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Online business ideas: what’s the best online business to start?

There are 6 ways to start an online business and I've tried them ALL. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what's the best online business to start.

Ramit Sethi · March 24th, 2017

howsyouridea

There are 6 main options for an online business and I have systematically tried them ALL. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what’s the best kind of online business to start.

But first, I love how 2,000+ of you responded to my question, “What excites you about starting an online business?”

…with a bunch of ME-FOCUSED responses. “I want ___, I need ___, I can’t wait for ____.”

Quiz: What is your earning potential? Choose the answer you agree with the most
View Results

What are you, a bunch of spoiled high schoolers on My Super Sweet 16? Who else talks only about THEMSELVES and what THEY want?

My readers' answers to the question "What most EXCITES you about starting an online business?"

Attention weirdos: It’s great that YOU want a flexible schedule, and freedom, and recurring revenue, and whatever else it is that motivates YOU…but what about your customers?!

People rarely ever say things like:

  • “I’m really good at helping my friends with their relationship problems. I don’t want to just help people 1-on-1… I want to help THOUSANDS of people.”
  • “I love helping people get in shape. I want to help as many people get fit as possible.”
  • ”My friends are always coming to me for cooking advice — and I LOVE it. I want to share my delicious recipes to as many people as possible!”

And why the hell not? Your business isn’t about YOUR wants. It’s about WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER WANTS.

ONLINE BUSINESS RULE #1: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

Look, I’m being tough because nobody else will. They’ll sell you the dreams of a 100% automated business based on your passion that’ll make you millions of dollars while you sit on a beach in Costa Rica sipping on pina coladas. That’s a lie. Your passion is important — but it won’t help you decide what idea to pursue, how much to charge, and how to SELL without being sleazy.

Oh, YOU want recurring revenue? Oh WOW! I’M SO IMPRESSED! I want to be in the NBA. I want to have a billion dollars. I want to have 10 houses around the world.

So what? Anyone can WANT something. Few will actually take action on it.

Few will learn how to dig deep into what their customers really want and put their needs first.

Few will build the systems required to turn your dream or passion into a real business that makes money.

Online business revenue from a recent day's online transactions

No big deal, just revenue from a few years ago — you can bet it’s much more now

Do you want this? Do you want an online business that runs on systems — not on your time?

OK, then it’s time to get real.

ONLINE BUSINESS RULE #2: PASSION IS NOT ENOUGH

What other online business “experts” teach:

  1. Find your passion
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Unlike other gurus who will tell you to follow your passion (then leave out step #2 and skip right to you somehow ending up living the dream lifestyle), I take a very different approach.

Yes, it’s important to create a business around something that interests you — but interest alone isn’t going to give you the tools to actually build that business.

What determines successful online business are BUSINESS SYSTEMS. They separate the winners from the wannabes

How do you know which online business idea will be most profitable? How do you know if people will pay? How do you get traffic, and buyers… and then set the business on autopilot?

Look at this:

I told Grace she had to wait until the course opened, just like everyone else. I don’t want starry-eyed dreamers joining my Zero to Launch course. I want you to know EXACTLY what it takes to start a successful online business. And if you’re ready to put in the work, I’ll show you the exact, step-by-step roadmap.

Bonus: if you just also can’t wait to get started check out my Ultimate Guide to Starting an Online Business

(By the way, imagine what it would feel like to have an online business where customers beg you to let them pay you thousands of dollars…BEFORE THEY EVEN KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR COURSE.

Hmm…if only there were a way to learn how to do that…)

In true IWT fashion, I’ll give you the exact tactics you need to create a dependable, scalable online business — including word-for-word scripts and conversion techniques you can use to quadruple your revenue.

In today’s post, I’ll show you the different ways you can start your first successful online business — with my specific recommendation.

What’s the best online business to start?

Lots of options here. Should you start a drop-shipping company? Software? Etsy? Online courses?

How do you know which is best?

I could give you a bunch of theory, principles, and a long history of the relative pros and cons of each. Or I can just tell you the answer.

