Top 12 Best Online Business Models in 2021

Top 12 Best Online Business Models in 2023

Thanks to advances in technology, virtually anyone can start a successful online business with few to no resources. The rise of internet culture has unlocked a sea of opportunities for all types of entrepreneurial opportunities. Whether you’re a creative soul, a showman, or a savvy strategist, you're bound to find a way to make money online.

However, with so many means to generate a steady income, how do you discover the best online business model for you? To answer that question, we provided an overview of the most successful practices of the last few decades, ranging from e-commerce to vlogging. So, what are the best online business models?

Keep reading to learn about the ups and downs of launching a business in the digital age and which model best suits your goals.

1. Professional Blogger

Back in the nineties, when blogging first started, it was primarily viewed as a form of online journaling. Carrie Bradshaw, the heroine of ‘Sex and the City,’ may have popularized it, but it goes beyond pop culture trends.

People always felt the need to share their thoughts, experiences, and expertise with the rest of the world. Today, blogging is a viable career choice for anyone with a knack for writing and a preference for online business ventures.

Simply put, a professional blogger is someone who generates income solely based on their online blogging activities. This is not mistaken for a ‘hobbyist’ blogger, mind you, who views posting their thoughts online as a fun little side project.

But what does it mean to go pro? A few people can make pocket money by writing an occasional blog post. However, if you want to do it full-time, you have to develop a recognizable style. Bloggers with discernible personalities and strong viewpoints have more chances of success. In other words, you need to find your voice.

Your best bet for becoming a full-time blogger is to hyper-focus your content on a particular niche. It can be anything, from travel vlogs to baby food reviews, so long as you write about what you know. Of course, there are a few profitable niches that stood the test of time. If you think you can write about the following subjects, you could be golden.

  • Food
  • Travel
  • Parenting (also known as Mommy blogging)
  • Finances

We already emphasized the importance of creating a personal brand. Social media networking is the most effective way to promote that brand. With so many free content distribution channels, we’re witnessing a truly remarkable moment in business history.

Thanks to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, anyone can build and promote an online business empire from the ground up with limited resources. All you need to get started is a computer, internet access, and a website (free or paid).

As far as average income rates go, it’s hard to determine how much money you can possibly make. However, one thing’s certain: Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to revenue sources, blogging is highly flexible.

You Can Secure a Steady Cash Flow in Several Ways

Affiliate Marketing

You endorse a product or service you’ve used in the past and incorporate a link that leads to the seller’s website. Then, if one of your readers ends up buying it, you get paid. It’s a pretty straightforward monetizing strategy, common among content creators.


You rent out ad ‘slots’ on your blog to Google or any other business interested in buying advertisement space. Thus, AdSense is a passive form of income. You just copy and paste a code into your site, and you get rewarded when people click on the ads.

Sponsored Posts

Corporations or individuals include blogs on their websites for SEO purposes. Usually, they provide you with the background information for a particular post and pay you once it’s published. If you cultivate a solid following, you’ll most likely get plenty of such offers.

As with other online business models, the steps to success vary depending on the niche you want to target. While there are some excellent online training courses, such as Blog by Number, there's no guaranteed way to jump-start your blogging career. However, the first step – setting up a blog – is super easy and doesn't have to cost much, especially if you host your domain on WordPress.


  • Minimal startup costs
  • Easy to set up
  • No need for advanced marketing strategies


  • Success depends on traffic
  • Going pro is sometimes hard

2. Digital Product Creation

In the past, if you wanted to share your knowledge, you’d have to put together a video presentation or even organize an evening class.

Luckily, things have changed. If you have a very particular set of skills you’d like to capitalize on, you consider turning it into a digital product. It can be as simple as DIY tutorials, as complicated as counseling, or as commonplace as giving dietary advice.

Simply put, digital products help you solve other people’s issues from the comfort of your own home. By compiling your knowledge in an easy-to-consume digital format, you can reach a broader audience.

Also, product creation cost is significantly lower than trying to provide your audience with material goods. It might be one of the most effective ways to make a full-time living running an online business.

A digital product can come in various formats, with the following being the most common:

  • Kindle books/eBooks
  • Software
  • Mobile games and apps
  • WordPress, Joomla, and other CMS themes
  • Audio-visual products
  • Templates or content that can be downloaded
  • Public domain photos
  • Patterns (knitting, accessories, clothes, dolls, etc.)

How do you kick-start this type of business? First, you need some sort of online shop, preferably a website hosted on your domain.

