Running an online 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. In reality, “online” is just a channel that connects businesses to people. It’s a powerful tool that lets you reach anyone from anywhere in the world. But creating a business with it is still about connecting the right customers with the right offering.
Countless people have already made the leap into entrepreneurship. And with the right ideas and plenty of sweat equity, you can too.
This isn’t about one simple life-changing trick. Starting a business doesn’t work that way. Instead, to help you find a product idea or business model that fits your lifestyle, we’ve put together a collection of simple ways to start a business without quitting your day job.
Launch a dropshipping store
You don’t need a warehouse full of inventory to run your own business. 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, a dropshipping business 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.
Sell your art online
Whether you’re a painter, photographer, or musician, there are plenty of ways to start an online store and 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.
Why sell your art?
- You’ll be part of people’s lives by getting your work into customers’ homes and headphones.
- You’ll create a platform for showcasing your work by setting up shop online store.
- 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.
Become a freelance writer, designer, or developer
Writers, developers, and graphic designers can start a 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. To find people that need your help, try freelancing marketplaces, like Upwork and Fiverr.
It’s worth noting that Fiverr is a little different from a traditional job board. As the name suggests, all the posted jobs cost five dollars. 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 five-dollar 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.
Teach an online course
Teaching an online course is a low-investment 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.
Launch a podcast
If you like the sound of your own voice, consider recording it for a podcast. Podcasts are a great online business idea with multiple monetization options, similar to starting a blog.
Here’s what you need to start your podcast:
- A high-quality microphone
- Audio recording software
- Call recording software
Why start a podcast?
- Podcasts continue to grow in popularity. According to Podcast Insights, 51% of Americans have listened to a podcast.
- A successful podcast can lead to endless possibilities: turn your episodes into a blog, solicit sponsors and advertisers, and make connections you never would have been able to before.
To promote your podcast, consider collaborating with prominent figures as guests on your show. Encourage listeners to leave reviews and share your podcast with their friends and family.
Sign up for affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend a product or service by sharing it on a blog or social media, to your email list, on your website, or on other channels. You earn a commission each time someone converts through your unique referral link or code.
Find an affiliate program that suits your interests, personal brand, and target audience. Affiliate Future, ShareASale, and FlexOffers are a few examples. Amazon has its own affiliate program, and you can also check out the Shopify Affiliate Program.
Once you’ve signed up, start sharing. Create social media posts, blog articles, emails, and other content about how great the product or service you’re promoting is. Don’t oversaturate your audience with ads, otherwise you risk coming across as spammy or inauthentic.
Why do affiliate marketing?
- It’s easy: You likely already promote the products and services you use. Now, you can get paid for it.
- Affiliate marketing is a great source of passive income. With the Shopify Affiliate Program, affiliates earn an average of $58 for each user who signs up for a paid plan, and $2,000 for each Plus referral.
Curate subscription boxes
Subscription boxes are themed packages of various products. There are subscription boxes in pretty much every industry, from meal-prep kits and craft snacks to fitness products and makeup. You can curate subscription boxes around virtually any theme of your choice.
When you curate subscription boxes, you work with brands and artisans to purchase and resell their products in a bundled offering. Typically, consumers expect to be surprised by what’s in the box, though there are some (like meal prep kits) where the customer chooses what they receive.
Why curate subscription boxes?
- It’s a viable seasonal business. Ironically, “subscription” boxes are purchased as gifts more often than for the buyer themselves. So if you’re only interested in running your online business for part of the year, this could be a model worth checking out.
- It’s a growing industry. Subscription commerce sales grew from $57 million in 2011 to more than $2.6 billion in 2016.
- You don’t need to create your own products. Instead, you can use proven, successful products and simply put them together in a nice package.
Start your own ONLINE 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 Oberlo, 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 apps like Printify and Printful, 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.
If you’ve been thinking about ways to start a business, it’s time to get out there and create an online money-making business in your spare time. You don’t have to go all in. Start small with a side hustle and scale from there. Or, keep things small. The beauty of starting your own online business is that it’s all up to you.