Starting Your Own Online Business


Starting your own online business is a great way to build a location independent income stream.  Even if you have a job, investing the time to set up your own online business on the side can pay huge dividends in the future.

I know it sounds daunting, but there are lots of ways to set up your own online business in your spare time.

Niche sites

A niche site provides content related to a specific subject matter.  If you have expertise or unique experience in a subject, chances are there's people out there looking for that information.  If you've ever searched for information on a subject matter you were interested in and had trouble finding it, or the content you found wasn't great, you've found a good candidate for a niche site.

Niche sites take time to build and rise through search engine ranks, but once your niche site has traffic, there's lots of ways to monetize it.  You can monetize with Google AdSense ads, directly selling add space, affiliate links, selling ebooks or courses, or drop-shipping your own products.  If you want to learn about niche sites, check out Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income, especially his podcast.

Affiliate Marketing

A popular option for monetizing blogs and niche sites is to incorporate relevant affiliate links into your content.  Affiliate marketing can provide passive income in exchange for connecting people with the things they need or want to buy. 

The best affiliate sites are content-heavy and informative—they help people looking for a product figure out what to buy, or guide people with a problem to the right solution. 

What does an affiliate site look like?  Well, you're reading one right now.  We use affiliate links to earn money for providing helpful content to the tiny living community.  If you find something you need through one of our articles and buy it by clicking on one of our links, we'll sometimes earn a small commission for referring you.

Retail Arbitrage

Another popular location independent business involves finding products to buy, and then sell them at a higher price.  If you like thrifting or yard sales, or if you just have an eye for deals at discount stores, you can set up an eBay or Etsy store and sell your inventory there. 

Warehousing lots of inventory is often not a workable option for tiny living and nomadic people.  So, to avoid warehousing inventory and get your products found, you can set up an Amazon seller account and send your stuff to Amazon.  They'll warehouse your items and fulfill all your orders for you (for a fee) so that you don't have to store anything.  If you've seen products on Amazon marked "sold by ____, fulfilled by Amazon," that's exactly what's happening.

Beware, if you're selling through an Amazon, Etsy, eBay, or other third party storefront, they can shut your store down for any reason or no reason.  It's best to diversify methods so that if you lose one sales channel, you don't lose your entire income stream. 

If you'd prefer to operate your own store front, there are lots of other third party logistics companies that will warehouse and sell your inventory for you.


Another strategy to buy and sell products without warehousing inventory yourself is drop-shipping.  If you can market a product that someone else will make and ship to a customer for you, then you can generate income without ever touching the product.

Drop-shipping from Alibaba is a popular strategy, but there are other options.  Look for a local business whose products you love but doesn't have a great online presence, and see if they'd be interested in expanding their sales with zero up-front investment.  "I'll do all the work selling and managing the website, you just need to pack and ship my orders."

Selling a Physical Product

If there's any product that you designed and built for yourself because you couldn't find a retail product that fulfilled your needs, you might be sitting on a valuable business idea.  Consider building a prototype and listing it for sale, just to see if anyone will buy it.  If your inventory grows beyond your tiny space, you can always look into third party logistics.

Check out Pat Flynn's book, Will it Fly, for some strategies to flush out your idea before you invest too much time and money into it.

Selling a Virtual Product

Do you have an area of expertise that other people might want to learn about?  Consider writing an eBook about it, or building an online course.  You can self-publish an eBook and sell it as a pdf on your own website, or list it on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing.  Online course platforms like Teachable and Thinkific make it easy to package and sell your online course to your audience.


There are tons of businesses and entrepreneurs who are looking for people to help them with projects.  It can be a huge help to have a qualified person swoop in and take care of that project that you need done, but you don't have time or the skills to do yourself.  If you can write code or copy, provide administrative support or customer service, or provide any number of other services online, you can freelance.

Reach out to small business owners in your social network to see if they have any projects that you can help with.  To get yourself started and see what gigs are out there, you can sign up for UpWork or Outsourcely and apply to gigs you're interested in.

If you build a successful freelance business, you'll eventually want your own online presence so that new business can find you by word of mouth.  But owning a website isn't the same thing as owning a business.  Find your customers first, and worry about the website later.

Not Sure Where to Start?

If the idea of starting your own online business sounds good to you, but you don't have a business idea, consider starting a personal blog.  No need to monetize it right now, just start writing.  Write about anything that interests you.  Write about your hobbies, your travels, your opinions.  If you have a particular area of expertise, write about that.  Write tutorials and product reviews.  Post photos and video demonstrations.

After a while, you'll notice people starting to find your content through organic search.  You can help the process along by sharing your content on social media like Pinterest, Instagram, or forums where you're a member.  Chances are, whatever your interests, there are others who share those interests.  By creating quality content and making it publicly available, interested people will be able to find you.

Once you notice significant traffic going to your blog, consider how you can monetize it.  If there's a particular post or set of posts that people are interested in, would it make sense to start a niche website on that subject?  Or would it make sense to build a product related to that topic?  If your blog is capturing lots of traffic in general, you could monetize the blog itself through ads or affiliate links.

It takes time to build a business, but the most important step is the first one.  Get started creating content now, and before you know it, you'll have valuable content that you can use to create your own business.

Dan GreatleyComment