Are you looking for a reliable business idea for 2021 that doesn’t require much investment, has relatively low risk, and is quick to set up as well?

While running and managing an online business isn’t always easy or instantly profitable, your chances of success can get a lot better if you know exactly what you are getting into. 

The good news is that internet businesses give you the freedom to make money on your own terms and from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, you’ll have to just as hard to market and sell online, if not more.

Though it has its obstacles, the flexibility of the Internet leaves no limit to the possibilities you can try to make a successful attempt in the first go. So let’s explore some exciting ways to make money online, running your own internet business in 2021. 

13 Best Internet Business Models in 2021

The pandemic radically toppled businesses, organizations, and entire economies and forced people to go online for all their needs. This resulted in accelerated digitalization for almost all industries and business types. 

The transition to an ecommerce business model was inevitable for businesses in such circumstances, compelling them to invest in digitally-powered initiatives. From online customer service to CRE tech, every aspect and function of commerce is getting digitized.

While many other businesses are still struggling with their digital transformation, you can outpace them by building a company that’s digital from day one. Here are the best business models for you to leverage in 2021:

E-Commerce Store 

Irrespective of your niche, industry, or skill set, you can start your online store with minimal capital. It becomes even easier when you partner with appropriate vendors who’d be willing to store, package, and deliver products on your behalf.

The most popular ecommerce services such as Wix or Shopify come with a variety of features such as site builders, point-of-sale systems, inventory management, and third party app integrations to make it easier to set up your online store than you may have initially thought. 

Pat Flynn leads a good example when it comes to building online authority and credibility. He expanded his business into the physical world and launched the eCommerce store SwitchPod, a handheld, minimal tripod for bloggers, content creators, and vloggers.

Source: SwitchPod
  • Money Investment: Low cost
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High 
  • Barriers to entry: Low

 Pros

You don’t need a physical space or a warehouse to buy and manage your inventory. You can easily connect with a supplier who can help you sell your products for fewer additional costs. Also, there are a lot of pre-built ecommerce platforms out there.

Cons

It can sometimes be difficult to gain your customer’s trust when it comes to an online store. Building a credible reputation is imperative for such businesses to be successful. Mismanagement in supplier agreement can be another downside that can hinder the business operations in any conflict.

Blog

Blogging is something that will continue to flourish and is a money minting online business model. Writing blog posts can help you earn better merely with your words. However, you need to make consistent efforts to monetize your blogs.

Determine the tone, voice, and style for your blogs to engage the audience. You can write blogs as a paid blogger or a guest blogger for leading brands.

This example of A Cup Of Jo is one of the great examples of a blog. It primarily targets mothers and engages them with the content that may interest them. It’s a really simple yet useful blog for mothers. The blog post ideas are what sets their blog apart from other related blogging websites.

https://makeawebsitehub.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/cupofjo-1024x604.jpg
Source: A Cup Of Jo
  • Money Investment: Low cost
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: Medium
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros 

Setting up a blog and populating it with new content isn’t difficult as long as you can be consistent. Additionally, the start-up costs are low, and the learning curve is small as well.

Cons

Your success ratio depends on the brands you connect with, the quality of the content you generate, and its acceptance.

Directory Website

Running a directory website is one of the well-known business models. A directory website collects the contact info of top service providers in a centralized location. Prospective clients can search it using relevant parameters and keywords such as product or services, location, a company rating, etc.

Listing your company on a directory website can significantly increase your products/services’ visibility to different audiences as they search the information through the Internet. 

For example, Spoke, an online community, helps people find and discuss the business people, news, companies, and more. It lets visitors add web listings for individuals and businesses.

21 Web Directories That Still Have Value
Source: Spoke
  • Money Investment: Average 
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: Medium 
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

A directory website is an effective means of income and creates endless opportunities for your business. The market for directory websites has low competition, and it is rewarding too.

Cons

It may be difficult to build the audience’s trust to make them believe about your website’s credibility and a little costly to gather accurate information.

Review Website

Review sites’ business model centers on those websites with reviews and feedback about products/services to allow the audience to make sound buying decisions for the things they want to purchase. Such websites provide detailed information about specific products/services and their pros and cons to help them figure out those products that work best for them.

PCMag is one of the most popular review sites specifically for customer-related reviews. It has reviews for more than 300 product categories and helps the buyer make informed decisions. Users can search within a particular type or for a specific company product, allowing them to refine their searches and, ultimately, their experience.

Source: PCMag
  • Money Investment: Average cost
  • Time investment: Medium
  • Potential value: Medium
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

You can easily monetize the review sites through PPC and paid advertising and affiliate links. Additionally, you can also use SEO to improve your site’s ranking on the search engine to increase sales and drive conversions without much effort.

