41 Online Business Ideas You Can Start in 2023
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Setting up an online business can help you become an entrepreneur without significant startup costs. The first step: figuring out the best online business idea for you.
What do you have expertise in? What do you love to do? Do you know someone who needs a type of support you could provide? Answering questions like these can offer inspiration as you prepare to start a business.
Here are 41 online business ideas to help you brainstorm. From side hustles to full-time enterprise, e-commerce businesses to services for remote clients, you may be able to run these from home on your own schedule.
The 41 best online business ideas
If you're not totally set on going all-in on your online business, many of these ideas can be started part time. As you build your side hustle, it may be successful enough to turn into a full-time gig.
1. E-commerce store
Starting an e-commerce website is relatively easy and cheap — at least when compared with opening up a brick-and-mortar store. You can start with a limited amount of inventory, use an e-commerce website builder to set up your store, then market your products on social media and online marketplaces and see how customers respond. These platforms can also help you manage orders, ship your products and take online payments.
2. 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 offering social media marketing services to other businesses. 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.
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3. Freelance graphic design
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, 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.
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 all types of written content, from blog posts to feature stories to product descriptions. 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.
5. E-book writing
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 physical copies of your work. Of course, you will have to learn how to format an e-book correctly, pay for editing and cover design services and figure out an effective marketing strategy — but there are plenty of examples to learn from.
If you’re fluent in multiple languages, then translating could be the ideal online freelance job. You can do it from anywhere, 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 have 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
Starting a blog can support other online business ideas by showing off your skills. Interested in coding, photography and video, fitness, food or anything else? Demonstrate your knowledge by writing great articles on those topics for others’ blogs.
If you choose to start your own blog, it can also generate revenue itself through affiliate links or advertisements.
9. Freelance researching
Whether you’re putting together documents for competitor or market research, answering tough technical questions on forums or analyzing statistics to point out trends, you can put your skills to work for your clients — with the freedom to work how you want.
10. Freelance coding and web design
If you’re seeking flexibility, diversity of projects, taking on work at your own pace and being your own boss, then freelance coding or web design for clients may be a good fit.
Plus, you can double down as a software consultant as well, offering your critical eye and expertise without writing code yourself.
11. Software and app development
Want to take freelance coding to the next level? Instead of helping clients, you can work on your own applications, programs, extensions and add-ons. Whether you sell your work in an app store 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. App development is also a way to make money on Shopify.
Keep in mind, 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 invested a lot of time and energy. 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.
12. Business coaching
You’ll need a good track record and a variety of testimonials to back you up, but if you’re already an entrepreneur, business coaching can provide an additional revenue stream. You can offer one-off sessions, small-group experiences or ongoing client relationships at a variety of price points.
13. College consulting
If you went to a top-tier university and have strong writing skills, you may be able to help applicants seeking admission to elite colleges. You might find yourself editing essays, steering students toward test prep courses and recommending scholarship programs, among other things.
For those studious entrepreneurs who scored highly on standardized tests, tutoring can pull in a lot of money without too much effort. The better your results, the better your reputation — which means the more you can charge per hour, session or package.
15. Online fitness trainer
If fitness and health is your passion, then serving as a fitness trainer to clients could be a fulfilling career. While training people online can be more difficult than being with them in person, this is an increasingly popular option for busy professionals. You can also consider related services like nutrition education.
16. 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 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.
17. Selling handmade goods
If you’re handy or creative, you could craft your products and sell them on sites like Etsy, Amazon and eBay, straight out of your home.
Beyond that, if you’re a visual artist, you may also try selling print-on-demand products. That’s a type of e-commerce business where customers order mugs, T-shirts or other goods and with your artwork printed on them, then a third party creates the product and ships it to the customer.
18. Virtual thrift shop
Maybe you’re not into handicrafts but the idea of an starting an online store is still appealing? Selling clothes online using platforms like thredUP and Poshmark is one option.
If you're more interested in other types of products, you can scour local estate sales and secondhand shops for unique finds. You may also discover good finds on websites like eBay. As you present these products in compelling ways on your own site, good copywriting and a strong brand can go a long way to separating your site from the crowd.
19. Affiliate marketing
Social media pros, take notice: You can get paid by companies to highlight products on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or other social channels. The more followers or site visitors you have, the more of an impact your brand recommendation will make, and the more you’ll earn with product placement.
20. Accounting or bookkeeping
Although entering the industry as a virtual bookkeeper or accountant can be tough because of competition from well-known brands in the industry, it can be done if you have the credentials or target clients in a specific niche. You’ll also need formal training and certification, and it may take time to build up a committed client base — but once you do, your clients may be with you for years.
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 roles, so if you don’t mind working the phone at home or on the go, then try this option out.
22. Online personal assistant
Thinking 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 other duties.
23. Data entry
If you’re looking for a job that offers a predictable income without requiring intense creativity, then data entry might be a good place to start. Try looking at online job boards for opportunities.
