I often hear people saying that they have no idea what business to start. Or worse, they are not a natural-born business person.
The latter especially irritates me because it’s a corporatist myth. Everyone was a business owner two hundred years ago—from the baker to the blacksmith. Everyone cultivated a skill and then sold that skill to others. Additionally, there really is no shortage of ideas. From freelance writing online to stuff like printmaking making a comeback, there a million business ideas that are within reach.
Some online business ideas to get you off the ground…
Below you’ll find 100—yes 100—online business ideas to get you thinking. They are a combination of what’s popular on sites like Upwork, what’s selling on Etsy, what I’ve seen some of my colleagues do online and some good old fashioned research.
1. Product Review Site
Many people have gone into the business of building niche websites where they review certain products. For example, all those credit card review sites are making affiliate commissions every time someone signs up for a credit card through one of their links.
2. Niche Website
A niche website is a website with a very specific focus, usually created with search engine optimization to boost traffic and make money off of ad networks like Google AdSense or selling a product. For example, Pat Flynn created Green Exam Academy, a niche website where he sells guides for the LEED examination that architects take.
Do you have something you’re particularly good at? Do people ask you questions about the same things over and over again? Then you may already be a consultant. Now it’s up to you to start charging.
Coaching is slightly different than consulting in so far as instead of telling people what they should do, you instead help them find answers for themselves by asking the right questions. It’s a booming $2 billion industry with a lot of market viability.
5. Blog Writing
Yes, you can get paid to blog. That’s actually how I started my own career. I get paid to create blog content for financial websites.
6. Virtual Assistant Services
If you’re more of a behind-the-scenes person and like to assist others in staying organize, you may want to look into becoming a virtual assistant. This is another booming industry with major demand.
If you’re an accountant (you must be credentialed in order to help people with taxes) you no longer need to meet clients face to face. My accountant and I meet once a year at a conference, but other than that everything is done online via cloud systems.
Bookkeeping is the act of helping people organize their financials by reconciling bank statements. You do not have to be an accountant to do this and it falls under administrative work. Again, there is a major demand for this online.
9. Email Management
One of the best things I pay for in my business is email management. I hate email. So I pay someone else to handle most of it for me. This is especially handy when I’m traveling. And guess what: I’m not the only person who is a mess with email. There are plenty of people out there willing to pay for this service.
Are you really good with creating marketing copy? Then you can get hired by businesses to write the copy for their websites, products and services.
11. Web Design
Another thing I’m willing to pay money for is good web design. People need websites now more than ever, and you can get paid to design them.
12. Web Development
Sometimes websites need custom work that requires development. There’s big money in this industry and it can all be done online.
13. Website maintenance and security
I know a guy who is making bank just by helping people make sure their WordPress plugins are updated and that their website security is up to par.
14. Selling Info-products
You can sell books, courses, audio, and videos that teach something. I recently met a couple that sold pre-made lesson plans to teachers.
15. Affiliate sales
Affliate sales are when you recommend a product and then get a cut if someone purchases said product through your link. Entire websites have been built around this business model.
16. Financial planning
Financial planning is another area where things can be done online. You must be certified and the test is not easy, but if you’re already a CFP or thinking of becoming a CFP, online financial planning is an option.
17. Reselling things on Amazon
I recently heard an interview with Gary Vaynerchuk where he said making money online was as simple as buying something at the dollar store and then re-selling it on Amazon for a profit. I’ve actually done this to make some extra money and it does work.
18. Start an online consignment store
You can easily start your own online consignment store where you sell second-hand clothing. There is a huge market for this and websites like ThredUp have made a killing this way.
19. Writing email marketing campaigns
This is similar to writing web copy but instead focuses on email marketing campaigns. People need email marketing to make money, but they may not have the time or the skills to write the campaigns themselves.
20. Getting corporate sponsorships on a blog
This is something I’ve recently started doing with my own company. If you’ve built a solid reputation and social media following, you can make money by participating in influencer campaigns sponsored by large corporations.
21. Selling ad space on a website
You can sell ad space directly to companies. It’s similar to sponsorship but instead focuses on banner ads instead of posts.
