As an entrepreneur, an online business is the holy grail of startups. It’s a business that’s home-based, profitable and it has an extremely high income ceiling.

If you want to make consistent money online and have something you’ll feel confident to call a career, you have to stick to legitimate and practical online methods. There’s a lot of misguided information out there that could send you off-track.

It’s important that you choose the right business model and follow strategies that are trusted and proven. There’s really no use putting all of your time and energy into something that won’t pan out. It takes hard work and long hours to be successful with any business, online included.

As an individual entrepreneur, I’m far more concerned with building long-term assets than I am making short-term profit. While immediate income is great, building a business and a brand is what will really take you somewhere. If I put my effort into something, I want it to be something that will last.

Here are 10 ways you can start your own online business that could actually become a career:

#1 – Affiliate Marketing

An affiliate network allows you to find hundreds to thousands of products to promote and make money from. Major retailers like Walmart and Macy’s can be found on affiliate networks, as well as small businesses and startups.

For each product that you want to sell you can generate an affiliate link that connects your account ID with the sale whenever a purchase is made through that link. Affiliate products pay commission ranging anywhere from 5-75%.

Affiliate marketing has the smallest barrier to entry. All that you need is a website, good quality content and an approved account with an affiliate network. Many bloggers use affiliate marketing to generate income from their posts. When you’re reading an article that recommends a product or service, chances are, they are an affiliate. While they might have tried the product and are able to genuinely recommend it, they will make money if you decide to purchase it.

Affiliate marketing can be particularly appealing because you don’t have to buy products upfront, ship anything or worry about customer service. The harder aspects of running a business are handled for you. However, repeat orders are far and few between with affiliate sites since you’re directing traffic off your website to a third party vendor.

The most popular affiliate marketing networks are:

  • Commission Junction
  • Share A Sale
  • Link Share
  • Click Bank

#2 – Dropshipping

Dropshipping allows you to sell physical products as if they were your own, without having to go through the hassle of stocking or shipping those items. This is often preferred over affiliate marketing because it keeps the traffic on your own website, rather than directing them off-site to a third party vendor. The products can be sold under your own brand, since most dropshippers use unmarked packages. When an order is placed on your website, you simply notify and send payment to your dropship supplier and they ship the items directly to your customers. The only downside is that products typically cost more as a dropshipper than they do as a wholesaler and dropshippers have to provide customer service to their customers.

#3 – Wholesaling

If you have enough money set aside to purchase stock for your store, wholesaling can be more profitable than dropshipping. As a wholesaler, you’re often buying direct from the manufacturer. They generally only sell their products in bulk. While the upfront costs are steep, your profit margins will be higher. This also means stocking and shipping the products will be on your shoulders. Most wholesalers use the Amazon fulfillment service, which supports orders from your website as well. Amazon will stock and ship your products for you, as well as give your items Prime eligibility on their website.

#4 – Website Flipping

One of the reasons we feel comfortable starting a new project and investing our time and energy is that we know it can always be sold. With any website, you have the option to sell. Thanks to Flippa and other website auction sites, you can get global exposure to your listing and have buyers bidding competitively to purchase your business. Website flipping can be very profitable for someone experienced with SEO, branding, content marketing, PPC, social media or other types of digital marketing. Your website will need to already be making money or have something that makes it unique to sell for a large amount.

#5 – Free or Paid Content/ Blogging

Having your own blog can be a rewarding experience and there is great potential to make money. Simply ind something you’re passionate about and work hard to share great content. An active blog can make money from affiliate products, ad space or through services. People tend to trust personal brands over businesses but you can choose either. Write as much content as possible and strive to make it better than your competitors. If you’re confident in your content, you can even start a membership site and request that your readers pay for access.

#6 – Selling Courses/Classes

As long as you’re not physically present for the classes, such as recorded videos, then selling courses can provide completely passive income. Course selling is more passive than affiliate marketing because all of the traffic from your website is retained. The courses can be offered under your own brand with an automated order system. Selling courses is a good way to productize what would otherwise be a consulting service.

#7 – Selling Services

I’ve been a freelancer for many clients and I know how it can be a reliable side-income. It’s something anyone can do with some spare time and willingness to learn. Being a freelance service provider is never easy though. Clients often have steep expectations and it can be frustrating to have to compete for work on job boards.

The most profitable freelance services are programming, web design, web development, copywriting, article writing, PPC management, content marketing, social media management and SEO. The more technical your talents, the more you can expect to earn.

#8 – Productized Services

Selling a productized service is much more stable than being a freelance service provider. If you sell freelance services, you should have productizing as a goal for the near future.

Productizing means to turn your freelance skills into a marketable package. Rather than catering your service to every customer, you provide a standardized product with a set price and features. This allows you to list the components of your service and set the expectations for the client from the beginning. There’s less hassles, fewer complaints and your business will run a lot more smoothly.

Productizing eliminates the need to send proposals on job boards or compete with other freelancers. Through inbound marketing, you can drive traffic to your website and bring the clients to you.

#9 – Consulting

Consulting jobs can be very rewarding. You feel like you’ve truly helped and you don’t have the pressure of having to provide a service or produce results.

Consulting is something you can do in your spare time and it’s easy to find gigs on freelance job boards. Most consultants are paid beyond $50 an hour. Remember that you get to price yourself.  If you feel your consultations are worth $250 an hour, charge it. There are plenty of businesses that understand the value of consultation services and are looking for a qualified expert to help them out. They don’t mind paying what you’re asking as long as you solve their problem.

#10 – Programming

I saved this for last because it’s one of those skill-sets only a small number of our readers will have. Fortunately, it’s also something you can easily learn.

Being an experienced programmer with a head on your shoulders is one of the most profitable tools you could have. Just look at some of the tech giants that have made millions. Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. All of these companies would have gone no where without talented programmers.

If you want to learn, dive into PHP, ASP.NET or Python. These are web languages that you could use to create scripts, websites and custom web-based software. Once you’re fully tuned into being an entrepreneur, you won’t have any problem coming up with new website ideas. You’ll be able to take action and start programming immediately without needing to increase your budget to hire help.

Update – Have a Backup Plan

I get countless emails from young readers that seem like passionate entrepreneurs, have a good head on their shoulders and are willing to work hard. They also tend to be willing to skip out on college to pursue these interests. While it’s admiring and some of the greatest entrepreneurs were college dropouts, I don’t think it’s wise to neglect education. Knowledge is power and if you’re truly an online entrepreneur, you can still learn programming or go to school for computer science. Having a degree to fall back on in case your online business falls through is a smart decision. The education system is far from perfect. It’s expensive, the skills and knowledge obtained is questionable and it can seem like a waste of time. It’s true that you can’t guide the brilliant minds of tomorrow with curriculum developed by yesterday’s generations. However, with a degree you enjoy, finding the motivation to stick with it until completion will be easy.

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I'm 25, a software developer and I'm excited to be here and provide transparency to everything I do online. I build, grow and sustain profitable web-based businesses and I'll continue to use this platform to strengthen my own accountability and provide others with useful insight and data.

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