Running a small business definitely has its appeal, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. The truth is, starting a business of any kind is hard work and the first step is thinking of an idea. In this guide we'll give you a bunch of online business ideas and guide you step-by-step on how to start a small business online.
Countless people have already made the leap into entrepreneurship. And with the right online business ideas and plenty of sweat equity, you can too.
This isn’t about one simple life-changing trick. Starting an online business doesn’t work that way. Instead, to help you find profitable online business ideas, we’ve put together a collection of simple ways to start a business without quitting your day job.
How to start a small business online💰
Free: The Big List of Business Ideas
To help you find the inspiration to start, we compiled a list of 100+ in-demand business ideas, broken down into categories like fitness, apparel, and gaming.
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29 best online business ideas
- Start your own clothing line
- Launch a dropshipping business
- Sell your art online
- Become a freelance writer, designer, or developer
- Teach an online course
- Flip your thrift store finds
- Publish your own book
- Start a blog
- Become a virtual assistant
- Try your hand at being an influencer
- Build apps and websites
- Launch a podcast
- Become an affiliate marketer
- Curate subscription boxes
- Develop a niche product
- Create handmade goods
- Become a social media manager
- Invest in real estate
- Sell on marketplaces
- Become a translator
- Start an accounting or bookkeeping firm
- Become an online fitness trainer
- Create and sell NFTs
- Start an online coaching business
- Do voiceover work
- Become an ad consultant
- Build niche websites
- Start a membership community
- Promote sponsored posts on Instagram
1. Start your own clothing line
If you have some designs in mind and a little bit of time on your hands, you can get your clothing company off the ground.
If you already own a Shopify store, you can set up your own clothing line using Printify, Printful, or a similar product-sourcing app. Each automatically links your store to apparel printers and clothing manufacturers. They also handle every step of the retail fulfillment process for you, giving you the freedom to design and ship a wide range of pieces right out of the gate.
Why start a clothing line?
- There’s nothing more satisfying than creating products that people will use every day.
- As soon as you build your Shopify store, you’ll be able to start selling instantly. Thanks to print-on-demand apps, the process of designing and delivering your own custom-made clothing has been streamlined and simplified.
- You’ll love the feeling of seeing your designs come to life by transforming your creativity into something real and profitable.
We used Printful to create THINK PUP, an apparel store for dog owners, and ended up making over $1,200 in just three weeks. With some time and research, you could be well on your way to building a successful t-shirt company, too.
We’ve curated some handy resources that will help grow your apparel business at every stage, from crafting your brand’s story to promoting your products with influencer marketing :
- 21 Ready-to-Use Online T-Shirt Templates and Mockups
- How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business
- For the Fans: How to Make and Sell Your Own Merch
2. Launch a dropshipping small business
Think you need a warehouse full of inventory to run your own business? Think again! Dropshipping is a great way to start a business on a budget. You can hit the ground running by sourcing a pre-existing product from a supplier and having them take care of things like packaging and fulfillment.
This process lets you skip over a lot of obstacles that might be standing in the way of you starting your own business. More importantly, it eliminates the risk of finding out there’s no market for your product after placing a huge order with a manufacturer or supplier.
Why choose dropshipping?
- You don’t need to stock products in a physical location, meaning that your cash flow won’t get tied up in inventory. There’s less of an upfront cash risk.
- Whenever a purchase is made, you place an order with a third party and they handle the rest of the process for you. Since you don’t have to deal with things like tracking inventory or mailing packages, dropshipping eliminates a lot of potential headaches for budding entrepreneurs.
- No warehouse means you can run your business from anywhere. Whether it’s your living room or the café down the street, you decide where you want to work from.
If you’re interested in dropshipping, read our Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping to help you get started.
If you don’t have any online store ideas, here are some strategies for narrowing down the perfect product:
- Find products to sell on DSers.
- Read our guide Find a Product to Sell: 12 Strategies for Finding Your First Profitable Product.
- Check out these 17 places ecommerce entrepreneurs go to find product ideas.
- Find out how we made more than $2,000 in five weeks with imported gaming glasses.
3. Sell your art online
Whether you’re a painter, photographer, or musician, there are plenty of online business ideas and ways to turn your latest masterpiece into a source of revenue with a beautifully designed ecommerce website.
