Ever wondered how to build a sustainable and profitable business online. You have landed on the right place to know the best methods to start an online business.

This article is not about short term make money online schemes for which there are hundreds of posts flooding the internet. It is about starting and building a business which will make you a successful long term online entrepreneur. Let us get right into it.

  1. Affiliate Marketing:

Skills to be learned -

  • Content writing
  • Free traffic generation by SEO, Social Media
  • Paid traffic generation by Facebook ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads)
  • Monetization either by ads or affiliate products

Affiliate marketing works best for someone new in Internet marketing and on a thin budget.

However, it depends largely on the quality of the product you are promoting.

If the product is rubbish, you can end up with zero money even if your sales pitches and marketing plans are the best.

There are two ways to do affiliate marketing.

One is through building a blog, posting quality content to gain authority in your niche.

Though the potential to earn is huge by this method, it requires lots of time and efforts.

The second method is by promoting a product directly either through a website, email list, sales pages, etc.

This is much easier as you just need to promote your affiliate link and the only aspect you work on is to gain traffic to the link.

Make sure the product you are promoting is of high quality and solves a specific problem of a target audience.

There are many affiliate programs to join and start promoting their affiliate products.

Amazon is the best when it comes to physical products even though the commission structure is pretty low. Clickbank, shareasale and commission junction are other programs to join.

  1. Amazon FBA:

Skills to be learned -

  • Product research
  • Amazon keyword research
  • Effective communication with sellers
  • Writing product description

Selling on Amazon could have never been considered an online business before Amazon introduced something called FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon).

FBA is essentially Amazon taking care of almost everything that required your physical presence to run the business like the fulfillment of orders, shipping, customer service, managing returns, etc.

You can start by registering as a seller in Amazon, select the right product to sell, procure them on a cheap price from China, send the products to Amazon FBA warehouse, list and sell it for 2 to 3 times the price.

There are two major models to do Amazon FBA.

First is the private label model, where you buy products at a wholesale price and label it under your own brand.

The profit margins can be pretty high in this case, however, there is a need to build a brand and a marketing budget to do that.

The second model is wholesale, where you buy branded products from authorized wholesale distributors and sell it in Amazon as a retailer.

The profit margins could be lesser when compared to private labeling, but there is less risk involved as you are selling branded products which already have a defined market share.

There is an initial investment needed to procure the products. However, the most vital aspect of the business model is product research.

If you are able to find the right product, you can recoup the investment with a really high ROI.

There are product research tools like Jungle Scout and product launch tools like viral launch which could be used to select the right product and launch it in the right way.

  1. Digital marketing agency:

Skill to be learned -

  • WordPress CMS
  • Working with cPanel
  • WordPress themes and page builders
  • Search engine optimization
  • Lead generation and sales funnels
  • Mobile app development
  • Client acquisition and retention

This is my personal favorite as this is the path I chose to build an online business.

There are many unique advantages in starting your own agency,

  • You own the business completely - Your business is not dependent on any other company unlike in Amazon FBA, affiliate marketing or similar options.
  • An opportunity to learn different aspects of running a business - Nothing equals experience starting a business. Only when you own a business with complete ownership, there is a chance to learn the various challenges that accompany starting and running a business successfully.

Website designing is a highly competitive business area to start entrepreneurship.

However, once mastered, it can be highly lucrative and a source of healthy recurring revenue.

For starters, WordPress is an excellent CMS to learn.

In the case of e-commerce, Magento works great and if you become an expert, can bring in some serious cash even for a single project.

Search engine optimization has grown hugely in popularity among small business owners.

Therefore, it is good to learn and master these crafts and provide it as a package to potential clients.

Mobile apps, both Android and iOS are growing immensely as a necessity for any type of businesses to improve their reputation and sales.

The opportunity is huge as the vast majority of small businesses don't have an app yet and rely on websites for their online presence.

Learning programming languages like Java can be a really good foundation to build Android apps and in case of iOS, Apple has their own programming language called Swift which can help you become an iOS app development expert.

However, if programming is not for you, there are many drag and drop tools now which can be used to make simple apps without a single line of coding.

Some well-known tools are Appypie, Shoutem, Goodbarber, Appinstitute, Bizness apps, etc.

  1. Graphic Design agency:

Skills to be learned -

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Video editing (Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro)

Every business needs to go digital these days to improve its revenue generation and they need logos, flyers, banners to do this.

Learn graphic design software and offer your services among your local businesses.

One more design service where you can get paid a lot is package design.

There is even a free open source software called GIMP. Master them and you can start an agency around these services.

