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Online Business Ideas

Starting an online business can enable you to make money on your own terms. Check out this guide to explore online business ideas that can earn a profit.

By 2026, it is estimated that more than 8.1 trillion dollars will be generated due to online retail sales. Not only is that number immense, but it is also estimated to grow more than 50% in less than five years. If you are thinking of launching an online store or developing an online business idea of your own, now is a greater time than ever.

In this article, we discuss how to start an online business and provide you with some inspiration with our list of online business ideas. Continue reading to learn all about how to get an online business up and running.

Why start an online business?

With nearly 60% of all online users making a purchase online at least once a week, it is no surprise that so many businesses, organizations, and corporations alike are incorporating online shops and elements into their own brands. Starting an online business is not only a way to drastically increase potential sales, but it also provides an opportunity to maximize your reach, both online and off.

Whether you are developing online inventory for an existing local business, launching an all-virtual e-commerce store, or even building a blog and online community, creating an online business is one of the most profitable and viable business models to consider today. A few advantages of starting an online business that stand out include:

  • Low startup costs: Compared to investing in a building or location for a traditional business, online businesses have a much lower startup cost (in most instances), and can also be launched remotely and from home.
  • Easy scalability: Looking to grow and expand an existing online business? No problem. With a variety of server solutions and business models that work online, it is easier than ever to scale your online business.
  • Maximize your reach: If you're interested in targeting an international audience or if you want to simply expand your ability to reach new prospective customers, starting an online business is usually an ideal way to go.
  • Flexibility: An online store provides the ability to work from virtually anywhere, run your online store at all hours, and even allow you to move around and travel without the risk of a loss of revenue.

How to start an online business

Starting an online business is not as simple as pressing a few buttons, but it is also accessible enough for those who have little to no experience to succeed. Before you can launch a business, compare ideas for online businesses that are suitable for you based on your budget and your abilities, as well as any hobbies or passions of your own you are looking to incorporate into your future venture.

Determine what to sell

Before you can understand how to start an online business, you will first need to determine what it is that you intend to sell or what type of services and/or content you plan to offer to your online visitors. Ask yourself the following questions when you are getting started with an online business for the first time:

  • What industries and/or markets am I interested in reaching?
  • What product(s) or services will I be promoting and selling?
  • Who is my current competition, both online and off?
  • How will I be reaching the audience I intend to appeal to?
  • Is there a need or a demand for the type of products and services I am interested in offering?

Conduct market research

Conducting market research is the next step in building an online business, especially if you are new to any industry or the market you are planning to enter is already saturated and highly competitive. Research specific markets you are interested in targeting, the demographics you intend to reach, as well as the current demand for the products, content, or services you are offering.

Study popular keywords, hashtags, and commonly searched phrases that are relevant to your own business offerings to determine what type of content to create to attract prospective customers and clients of your own.

Create a website

Once you have a basic idea of the online business you intend to create, you will then need to buy a domain and choose a web hosting service provider that is right for you. Building an official website is key to success online, even if you are not selling products or offering services from your company directly online.

A website is a place that visitors can use to learn more about your business and discover new ways of purchasing products from you or supporting your venture, both online and off.

You can also use your website to build an online blog or community, allowing you to garner a following of individuals who have a genuine interest in your products, services, or content. Having a website opens plenty of new doors and opportunities when it comes to promotion and maximizing your reach online.

Set up an online store

When you create an online store for your business, you allow just about anyone the opportunity to purchase directly from you, regardless of where they may be located. Setting up an e-commerce storefront is a great way to streamline online sales efforts while providing you with more opportunities to reach a much wider audience, especially if you are willing to ship products to customers internationally.

Launching an online store is highly advisable for just about any business that sells products today, as it may otherwise be next to impossible to generate sales from those across state lines or even out of the country.

Market your business

Marketing is one of the most fundamental aspects involved in running any type of business today, including online businesses. From traditional digital marketing using banners and text ads to video and social media marketing, marketing your business should always remain a top priority, regardless of where you are at on your journey to success.

Before you can begin crafting a winning marketing strategy, consider the following:

  • What demographics (age, gender, location, and interests) do I intend to target with my marketing campaigns?
  • Which platforms are best to market to my intended audience based on the users I want for each?
  • How can I appeal to my audience without sounding too pushy, corporate, or disconnected?
  • Is there a particular voice I should use when promoting and advertising my business to prospective customers or clients?
  • Which metrics are most important to me when it comes to launching an ad campaign? Am I focused on CTR (clickthrough rates) or am I interested in long-term sales funnels and, ultimately, revenue generated?

Advertising can make or break any type of business, whether you are operating a local furniture shop and boutique or a massive international online marketplace. Knowing how to effectively connect with your target audience can go a long way in terms of sales as well as the trust, loyalty, and relationship you have with your customers. Once you are familiar with various marketing platforms, social media networks, and methods of reaching an online audience, you can begin crafting a digital marketing strategy that results in the biggest returns.

Streamline your online presence

Create social media pages and accounts for your business using the same username, logo, and colors (where applicable) while setting up your online presence. Streamlining your online presence is one of the fastest ways to boost your online credibility while also ensuring your business appears professional and legitimate, especially if you are new to any industry.

