25 Best Online Business Ideas for 2021

If you’re hoping to start your own business, or maybe you’re just looking for some inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. This post covers the 25 best online business ideas that you can start doing right away.

There’s never been a better time to start an online business. All you need is the right idea and a plan of action.

Some of the gig economy jobs you’ll read about require only an internet connection. Others take specific know-how. That’s why the best idea for you is the one that fits both your lifestyle and your skillset.

But one thing’s for certain: Great businesses are built on passion. By identifying yours early, you’ll be well on your way in no time.

In This Article

25 Best Online Business Ideas

To help you navigate toward your next opportunity, let’s dive into the 25 best online business ideas.

  1. Open an e-Commerce Website
  2. Affiliate Marketing
  3. Start a Blog
  4. Dropshipping
  5. Sell Clothes
  6. App Development
  7. Start Your Own Website
  8. Become an SEO Consultant
  9. Create an Online Course
  10. Build a YouTube Channel
  11. Copywriting
  12. Graphic Design
  13. Start a Podcast
  14. Online Tutoring
  15. Sell Products
  16. Social Media Marketing
  17. Write an eBook
  18. Sell Records
  19. Be a Freelance Editor
  20. Online Consulting
  21. Sell Your Photography
  22. Become a Virtual Assistant
  23. Flip Domain Names
  24. Design Websites
  25. Become an Influencer

1. Open an e-Commerce Website

  • Best for: Entrepreneurs with a diverse skill set, from product marketing to website development
  • Earning potential: Some newbies don’t make a dime in e-commerce, but others earn between $1,000 and $100,000 monthly. Regardless, it can take 18 to 24 months before you start turning a profit. The first year makes or breaks you.

If you’ve always dreamed of owning your own retail store, an e-commerce business could be the perfect fit. Whether you’re looking to sell your own products or outsource your inventory, you can connect with customers through a high-quality website.

As you might expect, start-up costs for an online store are significantly lower than for a brick-and-mortar establishment. While traditional business owners have to consider the cost of physical space, an e-commerce store operates entirely in the digital world.

To get started, you can use an e-commerce platform like Shopify, which takes much of the legwork out of web design and payment processing.

The main thing to consider when starting an e-commerce site is its growth potential. For example, it doesn’t take much to launch low-cost products like t-shirts. But, it could be tough to scale and gain momentum in a crowded market — unless you have a unique angle that could sell en masse.

With this in mind, research keywords and market trends and ensure that your particular product is in high demand. You can also think ahead and be ready for the next trend before others beat you to it.


2. Affiliate Marketing

  • Best for: Website designers and digital marketers familiar with pay-per-click (PPC) media buying
  • Earning potential: Low-level affiliates can earn up to $50 per day, while high-level affiliates can rake in $1,000 or more per day.

Affiliate marketing is the process of connecting potential customers with brands and collecting commissions when they buy something or interact with a website.

You might be familiar with massive affiliate marketers like Swagbucks, but you can also get started on your own. If you already have a large social media following or publish content regularly, chances are there’s a brand that’s willing to partner with you.

An easy place to start is with Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates, which is intended for content creators, bloggers, and publishers.

The platform makes it easy to earn money by infusing custom-built Amazon links into your content.

To illustrate, suppose you build an in-depth review site on the next-greatest wireless headphones. Using Amazon Associates, you can seamlessly embed products to sell within your content and automatically earn a commission whenever a reader buys something through your ads.


3. Start a Blog

  • Best for: Consistent and concise writers well-versed in a topic
  • Earning potential: Between $10 and $500 per post depending on the length and monetization methods

Although some were ready to declare blogging dead in the 2010s, this couldn’t be further from the truth today. Instead, blogging has simply merged into the broader world of content marketing.

The key to a successful blog today is to have a multi-channel platform. While blogs that consist entirely of text still exist, the most effective ones utilize video and other media on top of traditional posts.

To modernize your blog, you’ll need to do a few things. First and foremost, you need to generate traffic through SEO and keywords. But this won’t be enough on its own to get your blog off the ground.

