Types of Online Businesses
The Internet is essentially the digital wild west when it comes to business variety.
In the real world, you mostly already know what you’ll find when you head to a shopping mall.
There’ll be some outlet stores, some clothing shops, some shoe stores, a few stores for hobbies like video games or sports. And that’s basically it aside from restaurants or other eateries.
But the Internet is far more diverse. Here’s just a brief rundown of the different types of online businesses you can find across the web. If you go looking or simply type your query into Google.
Chart Your Own Course as a Freelancer
Of course, many people opt to create their own online business as freelancers.
By working as a freelancer, you get to set your own hours and choose the jobs you complete. Even set your own rate.
But although this sounds amazing on its face, being a freelancer also comes with a number of difficulties:
- ☑️ it can be tough to get clients at first when you don’t have a portfolio of completed jobs or a reputation in your niche
- ☑️ furthermore, being a freelancer means that your hours are often inconsistent, especially in the beginning
However, for professionals across a variety of industries, being a freelancer gives them the freedom and self-control they crave. Online freelancing businesses can range dramatically in terms of size and age.
Some freelancers have in-depth websites to showcase their portfolios. Others may have very small websites and primarily use freelancer platforms. Upwork is one of those platforms where they find the majority of their clients.
If you are interested in becoming a freelancer, take a look at our definitive beginner guide for freelancers!
What Do Freelancers Do?
Freelancers can be found in practically every professional industry. However, the online sphere lends itself to a few main types of freelancing work.
Freelance copywriters and editors are extremely common, especially on job boards like Upwork. Freelance copywriters and editors are often used by independent bloggers and other online businesses who need content written by professionals, and a lot of it.
Similarly, freelance developers and programmers can be found everywhere across the web. This is largely because most development and programming jobs can be completed remotely. Indeed, computer programmers rarely need to step into an office to do a great job. Online businesses often hire freelance developers and programmers to create websites or upgrade websites over time.
Freelance artists are common as well, especially since it can be hard to find long-term and stable artistic work in traditional industries. Freelance artists work on a case-by-case basis, creating digital art for their clients and for marketing campaigns.
Social Media Management
You can also find more niche freelance online businesses, like social media managers for hire. These individuals can run social media marketing campaigns and accounts for companies. Which frees up their executives or owners for higher-level work.
Food Ordering Businesses
One of the newest types of online business is food ordering, where businesses act as middlemen between consumers and restaurants that otherwise wouldn’t offer delivery.
These businesses, such as GrubHub, allow diners to order food in, and then GrubHub sends out someone to pick up the order from the restaurant after placing it themselves and brings it straight to the diner’s door.
How Do They Make Money?
These businesses make money by forming deals with restaurants. In a nutshell, they offer to pay the restaurants a flat fee in exchange for taking the online or delivery orders that the restaurant would otherwise get. In some cases, GrubHub and similar services offer delivery restaurants that wouldn’t do so themselves.
This way, the restaurant theoretically gets to fulfill more orders and make more money from any food order. While paying a small cut to the delivery service, which makes money from the fees that their restaurants pay for their services. Drivers or delivery people may be paid either with a salary or through tips.
Make a Blog – The Ideal Newbie Online Business
Many people look into blogging when discovering different types of online businesses, and that’s for a good reason.
It’s very easy to make a new blog using free blogging sites, which is why so many people do it!
In fact, blogging is best understood as the perfect newbie online business due to its accessibility and its versatility.
There are literally dozens of excellent free website builders and blogging platforms you can use to create your own digital space.
Then you can fill the blog with anything you desire. Which is why there is such a huge variety of different blog scenes and focuses.
Today, you can find blogs for:
- ☑️ hobbyist blogging, which may focus on news and conversation about certain hobbies or interests
- ☑️ political blogs
- ☑️ cooking and recipe blogs
- ☑️ industry blogs (i.e. discussion blogs and product review blogs surrounding a particular industry, like gardening or computer science)
The plethora of different blog themes and focuses make them a great choice for almost everyone looking to start an online business or just extend their interests into the online world.
Specifically, there are lots of blogs dedicated to reviewing products or experiences in their niche or industry.
For instance, you can find lots of food and restaurant review blogs that spend all of their time focusing on local restaurant reviews or examining different types of food sampled from around the world (this is especially true with travel blogs, which are usually travel/cuisine publications mixed into one).
How Do Blogs Make Money?
Many of the most successful blogs are actually businesses in their own right. That’s because they turn a tidy profit over time. Especially as they gain more traffic and become more well-known throughout their niche. Blogs-as-businesses usually make money in one of two ways.
