The Complete Guide to Starting a Money-Making Business

Can You Make Money Online Without Any Starting Investment?

You sure can! If you have an internet connection and want to earn money online, it’s possible to do so without having an airtight business model or online store from day one. Whether you’re offering a service, selling a product, or publishing content on social media, there’s a slice of the internet that will be perfect for you to generate extra cash. 

Zeroing in on a problem you can solve is more important than fancy logos or expensive software, says Satya Purna, a cognitive behavioral money coach and founder of Infinite Minds, LLC.

“There are many low and no-cost opportunities that make money online, especially in the professional services industry,” she says, citing examples such as web design, digital marketing, search engine optimization, video editing, and social media consulting. “The most important thing to consider is: ‘What problem can I solve?’ Then go find people who need to solve that problem. Whether you find them on freelancing websites like Upwork, or engage in networking events, all you need is (1) a problem you can solve, (2) a process you can use with your clients, and (3) a way to send invoices or contracts and collect cash.”

Pro Tip Learn the landscape of online business first and you’ll save time, money, and headache in the long run.

A simple website can be a low-cost way to put your best foot forward and start making money online from day one, says Neha Gupta, founder of College Shortcuts, a college admissions consulting company for families.

“When I first started, I was working full-time at a company and was an online tutor on the weekends and evenings,” she says. “I would say the first thing is to create a website, as everyone wants to see a website. You can easily do this in less than an hour with [a website builder like] Wix and a domain from GoDaddy – this should all cost you less than $20! With this, you have a link you can share with others easily in conversation.”

Related: Best Website Builders: 5 Options to Get Your Website Up and Running Quickly

Agribusiness

Like with real estate and construction, the growing world population is going to need for to eat. Whether if it’s growing fruits and vegetables, raising livestock, or starting a fish farm, the agribusiness is primed to explode.

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126. Build a Chrome Extension

Most people chasing this business idea will have some coding skills already

With nearly 100,000 different custom extensions bo

With nearly 100,000 different custom extensions both free and paid available in Google Chrome’s marketplace, there’s a huge opportunity for creating a useful extension for people to use while browsing the web as a low effort business idea. One of my favorite Chrome extensions, Yet Another Mail Merge, which enables you to send bulk customized emails from within Gmail, gives you 50 free credits to send emails and gives you the chance to upgrade to a paid account to unlock more sending—a great upsell for the people who are getting value from the extension. Even free Chrome extensions like SVRF Tabs by SVRF, which replaces your new tab with stunning VR and 360º images, have the potential to bring in new users and eventually drive revenue for the startup’s core business. This side business idea is particularly great because it also allows you to showcase your development skills—which can be put to work as an adjacent side business idea on a freelance basis alongside the Chrome extensions you launch.

50. Data Analysis Consulting Business

Love numbers? People in this line of business are great at pulling insights out of data

Got a thing for numbers? Plenty of companies need

Got a thing for numbers? Plenty of companies need to hire talented contractors who are good at data analysis, making this a potentially lucrative side business idea if you have the right credentials and experience. Platforms like Upwork and Digiserved are but a two of many websites that are great for freelancers with an analytical prowess, looking for extra work as a side business idea around their full-time jobs.

3. Analyze Your Competition

Competition breeds the best results. To be successful, you can’t be afraid to study and learn from your competitors. After all, they may be doing something right that you can implement in your business to make more money.

How you analyze competition will vary between sectors. If you're a restaurant owner, you may simply be able to dine at your competition's restaurants, ask other customers what they think, and gain information that way. However, you could be a company with much more limited access to your competitors, such as a chemicals company. In that case, you would work with a business professional and accountant to go over not just what the business presents to the world, but any financial information you may be able to get on the company as well.

Franchise Ownership

As I mentioned in an article for Entrepreneur, one of the most overlooked, and profitable, business ideas is by purchasing a franchise like Jimmy John’s, Anytime Fitness, or MaidPro. Unlike starting from scratch, you already have a proven, brand-name business with all of the research and customer-base built-in.

5. Starting an Online Store (Ecommerce)

Zero to Profit: 3 months

This is by far one of our favorite business models in the Foundr community, and we’ve seen tens of thousands of students build successful online stores through our training programs.

I won’t dig into too much detail on the “how” here, as we have countless ecommerce resources available to you for free:

But I wanted to touch on the realistic time horizon you can expect, if this is a business model you’re thinking of exploring. After all, this article is about businesses that make money right away.

Simple, Not Easy

One misconception about starting an ecommerce store is that it’s quick and easy. Sure, it can be simple, if you follow a proven framework like what four-time multimillion-dollar founder Gretta van Riel has done with SkinnyMe Tea, Drop Bottle, The 5th Watches, and Skintox.

Part of that framework starts with a winning product idea. Here’s some information on how to choose a profitable idea from Gretta herself:

Finding the BEST Business Idea (UPDATED)

In addition to finding a winning product idea, there is a repeatable way to do it all: validate your idea, build your brand and audience, and launch your store to paying customers.