In order to soar to higher heights, you have to focus on your content — the most important aspect of a revenue-generating blog. To appeal to subscribers and potential ad partners, you need consistent, engaging, and well-made content across platforms.

However, being knowledgeable on a particular subject isn’t enough. If you can’t communicate it coherently and concisely, you won’t find nor connect with the audience you want.


4. Dropshipping

  • Best for: Entrepreneurs who want to keep start-costs down and have a knowledge of inventory and supply chain management
  • Earning potential: With an average profit margin of 15-30% on each sale, dropshippers typically make between $1,000 and $5,000 per month.

A Dropshipping business is effectively a lower-cost version of an e-Commerce platform. With dropshipping, instead of buying or producing your inventory, you outsource the manufacturing and shipping from someone else.

This way, you won’t get stuck with a product you can’t sell. Of course, the trade-off here is that you won’t make as much per item sold. Dropshippers typically make up for this by selling products at a higher price point or implementing a volume-based business model.

To remain competitive, sell what you know. Focus on niche merchandise and provide excellent customer service so that your customers keep coming back for more.


5. Sell Clothes on Poshmark

  • Best for: People with a sense of fashion and access to new or used clothes, accessories, and shoes
  • Earning potential: Dedicated sellers on Poshmark usually net about $500 to $1,000 each month

One easy way to start a business without spending a lot of money is to sell things you already own.

If you have a closet full of clothes you don’t wear anymore, you can turn them into cash with Poshmark.

The key to creating a successful Poshmark closet is offering quality items at competitive prices. Naturally, when you start, you won’t have any ratings tied to your profile. This can present a challenge as shoppers are more likely to buy from someone without a positive reputation.

So, get noticed as the fashionable new kid on the block. Keep your prices low in the beginning to turn heads, but stay away from listing any items that have significant flaws. By doing so, you’ll gain trust and visibility.

Sales will quickly follow, especially if you build an eye-catching profile. Over time, you should have greater flexibility to increase prices and offer a wider selection of items.


6. App Development

  • Best for: Entrepreneurs, innovators, and coders who understand the importance of user experience (UX)
  • Earning potential: As a US-based app developer, you can earn at least $50 per hour. If you create the next best app, it could be worth millions.

Be honest — how many times have you come up with an awesome app idea, told all your friends, and then never did anything about it?

Now could be the time to take one of those ideas and put it into practice. While it’s true that the mobile app market is highly competitive, anyone can enter the market with the right idea.

Obviously, it helps if you have some background in coding and can build the app yourself, but this isn’t necessarily the only way. Some app developers shop around for ideas to build. So, whether you’re on the creative or implementation side, there’s money to be made.

Start with Upwork and Fiverr to learn the landscape of app development costs and services. As a disclaimer, it can be extremely costly.

If you have no clue how to code, you may be better off partnering with a developer who can handle the heavy lifting. This way, you can focus on marketing and business development without spending tens of thousands on development costs.


7. Start Your Own Website

  • Best for: Storytellers who publish information-rich articles and possess SEO and PPC skills
  • Earning potential: Average time to profitability is typically three to six months for search engine visibility. Trafficked sites can earn between $2,000 to $5,000 a month depending on how much content is available and if you have affiliates.

Even if you aren’t interested in selling products online, you can drive revenue through website viewership. By identifying an underserved market, you can build a website around a niche interest that quickly turns into cash.

This process begins with researching keyword rankings. Instead of focusing on popular keywords already served by many sites (e.g., best black Friday deals), carve out a space for yourself by providing a landing space for more infrequent searches that don’t yield as many results.

For example, you could develop a site for an underground genre of music with an active and growing fanbase. Addressing gaps in information tends to be a fruitful strategy, particularly as more and more people visit your site. Upon securing a faithful following, you can implement affiliate marketing that transforms clicks into dollars. You’ll also be able to earn revenue by placing AdSense ad units within your pages.

As your readership continues to grow, you can also look into implementing Outbrain or Taboola ad units.


8. Become an SEO Consultant

  • Best for: SEO specialists or those that one to become one
  • Earning potential: Between $35 and $100 per hour

Like a lot of the ideas covered in this post, search engine optimization (SEO) is a popular and lucrative side hustle.

