Online business activity has grown considerably over the years. In the United States, the total percentage of business conducted online has expanded over 35% in just the last 10 years alone, accounting for 28.8% of the country’s business activity in 2024, according to data from IBIS World. It’s not only the United States that has experienced this trend, data from Zippia shows that online business accounts for approximately 18% of all business transactions globally.
This isn’t too surprising, considering that the average person spends 6 hours and 58 minutes per day in front of screens that are connected to the internet, according to Exploding Topics. That means most people are spending nearly half of their waking hours browsing search engines like Google and YouTube, scrolling through social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, shopping on Ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Shopify, and binge watching streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. There are just so many opportunities to promote products and services to customers online, and many people prefer shopping online because it’s more convenient.
Starting an online business can be a great opportunity to capitalize on modern consumer trends while allowing yourself a flexible working arrangement and uncapped income potential. From digital marketing and Ecommerce to simple side hustles like copywriting and bookkeeping, here are the top online businesses to start in 2024.
1. Start a digital marketing business
Local lead generation business
Local lead generation is an online business model that entails attracting potential customers for business niches in specific geographic locations and selling the leads to relevant local businesses. Local lead generation can involve digital marketing strategies like geo-targeted advertising using Facebook Ads or Google Ads, creating a Google My Business Profile to show up in the Google Local Pack, or leveraging local SEO tactics like local content marketing and local business schema markup to rank a website on the first page of Google for local search queries. Considering that the majority 93% of online traffic goes through Google and 46% of all Google searches have local intent, according to LocaliQ, generating leads for local businesses can be a massive opportunity. When using organic traffic strategies like Dan Klein teaches in this lead gen course, a local lead generation business can achieve profit margins of 90%, while generating passive income online through digital real estate.
Although you can start creating local lead generation websites for around $500 or less and begin generating money online within just six weeks, there is no guarantee of income because you are only paid for performance. Furthermore, local lead generation requires extensive market research upfront to find a suitable niche and location. Even if you do generate high-quality leads, you won't make any money unless you can partner with a small business to pay you for the leads.
In my experience of scaling my local lead generation business to $52K/month over the last decade, local lead generation using local SEO is an easy sell to a business owner. You do the hard work of ranking websites ahead of time so that you can offer local businesses marketing results right away. Many local businesses find it better to pay a local lead generation business for leads than to pay another type of digital marketing agency for just the potential to attract leads at some point in the future. Learn how to start a local lead generation business.
SEO agencies help businesses to improve their online visibility in organic search results on search engines like Google, Bing, Amazon, and Yahoo. SEO agencies use search engine optimization tactics like content marketing with keywords, schema markup, link building, and image optimization to rank web pages higher for search queries. 68% of online searches start with the search engine, according to BrightEdge. Due to this trend, approximately 69% of companies invest in SEO as of 2023, according to PR Web.
Operating an SEO agency can be difficult because Google makes thousands of changes to its algorithm each year, according to Search Engine Land. SEO agencies need to navigate the ever changing digital landscape, with new technologies like Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) disrupting the industry. SEO agencies also need to employ relatively expensive software tools like Ahrefs ($199/month), SEMRush ($129.95/month), and Surfer SEO ($89/month). Despite all the effort you may put into staying relevant to industry trends and employing the latest tools, there’s nothing stopping your client from dropping you at any moment.
This is why I personally prefer the local lead generation business model, because you own the website that's ranked so the client can't easily leave you. I own a lead gen site grandrapidstree.com that's been making me $2,000 per month since 2015.
Even so, many find success with SEO agencies. For example, Julian Goldie claims that he has been able to generate over $1,600,000 from his SEO agency Cardinal Digital Marketing with a team of over 70 VAs. Here's how to start an SEO business today.
Social media marketing agency (SMMA)
Social media marketing agencies help businesses improve their online presence through social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Pinterest, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. The most popular social media agency services include social media strategy, content creation and publishing, social media management, and paid social like Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads, according to data from Sprout Social. At least 91% of businesses use social media for marketing, according to Statista. Social media is an especially powerful channel for marketing to Gen-Z, with Google reporting that 40% of the age group are using social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to search instead of Google.
Social media engagement rates have tended to decrease over the last few years, with the exception of TikTok. For example, Instagram’s engagement rate dropped 30% between 2021 and 2022 alone. As such, driving actionable marketing results for brands through social media marketing is becoming more challenging. Considering that the average social media package costs around $750/month, according to Expert Marketing, social media marketing agencies tend to have a difficult time justifying the cost of their services to customers.
Social media marketing agency owner Desiree Martinez of All-In-One Social media almost quit her agency after getting frustrated with high client turnover rates. Desiree also felt burned out trying to manage the diverse needs of her clients and their unwillingness to adopt her recommendations, like implementing a TikTok marketing strategy. Regardless, the social media marketing agency model has enabled entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and Iman Gadzhi to earn millions of dollars, showcasing its viability as an online business model. Learn how to start a social media marketing agency.
A PPC agency specializes in running pay-per-click advertising campaigns for clients. Pay-per-click advertising is the standard for online advertising, whereby advertisers bid to have their ads shown when specific keywords are searched and pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. Examples of PPC advertising networks include Google Ads, Meta Ads (Facebook Ads), Bing Ads (Microsoft Ads), and LinkedIn Ads. PPC advertising agencies typically make money by charging clients 10% to 20% of the ad spend budget for campaign management services, with the average monthly ad spend for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) of $9,000 - $10,000, according to HawkSEM. Fortunately for PPC advertising agencies, the majority 65% of SMBs use PPC marketing, according to WebFX.
