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20 Online Business Ideas You Can Start Today

20 Online Business Ideas You Can Start Today

The Internet has opened many possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. With low startup costs and huge earning potential, launching an online business is an appealing prospect for many. But with so many options, how do you even begin choosing an online business idea that's right for you? This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process and share some of today's most promising online business ideas.

Getting Started: Key Questions to Ask Yourself

When brainstorming online business ideas, the first step is serious self-reflection. Asking yourself key questions can help narrow down ideas that align with your skills, interests, and lifestyle. Here are some to consider:

  • What specific skills and background knowledge do I have that I could monetise? Technical skills like programming and web development are very lucrative online.
  • What topics or industries am I passionate about? Your enthusiasm will inspire you every day.
  • How much time can I devote to running a business? Some ideas have higher time commitments.
  • What is my risk tolerance level? Some ideas require more initial investment.
  • Do I want to sell products, services or both? This affects business model options.
  • Will I work solo or manage a team? That impacts the required bandwidth.

Once you've reflected on questions like these, you'll be in a much better position to narrow down ideas that are a good fit.

Low-Cost Online Business Ideas to Break Into

Blogging Income Survey Results 01

If you're looking to start an online business with very little startup capital, the good news is that there are plenty of options out there for you. Here are some of the most accessible, low-cost online business ideas to consider:

1 – Start a Blog

  • Startup Cost: $100-500
  • Time Commitment: 5-10 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low

Blogs leverage your expertise and personality to attract an audience and can cover any topic that interests you, from food to fashion to finance. Monetise through advertising, affiliate marketing, digital products, and more.

2 – Provide Freelance Services

  • Startup Cost: $0-500
  • Time Commitment: Flexible
  • Risk Factor: Low

Freelance gigs like graphic design, writing, web development, and consulting can easily transition into full-blown businesses. Sign up for freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork to start building your client base.

3 – Resell Products Online

  • Startup Cost: $100-1,000
  • Time Commitment: 3-5 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium

Sourcing products from places like Alibaba or thrift stores and reselling them through sites like eBay, Etsy, or even Amazon allows you to run a business without handling logistics like shipping and inventory.

4 – Launch an e-commerce store

  • Startup Cost: $100-500
  • Time Commitment: 10+ hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium to High
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Building an online store through platforms like Shopify and selling products in niche markets can be very lucrative for savvy entrepreneurs. Just be prepared to invest significant time into marketing and product sourcing.

Online Business Ideas for Creatives

Photography In Visual Marketing

If you have creative skills and talents, the Internet provides the perfect platform for monetising your crafts, artwork, photography, writing, or design abilities. Some top creative online business ideas include:

1 – Sell Digital Products

  • Startup Cost: $0-500
  • Time Commitment: 5-10 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low

Digital products like photo filters, website templates, online courses, guides, fonts, brushes, and more can earn passive income when sold through your website or platforms like Creative Market.

2 – Offer Graphic Design Services

  • Startup Cost: $0-500
  • Time Commitment: 5-20 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low

Freelance graphic designers are in high demand, designing logos, print materials, web graphics, branding content and more for clients across diverse industries.

3 – License Your Artwork and Photography

  • Startup Cost: $0
  • Time Commitment: 1-5 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low

Upload your photos, illustrations, or designs to stock image sites like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock or Dribbble. Then, earn royalties when they license your work for websites, ads, magazines and more.

4 – Sell Handmade Products on Etsy

  • Startup Cost: $100-500
  • Time Commitment: 10-15 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium

Etsy provides the perfect built-in marketplace for selling handmade crafts, artwork, jewellery, clothing, decor and more to a community of buyers already searching for unique items.

Integrating a Shopify candle store with Etsy for artisans specialising in scented creations can expand their reach, providing a seamless platform to sell their candles alongside their other handcrafted goods.

5 – Monetise a YouTube Channel

  • Startup Cost: $100-1,000
  • Time Commitment: 8-10 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: High

Creating fun, interesting YouTube videos within popular niches can gain you subscribers and visibility. YouTube ads, affiliate links and selling branded merchandise can allow you to monetise your influence.

Service-Based Online Business Ideas

What Does A Marketing Consultant Do

The Internet also enables entrepreneurs to provide online services that traditionally require brick-and-mortar offices. This saves costs and expands your reach. Here are some top online service business ideas:

1 – Virtual Assistant Services

  • Startup Cost: $500-1,500
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low-Medium

Offering admin, social media, email management, calendar management, and other virtual assistance to clients is a scalable service business you can run from anywhere with an internet connection.

2 – Web Development/Web Design

  • Startup Cost: $1,000-5,000
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium

Every business needs a website, and individuals need portfolio sites and blogs. Offering web development and design services tailored to different clients' needs can quickly gain traction.

