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The 30 Most Successful Online Business Ideas in 2024

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This is the ultimate guide to online business ideas. 

You’ll learn: 

  • The best online business ideas to start in 2024
  • 20 other profitable online business ideas
  • How to start your own online business

So if you want to become an entrepreneur and leave the 9-to-5, you’ll learn the most important steps here.

Let’s dive right in.

The top 10 online business ideas in 2024

What kinds of businesses should you start online? (The best online businesses in 2024) 

The best types of businesses are profitable, sustainable, and simple to start.

I call these “Freedom Businesses.” 

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Let’s take a look at each of them in detail and how to get started. 

1. Coaching business

Want flexibility, freedom, and profit? A coaching business is one of the best online businesses you can start. 

As a coach, you guide your clients to get the results they want.

It’s a combination of giving your expert advice and helping clients find their own answers.

And as a business, it has huge earning potential.

Now I might be a little biased as I’ve built a multi-seven-figure coaching business. 

But that’s not an accident. 

With coaching, you can start right away with the skills you have. 

Because someone out there wants to learn something you already know. 

That’s a valuable service that can be wildly profitable for you.

Take my student Emily Liou for example. She used her years of experience as a recruiter for Fortune 500 companies to build a career coaching business. Now she helps people find the right career for them and nail that next job move. 

Coaching businesses have huge growth potential too, so you can build a successful online business. 

You might start with one-to-one clients. But as your business grows, you can branch out. 

Think online courses, group coaching programs, and digital products. These are all ways you can expand your coaching business into a Freedom Business. 

For example, my student Ruby Lee started a dating coaching business for men. She now has loads of digital products and a flagship course. These help her grow the business beyond one-to-one coaching.

Earning potential: Six to multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • You can start right away
  • Highly profitable

Disadvantages: 

  • You can only scale one-to-one coaching to about 10-15 clients; after that, you’ll need a more scalable business model to grow
  • You need expertise in a skill or specific niche

Get started: 

Check out this video where I talk about building your coaching business:

2. Consulting business

Like coaching, consulting businesses can also be very profitable.  

And you can build a thriving consulting business with the skills you have now. 

So what’s the difference between coaching and consulting?

Coaching allows the client to fill in their own answers to their problems. 

Consulting is about assessing the client’s needs and giving them the answers. 

Often, consultants work with businesses and coaches work with individuals, but not always.

Let’s look at an example. My student Mara Freilich, who worked for years as a lawyer, started a law school admissions consulting business. She helps people get into the best law schools in the country.

Consulting is a top business idea if you’re new to business because you can start today with the knowledge you have. 

Earning potential: Six to multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Low upfront cost to get started (you don’t even need a website!)
  • You can start right away

Disadvantages: 

  • Difficult to scale if you stick to a one-to-one model
  • Competitive depending on your niche

Get started: 

3. Freelance business

As a freelancer, you provide a service for money that is not coaching or consulting. 

Think copywriting, graphic design, photography, and so on. 

Freelancing can be surprisingly profitable. 

It has a low upfront cost because you can use your existing skills to get started. 

You will probably earn less than coaches and consultants because one-on-one, expert-based services typically have a higher perceived value. 

But if you find the right clients and do the work, you can reach six figures as a freelancer. 

Take Kat Boogaard for example. She’s a freelance writer who earns a six-figure income by finding consistent writing projects. 

Earning potential: Six figures; you would likely need extra income streams or hire a team to reach seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Great for flexibility
  • Low upfront cost to get started

Disadvantages: 

  • Difficult to scale because you trade time for money
  • Inconsistent income unless you get long-term clients

Get started: 

4. Online course business

Selling an online course is one of the best business ideas because it can be very profitable. 

In fact, the online course market will be worth $200 billion by 2024.

You can create a course using the knowledge you already know and continue selling it for years. 

It’s the most “passive” way to consistently make an income. (However, there is no truly passive income stream – everytype of business requires some effort.)