Cons

It can be challenging to maintain the websites’ integrity from false or fake reviews from competitors or unreliable visitors with review sites.

Membership Site

This business model type focuses on building a community. Membership sites are one of the easiest ways that is designed specifically for larger groups. It serves the masses and allows the members to get valuable information, learn different skill sets, and avail of exclusive promotions and offers.

One good example for a membership site comes from Fizzle, a well-known paid membership site for small businesses and individuals who want to run a successful business online. Members have access to webinars, sessions, live group coaching, premium course content, etc. It also has a public blog for potential visitors.

How to Create a Subscription Website to Earn Recurring Revenue - Business 2  Community
Source: Business 2 Community
  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High value
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

Membership sites are quite an appealing option and can help you generate passive income with an even fewer number of people. It can be a continuous revenue stream and doesn’t require much experience to start this business model.

Cons

This business model is a time-intensive approach and will demand a personal touch from you and your team.

Marketplace

Online marketplaces are forums that connect the buyers and the sellers on an exclusive platform. The marketplace owners don’t need to stock inventories, but they help the traders to facilitate a transaction. It allows sellers to pay attention to their core competency and provide the customers with relevant products. Online marketplaces are great spaces for starting entrepreneurs – clothing manufacturers, cosmetics producers, jewellery makers – as they are easy to navigate and remove the need of having their own website.

For instance, Amazon is one of the top online marketplaces. It is a dominant player that connects the buyers and sellers by providing them a centralized platform and facilitates successful trading.

Source: Amazon
  • Money Investment: High cost
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High value
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

One of the most apparent benefits of the online marketplace model is the probability of higher margins. If you become a dominant player, you can gain significant revenue on each transaction. It’s a money-making business option, especially if you have a monopoly in a specific segment.

Cons

It requires a substantial start-up cost to pay for the technology stack that’ll entice the suppliers, buyers, and recruit the right employees. Plus, it is harder to build a dependable platform and brand that visitors can rely upon without being suspicious.

Podcast

Podcasting is another business model that refers to recording talks and uploading them on popular platforms where people can subscribe to and listen to conversations. It’s a developing avenue to gain popularity and earn.

Ash Thorp, the podcast’s director, discusses work-life balance. It’s an excellent example of creating podcasts. This podcast mainly highlights balancing work and your creativity. It has episodes that are educational and entertaining for listeners.

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Source: The Collective Podcast
  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: Medium
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

Creating a podcast is a cost-effective business model that doesn’t require expensive equipment and potentially allows you to reach a wider audience base. Moreover, if used properly, it is a great medium that can be a good source of income for you.

Cons

In order to run your podcast business successfully, it is vital to make a quality podcast and advertise it to reach the targeted audience. You need to have adequate resources to produce and promote your podcast. Additionally, it’s a time-intensive approach.

SaaS 

“Software as a Service” is an umbrella term that includes many products, such as CRM software, project management software, email marketing software, accounting software, etc. 

For example, Messagely is a live chat software that helps businesses reaching their (potential) customers. It’s an exceptional example that demonstrates the impact of a valuable SaaS product. He provided a platform to a specific audience with precisely what they need.

Source: Messagely
  • Money Investment: High 
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High 
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros 

You have the potential to make money as SaaS products have a growing demand. This business model is quite investible and scalable. You can easily build your customer base while generating a higher revenue figure.

Cons

Of course, it requires you to invest a lot of time, effort, and money. You also need a high level of technical expertise and experience to run the business. Moreover, this business model’s maintenance costs are high, plus you need a dedicated team for successful operations.

Productized Service

This business model centers on the commercially available off-the-shelf solutions. It continues to grow and flourish, whether you are directly involved in it or not.

Additionally, it targets a particular type of client, and your offered services help them solve their specific business need. Moreover, it’s a great opportunity for self-employed individuals and freelancers who want to remove the confines from their earning potential.

Outreach Artist serves as a great example of this business model. It is an initiative that helps people with social media marketing. Essentially, it allows businesses and content creators to enhance their marketing and influencer outreach efforts in an effective way.

Source: Outreach Artist
  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High value
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

With this type of business model, you have a greater ability to scale your business and grow. You can generate revenue easier and faster as it eliminates the individualized time factor.

Cons

Time is one of the biggest downsides of this model. The entire process is time-consuming. Also, it requires you certain skills and resources to start and run the business properly in the long term.

Android Or iOS Apps

This business model focuses on developing an app for your brand and catering to the customers effectively. It’s imperative to gauge different platforms to decide which one is the right choice for you. 