22. Ad revenue
Some people build niche websites and focus on increasing the traffic so they can make money from ad revenue by participating in ad networks.
23. Sell on-demand, online classes
One way to make money online is to educate people through classes. If you have a skill that can be taught, record a few classes and start selling them online.
24. Teach live online classes
You can also teach live online classes and workshops.
Programming is a big deal online as well. Again, sometimes people need custom programs built for services and products and they’re willing to pay good money for it.
26. Video editing
Video editing is extremely tedious and time-consuming for most people, which is why they hire it out to others.
27. Audio editing
Same as above except it’s for audio.
28. Podcast management
Podcasts are huge online and there’s no shortage of a need for podcast managers. These guys get the recordings uploaded, scheduled and ready to go.
29. Blog management
If a person is running a blog and have multiple writers, VAs and people working on it, they are likely to hire a blog manager to keep everything running smoothly.
30. Etsy store that sells collectibles
I’ve experimented with this as well and was quite pleased with the results. I started selling crystals on Etsy because I knew some Etsy shoppers are looking for collectibles or gemstones they can use in jewelry. It took very little effort on my part other than listing the items and writing keyword descriptions.
31. Etsy store that sells your crafts
I have not experimented with this only because I don’t make anything, but plenty of people make a living by selling their crafts on Etsy.
32. Website testing
Another area in which you can make money online is that of website testing. Companies need people to test their sites and give feedback, and you can get paid for it.
33. Product testing
Same as website testing except for physical products.
34. Data research
People are willing to pay others just to do research for them. I know I’ve definitely paid people to do research for some of the content I was writing for clients.
Believe it or not, there is a need for illustration online. If you can draw, you can make money.
I recently went to an event full of web designers where I learned that printmaking was making a major comeback. Actually, anything nostalgic is making a comeback. If you have an old-school skill like printmaking, you can make prints and sell them online.
37. Social media management
Social media management is an extremely important part of running a business theses days and people don’t have time to do it themselves. If you’ve got Facebook and Twitter skills and can get some ROI for clients, you can make money as a social media manager.
38. Pinterest Management
There’s an entire niche of social media management dedicated just to Pinterest. Pinterest managers make images, create boards, engage with others in group boards, repin and more.
39. Instagram Management
This is similar to Pinterest management except it’s specifically for Instagram. Tons of brands need help in visually appealing to their audience, and if you know your way around Instagram you can get hired to manage accounts.
40. Marketing consultant
If you know a thing or two about marketing and sales, you can get paid big bucks to teach others how to do it.
41. Run an e-commerce website
You can always sell products on a website and make some money.
I know a woman who runs an online business where she teaches people all around the world how to speak English. Thanks to Skype, you can tutor anyone anywhere.
Coding is not for the faint at heart, which is why if you’re any good at it, you can make decent money writing code for businesses.
44. Sell your art
People always need aesthetics in their lives because they like to decorate and be surrounded by beauty. If you’re a good artist and can learn how to market yourself, you can sell your art online.
45. Write and sell Kindle books on Amazon
A colleague of mine makes over $1,000 a month just from his Kindle book sales on Amazon. Granted, he’s written a lot of books and promotes them well, but it’s definitely a nice passive way to supplement their income.
46. Online fitness training via Skype
One of the first fitness trainers I ever hired was completely online. Again, this is just another industry where you may not be confined to your local area anymore.
47. Online nutritionist
I live in Miami, but my nutritionist lives in Massachusets. As long as we have Skype or the phone, she can coach me on what I need. Just note that if you want to be an online nutritionist you must be certified as such.
48. Direct sales
Lots of people have made money in network marketing and those who are doing it well are building their businesses online. Note, there are a lot of people out there who do this poorly which is why it’s gotten a bad rap, but there are also plenty of examples of people who’ve done well.
49. Online files organizer
Just like people hire professional organizers for their closets, they also hire them for their online files.
50. Personal Concierge
I aim to hire a personal assistant some day. Lots of people need help with day-to-day stuff like finding a good restaurant, finding a gift or booking travel. Most of this can be done online.
51. Event planning
While some event planning requires you to meet in person, a lot of it can be done online.
