25 online business ideas to inspire you

Published • 06/11/2023 | Updated • 06/11/2023

Business ideas

25 online business ideas to inspire you

Published • 06/11/2023 | Updated • 06/11/2023

Business ideas

Whether you’re dreaming of quitting the day job and working for yourself, or simply want to supplement your current income, there are all kinds of online business ideas UK entrepreneurs can consider.

Working online is one of the most versatile ways of doing business. You won’t be tied to any one physical place of work, and overheads are usually very low. On top of that, there’s ever-increasing demand for goods and services sold online.

Looking at online retail sales alone, research suggests that the market will continue to grow in the coming years, reaching an impressive $8.1 trillion by 2026

With so many avenues now available for reaching out to customers, there’s never been a better time to plant your own flag in the online business world.

In this guide, we’ll run through some of the best online business ideas right now, and provide pointers on sifting through the possibilities and getting off to a great start.

25 online business ideas UK people should know about

We’ve lined up a lot of small online business ideas in this guide. Whether you’re a creative person, a natural organiser, or have a killer idea for an app, you’ll hopefully find inspiration right here. 

Scroll down for all our ideas, or jump straight to the category of your choice:

1. Ecommerce

Ecommerce can be the basis of some of the best online business ideas, allowing you to sell virtually anything you can think of to customers right around the world. As long as you have a computer and an internet connection, you can set up an ecommerce business from home, or while travelling as a digital nomad.

Let’s take a closer look at six of the best online business ideas for beginners and digital veterans alike.

Create a dropshipping site

One of the biggest risks of becoming a retailer relates to the product inventory. Not only do you have to worry about the logistics of stockpiling and delivering your products, but there’s also the risk that you’re unable to sell them onto customers, leaving you out of pocket.

Dropshipping neatly removes these issues because the manufacture, storage and delivery of the products are all taken care of by third-party suppliers. When items are sold through your online store, the order is passed onto the suppliers, who’ll manage the rest of the sales process.

In other words, your job is solely to promote the products. That’s what makes this one of the top low cost business ideas based online. The challenge will be to identify a market you can penetrate. 

Generally speaking, choosing a specific niche can improve your chances of getting attention from customers. This might be something as specific as quirky, retro ski clothing, or unique pet toys.

 Some trial and error may be needed when you’re deciding what to feature on your store, and it will help to look at hashtags on social media and data from Google Trends to see what people are looking for

When it comes to finding dropshipping suppliers, you can utilise established directors of companies like SaleHoo and Worldwide Brands.

Forge your own fashion line

The dropshipping formula can be applied in a more bespoke way, allowing you to set up your very own fashion company with minimal financial risk. This is thanks to print-on-demand firms such as Printify and Printful.

Head over to one of these firms’ websites and browse the many blank, generic garments they have to offer. These can range from t-shirts and trousers to dresses and jackets. Then, simply upload the designs you’d like to have printed or embroidered onto the clothes.

The links to the items will then be placed on your own online store, and any orders automatically manufactured and sent to customers from the print-on-demand company.

Even if you lack design experience yourself, you can always hire artists and photographers from sites like Fiverr and Upwork to create imagery to your specifications. 

The biggest challenge will be to attract notice for your fashion line, and this is where social media is invaluable.

It’s worth having professional-quality photos of your items posted on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. You may even want to reach out to established influencers, offering them freebies if they agree to wear and promote the garb on their feeds. 

Sell handcrafted homeware and art

Feeling crafty? There are now numerous forums online for selling handmade items, whether you want to create ceramic mushroom earrings, wooden sculptures of superheroes, or Warhol-like prints of celebrity faces.

Leading sites include Etsy, Folksy and Crafter’s Market UK. All of these allow you to list your items and reach out to an established audience of people interested in handcrafted arts and crafts. You can even take things further by creating your own branded online store.

It’s possible to create your products to a tight budget, thanks to cost-effective online wholesalers of raw materials. 

Success will derive from striking a fine balance of creating the kinds of items which meet a proven demand, while also being original enough to stand apart from your competition.

This is why it’s important to research your chosen arts and crafts category well. Investigate what kinds of items are being sold, what materials are being used, and what kinds of feedback customers have left on the marketplace sites.

Boost your brand with gift cards

Thanks to SumUp, you can give your arts and crafts customers the ability to buy gift cards for their friends and family, which will help spread the word about your brand.

