The 20 best online business ideas to jumpstart your new venture

It’s no secret that more companies than ever are conducting business online, from the ecommerce giants to the local mom and pop around the corner. With more than $861 billion spent with U.S businesses online in 2020 — a 44% increase from 2019 — this undeniable shift in consumer habits might just be a signal that there’s never been a better time to start an online business. 

But launching your business is not as simple as beginning to design a logo and using a free website builder to create your site. You need a great idea to bring people to your digital door. Here are 20 online business ideas that can get you started as well as the investment you’ll need to make for each one.

20 great online business ideas you can start tomorrow 

On the lookout for profitable online business ideas? These 20 suggestions should put you on the right path.

grey macbook with app icons
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

1. Online personal trainer

You don’t need gym access or lots of fancy equipment to start an online personal training business. That said, taking classes and receiving a personal trainer certification is necessary, though you can sometimes do so inexpensively in under a year. Traniac’s list of top active online personal trainers can help you find some inspiration for starting your own training business. 

Pros:

  • Keeps you fit while you work
  • Relatively quick formal education path
  • Highly in-demand service

Cons:

  • May need to buy extra fitness equipment
  • Formal certification may be required in some places

Investment requirements: Your investment will be modest, as you’ll need fitness equipment and a formal certification.

laptop and white cup on a table
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

2. Virtual assistant business

Virtual assistant businesses boast proven organization, task management, and scheduling skills to help busy people stay on track. They’re also among the easiest online businesses to start. Just sign up for TaskRabbit, Fiverr, or other platforms and build a portfolio of your assistant work, or you can build your own website with Site Maker to feature client reviews and more information about your services. 

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require formal education
  • Easy to gain experience 
  • Requires minimal hardware and software

Cons:

  • Building a portfolio can be a lengthy process
  • May generate less revenue than other ideas 
  • Abundant competition 

Investment requirements: This is typically quite low, as you’ll already have most hardware and software you need, but you may want to upgrade your phone and computer.

different earrings hanging
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

3. Crafts and decorations business

If you’re artistic and creative, your hobbies can make for great online business ideas. Selling crafts and decorations can be a fun, inspiring, and enjoyable way to make some extra cash. A site like Etsy provides a platform that attracts interested customers from all walks of life, and you can use social media and apps to sell your wares around the neighborhood.

Pros:

  • Earn a living doing what you love
  • Minimal overhead or new equipment if you’re already crafting
  • Easy to start a business through platforms like Etsy

Cons:

  • Subject to people’s tastes and discretionary spending budgets
  • Substantial undertaking if you’re not already crafting
  • Finding your market niche is vital to standing out among the crowd

Investment requirements: The investment is a modest one as you purchase supplies and equipment you need to produce more items at a faster rate, plus shipping supplies and rates to send your goods to customers.

4. Data entry business

Rare is the small business owner who wants to spend hours working with all their data and spreadsheets. This work, though, is quite easy and always in high demand. Advertise yourself as a data entry specialist on platforms like Fiverr, where you can also take cues from other profiles, to find your first clients. Keep adding your work to your portfolio, then keep on growing.

Pros:

  • Easy tasks
  • Abundant opportunities
  • Minimal investment 

Cons:

  • Relatively low pay
  • May feel uninspiring or tedious

Investment requirements: The investment is typically minimal, as you won’t need any extra education or platforms not already on your computer.

person making a note in notebook
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

5. Online tutoring

There will always be students who need additional help outside the classroom. You can provide that help as an online tutor. Find clients through online tutor marketplaces such as Varsity Tutors and VIPkid. Use field-specific digital tools and videoconferencing tools with screen sharing to get started.

Pros:

  • Easy to start, and happy customers will return
  • Constant need for services
  • Potential for high income if you have extensive experience or an advanced degree

Cons:

  • Lots of competition
  • Likely requires advertising to reach customers
  • Can be challenging to attract and retain customers

Investment requirements: Investment is typically minimal, though a modest ad spend can be helpful as you start out.

