The timing to start an online business has never been better. The pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years and most consumers started shopping online more than ever. And it’s not just about buying groceries, take-out food, or home supplies. We go online to buy courses, clothes, beauty products, and just about anything else that makes us happy. It’s the golden age for online business owners! And it’s about time you became one.
In this article, we’re sharing a list of online business ideas that are low-cost and proven to work.
We’ll walk you through the main reasons why these business ideas are worth your attention and explain how to get things started. At the end of this blog post, you’ll also find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about starting an online business.
1. Start a dropshipping business
Dropshipping is one of the best online business ideas that you can work on from home. It’s an order fulfillment method where online store owners don’t need to manage inventory themselves. They buy their products from a third-party supplier (or wholesaler) who fulfills customers’ orders for them.
As a dropshipper, you work as a marketing person for your supplier. Your main tasks are to create an online store, advertise your products, and answer customers’ questions.
Why dropshipping is a great online business idea
- Dropshipping is a very low-risk business model since you don’t need to buy your items upfront.
- You don’t need big investments to start selling.
- You don’t need to store your products
- You don’t need to take care of shipping.
- Since you’re not the one managing your inventory, it’s easy to scale dropshipping.
- You can sell your products anywhere in the world (only make sure to check if the shipping costs are worth it).
- You can automate many tasks with apps. For example, with sixads you can run automated ads.
How to start dropshipping
We have an extensive guide on how to start dropshipping - check it here.
2. Become a proofreader
Do you have an eye for detail?
If you often find yourself spotting mistakes on Facebook comments, then you should consider proofreading. It’s a fairly easy online business to run from home.
Proofreading is reading written work and marking any errors that you find. The stress is on the word “marking” - you don’t need to edit the mistakes, just leave the suggestions for the writer to decide.
As a proofreader, you will, in most cases, have to correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. You may also need to check the text for consistency.
Some texts you may have to proofread include ebooks, blog posts, articles, academic papers, business documents, etc.
Why proofreading is a great online business idea
- There’s a great need for proofreading services - there are 7.5 million blog posts published every day! And that’s just one type of content you can proofread.
- As you get better at your job, you can raise your fee. Experienced proofreaders can earn up to $50.00 per hour! The sky’s the limit.
How to start proofreading
Proofreading is one of the easiest online business ideas for beginners. You simply need to create your account on a website like Fiverr and look for your first clients right away. It’s also a good idea to brush up on your grammar skills.
3. Sell t-shirts online
Ever wanted to create your own clothing line but felt too intimidated? Launching one is easier than you may think!
Why selling t-shirts is a great online business idea
Platforms like Printful have made it very simple to get into the apparel business. You can create your own designs and sell them under your brand. With Printful, you also don’t need to stock items in advance - your t-shirts are printed on-demand, i.e., when someone orders them.
How to start selling t-shirts
- Think about your branding - who do you want to sell to? What are these people like? What do they want to say with their image?
- Create your designs.
- Launch an online store (e.g., using Shopify).
- Connect your online store with one of the print-on-demand platforms, such as Printful.
- Create a marketing strategy. We’ve got a neat marketing guide for clothing dropshippers and the principles are pretty much the same for print-on-demand services. Check it out here.
4. Sell your photos to stock photo sites
If you enjoy taking photos and own a digital camera, becoming a stock photographer might just be it! With millions of blog posts published every day, stock photography is very in demand! Companies need good visuals for their websites, ads, and other marketing material.
Of course, you’ll have to leave your home to take photos, but it’s still something that you’ll submit online.
Why creating stock photos is a great online business idea
- You can earn money from your passion.
- Stock photos are in demand - it’s a relatively easy way to make money online.
- If you stop taking photos, the ones that are still uploaded in stock websites can still be a source of your passive income.
How to start selling stock photos
- Make a list of stock photography websites
- Submit your photos
- Get a commission from each sale. Alternatively, you can also make money per photo.
5. Create an online course
Everyone has a subject that they’re particularly interested in. Maybe you’ve extensive knowledge about drawing or the history of Rome? Maybe you’re a pro accountant and have a few tips to share? Create an online course! Sure, these days, you can Google anything. Still, it feels nice to hear someone else explain it.
Why creating an online course is a great online business idea
- You can make money from what you already know.
- Online courses were always relevant but got extremely in demand with the pandemic. You’ve probably seen multiple of your LinkedIn connections posting on how they finished this and that course. It was a tad annoying, we know. But you see the point!
