With more people trying to make money online, thousands of articles give advice on how you can generate some cash in the digital world.
I’m personally not interested in only making money. I always saw digital business as a new way of providing value. My goal was to build a sustainable business for the long-term.
I must be honest; it took me years to build a stable business. And I’m no way near where I want to take my business. The good thing about being a struggling entrepreneur for years is that I’ve learned what doesn’t work.
Just like the majority of entrepreneurs, I’d rather have a business that grows consistently, than a business that’s up and down all the time. Too many digital business ideas are far from stable. How often have you heard of online businesses that dried up overnight after Facebook or Amazon changed something in their policy?
In this article, I’ll share 8 ideas for online businesses that have the potential to generate consistent revenue. I’ll briefly cover every idea in case you’re looking for inspiration for your next business.
1. Self-publish Books
No one cares whether your book is self-published or published by a traditional publisher. The quality of your book is what matters. One of the most successful books in recent years is Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. He received some offers from publishers but decided to publish the book by himself. That way he owns all the rights.
And today, everyone can do that too. You can do the whole process yourself, or you can hire people to do it for you like David Goggins. You can even hire a ghost-writer.
There are self-published authors who put out multiple books a year. I’ve self-published 7 books. It won’t make me rich, but by now, it’s a stable income stream for me. But this strategy only becomes sustainable if you have multiple books. That’s why I would only commit to self-publishing if you’re willing to do it consistently. Otherwise, it’s great to use a book as a tool to offer other products.
2. Create An App
Until just a few years ago, it would’ve been unimaginable to sleep in other people’s homes on a regular basis for cheaper accommodation. Yet, as Airbnb has shown in the travel and hospitality market, this concept has now become the norm. All these transactions are done with the app.
But that doesn’t mean you need to create the next big-time app like Airbnb or Uber. Even without knowing how to code, anyone can build an app. There’s a list of no-code app-makers you can use online to do this.
The most important part of an app is your business model. Too often, we see apps that are great but don’t have a business plan.
3. Sell Other People’s Products
Don’t want to build your own products? Then sell existing products, also known as affiliate marketing. It sometimes gets a bad rep but it’s a solid business model.
The best platform for this strategy is a website (or multiple sites). Here’s my guide for building a website without knowing how to code. For most people, a WordPress site would be sufficient. All you need is good hosting and a theme.
Once you have a website, you can start creating content that attracts people who are interested in the products you’re offering.
4. Create An Online Course
I’m a big fan of Peter Drucker’s advice of focusing on your strengths so you can provide more value. This is about leveraging your knowledge, experience, and expertise for the benefit of other people. Maybe you’ve been training for a long time and you’re ready to become a fitness coach. Or you’ve been teaching history, and now can teach people how to adapt well to changes based on historical lessons.
We always want to learn. The popularity of online courses shows that there is great demand. And it’s easier than ever to sell a course. I’ve created 6 courses using Kajabi. With the right tools, I’m able to save time, maximize my efforts, and create courses that students can easily consume.
5. Start A Paid Newsletter
One of the leading examples of a paid newsletter is Ben Thompson’s “Stratechery.” He popularized this digital product and he’s now generating millions of dollars.
But you and I don’t need to become the next Ben Thompson. If you can generate a small but loyal following that’s willing to pay, you can make a good living with a newsletter.
In terms of technology, there are many solutions you can use. I’ve seen people using Substack or Ghost. I’ve been using Convertkit and Kajabi (they don’t charge you transaction costs), and those services work great for me.
6. Build An Online Community
Most digital entrepreneurs work from home, so they barely interact with new people (often, just clients) on a daily basis. It can be a lonely pursuit.
That’s how I came up with the idea for The Sounding Board—a facilitated community where like-minded people can join, share their goals, insights, and even test their business ideas before implementing them. It’s a safe space for anyone in need of motivation and honest insights. But you can create a community around any topic.
I simply use Slack for the community and I’ve combined it with a member-only newsletter. So it’s a combination of community and private newsletter.
7. Start A Coaching Program
With the recent global crisis, more people are switching their offline activities (like being coached by a trainer in a gym) into digital programs. Now, you can have your trainer right there with you at home through your smartphone or laptop.
This isn’t limited to fitness coaches. You can do nearly every type of 1-on-1 coaching over Zoom or Skype. Again, it’s all about what you’re good at. People want to pay for expertise. With enough experience, you can gradually expand to group coaching and booking multiple sessions.
8. Build A Freelance Practice
Most articles like this one point you to places like Fiverr or Upwork. But I don’t recommend those platforms. A stable business thrives because of customer loyalty. If you rely on a third party like Upwork, how can you truly build a long-term relationship with your clients?
Yes, it’s easy to get on those freelancing sites, but you’re not building anything for yourself. Plus, you’ll be pitching to prospects all the time. You might as well use that time to build your own site, with your own rules.
The problem with freelance sites is that they lock you into a cycle of looking for clients and pitching to them. Many of the jobs offered are also one-time projects that pay lesser. These tactics may get you a handful of small clients at first, but you won’t build a loyal customer-base doing that.
Building your own site, publishing your own content, and attracting high quality, well-paying clients take much more time. But the pay-off is so much more rewarding and sustainable.
Build Something For The Long-Term
As you can see, all these ideas are not about making a few bucks or trying to become popular on social media. Those are not sustainable business strategies.
Sometimes it looks like everyone can build an audience on Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, or other similar platforms. But I don’t see that as a strategy. Think about it. If you build an audience on someone else’s platform, you don’t own anything. You’ll only get caught in a cycle of producing content. What kind of business is that?
Focus on building digital assets like products, memberships, and email lists. Those things will help you to become sustainable. You don’t want to rely on third parties who own the relationship with your customers.
You want to build a product/service that is yours and generates income for the long-term. That will give you more freedom and peace of mind. Isn’t that what digital entrepreneurship is about?
Full Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate links. As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through these links, at no extra cost to you. I never recommend anything I don’t use or wholly support.