10 Online business ideas you can start with little or no money.

This article contains affiliate links.

If you’re looking for Online Business Ideas, then you’re probably thinking that you need to become an entrepreneur and own your own business. Well, this isn’t necessarily the case, you can live that “Digital Nomad” or “Laptop Lifestyle” or whatever else. If you want the freedom to be able to work from anywhere you have a laptop and an internet connection there are many ways you can do this without actually owning your own business.

How? I hear you ask.

Many people who get into the online business space and try to start their own fail (as they do offline) because being an entrepreneur simply wasn’t for them and that’s fine. Some people simply don’t have that drive or don’t want the extra responsibility.

Well you can work for somebody else’s online business. Many Online Businesses have “virtual employees”. These are people that work remotely from their own home, or wherever they happen to be at the time which means they get the benefits of the flexibility that come with being a digital nomad. Often times these jobs don’t have set working hours either so long as you get the job done. Generally you will be classed as a contractor rather than an employee meaning you may not get some of the benefits employees usually get, however I personally think the work flexibility you gain offsets this.

So let’s get into some ideas, whether it’s starting your own business or remote job ideas.

1.Kindle Publishing.

You’re probably thinking “Publishing? But I’m not a writer.” Fortunately, there are plenty of talented writers out there who either do it on the side, aren’t getting enough jobs and want to write more than they necessarily get to. Whatever the reason, there are huge numbers of talented writers that you can hire as ghost writes for your book. This means their name will not actually go on the book as the author and you can use your own name or a pen name on the book. You pick the topic and they write it. A lot of kindle books are short How-To style books or are explaining a certain topics or giving tips. Usually they’re quite short, maybe 50 pages or so and they sell for about $1 on Amazon. That’s not much, however, you have to consider the enormous reach and user base that Amazon has and the fact that they’re very affordable. It is difficult to find exact numbers about how many users they have as they don’t give out this kind of information. But the most recent number I can find is from 2017 and estimates it at around 300 million users. That’s almost the entire US population. 300 Million is only the number of registered users, you don’t need to have an account on Amazon to buy from there.

In a recent Author Earnings report in from 2016 to early 2017 Amazon sold over 487,298,000 Kindle books. Amazon reported that in 2017 net sales increased 31% to $177.9 billion, compared with $136.0 billion in 2016.*

You’ll want to ideally find someone who has some knowledge in the area you want them to write about, obviously. But this isn’t always possible and people can easily research the thing they’re writing about. Some of the best places to find someone to ghost write a book for you are Freelancing websites such as Fiverr (Click here) and UpWork. Fiverr tends to be the cheaper of the two where as UpWork is seen as the more “professional” I say seen as there are plenty of great freelancers on Fiverr as well. Not only can you find your writer here you can also find somebody to make a cover for your ebook. Now once you’ve got your book and your cover, you’re ready to self publish on Amazon. Now you’ll have to take some time to get it ranked, wait for reviews and ratings etc before you start to get some sales. You can get this up and going for less than $100 per book.

2.Affiliate Marketing.

I’ve written about this before so I’ll just give a brief overview here. If you want something more in depth then click here.

Essentially, it’s just marketing. You promote and market somebody else’s product or service but instead of it being a one time payment for you to run a campaign you get paid a commission of each sale, in the case of a subscription service you’ll often receive a percentage or each recurring payment as long as they are subscribed. This means you don’t have to go through the trouble or investment of creating your own product or services or any other business side things that go along with it. Somebody has already done all of this, all you need to do is promote it.

These will generally be digital products and many of them pay on average a 40% commission. Some can go as high as 100% which probably makes you wonder how they’re making any money on it. Well in the case of you getting a 100% commission on the initial sale usually you’re simply getting them through the first stage of a sales funnel where they will then be offered upsells. As most of these products are digital, there is almost no overhead as once the product is created you can copy it infinitely so this is why the commissions are often 40% or more.

Most major brands nowadays have their own affiliate programs. Even Amazon has one. Amazon typically pays a much lower percentage than dedicated Affiliate networks, but once again you have to consider the sheer size of Amazon. If you’re getting a 5% commission on a $40 product it may only be $2 but if 500 of them are bought through your link that’s $1000. Amazons affiliate cookie actually lasts for 24 hours. So anything else the person who clicks on your link adds to their cart and purchases within the next day you will get a commission from.

The work part of Affiliate marketing is building an audience. So creating a website and generating traffic, creating a youtube channel, e-mail list etc. You can do this for free or you can invest money in it. The more money you invest upfront the less time you will have to invest. The advantage to putting in more time than money is that you’ll learn the process better. You may not see results right away, but in the long run you’ll see a greater return.

