The best way to start a business is by drawing inspiration from the most successful business owners and following their steps. In this case, the most important thing you will have to consider is where your new business venture should be placed. Eventually, you will be forced to make some hard decisions but being confident in what you have chosen is the key here.
Any business has a lot of problems. Remember, that’s part of the adventure, and this article is just to give you a little inspiration to get started. There are many ways to start a profitable business. Most importantly, you must find a gap in the market and figure out how you can solve that problem better than anyone else.
Buy products in bulk and sell them online
Many businesses center on the simple concept of importing products in bulk and selling them individually for a profit.
Maybe you recently traveled abroad and came across unique products that aren’t readily available in your market but that you sense an appetite for. Or maybe you’ve zeroed in on a niche market and know the perfect way to serve it.
Either way, if these products are relatively easy to store and ship, you may have some solid home-based business ideas on your hands.
You can even initially use your home as a showroom to sell locally, giving you the option to expand with additional storage space and employees as you validate your idea and sales start to ramp up. This is how Artemis Design Co. got its start.
I was living in the south end of Boston, and I had my living room just full of these products. I would have people come over if they wanted to look at something or try something on, and that’s how I made my first sale. Milicent Armstrong, Artemis Design Co.
Sell homemade products
If you’re a maker yourself (or know someone who is), consider turning that hobby into a business. Even if you have to create your products elsewhere—in a studio, commercial kitchen, or workshop—you may be able to store and sell them in your own home.
When you can control nearly every aspect of the products you sell, you can make them more cost-effective, improve their quality, or cater to a certain audience by targeting demand in the market.
Josh Pigford already had a thriving home business in a business analytics startup but wanted to find a way to flex his creative muscles. He started printing succulent planters at home with his 3D printer—and a new business was born. Cedar & Sail now carries planters, coasters, and other small desk tchotchkes.
Whether you choose to start on a marketplace like Etsy or build your own branded storefront, selling your creations is a great way to share your passion with others and make money too. Just be wary of regulations concerning products that customers ingest or put on their skin.
Best of all, producing your products doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When you’re ready to scale, you can establish a process and onboard new employees to help with production.
Shopify Academy Course: Sell Your Homemade Goods Online
Have a product you’re ready to sell? The Kular family shares their experience building a business around Mom’s recipe book, from selling one-on-one to reaching the aisles of Whole Foods.
Start a dropshipping store
So far, we’ve covered business ideas that require you to hold inventory in your home. But there are a variety of online businesses ideas to pursue that don’t involve worrying about inventory and shipping.
These businesses employ a dropshipping model, where a third party produces, stores, and ships your products on your behalf, leaving marketing and customer service as your chief responsibilities. Retailer Subtle Asian Treats is an example of a home-based business that uses a drop shipper.
Your drop shipping supplier can be local or overseas, but you need to ensure you find a supplier you can trust to deliver a consistently great customer experience after the sale. Always do your due diligence or you might put your business’ reputation at risk.
There are even Shopify apps, such as DSers, that can connect you with suppliers to import products into your store while streamlining order fulfillment.
At its core, dropshipping involves becoming a distributor of a third party’s products, taking on the costs (both financial and time-based) of marketing to be rewarded with the margins when you make a sale.
In many cases, this can make your products a commodity with limited opportunity to brand your customer experience. Luckily, there are a few different ways you can still compete, even when there’s no shortage of your products in the market you’re selling in:
- Curate products from different suppliers to create a store that serves a specific niche.
- Compete through quality content and customer service, creating value beyond your products.
- Target an underserved region of the world (be sure to pay attention to your shipping costs).
- Target a new audience with the same products (e.g., LED shoes can be marketed to music festival goers or runners).
If you’re interested in learning more about starting a dropshipping business, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping.
Free Webinar: The Right Way to Start a Profitable Dropshipping Store
Start a print-on-demand business
Using a similar dropshipping model, a print-on-demand business doesn’t require you to hold any inventory or ship anything yourself. Print-on-demand even offers you more flexibility to customize white-label products with your creative designs.
Rebecca Lee Funk launched The Outrage, a women’s rights activist apparel brand that sells print-on-demand t-shirt designs, from her home. The business donates a portion of profits to Planned Parenthood in former US President Donald Trump’s name. Her launch campaign went viral, and The Outrage turned into a thriving eCommerce business.
There are many other print-on-demand products you can sell: books, hats, backpacks, blankets, pillows, mugs, shoes, hoodies, phone cases, watches, and more, depending on the supplier you choose to work with.
Many print-on-demand businesses focus on serving a specific niche or, better yet, a shared identity. What are people passionate about and proud to share? What about yourself?
