Starting an online business is a dream for a lot of people because it’s so flexible. There’s also the added benefit of being your own boss, working from anywhere, and financial security. But to find success you’ve got to know what kind of online business ideas are worth your time.
Easy online business ideas have low start-up costs or require you to leverage experience from a previous job or skills you picked up along the way. Once you start your business, owning and maintaining an online business gives you the freedom to work on your own time, and that’s a really incredible feeling.
This article gives you a list of the best online business ideas for budding entrepreneurs who are ready to get started.
14 Best Online Business Ideas for 2021
1. Facebook ads manager
After I quit my job as a high school band director to run this site full-time, I needed to supplement my income, and I did starting another online business running Facebook ads. My first client was the jeweler who sold me my wife’s engagement ring.
Because you can make around $1,000 - $1,500/month per client, I was out earning what I made as a teacher after landing just a few more clients.
Running Facebook ads for small businesses is simply digital marketing through Facebook, which is one of the best ways for small business owners to increase their traffic, draw in leads, and find new customers. Big companies and brands have been using Facebook for a while, but it’s taken a little longer for small business owners to understand that they can leverage Facebook’s massive reach. And many simply don’t have the time it takes to learn how to run an effective ad strategy.
From my personal experience, this is one the best online business ideas to start. There are low start up costs, you don’t need previous marketing experience, and it’s an in-demand skill.
Sounds like an online business? I teamed up with my friend Mike Yanda (lawyer turned digital marketer who’s now bringing in $30k/month) and created the Facebook Side Hustle Course. We’ve created this course to teach you how to master the three most important phases of this online business:
- How to set up a Facebook ads system for a local business
- How to find clients that are willing to pay for this kind of service
- Exactly what to say to get these clients to say “yes” and agree to move forward with your services
While blogging is a great online business idea, it’s a slow business model overall. There is tremendous growth potential when you start a blog, but it can literally take you months before you start earning anything. That was my experience and the same goes for many other successful bloggers I know.
The reason you start a blog and stick with it despite the slow start is because you’re in complete control of your business. You decide what you blog about, how to monetize your blog, and when you work.
Bloggers make money in a variety of different ways, like affiliate marketing, which is when you work with a brand to promote their products. When someone clicks on one of your unique affiliate links and makes a purchase, you earn a little money from that sale. Obviously you only want to work with brands and products you believe in, but affiliate marketing is an option for bloggers in every niche.
Affiliate marketing is just one way this online business idea generates income, and you can really pick and choose what makes sense for your blog’s niche and audience.
To get started as a blogger, I recommend checking out these resources:
3. SEO consultant
If you’re familiar with SEO, or search engine optimization, and have experience getting websites to rank on Google, working as an SEO consultant is one of the best online business ideas to start in 2021.
A good SEO strategy is something many businesses struggle with, and there are a lot of things an SEO consultant can do to help. You can use your marketing knowledge to teach business owners how to use analytical data. You can advise on which keywords they should focus on. Or you run on-site SEO audits for websites to help them develop a plan.
There are some really great free resources online for getting to know SEO if it’s something you’re interested in learning more about. And it’s an online job that requires continual education because Google algorithms are always changing.
It’s kind of wild when you think about the fact that social media management was non-existent just over a decade ago. But now, social media is such an important part of our lives that businesses and brands need someone to help them manage their online presence.
Social media managers are responsible for developing a brand identity online that helps businesses connect with customers and grow their business. It involves task like:
- Setting up accounts
- Scheduling and creating posts
- Replying to comments
- Creating images
- Running reports and analyzing data on traffic, reach, engagement, etc.
- Creating ads
- Ensuring brand consistency
This is a really fast-paced online business because the social media landscape is constantly changing. You’ve got to be aware of up-and-coming trends, social and political movements, and the changing needs of your client’s audience.
The article 15 Tips to Become a Social Media Manager in 2021 has some great advice for starting your business.
5. Web developer
Web developers use coding skills to build and maintain the websites we use on a regular basis. And as more of us are working online and living more digital presences, there’s an increased demand for web developers.
You used to need a degree in computer technology to work as a web developer, but companies have started hiring freelance web developers who are self-taught or have learned through coding bootcamps.
Coding bootcamps are actually a really great way to get started because they teach you hands-on experience in specific coding languages. So if there’s a certain area of web development you’re interested in, like front-end work, it only takes a little research to find out what coding language and skill set you need to learn.
If you already have web development experience and want to find work, here are 11 Best Places to Find Freelance Developer Jobs.
6. Virtual assistant
A virtual assistant, or VA, is such a valuable asset for business owners. I’ve got a few VAs working for me, and I lean on them to help me run this site. They do everything from schedule blog posts, bookkeeping, project management, inbox management, data entry, and more. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t run this site without them.
Working as a virtual assistant is a great online business idea for 2021 because there are so many business owners like me who need help running our businesses. It’s also not a business that requires a ton of training or previous experience. Really, it just requires someone is detail-oriented, has strong communication skills, is highly organized, and good at time management.
7. Online course creator
Before you brush past this online business idea because you don’t think you’re qualified to teach anything, stick with me for a second.
You don’t have to be an expert or a top professional in your field to successfully create and sell online courses. Yes, you need to know a lot about a subject, but most people are more qualified to teach a course than they realize.