This is one of the businesses you can start with no monetary investment. But you will need to put time into it. If you go the website route it takes around 3 months to start to get ranked on google for example. So you may have 3 months of no traffic to your website which means nobody is seeing your marketing. If you want to learn more about this click here to check out my other article on it.

3.Virtual Assistant.

Virtual Assistant is a very broad term but its a great online business you can start with no investment. Essentially you’ll just help somebody else with their jobs responsibilities. This could be something as simple as fulfilling orders for an ecommerce website or it could also include customer support and refunds. Social media management will often fall under the umbrella of virtual assistant and it can pay quite nicely. Here in the UK the average yearly earnings of a social media manager are around £25,000. You probably won’t earn that freelancing for a single client.

If you’re not sure why Social Media Management is so important, click here.

Many small business owners spend far more time on social media than they would like to, and the majority of this time is very unproductive. So they will be happy to pay somebody to handle this for them especially if they can get them results. Generally managing social media accounts for people means making sure their accounts across platforms have a similar “theme” and making sure posts are shared across all platforms, creating and finding content and scheduling posts.

You can post on freelancing websites such as UpWork or Fiverr if you’re looking for this kind of work. Once you’ve got a client you’ll generally want to ask them about how they normally handle their social media and get some insight into how they run their accounts.

Once you’ve done this you should do some research, find or create a short list of potential posts for the week. These could be images, quotes, videos etc and then you can either manually post these throughout the week or you can schedule them with some sort of social media tool such as Hootsuite (Click here to find out more about social media automation.)

Aside from content management, you’ll also want to take the time to respond to tweets, particularly negative ones, If they are valid. You don’t need to waste time responding to trolls. On top of this you can set up alerts for when your client, whether it be by name or brand, is mentioned so you can keep track of public relations.

That’s a general overview of social media management of course depending on the clients industry it could require more or less work.

4.E-Commerce.

E-commerce is a great way to start an online business. Word of warning in advance, this does cost more than the others to start off and there is a lot of competition. However if you do your research properly and stick at it it is highly scalable. When it comes to E-commerce a lot of your competition will be older businesses with varying degrees of experience with internet marketing and web design. This option definitely requires more time and monetary investment than the ones previously mentioned, though much like with affiliate marketing, the more money you can invest up front the less time you’ll need to invest to get everything up and running.

One way many E-Commerce sites operate is by dropshipping. Somebody buys an item from you, you then use that money to buy directly from a supplier and ship it to them. You never see the product yourself meaning you don’t have to worry about buying stock or paying for storage.

Amazon FBA.

FBA stands for Fullfilment By Amazon. You buy the product and have it shipped to an Amazon warehouse and when somebody buys through your Amazon listing they handle the distribution for you as well as customer service. Keep in mind that Amazon does charge fees for the following:

  • Picking & packing.
  • Shipping & handling.
  • Customer service.
  • Product returns.
  • Storage per cubic foot per month.

An item around the size of a book or tablet weighing 1lb or less will have a fulfillment fee of around $2.40 depending on time of year.

There may also be additional fees such as:

  • Oversized and require special handling
  • inventory stored for 6 months or longer
  • Fulfillment and storage fees are both higher from October – December
  • Prep service or processing customer returns in some certain categories
  • Clothing items cost an extra $0.40 per unit.

With Amazon taking a cut of your revenue your profit margins with FBA can be smaller, however its another case of the sheer size of Amazon along with it being a trusted distributer known for their fast shipping and easy return policies that could make the extra costs worth it.

From what I’ve seen the average startup costs for FBA are a little higher than the other things on this list, usually around $1,500 but I have heard of people starting with as little as $300.

5.Lead Generation.

In short, you find potential customers for other peoples business. If you’re new to business you’re probably wondering why somebody would pay for a potential customer, well the types of businesses that generally buy leads are thing such as plumbers, roofers, real estate. Services that can be quite expensive. If they spend say $200 on 20 leads, they can easily make that money back as well as a profit if they just get one contract or sale from it.

Local SEO is where Lead Generation really thrives. (Click here to learn about Local SEO) Generally the way you would generate leads for a local business is you’d choose a niche, lets go with roofing as mentioned before. Then you find a specific area, such as a town, it could be where you live, it doesn’t really matter. The competition in a town or county even is likely to be far less than if you were to choose a large city like Dallas. You then create a general website around roofing, optimize it for local SEO and put a capture form on it, it just needs to have some basic information

  • Name.
  • E-Mail.
  • Telephone.
  • Brief description of job required.