However, a course requires more upfront work than coaching, consulting, or freelancing. 

So can anyone become a course creator? 

Yes!

But I recommend that you start with coaching or consulting first. Here’s why. 

You need to know what’s going to bring your clients the best results before creating your course. 

By working with clients one-to-one, you learn the step-by-step process that will work for most people. You’ll also learn the common pitfalls and challenges they have. 

Once you’ve worked with a few clients, you can design a course that works.

Just look at my student Julie Kim. 

She’s a college consultant who helps high-school students get into their dream colleges. After working one-to-one with students, she created an online course that guides students through the admissions process. That’s how she achieved a consistent multiple six-figure income that gives her freedom and flexibility. 

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[Screenshot of Passion Project Bootcamp]

Earning potential: Six to multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Best method for earning “passive” income
  • Highly profitable

Disadvantages: 

  • More upfront costs than other business models 
  • Not as fast to set up as many service-based businesses

Get started: 

5. Software business

A software business is a company that sells a digital service to customers. 

A few examples include Slack or Asana. 

Now, software businesses can be very profitable but it’s much harder to get started than service businesses. 

First, you need to develop software to sell. Either you do it yourself if you have the skills or you find the right co-founding team. 

Then you need to build an audience to sell the product to. And that’s where most startups struggle. 

You could have the best software idea ever, but someone has to want it for your company to be successful. 

Plus, most software tools operate using a subscription model, so customers pay them every month to get access to their solution. But retaining customers is another thing you need to master if you run a SaaS business. 

Earning potential: Multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Highly profitable business model
  • Opportunity to be acquired if your idea is original enough

Disadvantages: 

  • Requires software development skills 
  • Competitive market
  • Rarely becomes completely passive income 

Get started: 

6. Agency

An agency is a business model that hires other professionals to complete client work. 

Your role as the head of the agency is to find the clients and manage the team to deliver the best service to those clients. 

So running an agency can be very profitable because you spend less time doing the work yourself. 

But if you want to become an agency, the best starting point is to become a coach, consultant, or freelancer.

This will help you build up a client base and know what your clients want. From there, you can expand your network to find professionals like you who can work for your agency.

My latest venture is a marketing agency called Zalstrom. I co-founded Zalstrom with an SEO expert I’ve worked together with for years to help businesses grow sustainably with marketing strategies like search engine optimization. I had used these strategies in my own business and saw the need for marketing services that deliver what they promise to clients.

Earning potential: Multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • High earning potential
  • Build authority in your industry

Disadvantages: 

  • It takes time to build an agency; better starting as a one-to-one professional first and then expand your team
  • Managing a team gives you less freedom

Get started: 

7. Creator business

A creator business is when you make money from creating content. 

Often creators will make their money from:

  • Revenue-sharing social media apps, such as YouTube AdSense
  • Sponsorships and brand deals
  • Affiliate marketing (we’ll talk more about that later)
  • Subscriptions, such as Patreon or Substack

Becoming a creator is fun –  you get to be yourself.

Your audience consumes your content because they are drawn to your personality and knowledge.

Overall, you don’t need to invest much to start a creator business.

That said, you do need time. 

To build an audience that can make you consistent income takes months or even years. 

It depends on your niche, the platform you choose, and your business strategy. 

But, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need millions of followers to make a living.

For example, Erika Cramer, as known as The Queen of Confidence, built a seven-figure business with less than 100k followers on Instagram. She used her content creation as a platform to sell other products like courses and coaching.

Earning potential: Five to multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Earn money from your personality and knowledge
  • Sponsorships can be highly profitable

Disadvantages: 

  • It takes time to build an audience
  • Highly competitive market
  • You need content creation skills

Get started: 

8. E-commerce business

An e-commerce business is a company that sells products online. 

For example, Dossier is an online store that creates and sells luxury-style perfumes at an affordable price.   

