Small Business Ideas for Starting an Online Venture: The Ultimate Guide for Budding Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur with over a decade of experience building my own successful online businesses, I am constantly asked – what types of small businesses can I start online that are profitable? With the internet reaching over 5 billion users in 2024, the possibilities are endless. However, not all online business ideas have the same potential for growth and earnings.

In this comprehensive guide, I will share my top 10 picks for the most lucrative online ventures to launch for budding entrepreneurs, along with the steps to getting each one off the ground. Whether you want to earn extra income or build a full-time business, you’re sure to find a promising concept here to turn your passion into profit!


Dropshipping has quickly become one of the most popular online business models due to its low startup costs and overhead. As a dropshipper, you sell products from a third-party supplier, who then ships the order directly to the customer. This means:

  • No inventory or warehouses needed to store products
  • Lower risks as you don’t purchase products until sold
  • Better cash flow management since upfront inventory investments aren‘t required

Based on data from Oberlo, dropshipping has clear earning potential:

  • The average ecommerce store owner makes $74k per year
  • Top performing stores generate over $1 million in sales annually

How to get started:

  • Choose a highly targeted niche like camping gear or baking supplies
  • Vet dropshipping suppliers thoroughly and order samples
  • Set up an ecommerce storefront (I recommend Shopify)
  • Focus on search engine optimization and paid Facebook ads
  • Deliver excellent customer service

It will take consistent work, especially around marketing and optimization, but dropshipping provides the building blocks for a scalable business with minimal startup costs.

Information Products

For entrepreneurs with specialized knowledge from years of experience, creating online courses, ebooks, video training series and membership sites presents the perfect opportunity to finally monetize your expertise.

I started my business by packaging my hard-won lessons from over a decade of growth marketing into a $297 premium course that generated over $300,000 in the first year. Information products require an upfront time investment to create but pay dividends over the long-run with 100% profit margins and passive income potential.

Here is the earning potential per information product type based on splits I negotiated with content partners:

  • Online video course – $14 per enrollee
  • Ebook – $5 per download
  • Membership site – $29-$199 per member per month

Next steps: determine your niche expertise, preferred format (course, ebook etc), pricing model, tech stack, and marketing channels. I recommend hosting your membership site or course portal with Kajabi or Teachable which have built-in marketing tools to support your growth.

Freelance Services

In-demand skills like graphic design, copywriting, and bookkeeping can easily be monetized by freelancers with options to work with agencies or directly with clients. Entry barriers are low and you can start out part-time.

Top freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr enable you to set up a profile highlighting your expertise, past work samples, and services offered. As you build your client portfolio and ratings, you become eligible for higher value contracts. Notable earning potential per hour:

  • Programming – $50-$150
  • Digital Marketing – $70-$100
  • Consulting – $100-$500

I recommend starting out on established freelancing platforms before transitioning to direct client contracts for higher profit margins at lower commissions.

Handmade Products

For the creative entrepreneurs among us, selling handmade crafts, artwork or specialty foods can be extremely lucrative thanks to sites like Etsy, Shopify and Square making ecommerce accessible. What you earn comes down to your profit margins and scalability.

As a benchmark, top Etsy sellers bring in over $1 million in sales by tapping into trending products with creative designs that stand out yet remain affordable. Ensure you have a competitive cost structure from suppliers and efficient order fulfillment processes before aggressively investing in paid advertising to profitably scale up sales.


Over 500 million blogs exist today sharing knowledge and experiences across every niche imaginable. While early bloggers focused primarily on display advertising, the wide range of current monetization models make blogging financially viable even with smaller audiences.

With in-depth, engaging content coupled with affiliate links, sponsored posts, online courses, and coaching services, bloggers can generate multiple streams of revenue. Pay special attention to search engine optimization and keyword research to tap into searcher demand and visibility.

