Do you remember the “envelope stuffing” gimmick?
You simply had to stuff some envelopes and were promised lots and lots of money. Best of all, you could do it at home! In your pajamas!
If this sounds stupid, that’s because this was a scam. “Working from home,” unless you were telecommuting for a regular job, always had that tainted image. Almost too good to be true.
But this isn’t the 1990s anymore. Perhaps you didn’t buy into the whole concept of working at home back then, but now you should know there are more opportunities than ever. Because of this convenient thing called the internet, you don’t have to work at a physical location to make a living anymore.
So if you cry on Sunday nights because you dread going back to work the next day, perhaps it’s time to build up an online business.
Whether you’re looking for a small side gig or wanting to quit your job eventually, the following 7 ideas can pave the way for both. They can be done at home or while traveling; they also require very little equipment or startup capital.
Writing is probably the easiest online business to break into. All you need is a laptop and decent internet connection to get started. Even though it seems like writers are a dime a dozen, good and reliable writers are always sought after.
One appealing aspect about writing is how versatile it can be. You could be:
- A blogger
- A copywriter
- An SEO writer
- A fiction writer
- A technical writer
- A business writer
- A ghostwriter
You can even start your own Kindle publishing business. So many possibilities!
“But what if I can’t write?”
You’ve been writing since grammar school. No matter how atrocious you think your writing may be, with practice, anyone can be a good enough writer. “Good enough” being the operative phrase – you’re not looking to win the next Pulitzer Prize.
You just need substance (in case of nonfiction writing) and personality in your writing. Your clients will care more about how your writing solves their problems.
Plus, once your writing business takes off, you’ll probably have a team of writers working under you. Outsourcing writing jobs makes your business easy to scale.
Just because your next-door neighbor kid messes around on a bootlegged copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean being a designer is easy. But if you’re talented in this area or willing to work very hard to become proficient at design principles, typography, color theory, and using various apps, design is a viable home business idea.
You’ll most likely specialize in one aspect of design:
- Graphic design (logos, business cards, stationery, etc.)
- Web design
- User interface (UI)/User experience (UX) design
- Presentation design
- E-book cover design
Although good design skills are paramount your business success, the ones making a killing are excellent at marketing. Take a look on the web. It’s not too hard websites that make you cry because they’re so ugly, but somehow, the designers were able to get the job.
Some design skills pair well with other niches, like writing. Consider broadening your service (“upsell” or “cross-sell”). Good at landing page design? Offer copywriting as well. Designing e-book covers? Offer to format the entire book. Building a website? Offer to do the site optimization.
Of course, you don’t need to learn all these skills. You can always partner up with others. A big part of running a business is about building relationships, both with other industry professionals and your clients.
3. Social Media Consultant
One of the most awesome things about the internet is that things are always changing. 10 years ago, the term “social media” wasn’t even in the vernacular. Sure, you heard about Facebook starting in 2004, but unless you were at Harvard at that time, you probably didn’t know about it. “Blogging” was a thing even back then, but it was mostly to pen personal thoughts.
Now, people build entire businesses around their blogs. Those blogs need something to gain traction. Queue social media. As a social media consultant, you can help businesses execute best tactics, posting schedules, and content ideas for their audience.
For people who would rather strategize business or focus on writing content, managing social media is such a pain. First off, there are just too darn many of them: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and whatever du jour platform.
Many businesses don’t have to be active on all platforms: they just need to focus on a few to not dilute their focus. But until someone (i.e. you) points that out to them, they might waste their time and effort on ineffective social media strategies.
This is definitely a market that has a healthy demand, making an excellent online business idea for you.
4. SEO Consultant
If your criterion for running a business is to be constantly learning and never being bored, being an SEO (search engine optimization) consultant might fit the bill. With 300-500 algorithm changes Google puts out, you’ll always be learning something.
When you hear someone saying, “I built a website but no one’s visiting!” you know that’s a good business idea. A website by itself is useless. It needs to be “seen” by search engines to drive traffic to it. More traffic to a well-designed website = more prospects = more money. Fine-tuning that process is the job of an SEO consultant.
You’ll get really good at auditing websites to spot problems:
- Poorly written content
- Keywords used inappropriately (too many times, not enough times, wrong keywords)
- Poor user interface (not mobile-ready, user-unfriendly navigation)
- No localization (if the business is in Albuquerque, it better be on the first page of Google when searching for “Albuquerque + business!”)
It’s a fun business idea with relatively low barrier to entry.
5. Affiliate Marketing
You have a particular problem. Some product solved that problem. You recommend that product to others. When the others buy that product off of your recommendation, you get a commission. That’s the essence of affiliate marketing.
Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income is a star in this area. He makes over $100,000 a month from various online ventures. A big part of it is from people buying the products and services he recommends, such as BlueHost, a web hosting company.
You don’t need to be the next Pat to feel successful. Once you earn that first dollar, there’s no reason why it can’t be ten dollars or hundreds of dollars.
The main challenge to affiliate marketing is building credibility. Your recommendations for products or services have to be believable. In order to do that, you’d have to use them yourself and make honest assessments.
You might wonder why, in 2015, transcription would still be a viable business idea. Isn’t there software that can handle that? Yes, but transcription is a bit more complicated than that. A typical transcription project scope can range from:
- Verbatim – every word transcribed, including the ums and ahs. Software could definitely handle this.
- Summary – extracting important information and summarizing it. This needs a bit of a human touch.
- Multiple speakers
- Different accents
As of 2015, there is no one software that can handle all this yet. So transcription services are still in high demand, particularly with the Affordable Care Act in place. Medical and healthcare industry frequently needs transcription services.
The United States represents three-quarters of all lawsuits in the world. While that fact alone is depressing, it presents a lot of opportunities when it comes to legal transcription.
7. Web/software/mobile app development
If you’re a developer and tired of project managers who overpromise their clients what your app can do, consider running your own show.
It might be hard to secure multi-million corporate gigs start out, but small businesses always need an application that can solve their problems, such as a veterinarian wanting to computerize his patient data. Also, someone somewhere always needs a custom mobile app built.
If you’re not actually in one location all the time, there’s no getting around it – it’ll be difficult getting clients when you can’t just march into your local business and have a face-to-face meeting. But plenty of people have done it while traveling.
One example is Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard. Together, they run a software company called Two Steps Beyond, LLC. They do this while RVing in a 1958 conversion bus full-time! They only work on projects they find interesting, and while money is important, maintaining their nomadic lifestyle is their primary goal.
There are plenty more of online business ideas. The most important thing is not to let ideas remain as ideas. Following through on your ideas and not giving up because you don’t see immediate results is what all successful online entrepreneurs have in common.
After all, the business ideas listed here are all common and simple. Writing. Design. These are very simple ideas, but the market demands them. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; do what other people are doing, but better and differently.