As an online business owner, I get a lot of questions about how to start them. What are some good online business ideas? What is the best online business to start?
I love getting these questions because starting an online business is a low cost and flexible way to start a profitable business. You don’t need the kind of capital it takes to start a brick-and-mortar business, and you can launch your online business in your own time.
There has truly never been a better time to start an online business, and I’ve put together a list of the best online business ideas, plus the steps to starting it.
14 Online Business Ideas You can Start From Home
1. Digital marketing
Digital marketing is a massively growing field in 2020, and that means there are lots of different niches you can hit – pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing and more.
But if you’re looking for one of the best online business ideas for beginners, I highly recommend Facebook marketing.
Running Facebook ads for small businesses is exactly what I did to supplement my income after I quit my teaching job to work as a full-time blogger. I had absolutely no experience running ads, but I poured through blogs and YouTube videos until I felt confident enough to pitch my first client.
One client turned into another, then another, and another. I was making $1,000-$1,500/month per client to run their Facebook ads, and it was taking 2-3 hours a week to manage each client’s ad system.
My start in the world of digital marketing didn’t happen all that long ago, and since then, the number of small businesses who need and/or want Facebook ads has only grown. Facebook has advanced targeting features that make it a low cost and effective way for small businesses to reach new customers.
If you’re interested in learning how to run Facebook ads, I teamed up with my buddy Mike Yanda to create a comprehensive course that teaches you how to start your own digital marketing business. Mike was a lawyer in a former life, but he started his own Facebook ad agency and now brings in around $30,000/month.
Learn how to get started in the Facebook Side Hustle Course.
2. Virtual assistant
A virtual assistant (or VA) is like a personal assistant for businesses or professionals. VAs manage a lot of the behind the scenes work that keeps businesses and entrepreneurs running. That means virtual assistants do things like:
- Email inbox management
- Social media management
- Scheduling appointments, travel, etc.
- Making phone calls
- Publishing blog posts
- Assemble reports
- Running personal errands
- Taking notes
- Converting files
Those are just a few things virtual assistants do and can change based on your client’s needs. This online business idea is a great option for anyone who has a background in human resources, administrative support, office management, or operations.
3. Pinterest virtual assistant
Working online as a Pinterest virtual assistant is a specialized VA field, and you’re helping online business owners, brands, and bloggers market themselves on Pinterest.
This could be a really fun online business idea for anyone who loves or knows the Pinterest platform well, but it’s not just pinning. Pinterest VAs:
- Design pins
- Create boards
- Understand how Pinterest Smart Feed works
- Leverage Tailwind Tribes
- Schedule pins
- Run Promoted Pins
The course, Become a Pinterest VA Today teaches you how to start your own Pinterest VA business and start finding clients.
I’ve been working online as a full-time blogger for almost five years now, and it’s honestly been life changing for me. I was an underpaid and overworked high school band teacher, and now I run a 7-figure online business.
The changes in the past five years is wild, but I want to be really clear about something: blogging is a slow business model overall.
It can literally take months to start earning anything from your site – it took three months to earn $3 from my site – but the hustle pays off if you stick in it for the long haul.
Next to income potential, blogging is insanely flexible. You can spend a little time on your blog before you go to work, after your kids go to bed, on the weekends, etc.
There are also a ton of different profitable blogging niches (your niche is the topic you blog about). You can start a blog about cooking, kids, working out, online business management, personal finance, travel, DIYs, etc.
If you’re interested in starting a blog, check out our free resources below:
- How to Start a Blog (A Guide for Bluehost) – I highly recommend a WordPress blog hosted on Bluehost
- Launch That Blog – this is a free set up service if you use Bluehost
- Can You make Money Blogging? 6 Strategies for a Profitable Blog?
- 17 Free Blogging Courses That Will Blow Up Your Blog
5. Social media manager
Social media managers are responsible for executing and supervising a brand’s presence across social media platforms. Their job is part public relations, part marketing, and part customer service.
You might be scheduling posts, updating information, replying to comments, moderating online forums, implementing an SEO strategy, reporting and analyzing data on traffic and each, running ads, and more.
Working as a social media manager is a pretty fast paced job, and you can specialize in one platform or several.