6. Digital education hub

Instead of one-on-one sessions with students, try creating educational one-sheets, videos, and other content. Then, upload this content to a digital education hub and charge for access. Khan Academy and MasterClass are among the most successful online businesses in this realm. Reference them to decide what subjects and types of content suit your goals.

Pros:

  • More time, schedule, and content flexibility than tutoring
  • Potentially limitless client base given appointment-free model
  • One item can be purchased by multiple people — no supply chain to rely on

Cons:

  • May require investment in advanced editing software and other tools
  • Similar content may exist on other online educational platforms
  • Lack of one-on-one interaction

Investment requirements: The investment can be high as you take the time to source or develop the content and promote your business.

microphone for a podcast
Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash

7. Podcast network

There are certainly plenty of podcasts out today, but what subjects will bring in new listeners? If you’ve found that a subject that fascinates you lacks relevant podcasts, start your own network. You can attract advertisers who want to reach your audience by sponsoring an episode of your podcast, and you can work to bring on talent that carries its own audience, making it easier to get your name out there. For inspiration on how to brand and market your podcast network, head to the iTunes Store and see what other podcasts are doing. You may want to invest in high-quality recording and editing equipment — after all, the podcast experience is an auditory one!

Pros:

  • Lets you share your passion with a wider audience
  • Can provide valuable information or engaging content to a niche audience
  • Advertising opportunities from corporate sponsors abound

Cons:

  • Requires an investment in high-quality recording and editing equipment
  • May require extra marketing and advertising investment
  • Finding podcasters to recruit to your network can be tough

Investment required: Expect a modest investment given the need for advertising, equipment, and other podcasters.

resume paper checklist
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

8. Resume and cover letter consultant

A resume and cover letter consultancy can be one of the best businesses to start online because people are always applying for jobs. Many of these people will seek assistance standing out from the pack, and you can provide that direction with no overhead or inventory at the ready — just your experience, your mind, and your keen eye for detail. Look at The Resume Clinic and JWC Professional Resume Services for inspiration.

Pros

  • No overhead, inventory, or other investment required
  • Services in high demand
  • Requires no special credentials

Cons:

  • Modest competition
  • No guarantee that your services will lead to success, making customer acquisition tougher

Investment required: Your capital requirements are minimal, but an investment of time into networking and advertising (both free and paid) is essential for success.

laptop notebook and a cup
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

9. Transcription services

Small businesses might need their most pressing meetings converted to readable text. Similarly, for many journalists, transcribing their interviews is a time-consuming task that can be spent doing more important things. As a transcriber, you can fill these roles for anyone in the world. Rev is the leading name in transcription, and you can glance at its services and prices to see how you might be different and better.

Pros:

  • No physical inventory
  • Potentially vast client base
  • Easy work

Cons:

  • May feel tedious and uninspiring
  • Can be low-paying
  • Significant competition

Investment requirements: The investment is minimal, as you can use software you already have or opt for free web apps that facilitate transcription.

social media iphone icons
Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

10. Social media manager

Not every company can afford employees who manage their social media, and that’s where you come in. Put yourself out there as a third-party social media manager who can build a unified, engaging internet presence for brands. Look at Oak Street Social and Sunnyside Social Media to see what the social media management landscape looks like and where you might fit.

Pros:

  • No physical inventory
  • Small number of software platforms needed
  • Minimal learning curve

Cons:

  • Highly competitive 
  • Mastering brand voices can be challenging
  • Fast-paced industry requires lots of “on” time

Investment requirements: The investment is minimal as many social media management tools are inexpensive.

person typing text
Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

11. Content writing and marketing

Your favorite company’s blog isn’t just a business owner talking at nobody. It’s part of a concerted content marketing effort helmed by excellent writers. Learn to write blogs compellingly and with SEO best practices in mind to help build a devoted client base. Her Philly and The Happy Guy Writing Services are great examples of successful bloggers who help businesses.

