We’ve broken down our top 40 online business ideas into eight categories and evaluated each one based on startup costs, skill level, and earning potential.
eCommerce is the sale of goods and services online. From digital books to vintage goods, there are unlimited products you can sell on the internet, and tons of platforms you can sell them on. Whether you want to start your own eCommerce website or leverage an existing platform, this can be a highly profitable gig.
This job is great for motivated self-starters who want a flexible schedule and are already familiar with eBay. Knowing what sells well, how to best price products, and how to get your listings noticed will promote success in this business. It’s also a business you can build around your personal interests and experience, making it both fun and lucrative.
Growth potential is limited only by the time and scope of the seller. Finding a specialty or niche area selling popular products you’re passionate about is a great strategy for success. With low startup and maintenance costs, there is virtually no limit to your earning potential once you get things rolling.
Anyone who enjoys making handmade goods or finding vintage items may enjoy running an Etsy business. This is an excellent outlet for artists looking to sell their work, or anyone who’s passionate about producing and selling well-crafted goods. Sellers must have the skills required to find or create the products they sell, basic computer skills, and experience with marketing and/or advertising to help promote their products.
These basic skills plus a strong entrepreneurial spirit can convert your hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. While you may opt for a limited part-time gig, earning potential is real, with some sellers bringing in six figures. Etsy even offers a program to help sellers launch an independent website as their business outgrows the platform.
If you are looking for a way to provide people with goods and services they need, an eCommerce store may be the right business for you. eCommerce stores make a real difference in people’s lives by creating access to a variety of goods and services at low prices. You should have some knowledge of web design, marketing, internet security, and computer programming to get things started, and you’ll need a moderate amount of seed money to cover your website, servers, any employees, marketing, and other business services.
However, with online shopping growing more popular by the day, there are few limits to the growth potential of an eCommerce business if you find the right product or niche.
An eBook store is a wonderful option for creating a stream of passive income. Those interested in writing books and selling them online have a variety of eCommerce options. There are many places you can sell eBooks, including Amazon Kindle, Nook, or your own website.
Expenses can be very low if you are willing to do all the design, illustration, and editing work on your own. If not, you could easily spend over $2,000 on these services. As with any writing venture, profits can vary significantly. The average earning potential for authors is around $10,000 per year. However, some of the more established self-published authors make six-figures to a few million dollars per year. If you love to write, this can be a great, low-risk way to break into the career.
MARKETPLACE WEBSITE BUSINESS
A marketplace website, or online marketplace, is a platform where buyers and sellers can exchange goods and services. Anyone who is passionate about a particular interest may enjoy running a marketplace website. These sites are frequently focused on specific niches, connecting vendors and customers interested in that niche. Highly popular marketplace platforms include Amazon, Uber, and eBay, but smaller sites are popping up all the time, often catering to specific niche sellers.
Startup costs can vary dramatically depending on how you plan to construct your site, but they’re generally high. Coding a high-quality site from scratch can cost over $100,000. Even if you opt for a lower-cost monthly service, you’ll need to invest a great deal to generate enough web traffic to your site to make you profitable. Despite high startup costs, as the business grows, the potential for profit is extremely high. The most successful businesses make billions of dollars each year.
DOMAIN REGISTRATION SERVICE
Starting a domain registration business is a decent idea for web-savvy, well-organized entrepreneurs. Although they’re not typically thought of as eCommerce platforms, domain registration businesses are involved in selling domains and other services online.
You must be accredited in order to run a domain registration business, so your startup and maintenance costs will include upfront and ongoing accreditation fees of several thousand dollars per year. Earning potential is high (GoDaddy has over $1 billion in revenue), but the market is fairly difficult to enter without offering additional services like website design.
ART & DESIGN BUSINESSES
Selling your artistic skills is a great way to make money online. Now more than ever, people are looking online for photographers, videographers, illustrators, and a range of other artists to fulfill their personal or professional needs.
GRAPHIC DESIGN BUSINESS
Graphic design is the creation of art for magazines, websites, physical products or more. This business is best for artistically minded people who also have experience or proficiency in business. You can create logos, text, or any other art you or your client imagines. A degree in a related design field is helpful but not required. Creating a quality portfolio, however, is essential to finding success in this field.