Start now

Sell your own-brand cosmetics

Imagine having your own range of aftershaves or perfumes. Or perhaps, a line of face creams emblazoned with your unique logo. 

It may sound like a leap, but it’s very possible thanks to white label cosmetics companies like Selfnamed and Options Ltd.

Firms like these specialise in creating all kinds of beauty products which are ready to roll out with your business branding attached. Everything from bespoke, plush packaging to perfume bottles laser-engraved with your logo can be produced for your selected products.

Unlike the dropshipping business model, this will require purchasing inventory and storing it yourself. However, it is possible to purchase small orders to start with, and feel out your market before committing more investment.

As with other ecommerce online business ideas, it’s important to utilise social media – even more so in this case, since you’re promoting deluxe lifestyle items. 

Having a stylish online store, an active Instagram and even regular TikTok videos showing yourself or others applying your products will all help attract discerning customers.

While reputable white label cosmetics sites can be counted on to provide products that are fully tested and certified, you will still need to notify the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) in order to sell them in the UK.

Flip fashion

Selling pre-owned garments, otherwise known as fashion flipping, isn’t an entirely online business. After all, you’ll need to spend some time poking around in second-hand, vintage clothes shops, warehouse sales and pop-up markets for potentially lucrative finds.

Of course, you can also do some of your scouring on the internet, on sites like Depop and Vinted.

The key thing is to be a thoughtful curator of the items you’re flipping. You might specialise in designer wear, for example. Or, you might enter the niche of a certain historical era.

By zeroing in on a particular sartorial category, you stand a better chance of making your business stand out, and attracting loyal customers who come back again and again.

Setting yourself up as a reseller on platforms like Asos Marketplace and eBay can be a good way into the fashion flipping world. If it goes well, you might then further establish your presence and brand by opening your own online store.

If you’re fashionista by nature, and would enjoy putting in the work of sourcing great items, this will certainly rank as one of the best ideas for second income generation.

2. Creative online businesses

Some of the best online businesses to start will let you turn your creative skills into a source of income. There’s a whole variety of websites out there which can help creatives connect to potential customers, so whatever your speciality it won’t take long to get noticed.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the most popular creative ways to make money in the UK right now.

Sell your designs

From influencers looking to jazz up their social media platforms, to corporations seeking distinctive designs for their websites and marketing campaigns, there’s a global pool of potential customers you can sell ready-made designs to through marketplaces like Shutterstock, Etsy and Creative Market.

You can upload your own, unique fonts, or perhaps stock illustrations of animals and fantasy characters. You might devise WordPress themes which people can purchase and apply to their websites. Even abstract graphics and wallpapers can be sold.

The trick is to devote a good amount of time to researching the current market and seeing possible gaps you can fill with your own creations. 

As with so many creative business ideas, boldly targeting very specific niches can serve you better than creating what you might consider “safer”, more generic designs which might not get noticed.

One of the big perks of this way of selling designs is the same items can be sold indefinitely, making this one of our top passive income ideas.

Sell stock music

If you’re a musician rather than a designer, you can make money by entering the soaring stock music market, which is estimated to be worth over $2 billion by 2028.  Your music can be licensed for use by all kinds of customers, from filmmakers and advertising companies to internet influencers and students.

There are several royalty-free music directories you can list your tracks on, with prime examples being Pond5, AudioJungle and AudioSocket. 

Whether you want to create very specific sound effects, generic jingles or entire songs, the rule of thumb is to upload as much music as possible.

That’s because you’re likely to only sell a small proportion of a portfolio. So the larger the portfolio, the more income you’ll be able to generate.

Plus, if you’re particularly happy with the format and service of a particular directory, you may want to consider posting exclusively there. That’s because these platforms tend to give higher royalties to users who give them sole access to their material.

Write Substack content

Substack has been a game-changer for online content creators. The platform lets you market almost any kind of writing directly to potential readers, without having to go via editors and publishers.

From veteran journalists and novelists to up-and-coming writers, many people have secured a solid income stream from readers who pay to subscribe to their Substacks. 

As a newcomer, you should make your content free to access until you cultivate a readership base. You can then offer them access to premium content for a minimum of $5 a month.

