For many would-be entrepreneurs, running an online business is a dream that offers the promise of financial security and independence. The first step towards this dream is choosing an online business idea that matches your skills and can realistically be launched.
We selected the best 25 online business ideas for entrepreneurs like you to try and explained what it will take for you to get started. Fortunately, none of these ideas require a physical storefront and for some ideas, don’t even require a physical product to be offered, just a service.
The 25 Best Online Business Ideas
1. Social Media Marketing
If you’ve got a knack for getting likes, favorites, recommends, retweets, Insta-hearts, followers, reblogs, shares, plus-ones, upvotes, comments, and clicks, then you might want to consider a career in social media marketing. By consulting with companies to manage their social media profiles, spread their content across the Web, keep their brands on track, and respond to customer questions, you can turn your favorite hobby into your day job.
And best of all? Like everything on this list of online business ideas, this job can be done at home, on the road, or at a tropical resort. That’s the beauty of the internet.
2. SEO Consulting
Speaking of the internet, maybe you’re not a social media expert… but you area pro at SEO, or search engine optimization. If you’ve got loads of skill and experience in getting websites to rank highly on Google (as well as Bing) and understand how to turn searchers into customers, then there are plenty of companies willing to pay handsomely for your help.
Whether it’s by editing metadata tags, regularly updating the company blog, or searching for smart keywords to rank highly on, a good SEO consultant can drastically change how a company’s website appears to search engine users—and just a few positions on Google can make a huge difference in traffic numbers. In short, you could have a big impact on a business’s bottom line, which means this online business idea is in high demand.
3. Freelance Designing
Got an eye for aesthetics? Did you go to art school, or have you always spent your free time designing posters in Photoshop or Illustrator?
If so, and if you’re interested in finding the right online business ideas for you, then freelance designing might be a good choice. Take on clients at your own speed, build up a good reputation online and by word of mouth, and work on projects that you find interesting—freelancing has plenty of perks.
4. Freelance Writing
If you’re skilled in words instead, never fear—you can always become a freelance writer. So long as you’ve got an internet connection and the perfect keyboard, nothing is standing in your way. You get to contribute blog posts and, eventually, become a thought leader in whatever industries you’re writing for.
It helps if you’ve got a special area of interest or expertise, so your employerswill know you’re qualified to comment on certain topics. However, the most important factor will always be your writing. Can you write clearly? Do you take the time and effort to really understand what you’re talking about? Are you appealing to the right readers?
If you’re confident in your writing skills, then this online business idea is ideal.
5. Ebook Writing
If company blog posts aren’t your style, then consider working on ebooks instead. With Amazon and other websites around, self-publishing has never been easier than it is today. If you think you’ve got something interesting, useful, and worthwhile to say—and if you believe other people will think so, too—then writing ebooks could become a lucrative business.
Why is that?
It’s simple: the costs of publishing a physical book are much higher. With ebooks, you don’t have to design, print, or ship your hard work. Just write, market, publish, and sell—to anyone in the world. Plus, since you’re publishing the book yourself, you receive a larger cut of the profits when the ebook takes off.
Of course, you will have to learn how to format an ebook correctly, pay for editing and cover design services, and figure out an effective marketing scheme—but these aren’t too hard to get right, and there’s plenty of examples to learn from. (You can probably find a few ebooks on ebooks if you look!)
If you’re a great writer but aren’t so interested in publishing original material, we’ve still got some online business ideas for you.
If you’re fluent in multiple languages, for example, then translating could be the ideal job. You can do it wherever you’d like, so long as you’ve got the text you’re working on and understand the goal of the translation. This is an especially great online business idea if you’re looking to improve your foreign language skills along the way!
Editing comes in many shapes and sizes, from copyediting a company’s marketing materials to proofreading novels to indexing academic manuscripts. As long as you’ve got a sharp eye for detail, a strong grasp of grammar, and a willingness to get in the weeds, then editing could be a great business idea if you’re interested in working when and how you want.
8. Writing a Blog
While a blog isn’t exactly a business, it can definitely support any of these online business ideas you’re choosing from.
Freelance writer or designer? Show off your skills in each post. Interested in coding, photography and video, fitness, food, or anything else? Prove your knowledge by writing great articles on those topics.
The more people trust your authority, the more they’ll read—and the wider your audience, the easier it is to move from blog to business. Even if you’re still deciding which online business ideas to pursue, starting a blog is never a bad idea.