For example, if you’re an awesome graphic designer, if your friends go to you to help write resumes, if you have amazing time management skills, or if you’re great at baking bread -- these are all skills you can organize into a course and teach it online.
The simple way to look at it is that you are leveraging your talents or skills.
How well your course sells will depend on the demand for what you’re teaching, and courses with marketable skills tend to do better. Like, if you can teach someone something that can help them make more, there’s some inherent value there.
One of my readers has been teaching online graphic design courses for a few years, and has been sharing her progress in my free M$M Facebook group. She’s gone from earning a few thousand each month to more than $80,000/month selling courses on different course platforms.
Here’s one of her recent payouts:
8. Freelance writer
If you’ve got a natural writing ability, you might want to leverage that talent to start a freelance writing business. What’s cool about freelance writing is that it can encompass so many different writing niches, like:
- Marketing campaigns
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Online and print articles
- Catalog descriptions
- Ghost writing
- Web copy
- Grant writing
- Technical writing
- Content mills
Having some experience or knowledge in one of those niches can help you start, but your strongest asset will always be your ability to write. You’ll need to know how to write clearly, understand how to speak to your client’s audience, and research when necessary.
Do you nerd out for grammar? Are you constantly noticing punctuation errors? If that sounds like you, then working as a proofreader would be a great online business idea to start this year.
Proofreaders are responsible for putting the finishing touches on print and online content. They take written content and put the finishing touches on it that turn it into a professional looking piece of writing.
Caitlin Pyle of Proofread Anywhere left her day job to work as a proofreader, then leveraging her skills to create a comprehensive proofreading side hustle course. You can check out her course here.
10. Online consulting business
A consultant is a person who is an expert in their field, and they’re paid to give advice to other people in their area of expertise. I’ve already mentioned SEO consultants, but there are many fields you can work in, like:
- Sales: A consultant would help businesses improve their sales performance, develop sale processes, and provide sales training
- Technology: Technology experts are paid to help implement and/or improve technology solutions
- Legal: A legal consultant would be a lawyer or other legal professional who advises businesses on legal matters
- Small business: Provide guidance to new business owners who want to get off to a good start
- Marketing: A marketing specialist who can help organizations or businesses implement marketing strategies and generate leads
This is an online business you can start by leveraging your contacts, working on your Linkedin profile, through social media, and promoting yourself on a website.
11. Online tutor
You might be surprised to learn how much online tutors can make per hour -- $30-$60/hour for subject specific tutoring and upwards of $35-$100/hour for test prep.
Because this is a natural fit for teachers, this is one of the online business ideas I like to suggest for them. But you don’t need to have a background in education to make money online as a tutor. Many successful tutors have a natural ability with some subjects and know how to connect with younger learners.
You can find tutoring jobs by connecting with local schools, advertising your services on social media, or through an online tutoring platform like Wyzant.
12. Flea market flipping
Flea market flipping is a very different online business idea than others on this list because it requires more in-person work, meaning you’re not working from your laptop all day. This job involves finding things for sale at flea markets, garage sales, online auctions, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, etc. and then reselling them for a profit.
This can be a pretty lucrative side hustle or full-time gig because you’re sourcing your products from people who are getting rid of things for cheap or even free. It’s kind of amazing what people get rid.
In one year, Melissa and Rob of Flea Market Flipper made $42,000 reselling things online. Melissa and Rob flip all kinds of things, from strollers, workout equipment, and tools, but there are also people who flip cars for extra money -- not an online business necessarily, but it gives you an idea of the potential.
If you’re detail-oriented and good with numbers, bookkeeping may be the right pick for you. Bookkeepers are often confused with accountants, but bookkeepers record transactions whereas accountants interpret those records.
Accountants analyze things, prepare tax documents, and do financial forecasting, among other things. They also typically need a bachelor’s degree. Bookkeeping is a low cost business idea because you don’t need a degree or specialized training.
To start an online bookkeeping business, start with our article on How to Become a Bookkeeper. It outlines the necessary skills, what kind of training you need, and how to find clients.
14. Start a podcast
Ten years ago many people have never heard of the word podcast, but now it’s estimated that over 144 million Americans listen to podcasts. That’s the equivalent to just over half of the population over the age of 12.
Podcasts are so popular because humans naturally love listening to people tell stories. It doesn’t hurt that you can listen to podcasts anywhere on your phone.
Starting a podcast begins with picking a topic, and you can really choose anything. It’s more about developing your voice and personality. It doesn’t require expensive gear when you’re first starting, but I would recommend a decent microphone, like this one.
There are various podcast apps you can upload your content to, and you’ll want to work on developing a social media strategy to promote your podcast online.
The final word on the best online business ideas
You’ll hear a lot of people talk about how starting an online business changed their life. They can work from anywhere, it’s so flexible, etc., etc. I’ll stand by that, but the reality is that starting an online business is hard work like any other business. Sure, the start-up costs are generally lower, but it’s still work.
Keep that in mind as you get started, especially if you pick something like blogging or podcasting. These are two online business ideas that have slower growth, but they can be incredibly fulfilling and lucrative business ideas.
An idea like Facebook digital marketing is something you can start making money from in the first month. And some of these other freelance ideas -- writing, consulting, proofreading, graphic design, etc. -- can also start generating income right away because you’re leveraging your previous experience or skill set.
The point is, there are a lot of options available. They all take some hustle, so be ready to work, and then the sky's the limit.