17 Best Online Business Ideas to Start Now (no money required)
It’s Tuesday at 10 AM and you’ve already had your first cup of coffee. You’ve also finished some hairy morning tasks ahead of schedule and now you’re embracing that brief moment of chill. So what do you do? You shop. Online. Amiright?
So if you’re doing it, there’s a good chance someone else is doing it too. Which means… If you’re starting a business, shouldn’t it be online? Some pretty neat online business ideas boast high-profit margins, low barriers to entry, and best of all, some don’t even require you to carry a stitch of stock.
How To Start an Online Business
Starting an online business can be a rewarding experience, but it requires planning and effort. Before you begin, educating yourself on legal regulations, accounting practices, and other relevant skills is important. However, once your business takes off and starts making money, it will be well worth all of the hard work and time you invested in starting it up.
There is no one formula for starting a successful online business, but you can follow some steps to maximize your chances.
1. Choose a business idea or industry that matches your interests and abilities.
2. Find a business niche that capitalizes on unmet needs in the marketplace.
3. Research your competitors, your market, and the viability of your product.
4. Educate yourself about the laws that apply to online businesses.
5. Create your brand identity.
6. Create a marketing strategy that incorporates various promotional tactics (e.g., website, SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, etc.)
7. Begin Getting Customers
17 Best Online Business Ideas to Get You Started
Our requirements for this list were pretty straightforward. It must be quick and easy to set up, low-cost, and with minimal training. Some you won’t even have to leave your full-time job for, as they’re simple enough to run as a side gig. Sounds simple enough, so let’s jump in:
1. Website Designer
If this option curls your toes and gives you nightmares that you’ll need to learn advanced coding, relax. There are a few basic HTML courses that will teach you the basics of a good site. Combine your new skills with platforms such as Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace and you have a decent side hustle on your hands in web design.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist
Hubspot and Udemy have some neat courses for those looking to get into SEO. While it may seem like a lot to know, once you know it, it’s simply a matter of keeping up to speed with the latest algorithm updates. It’s also pretty quick to set up the business, as a mere website or online profile with a portfolio of projects will suffice. As a start, you can test your SEO skills on local businesses or friends’ websites.
3. Freelance Writer
There are several niches to enter here: copywriter, content writer, journalist, ghostwriter, technical writer, academic writer, and more. It all depends on where your skills are and your writing preferences. It’s easy enough to create a profile and once you’ve decided on your niche, showcase your work samples on sites such as Fiverr and People Per Hour.
Freelance writing also includes ebooks and self-publishing books on sites such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. The benefit of publishing books is the potential for passive income, especially with the right marketing. This can easily become a full-time gig when you start cranking out those novels.
4. Content Strategist
This is a new role that’s only been floating around the internet for a few years, but if you have a marketing background, this should be in your wheelhouse. You would work with content writers, copywriters, and SEO specialists to develop a content plan for your client. Best part? It can be completely remote and you can do it freelance. Content strategists are in high demand right now, so brush up on your editing skills (yes, you’ll wear many hats) and get your toes in the water.
5. Virtual Assistant
If you’re an ace at arranging family vacations and organizing your spouse’s calendar, then you’re already halfway there to becoming a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants can work remotely and the role is mostly freelance. The rate is per hour, which means that you’ll build your earnings relatively quickly. The best part? There’s no shortage of jobs for this at the moment. With the increase in work-from-home culture, you may land a few great gigs relatively early in your search.
This is a favorite and it’s because it’s as easy as cereal for breakfast. You don’t have to give it much thought, there’s no office space required or warehousing. You simply need to set up a website, find your suppliers, and list the goods. The suppliers ship from their warehouses and you earn your profit. It really is as simple as that. What you may need to take heed of, however, is that you need to suss out your suppliers as your business is only as strong as their commitment to the fulfillment process.
7. Online Coaching
If you’re that guy that’s constantly teaching others to do stuff then you have a marketable skill. Which could lead to a lucrative coaching career. Pay attention to what your loved ones say. You might find a certain task easier than others because you’ve devised a unique method or simply through experience. For instance, if you have a knack for starting up side hustles, you’re good at relationships, or you have a knack for organizing, those might be skills others would pay for. Package it into courses and making money online has never been easier.