PPC advertising relies on the availability of quality data for efficient audience targeting. However, collection of data for PPC advertising has grown increasingly difficult as tech giants like Apple and Google have made impactful data collection updates in recent years. For example, an Apple iOS 14 update to add the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature in 2021 is estimated to have cost Facebook a whopping $10 billion in lost advertising revenue as 62% of iPhone users opted out of sharing their information, according to Forbes. Furthermore, Google advertisers have relied on third-party cookies to effectively target customers. By the end of 2024, Google is planning to stop using third-party cookies completely. To make matters worse, PPC advertising costs have gradually increased over the years as more advertisers enter the ad bidding pool. This phenomenon has caused cost-per-click (CPC) inflation, with Google Ad network data from internet marketing agency Hochman Consultants showing a cost increase of 569% between 2006 and 2016 alone.If you want to start a PPC marketing agency, you need to know how to get PPC clients.
Email marketing agency
An email marketing agency helps businesses drive marketing initiatives specifically through the digital channel of email. Email marketing entails tasks like managing email lists, setting up autoresponders and email automation sequences, using email analytics to improve email marketing KPIs like unsubscribe rate and conversion rate, and ensuring compliance with regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR. Email marketing agencies accomplish this through a variety of email marketing tools like MailChimp, HubSpot, and ActiveCampaign. The majority 77% of B2B companies leverage email as part of their digital marketing strategy, according to OptinMonster. Email marketing agencies that serve these businesses can charge around $2,500/month on average for email marketing services, according to marketing data platform Taradel.
According to data from MailChimp, the average open rate for email marketing is just 21.33%, with the average click rate just 2.62%. Besides relatively low engagement, email marketers also need to worry about how their email campaigns look across different platforms. For example, an email may appear well designed when viewed in Outlook but looking completely different in Gmail because of how the HTML is displayed. Unlike other marketing channels where you can just update content, once you send out an email, any mistakes are permanent for the audience to see.
Here's how to start an email marketing business for those who want to make money by helping businesses expand their opportunities online.
2. Start an affiliate marketing business
Blogging is creating and publishing informational website content to attract an audience. Bloggers often monetize their audience through affiliate marketing. In fact, the majority 64.48% of all affiliate marketing traffic comes from blogs, according to affiliate network Refersion. Bloggers like Michelle Gardner of Making Sense of Cents use SEO tactics like keyword research and Google’s E-A-T principle to create engaging content that ranks on Google to draw readers to their blogs. These blogs are embedded with affiliate links from affiliate networks. Popular affiliate networks include Amazon Associates, Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate), ShareASale, ClickBank, and Awin. Affiliate links enable a blog to earn income when a reader clicks an affiliate link and purchases the affiliate offer. Most bloggers set up their website with content management systems like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace that offer simple drag-and-drop website creation.
Although setting up a blog can be easy, actually making money from a blog is difficult. Bloggers compete for traffic with over 1.13 billion other websites on the internet, many of which have established trust with Google over years of content creation. Many bloggers like Matt Diggity also believe in the Google Sandbox. The Google Sandbox is a hypothetical time period when a website is first created where it won't rank well on Google, no matter how good the content is. Although the effect can last from a few months to a few years, according to Rock Content, many publishers agree it takes around 6 months on average before a new blog can start getting rankings on Google. Research from Productive Blogging shows that it takes around 20 months on average to start making money with a blog. As such, new bloggers can expect to contribute a lot of time and effort without seeing compensation for nearly 2 years.
That’s why many prefer local lead generation over blogging if you want to make money through web entities faster. It’s much easier to start getting traffic from search engines by targeting local keywords rather than global keywords like blogs do.
Product reviews on YouTube
Product reviews on YouTube are a popular promotional strategy for affiliate products. YouTube has over 2.7 billion users worldwide each month, making it the second largest search engine after Google, according to Global Media Insights. YouTubers can earn affiliate revenue by reviewing products that are relevant to their channel niche and placing their affiliate link for the product in the YouTube video description. For example, Marques Brownlee is a YouTuber with over 18 million subscribers who earns affiliate marketing income by promoting tech products. Many affiliates choose YouTube for their affiliate marketing efforts because YouTube enables additional opportunities to earn money beyond just affiliate marketing, like:
- YouTube ads revenue from the YouTube Partner program
- Brand sponsorships
- Super Chats and Super Stickers with YouTube Live
The average conversion rate for YouTube affiliate marketing is around 2% to 5%, according to NJ-based digital marketing agency Josh Meah & Co. Insights from a YouTube affiliate marketer on Reddit align with the sentiment, with the user disclosing a conversion rate of approximately 2.5% on 100K video views per month.
A study by Influencer Marketing Hub found that it takes an average of 22 months just to reach 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. Although YouTuber affiliate marketers can use YouTube SEO tools like TubeBuddy and VidIQ to help with keyword research and video ideas, it takes time for a new channel to receive more exposure from the YouTube algorithm. You can spend years putting resources into buying products to review and video editing without seeing a return on your investment. YouTube is also extremely competitive, with over 113.9 million active channels on YouTube competing for views, according to Global Media Insights.
