It’s the eternal conundrum. To make money, you usually have to spend money.

While money certainly smooths the way to building your dream business, access to ready cash is no guarantee that it will lead to success.

The emerging power and ubiquity of the Internet together with the arrival of the gig economy have changed the way business start-ups work. As long as you have an Internet connection, a laptop and convenient workspace, you can unleash your inner digital entrepreneur, even if your start-up is tight on capital.

Inspiration Strikes

Starting a service or a specialist-driven business out of in your home is a smart choice for budding first-time entrepreneurs, They rarely require significant capital aside from a good home office set up and a speedy Internet connection.

However, starting out small online doesn’t translate into being cost-free. Develop a draft cash flow projection for your first 12 months in business, so you are clear what costs you are likely to incur and when your bills fall due for payment.

Here are 10 great ideas for starting your own small online business:

1. Social Media Maven

The arrival of social media as a business force has stimulated a seemingly insatiable demand for expertise in social media marketing. While major organisations often use larger agencies or their own internal team to manage their social media needs, small businesses lack the same resources but still have to compete in the social media landscape. Increasingly, social media consultants are filling the gap around strategy, tactics, posting, managing content pipelines and running publishing calendars for many small business owners. If your skills cover follower engagement, your new online consulting business will flourish. 

2. Niche Online Retailer

In today’s economy, an audience exists for everything. Whether it’s selling rare books, collectable fossils or hypoallergenic cat toys, specialty e-commerce retailers, are tapping into niche pockets of prospective customers who are interested in your specialty products. All you need to be successful online is a reliable, scalable web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart an associated e-commerce software. You can even outsource your inventory management, shipping and delivery functions to vendors who will ship your products to your customers on your behalf, eliminating your need to maintain substantial inventory.

3. Freelance Writer

Everyone can write, right? As it turns out, not so much! The expansion of the Internet has created a surge in demand for digital content. Freelance writing is a perfect business for those with solid writing skills and experience. If you are fascinated by the written word and have the experience to express your thoughts on screen, there are many platforms relying on freelance writers for their content. Check out and for example of the gig economy at work.

4. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is an e-commerce business model where you, as the business owner, don’t actively stock products in your online store while sourcing it from a third party provider that ships directly to your customers. If you elect to venture into dropshipping, you’ll find you don’t require significant capital to get started. Simply pay your wholesale supplier after a customer places an order with you. You can manage your entire online store irrespective of your geographical location and time zone.

5. Vacation Rentals

If you are blessed with some unused space in your home, you build a small side income by surfing the Airbnb wave. All you need to do is to register as a host, agree to their terms and conditions and list your space on their website. Airbnb will also confirm your profit you generated when a guest books your room via their online platform.

6. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate networks contribute to an online businesses’ growth by acting as a digital referral system. Through your extended affiliate network, you solicit advertisers to connect with whose products you are looking to promote. Digital businesses rely on sourcing affiliate marketing opportunities through the services of a network of potential affiliates and their website traffic volumes. Affiliate marketing consultants generate their income by earning commissions when someone visits a partner website or purchases an affiliates’ product. When visitors reach your site, they simply click on your affiliate link, which directs them to your affiliate brand website, earning you a credit for stimulating their response.

7. Digital Marketing & SEO Consultant

If you have a passion for digital marketing and SEO, you’ll discover a vibrant market for helping website owners boost the visibility and performance of their business by attracting new prospects, converting prospects into customers and fine-tuning a website to cater for the needs of search engine algorithms, an online career as a digital marketing and SEO consultant could be beckoning.

To secure clients you will need a great website and blog to promote your skills by showing examples of best practice and updates on what’s working and what’s not. Another path to take is to create an online course showcasing the different areas of expertise you provide and upload it onto the Udemy training platform. Udemy short courses are great ways to build a reputation for your digital expertise.

8. Artisan Arts & Handicraft Professionals

The emergence of online retailers such as Etsy and ArtFire has created reputable platforms for arts and crafts professionals to sell their creations. You should be able to provide a steady supply of your handmade work to build up a following and word of mouth. Happily, if you purchase your materials in bulk, startup costs are modest. Many part-time artists have converted their passion for their hobby into a full-time business.

9. App Developer

Mobile applications are so a thing.  Despite being around for years now, they remain as popular as ever, and people continue to discover reasons to pay for ways to manage their lives via their smartphones. If you have a sensational idea for an app and know your way around coding you can create your own app. If you have an idea but don’t have the coding chops, there is plenty of developers online looking to collaborate on app creation. Thank you gig economy!

10. Virtual Assistant

If impeccable organizational skills are your thing, you might want to consider hopping aboard the virtual assistant train. Rather than hiring conventional PAs, more and more small businesses are tapping into the freelance market and hiring virtual assistants. If scheduling, managing multiple tasks simultaneously and crushing deadlines lie at the core of your skill set, put those fabulous organizational skills to effective use by becoming an online virtual personal assistant. Platforms such as TaskRabbit and Zirtual provide a clearinghouse for gigs that you may want to bid for, be it scheduling, social media liaison or data research. Get started and build up your clientele list.

Final Observation

Modern technology has broken the shackles of capital. Increasingly, micro-entrepreneurs are working from home offices to build their business of the future. Today, many businesses operate entirely in a distributed digital environment, pulling talent and resources together as needed via the gig economy. This is yielding lower overhead costs and increased freedom for entrepreneurs looking to conduct business on the move. Creating your dream online business is simply a matter of understanding and leveraging your strengths and increasing your digital network. Our list of online business ideas is just the tip of the online iceberg. There are a lot more opportunities to explore online. So, get started on turning your dreams into your own online business, and all it usually takes is a shoestring budget.