- As long as you have a camera and a laptop, you can basically create your online course for free.
- It’s a perfect source of passive income. You create your course once, and then it keeps making you money.
- You’ll feel the satisfaction of having helped someone.
How to start creating an online course
- Decide on what you want to teach.
- Get a camera and film yourself.
- If you need to walk your students through something, get a screencasting app to record your screen.
- Cut and edit your videos.
- Make a list of platforms where you can host your course.
6. Work as a virtual assistant
If you have great organizational skills and like doing clearly defined tasks, you could be a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants help business owners carry out everyday tasks that are not too difficult but make sure the business runs smoothly.
Why being a virtual assistant is a great online business idea
It’s a fairly easy job. You’ll mostly do administrative tasks like managing emails and social media, scheduling appointments, and entering data.
How to start a virtual assistant business
Create your account on one of the freelance platforms like Fiverr. They will take a percentage from your earnings, but you’ll get in front of thousands of people looking to hire someone like you.
7. Start a blog on your passion
Do you have a passion for writing? Start a blog! It’s one of the most rewarding small business ideas for creative people. If you find the right niche and audience, you get to express yourself in front of thousands of people. When your blog has enough readers, you can monetize it through affiliate marketing or sell advertising space.
Why starting a blog is a great online business idea
You can write about anything that interests you. For example, if you’re into painting, you could create a blog on one of the latest art movements. To make money from it, join an affiliate marketing program in the relevant niche. For instance, you could advertise painting supplies or upcoming performances.
How to start a blog
- Choose a niche that interests you.
- Do market research to see what kind of blogs already cover it. See what they have in common that makes them successful. Try to figure out how you could fit in there - maybe there’s a subtopic that needs more coverage? Don’t go for something overly saturated, as you will have a hard time standing out.
- Creating great content is just a part of your online business. Once your blog is online, you’ll need to create a plan on how you’ll promote it. You can depend solely on building your social media channels and running ads for your blog posts. You can also invest more time and engage with other blogs in your community by leaving comments under their articles.
- Once you have enough visitors, you can start making money by selling advertising space on your website or selling affiliate products.
8. Offer transcription services
If you just want a quick way to make some extra money, then go for transcription. It’s one of the easiest ways to start an online business. All you need is a laptop and decent knowledge of the language you’ll be using.
Why transcribing is a great online business idea
- It’s a flexible business model. You can work at your own pace.
- You can scale your transcription business by hiring other people to do the transcribing while focusing on managing the tasks and growing your clientele.
How to start transcribing
- Pick a niche: general transcription, medical transcription, or legal transcription. By specializing in one particular area, you’ll get better at what you do and will be able to raise your fee.
- Organize your process. You’ll need a project management tool and an app to track your time.
- Join a community of people in your field. For example, look for groups on Facebook. You’ll be able to ask questions in a supportive environment and grow as a professional.
9. Become a social media manager
Of course, not everyone with a Facebook account is automatically a social media manager. Still, if you’re highly into social media, this may be one of the easiest online businesses to start.
These days, almost every brand needs to be on channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and even TikTok. While bigger companies usually have their in-house marketing teams, smaller ones often profit from hiring freelancers. This is where you come in!
Why social media management is a great online business idea
- You will get to be creative. As a social media manager, you’ll work with content creation across multiple media. You’ll create engaging texts, select and edit photos and videos, scroll through countless GIFs, and dive into pop culture every other day.
- It’s very dynamic. Social media platforms constantly introduce new features to entertain their users, so you’ll always have to keep up with the latest trends. You won’t be bored!
How to get into social media marketing services
- Start by watching a few online courses on social media marketing. There are plenty of free sources by big platforms like HubSpot. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the essentials, subscribe to various newsletters from social media experts so you’d always be in the loop. Social media is constantly changing, so you need to keep up with the latest developments.
- Like with most other small online business ideas, you can kick off your career at freelance websites such as Upwork and Fiverr.
- Once you feel like you’ve outgrown managing other businesses’ social media accounts, you can up your game and offer social media consulting services. Instead of posting on Facebook, you’d create strategies for brands and offer advice on how to best manage them.
10. Sell your handmade products
Are you into crafts and DIY? Open a handmade products store. You can either sell your own stuff or source your goods from suppliers.
Why selling crafts is a great online business idea
- You can make money from your hobby.
