“I think if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to dream big and then dream bigger.” — Howard Shultz
Thanks to the ease and conveniences of the internet, budding entrepreneurs from around the world can start businesses today with little to no money. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that a business will succeed, it does level the proverbial playing field for those that are looking to spread their entrepreneurial wings and soar through the digital skies of cyberspace.
The fact of the matter is that for those who know how to harness the web, starting a business online not only involves little to no money out of their pocket, but it also potentially means the freedom to travel and live life according to their own terms. No more 9-to-5 desk job, so to speak. That’s not to say that you won’t work hard. But you’ll be working for yourself.
As a decades-long entrepreneur, I’ve started numerous businesses, some which have crashed and burned, failing miserably, others of which became multi-million dollar companies, effectively paving the way for my lifelong entrepreneurial pursuits. Yet, the truth is that most people don’t realize they can start a business for just about no money out of their pocket.
It doesn’t take a small fortune to start a business. Not in America at least. For us, with our entrepreneurial-laced DNA, business ownership is almost a right of passage of sorts. It’s in our blood. It’s part of who we are and what we do. But most people are simply too afraid to start their own business. They fear not being able to pay their bills or keep the lights on, so to speak.
However, there are certain businesses that you can start that not only require a very small upfront investment, but that could have you earning a healthy second or third income relatively quickly. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple by any measure, but it will be straightforward as long as you put in the work.
How To Start Your Business Online
First and foremost, you need to make the decision about how you’re going to receive your income. Are you going to incorporate your business online and setup an LLC or a full-blown corporation? Or, will you simply create a DBA? There are ramifications and benefits to each of these pathways.
If you’re at all serious about starting a business, it’s important that you incorporate to at least start an LLC. This sends a strong signal to your mind that you’re now in business, which is a critical factor to your overall ability to succeed. If you don’t take the necessary steps to incorporate, you’re telling your mind that you’re not all that serious about this business.
I know it sounds strange, but in life, we get whatever it is that we focus on. When we focus on the right things, staying positive along the way, we gravitate towards that. When we focus on the wrong things, and our minds are replete with negativity, we attract bad things in life. So be very careful of what you focus on.
#1 — Drive for Uber or Lyft
Driving for Uber or Lyft is a quick way that you can make money with your brand new business. While I’m a proud affiliate for Uber, the company is clearly entrenched in the marketplace and is a global leader in the ride-hailing economy and is a major disruptive player that has completely upended the taxi business in many of the world’s most bustling metropolises.
Whether you choose Uber or Lyft (or both for that matter), or any other number of ride-hailing services, the beauty of working for any of these companies is that you can turn on and off your availability as you see fit. Want to drive for an hour per day? No problem. 8 hours per day? Sure thing! Just turn on the app when you’re ready to go and turn it off when you’re done for the day.
Clearly, you won’t make a fortune working for one hour per day, but the point is that you can earn a relatively steady spare-time income as long as you have a newish car and a clean driving record. This can help to fuel your other entrepreneurial pursuits while you build your startup or flesh out a sales team or anything else for that matter.
#2 — Publish Books and Audiobooks
I’m a firm believer in publishing books and audiobooks. I’ve published over 40 and it’s a great source of passive income for me. Clearly, you need to have some good topics that you can speak about, with skill in specific arenas that you can use to help convey a great deal of value to others.
If you have that kind of skill, publishing non-fiction books and audiobooks through Amazon’s KDP platform or Audible’s ACX platform is a swift way to earning income on autopilot. It does take a great deal of work at the front-end before you start earning, but it is well worth it. After you publish, and you give the book a good initial push, there’s not much more work to do from there.
Obviously, if you’re trying to do fiction, it’s going to be harder. I’m not a fiction publisher but I do know that fiction is much more difficult than non-fiction. Stick to business-related non-fiction concepts and you can earn a healthy passive income by publishing even just one book or audiobook.
#3 — Create Online Courses
I’ve created a number of courses online at Udemy (which I’m also a proud affiliate for), many of which you’ve likely already seen by now. Udemy is definitely one of the most popular websites for developing and selling courses online, but there are others. For example, you could use a site like Teachable, which is great if you have an existing audience to market your courses to.
Courses are another great source of passive income. While they do take a great deal of work to complete, once it’s completed, and the content is relatively evergreen content, in that it won’t expire right away, you can continue earning money from that course long after you’ve done all the work.