But you don’t have to sell physical products. Digital products count too. 

Take Violette Threads. They sell sewing patterns and tutorials to people who want to make their own clothes.

Both styles of e-commerce business start the same: 

You need to develop or source products and find a way to distribute them to customers. 

For physical products, that involves buying inventory, storage, and shipping. 

Because of the higher upfront costs, e-commerce is not as profitable as online businesses.  

However, if you target an in-demand niche, you could build a significant business.

Earning potential: Multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • More scalable than a physical store
  • Can be high earning

Disadvantages: 

  • High upfront costs to get started
  • Requires inventory space and warehousing 

Get started: 

9. Membership/subscription model

A membership or subscription business involves providing your customers with an ongoing service for a monthly fee. 

Subscription services could include physical or digital products. For example, HelloFresh is a successful meal subscription service that delivers meal kits to customers for a weekly fee.

The membership model is almost always online. 

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Take the Personal Development School. This is an online membership platform that gives members access to multiple courses on how to become more confident people. 

What do both have in common? To be successful, you need to retain your current members and attract new members. 

To do that, you need to keep adding/improving the service. 

This is a great business model for recurring revenue. But it is hard to get started without an audience.

Earning potential: Multi-seven figures

Benefits: 

  • Creates reliable monthly income
  • High earning potential

Disadvantages: 

  • Not passive income as you need to add more content to retain members
  • You need to build an audience to sell to

Get started: 

10. Affiliate marketing business

Affiliate marketing is when you recommend products to your audience and get a commission from each sale. 

Often, affiliate marketing businesses run from niche blogs. That’s the most accessible way to get started. 

Let’s look at an example. Sean Ogle has a multi-six-figure affiliate marketing business called Breaking Eighty. It’s a niche blog about golf that frequently recommends the best golfing gear to readers. 

To create an affiliate blog, you need to know about SEO to drive traffic to your site. 

Another way to become an affiliate marketer is to build an audience as a creator. You can then make a commission from affiliate links when you recommend products. 

However, this business idea takes a lot of sales volume, which takes time to build up. So this business model is often better as a side income.

Earning potential: Five to six figures

Benefits: 

  • Creates passive income
  • Easy to outsource affiliate blogging to freelancers

Disadvantages: 

  • Highly competitive depending on the niche
  • You need to learn SEO 

Get started: 

What other types of online businesses can you start online? 

Now you know the most profitable Freedom Businesses you can start, here are some other ideas. 

These suggestions won’t be as high earning or flexible as the ones we’ve already talked about. But they can be great additional income streams to your main business model. 

1. Digital products 

Digital products are online assets that your customers can download. 

Ideas include:

  • eBooks
  • Digital planners
  • Templates
  • PDF guides
  • Stock photo/video/audio

They normally cost under $5 each. You can sell them on your own website or marketplaces. For example, you can sell images on Adobe Stock or eBooks on Kindle.

But it is possible to make good money with digital products.

For example, Kayla Warner from Amma Rose Designs runs a high five-figure digital product business selling low-cost PDFs on Etsy. 

You have to sell a lot of volume, though, to reach that level of profitability and sustainability. 

2. Marketplaces 

A marketplace connects buyers and sellers of products or services. You make money by either taking a commission from the sellers or charging a subscription to be listed on the site. 

A great example is Airbnb. The homeowners are the sellers and the vacationers are the buyers. 

This can be a highly profitable business in the right market. But you need to retain both the buyers and sellers to make consistent revenue. Plus, you need a sizable audience to make this business work. 

What’s more, the number of sellers you have on your platform needs to match the number of buyers. If you have too many of one side, you create too much demand or supply and you repel one side. 

3. Apps

An app is a desktop or mobile application that provides a service to users. Sometimes the users pay for apps. Often apps make money through ads. 

Take Duolingo. This language-learning app reported earning $190 million in 2020. It mostly runs on ads, but it has a subscription option for power users. 

