or be reinvested back into the business.
Downsides of SaaS Businesses
- Not a great fit if you can’t code: while you don’t need to do the coding yourself, it helps quite a bit if you have a working knowledge of code so you can communicate effectively with the developers working on your software.
- Customer acquisition isn’t a given: it can take a while to find customers, especially if you don’t have a following or experience running paid advertising campaigns.
- Ongoing support and maintenance required: in most cases, you’ll need to maintain or improve your software on an ongoing basis, otherwise customer churn could tank your business.
Micro SaaS Business Examples
TinyJPG is a micro SaaS business that allows users to easily compress image files online.
Many files can be compressed for free, and a modest paid tier allows customers premium features like compressing large files and compressing files in bulk.
This service is extremely useful for web publishers and eCommerce businesses looking to reduce page speed load times by serving smaller image files on their websites.
Privy is a large micro SaaS that exists to help merchants on Shopify and Wix grow their email and SMS marketing campaigns.
Their hyper-focus on serving these two eCommerce platforms has led to domination in the market and a product that is extremely helpful for online business owners.
6. eCommerce Business
Traditional eCommerce businesses are still a great business model to get into.
Whether it’s a physical product or a digital product you want to sell online, a traditional eCommerce business can be incredibly lucrative if you pull it off.
With eCommerce, you’ll be developing a product, creating a brand, selling your product, handling fulfillment, and providing customer service on the backend all on your own.
While there are definitely some moving parts involved in running an eCommerce business, these days there are a lot of tools and services that can help you out.
For example, if you sell physical products, you can hire a third party logistics company (3PL) to store your product and fulfill orders as they come in.
All of that to say, if you have a great product idea, consider creating your own brand and selling online. While there is more work involved compared to selling your products on Amazon, you get to control all aspects of your business operation.
Upsides of eCommerce
- You have control of all aspects of your business: from product development, to supply chain, to pricing, to marketing, to fulfillment, you have the most control over the product in an eCommerce model.
- Can differentiate your offer with branding: it takes time to execute, but you can create a brand that your customers trust and come back to again and again.
- Possible to grow with multiple channels: you can expand beyond selling your products in your own store if you wish. Whether it’s selling on Amazon, or utilizing brick and mortar wholesale channels, it’s possible to get revenue from multiple channels.
Downsides of eCommerce
- Requires a lot of skill: since there are so many aspects of running an eCommerce business, you need to be proficient or willing to learn a wide variety of skills.
- Takes time to build a brand: it takes time and lots of feedback from customers to build trust and a brand that customers will come back to.
- Takes a while to become cash flow positive (for physical products eCom): physical products businesses take time to become cash flow positive because you’ll have to sink money into product development and inventory to get started, then inventory purchases become required after that.
eCommerce Business Example
There are countless examples to point to for eCommerce, so I’m just going to highlight a quick example here.
TeaForte is an eCommerce business that sells various teas, teaware, and gift sets on Shopify.
They are a mature eCommerce business that also utilize Amazon FBA and wholesale channels to sell their product.
7. Self Publishing
Platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) have made it pretty easy to self publish books.
There’s two routes people tend to go with self publishing businesses.
The first is to write (or hire somebody else to ghostwrite) a high effort book that is either entertaining or helpful to a particular audience. This could be anything from a how-to book, self improvement, a cookbook, or a romance novel.
The second is to publish low content books like journals or coloring books that differentiate themselves with cool cover patterns.
Either way, if your book gets downloads and purchases you can earn royalties off of your work over time.
While there are other platforms out there where you can promote your books, Amazon KDP tends to be the biggest opportunity for self-publishing entrepreneurs.
Upsides of Self Publishing
- Access to Amazon’s audience of readers on KDP: Amazon has a baked in audience of readers, and if you can produce books that stand out in popular categories, you’ll be in good shape to earn some royalties.
- Can turn into passive income after books are written: once the books are written, the royalties can come in for an extended period time. The more evergreen your content is, the better!
- Scalable to the extent you can build an audience: self publishing businesses are highly scalable because a book is cheap to deliver to a customer on average, especially because lots of people consume books on electronic devices these days.