Here are typical earning benchmarks:

  • Display Ads – $0.10 – $1 RPM (revenue per 1,000 sessions)
  • Affiliate Marketing – 5-15% commission per sale
  • Brand Sponsorships – $100 – $500+ per dedicated post

The benefit of a blog is you own your audience and can market ancillary services or offers directly to them.

Virtual Assistant

Demand for virtual assistants is expected to grow 30% from 2019-2027, providing ample opportunities to offer administrative support and tasks virtually to clients around the world.

With lower business overhead costs, virtual assistants can earn over $30 per hour while setting their own schedules. Focus on excelling in skills like email and calendar management, travel coordination, customer service and data entry. Build trust and authority by specializing in an industry like healthcare or real estate. Enroll in a virtual assistant certification course to further establish your professional expertise with clients.

Online Classes

Monetize your teaching talents through creating online courses students can access on-demand across learning platforms like Udemy, Podia and Thinkific. These businesses handle course hosting, access control, payments and marketing – while instructors keep a handsome portion of revenue generated.

You can earn up to 97% commission per course sale, along with options for monthly memberships, multiple curriculum bundles and more. Determine the topics you can comprehensively teach, structure effective lessons, market aggressively and continuously update courses to maximize long term viability.

Lifestyle Business Coaching

Leverage your victories and mistakes in relationships, health/fitness, career growth, and other aspects of your lifestyle to help guide clients 1-on1 as a life coach. Coaches typically charge $100-$500 per month with packages ranging from 2-12 months committed.

Many coaches start by defining their niche – like yoga, bodybuilding prep, therapy and beyond. Begin marketing your services through your blog, guest interviews on relevant podcasts, free strategy calls, and more. Consider expanding into group coaching, masterminds, online courses and memberships over time.

Print on Demand (POD)

Ever wanted to launch a t-shirt brand or line of smartphone cases featuring your own custom designs? Print on demand services like CafePress, Redbubble and Zazzle empower entrepreneurs to upload designs that get printed on products only when a customer places an order.

This eliminates the prohibitive minimum order quantities of traditional manufacturing. Through these platforms, you can earn a base commission of 10-20% per product sold. Focus on trending and novelty designs, utilize search and social media advertising tools available on platforms to promote your shop.

Local Services Marketplace

Opportunities still remain for digital platforms and services facilitating bookings between local service professionals like personal trainers, photographers, musicians and customers. Business models focus primarily on commissions from bookings processed ranging from 5-20%.

Ensure you have a steady funnel of service providers during launch by attending local small business events. As bookings gain traction through word of mouth and targeted advertising, concentrate on quality control. This includes vetting processes, reviews and quick support response times to ensure customer satisfaction remains high.


Finally, if you have extensive experience and proven results within industries like software, manufacturing, marketing, HR and more – numerous small businesses lack expertise internally and crave guidance. Transitioning from individual contributor roles into an advisor can be extremely lucrative.

Seasoned consultants I know earn anywhere from $250 to $500 per hour in fees working both recurrently or project-based. The key is positioning your knowledge and previous outcomes appropriately during your website launch and outreach processes. Enroll in LinkedIn‘s recruiter version for direct messaging capabilities to connect with prospects.

Clearly define services, offer free initial consults, focus on problem-solution fit during intake calls then collect testimonials to fuel referrals over time. Consulting provides unparalleled income potential as an independent online business owner.

The world of online business offers literally countless concepts and opportunities to create value and generate revenue if executed thoughtfully. Hopefully this guide provided ample "food for thought" to get your entrepreneurial journey started!

As you evaluate ideas, focus intensely on refining your positioning and profit model before over-investing upfront in product development or inventory. Test demand early through pre-sales before committing fully. Marketing experiments will be inevitable so factor sufficient budget for paid promotions, content creation and brand building as well.

Feel free to reach out via email with any questions arising during your venturing process or simply request a free 1-hour small business coaching call if you need additional direction and expertise!

I wish you tremendous success and fulfillment as you work towards building a prosperous and meaningful business you are passionate about online. The world needs more entrepreneurs solving problems and creating value – I hope you become one!