Basically, the goal of SEO is to achieve the highest level of visibility on search engines like Google and YouTube. The higher a website ranks, the more value it delivers.

With that in mind, SEO should be a top priority for every single business that operates in the digital world. By learning SEO principles and keeping up with constantly shifting search engine trends, you can make yourself indispensable as an SEO consultant.

Big online companies likely have their own in-house digital marketing teams. However, smaller businesses that are unfamiliar with SEO could provide an avenue to grow your consulting business. These same tactics will also benefit your own websites.


9. Create an Online Course

  • Best for: Anyone who has knowledge and experience about a particular subject
  • Earning potential: The scaling potential is huge. I personally know people that are earning over $20,000 monthly from online courses. Not too shabby!

If you have a ton of knowledge in a particular area that other people are interested in learning about, you can start a business around teaching it.

Thanks to digital teaching platforms like Udemy, Teachable, and SkillShare, you can reach people all over the world. Courses can consist of anything from recorded videos to webinars to tutorials and live sessions.

As you think about making an effective online course, try to remember back to your school days. Who were your favorite teachers, and what made them so good?

Like those great teachers, a great online course is informative, interesting, and accessible. Also, don’t be afraid to play to your strengths. If you’re funny, let humor come through in your content. If you’re passionate about your subject, don’t hold back from making it known.

In short, make learning fun, and your business will thrive.


10. Build a YouTube Channel

  • Best for: Content creators and people who love to be on camera
  • Earning potential: Around $2,000 to $4,000 monthly for sites with over 1 million unique visitors

YouTube is the premier online hub for video creators. With over 2 billion monthly active users, it’s the second most visited website on the internet, ranking only behind Facebook.

If you love being in front of the camera, YouTube offers the opportunity to connect with people with just your smartphone. Plus, whether you’re a comedian or an auto mechanic, you can make videos that reflect who you are and what you’re about.

Now, let’s not pretend you can become a YouTube sensation overnight. It’s going to take work, and a lot of it, to get to the point where you can turn your videos into money.

This is why it’s essential to pursue a topic that you genuinely enjoy. To make it as a YouTuber, you’ll need frequent and consistent content. You’re more likely to stick with it and succeed if you’re doing what you love.


11. Copywriting

  • Best for: Writers and digital nomads
  • Earning potential: For US-based writers, from $20 to $300 per hour, depending on your expertise and the results of your work.

Unlike blogging or content writing, copywriting is a form of writing that strategically encourages readers to take action. This can cover everything from email marketing to the words on a billboard.

If you love to write, you can make money freelancing for companies that need copy for their websites or other marketing materials. The best copywriters can churn out words in whatever voice the client wants while telling a story that grabs the attention of potential customers.

To find clients, check out online platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, which connect companies with available freelance writers. When you start, you might need to keep your rate low to get work and build up a reputation.

Over time, the more happy clients you have, the more you’ll be able to charge.


12. Graphic Design

  • Best for: Digital artists
  • Earning potential: Between $15 to $100 per hour

Graphic designers help other businesses attract customers with unique marketing content (e.g., images, logos, and website designs).

To make it as a freelancer, you’ll need to have a decent computer and experience using programs like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

Start by putting together a portfolio of your best work and showcasing it on your own website. From there, you can list your services on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork. You might be surprised to find out how many businesses need quality, reliable designers. I know that mine certainly does!


13. Start a Podcast

  • Best for: People who love interesting and engaging two-way conversation
  • Earning potential: It depends on the number of listeners. New podcasters make next to nothing, but veterans can demand approximately $25 to $40 for every 1,000 listeners. You can also supplement earnings by selling merchandise, asking for donations, and driving listeners to other products and up-sells.

I know what you’re thinking, and I get it.

Yes, it’s undeniably true that everyone and their mother is a podcaster these days. It’s also true that most amateur podcasts never make it to the next step of generating actual revenue.

This is because most podcasters fail to fully understand their chosen market. The Achilles Heel for most would-be podcasters is usually (at least) one of three things:

  1. They didn’t have a target audience
  2. They weren’t able to bring anything new to the table
  3. They didn’t produce consistent content

To put your podcast in the best position to succeed, you need to have a clear mission and vision. This means identifying your potential listeners and distilling what they want to hear.