Social media ads to affiliate offers
Using social media ads to send traffic to affiliate offers can be an effective method of generating affiliate marketing income. Social media ads can generate money from affiliate marketing much faster than blogging or YouTube because it entails paying to push affiliate offers in front of a targeted audience instead of waiting for the audience to find your content. Some of the most popular social media ad channels include:
- Facebook Ads
- Instagram Ads
- TikTok Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- Snapchat Ads
Facebook ads are probably the most common for affiliate marketing. However, Facebook does not approve of using Facebook Ads for promoting affiliate marketing offers. Affiliate marketers can typically get around this by sending traffic to a bridge page which leads to the affiliate link.
Using social media ads for affiliate marketing usually isn’t recommended for beginners because it carries substantial risk. You can spend thousands of dollars on social media ad spend and end up with nothing in return. Furthermore, social media ads aren’t optimal for most affiliate offers, only those that can pay out high commissions on sales. This is because the average conversion rate for affiliate marketing is just 0.5% to 1%, according to affiliate network Awin. In the example of Facebook Ads, which has an average cost per click of $0.83 according to WordStream, that means you would typically need to spend between $83 and $166 just to convert one affiliate offer into a sale. Any affiliate offer that doesn’t generate at least $83 to $166 per sale would be losing money.
Amazon Influencer program
The Amazon Influencer program is an extension of the Amazon Associate affiliate marketing program that is specifically for social media influencers with followings on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. Admission into the Amazon Influencer program enables influencers to earn affiliate revenue through traditional affiliate links, as well as through an Amazon Storefront page. An Amazon Storefront is a custom page where Amazon Influencers can display all the Amazon affiliate products they want to recommend to their audience. An Amazon Storefront is optimal for social media influencers who want to earn affiliate revenue because it allows potential customers to access all of the influencer’s products from a single link. This is useful because social platforms like Instagram and TikTok limit the number of links in their bio.
Participants in the Amazon Influencer program can also earn commissions by creating shoppable videos. Shoppable videos can include content like product reviews and how-to demos, and they appear directly on the product listing to help customers make buying decisions. When an Amazon customer makes a purchase after watching an Amazon Influencer’s shoppable video, the Amazon Influencer can earn a commission for helping contribute to the purchase decision.
Those that get accepted into the Amazon Influencer program can expect to earn a relatively low commission rate between 1% to 10% on each sale. Amazon influencer income is also highly susceptible to factors outside your control, such as Amazon lowering commission rates or an Amazon seller stopping selling a product that you are promoting. To be successful with the Amazon Influencer program, you need high quality video equipment and the ability to consistently buy new Amazon products to review.
Although the Amazon Influencer program can be a lot of work, those that put in the effort can earn good money. For example, an Amazon influencer was able to average $2,500/month by posting an average of 40 product videos per month of tech items.
Those interested in the Amazon Influencer program should first know how to get approved for the Amazon Influencer program.
This is how to start affiliate marketing for those who want to make money online by promoting affiliate offers.
3. Start an Amazon business
Retail arbitrage is an Amazon business model that entails buying products at retail stores and reselling them on the Amazon Marketplace for a profit. Approximately 25% of Amazon sellers do retail arbitrage, according to the 2023 State of the Amazon Seller Report by Jungle Scout. Retail arbitrage has the lowest startup cost of any Amazon business model and is faster to start. 10% of Amazon retail arbitrage sellers report that they started their business for $500 or less and 25% said they were able to launch their business within a month, according to respondents from Jungle Scout’s survey report. Retail arbitrage sellers can start making money on Amazon without worrying about typical Amazon FBA considerations like sourcing products in bulk, setting up product listings, and even Amazon advertising.
Nearly half (48%) of Amazon retail arbitrage sellers earn an average profit margin of less than 20%, according to Jungle Scout. Retail arbitrage can’t benefit from economies of scale like other Amazon business models. Furthermore, retail arbitrage allows limited scalability because you need to constantly find new product opportunities. Even when you do find good product opportunities, you first need to verify whether you can resell them on Amazon. Many Amazon products and product categories are restricted or gated, such as Disney and Lego or Fine Art and Sports Collectibles. As such, you’ll often need to apply for approval to sell many retail arbitrage products that you can find in the store, if you can even get approved at all.
Even so, many find retail arbitrage a good introduction to selling on Amazon. Here is how to start Amazon retail arbitrage for beginners.
Wholesale is the second most popular business model on Amazon, used by 26% of sellers, according to Jungle Scout. Amazon wholesale entails purchasing products in bulk from distributors to realize a lower per unit cost and reselling them individually on Amazon for a profit. Although Amazon wholesale profit margins depend on a variety of factors, data from Jungle Scout shows that around 18% of Amazon wholesalers see profit margins between 26% to 50%. Similar to retail arbitrage, Amazon wholesalers typically sell products from established brands that already have a product listing ranking on the Amazon Marketplace. However, the improved margins enabled through bulk ordering allow wholesale sellers to offer more competitive pricing, increasing the likelihood of earning Amazon’s Featured Offer (previously called Buy Box) spot on the product listing. Approximately 82% of all Amazon sales are through the Featured Offer, according to Data Feed Watch. Lastly, Amazon wholesale sellers have consistent access to products through the wholesale distributors they form partnerships with, enabling them to avoid periods of stock outs.
Typical startup costs for Amazon wholesale range between $3,000 to $5,000, according to Helium10, because of the necessity of buying products in bulk. Most wholesale distributors require a minimum product quantity (MOQ) between 250 to 500 units. Furthermore, Amazon wholesale sellers need to coordinate shipping of bulk product orders to the Amazon warehouse and keep track of inventory management. Similar to retail arbitrage, Amazon wholesalers must request approval to get ungated from certain products and categories. Amazon wholesalers can spend extensive time researching potential product distributors to open wholesale accounts with, many of which tend to deny new wholesalers or Amazon sellers in general.
