Top: 20 Best Online Business Ideas You Can Start on the Side (2021)

Here we will guide you about how to start a business online. Back in the older days, starting a business was a huge thing! As there was an enormous amount of planning and capital involved in it. Whereas, fundings used to be scarce too. 

2021 is nothing like those earlier days. Today, anyone can start his/her own online business regardless of their professional or entrepreneurial background. Though it’s easier to enter into an online business, you still need to have a viable product idea, along with the manufacturing/sourcing strategy, as well as a sales model. 

So, if you’re wondering how to start a business online, I’m here at your disposal telling you everything about it, and the top 20 online business ideas that you can go for. 

There are numerous benefits of running an online business such as cost savings, minimal paper wastage, and more flexibility. So, you can definitely consider starting one. 

Read Also: How To Start A Blog

Reasons To Start an Online Business 

When considering how to start a business online; you will probably think of its main advantages which are: 

  1. It is really affordable 

Many people wish to start an internet business but are intimidated by the investment needed to launch it. You are required to pay the lease, buy inventory, and set aside a budget to pay the employees. What if it doesn’t work out once you’ve invested a substantial amount of money in it? This may leave you financially unstable. 

However, starting an online business only requires you to have: 

  • A Computer
  • A website builder 
  • A domain name 

All the above requirements are not too costly, and you can launch an online business for around $100. 

Though, I cannot deny the fact that the more starting capital you have, the more online business ideas are available to you. However, you don’t have to risk your life’s savings to start entrepreneurship. 

2. Facilitates Growth 

With a brick-and-mortar business, you will have to tackle real-world limitations. Renting in a prime location is most costly. There will be days when there will be lesser foot traffic, plus people may not need your products all the time. 

However, running an online business eliminates all these limitations. And you can sell to anyone belonging to any location. 

And as the year’s pass, your prospective customers will increase because more people are finding comfort in online shopping. By 2024, e-commerce retail sales are estimated to go up to 21.8 percent worldwide. 

Besides, the world internet population is increasing too. For instance, between 2009 and 2020, the number of people using the internet in North America grew by 73.3 million. 

And if we talk about Asia, the internet users went up from 764.4 million to 2.5 billion between the above-mentioned time period. 

This means the more people use the internet, the more brand exposure you get. Especially, if you expand your business across international boundaries. 

3. Online business runs 24/7

This point is useful for knowing how to start a business online. This is a huge advantage with starting an eCommerce business. They can remain open 24 hours a day even during a lockdown or any other disruptions. 

Since the business is online, people can purchase anytime from your website, which means the sales never stop. 

Additionally, you are not required to be physically present for a sale to happen, therefore, your online business can make revenue with much less daily involvement of yours. 

Read Also: How To Start A YouTube Channel

Top 20 Best Online Business Ideas You can Opt for

Still, if you are confused about it It gets difficult to decide with so many business opportunities to go for. Also, you wouldn’t want to risk a lot. 

  1. Open an eCommerce store

Note this point for knowing how to start a business online. Ecommerce has been successful for four decades. And, due to the onset of the pandemic, it’s the most favorable time for an online business startup. 

As per The Future of Retail 2019, one-third of the US consumers shop from Amazon every week. Whereas, 10% of consumers get three or more Amazon packages in a week. 

You can also say that Amazon makes people more comfortable with online shopping.

The above report also claims that around 46% of consumers are now more ready to make a huge purchase online such as a car than they were before the pandemic. 

Once you’re done picking your product category, choose an eCommerce platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc, launch your online store and start selling on it. You can also sell on online shopping sites such as Amazon, eBay, etc. 

2. Start a dropshipping business

how to start a business online like dropshipping, Dropshipping business is the simplest way to start a small online business as you don’t have to worry about purchasing the products/inventory in advance. 

This is how dropshipping works:

  • A customer places an order on your dropshipping store
  • You forward it to the supplier/manufacturer
  • The supplier ships the product to the customer

Dropshipping is a feasible eCommerce business idea that doesn’t involve any financial risk that comes with manufacturing, storing, and carrying of inventory. As you don’t have to bear the cost of warehousing or inventory costs until an actual sale is made. 