9. Freelance Researching
Freelance researching is another smart online business idea that lets you work from wherever, on your own terms. You don’t need to be a talented writer or a born designer—just hard-working and conscious of how to to find what you need.
Whether you’re putting together research documents for competitor or market research, answering tough technical questions on forums, or analyzing statistics to point out trends, you’ll be doing invaluable work… for a good price, with the freedom to work how you want.
10. Freelance Coding and Web Design
Notice a trend yet? Lots of things you could be doing in an office for one company, surprise surprise, you could also be doing for a bunch of different clients whenever and however you want.
If you’re a software engineer, the perks of working at a startup or tech giant are pretty sizable, but if you’re more invested in flexibility, diversity of projects, taking on work at your own pace, and the freedom of being your own boss, then freelance coding is one of the greatest online business ideas around. Whether you’re into web design—an especially popular freelance coding category—or another kind of software development, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to find clients you’re interested in helping out.
Plus, you can double down as a software consultant as well, offering your critical eye and expertise without necessarily coding.
11. Software and App Development
Want to take freelance coding to the next level of entrepreneurship?
Ditch the clients and work on your own applications, programs, extensions, and add-ons. Whether you sell your work in the App Store or make money through advertisements—or you’re holding out for the long haul and are hoping to get bought by a bigger company—the cash you make will be a direct result of your effort and ingenuity.
Unlike freelancing, though, this is a bit of a tougher nut to crack. It’s not as easy to have a predictable stream of revenue until your app is already out and selling, and by then you’ve already put in a lot of time and energy. You’ll want to be sure that there’s a market out there for the product you’re creating—and that people are willing to pay for it.
That said, the wins can be big. Could your project be the next Minecraft or Angry Birds? Only one way to find out.
If you’re intent on traveling the world, why not document your journey—and profit from those photos?
For those gifted in photography, you might as well turn your passion into a paycheck! Stock photo sites like Shutterstock and iStock will give you a commission on the pictures you sell, so if you’re comfortable sharing your lens with millions of others, this is an easy and convenient way to fund your freedom.
And if you’re particularly talented, you might want to sell your photos on more exclusive sites with higher commission rates—or even your own website or internet store.
13. Business Coaching
Think you’ve got what it takes to help other entrepreneurs improve their businesses?
You’ll probably need a good track record and a slew of testimonials to back you up, but the business coaching industry is on the rise—so now’s the time to join in. You can charge anywhere from under $100 to several times that, depending on your credentials and effectiveness, and it’s perfectly acceptable to coach over the phone or video chat instead of face-to-face.
So if you’re interested in fixing up other businesses, and getting paid for it, then check this online business idea out.
14. College Consulting
$40,000 per course. That’s how much some college coaches make, simply by advising students and their families on how to make it into their dream schools.
While that’s more the exception than the rule, college consulting is a lucrativebusiness—and it can be done over the phone or video chat. You’ll probably want to have gone to a top-tier college yourself (to “prove” to parents that you know what you’re talking about!) and should have strong writing skills, as college applications rely heavily on personal statements and other essays.
College consulting can also include financial aid planning as well, which means you’ll need to be familiar with government grant programs and different financial aid policies.
If you’re into the online business ideas that revolve around calling or video chatting clients to help them out with life problems, then tutoring is another path to consider.
For those studious entrepreneurs who score highly on standardized tests, understand how to teach the best test-taking strategies, and know their material inside and out, tutoring can pull in a lot of money—without too much effort. The better your results, the greater your reputation… And the more you can charge per hour, session, or package.
Plus, with these three online business ideas, you’re essentially dedicating your time and energy to helping other people achieve some of life’s biggest goals. Coupled with the freedom of working from anywhere you want, that’s a pretty compelling job.
16. Online Fitness Trainer
“Online fitness training” might seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a real industry—and if you’re invested in online business ideas, then don’t overlook it.
If fitness and health is your passion, then serving as a fitness trainer to clients could be a fulfilling career. However, you should keep in mind that training people online is much more difficult than being right there with them. Without a lot of experience as a trainer, you might even come across as a bit shady to potential customers.
There’s always the opportunity for you to travel to clients locally instead of running a completely online business, but that might not be up your alley. Or you could offset your lack of a personal presence with a stronger focus on nutrition education!
