9 Successful Online Businesses
[toc]The Internet has been firmly established as a hub of commerce since Amazon opened its doors and gained the trust and respect of the general population. Today, the Internet is a global business opportunity for every entrepreneur. Anyone can create successful online businesses with nothing more than an Internet connection and time.
There are so many business opportunities available that they can be categorized in a variety of ways. Some sell products, some sell services and some sell information. They all fill niches that would otherwise fall to traditional businesses. Some have even replaced the offline equivalent. If you’re looking to start an online business, here are the major categories you can explore.
1. Software Developer
Anyone with sufficient knowledge of a programming language can write a piece of software. Millions of applications and programs flit about the Internet every day. Some, obviously, are huge software suites developed by massive companies — things like the Adobe Photoshop suites and Microsoft’s Office programs. Others are tiny applications suited to a single purpose, like WinRAR or any of the hundred or so YouTube to MP3 converter apps.
Some of these applications cost a lot of money up front. Some of them have much more reasonable costs. Still others allow you to use it for a week or a month before locking down and requiring payment. Some operate freely with limited features until you pay to unlock them, and some are free but simply ask for donations. All of these methods are perfectly valid ways to monetize a piece of software. New companies spring up every day to sell a new piece of software, and you can too.
2. Direct Product Sales
Do you have crafting as a hobby? Do you knit, work with wood or forge metal? Can you sew clothing, make jewelry or paint? If you have any sort of crafting skill, you can put it to work making money. It can be as simple as making glass beads with pictures in them to complex outfits sewn by hand.
Websites like Etsy allow anyone to open their own small business shop to sell their products. You can create an eBay account for the same purpose. You can create your own website and sell your own products with any of the various ecommerce suites available. Selling your own products is one of the most classic types of businesses, and it can be one of the most successful online businesses for an entrepreneur. All it takes is skill at crafting, a little marketing and some exposure to reach success.
3. Digital Reseller
You’ll notice that one of the requirements for a successful product selling business is exposure and marketing. These are, to say the least, difficult to get. This is why affiliate marketing was born, and where you can fill a niche business opportunity without needing to make a product of your own.
Affiliate marketing, in a nutshell, is selling someone’s product for them. You develop a site, grow an audience and sell products you find through your affiliate network. For each successful sale, you make money. The hard part is finding products to sell, which is why sites like ClickBank exist. These sites make it easy to connect resellers with the people who want their products sold. You won’t make as much as the content owner, but you have the advantage of a low-maintenance website pulling in money. Set up a few — or a dozen — of those and you have one of the most successful online businesses possible.
4. Product Reseller
Buy low, sell high. It’s the core tenet of trading on the marketplace, whether you’re buying and selling stocks or products. Becoming a product reseller is easy with sites like eBay allowing you to list and sell for any price. Scan eBay itself for deals. Shop your local — or not so local — Craigslist ad postings. Spend a few hours every weekend hunting down deals at yard sales and flea markets. With some perseverance and a little investment, product resellers become very successful online businesses.
If you know what you’re looking for, you can easily find deals to resell online. The key is to pick a niche with low competition in your area, particularly for yard sale searching. You can focus on old dishes, or unrecognized silver, or antiques and collectibles. The key is to recognize the value in items other people pass over.
You can sell a product, and you can sell other people’s products. What if you don’t want to sell a product? Maybe you spent years going to school for graphic design and you don’t want to waste time doodling cartoon characters for a buck. Maybe you can’t code, craft or sell, but you’re a perfectly good writer. Maybe you’re a coder with a healthy fear of the corporate life but no unique software ideas.
The solution is to become a freelancer. As a freelancer, you build your own company and your own brand. You put your skills to use like you would as an employee, except you set your own hours, your own prices and your own workload. Freelancers with successful online businesses manage as many clients as possible without overworking themselves, and some may even hire other people to help with their brand, once they’re successful enough.
You’ll notice most of the business opportunities above mention another site that fills a specific role. Sites like ClickBank, eBay and ELance specialize in setting up the connection between clients and freelancers, buyers and sellers. These intermediary platforms make their money essentially by taxing the transactions that take place on their platform. Product auction sites either charge money for listings or take a cut of the sale price. Freelancer hubs like ELance skim money from successful transactions.
Anywhere there are two groups of people who want to connect and no site available to connect them, a webmaster has a fantastic opportunity. Successful online businesses spring up in these niches all the time. Some gain traction, others don’t. Some gain success competing with existing platforms, playing the role of underdog against the larger corporation.
7. Resource Provider
It’s incredibly easy to publish a book. In minutes, you can set up an account and publish an eBook through Amazon.com. Contrary to some people, Amazon is not limited to fiction and nonfiction — the kind of books you’d find in the library. Amazon is a hub for business eBooks as well, from SEO guides to video game cheatbooks.
Of course, in order to publish a book, you need to write the content. One way to do this is to create a specialized blog. Post the rough drafts of each chapter as a blog post and use that opportunity for feedback and editing. Put the whole thing together as an eBook and sell it to the audience you’ve gained from the blog. As easily as that, you have a content production business. Once you’ve reached a certain level of success, you can even hire freelancers to produce your content for you.
8. Payment Processor
At the root of all online commerce is the trading of money for goods and services. There’s no way to do that quickly and easily through a bank and the postal service. No one sends a check or a sack of cash to Amazon’s head offices in exchange for a product. No, people use payment processing. Many larger sites process credit cards, but most smaller sites are limited to Paypal.
Paypal may seem to have dominated the market, and it’s true that they hold a significant market share. They also have a large negative reputation for poor customer service, and that presents an opportunity for a new business, like Square, to step in and grow. Payment processing is a hard business to get into, however, because people are slow to trust others with their money. That said, if your business takes off in this category, you’ll be set.
As the joke goes, those who can’t, consult. It sounds detrimental, as if consulting is the end of the road for talentless people, but it’s simply not true. Companies both large and small hire consultants for an outside opinion in areas where they might not have all the information they need to make an informed decision. You might not want to run a software business, but you have plenty of knowledge of coding. You can consult other companies about the possibilities of their own software.
The same goes for virtually any industry, and it’s not just limited to those who can’t make it in the industry themselves. Plenty of people leave their corporate jobs for a consulting position. You have the skills necessary to do the work, but you can make more money by sharing your knowledge and experience with others.
With so many potentially successful online businesses, it’s a wonder anyone works offline at all. The Internet is constantly expanding, and the global marketplace makes anything possible. Find a niche, apply your talents and you’ll have a successful business before you know it.
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