If painting or photography is your forte, you can sell your work as prints, canvases, and framed posters using Printify or Printful. This is a fantastic way to turn your art into something tangible that people can take home and integrate into their space. Is music your thing? You can sell your beats, songs, samples, and more as digital downloads.
Just take a look at The Drum Broker, the largest online drum sample business in the world. It created a successful and sustainable small business model with the help of apps like FetchApp and ShipStation.
Why sell your art?
- You’ll be part of people’s lives by getting your work into customers’ homes.
- You’ll create a platform for showcasing your work by setting up shop online.
- As an artist, creating art isn’t just a hobby—it’s a way of life. This is your chance to turn your passion into an income stream and potentially do what you love for a living.
Ready to bring your online store idea to life? Get started with the following resource:
Free Guide: How to Find a Profitable Product to Sell Online
Excited about starting a business, but not sure where to start? This free, comprehensive guide will teach you how to find great, newly trending products with high sales potential.
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4. Become a freelance writer, designer, or developer
Writers, graphic designers, and developers can start a low cost business based on their talents. As a freelancer, you’ll be able to put your skills to good use by helping people across the world with their projects (while making some money yourself, of course).
Freelancing doesn’t mean committing to months-long projects that eat away at your free time. You can easily pick up bite-sized tasks that fit your schedule.
It’s worth noting that Fiverr is a little different from a traditional job board. As the name suggests, a lot of the posted jobs pay $5. The key to making big money on Fiverr is carefully setting up your offers so you can easily upsell the client for more money.
For instance, you could offer to write a 150-word introduction for a blog post as your initial $5 service. As an upsell, you could charge another $10 for every additional 150 words. You can tweak your services until you’ve found a combo that makes it worth your while.
If you want total control over how much you charge, create a Shopify store. You can list your services as products and disable shipping, since you won’t actually be physically delivering anything to your customers. You can even use apps like BookThatApp and Events Calendar to give your customers the option to schedule appointments.
- When you freelance, you choose which projects you want to work on and set your own schedule and workplace.
- Getting paid to do something you’re good at is a rewarding feeling, whether you’re looking to strike out on your own or just want to make some extra cash on the weekend.
- If you’re new to writing, designing, or developing, freelancing is an excellent way to build your portfolio and get some real experience in a wide range of industries. You might discover that you have a knack or passion for something you never expected.
If freelancing sounds like it might be a good online business idea for your lifestyle, we’ve put together some great articles that can help you make the most of your time:
- 7 Ways to Be More Productive While Working from Home
- 13 Free Tools and Travel Apps That Make Working Remotely Work for You
5. Teach an online course
Teaching an online course is a low-investment online business idea for generating passive income. All you need to do is put together a video walkthrough explaining a subject you’re familiar with and then host it on your own personal website.
Although it requires effort up front, if you manage to design a popular, high-value video tutorial series, you would make money on an ongoing basis as people continue to enroll in your course.
To start creating your first online course, brainstorm a topic that you know well enough to teach someone how to do from scratch. This can be literally anything—music production, social media marketing, web development, you name it.
Next, you’ll want to grab a screencasting app, like ScreenFlow, to record your screen and voice while you walk your students through your tutorial. ScreenFlow also comes with a built-in video-editing suite, letting you shoot and cut your videos all on the same platform.
Why teach an online course?
- With an online course, you can literally set it and forget it. Take a few days or weeks, depending on the complexity you’re aiming for, to build an online course, and you could be reaping the benefits for weeks.
- You already have the knowledge, you just need to share it. Focus on teaching something that you’re already an expert at and the rest will come naturally, whether it’s building iOS apps, creating monthly budgets, or running Facebook ad campaigns.
- Teaching someone a new skill is its own reward. While there’s definitely money to be made teaching online courses, helping other people is always a satisfying experience in itself.
6. Flip your thrift store finds
If you love hitting up thrift stores and hunting down great deals, then one great online business idea is to sell your second-hand treasures online.
Your potential customers want to buy cool stuff, but they don’t want to dig through old soccer jerseys and braided belts to get their hands on that one amazing find. Take advantage of this by positioning yourself as a trustworthy curator who can go out and uncover those great vintage pieces for others.
Why sell your thrift store finds?
- Let’s face it, you’d be combing through thrift store racks anyway, so you might as well make some money while you do it by putting your shopping addiction to work.