3 – SEO Services

  • Startup Cost: $500-2,000
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium

Search engine optimisation skills are in demand as every site wants to appear in Google's top results. Offer SEO auditing, content optimisation, backlink building and reporting services.

4 – Social Media Marketing

  • Startup Cost: $500-1,500
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium

Managing social media accounts, running ad campaigns, developing content calendars and reporting on ROI comprises profitable social media marketing services you can offer.

5 – Business or Life Consulting

  • Startup Cost: $0-500
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Low
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Monetise your business expertise or life experiences by offering consulting services like business strategy, marketing funnels, health/wellness advice, career coaching and more.

The Most Lucrative Online Business Ideas

Minimal Ecommerce Website Design

While any successful online business has earning potential, some business models tend to generate higher profits once established. If your primary goal is to maximise income, these are some of the most lucrative online businesses to consider:

1 – Software as a Service (SaaS)

  • Startup Cost: $10,000-500,000
  • Time Commitment: Full time
  • Risk Factor: High
  • Profit Potential: $$$$

SaaS companies provide subscription software services to customers, charging monthly recurring fees. High startup costs pay off with sustainable, scalable monthly income.

2 – Lead Generation Sites

  • Startup Cost: $1,000-10,000
  • Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week
  • Risk Factor: Medium
  • Profit Potential: $$$

Generating leads and selling them to companies net big profits with relatively low inventory costs. Industries like insurance, mortgages and education pay well per lead.

3 – Ecommerce Stores

  • Startup Cost: $3,000-100,000
  • Time Commitment: Full time
  • Risk Factor: High
  • Profit Potential: $$$

While competitive, ecommerce stores can drive massive revenues by tapping into solid product demand and effective digital marketing techniques to drive sales. Profit margins on products sold can reach 50-75%.

4 – Display Advertising Sites

  • Startup Cost: $5,000-250,000
  • Time Commitment: Full time
  • Risk Factor: High
  • Profit Potential: $$$

Building niche websites explicitly focused on selling various display ads demands lots of traffic, a significant upfront investment, and extensive technical skills but offers lucrative long-term income potential.

5 – Marketplace Platforms

  • Startup Cost: $50,000-500,000
  • Time Commitment: Full time
  • Risk Factor: High
  • Profit Potential: $$$

Facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers within niche markets generates big profits by collecting fees and commissions on sales through the platforms. Requires substantial initial capital.

Choosing the Best Online Business Idea For You

Determining which of the many potential online business ideas best fits you requires evaluating your skills, knowledge, resources and goals. Keep these factors in mind:

  • Startup costs – How much capital can you commit upfront?
  • Time commitment – Will this be a side hobby or a full-time endeavour?
  • Industry experience – Leverage background knowledge whenever possible.
  • Technical skills – Ideas requiring advanced coding or design may have a steeper learning curve.
  • Risk tolerance – Understand likely failure rates and scenarios before investing substantially.
  • Work style – Do you require structure or prefer undefined autonomy?
  • Income goals – Consider realistic first-year income projections.

The online business world provides no shortage of ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passions. By reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses related to the above factors, you're far more likely to find an idea that aligns with your highest probability of success and satisfaction. Do your homework, trust your instincts, take that first step, and the only thing left is to execute with dedication!


Starting an online business provides tremendous opportunities without requiring substantial capital or qualifications. Nearly anyone can leverage a skillset, passion or talent into a supplemental or full-time income with minimal risk. Established wisely, many online business models demonstrate immense upside earnings potential over time.

With grit and guts, remarkable rewards await those ambitious enough to stake their plot in the online business frontier! So rather than looking for reasons why you can't, dig deep and start listing why you CAN explore these online opportunities. With an inbox full of digital dollars, your future self will thank you!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most accessible online business ideas to start?

Some of the easiest online businesses to start include blogging, freelancing, ecommerce using dropshipping and print-on-demand, affiliate marketing, and selling digital products. These require low startup costs and technical skills.

What online business makes the most money?

Some of the most lucrative online business models include software as a service (SaaS) companies, lead generation sites, ecommerce stores with solid margins, display advertising websites, and transactional marketplace platforms. All can generate millions in annual revenue.

Can you make money online?

Yes, there are many real-world examples of people making six and even seven-figure incomes annually through various successful online businesses focusing on software, ecommerce, consulting, affiliate marketing, and more. Multiple online models can drive profitable revenues.

What small online business ideas are most successful?

Some of the most successful small online businesses include niche blogs, freelance service providers, sellers of specialised consumer products, creators of digital downloads for hobbies or crafts, designers of graphics and templates, and speciality online tutors or consultants in areas of expertise.

What online business can I start today?

Some online businesses you can start building today in your free time as side income streams include starting a blog, pursuing freelance gigs, building an audience to monetise later, creating designs for t-shirt print-on-demand sites, and developing potential digital products for eventual sale.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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