Because most apps are free to use, you need a lot of volume to make an app successful. 

You need an app that stands out, but also a lot of traffic to your app so that enough people sign up. 

However, a well-positioned app can make multiple seven-figures and be very profitable. 

4. Virtual assistant  

A virtual assistant is a freelance employee that helps businesses organize their workload. 

Your duties could include answering emails, managing a productivity system, and arranging digital files.

There are many types of virtual assistants – from e-commerce virtual assistants to special media virtual assistants.

As a service business, this can be highly profitable.

Hannah Dixon is a successful virtual assistant that earns over six figures in her business. She built this up by creating tailored services for high-ticket clients and networking.

That said, virtual assistance is not as profitable as many other services like coaching. The average hourly rate for virtual assistants in the US is only $27.60.

5. Email coaching 

Email coaching is a style of coaching business but through email only. 

Busy clients such as new parents or high-level executives might prefer email coaching because it’s less time-consuming than arranging a coaching call.  

Email coaching can be profitable but not as profitable as “full” coaching. This is because it’s difficult to charge the same rates for just email support.

But it does work well as an add-on to another primary business model – for example, if you sell an online course. 

6. Podcasting 

Podcasting is a type of creator business that involves building an audience to succeed.

The catch is you have to build a successful podcast first before you can monetize it. That means hours of work recording and marketing your podcast episodes so that your audience grows. 

After you grow a strong listener base, you can monetize your platform with brand deals. These brand deals can be five to six figures depending on how popular your podcast is. 

The most successful podcasters can live on brand deals alone. 

Take the podcast “Girls Gotta Eat” for example. 

“Girls Gotta Eat” is a relationship podcast led by two comedians Rayna Greenberg and Ashley Hesseltine. They are now full-time podcasters after building a community of listeners worldwide and having consistent brand partnerships. They also sell merch and host live shows as extra revenue streams.

7. YouTube 

Creating YouTube videos can be a highly profitable and fun online business to start. 

Essentially, you use the knowledge you have to create entertaining videos for your audience. 

But it’s not for everyone. You need to learn how to be engaging on camera and how to edit videos (or outsource to an editor). Plus, you need to understand how to create videos that get people’s attention.  

YouTube is hard to sustain with just AdSense unless you have a huge audience. That can take years to build. 

With a smaller audience, you can sell an online course or offer coaching for more income. 

Let’s look at an example. Katie Steckly is a YouTuber who built a six-figure creator business with 225k subscribers. She used a multiple income stream approach to achieve this with a relatively small audience. 

I also grew my own YouTube channel to six-figures in a year. 

8. eBook writing 

You can sell your own eBooks as a self-published author through Amazon. 

For example, Colleen Hoover started as a self-published author. Now she sells millions of copies worldwide. 

You’ll need to have a large audience to make this work as you’ll need to sell many eBooks to build a profitable business. 

For example, you need to sell at least 1500 copies to break even on costs for a $5 eBook.

9. Website flipping 

Website flipping is when you create or buy a website, grow the organic traffic, and then sell it for profit.

Sites like Flippa help you advertise the website. 

This is a great side business if you have SEO skills. You need to understand how organic traffic works and how to track conversions to build a profitable business. 

But you can make high five to six figures doing this. 

Take Jenn Leach. She made $100K flipping websites in 2021.

10. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a type of e-commerce business. You don’t create or ship the product. Instead, you hire a company to create and fulfill the orders for you. 

It can be a highly profitable business, but I don’t recommend it. 

Why? Dropshipping means you have very little contact with the products you’re selling. So you can’t ensure the best quality for your customers – and a profitable and sustainable business focuses on helping people.  

11. Blogging 

Did you know you can make money through blogging?  

Becoming a blogger takes time to build traffic but it can be a profitable business. 

Let’s look at an example. GoodTomiCha is a six-figure blog by Tomi Obebe. It took years to grow her blog but she hit the six-figure mark with AdSense and affiliate marketing.

