For many would-be entrepreneurs, running an online business is a dream that offers the promise of financial security and independence. To help you begin the process of starting your own online business and gaining the flexibility and freedom that comes with it, we've compiled this list of the best online small business ideas. None of these online business ideas require a physical storefront and for some ideas, so you don't even have to offer a physical product, just a service.
Not to mention, if you’re working from home you can set your own hours, be your own boss and claim home office tax deductions. So, if you're ready to get started on your dream of becoming an internet entrepreneur, start with this list of online business ideas for beginners and find the one that best fits your talents and interests.
The 44 best online business ideas
With the immense growth of the internet and technology in general, there's an online business idea out there for everyone, regardless of your experience or prior work history. Starting an online business can be one of the quickest, easiest, and most affordable ways to start a business overall — especially when all you need is a laptop and internet connection.
As working from home has become more popular in company cultures around the world, entrepreneurs have been inspired to take their careers into their own hands and go into business for themselves. Plus, if you're not totally set on going all-in on your online business, many of these ideas can be started part time, and as you build your side hustle, it may be successful enough to turn into a full-time gig.
1. Social media marketing
If you’ve got a knack for getting likes, favorites, retweets, followers, shares, comments and clicks, then you might want to consider a career in social media marketing. By consulting with companies to manage their social media profiles, spread their content across the Web, keep their brands on track and respond to customer questions, you can turn your favorite hobby into your day job.
2. SEO consulting
Maybe you’re a pro at SEO, or search engine optimization. If you’ve got loads of skill and experience in getting websites to rank highly on Google, and you understand how to turn searchers into customers, then there are plenty of companies willing to pay handsomely for your help.
Whether it’s by editing metadata tags, regularly updating the company blog or searching for smart keywords to rank highly on, a good SEO consultant working with a solid SEO strategy can drastically change how a company’s website appears to search engine users — and just a few positions on Google can make a huge difference in traffic numbers. In short, you could have a big impact on a business’s bottom line, which means this online business idea is in high demand.
3. Freelance designing
Got an eye for aesthetics? Did you go to art school, or have you always spent your free time designing posters in Photoshop or Illustrator?
If so, and if you’re interested in finding the gig on this list of online small business ideas that's right for you, then freelance designing might be a good choice. Take on clients at your own speed, build up a good reputation online and by word of mouth and work on projects that you find interesting — freelancing has plenty of perks.
Check out sites like Upwork and Behance to find the right gigs to enjoy the freedom of a freelance lifestyle.
4. Freelance writing
If you’re skilled in words instead, you might become a freelance writer. So long as you’ve got an internet connection and a keyboard, you can contribute blog posts.
It helps if you’ve got a special area of interest or expertise, so your employers will know you’re qualified to comment on certain topics. However, the most important factor will always be your writing. Can you write clearly? Do you take the time and effort to really understand what you’re talking about? Are you appealing to the right readers? If you’re confident in your writing skills, then this online business idea is ideal.
5. e-Book writing
If company blog posts aren’t your style, then you might consider writing and publishing e-books instead. With Amazon and other websites around, self-publishing has never been easier than it is today. If you think you’ve got something interesting or useful to say — and you believe other people will think so, too — then writing e-books could become a lucrative business.
With e-books, you don’t have to design, print or ship your work. Just write, market, publish and sell — to anyone in the world. Plus, since you’re publishing the book yourself, you receive a larger cut of the profits when the e-book takes off. Of course, you will have to learn how to format an ebook correctly, pay for editing and cover design services and figure out an effective marketing strategy — but luckily, there’s plenty of examples to learn from.
If you’re a great writer but aren't so interested in publishing original material, we’ve still got some easy online business ideas for you. If you’re fluent in multiple languages, for example, then translating could be the ideal job. You can do it wherever you’d like, so long as you’ve got the text you’re working on and you understand the goal of the translation.
Editing comes in many shapes and sizes, from copyediting a company’s marketing materials to proofreading novels to indexing academic manuscripts. As long as you’ve got a sharp eye for detail, a strong grasp of grammar and a willingness to get in the weeds, then editing could be a great business idea if you’re interested in working when and how you want.
8. Writing a blog
While a blog isn’t exactly a business, it can definitely support any of these online business ideas you’re choosing from.
Freelance writer or designer? Show off your skills in each post. Interested in coding, photography and video, fitness, food or anything else? Prove your knowledge by writing great articles on those topics.
