17 Online Business Ideas That Anyone Can Start In 2020 (Little or No Cost)

Written by Franklin Hatchett

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Our goal at EcomElites is to help readers get the information they need, we partner with companies to help bring you that information. If a purchase or signup is made through our partners, we receive compensation for the referral. Learn More

Entrepreneurship is the only way to financial freedom. Well, that and stocks. However, a business is much more attractive because you are in control, and nothing beats the feeling of creating a business that would, later on, become big.

But how do you start one if you have no money? The best route is to launch a business online.

Today, you will learn 17 online businesses that anyone can start with little or no capital at all and start making money online.

Why Should You Start an Online Business?

Online business is easy to put up and requires very little overhead cost. Unlike a brick-and-mortar store, you do not have to pay for utilities like water, heating, or power. You also do not have to pay rent. With a physical store, expect to pay more than $500 upwards for your rent, plus pay for the costs of salaries.

With an online business, you just have to pay for the website’s monthly subscription cost. It is completely up to you if you want to pay for other software like an auto-responder, automated marketing and social media software, and others.

An online business requires little cost, plus it does not have all the headaches that a brick-and-mortar store demands. You do not even have to travel. And the best part? You can operate your business no matter where you are.

1. Start a Blog

Required Cost: $4 per month

How does one earn from a blog? There are many ways too monetize a blog. Take a look at some examples below:

  • Info product – sell your course or eBooks
  • Membership – ask members to subscribe and pay a monthly fee
  • Advertisements – put ads from Google or other advertising networks
  • Services – offer your services for money

A blog can also be a sales funnel for affiliate marketing, which we will discuss later. A blog does not require a lot of money. You can start one for free, but free blog platforms have limited capabilities.

You are better off starting with a paid one. The best platform is WordPress.ORG, not WordPress.COM. To be able to use the ORG platform, you have to pay a monthly subscription to a web host provider, such as Bluehost or SiteGround.

Launching a blog is easy. You do not need to learn how to code. What matters is that you provide valuable content to your readers, build credibility, and build traffic.

2. Get Started in Affiliate Marketing

Required Cost: $0

In affiliate marketing, you are promoting someone else’s products. If you successfully convert people or make them buy the product, the merchant who sold the product is going to give you a commission.

To start, you have to find a product that you are interested in promoting and then register for the affiliate program. Once this s completed, you will receive a link—the affiliate link—from the sponsor. This is the link that you would market.

There are many ways to market the product. Some examples are:

  • YouTube – create helpful videos on YouTube and lead your followers to the affiliate site
  • Blog – write content like product reviews; convince the reader to buy the product you are promoting
  • Ads – create ads on social media or Google; the ad link should be your affiliate link
  • Forums – answer questions on forums and put your affiliate link

You do not have to spend a dime in affiliate marketing unless you want to. However, like all other businesses, you have to invest a little to get your skin in the game.

You can invest money in your blog or on ads. You have to choose your preferred method of marketing the products you selected, and then master that technique before moving on to something else.

3. Build an E-Commerce Store

Required Cost: $29 per month

With an e-commerce store, you are in control of your policies, shipping, and others. The best thing about an e-commerce store is that you do not have to pay fees. If you sell on eBay or Amazon, you have to pay seller fees on every transaction.

An e-commerce store is best if you have your own products, and if you want to build your brand. You do not need to learn how to build a website because you can use platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce to build your store.

4. Start Dropshipping

Required Cost: $29 per month

Dropshipping is also an e-commerce store, but you will not manufacture your own products. You also do not need an inventory.

In dropshipping, you sell the products of another merchant or a supplier. However, you will only order that product once a customer already pays you. With dropshipping, all you need to do is to put up your store, choose products and suppliers, and start marketing.

You make money in if you start dropshipping by putting a profit on top of your buying price. If a merchant sells a pair of socks for $4 plus $3 for shipping, you can charge $9 for the socks and $3 for shipping. In this case, you make $5 in profit.

If you manage to sell 1,000 units, then you made a gross income of $5,000 in a month. From that, you have to deduct your website’s subscription of around $29 per month. If you are not spending anything else, then you keep the rest for a profit.

5. Social Media Agency

Required Cost: $0

A social media agency is a company that takes care of a business’s social media posts and advertising needs. This is not as complicated as it seems. All you have to do is to fill the company’s social media channels with content.

Here are the types of content that companies need:

  • Quotes
  • Infographics
  • Blog posts
  • Graphic arts
  • Memes
  • Video tutorials

As a social media agency, you will be working with freelancers to produce these different types of content. If you can do them yourself, then you can save a lot of money. You do not need to worry about capital because the money you need to outsource will come from the client’s down payment.

You can post your services in online marketplaces; you do not need to build your own website to get started. Once you start earning, you can save up and then build your own website, and also start advertising.

6. Virtual Assistant Services

Required Cost: $0

There are so many types of services you can do as a virtual assistant. Like any service-oriented business, you need zero capital. Just apply for jobs online, and wait until you win a client.

Here are some examples of what you can offer as a virtual assistant:

  • Data entry
  • Activity planning
  • Meeting scheduler
  • Administrative work
  • Answering phone calls
  • Booking travel arrangements

If you think about, there are only a few things that a virtual assistant cannot do. If it can be done in an office, and if it can be done remotely, then a virtual assistant can do it.

The price that you can charge would vary according to the difficulty of the task. The most common amount that virtual assistants charge is $5 per hour and this rate applies to tasks that are easy. If you are going to do complex tasks, you can charge at least $10 per hour.

7. Freelance Writing

Required Cost: $0

Freelance writers are in demand because all online businesses need content. From blogs to the product description to ad copies, there is a great demand for writers.

You can do the writing yourself or build a team of writers who will do it for you. If you choose the latter, your main duty is to find clients, market the business, and edit the output for the writers.

If you are going to do it yourself, you can charge at least $30 per 1,000 words for a simple blog post, like a listicle.

If you are going to write complex materials, like landing pages, you can charge more than $100 per project. As a writer, your goal is to find clients who want to run an online business, but have no writing skills or have no time to do it.

Your writing skills must be superb if you want to succeed at this, as writers are dime-a-dozen. There are so many writers out there who will be competing against you, and your only chance of succeeding is by being good at what you do.

8. Graphic Arts

Required Cost: $0

From infographics to photo editing, you can earn a ton of money from creating graphic arts. Web content that has photos is much more attractive than those that are purely made of text.

As a graphic artist, you should have Photoshop skills. If you cannot afford Photoshop, then use free and open-source software like InkScape or GIMP.

As a graphic artist, you can create a ton of materials for your clients.

Here are some examples:

  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Infographics
  • PDF newsletters
  • Feature pages
  • Hero banners

At a minimum, you can charge at least $5 for a very simple output. For projects like this, you can use free tools like Canva, where you can create graphic arts without paying for the software. Once you start earning, you can upgrade and have access to more materials, like icons and stock images.

9. Videography

Required Cost: $300

Videography is in demand, and the most popular form of this service is called animation. In real-life videography, you have to be in a specific spot to shoot videos. Sometimes, you may even need to set-up your own props.

However, the animation is better because you do not have to leave the house. With animation software, you have access to tons of ready-made templates, characters, icons, and backgrounds.

You cannot start an animation business without a camera or video editing software. One of the best out there is Camtasia. It has a complete suite of what professionals use for animation and video editing. You can also use PowToon.

As a videographer, you may not need an expensive camera. Most of your clients are going to be those who have already shot their videos, and they just need you to edit the videos.

10. Sell on Marketplaces

Required Cost: $0

If you do not want to build your own website, the alternative is to sell in online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and more.

Selling online itself has no cost, but your inventory will cost you. The thing is, you can create your own products or even sell pre-loved items so you do not have to buy inventory.

Selling online is one of the most lucrative businesses if you know how to do it with no capital. You only have to pay for the transaction fees.

How can you sell without an inventory?

You can do dropshipping or any form of arbitrage. In dropshipping, you can post photos of items and sell them in online marketplaces, but you will only order these after the customer has already bought the item from you.

In arbitrage, you have to look for a product in eBay, and then sell it in Amazon, or vice versa. You sell it for a higher cost, and the price difference is your profit.

11. Sell Photos

Required Cost: $0

All you need to sell photos is your phone. You certainly have either an iPhone or an Android phone, right? If you do, go out there and take photos of everything.

Take photos of dogs, people swimming, people drinking, and all others. Take photos of buildings, beaches, decks, patios, mosqito4s, cats, and a whole lot more.

But where do you sell these photos?

You can sell them on:

  • Adobe Stock
  • Fotomoto
  • Alamy
  • Etsy
  • Shutterstock
  • Crestock
  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer

In fact, you can sell your photos in many online marketplaces. All you need to do is to put watermarks on them so no one can steal them. It is really up to you how much you want to price them; you can sell the photos for $5 or less. If you can produce high-quality photos, you can sell them for a higher price.

Also, you can decide if you want the buyer to own full rights, or if the photo has private label rights that multiple people can own.

12. Flip a Blog

Required Cost: $100 to $1,000

Flipping a blog means you are going to buy a blog site. Most of these blogs are not performing, and the blogger is no longer interested. These blogs are not likely earning any money, so the blogger has lost motivation.

