Whether you want to free yourself from the personal and financial restrictions of employment or you just want to supplement your salary with some extra spending money, working for yourself or starting and growing a business has never been easier -- and there's never been a greater choice of roles to choose from.
Below are several incredible freelance and small business opportunities in a variety of different industries you can start working on today.
Online Business Opportunities
- Gig Work
- Web Design
- App Development
- Amazon Selling
- Etsy Selling
- Course Creation
- Virtual Assisting
- Influencer Marketing on Social Media
- Freelance Writing
Online business opportunities afford you all the benefits of working from home or, even better, from absolutely anywhere. The coworking industry has been growing for quite some time and are only accelerating due to current events.
Tommy Landry of Return on Now, explains this transformation. "One of the major changes to 'how we work' over the past decade is the massive shift toward free agency, i.e. freelancing, consulting, or running solopreneur-types of businesses," he says. "While many older workers were taught to pursue security in the form of a full-time job, that is no longer the only way to make a living. In fact, it has become super easy to make the leap out to independence [...] You could consult or freelance in a number of areas from copywriting to marketing strategy, or run your own ecommerce business from your home."
He also advises that no matter which path you choose, the smart way to "escape" your full-time job is to start making this transition while you're still working. "I started my own business as a side gig back in 2009, while running marketing teams for local high tech companies," he explains. "It took 2.5 years to build up the business enough to sustain a living income, and I went full-time in 2012. I'm living proof … if you want to run solo, you can do it with the right business model, a sound exit strategy, and a lot of hard work."
1. Gig Work
Another valuable (but often overlooked) resource for finding freelance work is Craigslist. "Craigslist has a whole section devoted to Gigs you can join to make additional money," says Carl Sednaoui, Director of Marketing at MailCharts.
Just bear in mind that these jobs aren't scalable. What they are, however, is a great way to make a little extra pocket money by outsourcing your skills on your own terms.
Some sites are better than others -- in terms of both opportunities and pay -- so you should do your research to find the best match for your skills, abilities, and expectations.
It's also well worth considering some sound advice from Foundr's Jeremy Noronha. "Go where your customers are, not where your competition is," he advises. "Many freelancers who get started tend to hang out in the online communities with their peers and not their potential clients. The best way to develop and build the right relationships is to provide value in all the places your ideal clients spend their time."
Some skills are more in demand than others. The rarer the skill (and the better you are at it), the more you can expect to earn.
2. Web Design
It can be tough to find great web designers and developers, and that's why freelance web designers are highly sought after. As Ashley Faulkes, founder of Mad Lemmings explains, one of the biggest reasons behind this is the fact that the industry is overrun with cheap-yet-underskilled designers and developers.
"Web design and development has gotten a bad rap lately with so many cheap options available, but I still find clients who want a personal and professional touch," she says. "You can start with the basics, and produce top-notch sites using online tools, or start with WordPress and good themes and page builders. Focus on quality and great communication and you will soon make a name for yourself."
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3. App Development
More than half of all web traffic is mobile. It may be competitive, but if you've got the skills, there's big money to be made either in developing and distributing your own app or developing apps for others.
4. Amazon Selling
While the working conditions of Amazon's own employees regularly come under fire, there are plenty of ways to make money through Amazon without being on its payroll.
Thanks to services like Amazon Fulfillment, it's easier than you might think to sell products from home, since Amazon will pick, pack, and deliver your orders for you. The service can even enable you to import and export outside your home country.
Other opportunities include self-publishing ebooks (you can learn more about writing books that sell here) and affiliate marketing, which involves linking to Amazon products from your website, and earning a commission if a link is clicked and a purchase made.
5. Etsy Selling
Etsy is the platform for selling goods such as arts, crafts, jewelry, and much more. Basically, if it's handmade, vintage, or just a little bit different, Etsy's the place to find it (and sell it).
6. Course Creation
They're also far more popular than you might think. "Online courses are huge right now," says David Hoos, Head of Marketing at The Good marketing agency. "They can be incredibly helpful to develop niche skills and businesses will often use them for professional development purposes. If you have a unique skill that you can organize and share, a course is a great way to do it!"
7. Virtual Assisting
Working as a virtual personal assistant takes minimal skill and is easy to get into, since there are always businesses looking for people to take on day-to-day grunt work without the cost of hiring an assistant in-house.
8. Influencer Marketing on Social Media
This one might sound like wishful thinking, but countless people are making substantial amounts of money simply by having a large and engaged social following.
Sure, it's not for everyone, and even if it is for you, it takes time to become successful. That said, if you've got the right personality and patience, making money using your influence online is a very real possibility.
9. Freelance Writing
With the demand for digital content, you can position yourself in front of clients who need text produced for their websites or other collateral. The most popular freelance opportunities are in:
- Content writing - Writing article content to drive traffic.
- Copy writing - Writing sales copy to drive conversions and revenue.
In addition, you can even be more specialized within those functions. For example, you could focus on case studies or whitepapers.