Next, you need to determine the target audience and entice them to make purchases. That means you’ll need to include some kind of sales copy on your website. If you can’t afford a professional copywriter, try doing it yourself.

Of course, you have to be familiar with the subject matter and the target market. Luckily, there are several excellent classes on how to write sales letters available on different e-learning platforms like Udemy. If you're looking for courses, you can find and compare online courses at Elektev as they show search results from multiple providers.

Market research is the next crucial step since it helps you develop a high-demand digital product. Just because you think your idea is brilliant doesn’t mean there’s an actual need for it. If you produce for a non-existent market, you’re bound to lose money.

Speaking of which, the income potential of a good digital product is almost limitless. If you sell directly from your store, you keep 100% of the proceeds.

When you use a third-party retailer, however, the other party keeps a cut of the profits. There’s a wide range of factors that can influence the cash flow, such as pricing and other revenue streams.


  • A single product generates long-term income
  • No inventory
  • High-profit margins


  • Requires extensive market research

3. YouTube Creator

Who would’ve thought being a YouTuber would become one of the most profitable career paths of our time? If you’re an effortlessly animated person who doesn’t shy away from the camera, this is the best online business model for you. It’s creative and fun, which is something you’d want from your full-time gig. But how do you make a living with YouTube?

Even if you’ve only watched one YouTube video in your entire life, you know about the ads. Yes, the ones that pop up before, during, and after the clip. They can sometimes push your buttons, especially if you can’t skip past them. However, when you’re on the other side of the content, these pesky ads are your best friend.

Sponsors pay YouTube to display their advertisements, and in turn, YouTube is compensated each time an ad is clicked. As a creator, you can get a share of the earnings if you participate in the YouTube Partnership Program.

Actually, you’ll get more than a share, to be exact. You get a whopping 55% of the cut. In other words, it won’t take long until you start generating an income. The cash flow will be more of a sprinkle at first, but you can gradually increase it by posting regularly.

The two critical elements to a successful channel are subscriptions and views. That’s why you need to maintain a steady stream of content. There aren’t many people who made it big by posting a single video on YouTube which just happened to go viral. Household names like PewDiePie usually post on fixed days during the week.

If you stick to a strict uploading schedule, your subscribers will always know when a new video is coming. You don’t have to worry about falling under the radar.

The estimated profit for 1 million views is between $3,000 and $50,000, depending on the creator. If your video becomes popular, it may exceed that number in a relatively short amount of time. But that will only get you so far. The more videos you make, the more likely it is one of them will go viral (or maybe more if you’re lucky). Meanwhile, you can continue to earn money with consistent uploads.

You don’t have to spend money to make money with this business model (well, not a lot). There’s nothing wrong with filming with your phone’s camera and using its built-in microphone.

Many vloggers started that way. But at some point, you need to make sure your content appears professional, whether you’re new to the online world or have an established brand. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to invest in some special equipment further down the line, like:

Video Equipment

Making videos doesn’t have to be a significant undertaking. In reality, many of YouTube’s highest earners began by filming with their webcams.

However, if you’re making videos in a particular aesthetic niche, such as food or fashion, you may want to invest in a high-quality camera. The GoPro Hero5 camera seems to be the preferred choice for most vloggers, while Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 is an old but reliable option.

Audio Equipment

You’ll want to invest in a good external microphone at some point. Pro tip: You can clip a shotgun mic to your camera’s hot shoe (the metal mount on the top used for a flash or other accessories) for a more comfortable setup.

Editing Tools

It’s not enough to just film yourself talking and hope for the best. Editing is what makes the video function as a whole. In short, that’s where the magic happens.

The YouTube Video Editor (Cloud Based) is a free web-based video editor provided by the corporation itself. It can be extremely useful for the first couple of months before you start generating income. Then, as your channel grows, you can move on to more advanced tools like Adobe Premiere Pro.

Thanks to the YouTube Partner Program, creators from all over the world can earn a living doing what they love. Before monetizing the channel, you might want to consider building a loyal and committed audience first. Of course, some creators prefer to monetize right off the bat. Whatever you decide, make sure you produce high-quality content and post it regularly.


  • No hosting or domain fees
  • No advertising fees
  • Access to incredible traffic
  • Many different content options


  • It takes time to generate a steady income
  • The YouTube algorithm is fickle
Top 12 Best Online Business Models in 2021

4. Membership Sites

Do you dream of a career that doesn't take up much of your time but still generates a solid monthly income? Then, what you need is a membership site. The business model allows you to attract customers who are willing to pay a monthly fee for your particular line of work. It’s very similar to how insurance policies work, for comparison's sake.

The key is finding the product or service your target audience would want so much they're willing to set aside a monthly budget for it. If you can do that, you'll be set for a long time, thanks to the recurring subscription fees.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of membership programs you can consider:

Regular Membership

The clients will pay a generous monthly fee in exchange for participating in an elite club or getting high-end merchandise. You’re not trying to cater to a broad audience with this program.

Instead, you’re looking for people that can afford a high monthly fee for the services you’re providing. The membership can cost $30 per month, $200, or even more. If you’re a connoisseur of a particular field, you’ll probably be able to pull off building such a subscription base.

Micro Continuity Memberships

This type of subscription model has a longer success rate compared to the previous option. It’s probably due to the significantly lower monthly fees of between $5-$15 on average.

If the membership costs no more than a Starbucks Matcha Latte, people won’t think twice before signing up. And you can always count on the fact that most people won’t bother to cancel such a cost-friendly service.

In terms of how much money you can make, the sky’s the limit. Think about it: if you set up a $10-per-month subscription fee, you'd only need about 100 members to earn $1,000 a month. Keep in mind: this isn't a one-time deal. It's a monthly income stream, so you can afford to be lenient with your pricing.


  • Recurrent income
  • Easy setup
  • Reliable


  • Success depends on attrition rates

Wild Apricot is a software solution for building and managing a membership site and it supports a number of different applications. Clubs, nonprofits, societies, associations, and online businesses are some of the main groups that use Wild Apricot software

5. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

The FBA model lets you sell your products on Amazon while the company handles the customer support, packaging, and delivery for each sold item. So, rather than trying to build your e-commerce platform from scratch, why not weaponize Amazon's marketing force instead? After all, customers are more likely to buy from a brand they recognize and trust.

You can showcase a range of items and hope for the best or create a brand; the choice is yours. Savvy marketers will create their brand around a small number of niche products that cater to the same audience.

There’s no limit on the number of goods you can include in your shop. However, smaller items offer the best profit margins because they’re less expensive to make, distribute, and store.

Also, you can choose between shipping a limited amount of discounted goods to Amazon or using an overseas factory.

It has to be said that setting up a profitable Amazon FBA store requires much more effort than other models from our list. Since you're dealing with making and shipping physical products, you should approach this thoughtfully as you would a real-world business. It’s especially true if you're getting your products made overseas.

Make sure to pay attention to the following:

  • Unique goods sell much faster and in larger quantities than products found in your local Walmart. Create a shop that focuses on a particular product category, be it toys, electronics, or whatever. Burying yourself in random products won't lead to increased sales
  • Order samples from several suppliers before you decide on partnering with them
  • If the product is listed, focus on marketing strategies as soon as possible. Make sure to take advantage of Amazon's surge of organic traffic because it can make all sales for you
  • Carry at least 10% more inventory than you thought you'd need to account for overseas shipment delays and global holidays
  • Educate yourself. Amazon Boot Camp is a top-notch course designed especially for people who want to start an Amazon FBA venture

Ideally, you should start with a $500 initial capital. However, if you want to get into product making, a couple of thousand dollars is a minimal investment.

The true advantage of the Amazon FBA business model is that you don’t need a website or an internet presence to market your stuff. Instead, you need a budget to buy items locally or get them imported, as well as the patience to wait for them to arrive at the fulfillment center.

It’s also a smart idea to find a copywriter that can create product listings for your page. Copywriting is a rare talent, and poorly written product listings can sometimes lead to lower conversion rates.

Also, try to include high-resolution, professional pictures of your products. Professional photography is an investment that will pay off in the long run, as costly as it may seem at the beginning.


  • Amazon handles the shipping and storage
  • Instant credibility
  • Plenty of organic traffic


  • Requires knowledge of international trade
  • Success hinges on the manufacturer

6. Authority Site

This might just be one of the oldest internet business models of the bunch. The concept is straightforward: a website that encompasses all the knowledge relevant to a particular topic. Authority sites are the quickest way to share information and answer search queries.

If they detect favorable user responses, Google and other search engines will compensate you by pushing the authority website higher in search results.

When people flock to you for answers, you’re more likely to appear on page one of a Google search. This higher ranking could result in thousands of additional daily visitors to your website, and so the cycle continues.

An authority website can potentially produce $20,000-$100,000 in monthly net sales. The trick to creating a sustainable platform is to hyper-produce quality content relevant to a very narrow field of interest. This will allow you to engage consumers on several levels, thus helping you cultivate a deeper relationship with long-term interaction.

The site's earning capacity is almost limitless, but it heavily relies on the market you're in and how profitable your particular niche is. There are several monetization strategies you can employ:

Google AdSense

Placing ad blocks in key areas of the website is one of the most common ways to monetize it. While each AdSense click is worth $1-$2, depending on the niche, if you generate hundreds of clicks each day, this will quickly replace your day job profits.

Affiliate Marketing

Some authority sites monetize their content by including affiliate offers based on the preferred niche. So, if you create a website dedicated to gaming, you can add links that direct the audience to reputable online vendors of quality gear.

Email Marketing

Authority sites usually collect email addresses to send out weekly or regular emails reminding users of new developments in their niche. Of course, they occasionally have affiliate coupons in these emails as an additional source of revenue.

Most major pages can take between six and nine months to become successful when you factor in the resources spent on building and promoting the platform. However, within a few weeks, some authority sites will start reeling in sales, although this is more of an exception rather than the norm.

The only real expense of launching this type of online business is web hosting and buying a domain. We recommend dedicated hosting over shared hosting. You'll also need to sign up for Google AdSense and build accounts with big affiliate networks, including Amazon, ClickBank, and LinkShare.


  • Great opportunities for outsourcing
  • Brings a sense of fulfillment
  • Full-time income doing something you love


  • Requires long-term strategizing and hyper-production
  • High maintenance

7. Amazon Affiliate

Are you a marketing whiz who’s not interested in product creation? You can put your silver tongue to use by becoming an Amazon affiliate partner.

Amazon affiliate marketing is a form of digital marketing where you sell Amazon goods on your website or blog. When a user clicks on one of these links, they’re redirected to Amazon to buy the product they saw on your platform. It's ideal if you want to profit from Amazon's marketing strength without having to sell your goods.

As an Amazon Associate, you can link to any product on Amazon and receive a commission. The referral fees vary between 4% and 8%, based on the type of items you promote. Each commission you receive is credited to your account balance, charged by check or direct deposit after 90 days.

The potential earnings are determined by several factors, as with any other form of affiliate marketing. It boils down to the following:

  • Selecting a lucrative niche
  • Making excellent content for that market
  • Learning how to funnel the audience to Amazon in the most efficient manner possible

As far as income goes, it’s pretty straightforward: The more goods you sell, the more commission you get. The top 1% of Amazon Associates earn about $80,000 a month from their partner pages, with others receiving more than $100,000 a month. There are tens of thousands of partner marketers who earn anywhere from $500 to $10,000 merely by referring customers to Amazon.

Unsurprisingly, the first step to launching your Amazon affiliate marketing business is selecting a niche. Once you’ve done that, you have the option of monetizing your existing online resources or creating an entirely new website.

Existing Website

If you already have a website, you can add Amazon links to it, along with coupons your audience would find helpful. Thanks to Amazon's vast range of merchandise, there’s a special something for every type of buyer.

Niche Site

Another way to start an Amazon affiliate site is to pick a set of keywords with little competition and use them as the framework. Niche sites require less time and money to build, but their earning capacity is somewhat smaller.

Building one big website on a popular subject is a favorite solution to creating Amazon affiliate sites. It may take more time and money to build your platform, but the financial benefits are well worth it.

There are many online sources you can turn to for purchasing pre-existing websites. If you have more funds than time, it’s a perfect solution. For example, Human Proof Designs offers Amazon Affiliate niche pages ready to rank and earn money. The majority of their sites have six months of traffic behind them, so you won't be starting from scratch.

To help advertise your site, you'll need to employ an SEO company or specialist. External links and other SEO elements would undoubtedly improve your search engine rankings and lead to more sales.

If you can get free traffic from Google, that's fantastic, but there are other ways to get users’ attention in the early stages. Pinterest is one of the most common social media platforms for the Amazon Affiliate business model. It will help you get things started as you wait for Google to recognize your writing prowess.


  • Passive income
  • Amazon's brand is strong
  • Chance of multiple commissions


  • Low commission rates
  • Strict Terms of Service

8. AdSense

Google realized the benefits of allowing millions of web publishers to produce content for their advertising network ages ago. This resulted in yet another exciting online business prospect for the 21st-century entrepreneur.

The setup is pretty simple: You sign up for the AdSense service, and Google positions ads from their AdWords program on your website. Advertisers on the lookout for potential buyers are the ones who pay for the ads while you collect the commissions. The model is perfect for someone looking to build a passive income with minimal effort and expenditure.

When it comes to making money with an AdSense company, there are many factors. First, the advertiser profits every time someone clicks on one of their ads on your website. As a result, Google gives you a share of the click revenue while keeping a profit percentage.

Obviously, for a successful AdSense venture, the website would need steady traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing, and others. However, if you already have a website with thousands of monthly users, AdSense will provide you with an almost immediate revenue source. And since we’re talking about unpaid and organic traffic, you need to use unique keywords in the content.

You should take steps to optimize the content for search engines, a practice known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Since some keywords are worth more than others, the CPC (Cost Per Click) is an essential aspect of your business strategy. It will let you know how much the advertiser paid for the click, determining the keyword placement within the website.

All in all, there’s no limit on how much money you can make with AdSense. It boils down to picking the best keywords in the right market. You have the freedom to choose the project scope based on your resources and ambitions.

Also, launching an AdSense company comes with very low startup costs. There are no subscription or membership fees to join the AdSense program. So, theoretically, you can start your business with next to nothing. However, if you want to treat it like a full-time job, here's what you'll need:

  • A professional keyword analysis tool. We recommend using Google Keywords Planner
  • A reseller hosting kit or a VPS
  • A budget for the development of one authority site or multiple niche sites
  • An SEO budget of at least a couple of hundred dollars
  • A domain name (and you’ll probably need more than one)
  • The determination to handle this as a real business; otherwise, you'll never achieve your objective

It’s possible to build a sustainable business centered on a single website, but this would require the development of an authority website.

Authority sites are a massive undertaking containing hundreds of pages’ worth of content. However, they can be a leading source of information within a particular industry, drawing thousands of users from all over the world.

If you don't have time to develop an authority website, you can create a range of niche or micro AdSense pages. These are typically five to 25 pages long and are based on a small number of keywords with a high CPC. Niche AdSense sites take less time to set up and less content to rank in Google.


  • You determine the scale of your business
  • Outsourcing opportunities
  • Low maintenance
  • Quick income


  • Requires large amounts of content
  • The payout depends on the niche
  • Needs advanced SEO technology
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9. Kindle Publishing

Most writers end up scrapping their work because they can’t land a publishing contract. But, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your dream of becoming a self-published author.

Publishing conglomerates no longer dominate the industry. Nowadays, you can put together a manuscript in a matter of days and self-publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KPD). All you need is a word processor, a dependable editing tool, and a great book idea.

Of course, the KPD business model isn't just for aspiring authors. You don't need to write the books yourself; you can hire a competent ghostwriter to do it instead. Also, you don't need a startup website because Amazon provides you with an ‘Author Page.’

Generally speaking, there are two ways to generate profit with KPD. You can write hundreds of books on various subjects or a small number of books in a narrow niche. Depending on the type of e-book you’re writing, the approach can vary:


To retain their income ratings, nonfiction authors must either publish a best-seller or constantly produce new content. Nonfiction books have about as much demand as fiction books, but the market gets flooded quicker than you’d think. Think about how many self-help books pop up every month.


On the other hand, fiction authors can make a full-time living with as little as three novels that hit the right demographic. The added advantage is being able to produce a string of spin-off novels or novellas based on famous characters from their successful works.

An excellent self-published writer can start making a profit after publishing several e-books. There are occasional exceptions to the rule, though. Some Kindle books became an instant hit, but it’s best not to rely on that happening.

It's also worth noting that Amazon doesn’t compensate writers at the end of each month. You'll have to wait 90 days to see any revenue. It might feel discouraging for the first few weeks, but don’t give up. Instead, focus your efforts on creating a long-term strategy and coming up with a follow-up title.

All you need to get started is a word processor and a solid internet connection. Of course, if you want to outsource the writing and editing, you need to set up a separate budget for that.


  • Low startup costs
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Ability to hire ghostwriters


  • Success is not a guarantee
  • Requires consistent publishing

10. Dropshipping

Do you have a perfect product idea but wince at the thought of production logistics? There's a way to run an online shop without ever dealing with shipping, packaging, or even inventory.

Dropshipping is a marketing model in which you sell goods made by another manufacturer without holding stock. Instead, you take orders from interested buyers that are then forwarded to your wholesaler or supplier. After the order has been issued and handled, you receive a payment for your efforts.

In other words, your e-commerce company acts as a conduit between buyers who are on the hunt for a particular product and suppliers who are trying to increase their conversion rates. Dropshipping is exceptionally versatile, meaning you can sell anything from T-shirts and mugs to electronics and furniture.

In the past two decades, the internet has revolutionized eCommerce business models in several ways, most notably in the field of marketing. Small business owners now have the opportunity to establish their website for dropshipped goods, with the rise in the prevalence of social media sites. Indeed, social media platforms such as Facebook are now attracting a whole new set of users.

The startup costs for this form of the company are minimal, with many dropshippers beginning with just $100 and a laptop. You can purchase a domain and create your website from scratch, or you can use an e-commerce app like Shopify instead. If you wish to create your website, expect to fork out around $500 for a professionally built business website and $10 for your domain.

If you already have a website that sells goods by affiliate deals, you can add dropshipping to the mix. It can help you earn far larger profit margins than you usually would.

Having access to a directory of wholesalers is essential for any reputable dropshipping company. After all, they’re the ones responsible for manufacturing and shipping the goods. You'll need to do your homework when choosing the right supplier. Luckily, there are several well-established names in this particular e-commerce branch:

You can make your dropshipping business as large or as small as you choose. The model works well even as a side gig.

The profit margins are determined by the level of competition and how crowded the industry is. You can expect a 10-30% margin for an average dropshipping shop. The great thing about this business model is that your e-commerce company will continuously grow once you achieve momentum.


  • No inventory
  • You determine the scope
  • No prior knowledge is needed
  • Requires low initial investment


  • Slightly lower profit margins
  • Little control over delivery
  • Success hinges on the supplier

11. Lead Gen

Cost Per Action (CPA) marketing is similar to affiliate marketing in that you advertise a particular product or service and get paid based on your performance. The difference is you don't have to strike a deal to receive a commission. Instead, you get paid anytime users take part in a particular action. It can be anything from entering their email address to signing up for a free trial or simply installing an app.

Joining a CPA network is free, aside from the expenses of a domain name and web hosting. There are very few setup costs, so you can get it up and running in no time. You don't need to build a whole website to market the product, unlike other business models discussed here. In most cases, all you need is a single landing page.

The advantage of this online business model is you’ll probably start making money nearly immediately if you use paid traffic. However, if you prefer to rely on organic search engine traffic, you can still earn enough to make a living.

If you plan on making a living from this kind of online business, the best thing you can do is run thorough tests. Compare different monetizing strategies and see what works best with the particular product. For example, is it more effective to use the PPC (Pay Per Click) or the PPV (Pay Per View) model? The only way to find out is through trial and error, so be patient. If you need help with PPC, make sure you hire a PPC management service.

To be a successful CPA Affiliate, you also need a nose for profitable deals. Each CPA affiliate sale you make has the potential worth of up to $100. You need to find leads relevant to your current user demographic to pre-sell your audience on the idea. The bid must be worth promoting in terms of commission rates, but keep in mind bigger commissions imply stiff competition.

CPA networks operate in the same way as traditional affiliate networks in that they allow you to market various brands. However, there’s one distinction: You have to get official approval from the merchant before you can advertise a CPA offer. Usually, everyone gets automatically accepted, so that’s not something you should fret over.


  • Doesn’t require a team
  • Paid traffic leads to high commission rates
  • Quick income


  • Requires steady involvement on your part
  • Somewhat risky

12. Affiliate Marketing

Finally, this is one of the simplest business models you can choose. It doesn't require a constant hands-on approach, allowing you to generate a passive income. How does it work? You find a product or service that you love, create a website to advertise it, and get paid when customers buy it with your platform.

You might be thinking, ‘Hold on, this sounds familiar.’ And yes, in some aspects, this business model is similar to Amazon affiliate marketing. However, the key distinction is you can advertise goods from thousands of different businesses rather than being limited to the Amazon marketplace. Another significant difference is that most partner deals have fee rates ranging from 5% to 50%, far higher.

Affiliate marketing is kind of an umbrella term. The core meaning is ‘someone who sells something they didn’t produce to their online audience.’ Typically, it implies one of two things:

Affiliate Websites

It entails creating a link to a big website that's strategically monetized through a chain of affiliate offers. This type of marketing can be seen in a variety of business models. For example, some blogs can be classified as affiliate websites.

If you focus on organic search traffic from Google and Bing, it can take a long time to get traffic to your website. It's a method better suited for slow and steady turtles. On the upside, you can work on your pages leisurely. If you get busy on other assignments for a few months, they'll be up and running when you return.

The merchant provides you with a unique ID code when you sign up to advertise an affiliate deal. Then, you embedded them on your website so that the purchases can be traced back to you. This is made possible with the help of cookies, the favorite tracking software of many e-commerce businesses.

Sales Funnels

Landing pages and a smaller website (4-5 pages) are sales funnels supporting a single offer. This variation often depends on paid ads to drive traffic to the landing pages. In this variation, capturing the viewers' emails is critical because it is where you can make the most money.

It can be hard to work this out on your own, and there’s a high risk of wasting your money on ads that don't convert. You might want to consider hiring a marketing consultant or signing up for an online class.

This type of business can be scaled to whatever level you choose, with limitless profit opportunities if you promote the right brands in the right markets. Some of the bigger affiliate marketers make between $10,000 and $100,000 in net profit per month. CPA (Cost per Action) models also work well with affiliate deals since you are paid purely for encouraging customers to check something out.

To launch your affiliate marketing company, all you need is a domain name for your website, which costs about $10 per year. Most partnerships can be advertised with very simple websites, but if you want to go the extra mile, you can hire a professional to build you a platform.

Some additional expenses include buying an ‘SEO package’ to help increase your search engine ranking. You can consider hiring a professional SEO strategist, but it's not essential.

The most significant advantage of this particular model is that you don’t need to assemble a team to gain traction. It’s perfectly feasible to handle all the work yourself, including optimizing your content.


  • Passive income
  • One-person job
  • Higher commission rates than with Amazon


  • Highly competitive niches
  • No notice before suspensions

There is also sales funnel software that can help you create high converting landing pages such as ClickFunnels. ClickFunnels allows you to display two different versions of the same webpage to view percentages of your traffic and analyze which version works better. Of course, pre-designed templates and basic customization options are also available.

Top 12 Best Online Business Models in 2021


What is the Easiest Online Business to Start?

In terms of accessibility and startup costs, you can’t go wrong with any of these entries. Some endeavors require prior knowledge. If you're planning on starting an FBA business, for example, you might want to pull out your Economy 101 textbook. International commerce is no joke, so you might say this is the most demanding business model.

Which Online Business Model is Right for You?

Before putting things into motion, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much time and money am I willing to invest in my business?
  • What is my long-term goal?
  • What skillset do I have to offer?
  • What is my ideal client?
  • Do I want to work by myself or hire a team?

This line of thinking will help you decide what the best online business model is for you. Unfortunately, we can’t be more specific since it really depends on the individual.

However, it can’t hurt to turn to experienced entrepreneurs for guidance. Perhaps you can browse the Business category on the Amazon Kindle Store and check out a few titles. Here are some recommendations from the Amazon ‘Best Sellers’ list:

  • ‘SEO 2021: Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies,’ by Adam Clarke
  • ‘Starting a Business QuickStart Guide,’ by Ken Colwell
  • ‘Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,’ by Gino Wickman
  • ‘YouTube Secrets: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Following and Making Money as an Influencer,’ by Sean Cannell
  • ‘Social Media Marketing Mastery 2021: 3 BOOKS IN 1 – How to Build a Brand and Become an Expert Influencer Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Instagram-Top Digital Networking & Personal Branding Strategies,’ by Robert Miller
  • ‘Passive Income Freedom: 23 Passive Income Blueprints,’ by Gundi Gabrielle

What Are Digital Products?

Any product that doesn't have a physical form is referred to as a digital product. You can't smell an e-book or taste a software application because it only exists in digital form. Sometimes, people make physical copies of the product, but that doesn’t change the nature of the production.

Digital products make for high-quality merchandise, despite their ‘lack of substance.’ There are several advantages over their physical counterparts, especially for the seller:

  • Inventory is never a concern (either in surplus or deficit)
  • You won't have to worry about finding a place to keep your goods
  • In most instances, customers will get the goods right after making an order
  • Materials and installation are not included in the price

However, just because the product doesn't have physical attributes doesn't mean you can cut corners during the production process. If you want to ensure your clients’ satisfaction, you need to offer high-quality items that serve their purpose.

With the time and resources saved by creating digital goods, you can focus on developing new products to accommodate more customer's needs. Also, make sure to put effort into publicity and advertisement, as well as branding. While marketing costs can be pretty steep, it’s an integral part of digital product creation.

What Is Display Advertising?

The method of promoting a product or service on publisher websites such as the Google Ad Network or Ezoic is known as display advertising. Banners, images, and text ads are usually placed on related third-party websites to generate more traffic and possibly lead to more sales.

Display advertising is a broad term that refers to any kind of digital advertisement that appears on a particular platform. It can be broken down into three categories:

Site Placement Advertisements

With this type of display advertisement, the advertiser or marketer selects the page on which their display ads will appear.

Contextual Advertisement

Networks put advertisements on pages that are important to the advertiser (e.g., dog food commercial on a pet adoption website).


Remarketing display advertisements are shown to users who have visited the website or clicked the landing page but didn’t complete the related conversion target.

Display ads offer the opportunity to showcase your products in a range of ad formats. Furthermore, when you use platforms like the Google Ad Network, the ads can reach people on millions of websites worldwide.

It's a great way to increase brand recognition and generate more clicks, conversions, and purchases from a larger audience.

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What is a Private Label Product?

Simply put, it's when you contract a third-party producer to manufacture a private label product that'll be marketed under your brand name. You get to call all the shots, meaning you decide what goes in the product, how it's packed, and how it's labeled.

You also pay the shipping and production costs. Private label products present an alternative to purchasing goods from competitor companies.

There’s an opportunity for creating private label products in almost every category, including:

  • Personal care items
  • Cosmetics and beverages
  • Cleaners and detergents
  • Salad dressings and condiments
  • Dairy products
  • Frozen goods

Many business owners prefer to fill their stores with brand merchandise, and they have a legitimate reason for doing so. Below are some of the most significant benefits of private label products:

Control Over Manufacturing

Third-party distributors operate under the supplier's supervision, giving them complete control of commodity ingredients and consistency.

Power Over Prices

Since you have complete product control, you determine the product costs and profit margins.


You can respond to rising consumer demand for a new feature by quickly putting a private label product into development.

Control Your Brand

As the name suggests, these items are labeled with your company name and package style. It leads to a recognizable aesthetic that can set you apart from the competition.

Since the manufacturing is handled by a third-party retailer, it's essential to work with trustworthy businesses. An unreliable manufacturer can seriously derail your trajectory for the entire financial year.

Recommendations – Our Top Picks

We know we keep insisting on the importance of market research, but it really is the cornerstone of success. If you want to know how to choose the best online business model, you have to arm yourself with data. Luckily, several online tools can help you with your research, and here are our top five picks.

Consumer Expenditure Survey

The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) program collects consumer spending, demographics, and overall behavior. The research scope covers the entire territory of the United States. Using tables, press articles, surveys, and microdata files, you can get all the information you need.

Why We Like It

It provides thorough reports.

Size Up

SizeUp is a Fintech Internet service provider that specializes in delivering insightful market intelligence. They offer goods in the form of Software as a Service (SaaS) or Data as a Service (DaaS). It enables you to provide high-quality market analytics for your small business venture. Their unofficial motto is ‘Make smart decisions using big data.’

Why We Like It

It’s excellent for small business owners.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a research tool that examines the frequency at which a specific keyword is inserted into search engines. It also takes into account the site's overall search volume over time.

You can use it for keyword analysis comparisons as well as finding event-triggered increases in keyword search volume. All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Google algorithm.

Why We Like It

It’s an advanced algorithm available for free.


CensusViewer is an online application that allows you to navigate the census data from within the familiar Bing Maps interface.

Why We Like It

It is an excellent online tool for demographic analysis of the U.S. population.

AMZ Scout

AMZScout is an excellent suite of tools that removes the guesswork in finding winning products and reaching profitability on Amazon.

Why We Like It

Has a solid product database

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Choices?

So, what are the best online business models? As you can see, there’s a few of them and no real way to determine what the best online business model is, because it comes down to you and what you're wanting to achieve. There are right and wrong career moves, sure, but almost every entry we included is pretty flexible. Not to mention, they’re quick to launch and relatively easy to manage.

However, with so many different startup ideas, we can’t help but wonder – is there such a thing as too many choices? If you ask us, the answer is no.

Knowing you can switch between different business models without major repercussions is quite liberating. Of course, it can feel overwhelming at times, but being a success with an online business sure beats the alternative.

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