The Best Home Based Business Ideas

When looking for a job you can do from home it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re trying to find a legitimate home based business opportunity within some preassembled program or ebook that’ll teach you “the secret” to making millions or looking for those infamous online data entry positions, it can be a slippery slope falling for one scam after the other.

Or perhaps all the cliche’ options might be running through your head -at home daycare, Avon, Marykay, Jamberry (or some other trendy MLM sales opportunity), selling your art/crafts on Etsy or maybe even some simple freelancing.

While those may be great options for some, honestly the best home based business ideas are the ones you can start building on your computer, over the internet (especially if you’re on a tight budget). Most people don’t realize the power the internet can have on any business, and in particular most don’t know they have the ability to start up a business entirely on the internet.

The business you start up online can take a multitude of different routes, ranging from:

  • Affiliate Marketing/Niche Marketing/Blogging
  • Creating your own product or products and selling them online
  • Creating your own membership site
  • Selling your personal art or crafts over mediums like Ebay, Etsy and your own website
  • Freelancing on your own, or with websites like UpWork, Freelancer, Guru or Fiverr

Let me take a few minutes to discuss each of these options in more detail, as well as clue you in on what I would personally recommend to people just getting their feet wet with online business.

Affiliate/Niche Marketing, Blogging

Affiliate marketing is the practice of selling other peoples products for commissions. The best way to accomplish this is to create a niche website around a topic you’re interested in, connect yourself with an affiliate program and then work on getting traffic to the site.

Many will draw lines of distiction between affiliate marketing and blogging, but they really can be one in the same. Not all blogs on the internet use affilitae marketing, and not all affiliate marketers will blog, but you can definitely combine them to increase your revenue and sales.

Why choose affiliate marketing?


This option is probably one of the easiest options for beginners because there’s no physical product to worry about. You don’t have to keep an inventory or concern yourself with things like shipping costs, taxes or payment processing, and even the customer service aspect is all taken care of by the seller, not you.

Another positive of affiliate marketing is if you associate with a popular program, take Amazon for example, most people have bought items from Amazon in the past so they’ve already built that sense of trust and they’re going to be more willing to put down their money.

If you sell products with high commission or recurring payouts, you have the potential to make some really awesome money.

Another huge benefit is that it’s relatively inexpensive to start up in this field. You need a website, hosting and probably some proper training… but other than that all costs usually associated with starting up a business aren’t required.

Basically in a nutshell it takes away all the costs and hard work associated with developing or selling a physical product, making it incredibly easy for beginners.


With all the positives of affiliate marketing, we can’t forget to address the downside. Since you’re not actually selling the product yourself you obviously are only getting a percentage of the sale which often times can be very small. Depending on what niche you choose and what programs you affiliate with, you might only get 4% of every sale. Of course, the variance is HUGE depending on what you promote… there are many programs that exist with much higher payouts, so choose wisely.

It can be hard for some to break in with affiliate marketing because you have to really do it right. There’s kind of a bad reputation associated with it because there are a lot of really crappy websites that exist using this technique. It’s also why many will claim it’s a horrible route to take because “Google hates affiliate sites now”. (Which, by the way, Google doesn’t really hate affiliate sites, they just hate sites that provide no value).

A question a lot of people ask is, “Why would I go to YOUR site and click a link to buy something when I can just go directly to the seller’s website?”

The trick is, you have to work on providing value to the audience. You can’t just build an ecommerce style site with a storefront that is really just a bunch of affiliate links, there is absolutely no value in that and Google especially hates it (it’s basically seen as a “bridge” site). Give your personal reviews, experiences, recommendations, give them information and teach them. Basically add your own element to everything and the audience will have a reason to visit your site and click your links.

If you do it the right way, they’ll actually want to give you the sale.

Selling your own products online

This is a little more advanced than affiliate selling because it requires you to become responsible for not only creating the products, but the selling of the products, payment processing, taxes, shipping plus taking care of all aspects of customer service.

Why sell your OWN products?


Selling products via an online store will eliminate most costs associated with owning a traditional brick and morter and dramatically increase your profit margain.

Because all the sales go directly to you, you’re going to make more profit per sale than with affiliate marketing.

You have 2 billion people as your potential customer base instead of the relatively small population around a mom and pop shop. If you know how to leverage targeted traffic from the internet, you can have an unlimited traffic source.


It can be a little more risky and the failure rate is higher. Any new business is going to have to work on the trust factor because the truth is, people are less likely to buy from unknown internet sellers.

It requires creativity. In order to really be successful you’ll need something unique and innovative, not just something people can go and buy from a big name online shop like Amazon.

It requires more of an investment because you’ll need to pay for any costs associated with your products, as well as perhaps some website costs you probably wouldn’t have to worry about if you just were affiliate selling (unless of course you know your way around web development)!

Selling your products (art, crafts, clothing, etc) somewhere like Etsy or Ebay

This is very similar to selling products on your own website, but it’s important you understand the difference between selling on your own site vs. selling somewhere like Etsy or Ebay.

Why sell on these platforms?


Having an Etsy and Ebay account is entirely free.

You don’t have to worry about setting up the website or payment processing because these places already have that stuff in place for you.