Remote Business Opportunities
- Professional Consulting
- Home-Based Child Care
- Elder Care
- Makeup & Hair Styling
- Pet Sitting
Shifts aren't just happening in the realms of employment vs. freelance or online work. Many "traditional" industries are moving toward remote, asynchronous, or 1:1 models rather than in-person and 1:many models.
While some of these industries have been disrupted by the events of 2020, many smart business owners are pivoting to safer methods of providing services, especially when so many consumers are looking for socially distant or more convenient solutions to modern problems.
1. Professional Consulting
Those with an enviable track record in setting up or helping to grow businesses have easily-transferable skills they can use to make money from home.
Market yourself as a professional consultant who assists others in launching and building successful businesses through online sites like Clarity. Alternatively, you could also offer (and charge more for) in-person consultations, either going out to visit clients on their turf, or having them come to your home office (although you should probably get changed out of those PJs first).
2. Home-Based Child Care
Childcare is and always will be essential to many families. Daycare centers don't come cheap and present health concerns for families with immuno-compromised or at-risk family members or children. If you're already spending the day keeping a watchful eye over your own little ones, why not pocket a little extra cash by undercutting the "pros" and providing childcare to friends and neighbors, too? This can be a welcome solution for parents who need care but don't want the concerns of daycares with large gatherings or high prices.
What in-demand skills do you have that you can teach to others? Business skills like consultancy are generally the most profitable, as you can charge much more for your time -- but it's usually harder to find clients, and many of your bookings will be one-off training sessions.
Other skills, from teaching languages to music to helping with reading or writing, are all easy to turn into businesses -- and they can be reasonably lucrative and hugely rewarding, too.
What you can charge will depend upon your experience, location, and vocation you're teaching; just don't expect to make your millions this way. That said, most of your customers will need assistance on a recurring basis, so tutoring should at least provide you with a regular, reliable income. Best of all, it can be done virtually.
4. Elder Care
Like childcare, care for the elderly is an essential service that will always be in demand. What's more, those that need it often do better when able to remain in their own homes instead of moving into assisted living.
While certain elements of care require medical qualifications, helping clients with day-to-day tasks like shopping, cleaning, and cooking do not.
The gig economy isn't for everyone, but for the right person, driving for Uber or Lyft are great ways to make a little cash. You can choose the hours you drive, and the app will automatically connect you to clients who need a ride.
Have you ever seen a piece of furniture on Craigslist that has potential if someone would just give it a little TLC? If you are particularly handy, you could go to thrift shops and garage sales, pick up items at low prices, refurbish them, and turn them around for a higher price.
This concept doesn't just apply to furniture, either. If you have a good eye, you could scout for collectibles, oddities, and more. Auction sites like eBay can connect you with a wide audience looking for your items.
7. Makeup & Hair Styling
Graduations, weddings, and other special occasions compel people to look their best. You can become an independent stylist and have people come to your home studio, or you can make house calls or work on-location.
Eventually, you might consider opening up a salon or spa, but many independent artists love the flexibility of working from home and/or being mobile.
Keep in mind that events are fewer and farther between heading into 2021, so this may not be the best industry to venture into now, but there will always be graduations and weddings, even if those events are held virtually.
8. Pet Sitting
Just like in-home child care, pet sitting is an industry that you can tap into to make extra money. Many folks want the peace of mind knowing that someone is there for their fur baby, ensuring they're comfortable and safe while they're gone.
Demand for this type of work is currently down due to many families staying home with their family members, but it is still a good option for side work here and there. Sites such as care.com help put potential clients in front of pet sitters in their local area.
If you have an extra room, casita, or property, you can use it to earn money when you sign up as an Airbnb host. You can list your space for free, and Airbnb does all the heavy lifting for you, making it easy to attract and host travelers. You can charge what you want, and Airbnb even protects you with property damage and accident insurance.
Demand for this type of service has definitely decreased due to fewer folks traveling. However, Airbnb has outperformed hotels as a safer and more socially distant option for accommodations abroad.
New Business Opportunities
- Digital Education
- Virtual Reality
Some businesses offer commodities, and that's okay. There will always be demand and solution providers to meet that demand. However, it can be extremely profitable to be an innovator in an emerging industry, getting in on the ground floor where there's not a lot of competition yet. Here are a few examples of new business opportunities of this sort:
1. Digital Education
During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and universities had to pivot to distance learning. This led to an explosion of demand for digital education solutions such as learning management software, conferencing tools, and innovative approaches to asynchronous teaching.
And this isn't a temporary trend, either. In fact, the online education market was already expected to grow from $107 billion to $350 billion by 2025 before COVID-19 (MarketWatch). While school closures may have caused an initial surge, the the industry was already on an upswing. Educators' eyes have been opened to new methods of teaching as well as ways to be more inclusive of students with special needs.
To top it off, the pandemic also drew attention to online learning for non-school-aged individuals as well. 2020 saw a boom in online continuing education for adults.
Whether you're a software developer solving for logistics or a course creator who does the teaching, there's opportunity in the digital education space.