If you can produce content that sounds new and feels engaging, you’re off to a great start.

But it doesn’t stop there. Like anything online, you need to constantly produce and improve your product.

It certainly isn’t the easiest road to riches, but if you stick with it, a podcast can be one of the most fulfilling online business ideas out there.


14. Online Tutoring

  • Best for: People who are patient and love to teach
  • Earning potential: Around $20 to $30 per hour, but this can increase for more advanced subjects

If you don’t have the time to plan and execute a full course, you can still offer teaching services as an online tutor. Whether you’re working with high school or adult education students, you can share your knowledge through digital sessions.

It’s best to stick to the field you know best. Even if you aren’t a total professional, you can still capitalize on your limited expertise.

For example, maybe you aced Algebra or Physics. You might be able to help someone get through a semester by assisting them with homework, test preparation, and other research tasks.

With online tutoring, you can host one-on-one or group sessions through platforms like Skype or Zoom, or correspond over email or instant messaging — whatever works best for the client.

Tutoring rates are usually determined by your background and referrals, so building up a high-earning business might take some time and effort. To find gigs, start by asking around in your personal network. You can also sync up with Wyzant.com and Tutor.com, and advertise your services on Craigslist and in your local newspaper.


15. Sell products on Etsy

  • Best for: Crafters, artists, collectors, and entrepreneurs
  • Earning potential: It depends on your ambition and product output. Some make as little as $50 a month, while others chase a full-time income.

Etsy is an online marketplace that’s best known for handmade and vintage items.

For artisans, Etsy is a go-to site to showcase and sell stuff. For example, carve wood, make pottery, or knit your own clothes, you can turn your passion into a side hustle.

Setting up a profile and listing your products on Etsy is a lot easier and less risky when compared to building an e-commerce website. The key to a successful Etsy shop is to make sure you’re prepared. You won’t know what demand for your products is until you start listing, so it’s important to know how much you can produce and how quickly.

On top of inventory management, you also have to price things accordingly. Do some research on the site to figure out what similar items are selling for, and also make sure that you’ll be turning a profit.

Listing fees are reasonable at $0.20 per item. Etsy also takes a 5% commission on every sale.


16. Social Media Marketing

  • Best for: People who are social media savvy and enjoy engaging with various social platforms
  • Earning potential: From $20 to $50 or more per hour

As commerce moves increasingly online, businesses are ditching traditional print media and investing in Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook ads.

That being said, plenty of these businesses have no idea what they’re doing. Luckily for them, you can give them a boost by planning and publishing their social media content.

Even if you don’t have a background in advertising, there are plenty of online tools to help you become an expert social media marketer. By learning about calls to action, target audiences, and what makes an ad work, you can make money and help small businesses grow along the way.


17. Write an eBook

  • Best for: Researchers, experts, and writers
  • Earning potential: It depends on how many books you sell. The reality is that most authors earn income from the opportunities that book publishing provides (e.g., public speaking engagements, career advancements, or online course sales). Keep this in mind as you plot out your book-writing strategy.

Just about everyone has thought of writing a book at some point. But without publishing connections or a journalism background, it might seem like an impossible task.

Well, here’s some good news: The book world has changed in more ways than one. While it used to be a necessity to find an agent and a publisher to get your book out there, you can now easily self-publish an eBook on Amazon.

Needless to say, you need to write the thing first.

But once you complete and format your manuscript to Amazon’s standards, you can move forward. Most eBooks start at $0.99, so don’t expect to receive Stephen King-sized checks out of the gate.

To give your book the best chance to soar, use social media to build up a following before it’s published.


18. Sell Records on eBay

  • Best for: Music collectors and vinyl lovers
  • Earning potential: It depends on your LP acquisition cost and the volume of your sales. The average vinyl record on eBay goes for around $15.

Vinyl has made a massive comeback in recent years. If you, your parents, or maybe even your grandparents have boxes of old long plays (LPs) collecting dust in the basement, you can easily give them a new lease on life and sell them on eBay.