The global dropshipping market size is expected to have a CAGR of 28.8% between 2019 and 2025. 

Make sure you go for the trending niches like beauty, jewelry, fashion, etc to make a good amount of profit from your dropshipping business.

3. Sell online courses 

Some experts have been successful in becoming popular and earning well through online courses. One such example is Derek Halpern, the founder of Social Triggers – a software and business training company. He trains people on how to sell their skills and knowledge. 

So, if you also have some great expertise and ideas, start earning money by selling them through online courses.  

4. Become an affiliate marketer 

I would highly recommend this as one of the most lucrative online business ideas for someone who’s looking to start a business of their own but doesn’t want to get involved in the manufacturing of products. 

As per a few statistics, the US affiliate marketing industry was expected to reach $6.8 billion in 2020. And around 80 percent of the brands use affiliate marketing to promote their products/services. 

This is how affiliate marketing works: 

  • The first step is to sign up for an affiliate program
  • Select the product which you want to market among your audience. This can be a service or a physical product. 
  • Obtain the affiliate link to post on your website or social media profile
  • Receive a commission on each sale made by clicking on the link you posted 

Additionally, you can be an affiliate through your blog by publishing SEO-focused articles with relevant keywords/keyphrases while optimizing them to attract organic traffic to it. 

You can also do affiliate marketing by promoting products/services to your email subscribers by hosting webinars for your email subscribers. 

Affiliate marketing is a superb business model as it incurs very low startup costs. All you need to do is pay for web hosting, domain name as well as email marketing software. 

5. SEO Professional

SEO is one of the trendiest professions currently. If you’re into SEO services, it can be extremely profitable for your business. Almost every entrepreneur is obsessed with the idea of ranking their sites on the top search engine results, as it’s crucial for the growth of any website. But, the truth is, not everyone is good at this, as it’s a vast and complex topic. 

So, if you are an SEO expert, you can offer services like link building, eCommerce SEO optimization, content creation, etc. 

6. Web-design Services 

Web designing is really in demand these days with so many online businesses coming up. You can opt for a fully-fledged web-designing course or learn it through eLearning platforms. Create a portfolio website to showcase your work to potential clients. You can also register with freelancing platforms like Upwork. 

You don’t necessarily need to be a full-time web designer if you have other sources of income and do it as your part-time business. However, once you’re proficient at this, and establish your market, you can expand by creating your own products and selling them. 

7. Write impressive blogs

To know how to start a business online, you will know how to write impressive blogs. If you have a flair for writing, then blogging might be a good online business idea for you. Blogging is not exactly a business, but it allows you to build an audience and eventually make money through it. 

Once you attract a considerable amount of relevant audience, you can promote affiliate products, promote & sell your own products, collaborate with brands and run campaigns, etc through your blog. 

8. Transcription Services

If you can type fast and have a good ear, starting a transcription service is a good online business idea to work from home with flexible timings. Medical transcription services are in a lot of demand, and medical transcriptionists usually charge reasonably as per the industry standards. 

The usual turnaround time for transcription is 24 hours, so it’s important to meet the deadline of any task that you’re given. Initially, you can accept a few projects, however as you figure out your pace of work you can increase the number of projects accordingly. 

So, if you’re wondering how to start a business online,  offering transcription services is a good idea as it involves little or no startup costs. All you need is a computer and the right software. 

9. Graphic Designer 

Graphic design services are forever in demand by small businesses or huge enterprises. Once you’ve become a skilled graphic designer, you can start a business by using your past work portfolio & experience to gain clients without much hard work. 

10. App Developer  

If you’re a tech-savvy person, this is for you. With so many apps coming up every day, it’s not surprising that there’s a rise in demand for app developers for creating different types of applications. 

Due to the increasing popularity of smartphones, there’s an increasing demand for mobile applications. Apps are used for so many purposes right from booking a flight ticket to listening to music, watching movies, socializing with friends, etc. This is why offering app development services can be really lucrative in the long term. 