As more organizations turn to remote work, distributed teams, and convenient cloud solutions to manage business needs, there's ever-increasing risk to these systems. Even having a large work force means more opportunity for phishing scams and malware to severely disrupt business operation or steal sensitive information.
For this reason, companies are investing in cyber security to mitigate risk of data breaches and other digital threats. As a result, the cyber security industry is expected to grow from nearly $166 billion in 2021 to $366 billion in 2028 (Fortune Business Insights).
3. Virtual Reality
VR has been around a while, with obvious applications in the gaming industry. However, its capability is being adapted for a wide range of other use cases. For example, an eyeglass company deploying VR for virtual try-ons or a furniture company helping you visualize a product in your home.
A creative entrepreneur may be able to find a foothold in innovating for brand experiences and more.
Federal Business Opportunities
This might sound surprising in the age of corporate giants, but where possible, the U.S. government supports small businesses by contracting work out to local independents. This means there are always opportunities for the "little guy" to get their foot in the door with the federal government. You can view a forecast of contracting opportunities here.
Meanwhile, common federal business opportunities include:
This could entail constructing new government buildings or updating or maintaining existing buildings. Even simple janitorial work is understandably always in demand.
Security is, understandably, of extreme importance in government buildings. While this will include security measures like cameras and alarms, security personnel are often employed in order to screen visitors and patrol the interior and exterior of buildings at off-hours.
While you can provide security services as a sole contractor, the business is easily scalable by employing and finding work for others.
Consultants are experts in a specialist field who are employed to advise those with less knowledge and experience than themselves. Government consultants are no different.
Don't expect finding work in this area to be easy, however. You'll need solid proof of your ability to do the job, and you may well be required to have a degree -- in some cases, even a master's or Ph.D.
Other Business Opportunities
If none of the opportunities above sound like something you could leverage, here are a few other lucrative business opportunities that could be the right fit for your skills:
1. Personal Training
Health, fitness, and general wellbeing are big business. That means those with the skills to help others be their best are in high demand. That includes personal trainers, for one.
So how do you get started as a personal trainer?
Personal training is an unregulated industry, but that doesn't mean your 3-year gym membership qualifies you to help others improve their strength and fitness. If you don't know what you're doing, you could cause somebody serious injury.
You can read up on reputable personal training courses and what to do once you're qualified, here.
Best of all, many personal trainers are finding ways to hold one-on-one and group fitness classes virtually.
2. Real Estate
In many states, you can complete the required training, become a licensed agent, and start a new career in just a few weeks or months. While it does require an investment of time, money, and effort, it can be well worth it. You can be your own boss, work a flexible schedule, and have the potential to make a lot of money. While there is no shortage of real estate agents in the industry, there's still plenty of space for agents who genuinely want to do the best they can for their clients. Learn how to get a real estate license here.
3. Turnkey Businesses
Turnkey businesses offer an ideal startup model for those with limited time or budget, largely because the time investment is minimal.
Examples of turnkey businesses include storage units, laundromats, and automated car washes -- basically, turnkey businesses are those that are largely self-sufficient and can almost manage themselves.
4. Trade Work
If you're skilled in DIY and happy to compete on price while making a name for yourself, you can start leveraging your skills for cash right away.
Don't know a hammer from a hacksaw? Then enroll in a course and learn. Skilled trades are one of the few industries in which demand outstrips talent. Whether you want to start out on your own, or begin by working for someone else, the pay is good, the work is rewarding, and job security is pretty much guaranteed.
A few trades you might want to consider include:
- Iron work
- Auto repair
- Auto detailing
5. Lead Generation
Almost all B2B companies have a need for leads. What they don't all have is the time to acquire them.
While there are numerous services offering up automated lead data, the quality of those leads is questionable at best. That means there's good money to be made sourcing qualified leads for time-strapped, growth-focused companies.
AeroLeads' Pushkar Gaikwad has some good advice on how to do this. "Partner with local marketing agencies and provide them with B2B data, prospects and leads, based on their requirements," he says. "You can gather such data using various free and paid online tools. Later you can start your own lead generation agency, too."
6. Food or Coffee Truck
Running a restaurant or coffee shop is risky business, primarily because overhead is so high. COVID-19 regulations also made it difficult for restaurants to adapt and thrive, which makes the food industry an even more risky one to enter into. However, traditional brick-and-mortars are not your only option when it comes to managing a food or drink business. You can be super-successful for a fraction of the cost with a food or coffee truck. In addition, this is a great alternative for foodies who want the experience of great food while being socially distant.
Izaak Crook of AppInstitute agrees. "Food trucks are a fantastic way to showcase your culinary expertise without the overhead of opening a static restaurant -- and what's more, you can take your food on the road to different events and festivals to raise awareness of your brand," he explains. "Create your own mobile app for your truck and help to build a loyal customer base through offering a loyalty scheme -- and even offer pre-ordering so that punters don't have to wait out in the cold whilst you prepare their meals!"
The key to any successful small business is knowing exactly who your audience is, how you plan to attract and serve them, and why they should buy from you. Start planning for your business today.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 8, 2021 1:45:00 PM, updated December 14 2021