Starting a business may seem like a daunting task, but the amount of time, money and risk involved depends on the business idea you have in mind.
Unlike what most people think, there are actually many ways to start a business that allow you to focus less on logistics and start-up costs and more on how to get the business off the ground.
These online business ideas require low investment and are an excellent starting point for beginners, independent business people or those with a busy schedule, as they allow you to acquire a parallel business without having to abandon your other occupations.
You still need to have a solid idea, develop your brand, invest in marketing and provide excellent customer service, but you can skip many of the typical start-up costs, such as initial inventory, storage and physical space for a store.
Partnering with dropshipping providers
Buying inventory, storing it, picking it up, packing it, shipping it… inventory management can be a major commitment when you’re running an online business.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a model of order preparation in which an external supplier stores the inventory and sends the products to your customers. You only need to make sales and pass the orders to your supplier, so you don’t have to handle the products.
You can select products from one or more suppliers for your own online store with a specific niche theme, such as yoga equipment or dog water bowls. When a customer buys a product from you, the order is sent to your supplier, who prepares it for you. However, you are still responsible for your own marketing and customer service.
You can work with local and foreign suppliers, as long as you can build a trusting relationship with them, because an unreliable supplier will give your brand a negative image.
Dropshipping is a low-investment method of testing products in the marketplace and starting a business before investing in your own original products. Just make sure you always ask for a sample to verify that your supplier is reliable and that the quality of the products is adequate to sell to your customers.
Designing and selling custom T-shirts
With another model of dropshipping of custom stampings, inventory, order picking and shipping is left to an outside supplier. But unlike the dropshipping idea described above, the focus here is on customizing these products with your own designs to create something original.
T-shirts, hats, phone covers, sweaters, skirts, handbags and many other products can be turned into canvases for your creativity. You can create clever phrases for developers or references that will appeal to customers with cats: if there is passion and pride within a community, there is potential for a T-shirt business that you can exploit.
Even if you’re not a designer, you can find one on independent sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Dribble, or 99Designs. With many custom printing services, you pay per product, so the unit price will be higher than if you had to place a wholesale order.
The advantage is that if a certain T-shirt design does not sell, at least you did not pay for the item (only for the design, if you outsourced it).
You can even use t-shirt templates, so you don’t need to spend money on a photo shoot for each new design. You can work with a variety of custom print platforms, many of which can be integrated with your Shopify store for seamless order preparation.
However, make sure you always order a sample of your product (which is usually offered at a discount) to ensure your custom products look good.
Publish your own book
A book is just another type of product, and as such, you can create one to meet a particular demand in the market. Cookbooks, photo books, comic books, poetry books, picture books and novels, if you have the knowledge or creativity, there are a variety of original books you can release.
Custom publishing is a relatively safe way to test the market and start publishing on your own, while giving you control over the quality and appearance of your book. Lulu Xpress and Blurb are popular platforms used for this purpose, allowing you to create, order and distribute your own books as digital and physical products.
While you can order one book at a time, costs are obviously reduced when you buy in bulk. You can consider pre-sales or crowdfunding for your book idea to ensure that there is demand and guarantee a certain number of customers for a mass order.
Launching your own book can be a great way to monetize a blog, if you have one, or if you’re thinking of creating one.
Create digital products or courses
Digital products such as music, courses and templates are a particular example in this list of ideas. Unlike others, they are not tangible products, so you don’t have to worry about recurring manufacturing or shipping costs, so your profit margins can stay high.
The secret is to find out what’s a good digital product – what’s useful enough that people are willing to pay to download it? The answers range from original instrumental beats to stock photos that can be licensed to other creators, to products and information templates that help people improve their skills in a particular field.
If you have a talent that you can turn into a digital product, you might consider marketing it and turning it into a new source of income. Shopify offers a free digital download application that allows you to offer digital products in your store as easily as physical products.
Sell posters, greeting cards and prints on demand
If you have an artistic bent or know how to use your camera well, you can dropship using the print-on-demand business model to sell some of your work. Just make sure you have the rights to the content you want to print, unless you are using public domain assets that you can freely monetize.
If you already have a few loyal online fans, let’s say you’re a cartoonist or an urban photographer, you’re in a good position to try out this business idea.
Depending on the printer you work with, you can turn your work into products such as posters or decorative art, even greeting cards. There are plenty of digital templates and mock-up generators like Place.it, which you can use to display your products without having to print every item and do your own photo shoots.
Create a charitable business
Creating a non-profit organization is not the only path you can take to help finance a better world. Having a mission that goes hand in hand with a business and setting aside a percentage of the profits for a charitable cause gives social entrepreneurs a unique way to position their business in the marketplace while helping to solve the problems that concern them most.
In fact, 89% of consumers in one survey said they would probably switch to another brand with similar products and prices if it was associated with a good cause.
While many social enterprises offer their own original products, you can also take any of the business ideas described above and partner with a non-profit organization, or do that social work with your own hands, as long as you are transparent about your procedures.
As part of your marketing, you can share the impact your customers have in supporting your business, such as a blog post describing your work in the community or a real-time impact calculator on your website.
The Shopify Give & Grow application makes it easy to partner with charities and incorporate your mission into your business. You can set it up to donate a specific amount or percentage of your sales, or ask your customers to make a donation at checkout.
Selling a service
With service-based businesses, “time” is your inventory and your biggest investment, because you have a limited number of hours in the day. However, that makes it easier to get your business up and running if you have skills that are in demand.
Writers, designers, developers, photographers, domestic workers, physical trainers, and others can build a business based on your skills. They can also expand their business with any of the other ideas described above to create additional revenue streams by transforming their services into a product through physical or digital assets.
A photographer, for example, can work at a local event while selling copies online through his Instagram account. A copywriter can sell a portfolio of successful advertising copy. Combining your service-based business with physical products can provide another source of income not directly related to your time.
You can use the BookThatApp or Book an Appointment applications so customers can easily schedule a session, check in, or purchase tickets for one of your classes through your store. You can also offer your services through a self-employed marketplace such as Upwork to increase your chances of being contacted by people who need your skills.
Create an online fashion boutique
If you like fashion and share your sense of style online, you might consider creating your own virtual fashion boutique. You don’t need to become a fashion designer, you can simply select items from other suppliers and sell them in your own online store (using the dropshipping model mentioned above).
From dresses, shoes, swimwear, accessories and more, you can create your own fashion brand using one of the product search applications for Shopify, promote them in your own product photos and social media publications, and gain online followers as a trend setter.