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. With the increase of online businesses, online sales are projected to reach $3.56 trillion by 2022.
Below are several incredible freelance and small business opportunities in a variety of different industries you can start working on today to be a part of the growing online business world.
Online Business Opportunities
- Gig Work
- Web Design
- App Development
- Amazon Selling
- Etsy Selling
- Course Creation
- Virtual Assisting
- Influencer Marketing on Social Media
- Freelance Writing
- SEO Consulting
- Resume Writing & Career Coach
- Online Recruiting
- E-book Writer
- Affiliate Marketing
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 is only accelerating due to current events. Tommy Landry of Return on Now, explains this transformation. "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 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."
1. Gig Work
Want a way to start making money in minutes? Sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and People Per Hour allow you to do just that. Some sites are better than others — in terms of both opportunities and pay — so you should do your research to find the best side hustles 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.
App development is on the rise and having a mobile app that is interactive and fits the niche of your audience enthralled by your mobile app. Just like software development, “app development is software intended to utilize the unique features and hardware of mobile devices,” states Sean Peek.
4. Amazon Selling
While the working conditions of Amazon's employees regularly come under fire, 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. Etsy made over $3.1 billion in September 2021 and is still on the rise. Esty is an art fair combined with a marketplace like eBay to give you a different type of product selling experience.
If it's handmade, vintage, or just a little bit different, Etsy's the place to find it (and sell it). With low costs to set up your Etsy store; Etsy has been beneficial in helping many artists sell their unique and eclectic pieces from fashion, home decor, to digital downloads for social media. There’s just about something for everyone on Etsy.
6. Course Creation
Sites like Udemy and Coursera allow you to market, sell, and profit from courses you've created yourself. Few of the courses are accredited, but that's reflected in the price students pay.
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 requires many soft skills that most people already have or can acquire fairly quickly. Plus, there are always businesses looking for people to take on day-to-day tasks without the cost of hiring an assistant in-house.
Virtual assistants are helpful for entrepreneurs and small businesses that do not want to deal with the cost of office space yet need help with the grunt work. Starting a virtual assistant business is not hard especially after you have narrowed down your niche. Using sites like Upwork, Fiverr, even LinkedIn can help start your virtual assistant business from anywhere.
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. Especially now that many brands are not using high-profile influencers due to the lack of authenticity and have started to connect and hire more micro-influencers who have smaller but more engaging followers to be a part of their brand.
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
- Copywriting - 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. Being a freelancer allows you to choose the work you want to have while being flexible with your schedule and time and can be done just about anywhere.
10. SEO Consulting
If you are a pro at SEO, SEO consulting is a great way to start an online business. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is turning searchers into customers by using keywords, fresh data, and content that adheres with the Google Algorithm.
Whether you are updating blogs or searching for keywords to rank high on, an SEO consultant will develop an effective SEO strategy for a company or brand that can change how your company looks to searchers online, and ranking high on Google can help give any brand the traffic and engagement needed to help with their ROI.
11. Resume Writing and Career Coach
Most jobs on the market will like for any candidate to have a polished and up-to-date resume when applying for jobs. Well if you have a history in human resources or just have a knack for turning a resume into a high-paying job offer for people, resume writing and career coaching is the small business for you.
By resume writing and career coaching you can help formulate and offer tips and advice to clients on their career path, job applications, resume and cover letters, and how to interview like you already have the job while simultaneously working from anywhere and scheduling your own office hours via phone, email, or video chat.
12. Online Recruiting
Do you know how to connect the right people to the right job? Wellbeing an online recruiter is just that. If you have a skill that helps recruit people, setting up a small business in recruiting allows different companies to hire you to get them the people they need while you are not tied down to recruiting for just one company.
Much of the recruiting for businesses have become online based and many companies and brands will lower their HR department costs by outsourcing to online recruiters that still will help them fill vacant positions in the company.
13. E-Book Writer
If you’ve ever wanted to see your name on the cover of a book, this is your chance. With Amazon and other websites, self-publishing has been made easy. E-books are published books that can be downloaded from anywhere.
