10 Best Online Business Ideas in 2022

Running an online business was once seen as lifestyle choice to many. Today, it is a significant part of all businesses, with even conventional outfits containing a substantial online component. Disclosure: As a digital marketing agency CEO who helped more than 6000 customers over the past 15 years, we admit having an unfair advantage in knowing which business ideas are the most profitable.

Before jumping straight into the best online business ideas – it might be enlightening to point out that now, it is possible to run your own business that is 100% online, in partnership with companies that have an offline component, for example: retailing or dropshipping physical goods or services. In other words, as much as it is possible to engage in a business that sells only virtually downloadable items such as e-books and video courses, it is also possible to promote things like holidays, fashion, cars and financial services which are delivered by 3rd parties.

The bottom line? It is entirely possible to pursue something you are passionate about and engage in a business that is 100% online, even if it contains an element of physical delivery of goods or services – because you do not have to deliver it, someone else, anywhere in the world, could be doing the delivery partner.

Factors determining your choice of business: Let’s remove any bias and emotion first by thinking clearly about how to choose the best online business for your immediate and longer term needs. First ask yourself: can the business be scaled up? How much do I need to make and how quickly? How quickly can it become profitable and do I have the patience and resources to build the business? Do I need it for my enjoyment, or will I be able to hire other freelancers to deal with less pleasant elements of the business? More importantly, what regulations affect this business type and do Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and the big tech marketplace platforms have any limitations they impose on my industry?

Bearing in mind that numerous factors are involved in choosing a business type, it might be possible to evaluate your options rationally and consider the pros and cons of each business type. Let’s take a look at business ideas:

10 Best Online Business Ideas

The insurance industry is hyper competitive which means that they pay excessive commissions for qualified leads and website traffic. The idea is to run a website or blog that compares different insurance providers – each of which will provide your website with an affiliate commission and / or a fee per visitor which is sent to their website. 

A business like this will require a website with good quality content and backlinks. One of the main advantages of building a business like this is the website itself will become truly valuable: it can be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Think of it as being an insurance broker, but without having to be qualified with a registered office: you’re more of a policy specialist, understanding where consumers can obtain the best value and pointing them in the right direction. 

Requirements:

When you gain in-depth knowledge of various marketplaces, along with specific industries, it is possible to resell services with a healthy profit margin ranging from 20% to 300%. It is known as “arbitrage”. 

For example: Certain marketplaces exploit newcomers who seek to sell their services. They tell the newcomer that they need to work for cheap in order to gather reviews first, and once they have good reviews, they can increase their price. By reselling a service with an experienced consultative approach, you can pay a qualified but inexperienced person on a marketplace to fulfill the service. 

Examples of this can include online translation, architectural designs, graphic design and just about any of 200+ online virtual services. 

Requirements:

Dropshipping means taking an order with payment, and passing on the client address to another seller or factory, for them to fulfill the order directly by sending it to the client address.

It involves good content marketing to describe an item or service well, with the ability to close deals on-site or perhaps even via email or phone, or if you are really smart: using a chatbot to assist with initial screening of an inquiry.

Exploiting the arbitrage between different vendors, or using your in-depth knowledge of demand for luxury items, a healthy markup can be made. For example, knowing how to describe a marble item or valuable piece of art, can make the difference between asking $20K and $26K, leading to a $6K markup on an item you do not even have to physically touch. 

Requirements:

One might regard this as a fairly generic activity in internet marketing, but building and owning an online community is a serious way to earn an income. It essentially makes the owner of the community an influencer. As explained in the influencer marketing guide, celebrity and influencer endorsement is quite costly.

It is possible to build a group on Linkedin and Facebook, however remember this: you will always just be a crop farmer on their sites and will be subject to their rules whenever they want to change it. Thus Mark Zuckerberg or some Silicon Valley personality may put you out of business overnight. 

The more formidable way of having a strong online community – is to solidify your support via a strong email newsletter following. So even when using Facebook and Linkedin, always provide incentive for community members to hop onto your newsletter and website in order to protect your influence and membership of the community.