  • There are 6 main options for an online business
  • I have systematically tried them ALL, and I’ll tell you the straight truth about which is good and which is bad
  • As always, learn these rules. When you get more advanced, you can break them!

I’ve done the research. Here is a list of 30 successful online business ideas I used for this article.

Your 6 options for starting an online business, ranked:

  1. Software (including apps)
  2. Physical products
  3. Advertising
  4. Affiliate marketing
  5. Coaching, and
  6. Online courses

In the illustration above, I’ve ranked the 6 online business models in terms of the startup costs needed (low cost beats high cost) and the profit margin (higher is better).

6 Ways to Make Money Online - Ultimate Guide to Starting an Online Business

What do you notice about this illustration?

  1. Using a simple framework lets you instantly see if a business model is attractive or unattractive (most people never do this)
  2. You don’t have to quit your job and raise millions in venture capital funding (which I’ve done as well…and I can tell you I love IWT way more)
  3. Online courses and coaching look like the best businesses to start. They are both very attractive, so how do we decide?

Coaching vs. online courses: which is the best online business for you?

Check out the benefits of coaching (in-person or online) vs. online courses.

Coaching vs. Courses - Zero to Launch

At this point, either business model is great. I love coaching, and I’ve taught thousands of people how to become freelancers/consultants/coaches via my Earn1K course. If you want to start learning business skills, coaching is the single-best way to do that.

But if you want to scale your business — if you want to reach tens of thousands of people, if you want to create something once and profit for YEARS to come — that’s where starting an online business comes in.

And the best online business — in terms of low overhead costs, high profit margins, and limitless scale — is online courses.

 

Which online courses could you create?

Here’s where it’s easy to get tripped up. “But Ramit,” people say, “I’m not an expert in personal finance or salary negotiation. I don’t know anything that people would pay for!”

Oh really?

Take a look at these 4 amazingly weird (yet successful) courses.

  • Toilet Trained Cat: Train cats to use the toilet. Revenue through books and online courses.
  • Ghost Hunting 101: Who you gonna call? YOURSELF once you become a certified ghost hunter by the International Ghost Hunters Society. Revenue through CDs and online courses.
  • Female Musician Academy: Learn how to market yourself as a female indie musician. Revenue through online courses.
  • Design/Build/Downsize: A workshop tailored for tiny home enthusiasts and beginners. Revenue through online courses.

What are you good at? What do your friends call you for advice on? What kind of sites — fashion, sports, marketing? — do you read while you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store?

At this point, some of us already jumped 50 questions ahead:

  • “But what if I’m not sure what I’m good at?”
  • “An online course? But I don’t have a website/traffic”
  • “What kind of software should I use for…”

SLOW DOWN.

Part of trusting the system is focusing on ONE step at a time, not jumping ahead. I have a proprietary process to show you how to identify what you’re ALREADY great at… and what the market will pay for.

Am I going to teach you that right now? Not yet. You can join my course when I open it again — join the waitlist and I’ll let you know when it launches.

For now, I want you to know that YES — you have passions and experiences in you that people will pay for. Even if you’re not yet the world’s expert on them!

Let’s take a minute and celebrate. You already learned more in this post than in the last 3 months of reading blog after blog.

What I want you to do TODAY

I want to make it easy for you to learn the best online business to start — and how to grow it. I’m revealing some of the real numbers and results from my business — along with case studies and other premium material — to my behind-the-scenes priority list for Zero to Launch.

Get ready to learn the exact beginning-to-end system I use to run a successful online business and make money online.

ramit_12minutevideo
My 10-minute video on “How I went from a $4.95 ebook to a $12,000 Course”

 

What you’ll learn from this “Behind The Scenes” video guide:

  • The 4 crucial turning points that skyrocketed my online business success
  • How pricing and positioning can be the ONLY difference between a colossal flop and a runaway success
  • Mistakes that cost me millions of dollars — and how you can avoid them
  • The exact steps that took me from a $4.95 E-book to a $12,000 course

Are you ready to go from no idea to a recurring revenue stream? Do you want to build an online business that PAYS YOU to live the life you’ve always wanted?

Enter your email below and I’ll send you this exclusive video.

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