I’m a firm believer in passive income because we all have the same amount of time in the world. Why would you work once and get paid once when you can work once and get paid repeatedly? It makes far more sense to me. If you don’t have passive income, consider setting up a course through Udemy on a topic that you’re an expert on.
#4 — Start a Blog
Starting a blog isn’t easy. It takes time to get your traffic going. You simply have to stick it out. But just imagine for a moment how much money you could make when droves of visitors are coming through your virtual doors day after day. Some of the top blogs in the world make millions of dollars per month. Yes, millions.
The blog that you’re reading right now get hundreds of thousands of visitors per month. Okay, it’s not in the millions yet. But it is a great source of passive income, with the ability to sell targeted products or services to those individuals. Granted, it took years to build. But it was incredibly well worth it.
You could start a blog about a topic that you’re familiar with. If you’re a great writer, this could be an excellent source of income for you years down the road. You do have to put in the work. But if you’re the type of person to stay persistent, then this is a great business to build on the side.
#5 — Start a Graphic Design Company
If you have some serious Photoshop skills, you should consider starting a graphic design company. Why? Because this is a great source of active income. If you’re adept at making logos or websites or any other type of graphics for that matter, you could earn a healthy income by starting a graphic design business.
There are several sites that you could leverage to advertise or implement your graphic design skills. Sites like 99Designs or Fiverr are just a couple of them. If you’re looking for an even larger audience, you could also opt to head to Upwork, which gobbled up its competitor Elance and is now the largest online marketplace for skilled personnel.
Either way you slice it, you could earn a great active income as a graphic designer. If you lack the skills to start a graphic design business, get out there and learn from a website like Udemy. There are a number of terrific online courses that will help to walk you through becoming a seasoned graphic designer.
#6 — Become a Web Developer
As a software engineer, I can tell you that becoming a web developer isn’t easy, but it is lucrative. If you’re interested in a high-paying occupation where you can earn a significant amount of money, then web development is ripe for the picking. The best part? You can work as a web developer from anywhere around the world, making it perfect for all you digital nomads out there.
I created a course on web development not too long ago, which became one of the best selling courses on Udemy. You can check it out here. However, either way you look at it, you can learn web development from a variety of sources online. You can even do it by watching free YouTube videos.
However, if you’re serious about your education, I would definitely recommend enrolling in a good course that can walk you through the entire process. Often, it’s good to have a little bit of hand-holding. And why not? Why try to piece it all together when you can get a great system that will cost-effectively walk you through the various lessons step-by-step?
#7 — Manage Vacation Rentals
If you’re looking to create an instant income with your new business, you can look into managing vacation rentals. Vacation rentals are a hot commodity and there’s a large amount of money to be made in this industry for those that work to deliver true value in its most fundamental format.
This is a business for people that are meticulous by nature. When you’re just starting out, you’ll need to find homes you can manage. You can solicit people you know or don’t in your area. You’ll need to start small and scale your business. You can list homes for rent on a number of websites and find yourself some good vacation rental software.
You can advertise on sites like AirBnB, FlipKey, TripAdvisor, HomeAway and VRBO just to name a few of the most popular ones. Ensure that you do things by the book and research the rules on occupancy taxes and management licenses that might be required (if any) in your area.
#8 — Start a Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) Business
Want to start a business without all the hassle of setting up your own e-commerce shop, integrating payments and handling things like customer service and fulfillment? Your best option? Setup a Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) business. You get the ability to list all your products for sale on the world’s largest e-commerce store.
All you need to do is send your products to Amazon and setup the digital listings and, for the most part, they’ll do the rest. They’ll pay you when the products are purchased, deal with customer refunds, disputes and other issues, allowing you a hands-free way to sell your products on the world’s most trafficked e-commerce store.
Setting up an FBA doesn’t require too much technical knowledge. In fact, it’s far more straightforward than a standard e-commerce setup. If you need more information on setting up your business as an FBA, simply click here.
#9 — Answer Professional Questions
One simple and straightforward business you can setup online is to answer professional questions. If you have a professional skill such as law or medicine or IT, you can answer questions related to that field on websites across the internet. You can get paid per answer and build your reputation.
You can work with sites like JustAnswer or any number of other ones that exist out there if you’re looking for the pay-per-answer model. Of course, you could also opt to use a site like Quora where you’ll be answering questions for free but you’ll also be exposed to an enormous audience out there.