- Starting a handmade goods store doesn’t require lots of finances. Of course, you’ll have to pay for materials, but they get much cheaper when buying in bulk.
- It’s a rewarding business model. You’ll get recognized for something you created yourself!
How to start selling crafts
- Register your profile on Etsy. It’s a global online marketplace where people sell handmade, unique items.
- Alternatively, you can also create your own online store. With websites like Shopify and Wix, it’s easier than ever!
- Work on an advertising strategy for your store to get your first customers.
11. Publish an ebook
Have you always wanted to become a published author but just didn’t have the time or guts? Think about writing an ebook. You can get it published on platforms like Amazon and make passive income from it.
Why publishing an ebook is a great online business idea
- Self-publishing has never been so easy. Once you have your ebook written, you can get it out there in a matter of minutes.
- With ebooks, you don’t have to print and ship your work. It’s less of a hassle, plus you’re saving trees!
- You’ll feel a tremendous sense of reward once the first positive reviews kick in.
How to publish an ebook
- Register for Kindle Direct Publishing. You can get your book on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours! And the publishing itself takes less than 5 minutes. If you want to, you can also publish in print.
12. Offer voice over services
Another low-cost online business idea is voice-over work. If you have good diction, go for it! You’ll have to invest in a quality microphone and some sound editing software, but that’s pretty much all! You pay once, and you’re good to go.
Why voice over work is a great online business idea
Digital content highly depends on video production. Brands need videos to present their products and services, organizations need educational video campaigns, and pretty much all of this video content needs a voiceover. It’s a highly lucrative niche!
To start a voice-over business, you don’t need to be a professional actor or go to a fancy recording studio. You can get away with a good-quality microphone and basic sound editing software.
How to start a voice over online business
- Get a professional microphone.
- Get sound editing software.
- Register on a freelancing platform like Fiverr or Upwork and start applying for your first job.
13. Start a coaching business
Would you consider yourself a motivated person? Do you like working with people? If you’ve answered ‘yes’, consider starting an online coaching business.
Why coaching is a great online business idea
Life or career coaching can be a rewarding business. After all, you spend your time helping others! You help your clients navigate through difficult personal and professional situations and make significant improvements in their lives.
Plus, it’s a very cool online business to have. You can create your personal brand and become a known public figure. And it can be a very lucrative niche, too - people will pay good money to be inspired to better their lives!
How to start a coaching business
- First, pick your niche. Some of the most popular coaching niches are life coaching, wellness coaching, career coaching, financial coaching, and business coaching.
- Define your mission and vision statements. Think about your main message - what is that one thing you want to help people achieve above all?
- Get certified. Your clients will trust you more, and you’ll be able to provide better services.
- Build a website for your online business and create a marketing plan on how you’ll advertise yourself.
14. Become a foreign language teacher
Are you good with languages? Being a foreign language teacher is one of the honest online business opportunities that work. Sure, there are many apps like Duolingo that are great for language learning. However, the good old-fashioned human contact simply can’t be topped.
Why foreign language teaching is a great online business idea
Language teaching is a great online business idea for people who want to combine flexibility with working with people. You get to work on your terms - you can decide how many students you want to have and how often you want to hold your lessons, and how. You could organize them via Skype calls or Zoom meetings.
How to start teaching a foreign language
- Look for a course on teaching languages online so you could become a successful independent language teacher.
- It’s a good idea to create a website where you’ll list your services. If you have the time, work on your search engine optimization (SEO) to get your website in front of people looking for your services on Google.
- Alternatively, run Google Ads to promote yourself.
- If you don’t have enough time for actual contact with your students but still want to put your knowledge of languages to use, you can even create an online course yourself and use it to get passive income.
15. Work as a web researcher
This is one of the easiest online businesses to start. To work as a web researcher, you don’t need any particular set of skills. A hot cuppa and a stable internet connection are pretty much all it takes.
Why web research is a great online business idea
Performing online research is relatively easy, and many companies need it done but just don’t have the time for it. This is where you step in!
You can be hired to perform market research, academic research, or research for digital marketing professionals. The possibilities are vast! Plus, you can enjoy the flexibility and work on your schedule.
How to become a web researcher
You’ll most likely have to look for information on search engines like Google, various blogs, websites, or databases. Chances are, you’re already familiar with googling things, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article. You don’t need any special preparation - you can already start looking for your first job offers.
However, try to focus on a particular niche where you have the upper hand to increase your chances of getting hired. For example, if you have a degree in history, you could research historical events.
