Looking for a business idea? Start with these four on-trend online businesses

Ollie Collard
Business Start-up advisor | Business West
27th October 2017

So. You know you want to start your own business, you’re just not sure what exactly you want to spend your time doing. One thing you are sure of? It needs to make money.

In the past, starting a business was high risk and very expensive. You needed to lease a storefront, purchase stock and pay for advertising to draw in your first customers. These days, thanks to the magic that is the internet, you can start your own business for practically nothing. 

Online businesses are beginning to dominate the start-up landscape and it’s easy to see why. Offering low, or no, start-up costs and the flexibility to create a true lifestyle business where you can work anywhere in the world (as long as you have an internet connection), an online business is definitely worth considering.

There is money to be made too, you just need a basic understanding of how the online world works and you’re off and running. I’ve pulled together my four favourite on-trend online business ideas to see if I can spark your interest.

SEO expert

If you know anything about SEO you know that it’s always changing. The most popular search engine, Google, is famous for continually updating their algorithms. I think it’s on purpose, to keep SEO specialists on their toes, but I’m sure they have some other pretty valid reasons… 

As the world moves online, where business rank on Google has become of crucial importance. If you rely on search engines to send customers to your website, you need to be appearing in prime position; at the top, on the very first page. If Google can’t find your website, then your customers won’t either, and you’ll quickly disappear into the undesirable area of page two, three or beyond.

If you have the skills and knowledge to help businesses improve their visibility on search engines you will be in hot demand, as it’s not a widely shared skill. The majority of online business owners wouldn’t have a clue how to improve their SEO if you asked them, but they would all know how important it is.

Just as SEO is performed online, you can also run your business online and set yourself up as an SEO expert. Whether you have previous experience or you’re planning to start from scratch (there are some great online training courses available), working in SEO can be very lucrative. The higher a business website ranks, they more customers they will attract and the more sales they will make. Once you prove your worth you will be indispensable.

Affiliate marketing

Think the self appointed (and proudly proclaimed) job titles of blogger, vlogger, and social media influencer sound a bit cringey? You’re not alone. But you’re also missing the point - all of these jobs are supported by affiliate marketing, a very real, very lucrative form of online business. The most successful Instagram models, Youtubers, and fashion bloggers rake in thousands of pounds per month thanks to sponsored content and on-page ads.

That girl you went to high school with who now has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and is always promoting the latest skinny tea or face mask shouldn’t be laughed at, she’s actually making a living from affiliate marketing.

While Instagram and Youtube may not be everyone’s cup of tea, blogging is a great way to get set up with affiliate marketing. Think about a topic that you’re passionate about, set up your blog and start creating content. Once you start to attract a following, get registered with Google AdSense and watch as the money rolls in. You won’t be earning enough to pay your bills overnight, but as you start improving your SEO, developing the quality of your content and growing your following, you can create a reasonable income.

App creator

As we continue to rely increasingly on our smartphones to manage our everyday lives, new apps are being regularly developed to help make this even easier. The quip ‘there’s an app for that’ has become a mainstay in our vocabulary and it’s not hard to see why.

There is an app available for pretty much every thing you can imagine. Want to order groceries? There’s an app for that. Need to make an appointment to see your hairdresser? There’s an app for that. Want to play a repetitive, noisy game where you fling disgruntled looking cartoon birds at each other? You guessed it, there’s an app for that.

If you know coding you’re in a great position to start developing an app. But if you don’t know your JavaScript from your Python never fear, as there are a host of developers and coding experts out there looking to collaborate on new projects. Match your idea with their technical know-how and voila, you have the next life changing (or time-wasting!) app. Once your app goes live in your chosen app stores users can immediately start downloading it. Just make sure to listen to user feedback and keep on top of bug-fixes and improvements.

One of our inspiring clients, school teacher Sophie Cooper, created Fonics, an app that helps children learn how to read. It’s now being rolled out across schools in the UK and is great example of how you can create your own app without any coding experience.

Owner / maker 

In a world of cheap, never ending supplies of consumer goods, people are beginning to buck the trend. Consumers are now favouring locally made, artisan products, made by independent small businesses, rather than mass produced goods from high street stores. 

Personalisation is also a popular trend and can be adapted to suit a wide range of products; from monogrammed stationary to nursery wall art, offering a customisation option instantly draws interest.

One of the fantastic things about online owner / maker businesses is that you don’t even have to build your own website! Websites like Etsy and Not on the High Street make it very easy for you to start selling your products. They have existing customer bases and they’re trusted brands, so listing your products on their sites will give you instant exposure. They also manage all of the payment processing for you too, which can be another stumbling block for DIY websites. So say goodbye to long nights trying to figure out how to build a Wordpress website, and say hello to fun days making unique gifts.

Starting an online business has a wealth of benefits; it requires low or no initial investment, you can work from anywhere in the world and you can tailor your business to work around your lifestyle. As more products and services move online, there is definitely money to be made. So when you’re brainstorming business ideas, make sure you throw some online options into the mix.

Do any of these online business ideas take your fancy? Taking the leap into self employment can seem daunting, but our business advisers are ready to help you every step of the way. They will walk you through how to write a business plan, show you how to create financial forecasts and help you to apply for a start-up loan. Find out more.

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