Getting started can cost less than $2,000. You will need a computer and some type of graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator. In the beginning, many graphic designers work with ad agencies or use platforms that connect freelancers with interested parties. It is normal to charge clients between $25 and $100 an hour. As you grow, you’ll have the opportunity to create your own firm and hire additional employees, increasing your earning potential dramatically.
An illustration business is a great way for talented and artistic people to make money. Some potential jobs include illustrating books, creating cartoon characters, or designing storyboards. Keeping up on digital illustration technologies and maintaining a marketable portfolio are important in order to stay relevant in this space.
Startup costs for an illustration business are low, including art supplies and artistic computer software. Including a computer, you can keep these costs under $3,000. Illustrators make around $55,000 per year on average, but specializing in a particular market can help you get to a six-figure income.
PHOTO EDITING BUSINESS
If you have photography and photo editing experience, starting an online photo editing business can be a great and lucrative pursuit. While many photo editors also work as photographers, this is not a requirement. People with social media savvy can do particularly well by finding a wide variety of clients online.
Startup costs are low and include a computer and photo-editing software. If you include a good website and some advertising, you can still easily start the business for under $5,000. A photo editing company does have the potential to grow, but the low overhead costs are usually only available for small-scale businesses. Over time, it’s reasonable to make a 5-figure annual salary that has the potential to close in on $100,000 per year.
3D PRINTING DESIGN BUSINESS
To start a 3D printing design business, it’s beneficial to have model design and creation experience. It is also important to understand the mechanics of a 3D printer and the market for 3D printed products. Many buyers of 3D printed products have specific needs that can only be met by someone that has a deep understanding of the software involved.
Costs to start a 3D printing design business generally begin at around $8,000 and include a printer, software, website, and some early marketing efforts. Just like any company, earning potential is based entirely on how many contracts and products you are able to make and sell. On average, a designer working for a corporation makes around $53,000 per year.
WEB DESIGN BUSINESS
A web design business can be a very lucrative opportunity for anyone with sufficient experience in this field. Since virtually every company needs a website to be successful in today’s market, there are many job opportunities for web designers. Like many design companies, you need little more than your computer to get started.
Startup costs are low, especially since most web designers already have much of what they need to begin. Beyond the hardware and software required, you’ll need to spend some money upfront on marketing yourself to clients. The need for quality web designers is certainly not going to wane any time soon, so finding a steady stream of both short-term and long-term clients is possible with the right efforts. An average freelance web designer makes $75,000 annually. With additional hires and services, that can easily surpass six figures.
VIRTUAL TOUR BUSINESS
Virtual tour businesses are great for those that enjoy traveling for work, creating professional videos, and interacting with customers. Companies and individuals are interested in participating in virtual tours of offices, apartments, schools, hospitals and more. Creating a virtual tour business includes the use of multimedia equipment (such as cameras, lighting, sound equipment, and videography software) as well as familiarity with media hosting websites.
Startup costs include multimedia equipment, travel expenses, and advertising. You will probably need a minimum of $4,000 to purchase all the equipment. Low variable costs mean that most money you charge clients, you get to keep. Successful virtual tour businesses operated by a single employee can expect to make $100,000 annually.
WRITING & EDITING BUSINESSES
These businesses are perfect for people who love to write and enjoy having flexibility in their work. Below are several writing-related online business ideas that would allow a range of entrepreneurs to reach their professional goals.
FREELANCE WRITING BUSINESS
Freelance writing is a great business venture for both established writers and those hoping to break into the field. Self-starters with the time, skills, and motivation to seek out clients and meet tight deadlines will thrive. The vast number of online publications means that no matter your writing style or area of expertise, you are likely to find clients who can use your services.
There are also still plenty of opportunities for freelancers looking to write for more traditional offline publications like newspapers, magazines, and journals. Beyond the cost of your computer, wifi, and advertising the startup and maintenance costs are almost nonexistent. With low costs and great growth potential for those able to find constant or long-term clients, earning potential is good. Established freelance writers can bring in an average of $30,000-$50,000 annually.
