woman working on online business
woman working on online business

Admittedly, setting up any business with no money is very difficult and will usually take a long time to grow. However, it’s not impossible to create a steady income out of one good online business idea. This year has taken its toll on a lot of individuals and businesses, and it can never hurt to find a way to top up your income, especially in a Covid-safe way online way.

Now, not all online business ideas will work. It’s estimated that around 90% of internet start-ups will fail. However, if you’re coming at this with a low or non-existent financial investment, all you have to lose is time – which is valuable in itself, but I digress.

Where do I begin setting up my online business?

If you are looking to set up an online business with absolutely no money, the first thing you should consider is business models that only need a laptop and internet connection – those are the two things you will absolutely need.

As with any business venture, you will be looking for a return on investment and then a little profit to call it a success so, the moment you make even £1 profit, you can count this operation a success.

So where do we begin? Here are some low-risk – low investment side hustles and business ideas for tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

Video Editing & Design

As a graphic designer or video editor, there are lots of opportunities to pick up extra work online without the cost of producing and shipping a physical product.

While it will require the investment in a business licence for the design or editing software, you will not be limited by the expense of acquiring materials. However, if you do not have the hardware to carry out the work, the initial investment becomes more significant.

You can offer design services through your own website or third-party platforms like Fiverr with no start-up costs for a variety of freelancers, not just graphic designers.

Similarly, if you are an artist, eCommerce platforms like Etsy allow you to sell digital downloads of your art online, allowing your customers to print them themselves to their liking. Selling art as a Digital Product eliminates the printing costs as well as shipping (which only increase if you offer framed prints.)

If you’re considering selling prints or digital downloads, look at the current trends on the platform you sell on. What is performing well? Is it minimalism? Pop Art? Photography?

Ebooks and Publications

Quite like Etsy’s digital downloads, you can offer digital downloads of e-books online. While they will require a lot of work to produce, once published on a platform like Amazon, they can serve as a way of generating passive income in the future.

However, ebooks are not for everyone. This is only really an option for people who already have notable success in their fields. To see if ebooks could work for you, consider these things:

  • Do you have an area of expertise that others would be interested in reading about?
  • Do you know how to solve a problem few do?
  • Do you know a lot about a subject very little is written about?

For example, if you are a qualified nutritionist or trainer, you could use your qualifications to reach a wide target audience who all have questions about health and food. Similarly, you can use these tools to generate potential customers for your consulting business.

You could also use an e-book as a lead-generation tool for your existing business. For instance, promoting an e-book as “gated content”. Your potential customers need to enter their email addresses to download a free ebook or piece of content.

Writing Services

If you are a professional copywriter or have a flair for the written word, you can offer your writing services through platforms like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour. These days, businesses are looking for freelance writers to produce a range of content from website copy to blogs and more. While clients are not guaranteed, you can’t lose anything by putting yourself out there to build a portfolio.

Online Personal Trainer

Since Covid, the way we have worked out has changed. Without a wealth of gym equipment at our fingertips and the supply and demand of said equipment is way out of balance, people have been focusing on callisthenics, cardio and improvisation in recent times.

While there is light at the end of the tunnel for Covid, many people are still put off going into gyms and are keen to continue using online programmes. For some people, a recording of an instructor is not enough and need a personal trainer to keep them accountable or to give them advice on their personal goals.

There are now numerous personal trainer platforms like Truecoach to connect you with potential clients without the limitations of a gym.

YouTube Cover

If you have a specific interest or business that would benefit from more awareness, Youtube can be a great platform. However, like any of these things, an audience is not guaranteed.

If you have a subject that people are keen to know more about and you’re passionate about: this could work for you. However, do your research. How many people are searching for information on your topic? What questions are they asking? Are there any similar channels that are doing well? Are you trying to break into a niche market that is dying, or is this area thriving at the moment?

Google Keyword Planner is a great tool for seeing what trends and content people are searching for and whether there is a demand for the information you have.

Remember, only once you receive a certain amount of views will you be able to monetise your videos.