Pros:

  • Create materials about subjects you love
  • Flexible schedule
  • Little to no need for additional hardware or software

Cons:

  • Competition from larger agencies
  • Requires mastery of a skill that can’t entirely be taught
  • Solely writing instead of writing and marketing can make you less appealing

Investment requirements: The investment is very minimal if you’re simply writing, but may require a bit more for software and supplies if you add marketing into the mix.

map and graphs on laptop
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

12. Affiliate marketing

A relatively niche form of promotion, affiliate marketing ranges from pay-per-click marketing to personal endorsements. It’s a highly valuable service in industries where word of mouth still matters. As such, if you’re great at hyping something up, you can turn that skill into an affiliate marketing business. Try looking to Allegra Printing and Nuanced Media for examples.

Pros:

  • Extremely low learning curve
  • Abstract job definition means you can work on your own terms
  • High demand in e-commerce

Cons:

  • The fact that anyone can do it may diminish its effectiveness
  • Abstract job definition may make getting started a challenge
  • Other forms of marketing may be more in demand outside e-commerce

Investment requirements: The investment is virtually none money-wise, which is why a field as niche as affiliate marketing is on this list of the best online business ideas.

person with bluetooth headphones and laptop
Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

13. Remote customer service

Despite the importance of customer service, not every company can hire dedicated customer service staff. You can solve this problem as a remote third-party customer service rep. Make time in your day to field customer emails, texts, and chats for companies that can’t do it themselves. HubSpot lists several remote customer service jobs you can use for inspiration.

Pros:

  • Service integral to small business success
  • Involves human interaction
  • Can feel meaningful to solve people’s problems

Cons:

  • Rarely can one person cover an entire company’s customer service needs
  • Specialized customer service software, and perhaps hardware, is necessary
  • Customer service training may be necessary to keep customers fully satisfied

Investment requirements: The investment may be higher given software, hardware, and training needs.

14. Software developer

Software development is among the top online business ideas because it pays extremely well. The need for it seems to constantly increase as more small businesses unveil apps. Plus, theoretically, anyone can learn to code. Your best bet for inspiration here is to browse LinkedIn profiles of freelance software developers in your area.

Pros:

  • Extremely in-demand service
  • Very lucrative field
  • Low access barriers to learning

Cons:

  • Despite easy access to learning opportunities, learning curve may be high
  • Completing projects can take much longer than in other industries
  • Lack of personal interaction

Investment requirements: The investment is low to modest, depending on the cost of education.

thank you card in a box
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

15. Dropshipping

It’s entirely possible that dropshipping is the single easiest online business on this list. It simply involves listing items for sale and buying them from a third party that ships the item to the customer for you. You’ll avoid physical inventory and logistics, and you can focus exclusively on marketing your products. This CNBC report on dropshipping can provide some inspiration.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy business model
  • No inventory or overhead
  • Increasingly prominent e-commerce model

Cons:

  • Hands-off model may prove too passive for certain entrepreneurs
  • Business success hinges entirely on marketing rather than products you create

Investment requirements: Investment is low, as you’re not fronting the money to buy all the inventory.

person in yellow sweater typing
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

16. Remote coaching

People commonly need motivation, advice, and consulting for all kinds of things. As a remote coach, you can charge for any time and thoughts you offer on these fronts. You might want to couple your coaching business with a blog or other content to make your brand more clearly visible. Exemplary online coaches include Dylan Clark and Karie Kaufmann.

Pros:

  • Relies on expertise you already have
  • Makes a meaningful difference in clients’ lives
  • Requires minimal investment

Cons:

  • Abstract deliverables and results can make promoting yourself tough
  • Some clients may find online coaching less effective than in-person sessions
  • Few rigid pricing standards in coaching industries

Investment requirements: The investment is very low as all you need is videoconferencing software and a website, which you can build for free with Namecheap.

person with a notebook and photos
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

17. Technical writing

Take the content writing idea mentioned earlier to the next level as a technical writer for hire. Only the most specialized writers can create in-depth, complex instruction manuals or report on scientific results. If you’re that person, you’ll be a relatively rare find. ProWrite and Technical Writers are two companies you can reference as you build your business.

