The 17 Winning Online Business Models show you which online business models work and why. It delivers a comprehensive blueprint for where to find your next great business idea, as well as detailed guidance on choosing the right model to pursue based on your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll learn what makes a market research platform or market research tool successful through detailed case study analysis, so you can identify the specific things that make each site successful and apply them to your idea.
Learn how to use each of these models’ strengths and weaknesses to design a truly unique website better than any others in the industry. There are a LOT of possibilities out there for online businesses. And the number of people who would love to brainstorm with you on how to make money online is growing every single day. My job is to help creative entrepreneurs like yourself reduce the amount of time it takes to come up with something amazing.
Here are the 17 Winning Online Business Models.
1. Dropshipping Business
Oberlo is a dropshipping marketplace – we had to mention dropshipping at some point!
Dropshipping is the easiest option to start an eCommerce business without having to buy any products in advance. Use Oberlo to find thousands of products from suppliers to sell online. Then sell to customers across the world while building and promoting your brand, all without needing to invest in warehousing or manufacturing costs. You don’t need to pay for inventory until it’s sold to an actual customer. From online boutique to jewelry store to women’s clothing store to one-product store, dropshipping works for most online store ideas. Check out our guide to starting a dropshipping business to learn more about this great opportunity.
2. Kickstarter/Indiegogo Advisor
Grabbing the attention of curious browsers on the most popular crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo is a tough job. If you’re inventive and know how to tap into human emotion, then this is a niche worth exploring. Many aspiring entrepreneurs look for personalized advice to carry their campaigns to the finish line, so try offering action-oriented eBooks or online courses targeted at this particular audience.
3. SEO Expert
One of the online world’s hottest professions at the moment, this business is a gold mine for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. While everyone’s slightly obsessed with getting their sites SEO optimized, not many people can wrap their heads around this topic. If you decide to go into this field, you can think about offering link building, content creation, eCommerce SEO optimization, and similar one-off packages.
4. Selling Online Courses
Derek Halpern has built a really strong personal brand. He’s the founder of a software and business training company called Social Triggers and makes a LOT of money teaching people how to sell what they know best. And what he knows best is how to sell. If you’ve got some serious expertise, start making money out of it by selling online courses or simply teaching online.
5. Bug Testing
Bug testing is a service that no software company can ignore. If you can build a platform to crowdsource expert skills and resources to tackle this area, then you have solid chances of turning a profit. One of the most unique online business ideas, providing bug testing resources can be a lucrative way to boost your income. To learn more about this model, look into BugFinders and CrowdSourceTesting.
6. Video Producer
YouTube is the second-largest site in the world, so there’s no surprise that video is becoming one of the main communication mediums for businesses of all types and sizes. If you have video filming or editing knowledge, it won’t take you long to build your clientele. Everything from video production workshops and video editing services to soundtrack libraries and DIY tutorials can appeal to the business world. Producing a video might be one of the most attractive online business ideas with lots of creativity and challenges.
7. Graphic Designer
Graphic designers are always in demand from small businesses to large multinationals. Starting a graphic design business can allow you to tap into this great opportunity. Showcasing your experience with your past portfolio can help you gain customers without aggressive outreach.
8. Website Developer
In the same vein as graphic design, website development is in constant demand as businesses are always trying to upgrade and improve their websites to get more sales. This means that you can work on new and existing websites concurrently, and get to try new things all the time. If being constantly challenged is what you are looking for, website development could be the best online business for you.
9. App Development
Apps are an amazing lucrative market, so it is not surprising that more and more companies are investing in them. This means that there is a growing need for app developers to create their applications. Offering app development is a great opportunity as you can work on vastly different applications daily.
10. Theme Designer
Just like a website developer, a theme designer is working with websites but in a different way. Choosing a theme designer as your side hustle idea means building new website themes for businesses to use for their website. This could mean researching popular themes, identifying their shortcomings, and creating a theme that solves these pain points while remaining true to the popularity of the previous theme. If you are an expert in a certain industry, creating themes for this industry could see you reap much success.
If you are gifted with more than one language but have no interest in teaching others, try translating. Many companies need their website and collateral translated when they move into a different market. You can help them achieve it, while also keeping active in more than one language. Keep in mind the most common way of billing is the cost per word, so price wisely to make smart money from this great online business idea.
12. Social Media Manager
Social media is an integral part of any business but it’s time-consuming and ever-changing – so really quite difficult to keep up with and, more importantly, capitalize on. Many business owners are willing to outsource this time-intensive task, so it’s a great opportunity for social media fanatics. Bundle together a few interesting offers, such as “Startup social media kit” or “Small Business Social Media Starter Kit” that encompass everything from social media graphics to analytics reports and the seamless experience will bring you more clients than you expect.
