16 E-Commerce Business Ideas to Make Money in 2023

Starting an e-commerce business can help you sell goods and services to customers locally or all over the world.
Rosalie Murphy
By Rosalie Murphy 
Updated
Edited by Ryan Lane

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A great e-commerce business idea can make you money through the sale of physical goods, digital downloads or services to customers near and far. To start an e-commerce business, you’ll need a website and online store, but other startup costs may be small — potentially letting you earn a profit fast.

These 16 e-commerce business ideas can help you get started.

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1. Online education

Do you have valuable expertise you can share with the world? Creating online courses, e-books, blog posts and videos can help your audience learn — and help you earn revenue.

You can use an e-commerce website builder to set up a website from which customers can download your e-books or pay for access to your courses. You can also turn to online education marketplaces like Udemy or create videos for YouTube or other social platforms to try to generate ad revenue.

2. Subscription goods

This e-commerce business model helps you secure recurring revenue instead of having to market each new product to your existing customers. Once a customer signs up for your subscription, you agree to send them a physical or digital good on a recurring basis.

Shipments from subscription services can contain items ranging from craft supplies to meal ingredients to pet supplies. Use your interests and expertise to identify your niche.

3. Print-on-demand products

Print on demand is a way for artists to get their work on all kinds of merchandise without creating inventory themselves. Instead, when customers place orders, a third-party service prints your designs on products like smartphone cases, beach towels and sweatshirts. These services may handle shipping and returns for you, too.

4. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing allows individuals to represent other companies. You can sign up for affiliate or referral programs with brands that align with your audience’s interests.

For example, a travel blogger could team up with a luggage brand. You can share your favorite items in social media posts and include links to the products or offer discount codes to your readers, then receive a commission for items your audience buys.

5. Meal kits

In a hectic world, many people are willing to spend a little extra money on convenience. Meal kits provide ingredients and recipes that customers can use to prepare lunches or dinners for themselves and their families. You could offer this service to local customers and handle delivery yourself or try to fill a niche — vegan meals or gluten-free meals, for instance — for customers distributed more widely.

6. Website development

If you’re fluent in WordPress, SquareSpace or another online store builder, you may be able to help other businesses or individuals set up their websites — especially those who don’t feel comfortable online. You could charge a flat fee to build their site initially and then offer support, maintenance and updates on an ongoing basis.

You may be able to partner with larger companies, too. Web development is one way to make money on Shopify.

7. Wedding services

Do you love love? Consider marketing your creative or organizational services to couples who are planning weddings. Catering, floral services, stationery, photography, event planning — all are part of most weddings in the U.S. Like with meal prep services, it may be easiest to market your services locally, but as your business grows, you may have the capacity to serve couples farther away.

8. Thrifted clothing

Fashion resellers often start by cleaning out their own closets. Once you’ve figured out where to sell clothes online and how to do it efficiently, you may want to grow your business by seeking inventory at thrift or consignment stores and then flipping it to online customers.

9. Custom artwork

If you create embroidery, paint portraits, write poetry or have another artistic skill, you may find people who want to buy custom pieces for themselves or their loved ones.

If you choose to offer commissioned work instead of inventory, be mindful of your bandwidth. You may want to raise prices during busy seasons, like the winter holidays. You might also try partnering with a local business or setting up your easel in a public space and spending an afternoon making quick works for passersby.

10. Digital downloads

Do you design helpful Excel templates, travel guides or sewing patterns? You can sell copies of those files online. Customers can buy a copy, save it or print it and then use it as many times as needed. Just make sure you choose an e-commerce platform that supports digital products as well as physical ones.

11. Dropshipping

As a dropshipper, you’ll create product listings but not keep those products in stock. Instead, when a customer places an order, they’ll receive their order directly from the manufacturer or supplier. You’ll get a commission for each sale but don’t have to commit to buying inventory you might not be able to sell.

Learn more about dropshipping.

12. Natural cleaning and hygiene products

Cleaning and personal hygiene products made from eco-friendly ingredients aren’t always easy to come by. If you can make hand soap, body wash, dish soap or other house-cleaning products in large quantities, you may find an audience for it online.

13. Consulting

Consulting — offering your expert services on an hourly or contract basis to companies that need it — isn't always e-commerce. But if you sell your services to customers outside your city or state, you may need an e-commerce website and the ability to take online payments.

Consulting may be a particularly good online business idea for people who are retired or semi-retired. You can continue to draw on your years of experience but at a pace that works for you.

14. Collectible and vintage reselling

Reselling isn’t just for clothing. People collect all sorts of products — records, action figures, baseball cards, midcentury modern furniture and much more. If you know what you’re looking for, you may be able to locate valuable products at thrift stores and estate sales, then sell them online to customers who will treasure them.

15. Virtual assistant services

Are you a master of organization and project management? Try marketing yourself as a virtual assistant to someone who needs help staying on top of emails and other administrative tasks. You can list yourself on a freelancer-for-hire network like Upwork or create your own website where you advertise your services.

16. Coaching or mentoring

Coaching is one way to try online education and begin developing an audience on social media. You can offer one-off coaching sessions on the topics you specialize in as well as encourage your clients to sign up for recurring mentorship meetings. Appointment scheduling software like Square Appointments can help you keep track of your calendar and allow clients to easily check your availability.

A version of this article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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