11. Video Producer 

Video is one of the most popular & preferred forms of communication these days, be it for entertainment or advertising purposes. Marketers use video content to promote their brand or business of any shape or size. 

Therefore, if you are a skilled video editor or videographer, you can turn it into a business. You can provide video production services, hold workshops on video editing, as well as make video tutorials related to every aspect of it. Video production can be one of the most profitable online business ideas if one has the proper technical knowledge and skills along with the right software and lots of creativity. 

12. Social Media Manager

Social media is a vital part of any business strategy, however, it keeps changing as well as time-consuming. While an entrepreneur manages various aspects of a business, it gets difficult to maintain a social media presence in order to capitalize on it. 

A lot of brands and businesses outsource their social media efforts while creating an opportunity for all the social media fanatics out there. As a social media manager, you can offer a ‘Startup Social Media Kit’ to attract clientele. 

13. Remote Sales Team 

Outsourcing a sales team for handling clients has become quite a trend these days, both in startups and bigger companies. Whether you aim to sell strong sales pitches or customer information like contact numbers and email addresses, offering online sales services can be quite profitable. 

14. Social Media Influencer

An influencer is someone who has a large following on social media platforms with expertise in a specific field, like beauty, fitness, travel, sports, etc. The job of a social media influencer involves posting regularly about different aspects of their niche, their lives, and most importantly, the products they promote or review. 

The best part about this online business idea is that an influencer gets paid to promote products/services by a brand among their followers, which is somewhat affiliate marketing. 

Presently, influencer marketing is quite a trend that a lot of people are capitalizing on. Vlogging is also one of the biggest parts of influencer marketing. I think you understand this and will be understood that how to start a business online.

15. Professional Organizer 

You can really bring joy to people’s life, by becoming a professional organizer. Professional organizers help people declutter their stuff, downsize and manage their possessions in a more organized way. Minimalism is gaining popularity these days, but people usually find it tough to part with their possessions. 

If you like keeping things organized for yourself, while making spaces comfortable and functional, you can do this for others too. You can set up a business of helping people minimize their belongings and maintain an organized space. 

Take before and after photos of the spaces you have organized and use them as a work portfolio to attract more clients. 

16. Become a private chef

If cooking is your passion and expertise, you can open a business venture with it. You can set up a catering website and offer your services at the local food stalls and food markets as well. Besides, you can collaborate with platforms that encourage cooking enthusiasts to make out of their hobby. 

You can also give online classes to other cooking fanatics if you’re comfortable with the camera. The opportunities are endless if you do it the right way. 

17. Cleaning Services 

If you’re an expert at cleaning, you can start a business offering cleaning services. With a few cleaning supplies, transportation and staff, you can provide cleaning services to homes, commercial places, apartments, etc. Typically, they charge somewhere between $25 and $50 an hour. Cleaning services usually require less overhead than other businesses. All you need is some planning, hard work, and a little promotion of your business. 

You can add some extra options such as floor waxing for an additional fee in order to distinguish yourself from other cleaning services. 

18 Nutritionist 

Nowadays, almost everybody is obsessed with eating healthily. However, there’s so much information online about what to eat & what not to eat, that leaves most people confused. Therefore, they turn to nutritionists to guide them on their eating habits, schedule and give them important tips on how to eat healthily. 

So, if you’re a nutritionist or want to become one, you can start an online business providing customized nutrition plans. 

19. Teach Foreign Language 

This is one of the best online businesses you can come up with. Learning a foreign language has become a must these days. If you know a foreign language like French, Spanish, German, etc, you can start teaching these online and make loads of money. 

You can opt for online communication platforms such as Google Meet or Skype through which you can take classes and connect with your students while sharing your knowledge. 

20. Real Estate Agent 

There are many people who continuously navigate through the real estate market. You can launch your online business as a real estate agent and help people find their dream homes at the prices they can afford. 