16. Start a data entry online business
Looking for an easy way to start an online business from home? Try data entry. Like with web research, you don’t need to have a particular set of skills to enter things into spreadsheets. You must know the basics of Microsoft Office, though, but that isn’t too hard.
Why data entry is a great online business idea
- It’s one of the easiest things you can do to get some extra money.
- It’s a low-cost freelance work opportunity. Unless you don’t have a functioning laptop and word processing programs, you don’t need to invest in anything upfront.
How to start a data entry online business
Brush up on your Microsoft Office skills, if needed. Other than that - you’re good to go. You can start looking for your first job offers by registering your account on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
Once you get accustomed to your online business, you can raise your fee by specializing in a particular niche. For example, you can focus on data entry jobs in the healthcare or agriculture industry.
17. Become a professional nutritionist
If you’re on Instagram and are somewhere above 30, chances are you see plenty of ads and content related to being healthy and achieving your goals. There are lots of accounts focused on different diets and lifestyle changes and for a reason.
Healthy eating is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon, and there’s money to be made there. So, if buying a perfect avocado makes you feel warm and fuzzy, perhaps you should take it a step further?
Why becoming a nutritionist is a great online business idea
Starting an online business around nutrition is a highly profitable idea. You can create personalized meal plans and recommendations, get people to join your courses, and weight loss challenges. You can create a podcast, a YouTube channel, write an ebook or simply share useful tips on your social media channels - the possibilities for content creation and its monetization are huge.
How to become a professional nutritionist
- Look for reputable courses on nutrition so you could get certified. Keep in mind that nutrition can be a delicate matter, and you’ll always have to keep on learning to ensure you offer the most professional advice you can.
- Decide on the digital products you’ll be creating (meal plans, online courses, personal consultations).
- Create a website for your business and a social media strategy to promote yourself.
18. Create designs for ebook covers
Remember we talked about publishing an ebook as a passive income idea? Well, all those ebooks need to be designed by someone, and that could be you! If you’re familiar with graphic design or are willing to learn about it, creating designs for ebook covers could be a nice gig for you.
Why designing ebooks is a great online business idea
You don’t need to invest large sums in becoming an ebook designer. You can start designing ebooks with the help of free tools like Canva. It was created for design beginners so you can feel at ease when handling your first clients. Its free version has enough features for you to get started, and for a fairly small payment, you can get access to more tools.
How to become an ebook designer
Create a portfolio so you could showcase your works to your potential customers. Naturally, you won’t have anything to show initially, so just go ahead and create some ebook designs to show your sense of aesthetics.
If you need to up your game, look for graphic design courses on Udemy or a similar platform. They’re usually fairly cheap, plus there’s always YouTube where you can learn the basics of just about anything.
19. Become a micro-influencer
Let’s be honest - you have thought at least a few times about what it would be like to be an influencer. Why not give it a try? It’s one of the hottest online businesses at the moment. And you don’t need to aim for a huge following - you can already start getting paid even with a few thousand followers as a micro-influencer.
Why becoming an influencer is a great online business idea
- It gives a little ego boost. Everyone wants to be heard and seen, and social media gives this opportunity.
- Being an influencer doesn’t mean you need to post your daily workouts or healthy breakfast photos every day. You can focus on talking about something that you care about deeply. For example, you can talk about female empowerment, art, or environmentally-friendly living. And all of this can be capitalized on! A lot.
How to start with the whole influencer business
For one, start posting regularly. It’s also a good idea to switch from a personal to a business account. This way, you’ll be able to boost your posts for more visibility and analyze your followers.
There’s no clear-cut path to becoming famous on social media. Some do it by showing beautiful outfits, others talk about slow living or create funny videos. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Then, your content will be authentic, and you’ll gather a loyal following base and be able to make money from promoting goods and services.
20. Create whiteboard animations
Ever wanted to earn money doing something creative? Creating whiteboard animations might just be the right path for you.
Whiteboard animations are short, animated videos where someone is shown drawing on a whiteboard. They’re usually done in a cartoon style and last between one to three minutes.
Why creating whiteboard animations is a great online business idea
Videos are highly in demand when it comes to content marketing. This report has found that a staggering 96% of people who have watched an explainer video want to learn more about a product or service. Whiteboard animations are great for explainer videos, and it’s fairly easy to learn how to make them! Plus, you don’t need big investments to get this online business going.