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. Services like Rev or TranscribeMe can also send you work as it becomes available, which saves you the work of cultivating your own client base.
25. Travel planning
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 activities. You can work on itineraries, give tips about food, currency exchange and safety, and serve as a point of contact between your clients and any international contacts.
Not only can you operate your travel planning business at home, you can also do it while you travel. And more traveling will help you grow your business — you might even start a travel blog or photography site to supplement your planning business.
26. Cybersecurity and IT consulting
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.
For those looking for something broader, you might consider 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.
With the proper computer set up, you can run your cybersecurity or IT consulting business from anywhere — including potentially traveling to clients’ offices for occasional on-site system assistance.
27. 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. Again, you’ll need training and proper credentials. But you can explore the online therapy space by joining one of these new companies or another practice that offers virtual appointments.
28. PR consulting
If you're knowledgeable about business branding and marketing, 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 depending on the specific clients you're working with; however, you'll have more control than you would as part of a firm or agency.
Provided you have the right audio equipment and a quiet space, you can record your podcast from anywhere. You can then upload your content to various podcast apps and market your business on social media. Once you reach a certain number of listeners, some podcast platforms will help you sell ads and you'll begin generating revenue.
30. Life coaching
Looking for a way to offer advice and guidance to people without needing the extensive education of a medical professional? Consider 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.
As a life coach, you can also create resources like e-books and courses to give your clients additional resources outside of traditional phone call or video chat meetings.
31. Video production
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. Video production can give you the opportunity to explore a unique medium of storytelling and exercise your creativity.
32. 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.
If you don't want the responsibility of creating your own products or buying inventory upfront, you might consider starting a dropshipping business. With this kind of e-commerce operation, you create your own website, choose products from suppliers, list them on your site, and when an order is placed, the supplier will ship them directly to the customer.
You can get started by browsing dropshipping marketplaces or trying to work directly with manufacturers and importers.
» MORE: How to dropship on Shopify
If you're a people person and have good online research skills, you might consider a career as a recruiter. As an online recruiter, you can service different businesses looking to hire new employees and help them find and screen candidates. The more experience you have, the higher-level positions you may be tapped to help fill.
35. Marketing consulting
As a marketing consultant, you can provide guidance on a wide range of topics, depending on your specific expertise, and help businesses execute their online marketing strategies and campaigns. This could include email marketing, social media management and advertising, local marketing, event planning and more. You can specialize in a particular industry or geography, or market your skills to a variety of clients using a network like Upwork.
36. Online fundraising or grant writing
Are you passionate about helping mission-based businesses, especially nonprofits, getting the assistance they need? If so, consider a grant writing business. This requires you to work with clients who need help fundraising to identify grants suited to their needs, then apply for and hopefully win them.
37. Online course teaching
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. So if there’s a subject you have specialized knowledge of — a particular software program, a craft, a particular historical event — consider designing an online course. If you have formal qualifications like an advanced degree, you might be able to work with an online course service to teach courses online for their students.
38. 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.
39. YouTube channel
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 a wide audience, YouTube might be the right platform for you. Note, though, that 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.
» MORE: How to make money on YouTube
40. Voiceover work
To start your own voiceover business, you'll need a microphone, sound editing software and the ability to lend your voice to ad agencies, production companies and anyone else looking for a voiceover.
Then, you can sign up for a freelance voiceover site like voices.com and start searching for the right opportunities. Once you've gotten your foot in the door, you'll have excellent clips to show potential clients.
41. 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 or freelancers. For instance, if you have years of writing and editing experience and can no longer handle all your client inquiries yourself, you might be ready to hire your first employee and expand your capacity.
How to choose an online business idea
These online business ideas represent a variety of e-commerce business models. To choose the right one for you, ask these questions.
How do you want to make money?
Lots of business owners seek out predictable, recurring revenue so they can plan their personal finances. Keeping clients on retainer can help with that. But affiliate marketing, advertising or product sales may be harder to predict. Creating a business plan can help you think through your options and decide which you’re comfortable with.
How will you find work?
If you’re selling your skills as a freelancer, consider searching sites like Upwork and Behance to find the right clients. Networking in your local community, joining industry-specific LinkedIn groups and asking for referrals can be helpful, too.
If you’re selling products or building an audience online, you’ll need different tactics. Search engine optimization can help get your videos or product listings in front of people who will be interested in them. But you may need a significant marketing budget to develop an audience that’s large enough to generate revenue.
How much autonomy do you want?
With some online businesses, like selling handmade goods or creating online courses, you’ll have control over your products from start to finish — which can be freeing but also high-pressure. On the other hand, when you’re producing work for clients, you’ll have to conform to the client’s standards — which may feel confining, but you won’t have to do the work of coming up with ideas yourself. Some solopreneurs aim for a mix of client work and self-directed projects so that they have steady revenue while pursuing their passions.
A version of this article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.