8. Start a YouTube Channel
While you’ll need to know which market you’re going to tap into, starting a YouTube channel can be a lucrative source of income. You don’t have to sit around and wait for sponsorship deals either. Income streams on YouTube can include ad revenue, merchandise, and revenue from YouTube Premium. In terms of gear, many start out with a good smartphone and an external microphone until their channel can pay for better gear.
9. Become a culinary wunderkind… Even if you’re not
Want to know what Rachael Ray’s claim to fame is? She helped working parents make meals in 30 minutes or less. This made her an invaluable resource on daytime television and it wasn’t long before she blossomed into a celebrity chef. So if you have skills in the kitchen that simplify your life, create better recipes, or allow your foodies to go down that “smells like my Nana’s” road, then you might just have a sellable skill. In fact, Ramit’s very own mom made $1,773 from an online cooking class teaching people how to cook Indian food.
There are several ways to promote this skill too, from that YouTube channel to a recipe book and everything in between. Before you know it, you have the perfect recipe for a home business.
10. Music production
Software such as Logic and Ableton allow everyone to have a go at music production. The best part is that music production is a highly lucrative industry as there is quite a high demand for clips, jingles, backing tracks, samples, and full tracks. Platforms like Soundcloud make it even easier to market and sell your music.
11. Fitness anyone?
Let’s face it. We want to look good (and be healthy) but get there with as little effort as possible. You have a market if you have a history of fitness and can incorporate it into online classes or exercise plans. You may even tap into certain niches, for instance, developing plans for certain sports disciplines. Add a diet plan to the mix and you’re good to go. As long as you have all the right disclaimers in place, that is.
12. Tap into coffee culture
Coffee is great. Not only does it make interactions with other humans more bearable, but it also happens to be the gift that keeps giving. Become a reseller of coffee paraphernalia such as pour-over equipment, ground coffee, coffee beans, specialty gear, and the work. At the very least, you’ll be your own best customer.
13. Sell on Amazon
We love this topic so much that we’ve decided to do a deep dive and offer you an in-depth look at how to make money on Amazon. You can sell your own products, products on arbitrage, or even wholesale items. Then of course there’s the no-stock option which allows you to earn an income from affiliate marketing where you earn a fee in promoting products on Amazon.
Amazon also allows you to sell professional services through its Amazon Services platform. These services include business services, events, and home maintenance.
14. Become a tutor
This is where you harness your inner Pythagoras or Ernest Hemingway and offer tutoring services. The more credentials you have, the more you can charge. Also, it’s worth knowing that if you have skills in a niche topic, you may get away with charging a little extra.
15. Secondhand books dealer
It’s time to appease all the bibliophiles in your community and source books with the aim of reselling them. You may need to sacrifice some space on the dining room table to keep your stock, but as your skills improve, you start developing n eye for rare and pricey books. This is typical of a weekend hobby turning into a lucrative online store.
16. Create an online marketplace for local sellers
Local artisans and crafters often need markets to sell their wares. These markets aren’t pandemic or weatherproof which can result in a dent in their earnings. By creating a local marketplace online, the merchants have a marketplace and you have products you don’t have to manufacture.
17. Your professional skills
Graphic designers are a great example of a professional skill that can easily turn into a very lucrative online business. There is no end to clients, platforms, and marketplaces you can penetrate. It also happens to be a skill set that’s easy to learn if you happen to have the right artsy background. If you have a knack for fine arts, for instance, you can also tap into illustration.
Another skill that translates well online is accounting. Whether you’re an up-and-coming accountant for a corporation or a bookkeeper for a small business your skills are valuable to others.
This might seem like a spreadsheet and ledgers game, but there are several accounting software packages that can make this an entirely online business. However, online accounting might be regional only, as there are different accounting and bookkeeping practices across states or countries.
…but you don’t have to take the same path as everyone else. How would it look if you designed a Rich Life on your own terms? Take our quiz and find out:
How to develop your business idea
Finding a business idea is easier than you think. You probably have a dozen business opportunities available to you at this moment just based on your skills and resources. Tapping into those ideas, however, may need the answer to the following questions.