The ultimate approach to app development is to leverage both Android and iOS. However, it’s essential to consider the budget, resources, and other requirements. Consider the main factors and see if it aligns with your business goals in order to make an informed decision. 

Skyscanner is a travel site and app that lets customers search, reserve, and manage their flight-related things. It also allows users to download their boarding pass and check-in easily using their smartphones. It’s available on Android and iOS.

Source: Skyscanner

iOS is a better option from a revenue standpoint as Apple’s App Store made 88% more income in 2018 than Google Play Store.

  • Money Investment: High 
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High 
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

While both the app development platforms have distinct advantages, it’s an overall lucrative business model that allows you to scale your brand. You can generate recurring revenues and monetize your venture.

Cons

The cost of creating an app is quite high due to its suitability to different platforms such as iPhone, Android, Windows, etc. Additionally, its functionality requires increased investment, and keeping up with technological updates can also be costly. 

Online Courses / Programs 

Online courses and programs are among the most lucrative business models that facilitate learners across the world to benefit from eLearning opportunities. By 2025, the eLearning sector is projected to grow over 325 billion, so you’ve got a good chance at making money over the next few years if you get started now. 

Online courses empower the learners to complete the assignments, while online programs provide greater help and guidance. However, some of these online business models do align and overlap with one another. 

For example, Code.org is a brilliant platform that connects the learners and the trainers and facilitates virtual learning programs and courses. It offers various opportunities to both the students and the teachers alike.

Source: Code.org
  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: High
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

Online courses and programs are a lucrative business model option as it lets you create an extensive spectrum of offerings and facilitate learners without boundary limitations. Additionally, you can quickly build virtual teams to manage the workload and, ultimately, generate higher returns.

Cons

It’s a time-intensive venture that will need you to invest efforts and time to create high-quality online programs that produce desirable results. Overall, it requires a higher level of involvement and up-gradation to keep the students engaged.

Online Lead Generation 

Online lead generation involves the promotion of products and services for other digital businesses. You get compensated when an individual fills a form, subscribes to an offer or service, orders a product’s trial run, or merely expresses their interest in a product/service.

  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: Medium
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

The online lead generation business model is a lucrative one. You can easily partner with the local businesses in your area and other cities and help them generate quality leads. This can help you eventually expand your business and earn higher revenue in the long term.

Cons

While it is a profitable business model, collaborating directly with lead generation websites can be a hassle and risky compared to other business models. Additionally, it’s a high investment and involvement business model. 

Coaching/Consulting Business

A coaching/consulting business refers to a business model that allows you to make money by providing coaching services to individuals who need it. This model also helps people with consulting services such as relationships, fitness, or any other consultancy type.

UYD Management is one of the good examples to follow when it comes to consulting. It helps organizations and individuals build strategies, leverage their cultures, and provide the customers with an accurate roadmap of what, when, and how to do.

Source: UYD Management
  • Money Investment: Medium
  • Time investment: High
  • Potential value: Medium
  • Barriers to entry: Low

Pros

Online coaching/consulting is a rewarding business line that can help you earn your potential revenues. Moreover, it is easy to get started with this venture. 

Cons

This business model is time-intensive, and profits can sometimes be uncertain. 

How To Buy These Businesses and Skip the Building Phase?

While buying a well-established business eliminates much of the developmental work, its success is still dependent on your capability to administer and manage the many functions. 

If this option seems appealing to you, the best way to go about it is with an online marketplace.

Online Marketplace

An online marketplace is one of the most common options for buying or selling a digital business. It’s a great avenue to search for potential opportunities according to your specific niche and industry. You can easily find a company of your preference here.

With an online marketplace, you can effortlessly buy and sell your web services. For example, Flippa is a feature-rich platform that helps you with the trading of an online business. 

It allows you to search by price, age, or category from apps, websites, ecommerce businesses, SaaS, digital content, services, marketplaces, and more. Moreover, Flippa lets you access all the relevant information with the precision that helps you make informed decisions.

Wrapping Up

With so many business models to leverage, it can be challenging to figure out which one is worth your time and money. While jumping on the bandwagon can be at times risky, it can also turn out to be highly rewarding.

Take your pick from the list detailed above and determine what business model works best for you. All of them can help you win customers and make your mark as a successful digital entrepreneur.

Will Cannon

Will Cannon

Will Cannon is the founder of UpLead and Signaturely. He places great emphasis on lead generation, email marketing, customer profiling, customer acquisition, and retention. These marketing functions form the basis of his work, as he believes they drive positive ROI and growth with consistency.