You don't need a brick-and-mortar location to start a successful business. In fact, some of the most successful businesses can be run entirely online. Keeping your business digital can save you thousands of dollars in rent and expenses, and it can help you reach a wider base of clients because you're not limited to one local area.
Ready to start a business this year? Here are 15 online business ideas to inspire you.
1. SEO consultant – Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? A lot of smaller companies don't realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. You can start an online business to help other companies make their websites more SEO friendly by teaching business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.
2. Business coaching –If you have a lot of business knowledge and experience, why not start a business that helps other aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. You can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn, to show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients.
3. Specialized retailer – An online store lets you reach customers all over that world and that means you can afford to specialize. Whether it's dollhouse furniture or organic dog food, there's an audience for everything. Using a web hosting service with an integrated shopping cart or e-commerce sofware, your business will be operational in no time. Many vendors will even ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don't need to own a lot of inventory.
4. Social media consultant – Larger firms can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many other responsibilities, business owners are often too busy or overwhelmed to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.
5. Web design – Have you ever been turned off by a business’s generic-looking website layout? If you know some HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. You can put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build up a portfolio of work with smaller freelance jobs, then create your own website to show it off and bring in a steady stream of clients.
6. Resume/cover letter writing – It's a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when applying jobs. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Get hired to help others get hired by writing stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.
7. Professional freelancer – You might not think of freelancing as a business, but with more and more companies turning to part-time contract workers to fill their skill gaps, it's not hard to imagine making a living providing businesses with a variety of freelance services. Depending on your skill sets, you could work for multiple companies in a variety of fields, offering flexibility and a refreshing change of pace. According to the freelance job listing website Freelancer.com, tech services, content creation and web design are popular fields for contract work.
8. Affiliate marketing – If you're a person that loves leaving customer reviews on sites like Amazon, stop doing it for free. Word-of-mouth advertising is still a huge lead generator for many companies, and a lot of businesses are willing to share a portion of their profits with persuasive individuals who will promote their products to the public. If you have a personal website with a large following, this might be easier to accomplish (PR reps are always seeking out brand advocates they can send free samples to). Smart Passive Income breaks down three types of affiliate marketing and explains which one is most profitable.
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9. Health/nutrition coach – When it comes to nutrition, Americans seem to have a mental block. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 70 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese, and many people that want to lose weight and eat better simply don't know where to start. You don't necessarily need to be a registered dietitian (RD) to offer meal plans and diet counseling to your client base, either. With the right combination of personal support and nutrition and exercise knowledge, you could be helping people get healthier through your online service.
10. eBook author – Have a ton of knowledge on a particular subject that you want to share with the public? With e-readers now a staple in most households, self-publication has become a reality for many writers who might never get picked up by publishing companies. With the right marketing tools, you can successfully publish your own books on anything from cooking and weight loss to real estate. Inbound Pro’s advice from successful e-Book authors offers tips for writing content that sells.
11. Remote technical support – Many small businesses don't have room in their budget for a full-time IT employee, so when their systems go on the fritz, they'll usually call a computer whiz friend or family member. If you have experience working on computers and networks, you can eliminate their need to call in a favor and offer immediate remote technical assistance.
12. Virtual consignment store – Bargain hunters and thrift store enthusiasts can turn a nice profit reselling their vintage clothing finds. Brand yourself by setting up an independent website as your virtual storefront, but use a managed service like Google Checkout to handle transactions. High-resolution images and catchy copy for your products will make you stand out in the sea of Internet users trying to sell their used items..
13. Handmade craft seller – Online sites like Etsy and ArtFire are platforms that make it extremely easy for crafters who can produce a steady supply of quality handmade items, like crocheted blankets or unique painted glassware. Startup costs are extremely low if you purchase your materials in bulk from a craft supplier, and if you can turn orders around quickly, you’ll be making a profit in no time at all. It’s even possible to turn your store into a full-time gig.
14. Teaching online courses – You don’t need a degree in education to teach people how to do something you know inside and out. You can help others enrich their lives by offering classes in an area you’re passionate about, like yoga or baking. Create instructional packets and videos for download from a website, or schedule real-time Skype lessons with clients.
15. App development – Mobile applications are more popular than ever, and people are willing to pay good money for ways to manage their lives from their smartphones. If you have a great idea and happen to know coding, you can run with it and create your app yourself. If you just have an idea and don't know the ins and outs of how to turn it into a reality, there are plenty of software developers looking to collaborate with people on app creation.
Updated Sept. 11, 2015. Additional reporting by Business News Daily Staff Writer Brittney Helmrich.