There’s no doubt that the ability to start your own business with a few clicks has torn down many of the barriers to entrepreneurship. Anyone can quickly start their own online business these days and have complete control over their career. This prospect is particularly appealing to people tired of the constraints of the traditional workplace, including young people and women.
But “online business” is a vague term, and many people aren’t sure of the direction they would like to take. In this article, we will go over three of the most popular forms of online business, how to get started in them, and what kind of person would be best suited for each one.
eCommerce is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of online businesses. The internet has completely overhauled the way people buy things, and it is now easier than ever to start selling just about anything. But eCommerce isn’t just convenient, it’s the future: experts estimate that by 2040, 95% of purchases will be made online.
You don’t even need to have a product to sell. Models like dropshipping make it incredibly easy to connect suppliers and clients, essentially removing yourself as the middleman while still making money from the transaction.
However, the ease of eCommerce also means that you have to work extra hard to stand out, especially in an environment that is so decidedly dominated by Amazon (which represents almost 50% of all online sales in the US). According to eCommerce platform Oberlo, key ways to do this include focusing on exceptional service and building an attractive, mobile-friendly website.
Who Is It For? People who have a concrete product to offer, and/or people who have identified a gap in the market
If you want to sell a skill, not a product, then freelancing is for you. It is one of the fastest-growing job types out there: the US workforce is set to be 50% freelance as soon as 2027.
Freelancing is more flexible than owning a commerce business, with essentially no start-up costs. However, it is often a crowded marketplace, especially for common skills like writing and design. Finding your first clients can be hard, despite there being many ways in which this can be done.
When starting a freelance career, the usual advice on how to start a successful business still applies. You should carry out market research, write a business plan, and figure out how you are going to finance your venture in the first few months. Treating your freelance career as a business – one where the product you are selling is yourself – is the best way to ensure you are effectively marketing your skills.
Who Is It For? People who have a skill they can sell, and/or people who want a flexible career
There is somewhat of an overlap between consultancy and freelancing, since many consultants work on a freelance basis. However, there are key differences between the two jobs.
As explained by The Balance, freelancers work on short, definitive projects delivering a specific service. Consultants are brought in to advise a company on broader projects, and tend to work in-house and for longer stretches of time. An easy way to think about it is that as a consultant, you are selling your expertise, not a specific skill.
Consultancy is less of an online business than eCommerce and freelancing, since most of the job is done in person and on site. However, when it comes to building and growing your consultancy business, the internet is key. Most of the main ways to promote yourself involve maintaining a strong internet presence, be it through a blog, website, newsletter, or targeted advertising on social media.
Who Is It For? People with extensive experience in a specific area
There are plenty of ways to build a business online, and these are only three popular examples. Many entrepreneurs like to mix and match between online revenue streams – for example, offering both freelance and consulting services, or running a blog alongside their eCommerce shop. The beauty of online business is the complete freedom and flexibility it offers, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and be bold.
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