For the grammar lovers among us, a proofreading business can prove both satisfying and lucrative. As a proofreader, you are concerned not with what your clients are trying to communicate, but rather how accurately they convey it in terms of spelling, punctuation, typographical errors, and word usage.
This is a great opportunity for those with writing and editing experience, both academically and professionally. While a degree can help, it’s not required. Professional proofreading has picked up with the advent of self-publishing since independent authors cannot rely on their publishers for this service. With extremely low startup costs, those able to carve out the right niche and client base can build a successful career in this field.
GRANT WRITING BUSINESS
Grant writing can be a rewarding business venture for skilled business writers with experience in the nonprofit world. You’ll need strong attention to detail and the ability to be flexible and creative to write successful proposals. There is a great deal of competition for grant money, so those who can make a name for themselves as particularly effective will be best positioned to win new business.
For those able to earn a positive reputation and build a solid client base, there are significant opportunities for growth. Low startup and maintenance costs give this business a respectable earning potential. The average annual income for grant writers is $45,000.
Anyone with a laptop and an idea can start a blog. If you have a passion for a particular subject that you believe you can use to entertain or educate the masses, blogging is a great business to consider.
Getting started as a blogger is simple and practically free, since all you need is your computer and a website. You’ll need to put some time and money into advertising, since most of your revenue will be ad-based, requiring constant web traffic. The more people that read your blog, the higher the amount a business is willing to pay to advertise on your site. Highly successful blogs can bring in over $10,000 per month.
A review website is a place where consumers can leave feedback about companies, products, or services, and read existing reviews about them. This business venture is particularly worth considering for entrepreneurs with web development experience. Popular review platforms in operation today include Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Trustpilot.
Primary startup expenses for a review website include the cost of building and marketing the platform -- you can expect to invest about $5,000 upfront if you plan on starting in your home. Earning potential can easily rise to six figures annually if you choose to turn it into a full-time business.
A successful online magazine publisher has a skill set that includes the talents of a writer, editor, web developer, webmaster, advertising salesperson, and business person rolled into one. Online magazines can focus on such a wide variety of subjects that anyone with the necessary skills to launch one can find an audience for their content.
It doesn’t cost any money at all to start an online magazine. If you can design and create your own website, write articles, take pictures, and self-promote on social media platforms, then you can get started today for virtually nothing. However, the most successful online magazines have at least a small staff of writers to handle a variety of topics. For a new online magazine, most income comes from running online ads. However, as popularity increases, charging subscriptions fees is a great way to boost profits. Ads and fees can generate $35,000 per month if you have around 25,000 subscribers.
RESUME WRITING BUSINESS
Resume writing is something almost everyone has to do, but few enjoy or feel confident about completing. Resume writers need to have both writing and business skills since they’re effectively crafting sales’ letters for their clients. This is a great business opportunity for anyone with the ability to write professionally and persuasively.
Startup costs are extremely low, as you can get up and running with little more than a computer and a website. Since the need for quality resumes is unlikely to slow, this can be a very successful and lucrative business. A prominent resume writer can charge $1,000 per resume, so just one hundred clients per year can get you to the $100,000 mark.
If you love to write, work with people, and prefer to stay out of the spotlight, ghostwriting can be a great business opportunity for you. Ghostwriters are often hired by celebrities looking to capitalize on their popularity by publishing a memoir or other autobiographical text. For this reason, ghostwriting is highly profitable when you land the right clients.
Getting a ghostwriting business off the ground (including setting up a website) can cost less than $100 if you already have a computer. For each project, a ghostwriter will do extensive research and communicate frequently with their client. Experienced, sought-after ghostwriters can charge around $20,000 per project -- significantly more if the client is wealthy or famous. Just five contracts per year and you can be in the six-figure range.
TECHNICAL WRITING BUSINESS
Anyone with technical knowledge and writing skills may consider starting a technical writing business. It’s not an especially competitive market, so those with the necessary skills should be able to break into the field fairly easily. While formal education isn’t required, those with degrees in relevant fields will have a greater chance of earning clients.
More important, though, is experience. Building a solid portfolio of quality work is the key to success in this field. Someone who loves to write and can easily adapt and conform to a company’s style has a potential for growth limited only by their own schedule and workload capacity. Once you’ve established yourself in the business, there’s the potential to average around $70,000 per year with enough work and the right clients.