Pros:

  • Highly specialized service means less competition
  • Pertains to your expertise
  • Can be extremely high-paying in certain industries

Cons:

  • Skills can only be learned from years of prior hands-on experience
  • Projects can take more time than in other industries

Investment requirements: The investment is very low, as you likely already have the skills and technological access you need to ace this business.

technical writing course
Photo by Headway on Unsplash

18. Startup advisor

Startups face unique pressures as they navigate an environment fueled by rapid growth. As an online startup advisor, you can help answer these questions. Since more than 600,000 new businesses launch each year, you’ll have a potentially huge client base. Visit the Association of Accredited Small Business Consultants to see how your company might work.

Pros:

  • A large and growing client base
  • Certifications available
  • Work stays interesting as you work with multiple clients

Cons:

  • Abstract challenges
  • Startups may face funding challenges

Investment requirements: The investment is modest as you’ll need to put together a convincing website, CV, and portfolio while paying for accreditation.

person with a dictionary
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

19. Online translation services

America is a melting pot of different cultures, so a successful business may need to communicate to potential customers in numerous languages. If you’re a polyglot, then a translation company might be the best online business to start. Promote the types of content you’ll translate and the languages you speak, then get to work. The Translating Company is a leading example.

Pros:

  • Natural fit if you speak more than one language
  • Increasing demand for services
  • Minimal investment requirements

Cons:

  • Challenging to learn new languages
  • Speaking just one language can limit your customer base

Investment requirements: The investment is very low since, if you’re fluent in more than one language, you already have the skills you need.

laptop with a photo editor and a camera
Photo by Mylene Tremoyet on Unsplash

20. Photography and filming

Creative types and businesses alike need photography and filming services. Perhaps you can carve out a space for yourself somewhere between TV ads and wedding photos. Build a portfolio to display on your website and use Instagram, Pinterest, and other free visual platforms to highlight your work. Examples include Elizabeth Lloyd Photography and Spin Creative.

Pros:

  • Highly specialized, somewhat limiting your competition
  • Fulfills creative urges
  • Success based on portfolios rather than intangible success stories

Cons:

  • Potentially steep learning curve for certain software programs
  • High investment costs
  • May require natural creativity that can’t quite be learned

Investment requirements: The investment is often high as film and photography equipment and software are typically expensive.

Online business in the U.S. vs. elsewhere

In theory, the location of an online business doesn’t matter. After all, an internet connection gives you access to websites across the world. However, the website InternationalWealth.info ranks the U.S. only third in its list of best countries to register your online business. The British Virgin Islands and Canada come first and second, respectively, given favorable tax rates and other regulations.

Regardless of where you register, you’ll still be based in a country of hundreds of millions. With such a vast potential customer base, local marketing is important to ensure you’re targeting the prospects likeliest to convert. Speak with other local businesses, your neighbors, and everyone in between about what you’re doing to get word-of-mouth attention. More online sales might result if you follow the methods in Namecheap’s guide to local marketing

Some final thoughts on building an online business

No matter which of the above types of online businesses you start, heed the following tips:

  • Find customers in your backyard. As explained above, targeting your physical location is as important as looking to the whole world. Online business owners commonly overlook their local communities even though geographic targeting remains fruitful. Look for opportunities to connect with other business owners and potential customers, and don’t forget to create business cards and bring them with you!
  • Enact loyalty programs. Just as theoretically infinite customers exist beyond your backyard, online customers face no shortage of businesses to buy from. To keep customers coming your way, enact a loyalty program. Potential customers who learn about the rewards they can earn as loyal customers may start buying from you. Plus, retaining customers through loyalty perks is far less expensive than acquiring them.
  • Brand yourself properly. Without a meaningful brand image and voice — and a logo, website, and set of business cards that incorporate both — your online business will take much longer to get off the ground. The good news is that you can quickly create all these things with Namecheap’s brand identity maker. Just input a few values, and Namecheap will build you a stunning, informative website, logo, and business card. And then, you’ll be right on your way to running a great online business.

Namecheap can help get you camera ready — or in this case, screen ready. Our suite of tools can help you launch your website as well as establish memorable and impactful branding through our free Logo Maker. Put your best foot forward, and good luck on your new endeavor!


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

Join Our Newsletter

Stay inspired

Get all the latest offers, articles, and industry news straight to your mailbox every month.

Need help? We're always here for you.