Your products are being sold over trusted platforms (everybody has heard of Ebay and Etsy and tons of people buy from them).

You have a wide audience that can search and view your listings


You’re going to be charged a service fee for every sale you make, so you aren’t getting as much of a profit as you would have through your own website. Etsy charges a 20 cent fee per listing, 3.5% of every sale, plus a payment processing fee (which varies by country).

Ebay gives you your first 20 listings per month free, but charges 30 cents per listing after that. They also take out 10% for every sale with a maximum fee of $750.

Ebay is increasingly favoring buyers over sellers, and I’ve heard so many unfortunate stories where sellers get completely screwed over by such policies. If a buyer claims he never got a package you sent, or if what they recieved wasn’t up to their standards for any reason (and without sufficient proof) Ebay will just refund their money and you will lose out.

While you don’t have to pay for own website, hosting and associated set up costs if you chose this route, if you end up selling a lot of products those fees really can add up and quickly surpass the costs you would have spent on your own site and hosting.

Another thing you’ll lack selling via Etsy or Ebay is a brandable approach.  If you have your own website you can market and brand your company in any way you like, as well as have full control over images, content and customization. Another advantage to having a website is the ability to gain free, targeted traffic through keyword posts and blogs, something you don’t have the ability to do when you don’t own the selling platform.

The best approach – compliment your Ebay or Etsy sales with your own website

Having an Ebay and Etsy shop along with your own website can maximize your exposure and increase your profit. But of course, it’s up to what you’re willing to handle! Obviously selling on existing platforms is way easier so it depends on your skill level and what you ultimately want out of it.

Create a paid membership site

In this type of online businesss, your income comes from charging a monthly subscription fee to gain access to the premium content on your website. The website would need to be catered to interest a particular segment of the population (niche) but could be pretty much focused on whatever topic you wanted.

Extremely popular niches for membership sites include weight loss (think Eharmony or; weight loss (Weight Watchers, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt); and internet marketing (Wealthy Affiliate, Impho, Affilorama).

A few other examples of paid membership sites would be sites that offer course material that will teach people how to do something, for example “learn to play the piano” or “learn to write for the internet”, or sites that cater to religious followings or alternative lifestyles. These by no means are all the options, you can create a paid membership site encompassing any area you want.

Why create a paid membership site?


You get recurring income from your members as opposed to a one time sale (although you can also get recurring income for affiliate selling too, if you promote a paid membership site that has an affiliate program)!

The start up and running costs of online membership sites can be relatively low, depending on the size and volume of members.

The income potential can be huge.


Unfortunately while it may seem great, it can be difficult for most people to implement successfully because it requires creating an in depth platform, possibly integrated with a forum of some type and content for paying members that is solid enough to not only make people want to pay the subscribtion, but to remain a member as long as possible.

The average retention rates for even the most in depth, solid and trusted subscription sites is only 3 months, so not only do you have to work on bringing members in – you have to work on keeping them members!

The internet is a vast place which gives people the opportunity to get all sorts of information and see all sorts of things for free, so you’d really have to offer something unique. While this may be a harder and have one of the highest failure rates, when done right it can be an extremely profitable business model.

Honestly I wouldn’t recommend anyone start out with a paid membership site format without any sort of previous online marketing experience.


This is an extremely popular option for a lot of people because it lets you work on a per project basis doing only jobs you specifically want. There are many businesses out there that exist to connect freelancers looking for work and those looking to hire them like,, (Formerly odesk), and (just to name a few).

While using sites like these can be a great way to showcase your skills and find potential work, it also can be limiting. You’re basically working in compliance with these site’s terms of service, and many times they can end up favoring the customers word over yours. You’re also going to have to pay a fee to the company for every job you get, sometimes up to 20% per gig.

Another option for starting out in freelancing would be to go your own route without working with any 3rd party sites. You can create your own website, brand yourself and pick a specific niche of freelancing work you specialize in. It can be anything as long as there is a market for what skills you have to offer (just do your research)!  Starting out entirely on your own requires a lot more initial leg work, but can be worth it if you want to establish your own business.

Of course, you can always start out somewhere like Freelancer (and as many others as you want) and gain experience, then venture off on your own after you established clientele, a decent portfolio and a positive reputation.

Keep in mind starting out as a freelancer isn’t easy, and getting your foot in the door can be tough. You may have to start out taking on gigs for free to demonstrate your skill set and build up an initial portfolio.

So, what’s the best option for newbies?

The good thing about any of these choices is they let you start a business in the comfort of your own home, doing exactly what you want to do and what you’re interested in. For total beginners, starting out with affiliate marketing, selling your products on mediums like Etsy/Ebay or simple freelancing would be the easiest options depending on what your interests are and what you have to offer.

While starting out creating your own products or developing a paid membership site may be pretty difficult for most to see success with as total beginners, if you have the passion, motivation and drive to succeed there’s really nothing stopping you.

When it comes down to it, it all depends on what your ultimate goals are and what sort of effort you are willing to put forth. But for those looking for a proven business model for beginners interested in starting up a business online, affiliate marketing is the way to go.

About the Author Wendy

Wife, Mother, Entrepreneur. I've been making money online for the past 5 years with online marketing and blogging, and I love helping others learn to do the same. You can read my full story here

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