Downsides of Self Publishing
- Platform reliance: Amazon has strict terms and conditions that come with publishing your books on their platform, and their royalty structure is subject to change at any time.
- Hard to stand out: since it’s not particularly difficult to open a self publishing account, there is a lot of competition in publishing – both for high effort books and low content books.
- Lots of upfront investment without knowing if it will pay off: whether you create a book yourself or hire a writer, you’ll spend time and/or money to get a book to the point that it’s ready to publish, without knowing for sure if you’ll make a return on your investment.
Self Publishing Business Examples
Go to Amazon, click on “Books” on the menu, and take a look at the “romance” subcategory. I’d be willing to bet almost all of these authors are self publishing on the KDP platform and a decent portion of the author names are personas with the actual books written by a ghost writer.
I came across this self publishing business selling low content composition notebooks with creative cover designs.
8. Print On Demand
If you’ve ever wanted to start an online merch business, the print on demand model is an excellent way to try it out.
The idea is pretty simple – when somebody buys a particular item, a print on demand business prints the design.. well.. on demand and ships it out to your customer.
So in many ways print on demand businesses are similar to dropshipping businesses because you don’t have to purchase inventory in advance and a third party fulfills your orders.
The classic print on demand business sells clothes like t shirts, hoodies, or hats, although there are other fun items you can sell as well.
As far as designs go, you can make designs yourself by leveraging design tools or AI art tools, or you can outsource designs to a freelance designer.
Upsides of Print On Demand
- Low upfront cost to get started: all you need is a website to list your print on demand products. Amazon even has a print on demand program and many print on demand companies integrate with the Amazon platform, so you can also sell designs there.
- Great for cash flow: generally speaking with print on demand businesses, you get paid first by your customer and then you pay your vendor afterwards.
Downsides of Print On Demand
- Difficult to stand out: with a low barrier to entry, there is a TON of competition with print on demand, especially on Amazon. With so many designs it can be difficult to stand out.
- Better suited as an add on strategy for existing brands: on a similar note, having an existing brand that people want to associate with goes a long way when selling merch. So it can be an uphill battle if you’re starting completely from scratch.
- Have to do lots of volume to get good pricing on your costs: most print on demand vendors don’t give great pricing until you’re doing a ton of volume. And at that point, you might be better suited to just buy your own inventory anyways.
Downsides of Print On Demand
It’s hard for me to tell exactly when a business is print on demand vs when they might purchase inventory in advance.
So in this section, instead of making a guess, I’m going to show a couple of the most popular print on demand companies you can partner with to make this business come to life.
First is Printful, which sells a nice variety of apparel and acccssory products like hats, backpacks, and home products.
Second is Printify, which similarly allows you to sell custom apparel designs and accessories like phone cases and tumblers.
9. Faceless YouTube Channel
Faceless YouTube channels are growing in popularity as a viable online business idea.
As the name suggests, this online business idea revolves around creating and uploading content to the YouTube platform without actually showing your own face in the videos.
Generally speaking these videos tend to display a combination of stock footage and graphics, with a voiceover narration speaking over the video.
You can do the voiceover and editing yourself if you have time on your hands, or you can outsource these tasks to freelancers for relatively low cost.
Like any YouTube channel, a faceless channel can earn ad revenue and sponsorship revenue.
And while I think there is a TON of opportunity still as a creator on the YouTube platform, I think a lot of people get it wrong with faceless channels because they think they can get away with low effort content simply because nobody is showing their face.
They key to a great faceless YouTube channel is to produce high quality, entertaining or informing content for your audience. Not any of the low effort ChatGPT script/AI voiceover nonsense that gets pushed by get rich quick gurus.
Because at the end of the day, people go to YouTube to be entertained or to learn. So focus on creating quality content that actually does this for your target audience, and the rest will take care of itself.
Upsides of Faceless YouTube Channels
- You don’t have to be the face of your brand: this one is obvious, but one of the key upsides of this online business type. Your channel won’t be dependent on you showing your face, which is great if you are hesitant about showing your face. It can also reduce the risk of creator burn out.