What am I willing to pay for?
If you’re willing to pay for a service, there’s a good chance someone else is too. This should help you narrow down your options a little. Even for things that might seem a little niche or overdone, it’s important that you recognize that it hasn’t been done by you. Can you add a unique value proposition that will set you apart? The point is, you don’t have to figure out an entirely new business, you simply have to offer something that other businesses currently aren’t.
What are my skills?
Your skills aren’t just restricted to your work experience, however, those come in handy too. Other skills that might land you a lucrative side hustle or full-time business include soft skills such as relationship advice, financial tips, and even DIY skills.
What do other people compliment me on?
It’s time to pay attention and take heed when others tell you you’re good at something. Gardening? You might have the beginnings of a how-to blog. You may also receive compliments on your appearance. For instance, if you’re a sharp dresser, you could offer a personal dressing service.
What do I do in my free time?
If it’s Netflix and chill I got nothing. Just kidding, what about movie reviews? An avid mountaineer? It’s time to ask Instagram whether they’d sponsor a mountain climbing series. What about social media? If you have your finger on the pulse of what’s trending, social media marketing or management might just be your thing. Who knows, you might just be the next big social media influencer.
2 rules to remember when starting an online business:
Once you have a few potential business ideas in mind, there are two rules to online businesses that you need to remember if you want to find success.
Online business rule #1: It’s about your customer…not you.
When I asked my readers “What excites you most about starting an online business?” 2000+ of you responded — which was awesome…
…until I realized how ME-focused a lot of your responses were.
“I want ___.”
“I need ___.”
“I’ll have more time for ___.”
Rarely do I hear 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 with as many people as possible!”
Look, I get it — we all want to go into online businesses because it will give us flexibility, time to spend with family, more money, and a bunch of other great reasons…
…but those shouldn’t be the ONLY reasons. That can’t be where you start but it can be where you END.
If you really want all those things, you need to learn to dig deep into what your customers really want and put their needs first.
Only by factoring your customers into your system can you turn your dream or passion into a real business that’ll make you money.
This brings me to…
Online business rule #2: Passion isn’t everything.
This is a brutal and hard truth to swallow — but it’ll make you a better entrepreneur once you do.
Others will sell you dreams of a 100% automated “turnkey” business based on your passion that’ll make you millions while you nap on a beach in Hawaii.
That’s a lie.
Don’t get me wrong: your passion is important. You should create a business around something that interests you — but it won’t help you decide what idea to pursue, how much to charge, and how to SELL without coming off like a sleazeball.
The determining factor between successful online businesses and the ones doomed to fail are BUSINESS SYSTEMS.
So, which online business system will be the most profitable? How do you know if people will pay? How do you get traffic and buyers and repeat customers?
Today, I’m going to show you the different ways you can start your first successful online business — with my specific recommendation for the best.
If you’re not going to pursue something actively, you’ll never know the success or failure rate anyway, so why the hesitation? Instead, focus on the possibilities. Think of what an extra couple of dollars can mean for your quality of life. Bumping up from coach to business class, or finally taking that cross-country road trip. For those who have already started and wish to scale, Ramit has the highly-anticipated and limited Double Engine Growth course for 6-figure business owners.
FAQs About Online Business Ideas
How long does it take to make money online?
According to most small business owners, it takes two to three years for a company to become profitable. However, this estimate varies depending on the type of business since each has different costs and operating expenses.
Do I need to hire employees?
When considering hiring an employee, ensure that the company has the resources to cover the expenses associated with new staff members. Evaluate each candidate’s ability to increase workplace productivity and overall efficiency. Hiring employees will reduce your workload and improve the workflow’s efficiency, but it comes with extra costs.
Why start an online business?
With so many benefits of doing online business, here are some of the most common reasons people choose this route:
- You have a flexible schedule
- You can work anywhere you want
- Access to a worldwide market
- Income and growth potential
- Startup costs are relatively low to nonexistent
If you liked this post, you’d LOVE my Ultimate Guide to Finding Your First Profitable Idea
It’s one of the best things I’ve published, and totally free – just tell me where to send it: