10 Low-Cost Side Businesses you can Start Online from Home

It’s a scary leap to just quit your job and try to earn enough money online. Even if you’re already home with the kids, it’s tough to work on your business full time while taking care of them. A lot of people may simply need to supplement their existing income while they work a “day job” or enjoy retirement. Students need to work part-time with a flexible schedule to accommodate classes. Luckily, many online business models make it perfectly feasible to work part-time from home.

It’s a popular concept. A 2014 Intuit study reported that 53% of all new startups in Canada are run by part-time entrepreneurs.

“It means that the average startup – defined as a business in operation for three years or less – is not what it is commonly assumed to be,” the Intuit report states. “The true portrait of a Canadian startup is the woman down the street who is working through nights and weekends in pursuit of her great new idea, while spending her days working for someone else.”

1. Freelance Content Writing, Video Production, or Graphics Design

Content is king online and companies are screaming for it. This can range from corporate blogging, to video production to graphics design (such as infographics). Set up a simple website and focus on promoting your personal brand. Don’t worry about hiring a website designer for now, just select a host with website building tools. They’re designed for those who don’t know HTML and they get more user-friendly every day. There are some website hosting suggestions below under “Online Store”.

Further reading: How to Start a Digital Content Freelancing Business in Canada

2. Drop Shipping

Drop Shipping is the easiest, least expensive way to sell products online.  You won’t have to worry about inventory or shipping. You make arrangements with a wholesale supplier or manufacturer to sell their products direct online. You can offer these products on your own website, or via online auctions like eBay, or through a sellers’ market like Amazon. The customer price minus the wholesale cost equals your profit.

Further reading: Drop Shipping / Wholesale for Canadian Sellers

3. Start a Blog (But not Just any Blog)

Millions of people have started blogging, but far less make money doing so. Lucrative blogging has a learning curve but you don’t have to learn it all at once. The most important thing you need to know right now is you must choose a niche that is a happy medium between popularity and originality. You don’t want to start out with a topic that’s insanely saturated like your average “Mommy Blog”, you will be much more successful if you dig a niche out of it. Using the “Mommy Blog” as an example, you might want to narrow the niche to parenting teens, or go even deeper and write about parenting “difficult” teens, and so on.

Once you’re established, you can do quite well with sponsorship from individual companies and/or affiliate marketing. Most free, hosted blog platforms limit your income options, so check into hosting your own blog as soon as possible.

Learn more: If you’re new to blogging and want to get off to a roaring start, check out the Blog by Number ebook + course. It’s designed to take you through the entire process of starting, maintaining and marketing a blog.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate programs allow you to advertise for a company and earn a percentage of the sales you generate for them.  To make a decent amount of money with affiliate marketing, you’ll need a website. This will be your home base for everything from building a mailing list to social media promotion.

Many people are interested in affiliate marketing because they believe in the “make money while you sleep” concept. That may be technically true, but in reality successful affiliate marketing demands a lot of effort. Once you’ve established a following, both on your website and in newsletter subscribers, it will get easier. Tricks of the trade will increase the amount you make from affiliate marketing, such as promoting two-tier affiliate programs  so you also get a piece of the sales made by those who sign up under you.

Further reading: The Best Affiliate Program Networks for Canadians.

5. Info-products

Virtually everyone has a high level of expertise on one topic or another. Create & sell information products such as courses, white papers, reports, or even an eBook.

Further reading: How to Develop Your Own Online Coaching Info-Products

6. Virtual Assistant (VA)

Virtual assistants may do anything from social media management to secretarial tasks. Whatever skill you have that can be done remotely, is marketable under the ‘Virtual Assistant’ label.  Working as a virtual assistant has become even more feasible with the option of working and collaborating in “the cloud”.  Tasks like collaborative design and accounting are easily accomplished thanks to “the cloud”, along with other online collaboration and file sharing tools. If you need marketable qualifications, you can take a course in executive administration, medical assistant, computer tech or other profession suitable for working at home.

Free VA information: You’ll find lots of free downloads, training and a community for virtual assistants on Canada’s VA Networking.

7. “Member Only” Content

It’s relatively easy and economical to set up any WordPress blog with member-only content that you can charge a membership fee for. They’re often combined with private online communities  on the topic, which can also be established with inexpensive WordPress plugins. Alternately, you may want to invest in a website management system that is specially designed for it.

Further reading: WordPress Blog Plugins That Pay for Themselves (Many Times Over)

8. Web translation

In Canada, there are a good number of websites, social media, and videos that need a French version. Set up a basic website and promote your services. You can also network with web designers and even offer them a commission if they refer clients to you.

9. Online Store

Sell products or services online. This can be almost as inexpensive as other businesses, but you will have to purchase or produce inventory. Start with a few products or your own creations and let the sales feed your line expansion. Don’t go crazy and purchase or produce 5000 of each item, start small to test the market. Your profit margin may not be high when you buy in small quantities but your losses on products that don’t sell will be minimal.

The first thing you’ll need is a domain name that reflects your company, while keeping it as short as possible to make it easier for people to remember. You’ll also need Canadian-friendly website hosting / eCommerce software (like a shopping cart with Canada Post integration), such as HostPapa (Based in Canada), BigCommerce, or Shopify Canada.  If you already have a WordPress blog, you can easily integrate shopping with a plugin, such as Shopify For WordPress. For more information, please read Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.

Further reading: Finding Suppliers for your Canadian Business

10. Auctions and Online Marketplaces

The perfect way to dip your toe into online business is through auctions and online marketplaces. This option can go well beyond eBay, with massive online marketplaces like Amazon, or specialized marketplaces like Etsy.

Further reading: Online Marketplaces for Canadian Sellers

Thousands of Canadians are starting side businesses online with very little tech knowledge. In fact, if you can use Facebook, you’re capable of starting an online business. You don’t need to know HTML, website and eCommerce software is designed for people who don’t. There are endless sources of information online to guide you through the rest. It often costs very little to get started and the ROI odds are in your favour. Before you know it, you could be working online full time if you want to. Online business gives you the freedom to decide.

Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessHave you ever made money part-time online or are you just exploring the possibility? Please share with us in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Should you Register a .ca Domain for your Canadian Business?
10 Tips for Canadian Moms & Dads with a Home-Based Business
Help for the 54% of Canadian Small Businesses Without a Website (Statistics)
Co-operative Social Media Engagement Groups for Canadian Businesses


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  Canadian business opportunities, Canadian entrepreneur, Canadian self employment, Canadian small business, Canadian web-based business, home-based business Canada, work at home Canada

Category: Business ideas

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