- Your videos can earn over time after published: create and publish once and you can earn revenue on those videos for an extended period of time as people continue to watch your content.
- YouTube doesn’t appear to be going anywhere: YouTube has 122 million active daily users as of 2023, a metric that has consistently increased over time.
Downsides of Faceless YouTube Channels
- Harder to build trust with an audience without a personal connection: all things equal, it will take more time and more quality content to build an audience on a faceless channel compared to channels that resonate with people on a more personal level.
- It takes time to turn a profit on YouTube: especially if you’re employing an editor and voiceover artist, it will take some time before your channel turns a profit. A channel has to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours in the previous 365 days to apply for monetization.
- Making great content is a skill that takes time to learn: if you’ve never made content before, it will take a few videos before you start to get the hang of making good content that YouTube will promote to viewers.
Faceless YouTube Channel Examples
Looper is a big faceless YouTube channel in the movies and entertainment niche.
Their channel cranks out thought provoking, interesting, and entertaining videos in the movies, TV shows, and video games niche.
The Swedish Investor is another big YouTube channel that is faceless. This channel creates content in the personal finance niche and uses whiteboard animations to teach and tell stories.
10. Personalized YouTube Channel
I’m using “personalized YouTube channel” as a catch all for basically all other channels on the platform that aren’t faceless.
That could mean a personal brand channel or a channel that features yourself or other people speaking to your audience regularly.
Either way, the idea is that you are building a personal connection between your channel and your audience.
If your channel pumps out great content over a long enough period of time, you’ll build trust with your viewers who will keep coming back to watch your videos.
This like other YouTube channels, a channel with a personal brand is generally monetized with ads and sponsorships.
Upsides of Personalized YouTube Channel Businesses
- Can build a personal connection with your viewers: creating a personal connection with your viewers is a valuable thing and will keep your audience coming back over and over to watch your videos.
- Videos earn over time after published: create one piece of great content and it will continue to put money into your pocket for months and possibly years.
- Viewership can be leveraged into other business opportunities: whether it’s affiliate marketing or you selling products or a course on the backend, a YouTube channel can be an excellent way to get people into your funnel.
Downsides of Personalized YouTube Channel Businesses
- Reliance on you to appear in content: if you truly love creating content, and it doesn’t feel like work to you, this may not be a big deal. But burnout is a real thing and if your channel is highly dependent on a single personality it could turn into a tough situation if burnout arises.
- It takes time to build an audience: as mentioned above it takes 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours on your channel before you can apply for monetization. That could take a while if you are completely new to creating content on the YouTube platform.
- Content creation can get expensive: finding a reliable, talented editor isn’t going to be cheap – so you’ll need to commit time to edit yourself or be ready to operate at a loss in the beginning before making any money.
Personalized YouTube Channel Examples
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about the GOAT of YouTube, MrBeast?
He has the largest personal YouTube channel on the platform with over 150 million subscribers as of 2023.
His content is incredibly entertaining and you can tell he loves the craft of creating entertaining videos.
Not only that, he sells physical products on the backend to his audience, including chocolate bars, merch, and even burgers!
BiggerPockets is an example of a branded channel that features the same recurring personalities in their content.
They create content around real estate investing and have 3 or 4 personalities that regularly appear in videos to create a connection with their audience.
11. Online Course
A common misconception about creating a course is that you have to be a complete expert on a subject before you can teach it.
But the truth is, you only need to be an expert relative to your target audience.
What do I mean by that? There are a lot of people who want to learn Microsoft Excel proficiency who are total beginners. Maybe they want to learn a baseline skill set for job opportunities.
These people don’t need to be a level 10 Excel master. They might be a level 1 now and simply need to become level 3 or 4 in Excel skills to increase their odds of landing a job.
And if you have a level 5 or 6 skill set in Excel, guess what? You’re qualified to help a level 1 develop a level 3 skill set in Excel.
Online courses are great because they are highly scalable. Like any digital product, it costs basically the same to deliver the course to 1 vs 1,000 students.
So if you can successfully market your course, the sky is really the limit – which is why this has become one of the best online businesses to get into in the past decade or so.
