Nothing is more compelling than reading those almost-improbable success stories of newbie entrepreneurs making money in their sleep. And the greatest thing about this new obsession that’s currently gripping the world is that it actually works.
Yet the beauty of running an online side business is that you can start off by spending as little as 1-2 hours a day on your new project. No need to quit your full-time job or drop your studies. As long as the idea you choose to run with fuels your personal passions and aligns with your core competencies, you have very little to worry about.
There are, literally, hundreds of options you could start with, but we’ve gathered 20 online side business ideas that are quite easy to get into and are proven to make money when done right.
Care to learn more?
Blogging is often the first idea that springs to mind when the conversation turns to online side businesses. And rightly so. Thousands of bloggers around the world are successfully making money off their talent to write, and the best thing about this hustle is that there’s no right way to do it. First, let’s establish the fact that blogging itself is rarely profitable. Bear with me. Blogging is like a train station – the more trains you have running, the better are your chances of turning a profit. Establishing several streams of income is key to turning your blog into a self-sustaining side business. So let’s back up a little.
If writing is something you put down as one of your passions, it can definitely work. The first step in this long journey is to discover your niche – a specific theme or topic that most of your content will focus on. The three really broad but most profitable niches are money, relationships, and health and fitness. You can, of course, choose to write about anything that excites you – whether it’s walking as a hobby or upcycling. Just keep in mind that the niche you select needs to be narrow enough to keep your writing efforts focused on building authority and, at the same time, broad enough to capture the interest of a large audience.
So where does the money come in? As your audience starts to grow and you begin attracting more and more traffic, a whole array of different blog monetization options will open up to you. It’s best to choose the most organic ways that won’t detract from your blog’s reputation. For example, if you’re blogging about walking as a hobby, start selling custom walking trail plans or promoting walking boots. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to have multiple sources of income, as any one of them can shrink unexpectedly. The five main categories of income streams that bloggers tend to adopt are:
- Advertising (display ads, private ads, giveaways and reviews, newsletter and podcast sponsorships, sponsored posts, etc.)
- Affiliate marketing (more about this below)
- Digital products (apps, plugins, themes, video and audio, webinars, online courses, workshops, etc.)
- Physical products (books, events, classes, handmade products, etc.)
- Services (consulting, coaching, speaking, design, writing, etc.)
Can blogging be a career? Absolutely. Will it take a lot of creativity, hustle and effort to work out? Absolutely. But the unbeatable benefits of working from anywhere, at any time and writing about topics that you personally enjoy make it a very attractive side business idea.
#2 Affiliate Marketing
Next, let’s tackle one of the most popular online business ideas – affiliate marketing. So what is it, exactly? In a nutshell, you recommend products or services offered by a chosen company to your readers, followers or people you know. If they buy something as a result of your recommendation, you get a commission (either a percentage or a flat fee). Easy, right?
To start an affiliate marketing business you’ll need a strong online presence. The most successful affiliate marketers run blogs, websites or newsletters that enjoy high levels of readership. This passive income technique is based on the idea that the products and services you recommend are strongly targeted and relevant to your audience and don’t feel like outright selling. It’s also essential to always be transparent about your relationship with the affiliate partner to avoid losing your reader’s’ trust.
There are two basic ways how to find the best affiliate partners. You can make a list of products or services that add value to your content and check the company websites to see if they have an affiliate or referral program, or you can join an affiliate network to browse offers from hundreds of advertisers and find the right match there. For example, you can become an “Amazon associate=” and promote any of their products on your site to earn up to 10% in advertising fees or join Hostinger’s Affiliate program to earn cash and special rewards.
Taking the Internet by storm, dropshipping is an eCommerce model that allows online entrepreneurs to open online shops without any upfront investment. The basic idea behind this concept is that you find a profitable product idea, set up an online store and partner with a supplier who handles the inventory, packing, shipping, and returns for you. You don’t need to buy the products in advance – once you receive an order online, you pass the request to your supplier and take a cut on the margin. It’s a passive income technique that has a lot of potential and has already made many online entrepreneurs richer than they ever expected to be.
Dreaming up, building and marketing an online store can be tough if you’re in a full-time job (be prepared to sacrifice your evenings and weekends). But once launched, an eCommerce store is one of the best ways to make money from the internet. It all begins with finding a profitable product niche. Something as simple as selling durian fruits online can turn out to be a winner, so don’t scrap any of your ideas without further research. Whether you’re making, manufacturing or sourcing your products from a supplier, it’s a good idea to think about private labeling and branding from the start. If you manage to establish a solid online presence and your side project takes off, you’re looking at an opportunity to earn a six-figure amount from running a branded online business.
