When you tell people you want to start a home-based business, they probably say you’re crazy. But it’s not crazy—it’s not even that hard! Most of our staff here at ChannelReply works from home, and if we can do it, you can too. Check out these online business ideas and see which ones can work for you.
Low-Risk Online Business Ideas
Don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on an idea that will end up in the garbage bin of online business failures? These businesses cost little to nothing to start and can easily provide a full-time income.
The Web is full of freelancing scams, but there are legitimate—and excellent—freelancing websites out there, such as Upwork and Fiverr. You can sell virtually any skill on these websites. Whether you want to write for hire, be a virtual assistant, build websites, perform session recordings or voiceovers, or even draw cartoons, there’s always someone out there willing to pay for it if you’ll do the job well.
Challenges: Landing your first gig is tough. Don’t be afraid to undercut the competition and work for peanuts at first, and do everything you can to make your clients happy so you get those precious five-star reviews.
Advantages: This is one of the most flexible career paths available. You can work for multiple clients and even in multiple industries, changing things up so you never feel like you’re running on a treadmill. It can also pay very well: top freelancers charge well over $50 an hour.
Dropshipping allows you to enter the world of ecommerce without buying any inventory. You create listings for your suppliers’ products on sites like eBay. When a customer buys the product from you, you buy the product from the supplier for a lower price, and they ship it directly to your customer.
You can learn more about dropshipping in our list of the best ecommerce business ideas.
Challenges: Competition is extremely high and most dropshippers only make $2 to $5 per sale. You’ll also be the one getting a bad review if your supplier screws up the shipping.
Advantages: You pay little to nothing to get started and never have any inventory at risk. You really can gain with nothing ventured here!
3. Affiliate Marketing
This is essentially freelance marketing, but with even more freedom. Many individuals and companies with something to sell online offer commissions to people who market their product—often up to 75% of the price!
You choose the products you want to promote and the vendor gives you a special tracking link. Anytime someone clicks the link and buys the product, you earn your commission. That makes this a fantastic way to make a living from a blog.
Affilorama is a great resource for aspiring affiliate marketers.
Challenges: The learning curve is pretty steep. You really need to be a good salesperson, and you’ll either need skill in design, website building, and writing, or the resources to hire people to handle these things for you.
Advantages: You set your own levels of risk and reward. And if you get a steady stream of traffic to your site, you don’t have to do any more work at all—just sit back and let the money flow in. It’s true passive income.
High-Return Home-Based Business Ideas
Are you ready to build a serious business and pull in the kind of money your boss makes? As far as working online goes, these are the oldest and most reliable ideas, a bit tough to get started in but proven to have very high earning potential.
For as long as money has existed, people have bought things and then sold them for a profit. It works just as well online as it does in person. Selling online just means you can do it without all the costs involved in owning a store!
If you want to build a home-based business buying and selling online, there are basically three ways to go about it:
Of course, selling on eBay and Amazon at the same time can be quite effective, and there’s no reason you can’t do all three! There are also niche marketplaces and alternatives that can work quite well for the savvy seller.
Just click on any of the links above to learn the basics of each option. Our article on eBay business models also goes in-depth on different ecommerce strategies.
Challenges: You may need to risk a sizable amount of money on inventory. Additionally, determining what products you can still sell for a profit online can be tough.
Advantages: The sky’s the limit. You can run a one-person home-based business out of your basement; you can hire staff, rent out storage units and manage your own small company; you can even expand into a multimillion-dollar operation. It all depends on what you want, how hard you’re willing to work, and a little bit of luck.
5. Website and Domain Name Trading
Most websites will sell for about 3 to 6 times EBITDA (gross annual profits). So, if you want to make a lot of money fast, you can simply get your hands on profitable websites and then sell them for half a decade’s worth of profits.
There are two basic kinds of website trading: creating and flipping.
Similar to real estate flipping, website flipping is the practice of buying up property and then selling it at a profit.
Generally, this is done by skilled SEOs and marketers who buy a website that has a decent amount of traffic but lots of room for improvement. They make a few tweaks to improve search engine rankings and grow revenue streams. Then, after doubling or tripling the website’s revenue and value over a few months, they sell it for a massive profit.
A lower-risk model is with domain names. You buy desirable domain names, either from current site owners who’ve underutilized them or straight from a registrar. Then you sell them—for far more money than you paid—to a company that appreciates the name’s value.
You can also create monetized websites from the ground up and then sell them when they start making money.
Flippa is the premier marketplace for website traders.
Challenges: The business model is simple, but a lot can go wrong. You might have trouble finding buyers, or you could learn that your skills aren’t up to the task and watch the website’s value plummet. Losing all of your investment in a site can cripple your wallet.
Advantages: There’s room for huge profits here. If you keep up a steady stream of work and can juggle multiple sites, your income will soar. The websites you own will provide steady income while you reap enormous paychecks from each sale.
Think you have what it takes to really make it big? Here are ideas for the serious entrepreneurs out there who want to make a killing, not a mere living.
6. Information Products
Are you an expert at something? Then you might be able to become a millionaire working from home.
Let’s say you’re really great at gardening. You could write a book about it, but plenty of other people have done that. How many have made the Ultimate Online Guide to Gardening with 10 Hours of Bonus Materials for Platinum Members for Just $57 a Month!?
The idea is simple: Create training materials for a specific subject (playing guitar, dating, you name it) and package them in the flashiest way possible. Try to make it a subscription with new materials added over time and not just a one-time payment. Then sell it online at a premium!
Challenges: You either actually need to be an expert in something or brilliant at researching and coming across as an expert. You also need to sell as hard as Billy Mays. The risks are fairly high, as you need to spend a significant amount of money and time building whatever your system is—usually this involves making a number of videos and writing at least a book’s worth of info—and then marketing it. If it flops, it’s gonna hurt.
Advantages: This is how you really make money online! Subscription-based information products cost you nothing every time someone buys them, and you can keep selling to the same people over and over again. Once you get your system set up and making sales it’s pretty much pure profit.
Who says you have to come up with the ideas and do all the legwork? If you already have money, the best thing to do is turn that into more money! Investing in online passive income streams often yields much higher returns than the stock market.
Take website flipping from above as one example. While other people are working hard to turn websites into profit-making machines, you can simply buy the sites they've built, hire an admin who knows how to keep them (and their revenues) growing, and then let the returns roll in. It might take two or three years before you see any profits, but after that you have a steady source of income for the life of each website.
Challenges: You actually need to know a thing or two about the Internet to make this work. If you can’t tell an evergreen or growing website from one that’s here today and gone tomorrow, you’ll wish you had invested in a mutual fund instead. You also need plenty of money you can put at risk and some business management skills and knowledge.
Advantages: This is one of the most realistic and reliable ways to become very rich. It also requires minimal time on your part, allowing you to add this income to that of your career.
Just about anyone can create a home-based business using one of these strategies. They aren’t the only online business ideas out there, but they’re some of the best. Freedom awaits—don’t leave it hanging!
Want to try out ecommerce? We have the info you need to get started! Start with "The Benefits of Selling on Amazon" or "The Advantages of eBay for Online Sellers" and dive into one of the most reliable ways to make a full-time income online.