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Starting a business doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, we have 13 ideas for businesses you can start online for free! So if you’re dreaming of starting your own business online, you have zero excuses. Let’s get to work!
Read on to see our 13 favorite businesses you can start online for free.
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How to Start an Online Business
The online world has created a huge amount of opportunities for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and people that want to take their passion projects to the masses.
No matter what you’re selling, chances are there’s someone out there online looking to buy it.
While anyone can launch a business from home, there are some tips and tricks to give yours a better chance of succeeding.
First thing’s first, you’ll need to do some market research for business ideas. You don’t need to hire a professional for this, simply look around online and determine who your competitors are.
What price are they selling your product for? How large of a customer base do they have (see this by looking at the number of reviews per product page, on Google reviews, and/or seeing how large of a social media following they have).
Competition is fine, but you want to make sure your competitors are selling a lot of that product so you’ll be more likely to sell yours.
Next, you’ll need a business plan. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Help your business succeed by laying out exactly how you plan to execute your vision.
When you’re doing putting together your business plan, you’ll also want to start a list of start-up tasks you’ll need to complete to get your business off the ground so you know your next moves you need to take.
What You Need to Know Before Starting an Online Business
If you’re planning to launch a business online without money, your biggest assets are your time and skills. If you’re building a service-based business in a field you’ve already been working in, get started by reaching out to past and current clients and offering your services to them (as long as where you work didn’t make you sign a non-compete contract).
Use your existing connections and get some reviews built up from them so you can use that from marketing and expand from there.
If you’re starting a business in a field that you haven’t been working in or it isn’t directly related, you’ll be starting from scratch. Reach out to friends, family and acquaintances and let them know you’re starting a business if they or anyone they know would like to use your services.
You’ll likely need to offer your services at a discount from your competitor’s prices to attract customers. Once you have some solid online reviews and a steady stream of clients, you’ll want to increase your prices and keep expanding with marketing.
The same idea applies to product businesses, you’ll likely need to start with a lower price to attract customers. Or you’ll need a very unique value proposition that attracts a specific niche demographic of people.
Online Businesses Ideas That Cost No Money
Start a Blog
Blogging for a niche topic has a lot of potential for future upside and requires very little money to start. You can get a WordPress website for free, then a domain and web-hosting for less than $20.
Blogging is an extremely popular online business to start, and in order to be successful without spending a fortune on advertising, you’ll want to narrow down your topic so that you’re more likely to show up in Google search results. This is the best way to get free traffic to your blog.
This online business idea goes hand in hand with blogging as they’re often combined. If you’re not familiar with the term affiliate marketing, it’s simply recommending a product to your readers or followers and using a unique referral link that allows you to be compensated a percentage of the sale as a commission.
You can do this with blogging, on social media, or Youtube. Just like with blogging, you’ll want to narrow down your recommendations and what topics you focus on to a specific niche to be the most successful.
Social Media Manager
This is an excellent and in-demand B2B (business to business) idea. Every business, whether they’re online or a physical business, needs a social media presence. If you’re good at working the social channels and enjoy marketing, social media management would be a great fit for you.
You can list your services on Fiverr and create a website, as well as reach out to businesses with a cold email to offer your management services.
Many small businesses have no idea where to even begin when it comes to promoting themselves, their websites, services or products. In fact, many wouldn’t even know what the term search engine optimization (SEO) even means!
This creates a great opportunity to help them grow their reach and increase their sales, all by optimizing their website and content marketing. This is an invaluable tool for companies and a skill you can easily market to them.
If you don’t already have experience in this field, Google also has free online courses that teach basic digital marketing skills and includes a certification upon completing and passing the exam. You can also find more advanced trainings on sites like Udemy and Coursera.
Many small business websites don’t include a blog section which is a huge missed opportunity. Content marketing is a great way to be seen by potential customers in free Google searches, as well as provides credibility and positions the business as an expert.
If you enjoy writing and have great grammar skills, offer content-writing services for businesses in various industries. It helps to narrow down to one or two when you’re first starting out. Some great small business industries to target when reaching out to promote your services are:
Real estate agents
While technically not free, this is a very low cost business idea. If you enjoy going to thrift stores, garage sales, or perusing your local Craigslist and Facebook marketplace, this may be a good idea for you. Look for items you think you can sell online at a higher price than you’re able to buy them.
By finding an item in person and then putting it online, you’re expanding your buyer pool significantly. List your items on Facebook, eBay or Poshmark. This can result in a nice profit! Some great items to target are:
Shoes & jewelry
Small home appliances
Modern website building tools like Squarespace, Wix and Shopify make it possible to launch a beautiful website without any coding or technical expertise required. However, so many businesses don’t have the time (or want to spend the time) putting one together for their brick & mortar business. That’s where you come in!
If you have a great eye for color and design, this may be a great fit for a business you can start for free at home. Create a website for yourself and use that to show clients what you’re capable of. Start your prices off low so you can get some gigs and grow from there.
You can list your services on your own branded website, Fiverr, Upwork, and look for businesses that might need your services by perusing the job listings on Indeed and offering to do the work as a contractor rather than an employee.
This business doesn’t require any specialized skills, just the ability to be organized and attentive to your clients’ needs. Virtual assistant tasks can include wide variety of things, from data entry to reception work and scheduling, or even some marketing activities if you’re proficient and your client wants it.
As you get busier, you may even be able to hire on other assistants to increase your ability to serve more clients.
Many people are busy or don’t know much about travel, other than that they need a vacation! If you enjoy traveling, planning and organizing, this may be a dream online business for you.
Plan out the perfect trip for your clients based on their wants, needs and budget. You can start out by planning a trip or two for family or friends, then get a review from them to use to market yourself.
There is a huge amount of information on the internet for any kind of trip or any location your client may be interested in so you can become an expert in no time. Your greatest advantage is having the time to actually do the research, compared to your clients and their busy lives!
Dropshipping has made a huge name for itself in recent years and for good reason, it’s a great way to get started with an online store. With dropshipping, you work directly with the supplier/manufacturer to fulfill your orders as they come in.
This means you never have to keep any inventory and you don’t have to physically prepare, package and ship any orders yourself. As the store owner, your main function will be to market and grow your customer base, as well as provide great customer service.
There are many videos, courses, and blogs devoted to this topic so you’re sure to find plenty of information to get started.
Similar to dropshipping, a print-on-demand business doesn’t require you to hold any inventory or fill any orders yourself. The difference is you are in charge of designing the products and making them unique in order for them to sell.
There are tons of products you can choose from, some of the most popular being mugs, T-shirts, wall hangings, art prints, customized jewelry, hats, and other home goods, clothing, and accessories.
You can start a store for your print-on-demand business on Shopify or Etsy and connect it directly to a print-on-demand platform like Printify or Gelato so that your process is totally automated. All you’ll have to do is market your products and respond to customer issues or inquiries!