Best Low-Cost Online Business Ideas (2020)

September 26, 2020
businessman with laptop thinking at office

Why are digital businesses so popular?

If 2020 hasn’t been your best year financially, just know that you aren’t alone. Countless people are looking for ways to earn a little extra income, particularly while we are all stuck inside at home. Whether it is because you lost your job, your hours were cut, or you need something to do, it doesn’t matter. The drive is the same. Find something that works.

 

Let’s get real. There are a lot of things you could do to make a little extra money; sell blood, get a legit second job, drive for Uber, rent an Airbnb, cut grass, or even become a famous musician. However, most of these are either unreasonable, have a large upfront cost, or can’t be done while we are all inside sheltering from the pandemic.

There has to be another way! No, the answer isn’t in the form of a late-night infomercial. You won’t be sold a Slap Chop. Most individuals in your position started online businesses. Why? Here are a few of the top reasons people start online businesses:

  • Extra Cash: You can scale up to make more money easily or keep it at a side hustle level
  • Flexible Hours: Work only when you want to and when you have the time to spare
  • Non-Physical Work: The platforms are all digital and all you need is a reliable computer
  • Expanding Worlds: The online world is constantly growing along with the tech
  • New Education: The new trends and skills needed are interesting and spur creativity

Digital or online businesses are great second jobs or side hustles because they offer the flexibility of “work when you can” and still retain the viability of a lucrative endeavor. What does that mean? It means you can still make money with little to no startup funds and minimal time invested.

What kind of online businesses are the best?

You probably already know that most of your daily activities can be done online. From food shopping to buying toothpicks you can basically live your life via the Internet and never leave your home. What this also means is that you can make money doing just about anything on the internet. If you are in the top 4% of the blogging world then you can easily make over $10K per month. Instagram influencers with over 500K followers can charge upwards of $3K per sponsored post. That is some serious money.

If you want to find your niche, you need to know how to play the game. So, what are the rules? First, know that there are no rules on how to make money with a digital job. This is good and bad. It means you can make it up as you go along and still win out in the end, but it also means that it is going to be a hard road. There are some very clear guidelines. To standardize the categories of work, here are the four main types of work you could do, in a broad sense of the term.

There are 4 main types of online jobs

Contract Work – Freelancing

This is what it sounds like. You are hired to do a job for someone. You may not get credit for the work, but you will get paid for it. Freelancing is wildly popular as a side hustle because most entrepreneurs are busy and need to delegate tasks. Instead of hiring a staff of worker bees, they hire of digital job boards. You could work as a digital graphic artist, an article writer, voice over artist, web engineer, or even as a data scientist. Regardless, in this category you are marketing a skill to sell to others for their asset.

Reselling – Flipping – Dropshipping

Think of Amazon.com. This is the largest online retailer of goods. Some of those goods are from the original manufacturer and some are from a specialty shop. You could become one of those specialty shops and sell new or used goods on Amazon, eBay, or even your own website. Obviously, not as big as Amazon, but in a specialty niche that you prove your brand has authority in.

But what is Dropshipping? This is the concept of never having a stock of products to manage. If I know that I can get a mug for $5 from Mugs-R-Us online, then I can sell it on my webpage for $10. When an order comes in, I put the buyer’s info into Mugs-R-Us’ website and the buyer gets their mug directly from them. I pocket the $5 difference. This is Dropshipping. You never have inventory and only outlay purchase costs when you get an order.

Build A Brand – Service – Product

You could always create your own product. This could be online video teaching guides, life coaching, language help, or a physical product that you actually create and sell via the Internet. Think Pet Rock for the 21st Century. This brand, service, or product is something that is uniquely yours and something that others want to help them or benefit them in some way.

Affiliate Marketing

Have you ever read a top 20 blog that linked the product to Amazon? If you have then you have met an affiliate marketer. This is how businesses generate more customers, via recommendations and reviews of the general public. Via little “cookies” stored on people’s computers, if they clink on your link then you get a commission for whatever they purchased.

You need to sign up to be an affiliate marketer to get the links that are connected to your commission account. There are larger companies that have hundreds of products to market under different brands. So, the earning potential is endless. Most of these affiliate marketers have a blog or channel where they recommend different products as solutions for different problems. Best laptops for gamers in 2020. Top blenders to stay healthy in 2020. 5 shampoos that will literally change your life. These are all example affiliate marketing blogs.

Top 5 Online Business Ideas

You’ve read why digital jobs are popular. You’ve learned the most common categories of work you could do. What are the top 5 jobs right now? If you don’t have a huge nest egg to invest in a side hustle but still want to work at something both fulfilling and financially helpful, check out these popular jobs for your potential future.

Start an online eCommerce shop

Do you collect things? Are you really into shoes? What about kitchen gadgets or high-end electronics? Why no build an eCommerce store around one of your hobbies? As long as there is a market for it, there will be people who will give you money to tell them what to buy. Think of it this way. When you walk into a sports store and need new running shoes, do you ask about the new styles and fits? Sure, you do. You ask for a recommendation.

Now instead of you going to a store, customers will come to your online shop to learn, ask questions, and buy products. They don’t have to be your products. You can easily sell others’ goods via the Dropshipping method mentioned above. Or you could work with local vendors or ship via stores already on Amazon. Setting up your own eCommerce store is easier than you think. Sites like Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, Weebly, Squarespace, AliDropship, and Prestashop make it easy to set up an eCommerce shop and start selling in a few days.

Even if you don’t sell anything physical you can still make recommendations about what people should be and place affiliate links for them to go to a seller, like Amazon Associates, eBay, or Rakuten. Here are some great Affiliate Networks: ShareASale, Moonrover, Clickbank, Fiverr, CJ Affiliate, CrakRevenue, and Travelpayouts.