The most popular Substackers attract tens of thousands of subscribers, if not more. They write in an eclectic range of categories – from food and drink to technology to self-help.

The trick is to mine your own passions and interests to offer insights people can’t find elsewhere. You might write in-depth analysis of financial markets, provide no-fuss recipes for busy people, or perhaps provide your take on politics and the arts.

While Substack is often regarded as being among the top side hustle ideas, it’s possible to make it into a full-time business by posting consistent, high-value content and engaging with subscribers.

Become a blogger

While Substack is a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of online creatives, you can also choose to go down the more traditional blogging route

Back in the early days of the internet, blogging was essentially a form of journaling, with people simply writing down their thoughts and opinions for themselves and like-minded people.

Since then, it’s transitioned into a bona fide business concept – but this isn’t a way to make money right away. Your blog should be a source of enjoyment for you: something you look forward to researching and writing, so that you’re happy to take the time to build up a readership.

You might write video game reviews, an Indian cookery blog, or an ongoing guide to personal finances. Whatever it is, you can further promote it on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, engaging directly with readers.

When your blog attains a degree of popularity, you can begin the monetisation journey by publishing sponsored posts and embedding your writing with affiliate links. These will award you a royalty when readers click through and make purchases of products related to what you write about.

Signing up to affiliate networks such as Amazon Associates can simplify the process of linking to companies that are relevant to your blog.

Create a podcast

Getting in on the podcast phenomenon may sound like a daunting endeavour, but the technical side of things is more straightforward than you might think. 

Podcast hosting platforms like Libsyn and Buzzsprout streamline the process of recording and editing episodes, implementing sponsor ads, and getting listed on directories like Spotify. The real challenge lies in creating a podcast that will strike a chord and attract listeners. 

You should pick a theme that truly interests you, so that you actively look forward to writing each episode of the podcast. It might be a show about unexplained phenomena, obscure foods, or getting ahead in business. The choice is yours.

You’ll need to source the right music for each episode, which is where stock music libraries like AudioJungle come in. Care should also be taken on how the podcast is presented. 

You’ll need to write appealing, snappy episode summaries for the listings platforms, and have an eye-catching cover image. You can hire designers from sites like Upwork to create bespoke imagery for your show.

Sites like Buzzsprout and Libsyn also offer a wealth of tips on every aspect of podcasting, to the kinds of recording equipment you need to how to track the success of each episode.

Create an app 

The no-code age is upon us, and that means you don’t need coding skills to create your own app. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and an app creation platform. Examples of the latter include Bubble and Appy Pie.

They take care of the technical side of app creation, allowing you to design your perfect app simply by toggling on templates and attaching images here and there. What’s more, there’s plenty of functionality at your disposal, so you can create an app for virtually any business idea.

Want to create an app that helps businesses arrange meetings and conferences? Or perhaps a mobile ecommerce site selling dropshipped sports gear? You can indulge your entrepreneurial imagination, knowing that the no-code interface can allow you to bring your vision to life.

Your app can be monetised through the placement of ads and by offering premium features to paying users. If you’re particularly confident in the value of the app, you can even charge users to download it from Google Play and the App Store.

3. Social media

Many budding entrepreneurs pondering how to make money from home may wonder if social media might be the answer. And it can be, if you’re prepared to put the work in to build your followers.

There’s no denying that creating a social media presence requires time and effort, and perhaps spending on equipment like a quality microphone and other tools. But the rewards can be worth it.

Become an Instagram influencer

Once just an online photo album, Instagram has become one of the most potent marketing tools on the internet. And that’s why users who gather lots of followers can successfully monetise their influence on the platform.

Like many of the best ideas for online businesses, taking a deep dive into your real passions is how you make Instagram work for you. 

That’s because you’ll need to cultivate your presence for weeks and months to build a following. You must post photos and videos consistently, write interesting comments, engage with others. All this will be a chore unless you genuinely enjoy the subject you’re posting about.

You can pick any subject close to your heart. It might be cosmetics or travel, gardening or cooking. The key thing is to keep at it, and post quality content using a quality camera to take eye-catching images, and providing “insider” hints and tips.

Over time, you can post affiliate marketing links to products and services that connect well with your “brand” as an influencer. 

For example, if you’re running a travel-focused Instagram page, you can join the Booking.com affiliate programme to embed links to hotels. You’ll then earn a commission when customers make reservations through those links.

