Working from home to make money online

2016's top online business ideas to make money from home

Selling online is getting easier and easier every day, from a technical point of view, because the technology to handle online transactions (like online shopping cart builders) is fast, easy to use, and cheap.

That means that once you have found the perfect idea it won't take long to setup your own fantastic store. Even better, it's not even that hard to administer them and keep them operating smoothly. There are so many fantastic online, cloud based services that integrate with leading carts, that everything from stock control, to fulfilment and tax can be automated to a large degree.

But this begs the question 'Why isn't everyone becoming a millionaire from their own eCommerce site?'

The answer is that there is a lot of competition in the online and home business market. Lowering the technical barriers to entry means that more people are able to enter the marketplace. This in turn means that it is much harder to cut through the clutter to find loyal, paying customers.

The challenge for 2016 is to come up with an idea that is unique, unusual, interesting and different.

Starting with a strong idea gives an immediate advantage over other more run-of-the-mill type home businesses. That's why we've put together this awesome list of ideas that will hopefully inspire you to get started on your own venture today.

We've also included plenty of resources (including free step-by-step guides to building your own online store) at the end of the article to help you take the next step.

1. Design & sell cards & invites

Do you love drawing and designing? Do you have a wicked sense of humor? If yes, then it's likely that you can make a successful business out of designing and selling all sorts of cards and invites online.

To give you an idea of the potential market out there, here are some of Google's search statistics for a few relevant keywords for the U.S alone:

  • christmas cards: 74 000
  • bridal shower invitations: 40 500
  • greeting cards: 33 100
  • happy birthday cards: 27 100

So, every month there is a market of several hundred thousand people searching for cards that you could be selling. What's more, marketing and advertising this type of business is packed full of possibilities, because you can offer plenty of free stuff to get people sharing your designs.

There's a fantastic example of just this type of startup, called Strange Fox:

Free quote based wallpapers and designs

Strange Fox gives away beautiful, free quote based wallpapers that are designed to fit PCs, tablets (both portrait and landscape views) and smartphones. And, if you want to get that design on a birthday card, greeting card, or wedding invite, you can buy it from their store and have them delivered straight to your front door.

Great way to do business, right?

Give away cool stuff for free so that people love your site and get to know your designs, before buying them.

2. Drone tech blogger

Drones are taking off (pardon the pun) in a big way. So there is going to be a huge demand for information about drone products and accessories, from consumers. Not only that, but drone software and technology updates for manufacturers and other industry players will also experience an upswing in demand.

Finally, reporters will also be looking for news and information sources from experts and influencers in the industry in order to cover this booming tech.

Just about everyone will interact with drones in one way or another in the not too distant future, so why not get in on the action right now? If you love playing with new technology and gadgets then starting an industry blog covering everything about drones could be your ticket to tech-nerd paradise.

Already, the phrase drone has over a quarter of a million searches per month in the U.S. and that is growing quickly.

Marketing a tech blog will require you to establish relationships with industry players as early as possible.

Building strong relationships now, means you have access to a constant flow of new and interesting news and information as the industry grows and evolves.

If you can establish yourself as the go-to resources for all things drone early on, you stand a good chance of capturing the lion's share of the market. And, there is plenty of scope to make huge amounts of cash using affiliate relationships to sell drones and drone accessories to your avid fans and readers.

3. Design and sell floating house plants

This is one of those ideas that is probably best explained using a video. There's a Japanese company that has perfected the technique of creating floating bonsai:

Just because one company has already done it, doesn't mean that you should sit back and let them slowly take over the world's market.

I'll bet there is very little competition in your area, in this specific niche, right?

Starting this business is going to require a bit of trial and error type experimentation. But, clearly it's possible, so there's no reason you can't get this working in your garage. Once you have a formula for a design that is stable and works, decide on which type of plants would sell best in your local market.

Because you have to deliver the product from the point of manufacture (initially, your garage), it's probably not feasible to market this nationally as delivery costs will decimate your profits. But, there is every chance you might consider franchising the production and distribution out to partners in other areas once you are established.

A good local SEO campaign is probably your best bet when it comes to driving interest. This would involve creating plenty of engaging visual content (something you should have plenty of) and sharing it via social media and a company blog.

4. Coffee upcycling

Coffee is an abundant material with many uses beyond the most obvious. In fact, something like 70% of the nutrients in coffee remain even after they have been used to make a drinks. This is a lot of natural goodness going to waste.

One of the best ways to convert used grounds into something useful is to convert them into a medium to grow mushrooms. Companies that use coffee grounds to develop DIY mushroom kits are starting to take root in different parts of the world.

Look for opportunities to grow rarer, more expensive mushrooms and you might find a brilliant way to undercut competitors.

Most coffee shops would love to have a partner who can help them remove the huge amounts of waste grounds generated by their activities, and may even pay you a small amount as a waste removal service.

But that's not all there is to coffee upcycling. In fact, there's scope to use coffee as a main ingredient in a number of different products:

  • 3D printing materials (mix with resin)
  • Candles (mix with wax)
  • Firewood logs (mix with wax)
  • Body scrubs (mix with salts, and other ingredients)
  • Recycled coffee cups(coat with waterproof propolis)

In particular, there are plenty of expensive bath salts, scrubs and lotions that all use coffee.

Use coffee as an ingredient in beauty products

Develop a line of boutique coffee based health and beauty products. Market yourself by building relationships with women's (and men's) magazines, and get your products featured there. Attend plenty of trade shows and conventions, and sponsor give-aways on radio to build awareness for your products.

5. Smart accountant app

Lots of people, myself included, waste cash on things we don't even know about.

Almost everyone has, at some point, started a gym contract only to stop going a few months later, but continue to pay for months if not years. I'm fairly certain many gyms would close their doors if all their inactive clients were to cancel their subscriptions or debit orders.

What about unknown bank charges? Are you certain that the right money is being deducted from your accounts for the right things? Have you ever had a company double bill you? It happened to me, and I let it go on for a long time before I woke up.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if there was an app that would act as a smart, personal accountant?

The app would plug into your bank account (or you could simply scan in monthly statements). It would then look at all your income and outgoings and provide advice and reports on potential subscriptions you might want to cancel, double payments, wasteful expenditure, and a host of other money-saving tidbits.

In fact, the app might even be able to show you whether your bank is offering the best rates given your month to month usage. It would be like having the same financial advice the big corporations have, without having to pay thousands of dollars.

Even if you are not technical, or financially minded, don't despair. Partner with an app developer and find a local financial whiz to advise you. Then put together an app that can help save the average person time and money.

Marketing it should be easy. Give it away to journalists for free and let them report on how much money it saved them. Articles on personal finance from big media and news houses like WSJ and NYTimes will get you all the exposure you need.

There is, however, a bit of competition in the form of Truebill that specifically looks at recurring payments.

Truebill helps avoid unwanted recurring payments

Make sure your offering has more smart features and there's no reason you can leapfrog to the top of the personal finance industry.

Want over 100 more ideas?

We add new ideas to our small business ideas database all the time, and most of these have a strong focus on low startup costs, online, home based type ideas.

Here's a selection of the type of things you can explore there:

  • Hidden sculpture candles

    Hidden sculpture candles

  • Treasure hunt adventure holiday tour operator

    Adventure tour holiday operator

  • Hip, stylish accessories for shoes

    Hip shoe accessories

  • Caffeinated snacks

    Caffeinated snacks

Starting your online home business

Got your idea? That's great news. It means it's time to take your first step into the exciting world of online business. It can be daunting and appear overwhelming, but don't panic, it's a lot easier than you think.

Here's a list of things you'll need to do:

1. Research a business plan

Even if you aren't planning on raising funds from investors or looking for a loan from the bank, completing a great business plan is still really valuable. Not only will it force you to research the market and look closely at competitors and competing products, it will also expose you to new ideas, people, and possibly even a better idea or way of doing business.

Download our completely free business plan template designed specifically with online startups in mind.

2. Create a website

Depending on the type of business you intend starting, you'll either need an eCommerce store or a professional site/blog. We have a number of free Web design startup guides that take you through the set-up process, step-by-step, using one of the leading online website builders (perfect for anyone wanting to cut development time and cost):

Remember that it is free to create your websites/online stores, but you will usually have to pay a small monthly hosting fee once the free trial period has come to an end.

3. Learn about tools & services

Having your own website is not the only way to sell stuff online. Marketing and promotions are also hugely important activities that contribute to the success, or failure, of your venture - depending on how well you do them.

Here's a list of sites, services and tools that will probably be useful as you build a business:

  • Zazzle - online marketplace for custom designed, printed products
  • Etsy - online crafts marketplace
  • PayPal - eCommerce payment handling facilities
  • GetResponse - online email marketing service
  • Amazon associates - earn commission selling products on Amazon program
  • Google analytics - monitor and analyze traffic to your website
  • DropBox - cloud based file sharing and backup
  • Skype - VoIP calls and messaging
  • Twitter - micro-blogging social network

4. Learn about marketing & promotions

Having the tools you need isn't the end of the journey. It's not what you have, it's how you use it.

Online marketing is challenging, frustrating and complex - but it can also be one of the most rewarding parts of running a company.

Here's a list of articles and resources that will definitely help you with a wide range of marketing strategies from influencer marketing, to social media and email:

Ok, so that's about it. I hope this article has given you both the inspiration and the information you need to start a fantastic new online business working from the comfort of home. Just remember to remember me when you make it big.

What other ideas do you think are worth adding to this list? Share your ideas, tips and startup advice in the comments.

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If you'd prefer to browse available work at home jobs grouped by the top 20 employers instead, check out top companies offering work from home jobs.

The best software for online business. Pic by Guy Sie.

We've put together a dream team list of the best software and services designed to help start and grow a small (online & home) business easily and cheaply, with as little admin and effort as possible.

To improve your chances of successfully starting an online business (especially if it's an eCommerce store) it's vital to select not only the best individual software solutions (& services), but also the ones that work and integrate seamlessly with each other.

Unfortunately, it's not always easy to do this.

Motivational wallpapers and backgrounds. Pic by DyosEL

I love finding new motivational quotes from successful entrepreneurs and other personalities and find that reading an inspirational saying each morning, before starting work, makes a big difference to my day.

There's something encouraging about knowing that these people made it big and are sharing a bit of their wisdom with us. And, luckily, there is one fantastic site called Strange Fox that specialises in turning inspirational and motivational quotes into fantastic phone wallpapers and desktop backgrounds for women... absolutely free.

Grow your business (Fill empty seats). Pic by Andrew

The SBA (Small Business Administration) is a United States government department tasked with supporting and nurturing entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. But what can it actually do for you?

We were curious about this so we asked our community for their stories about how the SBA - including the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) who are also funded/supported by them - had impacted their ventures. Not including their websites that offer a huge online repository of information, articles and business resources (we'll list a bunch of important online resources for you to explore at the end of the article).

Inspirational entrepreneur quotes

Life as an entrepreneur can be extremely tough, which is why it is important to sometimes pause and listen to inspiring quotes that keep you going.

But it's one thing to read a quote, it's another to see it brought to life by an artist's interpretation. Often, the imagery combined with the quote can have a far more profound effect than the words by themselves.

And, in the world of small business, finding the right words at the right time could mean the difference between success and failure - especially if you're at the point where you really need something uplifting.