All you need to have some basic knowledge about the real estate industry and the market prices. However, you must be dedicated with good communication skills to deal properly with your clients. 

Read Also: How To Start Affiliate Marketing In 2021?

How To Start a Business Online?

Read these points for knowing how to start a business online. Once you’ve decided which business model to pursue, it’s time to get started with it. I would ask you to follow this step-by-step guide as this is how I started my online business:

  1. Decide your niche and business idea

Your business niche means your ‘area of focus’ – a market segment as well as the target audience. Your target audience can be professionals, sports enthusiasts, or even hobbyists. 

In order to pick a niche for your new venture, make sure the target audience:

  • Has a problem that no-one else is able to solve
  • Is willing to pay for it 
  • Receives sufficient income to afford the solution 

Don’t go for niches that don’t fulfill all the above requirements as building an online business is already difficult. If you target people who aren’t interested in your products or can’t afford them, you will make things tougher for yourself. 

2. Perform Product Research

This is an important step while starting an online business. There are three main types of eCommerce products that you can sell online. However, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

  • Physical Goods – These are material items that need to be manufactured, stored and shipped to customers. It can be lucrative to sell physical goods, but the profit margins are low so you must properly manage your operational costs. 
  • Digital Downloads – This refers to anything that a customer can download, like eBooks, softwares, online courses, etc. These carry higher profit margins. 
  • Services – You can sell any service online. It is the most profitable form of online business but your earning potential depends on the time you invest in selling services online. 
  1. Learn about Online Business Laws & Regulations 

If you assume that running an online business doesn’t require you to have a license or permit, you’re wrong. However, there may be lesser requirements to fulfill as compared to a brick-and-mortar business. 

You must comply with the following requirements: 

  • The type of business license you need to start your business
  • What legal structure suits our business ( Sole proprietorship, an LLC or a Corporation)
  • What permits do you need to get? 
  • What inspections are required for your business? 
  • Does your business need a sales tax license? 
  • Is there any particular business regulation for online businesses? 
  • What are the laws for hiring employees or contractors? 
  1. Research your market

Perform online market research and see what your target audience needs or doesn’t have. Market research helps in learning the competitive landscape, depth, and profitability of your business model. As you wouldn’t want to launch a product/offer that no one is interested in. It also validates your product selection, pricing, and demand.  

You can conduct market research by these three steps: 

  • Examine the SERPs of your product/service variations. Check the type of content that ranks on the top page. What businesses are advertising on top of search results? 
  • Take a closer look at your competitors and other businesses belonging to your niche. How much revenue do they generate? Their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Monitor high-performing & relevant keywords using tools like Google Keyword Planner
  1. Know Your Target Audience

To facilitate a good amount of sales, it’s essential to understand your audience well. In order to know about their needs & preferences, assess the demographics and psychographics details. 

  • Demographics – It includes basic information such as age, ethnicity, gender, profession, income, etc.
  • Psychographics – It refers to psychological characteristics such as beliefs, values, opinions, interests, and the like. 
  1. Source Products You Wish to Sell

Invest time in making a good product sourcing strategy or else you won’t be able to run a successful online business. 

  • Manufacture your own products – Making your own products can be easier in the case of digital products. However, creating physical goods involves hard work like material picking, designing, etc. Moreover, it’s expensive. But, by manufacturing you’ll always have an edge in terms of quality and range. 
  • Work with a dropshipping supplier –  Look for a supplier who let’s you dropship their products. This reduces business costs too. 
  • Find a wholesaler – You can also reach a wholesale supplier to buy a range of products for your ecommerce  store. 
  1. Assess Product Viability 

Carefully monitor & evaluate the products’ viability before placing or manufacturing a huge order. Check: 

  • Is there already a successful business that sells similar products online? 
  • Is the demand for the product temporary or permanent? 
  • Will you be able to sell it and make profits? 

Always remember that your product must be useful from the business point of view. 

  1. Define your Brand 

Your brand creates a vibe for your online business. Right from your website design to the content on it, everything must convey an image of your brand. The same rule applies to your social media platforms, newsletters, and of course packaging too. 

