Coming up with a great small business idea that is free (or very low cost), and easy to start from home, is the first step to making money - but you have to think outside the box.
The Internet is well suited to starting out of a home office (or garage), and, fortunately, it no longer takes much money or time to start a website.
But, if your spidey senses are tingling because you don't know much about online business, don't panic. This is 2013, and reliable, super cheap (or completely free) website builders and Web hosts are everywhere.
This list of ideas will give you the inspiration and information required to set up without spending much money, or having to rent office space.
Top 5 home business ideas
Before we look at the list, it is important that you know where to get the cheapest Web hosting and websites, that also offer the best and most reliable Web solutions.
Check out our step-by-step beginner's guide to creating a free website with Weebly to get set up.
And, for those who decide to make money by selling stuff online, there's an excellent tutorial on how to build an online store with Bigcommerce for beginners.
Remember, you don't have to have any Web experience to start up online.
1. Current affairs satirist
One of the hardest things about making money blogging is consistently coming up with great ideas for blog posts that are on-topic, relevant, and engaging.
Why not start a blog that comments on current affairs? This way you could browse the daily news each morning, find things that irk or enrage you, and tell people what you think in a funny/sarcastic way.
If friends and family think you're funny, then it's a good bet other people will too. Plus, you have a never ending pool of inspiration from the political or celeb buffoonery that fills the news.
2. Online talk show host
Talk shows don't have to be big budget network affairs. Film yourself talking about issues that matter to you and post the clips to YouTube.
Combine the YouTube clips with a blog to create a multi-channel marketing strategy that will quickly bring plenty of Web traffic, and make good money from advertising (YouTube clips can easily be monetized).
All you need is a great niche. What drives you mad about life? What do you love? What do you think is stupid, funny, great, awful?
Find what you are passionate about, and tell the world.
3. Super affiliate marketer
Is there something you are really good at? How about skills? Got skills?
Use the knowledge and expertise available to you to build a fantastic website that revolves around one or two quality affiliate products. Make sure your content is really useful, with plenty of great opinions/ideas, how-to articles, freebies, tutorials, and anything else people in that niche would value.
Build your website/blog to funnel Web traffic to affiliate links and start raking in commissions.
Remember to be careful about which affiliates to partner with - well established, trusted brands are generally better at converting traffic because people are already familiar with them.
4. Drop-shipping retailer
Got a flair for sales? Why waste time developing a new product and warehousing and delivering it the traditional way, when you can sell it and let a drop-shipper handle everything else?
Find a handful of great products and build a site around those. Create content that isn't available on other eCommerce sites - stuff that is useful to potential buyers, like how-to articles centered around those products.
You can find out more about drop-shipping eCommerce at How to start a drop-shipping site.
5. Professional webinar host
Are you trained or qualified at something, anything? Personal trainers and fitness experts, doctors, lawyers, yoga instructors, plumbers, electricians, etc, can take their skills online.
Offer free webinars that focus on teaching people how to do stuff. Build up a loyal following, and then offer paid webinars or memberships for more advanced training, workshops, or online courses.
The trick here is to build up trust and authority before attempting to charge. Perhaps even present online workshops in conjunction with a local college or chamber of commerce.
Provided you have the requisite qualifications that show you are an expert in a given field, there is no reason you can't become the "go to person" - and make plenty of cash in the process.
There are my top 5 ideas for starting a small, low cost company from home that will hopefully turn into something that makes plenty of money online. But, we're not quite done yet...
Bonus work from home ideas
Over the years we've come across more and more fantastic ideas that offer a low-barrier to entry in terms of time and costs, so here they are.
6. Freelance consultant
I love working as a freelance consultant. I get to work on interesting new projects all the time - I'm currently developing an OO PHP ACO (Ant Colony Optimization) solution to the mTSP (multiple Traveling Salesman Problem) with constraints, using the Google DM (Distance Matrix) API, for a leading real-time fleet tracking and management company.
Being a freelance consultant requires you to have experience, expertise or skills in one or more fields - preferably something you are good at and enjoy doing.
Unfortunately, great skills and experience alone are not enough to get work online - you have to go out and market yourself.
I also strongly recommend setting up a professional blog or website that you can use to both drive traffic via great content, and direct potential clients to get more information about you and your services.
Finally, if you are going to make a go at becoming a freelance consultant, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is properly filled out.
7. Sell stuff (eCommerce)
A friend of mine began a very successful career (he now owns his own business that employs around 40 people) by selling goods online via eBay.
At first he imported cheap gadgets from overseas and sold them at low prices through his eBay shop. He found that while he was able to sell the stock he brought in, the market was only able to absorb a certain volume... that wasn't enough.
Using what he learned from selling cheap items, and how online sales and the market worked, he went and found higher quality goods and began marketing them better. The higher quality goods had better margins and helped establish him as a reliable seller.
Once he had the resources, he expanded into providing his own, custom, branded products.
The point of this is that the Internet has vast untapped money making potential for anyone smart enough to research and analyze a niche market, find a product that "fits", and sell like mad.
You can learn more by reading how to sell stuff online.
8. Information expert
We live in the information age. Information is vital to our entire civilization. Fortunately, information is also uniquely suited to the online medium. This opens up a whole swathe of potential work from home jobs that deal with information in one way or another.
If you have any type of industry, niche or work skill and experience then there are probably several possible work from home jobs that are perfect for you at any given moment.
So long as the job predominantly revolves around information, it is likely a suitable candidate as a home based job. Here are just some of the information related work at home jobs you might consider:
- Web designer
- Data entry
- Forum moderator
- Proof reader
Not only that, but there are plenty of social networks, blogs, forums, websites and communities that cater for people looking for telecommute or work from home jobs. A quick search on Google will turn up plenty of results.
9. Become a news columnist
There are many media blogs and websites out there that pay for great content. Since Google's Panda and Penguin updates, high quality, original content is at a premium. There are opportunities to write in almost any topic (for some very prestigious publications), so you are sure to find someone who needs content on subjects you know something about.
Start by looking at popular sites that cover topics on which you have some experience.
10. Be a forum moderator
Many large web based businesses require forum moderation services. Often their requirements can be quite particular, and this means that they are prepared to pay well for the right people.
Forum moderation is a great candidate for home based work because Web companies often need to be online 24x7. This means they need remote workers in most time-zones.
Forum moderation is also a great way to get to know a community and get known by a community. This brings great opportunity to grow your own blog by offering advice and information based on what you learn from work.
When your venture succeeds and you're rich and famous, drop me a line and share your success story here (share an adviser's commission too, if you like ;).
What other ideas would work online, and from home, without costing an arm and a leg to get started?
Share your own ideas for home based, online businesses in the comments.