And, if your followership really grows, you might even be approached by brands to create paid, sponsored content on their behalf.

Create a YouTube channel

With over two billion monthly users, YouTube remains the preeminent video sharing platform online. So how can you create a presence that can bring in an income stream?

  • Choose a niche – something you genuinely love to talk about, and which you’re confident about exploring in front of a mass audience

  • Get the right equipment – you may well be able to start off with a quality smartphone to record your videos, but you may choose to invest in higher-level tools like a Logitech Pro webcam or a Blue Yeti microphone

  • Don’t underestimate editing time – there’s free software available online for editing your videos, but editing is a time-consuming process and it may be worth hiring a freelancer

  • Present yourself carefully – create eye-catching video thumbnails, as well as a channel page with a large banner at the top and intro video

You can post affiliate links to make money through your YouTube videos. What’s more, if you reach 500 subscribers and more than 3,000 public watch hours in the past 12 months, you can apply for the YouTube Partner Programme.

This lets you make money through paid channel memberships, while gaining over 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours makes you eligible to make money from ads.

Start a business as a TikToker

The TikTok phenomenon shows no signs of abating, and it can prove lucrative for users who can post the kind of dynamic, vibrant videos that typically do well on the platform.

Again, you’ll want to create content you genuinely care about. Insincerity can be quickly detected by media-savvy Gen Z and younger millennial users, so don’t follow trends for the sake of it. Post videos that you enjoy making, and that enjoyment should be infectious.

Interacting in real-time with followers can pay dividends on TikTok, and one monetisation feature is known as LIVE Gifting. These are virtual tributes given to you by viewers of your live streams, and can help you get rewarded cash from TikTok in recognition of your popularity.

TikTok has other monetisation features that are liable to change up, so it’s important to check what the current programs and eligibility requirements are. Posting frequently and building followers will be necessary to unlock such tools.

It’s also good to know there’s a feature known as Series, which allows eligible users to place premium content behind a paywall which their fans must pay to access.

Be a Twitch streamer

Twitch differs from the other big video-based platforms by placing live streaming front and centre. 

If you’re an avid gamer, this could be your portal to turning your hobby into an income generator, although many Twitch users also stream themselves making art, playing songs, and other activities.

Enterprising Twitch streamers make money by adding links to fan payment platforms like Patreon, or selling merchandise. You can also become eligible to be an official Twitch Affiliate by streaming at least 500 hours in 30 days and gathering more than 50 followers.

Being an Affiliate opens the door to receiving digital currency from viewers, as well as paid subscriptions to your channel, and advertising revenues. You can unlock even more perks by ascending to the level of Twitch Partner.

Boost your chances of success by streaming as regularly as you can, and by offering bespoke gifts for your fans, such as bespoke emotes unique to your channel. You can purchase emotes from designers on sites like Etsy and Fiverr.

Be a social media consultant

Prefer to work behind the scenes when it comes to social media? Perhaps you’ve got experience of using platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and can deploy your expertise in the service of clients.

In which case, becoming a social media consultant may be one of the best online businesses to start. 

Getting your first clients will be the biggest challenge, and it’s well worth advertising your services on popular marketplaces like Upwork and PeoplePerHour. Then, with luck, you may find that you’ll gain more clients through word-of-mouth.

As a consultant, you may be tasked with:

  • Developing the strategy for marketing campaigns on different platforms, deciding what form the posts should take and when they should appear

  • Writing the posts themselves

  • Talking directly with followers and other users who interact with posts

It’s vital to demonstrate your know-how right from the start. Be sure to have your own, active social media profiles on the big platforms, from Facebook to LinkedIn. 

Post about the social media industry, providing your own commentary on the latest trends and developments.

Make invoicing fuss-free

As a social media consultant, you’ll need to send invoices to clients in a timely, accurate and professional manner. SumUp Invoices let you create invoices and manage sales with no fuss.

Find out more

4. Online services

Many of the best online business ideas involve providing a specialist service for clients, on a freelance basis. Since the only equipment you usually need is a computer and some relevant software, these tend to be low cost high profit business ideas.

Like the thought of working your own preferred hours from home, a café, even while travelling? Here’s how.

Become a web developer

Web developers are software engineers who create websites and web applications. Believe it or not, research into the tech industry has shown that – even in our increasingly digitalised world – there aren’t enough web developers to go round.