SOCIAL MEDIA BUSINESSES
In the last decade, social media has become an incredibly profitable industry. Whether you’re creating and monetizing your own social media content or helping companies craft their online personas, there are a variety of ways to turn a profit in this growing industry.
Although it takes a minimal skill-set to launch a YouTube business, the most successful YouTubers have expertise in at least one field. Creating a YouTube business from scratch requires videography and editing skills. The YouTube platform is large enough to support a wide range of categories including news, comedy, tutorials, music, gaming, vlogging and more, so this business is open a wide range of people. Passion for the subject matter is an important ingredient for success.
To get started you will need a camera, a laptop, and additional filming equipment depending on the subject matter of your videos. As such, startup costs can range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more. Attracting viewers and subscribers is the crux of your business, since YouTubers earn money from ads and by partnering with companies. The most successful YouTubers make over $1,000,000 per year from ads and brand partnerships.
If you take great pictures, are comfortable self-promoting, and know a target audience that would be interested in you or a subject you are familiar with, starting an Instagram business could be right for you. Instagram is a place for creatives, individuals, and businesses to share pictures and videos. Almost all money made from Instagram is from brand advertising. Becoming a full-time Instagrammer requires posting “stories” and pictures, interacting with followers, and working with brands to promote their products.
You can get started with little more than your smartphone, but investing in a high-quality camera and computer is recommended. Social-media based businesses are not likely to go anywhere, so solidifying a presence on Instagram can lead to long-term success. There is no ceiling for how much someone can make on Instagram, as success is directly related to follower count and interactions. Many successful Instagrammers make over $100,000 annually.
LIVE STREAMING BUSINESS
For many gaming enthusiasts, earning money while playing video games is living the dream. For the most enthusiastic and driven among them, it can become a reality. To do so, gamers should register with a major streaming service, such as Twitch.TV, and be prepared to spend several hours each day streaming their gameplay and working on building followers. Those who acquire enough followers to become partners (500+ on Twitch, for example) will begin earning money for the traffic they generate.
Earning and keeping a sufficient following requires very strong gaming skills. You will also need to be adept at navigating social media to promote yourself, respond to comments, and build a broad online presence. Those who stream full-time and succeed in becoming partners on their streaming sites can average $3,000-$5,000 per month. Most also earn a portion of the ad revenue they bring it, increasing their earning potential. Some of the most popular streamers out there earn up to $300,000 annually.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING BUSINESS
Social media is almost certainly here to stay, and those with marketing experience and the savvy to understand and navigate multiple platforms are great candidates for a social media marketing business. This venture requires more than just an enthusiasm for social media. Successful social media marketers have a deep understanding of people, how and when they interact with various platforms, how to reach specific demographics, what type of content works best where, and how various platforms evolve over time.
Startup costs are low, and most can begin with their computer and a small advertising budget. With social media ever on the rise, the opportunities to grow your business and make a solid profit are great. The average social media marketer brings in $50,000 per year, with the highest earners reaching up to six figures.
Beyond social media, there are a variety of other marketing businesses that can be run online. Online marketers can work in content creation, sales, advertising strategy, or a combination of these.
AFFILIATE MARKETING BUSINESS
Affiliate marketing is excellent for a passionate person who enjoys being in the public spotlight. You should be good at promoting brands without coming across as a salesperson. Affiliate marketing businesses make money by receiving a percentage of the sales that result in their marketing efforts. This can be a great business for popular bloggers or podcasters who can draw in a large audience of prospective customers for their affiliates.
To get started you don’t need to invest any money at all. You can start on a free social media platform. Affiliate marketing is a great way to produce some passive income. Affiliate marketers spend their time working with brands to create affiliate deals, creating new content to bring in customers, and finding new companies to work with. Although most affiliate marketers bring in less than $20,000 per year, the best of the best are bringing in well over $2,000,000.
CONTENT MARKETING AGENCY
Starting a content marketing agency is for people interested in creating marketing content and strategizing with companies on how to use that content. A daily workload can range from finding new clients, brainstorming marketing strategies, and creating content. To run a successful content marketing agency, you’ll need a range of professional skills and experience in areas like search engine optimization and Google analytics.
