Whether you’re looking to be your own boss or you just want to start a business to earn some money on the side, there are plenty of ways to turn your skills and interests into income.
Running a successful online business definitely has its appeal, but comes with its own set of challenges. The truth is, starting a business of any kind is hard work, but countless people have already made the leap to entrepreneurship—with the right ideas and plenty of sweat equity, you can, too.
This isn’t about one simple, life-changing trick. Starting a business doesn’t work that way. Instead, we’ve put together a collection of simple ways to start a low investment business without quitting your day job, to help you find a product idea or business model that fits your lifestyle.
7 online store ideas
- Start your own clothing line
- Launch a dropshipping store
- Sell your art online
- Become a freelance writer, designer or developer
- Teach an online course
- Flip your thrift store finds
- Publish your own book
1. Start your own clothing line
As long as you have some designs in mind and a little bit of time on your hands, you can get your own clothing company off the ground.
If you already own a Shopify store, you can set up your own clothing line using Oberlo, Printify, Printful, or a similar product sourcing apps. They automatically link your store to apparel printers and clothing manufacturers. They handle every step of the retail fulfillment process for you, giving you the freedom to design and ship a wide range of pieces, right out of the gate.
Why start a clothing line?
- There’s nothing more satisfying than creating products that people will use every day.
- As soon as you build your Shopify store, you’ll be able to start selling instantly. Thanks to apps like Printify and Printful, the process of designing and delivering your own custom-made clothing has been streamlined and simplified.
- Transform your creativity into something real and profitable. You’ll love the feeling of seeing your designs come to life.
We used Printful to create THINK PUP, an apparel store for dog owners, and ended up making over $1,200 in just three weeks. With some time and research, you could be well on your way to building a successful t-shirt company, too.
Want to get started? Read our comprehensive walkthrough, How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business: The Ultimate Guide.
From crafting your brand’s story to promoting your products with influencer marketing, we’ve also curated some handy resources that will help grow your apparel business at every stage:
- 22 Awesome T-Shirt Templates and Mockups for Your Clothing Line
- How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business
2. Launch a dropshipping store
Think you need a warehouse full of inventory to run your own business? Think again! Dropshipping is a great way to start a business on a budget. You can hit the ground running by sourcing a pre-existing product from a supplier and having them take care of things like packaging and fulfillment.
This process lets you skip over a lot of obstacles that might be standing in the way of you starting your own business. More importantly, it eliminates the risk of finding out there’s no market for your product after placing a huge order with a manufacturer or supplier.
Why choose dropshipping?
- You don’t need to stock products in a physical location, meaning that your cash flow won’t get tied up in inventory. There’s less of an upfront cash risk.
- Whenever a purchase is made, you place an order with a third-party and they handle the rest of the process for you. Since you don’t have to deal with things like tracking inventory or mailing packages, dropshipping eliminates a lot of potential headaches for budding entrepreneurs.
- No warehouse means that you can run your business from anywhere. Whether it’s your living room or the cafe down the street, you decide where you want to work from.
If you’re interested in dropshipping, read our Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping to help you get started.
If you don’t have any online shop ideas, here are some strategies for narrowing down to the perfect product:
- Find products to sell on Oberlo
- Read our guide, How to Find a Product to Sell Online
- Check out these 17 places ecommerce entrepreneurs go to find product ideas
- Find out how we made more than $2,000 in five weeks with imported gaming glasses
3. Sell your art online
One online store idea is to sell your art and monetize your creativity. Whether you’re a painter, photographer, or musician, there are plenty of ways to start a business and turn your latest masterpiece into a source of revenue with a beautifully designed ecommerce website.
If painting or photography is your forte, you can sell your work as prints, canvases, and framed posters using Printify or Printful. This is a fantastic way to turn your art into something tangible that people can take home and integrate into their space. Is music your thing? You can sell your beats, songs, samples and more as digital downloads.
Just take a look at The Drum Broker, the largest online drum sample business in the world. They created a successful and sustainable business model with the help of apps like FetchApp and ShipStation.
Why sell your art?
- Be part of people’s lives. Get your work into your customers’ homes and headphones.
- Create a platform to showcase your work by setting up shop online.
- As an artist, creating art isn’t just a hobby — it’s a way of life. This is your chance to turn your passion into an income stream and potentially do what you really love for a living.
