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Intro & Bolded Text Reading Time: 2 minutes. Full Content: 13 minutes. One aha moment can change your life. It did for me. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write this piece for a long time. There are thousands all over the interwebs, and in my clearly opinionated opinion — 99% of them are junk. I’m certain of this, because I typed these same words into Google search when I first started out as a solopreneur: “online business”. Even so, I know this is something that needs to get addressed properly and I owe you an honest answer. This is an attempt to provide a comprehensive, factual, and actionable guide to the popular question of what the best online businesses are. My goal is simple: to not fall into the 99% garbage pile. Let’s start with some straight-forward, important truths:
- The only way to build a real business (and eventually quit your day job if you choose) is with patience and perseverance. It’s all about taking tiny steps each day.
- There is no such thing as overnight success or getting rich quickly. I promise, no matter how amazing the opportunity looks, you are wasting your time. These aren’t real businesses, and they don’t provide real wealth. When they do, they’re temporary and fade quickly. Plus, the rich know that the idea is to build assets, not make cash.
- Working for yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. We make it that way because we get distracted and lose focus. How do you prevent this? Cure your procrastination for good and develop laser focus on one thing.
- If you invest your time and energy into more than one area, you won’t get anywhere. You must choose only one. Dedicate yourself to it, and settle for nothing less than mastery.
- With a traditional venture-backed business, there is a risk of failure. If you squander your investor funding, you fail. As a solopreneur, the only way you can fail is by giving up. So do the work.
Finally, read about my 7 biggest mistakes, and promise me you won’t make them too. Okay…ready to dive in? Here are the top 15 online businesses for existing and aspiring solopreneurs and entrepreneurs (in no particular order):
1. Physical Products
This business is where most people want to start (or think they should) by default. It’s the one that actually makes sense to the first-time solopreneur. Creating the next hot product is an exciting journey that is great for the creative solopreneur. A lot of work, cost, learning, and dedication will be involved. Working with a partner may be helpful in this business. If you have a strong desire to see your product become a reality, you will have a great time with this. Where to Start: Validate your idea. Talk to real humans and get feedback until you’re positive people need this. Make sure it solves a pain/need. Then, validate again. The easiest way to do this is by creating a blog or website for the product. Put up a landing page with photos and details for the product, and push some traffic to it (paid traffic is faster, but you should also look into content marketing and social media). On the page, ask people to opt in and give you their email address so you can notify them when the product is ready for testing. If you gather a lot emails, you’re probably onto something. Harry’s has a Harry’s has a fantastic case study on how they gathered 100,000 emails in one week for their launch. Another excellent resource is the The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, specifically the sections on finding your niche, or “muse” as he calls it.
2. Online Retail/Amazon/E-commerce
The online retail/e-commerce niche is enormous, and growing. Potential to scale is high, with many people creating six-figure or more niche product businesses on Amazon. There is a wealth of knowledge, resources, and community in this area. E-commerce is another great example of passive income. But it does require a lot of up experimentation, upkeep, and dedication in the beginning. If you strike the right niche/market and deliver a hot product, you can find success. You can also sell products through your own online store. The products never even have to be touched by you, there are many ways to have the fulfillment handled by someone else and have products drop shipped directly to the customer. So, you can either go the Amazon/eBay/Etsy route, or create your own e-commerce store. It just depends on your goals. Best E-Commerce Platforms
If you’re looking for education, I recommend checking out Amazing.com, the creators of the sensational Amazing Selling Machine program.
3. Mobile Apps
This industry is not showing any signs of slowing down soon. The landscape is constantly evolving too, which means lots of opportunity for the dedicated student. You do not need to know how to code/program to become an app entrepreneur. In fact, we already have a free 8 day business plan you can use if you’re interested in getting started with apps. Who to Know: Without a doubt, there are two people I recommend you follow in this space. The first is Carter Thomas of Blue Cloud Solutions. Carter has an awesome free webinar you can check out for getting started and has gotten tens of millions of downloads. The other is my close friend Chad Mureta, founder of App Empire. Chad has had incredible success with apps (over 150 million downloads), and has been featured on 60 Minutes, MSNBC, and more. All the information, tools, resources, and networking you need is available inside this large community of app entrepreneurs.