The more people trust your authority, the more they’ll read, and the wider your audience, the easier it is to grow your business by blogging. Even if you’re still deciding which of these online business ideas to pursue, starting a blog is never a bad idea, as you'll be establishing an online presence to build from.
9. Freelance researching
Freelance researching is another smart online business idea that lets you work from wherever, on your own terms. You don’t need to be a talented writer or a born designer, just hard-working and conscious of how to find what you need.
Whether you’re putting together research documents for competitor or market research, answering tough technical questions on forums, or analyzing statistics to point out trends, you’ll be doing invaluable work for your clients — and doing it for a good price, with the freedom to work how you want.
10. Freelance coding and web design
Notice a trend yet? Lots of jobs you could be doing in an office for one company, you could also be doing for a bunch of different clients whenever and however you want.
If you’re a software engineer, the perks of working at a startup or tech giant are pretty sizable, but if you’re more invested in flexibility, diversity of projects, taking on work at your own pace and the freedom of being your own boss, then freelance coding is one of the best online business ideas from home. Whether you’re into web design — an especially popular freelance coding category — or another kind of software development, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to find clients you’re interested in helping out.
Plus, you can double down as a software consultant as well, offering your critical eye and expertise without necessarily coding.
11. Software and app development
Want to take freelance coding to the next level of entrepreneurship? Instead of helping clients, you can work on your own applications, programs, extensions and add-ons. Whether you sell your work in the App Store or make money through advertisements — or you’re holding out for the long haul and are hoping to get bought by a bigger company — the cash you make will be a direct result of your effort and ingenuity.
Unlike typical freelancing, though, this is a bit of a tougher nut to crack. It’s not as easy to have a predictable stream of revenue until your app is already out and selling, and by then you’ve already put in a lot of time and energy. Therefore, before you make a freelancing financial mistake, you’ll want to be sure that there’s a market out there for the product you’re creating, and that people are willing to pay for it.
That said, the wins can be big. Could your project be the next Minecraft or Angry Birds? Only one way to find out.
For those gifted in photography, you might as well turn your passion into a paycheck. Stock photo sites like Shutterstock and iStock will give you a commission on the pictures you sell, so if you’re comfortable sharing your lens with millions of others, this is an easy and convenient way to fund your freedom.
Plus, if you’re particularly talented, you might want to sell your photos on more exclusive sites with higher commission rates — or even your own website or internet store.
13. Business coaching
You’ll need a good track record and a variety of testimonials to back you up, but the business coaching industry is on the rise — so now’s the time to join in. You can charge anywhere from under $100 to several times that, depending on your credentials and effectiveness, and it’s perfectly acceptable to coach over the phone or video chat instead of face-to-face.
So if you’re interested in fixing up other businesses, and getting paid for it, then check this online business idea out.
14. College consulting
$40,000 per course. That’s how much some college coaches make, simply by advising students and their families on how to make it into their dream schools.
While that’s more the exception than the rule, college consulting is a lucrative business — and it can be done over the phone or by video chat. You’ll probably want to have gone to a top-tier college yourself (to “prove” to parents that you know what you’re talking about) and should have strong writing skills, as college applications rely heavily on personal statements and other essays.
College consulting can also include financial aid planning as well, which means you’ll need to be familiar with government grant programs, different financial aid policies and possible scholarship opportunities.
If you’re into online business ideas for beginners that revolve around calling or video chatting clients to help them out with various problems, then starting a tutoring business is another path to consider.
For those studious entrepreneurs who score highly on standardized tests, understand how to teach the best test-taking strategies and know their material inside and out, tutoring can pull in a lot of money without too much effort. The better your results, the greater your reputation — which means the more you can charge per hour, session, or package.
Plus, with these online small business ideas — business coaching, college consulting and tutoring — you’re essentially dedicating your time and energy to helping other people achieve some of life’s biggest goals. Coupled with the freedom of working from anywhere you want, that’s a pretty compelling job.
16. Online fitness trainer
“Online fitness training” might seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a real industry — and if you’re invested in online business ideas, then don’t overlook it.
If fitness and health is your passion, then serving as a fitness trainer to clients could be a fulfilling career. However, you should keep in mind that training people online is much more difficult than being right there with them. Without a lot of experience as a trainer, you might even come across as untrustworthy to potential customers.
There’s always the opportunity for you to travel to clients locally instead of running a completely online business, but that might not be up your alley. Or, you could offset your lack of a personal presence with a stronger focus on nutrition education.
17. E-commerce store
One of the most common online business ideas around, starting an e-commerce store is relatively easy and cheap — at least when compared to opening up a brick-and-mortar store.