6. Web developer
Okay, this is a broad field, but the basic idea is that web developers construct the layout of websites and apps. Once the site or application is up and running, they also ensure that it stays functional.
Here’s a more specific idea of what kinds of web developer work out there:
- Back end developers: These developers build and maintain the infrastructure that supports websites and apps. Core back end coding languages are Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and SQL.
- Full stack developer: You can handle both sides of the development process and are considered very versatile.
Months-long coding bootcamps are a really popular way to learn the necessary skills to start an online web development business. Bootcamps teach practical, real-world skills that can help you get started.
7. SEO consultant
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and having a solid SEO strategy can help a business rank high in online search results.
There are different kinds of SEO practices – on-site, off-site, and technical SEO. The best consultants will be able to help a business develop a strategy that touches on each of those.
This can be a really lucrative online business idea, because companies are willing to pay good money to rank high. Think about it like this: the higher you rank in Google search results, the more likely someone is to click on your links. More clicks potentially means more sales.
A good resource is the course SEO for Bloggers. Bloggers need SEO consultants and you can be there to serve them.
8. E-commerce store
Niche e-commerce sites can sell super specific products, like organic cat food or artwork for plant lovers. There are different ways to approach this online business idea, but they all start the same way: finding the right web hosting service.
Shopify is a really popular option for e-commerce sites because it has free themes, a drag-and-drop editor, and integrated shopping cart features.
From there, you can create and sell your own products. These can be anything from PDF printables to crafty things like knit hats or hand poured candles.
Dropshipping is another popular method. The premise is that you source products from companies who handle the shipping part. You don’t keep any products on-hands – your vendors do.
9. Online course creator
Nowadays it seems like every blogger, YouTuber, or online influencer has an online course. There’s a good reason for that: more and more people are choosing to learn online as an affordable way to educate themselves on everything from high-value skills that will help them in their careers to arts and crafts classes online.
But you don’t need to have an existing online business to create a profitable course. One of my readers used her graphic design skills to develop a series of courses on Udemy and Skillshare. Most of her courses sell for around $10, and in three years, she’s grown her income to ~$80,000/month!
This article, Learn How to Create an Online Course in Just 9 Steps, is a good breakdown of how to plan and launch your course. I also recommend 7 Best Online Course Providers for 2021 to find the right platform for your course.
10. Freelance writer
Freelance writers are responsible for the vast majority of digital and print content you see these days. There are so many different niches you can use to develop your online business idea too. Here are some of the top fields right now:
- Writing CVs or resumes: Exactly what it sounds like – you help people write resumes and CVs that help them land their dream job
- Ghostwriting: You write under the name of someone else. That might be for authors, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and more. You’ll need to be able to learn and adapt to different voices and styles.
- Technical writing: This is writing manuals or how-to guides. This is a very detail oriented type of writing.
- Web content: Writing stock content for websites, like product descriptions, intros, promotional copy, etc.
- Copywriting: Very lucrative freelance writing field that’s specializing in writing copy that sells products and services for their clients.
- Legal writing: Good for anyone with a legal background because it involves drafting contracts, writing legal briefs, and researching papers.
A good writer isn’t always a good proofreader, it can also be difficult to proofread your own writing. You must be good at spotting errors for this online business idea, but there is no shortage of clients (see list of freelance writing job ideas above).
Proofreaders take written content and give it a final once over to check for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. They polish the content before it’s published.
The Proofread Anywhere Course teaches you how to start your own proofreading business online.
12. Sell stuff online
This is hands-down one of the easiest online business ideas for beginners. Selling your own to begin with is a good way to learn how to use different selling platforms, like eBay or Facebook Marketplace. From there, you can focus on buying and flipping items for a profit – how you can turn this into a full-time income.
13. Project manager
Project managers develop and execute project plans for their clients. This might be a blogger who’s ready to do a big course launch or a digital marketing agency who needs help running their normal-day-to-day operations, for example.
Project managers create a system and help implement it. They manage teams, identify problems (often before they even come up), and help solve problems.
This online business idea is great for anyone with previous PM or operations experience, but it could be something you do if you’ve had an insider look at running a small business. Maybe that’s as a virtual assistant or someone in administration.