Creating a piece of software or Saas is a fantastic way to start an online business, and you don’t have to create it yourself. This true passive income model can open the doors to more opportunities as well. Your software should provide an immediate solution to a pain or need for a niche of people. The software can be standalone (e.g. CrazyEgg), or it can supplement another software or service (e.g. AWProTools, an add-on for Aweber). Personally, I like this model a lot. There is lots of room to scale, and you can also cross-sell and upsell other products and services on the backend. Who to Know: Neil Patel, founder of Kissmetrics, HelloBar, and CrazyEgg is the person to know. I’ve worked directly with Neil on multiple projects and I can tell you with certainty — he is the real deal. He has one of the best blogs out there at NeilPatel.com and Quicksprout, where he shares a lot of his most valuable lessons and strategies. You should also definitely check out Dane Maxwell and The Foundation. His online mentoring program has guided 1,600+ new entrepreneurs to start and scale software companies, and the community continues to thrive. He’s an incredible person on a grand mission.
Online business is not limited to just the technical, internet savvy folks. If you are passionate about a particular form of art, you can turn this into a successful business. The possibilities are wide and many. Photography, videography, art, crafts, and so on. If your art is something you feel drawn toward, pursue it. How you monetize is completely up to you. Who to Emulate:
- James Law. My friend James went from disillusioned sales/marketing guy, to world-traveling UFC photographer. It’s an incredible story and case study, check it out here.
- David Huting. When I was at Google, I worked with a solopreneur photographer named David who created a brand and product called Epic Wall Art. He takes photographs of amazing places, blows them up on giant canvases, and sells them on a website. He has since created a new brand called Nature Relaxation, this time using video.
Productivity, business, social media, health/fitness, financial/wealth, life — the options are endless. Consulting or coaching has a low barrier to entry, requires little technical work, and is a quick way to get started. It can also be completely virtual (online). Consulting requires that you are an expert in the niche your choosing. I italicized expert because expertise is relative; e.g. as long as you know more than me about fitness, in my eyes, you’re an expert. And there’s value in that, which people are willing to pay you for. There are many solopreneurs with successful consulting businesses. I have my own and while it took some time to build, today I have a waiting list of clients and get raving referrals. I’ve worked with people like Timothy Sykes (celebrity stock trader), Lewis Howes (NYT bestselling author), Neil Patel (co-founder of Crazy Egg, Quicks Sprout, etc.), Gerard Adams (co-founder of Elite Daily), and helped companies like Whitepages, Qualaroo, 24option, Qualaroo, and Xenon Ventures (a VC firm in Silicon Valley). You can even do coaching for individuals, sites like Clarity.fm are awesome for this, check out my Clarity page here. If you like working with people and have some value to bring, this might be a good option for you.
The design industry is a big opportunity for the right person. If you have a knack for creating aesthetically pleasing work, you can be successful here. If you are willing to learn some basic technical skills, you’ll do even better. The quality of work designers are delivering across the board is low. There is a strong need for web design. You could combine your design skills with some WordPress development. Some Popular Sites for Hiring Designers:
Once your portfolio is built and you have some happy clients, you can begin to shift from being hired to being in demand. Learn how to market yourself and soon you can start your own virtual design agency.
One of the most in-demand, valuable skills you can have is copywriting. Think of it as a combination of writing, marketing, sales, and psychology. People pay very good money for a good copywriter’s work. Every entrepreneur is forced to either learn this skill or hire someone to handle it. You can begin by freelancing on sites like Upwork to build a list of happy clients — this is exactly what I did. Again, do good work, get referrals, and the demand will shift your way. Who to Emulate: Mike Williams is a highly sought after copywriter and friend of mine. He’s worked with/at Mindvalley, Kissmetrics, AWeber, Neil Patel, Noah Kagan, and Ramit Sethi. You should also check out…me. What? I had to. There’s a reason Neil Patel says:
“Arman is a brilliant, world-class marketing strategist and copywriter. He’s also one of the most driven and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.” – Neil Patel