Requirements:

  • A good affiliate deal in a relevant industry,
  • Serious skills in social media marketing and a few engagements via an influencer marketing campaign,
  • An email marketing software to build a list,
  • An organic Linkedin B2B marketing campaign manager who can influence specific people and reach out to them in order to grow the community faster.
  • Most probably a good website too.

Review websites that are monetized through the affiliate model can be quite profitable and scalable. Brand review are especially powerful. Pete Cashmore, the man who founded Mashable, made a fortune by ranking for brand names like “Facebook” and “Youtube”.  You can make a fortune by creating a website that ranks for 100 different brand names when consumers seek to read reviews. 

The idea is that Trustpilot is no longer a valuable qualitative source, because it only contains negative information from disgruntled people. Hardly ever would a satisfied customer think to leave a positive review on Trustpilot. 

Brand reviewers, on the other hand, spend their time really understanding the value propositions of different brands. They can compare brands with each other and guide the consumer to make the best possible choice.

Requirements:

  • Affiliate deals from reputable brands,
  • A decent looking WordPress website,
  • A basic SEO structure to support your branded pages with backlinks.

Cybersecurity has huge demand. The opportunity here is to run a decent arbitrage service where you buy and sell cybersecurity as a service. This is possible because a lot of tech experts in Israel, India and Pakistan are excellent security providers, but poor in the areas of consulting. In fact, it is possible to buy a penetration testing service for $300 and sell it for $1000 if you use a few clean templates to present the service, results and findings. 

There is this no need to be an expert in cybersecurity. All you need to do is to find about 3 great specialists in the area – people who might not have the best English language and customer skills, but who are reliable and eager to work hard. They should have completed a thorough skill assessment to satisfy you of their ability, otherwise you might be in line for some costly mistakes. 

 

For anyone with a decent qualification and practical experience, teaching online can be a good method to create online passive revenue. The mindset here is important – if you think long term, this is a good business as we’ll explain:

There are claims of some instructors earning $1M per year via Udemy and a lot from Linkedin Learning too, however it is best to be realistic. Our market research suggests that $400 to $1500 per month per course is more typical for a highly competitive marketplace: that is what the AVERAGE instructor earns when they let a marketplace take care of all the marketing and advertising. 

It may take $5000 worth of time to produce a solid online course – and if you only earn $400 in the first month from sales, short term thinkers will find it discouraging. However if an evergreen subject is chosen, or anything with a shelve life of 36 months or more, it would mean earning $14500+ over this period, and possibly up to $30K before the course is retired. 

A scalable online business indeed:

Producing 10 X courses in 6 months is entirely possible. This can lead to compounded earnings, at which point the business model switches to passive income.

Requirements:

  • A decent PC with video production capability,
  • An AI software that can use your own image as an avatar to create AI videos – which is a great option if you are camera shy.
  • Ample time to research,
  • Excellent presentation an use of the English language in most cases,
  • A lot of patience with poor reviews from nasty people on Udemy,
  • A long term mindset and a thick skin.

Affiliate marketing is so big today that the likes of Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines have joined the game. Some solopreneur brands like Neil Patal, Tail Lopez, Adam Enfroy, Pat Flynn and Charles Ngo serve as prime examples. Some of them claim to earn in excess of $800K per month. 

The idea is to spend roughly $100K on building a strong authority website with decent SEO metrics, and then to start ranking for a multitude of services, brands and questions that people search for on the web. Spend around another $50K on content creation – and you could have a business that earns anywhere between $50K and $300K per month. 

Your ability to do excellent research and writing will be put to the test in this hypercompetitive environment. Consider the use of these top SEO tools as well as some important SEO statistics to understand the levels of input that will be required to succeed. 

Requirements:

You can be an online travel consultant without ever picking up the phone – that is if you are willing to build influence as a travel blogger and influencer. 

Besides earning generous commissions, for example $4500 on a $29K packaged holiday that was booked, influencers can also charge $400 to $2000 to share a single blog post or video on their social media channels – provided that they have built a decent level of followers. 