#5 Business Coaching
It’s likely you’ve developed valuable skills and expertise within your industry that would be of great interest and help to aspiring entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. Becoming a business coach or consultant is easier than it sounds – once you’re able to demonstrate your achievements, whether in the form of case studies, client testimonials, free sessions, value-filled content or other avenues, you’re bound to receive business opportunities that you can explore in your spare time. Every skill from inbound marketing, to cold calling, to bookkeeping can be monetized if you target the right audience and learn to promote yourself. Don’t be afraid to get out there and offer your help free of charge at first to get the ball rolling.
#6 Building Websites and Selling on Flippa
Don’t freak out about not being able to code just yet – you can build and sell websites on Flippa without any coding experience. Flippa is a marketplace for buying and selling web businesses, apps and domain names. It’s a godsend for savvy entrepreneurs that are always brimming with ideas for new hustles. In essence, this is how it works: you brainstorm a startup idea, secure a catchy domain name, use a WordPress theme to build it out and make it look appealing, and then sell it in an auction on Flippa. Alec Larson has been doing this for some time, and claims to be making $1,000 to $1,500 on Flippa every month. There’s no clever secret behind this – you come up with compelling ideas, flesh them out and sell them to eager entrepreneurs. The essential upfront investment is minimal: starting a website will cost you $2.45 a month, including a free domain name registration, plus your time and effort to put the pieces together. Certainly worth a try.
#7 Photography Business
Don’t leave the house without your camera? People love the style and feel of your images? It’s time to put a price tag on this hobby! One of the easiest ways to earn passive income online is to start selling your photos on sites like Shutterstock and iStock Photo. With visual content on the rise, the demand for unique photography is growing rapidly, so don’t miss out on this side business idea. If you own more gear than just a professional camera, you could also consider hunting for headshot or wedding photography gigs. If you start out by offering your services for free to your friends, you’ll be able to test your abilities, build a portfolio and get some free word-of-mouth advertising in no time.
#8 Editing and Proofreading
Sometimes typos can be funny, but most of the time they’re simply embarrassing and damaging to the brand. As long as we’re consuming written content, editing and proofreading will remain a highly-needed and often well-paid skill. If you have an eye for detail and a keen interest in reading, this might be a perfect side business idea for you. In fact, a great number of digital nomads have been funding their world travels entirely through picking up freelance editing and proofreading jobs. So sharpen your pencil and help to make the world a grammar-friendly place!
#9 Writing and Selling eBooks and Online Guides
Self-publishing is thriving, eBooks and online guides are slowly but steadily making a lot of online authors richer every day and, to the surprise of a number of cynics, people are still reading! So here’s another golden nugget for you – write a book or a long-form guide and sell it online. Whether you have a great personal story to tell, a valuable, educational piece cooking up in your head or have accumulated a wealth of resources or knowledge on a particular topic that could prove invaluable to others, you can start making money off it as soon as it gets online. If you publish your eBook through Amazon Kindle Publishing and continuously promote it on your blog or website, the sales will keep on trickling in.
#10 Building a Niche Website
Although you can still build a niche website around your personal passion, it is typically a more calculated affair. You gear all your efforts towards establishing multiple income sources and earning money rather than getting the satisfaction of following your hobbies and interests. You might be a huge fan of Queen’s music, but if there’s no money to be made off this, you won’t pursue the idea as a side gig.
Briefly, successful niche websites rely on tapping into underserved topics and niches and using various monetization techniques, such as display advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, selling digital products or even plugging in eCommerce elements to lay a foundation for a passive income strategy. For some inspiration, read the FoodTruckr story (a website for buying and selling food trucks) and how it found its success online purely by chance.
You can find a free web hosting service if you want to set up a niche website and have no budget, but it’s not recommended because you’ll face a number of limitations. Hostinger’s Premium plan can guarantee you an exceptional hosting service and a free domain name registration for as little as $3.49 a month.
#11 Selling Online Courses
People are getting more and more comfortable with buying online courses. Why is it so popular? The short answer is that people are looking for solutions to a problem that is keeping them from achieving something in their lives, and getting that help online is the simplest and easiest solution. Chances are, you are an expert at something. You don’t necessarily require an MBA or a special certification in a particular area to be an expert. Let’s say, for example, that you are an incredibly charming person and find online dating a fun and enjoyable experience. Thousands would disagree with you – they struggle with everything from setting up their online profile to maintaining a conversation. It’s a huge problem begging for a solution and could make a lot of money if approached in the right way. Find your best skills and package them into an online course to enjoy a long-term passive income as well as the satisfaction of helping people overcome professional and personal challenges. Derek Halpern is one of the biggest names in this niche, so check out his tips and resources for more information.