Upsides of Online Course Businesses
- Highly scalable: you can deliver your course to anybody that has an internet connection and is willing to pay for your course content.
- Online education is growing: over the past decade the amount of people enrolling in online courses has skyrocketed. People want to learn and consuming course content online has become easier and easier.
- Potential for recurring revenue and upsells: depending on your offer, it’s possible to structure your course access as a subscription and also to upsell for things like private tutoring or consulting calls.
Downsides of Online Course Businesses
- Strong marketing/advertising skills required: you’ll need to market your course to find students. And if you are a novice at marketing, it might take a while before you see strong results marketing your online course.
- May require ongoing updates: the world changes at a fast pace and content in your course could become outdated. This means you might have to periodically make updates to your course to keep it fresh and keep students satisfied.
Online Course Business Example
Team Treehouse is an online course business that teaches students how to code in various languages.
This is a mature example of an online course businsess that has really built out their product.
A Team Treehouse subscription grants you access to a library of in depth programming courses.
12. Subscription Box
Subscription box businesses are a subcategory of eCommerce where customers subscribe to receive a box of items periodically. Most of these businesses send boxes to customers each month or each quarter.
Subscription boxes for popular hobbies or niches with a passionate following tend to be good ideas for boxes that are less likely to suffer from customer churn.
Some high level ideas could include sports, pets, a particular type of food, or arts and crafts.
Most subscription box businesses try to gain subscribers via paid advertising or social media marketing. You’ll need to invest quite a bit in these marketing channels to acquire a significant subscriber base.
Once you gain subscribers, you’ll need to source a variety of products to ship out in each box.
Upsides of Subscription Box Businesses
- Recurring revenue potential: subscribers pay each month or each quarter, meaning you can forecast your revenue and plan ahead on the financial side.
- Customer loyalty: with a compelling offer and thoughtfully curated products, you can build strong relationships and increase customer retention rates.
- Fun partnerships: during the process of sourcing products to include in your box, you’ll make connections with other businesses and entrepreneurs who are developing products in the niche!
Downsides of Subscription Box Businesses
- High cost of acquiring a customer: acquiring new subscribers can be costly. To gain subscribers, you may need to invest significantly in various channels – such as social media, influencers, and paid ads.
- High churn: churn tends to be high in subscription box businesses, so there is pressure to deliver value every single time you send out a subscription box.
- Logistics can be tough to manage and expensive: if you’re sourcing products from multiple suppliers, that means you’ll need to pay to ship them to a single location where they can be packaged into a single box. From there you have to ship boxes out to subscribers.
Subscription Box Business Examples
Booster Crate is a subscription box business that sends subscribers booster packs for popular trading card games like Pokemon and Magic The Gathering on a monthly basis.
13. Sell Crafts On Etsy
Etsy is the go to platform for buying and selling handmade items, vintage items and craft supplies.
If you love to create and craft these sorts of items, creating an Etsy business can be a steady way to make money online.
Etsy has a vast and engaged community of buyers who actively seek unique, handmade, and vintage items. By selling on Etsy, you access this customer base – increasing your chances of reaching potential buyers.
The Etsy platform also makes it easy to market your products with various tools, such as the ability to create coupons, participate in sales events, and utilize Etsy Ads for targeted advertising.
Upsides of Etsy Businesses
- You can leverage Etsy’s goodwill: Etsy has a great reputation in the vintage and custom crafts market, and by selling on their platform you get to benefit from the trust they have built in the marketplace.
- User friendly platform: the Etsy platform is simple and straightforward. Even their marketing tools are simple to use, meaning it’s a great platform to get started on if you’ve never started an online business before.
Downsides of Etsy Businesses
- Platform reliance risk: selling on the Etsy platform means you have to adhere to their terms, conditions, and fee structure which are all subject to change at any time.
- Lots of competition: like many other eCommerce platforms, Etsy has a lot of competition amongst sellers. That means you’ll need to have a differentiated product offer if you hope to make consistent profit selling on Etsy.
- Can be difficult to scale operations: especially if you’re selling custom designs, it can be hard to scale because you have to create a new item for each sale you make, in that scenario.