As a writer, you can create a book on just about anything while also cutting back on a lot of spending costs. For the traditional way of publishing books, you will have to pay out publishers, printing presses, and cover the supply for materials. Whereas, with e-books you don’t have to do any of that; all you have to do is write the book, market it, publish it, and sell it to anyone and anywhere in the world.
14. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend a product or service by sharing it on a blog, social media, email lists, etc. and you get a commission off of every time the link is clicked and when a purchase is made.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make passive income: the more products or services you use and share, the more money you’ll make from recommending them to your audience and followers. The higher your audience and engagement, the more seamless it is to earn money through affiliate marketing because your audience does all the work for you just with one click.
Remote Business Opportunities
- Professional Consulting
- Home-Based Child Care
- Elder Care
- Makeup & Hair Styling
- Pet Sitting
In addition to shifts in freelance and the gig economy work, many "traditional" industries are moving toward remote, asynchronous, or 1:1 models as well.
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 starting or growing businesses have easily-transferable skills they can use to make money from home in the form of business consulting.
Market yourself through online sites like Clarity as a professional consultant who assists others in launching and building successful businesses. Alternatively, you could also offer (and charge more for) in-person consultations or coaching packages.
2. Home-Based Child Care
Childcare is and always will be essential to many families. Daycare centers don't come cheap and also 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 little ones, why not pocket a little extra cash by 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, high prices, or strangers watching their kids.
What in-demand skills do you have that you can teach to others?
Teaching languages, music lessons, reading or writing skills 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. Most of your customers will need assistance on a regular basis, so tutoring can provide consistent, 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 care often do better in their homes than moving to assisted living.
While certain elements of care require medical qualifications, helping clients with day-to-day tasks like shopping, cleaning, and cooking do not.
Driving for car-sharing services, like 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. All the hard work is done for you — you’ll just need the car.
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.
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 live events are fewer and farther between post-pandemic, so you’ll want to include mentions of your safety and health practices in your marketing materials.
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, and ensuring they're comfortable and safe while they're gone.
This is still a good option for side work here and there. Sites such as care.com and Rover 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 from property damage with accident insurance.
Although travel has decreased, Airbnb has outperformed hotels as a safer and more socially distant option for accommodations abroad.
New Business Opportunities
- Digital Education
- Virtual Reality
There will always be demand in traditional industries. However, it can be extremely profitable to be an innovator in an emerging industry by getting in early when there’s not much competition.
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.
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 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 an ever-increasing risk to these systems. A large workforce means more opportunity for phishing scams and malware to severely disrupt business operations or steal sensitive information.
For this reason, companies are investing in cyber security to mitigate the 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
The U.S. government supports small businesses by contracting work out. 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 always in demand.
Opportunities are typically listed on job sites like Indeed and Simply Hired.
Security is important for 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 have large markets. Those with the skills to help others maintain their health, maintain balanced nutrition, and learn consistency and discipline are in high demand.
So how do you get started as a personal trainer?
Personal training is a regulated industry, so, unfortunately, your 3-year gym membership doesn’t qualify you to help others improve their strength and fitness. If you don't know what you're doing, you could cause somebody serious injury. To become a Certified Personal Trainer, you’ll need to take a reputable personal training course, which is usually followed by a test.
After you get certified as a personal trainer you are able to make your own hours and schedule with your clients. Many personal trainers are finding ways to hold one-on-one and group fitness classes virtually or offering in-home services to get you to the lifestyle you desire.
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 the initial investment of time, money, and effort, can be a lot, it is often well worth the commissions. As a realtor, 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. The first step is to get a real estate license.
3. Turnkey Businesses
Turnkey businesses offer an ideal startup model for those with limited time or budget, largely because the time investment is minimal. A turnkey business model is one where the products or services are established and the buyer can manage the business right away.
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, 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 many businesses that offer 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 a risky business, primarily because the 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 building a food or drink business. You can start a food business for a fraction of the cost with a food or coffee truck.
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!"
There’s an online business opportunity for everyone.
The key to any successful small business is knowing exactly who your audience is, how you plan to attract and serve them, and building an attractive product or service. No matter your industry, skills, or expertise, you can find an opportunity to make money and be your own boss. The perks of time flexibility, location preference, and a stable income will be worth it. Start planning your online business today to start seeing earnings tomorrow.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.