Private label is by far the most popular business model on Amazon, with 54% of sellers doing private label, according to data from Jungle Scout. Private labeling entails adding custom branding to a product manufactured by another company. As such, Amazon private label sellers typically find a manufacturer with a generic product and update the product with their own custom branding. It’s also common for Amazon private label sellers to request minor alterations to a manufacturer's generic product as well to create a unique product offer for Amazon that is different from the competition. Private label sellers get their own Amazon listing and can run Amazon PPC advertising campaigns to help generate more sales. Amazon private label sellers can also trademark their product and enroll in the Amazon Brand Registry. The Amazon Brand Registry enables sellers to enhance their product listing with Amazon A+ content, which according to Amazon can increase sales by up to 20%.
Amazon private label sellers typically need between $5,000 and $20,000 to get started, according to Camron James of Amazon Wealth Accelerator. Beyond the relative expense of Amazon private label, there’s also considerable risk. You need to do extensive product research to avoid potential patent infringement and discover a high quality product that can generate a profit. Even if you do find a good private label opportunity, you may have trouble generating sales because there are over 600 million products listed on Amazon, according to data gathered from Amazon research tool AMZ Scout’s Product Database. It’s also not uncommon for new private label sellers to have a negative profit margin in the beginning while they put more money into Amazon PPC advertising in an attempt to raise the ranking of the private label product listing on Amazon organically. It’s important to appropriately vet the quality of private label products ahead of time, typically by ordering product samples and paying a factory inspection service. That’s because bad product ratings deter potential customers and could get your selling privileges removed by Amazon.
Losing money from Amazon private label can happen to new and seasoned Amazon sellers alike. Take Bryan Guerra for example, who claims to have lost $5,000 on an Amazon private label product after learning the product wasn’t scalable. This was despite having some experience selling on Amazon with online arbitrage, a type of retail arbitrage where products are sourced from online retailers.
Here's how to sell on Amazon FBA for those interested in selling products on Amazon.
4. Start a dropshipping business
Shopify dropshipping is an Ecommerce business model that entails leveraging the Shopify platform to display products to potential customers and outsourcing order fulfillment to the actual product suppliers when a customer makes a purchase. Shopify is an Ecommerce platform where Ecommerce sellers can build online stores, manage Facebook and Google Shopping marketing campaigns, and accept payments from over 100 payment gateway providers globally. Shopify offers the Shopify App store where Ecommerce sellers can integrate revenue boosting tools with their store, such as Sendvio for email and SMS marketing. The Shopify platform accounts for over $444+ billion in global Ecommerce activities through over 4.8 million online stores, contributing over 16% of the global Ecommerce market, according to Yaguara. Dropshippers choose Shopify because it offers a simple and affordable Ecommerce solution without the extensive dropshipping rules and competition of an Ecommerce marketplace like Amazon.
Standard Shopify plans range between $39 and $399/month, depending on the size of your business. Shopify also charges credit card processing fees between 2.4% to 2.9% and many of the apps in the Shopify App store are paid. Although some Shopify dropshippers rely on social media content to promote their online stores, many need to make a considerable investment into paid advertising or SEO to get any traffic.
Amazon dropshipping is listing products on the Amazon Marketplace and allowing the product supplier to ship the product to the Amazon customer when sold. Approximately 17% of Amazon sellers use the dropshipping business model, according to Jungle Scout. Amazon dropshippers get access to Amazon’s massive customer base that visit the marketplace over 2 billion times per month. Dropshippers on Amazon avoid the additional costs of the Amazon FBA program, which are taking over 50% of Amazon seller revenue, like storage fees and shipping, according to Marketplace Pulse. Dropshipping also enables Amazon sellers the opportunity to test products on the Amazon Marketplace before purchasing products in bulk for other Amazon business models.
Amazon dropshipping is guided by strict dropshipping rules. Amazon requires that the seller, not the dropship supplier, is listed as the seller of record on all product related documents like the invoice, external packaging, and packing slips. There should be no reference to the actual supplier on any materials that the Amazon customer can see. Amazon dropshippers are also required to accept and process returns with a minimum of a 30-day return window. Amazon dropshippers that don’t adhere to Amazon’s strict dropshipping policies can face Amazon seller account restrictions.
For example, Steve Chou of My Wife Quit Her Job had a friend with a 7-figure Amazon dropshipping business. Unfortunately, Amazon eventually banned his account, and he lost his entire dropshipping business as a result. With Amazon dropshipping, there are many factors outside of your control that can negatively impact your business operations, such as dropshipping suppliers fulfilling orders too slowly for Amazon’s standards or shipping poor quality products to your customers.
Walmart dropshipping is listing products on the Walmart Marketplace and using a third-party supplier to fulfill orders when they sell. Walmart is one of the world’s largest retailers with a trusted brand name. Walmart.com receives 120 million monthly visitors. As of 2023, there are over 150,000 sellers on the Walmart Marketplace, which is considerably less than the millions of sellers on Amazon. Therefore, Walmart offers an Ecommerce marketplace with less competition and high brand loyalty for those who can get approved.