From pet owners to vegans to gamers, there are plenty of passionate communities you can create products for. If you have the skills, you can create your designs. But if not, you can always hire the talent you need.
Shopify Academy Course: Build a Print-on-Demand Empire
Offer online services
Services are even simpler than products to start selling at home, but the challenge is allocating your limited time. “Time is money” is never truer than when you’re running a service-based business.
Creative professionals, like designers or marketers, might freelance or consult with other companies, juggling multiple clients, often remotely from their own home office with occasional travel. Others might operate based on appointments and bookings to offer their services to individuals directly.
Service-based home business ideas include:
- Freelance writing
- Virtual assistance
- SEO consulting
Service-based businesses often require a lot of networking and word-of-mouth referrals to find suitable clients, but satisfied clients will likely retain your services over time.
For this reason, you don’t necessarily need a large number of customers to do well, as you would with a product-based business. Depending on the service you’re offering, a handful of high-quality clients can be enough to support yourself full time while working from home.
Teach online classes
Chris Carey, one of the founders of MAPerformance, started his automotive parts and services business from the comfort of home. He began by teaching car maintenance and repair tips to online users in forums. After establishing expertise and trust, people started heading over to his eCommerce site to buy parts.
If you have a teachable skill, you not only can share that knowledge in forums to get your name out there, you can also turn it into online courses. There’s an audience for just about any desirable skill, whether it’s English as a second language, advanced marketing, or everyday home maintenance hacks.
If I Made is Emily Newman’s home business teaching classes to creative professionals. When you teach classes online, not only do you have the flexibility to do it from home, you can also choose to offer live or pre-recorded teaching and training. For example, you might offer the live courses at a premium rate, while customers can purchase the recorded sessions at a discounted price.
That’s what Yegi Saryan, founder of Yegi Beauty, does with her business. After establishing a successful online beauty brand, she turned her talents into passive income. Now, aspiring entrepreneurs can purchase lash classes to kickstart their skills and add them as a service offering in their business. Classes are available both online and in person.
You can also choose the class size and length. If you like small groups or even one-on-one, consider tutoring, mentorship, or masterminds. If you like larger groups, do bigger training sessions and courses. Teach a one-time all-day summit, an hour a week, or somewhere in between.
Not interested in human interaction? Create a fully downloadable course for purchase. All you need is the content, be it a video walkthrough, templates, articles, or how-tos. Use a screen-recording tool like ScreenFlow to capture your screen and voice while you walk students through the material.
Whichever way you slice it, teaching online is a profitable home business idea because it requires low overhead—just an investment in time.
Productize your service or expertise
As we just discussed, one of the biggest downsides of running a service-based business is that you’re paid strictly for your time, skills, and effort. Emily Newman of If I Made productized her classes into digital courses, packaging the recordings from her live sessions and selling them at a lower rate.
“Productizing” your service—creating physical or digital products that package up your expertise and streamline or complement the service you offer—can add additional revenue streams to your business. You can cater to your current customer base or even find a new target customer in the same space.
And here are some ideas for adding products to your own business:
- Licensable assets (stock footage, photos, music, etc.)
- Downloadable reports
- Digital templates
Grow an audience you can monetize
If you’re a content creator, have a sizable online audience already, or have always thought about starting your blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account, or podcast, then you can potentially grow and monetize your following using any of the previous ideas on this list.
Andrew Finn co-founded Wait But Why, a blog-turned-business. After amassing more than 371,000 subscribers and millions of visits, the brand created digital content products tailored to an already loyal audience. Today, Wait for Buy Why is a full-blown eCommerce site with digital and physical goods for sale.
Jordan Ferney, founder of Oh Happy Day Shop!, also built an audience via blogging and later turned it into a full-fledged business from home. She designed her business around her life and being able to spend time with her family and now sells products on her eCommerce site.
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark used Facebook groups to develop and nurture a community around their podcast, My Favorite Murder. This group of Murderinos, armchair investigators who are true crime fans, grew to more than 200,000 members before the podcast sunset in 2018.
My Favorite Murder then created its own paid community, the Fan Cult forum, charging members an annual fee. Capitalizing even more on its fandom, My Favorite Murder even launched an eCommerce site with branded merchandise (it also sold event tickets there).
You can also explore becoming an affiliate—selling other products or services for a commission—or accepting payment for sponsored posts to give brands a chance to connect with your audience.
Building a loyal audience requires patience, consistency, and focus. This isn’t the easiest way to start a home-based business, especially not in the short term, but if you’re able to build a following around something you love it can be one of the most fulfilling and enduring, giving you the flexibility to pursue multiple revenue streams at once.