As a blogger, you’d most likely sell a product like an online course to make it profitable – just using AdSense isn’t profitable enough. 

12. Mini consulting or coaching

Mini consulting or coaching involves offering one-off calls to people who have specific questions.

For example, as a money coach, you could offer a 60-minute budget audit session. 

These quick sessions are unlikely to make you a lot of money alone. They are better as an additional service to an established coaching business, creator business, or online course business.

13. Organizing online events

Online events can be one-off or ongoing meetups educating or entertaining your audience. 

A great example is The Financial Diet. They started as a creator business by building a following on YouTube. Now they have expanded to monthly online workshops for their members. 

It takes a lot of time and resources to do events well. You need to invest in software to host and market your events to your audience. 

You also need an audience to sell to. 

But if you have the time and money to invest, online events can be a profitable online business idea.

14. Organizing retreats or trips 

Retreats and trips can be online, offline, or hybrid. 

To be successful you need an audience of people who love your work. 

Take Matthew Hussey. Matthew Hussey is a popular dating coach who runs a hybrid offline-online retreat twice a year. This is how he built his multi-seven-figure business. 

If this is what you’re passionate about, go for it. But it’s not a highly profitable business model. 

It takes a lot of work, and the profit margins are low. 

15. Selling vintage clothes or products  

Selling vintage clothes or products is one of the fastest ways of making money online. 

You can sell things you already own, or you can flip items you’ve thrifted for a higher price. 

You don’t need an audience or any special knowledge. 

In fact, you can get started using an online marketplace like eBay, Vinted, or Poshmark and tap into those existing audiences. 

It’s a business model that gives you a lot of flexibility too. Because you have no one-to-one clients, you can work around your other commitments. 

Vanessa Bisorca is a stay-at-home mom who made $100K by selling second-hand clothes on Poshmark.

The drawbacks are that it takes a lot of time to source the products. You also need to sell a large volume to make over $1,000. 

16. Selling art 

If you’re an artist, you can build an online business selling your art. 

Successful artist Chanamon makes over $100k a year as an artist. She sells her art on marketplaces like Etsy as well as her own website.

To get to that level, you need to build up an audience. 

The number one thing that creates demand for your art is your reputation. One of the most effective strategies is reaching your audience on social media or other online platforms.

17. Creating a Substack newsletter 

If you’re a talented writer, Substack is a great platform to explore. 

Substack is a paid email subscription service that allows readers to subscribe to their favorite writers. 

If you build an engaged audience, you could make money from your content. 

Anne Helen Petersen earns six figures with her paid Substack newsletter Culture Study.

So how do you do it?

You need to build an audience on other platforms to succeed on Substack. 

The platform is not great at organic growth. However, once you have a loyal following, you can offer them your paid newsletter for exclusive content.

18. Creating niche websites 

Creating several niche websites can give you multiple income streams. 

Why do niche websites work so well? Because you can build the website’s authority around one topic. That helps with its SEO performance. 

High organic traffic for all of the websites is important for success. With high traffic, you can monetize the sites with Google ads or affiliate links. 

You could also sell the websites on Flippa for profit.

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19. Tutoring 

Online tutoring (teaching adults or kids a subject) is an accessible way of making money online.

There are several sites for this:

So how much can you earn from online tutoring? It depends on how much time you have and the platform you use. 

I built a six-figure tutoring business (though it wasn’t online).

But you rarely get to set your own price on online tutoring platforms. If you want to break into high five or six figures, you’ll need your own website and to build an audience of potential clients.

20. Teaching languages 

Language tutoring is a good side hustle business.

Often you need a teaching qualification, a degree, and a background check to get started.

Popular platforms include VIPKid and Preply.

Some claim you can make as much as $30,000 teaching languages online part-time.

The competition for native English speakers is pretty high. But if you speak another language, you can make a consistent side income.  

How to start an online business? 