#12 Web Development Services
Freelance web developers are some of the most sought-after experts online. No business imagines its future without a well-functioning website and let’s not forget about growing market for apps based on artificial intelligence. If you have the right skills and experience in place, then this is your golden ticket to kicking off a successful online side business. Use freelance marketplaces like PeoplePerHour or Upwork to generate leads and pick up freelance projects, but be sure to have your own website with a balanced portfolio that you can show when pitching to new clients. If you’re only thinking about acquiring web development skills, there’s a ton of free resources that you should explore.
#13 Web Design Services
When it comes to online businesses, a good website design is one of the defining factors for success. A bit like web development, it is one of the most in-demand skills in the freelance world. With new startups launching every day, finding web design work won’t be very difficult. But you can also explore the possibility of designing and selling WordPress themes or creating custom designs for Squarespace and Wix users, like Designs for Squares are doing.
#14 SEO Consultant
Have a good understanding of how search optimization works? Put those skills to use. SEO consulting is booming and many online businesses are prepared to pay handsomely for expert advice and actionable tips that can help increase traffic and revenue. Many businesses take to Google when looking for a SEO consultant, so your first challenge is to establish a solid online presence and get your own website ranked high in the search results. Have a look at Gareth Bull’s website to get a better idea of what services you could offer and become a certified Google partner to get free access to a host of free training resources and promotional offers.
#15 Resume / Cover letter writing
Most of us struggle with selling our own experience and skills. Looking for a new job can be an extremely stressful and frustrating experience, so it’s not unusual for job hunters to turn to experts for a bit of help and guidance. Whether you have some recruitment experience or a knack for clear communication, CV and cover letter writing could be just the right side gig idea for you. Experts at Stand Out Shop are cleverly combining CV writing service with selling downloadable resume designs, so think big and think about offering the ultimate job hunter’s package. Don’t know where to start? Use your LinkedIn network to generate leads and promote your services.
#16 Video Editing Services
Forget content marketing, video is the new king. Creative and video agencies charge gazillions of dollars for high-end production, so there’s a lot of demand for budget services. If you know your way around video editing software, this is a great opportunity to make some extra cash. Combine this skill with a voiceover service and you have the beginnings of a promising online venture. Many businesses and private clients are looking for video editors on freelance marketplaces, such as PeoplePerHour, Upwork and Freelancer, but you can also get extra exposure and generate profit by setting up a YouTube channel and creating some value-driven video content.
#17 Buy and Sell Domains
The opportunity to cash in on this adventure is still valid but only if you play smart. Buying and selling domain names is a great side business idea for entrepreneurs with strong research skills. Understanding the audience you want to sell to and being able to recognise valuable domain names are the key drivers behind the success of this business and the knowledge comes only with careful research and testing. Check out Sedo, one of the most popular domain marketplaces, to get a better insight into pricing and trends.
#18 Lead Generation Service
Outsourcing lead generation is becoming the new norm. Good sales people are hard to find and many businesses try to avoid the risks of employing someone full-time before they have a robust lead generation strategy in place. If you’re well versed in all things sales, then it’s time to seize the day. Lead generation encompasses a vast array of tactics, including content marketing, email marketing, cold calling, SEO, website optimization, webinars, and so on. Pick one or two techniques that you can really nail, set up your website, and get to work generating leads for your own little business.
#19 Social Media Management
An effective social media strategy that’s focused on attracting new prospects and nurturing leads can take a lot of time to develop and implement. Let alone all the automation, optimization and engagement tools and tactics that a good social media manager needs to master. So while the majority of business owners will strive to have a presence on social media channels, only a few will know how to get the best ROI and tie their social media efforts to the bottom line. Tapping into this need and helping businesses manage their social media accounts could turn out to be a very profitable side business idea.
#20 Virtual Assistant
Are you one of those people who start their day with a to-do list? Then you’ll enjoy helping others get their life back. Virtual assistants provide administrative support to entrepreneurs and business owners who have more on their hands than they can handle. The ultimate perk of this side business is that you can work from your home office or anywhere you want, as long as you have a wifi connection and access to a phone. Freelance marketplaces are the best places to pick up some freelance gigs until you have a solid stream of clients coming through your own website.
Nothing caught your eye?
When starting your first online side business, it’s really important to pick an idea that correlates with your interests and personal strengths. If you can earn steady passive income while having fun and learning as you go, there’s a good chance your side gig will flourish into a full-time business.
We’ve selected these ideas because they’re always at the top of the list of the most profitable side hustles, but don’t worry if you don’t feel particularly drawn to any of them. There are dozens of other skills that can help you to bring home the bacon. Head to sites like Skillshare, Udemy and GeneralAssembly to see what online classes are trending and maybe you will find your calling!
Have you kicked off a successful side business? Share your experience and ideas in the comments below!