13. Remote Customer Service Agent
If you enjoy helping people but don’t want to be stuck in a call center or office all day, become a remote customer service agent and help people from the comfort of your own home. Choose between helping people via chat, email, phone, video, or other ways and save the day for people every day. This may not make you your first million, but it feels great to help people.
14. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is all about building an audience and selling other people’s products or services to them. It’s either extremely fast or brutally slow — it all comes down to which route you take.
I’ve long been risk-averse and never had much capital, to begin with, so my preference is to build and grow affiliate marketing websites using SEO, or “organic search engine traffic”.
This means your traffic acquisition channel is “free”, as long as you’re willing to do the work. As you grow, “free” can turn into a sizable operational expense, but generally, SEO is the cheaper option. It’s usually the slow option, though.
A faster way to reach the 7 figure mark — if you can find the right products and offers, is by using paid traffic. So if you’re familiar with how PPC works, either via search engines, social media, or display, affiliate marketing is an interesting place to put that knowledge to good use.
In comparison to other business models, affiliate marketing using paid traffic doesn’t have to demand as much of your effort — but that doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high. It can take a long time to find the right offer. By this time, many inexperienced affiliate marketers have run their resources dry.
Other risks include going bankrupt before your affiliate network pays you (quite possible when you’re investing so much in ads and some have 90-day payout terms), your traffic sources banning you, or someone copying your entire campaign and forcing you into slimmer margins.
There’s a reason why a lot of people in this space are ex-poker players. The concepts learned, like reducing your risk of ruin, lend themselves to this business model.
The agency model takes care of one of the biggest problems consultants and freelancers face — the ability to scale up. Fast.
Most agencies have a lot more to offer in terms of the services they offer, which is why clients pick them. Instead of coordinating 5 different freelancers to each complete their part of the puzzle, agency clients prefer to have one contact that manages the entire project/campaign.
From advertising, SEO, web development, and much more — the sky’s the limit as long as you have the right people to get the job done. A particularly popular business model right now is being a content provider to businesses who want to market themselves on the internet but don’t have the in-house capability.
You could argue that this is one of the best online businesses if you plan to start with no money down. Simply invest blood, sweat, and tears, and with consistent effort, the cash will come as it’s also one of the most profitable online business models.
The cons with the agency model are that you can end up spending way too much time and money managing your team instead of growing. For agencies without a proper organizational structure, this can be a nightmare.
As you may have gathered, agencies need a lot of hard work to keep them afloat. As a result, they are not as easy to sell as the other options below.
For someone who’s looking at a more passive source of income, this probably isn’t the ideal option. I hated running an agency, but in around 2 years it allowed me to save a good runway to pump into my freedom fund.
16. Blogging / Content Sites
Building websites and getting them to rank well in search engines is no easy feat. Starting a blog is the easy part. Writing great content is a bit harder, but a lot of fun. Growing it to a sizable amount each month can be a grind.
But once you get there, your website has the potential to bring you a continuous stream of semi-passive income.
I say semi-passive because like all businesses, blogs and content sites still need maintenance. This can be things like publishing fresh content, updating existing content, and content management system updates.
But unlike running a digital marketing agency, this business model doesn’t require you to have a big team.
I know plenty of solopreneurs who run blogs and content sites. Others have a small team that handles the most repeatable tasks.
After I began investing in websites a few years ago, I still only have 6 others in my team. For a larger portfolio, the team needs to be much larger (or to leverage other service providers) if you want to scale quickly.
If you’re prepared to stick around for the long haul and find both winning products and suppliers, this can be one of the most profitable routes to take, but it’s not as simple as many gurus will have you believe.
17. Selling Info Products / Online Courses
Of the many things that are readily available on the internet, the demand for info products is only growing. There are many mediums that you can choose to work with, like:
- E-learning and courses
- Digital reports
Info products have high margins and, if you do most of the grunt work yourself, low-set up costs.
Most importantly, you own the product so you don’t have to worry about getting paid on time by affiliates or drop ship fulfillment companies that are out of stock.
Once you’ve created your product, you can build the marketing systems around your product so your business makes sales while you sleep.
This said it’s not always simple. Most people I know who make this model work well seem to have webinar software Zapiered to their email marketing system which connects to something else via API and so on.
Content creation isn’t for everyone. While I enjoy it myself, I have friends who sell digital products and don’t even create the content.
Finding a content provider to build these products for you isn’t particularly difficult, and maybe the right path to making this business model work at scale.
If you have a unique experience on a subject, selling info products is a great way of creating a valuable asset.
Know what to do with all the information you generate? The last thing you want to do is spend time sifting through all the information you get from your online business. The 17 Winning Online Business Models will help you answer that question once and for all.