52. Graphic Design
There is never a shortage of people who need logos, Instagram images, Pinterest images, email headers and more.
53. Brand Management and Consulting
Lots of people out there have no idea how to build a brand—especially online. If you know how to build brands that get noticed, you could run your own consulting boutique online.
54. Sell done-for-you templates (Ex. Website templates or emails)
You can productize a service and make money in that way. For example, a web designer can sell done-for-you templates.
55. Set up people’s email marketing systems
I previously mentioned how you can get paid to set up email marketing campaigns. Well, you can also get paid to set up the actual software and systems. Many of these systems are very robust so there’s big money involved if you can help people get set up.
56. Sell your photography
People are constantly looking for images for their website needs. You can make money by making royalties off your photos. Similarly, I’ve seen photographers start membership sites where members get access to all photos and can use them in their designs.
57. Voice over actor
Yes, you can get paid to do voiceovers. For example, tons of people pay someone money to be the voice in a podcast intro.
58. PDF creator
With all the worksheets, info-products and ebooks people are selling online, they need people to help them create beautiful PDFs.
59. Wedding planning
Similar to event planning, but dedicated just to weddings.
60. Transcription service
People often need audio transcribed and are willing to pay someone to do it for them.
61. Translation service
Some companies need materials translated into different languages. This is a very marketable and highly sought-after skill.
62. Grow social media following
It takes a lot of time and activity to grow a social media following, which is why tons of individuals hire other people to do it for them. If you know how to grow social media followings the right way (i.e. not buying followers) you can get paid to help other people with their social media numbers.
63. Social media engagement
This is the same as above but specifically for engagement such as likes, hearts, retweets, etc.
64. Facebook Ads consultant
I recently hired someone to run Facebook ads for my company. There is a very high demand here.
65. Personal stylist
I can’t tell you how many fashion bloggers I’ve met who do personal styling online for clients. Once again, as long as you have Skype and a penchant for fashion, you can do it.
66. Personal online shopper
Yes, you can get hired to do someone’s online shopping for them.
67. Life coaching
Life coaching helps individuals create their best possible lives for themselves. It’s another industry that is absolutely booming.
68. Business consultant
There’s a lot of money to be had in helping people run their businesses. Trust me on this one.
69. Relationship coach
Several coaches have branded themselves as relationship-specific coaches. They do coaching with couples, help people find dates, and teach individuals how to love themselves.
70. Brand Ambassador
This is similar to getting sponsorships for a blog but perhaps may require you to attend an event like a Twitter chat.
71. Jewelry designer
As I look at my jewelry collection, I notice that I’ve bought all of the pieces online from either Etsy or directly from the designer. I know I can’t be the only one, so if you know how to design jewelry there’s definitely a market for you to make money.
72. App development
Many companies develop apps as one of their offerings. The reason is because they know they need apps to make money in a time when people are buying stuff from their smartphones. For this reason, app development is a skill that is in high demand.
73. Creating online calculators
Maybe it’s because I write about finance for a living, but I know plenty of finance bloggers who are hiring people to create nice online calculators people can use.
74. Customer Service Support
When businesses grow, they need to hire individuals to handle customer inquiries. If you know how to be polite and get issues resolved, you can get hired to do customer service support online.
75. Video Animation
Video is a major marketing tool used in business, and many businesses need individuals to make animations for them.
76. Create infographics
Companies tend to create infographics because they provide value and are easily shareable. There is a major demand for them and you can easily get hired to create them.
77. Put slides together for business presentations
As a business owner who often times gets asked to speak, I can tell you that the one part I hate about it is making slides. One of my colleagues noticed this was a common trend and started a business dedicated to creating slides for presentations.
78. Anything having to do with Photoshop
If you know the ins and outs of Photoshop, you can get paid.
79. Online PR services
I’ve seen a high demand recently for online PR services. More specifically, I’ve seen a demand for PR services dedicated to bloggers, startups and small businesses. If you know how to get media for clients, there’s a whole market waiting to pay you.
80. Crowdfunding campaign consultant
Tons of startups and businesses are looking into crowdfunding to raise money, but most of them have no idea how to run a successful campaign. This is where you can come in as a consultant.