Then you just need to get traffic. You can run targeted ads through Facebook or you can simply wait a while for it to get ranked on google. Once people start finding it and you start to get people filling in the form. You then find Roofing businesses that operate in that area. Send them a simple email with the description that was provided and ask if they’re interested in the lead. If they say yes, then you simply pass the rest of the info on to them.

This is obviously a very broad overview but that’s the basics of it.

You find somebody who is interested in a service, then you sell that lead to someone who can provide that service.

6.Selling an Online Course.

This one requires very little monetary investment, however it does require a fair bit of time, and requires you to have at least some decent level of expertise in a specific area. If you do have the expertise then depending on your area you can potentially charge whatever you want. Some people sell courses for less than one hundred dollars some sell for thousands. It all depends on you, your area and the level of expertise.

Many people who sell Dropshipping or Amazon FBA Courses online often make more money from their courses than they do from the actual business their teaching. This isn’t because they’re not good at the thing they’re teaching, it’s because education sells and is highly scalable.

The old adage of “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” doesn’t really hold true in practice. Think about it, lets say you’re good at writing ad copy, you can get paid $10,000 a month for your copy writing skills. But you can sell a course to somebody teaching them to do it for $1,000. Even if you were limited to a small teaching space that only fit around 30 people that’s $30,000. With the internet the ability to scale businesses, particularly if the business involves the transfer of knowledge or information rather than a physical product is, for all intents and purposes, infinitely. It becomes far more profitable to teach something such as Amazon FBA than it does to actually do it, because you can spend a few months creating a course and not have to worry about it much. Not only can it be fairly passive once its made, though you may want to make updates to keep it relevant, there can be little to no overhead costs involved.

7.Retail Arbitrage.

Arbitrage is simply the act of profiting from the difference in prices between markets. So let’s say you’re at your local Walmart and you see they’re selling those little correction tapes for $1 because of a clearance sale, but you see that on Amazon or eBay they’re selling for $4 each. You buy them from Walmart and then list them to be sold on Amazon. You’ve just made $3 (before postage and packaging). Aside from physically going to stores there are websites where you can buy liquidation stock such as Source.com.

There are people making 6 figures from this so its scalable. You could get started in this for very little money, You could theoretically even just buy and resell a single item and then reinvest that money. Obviously this would take a while to see any significant returns but you could easily get started and make some decent cash for around $100-$200.

8.Social media influencer page.

Social media influencers can be pretty lucrative these days. Businesses will pay well for you to make a sponsored post or to use their product on Instagram and you don’t need a particularly large audience to do so. The way you would going about becoming an influencer, even without being on camera or in pictures yourself and creating a personal brand would be to choose a Niche, grow your page, start getting sponsored posts.

So let’s say you choose the pet Niche, or lets say dogs, specifically. You find or even take yourself, pictures of dogs, maybe dog toys, collars. Any kind of “accessory” people might be likely to purchase if they have a dog. You can even post small pieces of information about dog training. Just a simple picture of some text.

Instagram is the best place to do this as it is incredibly easy to get your content in front of eyeballs if you just get your hashtag game on point. Your following will grow quickly once you start to build an audience if you post good content and post consistently. You won’t be making money from this over night but in a few months you easily can. Once you have a decent sized following you could even post ads for your own account online somewhere such as Fiverr in order to sell sponsored posts.

Another over looked asset in this type of area is Pinterest. Pinterest is huge and has a lot of searches everyday. Pinterest is a little more complicated than Instagram as you need to learn a little bit of how SEO works on Pinterest where as with Instagram you just need to use the correct hashtags to get it in front of people. You can even use Pinterest to sell affiliate products and is an incredibly powerful tool for small businesses.

9.Audio Transcription.

This is one that you can do with no investment whatsoever, you don’t even need to be able to type particularly fast, though it obviously helps and will cut down time.

People send you short audio or video clips, though sometimes they aren’t so short, then you simply type out that audio into text. There are a number of websites that hire transcribers, and some of them pay very well. Though as you may expect, the higher paying ones are more difficult to get in to, often requiring multiple tests such as literacy and comprehension of your chosen language as well as a small test of your ability to accurately transcribe audio. If you aren’t quite skilled enough to get in to one of these or you don’t want to take it that’s seriously, you can post jobs on somewhere like Fiverr or UpWork or any other Freelancing website.

10.Translation.

This one requires no money, but does require you to be at least fluent in a second language. Like with transcription there are many sites that hire translators as well as you being able to make a good amount of money freelancing. People send you something in one language and you translate it to another. There isn’t really much more to say about it.

Here are a few Businesses that you can start online in order to work from home. Whether you want to make them a full time business or just a side income the possibilities are virtually endless.

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