Ready to bring your art shop ideas to life? Get started with these resources:
- How an Entrepreneur from Alaska Built the Biggest Hip-Hop Drum Sample Business in the World
- How to Sell Art Online (From Artists Who Have Successfully Monetized)
4. Become a freelance writer, designer or developer
Writers, developers and graphic designers can start a business based on their talents. As a freelancer, you’ll be able to put your skills to good use by helping people across the world with their projects (while making some money yourself, of course).
Freelancing doesn’t mean committing to month-long projects that eat away at your free time either. You can easily pick up bite-sized tasks that fit your schedule.
It’s worth noting that Fiverr is a little different from a traditional job board. As the name suggests, all the posted jobs cost five dollars. The key to making big money on Fiverr is carefully setting up your offers so that you can easily upsell the client for more money.
For instance, you could offer to write a 150-word introduction for a blog post as your initial $5.00 service. As an upsell, you could charge another $10.00 for every additional 150 words. You can tweak your services until you’ve found a combo that makes it worth your while.
If you want total control over how much you charge, create a Shopify store. You can list your services as products and disable shipping since you won’t actually be physically delivering anything to your customers. You can even use apps like BookThatApp and Events Calendar to give your customers the option to schedule appointments.
- When you freelance, you choose which projects you want to work on, and set your own schedule and workplace.
- Getting paid to do something you’re good at is a rewarding feeling, whether you’re looking to strike out on your own or you just want to make some extra cash on the weekend.
- If you’re new to writing, designing, or developing, freelancing is an excellent way to build out your portfolio and get some real experience in a wide range of industries. You might discover that you have a knack or passion for something that you never expected.
If freelancing sounds like it might be a good money-making website idea for your lifestyle, we’ve put together some great articles that can help you make the most of your time. Take a look:
- 7 Ways to Be More Productive While Working from Home
- 13 Free Tools and Travel Apps That Make Working Remotely Work for You
5. Teach an online course
Teaching an online course is a solid way to generate passive income. All you need to do is put together a video walkthrough explaining a subject that you’re familiar with and then host it on your own personal website.
Although it requires effort up front, if you manage to design a popular, high-value video tutorial series, you would make money on a regular basis as people continue to enroll in your course.
To start creating your first online course, brainstorm a topic that you know well enough to teach someone how to do from scratch. This can be literally anything—music production, social media marketing, web development—you name it.
Next, you’ll want to grab a screencasting app, like ScreenFlow, to record your screen and voice while you walk your students through your tutorial. ScreenFlow also comes with a built-in video editing suite, allowing you to shoot and cut your videos all on the same platform.
Why teach an online course?
- With an online course, you can literally set it and forget it. Take a few days or weeks, depending on the complexity you’re aiming for, to build an online course. You could be reaping the benefits for weeks.
- You already have the knowledge, you just need to share it. Focus on teaching something that you’re already an expert at and the rest will come naturally, whether it’s building iOS apps, creating monthly budgets, or running Facebook ad campaigns.
- Teaching someone a new skill is its own reward. While there’s definitely money to be made in teaching online courses, helping other people is always a satisfying experience in itself.
6. Flip your thrift store finds
If you love hitting up thrift stores and hunting down great deals, then one great shop idea is to sell your second-hand treasures online.
Your potential customers want to buy cool stuff, but they don’t want to dig through old soccer jerseys and braided belts to get their hands on that one amazing find. Take advantage of this by positioning yourself as a trustworthy curator who can go out and uncover those great, vintage pieces for others.
Why sell your thrift store finds?
- Put your shopping addiction to work. Let’s face it, you’d be combing through thrift store racks anyway, so you might as well make some money while you do it.
- The margins are huge. That $2.00 Radioshack ball cap you found over the weekend? Next, it might be a $40.00 vintage vaporwave strapback.
- You’re selling something unique. Nowhere else on the web will people be able to find the vintage collections that you put together.
Sometimes a passion for second-hand curiosities is all it takes to kickstart a business. Windy Gaming, an online store dedicated to selling vintage video games, started when its owner received a box of old Japanese games from a friend and wanted to sell them online. Now, Windy Gaming generates $1,000 per week selling retro gaming gear across the world.
Want to turn your cool stuff into pizza money? Take a look at these guides to making your products look great in photos:
- The Complete Guide to DIY Product Photography
- 7 Steps to Beautiful DIY Apparel Product Photography
- 10 Common Jewelry Product Photography Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
7. Publish your own book
It’s okay to admit it: you’ve probably thought about publishing your own book someday. While seeing your name on a list of best sellers might seem like a pipe dream, it’s actually not that far out of reach.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a science fiction novel, a marketing guide or a children’s picture book, there are now plenty of options for successfully self-publishing your work.