This shortage of coders can spell opportunity if you have the skills to meet demand. Having no prior experience or knowledge of coding isn’t necessarily a barrier to entry, as long as you’re able to invest in some training. 

This doesn’t have to be expensive or inconvenient, as it’s possible to get your coding qualifications entirely online.

To take an example, you can embark on courses in the likes of SQl, CSS and JavaScript at the Codeacademy site. There are even free courses in HTML which you can try out – a great way to get a taste for things and see if you’d like to continue.

This is just one of numerous online platforms that can put you on the path to a new career as a web developer. Many can connect you with mentors and provide networking opportunities, which may prove invaluable for getting your first clients as a developer.

Offer virtual assistant services

In the AI era, the term “virtual assistant” may sound like it refers to some online chatbot, but that’s not the case. 

Virtual assistants are effectively regular personal assistants – the only difference being that virtual assistants work remotely, from home or wherever else that’s convenient for them.

As an experienced PA or office manager, you can apply your experience through an online business as a virtual assistant. You may be asked to perform a wide variety of tasks for your clients, including:

  • Managing diaries and making appointments

  • Arranging business trips, including researching and booking transport and hotels

  • Writing and replying to emails on behalf of your client

  • Managing other staff members remotely

  • Updating and organising office documents on the cloud 

If you’re confident in your PA skills – including a forensic attention to detail, an ability to effortlessly multitask, and to liaise with people at all levels of seniority – you can put yourself out there on sites such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour.

Work as a graphic designer

Regardless of the huge advances being made in generative AI, there’s still a huge demand for graphic designers who can create innovative, eye-catching designs that can stand out from the noise of the online world. 

Indeed, it’s estimated that the global graphic design industry will be worth around $76 billion before this decade is over.

If you’re adept at using tools like Sketch, Figma, Photoshop and InDesign, being a freelance graphic designer may well be one of the best online business ideas to consider. You can expect to be commissioned to create:

  • Company logos

  • Online and hardcopy marketing materials

  • Websites and hardcopy magazine layouts

  • Bespoke emotes and other virtual tokens for influencers

  • Imagery for clothing

  • Memes

It’s important to keep bang up to date with what kind of imagery is currently proving popular, so your creations can successfully engage with contemporary audiences. 

You should also present yourself as a cutting-edge designer by having an attractive business website and an active presence on sites like Twitter and Instagram.

Posting examples of your creations and providing your expert commentary on, say, advertisements and design trends in the media can go a long way to catching the attention of prospective clients.

Be a freelance copywriter

It’s often said that most companies have to be publishers these days. They need to have great copy for their websites, for their social media channels, for marketing materials, and much more besides.

But not every company will have staff members with a knack for great writing, and this is where you can come in as a freelance copywriter. In this role, you may be asked to write:

  • Client case studies and profiles of staff

  • Ghostwritten think pieces by senior members of staff, on platforms like LinkedIn

  • Regular blogs to keep the client ranking highly on search engines

  • Posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

  • Marketing copy

You can snag your first clients by advertising your services on marketplaces like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour. 

Of course, you can also invest some time directly emailing companies to ask if they require any written content. You can then hopefully secure repeat business with clients who are pleased with your writing.

Track your business costs

Keeping your business finances separate from your existing current account can make it easier to keep track of your revenues and any expenses that may be incurred. A SumUp online business account is the simple solution you can set up in moments.

Learn more

5. Teaching online

Imparting your knowledge can be a route to making money, thanks to the array of online platforms which connect tutors to those who want to learn

Formal qualifications in subjects aren’t typically required, so you can get started right away. Read on for some great online business ideas UK-wide which can bring you a new income and genuinely make a difference to other people’s lives.

Sell online courses

More and more people are learning skills online, and it’s estimated that this industry will be valued at over $650 billion by the close of the decade. Leading marketplaces for online courses include Udemy and Skillshare, offering a diverse array of categories you could contribute to.

You might create a full bootcamp on JavaScript, offer a course on how to build a social media audience, teach the principles of positive thinking, or provide a complete beginner’s guide to playing the violin. 

Providing you have deep expertise in a field, you can monetise your knowledge by uploading carefully curated courses.

