How to start an online business from home

Being your own boss is a great way to bring you more independence and flexibility. Setting up an online business can seem like  a low-cost, high return career plan – and has proved successful for thousands of entrepreneurs. But how do you get started and what do you need to consider?

Woman working at home on sofa with laptop


The first step in setting up an online business is to spend a good amount of time researching and planning. The kinds of questions you will need to ask yourself – and have a good answer for – include:

What are you going to sell?

  • What platform will you use – an existing one like eBay or Etsy, or your own website?
  • What will your stock cost you, and how much profit will you make?
  • How will people pay you?
  • What are the platform costs?
  • How many items will you need to sell each month to generate a good income?

Online business ideas – creative

If you’re struggling to come up with a killer business idea, a little research and consideration should help you narrow down the options.

Are you thinking of doing something creative, such as making jewellery, pet collars, art or beauty products? A lot of people decide to turn their hobby into a business, and there are all kinds of creative ideas on platforms like Etsy. The trick is to make sure you can turn a good profit, perhaps by personalising the items you create.

If you are an artist there are a range of places where you can upload your designs to be printed on t-shirts, greeting cards, phone cases and even wallpaper. Many work on a print or produce on-demand basis, where you will set a price and the company takes out of that price what it costs to produce the item and ship it for you.


Another popular choice is reselling. There are many online businesses that buy in stock from suppliers and sell it on at a profit. The trick is to find a niche area where you’re not facing too much competition.

Great examples of reselling are hand picking good quality clothing from a charity shop and selling online, or sourcing surplus goods from a high street store. Ebay, Vinted and Depop are examples of platforms where lots of sellers operate in this way.

Skills and Services

If you have desirable professional skills, it’s easy to set up an online business to market your services as a freelancer. Writers, SEO specialists, social media experts and many more professionals use online platforms like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour to find clients who need their support.

Reaching your customers

Once you’ve decided what your online business will involve, you need to decide how to reach your customers.

As we’ve seen, Etsy is a good marketplace for handmade items and gifts. Joining and starting a shop is free, but you will need to pay listing fees, transaction fees and payment fees.

eBay and Amazon Marketplace are good places to offer all kinds of generic products from clothing to technology, cosmetics to homewares. Again there are membership, listing and selling fees involved.

The advantage of these platforms is that they are well established and used on a daily basis by millions of customers. Reaching them is just a question of having the right keywords for your products.

Meanwhile, if you were to decide to set up your own website you will need a strong marketing plan to attract visitors. A lot of small businesses use social media to advertise and sell their products.

How to start an online business for free

Because setting up a new business can be risky, a lot of people want to know how to start an online business with no money. Technology makes this easier than ever before. As we’ve seen, the marketplace platforms will only charge you when you make a sale, so there aren’t any upfront costs.

That means you can start a small online business with very little cost, and build things up slowly – perhaps alongside an existing job – until you are able to make a good income.

There are so many successful online businesses out there – take some time to explore what others are doing and seek out ways to improve on their approach. Remember that you have a lot to learn, so try different ideas and processes to see what works best. Good luck!

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