Affiliate Links/Product Reviews
Many industry-specific or niche-focused blogs will either write (or hire copywriters to write) content reviewing certain items, services, or products in exchange for affiliate links.
The idea is that fans or experts in an industry will read these blogs, then click on the affiliate links that take them to the actual page where they can buy any reviewed or discussed products.
For every sale that the product generates, the affiliated blog gets a small percentage. Over time, this can add up to quite a lot of cash, especially for industries where products are purchased frequently.
Business blogs can also generate revenue through advertisements that either show up as pop-ups or banner ads. This is a much simpler version of ad revenue, as blog owners just need to contact different advertising agencies.
The agencies will then pay the blog a certain amount as a flat rate to post their ads on their website, and sometimes pay a little extra if people click on the banner ads displayed.
Many business blogs are actually chains of larger blog networks. All of which use clever linking and SEO magic to funnel traffic between one another. Gathering clicks and small chunks of change over time.
Make a Podcast – Great for Conversationalists
There’s a similar type of online business to blogging it takes advantage of the auditory sphere: podcasting! In many ways, podcasts can be thought of as radio shows translated to an Internet format.
They’re still primarily auditory experiences. However, podcasts offer a little more freedom compared to traditional radio listening.
For instance, podcasts can often be downloaded and saved for a later listen. This allows people to catch up or stay current with their favorite podcasts over time. Even if they can’t tune in right as a new episode has been released.
Furthermore, many podcast businesses online take advantage of their website platform. They use the extra space to provide additional content for their listeners.
These days, you can find podcasts across almost as wide a variety of niches, interests, and industries as blogs. There are:
- ☑️ true crime and mystery podcasts
- ☑️ political discussion podcasts
- ☑️ real estate investing podcasts
- ☑️ cooking podcasts
- ☑️ hobby podcasts
- ☑️ fandom or pop culture podcasts
Because podcasts are so popular and varied, many people start their own podcast businesses to earn a little side income. While others do it just as a fun hobby. They begin to keep up with their community or to find others who share their interests across the web.
Can You Make Money from a Podcast?
Absolutely. Podcast businesses make money in one of three ways.
Many podcasts that gain enough of a following and that have enough of a reputation for high-quality content may be able to lock their episodes behind a subscription.
Subscription-based podcasts are not as common as free podcasts since it’s easier to get a big audience with free content. But some podcasts become so popular over time, and have an audience large enough, that they can get away with charging money for every new episode.
Podcast businesses can also make money through ad revenue. Specifically, podcast websites may have banner ads or pop-up ads just like blogs do, but the shows themselves may also have fully voiced advertisements just like traditional radio shows.
In most cases, podcast hosts will save an advertising pitch for the middle of their episode to make sure that the maximum number of people listen to the ad. In exchange, the advertisement’s buyer pays the podcast a certain amount of money, either as a flat fee or on a per-episode basis.
Lastly, podcasts that are popular enough often combine their main website with eCommerce or online stores. This allows them to sell merchandise related to their podcast content or personalities, much in the same way that popular radio stations have online stores.
Of course, arguably the quintessential online business is the eCommerce store. ECommerce stores technically are a kind of digital storefront. Places where all of the business is done over the Internet, at least from a customer-facing perspective.
This means that the store doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar or retail location; the only storefront is entirely online.
ECommerce stores are popular online business choices since they’re relatively easy to start and run compared to securing a lease and the funding required for a physical location.
Furthermore, eCommerce stores can be run from home, whereas retail stores have to have a minimum staff and have someone physically at the location at all times.
Make Your Own eCommerce Store or Use a Platform
People typically have two options when it comes to starting an eCommerce business: they can create their own eCommerce store from scratch, either by coding the website themselves or hiring developers, or use amazing eCommerce platforms or prebuilt website templates.
For example, many people use good WordPress hosting as their primary blogging and eCommerce platform. That’s because WordPress is flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of different online businesses and pages. So lots of people have online WordPress stores without creating their own digital storefronts.
People may also use online platforms like Etsy, which allows brand owners to create their own personalized storefronts within the greater Etsy platform. In exchange, Etsy gets a small percentage of any profits. Both types of online businesses can be successful.
Example eCommerce stores:
eCommerce stores exist for practically every good or service, but art is definitely one of the biggest industries. Artistic eCommerce stores are dominated primarily by platforms like Etsy, but independent freelance artists also run their own online stores for paintings, drawings, digital art, 3-D modeling and sculpturing, and more.
Artistic eCommerce stores generally rely on cultivating a dedicated fan base and generating high sales during specific periods. They can be difficult to get up and running due to their costs and how long it takes to create art relative to other types of products.