Walmart requires that you have a legal business entity with a business tax ID or business license number to qualify for the platform. You also need a history of Ecommerce success, so new dropshippers are likely to get rejected from selling on Walmart. Even if you do qualify to sell on the Walmart Marketplace, Walmart’s policies make dropshipping difficult. Walmart Marketplace sellers must fulfill product orders through either Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS) or another B2C U.S. warehouse with returns capabilities. That means Walmart dropshippers can only use a limited number of dropshipping suppliers that fit within these criteria.
eBay dropshipping is listing products on eBay and using a wholesale supplier to fulfill orders. eBay has over 138 million active customers and over 18.3 million sellers, according to Business of Apps. The top 10% of eBay dropshippers make $7,731 and around 25% make at least $1,000/month on the platform, according to Yaguara. Dropshippers choose eBay because of simple sign up requirements, relatively affordable fees, and access to an established marketplace of customers that trust eBay.
eBay dropshippers earn just a 6% profit margin and handle around 969 orders per month on average, based on data from Yaguara. Therefore, eBay dropshippers need to process a considerable number of orders just to make a decent income from the platform. Although eBay offers a limited number of free listings to help low turnover sellers avoid fees, dropshippers with high volume can expect additional costs. For example, eBay insertion fees cost $0.35 per listing after surpassing the 200 free listings threshold. Although eBay is relatively easy to sign up for, account restrictions for breaking eBay dropshipping policies are not uncommon.
An eBay dropshipper on Reddit experienced a situation where eBay held $2,000 in revenue from their dropshipping business because they had violated eBay’s dropshipping policy of using a wholesale supplier for dropshipping. As a result, their account was restricted and funds held by eBay.
TikTok dropshipping traditionally has entailed setting up a dropshipping store on a platform like Shopify and then using TikTok for marketing to generate sales. However, since the introduction of TikTok Shop in September 2023, TikTok dropshippers can now sell products directly through TikTok. TikTok Shop offers a variety of ways to get dropshipping products discovered on TikTok, including:
- In-Feed Video and LIVE Shopping - Shop tagged products directly from videos and LIVEs.
- Product Showcase - Products showcased directly through a brands profile page, including product reviews.
- Shop Ads - Paid advertising solution tailored for TikTok Shops.
TikTok users are 1.5x more likely to go buy a product they have seen on TikTok than other social media platforms, according to the TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path to Purchase study by Material. Furthermore, TikTok has extensive reach, with over 1 billion active monthly users spending upwards of 95 minutes per day on the platform, according to data from Statista.
TikTok Shop takes a 1.8% commission from product sales over the first 180 days, which bumps up to 5% thereafter. TikTok Shop is not eligible for cross-border orders. As such, dropshipping supplier options are limited. Furthermore, TikTok Shop dropshippers must use a TikTok approved shipping supplier like UPS, FedEx, or DHL, so there is some additional complexity in coordinating logistics between the dropshipping supplier, shipping provider, and TikTok customer. Sellers just using TikTok for marketing an external online store can generate sales, but it will probably require considerable content creation demands because TikTok recommends posting at least 1 to 4 times daily for audience growth.
Here's how to start a dropshipping business for those interested in this low barrier to entry Ecommerce business model.
5. Turn dropshipping into a real Ecommerce brand
A dropshipping business can be transitioned into a real Ecommerce brand. Turning a dropshipping business into a real Ecommerce brand enables improved:
- Price control - Not limited by factors like MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), MAP (minimum advertised price), or market price on an Ecommerce platform.
- Brand loyalty - Branded products can allow an Ecommerce seller to create a loyal following of repeat customers.
- Profit margins - Dropshippers can earn just 10% to 25% while private label sellers can earn profit margins of 40% or more, according to Dropshipper.io.
- Quality control - Dropshippers must put complete faith in the supplier to send a product of sufficient quality to the customer, while an Ecommerce brand can leverage quality control mechanisms like factory inspection prior to purchase.
- Shipping efficiency - Ecommerce brands with branded products can position their products for improved shipping access to offer customers faster shipping speeds than dropshipping suppliers.
- Exit opportunity potential - Branded Ecommerce products with an established customer base are valuable businesses that typically sell for 3X to 4.5X their annual profit, according to business broker platform Raincatcher.
To transition a successful dropshipping product into a real Ecommerce brand, you need to find a supplier or manufacturer who can create a version of the product with custom branding and potentially some enhancements over the current dropshipping product.
Take BlendJet for example. BlendJet is a popular Ecommerce brand in the United States that sells portable blenders for smoothies. However, you can find BlendJet look alike products on Chinese supplier marketplaces like Alibaba. This has led some to speculate that BlendJet just patented a product from a manufacturer for selling to the US market. Regardless of the product’s origin, BlendJet is manufactured in China today. There are many manufacturers in China and other parts of the world who will manufacture custom product variations for Ecommerce brands.
Transitioning from a dropshipping product to creating an Ecommerce brand inflates your business risk and adds additional responsibilities to your workload. Bulk product sourcing and international shipping can cost $10,000 - $20,000 and you’ll need to manage Ecommerce factors like where to store your products, how to ship your products to customers, and how to brand and market your products for maximum profits.
6. Start a print on demand business
Selling print on demand (POD) products on Etsy is leveraging a print on demand supplier like Printful or Printify to create and ship products to Etsy customers only once the order is placed. Etsy is a peer-to-peer Ecommerce marketplace for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique items or craft supplies. Etsy is an attractive option for selling print on demand products as the platform sees over 460 million visitors per month looking for artistic products. The platform also has a loyal customer base, with 81% of purchases coming from repeat buyers, according to Yaguara. Setting up an Etsy shop is a simple process, so sellers can focus on creating custom artwork like personalized mugs and graphic T-shirts for their chosen POD service to create and fulfill.