Aside from knowledge and experience, startup costs aren’t particularly high. If you plan on hiring people immediately, consider the costs of payroll, office space ($1,000-$6,000) and office furnishings ($10k-$20k). Keeping an updated portfolio is essential to find success as a content marketing agency. As long as you continue to hire more employees and get more clients, there is no ceiling to how much profit your business can produce.
MARKET RESEARCH BUSINESS
A marketing research business is right for anyone that enjoys doing the groundwork for discovering potential customers’ opinions, habits, and wants. Market research is typically done through interviews and surveys, so working well with people is a must. Distributing surveys and conducting in-person or telephone interviews make up most of the day-to-day work.
Expect to spend at least $25,000 to get a market research business started if you want to hire employees right away, which is a good idea to expand your reach. Costs include payroll, office space, insurance, and other fees. Almost all companies (especially new companies) need continued market research to stay relevant, so market research businesses will always be in demand. A market research business run by one person makes an average of $51,000 per year.
TEACHING & CONSULTING BUSINESSES
Online teachers and consultants are in high demand. People are always looking to learn new things, develop existing skills, or feel that they’re bettering themselves in some other way. Sharing your expertise to help clients improve their lives can make for a rewarding and profitable online business venture.
This business is ideal for current and former teachers looking for part-time or full-time work, but anyone who enjoys working with people and has knowledge or skills to share can succeed as a tutor. Tutors should be skilled and experienced in the field they choose, and able to effectively market themselves to find clients.
While tutoring businesses are limited in their growth potential, depending on your field of specialization, experience, and skill level, you can bring in decent profits with minimal ongoing expenses. Depending on your hourly rate and number of clients, you can expect to bring in between $40,000-$60,000 annually.
LIFE COACHING BUSINESS
Any motivated and people-oriented person who has found effective ways to achieve their goals can make a good life coach. The success of a life coaching business depends entirely upon the business owner’s ability to connect with and assist other people, so experience working with a broad range of people is important. Obtaining relevant certifications can also help establish credibility and expertise.
Many life coaches start their businesses by working part-time during non-business hours while staying employed part- or full-time. They may then transition to coaching more as the business grows. Because you are your brand, the growth potential is somewhat limited. It’s common to garner a reputation within a geographic region or an industry, which will ultimately define how large a business can become.
ONLINE COURSES BUSINESS
Online courses are created by people with a considerable amount of expertise and experience in the field they wish to teach. As such, having a niche skill makes it easier to offer desirable courses. For those with the proper credentials, designing online courses can produce an excellent stream of passive income.
While most online courses are hosted on educational websites that charge a fee to access the class, you can also create your own website. Average costs to start an online course website are around $21,000 and include course materials, website build, and ongoing marketing. Once a course is completed, ongoing costs are minimal. With successful marketing and a constant flow of students, an individual can make over $200,000 per year from online courses.
FINANCIAL CONSULTING BUSINESS
A financial consulting business is a good fit for someone with a degree in finance, or extensive experience in the industry. Tax, accounting, real estate, and other related knowledge will greatly enhance your ability to be successful.
Some startup costs include education and certification (which can cost around $90,000 alone), financial management software, and marketing. The median annual income of a financial consultant is approximately $91,000.
ONLINE DATING CONSULTING BUSINESS
If you get satisfaction out of helping other people find meaning and happiness in their lives, then this could be a great business for you. Day-to-day work can include meeting with people, creating online profiles for clients, and one-on-one coaching sessions.
Startup costs are low, with your website and marketing making up the bulk of the expenses. Some people are willing to pay whatever it takes to find true love, so if you have a proven knack for helping people find their significant other, your profits can be sky-high. Clients may be willing to pay up to $2,000 for a profile update and coaching lesson if they are confident in your ability to find them love. With the potential for such high paying customers and low overhead costs, an online dating consulting business can realize up to 95% profit margins.
TEST PREP BUSINESS
This is an excellent business idea for great test takers. The best qualifications someone can have for creating a successful test prep business are high scores on specific tests. The scores that students receive on their ACT, GMAT, LSAT, and others can be lifelong indicators of success, so many are willing to pay top dollar to a reputable test prep company.