But ecommerce requires more logistics than say, a service-based business or digital content-based business. You’ll need to do product prototyping, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and a number of other physical tasks that take a bit more time.

You can do a lot of it remotely and find a 3PL (3rd Party Logistics) partner to take on the brunt of it for you. The marketing aspect can also be done 100% remotely, to the point where you can run your business from your phone if you want to—and Foundr’s ecommerce training teaches you all this and more.

We just wanted to be 100% honest with you about the timing for this kind of business, in case you’re in a situation where you need cash next week.

From Idea to Launch in 3 Months

Based on what we’ve seen across thousands of businesses in the Foundr community, launching an ecommerce store typically takes about 12 weeks (~3 months). That’s from nailing down your idea, all the way through to bringing in your first sales.

It’s a very exciting process, especially that first time you get to hold your product in your hand and unbox something you designed yourself. There are also a number of marketing opportunities to make your business growth easy (e.g. influencer marketing, Instagram marketing), since the product is tangible and visual.

So if you’ve got some savings in the bank and are comfortable spending the time upfront to plan, then starting an ecommerce brand may be the right fit for you.

No. 4: Launch a Physical Product and Grow a Tiny Retail Empire

Ecommerce is a red-hot industry, and tools like Shopify, Etsy, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), and Instagram’s Shopping feature have made it easier than ever to create and scale a product-based business — even if it’s just you to start. Successful ecommerce businesses are so in-demand, in fact, that there are entire aggregator companies like Thrasio and Perch dedicated to buying out your product-based business (for a lot of money) and adding it to their portfolio.

Physical product-based businesses differ from the previous three categories in that they usually require more upfront investment to develop and test your minimum viable product. You may not make money online in your first few months, and many ecommerce brands invest in their own website, their own online store, and their own sales channel. You’ll want to take this into consideration when weighing business ideas and selecting your online money making approach — especially if the industry you want to enter has production regulations.

Once you’ve dialed in your supply chain and your audience, however, you’ll have an online store that generates passive income while you sleep. Many ecommerce founders begin their entrepreneurial journey by inventing the product they wish they had; if you’re passionate about making a physical product you know people need, this approach might be perfect for you.

Ecommerce Earning Potential

According to a survey from JungleScout of 4,864 Amazon sellers, 44% of respondents reported making between $1,000-$25,000/month in sales. 68% of sellers reported profit margins of over 10%, and 22% of sellers reported profit margins north of 25%.

It’s important to remember that any physical product will have manufacturing and shipping costs that can eat into your bottom line at first. Leverage advertising networks, review websites, and social proof to sell online more efficiently and drive interest in your online store.

Tips to Help You Succeed in Ecommerce

Ecommerce is a different animal than the other approaches mentioned above. Keep these quick tips top-of-mind as you bring your amazing physical product to life.

  • Test your product relentlessly. What works? What could be improved? Actively solicit customer feedback on your product so you can figure out what to improve in overall design or production quality. Doing this dirty work early on will help you make money online more efficiently later.
  • Invite shoppers to join an email newsletter. A common strategy you may have seen before is to offer website visitors a discount in exchange for their email address. Email is a great way to market to your customers for free; prioritize winning over this audience above all others.
  • Leverage repeat sales. According to research from Bain & Company, an increase of just 5% in customer retention can lead to a 25%-95% increase in profits. Whoa! Acquiring customers is expensive, and it’s impossible to guarantee favorable reviews; put a post-purchase retention plan in place to maximize repeat transactions and happy customers. Referrals are easy money.

Takeaway Ecommerce sometimes requires more upfront investment in order to develop your product prototype, but if you know you have a product people want, it can be a terrific way to make money online.

Franchise Opportunities

Profitable franchises are profitable because someone else has worked through the plan, smoothed out all the kinks and come up with something that makes money. If you have the money to buy into a profitable franchise and are the kind of person that would make a good franchisee, this can be the ideal solution for you.

4. Teaching online

  • Tutor college students
  • Teach a language
  • Teach someone how to do their taxes
  • Set up an online course on how to start a small business
  • Create a YouTube channel to educate people on healthy living
  • Become a sustainability consultant for startups

Related: To Rapidly Enhance Your Business, Stop Selling and Start Teaching

Do Market Research

The market comes first; your ideas and/or wishes have to come second (or even third). You simply can't start a successful business if there are not enough people willing and able to buy your products or services in your service area.Start with Find and Sell to Your Target Market and then work through The Industry, the Market Analysis and the Competitive Analysis sections of my Writing a Business Plan series.

9. Writing ebooks

Similar to blogging, e-books allow you to teach others new skills through a digital book that will cost readers a fraction of the price of a printed copy while offering them the same level of education. E-books are free to start and can be sold on huge platforms such as Amazon. You could even donate copies to not-for-profit organizations who believe in your cause.

Related: A Simple 4-Step Process for Writing Your First Book in 100 Days

The Bottom Line

According to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more. If you want to be among that 25%, rigorous attention to these nine tips is a good start, but certainly not exhaustive. Being a business owner means being in a state of constant learning and adapting.

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