The Etsy marketplace is extremely saturated, with over 95.5 million products for sale. Therefore, new Etsy sellers need to do extensive market research to find potential product opportunities and use marketing tactics like Etsy SEO to try to rank better than the competition. The Etsy algorithm takes into consideration how many customers reviews a product has and the overall rating of the Etsy store to determine where to rank a product. As such, it can take months or even years to accumulate enough reviews to start ranking well in organic search on Etsy. Etsy also charges a variety of fees for selling POD products through the platform. Etsy fees include a 6.5% transaction fee, a $0.20 listing fee, payment processing fees when using Etsy Payments, and Etsy Ad fees.
Here are the steps to make money on Etsy without making anything through print on demand.
7. Start an eBook business
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is a platform where authors can self publish eBooks, paperback, and hardcover books for free and earn royalties from Amazon. Amazon pays over $520 million in royalties through Amazon KDP per year, according to WordsRated. Amazon dominates the market for eBooks, with at least 83% of the market share when Kindle Unlimited is included. Book royalties for Amazon KDP range between 35% to 70%. Amazon eBook publishers can enroll in the KDP Select program to reach more readers through Amazon. KDP Select is a free 90-day program for Kindle eBooks only that adds an eBook to the Kindle Unlimited program and makes the eBook eligible for Free Book Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals to boost exposure.
Although Amazon KDP offers a low entry barrier to a vast community of eager readers, the platform is incredibly competitive with over 1 million authors, according to WordsRated. Furthermore, Amazon takes between 30% to 65% of an author's revenue. Amazon has also been known to suspend or even terminate author accounts completely due to potential violations of Amazon’s terms of service.
Learn how to start making money on Amazon KDP today.
8. Start a digital product business
Online coaching program
An online coaching program leverages the real life expertise of the coach to help students achieve a specific outcome or goal, such as making more money or getting into better shape. A coaching program is distinct from a standard online course in that a coaching program typically does a better job of holding students accountable for achieving outcomes through direct access to the coach or their team. A coaching program bundles multiple coaching sessions into the curriculum, leading students through the series of steps required to meet their intended goal. Coaching programs also usually provide support materials like pre-recorded videos, walkthrough guides, templates, SOPs, and more. The market size of the coaching industry is estimated at $20 billion, according to ICF Global Coaching. The North American coaching market specifically is expected to grow at a strong 13.03% through 2028, based on data from Verified Market Research.
An online coaching program needs a coach with proven expertise and a positive reputation in their specific industry to attract students. However, it can take years to establish enough knowledge to gain a competitive advantage in an industry to be able to offer coaching services. Expertise alone usually isn’t enough though, coaching programs need a history of positive reviews and student testimonials to convince potential customers that the coaching program actually works if applied correctly. Coaching programs also require consistent effort on the part of the coach to remain updated on industry standards and keep the coaching program content fresh. A coach should be regularly available for students through video conferencing or direct messaging to ensure the quality of the coaching program content and student satisfaction.
Online business coach
An online business coach is a professional who has established business expertise through years of experience that offers their insights and guidance to entrepreneurs or professionals who want to grow their business for a fee over the internet. Business coaches typically communicate with clients 1-on-1 through video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype. The average rate for a business coach is between $200 to $300/hour, according to Artists in Business.
Offering expertise through business coaching rather than creating a coaching program limits the potential scalability of the business because it’s limited by the amount of hours the business coach can work. Considering that it takes at least 6 years to become a business consultant, according to Forbes, establishing enough experience to offer business coaching services is a multi-year endeavor.
Online fitness coach
An online fitness trainer provides workout routines and training content to people interested in improving their health over the internet. An online fitness trainer can serve clients by conducting virtual classes live, creating pre-recorded training content, providing workout and diet routines, and offering custom guidance. Online fitness trainers in the United States earn just over $61K per year, according to data from Glassdoor. Online fitness is growing in popularity as technology enables more convenient exercise options and people are increasingly aware of the benefits of regular exercise. In fact, the online virtual fitness market, valued at just $14.9 billion in 2022, is expected to reach a whopping $250.7 billion by 2032, according to Allied Market Research.
Many online fitness trainers elect to obtain a personal trainer certification to improve their professional reputation, which typically costs between $499 to $1100, according to Trainer Academy. Getting a personal trainer certification typically requires extensive preparation through study materials and practice exams. Online fitness trainers also need to be consistent in their own fitness training to show potential clients the type of results that can be achieved by following their advice. Data from Grand View Research indicates that the global online fitness market is incredibly competitive, dominated by a few major companies like MINDBODY, Inc., Fitness On Demand, and Unscreen. As such, smaller fitness trainers can have trouble finding and maintaining clients.
A subscription business provides continuous value to customers in exchange for an ongoing fee. The subscription business model can provide subscription boxes of products, such as Dollar Shave Club supplying shaving supplies on a monthly basis, or services, such as Netflix charging a monthly fee for access to its library of content. Subscription businesses are known to be incredibly effective at generating cash, as recurring revenue ensures consistent cash flow. In fact, findings from the Subscription Economy Index show that subscription business revenues grew 5 times faster than S&P 500 company revenues between 2012 and 2018.
