There are many things that current small business owners—and those dreaming of building their empire—can do that create near-term results. Starting and successfully growing a business is, without exception, a difficult endeavor. Most seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that building a company from the ground up is one of the most trying, yet rewarding, experiences of their lives.
Starting a business takes so much more than just a great idea. You need a winning combination of great opportunities, determination, passion, time, and, for most businesses, a bit of funding to get your idea off the ground.
Start a Niche Website
Picking a hyper-specific topic that has proven search volume will give you the opportunity to become an authority in a relatively small space if you can create a lot of value for the existing audience. To find a niche market that appeals to you do a Google monthly average search volume for specific terms using the Keyword Planner Tool.
If you start generating highly valuable blog content, videos, images, or other engaging pieces of content around a topic like camping with babies, and can slowly build up your regular audience, this authority placement will afford you many different monetization opportunities. From affiliate sales to ad revenue to paid partnerships with well-known brands, you can start generating revenue as soon as you have a steady flow of traffic coming to your site.
Launch an Online Course
Are you an expert in a specific domain? If so, there's an audience of people who'd be willing to pay you for an accelerated learning experience that'll get them up to your level of expertise.
You could be a writer, marketer, designer, or even a nurse, technician, or in retail sales. Whatever your experience is, there's a way to teach others how to become more successful, make more money, get started quicker, or advance in their careers within your niche. Once you've chosen your topic, easy-to-use online course platforms like Teachable and Udemy can get your course business off the ground in a matter of hours.
Sell Digital Downloads
Creating and selling digital downloads like ebooks, in-depth guides, templates, and case studies, is an incredibly great way to generate relatively passive income online.
Once you create a piece of useful content that'll help an online audience accomplish something within their lives or businesses, it's just a matter of getting your digital goods in front of that group of people. You'll want a basic website in place so that you have a destination to bring in targeted traffic with related blog content and other useful information about what your digital download is going to help them accomplish.
Start a Podcast
Recently, podcasts have become increasingly lucrative as a source of sustainable income. If you create a podcast on a specific topic, such as launching startups like Rocketship.fm, and you interview well-known figures in the industry, you'll quickly amass a high number of regular listeners—if you learn how to market it well.
Once you've grown your listenership to a reasonable level (shoot for at least a thousand listeners per episode), you can start bringing on some premium sponsorships. It's not uncommon to charge $2,000+ per month to established sponsors to get their product or service message in front of your targeted audience.
Become an Online Coach
Again, if you have a marketable skillset that you're passionate about, you can offer your coaching services in a one-on-one style setting.
Tools like Savvy.is and Clarity.fm offer you the opportunity to quickly hop on and offer online coaching sessions at your pre-determined hourly (or by the minute) rate. What's more, these communities already have a built-in user base of people seeking career guidance, life coaching, and actionable learnings on how to clear their obstacles.
Fulfilled by Amazon Clearance Arbitrage
Amazon FBA clearance arbitrage is the practice of scouting out goods that are currently selling on Amazon (with the "fulfilled by Amazon" designation) and tracking down those items at a lower cost from stores in your local area.
It's surprisingly easy, and Nick Loper of SideHustleNation has been experiencing a good amount of success with it over the last year. Check out his detailed breakdown of how he does this. There's even a scanning app for smartphones that'll let you instantly detect the clearance arbitrage opportunities while you're going through local stores.
Remote English Tutor
Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can be a very lucrative side business, and it takes absolutely nothing to get started, aside from access to a computer with video chat abilities (and Skype).
If you're a native English speaker, there are countless people in foreign countries who are willing to pay $25/hr or more for you to teach them English via video chat platforms like Skype or FaceTime. Indeed frequently has job postings up, requesting remote English teachers and tutors.
Start Freelancing Within Your Industry
Just about every job can be done on a freelance (even remote) basis in today's digital world. What's even better is that you can start a freelance business while you keep your day job.
From writing to editing, graphic design, marketing, video production, business consulting, and more, there are tons of great websites that regularly feature highly paid freelance gigs. Start with looking around for industry-specific forums and contract job posting boards, as those will always have more engagement, but sites like LinkedIn's ProFinder, Upwork, and Freelancer.com are great starting points for bringing on your first clients as well.
Launch a Photography Business
It's relatively inexpensive ($60–$150) to rent even a very nice DSLR camera from a local camera shop for the weekend. If you take some time to practice and learn techniques from pro photographers online, you should be able to pick up the basics fairly quickly. From there, you can get into portrait photography, very lucrative wedding photography, and even specialize in something as niche as newborn photography, all with great scalability potential if you live in a decently populated area.
Once you've learned how to navigate your camera (or smartphone camera), you can very easily start monetizing your skills. From selling prints to doing commercial and private client shoots, building up a large following on social networks like Instagram and Facebook, teaching online photography courses, doing in-person workshops, and selling your advice, the opportunities are limitless.
You can even start a profitable blog, sharing your skills with others online. Let's say you have a knack for capturing incredible star trail photographs at night. Meanwhile, thousands of people are searching each month on Google, wanting to learn how to take star trail photographs. Your blog content, video tutorials, and an online course they can purchase is a fantastic way to generate online income with this skill.
Refurbish Used Electronics and Resell Online
We've all seen the advertisements offering to purchase our old (or even damaged) smartphones at low prices. These opportunistic entrepreneurs are putting their technical skills to use fixing up these electronics and reselling them either in-person or online (often to customers internationally).
There's a huge market for expensive gadgets like iPhones in many foreign countries, and consumers in those countries without the ability to purchase directly from Apple, turn to eBay, Amazon, and other online retail destinations where they pay above-retail prices to get their hands on the tech goods they want. If you can start buying up and fixing damaged iPhones locally, you could net a healthy profit by later flipping them online.
Become a Tour Guide
Do you live somewhere with frequent travelers? If you love meeting new people from around the world and have an in-depth knowledge of the area you live in, then starting your own local tour business could be a great opportunity that needs little more than a clean vehicle and cheerful demeanor.
Learn from Erik at Vantigo on how he started a VW van tour company in the San Francisco Bay area while he kept his day job, and grew it into a sustainable full-time source of income for himself.
Start a YouTube Channel
There are many YouTube users generating a healthy income from ads on their regular videos. Some of them even make well into the millions each year.
All it takes to build a healthy YouTube following is to identify high search volume topics, develop your own unique spin on creating video content, and learn how to engage well with your audience. From there, you'll be able to start implementing ads on your videos and, if you want to take it a step further, you can launch your own website, which gives you even more monetization opportunities.