17. Ecommerce Store
One of the most common online business ideas around, running an ecommerce store is relatively easy and cheap… At least when compared to opening up a brick-and-mortar shop.
If you’re handy or creative, you could craft your products and sell them on sites like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay, straight out of your home. The biggest challenge would be getting discovered, depending on your niche and how viral your products are. But thankfully, there’s tons of advice out there, from pricing your work properly to taking the best photography possible.
18. Virtual Thrift Shop
Maybe you’re not into handicrafts but the idea of an online store is still appealing?
Not to worry—online thrift shops and consignments stores, like thredUP, are just one model you can follow to achieve that goal. There are other businesses that crawl through sites like eBay to find cool, unique, interesting objects, then present them in compelling ways. Good copywriting and a strong brand can go a long way to separating you from the crowd here.
So if you’re more into curating then creating, these online business ideas would be a solid fit.
19. Affiliate Marketing
Social media gurus, take notice: you don’t have to be a consultant to benefit from your social networking skills.
Instead, you can get paid by companies to leave positive reviews and highlight products on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or other social channels. The higher your profile, the more of an impact your brand recommendation will make… And the more you’ll make with product placement. So long as your fans aren’t turned off by this advertising, affiliate marketing is one way to have your cake and eat it, too.
Plus, like all the rest of these online business ideas, you can be an affiliate marketer from anywhere you want. No office required.
20. Internet Domain Selling
Dealing in internet domains is like buying and selling real estate—except you can do it from your computer at home.
Here’s the low-down: some internet domain names are more popular, sought-after, and valuable than others. Successful internet domain name flippers buy high-value domains for cheap at online auctions after lots of forethought and research, then sell to the biggest bidder for a nice profit. For example, www.hotels.com was sold for $11 million in 2001.
In order to make a living off of domain selling, you really need to dedicate your time, energy, and attention to the market. You can’t just buy domain names willy-nilly, or you’ll be left with a handful of websites that nobody wants.
Instead, you’ll have to research the SEO optimization of the sites you see on auction, predict which companies and industries will be looking out for new domains, and get creative with out-of-the-box names that you can buy for little but turn around easily. Plus, patience is a virtue: it can take months, or even years, to get the right price (or any price!) for some domains you’ve purchased.
But the perk of this online business idea, of course, is that it’s 100% online. It’s just you, your computer, and your hard work.
Although entering the industry as a virtual accountant can be tough because of competition from foreign contractors, there are firms that offer these services. You also might be able to take your current clients, if you’re already operating as an accountant, and offer to cut their costs by working from home or remotely elsewhere.
Naturally, online business ideas like these require formal training and certification, but if you’re a proven and dedicated accountant, then it shouldn’t be impossible to work online most (if not all) of the time.
If you’re a natural conversationalist who likes helping others, virtual telemarketing is another good online small business idea to consider. Plenty of companies outsource some of their sales and customer service staff, so if you don’t mind working the phone at home or on the go, then try this option out.
23. Online Personal Assistant
Organized. Efficient. Hungry to live life on your own schedule.
If those three things describe you, then think about becoming a virtual assistant. What exactly you’ll do depends on what your skills, experience, and network of contacts are, but you can expect tasks from data entry to customer management, research, scheduling, and more. And of course, like all online business ideas, you can do this one from anywhere.
24. Data Entry
Although it doesn’t pay an awful lot, data entry is an online business idea you can carry out from home. If you’re looking for a job that won’t require much time or attention from you, and that you can make predictable income from while at home or traveling, then data entry is a good place to start.
25. Stock or Foreign Currency Trading
Like internet domain name selling, stock trading could be a casual online hobby—or a career. If you’re willing to put in the time and you’re talented at carrying out deep research and predicting trends, you could turn this side hustle into a full-time gig.
Operating as a pattern day trader requires you to keep $25,000 in your account at all times, though, so if that barrier to entry is a bit too high then you might want to consider trading on foreign exchange or currency marketsinstead.
All that said, stock trading won’t offer you as much flexibility as many of the other online business ideas here. Although you can work from home and be your own boss if you trade stocks or foreign currency on your own dime, it’s still a high-commitment job with long hours and a steep learning curve. You’ll need to put in the time to understand all the different trading requirements, systems, and regulations you’ll be interacting with.
By Ben Rashkovich