Subscription businesses can experience high customer churn rates, as customers eventually decide to cancel the subscription. To combat this, subscription businesses must continuously innovate their products and services in order to keep subscribers interested. Subscription commerce has grown incredibly competitive as businesses have rushed to adopt the business model. As a result, data from Gartner predicts that only 20% of subscription services will succeed in increasing their customer retention.
9. Start a content creator business
Starting a YouTube channel entails creating content around a specific niche to attract and monetize an online audience. YouTube is a social media video sharing platform with over 2.7 billion users, according to Global Media Insights. YouTube is also the second largest search engine on the planet behind only Google, providing content creators on the platform with extensive reach potential. YouTube creators like Mr. Beast earn money through a variety of methods, including:
- YouTube ad revenue from Google Adsense through the YouTube Partner Program
- Channel merch
- Affiliate marketing
- Brand sponsorships
- Digital products
Although YouTube channel earnings can vary substantially, data from ZipRecruiter shows that the average YouTuber in the United States makes approximately $68,714/year.
A YouTube channel needs 500 subscribers, have posted at least 3 videos within the last 90 days, and either accumulated 3,000 watch hours in the past year or 3 million YouTube Shorts views in the last 90 days to get accepted into the YouTube Partner program and be eligible to make money though the YouTube platform. Getting views and subscribers on YouTube can be challenging because YouTube has a low barrier to entry and over 113 million active channels, according to Global Media Insights. Success on YouTube requires considerable dedication and consistency over time because the YouTube algorithm gives preference to YouTube creators who post consistently. Creators that stop posting YouTube videos consistently can lose all their hard work, as the YouTube algorithm won’t give the channel's content as much visibility on the platform.
YouTube automation is creating an automated revenue stream through YouTube by outsourcing the YouTube channel tasks. YouTube automation entails hiring freelancers to create and publish faceless YouTube videos. You can make passive income with this online business model because you hire others to do most of the work for you, outside of niche selection and overseeing the channel's high level operations.
YouTube automation can be expensive because you completely outsource tasks like script writing, video editing, channel management, thumbnail creation, and voice overs to freelancers. You should have around $5,000 to start a YouTube automation business, according to online business YouTuber Alston Godbolt.
Podcasting is an online business idea that entails recording audio programs for listeners to establish a monetizable audience. Podcast listenership has grown considerably in America over the years, with the amount of people who have ever listened to a podcast rising 137% between 2013 and 2023, according to data from Pew Research Center. In fact, the data shows that approximately 31% of Americans listen to at least one podcast per week as of 2023. Podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience make money with a variety of methods, including brand sponsorships, affiliate marketing, donations from fans, and advertising revenue. There are many platforms available for podcasters to upload their content, with Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts being the most popular.
Like any other business model based on content creation, it takes time to build a monetizable podcast audience. Podcast marketing agency Cofruition notes that it typically takes between 6 to 12 months of consistently posting weekly podcasts to see audience numbers really take off. Editing a 30 to 40 minute podcast typically takes between 4 to 5 hours, according to audio expert Rachel Corbett, who has worked as Head of Podcast for two major networks, Mamamia and Nova Entertainment. Podcasting also has moderate startup costs. Based on data from podcast hosting platform Castos, you can start a podcast for around $1,041 for the first year, with major costs including remote recording software like SquadCast ($240/year), podcast hosting like Castos ($190/year), and audio editing software like Descript ($288/year).
10. Start a sales business
Remote setting is coordinating sales appointments for companies over the internet. A remote setter is a sales professional who finds and contacts potential leads for a business and sets appointments through cold calling, direct messaging on social media platforms like LinkedIn, or email. The average remote appointment setter makes approximately $970/week, according to salary data from ZipRecruiter.
Remote setters have less control over their income potential than other sales professionals because they don’t actually close the sales themselves. A remote closer typically makes just a 3% commission if an appointment they set converts into a sale, according to Remote Closer Academy.
High ticket closing
High ticket closing entails converting potential customers into paying customers for expensive products that are worth at least $1,000 or more. High ticket closers are provided with qualified leads to pitch a company’s products or services in exchange for a commission of 10-15% of the sale price typically, according to Bravado. High ticket closing can provide flexibility and excellent income potential for experienced sales professionals. In fact, Dan Lok, who is also known as the “King of High Ticket Closing”, has accumulated a net worth of approximately $70 million through his ability to close high ticket offers, according to Equity Atlas.
High ticket closing can be a high pressure job because each potential sale that doesn’t convert is substantial lost revenue for the business. High ticket closing also typically requires longer term sales cycles than traditional sales, so high ticket closers can often expect to engage with potential customers multiple times before the sale is finalized or rejected. A high ticket closer's success is heavily dependent on the quality of leads they receive. If an appointment setter or company is providing poor quality leads, conversion rates are likely to be low.
You can start high ticket closing from anywhere with just a few steps.
11. Start a side hustle business
Copywriting is writing persuasive pieces of content for marketing purposes. Copywriters can write for various content formats, including email copy, branded copy, website copy, paid advertising copy, social media copy, and more. Copywriters in the United States make an average of $37/hour, according to salary data from Glassdoor. Copywriting is a highly flexible income opportunity, making it suitable as a side hustle. In fact, 45% of copywriters work just part-time, according to data from Career Explorer.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the copywriting industry to grow at just a modest 4% annually through 2032, indicating that copywriting roles may be in high competition. However, it’s not just humans that copywriters need to worry about going into the future. AI chatbots like ChatGPT and JasperAI are impacting the job market for copywriting as well.