Online Store

One of the most popular options, but will indeed take some physical assets and monetary investments to get off the ground. There are a variety of options for online marketplaces, including:

  • Your own website, which you can easily create using platforms like WordPress combined with Shopify – however, it will require purchasing the domain name, which comes at an expense.
  • An Amazon store which you can manage yourself and ship your items or take on an FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) arrangement where you send your stock to Amazon, and they ship it for you
  • An Etsy store or similar if you are selling art, handmade, vintage or similar items
  • eBay, the old classic

To name a few.

If you are thinking of an Etsy store, click here for some awesome examples of stores that have been successful.

Affiliate Marketing & Affiliate Programs

Affiliate marketers are a sort of independent sales and marketing agents for brands. As an Affiliate Marketer, you receive a commission on the products you sell. Often this is 5-20%; however, in rare cases, this has been seen going as high as 75%. Usually, you will be given an affiliate link to send customers to where they

In 2016, Business Insider found that around 15% of all e-commerce revenue was attributed to Affiliate Marketing.

An Affiliate Program is not a guaranteed source of income and solely depends on how much you sell. However, it is relatively low risk with next to no start-up cost it can be a good venture. You might also find it of use if you are running your own business and are promoting brands with a similar target audience to you.

For example, you are a beauty business owner and use your followers on Instagram or Facebook to promote a brand you love and have an affiliate marketing deal with.

Find out more about Affiliate Marketing here.

Virtual Assistant Services

Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds. You can advertise your services as a Virtual Assistant on sites like PeoplePerHour for everyday administrative services for both businesses and individuals from your own home.

There is a wide range of tasks you can undertake as a VA, including regular administration, SEO, content writing, research, document formatting, PowerPoint Presentations, transcribing recordings, and more.

Online Courses

A career as an online instructor can be fruitful, with more and more people turning to online learning all the time. If you have the qualifications, why not create an online course and, once created, sit back and allow it to generate a passive income?

This is a great way of generating extra income for professional lecturers, academics, successful business owners and creatives looking to share their knowledge.

There are now several platforms to share your course with potential students, including Udemy or Skillshare; you only need to choose the one that is right for you.

You could also take up a role as an online tutor, for which there are various popular platforms like MyTutor, which are marketed towards university students looking to pick up flexible work around their courses.

How can I promote my New Online Business?

When it comes to operating small online businesses, you don’t need to spend a fortune on an online marketing campaign or hire an SEO consultant. However, some knowledge of SEO techniques (Search Engine Optimization) is required if you are running your own website. If you are running a small online business, don’t overcomplicate things. A solid social media page that shows your followers what you’re about showcases your products or services and serves as another channel to direct customers to your online service.

Similarly, if your profile is set up correctly, the internal search engines on the platform you are using should work their magic and direct people to your page. For instance, Etsy offers a guide on SEO for your Etsy shop on their website.

Alternatively, as your business grows, you might choose to reinvest some of your profits into Facebook or Google Ads to promote your business but remember to do some research into best practices.

What about Insurance?

It wouldn’t be an Insync article without a little business insurance talk.

While insurance is usually not a legal requirement, it is something that you should consider in the long term. In some cases, the platform you use may require you to have some form of cover to set up as a business, so always keep that in mind.

The level of insurance you do or don’t need will entirely depend on your business. If your business becomes your only source of income, you should definitely consider some sort of business insurance like Business Interruption, Equipment or Stock Insurance.

If you are selling physical products, Products Liability cover is always a good one to consider. It will cover you if someone makes a claim of physical injury or damage to property due to a product you have supplied, designed or manufactured. Product Liability will be almost essential if you are making your own items, particularly if those things are to be used on the skin.

You may also want to consider Professional Indemnity Insurance for businesses where you are offering professional advice or designs.

Professional Indemnity insurance will cover you financially for claims of:

  • Copyright infringement
  • Negligent Professional Advice
  • Faulty Designs

For example, you design a logo for a small business, and they receive a claim for copyright infringement from a similar company. You are found liable for the financial losses of that claim. With a PI policy, both the legal fees and any compensation awarded will be covered by your insurer.

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