Many eCommerce stores also sell digital-only material, like educational videos or seminars. These are usually run by educated people or professionals in their industries, such as professionals or experts with many years of experience under their belts.
For example, an SEO expert might sell SEO seminars or teaching videos to help new digital marketers refine their skills or help online business owners generate more traffic.
Start or Work for an Agency
Then there are online agencies: another distinct type of online business. Agencies are best thought of as analogs to retail agencies or firms. As they usually offer a specific service or series of related services that can be carried out by professionals with lots of experience in that industry.
Agencies are typically hired by other businesses or business owners. Either for short-term contracts or long-term work depending on what exactly is required.
For example, a copywriting agency might be hired by a business to create content for a single marketing campaign or to produce all of their written content until further notice based on their performance.
Online agencies are often distinct from retail industries in that they may not have a physical office or meeting location. Regardless, agency members may still meet with clients in person or over videoconferencing software like Zoom to facilitate a more personal relationship and to ensure that they provide the ideal service for their clients’ needs.
Types of Agencies
There are many different types of online agency businesses to find, but most of them focus on creative or cerebral services.
Marketing (also called digital marketing) agencies are particularly common. These agencies can be hired by businesses looking to reinvent their online marketing campaigns or efforts, especially when it comes to search engine optimization or SEO.
Digital marketing agencies are usually comprised of marketing experts with some experience in the digital marketing sphere.
They may provide a number of services to their clients, including writing, marketing strategizing, interlinking, and more.
Creative agencies are a little more abstract but still provide valuable services to a variety of businesses and clients. They primarily help with higher-level creative decisions or campaign strategies. Such as coming up with excellent marketing ideas with a creative spin to them.
However, they can also produce art or other creative products for their clients based on their focus.
Copywriting agencies are particularly common since there’s a lot of content that needs to be written across the web. Whether it’s for professional businesses or affiliate link-focused blogs.
Copywriting agencies are sometimes chosen instead of freelancers if a lot of work needs to be completed in short order. Since copywriting agencies have teams of copywriters working together with a handful of in-house editors.
This allows more work to be completed more quickly, as opposed to solo freelancers, who can often tailor content more precisely to a client’s needs but on a longer timescale.
Of course, there are plenty of other online agency businesses than these as well. But the above three are by far the most common.
Not Quite Businesses
Then there are people who, using the Internet, effectively run their own businesses without technically being businesses.
Trading on the Stock Market
Lots of people use the Internet to trade on the best stock trading platforms, especially for online brokers or brokerage agencies. In a nutshell, online stockbroker agencies allow users to sign up for accounts, then place trades using brokers or online software.
Day trading is particularly popular over the Internet since it allows people to make an income while working from home without having to technically run a business. However, this type of stock trading is a little riskier than other types, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
Trading on the stock market is becoming more and more common as people become more educated about the ins and outs of the market.
Alternative Ways to Make Money Online
Many other types of online businesses exist, drawing in freelance workers who get paid for as long as they work instead of assigning an hourly rate.
Many of these online businesses are minor in terms of how much money you can make with them, but they do offer consistent income for people who may have the time or ability to take other jobs or start other businesses.
Survey sites are particularly popular with teenagers and young adults still in school or who have other obligations.
That’s because they allow users to make money just by taking surveys.
Survey sites form agreements with data collecting agencies for big companies and brands.
Then they pay their users small amounts of cash to take surveys (usually using a points to cash ratio or formula) and provide the brands or clients with data from those surveys.
Of course, some survey sites are better for earning money than others. But survey sites are everywhere and they’re likely going to stick around as options for additional income.
Ad-watching sites are really similar to survey sites, and in some cases the two are combined into a single company. Ad-watching sites essentially have their users watch various advertisements or read advertisements while browsing the Internet or shopping.
In exchange, they earn a passive amount of income over time. The ad-watching sites collect data based on how quickly their users click away from certain ads, how long they linger on a page, and so on. All of this is valuable data that can then be treated to clients or larger brands for money, which is how the sites make a profit in the first place.
Shopping-request sites are also combined with the above two sites with certain companies, but they have an in-person component that others may prefer.
In a nutshell, shopping-request sites require users to go to sites and purchase certain items or scan barcodes at actual retail locations. In doing so, companies gather data and then reward their users with points or site credits that they can exchange for prizes or cash.
As you can see, the internet has far too many types of online businesses to truly get into with a short article. But there’s good news – practically any online business can thrive if it has an excellent business plan and a good leader at the helm.
The Internet allows tons of new businesses and business ideas to thrive where they might fail in retail industries.