Even if you don’t stumble across an original Beatles record, there’s still value in whatever you find. The key to a viable record-selling business is the details — make sure that your listings accurately describe the item and its condition and include high-quality photos.

Once you’ve made some sales, you can start flipping records by purchasing entire collections and selling them piece by piece. You can also check out other marketplaces, like Discogs.com, and look for undervalued vinyl that you can sell for more elsewhere.


19. Be a Freelance Editor

  • Best for: Writers and video editors
  • Earning potential: Around $25 to $50 per hour or more, depending on your experience

In a world of constant content production, editors are in high demand. As a freelance editor, you can get paid either hourly or per project.

Similar to finding copywriting or graphic design gigs, Fiverr and Upwork are great places to find clients. It’s also worth asking your LinkedIn network to see if any of your contacts could use the help.


20. Online Consulting

  • Best for: Industry experts and entrepreneurs who are able to identify and solve problems
  • Earning potential: From $75 to $300 per hour, depending on your area of expertise and your clients’ budgets

If you’re an expert in your field, consulting is one of the most lucrative online business ideas around. Period.

A consulting business won’t be an option for everyone as you need true expertise and the data to back it up. Based on your industry, this could mean referrals, degrees, or awards — whatever it takes to show potential clients that you’re the real deal.

The upside is that people seek out consultants for just about everything online. From new business owners to someone just trying to win their fantasy football league, everyone wants to hear from someone who knows best.


21. Sell Your Photography

  • Best for: Amateur and professional photographers
  • Earning potential: It all depends on the route you want to take and how much you sell. Microstock photos earn from 25 to 45 cents per image download. Physical prints and event photography can yield significantly more.

Would you rather be behind the camera than in front of it? Consider starting an online photography business.

This can come in a few different forms. If you’re more artistically inclined, you can set up a website to sell prints or digital copies of your work. To find corporate gigs, you can sign up with Shutterstock, Getty Images, or Adobe Stock to license your stock photos out to companies who need website and marketing images. This is also known as microstock photography.

You can also build your in-person photography business online. By utilizing Instagram and other social media apps, you can showcase your work and attract new customers. Whether you shoot weddings, concerts, or corporate events, social media is the best way to draw attention to your talents.


22. Become a Virtual Assistant

  • Best for: People who like coordinating, organizing, and communicating with others
  • Earning potential: Around $10 to $25 per hour, depending on the region and number of supported clients

The need for virtual assistants (VAs) is growing fast as more companies move to remote working environments. VAs are most often independent contractors, offering the flexibility to work for multiple clients.

As a VA, you’ll most often take care of administrative tasks like booking travel, responding to emails, or maintaining spreadsheets — all the same tasks as an in-person assistant.

That said, specific duties will vary on who exactly you’re assisting. A small business owner will have different needs than an artist.


23. Flip Domain Names

  • Best for: Forward-thinking entrepreneurs
  • Earning potential: Domains can be purchased as low as $9.99 and sold at significantly higher prices. Part-time flippers can earn between $1,000 and $8,000 per year. Full-time flippers can earn between $30,000 and $100,000 annually.

The most important aspect of an online business idea is getting people to your website. Domain names are a huge component of that strategy.

By strategically creating or purchasing undervalued domain names, you can turn them into digital products to sell for a profit down the road.

For example, suppose you bought a domain name associated with cryptocurrency before anyone was talking about it. Now that crypto is everywhere, the value of that domain is likely much higher.

To be clear, domain flipping is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes vision, an understanding of the online market, and some upfront capital for domain purchases. But it can definitely pay off with the right approach.


24. Design Websites

  • Best for: Tech-savvy individuals who enjoy the process of collaborating with a business owner
  • Earning potential: From $30 to $80 per hour, depending on the scope of the project and your clients’ budgets

Most small business owners don’t have the time or expertise to manage their own websites effectively. Unfortunately, they are losing out on new customers as a result.

By developing a working knowledge of WordPress, or template-based platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify, you can get paid to develop websites for other businesses.