Clearly, there are a number of other options as well if you’re looking to answer questions in a pay-per-answer medium. Make sure that you do your due diligence before diving in headfirst and that the company you go with is reputable.
#10 — Create an SEO Agency
SEO is confusing. Not everyone gets it. Nor do they have time to get it. For that reason, one great company you can start is an SEO agency. SEO agencies can demand top dollar for their services, bringing in a healthy active income. If you have some knowledge of SEO, this is a viable option for a business you can start with little to no money.
However, be careful not to start an SEO agency if you don’t have full and complete knowledge of SEO. If you do that, and you don’t know specifically what you’re doing, you could end up hurting your clients more than you do helping them. Simply put, there are no shortcuts to SEO. You have to be willing to put in the time and do the work.
Check out some of my SEO audiobooks on Audible or enroll in my SEO course to really get a good understanding of what it takes to master this oftentimes confusing skill. It really is worth your time. Once you’ve gained this skill, it’s worth its weight in gold. Seriously.
#11 — Become a Social Media Manager
One excellent business that’s in high demand these days is to become a social media manager. You can run the social media profiles for local businesses that are looking to expand their footprints. Clearly, you need to know a thing or two about social media management or even running your own popular social media profile in order to build a business like this.
But if you’re an outgoing person with the propensity to share high-value posts that really draw those visitors in, then this might be the ideal occupation for you. You’ll need to build a site and reach out to local businesses that are looking for people to manage their social media profiles.
It’s not too difficult to succeed in this line of work, but you have to stay consistent. Don’t try to post often then take a few days or weeks off. Post often and ensure that they’re well-worded posts that inspire or motivate people to see the world in a new or enlightened way.
#12 — Write Articles for Others
One quick and easy business you can setup is to start writing articles for other people. You can source these projects on Upwork or simply reach out to people on LinkedIn. This is a great way to earn a little bit of extra side cash without having to go ballistic searching for work.
Clearly, you need to be a talented writer in order to succeed in this endeavor. You could start ghost writing for bloggers or simply writing under your own name for company blogs or others out there. Whatever you choose to do is entirely up to you as long as you can find the work.
You’ll need to make some sort of portfolio for yourself. Use a site like about.me to show your strengths and give examples of past work there. It’s a simple way to get a website online that talks about your achievements and allows you to pitch people automatically by simply sending them to your about.me page.
#13 — Sell Crafts on Etsy
If you’re the arts and crafts type, you can start a business selling crafts on a site like Etsy. Selling on Etsy is simple and straightforward and it’s the largest crafts site of its kind that empower individual sellers to reach a very large audience. Etsy does have a variety of fees that are involved with selling on its platform, so be sure to do your research first.
You can sell a variety of items on Etsy that range from simple to elaborate. Depending upon how much time and money you need to invest into each piece, you could create an attractive price that will keep the buyers coming in. You’ll also need to pay attention to things like keyword-rich descriptions and high-quality photos if you’re going to move any volume of product.
Etsy opens you up to potential millions of buyers who are constantly purchasing from this global platform. You don’t need to be in any particular location in the world to sell, which makes it great for anyone to sell anything online.
#14 — Create Digital Products on CafePress
There are numerous sites like CafePress that exist out there. CafePress allows you to design digital products that are then sold through the platform. The fees are somewhat high but they are bearable considering that the site does all the selling for you. If you’re a good designer, you could definitely opt for doing something like this.
Create a range of designs that you can sell, whether it’s inspirational or motivational or something else. However, ensure that you’re not violating any copyrights by using logos or imagery that you haven’t licensed. That could get you into some hot water so be sure to play by the rules when designing your imagery.
The designs don’t have to be elaborate. You simply have to have a knack for design. If you have an audience through a blog or on social media, then you could also always use those resources to promote what you’ve created.
#15 — Start a Photography Business
Photography is a great business to be in. You can earn money through an active income or through a passive income. First, you’ll need to have a good camera. If you don’t, then a high-end smartphone might do the trick for a while. But if you’re serious about photography, you’ll have to eventually invest in a good camera and lighting equipment, but not right away.
You can do portrait photos, landscape photos or anything else for that matter. You could do hired work that you source through websites, or you could create photos and post them for sale for passive income on sites like iStockPhoto and ShutterStock. Either way, the choice is yours.
Invest in a good course where you can learn the ins-and-outs of photography and programs like Photoshop, which comes in very handy whenever dealing with any type of photo editing. Over time, you can grow a significant business with both active and passive incomes with photography.