Wherever possible, choose a username that is the same as your business organization's official name. If you are in the process of selecting a name for a new online business, be sure to conduct adequate research online to determine if the name has already been used in your industry or if it may cause confusion due to existing competition already on the market with a similar name or tagline.

Quality imagery matters

First impressions matter, especially when it comes to browsing and shopping online. With thousands of ads and promotions being viewed by individuals on a daily basis, launching high-quality ad campaigns is a must. Whether you are creating a banner ad for an upcoming promotion or uploading logos and images to your company's social media platforms, you should always verify that the images, graphics, and vectors you are using are of high quality.

Get involved with online communities

If you are new to launching an online business and you want to become more comfortable with the prospect, immersing yourself in existing online communities that are relevant to your own company is highly recommended. Joining online groups, communities, and message boards that involve users you intend to target and reach with your own business can provide valuable insight into the wants and needs of your audience.

The more actively engaged you become with relevant online communities, the easier it will become to effectively communicate with those who have a genuine need for the products or services you offer.

Online business ideas

With so many markets and opportunities online, selecting the online business ideas that are right for you can feel overwhelming, especially if you are unsure of where to begin. Familiarizing yourself with the various industries that thrive online can help to guide you in the direction that is most likely to work for you. That’s why we’ve provided a list of potential online business ideas below.

Start dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the most popular and oldest methods of generating an income with an online business. A dropshipping business allows you the ability to sell products without requiring you to maintain inventory and manage numerous warehouses in order to generate sales. Dropshipping providers stock a wide range of products that can be sold for a royalty or for a percentage of the sale, depending on the business model you prefer.

Running a dropshipping site is possible by working directly with a dropshipping provider as well as by launching your very own online storefront to promote the dropshipping products of your choice.

Pros of dropshipping

  • Little to no startup cost, making this is optimal choice for newcomers to the world of online business
  • Thousands of products to choose from
  • Ship internationally using dropshipping services, allowing you more opportunities to reach a wider audience

Cons of dropshipping

  • Lack of creative control over product quality and product type
  • Not always easy to determine which dropshipping provider is legitimate and trustworthy
  • Limited in the type of products you have available to stock and sell in your own online store

Be a marketing consultant

Working as a marketing consultant is another gig to consider for those who have experience with online marketing and growing an online business, brand, or presence of any kind. A marketing consultant is responsible for working with clients on an individual basis to determine the best course of action to promote an idea or business of their own, both online and off.

As a marketing consultant, you will be required to have a deep knowledge of the basics of marketing (locally and via the internet), social media platforms, ad-buying techniques, as well as analytic platforms used to track marketing and campaign results.

Become a freelance writer

Freelance writing is another way to generate an income while building a business online for yourself at your own pace. As a freelance writer, you will have the ability to set your own hours, choose which clients you would like to accept and take on, and set your own rate.

Whether you prefer to charge for individual projects you accept or if you charge per word based on the type of work you are familiar with, you have plenty of creative control and flexibility when working as a freelance writer, especially when doing so online.

Create an online course

Launching an online course of your own is a great way to share information while also garnering a following of prospective customers and loyal users. If you are skilled in a particular area, developing an online course provides an opportunity to share your wisdom in exchange for a teaching fee.

Some of the most popular websites for selling online courses today include Teachable, Podia, Kajabi, and Thinkific. Take the time to compare each of your options to determine which business model works for you and the type, of course, you intend to list, promote, and sell.

Become an online personal trainer

If staying fit and healthy is a priority and passion for you, consider becoming an online personal trainer. Working as an online personal trainer provides you with schedule flexibility and the ability to work from just about anywhere. As an online personal trainer, work with various existing platforms or choose to host your own webinars and video classes, based on your current following as well as the business model you prefer.

Build websites

If you are familiar with basic web-building programming languages such as HTML5, CSS3, Java, and even JavaScript, consider the opportunity to build a website for individual clients. Developing and designing websites is not only a way to develop an independent business of your own, but it is also a potentially lucrative opportunity.

From building single-page websites and blogs for individuals and small businesses to extensive portfolios and e-commerce storefronts for existing businesses, the ability to build websites can provide you with virtually endless opportunities when it comes to finding work and new clients.

Sell clothing

Do you collect a variety of fashion items and pieces of clothing? Are you tired of the clutter in your home? If so, consider selling the clothing you collect or no longer wish to own online. Various platforms such as Fashionphile, Poshmark, Swap, and eBay are all suitable platforms to sell used and new clothing for any business model you have in mind.

Become a translator

Is English your second language, or do you know other languages aside from your native language? If so, you may qualify to work as a translator right from the comfort of your own home. Becoming a translator is possible using various platforms such as, Upwork, and even, especially while you are establishing yourself. Translator jobs can pay anywhere between $17 to more than $50 per hour, based on skill level and experience.

Sell handmade goods

For those who are the creative type and enjoy making items to give away or sell, selling handmade goods is still a viable online business idea, especially if you have a keen eye for design. You have the option of using third-party platforms to launch your own handmade goods store.

Use Mailchimp to launch your online business

If you are building a business of any kind online, using an all-in-one marketing tool and solution such as Mailchimp is essential. With Mailchimp, manage your marketing strategies, and even a variety of newsletter and advertising tools to help optimize all of the campaigns you intend to launch. Using Mailchimp, remove the guesswork from managing the marketing aspects of running your business and streamline your company's integration online in any market or industry.

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