In an interview with Business Insider, freelance copywriter Emily Hanley discussed how she found herself passing out samples at grocery stores to pay the bills after losing all her copywriting clients to ChatGPT. Emily isn’t alone, though. A look at recent copywriting experiences on Reddit shows that quite a few tenured copywriters are having the same experience of losing work to AI.
A virtual assistant provides administrative support over the internet. A virtual assistant can do a variety of tasks depending on their skills and experience, such as coordinating schedules, content writing, research, preparing travel arrangements, and managing email accounts. The average virtual assistant in the United States earns approximately $24.40 per hour, according to salary data from ZipRecruiter. Many find working as a virtual assistant a suitable side hustle because of the flexible nature of the job, with around 41% of virtual assistants working on a part time basis, according to Prialto.
Many virtual assistants are required to be readily available for their clients, even outside of normal business hours. Virtual assistants may also be expected to wear a variety of hats instead of performing just a few tasks like most standard jobs entail. That means a virtual assistant needs to be able to take initiative and figure things out on their own to provide a satisfactory experience for their client. Many virtual assistant roles are also expected to communicate over the phone with their client’s high level friends and acquaintances, which can be intimidating for some.
English teachers educate students on the English language and its literature. There are approximately 2 billion people using or learning English, making English teachers in high demand. As of the most recent data from 2021 by J’son & Partners, the global English teaching market is valued at $10 billion. Some of the best platforms for teaching English online are Italki, EF Education First, Cambly, and Preply. Most English teaching platforms allow you to make your own schedule, accepting student lessons when you have time. Online English teachers can earn around $25.77/hour on average, according to data from ZipRecruiter.
Most online English teaching jobs require that you have either a TEFL or TESOL certificate. Obtaining these certificates requires at least 120 hours of course work and typically costs between $400 to $500, according to Bridge University. Some of the highest paying online English teaching jobs are for students in Asia, requiring you to accommodate their schedule with either early morning lessons or late night lessons if working from the United States. Furthermore, the majority of online English teaching jobs are for children. Teaching children, especially children who don’t understand everything you’re saying because they speak a foreign language, requires extensive patience.
Bookkeeping is keeping track of a business's financial transactions. Bookkeepers accomplish this by using software like QuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooks. A college degree is not required to be a bookkeeper, but you should have solid math skills to excel in the role. You can expect to work around 3 hours per week per bookkeeping client you take on, according to bookkeeping and accounting automation tool suite Jetpack Workflow. The average bookkeeper in the United States earns around $21.70 per hour, according to data from Indeed.
Bookkeeping offers minimal career growth, especially for those who don’t want to go through the process of becoming a certified accountant. Bookkeeping also involves repetitive tasks like data entry of numbers, which can quickly grow monotonous for many.
Here are a few more of the best side hustles you can start to earn extra income in 2024.
12. Businesses that require offline efforts
Real estate investing is buying property to earn a profit. Real estate investors can earn profit through a variety of methods, with rental income and home value appreciation two of the most common. Beyond just producing income, real estate investing can be used as a hedge against inflation and also for tax advantages, such as the 1031 exchange, which allows real estate owners to avoid paying capital gains tax. Home prices in the United States have risen for 12 consecutive years now, with 2021 experiencing an incredible 18.04% increase, according to the Freddie Mac House Price Index.
Real estate investing comes with high transaction costs. The median home price in the United States as of September 2023 was $412,000, according to Redfin. Considering that most homebuyers put a 14% down payment on the purchase price, according to a 2023 report by the National Association of Realtors, you need around $60,000 at least as a down payment. That’s not even considering the legal and brokerage fees you can expect from a real estate transaction. Furthermore, real estate investing is relatively illiquid, meaning you don’t have easy access to your money like you do with other investments like stocks, bonds, or cryptocurrency. Those that purchase real estate for rental income can also face additional risks, like tenants missing rent or excessively damaging the property.
Land flipping is purchasing lots of vacant land and reselling them for a profit. Land flipping typically entails buying a parcel of land for 5% to 35% of its market value and then selling it at 50% to 80% higher than its market value, according to Discount Lots. Land flipping offers the potential for high returns with substantially lower investment requirements compared to investing in developed land.
Although land flipping isn’t illegal, there are ethical considerations that surround the practice because you're essentially taking advantage of the seller’s situation and the buyer’s unfamiliarity of the market price. Furthermore, there is a risk that you won’t be able to flip the land yourself and you could have your money stuck in a piece of land for an extended period while you wait for a suitable buyer. If you do get stuck holding the land, you may be subject to taxes, maintenance, and insurance expenses that can add up over time.
Airbnb arbitrage is a business idea that entails leasing real estate and making money by subleasing out the space to Airbnb guests. Airbnb arbitrage enables you to earn money through short-term rentals without actually needing to own the property yourself. You take on considerably less risk than the actual landlord, who needs to deal with the property taxes and any upkeep requirements of the property, while still earning a profit of between 15% to 35%, according to Rentals United.
Many landlords do not permit subleasing and doing so without their permission can incur legal consequences. Furthermore, there is no guarantee you will be able to attract enough guests to pay the rent each month, which means you could incur a negative profit margin from this business model. The Airbnb arbitrage business model is also susceptible to changing laws and regulations, such as major cities like New York, Paris, Barcelona, and London, putting restrictions on Airbnb properties.