Once the initial phase of the agency is established, it can be further expanded to advanced Autodesk software services like AutoCAD designing, Inventor, 3ds Max, Maya, etc.

  1. Social Media Management / Marketing Agency:

Skills to be learned -

  • Social media advertising including Facebook ads, Twitter ads, LinkedIn ads, etc.
  • Lead generation and client acquisition

This is a hot area to start a business in 2019. A company which does not have and manage its social media accounts is potentially losing thousands of dollars to its competitors.

It's a fact and as simple as that.

The trick to learn is how to get potential leads and convince them this will get results.

Make a great presentation of your services to attract and convince a potential client that it will increase their revenue.

There are two ways to do this,

  • Social media management - You manage the client's social media accounts like posting regular content, increasing the engagement with followers, etc. It is quite simply keeping their accounts active, interesting and engaging.
  • Social media marketing - This includes social media management plus social media advertising. It needs tremendous skills to do Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads and Twitter ads efficiently to bring in good ROI. Learn these skills and once you get those first few clients, this can be lucrative.
  1. Digital product / Membership sites:

Skills to be learned -

  • Expertise in a particular niche where you can provide value or solve a problem.

Membership courses and selling digital products are an evergreen pillar in the online business space.

The beauty of this is you can have expertise in literally any field and convert it into an online business.

There are so many marketplaces where you can promote your products or courses like Udemy, Skillshare, etc and if you would like to build your own membership website, it is so easy as opposed to 3 to 4 years back.

Kartra, Builderall, Podia, and Optimizepress are some excellent options to build your own membership website within a day or two and drive traffic through social media, paid ads, etc.

  1. Software products / SaaS:

Skills to be learned -

  • Software or web app development
  • Effective marketing of the software


While this might require strong technical skills, another way of doing it would be to hire a developer to build the software or the app for you.

However, you need to be clear and defined in the basic idea of the software and the problem it solves.

There are two ways to sell software. One is to sell it at a one-time price which is pretty straight forward.

The next type is getting more and more dominant in the software industry which is subscription based also known as SaaS (Software as a Service).

It is essentially selling your software that is hosted in the cloud at a monthly or yearly recurring fee.

There are pros and cons to both methods but the SaaS model is here to stay and take over the industry.

However, which model of pricing you choose depends on the product and the kind of end user you are targeting.

       8. Funnel Building Agency:

Skills to be learned -

  • Expertise in sales funnel builders like Clickfunnels, Kartra, Thrive themes, etc.
  • Email marketing software and marketing automation

Sales funnels are slowly replacing websites in many business niches like coaching, software products, consulting, etc.

To build a high converting sales funnel is not as easy as a website. There are so many variables and conversion factors to be precisely planned, built and tracked.

An agency building sales funnels to these business streams would be a great opportunity if the right clients are approached and closed.

Email marketing and marketing automation are inevitable in executing a sales funnel.

Expertise in a good email marketing software goes a long way in helping you build excellent funnels.

     9. Copy-writing:

Skills to be learned -

  • Writing attractive sales pitches with excellent grammatical precision and vocabulary

Copywriting is necessary to sell anything online. It could be for a product description, a video sales letter, a website, a sales funnel or even an email sequence.

There is always a high demand for quality copywriters. There are copywriters who charge in thousands for just an email copy.

10. Automation and Chatbot services:

Skills to be learned -

  • Setting up chatbots and automation with tools like Zapier, Chatfuel, Manychat, Odus, etc.

Automation is gradually taking over repetitive jobs in small and medium businesses. However, most business owners are not so proficient in setting up automation.

That's where an automation service agency could have a huge potential to get clients. 

Another highly popular trend in 2019 is going to be chatbots. Setting up chatbots would be a massive time saver for businesses by automating customer service and sales queries.

There are many automation tools, Zapier being the most popular and chatbot tools like Manychat, Chatfuel, etc. which can be learned to set the automation up for business owners. 

11. Freelance programming:

Skills to be learned -

  • Coding in different languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, PHP, Ruby,  etc.

It's challenging to build a long term sustainable online business with freelancing, but if there is any method of freelancing that has the potential to become a stable business over time, it has got to be programming.

You can start learning languages like HTML, CSS & JavaScript to code simple websites for clients.

Once you are confident in coding websites, learning languages like Python and PHP could be the next step to make web apps for small & medium scale projects. 

Wrapping up, these are my top recommendations to start an online business. Remember none of these is a getting rich quick scheme to get a few dollars into your PayPal account. These are long term legitimate business opportunities where you have to put in the efforts.

The possibilities are endless.

Good luck.

The best ways to start an online business in 2020 and beyond

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