(Updated for 2018)
If you’re not participating in the digital economy, you gotta ask yourself why.
More bluntly: If you’re broke or hate your job but you’re not doing anything about it, you’re being selfish (sorry not sorry).
That’s where some online business ideas can help.
If you do anything with this post, watch this quick video. It summarizes it perfectly:
(Learn more about our method here)
Back to the ideas. So, this guide is two parts:
Part 1: ranks the top 18 online business ideas
Part 2: goes into online business monetization trends
The following online business ideas are ranked according to market trends, highest probability of success and projected earning potential.
Here we go:
18. 3D printing services
Sometimes called “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing is changing the world.
They’ve been hot for a minute, though:
And good news: the vast majority of the world don’t have 3D printers sitting at home. Market is ripe.
Most predictions say the market for 3D printing will reach $16.2 billion by 2018 (1), and you can take a chunk of that by printing 3D blueprints, prototypes, and anything else your customers need. You’ll probably want to start by focusing on one niche, like: 3d printing for dolls, etc.
You can get a decent 3D printer these days for around $3,000 large (2), but be warned: if prices continue to drop and ease of use continues to increase, it may not be long before 3D printers reach critical mass.
Business executives are expected to be “thought-leaders,” publishing work on multiple platforms from Medium to LinkedIn.
Social profiles need to be on point, bios need to stunt hard, too. Most CEOs and C-levels ain’t got time for that. And thats good news for online proofreading/editing businesses.
This space will only get bigger.
16. e-Commerce store owner
“Everything is moving online”, people are saying.
Forget that. It already has. This year alone, e-commerce shopping in the U.S. is predicted to increase by 45% (3).
If you can make something, you can sell it. Or, if you have a keen eye for deals and understand what shoppers want, you can save yourself some sweat by selling consignment goods.
Whether on Etsy or eBay, you can generate multiple streams of internet income through e-commerce.
Two tips: find a dropshipper for your product and learn some SEO.
15. Website flipper
Domain flipping is just like house flipping—buy a “property” at reduced cost, mark it up or improve it, sell it for a primo profit. Platforms like Flippa will get you there.
A bit like trading in stocks, domain flipping requires you to be a helluva good trend analyzer, but if you are, you can kill this.
One domain flipper grossed $165K off eight domains in only two months (4).
14. Travel blogger
Airbnb may have nuked travel agents, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of dough still to be made telling people where they should go. It’s based on the commission model, and it works like this:
1. Start a travel blog. Niches are easier, so focus on specific activities, demographics, or locales.
2. Optimize the blog for your target partnerships.
3. Write quality, useful content until you have a good following. (This is the hard part—the times of famine—but the payoff at the end can make it well worth it.)
4. Now start posting content that supports your partners. For example, if you post a story on cruising the Mediterranean, partner with a cruise provider to promote a travel deal. They will have no problem throwing you a decent kickback for every verified sale.
Want the chance to make more and work less? Focus on luxury travel and big-ticket offers. That’s where the real cream is.
13. On-demand app creator
People have a crazy appetite for apps, and it only gets bigger the more they consume. In 2011, global app downloads amounted to about 2.5 billion.
They’re predicted to shatter the 250 billion downloads mark by 2017 (5). That’s 100-times growth in just about five years.
Everyone wants to make an app these days, and if you know how to write code for one, you can write your own ticket, too. Apps are a fast moving money train, and it’s a good time to climb aboard.
Still, its getting crowded quick, and making an app certainly doesn’t mean success.
12. Video editing provider
By 2019, 90% of all internet traffic is going to be video (6).
You’ve probably seen those annoying, transcribed videos on your Facebook timeline, right?
(the ones you can watch on mute)
Yeah those. If you can make those you’ll be employed for as long as you want.
If you can lay down killer cuts with Final Cut, Avid, or Adobe Premiere, starting an online video editing business is a no-brainer.
For remote collaboration with customers, I like video review and approval platform, Wipster.
11. Tax preparer
If you don’t mind the minutia, there will always be time-strapped people and small businesses that need help with their taxes.
No glamour, but high-demand.
You gotta get certified, though. If it’s your thing, it’s worth it, though: Experienced pros can charge $100 an hour or more (7).
10. Web designer/coder
There is a never-ending need for new websites with quality graphic and interface design.
And while you’ll have to have an innate sense of aesthetic style and baller UI skills, a lot of what goes into quality web design can be learned—you guessed it—online.
Try CreativeLive for affordable (and sometimes free) courses on the foundations of modern web design.
Once you get designing under your belt, you can start offering your clients website development, too.
As a web developer, you’re writing the math of the site. You can get a pretty good foundation in coding in as little as a few months with inexpensive online training offered by folks like Codecademy.
9. College consultant
No industry is being disrupted more by the internet than education.
One aspect of education where an internet business could really take off is financial aid.
The college debt crisis is everywhere. News, politics, they can’t get enough of it. People are afraid to go into debt now, and a lot of them will pay good money for help through the financial aid maze.
It’s a lot of paperwork. But some people like that stuff (I’m not judging).
If you’re one of them, you can do pretty well. The average consultant makes $81 grand a year (8). But you can quickly expand business into other markets if you’re hungry for more.
Many college consultants—some people say education consultants—are also CPAs. You could offer college consulting, and, you guessed it, tax preparation (number 16), and you’ll be hiring on staff in no time.