81. Comment moderation on websites
Websites with a lot of traffic also get a lot of comments. At some point it becomes impossible to manage it all and they start outsourcing the moderation to other people.
82. 3D Renderings
Can you create 3D renderings of building and projects? Then you can get hired.
83. Architecture designs using software
I’ve seen a lot of aspects in architecture moving online. The truth is, if you’re a licensed architect you can run a big portion of the business online.
84. Community management
If you love to engage with people, run contests, and build communities then you could make money as a community manager. These guys are hired to manage the online community including social media, Facebook groups, running events, etc.
85. Data entry
As a business owner, sometimes I just need a simple spreadsheet made where I can see some data. Fortunately, there are some people out there who really dig spreadsheets. If you happen to be one of them, you can get hired for data entry and data visualization.
86. Speaking coach
Lots of speaking coaches like David Valentine have most of their offerings available online.
87. Video production
Video production is no joke. It’s extremely technical, which is why people don’t bother doing it themselves and hire it out. While some of it is done in person, a big chunk of it can be done online.
88. Data management
Data is extremely important in running a business. Whether it’s making sure that a CRM is up to date or looking at Google Analytics, data management can easily turn into a lucrative online business.
89. Software engineer
Tons of businesses are either selling software or use their own software. Because of this they often times contract software engineers.
90. Grant writer
There’s a specific niche in the world of freelance writing that is specifically dedicated to grant writing. If you have some experience with this, you can specialize and make a decent amount of money.
91. Give intuitive readings (if that’s your thing)
I have friends and colleagues who give intuitive readings online. It’s the same concept as meeting your tarot reader in person; it’s just done over Skype. If this a skill you possess, just know that there is definitely a market for it online.
92. Write social media copy
Similar to writing website copy but very specific to social media channels.
93. Create data tables for articles
I recently got asked to do this by a client and I simply hired it out. Once again, if you dig spreadsheets and data tables, you can get hired to create them.
Ghostwriting is when you write something that goes under someone else’s name. You don’t get a byline (meaning you don’t get credit for your work), but you can charge a lot more money because of it.
Writing and editing are two different things. You can start a business for developmental editing (making sure the story makes sense) or for grammar.
96. SEO consultant
SEO is important for any online business, but again, this isn’t something that people necessarily understand. However, if you have a solid understanding of SEO, you can get paid to help businesses with their SEO needs.
97. Specialized retailer
Two words: subscription box. There is a subscription box for everything from office supplies to razors, and there is a massive market for specialized retailers.
98. Resume/cover letter writing
People will never stop looking for jobs, which means they will never stop hiring people to write their resumes and cover letters. If you know how to catch an employer’s attention, this may be a good business for you. Also note that this applies to LinkedIn as well.
99. Career consulting and executive recruiting
Because people will never stop looking for jobs, they will also never stop seeking help for their careers. I have a background in recruiting and have ghostwritten for executive recruiters in the past—a lot of it can be done online.
100. Remote tech support
My web designer has started offering tech support for websites and she’s in an entirely different country. Tech inevitably goes awry. Websites break, emails stop coming in, a plugin messes something up, etc. Because of this, there’s a big need for remote tech support.
Where to cultivate skills?
If you’re wondering where to cultivate some of the skills mentioned in this post, look no further than sites like Udemy and General Assembly. The internet has not only democratized business, it’s also democratized education.
How to get started?
Sometimes all getting started requires is publishing a website, doing some cold calls and letting people know what you do. The last one is the most important. You need to actually tell people you’re open for business.
The “Big Idea” is a myth
Another myth that’s been sold to us is the notion that entrepreneur’s need to have some “big idea” to make it. They basically need to create the next Facebook or Uber.
Here’s a newsflash: Facebook wasn’t the first social media site and Uber wasn’t the first ride sharing service—they just did it better.
The bottom line is, there’s nothing new under the sun, so don’t waste your time coming up with the next big idea (unless it comes to you naturally, in which case, go for it).
Finding the right business idea isn’t as hard as it seems. The internet has democratized entrepreneurship and education. It’s eradicated borders. It’s made the cost of entry into the business world lower than ever. And finally, there will always be people hiring other people for their skill sets.