Typically, the greatest need for web design comes with businesses that don’t operate exclusively in the online space — think law firms, auto shops, and restaurants. These businesses can benefit from a strong online presence, and a solid web designer can be a huge value add.


25. Become an Influencer

  • Best for: Social media enthusiasts who can motivate others to buy
  • Earning potential: It depends on the number of followers and chosen platform. For example, on Instagram, nano-influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers earn on average $1,500 monthly. Mega-influencers with over 1 million followers average about $15,000 per month.

Before you laugh and scroll to the next idea, let’s define what it means to be an influencer.

In basic form, an influencer is someone who brands pay to promote products on social media.

It’s commonly thought that you need an astronomical number of followers to become an influencer, which isn’t necessarily true. This is because brands aren’t just looking for raw numbers; they’re looking for engagement.

This is why those who purchase fake followers are rarely successful. An Instagram account with 3,000 highly engaged followers is much more valuable than an account with 20,000 uninterested ones.

In fact, if you have as few as 1,000 followers, you can call yourself a nano influencer, and you can start earning money. The trick is building a network of followers that share an interest in the things you post.

You won’t make thousands of dollars per sponsored post right away. Start with a sound strategy and a commitment to creating quality content, and success should follow.


Where Do I Start?

The internet can be an overwhelming place. It’s common to feel like everything already exists and that it will be impossible to make a splash.

But don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

The key to starting a profitable online business is to focus on something that excites you.

For example, if you hate writing, you probably won’t be a successful blogger. If you love designing clothes, you have a better chance at creating the next hottest thing in fashion.

Will it take some hard work and savvy thinking? Absolutely, but there’s no time like the present.

As you read through the following ideas, you’ll notice a common thread — no matter how you plan to make money online, you need to find a way to hold people’s attention in a crowded sea of businesses that are all trying to do the same thing.

So, how do you act as a propeller instead of just treading water?

Enthusiasm, effort, and creativity — it’s as simple as that.

FAQs

What is the best online business to start?

It depends on your interests and skills. To start a new business that is ultimately profitable, there are a few things to consider.

For starters, build a plan around something that excites you. From there, conduct market research to make sure that your idea is not only desirable but also viable. If your business idea meets those criteria, you’re good to get started.

No single type of business is universally the best. Instead, the best online business ideas depend on what ideas you’re willing to speak into existence. So, find your passion and let it drive you and your business.

What kind of online business ideas are the most profitable?

Generally speaking, the best business opportunities, in terms of earning potential, require specific expertise and drive a massive return on investment for clients.

For example, online consultants can demand high rates because their experience and reputation create a high level of value.

With most online business ideas, you won’t make a killing right away. But with time and experience, you can build up to it no matter which direction you choose.

What are easy online business ideas to start?

It depends on what you mean by easy. In terms of financial ease, the simplest businesses to start are the ones without start-up costs, like a blog or a YouTube channel. That said, these options are unlikely to make money right away.

If you’re looking to turn the quickest profit, your best bet is playing to your strengths and gaps in the market. Think about what makes you tick. Think about what’s missing or not. And then get busy doing it. Soon enough, you will gain new abilities and new cashflow.

Take a look through the best options above, and pick one that best aligns with your lifestyle, level of commitment, and specific know-how. Trust me, you won’t look back!

What kind of small business can I do online?

In short, just about anything! The most prevalent business ideas typically involve either social media, digital marketing, or e-commerce. This list is by no means exhaustive.

If you have a different idea for an online business, don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith. You never know where you’ll land until you spread your wings and try.

Again, these ideas can just be a side hustle for the short term until you gain the confidence to go all in.

My best advice is to gauge your comfort zone and start from there. Visualize the big picture instead of drowning in the details. You have to walk before you can run.

No matter how big or small your online business becomes, you can make an impact and get paid for it.

Which Is The Best Online Business for You to Start?

There has never been a better time to start your own business.

With the right idea and plenty of determination, anything is possible. It will be challenging, for sure. And you may have to sacrifice many months if not years of your time.

But if you put your heart into it and never give up, it’ll come together eventually — just like it did for myself and so many of my close friends.

Now that the wheels are turning, it’s time to get moving — here’s to making it happen.

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