8. Internet researcher
What if you could build a business around something you’re already doing half the time anyway? Well, you kinda can.
Get paid to research stuff. Or data mining, as some would say.
All you really need is a MacBook with good wi-fi and a staff of remote researchers.
And, as always, focus on a couple of niches. If you specialize in only a handful of information types, you’ll deliver better results.
Content creators, marketers, publishers, attorneys, political groups, and probably a few college students—the potential client list is endless. Start with very competitive pricing, but as your project load builds, ramp up to charging more.
7. e-Rental business
We all knew that people were renting private homes through companies like HomeAway and Airbnb, but people are renting other stuff, too.
A Lambo for the night, a Makita for the weekend project, an Airstream, maybe a parking spot for the big game—people pay well for the luxury of using something without having to own it.
You gotta have money to invest for this online business, but if you’ve got resources, there’s excellent ROI.
Be warned: there’s a lot of legwork managing the various listings and maintaining the rentals, but with help from all the Airbnb-like platforms, the rest is taken care of.
6. Virtual concierge
What’s the one thing everyone needs more of?
That one thing that people will hand over Amex black cards for?
A virtual concierge business provides clients with an all-in-one solution for, well, life. From business and personal arrangements to hard-to-get reservations—the potential list of offerings goes on.
You’ll need to think, “growth”—both geographically and regarding services. One Concierge, operating globally and with a host of offerings, is a good role model. And judging from their membership page, business is good.
Their membership packages are up to $18 grand a year (9).
5. Interior design consultant
With the advent of virtual reality and 360-degree video, professions that once required real-world interactions no longer do.
Interior design is becoming one of them.
If you have the skill and style, online interior design is a profitable place to be.
You’ll probably wanna start blowing up your Instagram and Snapchat to showcase your skills.
And as always, make your style harder to follow. Be different.
“Come again”, you might be thinking.
Drop shipping is a business model where you buy your inventory direct from manufacturers who ship out to your customers without the middlemen.
Think: Amazon, Alibaba.
It’s toward the top of this list because you could literally get going with little to zero start-up money.
1) blog about stuff
2) sell stuff thats not yours on Amazon or Alibaba
Payouts are small, though.
3. SEO consultant
Peep the mountainous up-tick search “how to SEO” has enjoyed:
SEO refers to all the things one can do to improve a webpage’s search engine ranking.
From on-page tactics like copywriting headlines and meta-tags, to off-page tactics like building authoritative backlinks and generating social shares, everyone wants their site to be in the number one spot on Google. Lucky for you, they’ll pay you to help them get there.
SEO can be learned, too, so with a little study, but mostly from DOING.
2. Content provider
Content is everything.
If you’re a crazy-good writer, you can (and should) charge crazy-good prices. Proof is the pudding, though, right? Where has your work been published? If you haven’t been published, your “perceived value” will be less.
To solve this,
1) start guest blogging for outlets until you work your way up to Huffington Post, Fortune and Forbes-level
(do-able in a year or less if you’re a killer writer)
2) send your published work when you inquire for jobs
Also, stay in your lane. Proclaiming you’re an expert at everything will make people trust you less. Find your niche (health, finance, small business, marketing, etc) and become a 1%-er writer in that space.
Then watch those deposits blow up your Paypal.
1. Lead generator for local businesses
Lowest barrier of entry? Check.
Weakest competition? Check.
This is a painfully simple business model.
Step 1) build out local lead sites (like pest control services in Dallas, TX)
Step 2) set up a virtual business/phone # and collect legitimate leads
Step 3) pass leads on to businesses, and collect checks
Yes, you’ll need to learn some local optimization strategies, but your competition is usually 4-5 other businesses, depending on what niches you get into.
Think about that: you vs. 4-5 other businesses, not you vs. the world wide web.
I’ve personally seen dozens of people kill their daytime jobs using this method. Scout’s honor.
Rinse and repeat this method over and over (multiple sites) or start SEO consulting (our 3rd best online business idea on our list).
Not a bad way to go.
Part 2: Online business monetization trends
The short story: sell your expertise.
That’s where all trends are pointing.
Ebooks, online courses, remote coaching, virtual tutorials or even a “membership only” site—these are all effective ways to “sell your expertise.”
Step 1) become an authority at something (1%-er)
Step 2) provide tons of free expertise on your site
Step 3) offer a paid, “premium” version of your already-amazing content
This type of monetization will only increase. To give you an idea of the market: self-published ebooks now account for 45% of sales on Amazon, up from about 25% only a year ago (10).
Examples of people doing this well:
– Management Consulted (11). A top site for information on resumes, interviews, case studies, and finding jobs. Revenue comes through ebooks, courses, and personal coaching.
– Goins, Writer (12). Freelancer, Jeff Goins, makes a living as a wordsmith, but most of his revenue comes from ebooks and online courses.
– Dog Agility (13). Susan Garrett trains dogs on agility courses, but she makes bank training remote clients how to do the same through online workshops and courses.
Don’t sleep on membership sites. I mean, just 100 members at $40 a month is $4K. Crazy.
And most certainly, don’t sleep on providing leads for local businesses.
If there is an easier, more sustainable way to make online money, seriously lemme know.
I’ll Paypal you $500 if you show me a better online business idea than our method.
Either way, hope this guide has prompted you to take action.