You can build this business if you know how blogs work. Once you purchased the blog, you have to make some changes to make it more Google-friendly.

Here are the skills you need for flipping a blog:

  • SEO skills
  • Graphic design
  • Web design and web building
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Traffic-building
  • Marketing

You have to be careful when buying a blog. You have to make sure that you check all the contents, and then see if they are duplicates. What you want is a blog that is clean, with no black-hat SEO or penalties from Google. Also, you want a blog that would require a little amount of work to make it profitable.

13. Be a Consultant

Required Cost: $0

You surely have a skill that you have used in your career. Maybe you are an accountant, a nurse, or a corporate executive.

You certainly have expertise on something, and you can sell this online. In this business, your product is yourself. You have to build yourself as a guru. At first, you have to prove yourself. You need to create content for free, and then market this content on different social media platforms.

Once you have established a following, you can start offering your consultancy services. As always, you need to be able to prove your worth. You can do this by showing the results of your previous work.

As a mentor, people will be paying you for your time. It is up to you to charge what you want. Just ensure that when people pay you, you add value to their lives, or help them solve their problems.

14. Write eBooks

Required Cost: $300

This is one of the easiest ways to make money online, provided that you are a writer. If you are not, you have to pay writers to write the eBook for you.

You have to pay writers around $300 for an eBook, which may or may not include the cover. Once you have the eBook, you can now sell it online. If you write your own eBook, the only two things you may need to pay for are formatting services and eBook covers.

Here are some places where you can sell your book:

  • Amazon
  • Google Play Books
  • Smashwords

Each of these platforms charges different transaction fees. Some would charge as much as 40% of your selling cost.

15. Dropserving

Required Cost: $0 to $29

Dropserving is like dropshipping. However, you will not offer products. Instead, you will sell services. In drop serving, you will create your own website, and then offer services.

Examples of these are:

  • Writing
  • Graphic arts
  • Web design
  • SEO
  • Web building
  • Store building

Once you get an order, you will ask a freelancer to do the job. The price you charge your customer is higher than what you would pay the freelancer. The difference is your profit.

Before you start your drop serving business, you have to test several freelancers and find someone who can do the job based on the quality you expect. You can find these freelancers in places like Fiverr or Freelancer.

Like dropshipping, the only cost you would incur is your website’s monthly subscription. To find clients, you either have to write blogs or advertise. The advertising is what is going to cost you money.

If you do not want to pay for ads, you can bid on projects in online marketplaces, and then pass that job to your freelancer.

16. SEO Services

Required Cost: $0 to $50 per month

Search engine optimization is one of the most difficult aspects of running an online business. If you understand SEO, you can create a business out of it, and help other entrepreneurs rank on Google.

If you want to be an SEO specialist, you must be able to provide the following services:

  • Speed analysis
  • Backlink strategies
  • Keyword planning
  • Content strategy

Make sure you do not make false promises. Do not promise your clients that you can make their websites number one.

As you know, it is up to Google to decide which websites to rank. Focus your services on providing strategies and action plans that your clients can implement, not on results that you cannot guarantee.

17. Sell e-Courses

Required Cost: $0

The last of our suggestions is to sell e-courses. Like being a consultant, you surely have expertise. The difference is that an e-course is a video series where you will teach your students from start to finish.

What can you sell? You can teach people almost anything.

Here are some examples:

  • Mathematics
  • Marketing
  • Woodworking
  • Arts and crafts
  • Accounting
  • Data analysis

As you can see, for as long as you can teach it, you can sell it. Once your video series is over, you can upload the course in platforms like Kajabi, Udemy, Coursera, and others. These platforms will take care of selling the courses, and they will charge you a transaction fee once a customer bought the course.

What Type of Online Business Should you Launch?

Because of all these choices, one can get tempted to launch an online business right away. The problem with rushing is that your choice can be a mistake.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is this: what am I passionate to do?

All these businesses are almost free to launch, and this is what makes them attractive. However, you should never launch a business if you do not love the job that comes with it.

The best online business to launch depends on the following:

  • Your skills
  • Your background
  • Your interests

Also, you have to consider the amount of effort you have to put in it. If the online business of your choice requires some form of marketing, ask yourself: are you skilled enough to do marketing?

Are you willing to learn about online marketing? If not, then consider another business. All these online businesses can make money, but they will only make money if you put in the effort.

In today’s age, an online business is a way to go. It requires little or no capital, and yet the returns can be bigger than a brick-and-mortar store.

Before you start an online business, take an online course about it. This way, you will have the right guidance and prevent getting burned. Many online entrepreneurs fail because they were not prepared.

Do not let this happen to you. Study what you can prepare for your online journey, and then brace yourself for a wild ride.

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