Now that you know the different types of online businesses you can use to sell online, how do you start one in 2023? 

Here’s what you need to know.

How much does it cost to start an online business? 

Depends on the business model.

Some types of businesses can have big upfront costs. 

Take e-commerce businesses. 

You need to:

  • Develop a product
  • Build inventory
  • Hire storage or warehousing
  • Ship products
  • Run an online e-commerce website

And all this costs money. 

Coaching or other service businesses don’t require that same investment. 

You don’t even need a website to get started. All you need is an internet connection and a way to make coaching calls. 

How much can you make with an online business?

Again, your earning potential depends on the business model. 

Most online businesses have the potential to grow big but there are a couple of caveats. 

First, how much time do you have? 

If you have a 9-to-5 or a family, you’ll have less time to dedicate to your business. 

You can still grow your business to six figures, but it might take you longer.

Second, how much can you invest in your business? 

Sure, coaching, consulting, and freelance businesses don’t need a lot of investment to get started. 

BUT if you have the money to invest in outsourcing your SEO, social media marketing, and copywriting, you will probably grow quicker. 

Let’s look at the earning potential of a couple of business ideas I talked about earlier:

Coaching businesses can make six to multi-seven figures

You don’t need any special business-building experience or investment to grow a coaching business to six figures.

Take my student Anna Cosic. 

Anna was a top-level corporate executive, working internationally for major companies. She started her coaching business Tiles Collab to help women like her achieve their career dreams. Because of the exclusivity of her packages, she can charge a high-ticket price for her services and build a Freedom Business.

Freelance businesses can make six figures

Freelance businesses have no upfront investment and can be highly profitable. Over time, you can build your services to earn high five to six figures.

But freelance businesses have a limit. Why? 

Because you’re trading your time for money. You can only work for so many clients at one time.

Elna Cain is a six-figure freelance writer who built her income through consistent blogging and guest posting. 

Creator businesses can make multi-seven figures

But most don’t. To get to that level, you need a huge audience that can take years to build.

As a smaller creator, you can typically make five to six figures depending on how you optimize your business.

For example, Zulie Rane is a six-figure online content creator that teaches people to become freelancers. She makes money through YouTube AdSense and sponsorships.

Another key factor in how much you can earn as a business owner depends on your niche. 

Let’s talk about that next.

What’s your niche? 

Your niche can affect your earning potential and the type of business you start. 

So how do you find a profitable niche? 

To answer that question, I asked myself:

What skills did I learn at my 9-to-5?

What do people come to me for? 

In other words, what are my areas of expertise? 

And you don’t even need to be the best expert out there to start a business. 

You just need to be more knowledgeable than the average person and be able to help clients get results. 

Make a list of the skills you’ve learned and your interests.

Then you want to research your industry to see if your skill is in demand. 

If you want to start a service business, look at how well the industry is doing and potential clients you could reach out to. 

For product businesses, do a competitor analysis to see if the market needs your product. 

Your niche has to be interesting to you and make money. Want to learn more? Check out this video:

What’s next?

There you have it! The best online business ideas to start in 2024. 

With a great online business idea, you can build a profitable and sustainable business – one that lets you quit your job, build a great income, and create a flexible life. 

But what steps should you take NOW?

How do you get your first client, even with a busy 9-5?

If you want to learn more about how you can start a profitable online business, check out my free PDF:

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How to Start a Small Online Business

The 14 Best Online Business Models

The Top 10 Online Businesses to Start Today

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) 

What kind of business is most profitable? 

The most profitable types of online businesses are service businesses. Specifically coaching, consulting, and freelance businesses. This is because you can use skills you already have and don’t need sophisticated sales or marketing skills to get started.  

Is an online business a good idea? 

An online business can be a good idea because it can be simple to get started. You can usually use your existing skills with a low upfront investment. A good example is a coaching business. You can (and probably should) build your business as a side hustle before quitting your job.

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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