Requirements:

With millions of readers buying ebooks, and marketplaces like Amazon, Google Play and Apple iTunes, the ebook market is massive. Obtaining a slice of the cake in this market by owning a number of books can be lucrative with a decent passive income. 

So how much does it cost to market an ebook and how profitable can it be for authors? The gaps are quite wide:

Startup cost:

$2K Per book (Writing)

$5K to $100K (Marketing)

Earning potential:

$80 to $8000 per month per book.

 

Beware: It will not be a as easy as publishing a book and now you’re rich. Look at how hard famous brands work. Tim Ferris, author of “The 4 hour working week” and Robert Kiyosaki with “Rich Dad Poor Dad” are constantly producing podcasts, working hard to be in the media and engage in full time PR to keep their author brands on the mind of consumers globally. Authors like Grant Cardone and Tony Robbins are prime examples of the extent to which authors to go market themselves. 

Various strategies apply, for example owning 100 different books in multiple niches and cross-promoting them, or owning just a few books and focusing all your efforts on these books. 

Some famous authors even hire other writers to write their books. They just do the editing and add their stamp of approval to it. 

Requirements:

You’ll have to be smart here. Although very little resources are needed like websites, there are several methods which we describe in this free ebook marketing guide for self-published authors

How do I really find a unique business idea for me?

The above ideas might be awesome as they are proven, known sources of revenue for many people. Yet you might want to be the Elon Musk or the Bill Gates of the online world – in the sense that you wish to start a business not many people have. Indeed pioneers have the potential to outgun the herd in terms of performance. You may also want to try to apply an existing business idea and model to an untapped market. 

Examples of unique business ideas: 

  1. Disrupt old industries with new methods: The affiliate industry is old and established, but only recently people started to sell services for accountants and lawyers using this model. Today, companies like NOLO are earning millions from the promotion of legal services via the affiliate model;
  2. Create a marketplace effect: Building an online community and a marketplace is hard work. But Udemy, Upwork, Airbnb and Fiverr are prime examples of how the marketplace effect was leveraged to sell existing well-known services in a different way. The idea is that a potential buyer of services can also be a seller of it, and a referrer. Which other industries are ripe for a marketplace? 

 

What is the difference between using a marketplace or your own website?

When you use a marketplace such as Amazon, Etsy, Skillshare, Alibaba to sell products and services, there are advantages and disadvantages. For example, Amazon can abuse sellers or change their rules overnight. At Udemy anyone can clone and rip off your intellectual property and they don’t care about it because the marketplace still earns money regardless of who the seller is. You might even generate traffic for a marketplace and your users might buy from a competitor on the marketplace – completely sidelining your service. 

On the other hand, if you use a number of channels to drive business to your own website – you call the shots. Neither are you a crop farmer at the mercy of policies you do not control.

Ultimately, you can be smart about using marketplaces as a lead generator for your own brand since they spend millions on marketing. But being dependent on marketplaces for more than 40% of small business revenues is a risky position to be in. If on the other hand you have a great service but you’re not good at marketing, marketplaces might be for you. As Jeff Bezos stated in his highly biased suggestion: “Spend less on marketing and more on product development”, which of course benefits him as the owner of a marketplace. 

 

Final Take on Best Online Business Ideas:

Many business types can be profitable in the short term. Some, like owning your own website which depends on SEO, can take 6 months to generate traffic and revenue, whereas others the use of pay per click or social media marketing can help generate revenue sooner. Marketplaces can make a lot of money – but they can also be slavery traps where expensive lessons are learned. 

It is generally accepted that the U.S. is a favorable jurisdiction and that forming a new LLC is a great way to own and run an online business. That may change in the future dependent on how well China does at pushing their ecommerce alternatives into the mainstream. But for now, America is the top choice for global online entrepreneurs. 

Information sources:

Digital Marketing & Social Selling

Online Purchase Intent

Challenges and opportunities in online search

 

 

Adriaan Brits

Adriaan Brits

Adriaan Brits is the CEO of Sitetrail.com. He works with clients around the world on digital marketing strategy and PR. When it comes to scaling a business, he is one of the top 10 consultants with the biggest media list globally.