These courses may be made up of online lectures, exercises, and downloadable files. The more in-depth, the better. And there’s potential to reach corporate audiences as well as individuals. Companies like Samsung and Volkswagen recommend courses on Udemy to their staff members.

Of course, the quality of your videos is crucially important, and you may need to invest in audiovisual equipment and hire a freelance editor. The top marketplaces have detailed help sections providing pointers on making marketable videos.

Don’t forget to market yourself on social media as well. You could upload snippets of courses on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and offer referral perks for followers who recommend your courses to others.

Do virtual personal training

Unlike most other small online business ideas on our list, this one does require formal training. In order to establish yourself as a reputable personal trainer, you’ll need to have Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualifications at the minimum.

The good news is that you can choose from many training providers accredited by the industry body CIMSPA. 

While it will require some chunky financial investment, being a personal trainer is a business with very low overheads after that – especially if you do the bulk of your training online.

Online PTs tend to start their client relationships with an audit, which means discussing the client’s fitness goals, assessing their current physical status, and devising a workout plan that’s tailored to them.

You’ll then keep in touch with clients via regular check-ins, perhaps by conference calls on platforms like Teams and Zoom, to ensure the client is meeting their targets.

Having a smart, attractive website setting out your qualifications and how you operate is key. It also helps to be active on social media. 

You could upload workout videos on Instagram, for example, or tweet fitness tips. The world of personal training is highly competitive, so going the extra mile in marketing yourself can really pay dividends.

Tutor kids

Private tutoring used to require travelling to people’s homes, which meant it took up a fair amount of time and racked up travel expenses. Plus, the potential client base of tutors would be restricted to the maximum distance they were prepared to travel. 

No such limitations apply to online tutoring. Equipped with a computer and a webcam, you’re able to teach kids right across the country from the comfort of your own home

You won’t require experience as a schoolteacher or formal qualifications, though online tutor marketplace sites like Tutorful and MyTutor will have their own enrolment requirements.

Being an online tutor can be a great side hustle as you can fit it around your primary career responsibilities, and work as little or as much as you’d like.

 If you feel confident in your abilities to communicate academic subjects, answer questions and offer guidance in a patient, warm and empathetic way, this could be a great online business idea to consider.

When you consider that the private tutoring industry is estimated to be worth up to £6 billion in this country alone, the revenue potential is clear.

Tutor adults

The world of online tutoring isn’t solely focused on adults helping kids. You can also provide one-to-one tutoring to other adults, thanks to platforms like Superprof.

The latter is a bustling marketplace where you can advertise your services as an online tutor and join millions of other mentors located right around the globe. You can set your schedule and tailor your curriculum to suit each individual client

Your subject can be as niche as you like. As an example of just how niche, you can find tutors on Superprof who specialise in teaching people how to solve Rubik’s Cubes. Of course, you can also pass on your knowledge of bigger subjects, such as coding, graphic design, or cooking.

You might find yourself teaching university students, people keen to boost their CVs by taking on new skills, or casual hobbyists looking to expand their horizons

Just be sure to write a detailed advert describing why you’re an authority on your subject, and don’t forget to add a warm, welcoming photo of yourself too.

Become a life coach

As a life coach, you help people unlock their inner potential, meet their goals and generally live more enhanced, productive and fruitful lives. You might provide support and guidance on:

  • Career development

  • Tackling stress and anxiety

  • Finding a purpose in life

  • Developing good habits

  • Being more confident

  • Improving romantic and business relationships

It’s perfectly possible to provide life coaching online, via conference calls, email and text messages. While there are no official barriers to entry as a life coach, most practitioners will have certain qualifications.

These can include a diploma accredited by organisations such as the International Coaching Federation and the Association for Coaching, and a qualification in NLP, or neurolinguistic programming. You’ll find plenty of providers running courses online.

Gaining clients as a life coach often comes down to building your reputation and having clients recommend you to their colleagues and friends. However, placing ads on sites like the Life Coach Directory can be a good way to get started.

Why should you consider small online business ideas?

Our list of ideas for online business founders is highly diverse, but there are some advantages they have in common. It’s these plus points that can make online business ideas so attractive to budding entrepreneurs.

They’re cheaper to set up

Online businesses tend to cost far less to set up and run compared to other types of businesses. Very often, you’ll only need a computer, an internet connection and some software tools to get things going.

