If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been brainstorming online business ideas — and for good reason.
We’re living in a time of heightened financial fear, and I’m sure many of you are struggling with insecurities about employment, as the pandemic and automation are pushing people out of the workforce.
More so, we’re seeing inflation rates skyrocket and wages aren’t adjusting in proportion. These are scary times, indeed.
This is why it’s more important than ever for you to start developing methods to generate your own income. You can’t depend on a “steady job” anymore (there’s no such thing).
You need to get out there into the marketplace, sharpen your content marketing and copywriting skills, and create an online business for yourself. It’s a necessity.
How to come up with online business ideas
Ready to get to work?
One of the most common pitfalls for new content entrepreneurs is that they don’t know how to come up with online business ideas.
It’s not enough to say you want to start a business, you must also have a plan.
In this article, I’m going to share seven online business ideas, and I’ll detail the pros and cons of each method to help you shape your plan.
Let’s start with …
The two types of online businesses
Although specific methods and strategies can vary, there are only two core types of online businesses.
- Selling a service
- Selling a product
Any online business idea will fall into one of these two categories.
First, we’ll begin with freelance services.
Freelancing is one of the best online business ideas.
Offering a service doesn’t require you build a fancy website, invest money into marketing, or raise capital to build your product.
As a freelancer, your first and only priority is to get a client. At most, you need a laptop, some storyselling skills, and a willingness to get started.
Now, there are ways you can approach freelancing to maximize your chances of success. Let’s look at three critical steps.
Step #1: Decide on the exact services you provide
Everyone has skills, and you have plenty to offer the market.
Are you learning how to become a freelance writer? Starting an accounting firm? Are you a killer photographer or a whiz at social media marketing?
Decide on the services you’ll offer, and create a plan for how you’ll present these services.
It’s tempting to want to create packages and productized services (and I highly recommend you do at some point), but in the beginning you want to take on all of the business you can to gain the most experience.
Over time, your reputation will build and your referral business will start generating bigger profits.
At this point, you can start to charge more for your creative work and be more selective about the clients you want to work with — as well as possibly say goodbye to a current client you might have outgrown.
Step #2: Build a brand for your online business idea
Once you have a few jobs under your belt, it’s critical that you begin marketing your services.
The biggest mistake freelancers make is that they sit back and wait for business to come to them. You have to actively get out there and market yourself to get new clients faster:
Create a website
Generate awareness through business blogging and social media
Demonstrate how your services can benefit your target prospects
Step #3: Transition to building an agency
Freelancing is great, but it can only get you so far.
Eventually, you’ll have more business than you can effectively serve. The last thing you want is unhappy clients and it’s very common for freelancers to get in over their heads.
That’s why you want to be actively replacing yourself as you grow.
For some of you reviewing the different types of online business ideas, staying small and flexible is what you want.
You want to work with a few clients and do freelance work on the side. If that’s your goal, then great! I support you.
But for those of you who plan to transition from a freelancer to an agency owner (with employees, departments, payroll, etc.), I suggest you plan for this transition right from the beginning.
To summarize, freelancing is the perfect online business idea to get you started, because it doesn’t require any upfront costs and it’s profitable as soon as you get your first client.
But as is the case with any service business, it won’t have the same scalability as other online business ideas.
2. Paid newsletter
I love paid newsletters, and I think they’re one of the best options to get started.
Paid newsletters are great because they’re straightforward. They’re one of the only online business ideas that don’t have a separation between the content you create to market the product and the product itself.
In freelancing, or SaaS products, or even membership communities, the content you create is used to grow awareness to a product or service. But with newsletters, the content itself is the product.
This makes it much easier for you to stay focused on your writing. You can put your full focus on creating the best newsletter possible without having to get into the weeds with other management tasks.
One of the most exciting aspects of starting a paid newsletter is the monthly recurring revenue, or MRR.
Any online business idea that monetizes with MRR is worth considering because consistent cash flow will generate.
This is especially attractive because a paid newsletter can be highly profitable and engaging. There are plenty of examples of people making six figures or more without needing to hire a single employee.
Paid newsletter downsides as online business ideas
For most people, the biggest drawback of paid newsletters is the commitment.
If you sell monthly, or even yearly subscriptions to your newsletter, that means you’re on the hook to deliver that content to your customers … no matter what.
As writers, we all know how hard it can be to have fresh blog post ideas and new articles published on a regular basis, but if you decide to go the route of a paid newsletter, you’re going to have to push through it.
3. Membership communities
Membership communities can be extremely profitable and fun, and you have an opportunity to deliver amazing value to your community members.
A good example of a membership community is Copyblogger Academy. Our members pay a monthly fee, and as a result, they get access to premium courses, live masterclass sessions, events, and V.I.P newsletters.
Similarly to newsletters, membership communities have great scalability, because you can add more members to your community without having to increase your expenses.
In addition, you can typically charge much more money for access to a paid membership community than you can for access to a subscription.
Typically, paid newsletters can range anywhere from $5 to $15 a month.
But membership communities can range anywhere from $15 a month all the way up to $500 a month (and sometimes even more).