If you’re handy or creative, you could craft your products and sell them on sites like Etsy, Amazon or eBay, straight out of your home. The biggest challenge would be getting discovered, depending on your niche and how viral your products are. But thankfully, there’s tons of advice available to help you out, from pricing your work properly to taking the best photography possible.
18. Virtual thrift shop
Maybe you’re not into handicrafts but the idea of an online store is still appealing? Online thrift shops and consignments stores, like thredUP, are one model you can follow to achieve that goal. There are other businesses that crawl through sites like eBay to find cool, unique, interesting objects, then present them in compelling ways. Good copywriting and a strong brand can go a long way to separating you from the crowd here.
So if you’re more into curating than creating, these types of easy online business ideas would be a solid fit.
19. Affiliate marketing
Social media gurus, take notice: you don’t have to be a consultant to benefit from your social networking skills.
Instead, you can get paid by companies to highlight products on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or other social channels. The higher your profile, the more of an impact your brand recommendation will make, and the more you’ll make with product placement. So long as your fans aren’t turned off by this advertising, affiliate, sometimes referred to as influencer marketing, is one way to use your social media skills to your benefit.
Plus, like all the rest of these online business ideas, you can be an affiliate marketer from anywhere you want, with the freedom and flexibility to choose your own hours and be your own boss.
20. Internet domain selling
Dealing in internet domains is like buying and selling real estate — except you can do it from your computer at home. Here’s the low-down: some internet domain names are more popular, sought-after and valuable than others. Successful internet domain name flippers buy high-value domains for cheap at online auctions after lots of forethought and research, then sell to the biggest bidder for a nice profit. For example, www.hotels.com was sold for $11 million in 2001.
In order to make a living off of domain selling, you really need to dedicate your time, energy, and attention to the market. You can’t just buy domain names randomly, or you’ll be left with a handful of websites that nobody wants. Instead, you’ll have to research the SEO optimization of the sites you see on auction, predict which companies and industries will be looking out for new domains, and get creative with out-of-the-box names that you can buy for little but turn around easily. Plus, patience is a virtue: it can take months, or even years, to get the right price for some domains you’ve purchased.
But the perk of this online business idea, of course, is that it’s 100% online. It’s just you and your computer.
21. Accounting or bookkeeping
Although entering the industry as a virtual bookkeeper or accountant can be tough because of competition from foreign contractors, there are firms that offer these services. You also might be able to take your current clients, if you’re already operating as an accountant, and offer to cut their costs by working from home or remotely elsewhere.
Naturally, online business ideas like these require formal training and certification, but if you’re a proven and dedicated accountant, then it shouldn’t be impossible to work online most (if not all) of the time.
If you’re a natural conversationalist who likes helping others, virtual telemarketing is another good online small business idea to consider. Plenty of companies outsource some of their sales and customer service staff, so if you don’t mind working the phone at home or on the go, then try this option out.
23. Online personal assistant
Organized. Efficient. Hungry to live life on your own schedule.
If those three things describe you, then think about becoming a virtual assistant. What exactly you’ll do depends on what your skills, experience and network of contacts are, but you can expect tasks from data entry to customer management, research, scheduling and more. And of course, like all online business ideas, you can do this one from anywhere.
24. Data entry
Although it doesn’t pay the best, data entry is an online business idea where you can easily work from home. If you’re looking for a job that won’t require much time or attention from you, and that you can make predictable income from while at home or traveling, then data entry is a good place to start.
25. Stock or foreign currency trading
Like internet domain name selling, stock trading could be a casual online hobby or a career. If you’re willing to put in the time and you’re talented at carrying out deep research and predicting trends, you could turn this side hustle into a full-time gig.
Operating as a pattern day trader requires you to keep $25,000 in your account at all times, though, so if that barrier to entry is a bit too high then you might want to consider trading on foreign exchange or currency markets instead.
All that said, stock trading won’t offer you as much flexibility as many of the other online business ideas here. Although you can work from home and be your own boss if you trade stocks or foreign currency on your own dime, it’s still a high-commitment job with long hours and a steep learning curve. You’ll need to put in the time to understand all the different trading requirements, systems and regulations you’ll be interacting with.
For an easier online business idea that doesn't require background knowledge or experience — other than the ability to type quickly — you might consider transcription. Offering transcription services online can take many forms: you can transcribe audio interviews for reporters, create captions for TV shows and videos or develop transcribed versions of podcasts.