Etsy Business Example
Record Life Supplies sells various crafting supplies on the Etsy platform. It’s a lot of decorative papers and craft paper patterns that are unique and sought after by people who are into crafting!
14. Advertising Agency
If you know how to run paid ad campaigns on Google, Facebook, or other popular advertising platforms, opening a small agency can be a lucrative online based business.
This is one that definitely requires a skillset in PPC advertising, but if you have that you can find businesses that will pay you a monthly retainer to run campaigns for them.
Many small businesses are great at what they do, but don’t have the know-how to acquire customers via paid advertising channels. That’s where you can come in and be a huge value add for their business.
Upsides of Advertising Agencies
- Niched down service: a small advertising agency can typically tailor their offer to serve customers extremely effectively, which is a competitive advantage over larger agencies that offer more generic services.
- Lots of growth potential: you have direct control over the growth of your agency – because if you drive more sales for your customers, they’ll typically spend more with you and pay more for your PPC management service.
- Continuous personal development: the PPC environment is constantly changing and evolving, and it can be rewarding for some to continue to adapt and grow your skillset.
Downsides of Advertising Agencies
- The industry is constantly changing: this one cuts both ways, and major updates to the PPC landscape can be disruptive. There is no guarantee that strategies which work today will work next year.
- Managing customer expectations: most good ad campaigns take time to refine and grow exponentially. So you’re probably going to have to do some expectation setting and manage impatient customers from time to time.
PPC Advertising Agency Example
There are countless small or single member PPC advertising agencies out there, most of which you have probably never heard of.
Here’s a quick example of a larger agency that specializes in eCommerce PPC advertising.
15. Start An Email Newsletter
Email newsletters are a type of content business that sends regular emails to subscribers.
Like many of the other online business ideas on this list, an email newsletter is most effective when it serves a very specific niche.
That could be a subject matter (like ice hockey), or a geographic niche (like a newsletter that shares the latest news in a particular town).
This way, you can focus on creating highly relavent and engaging content for your readers that they aren’t seeing anywhere else.
There are plenty of ways to monetize an email newsletter too. Popular methods include affiliate marketing and sponsored content.
It’s also possible to run a niche website alongside your newsletter and drive traffic from your email list to your website, and vise versa.
Upsides of Email Newsletter Businesses
- You own your audience: you don’t literally “own” your subscribers of course, but you have control of the data and subscriber base of your newsletter, and you can get your content in front of them over and over. You aren’t reliant on a third party like Amazon or Google to get in front of readers.
- Recurring revenue opportunities: sponsors can provide an excellent source of recurring revenue, and the recurring nature of the business
Downsides of Email Newsletter Businesses
- Takes a while to build a subscriber base: noticing a theme? As with other online businesses it takes time to build a loyal following. That means you might be creating great content for months before you’re able to generate meaningful revenue from your business.
- You (generally) can’t change your email schedule: great email newsletters are consistent with their schedule, whether it’s daily, 3 times a week, or monthly. Start to be inconsistent and it will effect your list’s engagement.
Email Newsletter Business Examples
Investor Ben Hunt created an investment newsletter called Epsilon Theory. The newsletter is unique in that it provides economics and financial commentary that is grounded in game theory, history, and behavioral analysis.
Morning Brew is also a well known email newsletter business. They share easy to digest news nuggets with their audience every day.
16. Lead Gen Business
Lead generation services are in demand because businesses need leads to drive revenue, and that probably isn’t changing any time soon.
Generating leads for businesses can be a lucrative opportunity to make money online if you have some skill running paid ads online.
Local service based businesses tend to be excellent customers for lead gen businesses. Think pressure washing, landscaping, plumbing service companies.
A lot of times the narrative with these businesses is that they are highly competent at performing their actual service, but they lack the marketing expertise to get leads into their funnel.
That’s where a lead gen business can come in. If you can run ads to an audience who needs their home pressure washed, qualify leads over the phone or online, then hand over ready-to-pay customers, local businesses will gladly pay.
Upsides of Lead Gen Businesses
- Potential to be highly lucrative: partner with a strong service provider and you have the potential to make a lot of money.