While working on your brand identity, keep in mind the following things: 

  • Logo 
  • Page layouts 
  • Colour scheme
  • Typography
  • Photos and graphics

Your brand image should depict all the above elements working simultaneously.

  1. Launch your online business/store 

Launching your online store means setting up your eCommerce website. It involves the following steps: 

  • Pick your eCommerce platform – An ecommerce platform is a software that provides everything you need to sell online including features like product catalogue and payment method. 

Some of the common eCommerce platforms are Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. You can pick the one that suits your budget and preferences. 

  • Add the products – Once you’re done choosing the eCommerce platform, it’s time to add products to the catalogue. 

Make sure you provide high-resolution product images showcasing it from different angles. 

Also, write catchy product descriptions highlighting the benefits. 

Both the images and the product descriptions hugely impact the rate of conversions of your product page. So, do it carefully. 

  • Choose your shipping method – Free & fast shipping is the most effective way to increase the sales of your products. So, avoid any delays in shipping the products to customers. Some of the shipping methods are – 
  • Free shipping
  • Same-day or next-day delivery
  • In-store pickup
  • LTL freight carriers
  1. How to start a business online & Promote, Grow Your Business

Once your online store is live,  work on how to start driving traffic & enhance your brand awareness through various channels: 

  • Paid Ads – Set aside a budget for PPC ads on search results as well as social media platforms
  • Social media marketing – Promote your online store by running paid campaigns on platforms like Facebook & Instagram
  • Influencer marketing – Collaborate with social media influencers to promote your products/services among your target audience
  • Email marketing – Create an email list by getting the email addresses of the consumers who visit your eCommerce website. This will help you market your products/services to your email subscribers. 
  • Search Engine Optimization – SEO-optimizing all the pages on your website will let you create an exceptional content marketing strategy for your blog section. 

Read Also: How To Start Drop Shipping Business

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What is the best type of online business to opt for? 

Your choice of online business will mainly depend on your professional qualifications and personal preferences. The most feasible online business ideas are service businesses and eCommerce stores. Both these options require less starting capital and are more scalable. 

  1. What is the best online business that can be operated from home? 

The three online business ideas that can efficiently operate from home are service-based businesses, dropshipping businesses, and digital products businesses. All these require little-to-no investment in terms of space and extra equipment. 

  1. How to start a business online Like small start up? 

Following are the steps to start a small business: 

  • Determine the type of business you wish to start
  • Set up a website for it
  • Upload product information, content, images on the website
  • Set up the payment method 
  • Start selling your products/services 
  1. What type of online business is more profitable? 

Ecommerce is undoubtedly one of the most profitable online businesses you can run, as it’s a lot more scalable. You can begin with a small store focusing on your niche, and then expand it over international boundaries once it grows and prospers. 

  1. Which products/services can be sold online? 

You can sell almost anything online as far as there’s a demand for the products in the market. In order to know the product’s viability, examine the amount of target audience and the profit margins it would create. 

  1. How to start a business online with no money? 

Yes, you can start an online business without any money or starting capital. However, there’ll be a few startup costs like having a domain name, website building platform, and content creation. If you do all these things yourself, it will incur you hardly any money to start your own online business. 

  1. How to start a business online like dropshippingIs dropshipping a good online business?

Dropshipping is certainly the best online business idea for new entrepreneurs who don’t wish to spend money on purchasing & storing inventory or handling shipping. The supplier is responsible for storing and shipping the products to customers, and you can concentrate on brand building and marketing. 

However, the profit margins are much lower and the competition is high in dropshipping business. After these all points, you do not need to be confused about how to start a business online.


I think, now you have to idea that how to start a business online. Starting an online business can seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t be so. If you properly research all the important aspects of starting a business, you can definitely do it. You must put some thought into determining your niche and the business model you wish to go for. Then, with some knowledge, dedication, and consistency, you can grow your business efficiently. Learn from your mistakes, and continue evolving.