Contrast opening an online dropshipping store with launching a physical shop. Even if you factor in paying for a freelance designer to create a logo and other business costs, your financial risk will be miniscule compared to having to buy stock and pay the rent and bills.

Some online business ideas, like being a web developer or virtual personal trainer, may require you to pay for training and qualifications. But after that initial investment, these will also be cheap to run since they don’t require elaborate tools or pricey premises.

They offer flexibility

An online business will give you the freedom to operate in a way that suits you. Since you generally won’t have to deal with customers in real time, you can make your working hours fit around your lifestyle and responsibilities.

There’s a physical freedom with this kind of business as well. You can work from home, mix things up by decamping to a local café, or keep your business going while you’re abroad.

So, whether you’re pondering how to make money on the side of a primary career, or like the idea of being a digital nomad and working as you travel, a great online business idea can be ideal.

You have a potentially vast customer base

Unlike businesses which require in-person interactions with customers, online business ideas aren’t usually limited by geography. This means you have a potentially gigantic, international audience to sell your products or services to.

What’s more, you won’t necessarily have to spend your budget on any online marketing. Just set up accounts on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to engage with your potential customers.

This is known as organic reach and it can be a very effective way to slowly but surely bolster your brand.

It can be easier to scale your business

Scaling a business means increasing your productivity and revenue without racking up extra running costs. This is in contrast to simply growing a business, which means ploughing in extra investment. For example, by hiring more staff or renting bigger premises.

Many online businesses don’t require you to expand your infrastructure or spend more money in order to meet increasing demand. If, say, your Substack or YouTube channel takes off, or your print-on-demand fashion line sees an uptick in sales, your revenue will rise without you having to invest more or work more.

What’s more, handy online tools like SumUp Invoices can take the hassle out of dealing with increased output.

How can you identify the best online business to start?

You may be lucky enough to already know with complete certainty what kind of online business you’d like to launch. But what if you’re not quite sure yet? Let’s consider three green flags that may indicate a business idea is right for you.

It pushes your buttons

In other words, you’re genuinely excited by the concept. Authentic enthusiasm is the lifeblood of any business, especially in the early stages where you may not be making any money and you’re devoting all your spare hours into taking it from dream to reality. If you’re not enjoying the process, it’ll be harder to ride out any bumps in the road.

You already have the expertise to make it happen

These days, you can learn many new skills from the comfort of your own home – think online courses on mastering social media, getting one-to-one training to brush up design skills, or coding bootcamps.

But it may be worth focusing on business ideas which utilise skills you already have. This will ensure you can get started more quickly, don’t have to spend money on training, and generally feel more comfortable running the business.

It suits your personality

Do you consider yourself a “people person” and thrive on making new contacts and putting yourself out there? Then you might be well suited to, say, online tutoring, streaming on Twitch, or being an Instagram influencer.

On the other hand, if you prefer to work behind the scenes and not interact with customers directly, then working as a writer or social media consultant may be a better fit.

Ultimately, your idea needs to match your “professional personality”, otherwise you may feel bored or even uncomfortable running the business.

How to launch your online business

After carefully picking out the best online business for you, you’ll be ready to make it come alive. While it’s exciting, there’s no denying that the question of how to start an online business can be a daunting one, so let’s break it down into digestible chunks.

Do your market research

It’s vital to know your intended market inside and out, even when you’re launching a small online business idea. This is where the internet will be your friend.

Look up your competitors

You’ll want to know exactly who your business rivals are, so use your preferred search engine to explore the digital landscape of your chosen sector.

For example, if you’re launching a dropshipping site specialising in sportswear, look up similar websites to carefully assess what kinds of products they stock, their pricing structure and how you can expand on their offering.

Or, say you’re looking to create a true crime podcast. This is a highly competitive genre, so you’ll need to browse the major podcast directories to check which cases have been exhaustively covered and work out how you can shed light on lesser-known stories.

To take another example, if you’re creating a vegan cookery Instagram channel which will be monetised with affiliate links, research the top foodie influencers in that sector. How have they filmed their videos, how often do they post, and what companies do they have affiliate partnerships with?

This kind of research will help you structure your business and make the necessary preparations for taking your sector by storm.

Find out what the market wants

Social media platforms don’t just provide a great way to promote your business. They also allow you to gauge current tastes and trends, eavesdrop on daily discourse between your potential clients and customers, and identify business opportunities.