I recently watched from the sidelines as my wife started a YouTube channel, and I can tell you that this is still a super legit way to make money online.
Starting a YouTube channel is like blogging in that it’s a slow business model, but what my wife and other YouTubers like about it is that you can create videos about things you really enjoy talking about.
For example, my wife’s channel includes reviews on her favorite household products, decorating tips, and beauty reviews. Her channel is close to 8,000 subscribers, and she’s earning steady ad income.
How do I start an online business at home?
Starting an online business, whether it’s a big one backed by a ton of capital or one of the small online business ideas above, takes work. There’s research, figuring out how to leverage existing skills, deciding how you’ll learn new ones, and building your online presence before you can even start selling goods or services.
Fortunately, the internet offers a wealth of knowledge from people who’ve started successful online businesses and can help you with yours.
Another serious perk, you can build your online business at your own pace. Obviously, the more time you can dedicate the faster it will be up and running, but not everyone has a ton of extra time.
Here are the steps to starting an online business from home:
Step 1: Decide which business to start
If you found something on this list that piqued your interest, but there are lots of other profitable business ideas. I recommend identifying a problem– this is a pain point you’re going to relieve.
You can look to your interests, professional experience, academic background, or hobbies. What kind of needs are there? What kind of products or services could fill those needs? This is a market-first approach that almost validates your business idea.
Step 2: Pick a niche
Your business’s niche is the industry, field, or area you specialize. Determining a niche can help you learn about the industry and how to reach the clients you’re aiming for.
Here’s an example: if you want to start running Facebook ads, maybe you want to specialize in real estate agents. You can start researching how to run ads for real estate, the proper terminology, best practices, how to land clients, etc.
Not all online entrepreneurs will land on a niche in the early stages – sometimes it’s easier to pick a niche once you’ve gotten some experience. Either way, it’s something you’ll want to pay attention to moving forward.
Step 3: Research your industry
I’ve already talked about research (in picking a business idea and niche), but there’s more than that. Here are some more things you’ll need to learn about:
- The best legal business structure for you business idea
- How to do taxes for your business
- Best practices within your industry
- What kinds of software do you need to be familiar with
- What networking sites do your ideal clients use
- How to develop your skills, either sharpening existing ones or learning new skills
Running an online business is a constant learning experience. I’ve honestly never been more focused on education, and I used to be a teacher! There’s just always something new you need to know to give yourself an edge. Get comfortable with that prospect from the beginning.
Step 4: Put yourself online
Key step! How you set yourself up online depends a lot on the business idea you choose. Building a website is obviously important– I highly recommend a WordPress blog hosted on Bluehost!
Which social media platform you use is another consideration. Ideally, you have a presence on more than one, but rather than overwhelm yourself, pick one, build your presence, and then move on to the next one.
Step 5: Start finding customers/clients
It’s unlikely that your website will bring in many leads on it’s own when you first launch your business. That’s just how search traffic works.
Fortunately, there are a few other ways to start working:
- Use job websites: Platforms like Upwork, fiverr, Freelancer, and Guru are places for service-based businesses to connect with clients.
- Look to your inner circle: Your inner circle includes people you know — friends, family, acquaintances, work contacts, etc. Let them know about your new business, and ask them to share it with their circle.
- Pitch clients: This is another option for service-based clients. Pitching means you sent a short email that explains how you can help a potential client. There’s a lot of good info online about how to pitch.
- Advertise: Running Facebook ads for your own business is an affordable option. You can learn how to get started in The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ads for Entrepreneurs.
Online business ideas – the final word
I want to reiterate that starting an online business takes time and hustle. There’s no magic pill for starting a successful business, and I honestly believe that you get out of it what you put into it.
There are some ideas that take more time to be profitable than others – starting a blog is a really good example.
But I’ve also seen ideas on this list, Facebook ads for example, be a business idea that you can get up and running in just a couple of weeks. I’ve also seen students who have taken that course go from earning $1,000 a month to hitting a $5,000 and $10,000/month milestone.
It’s pretty incredible to watch people start something on the side of their day job and turn that idea into something that lets them quit their day job.
Like I said, though, it’s about the work you put into it with any online business. You’ve already started by researching ideas, and now it’s time to move on to the next step and pick one to start.