Investing in test prep books and a well-designed website will put your startup expenses at around $2,000. Growth is steady in this industry as college and graduate admission becomes more competitive. It is not unheard of to charge $50 an hour for this service. With a constant flow of clients, a successful business can bring in $90,000 per year or more.
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT BUSINESS
People who are organized, attentive, and responsible will do well in this position. It can be an excellent opportunity for anyone with administrative or personal assistant experience looking for reliable remote work. As businesses look to cut costs, more and more are opting for virtual assistants, making this a growing industry that may reach $8 billion by 2020. The landscape is very competitive, though, with many businesses opting for lower-wage overseas assistants.
To stand out, those hoping to make a living as a virtual assistant must be flexible, offer a wide range of services, and put a great deal of effort into marketing themselves. Earning potential can vary widely depending on the nature of your clients, hours worked, and payment structure. While there are certainly some who many well into the six figures, with extremely low startup and overhead costs, most virtual assistants should expect to earn between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.
DATA COLLECTION & TRANSCRIPTION BUSINESSES
These online businesses involve carefully collecting and handling data. Although the associated tasks may seem tedious, there is money to be made in this industry for folks who enjoy this type of work.
Individuals that love collecting and distributing data are optimal for this type of business. Survey businesses must have a platform that allows customers, students, or others to complete surveys. Survey businesses generally serve business or government clients looking to collect feedback before deciding to alter policies or processes to improve efficiency and overall satisfaction. Owners may work on a per-case basis or choose to specialize in a specific niche.
Creating this platform is the main startup cost involved in starting a survey business if you don’t want to use a free service like SurveyMonkey. Once the survey platform is complete, overhead is relatively low since most costs are fixed. It is not unreasonable to find a client willing to pay $40,000 per year for good survey data. After just three high-paying clients, your business could be making six figures.
DATA ENTRY BUSINESS
Data entry businesses are great for detail-oriented people looking for a stable business venture with the potential to expand. Whether you hire employees or go it alone, you should be extremely comfortable using a variety of popular spreadsheet and word processing programs.
Startup costs are minimal, with little more than your computer required to open your business. A small business with just one or two people will typically take on a handful of clients and establish a relationship with them that lasts for years. Many businesses remain small like this forever, while others can grow into highly profitable global ventures.
This business is great for those who like to work at their own schedule and pace. While certain transcription services, such as court reporter, may require stricter scheduling requirements, most of the work involves transcribing audio or video that has been provided to you. The job is also ideal for those who type fast, have strong attention to detail, and are comfortable using computers and other related software and technology.
Startup costs are low, but the growth potential for a transcription business can vary significantly by industry. Medical transcription, for example, has boomed in the past decade. But, no matter the subject matter, if you provide fast, accurate work you can build a successful transcription business. Your speed and accuracy will also largely determine your earning potential since many transcription projects are billed by the project. The faster you work, the more you can earn.
The business ideas below are best-suited for highly-skilled entrepreneurs. The individuals who run these companies must not only be tech-savvy, but deeply passionate about the technologies they’re engaging with.
WEB DEVELOPMENT COMPANY
Web development companies are typically started by people who enjoy creating websites or web applications and have backgrounds in coding. A strong attention to detail and love of problem-solving are also great qualities in a web developer.
Startup costs are manageable, and generally stay around $5,000 with a few thousand more per year for marketing. Growth potential for a web development company is unlimited. They can be operated as a one-person business or bloom into a large company with thousands of employees. Advanced web developers can charge up to a few hundred dollars per hour for their work. If you can find full-time work at this rate, you will make well over $150,000 per year.
TECH SUPPORT BUSINESS
Tech support businesses are a great fit for anyone who has specific knowledge of a particular computer software, or general knowledge of how computers work. Every business today uses computers, but they don’t have the time or expertise to troubleshoot every computer issue that arises.
To get started, it’s recommended to have $12,000 to $28,000 ready to invest in quality equipment, high-speed internet, phone service, insurance, marketing, and transportation. Tech support companies can charge a very high dollar to keep these businesses running successfully. A single employee business can make $150,000 per year. Typically, tech support companies that market themselves as specialists in a particular niche perform better.