- The margins are huge. That $2 RadioShack ball cap you found over the weekend? You can turn it into a $40 vintage hat.
- You’re selling something unique. Nowhere else on the web will people be able to find the vintage collections that you put together.
Want to turn your cool stuff into pizza money? Take a look at these guides to making your products look great in photos:
- The Definitive DIY Guide to Beautiful Product Photography
- 7 Steps to Beautiful DIY Apparel Product Photography
7. Publish your own book
It’s OK to admit it: you’ve thought about publishing your own book someday. While seeing your name on a list of bestsellers might seem like a pipe dream, it’s actually not that far out of reach.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a science-fiction novel, a marketing guide, or a children’s picture book, there are now plenty of options for successfully self-publishing your work. These include releasing your writing as an ebook with the Digital Downloads app or using on-demand printing services like Blurb and CreateSpace.
To sell ebooks through your online store, install the Digital Downloads app and you’ll instantly be able to stock digital files as products. Once purchased, your ebooks will be sent to your customers via email or as a direct download link.
If you choose to sell physical copies of your book, you’ll just need to place an order with Blurb or CreateSpace whenever your work is purchased. They’ll custom print your book and handle the entire storage and fulfillment process.
Why publish a book?
- What’s the point of writing something if there’s no one around to read it? Self-publishing is the quickest way to get your book into the hands of potential readers.
- Printing, storage, and delivery is taken care of thanks to services like Blurb and CreateSpace.
- Creative writing is your passion and you deserve to be able to make money while doing something you enjoy.
Ready to live out your dreams of being a published author? This resource will help you on your way to the top:
8. Start a blog
Blogging has come a long way since its inception. What was once a virtual journal has now turned into a marketing and even a monetization tool.
Whether you make money from publishing sponsored posts, hosting third-party ads, or selling your products, a blog is a great online business idea you can start at home.
The key to starting a successful blog is to focus on building an engaged, loyal audience. When you start with an audience-centric approach, you’ll cultivate a community that trusts you. And when you can earn trust, you can start to drive revenue.
That’s how Mr. Money Mustache started his popular personal finance blog. What began as a movement has turned into a successful business that’s earned national media coverage.
Why start a blog?
- Blogs have unlimited growth potential. You can expand into affiliate marketing, ecommerce, courses, and essentially any other online business venture. Some blogs even use a paid subscription model to drive revenue.
- A blog is a long-term play. While you won’t see overnight results, they are likely to be more sustainable. A blog lives on the web forever—or at least until you delete it.
- It lets you practice your writing—an essential skill to have in business and communication. Use tools like Grammarly or Hemmingway to improve your writing.
For more information on getting started, check out these articles:
- How to Start a Blog You Can Grow Into a Business
- 8 Brilliant Blogs Run by Ecommerce Stores (And What You Can Learn From Them)
- 4 Ecommerce Blog Post Templates To Build Traffic For Your Store
- How a Blog Became a Physical Store in Two Years
9. Become a virtual assistant
Are you super organized and love working behind the scenes? If so, you might be the perfect candidate to start a virtual assistant (VA) business.
A VA helps entrepreneurs, businesses, and executives organize their personal and professional lives. There’s a broad spectrum of duties, ranging from appointment scheduling to basic marketing management and everything in between. And everything is done online.
Why become a VA?
- Work with your ideal client. Even if you don’t know at the start, over time you’ll find out who you love working with and what you love to do for them. You can evolve your business to cater to those preferences.
- Interact with people from all over the world. All you need is an internet connection to do your work and you can have the chance to work with international clients and professionals.
- Grow your business into a network of VAs. If you become too busy or have growth goals, you can hire and train VAs to work under you and increase profits.
10. Try your hand at being an influencer
Because influencers have gotten in hot water for dishonest practices, there’s been a movement toward micro-influencers—profiles with smaller but more engaged followings. Good news: you don’t need millions of followers to earn money on Instagram.
Why be an influencer?
- It’s an opportunity to get an introduction to marketing—particularly valuable if you’re interested in pursuing that as a career or additional business venture.
- You’ll learn about new and interesting brands. You might discover products and companies you love that you never would have found had they not solicited your services.
- It’s so easy a monkey can do it. Well, not literally—but you can make your pet the star if you’re camera shy.
Here are our inspiring tips and stories to get you started as an influencer: