What Are The Best Business Models For Online Startups?


So you’re thinking about starting an online business: that’s certainly understandable. As I write this, the world is in the midst of a pandemic that’s taken thousands of lives and caused mass unemployment due to the companies no longer being able to operate as usual. Maybe you’re still working remotely but bored at home and worried about the future — or maybe you lost your job and want to find a new way to work that doesn’t leave you at the mercy of an employer.

But you’re not sure about what kind of business to choose. There are so many options, after all, and you don’t want to pick the wrong one for you. To help you choose, let’s take a look at some of the best business models for today’s online startups.


Selling products can be great, but it demands a lot of practical effort. If you have insight to offer and you think you can help people (and companies), you could set up an online consultancy business. Your job would be to advise people on your area of expertise, charging them either per hour or per project, and you’d want to start out slow before raising your prices once you had some strongly-positive referrals under your belt.

This is a great option because there’s a lot of demand right now for one-on-one tuition. The internet is full of rich training resources that anyone can access (such as Shopify Compass, launched early for free in light of the COVID-19 pandemic), but there’s always value in getting face-to-face explanations (even if the face-to-face is via video conferencing). If you’d like to make your own hours and build up your personal brand in the process, here you go.


Standing for software-as-a-service, SaaS is one of the biggest reasons why the business world has been able to adapt somewhat well to the need to work remotely. Using familiar suites like Google Docs and communication tools like Zoom, companies that weren’t really prepared to leave the office have been able to keep going without losing too much momentum.

More importantly here, though, it’s an industry that still has a lot of room to grow. If you have development skills, running a SaaS business can reliably produce revenue because it’s based on a subscription, and reliable revenue is hugely important to growing businesses. You can even continue to run it remotely on an indefinite basis, so why not consider it?


Great for beginners, dropshipping involves serving as the intermediary between buyers and suppliers. You choose products from third-party vendors, list them with profit margins added, and make some sales that you then pass to those vendors for fulfillment. You don’t need to stock anything or ship anything. It’s low-cost and low-risk: and while it’s also low-reward relative to other models, it still has the potential to scale up.

It does demand some heavy paid advertising to get some traction, admittedly, but this isn’t a problem if you really optimize your site because PPC ads only cost you anything when they generate clicks — and if those clicks aren’t leading to purchases, then you have a much bigger problem with your business.

We’ve only looked at a few business models here, but I think they’re worth highlighting above others because they really reflect where the business world is going. They offer convenience, consistency, and flexibility, and each one of them can function just as well in the midst of a pandemic as at any other time. Think carefully about what suits you.

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