As an entrepreneur, an online business can seem like the holy grail of startups.
Online businesses can be ran from home, they have high income ceilings with products that can be sold to anyone in the world, and they have fewer startup costs.
I could keep going, but you don’t need me to preach to you. We both know how powerful the internet can be.
When you’re just getting started though, it’s important that you stay on track. There’s a lot of misguided information out there. Choosing the right business model and following strategies that are trusted and proven is an important first step. There’s no use putting all of your time and energy into something that won’t pan out, especially if it could have been recognized from the beginning. It takes hard work and long hours to be successful with any business, online included.
As an entrepreneur, I’m far more concerned with building long-term assets than I am making short-term profit. While immediate income is great, building a business and a brand provides long-term fulfillment.
Here are the top ways you can start your own online business as an entrepreneur:
#1 – Affiliate Marketing
An affiliate network allows you to find hundreds to thousands of products to promote and make money from online. Major retailers like Walmart and Macy’s can be found on affiliate networks, as well as small businesses and startups.
For each product that you want to sell, you can generate an affiliate link that connects your account ID with the sale whenever a purchase is made through that link. Affiliate products pay commission ranging anywhere from 1-95%.
Affiliate marketing has the smallest barrier to entry. All that you need is a website, good quality content, and an approved account with an affiliate network. Many bloggers use affiliate marketing to generate income from their posts. When you’re reading an article that recommends a product or service, chances are, they are an affiliate. While they might have tried the product and are able to genuinely recommend it, they will make money if you decide to purchase it through their link.
Affiliate marketing can be particularly appealing because you don’t have to buy products upfront, ship anything, or worry about customer service. The harder aspects of running a business are handled for you. However, repeat orders are far and few between with affiliate sites since you’re directing traffic off-site to a third party vendor. For this reason, most affiliates run extensive email marketing campaigns to keep their subscribers tuned-in to their new posts.
The most popular affiliate marketing networks are:
- Commission Junction
- Share A Sale
- Link Share
- Click Bank
#2 – Dropship E-commerce
Dropshipping allows you to sell physical products as if they were your own, without having to go through the hassle of stocking or shipping those items. This is often preferred over affiliate marketing because it keeps the traffic on your own website, rather than directing them off-site to a third party vendor. The products can be sold under your own brand, since most dropshippers use unmarked packages. When an order is placed on your website, you simply notify and send payment to your dropship supplier and they ship the items directly to your customers. The only downside is that products typically cost more as a dropshipper than they do as a wholesaler and dropshippers have to provide customer service to their customers.
#3 – Wholesale E-commerce
If you have enough money set aside to purchase stock for your store, wholesaling can be more profitable than dropshipping. As a wholesaler, you’re often buying direct from the manufacturer. They generally only sell their products in bulk. While the upfront costs are steep, your profit margins will be higher. This also means stocking and shipping the products will be on your shoulders. Most wholesalers use the Amazon fulfillment service, which supports orders from your website as well. Amazon will stock and ship your products for you, as well as give your items Prime eligibility on their website.
#4 – Website Flipping
One of the reasons we feel comfortable starting a new project and investing our time and energy is that we know it can always be sold. With any website, you have the option to sell. Thanks to Flippa and other website auction sites, you can get global exposure to your listing and have buyers bidding competitively to purchase your business. Website flipping can be very profitable for someone experienced with SEO, branding, content marketing, PPC, social media or other types of digital marketing. Your website will need to already be making money or have something that makes it unique to sell for a large amount.
#5 – Free or Paid Content
Having your own blog can be a rewarding experience and there is great potential to make money. Simply find something you’re passionate about and work hard to share great content. An active blog can make money from affiliate products, ad space, or through services. People tend to trust personal brands over businesses but you can choose either. Write as much content as possible and strive to make it better than your competitors.
If you’re confident in your content, you can even start a membership site and request that your readers pay for access.
#6 – Selling Courses or classes
As long as you’re not physically present for the classes, such as recorded videos, then selling courses can provide completely passive income. Course selling is more passive than affiliate marketing because all of the traffic from your website is retained. The courses can be offered under your own brand with an automated order system. Selling courses is a good way to productize what would otherwise be a consulting service.
#7 – Selling Services
I’ve been a freelancer for many clients and I know how it can be a reliable side-income. It’s something anyone can do with some spare time and willingness to learn. Being a freelance service provider is never easy though. Clients can have steep expectations and it can be frustrating to have to compete for work on job boards.
The most profitable freelance services are programming, web design, web development, copywriting, article writing, PPC management, content marketing, social media management and SEO. The more technical your talents, the more you can expect to earn.
#8 – Productized Services
Selling a productized service can be much more stable than being a freelance service provider. It also opens the door to selling worldwide and not being tide down to a time for money scenario like you often are as a freelancer. If you sell freelance services, I’d advise that you have productizing as a goal for the future.
Productizing means to turn your freelance skills into a marketable package. Rather than catering your service to every customer, you provide a standardized product with a set price and features. This allows you to list the components of your service and set the expectations for the client from the beginning. There’s less hassles, fewer complaints and your business will run a lot more smoothly. Essentially, it means you’re selling a product and are no longer the flexible, hire-me-for-anything service provider you once were.
Productizing even eliminates the need to send proposals on job boards or compete with other freelancers. Through inbound marketing, you can drive traffic to your website and bring the clients to you.
#9 – Consulting
Consulting jobs can be very rewarding. You feel like you’ve truly helped and you don’t have the pressure of having to provide a service or produce results.
Consulting is something you can do in your spare time and it’s easy to find gigs on freelance job boards. Most consultants are paid beyond $50 an hour. Remember that you get to price yourself. If you feel your consultations are worth $250 an hour, charge it. There are plenty of businesses that understand the value of consultation services and are looking for a qualified expert to help them out. They don’t mind paying what you’re asking as long as you solve their problem.
#10 – Programming
I saved this for last because it’s one of those skill-sets only a small number of our readers will have. Fortunately, it’s also something you can pretty easily learn.
Being an experienced programmer with a head on your shoulders is one of the most profitable skillsets you could have. Just look at any of the tech giants that have made billions. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. All of these companies would have gone no where without talented programmers.
If you want to learn, dive into PHP or ASP.NET. These are web languages that you could use to create scripts, websites, and custom web-based software. Once you’re fully tuned into being an entrepreneur, you won’t have any problem coming up with new website ideas. You’ll be able to take action and bring some of your cool ideas to life.
There are plenty of opportunities for online entrepreneurs. The most important thing is to choose a business model and stay committed. Driving traffic to a website and earning enough revenue to start advertising and scaling your business takes time. To achieve your goals the fastest, choose a strategy and see it through. If you get wishy-washy, you end up spreading yourself too thin and will never gain traction. Once your online presence starts to build, it magnifies tenfold. The beginning is the hardest part and the most susceptible stage to self-doubt and worry. These are tried and true online business models that have potential to provide a full-time income and a career to any entrepreneur. Now it’s time to truly dedicate yourself to making it happen.