Although this might not be the most lucrative idea on our list, it's a good place to start as a freelancer and gives you the freedom to work wherever, whenever.
27. Travel planning
Do you love to travel? Have you been to various locations and have a network of connections around the world? If travel is your passion, you might consider starting an online travel planning business. You can help clients plan every aspect of their trip — from flights to hotels to things to do. You can work on itineraries, tips for food, currency exchange and safety, and serve as a point of contact between your clients and any international contacts.
Plus, not only can you operate your travel planning business at home, but you can also do it while you travel. And more traveling will help you grow your business—as you experience new locations, meet prospective clients, and make new connections. You might even start a travel blog or photography site to supplement your planning business.
28. Cybersecurity and IT consulting
If you have a technical background but aren't specifically interested in coding or app development, this might be one of the best online business ideas for you. As a cybersecurity consultant, you can work with businesses of all sizes to evaluate their systems, run testing and offer tips on how they can improve their set up.
On the other hand, if you'd prefer something broader, you might consider simply serving as an IT consultant, assisting businesses or individuals with their technology — helping them get it set up, troubleshoot any issues and offer general operating advice.
Once again, with the proper computer set up, you can run your cybersecurity or IT consulting business from anywhere. If you so choose, you could also decide to travel to different offices for occasional on-site system assistance.
29. Online therapy
With the emergence of companies like TalkSpace and BetterHelp, you no longer have to have an office or your own practice to counsel patients — you can do it virtually. Although this online business idea requires the proper credentials and education, a technologically inclined therapist who wants to reach a new group of patients could easily hit the ground running.
If you're a counselor, therapist or psychologist, you might decide to explore the online therapy space by joining one of these new companies or starting a business of your very own. By counseling online, you'll be reaching new patients, giving them more freedom and flexibility, as well as enjoying some for yourself.
30. PR consulting
If you're knowledgable about business branding and marketing and know all the best ways for companies to communicate with the public online, you might start an online PR consulting business. You can assist businesses with their online presence — including social media accounts, press releases, web content and more—as well as advise them on campaigns, initiatives and overall public image.
As a freelance PR consultant, your hours and responsibilities may vary and depend on the specific client you're working with, however, you'll certainly have more control of your job than you would as part of a PR firm or agency.
Ten years ago, many people didn't even know what a podcast was but now, the podcast industry has exploded, with newspapers, radio stations and even regular, everyday individuals getting in on the trend. If you have a good story to tell or something you feel like you could talk about on a frequent basis and that people would want to listen to, you might think about podcasting.
Podcasting, of course, can be done from anywhere, provided you have the right audio equipment. You can then upload your content to various podcast apps, websites, and market your business on social media.
32. Life coaching
Looking for the item on this list of online small business ideas that allows you to help people, offering both advice and guidance, without needing the extensive education of a medical professional? How about life coaching? Although you may need a certification to become a life coach, you have much more freedom to find your niche and decide how you can help people through life's ups and downs.
Plus, as a life coach, you can build your own digital brand to give your clients additional resources outside of traditional phone call or video chat meetings. With the vastness of the internet at your fingertips, you can easily fulfill your desire to help others with this online business idea, while still having the flexibility of your own.
33. Video production
Video is another item on our list of online business ideas that may appeal to you, especially if you're creative or have a background in digital production. With the emphasis on video on social media and other websites nowadays, this is certainly a trend you'll want to capitalize on while you can. This being said, as a video producer, you can work with different clients in various industries to shoot, cut and edit video to create the perfect final product.
Although video production can be on the technical side, it also can give you the opportunity to explore a unique medium of storytelling and exercise your creativity. Plus, if you don't already have video experience, there are many resources available online to teach you and assist you through the process.
34. Digital advertising
Are you familiar with the world of "cost per click" and the ever-changing Facebook algorithm? If you have experience with the inner workings of advertising online — from websites to social media platforms to email campaigns — you might consider starting this online business idea from home.
As a digital advertising consultant, clients could hire you to monetize their online platforms and manage the whole of their advertising campaigns. Although this space is constantly evolving, it has progressively become more and more important to businesses, especially those that mainly operate online. You can offer your advertising expertise from anywhere and work with clients exclusively via email or phone.
35. Resume writing and career coaching
If you have a background in human resources, or just know your way around formulating the perfect resume, you might consider starting an online resume writing and career coaching business. You can offer clients advice and guidance on their career path, job applications, resumes and cover letters. LinkedIn is a great place to get started with this type of online business idea, as many professionals look for career help on that platform.