From releasing your writing as an ebook with the Digital Download app to on-demand printing services like Blurb and CreateSpace, there are many different ways for you to become a published author and sell your book online.
To sell ebooks through your online store, install the Digital Downloads app and you’ll instantly be able to stock digital files as products. Once purchased, your ebooks will be sent to your customers via email or as a direct download link.
If you choose to sell physical copies of your book, you’ll just need to place an order with Blurb or CreateSpace whenever your work is purchased. They’ll custom print your book, and handle the entire storage and fulfillment process.
Why publish a book?
- Printing, storage, and delivery is taken care of thanks to services like Blurb and CreateSpace.
- What’s the point of writing something if there’s no one around to read it? Self-publishing is the quickest way to get your book into the hands of potential readers.
- Creative writing is your passion and you deserve to be able to make money while doing something you enjoy.
Ready to live out your dreams of being a published author? These resources will help you out on your way to the top:
- How to Start a Business: 13 Steps to Get Your Business Up and Running
- Hacking the Press: Clever Ways to Get Free Press Coverage with Zero Budget
Getting started with your online business
Once you’ve decided on an online business idea, you’ll want to do your due diligence and, eventually, give it life. Here’s how to start a business, step-by-step:
- Validate your idea with market research.
- Develop your product or service.
- Set up your business finances.
- Find vendors and suppliers.
- Build your website.
1. Validate your idea with market research
It might sound harsh, but it’s true: just because you think you have a great idea, doesn’t mean there’s a market for it. Before investing your time and energy into starting your business, research how feasible it is and whether there’s any potential buyer interest. You can hire an agency to conduct market research for you, but if you’re on a shoestring budget, you can also take the DIY approach:
- How to Evaluate Market Demand for Your Product Idea
- How to Use Niche Marketing to Build Your Business From the Ground Up
2. Develop your product or service
You’ve validated your idea, now it’s time to turn it into a reality. Whether you’re selling a product or service, you need to create it. Find a manufacturer to bring your product to life, create packages of your service offerings, or write your book and identify a self-publishing option to bring it to fruition.
If you go the dropshipping route, the product has already been developed for you. It’s up to you to choose the products you’re passionate about or that you’ve identified a hot market for. To help you, we’ve put together a guide to finding the best products to dropship.
3. Set up your business finances
“How do I open a business bank account?” is a common question for many new entrepreneurs. After you’ve officially registered your business with your local government, you should have the tax identification numbers and other information required to open a business bank account.
As you grow, you might need funding for future endeavors, be it a new product launch, or marketing and advertising spend. Having business bank accounts makes it easier for you to manage that capital, as well as track your revenue and expenses.
This is also helpful when it comes to tax preparation as your business-related transactions will be in a single place. As your business finances get more complicated, hiring a professional accountant or tax professional could be a viable option.
- 8 Small Business Accounting Tools to Help You Manage Your Finances
- Small Business Accounting 101: Ten Steps to Get Your Startup on Track
- Crowdfunding 101: Raise Capital, Validate Your Ideas, and Start a Business
4. Find vendors and suppliers
Product-based online businesses, in particular, may require lots of business relationships. For example: a manufacturer, a dropshipper, or a third-party logistics coordinator. When identifying which partnerships you want to move forward with, it’s best to shop around and compare your options to make sure you’re getting the best solution for your needs.
Other online businesses may require different relationships or contractors. If you’re writing a book, for example, you may want to hire a professional editor and book designer.
5. Build your website
If you want to start a business online, you need to have a website. And to generate online sales, you’ll need to incorporate payment processing functionality. First, choose a domain name and verify that it’s available. You can purchase a domain name for less than $20/year in some cases. From there, you can build your own store on a platform like Shopify and start accepting payments from customers right away.
Here are a few other resources to help you get started with your ecommerce site:
- Ecommerce Business Blueprint: How to Build, Launch and Grow a Profitable Online Store
- Building a Beautiful Online Store: 15 Design Experts Share Their Tips and Advice
It’s time to start your business
If you've been thinking about ways to start a business, it's time to get out there and create an online money-making business in your spare time.
Have any questions about setting up your first side business? Let us know in the comments below.