Build a courses and coaching platform

Do you have a special skill that you want to show off to the world? Can you speak a second language? Maybe you have a keen sense of how to make money and want to tell people about it. Or, maybe you understand relationships and want to be a life or relationship coach. It doesn’t matter. You could even be a digital psychic. Online courses or live coaching is all the rage. With people stuck at home, they want to be entertained and they want to be challenged.

Courses and coaching are massively popular because people feel good about investing in themselves. You are able to charge more because people are willing to pay to improve with a skill or clean up their life. However, this does come with an upfront investment. You will need a camera that can take video. This could be a smartphone or a computer if it has a camera. You will want to make sure that you can record sharp and clear video and audio. Plus you would need any props that you would be using in the videos.

Your services could be provided via a platform like Udemy, Fiverr, or Freelancer.com. However, most likely you will want to set up shop on your own branded site. There are a ton of services that cater to just this niche. They provide hosting and a website landing page with a paywall all under a single package. This way you don’t have to build everything from scratch. Here are some great platforms to use to start developing a catalogue of educational, coaching, or entertaining course: Thinkific, Teachable, Podia, Click4Course, Kajabi, LearnDash, and LearnWorlds.

Sell custom printed products like T-shirts or decorations

Custom designs are something personal, and unique. In an age where we all are searching for something that makes us an individual, often our identities intertwine with our fashion and life accessories. This is basically a bunch of metaphysics to describe the fact that we love buying hipster and ironic T-shirts and other weird things just by putting a bird on it, or a taco, or a bird eating a taco. I would totally buy that. If you have an artistic side and want to make a little extra money, designing shirts, mugs, posters, hats, pens, business cards, postcards, and greeting cards via your own website is a great way to be creative, make money, and not invest in inventory.

Here is the setup. You use printing on the fly business like UberPrints, CustomInk, Bonfire, Printify, Zazzle, Threadless, Shutterfly, CafePress, or Society6. These all allow for low volume orders, which means you can fulfill your customer’s orders one shirt at a time. You can design the shirts and other goods via a graphic design site like Canva, Snappa, PiktoChart, or Stencil. Then you can use one of the eCommerce sites listed above to sell your designs to customers. The shirt or tumbler on CafePress may cost you $10-$15, but you can sell a custom shirt for $30+. All the cash above your costs is money in your pocket.

Start a podcast as part of your brand

People love to be told what to do. It gives them an excuse to not make a decision and it relieves them of the stress of agonizing over a decision. Sure, people can make decisions. You’ve made the amazing decision of reading this far, but people don’t want to make decisions. So, instead, most are fine with listening to someone who appears authoritative on a certain topic, particularly when they can just listen to them instead of reading words. This is exactly why podcasts are so popular.

Do you have an opinion on a subject? Politics? Which way the toilet paper roll should be oriented? The best electric toothpaste? Brad Pitt? Doesn’t matter as long as you are passionate and provide advice, adventure, and a way to subscribe for more content. Podcasts are great ways to explore something you love even more. Are you a librarian during the day? Why not start a drunk book club where you talk about trashy romance novels while drinking copious amounts of wine?

Couple the podcast with a website and a hefty social media presence and you’ve got yourself a solid foundation for a brand, large following, and massive sponsor and ad link revenue. Podcasting, like video coaching, does have an upfront cost. You need a headset and a microphone that is of decent enough quality so that you don’t sound like you are on a highway.

Getting your podcast in front of people may be a bit harder. So, there are platforms that are all-inclusive to help you get started. Here are a few of the top contenders in this arena: BuzzSprout, Captivate, Transistor, Podbean, Simplecast, and Speaker. The best part of podcasting is that your audience doesn’t need to see that you are still in your sweats.

Become a graphic designer

Do you notice the one thing that all of the above have in common? They all have a website and the all require graphics of some kind. Don’t think you can get out of it. The digital world is inherently visual. People aren’t opening up a book off a shelf. They are logging into a visual world that tries to not just mimic senses but overload them with stimuli. Graphic artists are in high demand and will continue to be in high demand.

If you have any interest in becoming a digital artist or want to expand your current skills, this venture is worth it. Once you sharpen your digital skillset you can either offer it up as a freelance digital artist or work on your site and sell personalized art. If you can’t go back to school don’t worry. There are many sites to learn this skill. This includes Udemy, Fiverr, Freelancer, Skillshare, Canva Design School, or CreativeLive. Once you’ve built this skill, sell your talents to the highest bidder. Use Fiverr or Freelancer to get clients. Use the video hosting sites mentioned above to sell your own design class video courses. Create a T-shirt shop with all of your designs. And create amazing looking websites for an ecommerce store where you sell high-end design software and affiliate market design classes. Full circle.

Having trouble? Why not buy a premade business?

Nothing sparking joy? That’s okay. It takes a while to figure out what you are good at or want to do. Sometimes your first business fails, and you need to start over. This is all too common in the digital world. If you are looking for an online business to start but don’t know what you want or could even do, then go look at what other people have made successful and buy their store.

Yes! You can buy premade eCommerce stores, Dropshipping stores, reselling services stores, and just about anything else. These sites hand over everything that you need including suppliers, a website, and even hosting. Here are a few examples for your casual viewing: Flippa, EmpireFlippers, ExchangeMarketplace, Upwork, or WebsiteBroker.

Don’t worry, just get started!

Sure, you could sit and browse and read about 100 different business, 100 different success stories, or 100 different failures. Or you could make an informed decision and take a step forward. It may seem hard but as long as your financial investment isn’t large and you’ve educated yourself on the risks, then the process of setting up an online eCommerce store shouldn’t be too daunting. More importantly, expanding your world into a digital side hustle is the first step in learning just how far you can really go.

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