The potential to monetize your audience often depends on the niche you choose to serve. If you’re starting from scratch or are growing your audience, be sure to check out the following guides to learn how to best grow and monetize the most popular channels:
Buy an existing ecommerce business
If you’re more interested in investing in a source of income you can maintain while at home or on the go, consider buying an established eCommerce business.
Prices vary greatly based on a variety of factors, including total revenue generated, profit potential, available assets (like an email list or social following), inventory, and more. Some sellers will even onboard you and teach you the ropes of running their store.
Exchange is a marketplace powered by Shopify for buying and selling e-commerce stores. You can browse the listings for great businesses that suit your budget, level of experience, and needs.
Maybe you want to buy a proven business and are willing to invest more money to acquire it. Or perhaps one catches your eye with untapped potential that you’d like to build on.
Just be sure to vet each listing and consider everything that’s included in the sale. Revenue and other data can be verified through Shopify, so you can rest assured those numbers are accurate.
Start a subscription box business
The online subscription box industry is forecasted to grow at 20% each year from 2021 to 2026. That explosive growth has led to the emergence of new direct-to-consumer brands targeting this niche, as well as the adoption by major brands like Sephora and Walmart.
You can start a subscription business from home. Ashley Reynolds bundled surplus products into subscription boxes to sell via her eCommerce site, Cloth & Paper. If you already run an eCommerce business at home, you could do the same to make use of what would otherwise be dead stock.
Subscription boxes don’t have to necessarily be about selling. Haverdash is a subscription box company that rents clothes. When customers are finished using the items, they send them back—and Haverdash rents them out to another customer to generate even more revenue.
Turn your pet into an influencer
Pet influencers are all over social media, promoting brands like BarkBox and inspiring thousands of likes with their cuteness. If you’ve got a pet of your own, you could turn them into a social media influencer and work with brands to promote their products online.
Bodhi the Menswear Dog—a.k.a. the most stylish dog in the world—has made a name for himself on Instagram in particular. Browse his feed and you’ll see collaborations with several brands like Booking.com, Spotify, and Poly & Bark.
No pets at home? Take care of other people’s pets. Apps like Rover opened up the sharing economy to pet sitting and dog walking. The pet care industry was valued at $232 billion in 2020. If you’re looking to make money from home, offer pet owners a place to drop off their animals when they head out of town.
Sell unwanted items
As consumers become more environmentally conscious, they’re also looking for ways to adjust their shopping habits to support sustainability. Resale clothing is a $4 billion industry in the US alone.
COAL N TERRY is one successful home-based business that sells vintage finds. And while the business didn’t exactly start from home—it was a college dorm room—it has since grown into a brand with a loyal following and celebrity fans.
You can start small with your own home-based business—sites like Poshmark and Mercari are great places to sell your unwanted clothing. You can even use Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Unwanted items aren’t limited to previously used clothing. Food waste is an unwanted item that also presents a viable home-based business opportunity.
Play video games
While many may think video games are a waste of time, it’s a hobby that can turn a profit. And there’s nothing more home-based than sitting on your couch in front of your TV.
Esports and video game streaming platforms like Twitch have opened the door for gamers to gain notoriety—and eventually money—from their talents. The esports industry alone is worth more than $1.5 billion, and a Twitch streamer can get up to 100,000 viewers at a time.
So how do you monetize this? Sponsorships are one of the best ways to start a home-based competitive gaming business. Companies will pay you to play their games and stream them to your audience.
Video gaming is even known to be a great résumé booster. Note, though, that all of the above requires some level of gaming skill.
Here’s a unique spin: Twitch hasn’t limited to just gaming anymore, and Maxx Burman and Banks Boutté used the platform to launch an online festival where they featured 12 top video game art directors.
They repurposed this content for other digital channels like Instagram and YouTube. After building a loyal audience, the two launched KitBash3D, where they sell 3D assets for video games and movies.
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are getting a lot of attention lately as a lucrative creative business you can start from home. If you have artistic skills or know someone that does who you can partner with, creating and selling NFTs can be a great way to generate income from home.
Artists like Fewocious have managed to make money selling their art as NFTs to the tune of millions. While that might be an outlier success story, there are plenty of other artists selling NFTs they create at home. Take the story of Blake Jamieson, a Brooklyn-based artist who made $46,000 selling his art pieces as NFTs.
To get started, get familiar with the minting process first. You need to have a general idea of how cryptocurrency and blockchain technology work. That way you can confidently create NFTs to sell on marketplaces like OpenSea, SuperRare, HEN, and Foundation.
To make a living selling NFTs, it’s key to stay active on social platforms where NFT communities gather. As you get your name out there with your own social media presence, making connections with like-minded sellers and collectors is key to ongoing success.