And of course, all of your back and forth with clients can be done by chat, email or phone — giving you the ability to work wherever and choose your own hours.
If you don't want the responsibility of creating your own products to sell, you might consider instead starting a dropshipping business. With this kind of e-commerce operation, you can choose products from suppliers and then sell them online. You can create your own website, build your own process and dictate every part of your online business.
You can get started by browsing dropshipping marketplaces or trying to work directly with manufacturers and importers. As e-commerce continues to grow, there will be no shortage of opportunities in the dropshipping space.
37. Online recruiting
Have a knack for finding the right people to fill job openings? If you're a people person and have good online research skills, you might consider this job on our list of online small business ideas: recruiting. As an online recruiter, you would service different businesses looking to hire new employees and help them find and screen candidates.
As a great part of the recruiting process for businesses has become online-based, there will be no shortage of need for this kind of service, especially for smaller businesses that don't have a large HR team or the resources and time to properly dedicate to recruiting.
38. Marketing consulting
Marketing is an art and if you have skills or experience with any kind of marketing campaigns, you might consider offering consulting services as an online business. As a marketing consultant, you can provide guidance on a wide range of topics, depending on your specific expertise, and help businesses execute their marketing strategies and campaigns.
From email marketing strategy to event planning to website branding, businesses will always have marketing needs and your online business can be there to help.
39. Online fundraising or grant writing
Do you have a cause you're passionate about? Or maybe you're just passionate about helping mission-based businesses, especially non-profits, getting the assistance they need to reach their goals. If either of these scenarios applies to you, you should think about fundraising or grant writing as a business. With these online endeavors, you would work with clients who need help with their fundraising campaigns — finding prospective donors, promoting the business and their goals and, ultimately, trying to bring in funds.
Or, if you want to extend past person-to-person fundraising, you could work with clients to research and write grant applications and try to get them the funds they need in that way.
40. Online course teaching
Is there a subject you're particularly knowledgeable about? American history? Tax forms? Drawing? If you have a camera and a computer, you could start an online course teaching business. You can find information about practically anything online, but sometimes when you're trying to learn a specific skill or topic, it just helps to hear or see someone else explain it. Your course-teaching business would capitalize on this need, providing an educational service to your particular audience.
Plus, if you have an advanced degree or teaching background, you might be able to work with an online course service, that will hire you to teach courses online for their students.
41. Online cooking instruction
Do you have an affinity for cooking or baking? Showcasing your skills online via virtual cooking classes is a great way to earn money while doing something you love. There are a variety of ways you can structure your cooking business — you can offer one-on-one instruction videos, host live classes and even create workshops and cooking programs.
This easy business idea could even translate into a cooking blog, e-books, cookbooks and linking your favorite cooking and baking supplies through affiliate marketing.
42. YouTube channel
If you're passionate about a topic, there's likely a niche and readers looking for the content you have to share. One way to promote your new brand, service or message is by creating a YouTube channel. If you feel comfortable on camera, have a spot where you can film and love the idea of reaching millions on the internet, YouTube might be the right platform for you.
It can take some time for your channel to grow and you'll likely need to network on social media and blogging platforms in the beginning, but with dedication, you can make a comfortable living this way.
43. Voiceover work
If you're looking for an online business idea that you can start from home, quickly and easily, you could decide to start your own voiceover business. All you need is a decent microphone, basic sound editing software and the ability to lend your voice to ad agencies, production companies and anyone else looking for a voiceover.
To get started, you can sign up for a freelance voiceover site like Voices.com and start searching for the right opportunities. Plus, once you've gotten your foot in the door, you'll have excellent clips to show potential future clients.
44. Start a team
If you've been freelancing or running your own company for a while, you might be ready to take the plunge and start your own team of consultants, freelancers, experts, etc.
For instance, if you have years of writing and editing experience and find new clients quickly, you might want to increase the number of opportunities you can take on by hiring a team of freelancers to help grow your business.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, these online business ideas aren't just ways to escape the office lifestyle. Instead, they offer a kind of freedom that most people don't have the opportunity to experience: managing yourself, setting your own hours and goals and taking responsibility for your work in the most meaningful way. This being said, although starting an online business may give you unique flexibility, it also means working extremely hard to find clients, market your services and maintain steady cash flow.
Online businesses aren't for everyone. If you're considering any of the items on this list of online business ideas for beginners, though, there's no better time to get started. By exploring the different possibilities, finding a startup idea that will work for you, researching ahead of time and executing an effective business plan, you'll be on your way to a successful lifestyle that most people only dream about.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.