Say you’re creating a fashion line with a feminist focus – keeping track of the latest Twitter talking points and hashtags can inspire the designs you create and ensure you stay relevant.

Or, if you’re a virtual personal trainer, you’ll probably want to keep up with current fitness trends, what kinds of workouts are currently “in”, and what the biggest fitness influencers are talking about on TikTok and Instagram. You can then get involved in this discourse and highlight your business in the process.

Social media research can even help if you’re a freelance writer or graphic designer. Reading Twitter and LinkedIn posts by company executives may reveal what projects they have in the pipeline and what kinds of content they’re hoping to source. You can then tailor your pitch emails to meet these upcoming requirements.

Don’t forget to read the Google Reviews of rival businesses, if available. What do customers like and dislike about your competitors, and how can you meet their demands?

Decide your business legal structure

Wondering how to register a business? It depends on what kind of legal structure you adopt. As a small online business founder, there are three main structures you should consider.

Sole trader

If you’re a sole trader, you are your business. This means that any money you make is yours to take, after deducting whatever that’s owed as tax. In fact, registering with HMRC for tax purposes is one of the few formalities involved with being a sole trader.

The relative lack of official paperwork makes being a sole trader the easiest, simplest, quickest way to get your business off the ground. But it’s important to note that, since you and your business will be legally indistinguishable, you’ll be personally liable for any losses or debts the business incurs.


Starting an online business with one or more other people? You might choose to form a partnership. This is very similar to the sole trader structure, except that multiple people will run the business.

One of you will have to be the “nominated” partner, responsible for submitting a separate tax return for the business. Whether or not you’re the nominated partner, you’ll also have to submit your own tax return.

Limited company

The third main option when you’re pondering how to start a business is to create a limited company, which brings some advantages over operating as a sole trader or partnership. 

It will establish your online business as its own entity, legally speaking. This means that if your limited company runs into debts or losses, you won’t be personally financially liable.

Depending on the nature of your business, operating as a limited company can also make you look more credible. This won’t be a consideration if, say, you’re running a YouTube channel or tutoring online. But if you’re launching a business as a copywriter or designer, be aware that some corporations will only work with limited companies.

Bear in mind that setting up a limited company is a more involved process, since you’ll need to register your business with Companies House and adhere to stricter accounting requirements. 

Your business will also have to pay Corporation Tax. This is why many limited company founders choose to set aside some budget to hire an accountant.

Set out your 7Ps marketing strategy

The 7Ps marketing strategy, often simply known as the marketing mix, is a time-honoured way to formulate how your business is perceived. It’s been used by company founders for decades.

Even if you’re only concerned with how to make extra money with a small online business, being aware of the 7Ps can help you present your company in the best possible light.


This is very often the most important “P”, as it refers to the core product or service you’re offering. A product-focused marketing strategy will mean emphasising what your unique selling point is, and how your business is tangibly better than your rivals’.


Working out the right pricing structure is vital to any business. You need to be aware of what similar businesses charge, and decide whether you want to undercut them as a budget option, or charge more as a premium alternative. You should also map out when you might promote discounts and subscriptions.


How are you going to get the word out about your business? Certain social media platforms may be more relevant to your work than others. For example, if you want to specialise in corporate content, LinkedIn will probably be a more useful focus of your time than Instagram. This “P” can also encompass reaching out to influencers and paid marketing, such as Facebook ads.


In the context of online business ideas, this “P” can refer to your online store, business website, and/or social media channels. You need to be in complete control of these various spaces, and plan how often to update your content in order to stay visible to potential customers.

Physical evidence

Despite the name, “physical evidence” can include digital items such as email newsletters, PDF files and digital invoices. Ensuring such things are accurate and professionally presented can be vital to winning customer confidence and encouraging return business.


This “P” may simply refer to yourself, if you’re running your online business alone. It’s a reminder that, as well as providing the best possible product or service, you must also ensure your customer service is top-notch. This means answering emails promptly, dealing with questions and complaints efficiently, and maintaining a consistent tone and presence on social media.


You’ll need to be clear on how your business will actually operate. There are plenty of online tools that can help things run as smoothly as possible, whether you want to set up a user-friendly online store, take online payments through social media, or have a convenient online business account to track your revenues.


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