Before you can answer that question, you need to understand what it means to make a profit. The money you bring into your company is considered revenue – and you don’t get to put all of that in the bank. Once you pay for costs including payroll, taxes, supplies, and other expenses, what’s leftover is your profit margin. This is the real number that will determine if you stay in business, experience explosive growth, or have to close your doors.
You also need a basic knowledge of financial terms and the ability to read financial statements. You wouldn’t fly a plane without knowing how to read the gauges – and the same applies to business. You can’t tell if you’re winning or losing if you don’t understand the controls. Being able to read a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement means you’ll be able to participate fully in conversations about how to make a profit.
CREATE A BUSINESS MAP
You won’t be able to get where you’re going if you don’t have a map to get there. Every successful business starts with a plan – or even better, a business map. A business map is more than a way to get from point A to point B. It incorporates different scenarios so that you’re ready for anything, then connects it all back to your overarching company vision.
Your business map will include a plan for how to make a profit. What can you do today, this week, or this month to start improving your quality of profit ratio? Working with a business coach can also be an invaluable tool in this stage as they’ve helped countless others create a plan that is sustainable and scalable.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
With any new venture, it’s easy to start thinking about the end goal. Today, you’re opening your business; tomorrow, you want to make $10 million. If you think this way – in terms of creating a profitable business through massive growth from the get-go – you’ll miss out on opportunities along the way and quickly become overwhelmed.
Instead, think in terms of incremental growth. Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time Frame – and focus on improving your processes and systems and steadily increasing profits over time. Everything in life that’s worthwhile takes work. Don’t be distracted by “quick fixes” or get caught up in a competitive race. Focus on long-term growth and what’s right for your business.
IDENTIFY WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK
As you’re wondering how to make a profit, you must take an objective look at your entire organization. What’s currently preventing you from making the money you know you’re capable of earning? Is it a lack of viable leadership skills? Is it a problem with your sales team? Have you not spent enough time getting the word out about your brand?
The problem could also be something within you: Are you emotionally holding on to something that’s limiting your company’s growth? Have you held on to limiting beliefs? Once you’ve identified what is holding you back from your plan to increase profit, you can seek out the personal or professional tools needed to break through your barriers.
Tony always says to focus on your strengths, and hire for your weaknesses. Identify your strengths and learn how to leverage them in leadership. Then identify your weaknesses and determine who you need to hire to fill those gaps. Perhaps you need an accountant or bookkeeper, or an incredible sales team.
You also want to hire raving fan employees. Who supports you 100%? Who not only knows the company inside and out but can also rally the troops and bring in new customers? When you assemble a team of people who are excited to work for your brand and spread the message, it becomes much easier to be successful.
Finally, think about how you can better retain your existing employees. Do you need to hire fresh talent? Do you need to offer more benefits or make changes to the company culture? Do you need to invest more in your employees’ well-being? Find the right mix of leadership, inspiration, and incentives, and you’ll find the key to how to make a profit in business.
ADD REAL VALUE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
How do businesses make money? The most important answer is that they always add real value for their customers. The bottom line for how to make a profit isn’t a number – it’s the value customers perceive in the business’ product. When someone finds a product that fills a need they can’t find anywhere else, they fall in love.
How do you truly add value your ideal customer can’t ignore? Prioritize your market research to understand your customer’s lifestyles and tastes. By inhabiting your customer’s mind and preferences, you’re able to create compelling innovations customized to your market. As you innovate, track how your buyer responds so you can adjust your strategy as needed.
FOCUS ON STRATEGIC INNOVATION
There aren’t many companies who can say they honestly offer their customers something brand new. Those that do are true disruptors, but that doesn’t mean you have to be that type of company to increase profit. At this point, successful businesses expand on existing ideas, but they do it in a way that’s useful and appealing to their customers. In other words, they strategically innovate. To do this, you need to identify who your customer is and why they need your product or service.
An example of a strategic innovator is Netflix. Before the streaming service came along, people were happy to rent tapes at Blockbuster. Netflix saw how they could capitalize on this need for home entertainment, and found a way to make movies even more accessible for their target audience.
Netflix not only found a way to make a profit but also a way to change the entire entertainment industry. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be leagues ahead of your competitors and can expect your profit margins to rise accordingly.
Starting a profitable business is the most fulfilling thing you can do with your time on earth. But it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to get there. Whatever kind of business you decide to start, the first step is choosing a niche – something only you and your business can truly be an expert in – then figuring out ways to create valuable content that other people need. If you do those steps right, you should be able to turn your idea into enough money to get by while working on it full-time and maybe even quit your day job.