How to become a whiteboard animator
Get a video creation software like Explaindio. Some of them cost less than $100. Once you get the hang of using the video creation software, register yourself on one of the platforms like Fiverr and start applying to your first job offers.
21. Become a freelance content writer
Being a content writer is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s one of the low-cost online business ideas that can make you money. You can do freelancing content writing on the side of your regular job or work full-time. Plus, you don’t need to invest any money to become a content writer. All you need is your laptop, internet connection, and a couple of writing courses to get started.
Why content writing is a great online business idea
It’s a versatile profession. There are many types of content writing you can go for. You can write long, SEO-based blog posts, whitepapers, newsletters, social media posts, and ads.
As you get more and more experience, you can significantly raise your fee. It’s also a business model that is easy enough to scale. Once you see that there’s a huge demand for your services, you can hire other writers to write texts instead of you. You’d stay in charge of the process and be responsible for the text quality.
How to become a content writer
- Get familiar with digital marketing. Many concepts around advertising will be helpful to you when writing.
- Finish at least a couple of courses on content marketing and writing.
- Try to find a few niches to specialize in. For example, you could focus on clients in real estate. With time, you’ll get used to specific terminology and be familiar with industry trends, making you a much-wanted content writer to hire.
22. Get into consulting business
If you’re an expert in your field, another low-cost online business idea is getting into consulting. For example, if you have a degree in finance or have worked extensively in this industry, you can start a financial consulting business.
Why consulting is a great online business idea
If you feel like you’re great at your current job but no longer want to be in the 9-5 system, consulting will allow you to break free from your usual day-to-day tasks and work on a strategic level.
How to start a consulting business
- Create your offer which explains how you can provide value to your clients.
- Figure out your ideal target audience.
- Write a business plan.
- Create a marketing strategy for your online business.
23. Become a language translator
Do you have a gift for learning languages? If you know at least one foreign language, you can be a translator.
Why translation is a great online business idea
There’s a big demand for translation work. Google translate still hasn’t changed the actual human translation, and many companies need their websites translated to other languages.
Plus, like most other freelancing jobs, translation gives you the flexibility to work from home or anywhere else in the world.
How to start your translation business
- Choose a niche for your translation work. It’s always better to specialize in a specific field, so your translations are more accurate.
- Define your price per word.
- Freshen up on grammar rules.
- Create a website for your services.
- Register on one of the platforms like Fiverr or Upwork as a freelancer.
24. Write resumes & cover letters
Do you work in human resources? You could use your work experience and knowledge to help people write resumes and cover letters.
Why resume writing is a great online business idea
You could even take it a step further and start a career coaching online business.
How to start writing resumes as an online business
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, it’s a good time to do it. It’s the perfect social media channel for building your profile as someone who can help people to land the job of their dreams.
It’s also a good idea to create a website for your online business. There, you can list your services and convey a convincing value proposition why people should choose to work with you. If you work on your search engine optimization, you’ll also be driving free traffic from Google, where people look for what you’re offering.
25. Become a web developer
Being a web developer pays off big time. If you’re willing to spend some time learning how to code, this could be one of the best online business ideas for you.
Why offering website development services is a great online business idea
We live in the digital and web development services are hugely in demand. Business owners need good, constantly upgraded websites to thrive, so you can be sure you will always have clients. If you’re tech-savvy, go for it!
How to get into web development business
Once you have enough knowledge to start working, register as a freelance web developer in your niche on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork and apply for your first projects. First, you’ll have to start with smaller fees but, as you gain experience, you’ll be able to increase your pricing significantly.
What is the best online business to start in 2021?
Here’s a list of some of the top online business ideas for 2021:
- Selling t-shirts online
- Selling photos to stock photo sites
- Creating an online course
- Working as a virtual assistant
- Starting a blog
- Offering transcription services
- Social media management
- Selling handmade products
- Publishing an ebook
- Offering voice over services
- Starting a coaching business
- Teaching foreign languages
- Working as a web researcher
- Starting a data entry online business
- Becoming a professional nutritionist
- Creating designs for ebook covers
- Becoming a micro-influencer
- Creating whiteboard animations
- Working as a freelance content writer
- Getting into consulting business
- Becoming a language translator
- Writing resumes & cover letters
- Working as web developer
What kind of online business is most profitable?
You can make any online business model profitable if you put your heart into it and research the market well. Here are some of the online business niches that can be highly profitable: dropshipping, working as a consultant, creating a blog and making money from affiliate marketing, creating an online course.