- Lead gen can be done from anywhere: as long as you’re able to qualify leads in a timely manner, you can run this business from anywhere.
Downsides of Lead Gen Businesses
- You have to qualify leads: inevitably some of the leads you generate will be garbage, and you need to create a system to filter these out before handing them over to your customers. Otherwise you might have trouble keeping customers.
- Some local market knowledge required: to be the most effective generating leads you need to have an understanding of the geographic region you’re operating in and all of the local players in the niche you operate in.
Lead Gen Business Example
Home Advisor is a huge lead gen business that targets a lot of types of service companies, but the idea is the same. They charge service companies per lead they send over to them.
They capture leads via paid marketing and vet them through a questionnaire on their website.
Benefits Of Starting An Online Business
There are a lot of reasons to love online businesses generally – below are some of my favorite aspects about starting or running an online business.
Not being tied to a desk is freeing. Most online businesses aren’t geographically dependent, which means you can run your business from virtually anywhere you have an internet connection.
Maybe you are drawn to the digital nomad lifestyle or maybe you’re more like me and simply love being able to have control over where and when you go places.
Either way, online business ownership can offer a ton of flexibility in terms of location independence.
(Generally) Low Start Up Costs
Most online business ideas don’t have to cost very much to get started – maybe $100-$1,000 depending on the business.
Especially when you compare what you’d have to pay if you were to start a brick and mortar business with a physical location. Or even a service based business where you had to buy a bunch of equipment up front.
Instead of money, you can invest time and energy into most of these businesses to get them up and running.
This low barrier to entry financially means you can build a legitimate business without a lot of upfront cash on hand. And you can make mistakes and learn without losing a bunch of money.
You Will Learn A Lot
Running an online business is a learning experience, no matter if you’re starting from scratch or an experienced operator.
Fundamentally, entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and problems will e arise as you run a business.
Learning how to solve these problems, and how to refine your business operations, is an incredibly rewarding part of running a business.
And you will can take most of the knowledge and skills you learn with you in the future. The things you learn running a business in many cases are transferrable to other aspects of life.
Wide Market Reach
In an online business you can reach customers over your entire country or potentially globally.
Content based businesses like niche websites an YouTube channels have potential to gain a following across the world.
With a products based business you can reach your entire country and in many instances multiple countries to sell your products.
Either way, the potential reach you have with an online business is huge compared to local businesses.
Quick Feedback Loops
Feedback is powerful in any business.
Customer feedback helps you strengthen your product offering.
Internal feedback from employees and contractors helps improve the efficiency of your business operations.
With online businesses, there are multiple easy ways to collect data and feedback about your business.
Examples could be tracking your website’s user interactions on Google Analytics or looking funnel conversion data in an advertising account.
It could also be using YouTube’s channel analytics dashboard to analyze how your videos are performing.
The point is, online businesses tend to have built in feedback loops where you can quickly see areas where your business is performing well and areas where it could improve.
Online businesses generally are scalable to a certain extent because you can reach a huge audience online.
Furthermore some online business models, particularly those that sell a digital product or are content based, are highly scalable because fulfillment costs are so low.
These two factors give online based business the ability to scale and potentially become very lucrative.
How To Evaluate Which Online Business Is Best For You
Ultimately choosing the best online business idea for you comes down to what your skills are, which skills you’re willing to learn, and which model seems like a good long term fit.
The reality is that no matter which business you go with, it’s going to take time to build a business that will put money in your pocket.
It takes time to master skills, and build an audience or customer base.
You’ll also make mistakes and run into issues. It’s just part of the game.
So understanding that at the onset and asking yourself “can I see myself still doing this in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years..?” and so on is a good litmus test for deciding whether an online business is a good one for you to get into.
Because that long term view will help you stay disciplined through the short term setbacks.
Being honest about your skill set is also important when evaluating online business opportunities.
It’s ok if you don’t have all the skills now. But ideally you should choose a business where your existing skill set can be leveraged in some way when you’re getting started.
And of course you can learn additional important skills along the way.
I hope this list of online business ideas has helped inspire your next idea.
Hopefully it’s given you a small sense of what goes into each type of online business and what you can expect from running them.