3 top Web-based small business ideas

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"Want some really great small business ideas (in particular ones that can used in a local or home based environment) that will put you on the path to prosperity?"

Anyone can start their own small business from home these days because it is relatively inexpensive to create a professional website or eCommerce store, and doesn't require any Web experience.

Provided you are prepared to invest a bit of time and effort to set up a great website in order to get started, there is no reason you can start making money pretty quickly.

Preparation

"Browse our small business ideas database for more great ideas."

It's important to note that all of these ideas will require the use of a website as well as some offline, or traditional, work.

If you are only looking to generate some passive, or residual, income then the best way to do this is by starting a blog that lots of people read. Find more about how to make money blogging.

It's also super important to spend a bit of time creating a business plan. Check out our fantastic free business plan, designed to help small, online startups like yours. There's no sign up or registration required - simply click the download button, and away you go.

1. Run errands

Running errands for people might not sound like the most glamorous job in the world, but there is potentially great money to be made if you can get enough people in your neighborhood to sign on.

The demand: People are very busy these days, and often don't have time to fit in all their chores around work and other commitments - in particular, things like grocery shopping, laundry, standing in lines, etc.

The solution: Create a website that allows people to assign errands for you to do. They can specify what they need, and when it needs to be done by.

Your service could be based on a monthly membership fee (to help generate a steady flow of income), plus a charge per errand.

Why it will work: While it might not be cost effective for you to pick up one person's groceries, it would definitely be profitable to pick up ten, or twenty at the same time.

You might not even have to deliver the groceries to each customer. People will likely pay to have their groceries ready and waiting for them as they drive past the mall (instead of finding parking, doing their shopping, and waiting in line).

What you'll need: If you are going to run errands, a vehicle is definitely a prerequisite.

"See how to create an awesome eCommerce site in minutes."

In addition, an affordable, flexible and an easy-to-use eCommerce site (to accept monthly memberships, and individual transactions). Building a great eCommerce store is really easy (even for beginners), and you won't need any Web design, PHP or HTML experience to get started.

2. Online courses

Do you have great skills or experience in something, anything? Share your knowledge in the form of an online course.

Alternatively, find great existing courses that are not available online and convert them into an online format - be sure to obtain permission first.

The demand: Competition in the job market is fierce, and many people entering the job market are looking for anything that can give them the edge.

At the same time, there are industries experiencing massive shortages of qualified people with the skills they need.

The solution: Find areas where there are skills shortages and develop a training course (you might have to find experts to advise if it is not in your own area of expertise).

Develop the course in conjunction with a local college, so that they endorse it.

Offer the course online. Students pay for access to premium course content that includes exercises and quizzes.

Why it will work: If people believe your course will increase their chances of landing a job, they pay to take it. Your biggest obstacle will be establishing trust.

Recognition from an established learning institute (especially if the course counts as credits to a degree) will provide an instant channel for potential sales.

"See how to create an online store to sell subscriptions or digital products."

What you'll need: Writing and organization skills - although you can copy a training course outline from existing online courses offered by recognized universities and colleges.

The ability to sell virtual items or subscriptions from an eCommerce site.

3. Rescue packages for parents

Offer a monthly baby package delivery service that includes everything mom and dad need (diapers, formula, etc) on a regular basis. The initial delivery could also include things like a baby monitor, pram, etc.

The demand: People are always having children, right? Parents (in particular first time parents) are often overwhelmed by the new demands and responsibilities young children bring.

Anything that can help make the transition from care free couple to successful parents will find an eager market.

The solution: Sign expectant parents up to a service that delivers everything they will need on a monthly or weekly basis - possibly even starting during pregnancy.

This could include, initially, advice and books on what to expect, local information - schools, hospitals, clinics, suggestions for how to baby-proof the house, etc, but change on a monthly basis to meet the changing needs of a growing baby.

Why it will work: Easy to market - you could sponsor local ante-natal clinics, Lemaze classes, etc. Great word of mouth marketing between groups friends who are having kids at roughly the same time.

What you'll need: Great planning - your packages would need to be customized to baby boys, or baby girls. What about twins? Or triplets? What about kids with allergies? Single parents?

Also important are warehousing and delivery. While you would have to start off in your own neighborhood, there would no doubt be scope to grow and to franchise out the business down the line.

So those are my three ideas for starting home based small businesses online. What other ideas have you come up with that you think will make money?

Share your ideas and tips in the comments.